Monday, 7 September 2009

Freaky short arms

I think my arms are too short. I can't reach the floor in dandasana (or staff pose). That is, sitting with my legs straight out in front of me, my hands don't quite touch. This seems odd. I don't know why this is, except that my arms are freakishly short. I searched all over the interwebs for someone else with this problem, and it seems that it's rare, at least among bloggers and people who write yoga instructions for the web. I only found one person who shares my fate, and she doesn't have any ideas either. Help!

Friday, 4 September 2009


My yoga has been erratic lately (though better than my running which has been non-existent): a couple days last week with Michaela, then nothing on Monday (a holiday) and an evening led class on Wednesday. So when I finally saw Philippa again this morning, she asked 'Have you had some time off?' Translation: yes, people do notice when you don't come to practice. Oops, self!

Speaking of the led class: first off it was packed - as this one always is - and secondly there were so many vinyasas I thought my arms were going to fall off. Luckily nearly everyone else felt the same and so there was I think one guy doing the 'optional' vinyasas between sides. Also, it went through more of the sequence than I do on my own. It was good to have someone count the breaths and remind me of all the little details of the poses, which sometimes I forget/ignore. But mostly, I just missed my self-practice.

So, I finally got back to it this morning, and while I was extra tight (longer than usual break between classes followed by a shorter than usual break between practices) it was great to be back. I could feel myself loosening, loosening, and also getting stronger. And then. The most amazing thing happened. Someone talked to me in the changing area.

If you're not English, this might not be so amazing to you. But if you combine general locker room 'keep-to-your-self'ishness with traditional English reticence, you'll understand why this is such a surprising moment for me. She started by asking for the shampoo (there are two showers, no doors, side by side, so it was a little more intimate than I really would have liked) but then we kind of chatted the whole time we were getting ready. We discussed differencees between teachers (one who lets you break the rules of Ashtanga, and one who, well, doesn't) and why we take the moon days off (her theory: because Guruji was a Brahmin and too busy with religious things on moon days to practice, not the 'you're more likely to get injured' idea that's often passed around). She even tried to encourage me to come to the Primrose Hill practice on a Saturday morning because everyone goes out to breakfast. Shocking. Then we exchanged names, which if you've read Kate Fox's Watching the English you'll know is tantamount to having sex.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Too long

It's been too long since I was in the habit of running, yoga-ing, blogging, generally focusing on fitness. And in less than 2 months, I'm running a half-marathon with the stated goal of running the whole thing. Um, yeah. I had a kind-of active holiday with lots of swimming in the lake (though that mostly took the form of hanging out in the water) and I even went for one sorry little run. Then I had a busy week last week and just didn't have the focus. This weekend we went away so I didn't do my long run, but instead we took our bikes and went for a lovely little ride through Cardiff. There's a beautiful little river that flows into Cardiff Bay and they've got a nice bike path through a beautifully maintained (but not manicured-that's not the British way) park.

But now it's time to really get back in to it. I had been thinking over the last week that I really missed the discipline of just getting on the mat - or into my trainers - in the morning. There's something therapeutic about it.

Yoga this morning with substitute teacher Michaela, who helped me with the standing one-leg postures in a very different way than Philippa usually does, so I feel like I got a better feel for how it's supposed to happen. This one seems to cause a problem for lots of people, because teachers are always going around helping people with this. It's been so long since I was in class that I realised later I forgot one of the postures, oops. And I did shoulder stands which I kind of love, despite the feeling of suffocation - energizing and relaxing all at once.

All of which helped me have a calm feeling this morning at work, good because I had to have a sit-down with the boss over some changes here, and it went better than I could ever have hoped.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Wierd hippie yoga with kids and roosters

Since this seems to have become a yoga blog of late, here's something fun for those of you who hate the yoga and think we're all weirdos:

Courtesy Carrie Brownstein, formerly of Sleater-Kinney and now blogging for NPR at Monitor Mix.

And in class this morning...

I seem to only blog on Wednesdays lately. The week is settling down enough that I have space to breathe during my lunch hour, but it hasn't gotten so long that I sleep through my workout. Or something, I'm justifying it to myself in the hopes of changing both the workout and blogging behaviour.

Speaking of sleeping in, I went to class about a half hour later than usual today and it was PACKED. Not sure if this was because of the lateness or just random extra people - I suspect more extra people because I kept looking around (bad drishti, I know) and when the regulars came in at their normal times they all looked surprised at the number of people. I've never had to be in row 2-and-a-half in this class before! Welcome, I suppose, though selfishly I'm hoping they don't all stick around.

There was a guy there who looked completely out of place next to the skinny-flexies that I often see, the age of my dad and about that shape too, showing the effects of a sedentary lifestyle in the belly and all. But still, Philippa had just as much time for him as for everyone else, helping him to do the best he could. And that's something I love about Mysore - it takes us as we are. I do hope he'll come back.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

An hour of yoga is as good as an hour of sleep

Had a couple of really hectic days at work that involved starting before nine on a Monday morning and ending at midnight only to begin again at nine the next morning. I managed to make it to yoga on Monday but (owing to the drunken midnight bedtime) not to run on Tuesday. So when my alarm went off this morning, I was half-inclined to stay in bed. But I’d already packed everything up, so I convinced myself that an hour of yoga would be as restful as an hour of sleeping.

And guess what? I was right. Not only do I not feel like I need to go back to sleep now (as I surely would have felt if I had just rolled over this morning), I’m un-tired and un-guilty feeling!
After my complaint about spinal flexibility the other day, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to my back, and discovering that actually things do seem to be improving. Where I’m kind of used to twisting and trying to get my back to crack when it hurts, now I’m actually finding that the twisting does what it’s supposed to and things are actually sliding into place with that ever-so-satisfying crack. And also, my back is hurting a lot less than it used to. It’s been good to make myself focus on the things that are actually improving, because there are a few folks in my class who are insanely far ahead of me (things like putting one leg behind their head then standing up, then putting their hands on the floor and lifting the standing leg and swinging between their arms before shooting their legs back into plank) and while I shouldn’t be competitive about it, and actually don’t generally find Mysore that competitive, it’s nice to think about the ways that I’ve already improved my body.

Also want to give a shout-out to Runner Insight, a blind runner who is fundraising for Guide Dogs for the blind, and who stopped by here the other day to remind me of the value of a positive attitude. So, um, thanks. And have a great run at the Missoula Marathon.
Monday when I was doing purvattanasana, Philippa came over and helped me lift my hips enough to (almost) get my toes back on the floor. What a difference that made in the stretch across the chest and shoulders! So today I focused on trying to get that same stretch on my own. I also was happy that I was able to jump through to seated twice, and got pretty close two more times. That whole ‘hold the breath, focus on getting your hips up rather than your feet through’ thing actually works, who knew that a teacher could give you advice that would help?

So in summary, yoga can replace sleep and a positive attitude is a good thing. I’m an annoying-cheery person today, aren’t I?

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Spinal flexibility

Will my spine get more flexible? Because right now it's more than a little stiff. I can't get my left shoulder far enough toward (let alone past) my right knee to reach the floor in parivritta parsvakonasana and Philippa has me doing some preparations for backbending which are the bridge (setu bandha sarvangasana) with hands by my ears like I'm about to go into wheel and the chest movement of fish pose (matsyasana) but with my knees bent and my arms still by my ears (does anyone know what these preparatory poses are actually called?). And I can barely get my hips or chest off the floor. Why is everything so tight there? And weirdly, also in my chest? It always makes me laugh inside when Philippa presses my shoulders open to stretch my chest in shavasana, but it's come into even sharper relief in purvattasana. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I think I'm just upper-body stiff in general - my shoulders are tight in prasarita padottanasana C and I cannot grab my elbows behind my back. I suppose it's the danger of an office lifestyle. Somebody please reassure me things will improve!

In further contibution to the global economic recovery, I bought a new yoga mat to replace the old one that is currently leaving purple bits all over the studio floor and me. It arrived today and I'm sad that I have to wait until Friday to inaugurate it. On the other hand, I get to run tomorrow, according to my modified Hal Higdon plan. (Modified because I'm only planning to run 3 days a week, counting yoga as both cross-training and stretch & strengthen, and to add one 12 mile run into the plan a month before the big day - his beginner plan only goes up to 10 miles and I think I'll be happier with something a little longer as prep.)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The inaugural run

This morning's run was inaugural in many ways: the first run on my new and revised training program, the first run this month (oops), and the first run for a whole bunch of new kit.

First, the shoes. I finally got myself to a proper running store and was properly fitted for new shoes. Apparently I'm in the vast minority of runners as a neutral runner - in fact, I was surprised to find out that when people say 'pronation' they mean rolling INWARDS, if I have any problems it's rolling OUTWARD which is the opposite of pronation. I didn't even know people's feet went that way. Also bizarre - the sales guy asked me, within the first 2 minutes I was jogging in my socks on the treadmill, if I'd had an injury on my right ankle ever. Well, yes, about 7 years ago I broke it, but that's really it! Turns out I run with my left foot straight forward but my right foot turned out about 15 degrees. Weird. Also strange that he could diagnose this as an old injury so quickly. I wound up with the Asics Gel Nimbus, which felt like running on air compared to the planks my old shoes had become. I think my milage tracking wasn't accurate, because they seem to be on 176 miles all the time but they are in bad shape.

