Friday, February 29, 2008

Gettin' off the Couch

I ran into my friends Dave and Liz last night at a Wildlife Society banquet and started talking with them about my running, training, etc. Liz piped up with the oft-heard response "Oh, that sounds like fun, but I can't run that far."

You know, I used to use that line, and others ("I'm not a runner," "I'm not built to run," "Running sucks," etc.).

So where did the change come from? Well, the story's long and full of details that are probably better recanted while on a long run or for a post-workout beer. But I'll at least give you a brief run-down of the history of my evolution from being a non-runner to someone who, less than two years later, is thinking that the run portion of a triathlon will be the easiest part!

Before I really began learning to run in August 2006, I'd tried several different times to run. I remember one summer (2003) I went out running several times, and could never run for more than about 5 minutes before I'd have to stop and walk. I went for these run/walks about once a week. My last semester in college, too, I tried running here and there, and one day even ran a full half mile at one time. Again, my efforts were sporadic. And in all cases, I'd always have these overly-optimistic goals of being able to go from basically no running at all to running at least a mile. When I couldn't eek out a full mile, I'd be embarassed. My shins would hurt for days afterwards. I'd tell myself all the reasons why I wasn't made to run.

Then in 2006 several factors started leading to my decision to run:

* I worked with a woman named Emily who, while being a strong, beautiful woman, does not look like the stereotypical runner; yet she'd recently finsihed a marathon, and was telling me about all of the cool races she'd done. What?! You mean you don't have to be turbo-thin and full of sinewy leg muscles to run a marathon? That was pretty inspiring!

Emily told me about the Couch to 5k program, and while I looked it up that spring, I didn't decide to implement it until several months later. But she'd planted a seed, and had given me some inspiration.

* That summer I finally began to realize/accept that the field work I was doing for my job just wasn't as demanding as the work I'd done in my younger years. And there wasn't much hope for it getting better. One of the sad realities of being a wildlife biologist is that the more educated you become, the more your work leads you indoors. While you're more able to affect change from that venue, you definitely miss out on some of the guts & glories of field work.

For the first time ever, I actually gained weight that summer. A stark contrast to the days when I would lose 15-20 lbs in the summer months while backpacking! I realized, though, that those days were over, and that I couldn't rely on my job to give me all of the physical activity I needed.

* In early August I had the opportunity to get certified to fight wildfires. The first step in that process is to attend a week-long class. The second step is to take the "Pack Test," in which you have to walk (not run!) 3 miles wearing a 45 lb pack in 45 minutes or less.

I wasn't too worried about the mileage or the weight, seeing as how I've covered many more miles with more weight in previous backpacking excursions. But one morning a few weeks before my test I decided to go out and walk 3 miles, just to see how fast of a pace I'd have to maintain in order to do it in 45 minutes or less. I used my car to measure out a course, then went out at dawn. The first morning it took me 52 minutes to do 3 miles. Yikes! I'd have to pick up the pace a little.

The next morning I tried again. My hips were a little sore from the day before, but I cut my time down to about 47 minutes. The third morning was the charm, though, and I finished in 43 minutes. That's a pretty fast pace for someone my size to have to walk. But it was do-able, at least without the weight!

Those three mornings taught me a few things, though. First, I was in pretty poor shape. Especially for August-- a time when in past years I'd been at my prime. Second, I felt really good all day long, with more energy than normal and a little more brightness in my smile, on those mornings when I got good exercise first-thing in the day. Also, I found that I was more prone to make healthier eating decisions throughout the rest of the day when I exerised first-thing. And finally, I saw a major decrease in my time in just three days, and began to wonder if it wouldn't be possible to jog 3 miles and enter the All Women's Run 5k in October.

* Meanwhile, my friend Jenny was finishing up her field season, and wanted to find a way to maintain her fitness post-field. She'd been doing bird work all summer, so she was used to the early morning hours. So when I proposed to her that we try out the Couch to 5k plan, and meet every morning at 6am, she was game!

We began implementing the plan, and for the first several weeks were great at holding each other accountable to meet in the early morning for our workout. The first few weeks felt really easy-- we'd walk for 2 minutes and jog for 1 minute, repeating the process for a total of 30 minutes. Piece of cake. Then the next week the workouts would increase the ratio of running to walking... but only in small enough increments that we barely noticed the difference. We heeded the warnings not to increase our intensity more quickly than what the plan stated, and neither of us had any injuries and we only had slight soreness from time to time.

In fact, the plan was so easy, we were appalled at our success when we finally accomplished our first 20 minute run. That goal had seemed so unachievable just 2 months earlier!

