staying athletic : P90x

So, I’m doing P90x.

For those of you who haven’t seen the turn-yourself-into-the-Hulk infomercials, P90x is an extreme at-home fitness program based on the principle of muscle confusion, which basically means your body never gets a chance to plateau.

It also means you will feel every muscle in your body in ways that you never have before.

I mentioned in passing to the family I nanny for that someday in the far and distant future when I am much more lean and muscular than I am right now I wanted to give P90x a try. Imagine my surprise when they answered, “Oh! We have it! You should totally take it home and try it!”

I think this is what the old sage meant when he advised, “Be careful what you wish for.”

But honestly, their generosity has been a huge (HUGE!) blessing. I LOVE P90x! Here are just a few reasons why:

  • I don’t have to pay for a gym membership anymore. Even though I love access to cable Planet Fitness and it’s 1/10th of the price of other gyms, it’s still nice not to pay a monthly fee. Especially since the only thing I do is run and running outside is free.
  • I don’t have to go to the gym anymore. Now, this one isn’t entirely a bonus because previously I had been meeting my friend Karen at the gym fairly frequently and that was the best part of the whole deal. But aside from that, it’s nice not to have to drive an extra 15 minutes, take the time to get changed, workout, get changed again, and drive home. Now…I just drive home and workout and when I’m done…I’m already home! Major bonus.
  • It keeps me accountable. There are 6 different workouts and one rest day for each week. If you miss a day, it’s doable to catch up again, but that prospect is so unappealing because it either means doubling up (basically impossible for normal humans) or rearranging the schedule (change a schedule?!) so you really don’t want to miss a day. There is no such accountability for the gym. What there is with the gym is a pile of “reasonable” reasons not to go. Too tired/not enough time/don’t want to spend the gas money/I’ll just run when I get home or maybe walk instead or maybe work extra hard tomorrow instead? Yep, I’ve used them all and then some! Before this I thought that I was working out consistently. I honestly did. But what I’ve learned since starting P90x a month ago was that I had been intending to work out consistently. What I was actually doing was making excuses consistently. With P90x, there is literally no reason why I can’t fit 6 workouts into 7 days, and no desire not to.
  • It gives me over an hour of uncluttered mental space 6 days a week. Tony Horton, the mastermind behind P90x and leader of each workout, is great at starting with a reminder to clear your head and get your mind right. I get to stay present in the moment: no thinking about to-do lists or tomorrow’s activities or what to make for dinner. It’s the type of mental discipline I’d like to achieve 24 hours a day, but an hour a day is a good start.
  • It’s HARD. For real…it’s hard. I started a month ago but because I’m crazy because I appreciate a job well done I restarted with Day 1 again last week. It took me the first 3 weeks to really acclimate to the workouts and the schedule and just figure out what I was doing so I wanted to start from scratch and start strong. What surprised me was how much of a difference those short first 3 weeks made even though they were full of stumbles; I even graduated from 5lb weights to 8lb weights! (Seriously…this was a big accomplishment for my cardio-lovin, no-weight-training-ever-please, self.)
  • I love the variety. You don’t have a chance to get bored because the program is always changing. There are 12 DVDs and a schedule that changes every 3 weeks!

If you’re looking for me, I’ll be doing jump squats in my living room until further notice.

beka stays athletic : don’t hold back

Don't Hold Back - 8 x 10 Typographic Print
pinned here via here

Remember when I thought that running 3 miles and then finishing them off by running an 8 minute mile was cool?

Well…guess what?!

On Saturday I went to the gym with a plan: run 6 miles at a steady pace over mild hills (so that I’m not quite as shocked when I transition to outdoor running and the ground is not perpetually flat and electronically powered beneath me).

(That joke is always on me.)

Anyway…I started running.

It did not feel good.

It felt like the opposite of good.

Problem: I should have waited longer in between breakfast and running. I’m not one of those people who eats to fuel workouts…I actually have much better results on an empty stomach.

I toughed it out until mile 2.5, when I decided to pause the treadmill and head to the bathroom since I wasn’t sure whether I had to pee or throw up. Turns out it was the former (lucky for one and all). (And apparently the theme of today is Unwanted Personal Information Day. Apologies, Internet.)

