Posted tagged ‘cross-training’

Catching Up, Eagle Sighting and Raw Cashew Cream

November 4, 2014

Blogging has taken a backseat these days—there have been a myriad of changes in my life and I have been busy focused on adjusting to divorce, moving, a new relationship, and a significantly greater workload.  No complaints here, though.  Life is good.  My ex and I have remained friends, my new relationship is a blessing I was not expecting, and work is physical and fun.  I am still teaching vegan cooking in a group setting on a monthly basis, as well as in private settings for individuals.  I am still running!  Definitely not the 50+ miles each week like last year, as I am doing a lot more personal training and wellness coaching for work, as well as teaching group fitness three times each week for the Recreation Department of my town.

This morning I had the opportunity for a long run.  My early client cancelled last minute and I found myself racing through Halibut Point State Park, enjoying the late fall scenery with it’s nearly-bare trees, glass-surfaced quarry and vast expanse of ocean view.  With the hours of cross-training I have been logging with work, running feels easier than ever.  This was one of those days where breath, legs and mind were all on board from the moment I stepped out the door.  I felt as though my feet barely touched the ground and I don’t think I heard a single song on my playlist after the first mile.  Running is meditation just as much as it is physical exercise, maybe even more than ever before. I did get to see an eagle perched on a treetop as I ran home. Not that I noticed it myself—a pram-pushing mama pointed it out for me. Magnificent.

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Teaching vegan cooking is a joyful experience.  The people who come to my classes are enthusiastic, open-minded, and excited to learn each month.  My amazing photographer has been recovering from a broken ankle, so I am sorry to say I have none of her beautiful pictures to share in this post.  She is coming along nicely in her healing so am hoping to she will be back soon to take photos and notes for me.  It makes me realize how fortunate I am. It’s amazing how good people are to me and how much I depend on the kindness, generosity and skills of those around me to help me get through and be successful in this life.

In the meantime, I want to share a very easy cashew cream recipe.  I posted earlier about cashew cream and the recipe called for roasting the cashews first.  That recipe is delicious!  This recipe is even creamier than the first, and without the roasted flavor, it is even more versatile.  Used in vegan chowders, cream soups and cream sauces, the rich, thick texture lends a sensual mouth-feel and no one ever misses the dairy.

Raw Cashew Cream

Ingredients:

1 c whole raw cashews

filtered water

Method:

Rinse the cashews in cold filtered water and drain.  Place the cashews in a medium sized bowl and cover with filtered water.  Soak for at least 20 minutes, but overnight is a great choice.  Without soaking, the cashew cream will not be as creamy.

Drain and rinse the cashews after they have soaked.  Place in high-powered blender and add 1 c filtered water.  Blend on low until the cashews start to move around easily.  Turn blender speed to high and blend until completely smooth.

I always double this recipe and freeze what I don’t use.  It’s great to have a stock of some basics ready to go when I find myself standing in the kitchen, pondering what to make for dinner.  Consider pasta primavera, pasta al invierno, sweet potato and corn chowder, creamy tomato soup, creamed spinach with cumin, cayenne and cubed tofu—bring it on, winter!  Hearty food awaits!  More to come…

Trial Run

April 25, 2012

It’s Saturday morning and I am three miles in.  My mind is playing the new, annoying game of “Can I Really Run This Far?” that has kept me from attempting to run long enough to prove I will be able to complete the Twin Lights Half Marathon in May.  The air is cool; the sun bright and warm.  The ocean is a rich, deep blue and calm.  Small waves lap the shoreline as I pass Front Beach, Back Beach, and Andrew’s Point.  My foot is feeling pretty good these days, the plantar fasciitis is slowly going away.  The insurance company has approved enough visits for physical therapy so that I can have the full ten treatments of cold laser therapy and it is working.  I am walking without a limp.  I am running, as my physical therapist tells me, with near-perfect bio-mechanics.

