Tag Archives: working out

ideal running conditions

If I’ve learned anything during this short foray into running, it’s that my body and mind depend on a certain set of conditions to be met before and during my run. Those precise conditions are something I’m still trying to nail down.

I had a wonderful 3.15 mile run on a nearby trail this weekend. It felt effortless and smooth. I took a few very short walking breaks but only because there are a few very steep hills on the trail and I didn’t want to expend all my energy climbing them: the breaks weren’t a necessity due to fatigue or breathlessness, a fact I’m proud of. I’ve been anxious to get back on that trail, and I did so today after work. This run felt laborious, difficult, and I was absolutely exhausted. I only completed 2.46 miles and I took a few extra walking breaks that I didn’t take on Sunday (but I did complete a mental and physical challenge: climb one of the steeper hills).

Last week I ate a lot of processed junk and drank a lot of beer, so this week I’ve been paying special attention to my diet: clean eating, lots of fruits and veggies, no beer. I thought this would help my run today, but it didn’t. I started to retrace my every motion from Sunday. What made that run different?

On Sunday, the weather conditions were perfect. It was about 80 sunny degrees during my mid-morning run. About an hour previous, I’d downed two cups of coffee so I was probably still feeling a caffeine buzz. Let’s not forget that it was the weekend so I’d slept a delightfully long weekend sleep. Perhaps most importantly, I hadn’t spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working prior to the run.

Fast-forward to today: it was cloudy, humid, and buggy. I had spent 2 hours in the car and 8 hours working before my run. And, though I’ve been trying to eat cleanly, I did eat a clif bar around 1:30 (which was the last time I ate before my run) and my body could have been experiencing a sugar crash by the time I went for my run at 5.

I’m a very calculated person and I refuse to accept that one day, I can run 3 miles effortlessly and three days later, I struggle just to get through the first mile. I’d like to get a discussion going, hopefully from both the running novice and the running extraordinaire: what are your ideal running conditions in relation to diet, drink, time of day, weather conditions, mood, etc.? How do you get through the difficult runs, if you have them? Am I the only one that experiences such inconsistency?

On Sunday, I thought I could easily blast through a 5k and potentially shoot for an eventual (in a year or two) half-marathon. Today, I don’t even know if I could get through a 5k in under 50 minutes. Are these simply the growing pains of the young runner?

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the one where I talk about the worm I found on my kale

Hi all. I haven’t been posting very often, and the reason for that is twofold: 1) I haven’t really been making anything interesting worth posting about, and 2) I’ve been kind of bored with my life and haven’t found much reason to update. But something so disgusting and so obscene happened just the other day that I’ve dragged myself here to write it down.

Around noon, when I was sitting at work, I got a craving for something salty and crisp. Remembering I’d purchased a big bunch of kale three days prior, I salivated at the thought of coming home to bake some kale chips. I was so excited because kale chips are the best, and I only recently discovered them. I got home from my workout and even before showering, I decided I wanted to get these puppies in the oven. I pulled out my bag of kale and picked out a few choice leaves.

As I was getting ready to rinse them, I noticed something black and white in the center of the best looking leaf. At first I thought there was just a small rotted piece. The rest of the kale looked fresh so I thought huh, how strange… I was getting ready to cut that piece out and then I realized it was not a rotted piece of the leaf: it was some sort of larva. Larva. In my kale. LARVA.

Did I want to take a photo of this? Yes. But I couldn’t stand the thought of this larva-infested piece of kale sitting on my cutting board while I went to find my camera. I have to assume it was dead but I didn’t let it stick around long enough to find out. My stomach turned. LARVA!

Needless to say, I did not eat any kale chips. I tossed the whole bunch. Poor kale.

This was bound to happen eventually, right? It only makes sense: produce comes from outside. And, duh, so do pests. But did I expect to find larva on my storebought kale? It wasn’t even organic kale, so no, I did not.

The sight of this white larva surrounded by black something-or-other has turned me off of kale for a while, I’m afraid. You best believe I’m going to be thoroughly inspecting my produce from now on. Ugh.

