Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Baby steps

Wooohooo, the workouts are back! Okay, maybe there isn't much to talk about, but enough to get me excited, damn right!! I swam, I biked and I ran! Went to the pool a few times - thrice, more precisely, and increased my mileage from 1200m to 1400m in two weeks, going from sets of 100s to 200s, all with flipturns!! I sense a new season kick-starting soon ;-)
Tan lines, vintage bathing suits, goggle marks and empty pools.
Let's do this!
Good news is that my core is what hurt the most after these pool workouts. I must be doing something right. As for the flip turns, they don't make me feel like death anymore, so that's definitely progress! Just keep flippin', just keep flippin'... ummm, yea, something like that.

Then I went on the bike trainer, once, for 15 minutes, smallest gear. I must have elevated my heart rate for at least 1bpm, I even broke a sweat, despite the fan blowing sub-arctic air in my face. My hip bursa decided to act up 30 minutes later, so I didn't try again since. But at least I managed to make something flare, you know - cause and effect - because Google isn't that great at diagnosing mysterious injuries without a good cause. Needless to say, I took a little break afterwards, but there was one more thing to take care of before the end of the year.

I promised myself I'd run a mile if the injury didn't get worse. As soon as the bursa stopped hurting again, I put on my running shoes and went out. I wanted to run between 10 and 15 minutes, and I did a little loop around the block for a total of 12 minutes. Almost 2km! Yay me!! However, that was no easy feat. The road conditions were horrible, there was ice everywhere and I wasn't keen on falling on my face and breaking something else.
Ice and snow - watch your step!
So today I went with hubbs to the gym and ran for 20 min on the treadmill (1% incline). This time I ran 3.2km, and I even threw in a few strength exercises and stretches at the end.

Verdict? Nothing got worse. There might be hope after all. Here's to a promising 2014, and dare I say, pain free! Cheers, everyone, and a very Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Workout of the Day: Dying my hair at home

This is my first official update for the "40 steps to 40" project since I finally managed to cross off the list a goal: dying my hair at home. A workout of sorts, hence its own blog post.

First, I looked through my cabinet under the sink for the hair color box, which I must have bought sometime last year. In the process, I had to take out a large amount of items that were stored there, then put them back. Three minutes of lifting weights of 100g to 250g each, plus some leg, back and arm stretches.

I then prepared the dye by mixing several smelly potions together, then shook the bottle vigorously for a minute. Maybe this wasn't as difficult as Shake Weight, but it definitely made my right arm work a little.

I then applied the dye all over my hair, holding both my arms up for a total of 5 minutes at least, massaging my scalp lightly. Not sure how many muscle groups were used there, but for sure some shoulder, back and chest muscles were put to test.

After finishing the coloring, I proceeded to lying down on my bed and checking several social media websites for a total of 25 minutes. While on my stomach, I also did my glute exercises prescribed by my PT: 2 x 10 leg raises, each leg, bent at the knee, as well as other random leg movements that I don't remember.

Back in the bathroom, I then washed my hair while kneeling down and crouching, for a total of 5 more minutes. More work for the glutes, and some core work for keeping myself balanced while on my knees. Add holding my arms up and massaging my scalp all this time, a total body workout!

Got up (that totally counted as a squat) and applied magic conditioner cream to my hair. 1 more minute with my arms up. 

Back to crouching by the shower to wash my hair again, about 1 minute. Up once more (squat, yay!), then drying my hair, moving my arms while holding the towel, weight about 300g-400g wet.

And this is the result.
Abracadabra, no more gray hair!
Who's hot now, eh?
Damn, this workout made me look fabulous! I was feeling so good afterwards, that I even went on my bike trainer for 15 minutes (for the first time since Nov 30), on the lowest gear and I didn't get any pain. And to end the day, I put on my winter coat and went outside to walk for 2km in the snow.

