Friday, September 18, 2015

C25K--The Struggle Continues

Last week, I mentioned that Barley and I had started running a few weeks ago and that after a week of trying it on my own, I realized that my method of just running until I was tired of it (which occurs before I even start running) wasn't getting us very far, so we started using the Couch to 5k app. This morning, we did the Week 3 Day 1 workout. Running comes with a lot of struggles for me and Barley, so things that make it easier for us are always nice.We've mastered some of the struggles and, of course, new ones are popping up all the time, so it seemed like a good time to reflect on those.

Intellectual Stimulation
I've realized that I will never enjoy exercise. (Unless I can go back to the pilates class I did in college where everyone--besides my sister and I--was over 70 and we just laid on the ground breathing deeply and occasionally rolling over while rain forest sounds played in the background. I liked that.) It's just not how I'm programmed. The whole time I am working out, I think of the 5000 other things I'd rather be doing--reading, napping, arts and crafts, even grading papers is more fun than working out. I just need something that's a little more intellectually stimulating than working out (I was so happy to see comments last week that I'm not the only one with this problem). But I know exercise is important and right now running seems to be the cheapest way to work in a little cardio with my strength training dvds--plus, I can do it with Barley. So, I just have to get used to the fact that I can't read while I run and I can't even listen to podcasts when Bar's in tow because I have to be able to hear the jingle of dog tags around corners or the whir of bicycle tires behind us.

Barley needs more mental stimulation, too, like focusing on perfecting her modeling techniques.

Couch to 5k is giving me a little bit of intellectual stimulation, though. Since it divides the workouts into intervals, I've been doing a little bit of (really simple) math during our runs. I look at our watch when it's time to change activities and do the math to see exactly what time the app will tell us to stop running/walking. When I've got that figured out, sometimes I try to do the math to see how many segments of running we'll do in the 20 minute time period based on the length of time we run and the length of time we walk. (In high school, I worked really hard to pass the AP Calculus test so I would NEVER have to take a math class again--and then I grew up to be an English professor--so you know that I don't enjoy running when I think doing math is the enjoyable part of the run.) I know we're going to lose out on that aspect as the app starts moving us towards running for longer segments of time at once, but for now, it's giving me something to keep my mind working during the run.

I'm rewarding Barley every time we finish a running segment because she's still finding running completely pointless. By the end of today's run, she'd hear the little ding that signaled a segment was over and she'd hurry to be at my side so she could get a snack.

I mentioned last week that I hate working up to going quickly. I'm sort of like Barley and only have three speeds: no movement at all, walking quickly, running (slowly). There's nothing in between. I cannot slow down when I'm walking--even if I'm walking with someone who doesn't walk at our pace--so Barley and I always just keep walking our pace and then looping back to walk with them until we get ahead again. Running is proving to be the same way. I have one speed--and it's not one that I can keep up consistently for a long period of time. Weeks 1 and 2 where I ran for 60 seconds and then 90 seconds at a time weren't bad, but Week 3 proved a little more difficult this morning when it made me run for 3 straight minutes. We might be repeating Week 3 several times.

Nobody makes workout clothes designed for the person who is working out with her dog. (Kate Hudson and Carrie Underwood, here's a way to broaden your workout brands!) Barley requires a lot of gear whenever we leave the house. We need poop bags, treats (because she'll always need reinforcement around certain dogs), sprayshield if we're not going to the lake or pepper spray if we're running later in the evening, my phone to actually be able to use the app, the car keys. There are no places to hook our treat pouch, so I can't just condense into the tiny pocket on the side of that. It took me months to find workout shorts with pockets in them and I bought a few pairs of unflattering pants simply because they had deep enough pockets for treats to not fly out of them. Until it's cool enough to wear a light jacket (and thankfully many of mine have pockets with zippers to keep my phone safe), I broke down and bought a running belt despite the fact that I've called my sister (who actually runs and likes it) a running dork since the day she bought hers. It has two pockets, so I can stick my phone in one and still hear the app tell me when to begin running/walking and have car keys, poop bags, and some chapstick in the other, which leaves the small pockets in my pants open for treats and the spray.

Barley is too embarrassed by the fact that I wear this to even look at the camera.