So, that was the bad news, but I have good news too. I’m down 13+ pounds since I’ve started working out in February. I expected a faster weight loss since I have so much to lose (I aim to lose about 40 more pounds). But, instead of beating myself up for this, I’ve decided to embrace it and give myself credit where it’s due. I’m doing well and I should be happy. And, for the first time since high school, I ran 2 miles straight the other day on the treadmill. No, it’s not quite a 5k, and yes, it’s on the treadmill–which is much easier to me than pavement–but it was 2 miles! I’m well on my way. I will get there.

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weight loss challenge update

I recently wrote about the weight loss challenge my boyfriend and I are doing together. We took a hint from The Biggest Loser and decided a more fair measurement would be percentage weight lost rather than weight in pounds. Unsurprisingly, he won last week (but only by 0.2%!) and this meant he was able to dole out a week-long punishment to me. He said it was difficult to find a punishment because I’m (usually) so healthy, but he zeroed in on my one weakness aside from sweets (which, let’s be honest, he’s probably saving for next time): coffee.

The punishment: No coffee on days I don’t work out. Obviously, the end goal here is to make me work out every day this week so I can have my precious coffee. Maybe this doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but I start each and every work day with a 22 oz humungous travel mug full o’ joe. I have this vision in my head that me without coffee = trainwreck. It’s probably much more psychological and much less based in fact, but I don’t chance it! I have never, since starting my professional life, forgotten my coffee in the morning. I actually set my coffee pot the night before and have it on a 6:30 am timer. This saves me money and calories I’d otherwise be spending at the Starbucks in my office building. I don’t think I’m really addicted to caffeine, per se…but how would I know, seeing as I haven’t gone a day without it in years? I think it’s more that I’ve always consumed coffee is a treat. It’s a warm, soothing beverage I like to enjoy and on particularly bad days in the past, I’d treat myself with an afternoon Starbucks. Coffee is a little reward I allow myself each day, much the same as people reward themselves with a few squares of dark chocolate, or a cookie, or an after work drink.

So, I didn’t work out Saturday or Sunday (big surprise). I didn’t even work out yesterday (it was Memorial Day, after all!) but he surprised me with a soy latte anyway and chalked it up to a “holiday treat” (can you see why we’ve had trouble losing weight in the past?) Today, I dragged my butt to the gym and suffered through my first workout in two weeks. The flaw in the system is that I consume my coffee in the morning but don’t work out until the afternoon. In theory, I could easily have my coffee and just decide not to exercise after work–but that wouldn’t be fair.

I got home and curiously stepped on the scale, knowing I wasn’t going to like the number after my weekend cupcake binge. The verdict: I’m up three pounds since Friday. Ugh. But, there are factors to consider, like I normally weigh myself in the morning before eating and today I weighed myself after eating all of my meals. I’ve historically had a difficult time keeping weight off. The minute I slip up, the weight comes crashing back to my belly. It’s always belly weight, too, which is apparently the worst place to carry extra weight because of all the increased health issues, like cardiovascular disease. I envy women that pack weight onto their thighs or butts. It seems like a better location for extra poundage–me, I’ve always carried around a spare tire.

This week will be a difficult one just to break even, much less lose. We’ll see who comes out victorious on Friday!

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weight loss challenge

I’ve been writing quite frequently about my desire to get in shape, and just recently, have started actually succeeding in that plan. The problem was that my boyfriend also needs to follow suit, but getting him motivated is like pulling teeth. I thought if I started cooking healthy (vegan) food and working out almost daily, he’d see my happiness/excitement/drive and join in. That wasn’t the case. He spoke often about wanting to join in, but just never did. He’s a man of a thousand excuses (a lot like how I used to be, and sometimes still am) so I concocted a sneaky plan to get him enthused about healthy living.

He’s a very competitive guy. He does well when reality is transformed into some sort of game with tangible punishments and rewards. He also loves watching The Biggest Loser, which I can do without just because it’s two freaking hours, who has the time? In short, I decided to combine these things to create a “game”-like scenario to get him motivated. For others, this might not work. I strongly believe that anyone embarking on a life change like losing weight should have that a-ha! epiphanic moment where they realize that they need to change, and the reasons for change come from within. I think he’s honestly already had that moment but didn’t have the drive to execute the changes he realizes he needs to make. Our “game” is as much a social experiment to me as it is a (potentially) life-altering change for him. Only time will tell if this will work, but so far, so good!

