Sunday, February 28, 2010

Honey, I'm Back

The result is out: I am deemed fit to run again.

 After a weeklong back to back checkup with my doctor (which involved a lot of waiting), a long MRI session in which I was hoping for a good looking McDreamy from Grey's Anatomy analysing my scans, and a series of knee tests, he said that aside from the genetic flaw of my bone structure and the spurs already formed and the bone degeneration at some places, technically, there shouldn't be any reason I should not run. He would have preferred I don't run, but walk instead, and we have agreed to settle on doing moderate distances.

 Marathons are out. The training it takes to get there will make my knees cry, "Uncle!". Forget about trails, even the thought of them makes my knees cringe reflectively like some kind of a Pavlovian response. Not going to unearth the Nepal memories again!

 To be honest, I am in a cross between euphoria and trepidation. I haven't been running for 3 months? I have let go of all running things - schedules, blogs, etc - and even though they seemed hard at first by now it has become natural for me not to think of running. The first month, I would drive past the lake on the way back from work and out of habit would turn my head and look at the runners to see if I could catch a glimpse of familiar figures. Because I would not be joining them as I had many many times before, I would feel a twinge. But now I just drive past, and if I happened to be glancing at the runners, I would think, "Damn, that's tiring!"

 In my quest to compensate the cardio benefits of running in my life, I have stuffed as many other sports that I could into my busy week. I bought a bike. I took swimming seriously (to be honest, sometimes I regretted it. I miss swimming and NOT caring about techniques), I in-line skate like crazy (the. best. rush. ever), I continued with karate (awesome drills!), and incorporate yoga in between (seriously, yoga is definitely not for grandmas only. You do NOT need a gym after giving this a try).

 I have been carrying the 'runner' tag for too long on my back until the last few months when I began to enjoy other activities. I became obsessed with sparring, I practiced speed skating uphills, I map out cycling routes that would make me die halfway, planned out swimming drills, and would go crazy if I missed out on one vinyasa class. I am not a runner anymore - I am a cardio freak!

  So now I am left trying to figure out my weekly schedules. I have crammed them full until Sunday. Everyday is filled with either yoga, skating, swimming, biking and karate. I don't know when I could squeeze in some running time without jeopardizing my family and the wrath from my soon to be neglected boyfriend hehe. I still want to have friends after running races you know. Even my mom is starting to be unhappy with how dark I have become and how unwomanly (since I'm decked out in tshirts and sports bag and flip flops with uncombed hair in between). But that is another story.

 Anyway, my first race for 2010: Energizer Night Race. I registered for a 10km. With my dad. I don't really like hyped up races but I'm not complaining. After all, a race is still a race. I might be starting my run tomorrow... or maybe Tuesday. We'll see, won't we?

 All I know right now is, "Damnit, running is tiring!" 

 I think I'm just going to walk.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Downside of Trying To Be Actively Healthy

I got home from today's swim session feeling like my head is going to split into two. The first time it happened - it was about 3 weeks ago - was when I came home from a swim, fixed myself breakfast, and 20 minutes later, vomited the contents out with a severe pounding headache. 

 The doctor diagnosed it as a migraine, and well, he found out what my trigger points were. I can't have chocolates, any cocoa based food (milo included), cheese, mandarin oranges, and I forget what else. I was shoveling all of those a few days before on a continuous basis. 

 However, the headache is acting up again. Even as I'm typing this, there's literally a hot vise gripping around my skull and the pain is both pounding and throbbing. And when I googled, I found out that I'm not alone:

 They called it a Swimmer's Migraines, or Headaches, and many people have either felt it or experienced it on a normal basis. The culprits are likely to be tight goggles, tight cap, or dehydration. Also some articles discussed about CO2 buildup which is caused by inefficient breathing during the swim. 

 My own diagnosis is that I am dehydrated. This is my biggest weakness in doing sports - I tend to go a whole workout without water and food and always ended the exercises feeling waaay too exhausted and spent. For instance today I can't remember drinking anything on the way and even while swimming and when I arrived in my parent's house in Nilai I took my time puttering, reading books, playing with my cat before having a glass of water. By then the headache was already saying Hello to me.

 My sister saw me drinking loads of water and asked why. When I explained it to her, she said, "Wow, there sure are a lot of pitfalls in working out. X-rays this, X-rays that, weak knees, migraines, and the works."
 She added, "Not to rain on your parade, but I think I'm healthier than you!"

 Straight away I knew that I am giving out the wrong message about staying healthy. Exercising is the number one choice to start getting healthy, but you have to do it properly. Overtraining, over excessive use of muscles, bad nutrient and diet won't make you any better even if you work out 6 days per week. There's a whole load of injuries and ailments waiting for you out there - swimmer's Ear, Swimmer's Migraines, Runner's Knees, handlebar palsy, etc.

And mother of all: dehydration: lack of water! oh why do I do this to myself?