I got back on the treadmill determined to at least finish the 6 miles I originally set out to run. It kept getting easier and easier as the miles passed and I kept feeling less and less like I was going to keel over in the middle of Planet Fitness.

The six mile mark came and went. I started walking to cool down. But then I thought a dangerous thought.

“I could probably keep going.”

And then I had to keep going. Because I’m crazy.

So I decided to bump the speed up to 8.0 and see what happened.

No worries, PF patrons beside me, it’s totally ok that I’m glaring angrily at the PAC 12 gymnastics championships for no apparent reason other than athletic motivation while Jay Z shouts into my eardrums and yours via my amped-up inspiration playlist and I’m sweating/panting uncontrollably. Nothing to see here.

Except for my new mile time: 7:30.

Stranger things have not happened.

I am really starting to be convinced that hard work for your body is better for your soul. Because – at the risk of sounding like something that has the potential to start trending on Pinterest – doing something that challenges you changes you.

Over the past few months I’ve felt a passion not just for committing, but for committing to being the absolute best version of me that I can be. Giving 100% all the time, no matter the circumstances. Being that person means I can’t cater to excuses or explanations, won’t be derailed by disappointments or discouragement, don’t leave well enough alone.

On Saturday, that meant not calling it a day at the gym when I knew I still had more left to give, even though I had “other things to do” and “wasn’t feeling my best” and “had a great workout already.”

Nope, nope, and nope. All of those factors are well and good. But only if you want to meet the minimum requirements.

And I don’t! I want to far exceed them!

Every time I make the decision to take the harder road, the one that asks the most of me, I change a little. I learn that good enough is never really good enough. I become someone who is confident in the knowledge that I can always give 100%, and that giving 100% is always better in the end.

I also become someone who laughs out loud and jumps up and down with arms raised in triumphant victory while stepping off the treadmill.

Which is what everyone else does, right?

beka stays athletic : a lucky run

I’ve done a lot of interesting things on St. Patrick’s Day.

And no, not the typical interesting things that happen on St. Patrick’s Day. These are interesting things that are not under the influence of alcohol.

Having spent a large percentage of my life as a competitive Irish dancer I’ve celebrated St. Patrick’s Day in a variety of ways: dancing in parades, dancing on morning shows, dancing in supermarkets…the list goes on and on. But one thing I’ve never done on St. Patrick’s Day?

Go for an 8.5 mile run.

Go for an 8.5 mile run in 60 degree weather.

Go for an 8.5 mile run in 60 degree weather in ROCHESTER. (This phenomenon rarely happens in May, let alone March.)

It was a revelation.

I’d like to thank the sun for deciding to shine, Dierks Bentley for singing “Free and easy down the road I go” during my half way turn around point, and my pants for continually falling down – establishing the sentiment early on that there was no pride involved in this run. Which really helped facilitate my legs continuing to move when I felt like I was going slower than molasses in January. No shame.

On top of that, I also went to the public market, got a package I’d been waiting on, did my taxes, spent time with a friend while we were both being productive, made homemade Larabars, and talked to my parents on Skype.

I also avoided stepping directly in vomit from the stream of people outside my window who are clearly enjoying the festivities of the day. Luckily there are plastic bags attached to everyone’s railings for special moments like that.

If only I were kidding.

All in all, the luck of the Irish was upon me. What a great day!

beka stays athletic : it runs in the family

This just in:

The woman who brought you lessons in geography, politics, and coffee keeping is now taking on a new endeavor:

Running a 5k.


Let’s talk about this.

For as long as I can remember my mom and I have gone on walks together. It’s a tradition that was passed down by my mom’s mom, who I also remember going on lots of long walks with (when she was in her 80’s!). The assumption is that after dinner on a nice night the question “want to go for a walk?” will be raised and answered affirmatively.

(Now that I live 3 hours away and no longer go home for the summer, going on walks with my mom (and then going out for soft serve with my dad) is by far the thing I miss most about home.)