Next, the top. This is a bit embarassing. A couple weeks ago we were at a festival and the Royal Parks people were there, selling last year's Royal Parks Half Marathon technical shirts for a fiver. Being the cheapskate that I am, I bought one even though I didn't run it. Took it out for its first run today. I usually like sleveless shirts to run in, and this is short sleeved, but it's easy and comfortable.

Finally, socks. Think Fast Move Faster is a new site that bills itself as a social networking site for athletes. Honestly, I don't know that they're succeeding in this quite yet but maybe it'll take off. They're also sponsored by Diesel Energy Stix, which I'm sure helped inspire a tweet offering to give away runner's gear. I tweeted back that I could really go for some socks, and they sent me some, free of charge, along with some energy bars and those aforementioned Stix. I haven't done any running long enough to justify any of the energy-products yet, but I did take my new Feetures socks out for a spin this morning. I like. I usually go for shorter socks than the mid-cut ones they sent me but cheapskates can't complain. The socks were comfortable straight out of the box, no real seams to create blisters, while feeling pretty supportive through the arches. I love my DryMax socks but these are a pretty good addition to the sock drawer. It was raining through my whole run but my feet were still dry.

A good first run back on the roads, took the first mile extra extra slow on purpose, second mile at a comfortably slow pace, then a comfortable pace for the third. 3 miles, 35:07

Monday, 20 July 2009

Matter over mind...

Usually, the fight between my brain and my body goes something like this:
Brain: 'Time to get up'
Body: 'Sleepy...'
-repeat until it's too late to go to yoga/run-
and the body wins.
Today, the body still won, but it went like this:
Brain: 'Not ready to go to yoga, forgot to buy class pass, not sure yesterday's horrible headache is gone, let's go back to sleep.'
Body: 'Ok. Oh wait, no, we're awake, let's get up.'
And so up I got. The battle between mind and matter is still tilted rather wrongly, but at least 'Body' had the right idea today.
And actually, as always, I'm glad I got up. I started doing some preparations for backbends. My spine is so stiff it's not even funny. Little by little, though...
Today there was a (heavily) pregnant woman in my class. Clearly she's a regular as Philippa knew her and Mysore isn't something you start 7 months into your pregnancy, but I was still really impressed at her. Other than that, though, the attendance was really light which is surprising since the moonday isn't until Wednesday (traditional Mysore/Ashtanga practitioners don't practice on new/full moon, not that I'll let that stop me as I have a hard time believing the cycle of the moon has that big an impact, or really much of an impact at all, but I'm a cynic like that).

Thanks to those who have commented on the relationship between your childhood fitness practices and your fitness practices today, I'm really interested to keep reading about others experiences!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Family fitness

A while back I posted about having had dinner at the School of Life and the conversation it sparked. A couple of you were kind enough to answer the question 'Who have you encountered in your (running) life that has really stood out, and why?' I'm having trouble thinking what to write today, so I thought I'd ask another question from the dinner, reframing it to be related to the subject of this blog:
What was family fitness like in your childhood? How has this influenced your approach to fitness today?
My sister and I were pretty active kids, always had some sport or another going on. Gymnastics, swimming, soccer, whatever. I've already admitted I was not exactly the most athletic kid, but I give my parents credit for encouraging me to keep it up anyway. I know my mom, in particular, had (has?) quite a lot of anxiety around sport - she would never play in local softball teams or anything like that because she never felt good enough - but she tried really hard not to pass that on to me or my sister. But we also didn't do anything as a family. I basically never saw my parents exercise, so I had no adult models for fitting fitness in around a life. I went to college and basically stopped doing anything - was no longer playing a sport (until rugby) and hadn't ever really learned to do, let alone enjoy, exercise for its own sake. So learning to make it a part of my life is something I've had to figure out on my own. Interestingly, though, my parents have been off-and-on exercising more since I left home, and are actually planning to run a half-marathon this fall.

Added paschimottanasana A-C and purvattanasana (the first of the seated postures) this morning, for yoga for a very sweaty 50 minutes.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Some time off might have done me some good

My feet still hurt. Anyone have any ideas? I took most of last week off entirely, but they still hurt. I've been trying to strengthen my ankles (standing on one leg while I brush my teeth, mainly) to no avail.
But anyway, I can't just not train, so I went to yoga again this morning. And I found that the time off has helped a bit - I found the plank-chattaranga-updog transition much easier than before. I've learned all the standing poses in primary series so am continuing to work on those, in particular trying to get the spinal flexibility and chest muscle looseness to put my arm behind my back and grab the other arm (eventually to be grabbing a toe, but that's a long way off still). It amuses me to no end that Philippa has to push my shoulders down toward the ground in shavasana (aka corpse pose - the one where you lay on the ground!).
Unfortunately though I was in a bit of a hurry this morning so didn't get to relax into the practice as much as I would have liked. I'm at an offsite today writing web content, joy joy joy. Time to run again tomorrow!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Time to revise

Clearly I do not have the base for a FIRST-style training plan. I've been off running for a week and my left foot still feels like there's something wrong with it - the bones at the base of my toes hurt, especially when they're turned or squeezed in any way, and my ankle is sore as well. So, I think it's time to revise my training plan. I like FIRST because it allows me to do both running and yoga with a day off a week, and because it incorporates some speed work to help me get faster. But I suspect that just running longer will help me run faster right now, so maybe I don't need it. I'm thinking of using a Hal Higdon plan as the basis for my own. Thoughts? Is three days a week enough? Should I incorporate a fourth running day and give up having one day a week off, counting yoga as recovery from running and running as recovery from yoga?

Philippa is an incredibly hands-on teacher. She spends the whole morning running (literally!) from person to person, making small adjustments here and big ones there, walking through asanas with people. This morning she pushed and prodded my down-dog - heels toward floor, hips up and back, full palms down, elbows turning out, shoulders extended but not hyperextended. Then she helped me add utkatasana and virabratasana. Meanwhile she's placing people's arms behind their backs for baddha pamasana and helping someone else with headstand. There was also this one guy who I've never seen before who came in and started by hanging like a monkey from the inversion ropes in the back. I'm not sure what that was about, but eventually (thank goodness!) he started on his regular practice.

The thing I find amazing about Mysore is that the teacher can know both where we are in the sequence - as in, how far along in our practice we are - and where we are in our practice - as in, how much of the sequence we do - for the 30-odd people she sees every morning. She knows what we're working on and what we need help with, for a bunch of people at different levels who begin at different times, don't all come every day, have vastly different bodies. It never ceases to impress me.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

How to move from upward facing dog to downward facing dog

How do you get from here:

image courtesy on flickr - click photo to see original

to here:
image courtesy myyogaonline on flickr - click photo to see original

with some amount of grace? (Leaving aside the obvious of needing to go from a deserted beach at sunrise wearing very little clothing to a sunlight studio at midday wearing rather more clothing. That takes a plane, probably, and a suitcase full of clothing definitely.)

More succinctly, I've been struggling with how to move from Urdvha Mukha Svanasana (upward facing dog) to Adho Mukha Svanasana (downward facing dog) without just flopping down and flipping my feet, or just putting my feet right and then going into the pose, but rather in one solid movement.

This morning I was having a hard time staying self-foucused, but it actually worked out for me, I think, because I watched the woman in front of me do it and I realised that I'd been trying to lead by rolling-over-toes with my body following, but I watched her lead with her hips, with the rolling-over-toes occurring as a kind of side benefit. And lo and behold, I did it! So here's my advice to the interwebs: from up-dog, engage your core even more, lift your hips up then back, and - as if by magic - you'll roll over your toes and find yourself in down dog.

Which is to say, 45 minutes of yoga this morning. Philippa is back from Mysore. She's very involved, I like it already.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Walking the dog & Juneathon roundup

MY FEET HURT!!!! I know exactly why - I've more than doubled my mileage from last month, up from exactly 0 the month before, but I've got a half marathon to run and can't be actually getting injured so I should take this pain as a warning. I skipped the run this morning in the hopes that a day in my running shoes but just hanging out in my office would set things right and I'd be able to run tonight. No such luck, but it's the last day of Juneathon so I can't be having a FAIL today. So instead I took the dog for a brisk (well, as brisk as you can be when your legs are less than 12 inches long) walk for about a half-hour longer than he usually gets. He was panting by the end - at least one of us was! - clearly needs to engage in a juneathon of his own.

