Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The "Heart" of an Athlete

Since my last blog was two weeks ago, I probably should confess a few things…

I am working out every single day I can. I am training for the Spring Dash, a local 5 mile race on April 17. I decided to run it this year after walking the whole way last year.

I have been training pretty hard for it, because despite my knowledge that I can finish it, I really want to run it.

Now, to clarify how I define running…

Right now I can run pretty steady at 4mph for at least a mile. That was my pace at the triathlon last September. The funny thing about that is, when my friend “Iron Tony” was helping finish my training before my race, he was walking beside me while I ran!

I see the other folks at the gym running 6mph or faster, and I assume that when you aren’t lugging my kind of weight with you, that is how fast you can actually run.

I decided that I want to increase my speed, so with the help of my fitness coach, encouragement from a few friends, I decided to up my speed. Carefully. Or so I thought.

This is where it gets interesting.

The canned response for almost anyone encouraging anyone to do anything is “Of course you can do it!” but you have to take in to consideration your audience. Most people are reasonable and stop when they know they are supposed to. I didn’t.

Last Friday, after being cooped up in the house for 3 days with sick kids AGAIN, I finally made it to the Kroc for a good hard workout. I needed it. I needed the endorphins and the pent up mommy frustrations to be pounded out on the treadmill and in my strength training routine.

My goal – Walk 5 minutes at 3mph, which for me is a pretty good pace, stop and stretch a bit, then run for 3 minutes at 4.5mph, walk a minute, 3 min run for 5 sets of 3 minute runs. It doesn’t seem unreasonable does it? I didn’t think so.

I am running along the first set staying relaxed, keeping my breathing even, and keeping an eye on my heart rate on the machine (I do not have a heart monitor). I ran my second and third set pushing harder as my heart rate continued to climb and I was having to really focus on my breathing. During my fourth set I noticed my hands were starting to tingle a bit, I grabbed the monitor bar on the treadmill and my heart rate was higher than I have seen it before. I walked for my minute and considered if I should push for the last set.

I decided I have spent 3 minutes of time wastefully and ridiculously in the past, why not push a little harder and finish my goal. I didn’t want to get all caught up in my head thinking I couldn’t do it when I was pretty sure I could. It’s just one foot in front of the other right?

As I started that 5th set, I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. During the first minute I remembered all the years I was an athletic trainer working “Hell Week” football and imagined this is how those poor guys felt running in the Cali heat in August!

My second minute I was noticing I had to breathe more carefully and try to relax a bit because breathing was becoming quite painful.

My third minute, I was so miserable I just pictured my backside in the mirror ( I have been making myself study my body in the mirror, making note of what I’d like to change and what changes are happening – Yes, I even “flex” a muscle or two ;)). Then I pictured how I wanted it to look. As I was staggering for the last 30 seconds I kept hanging on to the picture of the smaller behind. I grabbed the monitor bars in the last 15 seconds to check my heart rate and steady myself for the last few steps.


I finished my goal. My final heart rate 180 beats per minute. I walked for a few minutes holding the bars and watching my heart recover back down to 150ish, and then it stayed there for a bit. I decided to get off the machine and just walk around.

My chest HURT. It felt like I strapped an elephant to it and the weight just kept increasing. I sat for a few minutes and stretched my legs. The pounding was subsiding but my whole upper torso ached.

I picked up the kids from the playcare and headed for home. I made a few phone calls to see if anyone was available to ask about what was happening to my body. I eventually called my doctor, since he knows what I am doing for training. He said I likely strained myself pushing too hard and if I still hurt in a few days I should come see him.

The pain eventually subsided but spiked again the next day after my second set of 3 minute runs. So I stopped. Stretched and did some weights.

The next day was better, I could get through three sets, but had to slow down to 4mph for the last set.

The fourth day I did three sets again starting at 4mph, then a faster set at 4.5, then another set at 4.

Each time I completed my run I felt like collapsing. Each time I didn’t want to do it again. I was afraid it would hurt like before. I tried harder to listen to my body and today, I am resting. No running. For 24 hours.

You may think I am nuts. And quite honestly I do too. But right now I am pressing ahead for the vision of myself becoming an athlete. Every true athlete I know pushes past discomfort to really get the most out of their workouts. I think what I proved to myself on Friday is that I already have the “heart” (not physically- but mentally) of an athlete.  

1 comment:

  1. You absolutely have the heart of an athlete. I am so inspired because I wuss out EVERY time I try to run. Keep it up, Jennifer, in due course you will reap what you sow if you faint not.

    Love ya!