The Daily Sweat

The Derby Debacle:  From Mud to Glory (sort of)


My sister suggested yesterday we write about our very first race experiences as when she is not casted up, she is a runner like me (although a lot faster than me). 

The story of my very first race is quite comical.  It was 2007, and my friend and I had been training all summer.  I had never been a runner – childhood asthma, blah, blah, blah, but I was determined to try it as an adult (see prior post on Freeing Sisyphus – my need to conquer tasks).  My friend convinced me to sign up for this race called The Derby Days 5K Turf Run (  The race is held on a horse track in MN called Canterbury Park.  “Race like a thoroughbred!” it said.  I run like a baby elephant, but I thought after all that training I could make it around a racetrack a few times…..Never really been to a racetrack before but I imagined it was track-like (i.e. packed down, smooth, etc.).

Ummmm, I had no idea what I had gotten myself into.  On race day it was drizzling, but I wasn’t going to let that get me down.   My goal for this race was to finish the 5K and to hopefully not be the very last person to finish.  It would be the first time I had run a full 3.2 miles. We all corralled into the starting horse gates and then took off onto the 6 inch high grassy turf.  Have you ever run through 6 inch wet grass?  That wasn’t even the best part, you ran around the track once and then did most of the race on a cross-country track.  I had been running on a paved trail through all my training.  Apparently people come from all over to run this course.  I thought I was signing up for some silly 5K. 

By the first five minutes I was dying, but determined (see Masochistic madness post).  My friend was much faster than me and left me right away.  At the time, my best pace was a horse hair or two under 12 minutes, but you can imagine the scene – raining, running through mud, panting like a wild dog.  I was literally at the very back of all the runners.  I think there were maybe 12 walkers behind me.  The guy officiating the race got on the loudspeaker and told us stragglers to hurry up (I’m not kidding – he actually yelled at us to hurry up – nothing like that has ever happened to me since).  If I had been a horse, they would have taken me straight from the track to the glue factory.  Nonetheless, as much as I wanted to walk, I didn’t – even though I had been chosen by a run/walker as their “flag” (you know, they run ahead of  you, start walking and when you catch up to them, they start running again). But, I plodded along in the tall grass despite the humiliation I was feeling.  By the time I made it to the horsetrack that thing was full on mud.  By sheer will and stubbornness I made it to the finish line with the run/walker finishing ahead of me of course.

My average time was a thrilling 12:13, but I was drenched and proud.  I had finished and I hadn’t been last.  And, even though some guy called me a straggler on a megaphone in front of a crowd of hundreds I had refused to give up.  Fast forward four years and I have finished a half marathon, and my new average time for longer distances is slowly but surely getting to 10:30 (as I’ve said before I’m not fast, but I’m determined).  I was never able to wear those running shoes again as they were completely destroyed by the mud and grass, but I wear my ridiculous T-shirt (featured above) all the time when working out. 

My story is truly a story for new runners….I never thought I would be able to run, but I can and I love it.  Yes, there are some humbling experiences along the way, but in the end it is your journey and no one else’s.  I’ve gotten used to being passed because in the end there is nothing more satisfying for me than making a running goal and attaining it.  And, those endorphins are addictive and literally keep me from wallowing in the self-pity mud when I’m feeling down.

Tell us about your very first race….Any good stories of humiliation, triumph or surprises on race day?  What keeps you running?  One other crucial lesson I learned from this experience was to always check out the course online -thoroughly – before race day :).

I’m off for my morning run, but as always, feel free to email this baby elephant at


Action Hero Babes Rock!


It’s time for me to talk about my favorite personal trainer, Valerie Waters.  I mentioned her last week, but her workouts deserve more homage in our daily sweat space (  I found Valerie through my love of Alias and being in awe of Jennifer Garner’s physical fitness – or in other words, her amazing body tone.  As someone who loved kickboxing and always wanted to be a spy (studied Russian in college), I was addicted to Alias.  Just ask my ex-roomate who got quite sick of waking up in the middle of the night to hear the theme song as it repeated on the DVD over and over (I was sleeping soundly and blissfully on the couch as it played).  The show got me through many, many difficult times as JJ Abrams has this amazing ability to develop characters and make a very unrealistic show applicable to your life (note my reference in my Freeing Sisyphus post last week – pager in the Pacific).

So, I wanted to be an action hero babe like Sydney.  I thought that with that kind of mental acuity and strength I could handle anything.  Yes, I was a bit delusional, but really needed distraction from the daily drudge that was my life, and I wanted to feel strong.  So, I did some research on the web and found Jennifer Garner’s personal trainer:  Valerie Waters.  And, get this, she had a series called Action Hero Babe you could buy on DVD.  I had that thing shipped to my house faster than superman could fly Lois Lane to the ice caves.

