A year ago, I write about what to consider before getting a Peloton stationary bike. A few friends have since asked me if I was still using the Peloton as much, and whether I thought it was worth the rather-large investment.

The short answer is yes and yes. Here’s a bit more detail if you’re still on the fence about getting a Peloton:

  • Peloton resources. I have watched a couple of the set-up videos again, especially about the height of the bike to accommodate my height (5-foot-5). But it’s been quite a while and I now automatically just know which settings to use without even thinking about it. As for the Peloton Facebook group, I genuinely couldn’t handle it after a month or two. Those people are nuts about their bikes. Lesson learned: You may fall in love with the bike and may want to wax poetic about each and every one of your rides. That’s just not for me.
  • Comfort. Once I got padded shorts and learned how to properly sit with my bum in the very back of the seat, I haven’t had any problems with pain or discomfort. Lesson learned: Invest in a few basics like proper shorts and shoes. Just like with other sports, it’s always worth spending a little bit of money for the gear.
  • Difficulty. It took a few months, but I can now easily handle an hour-long class. I found it very important to test out  a few coaches before settling on someone whose personality, music and difficulty fit my needs. I’m currently partial to my boo Cosby Rigsby, in large part because he’s encouraging and positive, and plays Latin music. Oh, you noticed he’s good looking? Yeah, there’s that. Lesson learned: There are literally dozens of potential combinations of coaches, music, length and difficulty. Try a few things, then try a few more. You will find the right fit and will enjoy the variety.
  • Shoes. I found my shoes to be a bit uncomfortable and almost gave up on them. Instead, I now wear slightly thicker socks and my feet feel great. I still can’t clip and un-clip with ease, so I just leave my shoes in all the time. El husbando takes them off when he uses the bike and has yet to complain. It works for us. Lesson learned: Some of the classes involve a lot of getting up from the seat and — if you’re dancing with Cody — sometimes even some dancing. I don’t think I could do half what I do on the bike without the stability that comes from the cycling shoes.
  • It’s still biking. Yes, but this klutz also feel a whole lot safer. Since I’ve since had my fourth shoulder surgery, I appreciate that I don’t have to worry about falling. Or being chased by dogs. Or swallowing bugs. Lesson learned: I thought the experience would encourage me to get a real bike. Meh. I don’t see a reason to at this point.
  • Consistency. Absolutely my most-favorite thing about the Peloton is that I can ride it any time of day year-round. I’ve used it before the sun came up and just before bedtime. The bike helped me stay active right after my shoulder surgery and during periods when I’ve been injured and benched from running. And I got a ride in earlier this week when the temperatures were double-digits…below zero. Lesson learned. The Peloton bike has been one of the best things I’ve done for my running. It’s great cross-training that I can easily squeeze in, even on the busiest of days.

So is a Peloton bike for you? Considering the bike with all of the gear and a year’s worth of classes cost more than my first car, you would think that I might hesitate before answering that question.

Given how much use el husbando and I have gotten out of it, it certainly has been a great investment for us. Going in, I wasn’t really sure whether I would either enjoy using it or whether I would really include it as part of my training plan. But I’m pleased to look back and see how it’s become an integral part of my weekly training plan — a plan that my sports medicine and manipulative medicine doctors both agree is the right one for me.

So, have you gotten a Peloton? Still planning on getting one? Why or why not? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

El husbando and I just got home from a week-long, 25th wedding anniversary Caribbean cruise on the Carnival Magic and I am happy to report that I also did some running on the ship’s outdoor track. The cruise — and the chance to run outside with a beautiful view — were glorious.

If you’re booked on the Carnival Magic, or are considering scheduling a vacation on this beautiful ship, here’s what you really need to know about getting your outdoor runs in while cruising:

Don’t expect to do any speed or significant distance training. The Carnival Magic’s outdoor track, on the ship’s Spa and Sports Deck 12, is on the aft (back) side. This means that the track is very short, so you’ll have to go around seven times for each mile. While handy to have an outdoor option in addition to the treadmills in the fitness center, it also means a lot of running around in circles. Very short circles.

