A Note About Running

Don’t worry, I’m not going to talk about running all the time, because it’s not very interesting to hear about other people’s workouts.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been working out for 60 minutes, 5 times a week. Two of my five weekly workouts are weights and the other three are cardio. The cardio workouts used to consist of a combination of running, walking, the elliptical, and very sporadic use of a stepmill. Eventually, I decided it would be a good idea to run for the whole 60 minutes more often than not, so I slowly built up my running time from 40 minutes or so to 60. I increased my time slowly because traditionally, I’ve had a lot of tummy/digestive issues after running and these were bound to surface if I increased my time or speed too quickly. (The good news is now I run all the time and this rarely happens any more.)

Thanks to Daily Mile, I can tell you that the first time I ran for 60 minutes was on September 9, 2011. That day, I ran 6.04 miles, which puts me at a 9:56 minute mile pace.

today's run

today’s run

I still did the occasional elliptical workout until I quit the gym last May. Since then, I’ve been running for 60 minutes, 3 times a week. I’m not really interested in running for longer than that (once in a great while, I’ll do a longer run — so far my longest is 10 miles) because I have other things to do, so now I’ve been working on increasing my speed.

For a while, increasing my speed was pretty easy. I’d shave a second or two off my time pretty much every run. It was great, but I realized that eventually, I wouldn’t be able to keep doing that. I mean seriously, I’m not going to be running 4-minute miles, ever. So at some point, I’m not going to be able to get any faster. But when does that happen?

The fastest 60-minute run I’ve done was 8:02 minute miles for a distance of 7.46 miles. That run actually felt really good, but lately my 8-oh-something (8:05, 8:07) minute mile runs have been feeling pretty rough. I tried slowing down a little and found that an 8-one-something (8:13, 8:15) minute mile pace feels better. So I guess I’m going to stick at that pace for now and then see what happens.

This feels really lame, though, and I don’t really know why. I’m just running to get a workout, and in theory shouldn’t care about how fast I’m running, but for some reason I do. At 8-whatever minute miles, I’m running (by far) the fastest I’ve ever run in my life. (Thanks to Google I can tell you that 15 years ago, I ran a 5k in 36:26, which is 11:34 minute miles.) Should my current pace be good enough and should I just try to enjoy it (I don’t always, especially when I feel like I’m running too fast)? Do I need to forever push myself to get faster until I really can’t anymore? Is this the point where I really can’t any more? Is this the point where I should have more variety in my runs and do more long, slow runs? Is there a point to that when you’re not training for races? When you’re the kind of slacker runner who has been wearing the same running shoes for almost two years? Am I nuts?

Next time I feel compelled to tell you about my boring workout routine, I’ll talk about weight lifting. I love weighs. Heavy ones! Yeah!

Sometimes all you need is some terrible baseball closer music.

Now that running is the only cardio exercise I do (I also lift weights, which I almost never talk about because I love it and I’m pretty sure nobody wants to hear me talk about how I love lifting weights because that is some boring shit oh hey I pick this heavy thing up and then put it back where I found it), I’m pretty much used to running. It’s kind of awesome.

One thing I’ve learned over the years is that the less you have to think about your workout the better. When I went to a gym that presented numerous workout possibilities, I used to over-analyze everything. I’d get on a treadmill and think, well, I’ll run for a while but if I’m not really feeling it, I’ll switch to the elliptical or something. Then I’d spend the entire run thinking about whether I was really feeling it and whether I wanted to do something easier (everything is easier for me than running). Now that running is what’s available to me, running is what I do. I don’t have to think about it. I hate to quote an advertising slogan, but Nike was really onto something with that “Just do it” stuff. “Just do it” is the best way to go about working out.

All that yay rah running crap aside, approximately once or twice a month, I have a terrible run. (Ladies! This happens around the middle of my cycle, which seems weird.) I run the same speed I usually run, but it feels like I’m on pace to qualify for the 400 meter — or, well, any distance whatsoever — Olympic finals. I think about how I want to quit. Then I think about how I want to slow down, and slowing down is better than quitting. Then I’m all hey just do it don’t quit don’t slow down. Then I’m all fuck yeah let’s eat some ice cream when this is over.