The Game:

Fridays are our “weigh-in” days. We weigh ourselves in the morning and then calculate our percentage lost since the previous week. This is all honor-system, guys. I’m not sharing with anyone how much I weigh, even him, but we trust each other not to cheat. Whoever loses the bigger percentage for the week has “won” the week and gets to dole out one “healthy” punishment to the loser for the next week. That’s the punishment side. The reward side comes from monthly meetings. Whoever wins the most weeks by the end of the month gets to decide on a fun activity to participate in (being active here is key)–we haven’t gotten this far yet, but suggestions I presented to him when I explained the rules were: going to the zoo on a Saturday (major walking going on there), going downstate to one of the national parks for a day of hiking, even going bowling would count!

I was telling one of my friends and she thought it was a really weird idea. It is, and I honestly don’t care at all about it, but it helps him and I know that. If competition is what he needs to succeed, then bring it on. It also gives us a reason to do at least one fun, active thing per month. We tend to really get stuck in our routines and we don’t really do much together when we have days off because we’re either a) tired or b) hellbent on saving money. This, though, will hopefully bring us closer together.

I won the first week and my punishment was based upon his severe addiction to diet coke. He’s tried to quit before and I’ve told him not to bring it over so he’s not tempted, but he does anyway. It’s bad. So my punishment to him for this week was: no diet coke at all, but one 12 oz diet coke can be earned per day by going on a 30+ minute walk with me. You better believe that we went for a walk yesterday. 😉 And today he’s golfing 9 holes, so I told him that counts, too.

At the rate I’m going, I should be at my first goal weight in 20 weeks. That seems like a long ways away, but as long as I keep inching toward the goal, I think the time will cruise on by. Cheers to my new life!

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progress

I’m happy to report that my weight loss goals are (finally) on track. Vegan-me has lost 8 pounds, meaning vegan-me is now at my previously heaviest weight ever. Congratulations are not in order for that accomplishment, but what it means is that the ball is finally rolling. I’ve started to seriously track my food intake using My Fitness Pal and it has really, really helped. I thought I had a pretty good handle on things before but I’m finding now that I was just eating too much. Mostly my diet was healthy before, but too much of a good thing can still be bad. I haven’t wanted to eat my own hand yet so it seems that my body is adjusting nicely to the change. When I don’t work out, I tend to go over my calories by about 200–which is about what I burn when I work out–so clearly the solution is to keep working out. D’oy. It’s not realistic that I will get 30 minutes of cardio in every single day, but my goal still remains to work out more often than not. I aim for at least four days a week, usually taking the weekends off–but now that it’s summertime, I hope to get some exercise-that-doesn’t-feel-like-exercise in on the weekends. Leisurely walks. Trips to the zoo or downtown Chicago. Just something to keep my body moving.

I fear that my body will never look the way I want it to, but that shouldn’t stop me from aiming for the stars with this healthy new life. I’ve done some damage to my body by years of bad eating and inactivity that cannot be undone without the help of plastic surgery, which is out of the question, so I don’t think I’ll ever be proud to call this body mine, even if I hit my goal weight. But what I should be happy about when (not if!) that day comes is that I will be a healthier, happier, more vibrant me. And that’s nothing to sneeze at.

I didn’t work out all week until today and I found my muscles becoming antsy. I’ve never experienced that feeling before, but my legs were aching to move. My brain didn’t want to go to the gym but my body definitely did. I had a decent run/walk on the treadmill and now my legs are happily spent. This is good, this feeling. The feeling of wanting to be active is something I’ve never really experienced. I didn’t play sports as a kid and I dreaded gym class. I always identified as more artsy-fartsy than sporty, and I think that’s the difference between me and several other adults that aim to lose weight. Others are aiming to reacquaint themselves with an active life, whereas I’m starting from scratch and building from the ground up. After a few months of reluctantly dragging my ass to the gym, I’m starting to get into a groove. I’m starting to enjoy it. This is huge for someone like me. If I can enjoy exercise, I have faith and certainty that anyone can.

