Category Archives: working out

Gotta Run One: Day 9

On Day 9, I did a short two mile recovery run and then p90x yoga! Today also marks the first time I’ve used my Heartrate monitor to get a more accurate calorie count. Suffice to say, life is full of disappointments. If my monitor is to be believed, I earned almost 60 calories less than any of my tracking apps said!

All in all, I would much rather KNOW this, though, than not know. As such, life goes on.

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Gotta Run One: Day 8

Day 8: 8.06 miles!

I drove to Scranton and mom and I hit the Heritage Trail. The weather was PERFECT — not quite overcast but definitely cool and breezy. The trail was nearly empty. The run was most excellent. We tried a new offshoot on the path which I think added about 0.25 to 0.5 to things which is also good and necessary if we want to hit 8 comfortably before making it back to the car. Otherwise there would be a lot of running some stretches 3x. Blah!

But yesterday’s run was terrific. I love running with my mom — I love running in general but ever since I was a kid I wished I could run like she did. Well, now I do. And we run together. And it is a celebration of life!

We decided in the picture to wear our Frog Togg’s like the awkward turtles that we are.

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Project Speed Demon Update

YOU. GUYS.

I ran 40.7 miles last week.

What? HOW? I know! I am as surprised as you are.

I ran every day of the week, though, Monday through yesterday, and tried a couple different running patterns.

I ran some very long runs where I gave myself a 10-20 second break after every lap, but logged over seven miles.

I ran some shorter runs (3.6 or 4.3 miles, depending on the day) and did them without stopping.

I learned that I can easily run a ten-minute mile after all — and that was the speed at which I ran every step of my seven mile run and most of my other runs. Only yesterday did I take it a little easy and do one mile at 6.0, one mile at 5.0 and repeat the pattern 2.5 times.

I ran on days I was cranky and on days when I had too many other things to do. I ran when I was happy. I ran when my mind was racing faster than my legs. Off I went on my treadmill, squeaky beast that it is.

40.7 miles later, here I am.

Now, that all being said, I am torn about running today. I don’t have schoolwork to do when I come home — which is AWESOME — but I had espresso too late last night and didn’t fall asleep until, like, 4 AM. So I am really effing tired. Like, tilted head and squinty eyes type tired. So I’m debating taking the day off. But if I take today off, will I run on my birthday (Tuesday)? I am not at all opposed to the idea but maybe on that actual day I’ll feel like resting. Oh, I don’t know. I’ll tell you tomorrow whatever I end up deciding.

One more fun fact. Or is it the first fun fact? I’ve not really dropped any fact bombs on you this post. Whatever. In any case, a fun little tidbit: Before I ever started running, I did what we all do with various things like playing on my phone or watching TV — I was the queen of “five more minutes.” And five would become ten or fifteen, etc. You know how it goes. And as I would do things like that — begging myself for just a few more minutes of whatever activity — I know I was just trying to hold onto that feeling of rest, and of belonging to myself outside of my responsibilities, for just a few more moments.

These days, I do that with running. “I’m going for a shorter run!” I yell to Chelsea as I trot down the basement steps. But 35 minutes leads inevitably to 40. At 40, why not go for 45? And then 45 is so close to 5 miles. Come on. Stay on for five miles. Then 5 miles hits, near 50-minutes, and if you’ve been on for 50 why wouldn’t you just stay the hour? But oh, 60 minutes is just shy of 6 miles — stay for 6! And on and on it goes. Unless I force myself, and end up leaving annoyed, I never run for less than 50 minutes anymore. The absolute shortest I’ve ran in the past month has been 39 minutes. I’m finding that my daily run is a place for me to exist both with myself and beyond myself, enjoying some space where I can decompress from the rest of the day and offer myself up to the task.

I never knew I could be that person.

Or maybe I was always that person, and it’s just that I know it, now.

Project Speed Demon Update

As those of you who check in often already know or assume, I’ve been hitting that treadmill and working that hustle at least 3-5x a week, every week, since I started the Couch 2 5K program.

