Playing it by Ear

Around this time each year is when I start planning my race season for the following year. Mainly because it’s fun but also because it keeps me motivated through the winter (which was really important living in Alaska’s Golden Heart of Darkness). I started doing the same thing again recently when I got a shot of reality from a fitness and pregnancy group I follow.

Namely, I may not be able to bounce right back like I naively think I can. What if I have a c-section? That’s six weeks at least just to be able to heal not to mention the lack of sleep and if I’m able to breastfeed, having to feed her frequently.

And if there’s other factors as well, I have to take that time off to let my body heal without straining it or injuring it further by trying to push it too soon. I’ve recovered from marathons but this is something totally different. I’ve never recovered from birth before, plus I have no idea how different my life is going to be. It’s sort of like traveling – even though I can read all the guidebooks, it’s still going to be different experiencing something for the first time.

It’s hard to hold back from registering for a bunch of races, but even if I lose out on early bird discounts, it’s still better than having to choose to not start and feeling like a failure for it. I registered for a lot of races this fall and winter because I didn’t really think I would get pregnant and now even though it’s dumb, I feel like I’m failing myself by not doing the races.

So instead, I’m going to focus my efforts on keeping myself active and healthy through pregnancy, taking the time and put in the work to recover safely, and stay involved in sports through volunteering. That way I can still be a part of the race and honestly, races and events rely so much on volunteer support.

November Yoga Challenge

Well, it’s December which means my self challenge of 30 days of yoga is over. So how did it go? For starters, I am so glad I didn’t promise myself that I’d do full practices or even commit to a set amount of time because freeing myself up meant I was free to do as much or as little as I wanted or needed.

I started off doing full workouts from Youtube prenatal yoga videos. Then I looked for the shortest ones. Then I modified even further and just did the poses I felt like I needed. About halfway through the month I started having a lot of back pain. It wasn’t very severe, but it was uncomfortable and I felt like I was out of alignment so I did a lot of cat and cow and thread the needle poses to try to relieve some of the pressure.

This span of doing a few poses was most of the month, honestly. Towards the end I did feel up to lengthier work and videos, but if I’d tried to do 30 days of yoga that way I’d definitely have failed.

As it is I could have done better, but I could have done worse. I didn’t take a lot of pictures because most of the time I was either raggedy from just waking up or raggedy from a full day of work.

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite yoga videos from the month.

I liked this one because it focused on back and shoulders, which is where I’m sorest lately.

I love, love, loved this one because it was challenging but also just fun to do.


So what’s up for December? Pretty much just getting through the holidays still working on working out and walking my dogs and trying really hard not to eat all the cookies I’m offered.


First Week Done

I am notorious for not sticking to training plans so I am so pleased and proud of myself for getting through the first week of my half iron training plan. It sounds like such a small thing, but this is a big thing for me. In the past, I’d end up cutting workouts because I had unit PT and it either ate too much time or worked muscle groups that didn’t fit with my training plan and eventually I just got too off track to get back on. It’s a lot easier now that I don’t have to do unit PT, but I did just start a brand new job and so it’s been interesting juggling that and also finding new ways to fit my workouts in.

I knew I needed something to keep me accountable so I joined Training Peaks and after looking at several different training plans (and you can input your own) I chose a Matt Fitzgerald beginner half iron plan because I liked that it was a good mix of the three, and also because if it was too easy or hard they’d let me trade plans for one that better suited my needs. It’s 80/20 which essentially means 80% of the time it’s easy, slow long distances and 20% of the time it’s hard, short intervals. It’s actually a lot harder to keep myself in the long, easy paces than I thought it would be, especially with swimming. I have never had to pace myself while swimming so I can’t help but try to kill myself by swimming every lap as fast as possible. I keep telling myself it will get better with more practice…

The indoor pool on post is closed until July so I went and joined the same Y I was a member at four years ago when I was here last. It’s changed a bit, my favorite yoga class is gone it seems, but it’s added more and different programs and I’m sure I’ll find a new favorite. Right now I’m mainly using it just for its pool. I don’t mind using the treadmill to make sure I’m hitting the right paces, but I’d rather ride my bike trainer at home or get out on the road.