Also, for some reason, the people who design workout clothes also appear to think people who work out want other people to see every single muscle in action while they do so. The shorts I bought because of the pockets are a good 4 inches shorter than any shorts I would normally wear in public and so many of the tops I've looked at are skin tight, which just isn't comfortable to me (and in my opinion doesn't really look very good on anyone). Thankfully, Old Navy hasn't let me down on comfortable tops as long as I'm willing to browse the racks carefully to find looser ones. I've never been uncomfortable with my body, but I also don't feel the need to wear shorts that hardly cover my butt, either, so I just get annoyed when it's time to get dressed for a run on warmer days. Luckily, cooler weather is right around the corner and I've been able to break out some of the strange pants instead of shorts the last runs, so I don't have to feel as awkward about my fashion choices.

Other People
I hate working out where other people can see me. Logically, I know that cars driving by or people we pass on the trail will only see us for a few seconds of our run and most likely will not pay us any attention. I know that when I see a runner while I'm driving, my only thought about them is to make sure I give them plenty of room when I pass them. When Barley and I are walking, I only think about how to make sure Barley doesn't try to nip at them. So, I know that other people probably think very little about the fact that Barley and I are running. Despite knowing that, I just feel self-conscious about running in public.

We know the state park really well, so I knew there was a side trail that nobody ever uses that went back through the woods. It also added a little bit more intensity to the run since it's not just a flat trail like most of the park is. After hating our first attempt at running in our neighborhood, Barley and I did runs 2-5 on this trail. We'd do the warm up as we left the parking lot and only have to run our first segment on the main trail--and it was a part with a line of trees between the trail and the road, so it felt secluded. It was perfect.

Nobody can see us here!
But I knew that we were going to have to get over this self-consciousness eventually because hunters can use the state park starting Oct. 15 and even though our secret trail is in a no hunting zone, we stay out of the woods all together and stay on the main trail during hunting season just for good measure. 

Mother Nature gave us a little bit of a nudge on Wednesday. As we were running on one of the skinnier loop trails, I saw a HUGE, dead squirrel in the middle of the trail. I shrieked "Leave It" even though I don't think Barley even saw it because I was so worried that the excitement of running would prompt her to pick up the carcass. I didn't want to have to go past that again when we did another lap, so we had to move back out to the main trail. We survived. This morning, the universe gave us more motivation to stay on the main trail by putting a grandpa who was fishing with his granddaughter and a small poodle on the bridge we had to cross to get to our trail. We did the entire workout on the main trail. We survived again--but we also had to pause the workout multiple times because there were so many dog walkers out enjoying the beautiful weather and I needed to make sure Barley didn't go into hunting mode if we were moving quickly towards them.

Despite all of the challenges--especially the mental ones--we're having to navigate through, running is already making a big difference, especially for Barley.

Our trainer high-fived me during agility class this week when I told her we'd started doing this because it's so good for Barley to get used to changing paces, which I touched on last week. Even our challenge of having to pause the workout for other dogs is eventually going to be a huge benefit. Every time Barley and I go from running to slowing down when we see another dog in the distance, she's learning to lower her energy when she sees other dogs and not charge towards them. The changes in pace also make her even more focused on me when we're passing the other dogs because she wants to be sure she knows what's coming next.

We've also found a nice secluded spot to stretch after our runs. Barley gets hang out in the shade on nice cool moss and practice just hanging out in nature--which is something she really struggles with, relaxing outdoors is not natural for her--and I get enjoy the pretty scenery while I stretch.

She's still rarin' to go, but each week she relaxes a little more.

Barley's getting stronger each week, too. Bowing and Paws Up have been part of her daily routine for a long time, but now she's getting to where she can hold those stretches even longer than before (which means we can do better pictures, too!). I've been trying to get her to do the paws up in front of the marina for a long, long time, but she's never held it long enough for me to back away to get a picture--until this week.

Each time we finish the official work out, we keep walking because it's pretty at the lake and we want to make sure we get our mileage--and I'm not sure that if I went home and showered and sat on the couch that I'd ever get back up for a second walk. Adding in a little bit of running makes it much easier to get our mileage in with the days getting shorter. We managed to shave 9 whole minutes off of our normal time for a 5k by adding in the running during the first 20 minutes of the walk. Even when we're just out for a walk without any running involved, our average pace is getting much quicker. We'll definitely appreciate that by the time December gets here.