Final Juneathon statistics:
* something active: 28/30 + 2 extra credit:

* blogging:

* runs: 10
* yoga: 12
* bikes: 7
* walks: 2
* slightly suspect things I counted for Juneathon anyway: 3 (2 walks, one really sad bike)
* days of FAIL: 2

Monday, 29 June 2009

Yoga is good for what ails me after 8 miles

A spectacular Juneathon FAIL on Saturday...I just didn't get up! and by the time I did, it was time to head off to the Hard Rock Calling festival in Hyde Park, where I proceeded to drink rather a lot of beer before the rain came down and sent us home to play Guitar Hero Metallica. Sunday I did manage to wake up in time to run 8 miles before part 2 of the festival. And what a great 8 miles it was. I planned to do 0.1 walking in every mile, which kept me feeling fresh. I have found a great greenspace to run in and got to explore the natural woodlands of England, which was really cool. Very quiet and peaceful, much nicer than the marshes where I feel completely exposed. No cows though.

And then this morning a really good yoga practice, very sweaty [must be all the toxins from 3 concerts in 3 days] but it only really took one sun salutation to get me warm. Katie kind of laid across my back in downward dog at one point, making me keep everything in alignment while working my heels down. Weird, but effective. Edited to add, because I got distracted and busy this morning: I was sooooo stiff and sore yesterday, my feet were swelling something awful and my hips were feeling the twinges of IT issues. But after this morning, I feel refreshed. My hips (well, those muscles on the outsides of them) still ache a bit, but I feel human again. Must remember that yoga and running are a good balance for one another, though I'm pretty sure running does not help my yoga.

Only one more day of Juneathon. I'm not happy to see it end, and will try to keep up for July!

Juneathons: 27/29 + 2 extra credit

Friday, 26 June 2009

Lattes: warm milk for grownups

Drank too much wine with some ex-neighbors last night and accidentally hit 'off' instead of 'snooze' this morning. Luckily I still woke up in time to get to work, if not to yoga. :( After being (rightly) berated on Twitter by JogBlog for counting today as a FAIL by 10am when I still had the whole day ahead of me I decided to take a nice long walk at lunchtime to a nearby park and do a little bit of yoga:
I did not do anything like this, I just did a few sun salutations in my work clothes. I just like this picture, which is courtesy sporkist.

Then I came back to the office to eat my lunch, which included my drink of choice: grande skinny latte (Side note, is it a bad thing if the barista in your office cafe knows your drink before you say anything?) I have one pretty regularly for breakfast, but I also use it as a calming mechanism when I'm stressed. Remember when you were a kid and would have a glass of warm milk to settle you down if you couldn't sleep? How many adults would willingly have a glass of warm milk? Well, isn't that what a latte (as made by mainstream coffee chains, not a proper Italian one) is?

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Heavy legs like lead

The title describes it all with respect to this morning's run. I was scheduled to do 5 miles at 11:45. I decided even before leaving the house to cut it to 4, since I'm still easing into this whole training seriously thing. (I'm adapting the FIRST program pretty liberally!) But I just could not get into it, either mentally or physically this morning, and I ended up walking a good portion of the 3 miles I ended up doing.

This picture describes how my legs feel:Original image courtesy germanuncut77 via Flickr. Bad photoshopping all mine.

3 miles, 41:09
Juneathons: 24/25 (+2 extra credits)

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Mysore: the class you take by yourself

Last night I got home from work and, since I'd had a lie-in that morning, still needed to run. I was scheduled to do an interval pyramid that would have had me running, for intervals, about 5k, plus the warmup, cooldown, and recoveries. I cut it short and only did about a half hour total in the interest of getting home before 8:30. I had snuck in and tried to get in-and-out without waking the dog since I think it's kind of mean to come in, take him for a walk, then put him back in his crate right away. I won't do that again - he was quiet the whole time I was home but apparently started howling shortly thereafter, and Meg could hear him from the end of our lane (200 yards or so)! Serves me right for lazing about yesterday morning, though.

Then this morning I was off to yoga. Katie had me start on the next pose, ardha baddha padmottanasana (half-bound lotus intense stretch posture). I am in serious need of some chest opening, as I couldn't even grab my elbow, let alone the toe of my foot! With practice all things will come, I guess. Still also working to get my hand flat in parivritta trikonasana (is it spinal flexibility or tits in the way?) reach the floor in utthita parsvakonasana (will I ever get there?), skipping parivritta parsvakonasana (see: spinal flexibility, arm length from above), and requiring a little help through the utthita hasta padangusthanasana series (though so do many people much further along in the sequence than I am, I think it's just a really tough one). In a hurry, I managed to quicken my breathing to do my practice in 35 minutes today, yikes!

I was thinking about my relationship with yoga this morning. It's been something I do, off and on, since I was in high school (see also: running). I started, when I was about 15 and living in a small backwoods town, by trying to learn yoga from a book and practicing on my own in my room. I took a class one semester in college, but it was really of the 'advanced stretching' kind and I wasn't engaged or challenged enough to stick with it - it just fulfilled a PE requirement. I took vinyasa classses semi-regularly in graduate school and after, through my gym, until I met Meg (I even got her to take a few with me while we were 'wooing' but once we moved in together that was all over - now she does what she calls 'no-ga'). When we moved to New York I found a studio nearby and took some classes from them. I struggled a bit because either I wasn't regular enough or the classes weren't regular enough to ensure that there was always one at my level - sometimes I'd go and not get the workout I needed, while other times it would be so far above my abilities as to not be enjoyable. I never found a teacher or class I really clicked with, and we were so broke at the time that for something that wasn't exactly perfect it just wasn't worth the money. I bought David Swenson's Practice Manual and started doing ashtanga by myself at home, reverting to my yoga roots. I didn't know enough at the time, however, to realise that you shouldn't do the entire primary series before you're ready! and I was frustrated at how bloody hard it all seemed to be, and gradually I let this practice lapse. It didn't help that doing yoga at home often meant that the (actual) dog tried to 'help' during downward-facing-dog by licking my face. Meg for my birthday one year set up our spare room to be a little yoga studio for me, and I did yoga on my own with DVDs until we left that apartment. When we moved to London I started taking the odd class here and there.

And then I found mysore. It's exactly right for me. It's a class, but it moves at the level you're at, and the level you're at that day. It rewards regularity and discipline in your practice. It increases in difficulty slowly, letting you ease into things, without the feeling of competitiveness I sometimes get in called classes. It's independent, and yet there's a community in it. I see the same people every day I'm there. I've only been going a month and yet already people say hello. I've had 3 different teachers (plus the one who taught my 'intro to mysore' class) since the regular teacher is away, and they've all helped me improve my practice. What can I say, I'm a convert.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Juneathons days 20-22: a computerless weekend

I spent a wonderful weekend with no computer so am now catching up on a whole weekend's worth of Juneathons and blogs.

Saturday was Juneathon-lite: Friday was Meg's birthday and we 'celebinebriated' it in style, so Saturday I just went for a short bike ride to The School of Life where I had a bibliotherapy consultation (5.5 miles round trip, approx 40 minutes total). I am excited to read the 'prescriptions' that come out of this program, since in the 40-ish minutes we were talking she already recommended about 5 books that sound interesting as opposed to my usual practice of wandering around grabbing things at random off the shelves based on their covers (note: you actually can judge a book by its cover: if the writing on the front is in a 'comic' or 'handwriting' font, I won't like the book).

Sunday I did the first long run of my official half-marathon training. I was scheduled for 8 miles but since that's further than I've run all year, I elected to cut it down to 6 miles. Actually, I'm quite pleased with myself - when I was doing marathon training my longest training run was (yikes!) half the distance of the real thing, and I've already run that far in training. If I'd been able to run the whole distance without stopping at the pace I ran today, I'd have done a 2:30 half, which would be absolutely incredible for me. Now, I had a few stops in there, so it doesn't really count, but I'm still quite happy. I also discovered a new route - the Capital Ring. I can't believe I've lived here 2 years without running on this lovely green path. I'll almost certainly be doing more long runs on it, though I don't think I'll use it much before work as it's clearly the home of quite a few homeless people and thus probably a little quiet for my taste early in the morning (especially in the winter when it's likely to be dark). 6.13 miles, 1:14:35

This morning I of course went to yoga where I did utthita hasta padangustanasana all by myself! as Katie was busy helping someone brand new. It's certainly harder by myself and I didn't do part B very strongly, but I can definitely feel improvement over when I first added this pose on.

Juneathons: 21/220 (+ 2 extra credit)

Friday, 19 June 2009

Does yoga improve running?

I wouldn't know, but Runner Kara posted a link to a story that posits that it does, and gives advice on how to make the two work together. I know for myself that I feel less stiff after running, stronger, more healthful about my life in general when I do yoga.

The reason I wouldn't know if running improves yoga or vice versa is that I really haven't been that consistent with either of them, except the last 19 days. Well, excluding yesterday's big fat FAIL, which I'll blame on feeling really shit. I did nothing of note yesterday. I was meant to run 6 miles, and woke up completely unable to get out of bed. After sleeping for several extra hours I found myself able to move as far as the couch but no running. I even tried convincing myself to go for 4 miles, or even 1 mile. But no, FAIL. Oh well.