This may not help burn the 8lb that I put on since I stopped exercising, but it's a start. Merry Christmas to me! A pain free day was the best gift today!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Heart and Courage

This year, for the first time ever, I applied for athlete sponsorship. I poked at other companies in the past, an email here, a tweet there, but most of them seemed to be focused on fast, super fit and rather skinny athletes, which I am not. Some answered with an email inviting me to apply, others didn't even care to acknowledge I existed. Some applications were way too complicated and made the process seem like a well kept secret to which you needed to have super powers to unlock the access, others had a gazillion questions on number of website visitors, number of social profiles, finish times, which was rather intimidating.

Enter Coeur Sports. I first learned about them via one of my friends on Twitter, and the fact that they launched on my birthday tickled my fancy. I looked at their designs and I got intrigued. Definitely stylish and the reviews were very positive. I started following them more closely as I thought they may be the answer to my prayer for a well fitting, cute and comfy kit for my first Ironman next year in August. I had no idea that they would sponsor athletes eventually. Then I watched the Super Sprint Triathlon Grand Prix in Las Vegas and saw their name above the finish line, and I could no longer ignore the signs. Not only they were legit and sponsored one of the coolest races ever, but they kept catching my eye when I was least expecting it. I established contact and to my surprise, I felt welcome to ask questions, to communicate, to share stories. It was so refreshing, I could not believe how different this experience felt, how friendly and caring the staff was. I kept telling myself "these people know how to treat their customers", and I wasn't even one yet.

So when their call for ambassadors was published on Facebook, I jumped on the opportunity. They were looking for people with a slightly twisted sense of humor (ha!) and that, at least, I thought I could pull off naturally (according to my kids). The application was rather straight forward - all questions were already on their website. Well organized, transparent, what else could you ask for? It took me a few hours to complete it - but I put my heart and soul in it. I really wanted this, but as with everything else in my life, including job interviews, I decided just to be myself and not try to fit the mold that I came across with the other companies. It may have went something like this. I don't have a recollection of everything I said, but it felt a bit like a braidump, more like this blog. My rule is to write and not over think - so I must have re-read myself once or twice to look for grammar mistakes, then hit send (is this getting long?).

And then it happened.
I was beyond myself. I was so happy, it's really hard to describe how amazing this felt. All of a sudden, my Facebook and Twitter lit up like a Christmas tree  - I felt included, that is. Being part of a team, it's always been my dream. Being connected with such a kick-ass group of athletes, it's beyond humbling. No matter how many times they went to Kona, whether they are fast or slow, or whether they did a triathlon or 20 of them, we connected. We're all in this together, with heart and courage, the values of Coeur Sports. I could not be more grateful.

Some of my online friends who have been such an inspiration for me over the years, ended being part of their Elite Team, and I'm absolutely stoked to be able to share the colors of the kit with them. It was the cherry on the cake to see them representing Coeur as well, and it definitely validated my gut feeling about the company and their ability to create a network of supportive and like minded women.

A few days have passed now and I gained quite a few new friends. We're getting to know each other, to discover our hobbies, blogs, pets and roads we travel. It's pretty cool. I feel a bit of a newbie at this sponsorship thing, I've never been looked after by a brand, so to speak - and I am excited beyond my ears. I am looking forward to getting to know the people behind Coeur a little better too.

You'll probably see me plug Coeur Sports over the next year, but it's for a good reason. I believe in their vision, I believe in their products and the way Coeur is going to help me grow as an athlete. This season is going to be awesome!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Advice to live by

A few days ago I came across a great list, originally published on the website Mind Body Green. It resonated with me instantly. As I was reading each of these "20 Things to Let Go Before the New Year", I kept on shaking my head. Yep. Yep. Yeppers. Again and again. I thought I'd share because I feel that it may help others who find themselves in the same funk as me at this time of the year. Enjoy!
No worries days with the ones you love are the best
1. Let go of all thoughts that don't make you feel empowered and strong.

