Secrets

When I first started running marathons, social media wasn’t around. I guess chat rooms were still kind of a thing (does anyone remember chat rooms?!?!) and social media may have been in its infancy but I was definitely not cool enough to be into it.

So when I started training for the NYC Marathon in 2003, I told everyone by email or word of mouth that I was running. That way, I couldn’t back out. Everyone would know. It was a great motivator to get my training in.

Me and my very first marathon medal the next morning. Yay!

I finished! It was torturous, but I finished.

Every year after that, as marathon season ramped up, people would ask, “Are you running?” It was always an enthusiastic “YES” from me. For 9 years, I would share my racing plans with everyone, often times raising money for charities close to my heart.

More recently, I’ve been keeping my big races to myself. I happily train without telling anyone when I’m racing. I don’t share my splits on Daily Mile. I don’t share my runs and progress on Twitter. As much support as the cyber world can offer during training, there is also a lot of pressure that goes along with it.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

The Hamptons Marathon (that became a half marathon for me) was a secret race.

Perfect strangers can track you online during a race and when people know your goals, they also know when you’ve failed to reach them. It sounds silly, but the goals I set for myself are very personal and I prefer to keep some of them private.

When I decided to train secretly (or just less publicly?) for the Hamptons Marathon this past Fall, I was unsure how my post-op body would respond.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

From colostomy bag to J-pouch, my little body has been through the wringer.

Would my J-pouch hold up? Would I get sick again? Could I really get all that mileage in less than a year after two major surgeries? I signed up for the full marathon, knowing full well that I might need to drop down to the half.

I decided to keep the race (largely) a secret and see how training went.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

Clearly, I was happy with my choice to drop down.

I knew a few weeks before that this was probably going to be the case and I was oddly at peace with it. Because despite the 65 mile weeks, grueling summer workouts, and faster than ever times, I knew what I could do and what I couldn’t do. The half I could do, the full I could not.

It’s not that I’m afraid to publicly fail. I’ve done that plenty of times. It’s just that as I test myself and try new things, I prefer keeping those personal goals tucked close to my heart.

Close to my heart like my Peanut.

Close to my heart, like my Peanut.

Have you ever run a race and not told anyone you were training for it? Or do you prefer to get the support of your friends near and far during training? It’s totally a personal choice and I’m curious if anyone else has switched back and forth like me. Or maybe I’m just crazy…?

Now go out and run!

Ask Me Anything

1. How should I prepare for an obstacle race (Dirty Girl/Tough Mudder/Spartan Race)?

These races are less about running and more about brute strength. Many races, the Dirty Girl and Tri-State Tough Mudder, have the obstacles listed so you know what you’re getting into.

This isn't my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

This isn’t my idea of a fun Saturday activity but to each his/her own.

As far as training goes, I suggest a hefty dose of strength training, focusing on 3-4 sets of 6-8 reps of heavy weight and major muscle groups. Think: lat pull-downs, push-ups, pull-ups (assisted works too!), lunges, squats, and step-ups with weight, if possible. Incline walking and running or the Step Mill (revolving stairs) for the muddy hills.

Short bursts of max effort repeatedly best mimic these types of races. A quick tip from my friends who have done these races: knee pads, elbow pads, fitted pants, and grippy gloves.

2. How about some ideas for incorporating simple strength training into my routine? Think I maybe maxed out on improvement from just running.

The most common mistake runners make: they only run. For the why of strength training, click here. For when and how much to strength train, click here. And for your basic Leg Day Workout, click here.

3. How about some IT band stretches?

Let’s be very clear: the Illiotibial band is a fascia, not a muscle. The fascia inserts into a muscle called the Tensor fascia latae (TFL)–>tenses the fascia. The IT band has negligible blood supply and doesn’t really stretch. The TFL, on the other hand, will stretch and, in turn, relieve tension on the IT band. Here are a few TFL stretches:

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Bear in mind that most IT band problems develop because of weak hips and glutes. Deal with that with these exercises. When foam rolling, roll the muscle, not the fascia.

4. Chafe

Ouch. It hurts. Two things: fitted clothing and Body Glide. I may not look amazing in my compression shorts, but I don’t get chafe anymore. So there.

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

Compression shorts = no chafe = no sudden excruciating pain in the shower later. #winning

5. What do you eat before a run?

Most days it’s PB&J. Sometimes only PB if I’m out of J. Sometimes Eggo waffles if I’m going out for a long run. Hey, you asked.

6. What did you learn about PT and Myasthenia (Gravis)? There’s a lot of controversy…I need to do something, but so out of breath and needing a nap just from climbing my stairs.

Myasthenia Gravis and other auto-immune diseases wreak havoc on your body and leave you utterly exhausted, especially during flare-ups. Everyone is different and no hard and fast rules apply here. However, what we did learn is that even a little bit of exercise can help keep you fit, healthy, and mentally sane.

