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You may have wondered – and rightly so – just where the hell I’ve been this past month. I mean, I haven’t oinked, in like, forever. It’s true. And I’m truly sorry. I’ve been guilt-ridden about falling down on my responsibility to you, my dear readers, so much so that I’ve gnawed my fingernails down to their quicks. My thumbs look more like mini-hotdogs wrapped in prosciutto than digits. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to post, I’ve thought about it endlessly and even composed pithy vignettes in my head – I just haven’t had time to sit down and write. The reason for this? Every spare moment has been consumed with exercising, eating, and thinking about exercising. It’s ridonkulous, I agree, and you can blame it all on my brother-in-law.

Last January, my brother-in-law (we’ll call him Corrado), asked our family to run the relay in the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. OinkDaddy, an optimist and a member of the 26.2 club, was all for it. The other four family members whom Corrado approached were less enthusiastic, including me. 

I am not a runner. At best, I’m a shuffler. I can appreciate that lots of people get jazzed about hitting the pavement; I’m just not one of them. OinkDaddy, on the other hand, is at least conversant in fartleks, Kcals and energy goos. When he signed up to run his first marathon, Large was still rockin’ a stroller; OinkDaddy ran his third marathon six months after Medium was born. Come to think of it, when Corrado started running, his twin girls were a month shy of their one year anniversary. Hmmm. I smell a social research project: Is there something about babies that inspires men to become long-distance runners? But I digress.

The KeyBank Vermont City Marathon is a huge event in Burlington, Vt., traditionally held over the Memorial Day weekend. It’s an inspiring, uplifting, sweaty spectacle. I’ve spent quite a few mornings in May ogling exhausted-yet-determined people ascending Battery Street Hill to the rhythmic thumping of Taiko drummers. Each time, I’ve been so impressed that I’ve uttered the words, “I should do that,” only to have my motivation disappear faster than my kids’ Easter candy.

KBVCM relay teams are selected by lottery in February and are notoriously difficult to get. I never thought we’d get in, so it was quite a shock to hear that we were lottery winners. What were the odds? And more importantly, in the cosmic way of things, might this have reduced our chances of winning PowerBall?

OinkDaddy and Corrado gave me inspiring pep-talks, “You can do it!” “Stick with the training program. You’re going to be great!” “Go slow; just keep running!” The week after I received the “good” news, I hauled my butt around the track 12 times. I walked more than I ran. An old hamstring injury flared up. Ignoring it proved unsuccessful. With trepidation, I made my first-ever appointment for physical therapy. I don’t know why I waited so long. My physical therapist, Kim Ellsworth at Essex Aquatic and Rehab Center, was (and is!) awesome and had me up and running in a jiffy. I could have saved myself weeks of pain if I had seen her sooner. Therapy behind me, muscles and ligaments and tendons strengthened, I bought new Brooks running shoes and ran 3x/week for two whole weeks. And then I kinda…just…stopped running.

One reason I don’t care for running is that I’m not good at it. I never have been. I run like a duck. My knees are knocked slightly from doing w-sits as a child (Mom, you were right. If only I had sat criss-cross, apple-sauce!), thus, the lower half of my legs swing out as I run and the outside edge of my foot strikes the ground first. It’s not very efficient. Or comfortable. As far as exercise goes, I much prefer practicing Tae Kwon Do or going to a Les Mills Body Combat class (where a different Kim kicks my ass). I find running monotonous; minute after minute, mile after mile of the same forward motion. Breathe in, breathe out. It’s like being in labor all over again.

Mid-April, I got my poop together and started to train semi-seriously. Running outside helped motivate me to run farther. I ran two miles, then pushed myself to run three. I continued my cross-training workouts and a couple of times I ran with a friend who is so fit she bounds along Gazelle-like, talking continuously, while I huff and puff and nod occasionally. I welcome any distractions from my screaming quads.

