Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Well, that was fun.

On Wednesday nights in the next town over, the rec. department offers free yoga classes. I've never actually attended a class, but I know they exist because a friend of mine goes every week. From what I hear her say, yoga is not only a great alternative to the gym, but is also a fool-proof method for developing a "ripped back." Since I have neither a gym alternative at the moment, nor any muscle definition in my back, yoga seems like something that I absolutely have to try.

To be clear, it's not from lack of effort that I have yet to make it to yoga class. It just seems that whenever Wednesday evening comes around, the universe aligns itself in such a way that prevents me from going; or something like that. If I'm not working late, then I don't have a way to get myself to class. If I don't have transportation, then my ride falls through. After weeks of enduring this vicious cycle (and for the sake of my toneless back) I decided to take matters into my own hands. And now, thanks to the on-demand "Fitness and Exercise" section, I can proudly say that I survived my first yoga experience. Even if it was just barely.

First of all, I don't own a mat or any type of yoga paraphernalia. Secondly, my living room is far too small to do any sort of exercise comfortably. Lastly, I'm not exactly what you'd call highly coordinated or graceful, and my sense of balance? Well, let's just say that standing on one foot for more than two seconds is hard. So, when you combine all of these things, it's possible to deduce how ridiculous I am sure I looked trying to bend and stretch myself into all these difficult pretzel-y poses, each sporting a Sanskrit name that I had as much of a chance pronouncing correctly as executing properly.

As I quickly found out, a stack of blankets on the floor are not a very functional substitute for a yoga mat. Not only did my feet hang off the end while lying on my back, but every time I tried to do Downward-Facing Dog, or Adho Mukha Svanasana (see what I mean about the Sanskrit?), I noticed that my "mat," unsecured by my feet, began to move so that my hands slowly slid farther and farther in front of me, to the point where total collapse became a definite probability. It was only after the second or third time I had to save my nose from an almost certain meeting with the ground, that I realized I was fighting a losing battle: inertia always wins. And so, because I can never hope to best the laws of physics, and also since I wasn't going to let science completely thwart my plans, this is how I came to accept Downward-Face Planting Dog into my yoga routine.

As I said before, my living room is not a place where physical activity can happen without discomfort. Situated in the basement, the only room in the house to have a TV boasts a ceiling low enough for an overzealous Wii tennis serve to go horribly wrong, and the open floorspace of a cramped college dorm room (I know for a fact that it was easier to stretch out on the floor of my room Sophomore year of college than it is in this place). Being tall doesn't help matters either. While 5'9" in the outside world is considered an above average height, in my living room, it makes me a giant. So giant in fact, that every time I would lie on my back and extend my arms back over my head I was forced to reach under the couch; a place that is not somewhere anyone in their right mind would want to stick both their hands blindly. Not to mention every time I would attempt Tree Pose, my hands would get stuck in the mess of exposed beams and nails in the ceiling. Having convinced myself that a family of spiders or some other crawling things had most likely taken up residence in either the rafters or beneath the couch, touching anything in either place became the cause of a kind of twitchy convulsion that any onlookers could easily have mistaken for small seizures.

And speaking of Tree Pose, this was the hardest one in the whole 45-minute session. As the cool-voiced instructor on the TV stood on one foot with confidence and ease, hands clapped over her head, in real life my plant leg wobbled and my arms flailed all over the place in the closest I came to mirroring the image of yoga perfection on screen. I probably spent 5 minutes' honest effort trying to do the poses without cheating, but in the process accomplished nothing more than acting as a human windmill. Having endured enough yoga to recognize a lose-lose situation, I grabbed onto the nearest ceiling beam for the rest of the balance poses.

Today's lesson: getting back muscles is definitely going to be harder than I thought.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

I have a fever, and the only prescription is less treadmill.

The middle of winter is not a good time to start training for a race. Or, at least, it isn't in New England. For starters, the average temperature hovers somewhere around negative one thousand degrees, making it impossible to go for a run outside without the risk of turning into an ice sculpture. Then there's the snow. If the nearly constant blizzard conditions don't keep you away from the gym, the continuous monotony of running miles and miles on a treadmill on the days when it's not snowing will probably become the cause of what esteemed professionals in the field of psychology technically refer to as "complete and utter boredom."