The funny thing about the DVDs are that they aren’t all that fancy, but she works your tail off.  The cool thing is that she is sweating right there with you.  It’s nothing like Jane Fonda videos where everybody does everything perfectly and never a hair falls out of place.  Valerie wobbles, she gets out of breath, sweats profusely and she even messes up the sequence every once in a while, but in about 45 minutes you will burn almost 500 calories.  She has this amazing ability to pack the best exercises in a short amount of time to get maximum results.  And she is FAMOUS for what she can do for your backside.  Her exercise routines also “fixed” my core imbalance issues.  I was always getting injured b/c I wasn’t balanced, but since doing her videos and incorporating some of her concepts into other workout routines I have been injury free for over two years (if you don’t count my stubbed toe incident on Tuesday which was more laziness as I hadn’t moved/unpacked my suitcase from my last business trip).  And, you don’t have to do a ton of planks.  I hate planks.  She has these cool things called Valislides that make “typical” exercises like lunges fun – her Valislide reverse lunge changed my life.

Ok, enough gushing, and I promise this is no advertisement.  But, for those of you out there who need something a little new and want to see quick results, I recommend checking out her series and blog:   She breaks up the Action Hero Babe DVDs into 2 phases of three workouts: build, sculpt and burn which if you are a runner like me it’s perfect, because they fit nicely into my weekly routine.

Although being an Action Hero Babe isn’t as much of a fixation for me now, Valerie’s core concepts have helped me be a bit more balanced.  But, I have to admit, deep down, I still think Action Hero Babes rock!

What’s your favorite workout series?  Do any of you have an exercise out there that changed your life?  Any P90X fans?  I’ve thought about trying that one next.

As always, please comment or email at




Masochistic Madness or Mental Strength:  Running the Fine Line

After reading my sister’s surgery blog last night and thinking about my past injuries and mishaps I wondered about my sanity as I often do.  Am I a candidate for the ship of fools, or do I have a mental strength or toughness of which to be proud?  I think the answer has varied at different times and believe there are certainly instances when what I thought was mental strength was actually a little masochistic madness.

I think back to the time I broke my leg and walked around NYC on it for almost a month before I went to the doctor. Or perhaps the time I tore my hamstring so badly doing Kung Fu I heard it snap and then walked home.  I was living in Taiwan and didn’t have much choice, but I didn’t stay off of that one for long and ended up having pain there for almost two years.    

Yeah, I’m one tough cookie – NOT –  more like a complete idiot.  The last time I broke my leg I ended up being in one of those stupid boots for two months because I would not stay off of it, or use my crutches (sis, are you listening?).

I think there is a part of me that has always been out to prove something – mainly to myself – about my endurance, my ability to work through pain, my ability to survive.  So, where does the line exist between masochism and challenging yourself appropriately?  Often times I don’t know if I can hear my body over the powerful force of my mind which has its own wily agenda.

 A couple of weeks ago, my sister wrote about hunger cues.  I think the same concept applies when you are exercising as well – you have to listen to your body and what is it telling you.  So, how can you really tell when your body is talking to you as opposed to the din of voices in your mind  – yes you can, no you can’t, I’m hot, I need to stop, I need to keep going,  etc.

I thought a lot about that on a run this past Sunday.  Running in the heat is rough….especially when the average temp you’ve been running in for the past three months is 45 degrees.  And, in general, although I love it, running is tough for me.  I’m no skinny runner, or natural, and I am SLOW.  It takes a lot of mental strength for me to run and so I usually run alone (yes, I’m a weirdo).  I like to run in the mornings, but my run Sunday kept getting delayed by some work drama and other little things, so I didn’t hit the trail until around 10:30am and it was already 85 with 90 percent humidity.  As a girl from the South, I knew I could take it, but living in the usually frozen tundra of Minnesota, my body was in for a shock.  The hottest temp I had run in thus far this year was 68 degrees (as you know, it’s been a weird weather year).

I promised myself I would listen to those physical cues and when that failed I would check my heart monitor.  If anyone had been listening to the thoughts in my mind the men in little white coats would have come for sure.  It sounded like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest in there.  I passed another gent who was running and panting: “Man, it’s hot”, he said.  The masochistic/mental strength side of my brain said oh yeah, baby, I’m tough, look at me braving this weather, trucking along, keep it up girl.  You rock!  The other side said, ummm, here’s some evidence that it’s really hot.  That guy looked like he was about to pass out, I should probably assess how my body is feeling.  After some further mental debate, I told myself to shut up and listen to my body.  How was my breathing, what was that fuzzy-headed feeling, how was my heart rate doing?  I made a compromise with the two parts of my personality and agreed to stay under a certain heart rate, so I slowed it down and when that didn’t work, I walked for 10 minutes and waited for my heart rate to come down which it wasn’t really doing.  Meanwhile I was passing all sorts of sweaty bikers, walkers and runners, and we were all giving each other the look like Whoa, this is rough.  Finally, I had to stop in the shade.  An older couple joined me under a bridge for a minute or so and we panted together.  My heart rate finally came down, and I was able to finish the last mile of my run.