2. Let go of feeling guilty for doing what you truly want to do.

3. Let go of the fear of the unknown; take one small step and watch the path reveal itself.

4. Let go of regrets; at one point in your life, that “whatever” was exactly what you wanted.

5. Let go of worrying; worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

6. Let go of blaming anyone for anything; be accountable for your own life. If you don’t like something, you have two choices, accept it or change it.

7. Let go of thinking you are damaged; you matter, and the world needs you just as you are.

8. Let go of thinking your dreams are not important; always follow your heart.

9. Let go of being the “go-to person” for everyone, all the time; stop blowing yourself off and take care of yourself first … because you matter.

10. Let go of thinking everyone else is happier, more successful or better off than you. You are right where you need to be. Your journey is unfolding perfectly for you.

11. Let go of thinking there's a right and wrong way to do things or to see the world. Enjoy the contrast and celebrate the diversity and richness of life.

12. Let go of cheating on your future with your past. It’s time to move on and tell a new story.

13. Let go of thinking you are not where you should be. You are right where you need to be to get to where you want to go, so start asking yourself where you want to go.

14. Let go of anger toward ex friends and family. We all deserve happiness and love; just because it is over doesn’t mean the love was wrong.

15. Let go of the need to do more and be more; for today, you've done the best you can, and that's enough.

16. Let go of thinking you have to know how to make it happen; we learn the way on the way.

17. Let go of your money woes — make a plan to pay off debt and focus on your abundance.

18. Let go of trying to save or change people. Everyone has her own path, and the best thing you can do is work on yourself and stop focusing on others.

19. Let go of trying to fit in and be accepted by everyone. Your uniqueness is what makes you outstanding.

20. Let go of self-hate. You are not the shape of your body or the number on the scale. Who you are matters, and the world needs you as you are. Celebrate you!
Winning at life!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Unless you were on the Moon for the last 2 days, you were probably one of the 4 10 million (and counting) people who made the video of this family of triathletes dancing in their jammies viral.

And for a good reason. Even though they made this video to plug their new business, it does not take away the fact that it's pretty well done and it helped put quite a big spotlight on triathlon. Speaking of which, as soon as I saw that they competed in a 70.3, I had to look up their results. Isn't what all of us triathletes do? The husband mentioned that his wife Kim finished in 6h40, but I was curious about his time too, you know, to see how modest and ... honest they were. I am a skeptic by nature, sorry.

And guess what? In the process I found an article by Penn Holderness himself, talking about their experience at Ironman Raleigh 70.3, with video and all. Check it out!

As for their results, if you are dying to know:
Keep on racing, the Holderness family, and good luck in your new venture! (you should bring those jammies to the after race parties ;-))

Monday, December 16, 2013

Never two without three

I remember writing on December 3rd...

One: GTPS (Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, aka hip bursitis)
Two: ITBS (Iliotibial band syndrome, aka mother effing IT band hell)
Three: hey, don't you think that's enough?!

It's now two weeks later and I feel that it's time for an update on my injuries, since I cannot update you on my workouts for not having done any.

I have been mostly sitting on my butt, literally, which is another issue in itself. Why? Because 4 physio therapy appointments later, I still have pain in my right hip radiating into my lateral hip muscles/tendons and into my quads whenever it feels like it. And it's not that painful either, but it's nagging. It's there to remind me every day that I'm not getting off that easy.

So today I had my 5th physio appointment and my therapist wasn't very impressed with my progress, even though she told me that I was only halfway into the treatment and that I should be patient. While I was lying on my good side, she started poking at my butt cheek, around the original site of the hip bursitis, but a little more towards the back, away from the hip. A minute later, she hit a spot and I screamed in pain. WTF was that!? The answer was "Oh, poor Irina, it's your piriformis".

