Category Archives: Fitness

Why I have blisters today

I joined Fitocracy back in mid-February. Quoting them: “Play Fitocracy to track your fitness activities, earn achievements, beat quests, and compete against your friends.” My emphasis is on tracking my fitness activities–the site gives you nice charts of time or distance or reps–but I’m happy that I’m almost to level 14 and have completed 9 quests.

There’s also groups, for different sports, or anything… There are two writers’ groups that I know of, and a couple health at every size type groups (one nice thing about the site is it’s not focused on dieting/weight loss, although there are groups for that). I joined a bodyweight strength training group. I find strength training dull, but the group follows a book called You Are Your Own Gym, which lays out training plans. It’s a lot more interesting than dumbbell exercises or endless pushups.

Of course I started at the most basic level in the book. I’m in week 6 of 10, and ran into some workouts that require a pull-up bar. (Or a door. But I found that difficult to hold onto.) So last week I bought a bar, and yesterday I put it up, with a lot of help from J on the last three incredibly stubborn screws. Getting them to go in was a workout in itself.

Right now I can’t actually do a pull-up. I can’t even do a negative pull-up–standing on a chair and starting with bent arms and just lowering myself down. I can’t even do those flexed-arm hangs from the junior high school fitness test. My plan is to do a couple assisted pull-ups (feet on a chair and some of my weight on my legs), or at least hang from the bar and move the 1 inch that I can, a few times a day, every day, until I can do one pull-up. It might take a while.

Even hanging from the bar hurts my hands right now.

And that’s why I have blisters on my palms.

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Foot Injury

I’ve spent the past few weeks not running or playing tennis. This made me sad.

I stopped because my foot hurt, and it wasn’t getting better. A trip to the doctor confirmed that it was not a stress fracture, which is good, but I have been under orders to rest it. So there’s been a lot of sitting on the couch and taping bags of ice to my sock (it is hard to balance ice on the top of your foot!). (And more swimming and strength training than usual.)

Last week I went for a walk, and that felt ok, so yesterday I played tennis. Lost miserably as usual, but my foot didn’t hurt. Just as a precaution I iced it afterwards, but maybe it’ll be ok for tennis now.

I’m still avoiding running, since I want to add things back slowly. I don’t think I can do the 10k that I’m signed up for at the end of April. I hadn’t worked up to running that far, and with having to take a few weeks off and wanting to start again slowly, it’s just not going to happen.

At least my swimming’s improving.


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Running music

I love to listen to music when I run. In fact, driving and running are pretty much the only times I listen to music. Most other times, I’m reading or writing, and don’t want the distraction. When I’m running, my brain turns songs into stories.

While there are a lot of songs I listen to over and over again, hearing the same few dozen three times a week does get tiresome. So I decided to try out Spotify, since the premium version lets me download music to my iPod. And unlike buying albums, I can change them any time I want.

My current running playlist is only about 40 songs–I’ve been adding new things, but taking away the songs I own that I’ve gotten sick of. I hope to get it up to something that makes it less likely that I’ll hear the same song two runs in a row. (I think there’s a 3,333 song limit. That should do it.)

I’ve been adding things from NPR’s workout playlist. But currently, the artist with the most tunes on my playlist is…a tie between Eileen Ivers and the cast of Glee. I do like variety.

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Fitness Plans

Last year was pretty good, fitness-wise. I did my first triathlon in ten years, and I achieved my best time ever in a 5k. Plus I joined a tennis league for the first time.

My plans for this year include more tennis league–it would be nice to get out of last place by the end of 2012–and more races:

  • 10k on April 28 – my first running race over 5k. I’m following a training program to get up to that distance, which I haven’t run in a few years. It’s going well but I haven’t been worrying about speed yet.
  • Tri the Illini again (early October). I’d like to have more energy left for the run.
  • Rattlesnake Master 5k (November)

Right now, I’m running three times a week, swimming twice a week, doing tennis class or league twice a week, and weights or yoga twice a week (yes, that adds up to more than 7). After the 10k, I’m going to have to cut the running back to 2 days a week again to make room for biking. It’d be nice to have time for everything, but sadly life just doesn’t work that way.


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10k training

I’ve done several 5k races in the past two years, and while my time hasn’t improved by a whole lot, it seems like time to try for more. So I signed up for the 10k at the Illinois marathon on April 28. It’s a big enough race that even at my slowest, I shouldn’t be crossing the finish line way behind the second-to-last person. (Ok, I should be well ahead of the last person. But I am slow.)

I signed up way early so I would commit to training for it. I’ve slowly added a third running day to my weekly schedule and found a 10k training program. Once I’ve got that new third day up to a respectable distance I’ll be at the starting week for the training program.

Of course, it’s now getting dark and icy…which tends to make me run less in winter. I’m going to try running at lunch instead of before or after work so I can see the icy spots. Not today, since it’s not supposed to be damp overnight (by the time this posts I’ll know how that worked out, but I’m writing this Sunday night). Maybe Wednesday. We’ve got a shower at work, though I’m sort of suspicious of it. Time will be a bigger question. Anyone want to place bets on how my winter running plans go?

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Tennis league

A few months ago, I said we were taking tennis classes. Well, the Champaign Park District offers classes year-round at its indoor tennis center, so we’re still taking classes. At the same level that we’ve been in since June, with a bunch of the same people. Which is pretty nice since we’re all improving together.

