The Final Fifty

I’ve hit a sort of interesting point when it comes to my activities. It’s sort of been sneaking up on me for a bit, I guess, but it really became apparent this week, as running has really started to become a thing for me.

The first time I noticed it was when I first started to work dance in regularly. There were three kinds of dance I was mainly interested in (ballet, tap and belly dance), and, wanting to work each one in twice a week, I started dancing six days a week. It was a great thing for me, and I might’ve continued on that way for some time were it not for rehearsals and other commitments. But the noteworthy thing, for this post anyway, was that I was focused more on the activity itself than I was on the necessity of getting enough exercise. The dancing was more important than the calories burned.

What’s happening now is sort of the same thing. There are so many activities that I want to work into my schedule that it’s becoming less of a “must be active enough” thing and more of a “argh, when can I squeeze in _______” thing. This means that I might not have time for proper rest days, except when I have rehearsals with no choreography component and am therefor too booked up to squeeze anything else into.

I’m not quite sure what that is going to be like, though I’m starting to get a bit of a taste of it this week. Yesterday was the only day I could really do ballet, so I did that. I also wanted to test out the new bike seat, so I took it on a short spin before walking down to dinner with DBF. I didn’t have much down time, but I’m sort of not very tired anyway. Today I didn’t make it to my proper belly dance class, so I did belly dance at home. We have a baby shower to go to in a bit, and I’m hoping to get home early enough to get my run in later on. Tomorrow will be grocery shopping followed by a long dance rehearsal (which might actually kill me, based on last weeks dance rehearsal.)

Don’t get me wrong, I still have the lazy voice in my head saying “maybe I don’t need to do this today”, but then the other voice chimes in with “if you don’t do it now, when are you going to fit it in?” And that argument usually shakes out with me getting off my butt to go do whatever thing is on my agenda. I still have no clue when I’m going to work in weights when I can actually do weights again (which might be very soon.) I have this vaguely-doomish feeling that it’s going to end up being on my “rest days”, lol.

What I need to be careful of here is that I’m still getting enough rest. I can’t do weights on the same muscle groups on consecutive days without both risking injury and stymying my own progress, and I’m going to have to be a big meany head with myself about getting to bed by 10 every night so that I can make sure I’m getting enough sleep. I think if I can manage those two things, along with continuing to eat right and get plenty of water, I’ll be ok. At any rate, I think the number one thing I need to do is listen to my body and be willing to let some things go if it tells me I need to relax more.

So far, that hasn’t been happening, and I’m getting to the point where I’m feeling less and less comfortable with just sitting on the couch. After a little while, I start to feel myself getting stiffer and stiffer, whereas moving around keeps me feeling more mobile and limber.

Last night we went out for seafood, and I got maple ginger salmon with roasted cauliflower. It was awesome, and because if the lack of a starchy side, and the relatively low calories in salmon, it’s been one of the few times I could sit down and eat an entire entree without blowing past my calorie limit. The salmon was very good and tender. It still has a slightly fishy taste, which I am still getting used to, but I liked it well enough anyway. Not everything is an instant favorite, but I find that I can learn to like most everything if I keep giving it a good shot and try preparing it in different ways.

Also, it took me almost the entire week to recover from last weeks weigh in, but I’m finally starting to feel better about my body and my improvements in diet and health again. Getting my caloric intake back under control was a big part of it, but the activities I’ve been doing are helping, too. It’s pretty hard to feel decidedly bad about yourself when you are steadily improving at things you never thought you would be physically capable of doing.


Last night I changed the seat on my new bike. I might possibly be feeling just a bit more puffed up about that than is justified, but a) it means I don’t have to harass my friend when he’s already changed it for me once, and b) it means I don’t have to pay the bike shop to put it on for me. Also, I’ve always enjoyed feeling self-sufficient, so there is that.

Speaking of my bike, I realized I never actually posted a picture of it. This one is more artsy fartsy than a proper picture, but you can get the basic idea. It’s a purple Giant Boulder, and I loves her, precioussss.



I’m still definitely in the “get comfortable with this whole bike thing” mode, so I’m not using it for regular transportation just yet, but I’m hoping to get there, eventually. There’s a grocery store that isn’t too far away and does not involve traversing any gigantic thoroughfares, so I think I’ll probably start with that once I’m ready to make it a real mission. I just might have to try riding with other cargo in my backpack that isn’t fragile or food to get used to having extra weight in there.