Shot of the Sport Square sign on the Carnival Magic cruise shipBring your patience. I ran in the morning, between 7 and 8, before a lot of people were out and about (even the deck-chair hogs don’t come out in force until after 8!). Still, other passengers meandered onto the track, and many ignored both the unwritten rules of having walkers on the inside so runners can pass on the right, and didn’t mind the big arrows showing which direction to face. I saw full families enjoying being outside, wearing flip-flops, walking side-by-side, also blocking the entire track. I tried giving them a friendly “on your right/left” warning, but it only served to startle them, so I just did my best to go around them. The mini golf course is in the center of the track, too, so you’ll be picking up kids’ wayward foam balls. Remember: you’re on vacation, so just go with the flow.

shot of the Carnival Magic cruise ship outdoor running track

It will be hot. Unless you’ve been training in the south, or were born on the sun, doing anything in the Caribbean is going to cook you. And because you’ll likely be running much slower than normal, you’ll want to wear sunscreen and a hat or visor because you’ll be out there longer than usual. That said, when the ship’s moving, you’ll also benefit from some resistance training because the area is ridiculously windy.

You can’t beat the view. Despite the aforementioned inconveniences, running on the outdoor track means gorgeous views. Whether it’s on a day-at-sea or a port-day, you’re surrounded by blue skies, azure waters and, sometimes, even mountains.

Shot of the wake the Carnival Magic left behind, as seen from the back of the shipShot of the island of St. John's in the Caribbean from the Carnival Magic outdoor running track. It shows boats in the water and the mountains in the background.

But wait, there’s more! The Magic also has an outdoor gym in the area called the Sport Square, with weight-lifting machines and even some spots to do sit ups and pull ups. The area was big enough that I was able to do a shortened version of my post-run yoga routine to stretch. Signage in the area includes some very basic instructions on how to use the equipment, but I didn’t want to risk injury by trying something new as I’m getting back to running after a calf injury.

Shot of the Carnival Magic sport court, which features exercise equipment

Sure, being on vacation is a great excuse to take a break from your training plan. But it’s also a great opportunity to enjoy this particularly welcoming area if you’re fortunate enough to sail on the Carnival Magic, even if only to balance out all of the chocolate melting cake you’re enjoying in the dining room.

Are you booked on a cruise? Have you gotten to run on the Carnival Magic or another cruise ship? Do you have other tips to add? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

Quick post to share that I went to a swim class and, if the only photo I was able to take is any proof, it left me a bit deranged.

I snuck this picture in the changing room after making sure no one else was around, but I heard the door open and there was no time for retakes.

Back to the swimming. I am still benched from tearing my calf muscle, so I haven’t run in more than a month. And it’s driving me more than a little loopy. Sure, I’ve been riding the Peloton bike (love me some Cosby Rigby and his Latin music class!) but it’s just not my thing.

A friend (hello, Michelle M.) has been suggesting I try a triathlon because, well, because we tend to make bad choices together. Michelle actually did her first 50K with us in September.

So, I checked out some local tri teams and settled on Court One because they have an evening class on Wednesdays that I can actually take.

It. Was. Hard.

I was breathless after swimming 25 yards (I think it was yards), let alone doing it over and over. I did it in what we called a frog swim when we were kids. Then the coach gave me some pointers and had me work on my kicks, arm strokes and, at last, putting my face in the water.

We used both a yellow kick board and some sort of foam floatie that goes between your legs. I was breathless every single time. In fact, the coach’s 11-year-old was having lots of fun lapping me over and over. And she wasn’t even trying!

In the end, I felt like I got a great workout, the water wasn’t as cold as I was expecting and I didn’t die.

So, I plan to go back. Still deciding about the rest of the tri team training, since we do have the bike st home and I prefer to run outside with my friends.

So, swimmers: any tips? What kind of goggles do you like? How can I keep my hair from getting wet despite wearing a cap? Do I really need a proper Speedo or can I keep wearing my mom suit?  (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

We plan, we train, we sacrifice. For months at a time, we make races our priority, making sure we get our miles — and cross training — in while taking care of our familias, work and other responsibilities.

Reaching that finish line makes all of the trouble worth it.

But what happens when you do all the things…and can’t do the race because you’re injured?

Just three days before the Detroit Free Press Marathon, I got benched. I pouted.

My right calf had felt tight until about a month before when I had to walk quite a bit of one of my runs because it just hurt. The pain subsided and I was able to run the rest of the way and I did the whole rest, ice, compression and anti-inflammatory routine when I got home. I babied the leg for a few days and got back to training.

