Tag Archives: Motivation

Motivation Monday: The Bay Bridge Swim edition

*Note to self for next time I’m unmotivated to take the time to drive to the pool, suit up and swim: The stationary bike is NOT the same. Don’t even pretend, because you’re just lying to yourself. The cardio workout isn’t as good, even when you’re really pushing it. It won’t do anything for your arms, not to mention your abs. Sure, you can read the whole Washington Post during a workout, and that’s nice once in a while. But it can’t be your staple. Suck it up and get in the pool.*

Two years ago, near the tail end of Steve’s second deployment, I found peace in an unlikely place: In a polluted body of brackish water surrounded by a groping, clawing, wetsuit-clad mob.

Getting ready to descend into a wetsuit-clad mob at last year's swim.

That was just the first quarter of the race. It was my first Chesapeake Bay Bridge 1-Mile Challenge, known as the “Baby Bay Swim” by those hard-core souls who do the companion 4.4-miler. It was my substitute for road races while I recovered from a serious hip injury, and even before I got to the good part of the race, I was hooked.

The good part of the race, of course, is when you realize you’re no longer clawing other swimmers for position, and when you catch a glimpse of the stately, imposing Bay Bridge looming over you as you take a breath. It’s when you get into the rhythm of whatever currents or swells you’re working with that day, and you stop fighting the water and start working with it. It’s when you realize and appreciate the beauty and awesomeness of what you’re doing, and feel a rush of gratitude along with those endorphins.

This A. Aubrey Bodine photo of the Bay Bridge captures how I feel during peaceful moments of the Bay Bridge Swim.

Motivating me this morning: I just signed up for my third annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge 1-Mile Challenge! Registration opened at 6 a.m., just a few days after my recently reinjured ankle kicked my lazy butt back into the pool. It’ll be the fifth open-water swim of my adult life (the horrible, zig-zaggy affairs from high school don’t count), and I can’t wait to truly start training for it.

The other things motivating me this week:

  • Your wonderful comments on Friday in response to my call for motivation to actually head to the pool, tackling 4X800 meters (yes, meters — my new pool is Olympic sized!) with some sprints thrown in at the end. Through encouragement, ego-boosting, guilt-tripping and suggested retail therapy, you not only made me head to the pool; you made me *want* to head to the pool. I’m going to need lots more encouragement over the next few months, so keep the motivators coming!
  • Necessity. In a perfect world, swimming would be a motivator in and of itself. In actuality, nothing motivates me to swim like the inability to run. Since my ankle somehow looks *more* swollen and purple now than it did last week, my motivation to swim is unusually high.
  • New ideas for meals that will fuel my workouts and not upset my stomach during those workouts. Quinoa and steel-cut oats have already become staples of my diet. My most recent adventure: homemade faux-Larabars. Stay tuned for photos and recipes!

What’s motivating you this week? Let me know by posting a comment below.


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Motivation Monday: The trust edition

I’m sore. Not, like, right this second so much as all the time. You know how, when you start a new kind of workout, the muscles challenged by that new workout get so sore for so long, you wonder if sore might not be their new normal? That kind of sore.

I’ve felt that way ever since starting my new physical therapy workout a few weeks ago. I’ve been dutifully tackling the workout three times per week, in addition to much of my existing prehab workout, in hopes that I’ll start my next training cycle healthier and stronger than I’ve ever been before. Being committed to a rather intense lifting schedule means I’m not spending much time swimming, or doing speedwork, or doing long runs. It also means I’m showing up to my other activities — running and skiing — sore and tired.

Kettlebell workouts at physical therapy are kicking my butt.

I’m not saying this to complain. In fact, I mention my new perma-sore state because it’s motivating me to keep trying this week. I’m choosing to see my sore muscles as a gift. They’re a sign that I’m getting stronger, that I’m not going through the motions of this new workout for nothing. Isn’t that why we do anything, in training and in life: to make ourselves stronger and better? The tough part is trusting that the payoff will come when we’re in the middle of the hard part.

