Great Swim Today

Had a great swim today! Learned that my trainer has been purposefully increasing my yardage and that I swam 1200 yards this week during our session and 1250 last session.

That’s over twice the length of Tri For a Cure!

Obviously I can’t take breaks every 50 or 100 yards during the Tri, but knowing that I’m swimming twice the distance of my race when I go to the pool for an hour is a good feeling.

I also did two sets of 100 swim and four sets of 100 pull buoy without panicking or stopping in the water.

And I reduced my timed 100 yard swim time down 12 seconds to 1:58.

That’s a lot of progress!

Felt calm in the water, and so happy to see this quantifiable improvement.

I have until July to swim 1/3 of a mile without a break, in the open water, in a crowd. There are a lot of baby steps between me and then, but I’ve just taken a few more and that feels great.

So I’m not going to think about all the extra challenges associated with open water swimming. I’m just going to luxuriate in the knowledge that I did two 100 yard swims today when I used to struggle and panic swimming a 50.

I’ve done Couch to 5k and then moved on to half marathons. I know all about baby steps. I love them. They add up.

I can’t wait to see the swimmer I become.

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Equinox Class Review: The Pursuit (Cycling)

This post is part of my 2017 New Year’s Resolution to try every group fitness class offered at my gym, The Equinox in Chestnut Hill.

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First of all…

Anyone else having totally one of those days? Those 10 minutes late to drop off, checking into the gym 2 minutes before class when you’re a type A, forgetting a major piece of clothing when you planned to go straight to kindergarten volunteering from the gym kind of days?

Totally one of those days.

But the nice thing about exercise is that it makes you feel capable of handling that kind of day.

Class: The Pursuit: Build (cycling)

Description from the Equinox: Precisely timed high-intensity intervals to maximize your performance, The Pursuit: Burn, is a hardcore cycling experience scientifically designed to push you to a new level of fitness.

Class length: 50 Minutes

What Class Was Like

Ok, they’re missing a major element of the class in that description. What makes The Pursuit different from other indoor cycling classes is that they display your stats on the wall for different games while you’re riding. Motivation.

You can’t always see your individual score, but sometimes you can see your bike number listed in comparison to others, and you can see the first name and last initial of those who make it on the leader board after different portions of class.

This morning’s class had 3 games.

Game One: The first was a 9 minute game split into 3 sections where you tried to match or exceed your mileage from the first sections. (Positive splits.) This requires more pacing than I’m capable of, but I’ve got a better strategy for next time. While we were riding, everyone’s bike number was displayed in a circle with a mileage trail behind it, a little like a lollipop. Each lollipop got longer as you progressed further, and your circle lit up to show when you were on target to beat your previous 3 minute performance. 1st place, 2nd place and 3rd place in the class were marked over their circles.

Game Two: We were split into two teams and competed to add mileage rings to our circles. The competition contained sprint segments.

Game Three: We were split into three teams and competed for mileage. There were sprint segments when the visual of team progress was hidden and you tried as hard as you could to be in a better team position when the sprint ended and they re-displayed the leader board. Our team was in the lead for the first several sections and then lost it on a hidden sprint and never made it back to first.

You can see below that I was 31st overall out of 32 for game one. This seems fair given the limited cycling I’ve been doing.

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Verdict

This was great. I definitely felt motivated to work harder for longer knowing that I was part of a team. I was a little less motivated by the individual effort. It was clear from the beginning that I was going to be one of the stragglers, and pretty clear by the second segment that I’d gone out too hard in the first and wasn’t going to surpass that effort. When you know you’re that far behind, it’s harder to push. Especially with another effort coming up.

The team games were very motivating, though. Knowing I was likely the slowest cyclist on my team meant I felt a real obligation to do my best and not hold everyone back any more than my ability dictated. I felt like my team deserved my best, especially seeing the leader boards and knowing some of my fellow cyclists were putting down amazing mileage. When my team was in the lead for the third exercise, I pushed as hard as I could because I didn’t want to be the reason they lost the lead.

Will I be back?

Oh hell yes. This class is going to make me faster. I would go back tomorrow. (And regret it. And not have ample recovery time. So actually I wouldn’t.)

