Tag Archive | exercise

Making The Perfect Running Mix

The first rule to Making the Perfect Running mix: you do not talk about Making The Perfect Running Mix.

The second rule of Making the Perfect Running Mix: don’t quote stupid fucking movies– just make a mix.

For you young readers, this is what  a tape looks like.

For you young readers, this is what a tape looks like.

(Yes, we all know that’s it’s really a “playlist” in popular parlance, but I won’t be hamstrung by your politically correct nomenclature. It’s a mix and it always will be.)

I’ve given this subject a lot of thought this summer because over 75% of my runs have sucked so bad I almost took up Zumba.   I blamed the weather.  Then it cooled off, so I blamed my uterine lining.  Other culprits: gas, grief, El Nino, Congress, imaginary cancers eating my  muscles, early on-set Ebola virus.

Then it hit me.  My music sucked.  I was running to the same playlist (composed in August 2012) every single time, which might work for individuals who more highly prize routines and predictability, but it was not working for me.

Of course you have to update your music– just like you’re supposed to retire your shoes after 500 miles (which may be a conspiracy on the part of shoe makers to get us to buy more).  If you’ve listened to Fun. for over 300 miles, it’s time to visit your local iTunes account and make yourself some new magic.

I spruced up my music and now I’m running better.  Faster.  Longer. No more daydreaming about how I probably have a rare strain of chronic functional abdominal pain or an undiagnosed tumor that manifests as a side stitch and a bad attitude.  Now, I’m running like the goddamned wind.

So to anyone suffering from shitty music syndrome, here’s some tips for Making the Perfect Running Mix.

  1. Don’t Try To Be Cool.  Look, it’s your playlist. It’s private, like your sex log or your scab collection.  No one’s gonna see it so don’t include music you think will impress others.
  2. Sentimental favorites.  You loved the Wham Rap? Milli Vanilli? Carly Simon?  Old school MJ? Put it in there, because the combination of nostalgia and endorphins will get your higher than a funny mushroom you can buy from that greasy guy who lives behind your cousin’s garage.  Tony Bennett reminds you of your parents slow dancing in the living room? RuPaul reminds you of losing your virginity on Shenandoah Lane in Highland Park? What are you waiting for? Put it on there because you may need it at mile 3 when your fatigue hits.
  3. Rebellious Anthems.  Let’s see: Maybe you teach feminist theory at the local college, but you love Blurred Lines, even though it suggests that (1) good girls don’t like sex and (2) that “girls” are animals that need to be domesticated.  Or maybe you are an officer of the law but you love cop killer gangsta rap.  Maybe you are a homophobic right-wing preacher but you love Cher in that forbidden fruit kind of way.  PUT THOSE SONGS ON YOUR MIX.  The thrill of rebelling against who the world thinks you are as you run with the music piped into your ears will help you cover many a mile.
  4. Cheese Out.  When all else fails, add in some Chariots of Fire or that Natalie Merchant song where she’s all “thank you, thank you” for being Kind and Generous.  Maybe some Whitney singing about the children or Elton John singing to the gone-too-soon Princess Diana.  You’ll be surprised how a little schmaltz will send you flying to the finish line.

When I’m Alone With My Thoughts, Crazy Happens

Something so awful happened to me yesterday. I can hardly talk about it. But I can definitely blog about it.

I was all set for my run home from work. I was pumped– I had my best sports bra on, I’d hydrated all afternoon and my shoes were laced up.  The spring evening beckoned me.  This is gonna best run in the history of recreational running.

I flicked off the light and grabbed my phone and queued up my best playlist.  My stride was loose and confident.  I dodged the commuters taking the train (lazy asses) and made my way to Milwaukee Avenue.


Oh, sweet tea on a window sill, y’all, my battery went dead. D-E-A-D.  I had the phone by the charger for the previous 9 hours, but didn’t take that final– and crucial– step of plugging it in.

You know what that means? I was alone with my thoughts for the rest of the run.  37 minutes of “me” time totally fucked up by the stream of chatter in my head.

I stopped at a red light.  I said to myself, “Christie Prefontaine, You’ve gotta get a grip.  You can’t be alone with your thoughts or the sound of your thighs rubbing together during the rest of this run.  Think of something else.  Invent something. Cure something. Draft a constitution for a small island nation. GIVE YOUR BRAIN AN ASSIGNMENT.”

When I get all yell-y like that I tend to do what that voice is saying.  I pouted for a few more blocks and considered stealing this short woman’s iPhone as she plodded along in front of me.

