WHW: Mixing It Up.

You know those people who decide to try something new/visit a new place/take up a new hobby and literally spend hours reading about it, researching it and planning it out before they start? Yeah…that’s me. When I first started running, I spent hours reading articles on RunnersWorld.com, stalking running blogs and printing out beginner’s training plans. That’s just how I am. When I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it well.

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During that early “research” period, I read articles/blog posts about the difficulty runners have with cross-training. They know they should do it, but can’t find the time because all they do is run. I just knew that would never be me. I wanted to become a runner, but I just couldn’t see myself running 6 days a week and doing nothing else. Here I am, 13 months later and I run 5 days a week and squeeze in a yoga or Pilates class maybe twice. All I ever want to do is run. I love yoga, Pilates and Zumba, but somehow running always wins out.

But after two weeks of no weight loss (no weight gain either!) and two runs during which random pains started up in my legs, I know it’s time to get serious about cross-training. Running has done amazing things for my cardiovascular fitness and my body has definitely gotten smaller, but I don’t really see any definition besides my calves. I’ve also noticed that my core is still extremely weak and let’s not even talk about my upper body. Nothing has changed since Middle School when I could only do 1 pull-up. Except now I probably couldn’t even do one. If I want to become a well-rounded runner, and athlete, I have to start building strength.

 

I really don’t want to overdo it and run the risk of an injury or tiring my legs out too much during training for RnR USA, but I do want to make sure that I’m working my entire body and not just my legs. So the plan is to do at least 3 strength sessions each week (Pilates or a Tone It Up! workout). I’d like to do some other form of cardio as well, so I’m going to attend a Zumba class twice a week. (I know the elliptical would be good for me, but if I’m going to spend an hour on a machine, it’s gonna be a treadmill.) I’ve decided to save yoga for my rest days since it gives me a really great stretch but not enough strength work.

I’m hoping this plan will give my body the push it needs to get through this plateau and will enhance my half-marathon training. I’m going to start scheduling my cross-training the way I schedule my runs so I won’t be tempted to skip them. I know that once I get into the habit of going, I’ll love it and won’t want to stop. I’m breaking the curse of the running-only runner one Zumba class at a time!

How do you work cross-training into your schedule and how has it improved your running?

What’s Happening Wednesday: Resolutions.

We’re a little under 3 weeks away from 2012 which means most people are already planning their New Year’s Resolutions. For some, those resolutions might have to do with goals they have for their lives: get into grad school, become more organized, etc. For others, many others, those resolutions are health and fitness related. (In the Pilates class at my gym, we all keep joking about how we should enjoy the space now because come January, our mats will be on top of each other.)

I’m really hoping that some of my readers are planning to become runners in 2012 and today I want to encourage you to start now! I’ve never had any luck with resolutions. I always start them and give up by February 1st. But running was different. I started running in November 2011, and I’m still running 13 months later with no plans to stop. Ever. I think that starting early gives you the momentum you need to keep it going after the New Year has come and gone. Here are a few simple tips to get you going…

1. Purchase a good pair of running shoes.

Please please please. If you never listen to anything else I say, hear this: go to a running store and get fitted for the right running shoes for your foot. At a good running store (try Potomac River Running if you live in NoVa), they’ll put you in a neutral pair of shoes and have you run on a treadmill while they analyze your gait. I had lots of IT band pain before I did this, but ever since I purchased the right shoe for my foot (Asics GT-2160), I haven’t had any injuries or pain. And here’s a tip: once you find the right shoe for you, stock up. I found 2 pairs of the 2160 on sale for $60 right after I bought my first pair and scooped them right up. When it was time to switch out my old shoes (which you should do every 2 months or so when you’re training), I didn’t have to worry about buying any.

2. Purchase key winter running items.

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You don’t have to spend a ton of money on these items and you only need a few things. It’s quality over quantity when it comes to Winter running. I’d suggest purchasing a winter running jacket (wind and water resistant is a must), running tights (love my Nike tights!), running gloves (mine are from The North Face), one or two long-sleeve technical shirts (Nike and Lululemon make the best ones), and a hat or headband that covers your ears. I bought all of these items and have found that I’ve never been cold during a run and I actually enjoy running in the cold now. So weird.