Yoga this morning. My mat is getting worn through, and I'll have to replace it soon, but I've promised it to myself after Juneathon if I've been successful. Class this week has been led by Katie. I miss Brett, honestly. Maybe it's just that I've been a little later this week, so there are more people there when I get there, but I feel more personalised attention from Brett, and I also feel less like a fraud for being at the place in my practice I am with him. Can't really put my finger on it, but I get the sense that Katie feels she's wasting her time helping me through utthita hasta paddangusthasana. Oh well, Philippa will be back in a week and a half. (Though I've never practiced with her, so what do I know?)

Juneathons: 18/19 (+ 2 extra credit)

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

The energy of speed

I am doing an off-site meeting today that starts later than my normal work day (yay!) but not so late as to make it feasible to go into the office beforehand. So I got to sleep an extra hour before going to yoga (and truthfully, could have done another half hour without problems).

So I get to yoga nearly an hour later than normal and of course it's much more crowded than normal. Usually I'm one of the first 7-8 people there, so there's tons of room everywhere. This morning I came in and there were people finishing their practice (that's usually me at this time) and 20 people in the room already. I like the early morning practice better, but this was a nice change of pace.

Something about the room this morning had me flying through the poses. I only did 8 sun salutations but that shouldn't account for the 5+ minutes shorter I was today. I was talking to this woman in the changing area afterwards (I'm a regular enough that people talk to me! It's only taken 2 years in London...and a month at this class. Hmmm, maybe I should have done this earlier.) and she was remarking on how she felt she was speeding through it too. Must have been something in the air. Why can't that ever happen to me while running? I'd rather take my time at yoga and run quicker, instead of the other way around.

yoga up through utthita hasta padangustanasana
Juneathons: 17/17 (+2 extra credit)

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Is it time for real training already?

I've been lazing about my training lately - check out the calendar, where most of my runs are sub 3 miles, listed as "easy", and are still helping me put more distance in the first half of June than I did in the first 4 months of the year combined. So imagine my terror when I checked out the calendar this weekend and discovered that the Aviemore Half Marathon is now exactly 16 weeks away. Coincidentally, that's the length of the FIRST program I'll be giggling at the workouts suggested by aiming to follow for this race. No mental warmup, no easing into the training, just 'get your butt in gear now' style ass-kicking coming my way.

This morning Coach FIRST recommended 12 400m intervals. I did 6. He recommended I do them in 2:38. Since I had the Training Partner (Garmin) set on intervals I'd designed at home I didn't know how slow fast I was going until later, but I was pleased to see that I was pretty consistent, 5 at 2:25 and one at 2:38. I decided to stop after 6 since even cutting it short would make this my longest single run (except for the Crisis Square Mile fun jog-walk-beer drinking event) this year, and I'd like to be able to move for the rest of the day, do yoga tomorrow, and continue with the program, so I thought trying not to overdo it would be wise.

I have forgotten how much I enjoy intervals. I feel energized and happy to start the day, which is important for me right now. I'm also enjoying reading back to last year this time when I was also half-marathon training, but in a bit better shape and hoping for a faster half in the fall. Maybe it'll catch up with me?

But yeah, can't believe actual training time has snuck up on me so much.

400m intervals for 3.25 mi (incl warm-up/cool-down) in 46:07 (incl rest times of 6x1:30) = 3.25 mi in 37:09 active, 11:25 pace
Juneathons: 16/16 (+2 extra credit)

Monday, 15 June 2009

Juneathon day 15: The beauty of accepting what is

That's the theme for today: being happy with what is instead of always striving. Trying to be better is all well and good, but it can be full of strife and angst and create stress in our lives. I'm feeling stressed lately. So today I'm just trying to be. I have a body that moves, a brain that thinks, a family that loves me. And that's enough for today. I hope.

yoga up through utthita hasta padangustanasana
Juneathons: 15/15 (+2 extra credit)

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Nearly halfway there, how's everyone feeling?

Just about to the midpoint of Juneathon. I'm glad to have the 'reason' to go out every day, since I'm not quite ready to start training for the fall half-marathons. But I'm feeling tired lately. How's everyone else?

Today I just went for a short little slow jog, we drank a few beers yesterday and I mostly didn't want to go and didn't get started until 4:30. But even after 2 miles, I always feel hardcore when I stop in the little greengrocers to pick something up at the end of a run.

1.93 miles, 23:09
Juneathon: 14/14 (+ 2 extra credit)

Saturday, 13 June 2009

The hunter and the vegetarian

So we went to see Under the Sea in IMAX 3D today (just under 10 miles round-trip, something around an hour via bike), Meg's idea of a Saturday afternoon date. I found myself surrounded by two 8-year-old ankle/knee-biters who will probably find themselves cohabitating in 20 years (JogBlog & the Meat Eater? perhaps).

Behind me was the budding vegetarian. It cried every time something got hunted. Me, I was all intrigued by watching the cuttlefish eat the crab. I mean, how many hours did they need to spend scuba diving (with the rebreather no less) to get the 30 seconds of footage of one marine animal eating another? The future-veg did not like the implication of watching the sea lions, followed by the sharks, followed by the sea lions again, while Jim Carrey intoned, 'Everything in the sea depends on something else.'

On my left, crazy safari 8-year-old. He spent the entire 40 minutes of the movie trying to 'catch' the 3D animals shown on screen. I finally had to tell him to sit still.

Somewhere in this, we rode bikes. So this counts for Juneathon, right?

Juneathons 13/13 (+2 extra credit)

Friday, 12 June 2009

Exercise and sport for fun, or: What to say to an unathletic kid trying out sport

Or rather, what *not* to say to an unathletic, slightly awkward kid trying out sports.

My parents have an old friend who also happened to be my teacher for a couple of years, and my volleyball coach when I first started to play. One time after I'd been playing for a couple of years, she said to me, "Nobody told you that you weren't an athlete, so you became one."

I can't remember how old I was when this happened, but it was certainly somewhere in the age range where you're at your most awkward and self-conscious. So of course I took this very well-intentioned statement completely wrong.

I focused on the first half of the sentence: 'you aren't an athlete'. I became embarassed by my sad strivings to do something I'm not completely a natural at. I stopped thinking about myself as an athlete. When I wasn't fast, I stopped running. When someone commented on my (not 100% perfect) swimming form, I stopped swimming. When I wasn't a star volleyball player, I stopped doing that.

Over the years, though, I've come to focus on the second half of that statement: 'you've become an athlete'. I remembered that I *like* to run, and it doesn't matter that I'll never keep up with Paula Radcliffe. I enjoy yoga, so who cares if I can't put my right leg over my left shoulder. My bike can get me around and moving, even if I'll never get an MBE for my cycling prowess.

The thing that really changed all this for me was rugby. There's a place in the sport for people of all sizes and shapes. My teammates encouraged me to get fitter, not to lose some arbitrary amount of weight or conform to some arbitrary shape. In fact, getting too small was sometimes a problem!

Meg was a competitive athlete until just after we met. And now she can't do sport just for fun. She used to be so good that it frustrates her to not be that good any more, and she doesn't enjoy it. She can't be average. And while I'm happy she had the success that she did in her earlier life, it makes me sad that that success has ruined her ability to take pleasure in the doing, rather than in the being great.

Today, I'd consider myself an amateur athlete. I'm not a superstar, but I do what I enjoy, for myself. It took me a really long time to come to this place, though. In my interactions with kids, I hope to ask them not, 'how good are you?' but rather 'are you having fun?'. I want to tell them I enjoy watching them become *better* athletes - with emphasis on the fact that they already are.

Yoga, really struggling with utthita hasta padangutanasana - my legs are really tired from the cycling, I think!
Juneathons: 12/12 + 2 extra credit

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Cycling while tired

Juneathon day 11. I am very tired, and really don't want to ride my bike to work. I actually looked up how bad the transit disruption was before I got out of bed, to see if it would be possible to do a non-bike commute. It's not, which is a good thing considering that it's Juneathon and I didn't get up in time to run. So I got up and rode my bike to work, but perhaps a little slower than I should have. Now it is time to go home, and I still don't want to ride. So no extra credit on Juneathon today even though I'm riding twice. Sleepy = lamest post ever.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Vegan brunch: Fennel Risotto, Smoky Shittakes, and Fried Bananas

So Cathy got a copy of Vegan Brunch to give away on Planet Veggie and my friend Tracy won it but she lives in the US so I said I'd send it to her if I could make something out of it first. Meg and I flipped through it and in the savory section there was a lot of tofu, which I don't mind but Meg refuses to eat, but I didn't want to wait until I felt like making brunch to do something with this and I really wanted savory for dinner and not sweet.

