Saturday, August 8, 2015

2015 was the year I started....Zumba!

In January 2015, I started the Ragnar Challenge.  You had a new challenge each week, for 4 weeks. Week 1 was 'chasing the sunrise', week 2 was 'chasing the sunset', week 3 was 'workout with a partner' and week 4 was 'do something you've never done before'.  
Well, I wanted to try rock climbing, but the week got away from me, and I found myself near the end of the challenge, without having done anything new.  So I ran a mile around my living room.  That's new, right?  Except that it felt like it wasn't technically something I had never done before.  So, I ran down to the gym, and decided to take a class.  It happened to be zumba.  OK....not really my kind of thing, but it qualified as something new.  
I can't really remember the first lesson - except the instructor.  She was so full of life and energy and passion for the dance - and it was infectious.  I didn't know what I was doing, but I went back the next week and the week after.  It was refreshing and so different from anything I've ever done, and it was fantastic.  Thursdays became the highlight of the week.  But I kept at it, and started improving.  Soon I knew a few dance steps and had a few cool moves! I wasn't quite at the stage of dripping in sweat, because I was still learning the steps.  But I can report, that my last month of classes have seen me as sweaty as I get after a run.  

So what is zumba? Zumba is a Latin cardio-dance party, and the atmosphere literally makes you feel like  you're at a party!  My instructor uses Latin, World, Rai, Bollywood - all kinds of music - and the result is an electro charged dance session that is off the charts! I am 8 months in to this class, and I am still enjoying it a lot.  I also think it's a very useful for runners.  Here's why.

Zumba makes you use different muscles than those from running (ok., we knew that), but the dexterity and co-ordination required for this activity, makes you use quick twitch muscles. Running is quite repetitive, and if you're like me, you might also have tight hip flexors, IT bands etc.  Well, zumba is excellent cross-training, because it forces you to use those hips, hamstrings and the constant switching of steps make you use muscles you don't usually, and give your 'running' ones a break!  Not to mention the cardiovascular benefits - I was struggling to keep up when I first joined, but gradually my stamina and core strength increased.  And now I can keep up.  Recently I missed 2 weeks due to my mum visiting, and when I went back, I could feel how my fitness had gone down again.  
Whilst mum was here, I took her with me to class where she did a variation all of her own.    But she loved the atmosphere and the people she met - besides just enjoying herself and having fun.
 Zumba can be pretty competitive as well.  I didn't think so at the time, but when you're there, you want to do your best.  And I tend to stand in the front row as well - yes I've grown that much in confidence.  Initially I stood in front so that I could watch my instructor and learn the moves.  Now I stand in front because yes, I still have lots of moves to learn, but I want to improve my form and watch myself in the mirror too :-)  I think zumba is a keeper!

Running in Beauty aka Trail Running

At the end of 2014, one of my running goals for 2015, was to do a few trail runs.  I was still in my funk, and thought that maybe if I challenged myself with something new, I would feel the love again (OK I did resolve that issue - see post on Mental Resilience). I signed up for my first trail race, the Crystal Springs half marathon, to be run on January 11, 2015.  But then looking around in December, I found myself on the starting line of the Woodside Trail Run, and in for 17K.  
Trail running is such an interesting experience, and not for the faint of heart.  Besides the elevation, the different distances are marked by colored ribbons.  Not for the faint of heart, to me means, be prepared to run alone, through the woods for a long time! My first trail run was full of elation.  I loved it!  It was a a sunny wintery day, and when I finally got to the park where the race was to be held, I thought I was in the wrong place, as there were so few people.  
I got my number, walked back to the car to drop off the t-shirt, and then back to the starting line. I saw people in padded jackets and woolly hats and gloves, but thought nothing of it.  Once I was in the woods, I realized that it was a very useful thing to have a woolly hat, as we were running in the shade, and it was pretty cold. Still, I never remembered that for subsequent races, and have always been cold.
I ran 17K (10.5 miles) in 2:26.  Yes, a long time, but I did a lot of climbing.  
There is also a small 4 mile trail not too far from where I live that has a few climbs and eventually leads down to the beach.  I love running that trail, as it is so beautiful to run, and then suddenly see the sea.  It reminds me a bit of Cape Town, and makes me quite homesick.  It is a very special route to me, and when I run it, it is always with very high feelings and emotions.  One day, I'll learn how to run it with just the technical aspects in my mind!
My last trail race was in early May.  Brilliant 5 miles.  it was a day where the stars aligned, as in great course, good friend to run with, cool swag and fantastic finish for me - 1:12.  Trail running is challenging, and sometimes I feel like a tortoise, but I am thinking of signing up for another race pretty soon.  I might go run my trail sometime this week too....