I’m still a flailing swimmer, but the only way to get better is to do the work.

Heart-pounding moments

It’s a fitness Friday but I thought I’d talk about some of the times and things that make my heart beat harder, and not just from cardio. Even watching some of these things makes me a little nervous.


  • Cycling in a group scares me. I’m afraid I’ll crash into someone or someone will crash and then cause me to crash, I’m afraid of drafting, and I have no idea how cycling groups manage to look so effortless. When I see cycling races I’m more amazed at how they can stay so close together and not trip each other up. I’ve been considering joining a group ride once a week to get some more experience with riding in a group and calm my nerves.
  • The start of a race because there’s so much anticipation. When I took my horse to horse shows I felt the same way for every round we jumped. I’m not even sure I breathed. Thankfully, this has gotten better with time and more races but when I used to run cross-country in college it was my least favorite part of racing.
  • Bench press is my weakest lift because I have skinny T-rex arms. It’s also the first lift I failed and I can still remember the humbling feeling of needing someone to help me get the bar up since I was doing a painful kayaking-like movement with it. I’m a lot more confident with the other lifts because I either have more control over them or can do them in a rack where I won’t hurt myself or others if I fail.
  • Running in the rain because even though I sort of hate it, I always feel like I did something extra hardcore after I’ve come in completely drenched. And the hot shower always feels amazing afterwards, too.
  • The final sprint towards a finish line when you let out all the gas in your tank. I have to be careful because if I overexert myself when I’m undertrained I get the heaves, but thankfully this has also gotten a lot better with mental and physical training. Nothing is worse than puking all over yourself during a run, except maybe peeing and also puking on yourself.

Shifting Gears

You want to see a sad picture? My poor bike has been living in my garage for the past year and a half lonely and hung up.


Sad bike is sad

The last time I rode it was to and from work the summer P moved up here and we had one car to share until his arrived. Then I deployed and it got hung up. Then I redeployed and I was just gone all the time and it sat there patiently. I’d look at her sitting in the corner sadly and feel guilty, but not quite guilty enough to want to brave the rain and then snow and now the extreme cold and snow (plus her tires are too skinny for the icy roads.)

One of the things I miss most about living somewhere more temperate is being able to ride (or do everything, really) outside more than a couple weeks out of the year (okay, I still run outside now but it’s a process and my eyelashes freeze over) and now that I’m moving back south, I’m already starting to think about riding and running outside again.

So with that, I tentatively signed up for my first triathlon since my first triathlon four years ago (does that mean I’m still a novice?) and that means I’m taking the bike down, pumping her tires back up, and remembering how to ride it again. Until the roads get better or until I get somewhere with better roads (probably the latter) I’m going to be riding indoors, which should be lots of fun for P to try to hear the TV over.





Setting Up for a Comeback

Confession time: I haven’t seriously worked out since about December when I left for my last big training exercise with my unit. I did tons of walking but no running and no strength training. Now I’m faced with the challenge of getting back into shape and I’ve developed a self plan of action. Like any plan, it needs to have an end goal that is reasonable and measurable and has a backstop to it (or else I’ll keep putting it off).


Score 300 on APFT at end of March. An APFT is the Army Physical Fitness Test. A 300 is 100 points, the maximum, in each category. For me, that means 50 push-ups, 82 sit-ups, and 15:48 on a two-mile run.

The Plan:

Using the Hundred Push-ups and the Two Hundred Sit-ups plan to augment my daily PT program. Also running 30 minutes at least three times a week.


Push-ups are my nemesis

I used the Hundred/Two Hundred plan back in college and when I was a young officer. Push-ups have always been difficult for me because I tend to have skinny little T-rex arms but sit-ups have always been ridiculously easy for me. Still, because this is a comeback I want to make sure I keep my strong areas strong and strengthen my weak areas.

Since my run is only two miles, 30 minutes of running three times a week should let me build my aerobic fitness back up without getting burned out quickly. Plus, I know I’m going to be stiff and sore from not running in so long.