Know before you go

Cycling shoes really help you get more power for the full foot-stroke when you’re cycling indoors. Bikes at the Equinox are SPD clip compatible and Look/Delta compatible, but they also had cages so you can wear your normal shoes. (Don’t be afraid to do that before investing in cycling shoes.)

Your individual stats will be displayed by bike number for some of the games, and there’s a leader board at the end of each segment. After the class, the full leaderboard is available online with your username and photo if you supplied one. Not ready to go public with your mileage? Use an nick-name and opt out of the photo when you set up your cycling account on Equinox’s site.

On being behind

I’m fine with being one of the slowest people in the class, because I haven’t been cycling much lately. (Something about swimming 3 times a week and trying every new class at the gym. Time consuming.)

I’m also thrilled with my stats because I can look back at some of the class stats I entered a few years ago and see that I’ve made progress.

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Today I averaged 109 watts.

About 2 years ago on a ride I averaged 83 watts.

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I actually remember averaging in the 40s or 50s for wattage when I first started indoor cycling. Now I regularly average just over 100, even when indoor cycling hasn’t been a focus.

Tracking progress is helpful when it’s helpful

I could look at that leader board and feel embarrassed at being 27th out of 32, but instead I feel great because I’m much stronger than I was before. I also feel excited to work my way a little higher up the board this spring as I get closer to Tri for a Cure and start doing more cycling.

Know yourself. If it’ll bother you seeing yourself lag behind, pick a regular cycling class where you get your stats at the end… or choose not to track your class and just ignore your stats altogether.

It can be particularly hard if you used to be a stronger cyclist than you are now. I can’t get too smug about feeling peace with where I am as a cyclist when I haven’t been working that frequently at it and I’m the best I’ve ever been.

If you’ve got memories of the leader board that you need to let go of for a while, ride solo.

Focus on other goals like frequency, or your average heart rate.

Competition should be fun. If it’s not fun, change your game 🙂

A Little Swim Break Through

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After some initially panicked breathing in the water during the warm up, I settled in today and ended with a 100 yard time trial where I didn’t stop once. That’s the first time I’ve accomplished that distance without a break. And at the end of an hour swim session, too. I’m proud of that.

I also did quite a few 50s today. It used to be that every 50 was me swimming reasonably well for the first 25, and then panicking and flailing my way back across the pool for the second 25. But I’ve improved… the second half of each fifty still isn’t as good as the first half, but they’re less terrible. 50 is becoming the new 25. I can feel it.

My swim instructor Brittany,, is amazing at picking apart my technique and making one little tweak at a time to improve my swimming. She’ll find something, have me work on it with guidance and feedback 25 yards at a time, and then make sure I do some additional laps to try to add that new tweak to muscle memory. Incrementally, things get better and better.

Today’s tweak was not rotating quite so much to the side, and I think it made a big difference with my endurance and ease of swimming. Watching the videos I could barely notice a difference, but swimming it felt much different. Easier. Better.

Here’s to guided practice! There’s nothing like knowing exactly what to work on to get better, and the confidence that you’re doing it right. I feel really lucky to be able to swim with a coach.

Tomorrow morning’s 2017 New Year New Class is Firestarter… wish me luck!

 

Swim, Blood Donation & Picking My First Class

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Here’s a photo of me swimming yesterday.

I’m at the point where the quick technique fixes and rapid improvements are diminishing, and now the progress I see is much more gradual. I’m struggling with keeping my kick consistent and not scissor kicking when I take a breath, keeping my arm stretched forward while I take a breath and not letting it dip or bend, and keeping my temple down in the water when I breathe with the left arm forward.

My personal trainer (coach? swim instructor?) is going to start dividing our hour sessions into drills for the beginning and then working on increasing distance for the second part.

Yesterday’s swim workout:

50 yards swimming

4 x 25 yards side kicking drill

100 yards pull buoy

4 x 25 yards armless swimming drill

6 x 50 yards swim

75 yards swim

That’s a total of 725 yards. Tri For a Cure’s swim course is a third of a mile: 587 yards. So if this is average for a session, I’m swimming longer than the course distance every Tuesday and Thursday. 🙂

(For experienced swimmers, I realize that’s not very many yards in an hour, but realize there’s a lot of instruction and procrastinating and heavy breathing mixed in there slowing me down between pool lengths.)