Of course, I’m also motivated by some simpler, material items, too, mostly purchased at the Hudson Trail Outfitters sale at the store’s Gaithersburg, Md., outlet:

  • Trail runners! I’ve been wanting these since the summer, when I first fell back in love with trail running. I truly believe hitting the trails makes my ankles stronger more stable. These, which I snagged for $45, will encourage me to get back out there come springtime.

  • A few upgrades for my bike. I’m no cyclist — long bike rides have a strange tendency to make my IT band feel tight and sore — but my bike needed some serious love before I attempted even some quick, easy rides. Enter my new bike seat and helmet, both procured at amazingly discounted prices.

  • Finally, I’m motivated by my last few runs, during which my usual pace has felt just a little bit harder than it did as recently as a couple months ago. This is more than just a feeling. It’s hard to argue with the numbers my beautiful new Garmin spit out after my first three runs with it:

Thursday, Jan. 14: 5.18 miles, 8:32-minute-mile pace

Tuesday, Jan. 19: 4.56 miles, 8:24-minute-mile pace

Thursday, Jan. 21: 5.3 miles, 8:33-minute-mile pace

To that end, I forced myself to do a speed workout on the treadmill Saturday morning before heading to Whitetail Saturday afternoon. The 3X1-mile repeats at 7:30 minute-mile pace were harder than I’d like to admit. I trust that my muscles and lungs are already stronger and more efficient as a result.

What’s motivating you this week? Let me know by posting a comment below.

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Motivation Monday: The gratitude edition

Last week, I let myself get worn down. I’d been plowing through my haphazard training schedule, assuming that my legs could handle a few hours of skiing every Saturday and Sunday at Whitetail, five-mile runs Tuesday and Thursday, and lifting and cross-training Monday, Wednesday and Friday. I haven’t been running all that much — two or three of those aforementioned five-milers per week — and I forgot that hard skiing, cycling, lifting and traveling require as much rest to recover from as hard running.

This week, I’m taking the opposite approach. I’m adding more rest, and not assuming a stationary-bike or skiing day is “active rest.” More importantly, I’m adding more gratitude. An example: I ran a 5-mile hill workout Thursday, lifted Friday morning, then skied Friday night and all day Saturday. When I got done with a particularly good bump run Saturday afternoon, feeling out of breath and sore, I thought about all I’d asked my legs to do in the past 48 hours. I reminded myself of that frequently on Sunday, when I took the day totally and completely off, and spent the day lazing around on the couch, reading a book. This morning, I hit the gym feeling well-rested and motivated.

Other things motivating me this week:

A kick-butt physical therapy workout. Remember Beefcake Brad, my new physical therapist? His workout, which I did for the first time on Friday, didn’t disappoint. It included single-leg squats, single-leg bridges, “monster walks” with a resistance band, clamshells with a resistance band … and a bunch of stuff with a kettlebell, like a farmer’s walk and a crazy, intense version of a Turkish getup. More details about these moves and others after my next session on Wednesday. For now, suffice it to say I’m impressed.

Steel-cut oats as pre-workout fuel. I resisted steel-cut oats for so long, worried that 30 minutes would just be too long to wait for food in the morning. I compromised, and bought the frozen kind from Trader Joe’s for breakfast before my Saturday morning shift at Whitetail. They were so yummy, and kept me feeling full for so much longer than my regular old-fashioned oats, that I’ve been cooking them from scratch at home, too.

My Garmin, which I rave about in detail here. I already can’t wait for my run tomorrow night to use it again.

What’s motivating you this week? Let me know by posting a comment below!


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Motivation Monday: The well-earned sleep edition

The car ride was taking forever.

I was exhausted from what felt like hours of gymnastics (in reality, maybe it had been an hour? Memory is tricky that way). My quads ached. My triceps screamed. Not that I knew what those muscles were called at the time — I was only seven.

Once I got home, I whined to my dad in between chomps of pizza: I was soooo sore!

He smiled. “But isn’t it such a good sore?” he said. Well …. yeah!