Two weekends ago, I ran with Corrado. He generously let me set the pace (my pace is off his by a good three minutes), and for the first time since high school, I completed a five mile run. Huzzah! In spite of the fact that I’m not setting any speed records (11-minute miles, hello?), I trumpeted my accomplishment far and wide.

I’m now cautiously optimistic that I’ll be able to complete my leg of the relay without expiring on the trail. Look for me. I’ll be the one in a red Team Deep Fried Bacon high-performance t-shirt stumbling over the finish line. Don’t be offended if I don’t stop to chat. I’ll be headed for the beer tent.

Things I’ve Learned About Running

  • Eat breakfast or be prepared to bonk
  • Run un-caffeinated or get the trots
  • Good sneakers really do make a world of difference
  • Injuries will not go away on their own; go to physical therapy
  • When doing crunches off the track at the gym, face the same direction as the runners lest they get an eyeful of sweaty underwear
  • My brother-in-law not only runs faster than I do, but he writes faster too. Check out his fitness related blog and be amazed by how many calories he can consume.

The marathon is coming. Bring it, baby.

It’s been many, many years since I got sweaty in a dark room in the company of strangers.

Back then, I was a nightclub dancing fool (the dancing and the fool parts were the direct results of generous amounts of liquid courage). Now, it is morning and I have come to my gym to squeeze in a workout before I am required to don my family’s chauffeur’s hat. The field house, with its indoor sports friendly carpeting, is halved by an enormous plastic divider. Light from the empty half of the room trickles through the mesh at the top of the curtain. I am confused. Are we exercising in the dark?

My confusion turns to hilarity when I realize that yes, indeed, we are going to get our hearts pumping and adrenaline flowing whilst lined up in rows in the semi-dark. They have set up a stage, lit it with alternately flashing colored lights, and hung inspirational posters behind and beside it. Airbrushed images of insanely fit people seem to be saying “Unleash Your Inner Warrior” and “Smiling is Optional, Quitting is Not.”

Five months ago, I posted about the beginning of my quest for less squishy abs. I joined a gym. Bought work out clothes. Dragged myself to group fitness classes. I have done these things before, only to have my self-motivation drop faster than an italian grinder with a side of potato salad down my esophagus. Group aerobics have never been my thing. In college, I tried workout videos. Cindy Crawford in her red leotard was beautiful but in more of an aggravating than inspiring way. Eight weeks after Liam was born, I went to a “Mommy and Me” class where you used your baby as resistance weight. I spent more time getting the two of us ready to go to class than I spent in the class itself. The Step classes I took were dreadfully embarrassing; my two left feet work independently from my arms and my keen sense of direction results in wrong-way shuffles, skips and turns. Plus, I couldn’t stand the perky instructors. For god’s sake, don’t clap and whoop and look like you are enjoying this misery!

That is how it was until I stumbled into a Les Mills Body Combat class at the Edge Sports and Fitness.

I was hooked after the first class. The music is loud, the instructor is powerful. I can only dream of my arms and abs looking like hers. She encourages participants to grab their (imaginary) opponents and throw them to the ground. She yells at us to visualize our punches connecting with our targets: “Are they bleeding? Keep going!” (Obviously, I am more pro-Jillian than Bob.) I may have accepted Body Combat more easily than some because the moves feel semi-familiar to me from practicing Tae Kwon Do. But punching and kicking are purposeful movements for anybody. They are not useless movements designed solely to keep uncoordinated cynics like me in perpetual motion. They are not perky. If I am ever accosted in a dark alley (and I don’t freeze), I will attempt to defend myself by blocking and punching and kicking.

Practicalities aside, there is no question that Body Combat is still a group fitness class. And sometimes, the trappings of group fitness cannot be ignored or overlooked. Such as when they are having an all morning “release party.” My suggestion for when this happens, do as I did: Laugh at yourself and all the other people who have drunk the proverbial Kool-aid. Then get down to business and kick some ass.

P.S. Points to those who know from whence this title came!

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