In the end I decided to make Fennel Breakfast Risotto, which was REALLY REALLY good. I cheated a little in that I didn't buy quite enough vegetable stock and so I topped it up with a chicken stock cube and a little extra water. So not exactly vegan, but vegan in spirit. Other than that my only issues were that a cup and a half of chopped shallots is a LOT of shallots to chop by hand and I really wish I had a food processor, and that risotto is a lot of work in the stirring (not unique to this recipe, obviously). This was really great, I'll be saving the recipe to make this again.

I also made Smoky Shittakes, which were meant to be sauteed shittakes cut in half, but I didn't read the recipe carefully and sliced them instead. I also didn't find any liquid smoke so just used soy sauce. I think it actually worked out though. I topped the risotto with them, and they added a really nice salty nutty almost-crunch to the (clearly slightly underseasoned) risotto.

As a side we had bananas, dredged in flour/ginger/cinnamon, and fried. I neglected to tap off the flour (too many pans going at the same time, clearly) so they were a little too bready, and because I had bananas instead of plantains they weren't sweet enough to offer the counterpoint to the savory risotto & mushrooms. If I were to do them again I'd put a little sugar in the breading. Instead we put some honey over them, and it turned out great.

Thanks, Cathy, for the competition, and Tracy, for letting me borrow your book for a bit. Let me know how you get on!

Juneathon day 10: well, I certainly won't do *that* again

It's Wednesday so that must make it a yoga day. But London tube employees have gone on strike, so while I do respect their right to strike (though honestly, pay raises for less hours? in this economy? I wish.) I also knew I would be undertaking a cycle commute today.

Last night was spent fixing a vegan-brunch-for-dinner (which deserves and shall have it's own separate post) and finally getting the rack put on my bike. I get up a little late this morning but head to yoga anyway. Definitely a nice ride at this time of day (pre-7am): streets are quiet, traffic is light, etc. I have never ridden to this yoga studio before, and I miss the mark completely and have to stop in Piccadilly Circus and cheat with the phone-map. Finally I get there and am ready to start practice at 7:30 - a half hour later than normal. Monday there were tons of new people in class but they seem to have gone, as it's just the regulars again. Hard to say, though, maybe those new people will become regulars once the strike is over.

I do my 5 sun salutation As and only 3 Bs because I'm already warm from the bike ride and also because I'm late. I get up to Prasarita Padottanasana and Brett comes over to help me. 'Set your feet wider,' he says. 'No, wider. Wider.' And then he's holding my hips and I'm leaning forward, forward, forward, and there's nothing to catch me, but I've got my head about 3 inches from the ground. Wow. I've always wondered how people get their heads on the ground; I always thought I'd just never be that flexible, but suddenly I can see it. My ankle is burning where I broke it once - clearly still not that strong. When I'm finished with the pose we talk for a while about letting the breath take you into the pose and remembering to lean forward over your toes instead of backwards over your heels, and then he decides I'm ready to add the beginning of the Primary Series, utthita hasta padangusthasana (there are actually 4 parts, one leg holding your toe standing up, one leg holding your toe nose to knee, one leg holding your toe out to the side, one leg that holds itself up).

Then I hop back on my bike and go the rest of the way to work. Unfortunately having gone to yoga puts me in central London at rush hour, and even though there are loads of other bikers around (more than I ever remember) there are also loads of people who don't normally drive and aren't used to watching out for cyclists. One guy yells at me because he's stopped at a light really close to the edge of the lane and my handlebar touches his mirror ever so gently as I go past. Really? In the fight between car and bike, mister, your hatchback will win. Again I'm kind of turned around having started from a part of London I normally try to avoid on my bike and it takes me an hour ten just to get to work and it's already 9:30 so I scramble through a shower and into my office only 15 minutes late in the end, and then one of my coworkers asks me if I've swum to work.

I've got to ride home again so I'm pre-emptively giving myself an extra credit for today's Juneathon.

Juneathons: 10/10 (+2 extra credit)

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Who have you encountered in your (running) life who has really stood out, and why?

Yesterday I asked 'Who in your running life has really stood out, and why?'. I suppose it's only fair if I'm the first to answer my own question.

One person who has been an amazing source of inspiration for me is Marathon Dude Bill. Bill is incredible. He runs fast, really fast. He runs a lot. But he also took the time to comment and encourage me, especially when I was a new runner-blogger and when I was a-struggling away with marathon training. He's always pushing himself to improve, even though he's already way faster than I can ever dream of becoming, which reminds me that I too can improve and that even though in comparison to Bill I am laughably slow I can still push myself. He's really nice about saying all these things to me, too! One time he even went for a run with me, though he didn't know it as he actually that day existed only in my head. So, thanks Bill, for everything!

Last night we went to see Beyonce and did not get home until late. Then we spent a little while looking through the cookbook so I can make something and blog and send it on to Tracy as promised. All of which added up to not going to bed until 1 or something. But since hanging out with screaming 12-year-olds does not count as a Juneathon activity this early in the month, away trotted I at 6:30 am for a getting-faster-but-still-laughably-slow 30 minutes (just over 2.5 miles) for Juneathon day 9.

Juneathons: 9/9 + 1 extra credit

Monday, 8 June 2009

Your questions answered, and some questions posed

Thanks for your comments over the past few days. For Juneathon day 8, I thought I'd give some thought to your questions:

How do you stretch a bike rack? Highway Kind asks why I'm taking my cycling equipment to yoga. Good question. I think I misspoke a bit, I don't really mean stretch. The red arrow points at the bits that are meant to go around my bike tire on the frame at the back. You're supposed to kind of spread the two arms apart. For whatever reason, my bike has a really wide frame at that spot. I tried my hardest to pull the arms apart at the appropriate spot. I could kind of, sort of, get them to go onto the frame properly, if I pulled hard enough to worry about throwing my back out and got Meg to help me, but we could never get them to stay properly long enough to put the screws in. So, we'll try version number 2, which seemed better when I tried it in the shop.

Is Juneathon a big commitment? Well, yes and no. Cranky Girl is curious if I ought to be committed, or if I'm just committed for the month. So far, I've really not done much more than I would have done even without Juneathon, it's just made me be conscious of not skipping for no reason at all. But I suspect that, as Juneathon goes on, the things we all count as Juneathon activities will get more 'creative'.

Can I blog about what I've made from Vegan Brunch? JogBlog is rightly wondering what I've done with the book I intercepted from Tracy. Yes, I can. Just as soon as I make something from the book, which should be tomorrow for dinner.

And now, a question for you. A while back, Meg and I went to this amazing dinner at the School of Life (philosopher figures out how to make the degree pay!) and, along with the food menu was a conversational menu. I thought I'd pose one or two here, with a running/fitness slant if you like. So:

Who have you encountered in your (running) life who has really stood out, and why? Answer in the comments, or on your own blog if you prefer - just link back or comment so we can read all your answers.

Juneathons: 8/8 (+1 extra credit) with yoga this morning.

Sunday, 7 June 2009

Errand girl goes Juneathon (day 7) in the rain

Meg had to pick something up from her office today, and we'd decided earlier in the weekend (Friday, while it was still sunny) to ride our bikes to get it. This afternoon we had been through rain and sun and rain and were back on sun so we decided to go. Which is when the rain came back, of course. But because I am a dedicated Juneathoner off we went and luckily the rain stopped again. That to me is one of the points of Juneathon - to create a space in your life to be active where you might not be otherwise. Because honestly once we got started riding I was happy. After picking up from work we took a little spin through Spitalfields and bought a new rack for my bike - I got one for Christmas but have not been able to make it fit my bike. They say 'just stretch it, it will fit' but I am telling you this thing does not fit. I tried for an hour. So anyway I haven't put the rack on my bike, but since there is a threat of a tube strike this week I really wanted to get my bike set up so I can ride if I need to later this week. Then we went to the grocery. I wasn't prepared enough to get ingredients for brunch-as-dinner tonight, but I will make something from the book Tracy won in JogBlog's competition later this week so I can send the book on to Tracy soonish. Exciting Sunday, I know.

Juneathons: 7/7

Juneathon day 6: Sleeping in

This is going to be a really sad post because yesterday after my short little Couch to 5k jaunt (2.5 miles, 31 minutes at 5 min run/2.5 min walk) we went to the Polo in the Park and between yesterday being a whole 24 hours ago and the champagne, wine, and beer that was consumed yesterday, I can't actually remember much. But I did get out there, and I'm happy to report that I have made it 1/5 through Juneathon without having to resort to calling walking to the pub a Juneathon activity. I might start today though.

Juneathons: 6/6

Right, I remembered what this post was supposed to be about. Here's a question. How do you 'get things going' or keep them from getting going for a morning run? I really can't be hanging about the house waiting for my digestive tract to wake up before I run, but man was I struggling by the end of this run yesterday, and it was only 30 minutes. For a race, I can get up early, but on a regular day, not so much. Not even on a Saturday. Once I sit down to just hang out, I'm pretty likely to stay parked on the couch. Advice, anyone?