I found myself the best kind of sore after last weekend’s shift at with the Mountain Safety Team at Whitetail, which marked the real kickoff to my 2009-2010 ski season. The skiing was spectacular, the snow fluffy and perfectly groomed, and I enjoyed three or four solid hours of hard skiing both Saturday and Sunday in between my duties. For reasons outlined in this blog, I thought I was in pretty decent shape. My quads begged to differ, and I left on Sunday afternoon feeling divinely sore and ready for bed by 9 p.m. That “good sore,” plus a well-earned sleep after hours of physical activity outdoors, is motivating me to work out inside the rest of the week. Here’s what else is motivating me this week:

My new ski boots. I skied what I’m pretty sure will be my last day ever in my 13-year-old Langes on Saturday. On Saturday afternoon, I finally got my custom insoles made for my new DalBellos. My shins are bruised from breaking them in all day Sunday, but my ankle was no more sore at the end of the day than it was at the start. Hope is motivating, and these boots are chock full of it.

My beautiful new DalBellos are motivating me this week.

Hip hikes (video here), those unbelievably boring hip strengtheners my new physical therapist reminded me I should be doing, are also giving me a lot of hope. Because the very idea of running or skiing without any hip or ankle pain is highly motivating.

An appointment with that new physical therapist on Wednesday. He says he can help make sure I don’t reinjure my ankle, and to make sure my bum ankle doesn’t affect my hip like it usually does. I’m all ears, and can’t wait to find out my marching orders for the next month or so.

Larabars. I won a small box of these in a giveaway before the holidays, and it was waiting for me when I got back to DC after my own holiday travels. I’d been spooked by the nutritionals previously — though the whole-food ingredients are delightfully simple, I was skeptical those tiny bars would be worth the 200-plus calories. Turns out, those whole-food ingredients actually keep me full for a long, long time. The Cherry Pie flavor is my favorite so far, and I love knowing I can pronounce all three ingredients: dates, almonds, unsweetened cherries. How simply perfect!

A new toy in the works. Your helpful comments have convinced me that the Garmin 305 is the way to go, and I’m shopping around for one now. I feel pretty certain it’s going to revolutionize my training.

What’s motivating you this week?


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Motivation Thursday: The catch-up edition

Motivation Thursday lacks the catchy alliteration of Motivation Monday. But since I missed a few weeks on vacation, I thought I’d play catch-up by giving you a dose of mid-week motivation. Here’s what’s motivating me this week:

  • Getting out in the cold. For real! I almost didn’t head out for my group run on Tuesday night, in part because of the cold snap that’s hitting Washington, D.C., this week. But it wasn’t so bad once I bundled up and headed out. Plus, I’ve had fun telling people that it’s not blush reddening my cheeks; it’s a badge of honor proving I’m hard-core for getting out there in all kinds of weather. For tips on braving the cold comfortably, check out this great guest post from my friend Amy, who lives in Minnesota.
  • Easing up a bit. Last October, after a painful and disappointing Marine Corps Marathon, I was chomping at the bit to tackle another 26.2. I set my sights on the National Marathon in March, and mapped out my route to redemption. My attitude about completing another marathon this year can be summed up this way: Meh. I could take it or leave it. The good thing about this: I’m taking cues from my body about what it’s up for, rather than expecting my body to get with whatever program I’ve decided is best for me. I may do a fall marathon. I may not. I’m finding that this attitude is far better than setting myself up for disappointment. Somehow, this feels motivational.
  • A few interesting possibilities for my 2010 race schedule. Marathon notwithstanding, I’ve got a whole bunch of interesting possibilities race-wise. I’m definitely planning on the Blue Ridge Parkway Half-Marathon in April and the 1-mile Chesapeake Bay Swim in June (I sort of accidentally-on-purpose missed the deadline to register for a spot in the 4.4-mile swim. $250 was just too much to spring on one race for me). Other possible additions include the Five Points of Life Half-Marathon in Gainesville, Fla., on Feb. 14, and the Pensacola Aquathon on May 23.

View from the Blue Ridge Parkway Half-Marathon course.