Never lookin’ back, gangsta. No way.

Why?

Because the pounds are FALLING OFF.

I’ve been working on my speed a little, trying to get more comfortable at 6.0 instead of 5.0. Lately, I’ve been doing 3 minutes at 5.0 then 3 at 6.0 and repeating. Today I tried something different: 5×5, 4×4, 3×3, 2×2, 1×1 — and repeating that twice. Counting my warmup, that all took 65 minutes and then I ran two more minutes at 6.0 to get to 6.2 total miles.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be to do those longer stretches. Color me pleasantly surprised.

I think my energy has been, in part, fueled by my newfound interest in chia seeds. My aunt got me interested in trying them when I spoke with her on Easter, and this week I have eaten two tablespoons of them mixed with water right before running. I’m finding that my fatigue is VERY less noticeable. Like, to the point where, if time wasn’t an issue, I could probably have done another mile or two today. For me, that is a SIGNIFICANT change.

Either my body is a living miracle or chia seeds really do boost energy and fend off runner’s fatigue.

It’s not that I ever got hungry while running but I would, of course, get tired — especially those long, over-one-hour runs. Lately though with these little seeds, I am feeling strong. It’s quite helpful for days I’m really giving it all I’ve got.

Aside from that, nothing wild to mention about running. I’m still doing it; I’m still loving it; it’s still melting the fat off my body.

WINNING, all around.

Waging War with the Frenemy Within

This year hasn’t been an easy one.

Before I go on, I’ll preface with this: I’m blessed. I am nearly miraculously blessed. I am living one-in-a-million odds in many ways, from my family’s continued (or newly re-begun) health to my arrival in a PhD program at age 24 to my stable, wonderful, soul-affirming relationship and its fast approaching trip down the aisle. I am blessed with two wonderful jobs (three, if you count side work and four if you count being a student) and while we are far from wealthy, there’s always some extra cash around for frozen yogurt, or a trip to the movies. I know I am blessed.

But this year has been really hard, even with those blessings in tow.

For even the most stable person, the beginnings of a PhD program are stressful. Coupled with my teaching college classes for the first time, preparing for my wedding, and trying to live my life on a budget — well, it’s kind of like having caffeine or kryptonite injected straight into my heart most of the time whenever I think about how much farther I still need to go to get to where I eventually want to be. I try to take things day by day; I try to focus on the moment. And sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and always I have a fresh slate in the morning upon which to try again.

I am — some of you may know — a person who lives with depression and anxiety. Not the fidgety-ness that many folks blame their inadequacies on… rather, the kind that grips my whole body and whole brain and makes it hard for me to feel, do, or grasp anything. For the past several years, this problem has been under control. I don’t require medication; I use a variety of mental and behavioral coping techniques that keep me in control of my own body, mind and life. This past school year has been really hard; this spring, I knew that my depression was skulking around in the back of my brain. I could sense it. As I’ve learned to do, though, I would not let it dictate a moment of my life.

Why am I telling you all this? Because I want you to know — whether you are a fellow WW-er or just an interested family member/friend or an adventurous cook or maybe you’ve even just stumbled upon my blog by accident — I want you to know that the best thing I ever did for myself was begin to take charge of my health. Specifically, when I began to exercise more — and even more specifically, when I began to run — I found a new and powerful way to manage the things that make my life uncommonly hard.

Everyone who’s into fitness will tell you that working out releases those happy endorphins into the brain. I think that’s probably correct, except my endorphins never arrive until after the workout is over. That’s okay. I know that on bad days, if I can get myself to go for a good run, I will walk back up my basement steps feeling calmer and in control.

And “control” can be a double-edged sword, I know; wanting to “control” my body might sound like dangerous language to be using. It can be seen as the language of disordered eating, of body dimorphism, etc. — but for me, I promise, it is nothing so insidious. Taking charge of my health has allowed me to maintain the vessel that HOLDS my poor Brain; Brain, who, for me, works overtime every day — whose goal in life is to work beautifully and well. I am an academic and a scholar. If my mind isn’t on the right set of tracks, nothing is. And protecting my body has served my mind well. Having control over my daily routine and my health has allowed me to plow through the most difficult academic year of my life with aplomb so far.