I'm totally indebted to Jenny for sticking with me in those early days. Having a buddy helped so much in keeping me on-track and accountable for getting my workouts in. And it was such a special bonding moment when we both completed our first ever 5k that October!

Well, as they say, the rest is history. Once I ran 3 miles, I figured I could do 5. And then once I ran 5, I began to think of 13. And once I did 13, I began to wonder if I could do 3 faster. And if I could tack it on to a run and a bike ride...

So here I am today. While doing a three mile run no longer seems like a daunting, nearly insurmoutable feat, the days when it did feel that way are still close enough in my memory that I get a little misty-eyed when I heard Liz repeat my old line last night. But I nearly jumped for joy when she expressed interest in the Couch to 5k plan, and genuinely seemed like she'd want to try it. And then I saw Dave again this morning, and he said that Liz kept talking about running late into the night last night.

Bingo! I got one hooked! So Liz, look out. You're now on my list of Converts! I can't wait to help you get started on the plan, and to har about your successes. And to run a 5k with you later this summer!

Anyone else want to learn to run? If so, I'd love to be your #1 cheerleader!

(NOTE: names have not been changed to protect the innocent; nope, I'm holding my friends accountable for their inspiring actions and enthusiasms!!!!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

My New Suit

Yesterday I swam for 20 minutes straight. Not sure how far I went-- I lost track of laps after a while. It didn't matter, though. I was just testing myself-- could someone who couldn't swim a full lap back in November actually swim for 20 minutes?

Well, of course I could. I just took a nice, slow pace, kept my heart rate low and my breathing regular, and just swam and swam and swam. No big deal. I could do that all day.

With that confidence boost, I placed my order for a ProMotion triathlon wetsuit. Open water swimming, here I come (as soon as the ice melts off the lakes, that is!)

And while we're talking about clothes, could you use some new digs? If so, consider making a purchase that will help make a difference in the world. The Tri To End Homelessness campaign now has a great line of t-shirts and other casual wear. All proceeds benefit the Genesis Home, an organization that helps homeless individuals and families get their feet back under them and transition into a home-full life.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Adapting... because I'm dedicated

For the next 3 weeks my "normal" weekly schedule and workouts will be challenged by the fact that instead of being in Kalispell Mon-Fri, I'll be in Missoula for two weeks, and then in Helena for a week-- all for various training opportunities for work.

While it's great to get to be "home" for a few weeks, it definitely offers new challenges. First, I don't have a gym membership here in Missoula (or in Helena). And it ain't summer yet, so there are some environmental challenges to take into consideration!! So I have to get creative about when & where to get my workouts in. Here are some examples:

Yesterday morning my first obligation wasn't until 10am. So I got up at 6:30 to eat a banana, then headed out for my tempo run just as it was getting light (7:15 am). It had snowed most of the night and wet, slushy flakes were continuing to fall. As my route took me on roads near an elementary school and also through the main part of Frenchtown, traffic was fairly high at that time of the morning. So I got repeatedly splashed by slush from school busses and soccer moms whizzing their kids to school. My hair and eyelashes were collecting the flakes as they fell. It was definitely one of those runs that made me question "uh, why am I doing this?!"

But then I harkened back to the sense of pride I'd felt the day before when Jim's mom commented to me about my running, "wow, you're really dedicated to that."

Yes, I am. I am dedicated. To my running. To my triathlon training goals. To my overall health and fitness goals. I AM DEDICATED. I AM DEDICATED (imagine a slush-covered Carly running along chanting this in the early dawn...)

Today I was at the University of Montana for a training course. Our itenerary had noted a 1-hour lunch break (I usually only get 30 min--- if that!), so I decided to use my break to get in a swim workout at the Grizzly Pool (just a few buildings down from my class). This took a little bit of prior preparation. I had to have my swim gear all ready to go in a separate backpack from my work bag, and I had to have a readily-scarfable lunch to eat since I would be using my lunch break for non-eating endeavors.

Actually, it turned out to be good mental training for a triathlon. How quickly can I transition, both physically and mentally, between different activities/identities? Just as in a race I'll have to go from a swimmer to a biker to a runner, with all the associated gear changes, today I had to go from a biologist to a swimmer and back to a biologist-- again with associated gear changes.

