lover’s quarrel: running

Within, you will find the many faces of my post-running experience- there are two expressions, I’m either in agony or thrilled to be done. I can lift heavy, jump all around, but nothing makes me feel stronger than a solid run. This stems from my not natural ability to run. I believe some bodies are made easier to run than others. Being short and stocky is not an example of this, however, the fact that I have been able to run miles despite this, is a point of pride.

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I started running in February of 2012 on a treadmill in the basement gym of my college. 30 seconds of running, 4 minutes and 30 seconds of walking for 30 minutes. Every week or so, I would add 30 seconds to my running time. When I reached 10 minutes, I decided to see what would happen if I kept going, a mile wasn’t far out of reach.

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The first time I ran a mile, it took me 15 minutes. By the time spring came, I could run two miles straight. Being outside and off the treadmill helped me to go longer and faster. I hit 5 miles by that summer.

Running is my most tumultuous relationship as I have been on and off with it for years. Throughout spring, summer, and fall, my running is in peak form, but when winter comes around, it’s back to the treadmill (unless the ground isn’t icy or snowy) and it falls off a bit.

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The most miles I’ve been able to run is 10 and my legs were shot after. Usually I stick to 3-6 miles. Right now, my goal is to hit a 30 minute or under 5k. My most recent run on Sunday was 4 miles at a 10 minute and 20 second pace.

I can sometimes tell how my run will go based on the first two miles. If those feel like a breeze, I can extend my mileage to closer to the six mark. Sometimes I really have to push myself through those first two and then the third doesn’t seem as bad. Once I hit my groove, it starts to feel easier and I naturally gain speed.

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I’m not far off, I just need a better warm-up plan- better than just lacing up my sneakers and getting out there! Practice always makes better! And I hope that with my continued weight loss, running will become naturally easier as well. Considering I started off the summer with a pace of 12 minutes and 59 seconds with walking mixed in, I think I’m making vast improvements!

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Music is everything. I have a proclivity towards musicals and pop music, something that has a little pep and motivation to it. Much of the time, I will also listen to podcasts because it feels like I’m within a conversation- hello My Favorite Murder!

I love the feeling of finding my stride and cruising. I hate struggling and feeling like every step is a battle. Either way and in-between, my runs are always worth it.

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Running is not for everyone and I respect those who keep it from their workout plans. It’s the same reason I don’t do burpees. I HATE them. For me, running is a test of endurance and strength of which does not come easily to me and I enjoy the challenge- most of the time.

What’s your relationship like to running?

Workouts of Late

This week, I am down 1.8 pounds.

I’ve collected quite a few sweaty selfies of late thanks to my fitness Instagram- Stronger with Caitlin. Here’s a few of them, along with what I’ve been doing for my workouts lately.

Lots of running.

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Summer into fall is my absolute favorite time to run and I always pick up my pace and length once the weather cools down just a bit. Of course, I try to run outside in the winter, but it’s never for as long. I also detest the treadmill and cannot go for miles unless I’m somehow in a trance-like state.

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I’m excited to see how fast and far I can go now that I’m dropping a few extra pounds. I’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, ranging from True Crime to Disney World themed, during my workouts, although I’ll always return to my favorite playlists and upbeat musicals when I just want to cruise.

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I’ve also been a sweaty mess during my strength training workouts, which I do three times a week. I try to add 15-20 minutes of faster cardio to the end or throughout. My cardio of choice on these days has been jump roping. It’s such a great workout that you don’t have to suffer through for an extended amount of time. I like to do a set of jumps 50-100 after each set of exercises to get the heart rate UP.

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In conclusion, I aim for six days a week of challenging workouts. 3 running days and 3 strength training days. Thus far, I’ve been enjoying the results.

Stay-tuned for the fall when I’ll be mixing things up!

Arms for Days

Happy August! I’m happy to say I wrote a blog post for every week day throughout the month of July. I’m back and trying to be as consistent as possible. And now…

Have 20 minutes and a pair of dumbbells? You can crush this arm workout.

Many clients come in complaining about their arms, particularly the underbelly. Some of this loosens with age, or in my case, weight loss (from being stretched for so long), but it is not impossible to tighten up everything.

When I say arms, we aim to target the biceps, triceps, and shoulders. Chest and back would still be considered upper body, but I will provide a nice push/pull workout another day.

Here is a quick routine to follow to get the arms you desire:

Front & Lateral Raises

Yes, perform both in sequence. Enjoy the burning sensation in your shoulders.

Plank Shoulder Taps

Holding a plank is hard, now add some movement. To keep too much pressure off your shoulders, lean back into your heels, keeping your hips down. Trying hard not to rock your body, lift one hand to the opposite shoulder, alternating.

