Out of Hibernation (and into the New Year)

It’s been some time since my last blog. I came back from my trip to Amsterdam to a busy November and December. Between end-of-year deadlines at work, Christmas shopping and my sessions with my trainer (among other things), my schedule seemed practically non-stop. This blog ended up being a casualty of my limited time.

I have been making some great progress with my personal training sessions. I’m being pushed in ways I hadn’t been pushed physically before, and while it’s been a challenge, I feel like it is starting to pay off. I feel stronger, and I’ve noticed that my posture is better. I’ve been doing planks as part of my strength training regime, and I noticed today that I can hold the planks longer. Getting in cardio has been somewhat of a challenge due to time and energy. I’m still not quite where I want to be with running — in fact, I’ve been dealing with some Achilles and plantars fascitis, plus trying to tame an IT band that has a mind of its own. I’m doing what I can, though.

Given that it’s a new year, I’ve been thinking over the goals I want to achieve this year — the priority goal, obviously, is to get back in shape and be ready to train for the Houston Marathon when the new season of Katy Fit starts this July. This weekend, I’ve been examining other personal goals for 2015 that I would like to tackle, such as saving more money, making time to write and play music for fun and to read (I’m doing another book challenge that started New Year’s Day, so this should help with the latter goal).

I did get to take some time off between Christmas and New Year’s, and all I wanted to do was sleep. I felt like an animal in hibernation! I did need it, though it felt strange to be doing so little after being so busy. Even though the sun was actually out today, I slept late and was slow to wake up this Sunday. But I’m ready to come back out of hibernation and tackle the new challenges of a new year, including new opportunities at work and my ongoing efforts to regain my physical strength.

To achieve my goals, I’m stealing an idea from a friend. She wrote down her goals for last year in a notebook, which she would revisit periodically to see whether she was on track with those goals. I’m planning to do this — hopefully, I can stay on track as well.

Whatever your goals are in 2015, I wish you the best of luck in achieving them!

Building a Better Core

I’m in California this weekend, catching up with my dear friend and college roommate (and I’ll have pictures to post the next time I blog, I promise!). But I did meet with my physical therapist this past week and have started on the program of prescribed home exercises.

The routine includes stretches and exercises to strengthen my core and left hip. As part of this routine, I get to dust off the exercise ball in my home office for back and core work. I went through all the exercises on Wednesday night for the first time, and was sore today! But that’s to be expected.

In the past, I haven’t always been faithful with doing core work and other dreaded exercises (especially burpees). Why can’t I just run, I ask myself? And I should know the answer by now — it’s the core exercises and dreaded stuff like burpees that will keep me running. It’s easy sometimes to cut corners, especially during fall marathon training season. Some days, it’s a rush to get to the track, and by the time the track workout is done, I’m cold or starving and just want to get home. And I’ll tell myself that I’ll do core when I get home. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes not.

As part of this healing process, I’ve made up my mind to do things right. That includes making sure everything is healed and strengthened, especially the core. I definitely don’t want to be sidelined this long again!

Now, you’re probably asking, how is she doing all this while she’s in California? Well, the answer is that I’m doing some of the exercises, but not everything. I tried to pack light (since I have to be careful still with bending and lifting), and decided I wouldn’t have the space for the exercise ball in my bag. But I plan to hit the ball again once I return from my trip.

You may not think of visiting an old college friend as a core strengthening exercise, but it just dawned on me that it does count as core work, in its own way. I’ve gone to visit my friend every year for the past several years. By doing so, I’m maintaining the strength of our friendship, which will hopefully endure for the rest of our lives. It’s the same with going to church, spending time with friends and loved ones, taking the time for doctor’s visits or to prepare a healthy meal. Sleep is another way of building core (and it also allows the body to heal itself, according to my reading). It’s all about building a better core within ourselves, not just physically, but spiritually and emotionally.

During my hiatus from running, I’ve been looking at ways to build my core in other areas of my life. This includes working on my marriage, spending time with family and friends, and devoting time to things such as reading for pleasure. I love running, but it’s amazing how much time it can take, especially marathon training. And while I miss running, it’s nice that I can use this time to build a better core — in more ways than one.

The Challenge of Fun

I once again find myself playing the waiting game. My surgery is scheduled for the last week of August, and the day can’t come fast enough for me. Of course, this past week dragged at work, especially the afternoons. I wasn’t the only one who was watching the clock, trying to mentally move the hands until Friday afternoon finally rolled around. But for me, it was especially long, waiting for August 27 — a day that I hope will bring a new beginning for me as a runner. It also seems to be passing quickly as I try to wrap up work projects before I leave for my time off. I’m still wondering if I’ll get it all done.

I’ve spent so much time training for races, I’m used to having a schedule to follow and a big goal ahead. It’s strange to feel like I’m adrift, headed to a new and hopefully great horizon. Like when I’m at the starting line of a race, waiting and anxious to see what unfolds.

To distract myself (and satisfy the Type A overachiever side of me), I’ve found myself trying to challenge myself with new sources of fun. One major fun challenge I’m pursuing is a book challenge. Reading as always been a way for me to recharge and escape – now I’m pursuing it like a sport.

I got involved in the challenge after reconnecting with a high school acquaintance. She now lives in Australia, and decided to host a book challenge among her friends and family on Facebook. People from almost every continent are involved – it’s good to know there are still lots of people out there who like to read for fun!

From July 1 to October 31, each participant must read 10 books, one for a different category. The categories range from a book that is at least 200 pages long, a book with a color in its title, a biography or autobiography, a book in a series, a book by an Australian author, and a book with a one word title. Each category is worth a certain number of points.

I read constantly when I was younger. Many times in the summer, I would stay up until nearly dawn, caught up in a book I was eager to finish. But the older I get and the more time I spend at a desk each day, it gets harder and harder to muster the enthusiasm or energy to read for fun at home. Other times, I’m so busy playing catch up on chores, laundry, or bills that I don’t have time. I still read a lot compared with people I know, but my days of marathon reading are definitely behind me until retirement!

I’m proud to report that I’ve read five out of the 10 books I said I would read.  The girl hosting the challenge is beating us all, I think. In fact, she just released a bonus category – if I remember correctly, it’s the same categories again, but you can also get bonus points if you select books that other people picked for their original challenge lists. Let me put it this way — if you could qualify for Boston by reading, she would be a shoo-in.

My Challenge of Fun is a way to distract myself from running (it’s sort of working, but at least I’m not going as crazy as I was before). It’s so easy to get caught up with the list of must dos, that I find myself not planning for the fun things I want to do, including reading for fun. For the past few years, running has been a way to exercise, have fun and relieve stress, but given my current issues, I’m looking for other ways to fill these needs. The challenge has been a fun way of ensuring I get my fill of reading stuff other than oil and gas, and to connect with bookworms around the world.

I hear people talking about needing to challenge themselves in terms of fitness, work goals, or other things. Why not a challenge of fun? It’s not the same as the spontaneous fun I had when I was a kid — playing outside all day with the neighbors kids, playing hide and seek or hanging out on the jungle gym or in the treehouse. But I’m okay with extending my to-do list to get the fun I need.