But in all of that walking there has never been any running. Until the past year or so, when my mom would run short stretches whenever she felt so inclined – during a walk, on her way to and from her car in the parking lot, etc. And when she did feel so inclined, she always reported back with positive feelings about the experience.

So the last time I was home, I floated an idea.

“You know, I think I’m going to come home to do a 5k in June. We could do it together!”

The idea did not float. It sank like a boulder.

“Pshhhh. Yeah, right!” was the response I received.

Then there was some coaxing, some trial running around the block, some training plans, some more coaxing – all covered by the assurance that we could always walk it if running didn’t pan out.

I came back to Rochester and left her in possession of an easy walk/run plan (walk a minute, run a minute, adding one run minute per week) and the power to do with it as she wished – no pressure either way.

A week later, she had ditched my plan.

She was already running for 30 minutes straight.

And had only fallen off the treadmill once!

Now, the 65 year old woman who had never run a mile in her life, who laughed at the idea of ever being able to run a 5k, is taunting me with threats that she’s out to beat my time. Walking isn’t even a consideration anymore. She’s going to run this and run it well.

I couldn’t be prouder. I couldn’t be more grateful that I’m cut from that cloth.

(See you at the finish line, Mom. You’ll probably beat me to it!)

beka stays athletic : and stupid, part II


pinned here

{ Apparently…this is true. }

Foam rolling may have saved my life…but it also faked me out. I fell into it’s cylindrical trickery. It fooled me into thinking I was miraculously healed from my IT Band woes – like, take up your mat (or roller) and walk, healed. So, taking my cues from the bible story, I started walking and leaping and praising God! (All of you former Sunday Schoolers can chime in with the repeat, “walking and leaping and pra-aising God!” You know you want to.)

I thought, “This is great!”

I thought, “I feel great!”

I thought, “Why not run 9 miles?!”

So I did!

Which is why I’m currently sitting on the couch, not running 9 miles.

I’m totally playing the blame game with my foam roller. Poor little guy. He’s just trying to help and I ambush him with accusations.

The reality is that I was just stupid…again. Once I felt back to normal I started running again slowly. For a day. And then I just went back to working out like normal because I felt so good! And a few days later I was watching a marathon of great Food Network shows! And when 3 miles turned into 6 miles and 6 miles turned into 9 miles and I wanted 9 miles to turn into 12 miles but stopped because something didn’t feel quite right…that was dumb. Moderation is not always my strong point. And I’ve never been “injured” before so patience is not my strong point, either.

So now I’m banished to the land of simple strength training and DVD’s and waiting, waiting, impatiently waiting.

Dear IT Band, remember the good old days when we were friends? Let’s go back to that arrangement. I promise to treat you better this time around.

beka stays athletic : foam rolling saved my life

I started the day by reading this and this.

I did this workout this morning.

I smell good.

I made Stumptown coffee this morning (I ration it out like it’s gold…because it is).

I ate granola for breakfast. With some greek yogurt on the side. Just kidding…kind of.

I’m listening to Mike and Mike.

The sun is streaming in through two big windows behind me while I sit at my desk and blog.


People…the only way this morning could be better would be if the Packers had played and won last night and were on their way to the Super Bowl…

Clearly, I’m still in Stage 4.

But back to the good news: running!

(And really, those who’ve known me for a solid decade, did you ever think you’d see me write that sentence? Mark that down as a great life change.)

As per the title of this post, foam rolling saved my life.

After a week and a half of taking time off and stretching with no change in how I felt I knew it was time to call for back up. So I talked to a bunch of people who are smarter than me and they all said the same thing: start foam rolling.

What is foam rolling, you (and I) ask?

Here’s my favorite explanation (from Running Times):

The foam roller is a firm foam log that is six inches in diameter. Use the roller against the muscle knots with your own body weight to generate the direct pressure. Imagine using a rolling pin to roll out lumps in bread dough. A foam roller is a good alternative to repetitive trips to the massage therapist. Your foam roller is always available and doesn’t accept tips! Bottom line: The foam roller is an inexpensive, yet highly effective way to treat and prevent the most common injuries seen in runners.