Hammer Curls to Shoulder Presses

The trick with any form of bicep curls is to keep your arms close to your body and keep everything still, except for the forearms. Don’t rock your body back and forth. If you do, the weight is too heavy and not hitting the intended target.

High Curls

I enjoy this exercise because I can see the muscles pulsing as they get to work. Also hits those shoulders for the double whammy.

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Tricep Extensions

Again, keep everything steady except for the forearms. Elbows nice and tight, as well.

Tricep Pushbacks

Bend the knees, drop your hips and butt to maintain a nice, flat back, and slowly press your arms behind you as far as you can while still keeping proper technique. Do not swing your arms, it won’t be as effective.

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If you have a lighter pair of dumbbells, 5 pounds each for example, perform each exercise in 3 sets of 15 repetitions. Rest for 30 seconds per set before moving onto the next, OR perform circuit style and rest for 1 minute after each set.

If you have a heavier pair of dumbbells- and I would encourage you not to be afraid of lifting heavy weights- try 3 sets of 10 repetitions each.

Don’t forget that leg day will follow….

Love Letter to Exercise

It was the summer before my senior year of college and I had no idea what to pursue in my professional life, but I knew I did not want to present myself to the world in my current condition. I was obese, self-conscious, and overwhelmed. Rather than sink further into this black hole, I decided to pull myself out of it.

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After work, every afternoon, I put in 15 minutes on the clunky elliptical we had in the basement. I blasted music and endured it. As the days and weeks passed, I started putting on episodes of favorite shows, like Friends and Golden Girls, and worked until the end. It wasn’t long before I realized how much I enjoyed the effort, the slick sweat and short of breath feelings grew addictive.

I could go for an hour, playing with speeds and intensities. I was losing weight and I felt good about myself for the first time ever. I was in complete control, pushing my body to limits I thought I would forever detest. My body craved more. After my elliptical session, I would do sets of jumping jacks and started lifting the light weights we had lounging around. By the end of the summer, I was more determined than I had ever been in my life and I knew I would keep going once I was back in school.

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At my college, there were two gyms- one in the main building of campus and the other in the basement of a dorm. I loved both, they became safe spaces of comfort. Lifting weights awakened my body in new ways. I’d feel sore the next day, but it was a result of achievement rather than a painful deterrent. I had no knowledge about how to lift weights, no idea what exercise worked what muscle group, I just tried what I saw other people in the gym doing, or what I read about online.

In these days, I racked up one-two hours every day at the gym. It’s not what I recommend for everyone, nor something that is doable for busy people, but it was my saving grace. Gone was the anxious girl who ate her emotions. I found my strength.

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February of that year, I decided to tackle the treadmill. Growing up, I loved playing sports, but I hated to run. I started at 30 minutes, walking for 4 minutes and running for 1 minute in 5 minute increments. By Red Sox opening day that year, I took my runs to the outdoor track down the street and was running 3-4 miles at a time. I was a runner- and that is not something I offer lightly. To this day, I am not quick or smooth or a model of running perfection by any means, but I can run for miles and I will never forget what that means to the girl in the summer of 2011.

By graduation, approximately one year later, I was 100 pounds down, exercising six days a week and maintaining much healthier (and happier) eating habits. I was sad to be leaving school, but I was excited to see what the future held. That is not to say that I didn’t struggle after. I’m still confused as to what to do in my professional life in many ways, but that is the product of living.

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But this journey that I continue on, allowed me to be okay with putting myself out into the world, to experience and experiment. I tried several different jobs and trusted my instincts enough to walk away from something that wasn’t right for me. I studied to become a personal trainer and help others who struggle like me or just need a little guidance and push. I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my dreams and listened to my heart when I knew it was time to come home to my family.

My life is not perfect. I am not perfect. I eat too much, I have a lazy exercise day or choose to gasp- take two days off from the gym sometimes- but mostly, I’ve maintained these healthy habits. Eating is a large part of losing weight and maintaining a healthy life, but exercise was my gateway. Without it, I would not have the strength to endure, two of my favorite words.

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Exercise is my time. No matter what, I will always have that hour in my day that I take for myself. It doesn’t have to be a full hour, it doesn’t have to be a perfect mixture of cardio and strength training, and it doesn’t always have to be crushing and exhausting.

Embrace the messiness of fitness- the sweat, the confusion, the pain, the results. It does wondrous things for the body, physically and mentally.