Friday, 5 June 2009

Juneathon days 4.2 and 5

Last night was the Crisis Square Mile run which I ran for the second half of my uber-hardcore two-a-day schedule and not at all for the promise of beer and pizza with JogBlog and Iliketocount. I had been promised 3.5-ish miles so I wasn't too worried and started off with 2000+ other people with phone in hand. There were running nuns kissing, but I was too slow to take a photo. I twittered while running. I walked too much, even though there weren't too many queues on London Bridge, mostly because we didn't go on London Bridge at all but did cross the river 4 times, and finished 4.2 miles in 54-something. Then we met up for pizza and beer along with some runner-non-bloggers and one non-runner-non-blogger (that's Meg) and discussed how this is the first time the course has ever been longer than advertised since Cathy started doing it. Also Cathy gave me Tracy's copy of Vegan Brunch which I hope to make something from this weekend before sending it away next week. Finally got home around 11.

Which made the alarm at 6 a little unpleasant. I woke up stiff and feeling every one of the 6 miles I ran yesterday, the longest I've run in a really long time even if I did do it in 2 sessions. Yoga was very welcome. I got to the studio and had to look up in a book (conveniently placed just near the locker room but not actually there for reference - I think I was supposed to buy it) the new postures I learned on Wednesday. I could barely reach the floor for the first sun salutation. Luckily they do what they're supposed to and get your muscles warm and moving pretty quickly and by the time I finished A I was actually moving halfway decently. But I am incredibly tired today and really looking forward to a bit of a lie-in tomorrow.

Juneathons: 5/5 + 1 extra credit

Thursday, 4 June 2009

If Marshall Mathers can do it, I'm going to need a bigger wardrobe

The runner-twitterverse is all atwerp at the notion that Eminem runs two-a-days. Well it's Juneathon day 4 and tonight is the Crisis Square Mile Run but from what JogBlog said about last year I'm not convinced this will be a great run so I figure if Eminem can run twice a day I can do it once in a while. Unfortunately I had an early meeting at work so at 5:45 the alarm starts a-buzzing and I'm off by 6 for a really short couch-to-5k version 2 run. I've annoyingly found the park nearest my house to be closed in the mornings lately which seems stupid considering the sun is up at 5 these days and I'm generally not ready to do pushups in the park until 7 or so. But this route takes me past another park that I could swear I saw someone running in this morning, and I got close to there at the end of a 'walk' cycle so I stopped my watch and went over to the park in the hopes of getting in but of course the early morning was just causing hallucinations and this park is actually locked until 7:30 so I started my watch again and carried on running until I got to the part where the last 5 minute run was all that was left and I found myself on a path with grass on either sides so I used this spot to do pushups and situps but having had two beers last night I was dehydrated and that always gives me cramps so I felt like hell and knew I had to get going so I didn't do leglifts or stretching and then I carried on running but was still about a half-mile from my house when I finished the last 5 minutes and probably could have done another cycle except that I still have another run to do this afternoon so I let myself be lazy and just walk home.

And the walk home was not 100 pleasant because I do not have enough clothes to do Juneathon properly so I've been wearing clean ones to yoga (because other people are around me) and then the same ones again to run (when I'm by myself, I promise to wear clean ones to the run tonight) but I think I might have to do a little shopping because this is getting really bad. And I was thinking yesterday about how being a yoga instructor must be among the grossest jobs ever (maybe Mike Rowe should do a Dirty Jobs on this) because I don't 'perspire' so much as ooze sweat from every one of my pores all over my body while I'm doing yoga and I usually wear a sleeveless shirt and yet Brett and Jamie are nice enough to come over and adjust me anyway and don't even wipe their hands on their shirts afterwards (or if they do they wait until I can't see them, which is practically the same thing).

1.84 miles, 21:00. Juneathons: 4/4

ETA: Oh yeah, I forgot, I am counting this bad boy for National Running Day since it was still Wednesday in California, never mind Alaska and Hawaii, when I started.

Edited again to add a Juneathon count, clearly getting up this early does not do good things to my ability to string coherent thoughts together.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Juneathon day 3: Fully fundamental

I think Brett has decided I'm never going to get all the way to the floor in Utthita Parsvakonasana and as much was clear to Jamie on Monday as well, when he suggested that my next step was to do even more sun salutations. I was afraid I was going to be doing not-even-the-entire-fundamental-series for the rest of my life in the hopes that my hips will open and my arms will get long enough to reach the floor properly. But Brett had other ideas, and today had me add to my practice. I'm still working on utthita parsvaokonasana (that's why they call it practice, I guess, always trying to improve) and I've got no hope for the revolved version, parivritta parsvakonasana, so he didn't even go there with me. Instead he just said to add on the next bits, prasarita padottanasana and parsvottanasana, which gets me through the entire fundamental asanas (except for that revolved side angle one and the side angle that I'm still not quite fully into). Basically adding some shoulder and chest opening to the leg opening warmup. My shoulders are really flexible in some directions, so that I have to work hard in down dog not to collapse past a straight arms-and-shoulders-and-hips line, but really really really tight in other directions, barely pulling away from my back in prasarita padottanasana C (wide-legged forward bend with your arms over your head backwards.

Pretty pleased I seem to be doing ok at Juneathon so far, day 3 and no skipping! I wish I could start my Juneathon counting from Saturday because for the first time in a really long time (or maybe ever) I'm on 5 days in a row. I seem to have lost the plot on this post, though, as I started it at 8:30 before the workday started and have forgotten what I wanted to say now that lunchtime has rolled around and I can finish it.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Juneathon day 2: In which we discuss being a rockstar

I went to a Counting Crows concert last night and was really tired this morning (even though I woke up 10 minutes before the alarm, my eyes just did not want to open until 10 past 6). This is the second time I've seen them in recent weeks, and we go to a lot of shows. You know how sometimes you can just tell when a performer is 'phoning it in'? And sometimes everything is just tight and they look like they're having a great time? But no matter what, the performers still go on every night and the crowd still cheers, because for most of them this is the only time they're going to see that performer for a while, and so this *is* their show.

I spent this morning's run thinking about this as it applies to my work life. No lie, I've been struggling a bit at work lately for reasons I will not go into on the public interwebs, but I had a great conversation with a colleague about coming to terms with the fact that we are the ones people's moods depend on at work. For the people around me, what I bring to work *is* their show. They applaud me every time they ask my advice about something. They cheer when they ask me to weigh in on client dilemmas. You get the picture.

It's the same with our running. It's not always easy to get out there, to train for our respective events, and the temptation is to sometimes run junk miles or skip a day. But we applaud one another by reading blogs, commenting, cheering each other on. Today, I'm going to applaud one rockstar I've never cheered for before, one runner who's blog I sometimes read (or at least I've put into my Google Reader list) but I've never commented to before. I challenge you to do the same.

2.52 miles, 30:07.
Juneathons: 2/2

Monday, 1 June 2009

Juneathon day 1: Monday Morning Mysore

(logo shamelessly stolen from JogBlog)
It's Juneathon and so even though I was late getting to bed last night due to a restorative yoga class that didn't end until 9 and then did not go home the most efficient way (nor did I go there the most efficient way, which is how bike-for-transport becomes bike-for-workout-in-flipflops) I got up as directed by the buzzing Blackberry because it would be really bad to FAIL on day 1 of Juneathon and so off to class goes I.

I got there just in time for the chant, which I really ought to learn the words to but as I don't know them yet I just stood quietly before doing all 10 sun salutations hooray. Brett is away - he went to India for the funeral of Guruji - so Jamie the hands-on led class today. As I'm doing yoga mudra (or, you know, what passes for it given that I can neither do lotus or grab even my elbows behind my back or get my chin anywhere near the floor) he comes over to talk to me and asks if I'mve been practicing mostly with Brett or with Phillipa and I say Brett as I started my practice after Phillipa went to India already and apparently he'll be back tomorrow so Jamie doesn't want to give me a new pose but he suggests that the next step for me ought to be adding even more sun salutations until I'm doing 7 or even more of each as this should help me build my stamina. Um, ok. Though actually this is probably not a bad idea while I continue working on utthita pasrvakonasana.

Juneathons: 1/1

Sunday, 31 May 2009

DD Review: Moving Comfort Fiona Bra

We haven't talked boobage for a while and this baby has been getting a fair amount of use lately so I thought it might be time to talk about the Moving Comfort Fiona Bra. Though truthfully I'm not 100% sure this is what it is, I'm about 95% sure and my last remaining doubts come from the fact that I can't find anywhere that sells it in the colour I have (grey and black). Anyway, let's assume this is what it is.

I think this bra would make an incredible bra for nursing athletes, as the straps go through a little hole on the front and velcro in. I always worry about them coming undone, but they never do. Actually for a really long time this kept me from wearing it in the high impact activities it purports to be designed for, and I relegated it to a 'yoga bra'. Then one day every other decent bra I owned was too dirty to wear, and I decided to brave the bounce.

