Tag Archives: strength

It Starts with Starting

It starts with feeling the need or urge to move, change…just do something.  It starts with putting on a pair of running shoes or a swimsuit.

It starts with running for as long as possible which most likely is not that long.  It starts with pushing to run an actual half mile or mile.  It starts with working out for 20 minutes a few days a week.  It starts with setting a goal of exercising consistently.  It starts with signing up for a 5K or finding a workout buddy.  It starts with reading nutrition articles or asking for cycling advice.

It starts with feeling good after a hard workout.  It starts with looking forward to that yoga session or kickboxing class.  It starts with feeling “off” when a workout is missed. It starts with missing the sweating or hard breathing.

It starts with picking a bigger, more challenging goal than before and then immediately breaking it down into smaller, manageable milestones.  It starts with celebrating swimming 10 laps more than a month ago.  It starts with passing another runner or crossing the finish line for the first time.

For me, it started way back in high school as a rower who barely made the team.  It started again when I joined a dragon boat team during the few years I lived in Hong Kong.  It started again about 11 years ago when I trained for  a marathon but couldn’t complete it because my left leg tightened up so much it couldn’t move.  It started again when I decided to try half marathons.  It started again when I signed up for my very first triathlon after failing (once again) to complete a marathon.  And it started one more time when I desperately needed some way to deal with the biggest blow to my life – losing Noah.  And this is my start or I should say starts.

We each have to start somewhere.  It starts with starting after all.

What was your start?  Or what will be your start?

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Physical Strength for My Broken Places

Perhaps strength doesn’t reside in having never been broken, but in the courage required to grow strong in the broken places. ~Kristen Jongen

Compassionate Friends is pretty active on Facebook where it posts words of advice and comfort for bereaved parents.  Recently it asked its members what they feel when someone comments on how strong they are.  One of the responses is the above quote.  It resonates with me.   I’m making my way through my journey which includes growing strong in my broken places.  And then there are the days and moments when I feel beyond broken.

I believe strength comes in several forms: emotional, spiritual, mental and physical.  I’ve mentioned these four types before.  From training and racing, I feel myself growing stronger physically as each day passes.  During my low-beyond-broken-periods, I believe it’s this physical strength that helps me with or, at the very least, provides temporary fillers in some of my broken places.

As odd as it may sound, I like to think Noah is helping me with my broken places since he gives me strength as I train and race.  He is my inspiration after all.

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Interval Training Raises the Question – Am I Strong Enough?

Bike Interval Training sessions include drills such as:

  • Work in 4 x 3:00 up-tempo efforts at 80-85% effort and 85-90 RPM’s. Spin easy for 3:00 between efforts.
  • Work in 4 x 2:00 efforts at 80-85% effort and 85-90 RPM’s. Spin easy for 2:00 between efforts.

Interval Training for Running includes drills such as:

  • 4 x 400 – descend 1-4 – run at 80-85% effort – easy 400 jog between. (3:00); 1 x 1/2 mile – Run at 80-85% effort! Work it and negative split! Finish strong! Easy jog for 400 after effort. 2 x 400 – descend 1-2 – run at 85%+ – easy 400 jog between (3:00).
  • descending ladder, 40 minutes total.  All intervals are vo2 max, 98% max heart rate. 5 minutes (4 min Active Recovery); 5 minutes (4 min Active Recovery); 4 min (3 min); 4 min (3 min); 3 min (2 min); 3 min.

Interval training is an effective way to improve speed, endurance, cadence and lactate threshold. Midway through my triathlon season last year I incorporated it into my training plan when I joined my local tri-club’s track workouts which focus solely on interval training.  At Nation’s I ended up shaving almost 90 seconds off my running pace.  I know this major improvement is from all of these workouts.  (Training with others helped as well.)

I continue to participate in group track workouts this season.  I also incorporate interval training into my other disciplines.  During these specific workouts, especially on the bike and my runs I connect with Noah on a somewhat different level.  I obtain an unbelievable amount of strength, inspiration and comfort from him which enables me to push myself so much harder during these sessions.

Interestingly, though, just over the past few weeks, I’ve experienced something very different. During these particular sessions (mainly on the bike), I’ve found myself crying.  Tears just flow, and at least once during each session, my cries turn into flat-out heavy sobbing.  Sometimes they’re like bursts of emotions quickly flowing out and other times they outlast the drill.  Oddly I don’t stop my workout; somehow I just keep going.  I’ve noticed that as I push myself sadness, disappointment and guilt strongly and quickly emerge all at once.  I feel as though I could never push myself hard enough to go fast enough, far enough or move my heart rate high enough.  And I can’t even articulate what “enough” is!  It’s almost like I realize I will never be as strong as Noah. I won’t ever be as courageous as my sweet, beautiful son.  No matter how hard and deep I dig down – and oh my goodness I really do work at this! –  my strength and courage are mere specks compared to what he embodies.  And if this is the case am I good enough for him?  Am I worthy enough to be the mother of a 32 day old boy who had the amazing strength and courage to deal with numerous cardiac arrests, open heart surgery, ECMO, other major procedures and way too much poking and sticking?  Do I deserve the love he’s brought into my little life?

