When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, March 28, 2011

Recovery, Basics and Coming Clean

Recovery has been going simply magnificent this season. I run a race on Saturday, and I am back at the gym on Monday. I may drop some weight first day back (in terms of pounds lifting), but other than that, full swing. I was thinking about it yesterday as I finished up my hill repeats on strong legs, in quick times and wanting to do more (but pressed for time). Why is that, I wondered?

I call this a year of “back to basics”. After training “by the book” for my first marathon (well, may be racing way too much, but still, with basics outlined and long run progression), I jumped into ultras and continued my “basics” with a marathon or 50k each month as a long run, without goals. Then the era of trail ultrarunning came…and I combined it all: various interval training with long run doubles on the weekend and mileage hitting 100 a week easily and averaging at least 80. Those were good times…

But like all good times, they came to an end. First, I had to adjust my life emotionally, so quality dropped and I kept the miles (to steak away even a remote possibility of a depression). Then was a burst of speed work and hill work added to a mix to produce some temporary results, and back to simply maintaining the miles – between single-mommying and long-distance-dating, along with extra injuries, and need for a soulful half-walks on Wildwood, I just “put in the number”. Last Spring my short foray with Howard Nippert training program pointed me “back to basics” again: as someone who knows on almost instinctive level by now how to run long, I needed to re-learn how to get some leg turn-over and push myself beyond comfort. And this is where I am since December of last year…choosing a marathon as a first race of the season helped to venture into this mentality and transition easily.

Quality versus quantity. The battle as old as anything in this world. It’d be nice to have fitness as a full-time job/hobby and not have a single worry and combine both for best results, but most of us don’t. In fact, this year the time constrains are such that I hardly find time to breathe. Don’t take me wrong, I had put it onto myself, and I am loving it! But something had to give, and it was miles. Easy runs, those when you simply jog with pure joy, may be a few friends, without a watch on your wrist, were gone from my vocabulary. It was all – or nothing – every day, no off days, alternate for rest and sweat your butt off. My basic schedule with slight deviations? Mon-Wed-Fri 1 hr weight lifting in am. Tues - track workout. Thurs - hill repeats. Sat - longish run on trails. Sunday - medium run with tempo thrown inside. 1 Bikram yoga class, 1 Ashtanga yoga class. I may throw in an easy run on trails or another Bikram class if life permits. 2 massage clients a week. Work 8am-4pm. Cook dinner every night from scratch. Check homework. Spend time with Stephen and Larry - separately. Study for Personal Trainer's certificate. Read a book on a bus. Browse finance blogs. Help a few runners with their training via emails. Watch American Idol, Heavy and Intervention ( 3 shows we follow, say what you want). Sleep 6.5 hrs/night. Squeeze a date once a month. Repeat.

And to my relief, it works. I had probably averaged 40 miles per week since January (combining race weeks, taper weeks and training weeks), but seems that it doesn’t stand on my way to get fit. And it leaves me time to do other things I consider essential to my overall training, like lifting and yoga. Speaking of lifting, it is basics as well. I’ve been a gym rat longer than I’ve been a runner (this is how I got in shape when on the verge of New 2006 Year I woke up and found myself at 184 lbs), and I never stopped. Besides, I am blessed with a stocky figure from my father (who used to be a boxer) and stretchy ligaments from my mother (who used to be a gymnast). Nobody ran. And that’s fine with me.

Anyway, lifting. Oh, the articles and magazines with promises and new exercises and devices and combinations…never-ending stream. Do that for six-pack abs! Try that for dropping body fat! Burn more by switching here!..I read a funny book recently. “Never Let Go: A Philosophy of Lifting, Living and Learning” by Dan John. He is a funny guy indeed, I couldn’t stop laughing. Who would have thought? But it rang true, every word. Simple stuff is what works! Simple squats, simple push ups and pull ups, simple deadlifts! The only thing to worry about is to add more weight! No need to go from machine to another and try a bunch of complicated routines. Just stick with 4-5 basics and repeat till you’re dead. I’ve had personal trainers twice, and both were great advocates of simplicity and body weight exercise variety (before machine era). Both left me trembling and not able to put my hands on a steering wheel after an hour. This is the way to work out. This is the way I go about it.