As soon as the instructor freed us from class, I grabbed my gear and was out the door, making sure I got out on a fast start so that no one could catch me to chat about anything! I speed-walked to the pool, changed quickly, and got right to my workout:
2 x 50 warmup
8 x 50 drills (kick, pull, sidekick, drag)
3 x 200 cruise w/ last 50 accelaration
2 x 50 warmup
Done. Out of the pool. Quick shower. Dry off. Dress. Shove swim gear into bag. Brush hair on the walk back to class. Get there with 5 minutes to spare. Gobble a salad. Chew on a bagel and peanut butter, finishing as class began. Take a deep breath and mentally re-focus for the afternoon session. Whew!

Throughout the next three weeks I'll be trying to squeeze in workouts here there and yon, taking advantage of the opportunity to toss myself out of my normal routine and give myself new challenges and adapt to different environments. (for example, I learned the hard way that the deep end of the Griz pool is deeper than the one at my gym, and so the lane end marker looks farther away and thus it takes one less stroke to reach the end of the lane than what I'm accustomed to!)

Finding time and places to workout may not be easy. It may not be convenient. I may have to pay $3 to swim at the Griz Pool. I may have to ride my bike in laps around one of the only neighborhoods without snowy roads. But I'll do it. Because I am dedicated. In past times of my life, I would have let the disruption of my normal routine affect my exercise goals. I would have easily used the "travel' status to mean a vacation from anything I might have been working towards. But not now. I'm different now. I'm dedicated.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekly Workout Wrap-up

Totals for the week:
Running= 3 hr 15 min
Biking= 1 hr 15 min
Swimming 1 hr 30 min
Strength training= 2 hr
for a total of 8 hr of work-outs
Eating for the week was normal-- not trying to diet, just trying to stay fueled. Splurged on Wednesday night-- beer and pizza with folks from work while watching the lunar eclipse. No weight loss, but none gained, either. Good mainenance week, felt well fueled for some hard workouts.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Scoop on Protein Powders

One morning last week I ordered breakfast from the cafe in my gym-- a bowl of oatmeal. Sounds kinda boring, right? Wrong. It was the best oatmeal I'd ever had!!! It could've been the fact that I'd just finished lifting weights for an hour and was ravenous. Or it could be that the oatmeal was enhanced with Craisins (dried cranberries), slivered almonds, and vanilla protein powder. Those add-ins took a bowl of otherwise-boring oats to a new level of creamy, sweet deliciousness. I was a huge fan.

So of course this weekend I set out to buy the ingredients needed to make this dish for myself on a regular basis. I bought a can of Old Fashioned Oats (you can actually cook them in the microwave-- takes 3 minutes versus the 1 min needed for quick oats, but gives you more whole grains). Then I grabbed flax seeds and cranberries from the bulk food section. Finally, I went searching for protein powder.

Wow. Any idea how many choices there are in that department these days? The "healthy" grocery store I was shopping at had two shelves full of powders, supplements, and the like. Not wanting to spend all day reading labels and comparing prices, I grabbed a can of the powder that Amy recommended-- a product made by Kashi.

The next morning when I was making my oatmeal, I decided to count up the calories and nutritional information. One half cup of oats, one scoop of powder, ~2 Tbs of craisins, and ~1 Tbs flax seeds or nuts of your choice. (Add one cup of water, microwave 3 min, stirring every minute.) It was then that I realized the vanilla powder I'd bought was not just a protein powder but an energy shake.

What's the difference? Carbs. Energy shakes not only contain a good dose of protein, they try to offer a complete meal, so there's a heavy loading of carbs. This is great if your goal is to have a meal-replacement shake. But if you're trying to simply add some protein into your diet, without the extra carbs and associated calories, then a protein powder is a better option.

The protein powder that I've been using is the EAS Premium Protein that I get at Costco. Right now I have the chocolate flavor. One serving (2 scoops) has about 160 calories, 27 g protein, 2.5 g fat, and 3 g carbs. It's a blend of three types of protein-- whey, soy, and casein. Some body builders have bashed it because of the soy (apparently soy protein promotes estrogen?). But I think it tastes pretty good, and that's a lot of protein to pack into a few small scoops. I like making smoothies with 1 scoop of powder, 1/2 cup each of milk and yogurt, and a half of a frozen banana. The drawbacks to this product are that it doesn't mix well without a blender, and that it comes in a 6 lb bag, so you'd better want a lot of it!

Then the protein powder that the Good Medicine deli uses at the gym is called Designer Whey. It's soleley a whey-based protein (whey as in "Little Miss Muffit sat on her tuffit eating her curds and whey"; i.e. it's a milk-derived protein, basically a by-product in the cheese-making process). The French Vanilla flavor is what they used in the oatmeal. It looks like one scoop (24 g) has 90 calories, 2 g carbs, 18 g protein, and 1.5 g fat. So fairly similar to the EAS in that it has lots of protein, not much carbs or fat. Scoop sizes apparently differ. I haven't had any other experience with this brand, but the lady that runs Good Medicine is a badass fitness instructor/ex-military gal/mom/health-conscious person, so I found her recommendation to be fairly credible. She said she's explored a lot of different protein powders and likes this one best. One thing it definitely has going for it over the EAS is that you can buy smaller containers-- 12 oz, 2 lb, or 5 lb.

