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!


  1. I'm glad you are trying to stick with it. Funny you mention math as when Mom does real long runs or a marathon, she does lots of big math problems in her head to keep her focus off the pain and distance and it always works. We work out first thing in the morning too so there are no excuses not to run (except to lazy to get up, but that doesn't happen here). Also in the early morning, especially now with it staying dark longer, no one is out, so it doesn't matter how you look. My mom writes all the blog posts in her head while running or walking too, which keeps her busy. Keep on running, you may never truly love it, but you may enjoy it.

  2. Good for you and your perseverance. It is wonderful that you are seeing the benefits. That has to also give incentive.

  3. It's tough to start any routine and an exercise routine is the hardest. But you are right, running is the easiest and cheapest. There does come a point where you start to enjoy it more, it just takes a while to get there so I hope you stick with it. And when I say awhile, I mean months...and months sometimes. As soon as you start to actually feel the rewards, then you'll get hooked. You can't give up.

  4. I love your cute pictures of Barley holding her stretches! And I love reading about the benefits you guys are seeing--they're actually really motivating for me, too, since I also hate running. I might try an actual couch to 5 K, too.

    Oh, and: feeling your pain with the balance between needing to carry a bunch of things for running with my dog and wearing workout clothes. Alas, where we live, I expect to need to keep wearing the short shorts for another three weeks at least to keep from getting heat stroke. My treat pouch is as big and dorky as any running belt. :P

  5. I totally relate to this! I also hate working out! LOL! I was nodding along the whole time I read this! I think that pilates class sounds fabulous! :D

    It's so awesome that you're sticking with it! I really need to get back into my fitness routine!

  6. Now your sister can I say I told you so! I think we have a dog running belt we won from somewhere that I never use.

  7. Welcome to the running dork club :-) At least you have an awesome place to run!

  8. Cocoa and I run every day. I find it's the easiest way to tire her out (haha). Email me if you need any running motivation or support. I started my blog a couple weeks ago and am planning on doing a post on running soon!!

  9. I'm not much into exercise either, unless it includes the horses or dogs. :)

    Monty and Harlow

  10. You and Barley are doing so great! You're taking each obstacle and working through it. Excuses not to do it are too easy, so if you get through each of those I think that's half the battle.
    I'll wake up, oh, I have a little headache, I didn't sleep well, blah blah. But lately I find myself just ignoring those excuses and getting out there anyway. If we can get through our mental blocks about exercise, we're doing quite well!
    Jan, Wag 'n Woof Pets

    1. Oh, I also wanted to say how much I agree with you on the clothing part! Why can't they make running shorts with pockets that are just a little bit longer? Even though I'm not running with a dog right now, when I come back to grab them for a walk it's easier to just grab what I want and stick it in pockets than to have to grab a pack or whatever.

  11. I'm constantly working things out in my mind even when we are walking, it's just not in my nature for my mind to be quiet. LOL

    And Yes, I'm with you on the clothes too, it's so frustrating trying to find something that will accommodate everything I want to bring with me.