Don’t get me wrong.  I believe I am much stronger now than I was before God blessed me and MLH with Noah.  I’m much stronger physically.  I’m much stronger mentally.  I’m much stronger spiritually.  And I have to believe someday I’ll be much stronger emotionally.  I may not be as strong as him and perhaps I never will be.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be ok with this reality; will the guilt, disappointment and sadness from this ever go away?  I guess all I can do is continue to find strength, courage and inspiration from him and the short life he lived.

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What is Strong?

I love the narration in this commercial; chock-full of inspiration.

My absolute favorite line is: “Maybe strong is just what you have left when you’ve used up all your weak.”

This is what digging really deep down inside is all about, isn’t it?

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What a Difference a Week Makes!

With my six mile run today I completed my first training week using Pete’s online coaching plan.  It may sound a little funny but already I feel very different.  I’ll go ahead and acknowledge the placebo effect is probably at play.   Something along the lines of “oh wow I’m now doing something different so I must experience a change.”  Placebo effect or not, I’m not sure it matters.  The fact that I feel different is good enough for me.

I wrote in my last post that I rarely did a full cardio segment and a complete strength training session back-to-back.  Well a few days after writing that post I pulled out my training plan for Nation’s (which I created myself).  I have a correction to make:  I did in fact do such workouts (also known as two-a-days) early in my training and quite often. I can blame bad memory for thinking two-a-days are new to me but I think there’s something more to it.  For some reason I felt my two-a-days this past week were…well different.  They were much longer and more intense than what I did for Nation’s.  Also, I’m sure since Pete planned them they’re better structured than what I put together.  And there’s the placebo effect.

During this past week’s training sessions I felt solid.  I did struggle some on the bike, specifically with keeping my RPMs and heart rate at the desired levels.  Also the last five miles of my 30 mile ride yesterday was by no means easy.  (And as mentioned before I did have to push it a bit with the weights.)  However I felt pretty good right to the end.  Don’t get me wrong, I definitely worked hard this week but I never felt like I couldn’t finish.  I do realize Pete’s current focus is on base building so I anticipate my workouts becoming much more difficult very soon.

Anyway back to this difference – or really differences.  What are these differences, you ask?  I feel like I’ve taken my training up a level already and I feel more confident.  I think I was a little anxious about not being able to follow Pete’s plan.  Well I did and while I experienced some challenging moments, I completed each session strongly.   I feel more focused.  A lot of this has to do with the need to keep track of my drills during each workout.  But also I’m zeroing in on my very specific goals which are to successfully complete Hawaii 70.3 and improve my splits at Nationals.  With each successful workout my body moves closer to being ready to compete.

I do feel one other major difference but I don’t think Pete’s plan has anything to do with it; I think it’s just a coincidence…or perhaps not.

Over the past week my connection with Noah became much deeper and different.  Outside of training, I think of Noah a lot. Sometimes he’s in-and-out of my mind very quickly and other times I spend quite a bit of time thinking and recalling vivid images of him in my head.  When I train though I believe how I think of him is different from this.

Last May I began feeling a very deep connection with Noah as I became much more aware and grateful that my heart could easily handle my endurance training and I could process the oxygen needed during these workouts.   When I feel or see (on my heart rate monitor) my heart rate climbing and hitting 60-85% effort, it’s almost as if I’m raising it for him.  When I feel my breathing becoming labored, I think of the ventilators he was on and I feel as though I’m breathing extra hard for him.  And it’s the stark and unfair contrast between what I and any other healthy body can do seamlessly with what Noah struggled with all of the time.  It’s this appreciation combined with sadness and a little bit of bitterness (yes still) that helps me dig deeper to find that determination and power to push myself harder, faster and longer.

During my workouts this past week though I’ve started feeling a different kind of deep connection to my son.  I now feel his presence almost constantly and this feeling is definitely different than my “non-training day-to-day” thoughts of him.  During my training, talking to or thinking of Noah is like second nature now.  It’s like at some other level I’m having a constant dialog with him as I swim, run and bike.  I’d like to think he and I’ve gotten used to training together, and our routine has him with me all of the time.  I’ve been thinking about how best to describe this and I’ve come up with “endurance consciousness.”

I continue to push myself to achieve 60-85% of my maximum heart rate (depending on the drill) and reach that labored breathing because there’s that connection I still have with him.  But now I have another one.  I’m so grateful for both.


On a somewhat separate note, please pause for a moment to pray for or send positive thoughts to the parents of a little Heterotaxy boy named William.  After fighting super hard, he became an angel last Thursday.

It’s probably no surprise to you that I spent my first mile on my run today thinking of William and his parents.  I found myself welling up a bit when I thought about what his parents are experiencing right now.  Nobody should have to deal with losing a child.

Noah now has another friend in heaven.  God bless you, William.

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