Perfect! So off to Target I went. I bought this foam roller, I watched this video, I went to bed and woke up feeling significantly better. And after just a few days of this routine I was completely back to normal! I couldn’t believe it worked so quickly!

And then on Saturday I basically plowed down the doors of Planet Fitness to jump on a treadmill and ran four miles. I wanted to run fourteen. For REAL. I felt better than ever!

Now, as much as I bemoaned being sidelined for a few weeks I’m actually really grateful that this little bump in the road occurred. First, because it made me realize how much I love running right from the get-go of this goal, before I forget and start complaining about how much I hate running. I used to hate running. And then after that I was ambivalent about running, even when I ran a half-marathon. But now, for whatever reason, I love running. It feels like freedom. And I’m glad I was reminded of that on Mile 20 instead of Mile 820.

Second, it made me so grateful for my health. I’ve always taken for granted the fact that I can bound up and down flights of stairs or go to the gym and use whatever equipment I want to use. I’ve never been physically limited before. Realizing that my health is a gift that can be hindered or taken at any time was a huge wake-up call. It’s not even like I was majorly injured, but it was just enough to make me see things from a new perspective. Now I want to run 1,000 miles this year not only because I love running and want to stay motivated and active, but because I CAN. I want to run 1,000 miles because I’m able to, and I want to make the most of that ability.

Instead of running like crazy now that I feel better I decided to stick to my normal schedule. I took Sunday off and did an at-home workout this morning (the one linked above…it was AWESOME!). But tomorrow I’ll be back on the road treadmill again…and can’t wait. CAN’T WAIT! (Which, every time I use that phrase, I’m reminded of this Bart Scott interview during last year’s playoffs. I swear, few moments in football have brought me such lasting joy…and it wasn’t even related to on-field action.)

While we’re chatting about health and fitness, this list of must-read health and fitness blogs is making me inordinately happy. It’s how I found this morning’s workout! New blogs = yet another reason why I love this morning.

What a great Monday.

beka stays athletic : and stupid

Pinned Imagepinned here via here

Anyone who has had the displeasure of my company this week knows that this is true.

I used to be a dancer. Part of that equation meant stretching on a regular basis. Once I stopped dancing I also stopped stretching on a regular basis. Which was dumb because since then I’ve taken up working out on a very regular basis…with no stretching to be seen before, during, or after said workouts.

Which is probably why running, jumping, and/or flights of stairs and I aren’t seeing eye to eye right now.

Rumor has it that my IT band is bearing the brunt of my bad decision making. It’s also the reason why I haven’t done any real workouts in almost a week…and why I’m such a joy to be around.

So my goal of running 1,000 miles this year has hit a bit of a bump in the road…but it’s FAR from over. Luckily it’s early enough that I still have time to catch up once I figure out how to get off the IT bandwagon. Let’s hope it’s sooner rather than later.

Anyone have a one way ticket back to working form? Anyone?

beka stays committed : to finding out what else is possible

When I was going into 9th grade I transitioned from homeschooling to public school. My parents thought it would be a good idea if I joined a team sport to make friends. In theory, this was a great idea. Sports build confidence…or so I’m told. If you’ve ever met me you know that I should be kept as far away from athletic endeavors as humanly possible. I rarely walk two feet without tripping over my own two feet. My hand eye coordination is less than non-existent. I am a lethal combination of uncoordination and chronic self-doubt. So putting me on a field or court of any kind is a fairly ill-advised endeavor from the get-go.

But my parents encouraged me to join a team anyways. And since you basically have to come out of the womb playing soccer and running with sticks clearly eliminated field hockey and lacrosse my fall sport of choice was volleyball. Now, you’d think that the most intimidating part of this ordeal would be the whole connecting-arm-movement-with-ball thing, or perhaps the fact that I would be meeting my new group of peers while flailing my limbs aimlessly in the middle of a gymnasium. But the part that freaked me out the most was the dreaded timed mile. I had never run a mile in my life. Ever. So the prospect of running ONE WHOLE MILE in ten minutes or less was far more troublesome to me than the inevitable lack of grace that would accompany my actually playing volleyball. My dad and I drove around our neighborhood measuring a mile loop by speedometer. I winced just thinking about covering the same distance on foot. But after a few weeks of practice I was able to run the whole way, coming in just around the 10 minute mark. I even beat some people when it came time to run it for tryouts!