So the main point to pick up here is that ALL POWDER'S AREN'T CREATED EQUAL. Some are energy drinks or meal replacements that have carbs and protein. Some are mostly protein but have protein coming from different sources. So figure out what you need nutritionally, whether it's a meal replacement or just supplemental protein. Then figure out what protein source you think is best (there's tons of information and opinions out there; for some basic info, see here or here). Finally, READ THE LABELS to figure out what you're buying.

Then add it to your oatmeal and enjoy!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Not on my workouts, but on my blogging.

To keep you occupied for just one more day (I promise a good post tomorrow!), I'll refer you to Robyn's blog. Read especially the post from Monday, then go chug a glass of water!

Also, I put together a couple of new mixes this weekend that have songs guaranteed to make you want to get up and get movin'. Check out the playlists below. If you would like a copy, let me know and I'll make you one!

Mix #1: Decidedly NOT Hippie Music

1.You Gotta Be (Des’ree)
2.Charlie (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
3.I Will Follow (U2)
4.Stronger (Kanye West)
5.Survivor (Destiny’s Child)
6.New Resolution (Heatless Bastards)
7.I Don’t Wanna Be (Gavin DeGraw)
8.Don’t Stay Home (311)
9.Body Movin’ (Beastie Boys)
10. This Is Why I’m Hot (Mims)
11. In the Sunshine (Arrested Development)

Mix #2: A Little More Organic

1. Send Me On My Way (Rusted Root)
2. Black Horse & Cherry Tree (KT Tunstall)
3. Analyze (Cranberries)
4. Paint It Black (U2)
5. Walk Unafraid (REM)
6. Steal My Kisses (Ben Harper)
7. Rehab (Amy Winehouse)
8. Have You Ever (Brandi Carlile)
9. Me & Bobby McGee (Janis Joplin)
10. New York, New York (Ryan Adams)
11. My Sweet One (Phish)
12. That Boy (Mofro)
13. Holes to Heaven (Jack Johnson)
14. Walk on the Wild Side (Lou Reed)

Friday, February 15, 2008

Planning... And This Week's Workouts

This week was the first trial run of using my new planning system. I've been trying to figure out how to adjest to the world of training for 3 different sports-- running, biking, and swimming. It was a bit easier when I was focusing on running, and adding in the other things as cross-training. But there's a bit of a shift when you start thinking about the "other things" as activities you'd like to get better and faster and stronger at, as well as the running. It takes some more creative balancing of workouts. Most importantly, it takes making sure that you're getting plenty of workouts in, without over-doing it.

At the least I need to do 2 workouts each of swimming, biking, and running each week. One shoudl be easy, the other hard. No two hard workouts should occur on the same day. I need one rest day per week. And it would be great to get some strength training worked in there, too. That's essential the formula given in any basic triathlon training plan.

Beyond that, I have some of my own wishes/wants/needs/sideboards:

1. I want to swim 3 times a week. I've found that I seem to maintain a better level of comfort in the water if I swim more frequently. The workouts don't have to be long-- just 15 minutes or so is enough to keep the feel. So I'm trying to schedule in one hard, one easy, and one super-easy/short swim per week.
2. I want at least one weekend day off. I mean, jeez, what else are weekends for?!
3. I want to work on my speed with running. I'm doing my first race of the season the first week of April, and I'd like to see how darn fast I can run a 5k. So I need to get in one good Interval or Tempo workout each week.
4. I'd like to keep up my running endurance. Right now a 1-hr run is no big deal, and I'd like to keep it that way. And slowly add a little more time every few weeks. The Missoula 1/2 Marathon is still many months off, but keeping my current level of endurance will help build a super solid base upon which to add extra miles. Plus that endurance base will help with the triathlon.
5. I need to work around my triathlon class schedule. Our basic plan is to do a harder 40-45 minute bike on Wednesdays, and a longer run (~30 min). Then on Thursdays we mix it up a bit but generally do a shorter, easier bike, some easy running, and then some running drills.
6. I like my Friday morning Power Pump class with Rose and want to include that in my workout schedule. I'm additionally trying to work in at least one other strength session per week, be it weights or a Power Yoga workout.

