summer

My First Half Marathon

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I am hoping this will be the first of many posts after my almost year-long disappearance from the “blogging grid”. I’m still not even sure if anyone out there even reads any of this but my fingers are crossed that maybe one day someone will stumble upon my blog. I have so much to write about and a month left of summer vacation to blog my little heart out.

My first (and quite easily my last) half marathon was in Annapolis, MD and sponsored by Zooma Women Race Series. Before running the race, the farthest I’ve ever run was maybe ten miles or so. And for all of you that don’t know, a half marathon measures out to be 13.1 miles. As you also know (if you have indulged yourself in my prior posts), I have a lot of physical ailments. Note to all: playing a competitive sport in college will deteriorate your body. After three years I have PFPS (patella femoral pain syndrome aka runner’s knee) in both of my knees, CECS (chronic exertional compartment syndrome) in four compartments in my shins AND because of these first two ailments, I have weak and inflexible hips. Lastly, and unrelated to the previous three issues, I also have plantar fasciitis.

Given all of this background information, it is very safe o say that completing this half marathon was far from a walk in the park (literally about twelve miles farther). Luckily I ran the race with my sister who is about a year and a half younger than me. We kept each other company and tried to keep our morale high. Here’s a quick play-by-play on how the race went: The first two miles were the best; everyone was happy, energetic and my body and spirits were in a good place. After the second mile, the 5k runners turned away from the rest of the racers to head back and complete their race. Fast forward to around the 4.5 mile mark (I wore my Garmin Forerunner 15 to track my heart rate, our distance and pace and I watched that damn watch every tenth of a mile – counting down until the finish line), around now I’m jealously watching every 10k runner happily turning around, knowing that their pain is almost over. Lucky for us we aren’t even halfway through our misery. At around mile seven let’s just say we both needed one of three very necessary porta-pot pit stops. Miles six through twelve are all a blur but once we hit the twelfth mile marker (as measured by the official race markers – angrily, my GPS watch read 12.2 miles), we ran (very slow jog) by a police officer, thanked him for stopping traffic and allowing us to pass, and proceded to ask how the last mile looked. To our great disappointment he explained “Way to go! You girls just have to turn the corner, go straight and finish up the final uphill.” In case you didn’t digest that last part, let me repeat to you, HE SAID THERE WAS ANOTHER UPHILL??!? If I hadn’t died yet this far into the race, this was the sole comment that drained any and all morale I had left in me. Long story short though, we finished our half marathon!! Proudest and one of the more painful moments in my life thus far.

Rewind again back to before I grew bitter about the 10k runners. Now I’ll describe to you how my body broke down within the first half of my race. My arches began aching at first; this was a manageable pain and I could easily ignore it as we trekked through the streets of Historic Annapolis. Next up was my knees. Every step was more and more painful. Walking helped but when this pain was brought on at around the seventh mile, I couldn’t make my sister walk with me for the last six miles, so I continued to keep running. Just within the seventh mile, I started to heel strike my strides to reduce the impact on my knees. If you don’t know anything about running form, then I’ll be happy to inform you that heel-striking causes an extremely quick onset of my CECS symptoms. By now you’re probably all rereading the beginning of my post to see what else could possibly go wrong, pain-wise, with my body. Feet, check. Knees, check. Shins, check. So finally, my hips. Simply put, once my shins flare up (literally the small muscles in my shins get extremely swollen), my hips take a beating too.

Pro-tips for any half marathon virgins out there reading this: train before the race, foam roll your legs the night after your race and hydrate during the race. Training is essential to best prepare your body for exerting itself for three hours (give or take) straight. Foam rolling will reduce fatigue in your muscles and will help with recovery. Lastly I’m glad I drank two cups of water and one cup of Gatorade at every rest station. On my race day, it was very hot and I needed to consume liquids to replenish all lost fluids through sweating (and crying; just kidding, no tears were actually shed.)  Advil was also essential during the hours after my race, which helped me physically move up from the couch to my bed. You might think I’m kidding but I’m 100% not; ask my sister.

All in all, I’m very proud of myself for completing the race (even if my GPS watch measured it to be 13.6 miles and not 13.1 miles) and maybe for the future I’ll possibly consider another half but definitely 5k and 10k length races.

 

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Six Ways Water Aerobics is Great

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Because the workout room at our condo village is currently under construction, my mom and I took advantage of the free water aerobics class this morning. I absolutely love all water activities, including swimming, aquajogging and resistance exercises. 

Since I’m in relatively good cardio shape right now, I didn’t think the class this morning was too challenging in the cardio sector. However, I really enjoyed al of the resistance exercises, mostly because they differ from the usual resistance exercises completed on land. 