So, my point is, at what point do you become your own worst enemy, and instead of appropriately challenging yourself, damage your physical well being?  How do you tell the difference between masochistic madness and mental strength? 

I think you have to find a way to listen to your body.  It will tell you when it’s time to stop if you really listen.  Otherwise, you end up doing stupid stubborn things that in the end derail your fitness plans and your struggle for balance – wholeness.  This has been a lesson that has taken me FOREVER and multiple injuries to learn and sometimes I still struggle (obviously – note the cuckoo conversation above).  And, I’m just an ordinary exerciser  – you won’t find me running a marathon in Death Valley.  Although I admire those folks and think it is an appropriate goal if you train right.

Anybody out there a fellow masochist who has been humbled?  C’mon tell us about it….And, as always, feel free to email any questions about my sanity or exercise regimes at

Good luck out there today in this heat and running the fine line!





I’m in a battle….against cortisol and all enemies threatening my physical health.  It’s been a long war – forces have been deployed, withdrawn, re-deployed, but this time, I’m in it to win. 

Except, things don’t always go as planned.  Last night I had my morning plan all figured out – up at 5am, pack healthy lunch, drink my Spark (love it), pop contacts in, dress quickly in running gear, pack gym bag for shower at work, in car by 5:30am, trail by 5:37, running speed drills for 2 miles, plus 15 minute cool down run.  With stretching , back in the car by 6:30 a.m., 30 minute drive to dentist appt. (they would have to deal with the sweaty smell), quick drive to work, shower there and up the elevator to floor 12 by 8:30am to begin a long day dealing with all kinds of finance quarter-end drama.

And, then my alarm rang.  And, I hit snooze, and it rang again, and I hit snooze.  That small window for my flawless plan was closing, closing, closing with each little push of the button.  As I was struggling to consciousness I had a choice to make, sleep a little longer or exercise at home for 20 minutes instead of the 40 minute run I had planned.

So many times I think we tell ourselves that if we can only exercise for a few minutes it’s not really worth it, but it is.  If I wasn’t so tired, I’d quote some studies I read when getting my personal training certification on how just 20 minutes of smart exercise can really improve overall health, but I’ll save that for another day.

So, instead of my run I decided to do strength training with my at home equipment (pictured above) and run tomorrow a.m.  Now I can hear some of you saying I don’t have all that stuff at home, but really it was acquired slowly and over a matter of time from Play it Again Sports which sells used sporting equipment very cheaply.  And to be honest to do a good workout, you don’t even need all that junk (feel free to ask me for a quick, impactful 20 minute exercise routine – no accessories needed – by emailing me at

I made those 20 minutes count and put a check mark next to my sweat once a day promise and achieved a small win in my battle:

Quick warmup (Valerie Waters style – personal trainer to the stars – she rocks)

And, then two supersets of 3 exercises each:

Superset 1 (repeated 3x – 1 minute rest between each set): 15 pushups, 12 hammer curls with 15lbs dumbbells and tricep overhead extension with 25lb weight

Superset 2 (repeated 3x – 1 minute rest between each set):  ballet squats with 40lbs, medicine ball twists and 25 situps with 15lb weight on my chest

Soooooo….instead of sleeping for 20 more minutes, I burned about 200 calories and built some lean muscle which burns calories about 3x as fast as fat.

Took a quick shower, drank my Spark, made it to the dentist on time, survived one crazy morning at work, ate a salad bought at deli downstairs (keep  reserves of light dressing in my desk drawer) and survived the day.  The world is sneaky and has all sorts of diversion tactics to distract us from our battle for physical health and taking care of ourselves.  But, a smart strategist knows that sometimes you have to change course quickly so as to not lose too much ground.  So, the next time your plan goes awry and you are forced with the decision to snooze, lose or compromise, consider compromise….a small step is better than no step at all.

Would love to hear about your small victories for the day, so please motivate us and share stories, or better yet, share some of your “compromise” workouts.  A full arsenal is a must in the fight to take care of ourselves, and reinforcements almost always seal the deal.

  1. August 16th, 2011

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