PS, lettuce wraps are my new favorite thing. Such a healthy alternative to tacos, burritos, wraps, or what-have-you. The possibilities are endless! Start wrapping your food in lettuce! Crisp, fresh, delicious lettuce. My personal fave is romaine.

PPS, how can you not be happy listening to this song?

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getting back on track

I’m adjusting back into my normal routine and I’m not happy about it. Waking up at 5:45 am without the promise of a flight to San Francisco or a trip to Yosemite on the other end of things is just not fun. I arrived at work to a full inbox of 226 messages and I’m happy to report that it only took me an hour and a half to catch back up with my work life. My coworker handled all the urgent fires that came my way for the past week and for that, I owe her big! It’s bittersweet to be back home. I missed my kitties while I was vacationing but now I miss the bay, the sea, walking everywhere, getting a taste of city life…I truly hate living in the suburbs. I secretly wish my office would move to the city so it would make financial sense for me to move as well. Oh, woe. I love the city and I love the country but I do hate the ‘burbs. They’re sleepy and safe but lacking in the adventure department big time.

Being back means the bane of my existence: my sedentary commuter lifestyle. I am so inactive at home. I have nowhere to go and no excuse to get a good walk in anywhere. After work today, I threw myself a little pity party and skipped the gym and came home to enjoy a beer instead. This is a vice of mine. I’ve really got to find a happy medium. I’m too young to feel this old. I found a new gray hair in San Francisco and realized that time is ticking. I don’t want to wake up in ten years never having done any of the things I wanted to do. So, this means I’m currently in the throes of planning another trip–a long weekend around my birthday in July to visit friends who moved to Philly this past year. Flights into NYC are much cheaper than Philadelphia so we’ll meet them there, do a day in New York, and then take the bus to Philly for two or three days. It will be wonderful, and very cheap compared to our San Francisco trip. It gives me something wonderful to look forward to. It seems we all need plans to look forward to in order to get through the humdrum waiting game that most of our lives tend to be. These past two years since I’ve graduated have slipped by in record speed. My life is not very spontaneous. I sleep, wake, work, and sleep again. I’m lucky to have found an interest in cooking since adopting my vegan lifestyle, so that keeps things interesting on those days that I need a mini adventure. I’m hungry for more though. I want to be the interesting person I know I can be. I’d like to take up a new, creative hobby–knitting, perhaps? (With vegan yarn, of course.) Any suggestions are welcome. I used to consider myself artsy but lately the well has run dry.

I gained two pounds on vacation so I’m jumping back into my healthy eating/working out regimen tomorrow. I needed a couple of days to readjust before re-embarking on my journey. This means there should be new food pics and new recipes soon, with any luck. I have a list of veggies I want to try (chard comes to mind–I’ve never had it!) This will mean more frequent updates. And I should really look at registering for a 5k so I have a true goal to work toward on that front.

Did you ever take a trip that changed your life?

What were you like at age 24 (or if you’re younger than me–how do you hope to be at age 24)?

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no use crying over spilt lentils

I spilled a quarter of a bag of lentils on my (filthy) kitchen floor tonight while preparing dinner. #veganproblems

The cats thought it was great fun to frolic through the lentil mess while I scrambled to find my trusty broom and dust pan. I probably could’ve scooped them all up, rinsed, and life would’ve gone forth as usual, but I really don’t trust the state of my kitchen floor. Into the garbage they went. What a sad day.

As far as diet and exercise goes, it’s been a frustrating week. I’ve been uber stressed at work and as the emotional eater I am, this has translated into a) skipping the gym and b) eating lots of sweets. I have no excuse for my behavior. I think I need to accomplish two things in the very near future:

1) I need to bring more fruit and veggies to snack on at work because I find I am ravenous upon arriving home and will literally sit down and eat just about anything in unimaginable quantities.

and 2) I need to find ways to add activity into my daily life outside of my organized cardio routine to offset the extra calories I’ll be consuming through snackage.