Winter running essentials: Gore-tex shoes, gloves, headlamp, hat, yak trax

I also plan on doing a better job of foam rolling and stretching than I typically do (which is almost not at all so anything would be a big improvement).

I’ve got some traveling coming up for house hunting but having a reasonable plan makes it much more likely that I can stick to it despite a crazy schedule.

Training Mental Toughness

Since I started keeping a training journal, I’ve noticed a few key things about myself and my training that I hadn’t noticed before. Namely, motivation and its effects. Lately I’ve been having trouble finding the motivation to work out and even then, sometimes a wave of “who cares?” washes over me and I quit.

I reached out to some of my Volée teammates and was encouraged to hear that I’m not the only one who struggles with the “so what” of workouts sometimes.

For me, it’s also a matter of intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation. With running and workouts, running a race for a medal can be extrinsically motivating and I think that’s what prompts people to cheat. They want the fame and public admiration for winning or doing well, and it outweighs any inner reward for doing well. There are articles of people cheating to get into the Boston Marathon, cheating to win Ironmans, and cheating to break records.

Sometimes the extrinsic motivation helps me get through the race and over the finish line, and it can also be a reason why I sign up for the race in the first place, like with the Nike Women’s Half Marathon where the medal is a Tiffany & Co. necklace, or the promise of special challenge medals in runDisney races. But the danger is when that’s the only reason to take on challenges. At that point, you might as well just buy the medal online. I mean, they actually sell Boston Marathon medals on eBay, you don’t even need to run the race. That’s what one woman did this past year.

Granted, I only ran the Boston Marathon shadow race, but I ran a full marathon and at 5,600 feet and in a combat zone, and my name is listed in the results on the B.A.A. website so I feel justified in keeping my medal and hat and t-shirt.

That brings me to intrinsic motivation, which is my primary source of why I do anything – because I want to do it. I wanted to do the Bataan Memorial Death March in the military heavy category because it was hard and I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to join the Marathon Maniacs because I was impressed with the challenge and wanted to do it. A shiny medal might be enough to draw me in or help me suck it up to the finish, but at the end of the day I do these things for myself and no one else. I do things because I want to do them.

Where I struggle is when my intrinsic motivation is running low and I’m trying to find the “so what” of my workouts.

The good news is that you can train your brain to be tougher, which helps with the intrinsic fortitude to get through and with the motivation to get started. Some of my Volée teammates use mantras like “All Day Long” or other positive refrains to focus on and drown out the noise. I’m also currently reading through The Champion’s Mind by Jim Afremow and he is big on visualization and other sports psychology techniques to help you reach your goals.

Ashley Horner’s Becoming Extraordinary

I finished up Ashley Horner’s training program, Becoming Extraordinary this past week. I would have finished it a week sooner, but I took a week off when I strained something in my neck so I decided just to redo that week.

Things I Liked

  • I am definitely stronger for this program. I loved that it had phases which kept me from getting bored and every workout felt like a big achievement
  • I typically do two sets of 20 push-ups to get ready for my PT tests and do well enough to max my scores in each event, but push-ups are my weakness. Becoming Extraordinary had me doing three sets of 25 by the end of it, and it wasn’t even a struggle.
  • I CAN DO PULL-UPS. Well, underhand/chin-ups, which are still allowed. And I can do three in a row, which I haven’t been able to do since I was much younger and much lighter.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • The workouts are long. The shortest one was about 1.5 hours and towards the end my lifting would be a little over an hour with another 45 minutes of cardio afterwards, and typically hovered around 2 hours for the whole thing. This meant I didn’t have as much time (or energy) for supplemental trainers
  • I don’t like supersets or circuits. They just about require that the gym be fairly empty, which means I have to go in off hours…and which usually meant either working out late or waking up extra early to get it all in. Yuck.
  • I really, really hate burpees. At one point I was doing 100 of them every Friday. Sometimes I did them all, sometimes I didn’t.