So to add another injury to an injury, there is a number three after all:

Three : Piriformis strain (aka MORE pain in the butt)

Most likely it's been there since the beginning, but hidden by the most acute pain, coming from the hip and the ITB. Now that the first two have subsided, the deeper aches start to surface. Again it is hard to pinpoint exactly what happened. I may never know, but one thing I do know, is that I do a lot of things that prevent it to heal. Sitting all day and putting pressure on the strain is the worst. First change I need to make is to buy an inflatable donut cushion (or sit on my exercise ball - great idea, thanks Marlene). That's going to be interesting. Next, I need to stop crossing my legs when I sit. At home, whenever I lie down on the couch, my legs are always crossed as well. Last but not least, my PT noticed that I always point my feet inward, even when I rest. This is "mechanically" bad and I should stop doing it.

To treat it, ICE is my friend, as often as I can, especially during the day. Thankfully I'll be on vacation next week, and I can R.I.C.E all day long. Copious amounts of wine and chocolate should also help. Until then, I'll be waiting for a sign, and that sign is SILENCE (total Silence of The Lambs reference there). No more screaming in my hip, leg and butt cheek. And when that happens, I'm going to celebrate with some more wine and chocolate. Then hop on my bike for an easy spin, maybe a 15 min jog and a few easy laps in the pool (rest assured, not all at once). The New Year needs to start off the right foot, and not because it's at the bottom of my good leg. The New Year is going to be PAIN FREE and I know it's possible. I don't believe in miracles, but I believe in the power of positive thinking. I am going to get better.

This is not a very serious injury, I hope. But I am treating it with caution because it could blow up as quickly as it showed up, uninvited, that is. This is my year and nothing can take it away from me. It's better now than later (*taking notes for the next time that I start crying*).

I am going to get better. I am going to get better. I am going to get better....
Hang in there my friends... I'll be back in a jiffy!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Letting go of guilt

It's been a week post injury and after spending all my free time asking myself the same question over and over again - "why?" - I think I am finally ready to move on and let more constructive thoughts occupy my brain. The "why" of the matter may just be impossible to answer. I talked to a few people, they all have their own theory - I have none. I've always thought that I knew myself so well, that I didn't see this coming - at all. For sure, I took my time to rest and the workouts that I did, they were no different in intensity than what I did over the summer. Maybe I overdid it at Yoga. Maybe I had too much fun bowling, or maybe doing single leg drills on the bike ad nauseatum was the last nail in the coffin, but if injuries were a science, we would know how to prevent them 100% of the time.

For some people, getting injured during the training cycle is like a badge of honor. "I took my body to the limit" - yeah, maybe, but I don't see who really enjoys being sidelined. Everyone I know got injured over the past 3 years, and maybe my turn came because I have been so damn lucky all this time. Either way, it's been hard not to think that I did this to myself (but of course I did! who am I kidding) and maybe that I should have listened to coach and not run the Hamilton Marathon. But I did listen to my body - and never, not once I had pain in my hip. Achy knees, sure, the whole year they kept reminding me that everything around them was tight: muscles, tendons, whatever. Was I always stretching, rolling, icing, massaging? Far from it. Just like Sam, my favorite healing method is to stare at my muscles and hope they repair themselves. No kidding, I must be champion at healing by telekinesis.

So anyway, here I am, torturing my brain, day in and day out, wondering, why am I my worst enemy and freaking out, of course, because "did I just break myself for good?". What about the IRONMAN?! If I break now, will I end up in a million pieces by the time August comes? Oh you have no idea what kind of thoughts circle inside my head at 300km/h. And they make me exhausted with guilt. A week and 3 physio therapy appointments later, the hip pain improved dramatically, I even went to the pool today and did a bit of aqua-jogging and swimming with my pull buoy. But some pain is still there, still reminding me of my "negligence". Another week of minimum walking, no running and no biking should do the trick, I can only hope. I have another PT appointment tomorrow and we shall take it from there... Will I be able to return to my favorite activities? I better be, or I'm going to LOSE IT.

