Swimming Lessons

I like to find the silver lining in even the darkest cloud. In my running life that means taking the positives from a layoff due to injury. To summarize what I learned from my first one-two punch of sciatica and hip burisitis in 2013:

1. Don’t ignore a new pain. Rest. Scale back your miles. Get it checked out.

2. Don’t rush your comeback. Injuries take time to heal. Don’t jump straight back into your regular mileage – this will inevitably lead to a new injury or a recurrence of what you are healing from. Trust me on this one.

From my latest break from running I’m learning something else.

3. Cross-training can be fun!

After completing an 18 week marathon training plan I was a little burned out with running. Or more specifically with following a plan with prescribed workouts – pace/distance/number of runs per week. I wanted my workouts to be fun again. And not being able to run meant that I HAD to change things up. The first couple of weeks I had to avoid anything that put weight on my foot – so no running (obviously!), no leg weight training and no yoga. I was pretty much free to do anything else. Luckily, this coincided with a burst of beautiful fall weather in SLC. So to keep up my cardio I started biking into work 3-4 times a week and I started a swimming program. This time around I completely avoided the elliptical – mainly because I think it is the even more tedious/mind-numbingly boring cousin of the treadmill. Biking got me outside and swimming had a plan with a measurable end goal -> my kind of combination. As I improved (and my foot was never terrible to begin with – see lesson #1 get that sh*t checked out straight away before it gets out of hand) I added back in yoga and weight training with a couple of very short (1-1.5 mile treadmill runs) and on Thanksgiving did my first run outside.

What surprised my most was a new love for swimming.

Like most people I took swimming lessons when I was young – learning the basics before graduating to a weekly 1.5 hour swim practice where I tried to figure out the butterfly stroke. Then I hit my teens and pretty much gave up on any exercise for the next………….um………….10 years.

So I started a swim program with the aim of completing 1 continuous mile after 6 weeks. I also had an old (5+ years) Speedo swim suit and goggles and I was ready to go.

My first day there the plan was to swim 700 yds total (4 x 100 yds, 4 x 50 yds and 4 x 25 yds with rests in between). That sounds pretty easy, right? Well, no. It turns out that swimming is all about technique and breathing (duh!). My technique is pretty crappy but enough to get through a lap. Breathing was the thing that took me longest to figure out. At the start I was holding my breath so that when I turned my head to get air I had to first empty my lungs and then breath in. As you can guess this is not efficient in any way at all. I was literally gasping for air after every lap. But without really working on it my breathing suddenly became more natural. After a couple of weeks everything started feeling effortless. No more swallowing that delicious chlorinated water and spluttering attractively during every break between sets. It’s amazing but true – our bodies will automatically become more efficient with practice.

And for me this effortlessness came after a threshold. 200 yds seemed difficult at first and the 66 laps needed to complete a mile…………..oh my God, how would that ever happen? But once I did 400 yds, 600 yds wasn’t that bad and 1000 yds seemed doable. It was kind of like marathon training. When I first looked at the training schedule that 20 miler seemed crazy. But after finishing 16, and then 18 it suddenly seemed doable. It’s strange to me how progress can sneak up on you that way.

My one piece of advice is to splash out (pun intended) on some gear. My old goggles were made of hard plastic and hurt (I’m talking red marks around my eyes), before they finally cracked just before I was about to get in the pool (great timing!). It also turns out that swim suits have come a long way in the last decade. I took advantage of the REI sale and found a TYR swimsuit and I love it. My other piece of advice is to prepare for some dry skin. I have been moisturizing like it’s going out of style.

Any of course the number one advantage: cute guys in speedos no impact cardio.

Mon: 3.25 mile run

Tues: Strength workout + 1650 yd swim

Wed: 3.30 mile run

Thurs: Yoga + 1650 yd swim

Fri: 4.15 mile trail run

And just have to brag a little about my husband who this week made homemade pasta which was amazing.

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We got to use the latest attachment for our KitchenAid.

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We actually took a cooking class while in Tuscany on our honeymoon and have been waiting for the right moment to try it in our own kitchen. It was amazing – it just slid down my throat and tasted exactly like how we made it in our Tuscan restaurant. Married life rocks.

Tuscan countryside

Tuscan countryside

The view from our room

The view from our room

 

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How to get your mojo back

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It’s taken a while but my motivation is back! Thank God! To be totally honest the marathon took a lot more out of me than I expected. Well, not just the race itself but the 18 weeks of training. I was tired and a little sick of running. So what I should have done was take a full two weeks off and enjoyed some rest. But what I did instead was take 4 days off and then start freaking out about my next half marathon. I did a couple of runs – that were all terrible – and ended up with my stress response and some unplanned time off. This actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

No early mornings. No runs in the dark. Lots of rest and recuperation. And now, a little over a month later my mojo has reappeared – 5.40 AM wake up calls, working out almost everyday and I’m loving it (well not first thing when I wake up) and here’s how I got it back.

1. Make your workout part of your schedule. I don’t know about you but when a work meeting is on my schedule it is non-negotiable. I cannot miss it. And when I’m planning my week my workouts go on my schedule and become non-negotiable. I look at my day planner and it becomes another item that I have to do. I don’t have to think about whether I’ll go to the gym or to yoga class – it just happens.

2. Make it easy for yourself. My yoga studio is half a mile from my house. My gym is on my way to work. Same for my local pool. It is easier to go than not. Especially if I change into my workout clothes at work. Or have my swimming gear already in my car. Or have my yoga mat and outfit waiting by my bed. Don’t give yourself the time to talk yourself out of going.

3. Wants and needs. Sometimes – OK a lot of times – when my alarm goes off or when I’m finished work I WANT to go home. Then I have a little talk with myself and woman up. I try to remember how good I’ll feel once I’m done, and try to think long term. But sometimes you NEED to take a break. Some days you need to have that extra hour in bed. Or that ache could benefit from a days rest. Be honest with yourself about what you’re feeling – do you want to or need to take a break?

4. Find a buddy. Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Plus, friends can turn into great accountability-buddies. Lucky for me, J is a morning person. In fact, I used to think that he was crazy for getting up early to workout. How times have changed! But when he’s up and getting ready for yoga class in the early hours it’s a lot easier for me to get up and follow him.

5. Set mini goals. For this break from running I wanted to do a different form of cardio, so I picked swimming. I’ll tell you right now that I am not a swimmer. Sure, I learned the basics when I was a kid but I never swam in high school (high school sports are not a thing in Ireland unfortunately) or college. So basically I had no idea what to do in a pool. I found a 6 week couch to 1 mile swim program. A short program with designated and progressive workouts finishing in a one mile swim. That is perfect for me (although it might not work for everyone) and gives me a short goal to work on while I get back to running.

6. Treat yourself. I don’t know about everyone else but I love cute workout gear. So after a couple of swim sessions in my very old swimsuit (and after my goggles broke right at the start of one workout) I hit up the REI sale and picked up a new TYR suit and goggles. And I was excited to go and try out my new gear- > added incentive to workout!

7. Develop a habit. Being consistent is the number one key to getting and staying fit (whatever fit means to you). Like most things those first few workouts are going to be hard. But it gets better. You might have to force it at first but once you develop those habits it’s easier to keep them going.

So, I’ve got my mojo working for me! I hope you have found yours!