Running AND bodybuilding?

This past weekend I ran my first half marathon in Central Park, NYC.  I ran with my personal trainer, Cynthia, and four other girls from my gym at NYSC, who all made the trip from the Hudson Valley.  I must admit, as I rose at 4 am in the pitch black on a Sunday morning, looking over at my husband and dogs snuggled up comfortably in their bed, I was tempted to ask myself “WHY am I doing this again?”. That thought over with, I put on my running gear, packed my bag and headed out the door to catch the train to Grand Central. The weather was horrendous – a chilly 48 degrees in late April and POURING rain. That didn’t stop us sporty ladies – we finished in about 2 hours (+/- depending on who you ask!), soaking wet, freezing cold but very happy! I didn’t know what to expect as this was not only my first half marathon, but my first race ever. It certainly didn’t disappoint – the adrenaline rush I got as I was approaching the finish line, surrounded by a cheering crowd was indescribable. I now finally understand what people are talking about when they say racing can become “addictive”, I now get why people are obsessed with running and running… before I used to look at them like hamsters – just spinning around going nowhere, and for what reason? What is the purpose of all this running?  Well, unless you are doing it and loving it yourself, you won’t “get it”, I guess.  For me, it’s extremely therapeutical, and I was also in awe of being surrounded by thousands of amazing, female athletes, who love to run and work out, just like I do. There is a sense of togetherness, and I felt a happiness that is difficult to put into words. Being around like minded people, exuding such positivity, energy and purpose, when in daily life sometimes you encounter a lot of negativity – THAT alone was worth it! Needless to say, I will continue to run, and find another race soon that I can train for. I would love to work on my speed – I certainly wasn’t happy with my time at my first race, being of an extreme competitive nature  – but I wasn’t familiar with the track, the atmosphere, etc. and thus focusing on “feeling out” the race and how it would make my body react.  Now I know that a half marathon isn’t impossible, but on the contrary very doable.  With this in mind I might take on a few shorter races and try to run a bit faster before entering my next half marathon. Will I ever do a full marathon? Who knows.. stay tuned.. 🙂

All this talk of running withstanding, I need to stay focused on my body building routine as well. I most definitely don’t want to get a “runners’ body” – no muscles and skinny chicken legs, oh no!! My first priority is sculpting my body to try to perfect it as much as possible, and the only way I can achieve this is by hitting those weights and lifting heavy!   The infamous question that everyone in the fitness industry seems to ask is can weight lifting and long distance / heavy cardio work outs be combined? Most body builders agree that if you have little body fat to lose (which I do), the best method for gaining muscle mass (which I am trying to do) is doing short but intense cardio sessions, on separate days and times of your weight training. This is because muscle mass can be compromised during longer cardio sessions, as the body will start to use muscle for fuel. Aerobic exercise also robs the body of energy, and as a result- ability to recover. Recovery is very important to helping muscles grow.  If the body start to use muscles for fuel, you will not grow and basically your blood, sweat, tears and hard work at the gym will be wasted.  Additionally, cardio when combined with weight training in the same session, will decrease your performance; making you weaker and more tired, hence you will not be able to lift as heavy or go as hard as if you are more rested. I am currently testing out different methods of working out – doing cardio before and after, cardio on different days or on different times of the day than my weight training. So far I am liking a shorter cardio session before my weight training, and I usually add on a run later on in the day/evening.  I am being careful to eat before and after my work outs, adding protein powder and BCAAs whenever I can to help fill out my muscles and prevent them from breaking down.

Most bodybuilders don’t do cardio to improve cardiovascular fitness, they do it to burn calories and “lean out”.  I happen to actually want to better my endurance as WELL as being able to burn more calories. I suppose I was always a person who wanted my cake and eat it too – after all, what purpose does it serve to have a cake if you can’t eat it? 🙂 Nothing wrong with trying to achieve the impossible, only makes me work harder! With that thought in mind, let me conclude with a photo of one of my fitness idols, Ava Cowan. Whenever I am tempted to have that extra treat or not go as hard at the gym, I think of this lady and the idea that I too, can look like that (or similar!) if I just give it my all! Happy training everyone!

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