Some ideas:

  • Walking–nothing strenuous, like walking a dog or with your kids
  • Pool walking–in 3ft+ deep water
  • VERY light weight training (3-5lbs for all exercises)
  • 10-15 minute bursts of exercise throughout the day instead of 30+ minutes at a stretch
  • Taking longer rest breaks between sets
  • Hatha yoga or restorative yoga
  • Light stretching

7. How did you choose your career path?

I’ve been an athlete my whole life and a runner for 23 years. In college I took kickboxing classes and one day, the instructor handed me the mic and told me to teach. So I got my AFFA certification and taught throughout college. When I moved to NYC, I joined a gym and was approached to become a trainer. So I took my NASM certification and started training over 10 years ago. The more I learned, the more I wanted to learn so I applied to my post-bac pre-med program at NYU in 2009 and then to the NYU DPT program in 2011.

Your body is my business!

Your body is my business…in the most professional way, of course.

The human body and how it moves just makes sense to me. Even before I took Physics and Anatomy and Physiology and Kinesiology, I innately knew the how and why of body mechanics better than most people. I can’t say the same about chord inversions.

8. How do I increase mileage (not the 10% rule or speed work)?

The 10% “rule” came out of nowhere and became the standard. Whatever. I generally add a mile or two to my long runs for 3 weeks and then I take it down for a week. This take-down long run should feel really good and really easy. If it does, bounce back up to your previous long run and continue the pattern of slow progression. If it doesn’t, go back and try a shorter distance.

You can also do doubles once or twice a week to add a few more total miles.

9. PT school: the good, the bad, the ugly.

  • Good: Lots of interesting (to me) classes and material for me to geek out over and have long conversations about body mechanics with my friend Birdie. Oh, my friend Birdie is also a good! The rotations are cool and I love applying what I’m learning in real life and the job is something I can do absolutely anywhere in a growing field.
  • Bad: VERY time consuming and some of the material is downright pointless. But you’ll find that with every graduate program. Long hours in a chair wreak havoc on my body and I’m so very, very done with being in school.
  • Ugly: Me during finals week. My student loans.
Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell.

Pizza, falling asleep on my notes, buried under my notes, SLAC. Finals week in a nutshell. Oh, and sanity runs on the East River.

10. Any speed work recommendations for newbies?

I got you guys. Click here and remember, it’s not about being fast but about being consistent at your fast.

11. How do you know if you are actually overtired and need a rest day or you’re just lazy, ie. mental barrier?

I think feeling consistently fatigued should be a big, red STOP sign for you. More than 50% of your runs should feel good–or, at least, you shouldn’t feel dead after them. Rejuvenated, you know? If not, you’re doing too much. If you’re mentally fatigued, get with someone who runs your pace and run with them for a little while so you can take a break from thinking about every single step you take.

12. Best strength training exercises for runners.

Always do your Minimum Leg Day exercises. Push-ups, Pull-ups, and Sit-ups are classic and great. Yoga is fantastic. Pilates is even better. What do I do? Refine Method, New York Yoga, Pilates Pro Works, Flywheel for cross-training, and I hit the gym on my own when I can’t get to class.

That's right. I FLY. #nevercoast

That’s right. I FLY. #nevercoast

11. What to eat for energy without gaining weight.

I’m not a Registered Dietician or a Nutritionist but I do work with one to meet my nutritional needs who specializes with patients with IBD. May I refer you to Lauren or Kim for that question? These two ladies are far more qualified than I to advise you on that.

I will recommend you get a full physical and blood panel that you’ve fasted for to have accurate vitamin, mineral, blood sugar, and cholesterol readings so your RD can better cater to your needs.

12. How do you mentally push through on a tough run?

There’s no secret weapon here for me. In general, I set out to do a certain number of miles and I do it. If I feel terrible, I get in a cab or on the train and I go home. Having a goal and a schedule is key for me because I know exactly what I have to do every day to meet me goal. Even if I’m not “training”, I still set a weekly schedule for myself.

13. How do I get myself running again after pregnancy? Totally realize no kids yet for you but figure you have friends. Or maybe after your surgery… how did you do it? I can’t seem to get back at it after taking 9 mos off. So out of shape. Where to start when my cardio sucks now?

Oh boy. Surgery and pregnancy are pretty similar in that you go through a major trauma, you are wiped clean of so much strength and endurance, and your body feels entirely foreign to you.

First of all, Square One is a scary, lonely, emotional place but acknowledging you are there and you are going to start is key. Get ok with the concept that it will be hard and you will be sore. But you’ll get stronger.

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!

A week of lying in bed really takes it out of you!

 

Pick an event and work toward it–maybe with another mommy friend? I set a goal to run a 10-miler 3 months after surgery and I geared all my training toward that race. Twitter and Facebook can also be sources of encouragement while you’re training–they’re also a place to meet new workout buddies!

