Losing focus, running out of steam

I’ve been, again, my usual procrastinating self. “I have plenty of time, the race is only in x weeks! I can take a couple of days/weeks off surely, I’ve worked pretty hard so far, I deserve a bit of a break, right?”

Ugh.

Will I ever learn?

I did the same thing last year, thinking I could complete a triathlon with just a couple of visits to the pool. “There’s still time!” And then the pool changes their opening hours during the summer (or closes altogether), and then you can’t fit it in your schedule… and we all saw how I made a complete sinking fool of myself on race day.

This Sunday, I should have been running my first half-marathon. But it won’t happen. I took a little bit of a break about 5-6 weeks ago, but I’ve never been able to get back into the rhythm. Plagued by headaches, runner’s trots, dehydration, muscle cramps. Laziness. Frustration. I can’t seem to be able to get passed 12km running nowadays, while back in March, I was able to complete a long run beyond 15km the day after riding my bike for 70km with strong head winds. I’ve had my blood checked, everything is A-OK. So there are no other possible explanations for my legs cramps, except poor posture, poor mechanics and basically, my body saying no.

I can’t help but feeling angry at myself for falling off the wagon again. For losing focus, for erasing all the progress and efforts of the first months of this year with this stupid break.

In a way, I know I needed this break. I was beginning to drag myself to my training sessions, not enjoying them for one bit. Because I had to train. It had become a chore, a job, not something I getting any pleasure from. But now I see my goals approaching, and there’s no way out of this: I have to let them go, accept failure, regroup and find new goals. And work hard to achieve them.

So I will run on Sunday, but not the 21,1km I was dreaming of. It sucks, because this race was in my hometown, but it’s ok. I’ll participate next year. Instead, I’ll probably go for the 10K, or maybe even just run an easy 5K, for the heck of it. And I’ve picked a new date for my first half-marathon: 21 September 2014.

As for triathlons, I had 4 races planned for this summer, but I think I’ll keep just one: the one nearby my hometown. It’s a tough one, with 750m swimming, but I love the area where the race is taking place and because it’s so close to home, it just feels right.

And this also means getting back to the gym and focus on muscle strength and endurance (especially my core), something I’ve neglected a lot these past months.

Looking back at 2013, and my goals for 2014

2012 was the year when I made an important decision to save my life: I had gastric bypass surgery.

2013 was the year when I built the foundations for my new lifestyle. Eat better, exercise more. I started from zero fitness to finishing my first triathlon. Oh, I’m still far from an athlete, but I like to think I made giant leaps of progress to become an awesome version of myself.

I started by hiring a personal trainer to keep me motivated, to keep me in check (nothing like having to answer the question “How often did you train this week and what did you do?” to actually make you go train on your own and keep going!), to teach me how to train, and to get a jump-start towards an active lifestyle. I owe him a lot. Even if we’ve now parted ways, the effect he had on me still hasn’t worn off 😉 I can still hear his voice in my head shouting COME ON!! when I want to give up, and I can still hear him ask me the dreaded question every week! And when I see him at the gym, he actually makes sure to ask how I’ve been doing and how my training is going…

Then, there were my goals. One in particular, a dream, a fantasy of mine for several years already: finishing a triathlon. Looking back, I know I didn’t train sufficiently when it comes to swimming, and I was still not very fit, but I did cross that finish line. I finished dead last, but I finished. Instead of demotivating me, it only encouraged me to get fitter and get better.

So, what did I do in 2013? Let’s see…

  • 8 x 5K races
  • 2 x 10K races
  • 2 x obstacle/mud races
  • 1 x super-sprint triathlon

Not bad for a first year!

And what are my goals for 2014?

  • Finish a half-marathon in May
  • Finish a sprint triathlon in August
  • Focus on 10K races instead of 5K races*
  • Learn how to swim the front crawl

* I choose to focus on 10K races this year rather than 5K’s, mostly as an extra challenge to myself. And not to sound like a snob (because really, I’m not!), but I noticed I’m taking this racing thing way too seriously now to genuinely enjoy doing 5K’s (generally more crowded and family oriented), and I just hate having to slalom around people walking, even though I’m not running much faster than them, and feeling stressed about how this slaloming will affect my end time. I’m not saying I’ll never do 5K’s ever again, but I will choose them carefully, i.e. smaller-scaled events.

Today is Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year, with our New Year’s resolutions slowly fading away. Apparently. Because I’m happy to report I’ve been going to the swimming pool 2 to 3 times per week since the beginning of the year, I’ve officially started my half-marathon preparation, and I’ve also stepped on my bike a few times already. Things are going smoothly! And do you know what helps? Getting new gear to keep you motivated. Look at what the hubs gave me for my birthday! 😀

5595_10151949104842585_134587233_nYes!! A beautiful Forerunner 910XT. I am SO happy. I’m tracking everything on Garmin Connect and I love seeing my progress! I already owned a Forerunner 305 and I was really happy with it, but I was really missing the swimming training tracking component the 910XT has to offer. My dad is going to inherit of my 305, I know he’ll give it a good home!