Whew! So how do I schedule in all of these workouts, and still stay sane and keep my day job? Lucky for me, I'm a Type A Planner. I love making lists, schedules, charts, etc. So here's what I did this week-- I made an Excel sheet with each day in columns, each exercise in rows. Then I used color-coding to help me make sure I wasn't over-loading the hard workouts and that I was getting in all of the workouts I wanted.

I'll keep the same template for the next several weeks and see how it works, and how my workout schedule seems to work for me. One change, though, I'll do a long swim on Tuesdays and skip the one on Thursdays.

(Note: it looks a little fuzzy here, but just click on the schedule and it'll pop up in a window and look much clearer)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Don't Be Still, My Heart!

Okay, so last night after gorging myself on a HUGE baked potato with broccoli and cottage cheese, followed by 6 Hershey peanut butter kisses, I vowed to make today a high-burn, low-intake day. What better Valentine could I give myself than to be good to my own heart, right?! Plus, I need to break this carb-binging streak I've been on and get back to my more balanced, lower cal program.

So last night I went to bed by 9am, and set the alarm for 5am so I could get up and go swim (starting this week the pool's open in the mornings, as the high school swim team just finished their season and won't be practicing every morning like they have been). I really enjoy working out in the mornings, at least running, but when I have to be at work at 7am, it makes it tough to get in a workout. Besides which, I have a hard time motivating to go run on a treadmill or around a track first thing in the morning. If I can go for a nice sunrise jog, that's a different story. But the sun's still not coming up until 7:30-ish. So I thought a swim would be more tolerable in the morning, especially because I always find the envelopment of water and the non-pounding of the swimming to be quite soothing, even if I'm working hard.
Still, when the alarm starting buzzing, I had to give myself a pretty big pep-talk to get up and dressed. It's amazing the kind of excuses I can conjure up while half-asleep! But luckily I was able to shoot down the excuses, and was walking in the door of the gym by 5:35.
A sign reading "Pool Closed Due to Mechanical Problems" greeted me at the front desk. Bummer! I was so disappointed. Now what was I going to do?! I could go home and go back to bed for an hour. No, that's lame. I could go in to work early. Nah. I could go have a muffin and coffee at the bakery. Ahem, what was this about needing to break the carb-streak?! Okay, fine, I'll work out.
So I grabbed my still-sweaty-from-yesterday's-workout sports bra out of my bag, threw on some shorts and shoes, and hit the track. I walked 1/2 a mile and jogged 1/2 a mile, at an easy-peasy pace, just warming up but also thinking about my form. Then I did some ab work and pushups and stretches. A total of about 25 minutes of work. Not much, but more than any of the other alternatives would've done. Then I showered, grabbed a coffee, and still made it to work 15 minutes early.

So my Valentine to myself didn't turn out exactly as I'd planned. But I'll have another chance to treat myself this afternoon. Hopefully by 4:45 the pool will be fixed and I can get in a 25 minute swim before my Triathlon class begins. We'll do a short bike, then some plyometrics and run a few miles. Then I'll go home and have soup and salad for dinner, with a mug of warm mint tea for dessert (NOT a box of heart-shaped candies!). I'll try a morning swim again next week.

I hope everyone has a great Valentine's Day. Do something good for YOUR heart!!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Hungry, Hungry Hippo

I like being a woman. I like to feel my body cycle, like getting in tune with the different needs at different times of the cycle. But I don't like that my body thinks it needs 12 bagels a day when I'm at a certain point in that cycle.

For the past few days it's been extremely difficult to resist some urges to eat tons of carbs. And I must admit, I've lost more of those battles than I've won in the past few days.

In an effort to try to find out why this Hungry-Hippo phenomenon seems to happen, I checked out the Women's Health website and found this bit of information & advice:

Q: I'm dieting, but I get ravenous before my period. Do I really need more fuel at this time?
A: No. But indulging your cravings may make you feel better. Levels of serotonin (the brain chemical associated with feelings of contentedness and relaxation) are lower right before your period, and eating sweet and starchy carbs (like chocolate or oatmeal cookies) can bring them back up, easing moodiness and irritability. Don't deprive yourself -- just stick to one 150-calorie serving of your favorite treat per day.

Well, I reckon I've got some work to do-- 12 bagels* is not just a 150-calorie serving! But the good news is that, just as it does every month, this phase will pass soon, and in the week post-bloat, I'll feel much more trim and fit and ready to eat well again. Until then, carbs beware!

* just for the record, I haven't actually eaten 12 bagels. I might be exaggerating a bit. Call it artistic liberty.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Where did YOUR dinner come from?