I have to spend a lot of time convincing myself to put my shoes on and get out the door for a run, but in just 3 short weeks of running, we're both benefiting from it in a lot of ways. We might be stuck in Week 3 of C25K for the foreseeable future, but I guess the important thing is that we're doing it at all.

Happy FitDog Friday everyone!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Why I Hate Running (but Barley and I are doing C25K anyway)

I've never liked running. When I was a kid, my parents used to make my siblings and I run in the Super Dolphin Day Race. My dad would "train" with us for the one-mile fun run and I hated every single reminder he gave us about pacing ourselves and conserving our energy. I hated the spaghetti dinner my elementary school had the night before the race (I hated--and still hate--tomato sauce almost as much as running). Getting up early to get to the starting line was equally bad. The only part I liked was when the finish line would come into sight and Dad would tell us we could sprint to the end.
And maybe I kind of loved the awesome t-shirts that were way too big for me.

My feelings about running haven't changed one bit as I've entered adulthood. I still prefer sprinting to anything that requires endurance. I'm not patient enough to think long-term about running--I just want to get it over with as quickly as I started it. 

On top of just finding the act of running boring, it's also something that's always been painful for me. My entire life, I've had terrible knees. I have very vivid of memories of sitting in the doctor's office for my knees as a very small child. My knees were always twisting when I was little--whether I was romping in the yard with the dog or running the bases in softball--and they just got worse as I got older. I was constantly wearing different knee braces to try to keep my knee cap in place when I moved and the doctor said it was just growing pains most girls experienced. By my freshman year of high school, my right knee was popping almost every time I moved. I had surgery during spring break that year that helped loosen the outer ligament that was so tight it was pulling my knee cap out of place regularly. I only had one knee done because it was the worst one, but both of them have always had problems. The x-rays showed little "tumors" of scar tissue from where there had been tiny tears during all of my childhood knee injuries, so while the surgery made it possible to walk normally, excessive use still causes pain and swelling.

Despite all of this, I've decided that Barley and I should give this whole running thing a whirl. 

Running makes us look weird.

Mostly, I decided we should do this for me. For one, my baby brother is getting married in a few months and I don't want to be the flabby one in all of the family pictures. I've been working on some strength training (which surprisingly I love) all summer and have gotten rid of the tricep jiggle just in time for having to write on the board again in class.

I also had a bit of an eye opening experience at my grandparents' 60th wedding anniversary this summer. My grandparents are old and achy, but they're in their mid-80s, so that didn't surprise me. But my aunts are also getting achy and it's clear that moving is difficult for them. I've always told my mom that I'd rather just kick the bucket in my 50s than live to be in my 80s and have trouble moving (she always gets really mad when I say this, but it's totally true)--but my aunts are in their 50s and sitting is pain, standing is painful, walking is almost impossible in some cases. I realized that being affected by joint pain in a way that severely limits my life might not be 5 decades down the road--it might only be 2, especially since I've known for years that I already have arthritis in my wrists and back. My family's got roots in Wisconsin and we love our cheese curds (heck, I just love cheese in general) and I throughly enjoy a good meal.

Like this mashed potato pizza my sister was nice enough to let me try a bite of!

Or the s'mores sundae I ate the next day (let's focus on how great my legs look instead)

And let's not forget the liquid meals. 

There are very few of us in the family that couldn't stand to lose a few pounds--and that's even more important for joint health, which easy to remember when it comes to Barley and not as easy when it comes to myself. While I spent time with my family, it occurred to me that my future might be less limited if I started making a few changes now. Those changes certainly weren't going to come from totally cutting out all of the yummy foods I enjoy or the lucky beer (or two) that I drink while I watch the Pirates to send them good vibes, so that meant I had to start exercising again.

My strength training and yoga dvds have been a great start, especially for toning and keeping the muscles that protect my joints strong, but I knew I needed to do something that helps burn a few more calories. Since gym memberships are expensive and I know I'd feel guilty going to the gym while Barley was alone in her crate, running seemed like the best option since we could do it together. Plus, Barley has always struggled with maintaining weight--which is a mystery to me since her food portions were consistent (and then cut back and then cut back again) and we walk an average of 3-5 miles a day--so adding a little more intensity to her life could only help with that.

