Injured Runner: Pretending I belong at the gym

The gym is an interesting place. And, I picked the most un-“gym-y” gym to go to. I joined the YMCA at the end of January and while it’s been great, it definitely has been awkward and uncomfortable at times.

I’m just not used to being around a lot of other people while I exercise. When you’re a runner, it’s the norm to run away from strangers as you get your workout done. In a gym though, I feel like everyone is starring at you and judging you.

How many times have I been on the elliptical and if someone is on the machine next to me, they will look over to glance at my screen? Pretty much every time.

Why do you care how long I’ve been on the elliptical or what number I have the resistance on? I have a freaking stress fracture that’s healing so leave me alone and mind your own business!

Maybe it’s just newbie gym goer paranoia. Maybe nobody else really cares what I’m doing.

I do have to admit that when I’m at the gym and on the elliptical, I do spend time observing other gym goers. I mainly do this to help pass the time because I cannot use headphones while I workout so I’m not listening to any music or podcasts or anything. (Back when I was running, I rarely listened to music because my running time was time spent with my thoughts).

So, what have I noticed? Not everyone wipes down their machine after using it. Some people wipe down the machine before and after using it though! A lot of people use the treadmills, which I just can’t wrap my head around on days when the weather is so nice outside. I just want to yell at them and tell them to take their run outside!

It’s also interesting to see how people use the treadmill. Because I’ve been going to the gym on a regular basis, I’m starting to recognize the same people. There’s this one girl who uses the treadmill at a way-too-fast-speed because she will sprint for less than a minute, and then literally hop to the side of the treadmill while the belt is still running, catch her breath, and then go back to sprinting. She repeats this pattern a few times and clearly spends more time resting than running. But, who am I to judge? I’m the one who got injured from running, after all …

Along with being a slave to the elliptical, I have gone to several group classes. So far I have learned that I like flow yoga the best, because I feel like I’m getting a better workout. The jury is still out on Pilates. I have only gone to one class so I will try again another week. I haven’t done a spin class yet and am kind of afraid to, but will hopefully get my butt to one soon. (The reason I’m afraid is because I’ve done a spin class outside of the Y before and it was pretty difficult! But, a great workout!) And the pool? I actually haven’t done any swimming since becoming a member of the Y. I’m still trying to figure out not-so-crowded times to use their pool.

 

Do I love the gym? No.

But, it’s definitely keeping me sane and moving during my sabbatical from running.

 

Should I be concerned about my weight?

I was hoping we’d skip the whole “please step on the scale” bit at the doctor’s office, but the the medical assistant weighed me and when I saw the number appear on the electronic scale, I was in shock.

132.

You see, 132 pounds is the heaviest I have been in my entire life. I normally fluctuate between 126-128 pounds. So, let’s say 127 is my “normal.” That means I have gained five pounds!

I’ve noticed that I have gained some weight because I’ve just felt not as fit, but that number freaked me out.

I asked the doctor if I should be concerned about my “significant” weight gain. Considering it’s still in the normal BMI range for my height, she wasn’t too concerned. She said that they would check my thyroid along with “everything else.” (I was visiting the doctor because I had another fainting episode several weeks ago and I just wanted to make sure my health is OK … all my blood work came back normal!)

As I left the clinic and went back to work, I started telling myself that I needed to start eating healthy and cut out junk food. (I’m not a sweets person).

If people could easily tell when I lost five pounds, have they noticed that I gained it?

Is gaining weight when I’m not marathon training just going to be the new normal for me?

Joanna and I went on a pretty hilly trail run Saturday morning at Cougar Mountain. I told myself that this was the start of the “get Kristin fit” program.

Because, it’s not about losing a ton of weight. It’s about having myself feel fit and good again.

A former faster, fitter self

I’m trying to remember what I felt when I was racing those early miles at the Eugene Marathon — or even any of my long training runs leading up to that race.

Mile 3 of Eugene Marathon

Mile 3 of Eugene Marathon

Because I felt great during all of those miles.

I felt strong, fit and fast.

The race was a month-and-a-half ago, yet my body feels like it was half-a-year ago.

I feel like I’ve lost my base, my fitness, my speed — all of it!

(That’s what I get for running so sporadically the past month …)

Several weeks ago I began feeling very sluggish and well, “fat.” And, yes, I know you are rolling your eyes but as a runner, when you gain a little weight, it makes a huge difference.

And, it wasn’t all in my head because I have discovered that several of my work pants no longer fit me. My roommate Joanna didn’t believe me so I had to physically show her that one of them will no longer button! (Her response: Well, maybe your hips are finally coming in, Kristin! So, you know, later on you can give birth…)

I scrolled through all of the photos my dad captured of me during Eugene. And, even the ones on the track where I am in oh-so-much-pain, at least I still look (kind of) strong.

I want that strong to come back. I want to feel fit again. (And, I want to be able to fit into all of my pants!)

This means being disciplined and start running regularly again. I haven’t pinpointed what my next race will be so for now I will develop a base so that when training begins, I won’t have to start from square one.

Because, right now I feel like I’m at zero.

So calm, so confident.

So calm, so confident.

But starting at zero means there’s nowhere to go but up.

So, up I go!

18 miles of pain and no pain

Last Saturday’s run was quite a victory for me.

Mainly, because I did it after taking the GRE.

I went into this run drained from said test. But also, hopeful. I hoped to run the full 18 without walking. And, I did!

Now, running 18 consecutive miles may seem like a cake walk for someone who has done four marathons but I’ve been taking this training cycle very conservatively and slightly injured. (Dang it, IT band!!)

