Friday Funk

I woke up late, which threw off my routine. I planned to walk on the treadmill. About 3 minutes in, it shorted out and completely stopped. While getting dressed, I tried on three different tops. None of them made me look like Angelina Jolie or even Tina Fey. Feeling slender, I stepped on the metal box under the window. I should also mention I can’t even read the dial unless I’m wearing corrective eyewear. I’ve tried all kinds of squinting and peering to make it happen, to no avail. Yet the new analog scale, aka ruthless truth-teller,  said my weight hasn’t budged.

Despite an inauspicious start to the morning, it’s still Friday. Every day this week, I’ve gotten up and done my best. So what good things happened this week? Glad you asked.

  • We found out our house appraises on Monday. After that, it won’t be long before we close. Yay!
  • It’s warmed up into the 40s during the day now.
  • Tuesday night in kettlebells class, I did most of the exercises with heavier bells – used the 26 lb in place of 18, the 35 in place of the 26, etc. Great workout.
  • Wednesday night I covered the K-5 class and only had 8 kids. Lots of sickness going around. It was Ruby and the Seven Boys. Ruby sat at one table, the boys at the other. And all they wanted to do was draw. We also told jokes.

“Knock knock”, a little brown-eyed five-year-old boy said.

“Who’s there?” I replied.

“Banana!” he said, eyes shining.

“Banana who?” I said.

“Banana peel on the ground!”

Doesn’t get much better than that.

  • Yesterday, I got to take a walk in the afternoon. The rain had stopped. Patches of blue sky and golden-tinted clouds greeted me.
  • Jonathon gets paid today. Pizza, baby!

How about you? What good things happened in your week?


Five Miles After Breakfast

I planned to wake up early.  I really did.  But then…sleep.  It overtook me, like a massive rogue wave.  I slumbered until after 6:00.  Good times.

So after breakfast, I drove through the rain up to the gym. I need to work out some new running routes because the old ones make me crazy bored. I found my favorite treadmill open and all the others filled.  Huzzah!

As I mounted the machine, the older man on the neighboring treadmill greeted me. He walked along at a good clip with a hefty incline to boot.

“I see you come out of the back room sometimes,” he said. I could tell by the look on his face he wondered if I was part of some secret society. He was curious. Some gym goers never venture past the front room, I guess.

“Oh, I go to kettlebells class,” I said, chuckling. “It’s pretty hardcore.”

He nodded.

“That’s why I walk here.” He gestured to the treadmill.  “I can control my own destiny.”

We shared a laugh. But those of us in the know realize nobody controls their own destiny, despite a glut of inspirational movies and whatever your horoscope might say.

We chatted a bit more.  I mentioned the article pinned on the bulletin board, the one sporting his photo.

He grimaced.  “I only lost about 10 lbs for that article.  I’ve lost about 10 more since then,” he said, not a little proudly.

“The last article featured a gal who’d lost over 100 lbs.  I didn’t even want to be interviewed,” he said, shaking his head.

He didn’t feel his accomplishment merited celebrating.  I didn’t comment on his thought, but I pondered it as the miles rolled by.  Why do we downplay our successes?  Maybe our awards don’t stack up to the Nobel Peace Prize, but they do matter.  I thought about all the folks I know who’d just like to lose a few pounds, 10-20 or so. To me, this man I’ll call Joe, would be inspirational. He started walking on a regular basis, cut down on his caloric intake, and got fit. His bouts of depression became a memory.

“Since that article came out, I also toned up a bit, too,” he informed me.

I glanced over at his slender frame. Weight-bearing exercises provide great benefits for all of us, since we lose muscle mass as we age.  I silently applauded his foresight. Exercise is like money in the health bank, I think. Why not invest in yourself whenever you can?

We talked off and on as I finished up my five miles and he his timed workout. It was nice to have someone to talk to, even if only for a little while.  He encouraged me.  I only hope I did the same for him.

Dark Runnings

I got up early this morning.  I wanted to knock out a run before the day got supercharged.

And I did.  I got to the gym around 5:30ish.  But I wasn’t the only one with an early-morning workout in mind.  Blue tank top guy was there, wearing a gray tank top.  Almost didn’t recognize him.  There were several others there, too. Five, actually – three men and two women.  It was kinda crowded.

My favorite treadmills were occupied by bald men.  Sigh.  I took the middle one in front of the blank TV.  Looking straight ahead, all I could see was my reflection in the window.  It was still dark outside, and raining off and on.  I could have run outside, I suppose, but I kept getting special weather statements on my phone regarding imminent epic rainfall. Pounding the pavement didn’t seem prudent at this juncture.