Except that the bounce was, well not non-existant, but not too much more than any of my other bras, which is to say tolerable. And so Fiona has stayed in rotation. I won't wear it in the parts of the month when I'm a little tender, but other than that it gets a fair amount of use.

I can't remember what I paid, but Moving Comfort, Athleta, and Title Nine all list it in the $44/$45 range today.

Which brings me to: suppliers. Athleta has been recently bought out by the Gap family. I like that I can make my order when I order new jeans (curvilicous with a big booty is not a shape Gap UK carries so I'm reduced to ordering when one of us is going back to the US) but I don't like that their models seem to have started coming from the same place as the Gap models instead of the more athletic-looking 'real' women Athleta used to feature. Title Nine is still going strong, but their prices just seem to go up and up and up. Moving Comfort is a new one in my supply list. They too have a bra-finder thing and feature bras for women of all sizes. They also have MCW for women who wear 'plus' sizes (I really hate that designation). I'm definitely going to have to try them out.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Lazy London Saturday

Seeing as Meg is in New York this weekend I thought I'd laze about the house for a bit, but no, annoying morning person that I am I popped right up out of bed at 8 on a Saturday. Yesterday I managed to turn my alarm clock off at 6 so did not make it to yoga but still found myself awake at 7:30, just in time to make it to work on time, yay, so I guess being an annoying morning person isn't all bad.

Still, I took my sweet time getting out of the house and did not go for a run until well past 11. My couch-to-30-minute-5k training continues and today I got irritated with the 3 minute walk periods so after the first go-round decided to do 3 min/2 min instead of 1.5/1.5/3/3 min cycles. I finished at the library and went in to pick up my books that I'm reading for my non-work-writing&photography project. Walking home the weather was so nice I laid down in the grass in the park and just read for an hour or so before going the rest of the way home. But while I was walking past the church a really dodgy looking guy said "Well, hello there" to me and I was creeped out and also could think only of that Amanda Palmer song where she talks about wondering if catcalling women has ever worked and in my opinion no.

Then I came home and decided that what is needed is even more blogs in my google reader account seeing as how the 454 runner blog posts I haven't read yet is clearly not enough so I started checking out people listed in the JogBlog Juneathon Roll Call and discovered that some of them read me even though I don't read them (sorry, rectified now) and have added some new names to my blogs-I-try-to-read list and will now spend my exciting Saturday evening actually attempting to read some of them.

Oh yeah, and there was running too. 2.5 miles, 30 min of pathetic slowness.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Utthita Parsvakonasana, still

Today the regular Mysore dude was replaced by Jamie, another Mysore instructor who has a much more 'hands-on' philosophy about it. He helped me open up my lower back in downward dog and even though I really focused on doing the plank/updog/downdog transitions with rolling-over-toes my back feels much better than usual today. And I'm still, yes still, working on utthita parsvakonasana. I can only reach the floor if my knee is bent too much, and can't quite reach if my knee is at 90 degrees. Are my arms too short? Anyway Jamie is more about the knee-at-proper-angle approach whereas Brett is more about the reach-the-floor approach but I can definitely tell I'm getting closer to making the two approaches meet.

I had a lovely chat yesterday with an amazing mentor in my (work-)life and she's really helped me to think about taking the zen of yoga to work with me. I thought about that a lot today, and even though it was a stressful day I felt like it really helped.

Infected blisters: Take it and Run

The topic of infected blisters is already one of my top hit-getters, and I'm doing nothing today to decrease my google rank on this subject. But I suppose it's due to a dearth of information - that's certainly what I found when I was researching this for myself. So this is my topic for this week's Take it and Run Thursday (which I've been remarkably slack about participating in lately). This may gross you out, please don't read while eating.

OK, every runner in the world has probably had a blister. And you know you shouldn't pop them, but sometimes you have to. In this case, sterilise a needle and insert it gently into the blister, press the liquid out gently, cover with a bandaid or the like, and let it heal. Don't pull off the extra layer of skin that's left behind, just let it dry out and fall off naturally. Also examine your shoes and socks to see if you can figure out why you got a blister there and what you can do about it (different socks, ensuring no wrinkles in them when you put your shoes on, keeping your feet dry, Body Glide, etc).

But sometimes, even if you don't pop them, your blisters get infected. They may be harder than normal or have redness around them. When mine got infected, I didn't even really know for a long time because it was underneath my callous so I couldn't even see the blistery bit. But I ought to have known better because it was all hot. And neither blisters nor callouses are hot to the touch. It was also really painful to walk on, moreso than a normal blister, and didn't get better even when I wasn't running for a while.

If this describes your blister, you'll need to seek medical attention. The best place to go is someone who can prescribe antibiotics and perform minor procedures, which in the US is probably your regular doctor but in the UK unfortunately turns out to be two separate people (doctor and chiropodist). If you must see two people, I recommend the chiropodist/podiatrist first. They'll lance it open and drain all the nast out of it. Surprisingly, this didn't hurt. You'll likely also need antibiotics to make sure the infection doesn't spread. I got the antibiotics first, which helped bring the infection down a little but honestly didn't help that much as a blister tends to be pretty well isolated from the rest of your system. When I finally saw the chiropodist and had my blister drained it felt better almost immediately, and she didn't think I needed a second round of antibiotics, and it managed to heal pretty quickly.

In the interest of not getting sued, let me finish up by saying this is only my advice based on my experience, and I am not medically trained at all.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Couch to 5k, week 3 begins

It's 6:30 pm. First day of Couch to 5k Week 3 (I skipped the last day of week 2 in order to keep semi-on-track with respect to the calender, I'm annoyingly anal that way) was 12 hours ago. I'm finally finding time to blog.

Anyway. Today was meant to be 2x[90s jog/90s walk/3min jog/3 min walk] but that only adds up to 18 minutes. So I made it 3x that plus one extra 90s jog/90s walk at the end for 30 minutes. Somehow I wound up being kind of slow. Actually, a lot of slow (2.39 miles, 12:34 pace, ugh). Which had been striking me as weird until I realised that I am back to even times of walking and running as opposed to less time walking than running as I was last week. Maybe I'll mix it up even further later this week.

I enjoy running first thing in the morning. For one thing, it's the way to ensure I get it done (see: 6:30 pm and still at work, taking a quick break to blog). For another, I generally feel happier all day and am much less likely to eat a tuna melt for lunch. BUT. I'm not really that awake at that time of the morning, and neither is anyone else, so people waiting at bus stops tend to wander all over the pavement (sidewalk) annoyingly in front of me. PEOPLE, the pavement is not yours to control, even at 6:30 in the morning. Please look behind you before stepping backwards, lest you push a runner into the street in front of a bus.

3 more days till Juneathon. Can I get credit for a few extra days if I exercise every day this week?

I signed up for the Silver Strand half marathon with my dad (DAD, DID YOU SIGN UP YET? I'M GOING TO BE MAD IF I FLY TO CALIFORNIA AND YOU DIDN'T ENTER THIS THING!) and am 90% sure I'm going to do the Aviemore half in the Scottish highlands in October beforehand so I can do Silver Strand at whatever pace makes my dad happy. Am I insane to think about a highlands half marathon in October? The route purports to be downhill (though I should probably plan on a fair amount of hill training this summer). Am I going to freeze? Anyone ever done this one? Or want to join me?

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

I reached!

Yes, it's true, I reached the floor in utthita parsvakonasona this morning without too much fidgeting. Now I'm working on getting my knee to 90 degrees.

A morning rain found me slipping and sliding to class. I don't understand how, in a country as known for the rain as England, they have not yet figured out how to make non-slippy sidewalks the norm. And I was a bit late, which meant that class was more crowded than usual (might have been Tuesday vs Monday, and first day after a bank holiday too). But I reached!

Um, so this is a kind of pathetic blog post. I've used all my available brain power sorting my desk out after an office move. Anyone got anything to help me write without having to think too hard?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Hangovers do not make good running buddies

Oof, holy hangover, Batman. Meg and I went to see Spring Awakening yesterday afternoon (which was much less upbeat and much more tragic than we'd been led to believe by the friend who recommended it, and also seemed to have a few too many stories for the length of the show and yet was really really long) and then decided to head to our favourite restaurant here in London for 'a drink' which turned into a wine-fueled dinner and Wii extravaganza at home. So this morning, even though I was awake early (due to being an annoying morning person now) there was no way I was going to run before breakfast. We went to the Islington Farmer's Market and picked up supplies for a delicious breakfast which featured basil eggs, Perfect Salad [wild rocket with fresh garlic and parmesan], and pheasant & pear sausages. Mmmmmmm. Finally this afternoon I felt human again and went out for a (slow, pathetic) run in the beautiful sunshine and tried not to run over all the people on their way to the football. Then I got to the park and realised I'd lost the scrap of paper I'd written the hundred pushups/two hundred situps workout on so I had to guess and did 4 sets of 15 (for each) plus maxed out at 17 (pushups)/20 (situps).