I think I’m well on my way to a fantastic 2014. If I can stay injury-free and if I can manage to keep my iron-deficiency anemia under control, I should be able to achieve my goals.

Wish me luck! 😉

Weight off my shoulders

I’m in my first long-ish weight loss stall since WLS! My scale still indicates I’m losing body fat and gaining muscles, so I’m not worried too much, but I’d be lying if I’d say I wasn’t frustrated… I’m still training  5-6 days per week, a mix of biking, running, boot camp style training and strength training, and sometimes I have trouble seeing the results of all of my hard work. I talked to my personal trainer about my frustration, and he worked up a weight lifting session for me. I thought it was just to boost my metabolism a bit through strength training, but he had actually another idea in mind!

foto 1On this picture, I’m dead-lifting exactly the amount of weight I lost since WLS. It was HEAVY. It was HARD. Then came the realization that I was carrying all this weight around for so long, all day, every day. When you are so heavy, even though you know you are heavy, you don’t really feel it. It creeps in slowly, pound by pound. You feel pain in your joints, your feet, but you don’t really feel the extra weight. It was a great feeling to literally feel the weight come off my shoulders as I put the barbell back on the floor. And then I looked closely at the pictures my personal trainer made and sent to me — and I saw my shoulders and arms muscles. DAYIM! No way I would have been able to dead-lift this amount of weight just 6 months ago. Now I see all the hard work of the past months, now I see it has paid off. And I can tell you, it’s only the beginning!

I’ve also had a very constructive conversation with the dietitian who is following me post-WLS. Basically, I’m not eating enough for the amount of exercise I’m doing, and I’m not refueling properly. The day after a particularly intense training session or long run, I’m always ravenous. I could eat everything and anything, and this usually leads to me eating too much at a time (and reach for all the bad stuff with too much sugar and fat), and my pouch really doesn’t like it! She told me to keep my current diet, but to add recovery snacks high in protein and carbs post-exercise, and always keep a protein shake at hand, so I don’t grab the wrong foods when I feel hungry. I’ve been putting this new diet in practice last week, and I must admit I’ve felt much better. I have more energy when exercising, and I don’t feel like I could eat a horse the following day.

And I’ll definitely keep putting the dietitian’s advice in practice, because my first ever triathlon is in less than three weeks! OMG! I’m staring to freak a little. Scared that I’m not fit enough, that I’m too slow, that I just can’t swim properly… arrrgghhhhhh I know I should stop this negative talk and think happy thoughts, but it’s hard!

Living an active lifestyle

I’ve led a very sporadic ‘active lifestyle’ from my youth to my adult life. I’d be out and about cross-country skiing during the winter, but spend the summer sitting on my behind. I’d play organised sports for a couple of years, but then I’d sit on the couch for the next five. Lack of motivation, teenage rebellion, caught in the whirlwind of studying or working. There was always an excuse.

In 2007 and 2008, when I was actively trying to lose weight by dieting and exercising, I discovered sports I loved and started to actually enjoy exercising. But then weight stall frustration, stress, work and health problems became yet other excuses for not burning calories. And we all know what happened next: I put the weight back on, AND THEN SOME. Which led me to taking the difficult decision to go under the knife for gastric bypass in October 2012.

The weight is definitely coming off now, but I know I’m in this honeymoon period where weight loss almost magically happens without too much efforts. When this honeymoon period is over, I know I’ll have to be more vigilant at managing my caloric intake and the amount of calories I burn through exercise, otherwise I will re-gain. And I really don’t want to go there!

What do I need to do then? I need to live an active lifestyle, I need to make exercising part of my daily life — not for a summer, not for a year, but until the end of my days. But it’s not easy. There’s work, and commuting to and from work, there’s my other hobbies, there’s my wonderful husband, there’s household chores, etc. Making it all fit is really a challenge. I’m sacrificing my other hobbies (I haven’t done any significant sewing for at least a year now), I’m setting clear boundaries in regards to work, and I’m trying to get the hubby to exercise with me, so at least it would count as quality time 😉

Lucky for me, I’m still in love with running, biking and swimming. I’m still enjoying my training sessions with my personal trainer. I’m still enjoying going to the gym. It hasn’t been easy lately because I’m suffering from anemia (happens often after gastric bypass) and my energy level is sub-zero, but I have to push through it. Otherwise, I’m going to find excuses again and I’ll end up on the couch.