About three weeks later, the same thing happened the weekend before Detroit, except that the pain got worse and didn’t really go away. I walked a couple of miles back from the day’s long run. I did all the things again, but didn’t get better, so I called Dr. Awesome and he was able to squeeze me in.

Boy, was I relieved. He can fix it, I thought, and then I can run 26.2 miles. After all, I had plans to go to the expo, meet other Bib Rave Pro ambassadors and spend the night in a hotel with my runner friends.

Not so much. Instead, I was diagnosed with a micro-tear in my right calf. A very minor injury — but only if I took a short break and allowed it to heal. Running the marathon, Dr. Awesome assured me, would mean a much-more-serious injury and longer recovery time.

I did the math and sat the race out. Sure, I’ve been injured before and have spent many a week wishing I were running. But this one was extra painful because I have been looking forward to running Detroit for so long. And I had plans, dang it!

In fact, it was my goal race for 2018 and my whole training plan revolved around it. I also got to train with Gatorade Endurance because that’s what was going to be available on course.

What’s a chica to do?

Suck it up, butter cup.

As with all other injuries, I went through the stages of grief and moved on. This time, I listened to the doc right away and did what was best for my body. (I also talked to my sports med doc at Dr. Awesome’s suggestion and he, too, agreed with the protocol: no running or walking; avoiding stairs and anything that makes my calf hurt in the least. If things don’t get better, I’ll have to wear a — gasp! — boot.)

After resting for a week, I’ve been riding the Peloton bike, which helps a bit with my stress levels, tho I am most-definitely noticing that I am more jacked up than normal and I’ve not slept well since I stopped running.

On race day, I made sure to keep myself super busy with chores, and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing my friends’ accomplishments on social media. So many did their first full or achieved personal records that day.

Now a few days later, I’m still mourning a bit. But I’m moving on. I start physical therapy on Monday and am considering swimming lessons once a week at a local gym to increase my cross-training and, possibly, doing a triathlon next year. Because I may be mourning not being able to run, but I’m also realizing that I’m going to have to take care of my body if I want to keep racking up those miles.

Have you had to forego a race because you got injured at the last minute? What did you do? What type of cross-training do you do? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)

I’ve wanted a tattoo to commemorate my first marathon for the past four years, but really couldn’t settle on a design. How could I pick something that encapsulated my training, suffering and achievement?

So I stalled. I did a ton of research about designs, styles and post-tattoo care, but really couldn’t find much information about what it’s really like to get a tattoo. You know, the kind of details you really want to know about.

And since we’ve established that there’s really nothing I’m not willing to share (exhibit A), here’s how it went.

How did I find an artist?

I asked friends whose tattoos I admired, then I cyberstalked a few tattoo shops in town. I noticed that I genuinely liked one particular artist’s pieces on a very regular basis, so I scheduled a consult.

My favorite 18-year-old and I met with the artist for a few minutes one afternoon about two months ago. I told him what I was looking for, in very general terms. He asked me to email him some ideas/thoughts and that he’d send me a design. He also said we could make any changes I wanted.

I sent him a link to my Pinterest board … and waited. It took several weeks and at least one more email before I heard back: schedule a three-hour session. No design.

I later learned from the office manager that artists don’t typically share their designs until the day of the appointment. Gulp.

This made me very nervous because I was worried about wasting the three-hour appointment (and losing a small deposit) if I didn’t like what he came up with. But I always went back to just how much I have admired his work. Trust the artist, right?

I committed to working with him to make any changes and stopped worrying about the design.

On the morning of my 4 p.m. appointment, I got a short email with an attachment. El husbando and I clicked and both immediately said we loved the design. While it was not at all what I was expecting, the artist captured what I wanted.

I was very much ready and headed out to the appointment later in the day.

We’re there any surprises?

Other than the fact that the design was way bigger than I expected? Not really.

The artist handed me the design in its actual size and I’m pretty sure I gasped. It seemed ginormous.

There was no way I could have the design placed on the front of my left shoulder where I wanted it originally. What to do?

Again, I chose to trust the artist. We talked about making it smaller, but he worried we would lose the detail that made the piece so special.

I needed a placement that would allow me to cover the tattoo because my job entails meeting with a lot of potentially conservative people and I never want to offend.

The artist recommended the back of my shoulder. I was disappointed because I really wanted to have a tattoo I could easily look at. I got it for myself, after all. But I genuinely loved the design and knew that the artist is the expert, so I agreed.