Don’t forget to celebrate your milestones along the way (1 mile without stopping? Woohoo!) and whatever you do, don’t give up. You’ll get stronger. It will get easier.

13. Why do I feel like I have to pee when I run even if I just went? Ha ha ha too much info but I want to know.

Common problem, don’t worry about TMI here. For women (this question was asked by a woman), it can be a two-fold issue. One, weak pelvic floor muscles. Need to start doing kegals and adductor ball squeezes. Two, the bouncing–this applies to both sexes. There’s really no way around that unless you do pool running. If you’re really concerned, talk to your doctor or wear a small pad when you go out for a run.

14. How you stay motivated to get out and run in bad weather?

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

Frozen Abby running in 20 degree temperatures. Brrrrrrr.

If it’s cold, being properly bundled up and making a run date with a friend helps. If it’s hot, different clothing rules apply and sometimes I run naked. In the rain I wear a hat, when it’s sunny I wear shades with my hat, and I generally have my tunes on me if I get really frustrated.

Again, having a planned run and goal to work for helps, running with a buddy is always a plus, and being properly fueled and hydrated is a must.

Basically, you wanna be a Boy Scout about it: Be prepared.

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

Tunes? Check. Shades? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Nuun? Check. Off to my run date!

15. How to keep a steady pace.

Set a reasonable goal pace in your mind. Get a GPS watch. Warm up for a mile at a pace slower than the pace you’d like to run. Ease into the pace. Maintain the pace. Simple, but not easy.

Phew! Thank you all for your questions. If I didn’t get to answer yours (or you’d like more information), feel free to email me: runstrongereveryday<at>gmail<dot>com

Now go out and run.

Wednesday Workouts

I love Wednesdays.

First, they are my Thursdays since I don’t have class on Fridays, so HOORAY! It’s almost “Friday”!

Second, I don’t have class til the afternoon on Wednesdays and it’s the perfect morning for me to lazy around in my PJs and catch up on homework or whatever before I run at whatevertimeIwant o’clock.

Skinny mini Abby.

I prefer PJs until about noon.

Most of my Wednesdays are cluttered with doctors appointments, work, annoying phone calls to insurance companies/school offices, and other grown-up type tasks. But when I get a Wednesday morning all to myself, I am a pig in, well…you know.

images

Pretty much me this morning.

Today’s workout will be my first official speed workout since my second surgery on October 5th. Since my surgeries were both operations on my abdomen, I have to wait the requisite 3 months til I am allowed to lift more than 20 pounds. Hence, why my husband had to carry our beautiful tree all my himself.

photo (2)

Lies. He has never, ever let me help him carry our tree home. Even when it was 50% larger than the one we bought this year. Isn’t it preeeeetty?

But they said I could start doing speed work in two months if I didn’t feel any pulling or pain in my abdomen.

Woohoo!

Today’s workout will be shorter on the repetition side since I’m not exactly in the best of running shape. But these sprints are good for anyone at any time since you push that VO2 max and make your body stronger whenever you do anaerobic workouts (speed work).

  • 2 mile warm up
  • 6-8 x 400 meters (one lap on the track), all-out.
  • 1 mile recovery shake-out
Yay for track workouts!!!!!

It will not be sunny and warm on the track today, but that’s cool. Git ‘er done!

Whenever doing speed work, it’s important to warm up beforehand so that your pre-capillary sphincters near your peripheral limbs open up and increase blood flow to your muscles. Blood flow = oxygen = food for muscles. Otherwise, you will tire out MUCH faster and fail to reach your potential in the workout.

I know, I’m blinding you with science. Don’t you feel smarter already?

I want to give myself a good workout, but also the freedom to cut it at 6 repeats since it’s my first day back. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t get every.single.repeat. done that day. It’s not worth the energy to feel guilty about a workout.

Guilt? About a workout? That’s stupid. Yes, stupid. Not “silly”. Stupid.

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BOOM.

I also like to shake it out afterwards. No real science there, it just feels good.

What’s your workout today? Are you headed to the track like me or are you kickin’ it treadmill-style on this fine Hump Day? Have you ever done a 400m x _______ workout? Killer! See you on the track.

Now go out and run!

Comeback Setback

No, the hurricane wasn’t the setback. I actually went running through my beloved city quite a few times post-hurricane to get an idea of what downtown looked like. It wasn’t pretty.

What a mess.

No matter the setback specifics, it just sucks. This last surgery and the following ridiculousness has set me way back in my getting-back-to-me journey.

Oh, back to the surgical floor again? Terrific.

I want to run and lift and spin and flow and get back to racing. It just seems that every time I turn the corner, there’s a wall. Mentally and emotionally, it’s exhausting and depressing.