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All About Stretching

One part of exercise that is not my expertise is stretching. I do not do it enough. I’m big enough of a woman and personal trainer to admit this. I do urge my clients to do this, especially when they come in talking about lower back pain and other various aches. Stretching is important to keeping the body limber because whether you’re sitting, standing, or a mixture of both all day, odds are, your body is feeling some kind of pain. This appears only to worsen as you age.

When to Stretch?

At the end of your workout! The best way to warm-up the body to prepare for an exercise routine is to start moving. I’ll dive further into this in another post, but take 5-10 minutes at the beginning to jump on the treadmill, a bike, or loosen up with some jumping jacks or squats. Get that body moving through a dynamic- movement- stretching period.

Once you’ve made your way through your cardio and/or your strength training, take another 5-15 minutes and stretch. The body will be nice and warmed up and ready to relax after all it just endured.

Why Stretch?

Stretching helps alleviate all those aches and pains. The body, as does the mind, tackles a multitude of obstacles during the day that leads to soreness and strain, especially if you add a workout on top of it. The muscle is tight and needs to unclench. Another excellent way to do this is by foam rolling, which I can get into further at another time.

Stretching also helps the body get better. The way strength training works is the effort breaks down the muscle and rest helps it repair, allowing the muscles to strengthen. It helps the blood to flow better and prevents injuries.

My Favorite Stretches

As you can see, I was able to complete these stretches in the comfort of my own home, crazy cat and dog included!

Biceps and Triceps

Back and Chest

Shoulders

Quads

Hamstrings

Hips

body strength workout

For today’s Wednesday Workout of the Week, I want to talk about the value of body strength training. If you only have 20-30 minutes to spare, you can do this workout any and everywhere!

Tricep dips

Tricep dips target the back of the arms, which is a consistent weak spot for women. To make these more challenging, straighten your legs, but make sure the sensation is focused on the back of the arms, not the shoulders or wrists.

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Push-ups

Push-ups are much maligned, but they are the perfect exercise. It works the total upper body and the core and they can be modified to make easier and more challenging in so many ways. Mastering the push-up is a work of art. Keep

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Squats

If you have sensitive knees, try using a TRX, if you have access to one, of course, or simply focus on sitting up and standing from a chair. If you feel an air-squat without weight is too easy, try adding a jump to it. Your legs will hate and thank you at the same time. (I didn’t like the picture of my squat from this photoset)

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Step-ups

I hate this exercise and that’s a good thing! They are challenging and work all of the lower body, while also utilizing the core and testing your balance. Try them on stairs, two at a time if you want the challenge. You can alternate legs or do one at a time with minimal momentum to make it more difficult.

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Plank

Never are seconds so long then when you are planking. I’m almost sorry. If you must avoid holding a plank at all costs, try them with movement by performing mountain climbers or tapping one shoulder at a time.

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For body-weight exercises, work on perfecting technique and performing higher reps. These exercises are great when you are starting a routine, looking to keep things simple and quick, or as a supplement to heavy lifting to work on form.

Get moving!

From Strong Workouts to Sick in Bed

While all the resolutioners crowded the gym, I stayed at home and rode the stationary bike for 45 minutes. I actually had plans to go to the gym, but I wasn’t feeling great and was pretty tired from not a great night of sleep. It was still a good workout and I finished with my legs burning. Actually, my shoulder was still sore on Thursday, so it was a good idea to stick to mostly leg exercises anyways.

I woke up feeling refreshed and healed on Friday and ready for my Friday morning workout. Nouha met me and I guided us through an intense kettlebell workout. To mix things up a bit, I performed all the moves on the bosu to offset my balance and keep my body guessing. I topped it off with a bit of cardio, jump roping and sprints on the treadmill.

Saturday, my friend Stephanie was up for the weekend, so instead of a regular workout, we went into the city and walked around. Combined with some shoveling later that night, I got my daily steps up to 18,500 and was quite pleased with myself.

Feeling kind of sore from the walking and shoveling the night before, and full from lunch, I settled on a long walk with my mom and the dog then some gentle yoga to relax before the long week ahead.

It was back to the grind on Monday for the regular morning workout. I met Nouha to start off with a body strength workout before taking it on the treadmill for a run.it’s actually easier for me to increSe my speed on the treadmill because it’s flat and I change it up every five minutes to keep from getting bored.

On Tuesday, Nouha and I finally made it to the cycling class we have been trying to do for over a month now. The timing hasn’t worked out before then, but it was worth the wait. After, I went up to fit in a body strength routine.

It wasn’t until later that afternoon that the shakes carried on for a different reason. I had no appetite for lunch and then I felt nausea creeping in. The second I got home from work, it began apparent why. Not fun! It’s enough to warrant a rest day at the gym this morning so I can try and sleep it away.