3. Find a plan. 

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You’ve heard the saying a thousand times: “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I’m not saying that if you don’t follow a plan you’ll fail as a runner, but I do think that having one will make the process a lot easier to stick with. Often, new runners lace up their shoes, head outside and try to run as fast and as far as they can. Unless they’re already in shape, and sometimes even if they are, they’ll find that after a few minutes they’re gasping for air and stopping to walk. A program like C25k (which has an iPhone app now!) will ease your body into running and will help you gain endurance. If you don’t like C25k, try the Nike+ Coach’s Walk to Run program or try Hal Higdon’s 30/30 method. You can also try searching the Runner’s World website for articles/training plans geared toward beginners (which is what I did).

4. Take it easy.

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As a beginner, you shouldn’t be running all out. I’m not a running coach or a fitness expert so I don’t know how to explain this scientifically or even eloquently, but I’m going to try. When I first started running, I would run hard during my run intervals and then walk superrrr slow during my walk intervals while I tried to catch my breath. I finally got to where I could run an entire mile, but I would have a cramp immediately after and would have to go back to my run/walk intervals for the remainder of the run. I was so frustrated because I wasn’t seeing enough progress. It wasn’t until I started running at an easy, conversational pace that I was able to run for longer periods of time. My body learned how to perform at that speed for more than just a few minutes and now I’m ready to teach it how to perform at higher speeds. If you want to grow as a runner, you have to start slowly. Focus on steadying your breath without walking, even if it means slowing way down. Trust me, it works. Try running with a friend. If you can’t finish a sentence without sounding like you’re running up stairs, you’re running too fast.

5. Enjoy the run.

So many people have told me that they want to run like me, but they just hate running. I used to hate running too. That was when I thought of it as a means to an end. Running was just a way to lose weight and get in shape. Now, running is a way to clear my mind. It’s a way to explore a new city. It’s a moment in life that belongs to only me. It gives new meaning and beauty to places and things I’ve seen a hundred times before. It makes room in my head for an epiphany. It has brought me a sense of pride and accomplishment I’ve never felt before. Burning 300 calories in 30 minutes…that’s just a bonus.

Don’t wait for January 1st. Start today. Start right now. Make yourself a runner.

Behind the Blogger part deux.

In case you missed it, here’s part one.

11. I love New York City and have been wanting to move there for the last 5 years. I’m still holding on to hope that it’ll happen when I graduate, but for now, I try to visit every chance I get. Just thinking about running the ING New York City Marathon with Fred’s Team there next year gives me chills.

12. Last May, I was so desperate to get out of New Orleans as soon as finals ended that I drove myself all the way home alone. That’s a 17 hour trip. What’s really strange is I loved every minute of it. I listened to my favorite songs, ate the healthiest foods I could find (Thank God for Smoothie King!), I stopped in Atlanta to visit my sister and nephews and I thought about the amazing year I had at Loyola New Orleans College of Law. At that point I was still in shock that I had even gone to law school in the first place! It was one of the best road trips of my life. Just me and my little Prius.

13. I’ve talked about this before but there’s no way I could give a glimpse into my life without mentioning it. During my sophomore year of college, I lost my grandfather to lung cancer. I’ve been extremely close to my grandparents my whole life and without a doubt my grandpa is to blame for creating my lifelong sweet tooth. He would bring me a box of Bazooka Joe gum every week and when I would spend the night at their house, he would wait until my Grandma went to sleep to ask me if I wanted an ice cream sandwich. When he got sick, I was the only grandchild he would ask to drive him to his doctor’s appointments or the hospital. I’m not sure if that’s because he thought I was a better driver than the other grandkids who could drive at the time or if he just knew I could handle it. When he died, those moments were the ones I held onto knowing that I had soaked up every second with him.

14. Besides sweets, my biggest indulgence is wine. After a few years of craziness in college, I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not a big drinker. Shots are my worst enemy and I just don’t enjoy the taste of liquor. And call me crazy but I just can’t get wrap my mind around drinking something I don’t like only to feel sick later. Wine is a different story. I love the taste of it and am completely satisfied with 2 glasses. When I first became a wine drinker, I could only do sweet whites, but I’ve recently started trying more reds and have been pleasantly surprised.