Despite the downpour the night before, it was actually sunny out during my Saturday run! I saw a little of everything … I ran past my old elementary school and past Husky Stadium through a sea of purple (the Dawgs got the W, obviously) and worked my way to the Arboretum. I turned around at Madison Street/Park and headed toward Montlake again. One of my coworkers/friends lives in Montlake so I stopped my Garmin and refilled my water bottle and chatted with her and drank some ginger ale and then continued on my way.

I left her house at around mile 10 and was shocked that my right knee felt fine. Everything else felt a little “mrghs” (like, not in pain but just fatigued from all the running). I ran through the UW campus and met up with my friend, Benjie, who was going to finish up the last four miles of my run with me. Although I was running 9-min mile to 9:30-min mile pace on my own, once I hit those last four miles I was pretty spent. I was dragging my feet at nearly 11-min mile pace!!

But, I was happy because my IT band stayed in check. No real horrible pain this time!

I have still been foam rolling like crazy and icing after every run. And, not to worry, I’ve been doing all those IT band stretches.

That Saturday afternoon, I had no IT band pain but, everything else hurt.

Bring it, Chicago.

Treadmills are for those with no soul — and a lot of will power

I love running. I hate treadmills. Treadmills do not equate to running. Ask any runner.

This morning however I was doomed to the treadmill if I wanted to get any “running” in for the day. I am in Portland with my family and even though it’s a mini vacation, my dad has planned out every hour in our day. This meant I had to wake up at 7 a.m. if I wanted to run. Well, it’s still dark out at that time. I didn’t pack any reflective clothes or lights, so to the “fitness center” of the hotel I went.

I gave a mini prayer as I walked to the fitness center that no other people would be there so 1) no one would watch how ridiculous I look on a treadmill and 2) I wouldn’t have to wait to use said treadmill.

There was a man on the elliptical. Aw, well, only one person to judge me and no waiting — that’s not too bad.

Too bad the last time I used a treadmill was a year ago — during physical therapy for hurting my back and I used the treadmill for walking — so I am really not that familiar with them. Before the PT-treadmill stint, I had never been on a treadmill. And, I know why. They are horrible.

I pressed the “power” button expecting the ground below me to start moving. Nope. The TV monitor in front of my face turned on instead. I wanted to run, not watch TV! (Later I found out that the TV is there for a reason — if it were not there, anyone would die of boredom and want to shoot themselves).

After pressing an assortment of buttons and inputting my weight, how long I intended to exercise, date of birth and social security number, I was ready to roll.

I slowly began to increase my running pace. I felt like I was flying! But, I looked down to see that I was “only” running at 10 min/mile pace. For someone who can kick out a sub-9 min/mile half marathon without difficulty, you’d think this would be easy. It was not.

With every pounding step, I thought I was going to roll off the thing. Plus, it was just boring. And, those mirrors in the room … yes, I know I look disgusting at 7:10 in the morning, you don’t need to remind me!

I started playing around with the buttons, discovering my pace, how many calories I was burning, the time remaining in my run, etc. However, in the midst of my button-pushing frenzy, I accidentally pressed the reset one. The treadmill slowed down and came to a stop. I had shut the darn program down.

The man on the other side of the room must have thought I never exercised a day in my life. I’m a runner, I do the outside, not the treadmill!

I started the program up again and I was “running” once again. Seriously though, most boring thing ever. And I was sweating profusely. It was gross. The 30-minute “run” felt almost just as long as the last three miles of my most recent full marathon. Almost.

I clocked in at 3.03 miles in 30 minutes. That’s sub-10 pace so I’ll accept it. (The fastest I could set the thing to was 8 min/mile pace and I nearly thought I was going to roll away).When I stepped off the treadmill after the full 30 minutes, the floor below me felt like it was moving. I felt like I was gliding. Is this what it feels like when you’re on crack? And then I started feeling nauseous. I went outside of the hotel and stood in the pouring rain. It wasn’t dark out anymore. I should have been running out here.

Treadmills are for those with no soul — and a lot of will power.

Now, I’m going to have to run tomorrow when I’m back in Seattle. I can’t let a treadmill “run” be the last one of 2011.

 

Don’t call it a comeback

Saturday morning was my “long run.” Why the quotation marks? Because my long run is only at 6 miles right now. Getting back into shape blows.

After running the outer loop of Green Lake and finding myself clocking in at just under 30 minutes, I was a bit distraught because that meant I was not too far off from 10 min/mile pace! I decide to forego doing a second outer loop and to run the inside loop instead. (OK, you got me, so I cut my 6.2 mile-run down to 5.9!)

For anyone that ever runs or just goes to Green Lake, you know that the “serious” runners run the outside loop and the recreational joggers run the inside. So, every time I heard someone panting behind me, my competitive instinct kicked in and I’d shift it in another gear. So much for “slowly getting back into running.”

He can’t pass me, he’s running in pajama pants! I can catch her, she’s running with earbuds! I can pass them, they’re wearing baggy sweatshirts and look really tired. These were the thoughts running (ha ha — pun intended!) through my head as I saw others getting their cardiovascular exercise. The only group I was OK being passed by was Club NW, which this morning at 8:30 included Megan Johnson. Yeah, I know better than to get my butt kicked by the elites.

But, I also know that a year ago I was in the best shape of my life. (No quotation marks around that sentence!)

As I was making my way back to the community center (i.e. the end of my run,) I noticed a man running by me who I had about six minutes ago passed. I wasn’t going to let this dude pass me. He’s wearing basketball shorts out running for God’s sake! I suddenly find myself sprinting. He seems to be going faster because now I am really kicking. Finally he’s out of my peripheral vision and I accept victory. I finally reach the community center and stop running. I stretch while I wait on the side of the path for my mom and her friend to finish walking the lake.

The man in his mid-thirties/early-forties comes up to me (walking at this point) and says: I couldn’t keep up with you! Do you do this often?

Yes, I do this often.