Today my goal is to run 11 miles in under two hours, although I have told my husband not come looking for me unless I am gone for more that two and a half.  I want to be left alone to win the game and toss it out for good.  Today’s run will decide whether or not to withdraw my entry for the race. I run up Phillips’ Ave., the hill long and slow.  I take my time, not pushing too hard because, after all, I have not run longer that six and a half miles in quite some time, maybe two months or more.  My mileage has dropped from 45-50 miles per week to under 25.  I have been cross-training like crazy, though.  Kickboxing, boxing, cycling, core and strength training at the gym two or three times each week have kept me in good shape.  I am trembling a bit on the inside despite it all, wondering if I have lost my distance mojo.

The chattering monkey in my head makes me wonder if I should turn left at the top of Phillip’s and head back.  I wrench myself to the right and cross the road, heading for Halibut Point instead.  I focus on my music, my breath, the sunlight bathing my face.  And suddenly I am there, running through the park as if I have been doing it all along these past weeks.  My legs are strong.  They carry me along the dirt trails and down to the Bay View path, then up and out along the fresh new mulch path back to the road.  I head back toward town, my stride easy, no longer wondering if I will be able to complete today’s goal.  I chug up the steep hill by my house and keep going.  I take Marmion Way the long way around and turn left onto South Street.  When I reach Eden Road, I cross and loop back around.  From this point, all I have to do is run straight home and I will be done for the day.

I glance at my watch as I approach my house.  1:42′.  I cannot keep the grin from spreading across my face as I climb the back steps.  I think about the way it feels to be surrounded by runners—listening to their breathing mix with mine, their footsteps pounding out a rhythm that gives me a beat to move faster and faster as we surge through 13.1 miles to the finish line.  I will not withdraw.  The game of “Can I Really Run This Far” has just been exchanged for “I Know I Can Do This”.  I will run the half marathon.  I will run strong and I will finish.

High Tech Magic

March 22, 2012

My physical therapist brought out the big guns on Tuesday.  She had frowned when I limped across the waiting room to join her for my session.  I confessed to nearly perfect behavior, at least for me, for two whole weeks.  I had been wearing my old orthodics regularly as I promised I would.  I only ran seven miles the previous week; a mere three this one.  Even in cross-training, I had eased up on plyometrics considerably, modifying my boxing warm-ups and cardio classes.  And, I had spent almost a week in bed, flatten by the flu.  I felt betrayed by my own body, unable to bear my own weight without experiencing pain. I could see by the look in her eyes that she sympathized with me.

“I spoke with my supervisor, and we think we should have the head of the department assess your foot.  The usual therapies are not working like they should.  This is unusual.  But there’s one more thing I want to try.  I’ll be right back.”

I lay on my belly on the table, my foot in the air and flexed, trying to stretch the tender tissue even more as I waited for her.  I could feel the crunchy tissue in the arch as I flexed and winced, resting my chin on my folded arms, trying to hold tight to my patience.

“This is the laser.  It’s not usually covered by insurance for this purpose, but we just came back from an informational session where this therapist did a study on using laser for soft tissue inflammation relief.  He said he has had huge success with it, especially for plantar fasciitis.  Let’s give it a try.”

My first question:  “How much is it going to hurt?”

My posture while asking this question:  Leg extended, offering the offending extremity up for sacrifice.

“Oh, it doesn’t hurt at all.  I have to wear these” and here, she held up a huge pair of black-framed sunglasses, the lenses tinted bright green, “and you have to wear them, too, unless you promise not to look back while the machine is on.”

As she made her fashion statement, slipping on the horrid eye protectors, I turned right back around and put my head between my arms, face down on the table.

“I’m good.  Don’t need to watch.”

I felt her hand on my foot and the slightest pressure as she pressed the tip of the laser on my foot.  It was over in less than two minutes.

“That’s it!  All done.”

“That’s it?”  I flipped over onto my back and sat up.

“Should it feel better right away?  Does it take time to notice a difference?”