I had a revelation yesterday. I’ve long known that I need more structure in each day.  I’ve got some in place already with morning devotions, exercise most days and chores.  But it seems I require more. It simply hasn’t been enough. In the past, I’d always relied on school or work to define my days, breaking it into delegated segments. Goal-setting helps, too, but I’m fresh out of those at the moment. It occurred to me, out of the blue, that I can add my own structure. I’m reintroducing some long-neglected regimens.  Running before breakfast is one of them.

Chugging along on the machine, I felt good.  My fellow gym rats came and went.  The floor fan, positioned facing away from me, circulated no air on my sweaty body.  The air in the room became warm and a bit stale. I smiled anyway.  I forgot how good it feels to get the workout done early. It fuels the body and spirit in a way I can’t describe.

As I gathered my gear and walked out the door, I beamed a benediction on the predawn zealots. No words necessary. I stepped outside, ready for whatever the day would hold.

Gym Reflections

This morning, I woke up early.  I couldn’t sleep past 4:00 a.m.  I’ve heard this happens to, ahem, “women of a certain age.”  Sighing, I finally got up.  I ate a brownie.  What? Doesn’t Sandra Bullock ever eat brownies?!  I was starving.  Then I did 2 loads of laundry, and headed out for a run.

Since no sun greeted me at o-dark-thirty, I changed it up by going to the gym.  As you know from my earlier ramblings, nobody talks at the gym during early morning hours.  Unless it has something to do with the fan, or falling off a machine, or something’s on fire.  You might be able to get by with a cordial “good morning”. I always try. Otherwise, grunts, pained smiles and/or head nods suffice.

I almost didn’t recognize blue tank top guy (BTG).  Okay, that’s not *really* his name.  Truth is, I don’t know his name. But he is a gym regular, and today he wore a gray tank top.  Only the familiar tattoos tipped me off.  A couple of white-haired ladies walked near me on their moving sidewalks, watching the local news playing on the TV above them.  One grabbed a fan and positioned it near her. The cool air blew over her onto me.  I knew better than to try and highjack BTG’s fan – I could lose a limb – so I was grateful for her initiative.

I needed to clear my head.  I wanted to run as long and as fast as I could.  I did not pick the machine that rumbles like a plane taking off.  Too  loud and it lumbers.  I punched in pace plus incline and took off.

I plodded along.  I realized my pace had me barely sweating.  Then I pondered if that was bad.  I couldn’t see much outside, except the reflection of what was inside.  Arrayed behind me sat metallic instruments of torture with foam pads attached.  Somebody always uses the hamstring one, bent over, pushing up the weight with the back of their leg.  It seems awkward and grunt-worthy. This time, it was another elderly lady.  She stopped often to catch her breath.  In the corner, a 30-something blonde pony-tailed gal lifted free weights after sweating it out on the elliptical.

I finished a few stiff miles on the machine. I asked myself, Am I done?  Is my head clear?  Can I go home and be good to my family and other hapless folks I might encounter?


I thought about how windows and mirrors merely reflect what stands in front of them.  Neither have the ability to interpret or perceive. And even what we see of others with our own eyes isn’t necessarily reality. I don’t know any of the people I saw this morning, nor they me. I can infer things based on appearance, but that won’t take the place of understanding.

I tucked my water bottle and towel in my car.  Under the streetlights, in the cool of predawn morning, I ran some more. I used the pool of yellow from the streetlights to guide me over the sloped sidewalks.  I shielded my eyes against the glare of oncoming headlights, though thankful for the extra light. The night air revived me.  A few scattered leaves littered the ground.

Alone, under the cover of darkness and away from my fellow exercisers, I felt free.  I ran until I could run no more.  Then I turned around.

For we live by believing and not by seeing. – 2 Corinthians 5:7

Pacing Myself


So, I meant to run early.  Best laid plans and all that foiled by weariness and a headache.  After I dropped Ruby off for school, I made it up to the gym.  Got my favorite machine (if there is such a thing) and the fan blowing on my torso.  I felt sort of silly, as the day outside turned sunny and warml.  But, hopefully we’ll have more, and an actual summer.  One can dream.

I started out at my “slow” pace.  I planned to do a mile or two there.  In the interest of posterity, that’s 5.5 mph.  I’m not fast, but I’m consistent.  Which sounds bad, taken out of context.  I counted 40 paces, which multiplies out to 160 paces in one minute.  That’s counting both feet.