Then, it hit me.  I would think of ways to make some money.

Here’s my best idea:  I rent Oprah’s old studio and host a talk show.  My style would be something like Gordon Ramsey meets Suze Orman.  Confrontational. No nonsense. Savvy.  Other than having to get a shorter, blonder hair style, it’s pretty much just me.

My first guests would be Adele and Governor Chris Christie.  I’d be en fuego that first night. My house band would be bluegrass-and-MC-Hammer mash-ups. It’d be confusing but it would also sort of work.

When Adele comes out, I’d be all Where have you been? You drop the hottest album ever in the history of vocal cords and then you disappear?  I’d be hostile in a tough love-y sort of way.  I would get up in her face.  She’d try to talk in that adorable English accent and I’d be out of my chair screaming, “DON’T TELL ME MOTHERHOOD HAS YOU BUSY! That’s crap.  Get to your next album, you British millennial.”  But then I’d turn all sweet like Ellen DeGeneres and ask her questions about her eye make up and why Boden clothes don’t fit ladies with big breasts.  We’d end on a high note and she’d love my “brash American style.”

Image credit: Emile Warnsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gov. Christie Image credit: Emile Warnsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

With Governor Christie I could be more ruthless.  Let’s face it, if he’s had gastric by-pass he can handle me.  I’d be all up in this face, asking the hard questions that the American people– my viewers– want to know.  “Gastric bypass? What ever happened to healthy living? Can poor people get gastric bypass? Do you support healthcare that would allow poor people who similarly suffer from obesity to have the surgery? Why was it a secret?”

My tag line would be “GIVE ME ANSWERS!”

If my run had been longer, I would have more sample guest scenarios for you.  You should thank your stars I only have the lung capacity for 4.5 miles.

The key takeaway from this whole situation: Always charge your phone so you don’t have to resort to your own thoughts during a run.

Some Runs

photo (5)For some runs, I feel graceful–stag-like– as my stride finds harmony with the wind.  I smile at everyone I pass.  I feel like I could go forever.  Those runs are the easy ones. I live for those runs.

For some runs, all I can feel is each ache and pain in my almost 40-year-old body.  Each steps mocks my efforts and erases my concept of myself as a “runner.” Those runs suck.

For some of them, I am all Chariots of Fire– in full possession of glory, endorphins and positive thoughts.  On those runs, I look up and see I am almost home.  Time passed without me thinking about the running. During those runs I compose blog posts or let memories slide in to keep me company or think about the quadratic equation.  Those runs touch my heart.

And there are other runs where I feel rage coursing through my body.  I have imaginary fights with people I haven’t seen in years.  I pick fights with Jeff and myself and with you– all while my feet pound on the pavement.  I use my feet to process the injustices and slights and confusion that otherwise bottle up inside.  During those runs, I keep going until I feel the sweet release of forgiveness and tolerance, even if I have to do a few extra laps.

Some runs are a hybrid of them all– they may start out effortless and end with me in a raging huff & puff.  Others begin with the greatest of exertion and end with the sweet thrill of accomplishment and gratitude for my healthy body.

During some runs I can get out a good cry, but I have to run slower because of the blurry vision.  Some runs I can laugh at a joke I heard hours before but didn’t get until about mile 2.

And sometimes, I just stop in the middle.  I tell myself: “I’ve had enough. No more running for today.”  On those runs, I let myself off the hook. I let myself walk and slow down and breathe.  I let myself be someone who can bail out if she needs to.  It’s hard to stop in the middle of a run, but when I do, I know I’ve done something harder than actual running: stopping. Those runs make it possible to be a runner in the first place.


Hey, People Storming The Gym In January Just Because of A New Year’s Resolution!

Oh, Lookie! It’s January, so the gym is now stuffed full of people who have no idea where the locker room is or how to work a treadmill.  Armed with ardent desire to turn over that new-year leaf and a list of resolutions, they come in their new outfits to the gym, where some of us have been toiling all year long.

To all those New Year’s Resolution-motivated gym goers, I say this will all due respect:  You are totally pissing me off.

Image credit: http://getfityou.com

Image credit: http://getfityou.com

It was bad enough when the lady with the brand-spanking-new Lululemon jogging knickers took my treadmill the other morning.  I could have gotten over that, but there were no other open treadmills because the latest flock of fair weather exercisers had come to roost.

Now, all I want to know, is when are they leaving?