My volleyball career was extremely short-lived (a gift I’m sure the coaches are still grateful for). I figured that my running career was also over…until I found out that in public school, students are required to run “the mile” twice per year in gym class as part of physical fitness testing. And oh, were those four laps on the outdoor track ever torture or WHAT. I remember during my senior year in high school vowing to never run another mile in my life after completing the 8th and final miracle mile.

Then I graduated from college and ran a half-marathon.

Oh, life. You’re so funny.

But the really funny thing is that I’ve held onto that 10 minute mile identity ever since the first mile around my neighborhood during the summer before 9th grade. I learned to associate one mile with 10 minutes. It became so engrained that I never thought to push past the 10 minute mark. All through high school my mile time hovered a few seconds above or below 10 minutes because that was my benchmark. As long as I reached it I was happy with the result. My half marathon time was set to a 10 minute mile pace and I crossed the finish line just prior to clocking exactly 130 minutes of pavement pounding – or approximately 10 minute miles the whole way.

(Creature of habit: Party of one.)

After the half marathon I was bored with running long distances so I started to do some interval training to spice things up. And even though I’d run the sprint sections at an 8 or 9 minute mile pace I’d never do more than a quarter mile at a time. Because in my mind, I run 10 minute miles. That’s my mile time.

Last Wednesday at the gym I walked into the cardio room to find that all of Rochester had come to work out as well. I had my hopes set on the Arc Trainer but found only one lonely treadmill available for use. I was suddenly very annoyed. I reluctantly started running quarter mile intervals. After getting a grip I ran the first mile, came up with a plan for two more miles, and ended up running three strong miles of intervals, several at an 8 minute pace. I was content with my workout. I was watching Paula Deen make Coffee Chocolate Cherry Sundaes as I walked to cool down. I was anticipating the pork tenderloin with cranberry sauce just waiting for me to come join it for dinner. And then I thought a thought that couldn’t be unthought.

“I wonder if I could run an 8 minute mile?”

And then I thought, “CRAP.” Because I knew as soon as I thought it, there would be no going back. It would feel like failure and I’m crazy like that. So once I caught back up to an even number on the mileage counter I started off…and immediately started second guessing what a great idea this was. Literally, my head was filled to the brim with internal reprimands. “Seriously…this is stupid. You are never going to make it for a full mile at this pace. You should probably stop now before you throw up on that guy next to you.”

I was on the fence until I hit the half mile mark, and then I was all in. (Which, unfortunately, speaks to the heart of the way I usually commit: I wait until I can see success to really dive in. One of the many reasons why I started this blog was to combat that regrettable characteristic.) I focused on Sports Center. I saw a Packers story coming up in the timeline and honed in on that. I watched it drop closer and closer…but before it aired I was done.

I ran an 8 minute mile.

And I didn’t even toss my cookies on the guy next to me!

The great part: I won a victory 10 years in the making. The sad part: I SO could have won the same victory 10 years ago…because it wasn’t nearly as hard as I expected it to be. The hardest part was getting over my self-imposed limitations. The actual running wasn’t bad at all, it was getting past that first half and all of the doubts I held onto so tightly that was the majority of the battle. It was all in my head. Which begs the question: what else do I just think I can’t do? What else am I preventing from happening solely because I don’t believe it can happen?

Now I’m sure all of you athletic people can probably run 8 minute miles in your sleep. (You can probably connect your forearms with an oncoming object without breaking into hives, too. I wish I had your genes.) I realize that my one little mile is not going to make the front page news anytime soon, but it’s an accomplishment that I’ll keep in the forefront of my thoughts for awhile. Because I may be a hott mess when it comes to all things coordinated, I may fall on my face repeatedly for no apparent reason, I might run 10 minute miles for 10 years just because I have preconceived notions about what I can and cannot do. But on Wednesday I learned that in spite of all of those things, when I commit, when I actually believe that something more is possible, it turns out it is.

Who knew?

Here’s to finding out what else is possible.