I did have to keep stopping between miles after mile 2 in order to stretch out said hip.  Yet another reason why I like running outside better:  each footstep  hits differently, due to terrain.  Anyway. Each time I took a break from the treadmill to stretch, I came back with a faster tempo.

When I ramped up to 6 mph, I counted 176 paces per minute.  Strangely, this was my training pace before I got injured.  It felt good here, less strain on my cranky hip.  Running slower hurts me more.  Ironic, that. I topped out the day at 6.4 mph, which still only netted me 176ish steps per minute.

What did I gather from this information?  It’s time to run faster, go harder and have fun.  Simultaneously.  I’m finding this is true in other areas of my life as well during this season. No more holding back. I get it.

Yes, it’s official.  Meb and Ryan have nothing to fear from me.  Hurtling that last 1/4 mile, streaking for the finish line, I could do close to 7 mph.  Somebody loose the tigers first, though. Or at least a yeti.


Running and Music

I’ve been doing some research on proper running form. I wanted to know how to avoid injury, and I figured positioning had a lot to do with it. I watched a video on and the doctor there said the easiest way is to take 80-85 strides per minute.  Huh. Kinda slow, no?  But I heard wrong. Apparently, the magic number is actually 180 footfalls per minute.  Yeah, right. Ryan Hall and Meb Kefligizhi might be able to do that.  My inseam is 28″.  Not sure how I could ramp up to 180 steps in a minute.  Baby steps?

To try and discover my pace without a treadmill handy, I downloaded a metronome application to my phone.

metronome gif

I found 85 beats per minute was pretty slow.  My phone app said it was andante, which is technically “walking pace”. Boo! Fine for a Bach piece, not for a run. Music has inspired runners for generations.  It seemed a natural go-to for my unscientific research.

Here’s an example of an 80 bpm song:

However, 180 beats per minute sounded like a full-on sprint.  It reminded me of  the final kick to the finish line.  You could almost hear the tigers nipping at your heels.

Here’s a 180 bpm song:

It did not sound like me running on the treadmill, unless I happened to be pushing the speed limits that morning.  The app called it presto.

I played around with the gauge a bit, moving the arrow up and down. Me running at a sustainable pace sounded like mid-150s to 160s per minute.  My phone said it was vivace.  Personally, vivace sounds much friendlier than prestoPresto always makes me think of magicians, anyway.

The whole reason for this research had to do with staying injury-free.  But what I discovered is that the all-important 180 strides per minute means you don’t stay in one place for long.  You will get faster.  As part of running’s subculture of “less thinking, more doing”, the article I read mentioned swinging one’s arms more.  Your legs naturally follow.  There’s something to it, I think. Just do it.

I’m curious.  I have a date with a treadmill schedule for tomorrow.  Dare I try it?  Tune in tomorrow.

Random Kindness

After yesterday’s unexpected near- Sabbath, I wanted to push myself.  I felt refreshed.  I ran 5 miles on the treadmill.  I did it very s-l-o-w-l-y, because I wanted to see what was in the tank, under the hood, insert your favorite automobile metaphor here.

I also needed to know if my hips would lock up again. Before I ever left the house, I stretched a bit.

When I arrived, I picked the treadmill next to the floor fan, which made all the difference.  Being a near-midget, I positioned it on my back.  I don’t need it blowing all up in my face, drying out my contacts.  Not cool.  Even short people need to see.

I paced myself at least a minute slower than my usual per mile speed.  I told myself to relax, enjoy the music.  The scenery didn’t change much.  Cars passed.  The fog lingered. Birds drifted from tree to tree.  People in various states of bundled-upness walked past, with dogs and/or groceries.

As I neared mile 4, I felt my hips start to get tight.  My legs didn’t want to go forward.  I upped the speed a teensy bit, looking for a new rhythm.  It wasn’t enough.  As soon as I hit the 4th mile, I paused the machine to stretch.  As I got off the treadmill, I noticed an older man watching me.  He’s also a runner, though today he was using the free weights and the post-medieval torture devices known as weight machines.  I stretched out both hips by doing some deep lunges.  I hopped back on and made the last mile a fast one.  My legs felt good, warmed up and ready to roll.

After I wiped down my face and my ride, I started to leave.

“Good run today,” the older man said to me, smiling.  It wasn’t a question.

“Yes”, I said, familiar by now with the instant camaraderie among runners. “I’m finally getting over my injury.”  It’s only taken what, 13 months?! Bah!

“You did a good long run,” he said.

“Yes”, I said, smiling back.

And it was.  Always nice to get encouragement, even from strangers.