I eat an incredibly healthy diet 80% of the time. I am not one of those people that hates fruit and veggies. I adore them. I eat them daily, in large quantities. But I also have a sweet tooth and enjoy sugary treats the way Paula Deen enjoys butter. I sooth my bad days with candy and $4.50 soy lattes. I sometimes think I’m an addict of sorts. Depending on the stage of my life I’m referring to, I can pinpoint exactly what I used as a soothing agent: lately, it’s been food. But there have been times *cough*mylastyearofcollege*cough* that it was more the booze-sooth. I can be a junkie for just about anything. People say it takes a lot of willpower to be a vegetarian or a vegan, which I’ve been able to demonstrate, but the willpower required to stay away from sweets is a brand of willpower I have yet to perfect the art of.

I spend a lot of time thinking about and complaining about my dreaded sedentary deskjob life. The truth is, I can bitch about it all I want but if I want to be able to stay on top of my bills, I have to accept this fate. I’ve been reading lots of stats lately that 1 in 3 adults are overweight or obese in this country but when I look around at my friends, peers, coworkers, it seems very few are struggling with the affliction I struggle with. I have a really hard time noticing how damned skinny my coworkers are and it doesn’t even really seem like they’re trying. You get really cozy-close with coworkers: you see them eat, you hear them talk about their personal lives, and it seems to me that no one thinks about food or exercise at the rate it’s always weighing on my mind. Of course, I’m no mind reader. I could be very wrong about their struggles. To the untrained eye, though, I see myself struggling and I see everyone else going out to lunch, eating high calorie meals, and not. getting. fat.

Part of my problem is laziness, I think. I don’t want to have to try. When I do try, I don’t see results so I lose my drive. I need to be held accountable. Convincing my boyfriend to be active with me and thusly, hold me accountable, has been a struggle. We both would rather sit on the couch and talk about changing rather than actually change. I find I’m not so much in love with my life these days. These are those trying times when I go into hiding. In fight or flight, I’m definitely flight.

I never thought I’d have a blog I stuck with because I never thought I had enough interesting information to convey to the outside world. I still don’t really have anything of interest to convey…but regardless, I’m enjoying being part of the conversation.

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c25k update

I’ve been cooking new meals but I have neglected to take any decent photos, so this post will not be about that. But for the record, I made vegan stroganoff this week (very tasty!), and caribbean coconut rice w/ chickpeas and broccoli (this was tasty but I sort of ruined it by adding a touch too much cayenne pepper–my mouth was on fire! I also don’t think I’m a big fan of ginger and this called for a whole tbsp of ground ginger). I used my Upton’s Naturals chorizo seitan for the MOST delicious tofu scramble I’ve cooked to date. I wish I had photos! It was to die for. It was the talk of work when I brought my leftovers for breakfast. I love when my coworkers are intrigued by my meals. They are always telling me how delicious my food looks and smells, and they’re always shocked to find out the ingredients. One of my coworkers even told me I’ve inspired her to include more veggies into her meals. I love that! 🙂

I’m chugging along with the c25k program. I decided to abandon the regimen and go it alone. I finally “graduated” week 5, finally running 20 minutes straight. I’ve really, really slowed my pace, which I’m okay with. Speed and time will come later. Right now, I’m really just trying to bump up my endurance. Being able to run for 20 minutes was a huge accomplishment for me, even if my pace is barely a step above a brisk walk. I’m going to try to add a couple minutes to each run until I get to 30 minutes. Then I’ll start bumping up my speed by a tenth of a MPH until I get back up to my original pace. I will get there. I will not give up. (However, I only ran twice this week and only worked out three times total. My boss let us leave an hour and a half early yesterday and I decided to go home and relax rather than go to the gym…and then I ate way too much food and called it a day.) I’m taking my run outside today for the first time. I’m anticipating crashing and burning. It’s much easier on a treadmill. We’ll see how it goes. I’m lucky I live in the great-freakin’-plains and I won’t be dealing with any inclines. Just flat terrain here in Illinois.

We’re leaving for San Francisco on April 21. For anyone who’s been: what restaurants do you suggest for vegans? I plan on doing some research but I thought I’d mention it here in case anyone has any brilliant suggestions.

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couch to 5k plateau

I had my second run of Week 4 today. Contrary to what should be happening, things are getting harder, not easier. I find myself just barely getting through each workout, sheer exhaustion afterwards, with only an even more difficult workout the next time to look forward to.