There are days where teaching is overwhelming. There’s a line in an Ani Difranco song — something like, “No one asked me if I wanted to be everything to someone.” I’m not “everything” to my students — but the responsibility of answering their never-ending emails, guiding them, teaching them and being a mentor and authority figure is SO MUCH HARDER THAN I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

There are days when my coursework is too much. Independent study, coupled with a psychotic history class experience that has forever soured me on branching out from my department — blah. I am drained most days just by the struggle to keep up.

There are days when the future is TERRIFYING: the job hunt in the awful academic market, the baby that Chelsea and I will struggle to add to our family,  the difficulties of paying for school and paying for life on grad student salaries, wondering if our marriage will ever be legal in PA or if I’ll have to live a state away forever, wondering if everyone I love will stay healthy, wondering if I will stay healthy…

My brain latches onto all these things and can’t let go. I get stuck. I get overwhelmed. For the past several months, though, I’ve found a temporary re-balancing cure: I go for a run; I take care of my body, so it can take care of my mind.

By eating enough nutrients — through foods like kale, berries, etc. — I have avoided being ill for most of the winter and spring. This is new for me; I’m usually decrepit by now.

By exercising, I’ve boosted my weight loss and my self-confidence. I’ve also, interestingly, boosted my comfort. For those of you who have never been overweight at all — you can’t really imagine how uncomfortable it is to carry extra weight around. Not when walking, etc. but moreso when there’s no type of clothes that are wholly loose and cozy. Moreso when there’s no way you can lay where you don’t get in your own way. Moreso when you feel like you just have too much space that you’re occupying and you wish it were different. Roughly 18 lbs down, and my cozy clothes swim on me. My couch feels comfier. I think less about moving my body around obstacles it faces during the day. I am comfortable.

By getting enough sleep, I’ve given myself the energy and stamina to tackle the above two things.

By mindfully tracking points and never giving myself the ability to make excuses, the plan continues to work for me. It might seem to you, readers, that I lose slowly — but at 5’3, if I lost more quickly, there’d be major problems.

All in all, this wellness journey hasn’t just healed my body (or hasn’t started to heal my body, I guess I should say, since I’ve got 35 lbs to go) — it has helped to heal my mind. Who knew these changes in lifestyle would heal something that pharmaceuticals struggled to manage?

I’ll end with a little anecdote.

Yesterday, I was sitting on my bed and getting increasingly anxious and frustrated about how much work is left in this semester — particularly because one of my professors has continually made life difficult. I started thinking about how busy this week will be, and about how I don’t have my usual day off on Friday and won’t be able to run, and about how we have company coming this weekend and what if I can’t run then, etc. etc. and my thoughts twisted and spiraled and wound around me like a vise. I got to a point that’s not unfamiliar to me: I felt like I couldn’t move. But instead of giving in to that anxiety, I asked myself this question: “Will you really feel better if you sit here?” The answer was no, and I knew it. Then, I asked myself, “Will you feel better if you run?” Stubbornly, I said, “I don’t know” (in my head, to myself). Through brute force — and those of you who have anxiety issues too will know the force it takes — I stood up and grabbed one of my workout tops from my closet. I flicked it at the bed and announced to Chelsea: “If I don’t go for my run, the anxiety wins. And it will not win today.” Off I went to the basement. It was a short run — 3.7 miles in 42 minutes, counting that 5-min walking warm-up — but I came back upstairs feeling better and feeling more in control. It changed the tone of my day and of my week.

Choices like the one I made yesterday? They have changed the tone of my life.

In short, I have begun to save myself from myself.

KNOW THY ENEMY, they say.

I’ll add: Yeah, know the enemy. And then, win.