Today was one of those days where I had a terrible run. I wasn’t in the mood for any particular music, so I was shuffling through songs until something sounded good. Eventually this came on.

 

I’m kind of embarrassed. I don’t normally listen to Staind. No really. The only reason I even know about this song is because it’s what played when former Colorado Rockies closer Brian Fuentes came out to put the smackdown on the opposing team (or give it away, whatever). The first year I started caring about Rockies music, I downloaded everything. To this day, there’s a soft spot in my heart for reggaeton, but that’s a story for another day and I still hope to make an “Intro to Reggaeton” playlist.

This is one of those songs I almost always skip. Do you have those? I have songs I never listen to but don’t delete because I guess you never know when you might want to hear some Ravi Shankar or whatever. No disrespect to Ravi — he’s just not really my jam.

Angsty teen rock isn’t usually my jam, either. Today, though, it was just what I needed to get through the end of that terrible fifth mile. I sit here lost inside my head! Remembering that sometimes running sucks ass! Fuck yeah! I hate my parents! (Just kidding.)

I carried the terrible baseball closer music theme to its logical conclusion and busted out this song for the end of the run. Do you remember when Bobby Jenks was the closer for the Chicago White Sox? It seems like 100 years ago. This was his song. Here come the boys from the south! And fuck yeah they’re running. This video is awesome.

Former Gym Rat: It’s Official

the endIn my career as a person who works out, I’ve always worked out at a gym. I’ve been a total gym rat for, well, a long time — 15 years or so, now that I think about it. Today was my last day as a gym rat.

My gym, which I really like, has this thing where the price increases every year. This year, it got to the point where the cost was more than I was willing to pay. I thought about joining another gym, and then I thought about setting up a home gym. The idea of setting up a home gym was kind of crazy, especially considering the math:

  • 3 people + 7 animals + 950 square feet = not really enough room for a home gym
  •  1 treadmill + weight equipment + whatever else I need = $$$$$.

But hey, I’m nothing if not crazy, so I decided to move from a gym to a home gym. I did this for a number of reasons, which I’ll share with you soon. Right now I feel like dwelling on the sad part of breaking up with my gym.

I’ve said this before, but I consider location very important. I think the places we live and go all the time are kind of like friends and family. I know that’s weird. But seriously, I’ve been to this gym 395 times since I joined in September 2010. That’s a lot of times! I’ve seen my gym way more often than I’ve seen most people I know outside my immediate family. We’re close. So as lame and no-friend-havey as it makes me sound, I feel like leaving the gym is like losing a friend. I know. Next I’m going to drown in a pile of cats and hoarded newspapers.

The things I’ll miss most about the gym are the super-nice equipment, especially the treadmills, and the see-and-be-seen aspect of it, especially in the weight room. As with most gyms, the weight room is a total sausagefest, but I’ll miss the hell out of it. I love the weight room and man, the female representation in there is going to decrease by like 50% without me. Oh well. I’m sure they’ll find a way to go on.

Today as I was leaving the gym, the super-nice guy who works at the front desk said, “See you tomorrow?” and I said, “Possibly.” Then I wanted to cry. I could go tomorrow — it’s my last day as a member. But I figured I’d go out on a high note (nice, mellow Sunday) instead of a low note (crowded-ass Monday). Plus Ben busted his ass getting my treadmill set up today and I can’t wait to use it. Even though it’s going to be weird as hell working out at home.