I think the terminology “couch to 5k” is a little bit misleading. The first couple of weeks were pretty easy, I felt like the program was easing me into a more active lifestyle, but then all of a sudden, things jumped up big time. I went from running 1.5 minute and 3 minute intervals with lots of walking to running 3 and 5 minute intervals with virtually no recovery walking time. Next week, I’ll have to run 20 minutes straight. Whoa, slow down there. I think I need more time!

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider quitting around the halfway mark of each workout. And I don’t mean quitting that workout on that particular day…I mean quitting the program entirely. I get tired, physically exhausted, cranky, and the voice in my head starts preparing for failure–even encouraging it! I keep telling myself I’m just not a runner. I’m just not cut out for this.

It’s not unlike a Nic Cage movie.

Most of the time, things are okay. But some of the time, things are so awful, you can’t freakin’ believe it.

I think I’ve gone from the “everything’s fine” stage to the “when things really, really bad” stage. The second half of the program, weeks 5-9, are a threat level so severe that you should hope and pray you never in your lifetime have to experience it.

I’m talking, of course, of the Nic Cage terror alert system!

In all honesty, the one good thing is that I am committed to finishing this program just because that’s the kind of person I am. As much as I may want to quit, I won’t. I never quit anything I set my mind to, which is one of the pieces of my personality that I actually like about myself. So here’s to you, couch to 5k, you wretched, soul-sucking wench. I will conquer you. But I may never run again after I do.

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Week 4

Today I started week 4 of the couch to 5k.

Maybe this looks like a piece of cake to you, but coming from last week when the most I had to run was 3 minutes at a time and I got a 3 minute reprieve afterwards, this was a lot. I keep looking to this week as the “make or break” week. C25k is weeding out the weak-willed. I have read several horror stories of runners repeating week 4 three times, four times, some quitting altogether–but it won’t be me! I will not allow myself to give up. I’m almost halfway through the program. I firmly believe that if I can get through this week and Week 5, I’m in the home stretch. It’s cake from there.

Now for the good news and the bad news. Bad first, as always: the 5k we were going to run in San Francisco appears to have been cancelled. So, no vacay 5k for us. But! The good news is, if I do have to repeat this week or the next, I have plenty of time to do so because I bought myself some time to find another race to run. I’m not going to just give up because the race I wanted to run isn’t happening–but I am a wee bit relieved that I don’t have to be ready to do this April 22. I have time if I need it.

In the last five minutes of running today, I took a break midway to walk for 30 seconds so I could check my heart rate. I also slowed my pace for the second half of today’s runs from the already slow 12-minute mile pace. I’m not doing this for speed or time. I am doing this solely for completion. This is pass/fail in my eyes. Next time I do a 5k, maybe I’ll focus more on form and speed. For now, I’m just trying to get through it. Getting through it is my everest.

(Did I just say “next time”? Man, I’m sounding awfully ambitious these days.)

My new running shoes worked wonderfully, by the way. I was running on a cloud. Far less shin splints and ankle soreness today than in runs past.

I also created an account at MyFitnessPal (so convenient! you can log calories and exercise on your phone and on the computer, it’s awesome). I didn’t want to get sucked in to Weight Watchers points or calorie counting, but the truth of the matter is I am not losing weight yet and I think I should be. Thanks to my sedentary deskjob lifestyle, I’m only allotted 1250 calories a day on the days I don’t exercise if I want to be on track to lose 1.5 lbs a week.

I think this is ridiculous because I always heard that anything under 1,200 is considered starving. We Americans are taught that there is a standard 2,000 calorie diet, so I thought if I was cutting calories to 1,500 and working out, I’d lose weight. Turns out that’s probably not the case for me or for many of you out there if you live a life like I do that requires you to sit still and do nothing all day. I wish I lived somewhere more pedestrian-friendly. In fact, I’m going to start walking for 30 minutes outside on my lunch break as soon as it starts getting warmer (in addition to my organized workout schedule 3-4 times a week and hopefully, yoga once a week). My new diet and exercise regimen is causing me to really introspectively consider the issues the standard adult lifestyle in this country causes in and of itself…beyond the epidemic of obesity and all the fried, fast foods and sweets that come along with it.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t sort of dreading my remaining two running days this week. It’s freaking hard, man.

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