Great Twitter Row Race: Week One

MPC_RowRaceThe wall is in your head.

Surely you’ve said it before during physical challenges, “I hit the wall!”

Today was the first 2000m component of the Great Twitter Row Race for My Peak Challenge prep program 2016. Kim has a bye today because she’s doing the Princess Half Marathon at Disney this weekend, lucky duck.

On Tuesday she beat my 1000m time by a full 54 seconds. I knew that I was going to win by default today, but that didn’t seem to do much to ease my mind. I went in thinking “Kim is going to win anyway, so I’ll just do what I can.” This is backwards positivity. Yes, I can only work within my own limits but I basically started today’s challenge having already given up.

For the majority of the 2000m I was able to keep pace with my time from Tuesday, but suddenly just before the 1500m mark…I hit the wall.

The wall feels physical – a sudden onset of extreme fatigue, muscle pain, laboured breathing, energy running on absolute fumes. For me, my only hope of pushing through hinges on what is happening in my head. Today, my mind was working against me. When that moment came I thought, “I can’t” and it was my kryptonite.

I watched as 38 strokes/min dropped to 20, my estimated 10:05 finish time jumped to 10:30, 10:40, 11:00 and continued to climb – I completely gave up. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, only something to improve from.

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Final time: 11:30 (Yikes!)

I kept saying to myself, “If this was a powerlifting competition, I would own this!” – but it’s not. It’s The Great Twitter Row Race. The whole point is about taking the absolute weakest part of my overall fitness and pushing myself past my comfort zone to improve it and doing it with my friend Kim, who not only challenges me but encourages me.

I can, and I will. I may not be the fastest, but I’ll still be there at the finish.

The one about a challenge…

MPC_RowRaceCombining fitness with collecting charitable donations has long been a regular activity for me; whether it’s Run for the Cure, Relay for Life, the Terry Fox Run and many others.

A relatively new event is breaking the boundaries of the more traditional fundraiser, creating a challenge that is individual to each participant while bringing together people from around the globe.

My Peak Challenge was created by actor Sam Heughan, along with his trainer and good friend John Valbonesi, as a way to raise money for Bloodwise, a UK-based blood cancer research charity. The concept is simple – choose something that challenges you and reach your peak potential. It could be fitness or weight loss related, or just be something in life that participants have put off for too long and need to check off their list.

More than £100,000 ($145,060 USD) was raised for Leukemia and Lymphoma in 2015. Now entering in its second year, My Peak Challenge has raised the bar, putting out a formal fitness and nutrition prep program to help guide participants along the path to personal success while continuing to raise money for charity.

MPC has special significance to both myself and special guest blogger Kim. We each have a family member that has been afflicted by a form of lymphatic cancer, so joining this challenge was a no-brainer. With solid foundations in training and nutrition, we both joined the prep program as a way to contribute to Bloodwise and maybe get a few new ideas to amp up our current training but really felt there was room to push ourselves further.

Enter: The Great Twitter Row Race.

Living on opposite sides of North America does make it a bit more difficult to come up with a team style challenge. Starting next week, Kim and I will utilize social media as well as the space here at Fatty to compete in a rowing based race. We will row twice each week, 1000m one day and 2000m another day and log the time. At the conclusion of the MPC prep program at the end of March, the person with the fastest total average across the weeks wins prestige and a whole lot of bragging rights. To keep things fair and account for the natural ebbs and flows that come with performance, we will each get a bye – a free week where we don’t have to row.

Kim has a much stronger cardio background than I do, since as readers know mine has mostly been in power/strength based sports, so I know for me I’m really looking forward to seeing how I’m able to improve week over week. Many more updates are to come as we get this fun, web-based challenge put together. Check this space for updates from both myself and Kim as we put our internet money where our mouth is and go head-to-head for charity.

 

The one on the exhale…part II

Asthma Story_0In my last post, The one on the exhale…, I spoke about my history of asthma and the frustrating judgement I feel when people immediately connect the limitations of my lungs with my overall physical fitness. As I mentioned in that post, I usually try to avoid doing cardio in public because of the embarrassment I feel looking weak and out of shape while struggling to keep up.

