My Strongest Suit

Have you ever experienced weather that made you curse your decision to leave your house? Well, living in New England, that is pretty much a norm for me. Besides the crazy -12 degree weather we had last week (which, trust me, was not fun), it was in the fifties last night. But really rainy. And windy. And it was a cold rain. The kind that if you get your clothes wet and take them off as soon as you get inside, you’d feel like they were still on the whole day. Since I had to head that way to get home from work anyway, it was easy to just take a jaunt over to the gym last night. Treadmill training galore! It was so much fun that I felt completely exhilarated afterward.

Working out in the evening can sometimes be an issue for me though, as it completely energizes me. After a workout, I’m so hopped up on endorphins that it takes me forever to fall asleep. This is why I’ve chosen to start my workouts at 6am, which means I wake up at 5am. I have been told many things about this decision, from being crazy for forcing myself to wake up so early, to being so incredibly disciplined for actually going through with it. Honestly, I personally thought it would be impossible. I’m not a morning person at all. In fact, it is still incredibly difficult for me to wake up so darn early. Who the heck would want to wake up that early unless they had a very, very good reason to? Not me, that’s for sure. And the old me would have definitely considered going for a run a terrible reason. I could always work out after work, blah, blah, blah. Well, I discovered something. I get lazy after work. After a long day at the office, I just want to veg out on the couch, as most people would. My new desires to run have completely transformed that way of thinking.

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I love your enthusiasm, Jenna! [image source]

Anyway, now I’m really glad I went to the gym this morning. First of all, even though it was windy, it was nowhere near what it’s like out right now. I live in an old converted mill and I’m half expecting a tree to fly through my window (I’m so glad I’m safe inside and avoiding this crazy mayhem).

Second, I decided to listen to the Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida soundtrack. For those of you not familiar with this musical (not the opera), you really should listen to it and watch some of the scenes on YouTube. It is fantastic. Really. Just awesome. The music is a mix of pop, rock, gospel and jazz. It’s just amazing. Anyway, I was running/walking along to the soundtrack and I was having a BLAST! In fact, as I was in that musical this past summer, it was taking every fiber of my being to keep from doing choreography while on the treadmill.

Get it?   [image source]

With that said, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this thing. After my run/walk today, I realized I wanted to go faster for longer. Of course, with having to be at work 45 minutes after the end of my workout, I had to hop out of the shower (I forgot my shower shoes today; ewwww! Don’t EVER forget your shower shoes!). This just means that I can increase my running times! Do you know how exciting this is?! I will now be going from 50/50 running/walking, to 75/25!!! This is probably the most exciting thing ever for me, as I never thought I’d get this far. But a part of that is my amazing cheerleaders, and I could never express how thankful I am to have them in my life.

Look at this stuff; isn’t it neat?

I want to talk a little about what I’ve been doing now that I have set these goals for myself. If you haven’t read my first post, you can find it here. Basically my goal this year is to run in at least one 5k (I’m shooting for three of them total, if I get that first one out of the way), and my longer-term goal is to run a full marathon in four years with some other races in between. I know I can do it, it’s just going to take a LOT of hard work and dedication from me. A lot of love and support from my family, friends, and a lot of coaching. I’m lucky, because I already have a ton of support from my boyfriend, which he offers while wincing back the thought of me waking at 5:00 a.m. every morning.

Coaching. Huh. Such a fun word. I haven’t had a real “coach” in years, unless you count the drama director whom people mistakenly called coach when I was in high school. Anyway, I got myself a coach. I took advantage of the awesome personal training programs available through my gym (which I’m still trying to figure out, by the way). We have a meeting soon, but I’ve been doing lead-up training on my own until then.

I started out going for long walks on the treadmill and using the bikes at the gym. I have been avoiding the elliptical, because I hate that dreaded machine, but I figure I’ll have to use it eventually. I mean it simulates running, right? In the same workouts, I’d use the gym’s free weights to do some hip reduction workouts, just because I could. Not going to lie, it felt really strange being the only woman at the gym during those times to use the free weights. It was weird. But hey, I was working out. I didn’t care if anyone judged.

I then started consulting friends here and there about what they thought. I mostly spoke to people who I see often who were/are long distance runners. And the pretty unanimous thing every one of them told me was to not bulk up. Not that I was planning on becoming the Arnold, or anything, but that was an interesting piece to learn.

Apparently you can't run like this.

Apparently you can’t run like this.

So I stopped doing anything with weights, but I’m still doing push ups and crunches and the usual core workouts. Let me tell you: it’s hard to not lift weights. I mean, I’ll do whatever the trainer tells me, but I’ll hold off for now just in case.