Would I recommend this trainer? Absolutely. It’s really doable for anyone at any stage. I wish there were examples of the exercises because I spent a fair amount looking them up, but it wasn’t bad. I learned a lot from the program, I got stronger, and I look and feel better. There’s also a nutrition portion in the back that I didn’t even look at it because I’m deployed and my food choices are fairly limited.

I wanted something a little shorter, and I feel lost without programmed training so I started her Valor program this week, along with continuing her supplemental trainers Crux (abs and core) and Sweet Cakes (glutes and legs). I’m only on day two, but I feel the soreness already. I can’t wait to see what I’ll be capable of by the end of this program.

Transformation Tuesday: An Irregularly-Scheduled Check on Progress

I’ve noticed a decrease in motivation lately in myself, which I wrote a little bit about in finding and setting intentions. I also find it really useful to look back on where I’ve been and how far I’ve come.

For one, I’ve pushed myself out of my comfort zone. I don’t like being upside-down (because I feel like I’m going to smash my face with my body weight behind it) but I was doing a yoga video and the instructor led into a headstand pose to finish the class. It looked easy enough so I tried it, and WOW, it wasn’t scary at all and was actually really fun!

A video posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 8, 2016 at 3:00am PDT


Then last night I had the idea to see what my back looked like. The picture on the right is from March 21 and the picture on the left was last night. That’s only 10 weeks into this program and I can’t believe the progress.


A photo posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 9, 2016 at 10:36am PDT


Last (and my favorite so far), I’ve been working on pull-ups this whole time. I’ve done them with bands, I’ve done them with the skinniest resistance bands, I’ve done negatives, I’ve done fixed arm hangs, and I’ve done ring pull-unders trying to make my arms and back stronger. Occasionally I’d try to do a dead hang pull-up, and I’m getting closer and closer.

Today I wondered about chin-ups, which are a little easier because they engage your bicep for help. Not only could I do one, but I could actually do TWO. IN A ROW. The last time I could do even one I was about 10.

I was so excited I set up my phone and tried my best to squeeze out a couple more (shown in the video).

A video posted by Christian (@crkellr) on May 9, 2016 at 6:27pm PDT



I still haven’t mastered not doing crazy things with my legs (like trying to use them to climb imaginary air stairs for help) but I am SO EXCITED with how much progress I’ve made so far. I never would have thought I could do this in such a short time. It’s so hard to imagine where you’ll be at the end, and I don’t always see the progress in myself along the way so small markers like these confirm that I’m on the right path and that I just need to

  1. Do the work
  2. Trust the training

Setting (and Keeping) Intentions

I posted a few days ago about how I was working on doing more yoga during the week both for my body as well as my mind. There was also a neat article about veterans using yoga to help them recover from physical and mental injuries. 461eb2d5d0980deebb627cdbe2df6f76

One thing most yoga classes ask you to do at the beginning of a class is to “set an intention.” I was really confused by this. Um, I came to practice yoga. I intend to practice yoga and then afterwards maybe I’ll go home and walk my dog? I really didn’t “get” it.

And then there’d be yoga videos I would do, like “Yoga for Forgiveness” or “Healing Heart Yoga” and obviously there was something behind their face value. Gradually, I began to understand that your intention is something that you choose to focus on, whether it’s forgiveness, or truth, or openness. It’s different than a goal because it’s not something you check off saying Yep, did that and now on to something else, it’s something you want and focus on to continually improve.


My challenge this week was to look at myself and see if I’m being intentional with my workouts and also with my life. Heh. No, not entirely. Just this morning I was pushing myself through my workout. It was legs and shoulders today and I had a full schedule during the day so I made myself get up extra early to get my workout in and I resented myself for it.

I ran a slow warm-up and I really had to push myself during the rest of the workout. I kept just chiding myself and telling myself to just “do the work.” Which is good enough, but not good enough to exceed or get myself to where I want to be. So then I have to ask myself why do I bother going to the gym when I’d rather be sleeping? Why don’t I have ice cream after every dinner? It’s because I am working to make my outside match what I feel inside, but if I just let myself go through the motions then I’m limiting the potential for change.

I’m bad at setting intentions but good at setting goals, but I’m setting as my intention to check myself and make sure I’m not just going through the motions.