A coworker recently invited me to attended a new class that was starting up at the gym. She describe it as being a mix of spin and circuit training and I thought I might check it out because at least on a spin bike I don’t need to worry about falling behind. The class, which is mostly attended by experienced endurance athletes, is by far the most challenging thing I’ve ever done.

Don’t get me wrong, challenging is a great thing. The first couple classes we went through a nine-station circuit including kettle bell swings, ball slams, battle ropes, Bosu hopscotch and a slew of other things, mixed in with 15-minute sessions of intervals on the spin bike. I didn’t in any way feel strong throughout that 90-minutes, but I finished and felt accomplished for having done so.

This week, things changed a bit. The class was taken outside, which is something I had been dreading. All day at work I prayed it would rain so we wouldn’t have to do the class outdoors. Breathing outside is an entirely different scenario compared to inside. I suddenly have to contend not only with my usual exercise-related asthma challenges, but also with the environment. Allergens in the air, the wind, the temperature, humidity (or lack thereof) and a host of other factors all irritate the delicate bronchial lining of my lungs, leading to increased mucus production and airway inflammation.

The plan for the class was a trail run to a steep set of stairs, followed by stair sprints, some flat sprints then a trail run back to the gym for a spin session and a bodyweight circuit. I had kind of hoped there would be at least one person in the class who was not a runner, like myself, and that I wouldn’t be the only person holding everyone back. The last thing I wanted was to draw attention to myself. Unfortunately, that’s what happened.

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The one on the exhale…

asthma_inhalerPicture yourself at the gym, on a treadmill next to someone else. The person next to you doesn’t appear to be exerting that much effort but is red-faced, winded and wheezing. Most people’s first thought would be to assume that person is out of shape, maybe even lazy, especially if they happen to also be overweight. A lot of people avoid going to the gym because they assume these thoughts are rampantly playing through other people’s minds as they work out. For me, it’s why I avoid doing cardio in front of other people.

Anyone who knows I am a regular to the gym would assume that I am in shape, given that I have been a frequent gym goer for more than a third of my life. When I do cardio though, I become the dictionary definition of what so many people think of as “out of shape.” I wheeze, huff and puff and get red in the face while doing something as simple as walking on an incline or pushing the stepmill up to level 2.

Like 3 million Canadians and 15 million Americans, I am asthmatic.

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The one about acceptance…

z_2713There is a trend sweeping social media this summer…

The Instagram and Twitter hashtag, #fatkini has been gaining popularity, encouraging women of all shapes and sizes to post pictures of themselves in bikinis as a way of showing acceptance for their bodies. There are some who believe that by encouraging women in this way, it is the equivalent of saying that morbid obesity is okay and that health should not be a priority.

Here’s the the thing…

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The one about the show…

The time has finally come. Tomorrow is the big day!

I am full of anticipation, waiting to see my beautiful Team Fit Starts Here teammates hit the stage at the WBFF Nova Scotia Championships tomorrow morning. Even though I’m not competing I still feel like I’ve come on this journey with them, listening to their stories, reading hilarious texts about the less than desirable body changes that come along with the positive ones and feeling like even though I’m not going to be standing up there next to them that I am still part of the team.

I won’t lie and say I didn’t deal with some jealousy woes shortly after my decision to not compete. I am only human. At this point though, I don’t feel anything but elation. I’m not their coach and they did all the work but I still feel an unusual sense of pride when I see how far they’ve all come these past couple of weeks. Maybe it’s because I know how hard they’ve worked and I know there’s been struggles along the way and I know, at times, they were punching well above their weight (at this point, you can take that quite literally – tiny waists everywhere!)

Without a doubt I know that I’ve met some of the women that I’m going to be friends with for many years to come through this process and, while I know that web will only grow larger over time, there will always be something special about the originals.

With that, I want to wish Abbie, Jenna, Jill, Jade, Cora, Lindsay and Stephany the best of luck tomorrow. (I know it’s bad to wish good luck but saying break a leg seems just as risky when you consider how many pairs of six-inch stripper heels are involved.) You all look beautiful and although only one person can win the trophy, you’ve all won the first stage of the contest – getting up there. Good job. <3

The one with a fond farewell…

It is with great sadness that I announce the retirement of my favourite Nikes.