In spin class, there wasn’t a single bike open.  Do you know what it’s like to take a spin class in a dark room with 60 people sweating like it was freaking high noon in India?  I didn’t either because usually there are only about 15 of us per class. Til now.  How awesome for me that an extremely portly 20-something dude in a muscle t-shirt and a tenuous relationship with deodorant took a bike next to me.  The grunts and splashes of his musky sweat were an extra bonus.

And, it was such a damn treat to find there wasn’t a single open locker for my winter coat, my purse and my $500 in cash.  (By $500, I mean $5.00, but penurious Mommy bloggers deserve lockers too.)  I am a paying client of the gym, who has been faithful and loyal all year long.  I want a place to put my Louis Vuitton hobo bag  10-year-old Target backpack. (It’s vintage, ya’ll.)

Don’t ask me about the time that Jeff was coming to pick me and the kids up at the gym, but he couldn’t find a parking spot, so I had to carry both of my children (who think it’s hilarious to drag their feet and go limp when it’s time to exit a building) over my shoulders to get home while Jeff circled the packed lot.

Also: I am still a little touchy about the night I got thrown out by management because I told a group of newbies that they “would probably always be out of shape so they should go home and fill out applications for The Biggest Loser.” (What? I thought they had star potential, and they took the last of the clean towels.)

The gym is my happy place, but only when there is room for me to stretch out, read the best magazines first (don’t make me wait to read that US Magazine all about Kanye and Kimmy’s spawn), and get on the treadmill that is closest to the water station.

I should be more charitable. I should support other people’s self-improvement projects.  And I do.  So long as they do it at another gym.

These Are The People I Avoid At The Gym

There are some regulars at the gym who freak me out.  Actually, when I see them I want to turn around, hit the Popeye’s drive-thru for some dirty rice and fried chicken to eat at home on my couch. Do you know any of these types?

  • The woman who sits with her naked ass on the common bench in the locker room after her shower.  This is often the same woman, who while still dressed in her birthday suit, pulls out her cell phone and calls up her child’s teacher to complain vociferously about the A minus that her mini-me got in French.  The conversation quickly reveals that the child is in kindergarten.
  • The lascivious guy who positions himself on the elliptical machine so he can stare at the women’s asses.  He pretends to read the Wall Street Journal.
  • The 20-something who comes late to spin class reeking of smoke and complaining about a wretched hangover. As class goes on, you realize his/her sweat is roughly 80% vodka fumes.
  • That woman or man who is always there, no matter when you go. She shows up in yoga and spin class and hovers around the Zumba studio. You change your schedule and attend a crack-of-dawn cardio class and there he is.  How is that possible? Who is she/he?  No one knows. What’s her/his job? As far as you can tell it’s principally hanging around the gym.
  • Woman in locker room who hovers behind you sighing passive aggressively because you are blocking access to her locker.  She makes you so nervous that you drop the towel covering your bare ass to get out of her way (even though you have every right to be there), and you become the woman sitting with your naked ass on the bench because you are a black belt codependent and those sighs were making you mighty uncomfortable.
  • Person who shows up at a yoga class at the gym acting like he’s a goddamned swami with his guttural chants, his portable incense burner, and his excessive “OM.” It’s a gym, buddy. We are all here because we are scared of Zumba and too f*cking tired for spinning.
  • The woman who is wearing a teeny sports bra and a teeny pair of biking shorts who prances around talking exclusively to the men. In my case, she may hold a position of great power in your employer’s HR department. She likely has some medically enhanced body parts.
  • The exerciser who has to belt out songs during spin class, despite an inability to dead lift a tune. Repeat after me: There is no rapping in spin class. Ever. Good for you for knowing the words to “Rappers Delight.”  Now, take it outside.
  • All the a**holes who swarm the gym in January taking my spots in the locker room and in classes because of some BS New Year’s Resolutions.
An empty gym: No one to bug me.

An empty gym: No one to bug me.

  • That woman of a certain age (mine) who hoards all the good magazines while riding the recumbent bike and playing Words With Friends on her iPhone.
  • The aging politician who brings his whole entourage to spin class and spends the entire time ogling young ladies and talking about his time on the campaign trail with the Kennedys.
  • Zumba teachers.
  • The pregnant woman who is there Every. Single. Day– including the day she gives birth and the day after. (Nicole Kidman, I may be thinking of you.) She’s hardcore and she’s in better shape at 40 weeks pregnant than I will ever be.

Who are you avoiding at the gym? (The obnoxious, misanthropic mommy blogger who is full of vitriol and bitterness?)