Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Running My Guts Out

For me, the easiest and most tangible thing to start changing is the outside. Here's how it's done. It ain't rocket science.

1. Get enough sleep.
2. Drink enough water.
3. Exercise.
4. Eat sensibly.

The first item is a direct function of my baby. If she sleeps through the night, so do I. More on this topic another day, but suffice to say we're doing well enough in that area to leave it be for the time being.

Water. This should be rather easy. Have enough low-calorie, high-water-content beverages around the house and stashed in the strollers and cars, and make yourself drink them whenever you feel the urge, and whenever you don't feel the urge. Instead of a snack, have a drink. How much is enough? My favorite equation is this: Take your body weight in pounds and divide it in half. Drink that many ounces a day. If you exercise that day, add an additional 8 ounces of water per twenty minutes of exercise on top of your regular amount for that day.

To think about #4 causes such intense anxiety that I will leave it alone until further notice.

So that leaves us with #3. Exercise. If I am going to lose the baby weight before I lose the right to call it baby weight (on my daughter's first birthday), then I need to exercise, exercise, exercise. I need to burn more calories than I take in. Weight loss really is that annoyingly simple. So how shall I burn those calories? I have long relied on running for this purpose, but with the extra weight and a pesky knee, I must proceed with caution.

Enter Hal Higdon and his wonderful running training calendars. Little did my friend Vicki know that her casual mention (on New Year's Eve, no less!) of a group of Gutsy Running Moms who were training for the Army 10-miler would remind me of my long-lost addiction to the training calendars of Hal Higdon. A spark was lit that night, and I have Vicki to thank.

To get my heiny off the couch, I'm following Hal's "30/60 plan," that is to say, I am running 30 times in 60 days, come hell or high water. Here are the rules, which I've modified from Hal's instructions.

1. Go for a run every other day for 60 days. (You can call it a run if it contains at least 30 seconds of running. Otherwise, it's a walk.)
2. Every run lasts roughly 30 minutes.
3. Every run begins with 10 minutes of fast walking. Set your intention to have a kickass run during this fast-paced warm-up time.
4. The last 20 minutes of the run are made up of any combination of running & walking you'd like. Run as long as you can, then walk till you feel ready to run again, and repeat. If you can't handle that vaguery (and I cannot) start by trying 30 seconds of running, followed by 4 and a half minutes of walking, and repeat that 4 times. Do that combo for a few days, and then try to up the running segments or shorten the walking segments until you hit a ratio you love. I ran a marathon several years ago in a ratio of 8&1's (8 minutes running, 1 minute walking, repeat ad nauseum), and that is a ratio I love, so that is my far-off goal.
5. If you need to walk the last five minutes of the run, you may, but only if you absolutely must. Otherwise, continue with your run/walk pattern until you smack into your front door.
6. Run for a set time or run for a set distance, but don't focus on both (yet). For now, you are running for time (30 minutes). If you like to measure distance and pace and all that (and I'm a stats nerd, so I do) go for it, but remember your objective is a particular total time, not a particular distance or a particular pace. Your workout is 30 minutes. Punkt.
7. Know the intention of every workout before you walk out of the front door. Is this a dogwalk? A babywalk? A run? If it is a run, keep that intention in mind during the entire workout. While the dogs and the baby may be with you, this is not for them. THIS IS FOR YOU.
8. If you are a Gutsy Mom, you'll be running with your baby jogger on most days. Do not hunch over it like you are pushing a shopping cart of dogfood uphill. Do not clutch it with a deathgrip. Pretend it is not there. Pushing it is secondary to your running posture, which you should try to maintain at all times. Release your grip every now and then to remind yourself that you are on a run (do not do this when you are headed downhill...)
9. If you are a Gutsy Mom, you'll likely be running with your dog in addition to your baby jogger on most days. (Gutsy Moms do not have time to kick serious ass if they have to run and go for a dogwalk separately. Combining the two is both glorious and gutsy.) If your dog is on a leash, the same rules apply regarding maintaining your runner's posture. Because I have two rambunctious golden retrievers who have to stay on leash, I sometimes say in my head as a mantra: I am a beautiful ballerina; I am a beautiful ballerina... This helps when the baby jogger rolls one way and the dogs go in a second and third way and I start to feel more like a flailing octopus than a runner full of grace...
10. If the dogs need to go potty during a run, they must do so during a walking segment, and you must stop your watch while they go. (Just remember to restart your watch when you all get underway again.)

This should be more than enough to get started. Focus on the outside, and the inside will follow.

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Gutsy Mom is Born

2006 was a big, beautiful year, full of the kind of life changes that rock your world and make you take stock of your core (the part of you that is left when your world has stopped rocking). I quit my job, my husband took on major additional responsibilities in his job, we had our first baby, and we moved to Europe. As I said, the kind of changes that rock your world and make you take stock. 

When the dust begins to settle from such marvelous upheaval, we can see more clearly again who we are. And then we get to decide whether we like what we see. In my case, and in particular because I desire to be a strong role model for my daughter, the net result of all of these life changes is simply this: the need for more change.

I think many of us women who transition from our younger, gutsy years (in college or grad school or the working world) where we strive to really kick ass and be amazing feel a little lost when that window of time closes. For many, it feels like that window is closing when we pause to start our families, even if having a family is part of our intended trajectory. I'm not saying that we must stop kicking ass or stop discovering or stop striving to be amazing simply because we have started our families, but I do believe that big changes in life are bound to result in at least a little ruffle (if not complete derailment). 

The trick is this: not to get stuck in it. Do not wallow in the derailment. I've tried it, and it ain't pretty. Dig out however much you need to in order to aright the train. Dig out so that at least your eyeballs are clear enough to see that the upheaval is, indeed, marvelous. Derailment forces us to pick our path again; it creates the perfect void in which to rebuild and recreate. Discovery is back. And if we can discover what we love, then there's no limit to the kind of kickass, amazing things which are to follow.

I admit that I have been uprooted and derailed and lost. Being a mother is blissful and it kicks my ass at the same time. But if there is one thing I know for sure, dragging one's heiny out of this confusing morass and back into the truly kickass takes determination, commitment, and yes, you guessed it, GUTS. 

So watch out world, 'cause I'm digging out. The Gutsy Mom is born and on the loose.