I’d rather be outside, but inside there’s no wind and more importantly, no sun in my eyes or rain, so I’m happy to have this option. And they’ve got nets to block off your court from the adjacent ones–no chasing your ball across three courts! I love that so very much.

Anyway. J and I have joined a tennis league. He joined in the previous session, so this is the second time for him this fall. There are four leagues and we’re in the lowest one, of course. If you end up winning, you get an invite to the next-level-up league. I’m in last place out of four right now. In first place is a woman who would be in the next-level-up league, except it doesn’t fit her schedule. J is in third and I’m annoyed that he’s beating me by so much. I was better than him when we started playing.

My goal for the league is a) not get kicked out for losing too badly, b) win one game off the person on 1st place, and c) tie J when I play him. (He beat me soundly last week, but I’d run a 5k that morning).

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Triathlon results

I finished! That was my goal. Not coming in dead last was just a bonus. (And in fact, I was last in my age group. Someone has to be.)

Tri the Illini Oct 2, 2011

overall 329/350 (number) 418/442 (place) (I have no idea what the difference is)

swim (300m) 11:14.6 (3:45 per 100m) – This includes the jog from the pool to the transition area. By my watch, the swim was about 9:49, which is still super slow. I did manage to pass two people: one guy stopped at the wall for no reason, and another guy was swimming across the deep part and walking the shallow ends, so I passed him while he was walking. I didn’t even try to count the people who passed me. Swimming is not my thing.

bike (14.5mi) 1:04:35.5 (13.4 mph) – Biking isn’t my thing either. This killed me. It was mostly flat (welcome to Illinois), but a little windy (welcome to Illinois), and we managed to be going into the wind in more than one direction. Still, it wasn’t much over an hour, which was what I’d expected. My legs were hurting, though, which doesn’t usually happen on long rides. Also, I had forgotten both my water bottles at home, so I didn’t have anything to drink until I started running. I don’t recommend that…

run (5k) 43:23.7 (14 min/mi) – Running is also not my thing (triathlon: where you get to be bad at three sports). My legs were killing me the whole time, so I did lots of walking, and eventually everything except one spot stopped hurting.

final 2:01:57.2 – The person who came in one place ahead of me beat me by about 45 seconds. She was in my age group, too, so I was only 45 s away from being not-last there.

This graph makes me laugh. Apparently not tying my shoes (I have elastic laces) or putting on a shirt after the swim means I gained 60 places after the first transition. And then lost them again on the bike.

Graphical results

Will I do this again next year? Maybe. I want to keep running, swimming, and biking, so why not. Next year I will remember my water, and should be a little faster at everything. And should have more endurance in general, because I’m signed up for a 10k next spring–I need to get my stamina up for tennis.


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Why Triathlon?

This is the prepared version of a speech I gave at Toastmasters a couple weeks ago.

I’m signed up to do the Tri the Illini triathlon at the beginning of October, and I wanted to talk about why.

Two years ago the occasional pain I got in my calves when I ran turned into an every run thing. And when I stopped running and just walked instead, it turned into an every walk thing. After far too many months, I talked to my doctor and discovered that I walk on the outsides of my feet, which puts strain on the outsides of my calves. I soon ended up with orthotics and stretching exercises that eliminated the pain.

Once I could run again, I didn’t want to risk another injury, so I wanted to limit my running to twice a week. That meant I had to find something else to do on the other days. While my legs had been hurting, I had decided it was time I tried swimming again.
Continue reading

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J and I have been taking tennis class all summer. This is the final week. It’s been fun; I feel like I’m at a point where I can get to the ball and hit it back reliably (except for the days when it was super hot out and I refused to run) and usually aim it, at least if I’m not playing one of the guys who hits the ball so hard all I can do is cower. And I don’t always double fault my serves. So now it’s a matter of getting better at everything instead of “I can’t do this at all”.

And then there’s strategy. Tennis strategy and my brain do not mix. We usually play doubles in class, where it seems even more complicated. When to move towards the net, who gets which ball…

We’re planning on signing up for more classes in the fall, when they’re only one day a week instead of two. Which is much easier to fit into my schedule, and maybe we’ll even have time to practice outside of class. This summer there’s been a weekly workout that some people in the class like, but it’s on the one night of the week I can’t go. I’m still waiting to see what the fall workout schedule is like. What we really should do is head up to the park on the weekends, but somehow that rarely happens.

But even without extra practice, I’ve improved a lot this summer. This year I’m hoping to keep playing instead of losing all my skills and starting over next summer.

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Swimming vs Sleep

Last week I signed up for the Tri the Illini triathlon. I’ve been timing my swimming since I had to tell them how fast I expect to finish that part in, but my times have been all over the place. And I plan to be faster by October. So we’ll see if there’s a big collision in the pool because I estimated wrong.

I recently started going to the pool in the morning instead of right after work. For one thing, in the summer I can’t go until 7 pm, which means either eating first or having dinner really late. And there’s still some kind of swim team taking over half the lanes. 

The pool’s a lot emptier in the morning, no swim team so far, and most of the time it’s been less crowded. It’s also nice to not have to think about it after work. But I have to drag myself out of bed and to the pool, which is rough because I’m not a morning person. Last week I didn’t swim at all, choosing to sleep instead (I had a few late nights).

This week, though, I have to get back to swimming. 

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