  • Ben Beach, a Boston Marathon “streaker” who’s keeping up his track record of running the race every year despite overwhelming physical challenges. Beach, 60, of Bethesda, is aiming to finish his 43nd consecutive Boston Marathon this year — only one other runner holds a longer “streak.” Beach suffers from dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that has warped his gait, making training difficult and racing harder. Read about his journey to Boston here.
  • The promise of a Garmin Forerunner! That’s right — in addition to a dweeby reflective running vest, I also got a gift card for Christmas meant to help me purchase a Garmin! I’m still deciding what kind I’ll get, and would welcome feedback. The 405 isn’t really in my price range, but I’m still hesitant to buy a 305 without hearing more positive reviews of it. I’m also curious about the 205, which is cheaper yet. Thoughts?

What’s motivating you this week?


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Can a Santa hat boost running performance?

The darkness of the winter solstice, the looming deadlines and the two feet of snow blanketing Silver Spring all My most important piece of gear for tonight's run.suggest a quick treadmill run might be the safest and most comfortable option for today’s run.

But if I run with my group at Pacers Silver Spring, which is holding its annual “red and green” costume run tonight, I get to wear a Santa hat. Easy choice, right?

We’re running the historic Seminary loop, which is one of my favorite routes, even without the Santa hat. And this may be my last chance to see my running buddies before Steve and I start our holiday travel extravaganza, which will take us from DC to Tampa to Colorado, not to return until 2010.

So in a continuation of Motivation Monday, I will admit that today, I’m motivated by the idea of running in a Santa hat. Really. That’s all. It’s the little things in life, right?


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A carrot, a stick, a lovely swim and a sweet reward

I woke up yesterday morning dreading my scheduled swim.  This tea provided one sweet bribe to swim on a cold winter day.

So I revisited an idea I’ve been experimenting with recently: outright bribing myself.  At the grocery store the other day, I’d spotted a box of Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride Herbal Tea, but held back from making what I saw as a frivolous purchase. But I’d acquired a Celestial Seasonings coupon since then, not to mention a task it could serve as a worthy reward for.

Here’s the workout that earned me the sweetest cup of tea ever:

All freestyle is done with a pull buoy.

1,000 warmup: alt. 250 free, 250 back

Pyramid set, freestyle, on :15 rest, moderate pace that you can maintain (goal is to hold your pace the whole time): > 1×50 > 1×100 > 1×150 > 1×200 > 1×250 > 1×300 > 1×250 > 1×200 > 1×150 > 1×100 > 1×50 (1,800 total)

4×25 sprint freestyle on :45

4×25 no-breath freestyle

My body felt so good and loose and happy afterwards, I didn’t even need the tea (though you’d better believe I drank it, anyway)!


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Motivation Monday: The get-outside edition

We pass this section of Rock Creek on our regular route — Sunday, it was covered with snow.

This section of Rock Creek Park was dusted with snow when we ran by it yesterday.

There are lots of things I tell myself when I’m not in the mood to work out: That I always feel better after a run, that even a slow, plodding run will boost my health and fitness, that if I just make myself run to the next light post, I can probably tackle the whole route.

I have a new motivation to add to the list: I run when I don’t feel like it because you never know what you’ll see if you just go outside and open your eyes.

We’d planned to lift yesterday, but found our gym closed early. So we headed outside, a little grumpy about the cold weather.

We shouldn’t have been. The bracing air immediately made everything from our cheeks to our lungs feel more alive. We took in our neighbors’ holiday decorations, and noticed the previous night’s snow weighing down the last remaining fall leaves.We saw Rock Creek Park with a dusting of powdered-sugar snow from the area’s first snowfall over the weekend.

We turned a corner to one of our route’s steepest hills, and spotted a car with a Christmas tree strapped on top. Then, we smelled a waft of clean pine air – there’s a tree lot at the top of the hill!

Up another hill, we saw two kids trying to sled on the inch or so of snow, without much success. Then, when we were almost home, we passed a spectacular-looking snowman with stick arms and a carrot nose in the front lawn of one of our neighbors.

I run for the same reason we all get up every morning — to experience and interact with the world.