Here’s a few reasons why I love water aerobics in particular:

1. Exercising in the water cools you off on a hot day. 

2. The exercises incorporated into water aerobics routines work to strengthen and tone all of the major muscle groups. Today we worked legs, chest, back, arms and core. 

3.  The difficulty of all of the exercises can be easily modified depending on how fast or slow you complete the individual movements and how deep in the pool you place yourself (the shallower water you stand in, the easier it is to complete the exercises.)

4. It’s also cardio! Just like biking, running, rowing and elliptical-ing.

5. My all-time favorite reason is that exercising in the water has no impact on your body. Ever heard of non-impact cardio? Much like swimming, because they’re both completed under the water’s surface, water aerobics won’t put your body under unwelcoming stress found during running on the ground. 

6. Cross training workouts helps prevent overuse injuries. Similar to reason number four, water aerobics is great for athletes and people who normally compete and exercise on land. 

Unfortunately, because I was in the water during the entirety of the class, I couldn’t take any pictures. If you’re interested in water aerobics, I definitely recommend looking into finding a class near you to try it yourself! 

Simple Four Pose Yoga Flow

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A great place to practice yoga is at the beach; the crashing waves are very calming and the breeze off of the water is great for cooling off sweat. These four poses, in my opinion, can be combined to form a simple and very basic flow pattern. 

The first and final pose to this flow is Downward Dog. To complete this pose, your feet and hands should be on the ground and shoulder width apart, with your back flat and butt in the air. Ideally my heels would be flat on the ground, however my hamstrings are tight from doing too much gymnastics (and front walkovers) these past few days.  It is more important for your back to be flat and your hands reaching out in front of your body than for your legs to be straight and your heels to be flat in the ground. If you want to complete this flow in sync with your breath, exhale as you complete your downward dog pose and relax your diaphragm, as you focus on pushing air out of your lungs. 

  
The second pose is Plank; which, as it sounds, is exactly a hand plank. Your body should make a flat line, with your hands on the ground beneath your shoulders. To transition into a plank from downward dog, slide your weight forward, placing more weight into your front, above your hands. To avoid straining your neck, keep it in line with the rest of your body. During the plank  pose in your flow, inhale air into your lungs before moving onto the next pose in our flow. 

  
From plank, the next pose in our flow is to complete a chaturanga, a move similar to a push up. During your chaturanga, exhale the air out of your lungs. Keeping your body in a flat line from the plank, slowly lower yourself closer to the ground while holding your arms and elbows in, close to your body. Looks at the picture below, for a visual description!

  
After holding your chaturanga for an exhale breath, inhale into Upward Dog. To complete this pose, first flip into the tops of your feet from your toes and arch your back, bringing your head and chest up towards the sky. It is easiest to imagine a string attached to the center of your chest and it is gently pulled upward.  It is difficult to tell in my picture below, but my thighs are raised up off from the ground; only the palms of your hands and the tops of your feet should be touching the ground. 


Finally, exhale back into our first pose of this flow, downward dog. Congratulations! You just completed a yoga flow! You cam now combine this flow with other flows or poses or if you want, just stick to these four poses and hold them for different lengths of breaths. I hope you enjoyed this and I’ll post more yoga poses in the future! 

 

Vacation Round 2

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This morning my mom, Lila and I packed up the car and left to head down to the beach in North Carolina. What we thought would be an easy six hour trip quickly turned into an eight hour trip, and then a lengthy ten hour trip. It wasn’t bad though; we made an out-of-the-way pit stop at my house at school to drop off some IKEA furniture boxes and the Saturday beach traffic lining the East Coast surely didn’t help our cause either. 

All in all, we made it here safely and were even able to go for a walk on the beach, dip our feet into the warm ocean water, and go grocery shopping for the upcoming week. 

  
I’m especially looking forward to relaxing and laying out on the beach for the next week, before I really need to lock down and prepare for my fall semester and my D1 field hockey preseason. 

  
Stay tuned for some healthy food posts and beach exercising posts on both my blog and my Instagram account! P.S. If you don’t already, I recommend you follow my Instagram account (@strongandsmiling ) for daily posts about fitness, happiness and being healthy. 😊 Happy Saturday!

First Bike Ride to the Pool

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Because my six membered family only owns three cars, more often than not. half of the family is left car-less at any given time. Both of my parents work, and require a car to transport themselves to work every weekday, and one of my sisters teaches at a youth science camp all day everyday, leaving the remaining three sisters, myself included without a car. This week though, one of my sisters is in Scotland with our Church on a pilgrimage and the youngest of the four of us (introduced in yesterday’s post, Lila) is too young to drive, I’m the only one truly suffering from this dilemma. However, it’s not all entirely bad because we all thankfully have a bicycle.