15. After posting a picture of my race bib from the Hot Chocolate 15k, I realized I should probably offer an explanation of my name. My real name is Jarrell. It was supposed to be a mash-up (Glee word!) of my parents names, but it ended up being Darrell with a J. After a year or so, my parents realized that everyone kept pronouncing it that way (sounds like Jarel) so they changed the spelling to Jerrell. Just not legally. Which is why every time I register for anything using my legal name, it looks like I don’t know how to spell my own name. I’ll change it eventually, but sometimes I actually like it spelled with an A. Weird. (p.s. the new spelling didn’t help the situation at all.)

16. I have twin cousins. That sounds weird. I have 2 cousins who are twins. Their names are Lindsay and Kelly. I prefer to think of myself as their younger triplet. The three of us have been inseparable since I was a baby. We would have sleepovers every weekend and I always had to sit in the middle of them (in the car, at the dinner table, on the couch) so neither felt like they were being left out. As we’ve grown older and started our own lives (one’s married, one’s engaged, i’m in a tumultuous relationship with law school), we’ve kept such a strong bond and I am so thankful for that. Bonus: I got Lindsay and her fiancé to sign up for RnR USA as their first race! What a great way to start their new lives together!

17. I have a crazy obsession with The Biggest Loser. Like…watch it every week. Watch old episodes daily (not an exaggeration). Follow my favorite contestants on twitter. And I obviously cry during every single episode. My parents get so sick of hearing the contestants and I weep when I watch it on my iPad while I eat dinner. I don’t care though, that show is instant motivation for me.

hands down…favorite/funniest contest ever: Hannah Curlee (Season 11)

18. I can’t dance. Shocking, I know. I can follow choreography. I can jam my butt off in Zumba. Take me to a club, and I feel like the most awkward human alive. I probably look like I have an attitude problem at parties because I just stand and people watch, but it’s because I refuse to make a fool of myself. There are 2 situations in which the above doesn’t apply: 1. when any reggae music is played (all you have to do is move your hips) and 2. when any Beyonce song is played. Because if all else fails, I know the choreography from the video. (half kidding.)

19. I have a family family and a football family and together they make up the most vital people in my life. My dad had been playing for the Redskins for 3 years already when I was born. My first friends in life, besides my cousins, were his teammates kids. Our godparents are all former teammates and their wives. We’ve all grown up and some of us have moved away, but they are still some of my favorite people in this world and lifelong members of my family. So now if you ever hear me refer to NFL Live’s Mark Schlereth as “Uncle Mark” and you get confused because he’s clearly white and I’m clearly not, you’ll understand why. I’ve been calling him that since his daughter, Alex, and I were choreographing dance routines to Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up.”

I will never not love this picture.

20. My family needs a reality show. My parents’ house is completely out of control. At any time you could walk in our front door and find a 5 hour (intense!) Monopoly game happening, my dad might be having a full-on jazz jam session in his room at 1am, or maybe my sister and I are in the kitchen teaching our 6 year old cousin Cullen the lyrics to “All I Do Is Win,” and there’s a 75% chance you’ll walk into a house full of women drooling over Honesty bracelets at one of my Mom’s Posh Parties. Or you could just find this…

No matter what day it is, my house is the place to be. And although I cannot wait to move back out, I’m pretty sure I’ll swing by once a day just to make sure my parents aren’t too miserable without me.

What’s Happening Wednesday: Goals

After this week, there are 6 weeks left in 2011. That is absolutely insane. I guess time flies when your head is stuck in multiple 10 pound books.

I don’t remember the exact day that I started running, but I know that it was around the middle of November 2010 and that December is when I really caught the running bug. Thank God I lived in New Orleans at the time and it was sunny and beautiful. If I had been in VA I definitely would’ve put it off until the Spring.

I’ve accomplished some great things this year: I ran my first mile without stopping and my first 5k (with my Dad!) in March, started this blog in April, finished my first half marathon in June, and as of last weekend, I can run 6-7 miles comfortably without walking.