I had an interesting realization today while on the treadmill, though. I had made playlists on my iPhone when I first started for when I work out. If any of you know me, you know that I like a WIDE range in music. I put everything on there from The Who, to Mumford and Sons, to Madonna, to Backstreet Boys (yes! don’t judge me!), to various musicals. While I was doing my walk/run alternate workout (I’m not able to run a full mile yet and I’m working on building endurance by alternating for several miles), I noticed something about my music. Apparently, my success was measured by what I was listening to. Usually people tell you to put together a playlist that will pump you up and get you into a good rhythm with your workouts. Apparently “pump you up” is a relative term, because I had 3oh!3 on and I was struggling with my running portions of the workout. Then I’d go back to walking and I’d be fine. Then another really up-beat song would come on while running, and I’d still struggle. Finally something from Godspell came on and I was workin’ it! I had a great rhythm going and my breathing wasn’t labored, and I was smiling while I was running. Then the same thing happened the next running portion. Another musical number came on and I was keeping up, and this was not an up-beat musical number either! Apparently, my love for musical theater and missing it is transcending my need to work out. Which is fine, I’ll take it! It was a little bit of a bizarre realization for me, but then I started to think something else. How loud are my headphones? Can anyone around me hear what I’m listening to? I as having a really hard time NOT singing along to those musical numbers, and mouthing the words here and there. I must have looked like I was talking to myself. Just imagine what it would be like to have someone singing along (out loud!) to a musical in their head while they’re at the gym…

God save the people!

God save the people!

Anyway, it was an interesting experience, to say the least. But I have now updated my playlists to have mostly musical numbers. We will see if this improves my performance. It’s a cool experiment to work with. Maybe I won’t freak out too many of my machine neighbors. Maybe.

There’s something there that wasn’t there before…

What is this new, wonderful, exciting thing in my life you are all wondering about? It’s this. It’s a new beginning. It’s a story of how one girl decided one day that she was bored and needed to get moving. That’s it. Really.

Okay. Let me start from the beginning. I have been doing theater my entire life and I just finished a production of The Wiz in November 2012. I was the Production Assistant, and it was going to be a long time before I worked on another show (Summer of 2013 I’m auditioning for Monty Python’s Spamalot). I’m usually an exceptionally busy person, so when I was going home after work, I was just plopping myself on the couch for the rest of the night until bed. It was great for a while, especially on the weekends when the boyfriend and I would hang out, but I was starting to get antsy. I decided I wanted to do something. I know that I had promised myself (and my boss) I wouldn’t get too busy and would take a real, actual break from theater, so I couldn’t go back to that. I didn’t want to spend the money to take a class on something I might not enjoy, so that was out. I tried picking up knitting again, and that worked until my joints started hating me because of the cold. I was dying of boredom. First world problems, am I right?

One day, I decided I wanted to start working out regularly again. Theater was my form of “working out”, if you will, for a while. I danced, sang (which, if you don’t know that singing is a work out, you’re not doing it right), was on my feet, everything. It was great. But when you go from that to just sitting on the couch all day, you get crazy. I mean, I’m-going-to-walk-to-the-grocery-store-because-that’s-how-badly-I-have-the-need-to-move-around crazy. And that’s when I started reading about women who made complete and new lives for themselves, just by changing their lifestyles. I’m not doing anything differently here, except for one thing. I’m training.

This is a very loaded statement. I know this. Reading blogs of other women got me motivated. I started researching gym memberships and finally decided on one that worked for me and my schedule (as well as my budget, ahem). After spending just one night there and realizing how amazing it felt to be back on a treadmill, just walking, I made a decision. I was going to start running. This may not seem like a very big deal to most (I’m looking at you, track people), but this is a VERY big deal to me. I never run. Period. That’s it. I’ve always said that as an Italian, I’m not made to run. Have you ever seen someone from Italy win any of the races in the Olympics? No. They win at soccer. They run if a ball is rolling in front of their feet. That’s it.

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Or, you know, to chase their sheep (I come from a long line of shepherds on both sides).

So that’s the basic end of it. The other side is that I have set up four goals for myself over the next four years. The goal for this year is to RUN in at least one 5k. The extended goal is to run in three 5k’s this year. The second goal is to run in at least three 10k’s in the second year of this process. The third goal is to run a half marathon in the third year, with that as my only race for that year but continuing in training. The fourth and final goal is to run in a full marathon by the end of the fourth year, and to continue running as a lifestyle.

I know this will be difficult. I know there will be trials and tribulations. I know that this blog might put strains on various relationships. I know that I might run into life events that could postpone these goals (for which I would adjust realistically). But I am willing to try and work around those things. I am willing to work with this. I want to be able to do something new to me for me. As I sit here writing this mini novel of a post, I realize that this may very well change who I am. And I am prepared to tackle anything as it comes. I don’t want to change, so I will try my hardest not to. But I know a part of me will always be affected by this choice. So here it goes. My new outlook. You will get a glimpse of everything I do in this journey, so just you wait. I can’t.