 

How I Conquered Holiday Dinner

If you don’t already know, I should tell you: I love my family. I love my family — both immediate and extended — with a love so big it could eclipse the sun. I love our traditions. I love our holidays. I love our chats and our laughs and our memories. I love the way we protect one another and lift one another up and celebrate one another. My family — brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandma, my parents, everyone — means the world to me.

And so holidays, then, are an important time. As you’re probably aware, this past weekend marked the Christian celebration of Easter, which is a big day in my family. My aunt and uncle and their daughters drive in from Virginia; we have a blessed breakfast at my mom’s house where my dad’s side of the family comes and joins us; we sing in the church choir at all the masses of the Easter Triduum. We have a big dinner at my gram’s.

Though I’m a Unitarian Universalist now, I love the Catholic celebration of Easter and have been looking forward to seeing my family and experiencing the rich and beautiful traditions of the season.

What else was I looking forward to? THE FOOD.

We are VERY Polish, and so Easter is a time for kielbasa and raisin bread and potato salad and ham. And my Aunt Maryjane, who drove in from Virginia with her husband, daughters and very sweet little dog (Antony!), is an incredible cook and an even more incredible baker. And so the Easter feast is not to be missed!

As the weeks near the holiday drew closer, I thought about how I might manage my WW skillz while still enjoying the holiday. Should I count points? Work out extra? Eat less? Party down and eat whatever for a day? I didn’t want to set myself back, and I didn’t want to miss out on some of the best food of the year. What to do?

Here’s what I did.

I ran 25 miles in the week leading up to Easter, and did not run (but did go for long walks both days with my mom and Gracie) on Saturday or Sunday.

On Saturday, I ate things I would normally eat. AKA, no weeklies or activity points consumed.

On Sunday, at my mom’s absolutely delicious blessed breakfast, I limited myself to two small kielbasa pieces, one slice of raisin bread, a small slice of ham, two egg whites, and cottage cheese. Everything was divine.

At dinner, I made sure I filled half my plate with salad (the salad was a delight — apples, berries, mixed greens, etc.) and I filled the other half with the treats I wanted most: more kielbasa (so Polish, I know), and a few slices of homemade raisin bread (AAH SO GOOD) and some sweet potato casserole. Then, for dessert, my aunt had made this layered, berry-having, light-cream-cheese-and-pudding-having, shortcake layered concoction — I don’t know how else to describe it. I do know, though that I had some of it and it was WORTH. EVERY. POINT.

I calculated what I ate for the day and was shocked to find out that every 3 oz of kielbasa is 7PP. I weighed out five pieces of kielbasa (since I’d eaten 5 throughout the day) and got the weight and calculated it.. I HAD EATEN 17PP OF KIELBASA. Oh well. #noregrets. I calculated everything else, too, and all told, I ate all my dailies and about 17 of my activities/weeklies, which left about 60 of those points left untouched! I was pleased.

Then, this morning, I decided to weigh myself to see what the weekend’s damages had been.

And lo and behold: I lost 0.3 lbs! An Easter miracle indeed.

All this is to say the following: If you exercise, plan ahead, save your points, and don’t starve-then-binge (what a foolish thing to do, fellow WW-ers, starving all day then eating holiday dinners until you’re sick — so many people posted online that they did exactly this and felt like crap after. Well, no wonder! Your body wasn’t designed for that!) but rather eat calmly and with control throughout the day — then you, too, can eat your fill at Easter dinner and even have dessert! And still, somehow, end up lighter than you started.

No need for holiday anxiety. I am the captain of this ship. I’m in control of this journey. I plan the work and work the plan. And, if the way I felt about seeing pictures of myself from this weekend are any indication, that effort is paying off.

 

Evolution AND Creationism: A Wellness Tale

Alright, yeah, I kind of faked you out. I have no interest in formatting this as though it were a story.

But I guess I’ll begin with an anecdote.