So long, old friend

So long, old friend

Admittedly, I allowed these runners to extend well past their prime. I loved them though – both aesthetically and for comfort reasons.

I have a hard time finding running shoes because I have an odd shoe size – 10.5 – and most companies either only go up to a 10 or only have half sizes up to 9.5. Nike is one of the few companies that makes running shoes that fit me perfectly.

I got these in the fall of 2012 and I have put well beyond the recommended 500 miles on them. They’ve gotten me through multiple races and everyday cardio but as I was training for the Bluenose Marathon these past couple of months I really started to notice that they were near the end of their life. The tread looks good from the surface, but below it, the midsole has worn down considerably, leading to a fairly noticeable underpronation.

For a brief moment, in the days leading up to the Bluenose, I considered running in my trainers (gasp!) because I didn’t think I would have a good run if I wore these and it was just too close to the race to get a new pair of shoes and break them in. I knew deep down though, that they could come through for me one more time. So I strapped them on, relishing in the comfort that comes with a pair of shoes that has, over time, conformed to the exact shape of my foot and I ran the best race of my life.

Finished the 2013 Bluenose Marathon 10K a full 10 minutes faster than last year!

Finished the 2013 Bluenose Marathon 10k a full 10 minutes faster than last year and 2 minutes faster than all of my training runs!

Now it’s time to say goodbye to my faithful friends and send them off to running shoe heaven. Hopefully I will be able to find a pair of Nikes that I love half as much as my Lunarglide 2’s (they’re actually on the Lunarglide 4 now!) and if they could be pink… well that would just be the perfect way to pay homage to the shoes that took me from out-of-breath-after-30-seconds to 10k’s.

The one about the numbers…

I’ve mentioned on this blog countless times that a lot of what happens when you walk into the gym is not mental, but rather psychological. It’s all a game of numbers and how your mind interprets them.

For example, my workout this morning was triple sets (three exercises done in succession followed by a break). I do six sets of 15 reps per exercise.

You might think that the first set is the easiest and the last the hardest. After all, that would be reasonable given the physical demand on your body. It’s not really the case though. At least, not for me.

Set one: the ‘oh-this-might-actually-be-hard’ set. You feel fresh going into it but your muscles don’t really know what to expect and you quickly realize that things will not be as fun as you had originally expected.

Set two: the ‘I-can-do-this’ set. Now your muscles are warmed up after the first set and you know what to expect so the second set is often one of the easier ones. You’re getting into the swing of it now and feeling pretty strong.

Set three: the ‘this-is-getting-hard’ set, also known as the ‘am-I-really-only-half-way?’ set. Mentally, the third set is my most challenging. At this point it’s starting to get physically tasking, your muscles are getting tired and, even though you know you have to push past the discomfort, it’s damn HARD. At the same time you’re doing the mental math and realizing that after this set there’s still three more JUST LIKE IT still to come.

Set four: the ‘only-two-more-after-this’ set. The third set is out of the way and now the finish line is within view. You’re tired but you have a sudden motivation to power through and get the job done.

Set five: the ‘am-I-done-yet’ set. You used up way too much motivation on set four, now you’re just exhausted. There’s only one more set after this one though so you might as well just get it done.

Set six: the ‘is-that-all?’ set, otherwise known as the ‘I-could-do-another’ set. The sixth set often times feels very similar to the second set. The boost of adrenaline that comes with knowing that you’re almost done, coupled with the fact that you probably didn’t give it 110% in set five, comes with enough power to destroy the final set – like a boss. This set is usually accompanied by overconfidence, luring you into thinking that you could do a seventh set if you wanted to. You can’t though. Really. Just don’t try it. It’s painful.

Ultimately, the lesson to be learned from the numbers game is that we all feel really uncomfortable at times but it’s about pushing past the mental discomfort to find the spot where you start to feel like you’re in total control. In other words, don’t let set three break you because set six feels awesome.