Last night was workout one for the second week of Zombies, Run! 5k training. Remember how adorable I was and saying I wish it would push me harder? Well, turns out 30 seconds is just about when my breathing starts to get just a little bit difficult, so I think this is the perfect next increment for me. I did well, though, even though there was a dude trying to kill me by mowing his lawn right in the middle of my route. Have I mentioned that grass is a big allergy and asthma trigger? It didn’t hit, though, so I pressed on.

I feel like I really pushed myself well. I kept running as much as I could for the free run portion keeping myself just short of real respiratory distress. What I do when I’m not receiving instructions from the app is pick a starting and ending spot in the distance ahead of me. For my route, it’s usually about 1.5 to 2 driveways at the moment. I try to set it such that I know that it will challenge me but won’t get me too close to breathless hell, and then I push myself until I get there. Sometimes I adjust midway if I can or if I need to.

My time per mile, average, has gone down to just over 15 minutes per mile, and my speed has increased a little each time I’ve gone out. I know that my mile time is really less than 15 minutes, because it’s averaging in the 10 minute walking warmup, and also averaging in the pauses where I do my heel lifts (once per interval circuit now.) I might have to download another app to just test out my mile time at some point so that I know for sure. I really want to beat my middle school best, at least, and I think a good long term goal at this point would be to get under 10 minutes.

Also, exciting news, I think I’m going to register with a couple friends for the Vermont Zombie Run in September. I’m waiting to find out how long it is and how much it costs and all that, but it sounds like loads of fun. I’m sure I’ll post more about it if I end up doing it.

Tonight is a rest day, and a for real rest because we’re singing at rehearsal tonight. As much as I’m nervous about the dancing in this show, I’m excited about being pushed to do things I normally wouldn’t do. I just hope I don’t end up injuring myself trying to pretend I’m still twenty years old.

{May 7, 2013}   Meditations and Motivations

I’ve been talking to a friend of mine recently as she begins her own journey toward increased mobility and better health. It is so good to see her making efforts to be more active. One of the hard things when it comes to losing weight and getting stronger and more mobile is that a lot of people tend to come to you looking for advice or the little tidbit of information they are lacking to finally get them there, but the problem is that most people just aren’t satisfied with the answers I have for them. Because, the truth is, it takes a lot of dedication and effort. There’s no easy way to do it.

My friend was telling me that she just feels so lazy, and it’s hard to get herself up and going. I remember that feeling, especially in the beginning, and I remember thinking that if I could just crest the top of the hill, I would get to that promised land where I was an Active Person, and then I wouldn’t have to fight myself so hard just to get myself up and going.

I’ve been working at this for years, now, and I have to say that if there is a moment when that happens, I have not yet found it. I still battle the lazies every single day. Every day, the couch waves it’s tractor beam at me menacingly, and my success on any given day is anything but assured.

I haven’t conducted a poll or anything yet, but I suspect that the difference between active people and sedentary people is that active people have learned to draw a lot of satisfaction from always doing the things that are hard. It’s not a physical difference, you understand, but a mental and emotional one. Oh sure, there are endorphins once you’re finally up and doing it, but the payoff is really all in your brain. I am a reasonably accomplished person, so I recognize the mental feedback of feeling like you’ve faced a challenge and bested it. There’s an immense satisfaction of feeling like your best today is better than your best for last week.

I think that’s why I’ve come back to running so many times. Even before the great lazy came upon me and I became effectively sedentary for nearly a decade, I was never able to run. Or, rather, I was never able to run and breathe within the same time frame. It wasn’t even about effort at all, it was the fact that running was the shortest distance between me and an honest to goodness asthma attack.

I remember the terror of hearing gym teachers say we were going to run the mile. I would end up walking for most of it, with periodic attempts to run resulting in me being horribly out of breath. I remember my classmates all blowing past me, even the other ones who were not athletically gifted. Without fail, I would come in last, usually about 16-20 minutes after starting. There was one time near the end of eighth grade when I really did my best, just balls-out went for it like my life depended on it, and I finished the mile in 12 minutes. That moment was huge for me, even though it was nowhere near where the guidelines said I should be. To my knowledge, that is the fastest I have ever completed a mile in my life.