I feel discouraged by the way my form falls apart at the end of 50 yards. I feel encouraged that I’m doing 50 yards at a time instead of stopping every 25, because that’s progress. It’s slow, but it’s progress. And I can taste a breakthrough around the corner. I thought it would be salty but it tastes a little like bromine.

Donated Blood Today

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Today is warmer than it has been in weeks and I have a strong urge to go running…. but I had scheduled a blood donation so I donated blood instead. I guess doing both isn’t advisable. Especially since I plan to replace that blood with beer later. It’s a retox ritual I like to do every so often to compensate for all the leafy greens I enjoy.

Here I am in my war paint in front of a Donor Parking sign. I joked on Instagram that I always wear extra blush to blood donation appointments because then they don’t tell me I look too pale and advise me to sit there longer in recovery. I am always pale. I have things to do. (Yes, I blended the blush before I went in.)

I’m not a fan of needles. I love remembering the time that I left my doctor’s office out the back door rather than stop at the lab as directed to get my blood drawn for a cholesterol check. Since I started donating blood I’ve had enough exposure to become desensitized to the fear and wouldn’t classify myself as afraid anymore. It took knowing I might save a life to take a deep breath and voluntarily donate, but now it’s seriously not a big deal.

So many things in life are like that. You can find out more and schedule your next donation at redcross.org.

I have picked my first new class to take at the Equinox!

(Read about my goal to try every class my gym offers here.)

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Oh yeah. That’s right. It’s called FIRESTARTER.

Which is pretty much the exact opposite of how I would describe my fitness personality. I’m kind of a “smoldering and could possibly be out but can’t quite tell for sure” fitness type if we’re talking flames.

But get this – it’s a new class, and they’re promoting it by offering you a free Sweetgreen salad if you take the class in the next few weeks.

Um, yes. Please. I would like to start a fire and then eat some kale while I blog about it. (Guys, I think the fire might be in your muscles. I am a little afraid. But they have burned before.)

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I’m taking it Friday morning. Wish me luck!

And let me know if you try a new group fitness class! Paul, we’re particularly interested in hearing how much you like Zumba.

-Kelly

Tri For a Cure 2017 and New Year’s Resolutions

I’ve registered for Tri For a Cure 2017! I raised enough money last year to be guaranteed entry and knew even as I was completing the event last July that I wanted to do it one more time.

Then I lost my grandfather to cancer in November.

Now it feels more important and personal than ever.

I have a photo of him on my fundraising page.  Your donations would be so appreciated. It’s going to be harder to host a CycleGiving party to raise money to fight cancer and be upbeat and cheerful and pass out beers after. It’s harder when I miss a goal during a workout and think of him and feeling like I’ve failed somehow.

I need to focus on the fact that he was a cancer survivor for over a decade, and that’s what I’m celebrating. That’s what I’m working towards. That’s why I am doing Tri For a Cure again to raise money. For the decade he was with us, and the cancer research and prevention that MCF funds to help other people have extra decades. That IS something to celebrate.

So I’m Going to Just Keep Swimming

And I am getting better. I still panic in the water. It’s still a stretch for me to do 50 yards without breathing. But I can tell it’s mental and not physical. So I’ll keep eating away at the panic. Improving form. Getting better at breathing without losing technique and sinking. It’ll click. Sometime between now and July, it’ll click.

New Year’s Resolutions

I said I was going to mull them over with champagne and pick some.  I’m still indecisive. I want to do them all.

I want to have meals planned and groceries purchased every Friday afternoon so we can have a more relaxed weekend as a family.

I want to try every class my gym offers at least once.

I’d like to have homemade granola bars or muffins in the freezer at all times for school snack options.

I’m thinking about taking up running. (I haven’t run since vacation in Dana Point that first week of December…. just keep swimming? And cycling? No?)

I want to get back into my meditation practice.

I want to be cleaned up from breakfast before lunch. Every day. EVERY day. WHY IS THIS SO HARD?!

These are all variations on things I already do… so maybe it’s not so crazy to attempt them all. After all, last year I learned to swim and clip into a road bike and completed my first two triathlons. THAT is crazy. Homemade granola bars are a snap compared to that.

Anyone come up with a resolution they’re really excited about? I’d love to hear about it.