Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Chop it down to size: Parallels in life and health

Just past 4 p.m. on Easter, I sat on the back step of our patio and stared in amazement. "After three years," I said, turning to Mark, "I can't believe it's done. They are finally gone."

Enjoying a strawberry basil cooler that first summer with the bushes in the background. Note that I'm about 9 months pregnant in this picture.

Since the first summer in our house three years ago, I have had a volatile relationship with two honeysuckle bushes.They were overgrown, invasive and taking up highly prized garden space. The branches grew through the chain link fence, hanging over our neighbor's driveway, and the daffodil bulbs planted underneath didn't get enough sunlight to bloom.

I let the frustration simmer for a year or two before trying to take on the problem. We cut it down with the help of my father-in-law (and his chain saw). We took advantage of wet springs and tried to dig them out in a single effort. No matter how much we thought we did, the bushes won.

In the fall, I had had enough. I didn't think I could make another feeble attempt, many of which had made the area a sore sight in the yard. I called a tree removal company and got an estimate. As they always do, the estimate was more than we hoped and the worker's sheet included notes of other spots in the lawn that also required attention. There was a dead tulip tree in the front and a near death pine in the back. It would be good for another bush to go, and the company made other suggestions for improvement. The total bill was not looking pretty.

Overwhelmed, I tucked the estimate in a drawer and tried to forget about it.

But I couldn't. Even through the tough winter, the two bushes stood there as if they were taunting me. They seemed alive despite the hacking and frigid temperatures, and I knew they would once again take over. With a renewed drive (and plans to grow my garden space), I decided to do something.

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For the past several weeks, I have tackled the blight - a step at a time. I borrowed my father-in-law's chain saw and cut the bushes to 2 feet in height. Using a pair of pruning clippers (sharpened by Mark), I further cut the branches. With the chain saw, again, I cut exposed roots. I dug some more. Cut more. Going a little deeper each time.

We (Mark and I) were going to give it a break on Easter. The morning had been busy and stressful at times, and we needed to relax. But I couldn't. The branches were staring at me and being so close to the finish line, I knew that I needed to do it then or it never would happen.

In my Easter dress (an $8 find at Old Navy), I grabbed the axe from the garage and started work. I cut the root ball into pieces, dug around it to expose more roots and then hacked them. Mark came out and, together, we pulled piece by piece out. Sweat dripped and the muscles in my back burned but each piece of wood that got tossed in the burn pile made it worthwhile.

An hour in, Miles toddled out from his nap. He blew some bubbles and played as we kept at it. He was tired but with the promise of a trip to the park, he let us finish.

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After our trip, I took a moment to soak it in. It seemed so strange that after all that angst, everything was finished. I didn't need people to do it for me and I didn't need fancy equipment or to pay someone for a drastic procedure. I just needed to muscle up, dig, cut away the layers and pull out the bad parts.

The holes were filled with ash and dirt, and the area will soon be tilled to make room for more garden space. In the spot where bad things grew, new life (squash, eggplant and tomatoes) will grow.

Maybe I'm being overly introspective (thanks, therapy!) but there seemed to be so many parallels between life, health, fitness and weight loss in those bushes. We want something, we say we want to do it but when it comes down to it, more often than not we want someone to do it for us. If we give up that ideal and give ourselves a chance, we are far more capable than we gave ourselves credit.

Note: Mark was helping A LOT with this process but I felt a lot of ownership with the project as my hate for the bushes ran deep.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Weekly Training Update: 4/14-4-20

Ah, the week after a race. There is just nothing like it.

You have a couple more rest days than usual. You not only have permission but are required to scale back workouts. You don't have to stick to a schedule or training regimen.

You can just run. To run. For joy. I guess that's what you should do all the time but you know what I mean.

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Surprisingly, my legs were fine maintaining a decent (for me) pace and there was little soreness after Monday or Tuesday. More than anything, I think my mind appreciated the step back and relaxed approach to exercise. There was no pressure to hit certain paces and no difficult workout hanging over the morning.

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Monday, April 14
REST

Tuesday, April 15
CROSS TRAINING | Indoor Trainer + weights
I do not remember this ride at all but according to Daily Mile, I rode 10.17 miles in 40 minutes. I also did an upper body-focused weight session. I used a set of 15-pound dumbbells and did super sets that included bicep curls, hammer curls, overhead press, overhead extensions, bent-over rows and upright rows. I switched to 8-pound weights for lateral and side raises. For kicks and giggles, I threw in some push-ups and tricep dips.

Wednesday, April 16
RUN | 3.15 miles
I did the early drop of at daycare and headed out for a run through a neighborhood east of downtown. It was CHILLY that morning, with a temperature below 30, and I had to go for the capri + Pro Compression sock combo since I packed all of my tights.

Thursday, April 17
RUN | 4.17 miles
Birthday miles. They were great.

CROSS TRAINING | Ripped
Class at the Y was fun this week. My regulars were there with a couple newbies, and everyone seemed to have a good time. I also took sick pride in lifting more than boys for shoulders.

Friday, April 18
RUN | 5 miles
I met Joe for some early morning miles. I was feeling tired after running the two previous days and Ripped, and I was hoping we'd take it easy. It wasn't too bad the first mile but Joe began pushing the pace - not enough that it was uncomfortable but just enough that I had to work. He was so sneaky!

Saturday, April 19
CROSS TRAINING | Y Cycle class
I felt so bad for the instructor during this class. He is recently certified and doesn't have a regular slot but rather subbing when needed. The step class before cycle ran over and then he couldn't get the sound system to work. I started spinning as he got some help, which allowed him to play the radio and then a random CD he found. It was fine - it was what it was - but it's hard to instruct a class when you planned intervals and climbs to certain songs. It's harder when you don't have experience under your belt. He did great, though, and eventually the wellness director stopped by and got it working. It was smooth riding (and instructing on his part) after that.

Sunday, April 20
REST | Active
I had initially hoped to run but with Sunday being a holiday and our overscheduled morning, I thought I'd take advantage of the recovery week and give myself a pass. As it turned out, we were still out moving. Wielding axes and shovels, Mark and I finally demolished the two honeysuckle bushes that have plagued our yard for three years. We also rode our bikes to the park (2.25 miles each way) so Miles could play.


And, most importantly, I experienced minor success on the monkey bars for the first time.