And maybe I’ll never beat that. But you know what? I’m 33 fucking years old and my average time per mile now, at the start of my training, is no worse than my average was at 12 years old (it’s just under 16 min last time I went out.) And I know I can do better at it, because I can already feel myself improving.

So what do I recommend when you’re having trouble getting moving? You have to strong arm your thought process into a healthier one.

  • On days when you get out and push yourself, acknowledge the work you’ve done, and what you’ve accomplished. Like, luxuriate in it. Be self-indulgent about it. Give yourself permission to be impressed with what you’ve done.
  • Set goals for yourself. And make sure you set different kinds of goals (like “I will be active X days this week”, or “I will whittle my mile time down by one minute”, or “I will work up to the 10lb dumbbells for my squats.”) Having goals tied to effort and not just results means that there’s always a goal you can succeed at. Having goals tied to results mean you have a reason to really push yourself.
  • Reward yourself, but in healthy ways. Make yourself earn the rewards, and bonus points if the rewards are things that really reinforce the feelings of success (like taking a long bubble bath, or buying yourself a Zombies, Run! tshirt for making it through 8 weeks of 5k training, for example.)
  • On the days when the couch tractor beam sucks you in, note how you feel. For me, the result is that I feel stiff, and moving gets harder. I end up feeling more tired at the end of a lazy day than I do after being active. (Note: I don’t mean not to take any rest days. Everyone needs those, or you risk serious injury. I mean a day when you could easily exercise and you choose not to.)
  • Bargain with yourself. If you feel tired and a rest day really isn’t called for, then make yourself start with the understanding that you can always cut it short if you’re really not feeling it. I’ve done this with myself a hundred times or more, and I think there may have been ONE time when I didn’t do at least my normal workout. I often do more.
  • Try to work more incidental exercise into your routine. Walk everywhere you can get to on foot. Get a bike for those you can’t.
  • Try to think of your exercises, whatever they are, as scheduled and therefor inevitable. Not in the doom sense, just as a thing you know you are going to do. Don’t think of it as an “if” sort of question. Plan for it, and try not to let the laziness in to begin with.
  • Remember: ” If it is important to you, you will find a way. If not, you will find an excuse.”

Anyone else out there have any good advice for staying motivated and active?

Last night was the first real rehearsal for Hair, and we spent the entire time dancing. For most local, community theater productions, choreography is a bit on the weak side… jazz boxes, grapevines, a lot of variations on standing and moving around in a relatively small area. This, apparently, is not going to be that kind of a production.

Fortunately, I am both too weak (wrist injury) to support the weight of another person, and too heavy and tall to be a candidate for lifting myself, so I’m spared the more daring maneuvers that other cast mates get to participate in, but there’s a lot of getting up and down off the floor, which is difficult for me because of my knees being somewhere south of awesome. I might get better at it with practice, and practice I most definitely will, but for the moment it was a significant workout for me. Which is not a bad thing, really, it just means that this show will push me out of my comfort zone, and that can be a bit discomforting.

Today’s mission is to swap out the seat on my bike, and then do the next Zombies, Run! mission. This time, the running durations will be twice as long, with some heel lifts in between and a longer walking time afterward. I’m looking forward to trying it out, though I admit I wish it was going to push me a little harder than that. It’s only 5 repeats instead of 10, so it amounts to the same amount of running as last weeks sessions. I can always run more in the free run part, though, so if I feel the need to push myself harder, I can.

Fortunately, I can go running at any time this evening, since I have no other plans. This is a very good thing, because it is hot today, and heat is a bit asthma trigger for me, so avoiding that will make it easier for me to really push myself.

I suppose it was inevitable that eventually I would have a bad week. It wasn’t disastrous, really, I gained 1 lb., mostly of muscle (my body fat percentage still nudged down a little bit.)

I know why it happened. I got a little too blase about the calorie restriction. By my calculations I hadn’t gone over on any given day once my exercise was taken into account, but I cut it closer than I usually do. I also ate more bread products than I have in quite a while, and there was a lot of eating outside the house where I have less control over my food. I think that running is what prompted the addition of almost a pound of muscle, too.

