Health by Heidi
My workouts and fun things that I want to share!
|Posted on June 25, 2015 at 5:35 PM||comments (3766)|
As I was pushing myself through yet another hill workout today, I was thinking about how excited I am to do my race next weekend and then be done with "training." I am really excited about just going for a run or a ride. Just going. No structure. No hill repeats. No distance or speed goals. Just go and enjoy the delight of going.
Having said that, I have also really enjoyed, and do enjoy, training for an event. It is nice going out and knowing exactly what I have to do on any given workout, whether it be hill repeats or sprints or mileage. I also REALLY enjoy seeing the benefits of my hard training. I like seeing my times improve and my legs feel stronger. I feel tougher physically AND mentally. Some of my training has been brutal (like my rides with Fast Guy and the near sprint up Corvallis Hills). There have been many times when I have wanted to quit, but the fact that I didn't helps to strengthen my resolve for the next tough session. One very famous and highly controversial cyclist who shall remain unnamed here once said, "Climbing never gets easier. You just get faster." That has been my motto over these past few months of training. It is true, too. Every time I ride Corvallis Hills or do a hill run, it never feels easier. I huff and puff just as hard and my legs burn just as bad, but seeing the seconds get shaved off each time I go is highly rewarding.
Back in May, I set specific goals for myself for my upcoming race, and keeping those goals in mind has helped me push through the extra-tough workouts. Everyone needs goals. We all need something to strive towards. The trick is to make them specific and make them measureable. To say, "I want to lose weight" is not enough. To say, "I want to lose six pounds in the next three weeks" is specific and measureable. It gives you something concrete to work towards. The same concept holds true for workouts. Be specific. Say, "I want to run an 8:00 minute mile," rather than "I want to run faster." Say, "I want to do ten push-ups," instead of, "I want to strengthen my upper body." Setting goals in this way gives you hard data so you can make adjustments when needed and track your progress. Once you achieve your goal, enjoy it for a bit and then set another one. That is how we keep moving forward.
What will I do when my race is over? First, I will relish in the lack of structured training. Second, I will find another something to train for. Keep pushing forward, because if you aren't moving forward, where are you going?
|Posted on June 14, 2015 at 5:40 PM||comments (2050)|
Ever since I moved to Darby, I have wanted to ride my bike from Sula up over Lost Trail pass and down to North Fork, Idaho and then back. It is just over 70 miles round trip with nearly 6000 feet of climbing involved. I attempted this ride a few years ago with three other riders. The day did not go well.
We started the ride at 10 am in late July. The original plan was to just ride to the top of the pass and then back down to Sula. When we got to the top of the pass, we thought we might as well ride down the other side to Gibbonsville (13 miles) and have lunch at the delicious Mexican restaurant there. When we got there, the place was closed. We were out of water and food, and had the choice of continuing 11 miles further down the road to North Fork or turning around and climbing 13 miles back up the pass in 90 degree heat with no food or water. We opted for North Fork. We got there, ate, refilled our water bottles, and by the time we left, the thermometer read 98 degrees in the shade.
My three riding companions winter in Arizona so are used to riding it hot weather. I, however, am not. Immediately upon leaving North Fork and starting our steady climb upwards, I felt awful. My legs were sluggish, I was sweating profusely, I felt dizzy, and more than anything I felt HOT. I just got slower and slower and felt worse and worse. Finally I told them to stop waiting for me, that I would take my time and meet them at the top. I thought going slower would help but I just kept feeling hotter, like my blood was boiling inside my face.