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Intimidated by Mysore? Read on

Had a bit of a lie-in this morning so instead I thought I'd treat you all to part of a discussion I had with my friend Tracy yesterday. She was kind enough to share a video which features Iyengar doing ashtanga (before he decided to give up the vinyasa flow and focus on alignment), to which I responded:
"Wow, that's incredible. The kind of spinal flexibility and core strength I don't even dream about it's so far beyond me!"

Tracy then went on to mention that she's intimidated by Mysore, which drew from me:
"The thing about Mysore is that you kind of just have to take the leap. I am totally intimidated by it, especially when I walk in and there are guys 'warming up' by putting their legs behind their heads, but on the other hand we aren't all trying to do the same things the way we would be in a class, so it's less intimidating in that way. I can just do what I do, without the inherent competition of 'can I get my leg as straight as the guy next to me while we are doing the same pose?' because we aren't doing the same pose, at least not at the same time. So, um, at the risk of having the evangelism of a convert, just go for it!"

Anyway, it got me thinking about competitive yoga, which kind of seems an oxymoron, even though what I really mean by that is the kind of competition I refer to above. Not only external - can I bend in the same way as the guy on my left? - but also internal - can I bend as much as I did last time? And one of the things I try to get out of my yoga practice is the ability to just be. When I get frustrated with my life (wishing I lived somewhere else, wanting a promotion, etc) I try to remember that this is where I am right now, and I can either always be wanting something else and feeling dissatisfied, or I can just be, and get the most of now.

Now, if only I could actually do that...

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Keep reaching, and reaching, and you will eventually get there

After yoga on Monday, I exchanged emails with my awesome friend Andrea the Metallica-loving yogi. Among the many hats she wears is the yoga teacher one [what kind of hat does a yoga teacher wear?], so I was asking her about my inability to reach the floor in utthita parsvakonasona. Of course Brett in class helps me physically, but he can't be everywhere at once, an I find I'm a pretty intellectually-driven person so I wanted to talk with someone about what I should be thinking about in order to make this pose work properly. Her advice was to open my stance up further and we talked a bit about how I think that my breasts get in the way. I spent the next two days thinking about getting into this pose, and sinking low into my hips before reaching for the floor. And today, I got (mostly) there! Started my day off right. Too bad it's all gone to shit since then.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Couch to 5K, moving into week 2

I'm on fire, I tell you. I'm getting around to starting week 2 of couch to 5k version 2. I tried a pair of running shorts (these, I think). I think the 5lbs I have left in The Fat Runner's weight loss challenge (I've made mine a 6 week challenge) will help these shorts fit a little better, but I was pleasantly surprised even today. A little riding up, but not too much chafing, though I certainly wouldn't try these on a longer run quite yet. They did the trick for 20 minutes, though. Also went to the park to do pushups and situps even though the rain last night meant the grass was wet and I have no hope of wearing those clothes again without washing them. I can definitely tell I'm getting stronger. Kind of a boring run, no one doing anything funny or extra fun music, but I'm pleased that I was up and running by 6:30.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Do your practice, but death is still coming

The Mysore world is saddened to learn today that K Pattabhi Jois, the founder of Ashtanga-style yoga, passed away. He was 94. Not a surprise, as he's been ill for some time. Even as a new Mysore practioner, I am sorry to read this.

Monday morning Mysore

After a lovely, too short weekend I snoozed my way to 6:30 before heading to yoga. I can definitely feel the improvement already in my chattaranga-updog-downdog transitions; maybe someday I'll be able to roll over my toes properly. Still working on utthita parsvakonasona (extended side angle), where my hands still don't touch the ground. I'm not sure where the tightness is that needs to be freed before I can do this pose properly - anyone have ideas? As I was doing my mini-finishing sequence, Brett came over to help me put my shoulders away from my ears. Made me laugh - I'm still so tight that even the fundamental postures need work. Practice and all is coming, I suppose.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Saturday nights and Sunday mornings

Yesterday was a scheduled run day but I stupidly let the wife talk me into breakfast before I went running...and then there was no running. Instead we went to the Guinness Premiership final (Leicester 10 London Irish 9) and drank too many beers (pints 6) but miraculously I was awake at 9 today anyway and went for a (very stiff) run in the pathetic Couch to 5K version 2 thing I'm doing, finishing week 1 of this and 100 pushups/200 situps, only 2 weeks after starting. But it's time to get going, otherwise JogBlog and everyone else will laugh at me when I can't run the 3.5 miles of the Crisis Square Mile run at the beginning of June and I'll feel silly for having asked if anyone wants to donate to help end homelessness. And now I'm going to take my annoying morning-person-self to the grocery so I can make ricotta pancakes and also spinach lasagne (I seem to have ricotta on the brain today).

Friday, 15 May 2009

Laying on of hands

I'm officially in love with Mysore. I went this morning early enough to be through sun salutations before the opening chant. I didn't know any of the words/sounds, but whatever. As an aside, I've noticed that if I go to bed kind of late (like 1am) after having a few drinks, I weirdly find it easier to wake up early than if I go to bed on time (11:30). Which has led to some hung-over early weekend mornings. Anyway. Brett came over when I was doing utthita trikonasona and helped me open my shoulders/twist properly and to move my hips away from my spine. He just kind of put his hands on my lower back and moved things ever so slightly in the right direction, and I could feel how it was supposed to feel. A weirdly intimate and yet detatched kind of touching - he doesn't even know my name and I only know his because I read the sign-in slip. But I could feel it improving my practice already, and after only 2 days of Mysore I'm getting closer to putting my hands flat on the floor in uttanasana. (And yes, I've looked up all these Sanskrit names.)

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

My first Mysore class

I made it to my first Mysore class this morning. Phillippa, who normally teaches this class, is away in Mysore right now so it was taught by her assistant. I got there about 7 and there were enough people in the room to give a good energy, but not so many I felt I couldn't get any attention. I did my practice, up through utthitaparsvakonasana (extended side angle) in the Fundamental Postures.

In Ashtanga, everyone does the same Fundamental Postures, then there are 4 sequences (Primary, Intermediate, Advanced A and Advanced B) before some finishing postures. You take the poses as they are given by the teacher. So far, I've learned the first 5 postures in the Fundamental group (there are 11).

I struggled a bit to remember the order, and what to do (inhale/exhale) when, which is quite sad really considering I'm only doing 5 postures ('postures' is a bit of a mistranslation, because most of them involve quite a bit of movement). But Brett, the teacher, came over and helped me put my hands in the right place and get the most out of each pose. At the beginning, I was quite stiff (that's what I get for doing yoga 2 days over the weekend then nothing until Wednesday) but after 10 Sun Salutations I could actually reach the floor again.

All-in-all, my practice took about 35-ish minutes. I know it will get longer as I get better, and I work on lengthening my breath. I am feeling it a bit in my back today, which tells me I should focus on engaging my core more, especially in all the up-dogs. I also really need some help in the moving between low-plank, up-dog, and down-dog. You're supposed to just kind of roll over your toes. Yeah, right.

But I can't wait to go back on Friday! Must not over-do it and get burned out, and also there's the small matter of wanting to run a half-marathon or two this fall...

Monday, 11 May 2009

How to take a Mysore ashtanga yoga class

I've wanted to start a Mysore-style Ashtanga practice for a long time. This is the traditional way of learning Ashtanga. However, it's a little intimidating. As Yoga is Youth puts it, a Mysore "class" seems like total chaos. I know the beginnings of primary series, but I'm not at all sure of the etiquette of something that's less class and more open house. So when Anna Wise of Ashtanga Yoga London announced an introduction to Mysore weekend, I was all over it.

While I already knew the asanas we learned, I feel ready to enter a Mysore class. Because the best tip I can give, having just taken the workshop and not gone to a class yet, is to just show up. It would be helpful to email or call the teacher ahead of time and tell them what state you're in (total beginner, been doing led Ashtanga for years, whatever) and find out what time within their practice is a good time for you to show up, but that's just courtesy. Most teachers will let you drop in on a class as it works for you, at least the first few times.

Most classes are listed for several hours, but you don't go the whole time. Instead, you think about how long your practice is likely to be (for a beginner, maybe 30-45 minutes; as you do more of the series your practice gets longer) and what time you need to be finished, or what time you can start (most classes are first thing in the morning), and you show up at the time that's convenient for you. Try not to come in as a practice session is ending - the teacher will be tired and the other students will be winding down.

What will happen when you get there? If there's space, you'll just put your mat down (if you do Ashtanga regularly they recommend you have your own mat, but most places have them to loan if you're just starting out) and begin. If not, you'll join a probably informal queue and wait until those who have come before you have gone in before putting your mat down in a space on the floor. Then, just begin with Sun Salutation A. The teacher (and assistant, usually) will keep an eye on you, offering correction as needed. You do as much of the series as you've been "given" before doing closing postures and relaxation.

That's it. Seems scary, and I'm still a little intimidated but I'm planning to bite the bullet and go for it later this week. Let me know if this inspires you to try it for the first time, or if you're an experienced practitioner and have other advice.