Monday, April 7, 2014

Variety is the Spice of (an Active) Life

First things first, I can't talk about being active without sharing the good news from my appointment with my rhuem last week!  She gave me the OK to train for a half marathon with the caveat that I have to stop training if I have any joint flare ups.  I have my sights set on a trail half in Berkeley in the fall so that is what I will start training for.  It's a ways off but I will start to increase my long runs so that I will be more than ready when race day comes!  I might do a road half before or after that trail half but I need some clarity on where I'll be living this summer/fall before making that decision.

Back in my pre-RA days, I was pretty active.  Actually I'd say I was really active but if you added up the time I spent exercising, running would have accounted for the majority of the time.  I ran with my running club 3 days a week and did one recovery run on my own which meant I had 2 tough workouts that focused on things like speed work, hills, tempo runs, etc, a recovery run that was basically what I would refer to as 'junk miles' and then a long run that was ran at a conversational pace.  I tried to work in some cross training during marathon training but if I am totally honest, I sort of schlepped my way through cross training activities and would do things like bike for 30 minutes at a steady pace. 

Part of the reason my cross training fell under the 'meh' category is because I did not have a gym membership.  My condo in Minneapolis had such a nice gym, I just couldn't justify the expense.  I also have a gym at my apartment building here in Charlotte but it's not nearly as nice as my Minneapolis one and has way less equipment.  So when I got out of the boot for good last fall, I decided to join a gym, which has turned out to be the best decision.

These days, as much as I'd like to be running even more miles than I am, the reality of the situation is that it's just not wise to do so.  My joints are still recovering and I have to be careful about how much time I spend running as running is high impact which means it's hard on my joints.  So I have been forced to find other cross training activities to fill my calendar.

But it turns out that being forced to try other things has ended up being the best thing for me and I feel more fulfilled by my exercise routine than I have in years.  Sure it helps that I am able to run 3 times a week, but I'm no longer slogging through the cross training activities that I do on the other days - I'm actually really enjoying them (for the most part).  So how am I keeping myself busy?

1.  Strength training.  This was something that was sorely lacking in my workout schedule in the past but now that I have a gym membership, I have been taking strength training class, my favorite of which is Body Pump.  Rome wasn't built in a day so it's definitely going to take awhile before I start to really notice a difference in muscle tone, but I can tell I am getting stronger and overall I feel more lean.

2.  Spinning.  OK, I am not even going to pretend that I like spin.  I don't.  And I know that some people would tell me that if I don't enjoy it, I shouldn't do it, but it's a good way for me to get a 4th day of cardio. I burn a lot of calories, sweat my face off, and am always glad I took the class after the fact.  But during the class when the instructor is telling me to accelerate when I'm in gear 18?  I want to punch her.  And quit.  Or both.  But spinning does push me out of my comfort zone which is why I keep going back.

3.  Deep Stretching.  I snagged a deal on 5 classes for $29 at a local yoga studio and have been taking a deep stretch class there.  I wish I could take a traditional yoga class but my upper body joints just can't handle things like downward facing dog, or the transition from DFD to high plank down to low plank to blah blah blah.  The yogis out there know what I mean.  But deep stretch has been great and I have been trying to go once a week.

On any given week, I usually run 3 days, try to take a spin class (this doesn't always happen), take 2 body pump or total strength classes, and go to a deep stretch class.  I usually take one full rest day so workout about 6 days a week on average which works well for me.  One of Nilsa's goals for April is to get in 30 workouts in 30 days and I am going to try to do the same.  That will mean doubling up 1-2 days a week to account for rest days or days when it's just not possible to fit in a workout (which will be the case a couple of days this month due to a crazy work travel schedule).  The challenge is also making me think about how to fit workouts into days that I usually would have written off as a rest day in the past due to work travel.

In closing, I'll say that I really can't explain how great it is to be back to running and able to do other things like strength training.  I feel like I'm constantly gushing about it to Amber because I vented to her about not being able to active for so long - I bet she likes the gushing better than venting.  ;) Being so limited for so long was very very hard on me, especially those 4 months I spent in a boot when I wasn't able to do anything.  Life is super stressy lately, but all these work outs are helping me stay sane!

What do you do to stay active?  Is there a lot of variety to your fitness routine or do you tend to gravitate towards one activity?  Are there activities you aren't currently doing that you'd like to try?  I would like to fit in some swimming and try a zumba or other dance-style class as they sound so fun.


Abby said...

I am so happy you are able to be active again, and that you're finding so much variety in your workouts! :)

I workout 6 days/week also. Some days I will double up - run in the morning, swim or weight train at night. But my "bottom line" is : 3 runs/week (1 speed, 1 long), 3 weight training sessions per week, at least one bike ride.