When I was a kid, I loved (and STILL love) Saul Bellow’s book, Henderson The Rain King. If you’re a Counting Crows fan, take note: they wrote that song about that book! In the book, the protagonist — Henderson — feels frustrated at all the things he has not yet become or accomplished in his life. “Time to burst the spirit’s sleep!” he shouts. “I am tired of becoming! I want to BE!” He then rants awhile about how the world is made up of two types of people — be-ers and become-ers. He wants to be the former, but fears he’s wasted too much time “becoming.”

I hear that, Henderson.

There’s something to be said for creating yourself. Also, for just being whoever you are. Also, for the process that creation requires.

Recently, I remarked to Chelsea than in another twenty lbs or so (down 17 since January, looking to be down a total of 30 more) I’ll “look the part” of a runner more. Right now, my saying I go on 5 mile runs and the body that does those runs doesn’t really match — to me. I know it’s not a really factual experience of the world. But I feel like I am “becoming,” instead of just being.

It occurred to me this morning that by running at all, I am BE-ing a runner. Already, I have fashioned myself into a runner. I might not be as thin or as fast as I want, but if running five days a week doesn’t make you a runner, what does?

And so, there’s a little corner of my life where I AM.

Of course, it was a process to get here, wasn’t it? There were 9 full weeks of Couch to 5K. Lots of time agonizing over the scale. New workout clothes. Better-fitting-old-workout-clothes.

The bottom line, though — the “who I AM” part of it all — wasn’t an evolution, really, when it comes down to it.

The day I committed to running 5 days a week with no excuses, I stopped “becoming” and started to “be” someone who runs.

OKAY OKAY. This is starting to get very “meta” ( #someta, as one of my best friends, Susanna, might say).

I don’t mean for it to be. I do have a point!

Weight loss is certainly a process. It’s a process that can sometimes feel like an ENDLESS cycle of becoming, becoming, becoming — never small enough, ten more lbs, messed up today, setting deadlines, new clothes, old clothes, people’s reactions — a never-ending evolutionary process where we are always in flux.

That “becoming” sometimes becomes a pair of blinders on our eyes. We remain so focused on what we might be soon that we forget what we are right now.

The minute you make one right choice, you are healthier. The minute you track your meals without exception AND WITHOUT MERCY ON YOURSELF, you are healthier. The minute you decide you are not going to throw it all away at this holiday or that, you are healthier. 

Try this: Instead of saying “I am trying to become healthier,” say to yourself, “I am someone who does makes healthy choices.” And then when you make those good choices, instead of telling yourself those good choices are novel, just see them as a part of who you are.

You are evolving, sure. You’re learning new things about yourself and your body, probably. I mean, I certainly am. But there’s something in you that has already decided to BE — it’s your spirit’s sleep bursting. Your Henderson moment.

Pretend, if you will, that you are a book. Pretend this week is a chapter. Pretend it’s being taken and put in an anthology or is the only preview available on Google Books. Envisioning it? Ok. What would someone know or see about you, if this week was all they’d be working with? Would they see you twenty pounds ago, or twenty pounds from now? Nope, they’d see you this week. Would they see the yo-yo-ing that came before, with your weight bouncing around for years? Nope, they’d see you this week. Would they see you feel embarrassed about eating a cookie? Nope, they’d see you this week eating an apple.

We are a summation of our histories, our stories, our memories — they’ve shaped us; they’ve made us. I know. Obviously, right? But we are also RIGHT NOW. Who you are, RIGHT NOW, is who you are.Not who you were or will become.

And so from now on when I get discouraged about the 35 extra lbs that I WANT GONE, I will tell myself: “Self, I know where you want to go. But look at yourself right now and enjoy the ride. You weigh 166.3 lbs, not 190 anymore. You’re a runner. You make good choices. You’re not adrift in the ocean; you’re steering the ship. You’re someone who steers the ship.”

I will work hard on having that notion feel true, and be enough.

Something tells me it will count for more than I can imagine.

Rest Days: A Reckoning

I am both pleased and unsurprised to say I finally need rest days on occasion.