“Well, you should notice today for sure.  See you in two weeks.”

I bent down and shoved my foot back into my sock and sneaker, wincing as the orthodic pressed up against my arch.  I grabbed my purse and book and left.

I pulled into my driveway, got out of my car and found myself walking, not limping, up the back stairs.  I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at the lack of pain.  After a while, I forgot I had plantar fasciitis.  I went to kickboxing.  I did the whole warm up.  I stayed for the R.I.P.P.E.D. class afterward.  I jumped around in the back row of the class beside my friend Krissie, grinning like an idiot.

The pain is not completely gone.  But I ran a little over four miles this morning without much pain.  I am walking heel-to-toe on that foot now, instead of landing on the ball of my foot to avoid touching the ground with my heel.  The pain seems to be along the perimeter of my heel, the places where the laser was not applied.

I sit here on my couch writing this.  My cat is snoring loudly beside me.  The sun is blazing full-strength outside my living room window; the thermometer on this March day reads 81 degrees.  I am obsessed with wondering if I will be able to have laser therapy at my next and final physical therapy session in two weeks.  I wonder why it would not be covered by insurance.  I take no prescription drugs, I eat well, I exercise regularly.  I see my doctor for one check-up each year, at which time he shakes my hand, gives me a warm smile, and suggests I write a book on how to stay fit and eat right.  I think he has a crush on my cholesterol numbers.  Why would my insurance not cover this, when in the long run (my long, long run), they would be saving money?

It’s time to get back outside and live in this remarkable day—but the high tech magic of Tuesday will sit in the back of my mind, along with the hope for one more zap.

Healing the Heel

January 11, 2012

Plantar fasciitis is a weird ailment.  There are days when I have no pain at all, running my beautiful route past beaches and granite cliffs, watching the waves crash onto the rocks, breathing in the cold salty air.  I don’t even think about my heel on those days; I sort through my thoughts, make plans, or just zone out and be.  On the days when the pain is bad, I hobble out of bed, limping, afraid to put weight on that right foot, knowing the sharp, shooting sensation will make me catch my breath in agony.  I flex my foot, test a little weight, then a little more, holding onto the headboard of my bed, then the stair rail beside it, waiting for the tight band of tissue in my foot to give enough for me to walk.  I stumble down the stairs to the kitchen and by the time the lunches are made, I can walk. Usually by the time I have driven my daughter to school, the pain has subsided enough that I dare to consider six or seven miles, promising myself ice as a reward if I can get through it.

It doesn’t hurt when I am running, usually, but most of the rest of the time it’s pretty bad.  I had it in my left heel a few years ago and it lasted about 18 months.  Now I have it in my right heel and it is seriously cramping my running lifestyle.  Not that I have decreased my mileage by much, but I am still making an attempt to take care of my poor, sore foot.  I am icing and stretching the arch, the heel, the Achilles, the calves on both sides.  A body therapist is coming tomorrow to spend an hour or so trying to grind away the scar tissue.  It hurts.  I can hear the tissue as I press my fingers into it.  It is like shattered glass—sharp slivered sound  that brings tears to my eyes.  I rub through it anyway.

Extra cross-training is a bit more appealing this time around, since I have added kickboxing, boxing, and Kenpo karate to my list since my last bout.  Plyometrics don’t hurt or bother my heel either, so I do an hour or so each week of mad-high jumping in my living room, forcing my heart rate and Golgi tendons out of their comfort zones.  I have increased the weight I use for strength training, so am building more muscle.  I know it’s a good thing, cross-training, but the running addiction gets the better of me.