I filled out a few forms, got some general information about tattooing and headed to the back of the shop.

How do you prep for a tattoo?

First, I have to say just how clean everything was. The area looked like a doctor’s office. It felt sterile. Except for the irreverent designs on the walls and the music blaring in the background, that is.

The artist washed his hands, put gloves on and pulled out brand-new, in-the-package, tools. He was meticulous and had me watch the whole process. I’m guessing so that I would feel confident I wasn’t being exposed to some nasty cooties.

We talked about the design, whether I wanted color (no) and whether I wanted any words (again, no).

He then shaved the area before putting the design on my shoulder. There were a couple of large mirrors to help me really see the location and size of the design. It still looked huge and we talked about it. My daughter and I conferred and gave him the go-ahead.

I had to lay (or is it lie) face down. I wore a tank with straps to make sure the artist had access to my shoulder, so it worked out great.

Before he started, a woman next door heard I was getting a shoulder tattoo and proceeded to tell me how she’d had one. Oh? How did it go?, I asked

It felt like I was getting stabbed, she answered. Lovely.

Finally, what does it really feel like to get a tattoo?

It hurts. I knew it would hurt, but some friends said they found it relaxing. I suspect it’s like childbirth where nature ensures time smoothies some of the edges of our memory so that we will reproduce again.

And by hurt, I mean that it really felt like I was getting stabbed a bunch of times, but just on the surface. Was it tolerable? Sure.

Would I have endured it for more than the two hours it took? I have to say that I would have probably needed a few breaks.

After a particularly painful few minutes, the artist explained that he uses different tools for things like lines, shading and even color (we went with only black ink with a tiny bit of white for shading).

Some tools have more needles than others. The shading definitely hurt more than the lines, and the color even more than that.

On a scale of 1-10, with childbirth being a 10, passing a kidney stone an 8 1/2 and stubbing a toe a 5, I’m gonna put this at a 5 or 6.

It was not fun, but the artist distracted me by telling stories and, a few times, doing a bit of dancing.

I was able to adjust my head and arms many times and he asked me several times if I needed a break. Wanting the pain to stop, I just asked him to keep going.

i whined a bit, but was never in so much pain that I cried or cried out.

After almost two hours, he said he was done. He wiped the design off with disinfectant soap and asked me to stay still for a bit.

He uncovered the design…and told me he needed to do a little bit more work. Thankfully, it only took another 3-5 minutes and we were done.

Did it look like the original design?

The original design had a lot of line work and detail, but I didn’t know that the artist would also add a lot of shading, so the final product has a lot more depth than I ever expected. It’s also a lot darker than I thought it would be.

The piece is beautiful. I kept admiring it in the mirror when he was done. We, of course, wanted to get some nice shots so he could make me “Instagram famous.”

Here’s the finished product:

Oh, and, no, it’s not a running tattoo after all! Instead, it’s the outline of Puerto Rico, including both Vieques and Culebra. It features the national flower, flor Maga, and the yellow and black bird that gave me my childhood nickname of Reinita.

What are some lessons learned?

I chose to trust the artist after seeing his work on Instagram for over a year. Had I not seen what he could do, I would have probably given more direction and weighed in a lot more, and probably would have ended with a design that I asked for, not one that I truly loved.

I tried to merge too many things into the one tattoo. I also wanted a coquí frog (it’s very emblematic of Puerto Rico) and the word “corre” or run. Neither could have worked and I let go of the ideas after talking with the artist.

What are the few days after getting a tattoo like?

After we took some pictures, the artist covered the tattoo with what looked like plastic wrap. He asked me to keep it clean for two days, then remove the bandage and wash it with some soap I bought at the shop for a week. He also recommended I use lotion for at least a week.

He said the design would look shinny and dark at the beginning but will fade in the coming years. In the meantime, it could feel like — and may even itch — like a sunburn.

I just took the bandage off in the shower. It came off a little bit like the glue we used to let dry on our hands and peel when we were kids. It felt a lot like taking off a regular bandage, but I was particularly glad that he had shaved the whole area before.

Any regrets?

None. I am glad I chose this particular design, artist and location. While I can’t immediately see my tattoo all the time, I can glance at it with any mirror.

Have you ever gotten a tattoo? How long ago and where? Do you have any tips to share? (You may have to click on “Continue Reading” to leave a comment.)