Monthly Archives: March 2011

Hitting Your Stride

When I was running my final long run, something different happened. Something that had never happened to me before. I hit what runners always call “my stride.”

From what I’ve learned, hitting your stride is when your body reaches a “relaxed” state when exercising, where tension is controlled so that you don’t get tired too quickly. People often describe it as being “in the zone,” when there are no other distractions and you just keep running. The pain isn’t unbearable or uncomfortable, and your breathing is regulated.

Based on my experiences with running, I started to doubt that this “stride” actually existed. I don’t know about you, but when I run, it hurts. Sure, I feel great after I do it (I’m a “hurt so good” kind of gal), but during the run I often have to distract myself in a variety of ways so I’m not focusing on the pain.

This was not the case during my 11-mile trek. As I moved along, the pain in my legs slowly started to subside and I found myself able to focus on the movement of my body and the flow of my breathing. By the time I hit mile six, I realized that my breathing felt normal, just like it does when I’m not working out.

I was stunned.

Re-enactment of my stunned face.

“How could my breathing be this normal when I’m running 11 miles?!”

This thought ran through my head about a dozen times before it really sank in. Once it registered, I just wanted to dance! I couldn’t stop smiling and I’m pretty sure some of my neighbors thought I was crazy. I could talk (choppily, mind you) and my legs just kept moving without any recognition of the pain of such a high distance.

I think one of the reasons I hadn’t hit my stride before was because I was so focused on achieving it. I always tried to be mentally aware of this state of running because so many runners talked about it. Why couldn’t I have it? Many note that they hit their stride around mile five, so every time I would pass that marker, I’d get frustrated. This added more tension to my body, so it makes sense that I couldn’t hit my stride before. Once I relaxed, it finally settled in. It didn’t hit me until mile six, so it’s different for everyone.

Basically, my point is this: if you haven’t hit your stride yet, don’t worry. Just keep trekking along because it will happen eventually. At least, that’s what happened to me. I relaxed my body and kept moving, and then it happened. It may come out of nowhere, but you’ll realize it when it does.

Here’s a great article on rhythm and running from Running Mechanics to help you learn more about hitting your own stride, so you can prep for it a bit more than I did and maybe avoid the shocked face.

How did you feel the first time you hit your stride?

Motivational Mantras

Sometimes exercising is just plain tough.

See, I’ll admit it. While I love the feeling of a fantastic workout, sometimes it’s really hard to get into it mentally. Often, the hardest part for me is actually getting to the gym. Once I’m changed into my gym clothes, I’m set to go, but there’s usually a lot of procrastination that occurs before the clothes-changing.

One thing I rely on to get me moving, and keep me moving, is a mantra. Actually, I use a ton of them. I repeat them over and over again to remind myself how great I’m going to feel after the workout is over.

Happy face post-workout? I think so!

Here are some of my favorite mantras from all over the place to get my butt into the gym, pool, on the bike or road. Maybe one will help you stay motivated, too. 🙂

  • You’ll never regret a workout.
  • Don’t exercise because you have to. Do it because you can.
  • There are 168 hours in a week. I’m only asking for 7 of them.
  • You’re just one workout away from a good mood.
  • Just go. If you really hate it, you can stop after 15 minutes.
  • If you train hard, you’ll be hard to beat.
  • Nobody else is going to do it for you.
  • If you work your body, it will work for you.
  • You get back what you put in.
  • Either do it or don’t. There is no try.

When I’m in the middle of my workout, here are some of my favorite go-to quotes:

  • No pain, no gain!
  • You’re stronger than you think you are.
  • Work it harder, make it better, do it faster, makes us stronger (Kanye West lyrics to “Stronger”).
  • That don’t kill me can only make me stronger (Also from “Stronger.” Yes, I sing it every time).
  • This is not the hardest thing you’ve ever done.
  • You can do anything for one minute.
  • Pain is temporary.
  • This is 10 percent luck, 20 percent skill, 15 percent concentrated power of will. Five percent pleasure, 50 percent pain and a hundred percent reason to remember the name (Rapped lyrics from Fort Minor’s “Remember the Name).
  • Keep on keepin’ on.
  • Just keep running, just keep running (Spin off of Dory from Finding Nemo).

And my all-time favorite quote that I turn to when running:

  • When your legs are tired, run with your heart.

Here are some other great motivational quotes, in case they happen to strike your fancy. What are some of your favorite mantras?

