Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Rockin' it

The monkey bars were never my friend. I can still remember the feeling of clammy fingers slipping off the cold, thin, metal bars. Not that I didn’t enjoy climbing. There was a swing set whose bars were wider, and their peeling paint provided traction for my sweaty hands that the monkey bars didn’t have. I remember swinging sideways with each hand on one of the A-frame support beams, inching up to the top. But that was it.
By the time we had the opportunity to climb the rope to the ceiling in gym class years later, I didn’t have the strength. (Props to Mom, by the way, for telling me that vacuuming would help build that arm and core strength. Best way to get your kids to do chore, hands down.)
But now I’m ready to build that strength, learn the ropes, and rock climb. My hands haven’t changed, but that’s what they make chalk for, right?
I took a lesson at a gym in January and liked it enough to buy my own shoes and harness. I’ve tried out a couple of other gyms over the past 2 months, and while I’m not exactly a natural, I’m stoked about this new sport. After running for so much of my life, it feels amazing to use my body to move in different ways.

I’ve been doing a mix of bouldering and top-roping. Bouldering is climbing without ropes on short walls with crash pads underneath. The walls are often slanted out or overhung, like you would find on a rounded boulder. It requires a lot of planning, upper body strength, and balancing and transferring weight evenly.

Top-roping involves a rope strung between the climber, a fixed point above, and a partner (called a belayer) holding the end of the rope below. These walls are also often overhung, but they generally mimic flat rock faces. I prefer top-roping (partially because it is easier, and partially because I feel safer with the ropes), but bouldering is a great way to build strength.  
The holds are color coded to form routes with varying degrees of difficulty. There are a lot of easy routes that I have not yet been able to finish, but every time I go back, I can tell that I'm stronger and able to get farther along. 
I've been training a little at home by doing push ups, pull ups, and using a grip strengthener for fingers and forearms. I've been reading intro to rock climbing books and watching videos on technique, and I'm always excited when I have enough free time to head back to the rock gym.  The sport just keeps getting more exciting as I get better. 
I miss running more than I can say, but I'm so thankful to have found other fun ways to move about. 
Ever on!

Friday, April 3, 2015

The Not-So-Sweet Life

Almost any runner can tell you that periods when you are forced to rest are the worst. Don't mess with a girl during her taper. God help you if she's stopped because of an injury.

Well, that's been me. I've been off running - and almost all exercise for that matter - since completing my first marathon almost 5 months ago. The tendonitis in my left knee just still isn't better. For months the deep snow we had here in the northeast prevented me from even being able to step outside without irritating my knee. 

Luckily, in December, I was surprised with the most amazing distraction ever: a puppy!

Meet Pippin!
My husband came home one night holding a box with this little fluff ball curled up inside of it! So days were spent very happily playing with squeaky toys inside, but frequent housebreaking trips outside aggravated my knee constantly. 

I had imagined that I'd be able to run again by February, but that just wasn't going to happen. I told myself that I needed to keep my diet healthy since I couldn't exercise, and that's when I made a big discovery: I was seriously addicted to sugar and could not control my junk food cravings. When I ate half a tray of blondie bars the night of the Superbowl instead of one small bar like I intended, I decided that I needed to do something. By the end of that week, I had given up added sugar. I want to stop my reliance on sugar so that once in a while I can have a scoop of ice cream or a slice of cake and say "That was really sweet" and go on with my normal healthy eating and be in control of myself. I intend for it to be a permanent lifestyle change and have been holding to it for two months now.

I don't know about other people, but for me, sugar had been a necessary end to every meal, even breakfast. I would eat a healthy salad or vegetable-rich lunch at work and then follow it up with three large handfuls of M&Ms (intending for it only to be one small handful, of course.) If there weren't dessert options, I'd go as far as to eat honey or maple syrup straight up just to get a sugar fix. The idea of ever passing up dessert was unthinkable, and if many sugary items were available, I was compelled to sample a little of every one, which always adds up. Looking back on it, I can't believe I was able to quit, but I was determined to make a change, and that made all the difference. And now, I can enjoy healthier foods more fully, because things that are not sugary, or which have a little bit of fruit in them, are incredibly satisfying.

Cutting out sugary junk has been one of the best things I've ever done for my health, and I don't think that I would have been able to do it if I had been exercising, which is a bit of a silver lining.

Even though my knee is still bothering me, it has improved since the snow has melted, and I have been able to do some light exercising, which feels amazing.

I had a second MRI in March, which again showed inflammation but no injury. That is frustrating, but I am optimistic because I found that cold-therapy was actually irritating it more. I'll be going back to physical therapy, and hopefully using warmth and ultrasound treatments, I'll be able to kick the tendonitis to the curb and then work on alignment, evening muscle imbalances, and improving flexibility to get to the root of the problem.

It feels that I haven't run in forever, but a lot of good has happened in the mean time, and the not-so-sweet life has actually become quite palatable.

Stay tuned for posts about the cross-training adventures I have planned!