There is a lot of advice out there from runners, doctors, orthopedists, trainers, and massage therapists about how to manage this heel tissue situation.  I have tried ice, orthodics, resting, gait adjustment, massage.  Bio-mechanics have been cited as a possible problem.  I’m sure it’s a combination of these things, or at least some of them.  I have worn various shoes, taken time off from running.  I have to live with whatever choices I make, I know.  I’m not going to push so hard that I do permanent damage, but it is a struggle to know where to draw the line on days like today, when the sun is bright, the air clear and crisp and all I can think about is running.  I’m not going today.   Tomorrow the day will not call me like this, with its snow, slush and rain and I will have two days of rest under my foot.  Friday there is boxing and weight lifting.  By Saturday, maybe I will be ready for a long, easy run.

Crazy Strength Training with Charlene

February 24, 2011

My friend Charlene is a powerhouse.  She’s pretty, petite, slender, and in excellent shape, able to do five pull-ups while barely breaking a sweat.  She’s the friend who took me to Body Combat.  She’s a friend who is really good at sharing, too.  She and her husband have been doing the P90X series for about a year, incorporating it into their regular workout schedules, along with down-hill and cross-country skiing, fitness classes and cycling.  They keep an extensive set of free weights at home; I asked if I might join her for strength training last week. I thought it would be fun to work out together, and I was itching to have the chance to use heavier free weights to see how I would do.  Not so itchy as to join a gym, maybe though, to see if I should invest in heavier free weights myself.  Giving me her biggest smile, she invited me to join her whenever I wanted.  We decided on Tuesday morning, after my run and after she dropped her daughter off at school.

We lifted free weights and combined that with low body strength, executing multiple sets of squats with rowing, then sets of lunges with curls.  I usually work out with 15 lb. weights, and do drop sets with 15s to 12s.  Standing in the bright sunshine of her husband’s office, looking out at the ocean with loud pop music pumping from his computer speakers, I used 25 lb. free weights for rowing squats, 20 lb. weights for curls, overhead press and lunges, 25s for triceps kickbacks, and 25 to 20 lb. drop sets for chest presses.  We did triceps push-ups.  (Charlene did about 20 full body tri-push-ups in a row.  I did about 15 “girl” ones.)  We did regular push-ups.  (Charlene did 30.  I did 20.  My last 5 were weak.)  She demonstrated a one-armed push-up!  We did front raises with the 20 lb. weights while doing an isometric Plié squat.  I had started off feeling cold, but by the time we had finished out sets, I was down to my capri pants and tank, dripping with sweat.  I looked at my pile of discarded fleece and sweats on the floor and grinned.  My friend turned to me.

“How about we go downstairs?  I usually do the Ab Ripper after this.”

I thought she meant a video she and I both shared.  It’s a Pilates video, not too bad, the Ab Ripper segment is about 10 minutes long and I can do it, no problem.

“Sure.  I need some more water first, though.”

We bounced down the stairs and into the kitchen, refilled our glasses, and went into the living room.  We laid out yoga mats on top of the rug, and Charlene fiddled with the television and X-Box until the video came up.

“Is this from the P90X series?”

“Yeah, but it’s only 20 minutes.  Plus, there’s a couple of things I skip, so it’s only about 15 minutes long.”

I stretched out on my mat and waited.

I am a trainer.  I know the upper quads are considered part of the core, but this was ridiculous!  The first three exercises just about wiped me out.  My quads were screaming as I tried to execute “Crunchy Frog” (you really don’t want to know) but then we moved onto a couple of exercises that focused more on the abs.  I was keeping up pretty well until the P90X guy, Tony, had us roll onto our hips.  It was a side sit-up, wherein you perch on the side of your glutes, raise your legs up to a low V, then, with your fingers linked behind your head, you crunch your elbow on the same side down to your knee.  I could feel my sit bones grinding into the floor right through the yoga mat and the rug beneath me.  We switched sides after 25 reps. (Okay.  Charlene did 25 reps.  I did about 8 before giving up.  I did try the other side but the pain was too much.  I stopped.)