Conquering the Long Run

I have completed all of my long runs!

According to my training plan, I complete a long run every Saturday, starting at five miles and tacking on a mile about every week. This Saturday I ran my final long run of 11 miles before my half-marathon — it’s less than two weeks away!

The major downside of training during winter while living in Oswego is the inability to run much outside. The harsh winter winds and freezing temperatures don’t allow for a safe (or successful) long run. I tried it a few times, but didn’t run as far or as well as I would’ve liked to because I was constantly avoiding snow piles and ice patches.

It's a bit difficult to run with this going on.

As a result, most of my training was spent indoors on the treadmill. While it’s definitely much better than nothing, running on the treadmill is nothing like hitting the pavement outdoors. I knew it would be an adjustment, but I didn’t realize how much until I started running outside while on vacation in Key West. It took me a few miles to hit my usual pace and the wind was definitely a factor I didn’t have to focus on before.

I knew I would have to complete at least one long run outside so that I wasn’t completely unprepared on race day. Well, I’m glad that I had to do 11 miles while I was at home because I don’t think I could have gone somewhere else for better preparation. Oppenheim, do you realize how many hills you have?!

For your entertainment, below are some of the thoughts that ran through my head after each mile marker.

Miles 1 & 2: Easy peasy. Keep this up and you’ll be golden.

Mile 3: Wow, after only a few hills, this mile is almost completely downhill. Lovin’ it.

At this point I turned around and headed back toward my house to hit another route after six miles.

Mile 4: Oh yeah, if it’s all downhill one way, it’s all uphill the other way. Holy crap, my legs are burning.

Mile 5: Whyyy is it still uphill? And where did this wind come from? Worst. Mile. Ever.

Mile 6: Phew, this is mostly straightaways and downhill. Wow, my legs feel good.

This is where I turned down another route to get some more scenery in. It’s also where I hit my stride and my breathing completely became second nature. I’ve heard about “hitting your stride” before, but it’s never happened to me before. Post about that to come soon!

Mile 7 & 8: I can’t wait to blog about this. My legs feel awesome. Man, I can’t wait for dinner tonight.

Here I look up and see nothing but a long, winding incline.

Mile 9: Crap. Oh, crap. Why do I keep finding mile-long hills. Why does Oppenheim have so many hills? And why are there so many dogs out without leashes?!

I turned around and headed back for home.

Mile 10: Only two more miles left. Just keep running, just keep running (said in Dory’s voice from “Finding Nemo”).

Mile 11: Final mile. Push, Samantha. I can’t wait for some food after this. Mmmm, foooooood.

I finished in 1:49:46, which is basically exactly on target for the pace I want to maintain on race day. My goal is simply to finish the race, but ideally I would like to finish within 2:30:00. If I keep up this pace of about 10 minutes per mile, I’ll definitely be able to accomplish it.

There was still one mile left until I got home, so I used it as a cool-down and walked the whole way back. I thought about running part of it, but my right hip really started bothering me so I nixed that idea. No point in overexerting myself and putting myself at risk for injury so close to the race!

So what have I learned about completing long runs?

  1. Take it one mile at a time. If things get really hard, focus on one step at a time. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Tackling 11 miles is a lot more feasible to me mentally when I only try to do a mile at a time.
  2. Relax. When the going gets tough, a lot of people tense up naturally. Do your best to keep your shoulders relaxed and your hands loose.
  3. Make sure you swing your arms back and forth. This sounds simple, but females naturally tend to swing their arms across their bodies without even realizing it. This forces your body to work harder, tuckering you out sooner.
  4. Regulate your breathing. For me, my breath feels most natural when I take two breaths in, then two breaths out. Try to maintain a regular pattern to help your body relax into a groove.
  5. Distract yourself. Whether it’s with music, a running partner, or other things that you have to get done, sometimes it’s best to focus on anything but what you’re actually doing. I like to zone out to music or random thoughts so I’m not focusing on the pain in my legs.

What lessons have you learned from long runs, or exercising in general? Do you prefer the treadmills or the great outdoors?

Enjoying My Fit-cation

Hola, readers! I know I’ve been absent over the last 13 days (yikes!), but I have a good reason, I swear. I was in beautiful, sunny, amazing Key West, Fla. enjoying my last spring break with my future roommates!

We all say hi!