I literally haven't run a full mile since elementary school, so I knew I couldn't just dive into running. For a few days, I just tried running until I got tired of it and needed to walk, but I found that even if I wasn't physically tired, I was bored with it and I didn't get very far. I knew several of my college friends and my dad had used the Couch to 5k app, so I downloaded it and we've done the first week of workouts (although the heat made it take us a little longer than a week to get them all in--the abominable snow pup is not made for warm runs). 

So far, I think we both hate running. Barley seems to enjoy it at first, but once she realizes we're not heading towards a jump or chasing an animal, she doesn't seem to see the point (and I'm right there with her--why do people think this is so fun?!). 

Despite the fact that neither one of us can get very excited about running, we're definitely seeing some benefits, especially for Barley, already. The intervals are getting her used to me changing pace--you might remember she went through a phase where she'd start nipping at me in agility class every time I ran and sometimes that herding monster still makes an appearance--and even though she's always been very good at staying focused on me and watching me for changes in direction and other cues, she's starting to be even better about it. I'm still not crazy about the idea of running where other people can see us, so we change directions a lot to use a quiet area of the park without just running back and forth the whole time. She's starting to need fewer verbal signals to know what I want from her when it's time to turn or when it's time to go from walking to running, which can only help us as we work on using fewer words on the agility course.

Barley's smiling because it's over--not because it happened.

At least we have a pretty place to run.

I don't know if we'll make it through the whole C25k program or not. So far, it seems manageable and beneficial, but I don't know if I can ever bring myself to want to spend that much time running--interspersing it with walking is ok, but running 3+ miles all at once seems dreadful, so I don't know that I have the desire to work up to that. I also don't know if my knees will let me work up to that. With these short bursts of running, they've been a little achy, but not any worse than when we do a intense hike, so we'll see how that goes. Right now, I'm just hoping that eventually I can run a full mile without stopping one day.

3 "runs" down--who knows how many more to go
So far, it's been an interesting adventure, so next week we'll talk about some of the challenges we've encountered and some of the solutions we've come up with to make things easier for both of us. Send us positive thoughts that we'll be able to stick with this--even if there's little hope for ever loving it.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Redesigning Routines

Barley is very much a creature of habit. Some times, this is great. We have the same routine every time I leave the house without her, so she knows exactly when it's time to head into her crate. We have the same routine for putting on and taking off her leash, so when it's time to do those things in agility class, she doesn't lose her mind and run wild.

Some times, her need for routine is less desirable. Like when summer vacation ends and all of the sudden alarms are being set again and I'm leaving the house every day.

Classes started on Monday and I've loved reconnecting with my returning students and meeting the new ones, but Barley, Soth, and I have been struggling to redesign our at-home routine this week.

Soth has been unhappy because I'm not home to refill his food dish every couple hours. All summer, he's been getting lots of tiny little meals (mostly because Barley will help herself to his food if I turn my back on her). When I have to leave for several hours at a time, he gets one big meal instead. I wasn't surprised on Monday when I came home to a mountain of cat barf--probably a combination of my greedy little guy being overexcited about such a full dish and gobbling it down all at once and of being stressed that I was gone so long.

Soth's also taken it upon himself to make sure I remember that I have a bed time. As I've been lesson planning, he's been lounging on top of the papers I need.

And working his way across the couch and sprawling on the computer if I don't get hte message quickly enough for his liking.

Between planning, grading, and teaching (which is exhausting after several months off and leads to napping)--plus Mother Nature deciding that she didn't want us to miss summer altogether and sending heatt and humidity our way--it's been tough to find time to get in our normal mileage. We did manage to get 24.08 miles this week, but it didn't seem as easy as usual to get our normal 3+ miles a day. I'm not a morning person, so we've been trying to squeeze it all in one evening walk and with the days getting shorter, we haven't gotten the full 3 miles every day, but have had a chance to make up for it on other days. Despite the struggles, we've still had a chance to get some nice walks in this week.

Barley's been a good sport and she's trying to embrace our new routine, but she is back to following em around every time I move and when we're resting (or in my case, planning lectures), some part of her has to be touching some part of me.

It's going to take a little while, but I'm sure we'll be settled into a new routine before we know it. Hope that everyone has a happy Labor Day weekend!