Maybe you could get resistance bands and so exercises in your hotel room! I know some tough workouts with those - that get your heart rate up and they are easy to pack!

missris said...

Honestly these days (less than a month from the half marathon) pretty much all I'm doing is running. Now that it's finally warmer outside I do all my running outdoors and have paused my gym membership. I actually think I get more variety in the winter months because I'm forced to use the gym and I have to get some variety in so I don't go insane!

Jeanie said...

I'm so glad to hear this, Lisa -- I know how much it means to you and to have an official OK for training must be a huge gift.

I've never been big on the movement thing which is how I got into the body mess I'm in in the first place. But now I'm trying to hit the gym every weekday and spinning has been my favorite. My teachers sound different than yours -- they say do the best you can, certainly push and improve but do what you can and grow. It's very positive and I do better than I used to when I started. They also say "watch your knees" and on days when I've pushed the resistance too much, I can have a problem. They just make it fun. I'm doing strength training (a starter bit for seniors, though I'm the youngest in the group) and lots on the eliptical. I can't say I love it. But I'm beginning to feel very guilty on days I don't go!

Kelly (She Wears a Red Sox Cap) said...

So glad you are able to run again! My issues with my knee have also forced me to do lots of different exercises but I feel like you, I kind of love it. It keeps me entertained and active :) the deep stretching class sounds really cool too!

Marisa A. said...

I have a confession....I LOVE spin. I thought I would hate it, since I really don't enjoy biking at all but there is something about spin class. I don't know if its the lights, the music or how the class is somewhat choreographed to the music but I absolutely love it. Maybe you have a bad instructor. When you move back we can go to this studio in uptown for a class together, they are so much fun :)

Stephany said...

I really miss taking classes at the gym! I think it's so much easier to have a varied workout schedule when you have a gym membership because you have a TON of classes at your disposal. I used to do something different almost every day when I had a membership.

My workouts aren't super varied nowadays. I've been using workout DVDs lately, but now I'm doing more cardio at my apartment gym. I go in waves, I suppose, of doing one or two things for a while and then trying something new.

Elizabeth said...

Haha I LOVE this. Especially your description of spin class! I love the concept of spin but me on a sweaty bike seat for a long period of time is never any good for UTIs. The few times I have tried it, I loved the work out, but not the health issues in the days/weeks afterwards! :) Maybe TMI, sorry! SO glad you are back to working out though and I can't imagine not being able to work-out at all for several months--you were a trooper all things considering, especially cause it was at a time when you really needed those work-outs to blow off steam. These days I'm mainly just running but still trying to focus on being gentle to my body instead of pushing it too hard. I've come to realize that running 3-4 days a week is ideal for me although I really do need to fit in more strength training and stretching.

Lauren @ Sassy Molassy said...

Lisa, it sounds like you're doing a great job getting in several types of workouts each week! I would love to do body pump some day as I've heard such good things about it. But for now, I'm happy without a gym membership. That's great that you're doing a stretching class even if you can't do a traditional flow class! Might tight hammies and legs in general need some more stretching, that is for sure!

I definitely feel strongest when I'm doing running, weight lifting and yoga! And now with the sunshine...biking. I really enjoyed peanut butter runner's post the other day about how weight lifting and yoga has changed her body. She mentioned having to let go of her "runner" persona, which I totally identify with, but know that running high mileage isn't very realistic for a lifetime.

Leigh said...

I bet it feels so good to be able to be active again! Since I hurt my knee, I've realized that I miss working out like crazy and want to cry when I see other people running. I know how you must have felt!

Amber said...

I am so happy you are able to workout again! Even just through our daily texting and occasional video chat I can tell that you are doing better and I'm sure regular workouts have a lot to do with that. It's funny that we're totally in the same place right now because even though I'm not coming back to running after a long hiatus I am varying my workouts more than I have in a long, long time and feel better than ever for it! It's also made my running stronger as evidenced by the trail half I did where I was only a minute slower than last year despite awful conditions and doing way less running leading up to it!

By the way, I'm SO excited we settled on a trail race for the fall! I really think once you get into it you will start to enjoy trail running and I bet the softer surfaces will also be nicer on your joints!

Nilsa @ SoMi Speaks said...

It is soooooo good to hear you be positive about working out. It is most definitely centering (for those of us who do it regularly) and throws our world in a tizzy when we cannot do it. It's funny, but I used to be much more diversified in my workouts (more weights, different kinds of cardio, some yoga, etc.). These days, I've found that running or walking outside is my sure bet for cardio and doing some HIIT workouts at home is pretty much the only way I'm going to build up strength. Here's to 30 in 30!!!

Jolene - EverydayFoodie said...

I need variety - I get bored very easily. I like to do any activity that doesn't require me going to an actual gym.