WHAT?

Hah, no, really.

This isn’t a “You told me so” moment — in fact, the opposite in some ways.  Plenty of negative Nancy’s were like OH MY GAWSSSHHH THREE MILES A DAYYYY YOU WILL NEED KNEE REPLACEMENTS YOU WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE PLEASE RESTTTTTTT AND BY THE WAY DEFINITELY EAT TWICE YOUR BODY WEIGHT IN PROTEIN IN CASE YOU NEED IT CAUSE YOU WORKED OUT A LITTLE.

Can you tell by my tone how very much I disagree with those offers of advice?

I’ve always maintained I would eat what I felt I “needed” to eat, and would take a rest day if/when one was needed.

When I was averaging 3 miles a day on the treadmill, I never needed a rest day. I was never sore. I just kept on with my life. Same went for my eating habits; I ate bananas and extra protein near running time, but never felt the need to eat more. In fact, for the purposes of weight loss (and within reason/proportion) it makes no sense to eat back all the calories you just burned. That only really works as a strategy if you’re seeking to maintain.

Now, that being said, things are changing. I run about 4 or 5 days a week now instead of 7. I also tend to run 4-5 miles (usually 5.2) instead of 3. I find myself much more full-body-tired after I run (not immediately after, but in the evening and next day). I am still never sore (no achey legs!) except for in my shoulders and upper back — largely because I have shoulder problems.

FINALLY, the day I knew would come, has come: I can tell when I “need” a rest day or two. Logging 20 miles in four days usually requires a full weekend of rest, depending. I can also tell when I need a little more food. Yesterday evening, I had two “peanut butter spoons” (slightly heaped tablespoons) of Better ‘n Peanutbutter that ate up 2 of my activity points. I felt like I needed it.

It’s not that I didn’t think I’d need rest days. It’s that I got frustrated that everyone else thought they knew what was best for my body. Anyone who knows me should know that I am smart; I research EVERYTHING; I do nothing without thinking it through over and over and over. And so constant reprimands to rest more when I am trying to explain that my body doesn’t need it (or didn’t, at the level I was at, then) and demanding I eat more/suggesting I’m eating too little when I’m trying to explain that I had been feeling GOOD eating the way I was eating — well, those things were pushy, rude, and unhelpful. I know there’s plenty of people who want to support me on this journey, but I’ve done my research and if I’m not soliciting advice, perhaps I don’t want it.

In the end, yes, I now take rest days. But that’s because I’m running 5+ miles, not 2 or 3. And I eat a couple activity points (though never ALL of them — what fool would!?) when I feel it’s needed. And I can tell when it’s needed, because I’ve learned to listen to my body.

That, I think, is something I’m more proud of than anything else specific about my journey: I’m doing what I do without fat-burning pills, without supplements, without fad diets or bad habits. As a result, I’m really learning to listen when my body speaks. Knowing its ebbs and flows, the things it needs, the things it doesn’t. Knowing the ways and limits to which I can push it, and the ways to back away or be gentle. A huge part of Weight Watchers (and wellness) is coming to learn yourself — if you’re doing WW right, you too will be becoming friends with your body, and understanding its intricacies.

My advice to you, dear readers, is to work hard on doing the same. Know when others are being helpful, too, and when (conversely) they might just be contradicting your vote of confidence in your body. THIS IS NOT ME SAYING TO DEVELOP BAD HABITS OR UNSAFE HABITS OR TO STARVE OR TO OVER-EXERT YOURSELF. Moreso, this is me saying: “If I wouldn’t accept someone’s unsolicited advice about my very personal, intimate and private emotional relationship with Chelsea because, well, ‘how would anybody else know better than Chelsea or me?’ then why would I accept what someone else tells me about the relationship I have with my body?”

My body and I.

My body and me.

Me and mah bod.

Awhile ago, we didn’t need rest days or peanut butter spoons.

Now, we do.

I know it, because she told me.

And I listened.