I slowly started to realize that I might not make it, and for safety's sake, I might think about hitchhiking (you know it was bad if I was entertaining hitchhiking for safety's sake). At the last house up the pass before the climbing really begins, I pulled in. A very sweet old man came out and greeted me. I explained my situation and asked that if he could just give me a ride to the top of the pass, I would be able to make my way down the other side to my truck. He eagerly obliged, so I threw my bike in the back of his truck and climbed in the passenger seat. His truck must have been fresh off the car lot. It was immaculate. I, dripping with sweat, caked with salt and road grit, and smelling worse than roadkill on a hot day, sat stiffly in his immaculate truck trying not to touch anything while he happily chatted away about his life and home as he drove me to the top. When we reached the summit, he offered to drive me to my truck but I politely declined and thanked him profusely (I still think of that nice old man when I am riding on hot days and how he probably saved my life). I managed to coast down the pass all the way to Sula and drive home. Once I got home and changed into clean clothes, I got so cold I was shivering and had to go back outside to warm up. It took me a few days to feel normal again. All in all it was a horrible experience.
SO...yesterday I attempted it again. There were five of us this time, including the three from the first attempt (who, by the way, all made it on that first try). We set out at 10 am, with a temperature of 58 degrees. The climb up the pass was pleasant, and when we got to North Fork, the thermometer read 70 degrees. It was a perfect day: clear blue skies, slight wind, brilliant green grass, and wildflowers blooming everywhere. When we left North Fork and started climbing, I felt great. We had a tail wind, we were cruising along comfortably, the scenery was spectacular, and I thought to myself that there was literally no place else that I would rather be.
As we rode by the nice old man's house, I gave a little wave and smile, knowing he was there to help but knowing that this time I wouldn't need it. I was the second of our group to reach the summit (behind Fast Guy of course). We regrouped at the top and had a delightful ride down the pass and back to Sula. As we munched on butterscotch cookies and stretched on the lawn, the mules came to watch us. The birds sang as we shared our thoughts about the ride and the day and life in general, and I found myself feeling accomplished and content. It was the perfect ending to the perfect day, and I finally conquered the pass.
|Posted on June 5, 2015 at 3:35 PM||comments (3224)|
I have been thinking a lot about food lately. I mean, I always think about food. I love food. My thoughts lately, though, have been on how fixated we get on food fads. Back in the 1960s, scientists were convinced that saturated fats were causing our health problems. They convinced us that these new things called "trans-fats" were much better. People should pass on the butter, which is full of natural saturated fat, and instead use margarine, which is full of chemically made trans fats. So we obliged, and got sicker and fatter.
Remember in the 90s how everything was fat free? Fat was the evil behind all of our health woes, and eliminating fat from our diet would solve everything. Food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and soon grocery store shelves were stuffed with foods screaming claims of "fat-free" and "low-fat." These foods held a nasty little secret though. When the fat was removed, the processors had to put something else in to keep the shelf life and flavor, so they added lots of sugar and salt. No matter though, because the food was fat-free, and fat is the devil, not sugar or salt. Ignore the fact that people just kept getting fatter.
Fast forward a few years, and suddenly everything is high protein. Everyone needs more protein! Americans are fat because we aren't getting enough protein! Carbs are the devil, eat protein and fat! Again, the food manufacturers jumped aboard the latest fad and made all the necessary changes. This time, food labels were yelling "low-carb" and "no-carb." Tell me, exactly, how you get low-carb pasta without really screwing around with the genetic make-up of the ingredients? Pasta in it's simplest form is eggs and flour. How do you make low-carb flour without changing its genetics? I think that should have raised some eyebrows...
Now we live in the age of gluten-free. Again, food manufacturers have capitalized on the fad and now the shelves are crammed full of items that are all "gluten-free." Never mind the fact that the most common gluten replacements, including flour made from rice, potatoes, and tapioca, are digested much more quickly than wheat flour. This results in a huge spike in blood sugar, followed by a crash. Hmmmm....might this cause some blood sugar issues down the line? Can we say "insulin-resistance"? Also, many foods reformulated to be gluten-free are devoid of fiber AND have lots of added sugar to replace the lost flavor. And we just keep getting fatter.
Rather than jumping on every fad that comes along, we need to start focusing on eating real food. Real food. Food that is recognizable as food. Not foodish substances that come out of a box or a bag or have been chemically altered to meet the latest food fad. Then let's go beyond that. THINK about what you put in your body.