 Have to train myself to take care of the 'other' part of being healthy. Proper food, proper fueling and proper rest. 

 Arrrgh pening gilaaa

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Look Ma, I'm Not Tired! (and zipping through trees)

I've been having a good month so far since December working out a sweat. At first the daily ritual of waking up early during weekends to play sports were a bit torturous since I wake up at 530 am for work and I always love to sleep but after about 2 weeks I find it easier.

There are a lot of benefits of working out. And since we are all runners I don't really have do much convincing about it. I only know that my sleep patterns are much more on track now, and instead of getting tired easily I always wake up refreshed. The most obvious would be my eating habits. I seem to be eating good food continously these days. I had the worst dietary habit ever for years thanks to being a stressed out engineering student on scholarship wrath. Sometimes I forget to eat my meals and always had crackers or maggi noodles endlessly to fill up. But since I've been playing sports I keep wanting to eat, and I find myself reaching for 'good' food. Raisins, oatmeal, bananas, cereal, nuts, milk, veggies, etc. They're filling, not heavy and gives me energy for evening's workouts. Plus the healthier you are the more aware of what you put in your body. It doesn't make sense to sabotage your good efforts.

Last Monday I took a break from all my sports to join my friends for this thing called the SkyTrek Adventure. If you haven't heard of it, it's in Bukit Cerakah, Shah Alam, and it would have you strapped in a harness, 22 feet above ground, zipping from tree to tree either by doing flying foxes, or going through the obstacles. The obstacles vary; you had to walk across a tightrope, or through loops, or 'charlie chaplin' style (refer pics), etc. There's a platform on each tree and only 3 people are allowed on it. Most of these obstacles were challenging in a way that you have to be mentally ready to attempt them with the ground way below you, plus without any support underneath they require you to use your muscles to balance yourself when you wobble on them (and you will wobble and jiggle and hobble, I tell you). All in all it took us about 3 hours to complete I think about 11 obstacles.

The Skytrek offers variety of packages but we took the Extreme one. It is RM 45 each, but since we booked for a large group - 14 pax - we got a discount (rm40.50 each).

That is me climbing the first step to the first challenge. It's really high! I thought I would be ok, but halfway up I started to get nervous and was thisclose to give up - on the first challenge!

First flying fox... well technically it's not really a flying fox since you don't zip across a river but it was a rush nevertheless! Beware of reaching to the platform too fast, most of my friends with a larger mass tend to hit the tree with a thud!

Another flying fox challenge. Could you see the small platform at the end?

One of the obstacles. This was hard cause the tubes move back and forth like crazy! You need strong core muscles and quads+hams to stable yourself!

Charlie Chaplin as modeled by my friend. heheh.

One of the many flying foxes stations. I enjoyed this.

Everybody was exhausted either in the middle of doing the obstacles or slumped on the platform. I found myself still steady and active and I totally owed it to the fact that I exercise everyday. The scorching sun didn't really bother me, plus lack of water didn't really foil my mood, and I even closed the day with a nice in-line skate session at night! Working out gives you tons of energy ok. Why don't more people do this?

All in all, it was a good overall body workout. Not only you have to use strength (to lift yourself up on the stairs and platforms) you have to use your balance, co-ordination, and mental power to conquer this challenge. We all sweated buckets, even my boyfriend, who is having his off season for football, was panting a little bit. Well, he was deathly afraid of heights and had worn himself out during the first climb heheheh.

And plus after this Skytrek, one could always go for a run or rent a bike and cycle up the hills and peaks for a nice exercise. They have good supply of snacks and refreshment stands spread around the park too, so you're never deprived of fuel.

10 more days until I start running!! Wowwwwieee Junior Juice! I'm so nervous and excited it felt like the night before I went to Disneyland at age 13. hahaha.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


I have forgotten at which point in my life that sports and working out took over and my social life ends. Truth to be told, I actually enjoyed this routine of work, train and sleep if it weren't for my family and friends making noise. I come home every day feeling physically knackered but mentally satisfied and 10 minutes after settling down at home I feel really sleepy. It wasn't until yesterday night when my boyfriend (whom I have not seen for weeks due to me being tired) dragged me out to dinner and my friends were all waiting for me that I realized how far out I have been with my workout. It felt like a suprise birthday party or a welcome back shindig. Welcome back from a coma more like it.

There is absolutely no balance in my life which is ironic considering the fact that balance is such a pivotal aspect in all the sports I play. Everyday during yoga class we spend a good 10 minutes achieving this perfect balance of mind and body integration. And it is not easy to do - the poses. Everytime each of us fumbles and staggers out of our still poses the yoga teacher says, "Aaah, I told you the search of being balanced is lifelong and humbling." Religion also promotes the concept of balance - wasatiah it's called in Islam if I'm not mistaken. Balance is such a crucial point in swimming - you need it for a good bodyroll and streamline. In running balance provides you that stability which maximises running efficiency and definitely lessens injuries caused from tripping, etc. And, you can't cycle at all if you can't balance your bike. Hence, balance is such a useful and important thing to master. And I suck at it, in real life.