I have a tiny little sad, but I’m letting it go and just getting things back under control now. I think it’s a reminder of why I cut out most grains to begin with, so I’m going to try to be better about that again. I’m going to keep running, and I’m going to be much more careful about the calorie control. My measurements, at least, stayed the same.

I also got a bike this weekend! It’s a 14.5″ Giant Boulder, and it was only $95. It’s not quite as pretty as the new Giant was, but it saved me at least $200. I bought a new seat for it, so that brought it up a little bit, but I think it will greatly increase my enthusiasm for riding it. My friend helped me pick it out, and I took it for a spin last night to check it out. That was pre-new seat, so my medial assal region is experiencing a bit of angry today, but it was exciting to get out and really ride for a bit. The last time I rode a bike was about 5 years ago, and that was only a beach cruiser, so I couldn’t do much but flat roads. This one is a bit more versatile with 21 speeds, so I think I’ll be able to get more use out of it.

I am also proud of myself that I did this the more responsible way and started with a used bike instead of dropping $350 on a brand new bike prematurely. A few years ago I would have done that, and risked wasting more money than necessary just because it was newer and prettier. I think that’s an improvement.

Saturday I got my third run in, finishing out week 1 of Zombies, Run! 5k, and being pursued by my first zombie. Silly as it may sound, that part was surprisingly motivating for me. It isn’t that I expect a zombie apocalypse to happen, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that running can be a useful skill in practical ways that are not limited to fitness. My pace increased a little bit this time, too, and I think it was partly to do with not losing the sweet assault rifle I picked up outside the camp.

So, back on the horse.

I did week 1, mission 2 in the Zombies, Run! 5k app last night. It went well, even though it was hot out, which usually angries up my asthma. I didn’t go past the mission duration like I did last time because I had plans later in the evening, so I ended up doing 2.2 miles in 36 minutes. I’m still surprised as hell that I’ve been able to do this much, but I’m excited and I can’t wait to continue pushing myself.

I made a deal with myself that, if I make it through all 8 weeks of the training sequence, I’ll buy myself a Runner 5 tshirt as a reward. So, there’s a goal.

I looked at bikes at the shop directly across the parking lot from my work. They have a used Trek mountain bike for $200, which wasn’t that comfortable to ride and made noises when I rode uphill, and they have a beautiful Giant xroad bike for $350 that is so comfortable to ride, but more than I am hoping to spend.

This weekend I am going to a bike swap with my friends, one of whom is working there, and he’s going to help me find bikes that will work for me, so hopefully I get myself something suitable.

It’s not so much that I absolutely can’t swing the $350, it’s that I don’t know yet how much I’ll actually get to ride it, especially since it’s cold and gross here 5-6 months out of the year. Also, though I’d like to think that I’ll use it to go to the grocery store and for other errands, riding in the road sort of scares the piss out of me because cars, so it all depends on how comfortable I can get riding and dealing with traffic. Fortunately, you can ride on the sidewalk in most of Vermont, but I still don’t know how worthwhile it will be. If I can find something cheaper to start out and get me through the next year or so, it’ll be a much more responsible purchase.

Last night was trivia night at Buffalo Wild Wings, and I got myself some soft pretzels again. It was more than made up for by the running yesterday, so I didn’t worry about it at all. One of my friends told me she’s glad I cheat once in a while, which sort of made me laugh a bit. I realized that I don’t think of it as cheating, I think of it as food that isn’t good for me, so I only eat it once in a while. I think that’s a good way to look at it, because there’s no guilt associated with an “occasional food” like there is with a food that constitutes “cheating” or “breaking your diet.”

When it comes to what you eat, there are healthier choices and less healthy choices. Making unhealthy eating choices does not amount to a moral failing, or an indication that you are not worthwhile as a person. Loading yourself up with guilt over food is a fast track to an eating disorder, not to mention the whole point of eating better or losing weight is to feel better, both physically and mentally. Guilt is NOT going to help with that.

I wish I knew how to replicate the changes I’ve made mentally, because I feel like I could help a lot of people if I knew what the source of the change was and how to flip that switch, but the truth is, something in me was ready to cut the cord between negative emotions and crappy food. I feel like I’m developing a relationship with food now that is totally different than the one I had before. It’s more about taking care of my body, carefully guarding it from the things that made us so unhealthy to begin with.