Anatomy of a Running Playlist

One thing my midwife taught me about being in labor is that you save the “big guns” until as late in the process as possible. The big guns, when you’re having a homebirth, are things like counter pressure (where someone presses really hard on your lower back) and the inflatable kiddie pool set up in your dining room. You don’t want to avail yourself of these things too soon, because you want them to be effective when you really need them. Early in labor, before things get hard, you’re supposed to distract yourself from the fact that you’re in labor. I had a to-do list — paint my toenails, take the dogs for a walk, bake a cheesecake. (Full disclosure: I ended up sitting on the couch watching college football all day and then when things got hard all I wanted to do was sit on the couch and scream my fool head off all night.)

The same things that work for labor work for making your running playlist. That sounds weird, but I swear it makes sense. Early in a run, it’s not that you want to distract yourself from the fact that you’re running, but you want to take it easy. You don’t want to bust out the big guns on your running playlist too early. You don’t want it to be all high-energy all the time. Well, maybe you do, but I usually don’t.1 I don’t want a running playlist that has all super-intense, heart-pounding stuff. I usually find that some slower, less-intense music can make me feel like I’m working out at a less-intense level. This can be pleasant in moderation. I like a nice mix of that and high-energy stuff.

A running playlist should start out a little slow, maybe with something that doesn’t really make sense. Then you build up. Then you take it back down. Then you build up again.

It’s kind of like a good DJ set, which is kind of like sex. You know what I mean?

Anyway, after much deliberation and a little trial and error, I’ve developed a template to use for making a running playlist (or a general cardio workout playlist if that’s your thing). It goes something like this (and of course, all people and all runs are different, so tweak this to suit yourself):

  • one intro song: slowish, maybe rock, okay or good if it doesn’t make sense in the context of the whole playlist
  • one song that builds up a little
  • one song that takes it back down a little
  • one or two songs that build up a little
  • several high-energy songs that go together — I’m partial to hip hop here, but other options include girl power (Heart and Soul by T’Pau, Gold Guns Girls by Metric, Fire in Your New Shoes by Kaskade feat. Dragonette, Fantasy by Mariah Carey feat. ODB); reggaeton (Siente el Boom by Tito El Bambino, Impacto by Daddy Yankee, The Anthem by Pitbull, El Trago by 2 in a Room); and industrial (Headhunter by Front 242, And This is What the Devil Does by My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, Juke Joint Jezebel by KMFDM, Jesus Built My Hot Rod by Ministry)
  • one or two songs that bring it back down a little — something different, okay if it’s totally cheesy (More than a Feeling by Boston, Your Love by The Outfield, Sister Golden Hair by America, Wake and Be Fine by Okkervil River)
  • and then bring your high-energy shit, several songs — I like stuff you’d hear at a Chicago house party in the summer, windows open, sweltering hot, all the furniture pushed against the walls so everybody can hold up their drinks and shake their asses; also MSTRKRFT
  • one or two songs that take it back down a little
  • one cool-down song.

And that’s how to create your own running playlist!

Any workout playlist should always be longer than you’ll need. If you’re going to run for an hour, make your playlist at least 1:20 long. This allows for skipping songs you’re not feeling that day and alternate endings. You might want to end on a super-high-energy song (I usually do this because I run my fastest in the last few minutes). But you might want to end coming down, so allow for that, too. You might not need the cool-down song at the end, but it’s nice to have one there in case you want it.

I made a new running playlist based on this template, and you can get it here (for a limited time). Here’s what’s on it:

  • Ceremony – New Order
  • Away Frm U – Oberhofer
  • Lost in the World – Kanye West feat. Bon Iver
  • Id Engager – Of Montreal
  • That’s Not My Name – The Ting Tings
  • Live Life to the Fullest – Charles Hamilton feat. Yung Nate
  • One Mic – Nas
  • Get By – Talib Kweli
  • Bombs Over Baghdad – Outkast
  • Bad Girls Club – Wale feat. J. Cole
  • Full Moon – Armand Van Helden feat. Common
  • The Boys of Summer – The Ataris
  • U Don’t Know Me – Armand Van Helden
  • It’s Love (Joshua’s Mo Luv Vocal) – Naked Music NYC
  • Let’s Go Disco – Southern Comfort
  • Can I Get Some – The People Movers
  • Bounce – MSTRKRFT feat. N.O.R.E.
  • Prisoner of Love – Jessica 6
  • Believe in Magic – Jim Jones feat. Lloyd (prod. Girl Talk)
  • Don’t Fear the Reaper – Van She

Enjoy, and happy running!