IMG_4881IMG_4879 IMG_4880Lila and I rode a few miles to the country club our family belongs to to enjoy a healthful dose of vitamin D today. It was her first “big” ride; aka the first time she rode on the side of the road and was not constantly protected by the safety of the sidewalk. The ride isn’t too bad and it was even a nice cardio workout vigorously pedaling up and down the hills of the neighborhood which houses the county club. Once we arrived at the pool, we ordered lunch to refuel all of the calories and energy expelled on our journey to the pool. I ordered a crab quesadilla (a delicious Maryland delicacy) because in less than a month I’ll be returning to school in Virginia for preseason and the crab meat offered in Virginia just isn’t the same as fresh Maryland crab meat and Lila ordered a turkey and avocado wrap. IMG_4884

The pool is unfortunately relatively crowded because the weather was prime pool weather, so the only feasible time for me to swim laps was during “Adult Swim”, occurring for fifteen minutes every hour. During Adult Swim, everyone under eighteen years old must get out of the pool, leaving the water’s surface (mostly) flat and all of the swimming lanes vacant. The pool water was extremely refreshing after laying out in the sun for forty-five minutes, and I didn’t even need to worry about avoiding small children playing around in the pool, getting hit by passing tennis balls or by underwater torpedo toys from young kids playing pass.

Overall it was a great day to relax in the sun and catch up on reading Unbroken and fitting in both a solid bike workout and shorter swim workouts!

More Slacklining Adventures and Some Gymnastics

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The slackline in our front yard is once again set up and back in action!!

My youngest sister, Lila, and I are both very competitive and home during the day, so naturally we never left the slackline all day yesterday and constantly competed to see who could take more steps, who could dismount off of the line higher off of the ground and who could stay on the line for a longer period of time. I don’t mean to brag, but I beat Lila in both number of steps, and beat her to walking across the entirety of the line without stepping off from the slackline. With her extreme competitive nature and naturally athletic capabilities, she could easily beat me with a few more hours of practice though!

We also had one of our other sisters take pictures while we posed together on the slackline at the same time. I’m not going to lie; slacklining is hard enough by yourself, so now imagine trying to balance on a two inch wide line of webbing with another person and their weight causing the line to wiggle around even more. Don’t tell my athletic trainer this, but I figured that slacklining would be enough ankle strengthening and could replace my “rehab” exercises for today. I also tried slacklining while wearing my ankle braces, hoping they would assist in my ankle stability and overall balance, keeping me on the line for a longer period of time. Surprisingly though, they made no difference.

I included some pictures from our slacklining fun! Even though it just looks like two crazy girls walking in the grass with their arms up in the air, we are actually intensely concentrating on not falling from the thin webbed line! The picture that looks like we’re sitting with our backs to each other, we are actually both balancing on the line, hovering just inches off of the ground, before we both lost balance and fell off. I will also have to give credit to Lila for doing a handstand on the slackline too! And of course, what fun is the slackline if the cat (Beau) doesn’t join in on the fun?! If you are interested in following his own Instagram account for more pictures of him doing cat things, it’s @beaubeauthecat

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Besides the obsessive slacklining, today was a big day in my gymnastics improvements!

When I was younger, I competed in gymnastics for many years. Always relatively flexible, many of the moves came easily to me and I was able to quickly progress. However, once my parents introduced me to contact sports like soccer, lacrosse, and field hockey, I gave up the balance beam and bars for running up and down the field and scoring goals. I’m glad that I stuck with these sports because I love running and playing all of these sports better strengthened my love for being a part of a team. I digress. A small flame has been forever burning inside of me with the want to pick up some of the more easily executed gymnastics moves (the harder ones hold a greater risk at injuring myself and most of them contain landings with too much unnecessary impact on my feet, shins and knees). Lila (introduced earlier in this post), with her competitive natural, loves to do EVERYTHING. This includes (but isn’t limited to) lacrosse, field hockey, running, singing, dancing, gymnastics, and any other activity where she can compete at and there is a winner and a loser. Lila is also my go-to girl when I want to learn something new.

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SO HERE’S THE PART OF MY STORY YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR…. I went to Lila and told her my goal was to learn how to do a back walkover as well as a front walkover. Lila and I are both fast and dedicated learners, so I was able to quickly learn the technique and execution of the front walkover. And I did my very first one!! (As a twenty year old.) We caught it on camera and my reaction is so priceless! Stay tuned on my Instagram account (@strongandsmiling) for my video; however here is a sneak preview picture of how ecstatic I was after successfully landing. 🙂

I hope you’ve all enjoyed reading about these athletic endeavours and I look forward to sharing more about our summer adventures!