In essence, I think you have to learn to be friends with your body, to think of it like your partner or team mate. If you give it what it needs and take care of it, it’ll start becoming what you want it to be. I don’t mean that in the new agey sense, I mean in the literal sense. Learn the signs it’s using to tell you when things are wrong, learn to tell the difference between hungry, thirsty, tired, and upset. Take it out for a spin to keep it mobile, and keep the engine in working order.

{April 30, 2013}   A Cause for Optimism

So, inadvisable as it most certainly was given my throat congestion and history of asthma, I tried the Zombies RUN! app last night. Here’s how the workout breaks down:

  • 10 minutes walking. And not casual stroll walking, fast walking that leaves you just a little bit out of breath.
  • 10 repeats of the following: 1 minute walking, 15 seconds running.
  • 10 minutes free run, where you run or walk at your choice, depending on how tired or masochistic you happen to be feeling.

It went quite a bit better than I had anticipated. It turns out even I can’t get winded in 15 seconds. I kept going farther instead of turning around halfway through, figuring that I could cool myself down more at the end on the way home. So, all told, I went for just over 52 minutes and traveled a total of 3.21 miles.

I’m not sure how I feel about adding on so much to the duration. I should probably have turned around earlier, because I was worn out and starting to hurt a little on the way back, and I still had to keep going. On the other hand, I am mostly fine today (except when I’ve been sitting for too long), so maybe it was good and sort of forced me to keep going past where I was comfortable.

It’s honestly the first experience I’ve had with running at all where my lower body suffers more than my lungs do, so this is a new limiting factor for me. I know that running to the high school and back doesn’t kill me the next day, so maybe I’ll use that as my bench mark from now on and see how it goes.

The app itself is pretty great, though I haven’t gotten too far into the story line. It plays messages for you, radio advert style, and the rest of the time it plays music from your phones playlists. I liked that a lot, because music helps the time pass more quickly and distracts you from the work you’re doing.

I think I could really get into running, at least recreationally. It was so nice to be working out and be outside in the fresh air. I suppose I could make that happen with a bike, too, which I am also interested in, but my bike is in California, and I gave it to my sister since getting it out here would be more trouble than it’s worth. Also, it only had one speed anyway, which was fine when I just wanted to move at all, but now it would be a bit limiting. I might start trolling Craigslist to see if there are any bikes for sale.

Today after work I’m planning to do ballet to help me stretch out between running days. I’m getting to the point now where there are more and more activities I want to do, and I’m running out of time to fit them in. I figure a bike I could fit in by replacing bus trips with it, but I’ll see what it will cost first and then go from there.

{April 29, 2013}   The Recurring Delusion

I can’t run. Wait, that’s not exactly true. I can run just fine. I just have never successfully been able to both run and breathe within the same general time frame. I had (mostly) accepted this.

But my new success with the very brief cardio portion of the Ballet Boot Camp DVD has once again revisited upon me the idea that maybe, one day, I could manage to run a bit. To that end, I bought the train to 5k edition of the Zombies, Run! app, which I’m hoping to try out soonish.

I can’t start it today, or at least I probably shouldn’t, because I still have the respiratory craptacularity left over from Oliver!, which will most definitely NOT help with the whole breathing thing. I’m still not entirely sure whether or not that is going to stop me.

Weigh in was good, lost another 2lbs, even though I’ve been less strict in the last week or so than I should be. I’m getting back on track, though, so no worries.

Last night was the first rehearsal for Hair. I am so stinking excited for that show I can barely stand it. I got an additional solo in Walking In Space, which is one of my favorite parts in the whole musical. And the cast is full of wonderful, talented people that I am really privileged to get to work with. Can’t wait!

{April 26, 2013}   Ballet. Ooof.

Last night, ballet won, so I did my Ballet Boot Camp dvd, and actually availed myself pretty well. The cardio part has always always winded me enough so I’d have to pause a few times in the middle, but last night it felt substantially easier than it ever had before, and I made it the whole way through.

The ab and leg stuff, on the other hand: OOOOOF. I am sore today, particularly in my upper abs. It’s the good kind of hurt, though. It means I worked myself over pretty hard. And that makes me happy!