You replaced wheat flour with rice flour to be gluten-free. What if you knew that rice flour causes huge spikes in blood sugar, and rice absorbs more arsenic from the soil than any other grain?
You buy "free-range" chicken to be a conscientious consumer and support animal welfare. What if you knew that current regulations are such that chickens labeled "free-range" only are required to have ACCESS to the outdoors, sometimes through a tiny door at one end of the enormous, bunker-like storage facilities where thousands of them "live"?
You purchase organic bananas in an effort to promote organic agriculture and reduce the use of pesticides. What if you knew that foods labeled "organic" don't mean "fair trade," and many organic farmers and farm laborers live in extreme poverty and squalid conditions?
My goal here is not to make you feel bad or guilty about what you eat. My goal is to get you to think. Know where your food comes from. With farmers markets popping up all over the place, farm to table restaurants easily accessible, and locally grown and harvested meat and dairy products now mainstream, there is no reason to be uneducated about the food that you put in your body. Think about where your food comes from. Ask yourself next time you are about to eat something, "Where did this come from?" If your best answer is, "The grocery store," do some more research. The great thing about growing your own food or purchasing it from a local provider is the transparency involved. You can visit the farm. You can see the crops growing. You can witness first hand the living conditions of the animals.
If we truly want to change our food system and stop our society from getting fatter and sicker, the first step is to start being mindful. Stop buying into every fad that comes along, stop buying processed foodish substances formulated in a lab, and start eating REAL food, locally grown. Our loudest voices are with our dollars, so let's start spending them in the right places.
|Posted on May 31, 2015 at 6:10 PM||comments (3401)|
Another Sunday group ride today...60 miles. Whew. There were five of us today. It was a gorgeous day, absolutely perfect. Blue sky, light breeze, the grass was green and the flowers were blooming. I was thinking post-ride about my relationship to cycling.
There are definitely times when I hate cycling and everything about it. Today when Fast Guy 2 dropped the hammer going out of Hamilton, Fast Guy 1 hot on his wheel, the other two far off the back, and me...Getting stuck in no-man's land is the worst thing ever, so I pushed for all I was worth to stay with the Fast Guys. My legs felt like they were going to combust, my breath was coming in ragged gasps, every muscle in my body was tense, every inch of my being was begging to slow down. My mind, however, was occupied with one thought and one thought alone: "Don't lose Fast Guy's wheel." That was it. That was all. Through the searing legs and lungs, the deafening gasps of air, the full-body ache, my mind could only focus on the task directly at hand. No distractions, no thoughts of work or what to make for dinner or whether it would rain later. Simply, "Don't lose Fast Guy's wheel." I was completely, totally present in that moment.
Mostly, I love cycling and everything about it. The noise of ten shoes clicking into ten pedals as we pushed off from a stop, the clicking of gears and whirring of chains and tires, the point of a gloved finger at a hole or piece of debris, the fluid motion of a paceline working perfectly in sync, the feel of the wind at my back...At one point today we were on the east side enjoying a slight downhill and a tailwind. My legs felt great. Everything was smooth, the air felt wonderful, the valley was glowing brilliant green, and I caught myself literally laughing out loud from sheer joy. Once again, I was totally enveloped in the moment. No thoughts, no distractions, simply absorbing the beauty of the valley and the motion of my legs.
I think that is what I love most about cycling...it's ability to consume the mind to a point where nothing exists outside of that moment. Through the pain and the pleasure, the mind is just there taking it all in, being aware of nothing but the present. For two or three or four blissful hours, nothing matters aside from keeping the legs moving. It truly is a moving meditation.
|Posted on May 24, 2015 at 7:20 PM||comments (2186)|
Man...two weeks since I last updated this blog. Time flies, especially in the summer! I have been super duper busy these past few weeks. Between training clients, training myself, getting my garden planted and weeded, it seems like the days just run together.