The longest distance in any race is the six inches between your ears

I stumbled upon this quote yesterday, and there’s so much truth in it. And not only for marathoners or triathletes! We have to constantly fight this little voice in our heads that is telling us to give up, to stay on the couch, to be lazy, to push that training back to tomorrow, next week, next month, next year… And it’s hard. But it’s worth it.

With my first super-sprint triathlon only 3 months away now (gasp!), there’s no time for pushing back a training. I am going to the pool, I am going for a bike ride, and I am running. I’m not fast, I’m not ‘performing’, but I’m out there having fun doing it, and that’s the most important thing.

In my enthusiasm, I’ve even signed up for a 10K race in now less than 2 weeks! And I have a 5K race in June! And an 8K run in July! And my super-sprint triathlon in August! And today I signed up for a 10K in September! Having goals is what keeps me going. I don’t care if I finish last – I just want to finish 🙂

I’ll finish by inviting you to visit and like my Facebook page to get the latest updates on my workouts and my gear – because one thing I had to sacrifice lately is time for blogging 😉 I hope to see you there!

Pineapple coconut energy bites

I’m not going to turn this blog into a cooking blog, but I had to share today’s kitchen experiment.

I dehydrated a whole pineapple cut in small pieces, but I wasn’t happy with the result. It looked horrible and not appetizing at all. The pieces were still wet on the inside while dried and brittle on the outside, meh. I was about to throw the pineapple pieces in the bin, until I had the genius idea to use them to make energy bites.

And is there any better combination than with coconut? Piña colada in a bite!

The following measurements are quite approximative – I didn’t measure and I just added “a bit of this and a bit of that” as I went. Makes 6-8 bites, depending on size.

Pineapple coconut bites

3/4 cup almond flour

1/2 cup dried coconut (unsweetened)

1 cup dried pineapple (if you can get an unsweetened version, great – but making it yourself is much better!)

1/8 cup coconut for coating

Put all ingredients in a food processor. Mix until the pineapple pieces are chopped in very small pieces and the ingredients are starting to stick together. If your mix is too wet, add coconut or almond flour, 1-2 tablespoon at a time, and mix again. If your mix is too dry, add a bit of water, no more than 1 teaspoon at a time, and mix again.

Put 1/8 cup of coconut in a small plate. Using a spoon, take a bit of the mix and shape it in a ball, or a disk (or a bar!) with your hands. Coat all sides with coconut, pressing gently.

Keep your bites in an airtight container in the fridge, or freeze. They should keep for about a week in the fridge.

I’m convinced they are delicious coming out of the freezer – I’ll have to try them this summer 🙂

On the training front, I haven’t been able to jump in the pool as often as I would have liked. But this week is a new week, and I’ve found interesting courses, where the accent lies on improving swimming techniques and improve fitness level. That sounds perfect for me 🙂 I’ll give them a try this week!

Dusting off old training equipments

Dusting off old training equipments

I bought this trainer a loooong time ago. 2009? 2010? I can’t remember. It was part of a New Year resolution, and I was happy I got it on sale in January at the time.

I never really used it, only a few times. I was seriously lacking the motivation and the energy to do anything serious with it.

But now, things have changed 😉 Or at least, I’l trying to make them change. I have this triathlon thing to train for, and I need to build up endurance. I don’t feel like sitting 1 hour+ on a bike at the gym (boring!), so until I can go ride outside, why not actually use the equipment I have at home? And watch a movie while I’m at it. Or just my favorite show.

I’m hoping I can retrieve my bike from storage today and install it on the trainer. One hour on this thing looks like an ideal Monday evening training to me 😉

Tri’-ing for a triathlon, again

Four years ago, almost at the same date, I signed up for my first triathlon. Unfortunately, I never managed to get the training and the preparation done, and in the end, I didn’t participate.

But it’s been nagging me ever since.

So I did it again. I signed up for my first super-sprint triathlon, to take place in August. I have 7 months to train and prepare. I should manage, right? I mean, I’m still busy building up my running with the Start to Run program, but in 7 months, I should be able to run 2.5km. I have yet to get on my bike, but I’ve been cycling at the gym and I’ll join spinning classes soon. And as soon as the weather gets better, I’ll hit the road with my bike, for sure. And 10km on the bike ain’t too bad. The biggest challenge, and my biggest weakness, is swimming. I suck at it, and the swimming pools in my area are not open when I would need them to be, so I’ll have to do wonders to make swimming training fit around my schedule. Anyway, if I want it enough, I can make it work, right? Even if that means going for a swim at 7:00 in the morning and get to the office later than usual. Or something.

I’ll have a chat with my personal trainer next Tuesday, to get advice on what muscle groups I should focus on when I’m training on my own at the gym, or at home. ‘Cause yeah, I’ve been assembling a cool mini gym at home. I love my pink stability ball 😉

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I’m still going to check out my triathlon training books, but advice from a pro cannot hurt. And it also gives us a focus for our personal training sessions: working out to get fit for my first triathlon! I’m excited just thinking about it 🙂

I’ll give the swimming pool a try this weekend, wish me luck!