I’m proud of my first year, but I have BIG plans for 2012. This will be the year of the athlete. I have tons of races I plan to run and ambitious goals I want to accomplish. But before I get ahead of myself, I want to make sure that I finish this year strong with a solid base to start from in 2012.

Here are my end of the year goals:

1. Finish 2011 having run at least 250 miles for the year. I’m currently at 184 miles. (I’m hoping to quadruple this number in 2012)

2. Run the Ashburn Farm Thanksgiving 10k and Hot Chocolate 15k with no walking (except for water stations if I have to).

3. Stick as closely as possible to my running schedule. 4 runs per week (1 tempo, 1 easy, 1 long, 1 recovery).

4. Run on ThanksgivingChristmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s Eve. (Then I don’t have to feel as bad when I eat 3 pieces of Sweet Potato Pie!)

5. Believe in myself. 2012 is going to require some serious confidence. Right now, every time I finish a long run, or fight to get my breath back instead of walking when I feel like my lungs might collapse, I’m shocked. The reality that I can run still hasn’t sunk in yet and I need it to. In the words of Kara Goucher (and Nike), these last 6 weeks are going to be about working hard, believing in myself and believing in the run.

what’s happening wednesday.

What’s happening today is that I’m stressed about finals only being a month away, fitting my runs and cross-training into my jam-packed finals study schedule, and the fact that my loan funds are rapidly disappearing (it happens every time. every. single. time.). I desperately want to run tonight, but I’m stuck in Con Law until 9:30 so tonight’s blog is purely for laughs.

This picture has been posted on hundreds of blogs and Facebook pages in the last few weeks, but every single time I see it I die laughing all over again. I dare you to look at it and keep a straight face. I also dare you to tell me you haven’t felt this way at some point. I feel like this daily.

{Can’t remember the exact source. I’m pretty sure it was BGR! DC’s FB page}

what’s happening wednesday.

It’s 1:30 pm and the only productive thing I’ve done today is get a relaxer and a blow-out. I tried the whole natural thing for a few weeks, but I will never be the girl with the cute afro, nor do I want to be, and it was too much work keeping it straight. I’m Team Creamy Crack all the way. But I digress…

I have a couple of things to write about, but none of them go together so I’m just posting a bunch of randomness that I’m hoping someone will appreciate. For those of you who read yesterday’s athlete post and are back today because of it: THANK YOU! I really appreciate all of the kind words I received on facebook and twitter and I hope I can continue to write things worthy of reading…tomorrow. For now, you’ll have to settle for What’s Happening Wednesday:

#1: a confession – I haven’t run since Sunday. After Sunday’s long run, my knees weren’t too happy with me so I decided to lay off for a few days. Thanks to my impulse relaxer decision, I probably won’t run again for the next 2 days (gotta get my money’s worth!) so basically this week is gonna be an adventure in laziness. I read yesterday that you start to lose fitness after just TWO days of not running, but I just can’t bring myself to wash that $100 relaxer/trim/blowout down the drain. I think hair is one of the main reasons that so many black women are overweight and find it difficult to stick to a fitness routine. I also think that statement deserves an overused, but necessary SMH.

#2: Last night, I attended the Baltimore stop of the Watch The Throne tour. Another confession – I haven’t even listened to the whole album. Turns out, it didn’t matter because I still knew most of the songs and Jay-Z and Kanye did a lot of their own songs. Lesson learned from the concert: I am a diehard Kanye West superfan. I like Jay too, but I found myself singing (rapping?) along to every word of Kanye’s songs and just kind of standing there or instagramming my pictures when Jay was up. For those of you unfortunate souls who don’t own an iPhone, instagram is an app that takes your regular camera phone pictures and turns them into this:

and my personal favorite…

#3: Instead of reading for Professional Responsibility like the good law student that I am, I’m about to go through my entire iTunes music library to make a bomb Watch The Throne playlist that will motivate me to sweat my hair out and go for a run tomorrow. I’ll post it here on Friday. Until then, you can tweet me your fave Jay/Ye songs and I’ll add them. Don’t even bother sending me The New Workout Plan though, it’s already Track #1.