I was able to do most of the rest of the video with some serious effort. My favorite was leg climbing, where you lie back, raise one leg straight in the air, keep the other flat on the floor, then use your hands to “climb” the raised leg all the way to the foot.  25 reps on one side, then 25 on the other.  Charlene finished it up like it was a piece of chocolate cake.  She popped up off the floor and offered me a cup of coffee.  I rolled over onto my side and groaned as I accepted her offer, asking if she was willing to repeat this with me next week.  She said yes, of course.

What I learned:

My fitness rule ‘challenge yourself’ is a really good rule.

I am a strong runner.

I could be stronger.

I need to buy heavier free weights!

Some Settling May Occur

February 5, 2011

It’s warm enough to wear my Nike Free shoes today and one less layer up top.  I step out the front door and into the damp morning, hopeful that the rain will hold off long enough for a good run.

The past few weeks have been sketchy running weeks for me.  I have hovered around the 30  mile mark each week, but have incorporated lots of cross-training into my exercise time.  Cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, shoveling snow (yes, it counts!), extra plyometrics, longer, more intense strength training, and a weekly Svaroopa yoga class have added up to wonderful workouts with new challenges.  I have new sensations in my legs, ribs, arms, and shoulders that reveal areas I could spend more time training.

The roads are the clearest they have been in weeks and my steps are more confident.  The fear of slipping and falling drops away and I begin with the steep downhill of Atlantic Ave. with a spectacular view of Rockport Harbor.  I feel some discomfort in the top front of my right thigh, a little more in my left hamstring.  The ribs on the left side of my body ache as if I had participated in a minor bar brawl, and the outside of my right foot sort of feels as if I might have a bruised bone.  I chalk up the foot to the new winter boots I have been trudging around in, but the rest, I know, is from such varied activity.  I am starved for a long run, though, so I will just suck it up, this unwelcome and unfamiliar sprinkling of pain, and feed my hunger.

I run up Main Street and find a digital camera in the middle of the road.  I welcome the break so early in today’s run and carry the bright green metal palmful into my bank, asking the manager to take the next step in finding the owner.  I go back out and resume, feeling a little less twinge-y.  I turn onto Beach Street.  The ocean is calm this morning, the tide almost high, and the cold wind coming off the water takes my breath.

I carefully cross Granite Street and begin the dangerous segment of my run.  Cars come flying down the road, around blind corners, and I pay close attention to where I run, trying to stay as close to the snowbanks as possible.  I make it up the hill safely, and notice that my legs don’t ache as much as they did at the start of my run.

By the time I have made the loop down Phillip’s Ave. and around Andrew’s Point, I feel like myself.  My sore foot is not sore, my hamstring feels loose, the quad on the other side is good, and my ribs are letting in more air.  I pick up my pace to tempo and then sprint down the long slow hill past the old Tool Company.  I try to figure out how running is making me feel better, when I think it should make me feel worse.  All I can come up with is this:  cereal.

Food manufacturers fill plastic-lined cardboard boxes with cereal.  When the boxes are packed, they are full to the top, all shaken up with lots of space between each little piece.  The boxes are packed into cases, the cases packed into trucks, the trucks move the cereal to stores.  Each time the cereal is moved, it settles down into the box.  By the time the clerk is tossing the boxes of cereal onto the shelves, the cereal has settled so much that when we finally open it, the box has a lot of room at the top, but really, only the space between the pieces had been eliminated.  The little bits of grain, dried fruit, nuts— whatever is in that cereal box— have nestled together, compacted to their natural state, and, well, settled down.

Today’s run felt like that— as if all the muscles, ligaments, tendons, bones, joints, even skin— had the chance to settle back to where they belong, nestled and compact.  As if the run helped my body to return to its natural state.

I pass my house and have not had enough.  I decide to keep going now that my arms and legs are loose and easy.  I run up Smith Road and loop around Marmion Way before heading home— a sweet, settling eight miles tucked into my Saturday morning.