What’s motivating you this week?


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Kicking myself out the door

I woke up yesterday in a Mood.

A trip to the pool saved my mood yesterday.

You know the kind of Mood I’m talking about — when you don’t feel like working, dread the day’s workout hours beforehand and question the motives behind even your most cherished beliefs and most staid routines. One of those.

The mood lingered even after a morning of work, so it was no surprise that I was almost frantic to avoid the early-lunchtime swim I had planned. I tried my best tips and tricks from my adventures in sports psychology over the summer to no avail. In the end, I all but kicked myself out the door.

Once I got to the pool, I had to force myself to actually jump in the water after spending three or four minutes stretching on the deck. “You’re not going home now,” I told myself. Finally, once I jumped in, I used some of the aforementioned tips to get my mind in the right place. I replaced negative thoughts (coldcoldcoldcoldcold! If I’d done the stationary bike, I’d be done by now!) with a simple refrain: I sang “Three Little Birds” to myself, and swam to that tempo.

I enjoyed a random but challenging workout composed entirely of 400s by repeating the following four times:

400 free with pull buoy
400 backstroke

The last four 400s, I added seven hard strokes to the first 50 of each freestyle set, and sprinting every other 25 of backstroke. The final 400 was an IM.

Are you surprised to hear that I had a great workout, and that the rest of the day was drastically better and more productive after I’d finished it? I’ll try to remember that feeling next time I’m struggling to get out the door.

How do you stop negative workout thoughts in their tracks? It’ll be easy to do so tonight — I’m not so much in the mood to head out into one of the first wintry nights for our Pacers Silver Spring group run tonight, but I’m definitely in the mood for a post-run happy hour at Adega Wine Cellars. Easy motivation!

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Motivation Monday: Strength edition

An injured runner-friend and I were recently talking about lifting — you know, the strength-training we runners tend to ignore until we get hurt and are chastised by a smart physical therapist who says we should know better. My friend and I agreed that when we stop lifting and then start again, we literally feel stronger and more stable almost immediately, like the simple act of doing a few sets of single-leg leg presses can increase our strength and erase our muscle imbalances.

Hello, leg press machine. It's been a while ...

I got lazy about lifting leading up to the Marine Corps Marathon, and even after, when my usual gym at the National Naval Medical Center- Bethesda closed. I added my routine back to my workout schedule a couple weeks ago to great effect — I’m sore pretty much all the time, since I’m basically starting over, but I already feel stronger and more balanced.

On Friday, at my new gym, I got an unexpected bonus. A trainer named Lenny saw me alternating core and arm exercises, and asked a tantalizing question: “Do you want me to show you something that’ll set your arms on fire?” This is like a Nordstrom salesman asking a serial shopper: “Do you just want those boots for free?” He proceeded to show me a series of moves that did, indeed set my arms on fire. And my abs. And my back. Just one example: He had me do chest-presses on an incline with an unweighted bar — but had me hold my legs in the air at a 45-degree angle to work my abs, too. My abs are still literally sore to the touch.

On Sunday, I got a similar treat when I attended a strength-training class for runners held by Robert Gillanders, an ultramarathoner and physical therapist I’ve profiled for Examiner.com. The class at the Water Street Gym in Georgetown included several of the exercises shown in the injury-prevention workout Gillanders created for Examiner.com, but some of the tweaks still caught me by surprise. One example: While doing the plank position, he had us move one leg back and forth. Yeowch!

This week, I’m feeling motivated by this return to the weight room, which I’m adding to my existing IT band plan. Better yet, Gillanders’ class gave me a few new moves to add to the mix.

Also motivating me this week: the promise of a post-run happy hour at Adega, a cool little restaurant and wine bar in Silver Spring, after my group run tomorrow night. Oh — and my desire to run off the Christmas cookies I baked yesterday. Because my beloved University of Colorado’s football team may have lost to Nebraska on Friday, but this CU fan is still making Buffalo-themed Christmas cookies.

What’s motivating you this week?

My CU-themed, buffalo-shaped cookies.



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