With that being said, in the past two weeks I have not only developed certain strategies to make all the time I spend on the treadmill less tedious, but have also learned to sympathize with all the hamsters of the world that have those little running wheels. So, here are a few of my secrets to surviving the treadmill with your sanity at least semi-intact. And yes, I have actually done all of these things at least once.

Treadmill coping mechanism #1: be a part of the band.
If you have an iPod with a workout mix, (or even just an iPod with songs on it, forget the workout mix) you can do this. Just queue up an epic song, flex your fingers, and let all those years of air guitar practice take effect. Let me just point out that a full out jam session at 5-7 miles per hour, though fun, will give you the appearance of a crazy person, which is why I recommend being a part of the band on a treadmill at home. That way, if anyone does happen to see you, they'll know that you're not actually insane. FYI, in Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," there's this great saxophone solo that makes its first appearance about two minutes in, which is quite frankly prime rocking out material.

Treadmill coping mechanism #2: watch "The Biggest Loser."
Even before I started all this training, I've found that it's always easier for me to run when I'm watching other people run too. Historically speaking, running intensive sports like soccer and football are what I watched when I wanted to make my workouts relatively painless, but then I found "The Biggest Loser." I could say that witnessing all of the contestants' hard work toward their weight-loss goals is what inspires me to run faster, but that's not exactly the truth. The truth is, if I turn up the volume on the TV at home, or if I have my earbuds in at the Gym, it's almost as if Bob and Jillian are screaming directly into my face...and they are not nice. Don't get me wrong, watching the workouts definitely helps me find my groove, but it's all the yelling that motivates me to sprint as if I've just majorly given into a temptation challenge.

Treadmill coping mechanism #3: invent lives for all the interesting-looking people in the gym.
I'm sure you know the people that I'm talking about, every gym has them. There's the lady who always wears a giant scrunchy, mullet guy and who could forget super-jacked lifting glove- wearing man or woman? I mean, I see these people almost every day and all I know about them for certain is that we go to the same gym; the rest is purely speculation. Clearly, scrunchy lady is a scientist from the 90s who has recently discovered a means for time travel and is still adjusting to our modern style trends. The man with the mullet? His wife is a hairdresser, so he gets his hair cut for free. Unfortunately for him, he and his wife got into a fight around the same time that he needed a trim. Needless to say, he now sports a most unfortunate do. Lastly, the people with the gloves and the muscles are all entered into a daily competition to see who can lift the most weight and look best in spandex or sleeveless shirts. This obviously explains their presence en masse within the gym.

Until the mountains of snow melt and the temperature rises to a level conducive for life, on the treadmill is where I'll be; in that case, I'll be using my coping mechanisms until the middle of July. All that's left to say is this: bring it on, treadmill.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Starting is the hardest part...

Which is why I've been staring at a blinking cursor and a blank page for the past fifteen minutes. It also explains why February is only a few days away and this is the first week that I've really started working on my New Year's resolution. Before I go any farther, I think it's important to know that I've never really been a die-hard resolution maker. The only one that I've ever made was last year, when I promised myself that I'd run more and eat better. But, due to a knee injury and seeing as the dining halls at UNH boast the best cheesey bread ever made in the history of food, I didn't last past April.

So, this time, in an attempt to improve my resolution-keeping skills and to atone for last year's failure, I've made two
adjustments that I think/hope will lead me to success, and they are these:

  1. Back in December, around the time when the internet starts to explode with articles that have headlines like "New Year, New You," I read one of these pieces in the paper that actually gave me some good advice. It said that I am more likely to keep my resolution if my goal is specific. I mean, it makes sense--with a definite target in mind, you have something to aim for, and consequently more motivation, right? I suppose only time will tell.

  1. The second adjustment brings me to the point of this blog, and let me just say that this one didn't come from any articles, I thought of it all by myself. Okay, not entirely by myself; the thought that you'll be more likely to stick with your resolution if you tell other people about it came from the article I mentioned before. The whole blog part though, that was 100% my idea.

Now that I've laid out my plan of attack, all that's left to say is what it is I plan on
attacking. If the URL and the title of this blog haven't already given anything away, I want to run a half marathon this year. Am I crazy? I haven't quite reached a verdict on that one yet, but I'm sure I'll find out soon enough.