I had the group ride today with the fast guys. I have not slept well the past two nights and it sure showed today. My body does not do well on inadequate sleep in general, but throw in a tough training schedule on top of it and everything falls to bits. My legs were sluggish, my head was not in it, I just felt pretty much like poop. I got dropped on many climbs that I normally would be on pace. Hammering on the flats in the paceline felt like a continuous uphill. I just couldn't get comfortable. Finally, the fastest guy of the group said, "You know, sometimes it's better just to take a day off." True. He brought up a good point.
Recovery is just as important, or more important, than training, especially if you are training hard. In fact, I had a rest day on Friday. My lack of solid, restful sleep was the sole reason for my poor performance today. However, the question still remains: When is it better to push through and when is it better to rest?
It is a hard question to answer, and one that will be different for each person. Generally speaking, if your legs always feel tired, if your heart rate is elevated continuously, if you are getting slower rather than faster, you are probably over training. I have been taking two rest days per week for the past month or so. My training is getting ready to ramp up even more this coming week, so I will be taking three rest days per week for the next month until my race. That's right. Three rest days per week. That means I will only be running or biking (or both) four days per week. I will strength train and stretch on the other days, but no cardio. I know the level of training that is coming up in this next month, and I know that my body is going to need every one of those rest days to fully recover before the next brutal workout. Quality over quantity.
So when is it better to rest and recover? You will have to decide for yourself, but if you track your workouts and your times, you will have a pretty decent idea. Numbers don't lie. Also, listen to your body. If you just feel tired all the time, a rest day or two might be just what you need. A good recovery will let you come back faster and stronger than ever!
|Posted on May 10, 2015 at 10:20 AM||comments (3352)|
Diet...in my book it is a four letter word. I don't like it. When I hear the word "diet," I think of things like starvation, deprivation, cravings, battle of will-power, and a short term fix for a long term problem. The problem with diets is that they denote a start point and an end point. Between the start and end, it is nothing but deprivation. You can eat this but not that. Eat lots of protein but no carbs. Eat only cabbage and grapefruit. Put a mix of boiled eggs, cayenne pepper, and old socks in a blender and drink that every day for a week. Don't eat at all. How is any of that going to work?
People will often lose a lot of weight quickly when they go on a diet. It's no mystery why the weight-loss industry in America is a billion dollar industry. From books to pre-packaged foods to shakes to bars and everything in between, there is no shortage of "miracle weight loss cures." The problem comes in when the diet ends. What do we do when the diet ends? We go back to eating the same old crud that we were eating before, only this time we indulge because we haven't been able to eat any of it for the past week or six or twelve. All that weight that we lost comes racing back on, and it brings friends.
We, as a society, need to stop thinking about food as the enemy. Food is what feeds our bodies. Food gives us nutrients and vitamins, energy and life. It is a way to come together socially, with friends and family. It feeds us during our workouts and helps us recover to do it all again the next day. Food is an amazing thing. We need to start treating it as such.
I read a great book a while back and am reading it again. It is called In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan. He is the author that wrote The Omnivore's Dilemma. If you haven't read either book, I highly recommend both. In his defense of food, Pollan talks extensively about how the food industry has brainwashed us into looking not at food as a whole thing, but rather at the nutrients in the food. As a result, we have grocery store shelves stuffed with pre-packaged, pre-made, pre-cooked substances with all the vitamins and minerals that the food industry is pushing right now. Omega-3 is the buzz word? Fine, we can just add it to margarine. Less carbs and more protein? Easy peasy, let's just reformulate the way that pasta is made and even though it technically is not still pasta, we can call it "low-carb pasta." The result of all this lab reformulation is that Americans are fatter and sicker than ever (more about Pollan's book in a later post).
Let's get back to real food. Eat real food. Free range, farm fresh eggs. Delicious home-made, slow rising bread (yes, with gluten...more about this in a later blog). Grass fed and finished beef. Wild game. Farm fresh organic fruits and veggies. Feeding your body right, fueling it with whole foods that are naturally rich in nutrients, literally feels great. When you feed your body right, your body feels great. It's ok to have dessert now and again, but make it good stuff. Homemade chocolate chip cookies made with real butter and real sugar, not crisco and Splenda.