Slippery Slope

January 25, 2011

Cocooned in the muffled silence of the snowy woods and listening to the soft voices of my companions, I struggle to keep up.  My feet and legs have absolutely no control over my shiny, brand-new cross-country skis.  Jane and Miranda promised me no hills, or at least a minimum of hills, but each time I raise my eyes from the snowy track, I find I’m either looking up or down.  My fingers are frozen sausage links stuffed into my gloves, curled in a rigid grip on my ski poles, as if these thin plastic rods will save me.  I like the feeling of having something to hold onto, though, and try to relax into this strange new posture.  My fingers and wrists ache.

The layer of fresh snow that landed softly this morning gives me something to dig my skis into as I try to duck-walk my way up the next hill.  Barbara, the other woman who came with us, glides along in front, following the smooth, narrow track cut by a previous skier.  Jane or Miranda follow behind her, taking turns, one of them always careful to stay behind with me as I stumble along.  Brambly pricker bushes catch the tips of my skis, first on the left, then on the right and my legs are not sure what to do to dislodge the narrow strip.  I stand, stuck, pulling my leg back and forth, trying to find a way to convince the ski to pull itself from the tangle.  I escape by chance, and each time I repeat getting caught, try to figure out how to move myself to get what I want.  Frustrated, I look down and see I am stepping on one ski with the other.  I grunt and wrench myself loose, hurrying to catch up with whichever woman stands waiting patiently ahead for me.

Each in  turn shares their special tips for skiing through the woods of Dogtown.  On the steeper hills going down, I should turn my skis in a bit to slow down.  Going up, Jane tells me to almost try and run, to barely touch down so I don’t slide backwards.  I slide.  I turn my feet out, forcing the skis to follow, and dig my poles into the snow to hold every inch of ground I gain.  Miranda demonstrates the glide I should be aiming for with each forward movement.  I work on the glide along the flatter parts of the trail, but mostly find myself hiking along, awkwardly lugging the sticks locked into my boots.

There are moments when I sense that feeling hiding just around the corner— that feeling of being one with my mind and body, of moving almost effortlessly along with the rhythm of my heartbeat.  The air is cold on my cheeks, but my fingers finally warm up, although they retain the grip of the terrified.  My legs don’t mind the work.  I am happy to have strong thighs and calves from running so many miles, ankles firm from doing so much barefoot work.  My shoulders feel good too, and I am grateful for choosing to spend time working on upper body strength.  But my elbows throb, my fingers ache.  I find myself using the poles just to hold my own ground, pressing hard into the edges of the track, tensing my shoulders, working hard to keep my elbows bent.

I choose to fall rather that zip down some of the hills, and the women turn to look at me, asking if I’m okay, if I need anything.  I count each fall, even the ones I choose over speeding downhill.  After a while, I lose count, though and it doesn’t really matter.  I fall easily, lightly, sometimes to the left side, sometimes to the right.  A couple of times I go down backwards, and wonder how I will feel tomorrow.  I scoot right back up to standing, grateful again for strong legs, and continue.  We stop at Whale’s Jaw for a minute, then again when we meet other skiers on the path.  After a little more than an hour, I realize I need to go back so I can pick up my daughter from school.  Although I feel confident about making it back on my own, the group decides to turn back with me.  The return trip is faster, either because I am improving or because that’s just how return trips feel.  I look for my tracks in the snow— not my ski tracks, but my body imprint tracks from the places where I toppled by accident or necessity.  I can only find six.  I know that next time there will be fewer, and cannot stop thinking about snow, skiing, the woods, these friends, and the gift of this day.

We part at a fork in the woods; Miranda and Jane decide to continue on for a bit longer; Barbara has had enough.  She leads me out to the edge of the trail, guiding me, sharing more tips for success out here in the snow.  I follow behind her, doing my best to imitate her movements.  She is graceful, like both of the other women I trailed behind today.  Their bodies barely move; their skis, poles, legs and arms find their own easy rhythms and they glide along gracefully and silently, their occasional chatter floating up into the snow covered tree limbs, disappearing into the blue-gray sky.