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

(panorama of the corrals area)

I decided to spend most of my weekend working with Jim, since we haven't spent much time together lately. Most weekends I've done my own thing during the day (skied, run, stayed inside to do chores around the house, etc) while he's worked. But this weekend I forewent all of my activities and just followed him around all day.

Friday evening I got in from Kalispell and Jim was exhausted, so we fixed a pizza and started watching a movie. About 10 minutes into the movie, he fell asleep, so I did laundry and hung out until midnight when I woke him up to go check on the cows. Sure enough, one of the heifers (a cow that's never had a calf before) was having problems getting her baby out, so we pitched in and helped her. Got back to the house and went to bed by about 2am.

8am Saturday, got up and made coffee and egg sandwiches, then went down to check on the cows again. Everything was fine, so we fueled up the tractor and started feeding. It takes 4 round bales (the big half-ton rounds) plus 16 smaller (~80 lb) square bales to feed all of the cows and horses around the place. Of course there are lots of different pens and pastures in which to feed different amounts, so we're constantly hopping down off the tractor to open a gate, or loading up the back of the truck to toss small bales out. A lot of up and down, some walking around, a good bit of upper body work lifting bales.

(Jim fueling up the tractor)

After we got everything fed it was time to tag the new babies and send them and their moms over to another pasture (they keep the mothers-to-be in separate areas from the moms and babies). Tagging new calves involves driving the truck up alongside the mom and baby, and either hopping out and catching the baby or tossing a rope around it. Then we can either work the baby on the ground or pull it up in the back of the truck (the safer option, since sometimes the moms get a little possessive about their babies and wouldn't mind stomping on you if they think you're hurting their kid). Once captured the baby gets a shot of Vitamins A&D and Selenium, gets iodine squirt on its belly button/umbilical cord, and gets an eartag that matches its mothers tag number. Then if it's a boy it gets two small rubber bands placed around its testicles (this cuts off the blood supply and thus those parts just shrivel up and don't develop). It may sound a bit inhumane, but the other option is to cut the testes out when we brand (once the calves are 2-3 months old); so this option is much less invasive and doesn't risk infection. So once all the babies were tagged, we had to move them and their moms over to the "nursery" pasture. One of the baby calves was having a hard time keeping up, so I walked right behind it, bumping its butt with my thighs each step for the 1/4 mile hike. Good leg workout.
(Jim turning a bull calf into a steer)

Once done with that project, we had to go load 75 of the 80-lb bales onto a truck for a guy who was buying some for his horses. Good upper body workout. Then we cleaned out a few of the pens that had housed moms and babies that either had needed medicine or just needed some alone time (sometimes a new mom will have a hard time remembering her calf, so we have to lock them up together for a few days until she realizes the thing is hers--- remember, we breed them for their meat, not for their brains!) Using a pitchfork, I'd hoist a pile of wet mucky straw up and toss it over the top of the pen. Another good upper body workout.
(Come on, baby, smile for the camera!)

We spent the afternoon in the shop building a new salt feeder (a wooden trough on skids and with a roof over it, so that you can fill it with salt/mineral mix for the cows, then drag it to different parts of the pasture as needed). I got refreshers in running a table saw, squirmed around driving screws in at weird angles, and basically had a good yoga/stretch type activity.

Late afternoon a friend called and asked if we could come help him get his truck unstuck. So we ran up to his place and helped him do that, then stopped at a little bar on the way home to have a few beers and get dinner. I was pooped after my long day out in the cold, having hopped and crawled and trudged around all day! We got home and curled up in bed and were both almost asleep when the phone rang. It was the boss's son, who had done his 9pm check on the cows, and had one that was having troubles. So we pulled our boots and coveralls back on, went down and got her in the corral, helped pull her calf, came back home and slept an hour, did our check at midnight, checked again at 3am, and got up at 8am to start the whole process over again.

Anyone who's ever thought that cattle ranching looked easy, that all you do is sit on a tractor and drive around all day, should come and spend a weekend with Jim. Talk about needing endurance, strength, and mental willpower. No wonder the guy can eat 3500 calories a day and not gain any weight!

I got a break this afternoon to come back up to the house to do some cleaning and make something for supper. Craig and Amy are coming over, so I thought I'd vacuum up some of the hay that's on the floor, and maybe move the wet gloves and hats off the drying racks (also known as our kitchen chairs!) They're coming early enough to go down and see the baby cows with us for a little while (the little stinkers are pretty darn cute when they're a few days old-- they start running around and clicking their heels in the air, happy to be alive and to have all four legs under them!) Amy wants to see a calf born. Seeing as how we've had 50-some born in the last 3 weeks, and there are ~150 cows left to calve, the chances are pretty decent if she sticks around long enough, we can make her wish come true!