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Note
1. The times I do want all high-energy all the time, I listen to Girl Talk. I know I’ve said it before, but it’s the best workout music of all time. Go here to download All Day for free.

Former Gym Rat?

If you know anything about me, you know I’m a gym rat. I’m all about going to the gym. If I have a hobby, it’s going to the gym.

This habit started during law school in the late 90s. In an effort to ward off “law body” (a term coined by my ex who’d seen plenty of people get fat while in law school) (he also came up with “law face,” which describes a smug, no-teeth half-smile), I started going to the school rec center. Since then, whenever I’ve moved anywhere, the first order of business after finding a place is finding a gym. I generally don’t quit a gym unless something ridiculous like a creepy gym stalker happens.

Now, though, I’m thinking about quitting my gym. Even weirder, I’m thinking about not joining another one. That’s crazy, right?

Yesterday, when I got the mail, the first thing out of my mouth was “Oh, shit” when I saw the envelope from the gym. An envelope from my gym arriving in late winter means only one thing: they’re raising my dues. Again. To a price I’m not willing to pay.

Normally, that would mean finding another gym. But you know what? I’m kind of over it. So I join another gym and maybe it’s not as nice or it’s too crowded or it’s less convenient or whatever. And I either sign a lengthy contract or they raise the price every year. And I’m either stuck with it or I have to find yet another gym.

Here’s the thing. I go to the gym to work out. Period. I don’t go for camaraderie. I don’t hire personal trainers or take classes. Hell, aside from the cheerful person who checks me in at the front desk, I prefer to have no contact whatsoever with any people at the gym. I don’t use the extras like hot tubs or saunas. I always think I want to use the hot tub at the gym, but in all my years of going to gyms, I’ve never done it, not even once. I don’t use the pool or hang out in the lounge area. I don’t take advantage of the free wi-fi or the boardroom that is available for your business needs. I don’t buy food from the cafe or go to gym happy hour or gym parties. I’ve never even showered at the gym. I go, work out as efficiently as possible, and get the hell out.

This should mean I’d be happy at a super-bare-bones gym, but I’m not. I like a nice environment. I want an individual television I can control on my treadmill. I feel a little downtrodden if I have to bring a lock or, horror of all horrors, my own towel. So I tend to like gyms that are more on the pricey side, especially when you consider my unwillingness to travel outside the immediate downtown area.

While considering what I like (nice environment, tv, convenience) versus what I don’t like (too much $$, too much hassle), I realized something. Maybe it’s time for me to buy instead of renting. Maybe I should opt out of the gym and work out at home.

The problem with this is twofold: room and cash.

Have I mentioned that our house is tiny? We have three people and seven (I know) animals living in 950 square feet. I have no complaints about this (surprisingly, I kind of love that we’re all on top of each other all the time), but it doesn’t leave much space for exercise equipment. I think we can make it work, though. We might be able to squeeze a treadmill into our laundry room/dog crate area/DJ studio. If not, I suppose it could go in the living room, because it’s not like our house looks that great anyway. The minimal weight equipment I’d need could be stored in my closet when not in use, assuming I make room for it by getting rid of some crap one of these days, which I should totally do anyway.

My Amazon cart contains everything I’d need, which at current prices would cost $1,458.06. (This is approximately equal to 17 months of my current gym dues.) When you take into account how much I have been and would be paying in gym dues and figure the stuff I’d buy should last several years, the cost isn’t so bad. Plus, given that my gym’s draconian quitting policies require me to be a member until May 1, I’d have plenty of time to shop around and wait for those Bowflex weights to go on sale, which I understand they are wont to do.

gym(I already have an exercise ball that I could use for abs and the resistance band is for lat pulldowns.)