Until then, guilt begone!! I am a runner, I am a triathlete, I am legit, dammit. I may not be training for the Olympics, but I'd rather be happy and deal with a little injury than bang my head against the inside a bubble wrap.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

So, I'm having some... ummm, technical difficulties

To be more specific -

One: GTPS (Greater trochanteric pain syndrome, aka hip bursitis, aka pain in the butt)
Two: ITBS (Iliotibial band syndrome, aka mother effing IT band hell)
Three: hey, don't you think that's enough?!

So. Nothing until pain goes away. Not even massage, rolling, stretching, yoga, walking or swimming (unless it's with a pull buoy).

There is no other explanation than a change in routine. My physio therapist said it's most likely because of going all out in yoga, swimming and biking after resting for weeks. And let's not forget bowling, which I had not done in years (mandatory corporate fun day will always bite me in the butt, literally)!! All those workouts taxed the hip big time and the fact that I only did them once a week did not help either. Given that I reduced the intensity of workouts from 100% to 5% after my last triathlon, then I went back to doing long and hard bike spins, pool sprints, and holding the pigeon pose for 3 minutes (because I'm such an over achiever), it was just "too much too soon". And I thought that looking at this schedule, I was a lazy bum.

Well, I was, but I should have started back gradually that is. It is not clear whether the ITBS is a result of the GTPS or vice versa, but bottom line, I've got horrible pain from the hip all the way down my leg when I walk, with a bad limp and achy wobbling in the knee. Speaking of the knee, my physio is worried that my left knee is quite unstable, which explains a few things. But I will talk more about this with her after I stop hurting. Good thing is that it's an acute injury and I got it early.

Until then, fire away. Call me all names that you want, I deserve them.
L O S E R is a good start me thinks.

Ouch. To be continued.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Adventures in food

So it's been exactly 3 weeks since I've started making changes to my diet. As a reminder, the exercise was to restrict the sugar, carbs, grains and dairy I would eat after lunch, while still not going overboard in these categories with the rest of the meals. The end goal was to increase my intake of daily fruits, veggies and protein and reduce the rest because I'd have less options for snacks and dinner. I've kept a strict diary of everything that went into my mouth during these three weeks, you can see it here if you're curious. I haven't gone Paleo overnight, far from it, but I tried to inspire my cooking from it. I even bought a book of Paleo recipes and started collecting ideas from websites I've come across and that have been recommended by friends who are in the process of doing the Whole30 challenge, more or less ad infinitum.

And it's been challenging, not only because it made me go out of my comfort zone and forced me to learn how to cook, but because it removed some of my coping mechanisms. It is no secret that I've been having quite an emotional attachment to food, because it's been making me feel good. I love everything about comfort food, but I am convinced that in quantities larger than my body can handle, all this "comfort" ends up making me sick. It's a vicious circle and it's been interesting to see how I can cope without giving into little daily cravings. And the answer is, I'm not so sure. If you haven't read my previous post, it looks like I'm struggling with short episodes of depression that keep poking at me every so often. I am thinking that reducing both exercise and comfort food, my most trusted therapies, I let some of that depression coming back to haunt me. But don't be alarmed, it's really not that bad. I feel that as soon as I'll go back to my 10h+ of training, all these issues are going to take care of themselves.

Now, weight wise, I don't think I've lost much, maybe 3lb so far. I would need to lose 2 more lb in order to win my Diet Bet, but I won't make a scene if I don't. I think I have given myself a good routine and eventually the weight is going to come off, especially if I increase the amount of exercise. Anyway - 3 weeks later, I don't feel magically "better", I didn't get any epiphany related to food either, but I feel stronger with regards to cravings and I am happy that I've started to cook more and make better choices at least half of the day. It's a move in the right direction for sure.

Below is a compilation of meals I had in the last 20 days:
I am going to keep on eating this way, I don't see a reason to stop - it's totally manageable and I believe that health wise, it can only be good for me. And once a month, just like I did today, I will allow myself to indulge in a favorite dessert. This month, it was chocolate mint ice cream at Demetre's. But of course. It was as awesome as I could remember it.
And now, reset. Bring it on, December!!