For dinner we'll be having meatloaf (and mashed potatoes!) made with beef from a cow that was born and raised on the ranch that we had butchered a month or so ago. Nothing like keeping it local and having an intimate understanding of where your food comes from. If we ever have kids, they will definitely not be the type that think hamburger comes from the grocery store!
(mama nursing her baby that we helped pull)

Friday, February 8, 2008

Week in Review

Monday-- 60 min step/interval class; 15 minutes abs; 15 min easy swim (mostly drills)

Tuesday-- 45 min swim (focus on endurance)

Wednesday-- 45 minute bike (inside; lots of simulated hills); 30 minute moderate-intensity run; 15 min abs

Thursday-- 30 min bike (inside; mostly steady with some sprints); 10 min easy run then running drills/plyometrics
(I also snowshoed around rolling topography for ~4 hours for work)

Friday-- strength training (Power Pump-- lunges, squats, upright rows, military presses, bicep curls, and abs)

Tomorrow I'll do a long run (70 min easy pace) and then Sunday will take a much-anticipated Rest Day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Thoughts... or the lack thereof

One of the best things I've found about running, biking, or skiing is the chance it gives me to A. do something good for my body, and B. hang out with either myself and my own thoughts or socialize with friends. A long weekend ski is a great time to catch up with friends, talk about the week, the weather, whatever. It beats sitting in a bar (although there should still be time for that afterwards!... just don't make it the center of your experience). But I also like the times when I'm just out by myself for a long run. I can listen to music or a podcast, or just hang out with my own thoughts and the sound of my feet hitting the ground. In any case, it gives my mind time to clear out. I've noticed that I can't think about anything too serious or needing too much detail (like complicated work-related things). and I've also found that if I think about negative thoughts or things that stress me out (relationships, the future, etc), it affects my running, so I push those thoughts away as quickly as they come up. So without any deep, complex thoughts running around, I'm just left with the good stuff. I often think about time spent with friends, or I notice how beautiful the day is; I look at the houses I jog past and wonder which one I'd live in if I had the choice. You know, nice carefree thoughts. So not only am I working my heart and lungs and muscles and benefitting them, but running also holds some psychological benefits for me, too, by forcing me to think happy thoughts. Of course, on days when I'm doing speed intervals or a tempo run, my thoughts tend to focus more on the run itself, as I'm demanding a bit more from my body, and my mind has to get with the program.

I noticed in the pool last night that my thoughts while swimming never seem to be about anything but swimming. For the most part here lately, I've been working a lot on my technique. So most of the swimming I do is in short lengths-- 50 to 100 yards-- and I'm specifically focussing on one aspect of my stroke or another. So my thoughts are often "keep your head down, keep your head down" or "elbows high, grab the water" or "1-2-3-breathe, 1-2-3-breathe." This will continue for 1 to 2 minutes, then I stop and take a break, and go again to work on the next focus point.

But yesterday I did a workout that focussed more on my swimming endurance. After warming up, I did a ladder of 100, 200, 300, 200, and 100 yard swims at a nice sustainable pace. Right now 100 yards takes me a couple of minutes or so to do. So the 300 took around 8 minutes. That's a long time to be thinking the thoughts that I usually think while swimming. So I starting thinking about what I could think about while swimming. It was the first time I'd ever been A. comfortable enough, and B. swam for long enough, to start thinking about anything other than swimming.... But I couldn't think about anything to think about. It was funny-- I knew I had time to let my mind wander a bit, but I just couldn't think about anything except what I should think about. I wondered what the high school swimmers doing sprints in the next lane were thinking about. I wondered what the lady doing the breast stroke in my lane was thinking about. What do people think about when they swim? What should I think about?

What do you think about when you exercise? Think about it. Experiment with thinking about things that stress you, make you sad, make you worried. Notice how that affects your body's performance. Then change your thoughts to things that make you smile; remember good times you've had; imagine yourself as a sleek performance athlete. How does that affect your physical dispositon? Your psychological disposition?

Exercise isn't just for the body. Yes, you'll reap numerous physical benefits-- increased heart health, lower risk of multiple diseases, increased metabolism, decreased body fat. But there are more benefits than just those. The mind and the psyche have much to benefit from exercise, too. So think about your thoughts... or the lack thereof... the next time you work out. And give yourself an extra "atta-girl" for all of the physical, emotional, and psychological goodness you're giving yourself.

