Running: Surviving the warm-up! – Gym battles

Gasping for air, people must think my head is about to explode, as they look in awe to my extremely red face… or is it becoming purple? Who knows! But the pounding feeling in my eyes surely is a sign of my heart going at 170bpm, and I’m unable to speak with my lovely sister who chitchats and lightly hops next to me, clearly forcing herself to run at half of the pace she is used to in a warm up…

I look at my watch, 5 minutes have passed, and I’m 500 meters from home and wondering why the hell did I ever agreed with this?

My sister runs 80km in mountain, I run… when I really really have to go to the bathroom more like 80 meters.

Sister killing it in some mega trail.

Just 4 minutes before, I had a chance to experience the lightness of running. For a brief moment I thought I was light… almost like when you dream about running were tiredness is not! The first 50 steps are energized, then your steps become heavy, until you feel every single step on the floor… speaking about living the moment.

On minute 1 and 2, I was still able to formulate sentences in response to my sister. After 3 minutes, I said my last words: “Speak at will, I will listen from now and reply you later to focus on my run”, in a desperate attempt to keep myself together. Never give in! Of course, focusing on my run is the worst thing I can do at this point. Every moment is extended to the maximum possible time perception.

It is not a specific pain, is mostly just tiredness caused by not enough air reaching your system. The world slowly weighs on me gradually… or perhaps all the pastéis de nata I had. (I know, super drama queen, so imagine when I am running!).

At 700 meters, I tell my sister I need to walk for a bit. She doesn’t let me. “cmon, I’m not even breaking a sweat”… I, on the contrary, have all my body screaming and my lungs wanting to expand into a balloon. It is a nice picture, me floating away because of my over extended lungs, surely would feel lighter.

 “Just until that bench”, how my sister knows well the mind tricks of mini goal setting.

I focus on that bench, and hope to somehow decrease the distance between us both, visioning myself sitting there and rest for the remaining of the afternoon. The bench seems to have this weird effect of going further away from me instead of closer, some sort of an inverted tunnel vision. Small trip, nothing major. Didn’t fall this time.

If I had to run for my life… it would be a short one!

I start to think about the times I dream about running without being tired. Maybe is a reflex of my impatience of waiting for results, or just myself tricking my own brain in thinking I’m making exercise. Whatever it is, I crave that lightness and feeling of being unbeatable, but running is not the answer for me. I can always throw the excuse of my hereditary back problem (I got all the genetic issues! Thanks mom and dad!).

This quick mind drift worked! The bench is now 15 meters aways and I start to slow down feeling I conquered something… how naive of me. My sister doesn’t even slow down. “It’s not this one Rita, is the other in front” An unpronounceable sound comes out of my mouth. I’m sure I just curse at my sister, but cannot really tell or have a clear memory of it.

Me and sister… after the running warm-up.

Suddenly, a ripping feeling is felt on the left side of my waist. “Dôr de burro”, we call it meaning donkey pain, do not know the origin of such saying, but I surely feel non human right now. My sister keeps pushing for me “um, outro, um, outro” is her trick, and I start doing that for every step I take. It works for 10 steps! Enough to reach the other bench. I am finally able to walk a bit. A sort of whistle comes out when I breathe. A quick stop only! 4 more Km to go, which I didn’t realize at the time.

The next day I could not move…

Will never say such words!!!


Life is better upside-down

I have always envy ice skating gymnasts. To my naive young dreamy child eyes, they represented the ultimate freedom. Ruthless, strong and mesmerizing humanoid forms who swiftly cut the ice and levitate with a grace that elevates them to some sort of godly state.

I could not have been further from this ideal… No levitation, no godly state, cutting only my fingers in clumsiness when trying to cook and reaching humanoid status by having some alien life logic. Regarding sports, let’s just say I was never the athletic type…

While growing up, gym classes were a sacrifice I had to endure. My poor classmates dreaded picking me for their teams as much as I did dribbling… or should I say tripping, a football into this square space. It made no sense to me, and I hated the competition. I stood alone on many occasions, stubbornly manifesting my disscontempt, or sharing the goals keeper net with another school gym striker, before magically disappearing into the school cafe. With time, I became an escape artist.