I was determined to make this last spring break one to remember and I don’t think I could have done any better than hanging out with these two fabulous ladies. Libby and I are from upstate New York and were anxious to escape the frigid weather, while Victoria is from Key West and was coming back from her spring break in Puerto Rico (lucky!). Our dates crossed, so Libby and I packed our bags and headed South for a few glorious days of fun in the sun.

However, I’m still training for my half-marathon, so I knew I was going to keep up my running while I was down there. Lucky for me though, I have two fantastic friends who helped me squeeze in fitness throughout the entire trip.

I woke up on Saturday while the others snoozed and hit the ground running. I only had three miles on my schedule that day, so I was anxious to get it over with and enjoy the rest of the day. Plus, I didn’t want to run when it was super hot out for fear of the rays tuckering me out too soon. I was able to enjoy views like this:

I'm in love with water, so this view is amazing.

And this…

Love, love, love.

Victoria’s mom had a genius idea on Sunday — biking! We all hopped on old-school bikes and went five miles around the island, just exploring and enjoying the views. It was a fit adventure we all experienced together, so it was a win in my book!

Soakin' in some good ole' vitamin D.

Libby and I said goodbye to Victoria on Sunday because she had to head back to school, but not before she introduced us to some fabulous food from her Cuban heritage. Make sure you have a napkin nearby because you may start drooling.

Guava pastries, meat turnovers and potato balls, oh my!

She also told us to make sure we sampled some conch fritters before we left. Taking her suggestion, Libby and I stopped by The Conch Shack, where Victoria was the very first customer. Yes, this food is fried, but it was so darn delicious!

Nom, nom, nom.

Libby and I went back for seconds a few days later. They were so darn delicious!

Deliciousness.

Alright, back to fitness. On Monday, Libby and I woke up early to experience parasailing! I had gone once before, but was never dipped in the water. Libby had never been, so I knew right away it was something we needed to do. And for the low price of $29, why not?

Up, up and away!

This doesn’t really count as exercise, but I thought the pictures were awesome and I wanted to share with y’all.

About to get dunked.

However, I must brag a bit because our instructor told us that he hadn’t seen such a smooth, solid return landing in a very long time. Thank you, strong legs!

Coming in for a landing.

Afterward, I planned on running, but Victoria’s grandpa came to visit and brought along a surprise — free access to a snorkeling adventure! There wasn’t much time before the boat left, so we grabbed our stuff and hustled out there. It took us an hour to travel out to the marine reservation, but then we jumped right in and swam with the fishies for an hour. It was an amazing experience and I loved seeing all the cool coral underwater. Afterward, we were treated to margaritas. Score!

I won't say no to a free drink in beautiful sunshine.

Tuesday was our last day in the Southernmost City, but that didn’t stop Libby and I from getting our sweat on. I ran four miles in the morning, then Libby and I hopped on bikes again and rode downtown to fit in all of our tourist-y adventures. First up, the Southernmost Point, of course!

Mile zero.

We also hit up the Hemingway Home. All of my journalism, creative writing and literature professors should be proud.

Fun fact: Hemingway loved his cats.

Then we walked all over downtown, squeezing in about five miles before biking back to the house. ‘Twas a good day!

Unfortunately, we had to leave the glorious warm weather and return to the much colder New York. Luckily, spring is almost here. It was 55 degrees the other day and today it reached 35…woohoo! I’ve been spending a lot of time with my family and some friends from high school during the second half of my vacation. But I’ve kept up my running — I did my last long run today (post about that coming soon)!

Now I’m nestled back in Oswego and prepping for my busy work week. Time to tackle some homework!

If you’re still in school, how did you spend your spring break? If not, what’s a favorite memory from one of your vacations? I’m going to remember this one forever!


Operation Beautiful Covers Gaga’s ‘Born This Way’

I’ve blogged about Operation Beautiful quite a few times, but I just can’t stress enough how awesome this movement is, or how much it’s spreading across the world. Founder Caitlin Boyle is even working on her second book, this time for tweens. I can’t wait to get it for my 11-year-old cousin!

Anyway, I was perusing Caitlin’s blog this morning when I came across this awesome video by her friend Peter Hollens. It’s a fantastic cover of Lady Gaga’s latest hit, “Born This Way.” I love that song in the first place (and even have it on my feel-good workout playlist), but this cover is simply amazing.

Here’s the deal: Caitlin and Peter would love for this video to go “viral.” After all, spreading the message can only help! So if you like this, consider pasting it in your own blog, tweeting about it or linking to it on Facebook.

Enjoy!