Bypass challenges for sporty people

I’ve been a very good girl lately! I’ve been to the gym – enthusiastically! – and I’ve enjoyed 2 trainings with my personal trainer so far. It’s so much fun. My muscles are aching and I can barely lift my arms above my head after a session, but no pain, no gain, right?

The first personal training session started with a bang. I was pushed to my limits. So much that at one point, I had to sit down because my heart rate was plunging and I was feeling extremely dizzy and light-headed. Yep, I was crashing. I absolutely didn’t see it coming and it took me by surprise. I thought I had eaten enough and I made sure I drank plenty of fluids during the day. But juggling a small stomach pouch with limited absorption capacity, along with my new physiological incapacity to digest sugars and fats, with high-intensity sports activities… wow, that’s a challenge.

I did a bit of research on the internet and there are only a few scientific studies about nutrition and endurance sports after gastric by-pass. Patients who had bariatric surgery and practice endurance sports must be careful with commercially available sports drinks, gels and bars. Sugar is the biggest issue. It’s a bit of trial and error – some preparations might not cause any discomfort for certain persons, but trigger dumping for others. Same goes for protein powders. After some reading, I came up with my own recipe for a sports drink, which doesn’t contain as much sugar as regular sports drink, but just enough to give me a little bit of energy without causing me any discomfort:

– Water
– 2-3 tablespoons of concentrated fruit syrup (like this one)
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt

I’ve been drinking this mix for a couple of weeks now at the gym and so far so good 🙂 I even survived the 2nd personal training session a couple of days ago – and trust me, it was intense. But I didn’t crash!

On the running side of things, I was amazed at being able to run 4 minutes today. It seems it was just yesterday that 1 minute felt like eternity! Here’s what the trainings look like for this week:

2/2, 2/2, 4/3, 3/3, 3/3 (bold= running, standard = walking)

I treated myself to a new pair of running shoes, my old pair was… well… old. They were not absorbing shocks as much as they used to (5 years ago!) and I just wanted to make sure I was still a neutral runner by letting the guys at the shop analyze my running. Aren’t thy precious in pink and purple? 😉

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That’s it for now, folks! Time to go nurse my sore muscles 😉

A present for myself

Things are going well on the sporty front, I’ve managed to go to the gym twice per week the last two weeks, AND I also managed to get the hubby to get a subscription, so we could go together! It’s always more fun with someone else 🙂

And since this period in my life is a journey of healing, reconstruction and transformation, I’ve decided to offer myself an early x-mas/b-day present: a personal trainer. Just to help me get started. To help me train the right way to achieve my goals. To motivate me when my body acts as an enemy and I just want to feel sorry for myself. To make me enjoy physical activity, and help me keep the habit for the rest of my life. It’s far from being cheap, but I think it’s worth every euro. I’ve talked to him a few times already, about my goals, what I want to achieve, and I think there’s a good connection there. I’m meeting him again this evening for a real intake, with measurements, weight, etc. and goals setting, so we can start working together. I think it’s going to be fun!

Yesterday was a really good day. I think I have to mark 11-12-2012 in my calendar or something. At work I had a wonderful  chat with a coach, who is also there to help me through this journey – not only on the work front, but also in my personal life. She shared great insights and I came out of her office lifted, optimistic, relieved and confident. Then in the evening after work I went to the gym and I did something I’ve missed so badly and could only dream of doing again: I ran. Not fast, not for long (I did the first training of Start to Run, a podcast series from Belgium, similar to the Couch potato to 5K program), but I ran. It was the best. feeling. ever. The feeling of achievement was almost too overwhelming, I thought I was going to cry! I’ve come such a long way…

The road ahead is still long and tortuous, I’m about to start a heavy hormonal treatment that I know from experience is going to make me feel tired and cause me a lot of pain, but I am determined to not let it stop me. I will listen to my body, but instead of working against it, I will work with it.

I think I got my mojo back 🙂

Back to the gym!

My successive failures at going to the swimming pool for aquajogging or aquarobics made me realise I had to do something about that exercise problem. The perspective of leaving my warm, cosy, comfy home in the middle of the evening to go splish and splash in cold water just wasn’t appealing to me. But I’m still too heavy (and too out of shape!) to start running again, so I had to look for an alternative: the gym.

It’s a big step. Being surrounded by all those people with great bodies is intimidating. I always feel like they are staring at me. I know they aren’t, that it’s just my mind being paranoid. So I signed up, and guess what? I actually went.

I didn’t do much, just a small 20 minutes speed walking on the treadmill and then 20 minutes on the stationary bike. But the most important thing to me is that I did go. And I enjoyed it. And I will go back.

Small steps, small steps!