With this equipment, I’d be able to do pretty much everything I do at the gym. I’d miss the occasional elliptical session, but I think I’ll get over it. I’d miss leg and back extension machines, but hell, that’s what squats, lunges, and deadlifts are for, right? Plus, Ben would be able to use the treadmill (he normally runs outside like a normal person). And maybe we could get all Cesar Millan and put a dog on it, too.

So yeah, maybe it’s time for me to give up my days as a gym rat. That seems crazy!

Early Morning Workouts

My thoughts on early morning workouts can be summarized as follows: Fuck that shit.

On weekdays, my usual habit has been to work out in the early evening, after work (if I’m in the office) or after Ben gets home (if I’m at home). I also work out on Sunday mornings (usually after I’ve been awake for at least an hour and have consumed coffee).

This week, I decided to switch to early morning workouts. I’ve done this three times. It has meant waking up at approximately 5:20 and arriving at the gym at approximately 5:50.

Why? Well, why not, I guess. Why not try it, you know? But also, from most important to least important:

  • Morning workouts free up my evenings, giving me more time to spend with Ben and Soren. In theory, I’d also be free to do other fun things in the evenings.
  • I almost never get runner’s tummy1 when I run on an empty stomach, which isn’t possible in the early evening.
  • The gym is much less crowded in the morning.
  • Parking in the morning is very easy and free (you don’t have to pay downtown Denver parking meters between 6 and 8 a.m., which is kind of random but nice), saving me approximately $20 a month.

These benefits strongly support morning workouts. The problem is that, well, there are many problems.

What ends up happening is that I spend my supposedly quality evening worrying about going to bed early enough, falling asleep, staying asleep, and getting up before the crack of ass the next day. I’m naturally inclined to stay up until around midnight, and I’m just not a very good sleeper any more. And as far as I’m concerned, getting up any time before, say, 6:00 is just not right. It’s okay to wake up in the 5s if you’re going on a road trip, but it shouldn’t be a regular occurrence.

Then I’m torn between sleeping as late as possible and allowing myself enough time so I don’t feel totally rushed and crazed. Then I have to leave the house while it’s cold and dark and everybody else is still snugly sleeping and without fail, I almost trip over the Rottweiler in the living room. Then there’s the fact that Soren doesn’t wake up at the same time every day. Sometimes, he’ll sleep until 8:30 if he can. Sometimes, he’s up at 7. It’s inefficient and not that much fun to shower and get ready for work with a toddler running around the house.

Then, and maybe this would change after I adapted to early morning workouts (assuming I’m capable of adapting), I just don’t feel as good in the morning. I’m not as mentally alert, which I thought might be a good thing but it’s really not, because it’s harder to get motivated to finish a run instead of doing something easier like the elliptical. And I’m not as physically alert, either. My body doesn’t feel as good as it does later in the day. Even lifting weights (my favorite) is much harder — the same weights I’ve been lifting feel so much heavier and I feel so much weaker.

My original plan was to give early morning workouts a month and then see how I felt. But I’m ready to call it quits now. It just doesn’t feel right. So fuck that shit. I’m an early-evening-workout-er, and that’s just how it is.

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Note
1. Look, I don’t want to get all TMI or anything but yeah, runner’s tummy. This means sometimes (avert your eyes) I get, well, runner’s trots. Sometimes I don’t get them but feel just as bad. So to me, runner’s tummy means that sometimes after a run, I end up feeling relatively minor (I can function) to extreme (I sit on the couch wishing for someone to shoot me) stomach/digestive pain that comes in cycles and may or may not be accompanied by trots and lasts for approximately two hours. This is awful and greatly detracts from the quality time I’m ideally spending with Ben and Soren in the evenings. I’ve gotten better at preventing this (by eating lunch for breakfast and breakfast (cereal with soy milk) for lunch so that I’m eating very little fat and no dairy for lunch) but it still happens sometimes.