And I read another book. Another simple and “back to basics” solution. “The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet” by Robb Wolf. Was he funny too! I think I miss on an open sarcasm of European folks, without constantly thinking that whatever is that I say may hurt someone’s self-confidence. Shake up! Look in the mirror! Not everyone is a winner, not every kid gets a trophy! Not everybody needs one, but at least admit that you don’t work hard enough, and stop making excuses about cookies for mood enhancers, Facebooking for self-praise, TV remote control for getting unwounded after work. I am not saint, but I don’t sugar-coat when I fail to find some willpower in me. I say “Slacker, you get it this one time, but tomorrow you better kill yourself, and you know the consequences for missing a workout/eating this cake will be awaiting for you on the scale!”. You can only imagine how hard it is to be part of my family…

But about basic food…I am not Paleo per se. But I surely stopped eating any kind of grains for good. No bread, pasta, rice, cookies, flour, beer, whatevere...I can have a square of dark chocolate and an occasional glass of wine though. I eat chicken, eggs and tofu for protein, or seafood when splurge. And lots of veggies, 3 frutis a day. I do eat cheese at times (so not clean follower). And I don't count calories at all! Talking about simplicity. I always faded on that part and that's why my yo-yo with weight was always my problem. Switching up to half-Paleo wasn’t that difficult at all, come to think about it. Of course it helped that I found out I am gluten-sensitive last summer, when the picture of me looked something like that:

At first I substituted wheat with rice (from bread to pasta), then figured nothing tastes that good besides brown rice bread, but being unhappy with the way I look (it’s nice to come clean, isn’t it? This is me sometime shortly after my DNF at Tahoe Rim last year), I was willing to experiment more and get into easier life without overthinking. And it was working better and better with time. My trip to Russia shook things up a bit, but I was back on track in no time. Knowing that I’d like to take a planned break from running and racing for the months of July/August and possibly keep myself occupied with getting ready for Figure Competition (a la Ronda, my model for inspirations), I got serious. So, what’s the stats? The picture above is me at 142 lbs (I am 5’5”). January saw me at 137 (that’s where the Russian food played in, it was a bit better before we went there). Slowly but surely, pounds rolled off – and more importantly the body composition changed. This was the most amazing result. At this morning I am happy at my 127 lbs, and lost 4 cm off my waist and 7 cm off my rear (from January measurements, NOT last July's, which is about double that). I was goofing around at Larry's mom house 2 weeks ago, and as you can see, I am far from where my “shining star” is (that pouch in my lower tummy has got to find a way to go elsewhere!), but I am ok, it’s not summer yet, and I am in no hurry. I am simply changing my life style.

What are the other benefits? As you heard from last race report, I was able to race without my t-shirt! And I am able to post personal best on every workout comparing to last year simply due to be light on my feet (even if tired between races). I can also help my friends and lead by example (I am not naturally thing or fast, I just work at it every day). And I enjoy the feeling of being fit – and looking better after 40 than I did at 35 (haven't seen that number on the scale since Fall of 2004). And the downside? I need to go shopping!!! And I seriously hate this idea.

 Oh, and as for a quick recovery? How about abandoning a myth we need lots of carbs to pre-load and to replenish our used-up glycogen stores? May be re-building the muscle with lean protein and supplying lots of vitamins through fresh veggies is actually more important? Just a thought.

That’ll be all for coming clean, cleaning up my act and cleaning my body. The process never stops. This weekend I am off to Hells Hills, where I will lollygag through a 25k as my last training effort for Rumble 40M and volunteer afterwards (a shout out – come help out!!!), and I hope to say a few words before my trip to Portland. At this point I will leave you with a few pictures of our trip to Oklahoma and Larry and I’s fun day with helicopter ride and sphere roll (a purely puking device).


  1. Holy smokes, Olga! Looks like the only thing missing is the fake tan - you're right there with your shining star, IMO. :) Wish I had half your energy, girl!

  2. WOW - Looking good girl. A lot of hard work paying dividends. Lighter is faster. Back to basics and hard quality training is far better than just putting lots of miles in the bank.

  3. Good for you, Olga! I am a huge believer in quality over quantity, although I am also a huge believer in days off. Training hard can be fun, but I usually need that recovery. And how on earth did you lose all that weight without losing your boobs?? Lucky!

  4. Oh Gawd Olga, thanks for the vote of inspiration but that photo of me is a crack up. You are beyond me and Sue is right all you need is a spray tan and suit.Awesome work on cleaning up the diet. Habits and routines are hard to break. Going from a lot of miles to quality vs. quantity and then changing up the diet too, wow. I love your energy and dedication it's infectious.

  5. Olga, you look AMAZING!!! Great work!!!!!

  6. Great Post! Good to see you this morning doing your thing :)

  7. ...I like my Personal Trainers' Mantra..."You can't out train a bad diet!"

  8. Not only do you look awesome, but you sound like you are doing awesome as well, striking that ever important balance amongst all your passions. I need to get on the ball this year as my training has been junk due to the excuse of work/life stresses. Diet is certainly one area that I need to clean up. Thanks for the inspiration!

  9. Fabulous transformation! Keep up the good work.

  10. I'm so impressed. I will try to be inspired by you. I'm in the "sad face before picture" stage currently myself.

  11. Hey! This is the first time I will write you something. I read yours post regularly. But this time you really impressed me. I want you to know this ;-)

    Thanks for inspiration!
    Sebi from Slovenia

  12. It's all coming together for you! Yay!

    Sorry I won't be at the Rumble this year. :-(

  13. This is really a good stuff, This sounds good. I like it. Photo Recovery