Changing the way that we think about food and embracing it's goodness will change the way our bodies feel and work. Food is necessary, and it is good. Eat real food, not stuff that comes out of a box or bag or can. Fuel your body the right way, and you will never have to face another "diet" again.
|Posted on May 3, 2015 at 9:30 AM||comments (1984)|
Things in the universe have been a little strange lately. Just over a month ago, a client of mine lost her husband in a tragic accident. Last week, a good friend of mine had her husband sent to the ER due to a horrible accident. We all hear about these things happening to other people, but when they hit that close to home it starts to make me think.
My brother once asked me, "Do you live life as though you will die tomorrow, or do you live life as though you will live forever?" It is a good question. I think it is a little bit of both. I take good care of myself, make sure I eat right and exercise and get enough sleep, plan for the future, to ensure a long healthy life. I also grab opportunities because they may not arise again. No one knows what will happen tomorrow or the next day. I don't want to be five years down the road saying to myself, "I wish I would have...".
It is so easy to get bogged down in the minutiae of daily life, to let work and chores take over and lose perspective of what is really important. I don't think we were put on this planet to work ourselves to death. Yes, work is important and I truly love what I do. BUT, there is so much more to life than work. There are our relationships with spouses, friends, children, pets, co-workers. There is nature and all the beautiful and wonderful things it has to offer. There are hobbies and sports and delicious meals and good wine. There are flowers blooming in the spring and snow falling in the winter. There is the first tomato of the season harvested from the greenhouse.
Life like you will live forever. Take care of yourself, plan ahead, nurture relationships. Live like tomorrow is your last. Enjoy the small things. Find beauty all around you. Don't get pulled into the bog of negativity and stress. Grab opportunities. When the end does come, you can know that you did all you could do be happy and enjoy the ride.
"Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get." Forrest Gump
|Posted on April 26, 2015 at 9:45 AM||comments (2152)|
I grew up playing team sports: volleyball, basketball, and track in middle school and high school, then volleyball and basketball in college. I loved the team aspect. I loved sharing the highs and lows, the nerves, the excitement, recapping highlights, pulling together to overcome adversity. It made the wins even sweeter and the losses easier to swallow. I loved the comeraderie, the shared experiences, and the feeling of being on a team that is firing on all cylinders in perfect harmony. There is nothing more fun or more satisfying than a team coming together and executing the perfect play or the perfect defensive stand. Having a group of people to share in the victories makes the game so much more fun.
Since college, I have gotten much more into the solo sports like running and cycling. My runs are always solo, except for my doggie Zoey. I do ride with a friend sometimes during the week and I have my group ride on the weekends, but it is not the same as being on a team. I do appreciate my solo sports now, though. It gives me time to think, to decompress, to challenge myself, to clear my head. BUT.....
Twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall, powderpuff football season rolls around. I look foward to it all year. Yesterday marked our one-day spring tournament. We had practiced, worked on our plays, worked on our defense, and were ready to put it all on the field. There is truly no other sport like football. It brings the definition of "team" to a whole new level. Every single person on the field has to do her job or the team will not be successfull. I have played with most of the girls on my team since the first football game three years ago. Seeing us all come together yesterday, watching how much we have all improved, how we can react, communicate, pick each other up, calm each other down, and keep our heads up when our backs are against the wall, was truly inspiring.