Monday, February 4, 2008

OSCR Follow-up

Photos and Results from Team Slowpoke (just scroll to the bottom of the results to see our names and times!)

(Left to right: Amy, Carly, Kev, Mamie)

A Girl Must Accessorize!

Health report: I'm feeling 100% better now, thank goodness. Had a great swim workout on Saturday morning, and then yesterday afternoon went for a long run. I had to laugh at myself, though, for the absurd amount of time it took me to get ready and the amount of things I thought were totally necessary. I'll share:

I'm usually a pretty no-nonsense, low-maintenance type of gal. On any given morning that I have to be at work at 7am, my routine goes something like this:
6:32—finally get out of bed, after hitting the snooze bar for the last hour; 6:33-6:40—bathroom time (pee, brush my teeth, run my fingers through my hair or pull it back in a ponytail); 6:40-6:44—rifle through the closet for something to wear, typically jeans and a sweater; 6:45-6:53—run downstairs to make a smoothie for breakfast and pack my lunch; 6:54—leave for work; 6:58—arrive at work, start a pot of coffee; 7:00—ready to rock & roll. Like a well-oiled machine. A low-maintenance, well-oiled machine.

It was a totally different story as I got ready to go for a run this afternoon. I was anything but organized and low-maintenance. I procrastinated the run throughout the morning, waiting for it to warm up a bit outside. By 2pm, the sun was shining, there was no wind, and I'd done as many chores as I could stand. It was time to get ready to run. So I began by searching around my closet for my running tights and just the right pair of socks. Then I had to run down to my car to get my shoes and gym bag. Back up to the apartment to decide upon tops. Tried on a t-shirt and fleece, then changed my mind and put on a long-sleeve poly and a fleece. Grabbed my wind-breaker. Put on my shoes. Grabbed some TP for my pocket. Dug through my bag for my heart-rate monitor and mp3 player. Got both of those hooked up and ready to go. Pulled my hair back into a ponytail, then put on my ear warmer band. Took my house key off my key ring and put it in my pocket. Searched for a matching pair of gloves. Strapped on my YakTrax. Finally walked out the door. Got to the parking lot and realized it was super sunny and bright. Went back up to my apartment to get my car keys so I could get my sunglasses. Took key back to apartment. Made it back to the parking lot, and FINALLY began running. Total worktime= 1 hour 45 minutes (getting ready= 35 minutes!)

Among nearly any list of the benefits of running, you’ll see some mention about how it can be done anywhere you go and requires nothing but a good pair of shoes.

Yeah, right. Maybe if you live in some tropical place, where on any given February day you can pull on a pair of shorts, a sports bra, shoes and socks, and hit the road running.

I guess I’m just too picky. I could run without all those extra things. But I really like the way my legs feel when running in tights. And it’s nice to have music to listen to. Well, and the heart rate monitor is a fun new training tool. Sunglasses help keep the facial muscles loose. And Yak Trax make a huge difference on icy substrates. They’re all necessities, I think.

So yeah, just like some ladies think it’s an absurd suggestion to leave the house without doing their hair and makeup and properly accessorizing their outfit with coordinating jewelry, shoes, and purses, I guess I’m a high-maintenance running girl who “must have” all my things just right. Silly me.

Friday, February 1, 2008

This Week's (lack of a) Workout Plan

Here's what I've been up to this week:

Monday-- stayed home from work with fever/chills/all-body aches and bad bowel problems; exercise included walking up and down the stairs in my apartment as I alternated between the recliner (downstairs) and the bed (upstairs)

Tuesday-- went to work for 1 hour; had to use the bathroom 4 times in that hour, so concluded I wasn't well enough to be there; went to the store for gingerale and graham crackers; went home (see Monday's exercise regime)

Wednesday-- was about to leave for work when the bowels errupted again; stayed home for the morning, then went in once everything settled down

Thursday-- made it thru a full workday, though kept having to leave my meeting to run to the restroom after eating a bowl of soup (apparently I wasn't ready to transition from the graham cracker diet yet)

Friday-- attempting to work a full day; ate some more graham crackers for breakfast and have some more soup for lunch-- cross my fingers for better results than yesterday; planned exercise: if I feel up to it, I might walk over to Starbucks to get some tea on my lunch break

Saturday & Sunday-- staying in Kalispell so I don't go home and infect Jim with whatever I've got; plan to rest lots, hopefully get my bowels in order enough to be able to eat some food and get some strength back; take some walks, do some yoga as energy returns

It's been a pretty pathetic week. But I guess I should embrace the chance to rest and recover. Hopefully I'll be able to start easing back in to my normal routine soon!