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

What being a runner like me means.......

For many years I've always wanted to be a faster runner, a stronger runner, a better runner.  But I've also wanted to run like "Peter, Mary, Jack and Jill".  I could think of loads of runners, different from me, whom I wanted to emulate.  Yes, I knew long ago that I had my own journey.  But, there was always a "but".  And that detracts from my journey, from my experiences.  Yes, I might not be the fastest or the most dedicated runner, but I think I have had a very interesting running life. And no, I don't want to run like anyone else  Yes, I'd like to run at a constant 8:30 speed one day, but it's a journey, a long term project - with milestones and smaller goals scattered in between. I guess I'm writing this because I've finally understood that a lot of people run.  Not all of them have a  relationship with running.  I know, we're all different.  But it is whilst on the journey that we define the runner that we become.
I went to a core exercise class today.  it was actually quite good for me.  It also reminded me of when i was up at university, and used to do those Tae Bo kicking boxing dvds.  They were excellent, and because I had such irregular hours, I would sometimes be doing them at 2am.  Talk about muscle memory!  It has been years since I've done one of those classes, but today, it all came back.  It was tough, but it seemed to come 'easily' enough.  I enjoyed it, and I know it will help my core. So tomorrow morning, I'll try and go for an early morning run.  Not my best moments, but I'm going to try (again) to get a morning groove going.......

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Running in DC

The last week of June found me in Washington DC for a conference.  It was hot and humid and I didn't sleep much.  But I got in some good runs, notwithstanding the humidity, and being in a trance for that entire week.   
The first was the Monday after I arrived.  It was a 5K raising money to vaccinate children in developing countries.  With a 6:30am start, it was already hot and humid.  I hadn't slept a wink, and in effect, 6:30am was really 3:30 am for me.  Still, I managed to get out there and run.  Within minutes I was bathed in sweat, which after 3 miles, was dripping into my eyes, and literally off my face - something which never really happens to me.

It was tough getting up in the morning, but I managed to get to the gym a few times and run on the treadmill.  Short, three-mile runs, but so refreshing and cool. Then Thursday night, I decided to do a longish  run. I ran from the hotel up to the the National Mall. And what a glorious run that was! i stopped and took loads of pics, but it was really exciting to be in the capital, and run around those historic places. it wasn't too long, but look at that cool map - SF to DC! 

I ran up to the National Mall, did a few loops there, and then ran down to the Lincoln Memorial.  It was truly magnificent.

On the way back, I ran past the Smithsonian Museum. How could I not stop off?  It was a hive of activity, as it was National schools week - where schools from different states present their history project.  I stopped off at Nebraska, where the kids had done a project on NASA.  Had a chat with them, and then hurried off to see a piece which I have seen on 3 previous visits: The Woolworths Lunch Counter. That is such a powerful piece, and I wish everyone had the opportunity to see it.

When I finally got back to the hotel, I was knackered.  However, Thursday was the last night of the conference, and for the first time in almost a week, I slept for at least 3 hours.  No time for a run the next day, but I did catch a wonderful exhibition showcasing Yasuo Kuniyoshi, a Japanese-American artist, at the National Portrait Gallery.  All in all, a very successful run week, as well as a satisfactory cultural experience!