Have you ever tried and tried and just not been able to get a freaking break? That’s what it feels like now.

I guess this is just where I am.

It’s not easy to feel like my body is fighting me at every turn. It sucks. Yeah, I’m pretty positive most of the time and I feel positive most of the time. But how do I get myself going again? Dammit.

I signed up for a 10K. There’s hot chocolate at the end of it and it’s in 6 weeks. That’s a challenge for me since 3 miles gets me going right now. I don’t anticipate any great speed, but I’ll give it a go.

Mmmm…chocolate.

I also am planning on logging a few miles with a fellow recovering gimp. It will be fun since we’ve never actually met except for virtually through an old friend. Fun!

When I’m all healed up, I’m going to let this man kick my butt.

Ladies & gents, if you want to kick your a** get to Steven’s class. Game changer.   (Image courtesy of Flywheel Sports)

 

I don’t want pity. I’m just saying that sometimes even the most positive, internally motivated people get the blues. Instead of wallowing, I’m fighting back.

I’m signing up for races even though I’m not ready to race, per se. That is, not in tip-top shape. But it’ll be FUN! I’m signing up for spin classes not because my numbers are gonna be awesome but because I know I’ll feel better when I leave class. I’m planning my spring running adventures and making sure I tell people so that they *secretly* hold me accountable.

Do what you know you need to do. Get out there. Go workout with a friend (or in my case, a stranger), force those workouts back into your schedule.

That’s what I’m doing. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Now go out and run!

Better Than the Alternative Tuesdays: New {Old} Milestones

Are you sick of me talking about my post-surgery life/changes/milestones yet? No? Good.

And happy Better Than the Alternative Tuesday to you!

I was chatting with a friend last night and when she asked me how I’m feeling these days, I immediately went to how my runs are going. What can I say, I’m happy to be back! Anyway, I was telling her how hard it is to run just 3 miles when a little over a two months ago I was knocking out 8 or 10 like it was nothing.

*sigh*

I don’t get down on myself about this. Trust me, I celebrate running 3 miles as though I had just run 26.2.

You might think I’m kidding about the dancing part. I am not.

What my friend and I chatted about was how NEW it felt to run/workout again. It’s like my body has never done it before, except it has. FOR 22 YEARS!!!! I don’t even remember my first run being as hard on my poor hamstrings as any of these last week’s runs have been.

The last time I remember feeling like death on a run was my first practice as a freshman on my high school’s cross country team. I went from running 2 mile races to doing 5Ks. That may not seem like a big leap to you, but the warmup was 1 1/2 miles.

In August.

In Chicago.

In cotton.

*shudder*

It was torture. I was the last one in on the entire team and the coach turned to one of the captains and said, “What do you think of the newbie?” Thankfully, he said, “She’ll do fine.” So I stayed. Imagine if he said something different.

My face probably would’ve looked something like this. I make the same face for disappointing Christmas present wrapping as I do for when I don’t make the cut on the cross country team. 

I remember my first race with that team. It was my first 5K. 3.1 miles, which was “long distance” running to me. I was so proud of myself for training, for finishing, even if I didn’t place. It was such a milestone for me. On Sunday I ran 3.1 miles for the first time post-surgery and hit a New {Old} Milestone and felt that same feeling of accomplishment.

Yesterday I blasted through another New {Old} Milestone and finished my first Flywheel class post-surgery. It was HARD. Harder than the original first one I took. But I was so pumped to have been there, working hard with my favorite teacher, that my numbers didn’t matter. Just being in the classroom and sweating like an animal put a smile on my face.

Pretty sure I wasn’t this smiley after yesterday’s class. More like, half-smile *gasp* “No pictures, please.”

I have celebrated a lot of New {Old} Milestones since surgery. Walking. Showering. Washing my own hair. Walking by myself. Dressing myself. Making my own food. Walking as fast as my fellow New Yorkers (I definitely called the Obi-wans when this one happened!). Running. Spinning. Staying awake all day without a nap.

(Ok, that last one is more out of necessity. I kinda miss my mid-day naps.)

I do soooooo love a nap.

Some of these may seem silly to you, but I remember doing many of them for the first time. And now I remember hitting these New {Old} Milestones a second time, which is even sweeter.

New {Old} Milestones make me feel like I’m making progress. Actual, tangible progress. Every time I hit–and blast through!–one, I feel more and more like myself. Surgery can take away that feeling of self. So can injury. Or any other life change. Meeting these New {Old} Milestones reminds me that it’s just a matter of time and patience before I feel like me again. 100% me.

And that feeling makes being here any day so much Better Than the Alternative.

Have you ever hit a New {Old} Milestone due to a change in your life? How did it feel? Did you do a dance like I did? Share your story in the comments 🙂 Also, did anyone run this morning? It’s 57° in NYC!!!!  

Now go out and run!