We won our first game against a very tough squad of girls who have taken the championship three times in the past. The win put us in the championship game. The game was back and forth with the other team having the lead, then us, then them, then us. As time expired on the clock, we were tied. Overtime ensued. We got the ball first and failed to score. The other team got the ball and our defence held strong. We got the ball back, and with less than two minutes on the clock in OT, our outstanding runningback rounded the corner off of a pitch from the QB. That was all she wrote. End zone all the way. TD!!! Darby Destroyers claim victory!!!! Great end to a great day of football. The win was and is very sweet. Even sweeter? Being able to share the victory, the comeraderie, the teamwork, the highlights, the excitement, with a group of fabuous women who continue to get better each and every time we step on the field. That is a victory on all levels.
|Posted on April 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM||comments (3165)|
I did a grueling group ride yesterday with two very fit, very fast men. Admittedly, I had thoughts of quitting. Several thoughts. I, in fact, was waging a pretty tough war with myself in my head. One voice was saying, "Heidi, you can't hang with these guys. You are just going to slow them down. Save yourself the embarrassment and drop off the back." The other voice was saying, "You can't quit! You are not a quitter! Suck it up and go! Stop whining!"
Full truth: The ride yesterday took every bit of focus and determination that I could muster. If my thoughts drifted for even a second, I would find myself off the back of our three-person pace line and have to sprint to catch up. This leads to the question: Where does motivation come from?
Each person finds motivation in different places. My main motivating factor is that I will feel less than worthless if I quit. That's the bottom line. Last week I wrote about the "plodders," the slow pacers, the end of the race finishers. I wrote about how much respect and admiration I have for those people for simply finishing the race, knowing that they would be on the course sometimes twice as long as the first place finishers. As someone who has had my share of first and second and third place finishes, being the slowest in the group as I was yesterday is not an easy pill to swallow. Quitting is a harder pill to swallow.
My next motivating factor is knowing that it is going to hurt if I want to get better. Getting stronger, getting faster, getting more fit is not easy. It sometimes doesn't feel good. Sometimes it feels like death warmed over (like yesterday). I told those guys yesterday that in one more month I would be strong enough to take my turn at the front of the paceline. In one month I will hang with them on the climbs. I will hold myself to that challenge. That means that my training, my intensity, will bump up a notch. It will be painful. The voice in my head telling me to quit will certainly be there. The reward will be worth it though. Next weekend when we ride together, I know that I will be able to keep up just a little bit better. The week after that will be better, and better, and better. Cresting a climb with them will be sweet victory. That is all the motivation that I need.
|Posted on April 12, 2015 at 10:55 AM||comments (3070)|
Last weekend as I was pushing through a particularly windy and cold ride, I started thinking about distractions. I am not referring to the daily distractions that we all face in our lives. I am talking about the distractions we use to get us through a tough workout.
This past winter, one of my clients and I happened to be training for a half marathon at the same time. We started talking about what mental tricks we play to keep ourselves going on long runs. His trick was something he called "The ish theory," which he explained like this: If you are starting out on a ten mile run, after your very first step you are basically at nine-ish miles. Once you hit the nine mile mark, you are basically at eight-ish miles, and so on and so forth until you hit your last mile when you are basically done-ish. I liked that theory. I actually used it during my half marathon.
My distractions, whether running or cycling, have always come in the form of math. I do not have to most adept mind for math, so trying to do math problems while experiencing oxygen deprivation or fatigue really raises the concentration (and distraction) factor. By math problems, I mean trying to figure out things like: I am currently going 18.8 mph, and the next rest stop is in 16 miles, so how long will it take me to get there? Once I figure it out, if I ever do, then I have to refigure because by then the speed and distance has changed so the answer will change. Often, I don't get the answer, but the distraction is enough to get me through at least a few miles without realizing I am still pedaling.
Another trick I used while training for the half marathon this past year is to count my steps in spanish. I would count each step in spanish up to 100 and then start back at 1. While this did get mundane after a while, it kept my mind occupied for a few miles. Plus, I learned how many steps I take in a mile, in spanish!
When all else fails and I can no longer do math or count in spanish, I resort to having imaginary conversations with people in my head. We talk about anything from the weather to the current political outlook to gardening to sports. Sometimes the conversations get heated, which is a really nice distraction. Othertimes the conversations just flow easily and before I realize it I am five miles down the road.
Next time you are doing a particularly rough workout, notice what mental games you play with yourself to push through. We all have our own tricks, and as long as they work we might as well keep using them!