Good news! Today the weight plates I ordered for my dumbbell set should get here, so I can use my set much better than I could otherwise. I don’t have great confidence in the handles, but worst case scenario I can get better handles for pretty cheap.

I’ve decided to try the one month squat challenge. I think my best bet is to do these with body weight only so that I can really focus on my form. I don’t think I’ve done much more than 50 squats in one day before, so it will be a challenge no mater what I do.

It seems like Hair is going to be a much more intense show, dance wise, so I’m kind of excited about that. I don’t think I’ll be able to pull off 6 days of dance with rehearsals and transit time, which I am ok with because, with the calorie restriction, I seem to keep losing even when I don’t do anything beyond my normal walking. I’ll work in body weight stuff and weights with the dumbbells as much as I can.

Really, I feel like I’m just more active in general now. I walk at least to work and back every day, and I generally try to work in more walking during the day on my lunch break or whenever. I like being out and moving around, especially now that it’s warmer and sunnier than it was even a few weeks ago. Turns out it’s much more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about slipping and falling on your ass. Maybe next winter I’ll do more walking in the mall since it’s indoors and close to home and work.

So, yesterday. It was actually pretty awesome until this morning. I’ll get to that shortly.

I went for a walk down to the lake on my lunch break. It was approaching 70 out, the sun was shining gloriously in the sky, and I was treated to some entertainment in the form of a woman who had clearly lost contact with the mothership. I got a good 30 minute walk with some hills, I synthesized a little vitamin D, and it was pure, unadulterated awesome.

After work, I went home and did half an hour of belly dance (to ease back in, and also because I was short on time.) I ate a bit, but left some wiggle room because we were going to Wild Wings for trivia, and I knew I would want to graze on stuff there.

Have I mentioned the unholy craving I’ve been having for soft pretzels? Mostly I don’t crave bread products too much, but lately, I’ve missed the chewy, stretchy, doughy aspect, and soft pretzels are MADE of chewy and doughy.

So DBF, knowing this, picked stuff he knew I’d like to accommodate my cravings. I didn’t do bad, really, calorie wise. I went a little over my baseline, but not near over the calories the activities I’d done afforded me, so still within the sweet spot. And those pretzels and boneless wings were so tasty.

This morning, though, my intestines told me they were displeased. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, just some angry pangs and grumbling really, but it definitely didn’t agree with me. Which is probably a good thing. I suspect I’ll remember it next time we go to trivia and not have as much trouble resisting the stuff I know I shouldn’t eat anyway. Note: I did not have food poisoning. And the food was delicious. I’m not saying people should pass on wings and pretzels. Just that I apparently can’t enjoy them without consequences.

I’m glad to have started dancing again. I’ve undoubtedly lost some of my progress, but I’m ok with that, the musical was important and fun, and my body still responded to the diet, so I can regain my former skills dance wise. I might do some tap tonight, or ballet, not sure which I’ll settle on when I get home.

This week I have been awesome for taking a damned break, recovering from illness, and mostly not deviating from my diet rules. I’m easing back into dancing more again, and my extra weight plates are on the way so I can get back into my weight routine as well. I am working on getting my wrist back up to full function so I can proceed with both cello and weights without risking further injury. I am taking time to notice how different my body is than it was before.

I have also noticed a few new things. Even though I have deviated slightly in the last month, my normal default is now the diet. This is great because it means it’s sustainable and has become habit, which is absolutely critical to long term success. Working in a bit of flexibility, I think, is good because I don’t want to have seriously rigid rules forever. The whole point of this is to be healthy, mentally and physically, and I don’t feel like being forever obsessed with everything that passes my lips is a healthy or desirable way to live.

Here’s the other thing I’ve realized, now that I’ve had time to consider it: I don’t regret ever having been fat, and I wouldn’t go back and change it now if I could. Oh sure, I might have lost weight sooner just for the affect it’s had on my body, but if I had the choice to go back and make myself always be naturally thin, there’s no way I would. Being fat has forced me to really study what constitutes a healthy diet and a healthy body. It has made me work for it in a way that gives it more value. And, most importantly, being fat has taught me so much compassion for other people, their bodies, and the degrading messages we are all bombarded with all the time. It has taught me that the value of a person has absolutely nothing to do with what kind of body they have.

et cetera