I have long ago given up on explaining to others around me why I do the things I do. It's the kind of thing that only a few understand - fellow runners, swimmers, exercise enthusiasts. We blog about this from time to time - how nobody understands us and how people think we're crazy for putting our bodies to such torture. Why? Why do we push ourselves to run until our lungs felt hot, until our legs feel sore, why are we okay to endure waking up with sore muscles? Only you and I know why, and sometimes we can't even explain it.

Nevertheless, all these hard work is useless if I can't pick up one thing I learned from the sports and apply it in real life. What good would practicing balance in each of these sports be if I can't even find time to see my friends and family? Sports have a lot of benefits which I try to reap and I do not want them to have a negative effect to my life.

Two days back in an intense karate session we had to do a series of suicides drills. Suicides is a term borrowed from basketball - where you have to sprint to the middle point of the court, back again, then sprint to the other end of the court, and back again. Basically it's like a sprint interval which leaves you feeling like you are committing suicide. We do these after a session of lunges and karate squats that burned the thighs but prepped our legs enough to feel lighter during the suicides. I wrote about the importance of speed plays earlier and I can't recommend this enough. I believe doing sprints are good for our leg power and also heart. It introduces muscle memory for both parts - at least that's what I think it does for me. You get better after a while, faster, stronger.

Also, I want to share with your this tip given from my karate teacher. During our warm-up run, he insists on us closing one nostril and breathing through only one. This increases lung power and your anaerobic efficiency. Whether it's true or not, I didn't find out. But what I know is that it was harder to breathe and I felt insanely tortured upon doing it the first few times, but I also recover faster and run better when I breathe through two nostrils. Anyways, it's always a good challenge to use on the days you felt your warm up or LSD run is getting too easy for you.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Speed Play and Washboard Abs

You meet a lot of runners when you run as well. It's all part and parcel of the sport - the social part of it that is equally satisfying as the run itself.

I know these 2 runners whom I consider to be awesome. Both of them happened to be ladies, and both of them are my friends. The first one was my running buddy when we were in high school. We played field hockey for the school, and our positions were either wingers or midfielders, therefore running is a complete must. Every evening we would walk to the lake, run endlessly until we were blue in the face, then walk back again. I was a runner before, she took up running because of field hockey. Nevertheless she was one fantastic runner. I remember thinking she must have had the lungs of a racehorse.

The second one I had the liberty of knowing when I couchsurfed (a term used for travellers to sleep at people's houses - for free) her house during the final leg of my backpacking trip. We started talking, and we were elated to discover that we both run. I had my running shoes with me, and she had hers, and the next thing we knew we were headed out to run at the Hyde park. Later, I would like to think that it was the cold weather, or the fact that I have been traveling for 44 days, or I haven't been eating well, but it didn't hide the fact that she smoked me like a BBQ machine. If my high school friend was a racehorse, this lady is one of the descendant of the Kalahari Bushmen. I gave up trying to catch her and walked in the park instead ogling the Brit men.

I was thinking about both of my friends one day and realized two things they have in common: their runs are mostly speed intervals and they have bad ass abs - both of them. Me being the type of a nerdy runner - good in theory but not in practice - know about the importance of speed intervals and how having a strong core helps your running, but haven't been able to achieve either both of them continuosly. I remember both my friends doing their ab workouts - my highschool friend doing crunches and leg lifts during hockey practice, the london friend doing abs exercises on the exercise ball after we finished running. This would be the reason why they are still in good form after 80 minutes of running. When I was trailing behind the londoner after an hour plus, she was still energetic, her form steady. No kidding, she has a ripped stomach. and the speed to match.

Also, their runs are 99% speed plays or fartleks or whatever you call it. Which explains why I couldn't catch up. The londoner would run at a fast pace for a while, then she would slow down or stop to jog up the stairs, then she would speed up again. Back then, I thought she was just undiscplined, or rather, wacky. I mean, she shot out and then jogged and would repeat it for many times. But her running style proved to be effective. She was one of my friends who have no training schedules at all for races, instead joining them because she likes running, and would clock in about 2:05, 1:58, 2:03 for her half-marathons. The last one she did, she clocked in 1:58 without any single training at all. She has yet to try a marathon although I would love to see her do it. All in her trusty Reeboks.

As I'm writing this, I'm thinking of my own running future, or lack of it. It seems like I have to give my knees more time to rest than I planned to, as they still hurt even after two months. I am none too pleased, but I would rather rest for a long time than not run at all. I hope to see the doctor after this to get his advice, so for now it's back to karate and other cardios for me.

Also, good luck to those of you who are running the PNM! I might be there to cheer on my cousins and also, my dad has decided to pirate the run since I was too late in registering him. Can you believe it? 58 years old and still want to be a badass? Haih.