5 years ago I discovered freediving, and at the same time yoga came into my life. These are the perfect sports for my slightly introvert self. Both of them are personal mind games that literally make you jump head first. Here is why I love them:

1. Being under-pressure

In Freediving, self-sabotage is directly correlated with poor performance. Mind and body must become one. Trust is key! On the surface, breathing techniques calm your body and mind and help you slowly focus on something easy. You cannot start a dive tired or overthinking. Then the duck dive needs to be done in a single flow movement that gets you to 5 meters deep with the minimal effort. Afterwards, you synchronize the swim with your heart beat and ear decompression at a slow rhythm. No need to rush, rush wastes energy.

After 15 meters deep, your lungs are less than half the volume. No more natural positive buoyancy. Pressure takes over and you slide down motionless. At this point you feel your body transforming. At 20 meters, your lungs are 1\3 of the size and your stomach is glued to your back. You need to build reserve air to decompress your ears. At 30 meters, your lungs are at 1/4th of the size, you are close to your residual air lung volume. Instincts kick in. Then you feel the compressions. Your diaphragm is pressuring your lungs to recycle your air. Your body is triggering your brain to scream for air. Blood leaves your legs to protect your heart and brain. You need to control the impulse to panic, to control fear. . . you may feel living a sort of a dream and no it’s not the eternal one! Compressions are fine. They are the trigger to turn up slowly. They form a sort of a loop where mind triggers your body to make you believe you need air sooner than you actually need. Mind over body and time is extended. You are in total control at the same time you are letting go. Very paradoxical feeling in freediving.

(it is not me in that video… not yet!)

2. Balancing out:

Turning now to yoga and handstands in particular, I do not do it to find some soul enlightenment and mindfulness zen state. I do it because I love the challenge, and to observe how my thoughts affect my practice. Parallel to freediving, overthinking is an enemy of handstands and any yoga balance. My first handstand felt like a log. I was struggling to balance on my neck (should be on my shoulders), my face was in lobster mode, I could feel blood pounding in my eyes… I thought my head was going to explode. I lost balance and slowly fell to the side, in slow motion but brutal fall on the ground. Not very graceful… Yet, that feeling of being upside down was addictive, and I haven’t stopped since.


So what is so special about being upside-down? Is it the illusion of control, power and the humility that comes with it… Is it feeling unbalanced and learn how to remain whole or is it the growth pains felt when faced with adversity. Perhaps is about solving puzzles, celebrating small victories, having the freedom that comes with expanding your comfort zone. Whatever it is, all of the above or none of them, I’m addicted.

How I miss freediving and the being under pressure… for now, handstands have to do it. As I like to stay, 1 handstand a day, keeps the doctor away.

Hip popper – gym battles #1

Today I realized age is a bitch!

Was super confident early in the morning at the gym!

“This is it, it is now that I will be a frequent fitness enthusiast… after finding excuses no to go for the past 2 weeks, or is it 10 years? Not important!”

My playlist was giving me some sort of weird energy and I was feeling like the queen of the world! The only sound I could hear was my music and my heart pounding in my face!


After a good 45 minutes of cardio, being red like a tomato with Rage Against the Machine unleashing my inner anarchist, I walked confident to the free weights and prepared for a series of deadlifts. Was unsure of the weight, and realized I could not even lift the 40kg set from the staging area… Nope, this won’t hurt my ego, 30 will do! I pick it up and bring it slightly unbalanced to the floor.

Ready, set, go! Now is System of a Down… and what a perfect timing.  Rep 1 – “Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time”,  Rep 2 – “Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine”  – uuu, sharp pain, I’ll be more aware of posture on the next one…, Rep 3 – “Blast off! It’s party time…” Arhg!!!


Shake it off, smoothly roll the weights to the corner, just because I am not able to put it back up. Change music, something that brings me back to reality and fades my inner anarchist! Ok 2 free-weights, do something else that does not require squats. Nope, it won’t work.

Upstairs, try to crunch some bones and stretch a little with yoga. Twist, back bends, all kind of bends, twist a bit more, all bones cracked but the bloody hip…

I have always been a hip popper but today I reached a new level in popping a hip! Where is an osteopath when you need one?

Now is Franz Ferdinand… wisely singing “Take me out!” Another 2 weeks of excuses coming up!