I’ve Been Messing Around

OK, things have been going horrible on the eating front, let’s just get that out there.

Worse, I have been consistently doing pretty great all day long (except for chewing a lot of gum during the day), only to just completely go off the deep end at the end of the day. And I mean, completely going overboard, not just having an extra snack, but like eating right out of the bag hundreds of calories. I am so mad at myself. Disgusted. And the scale reflects my bad behavior. And worse, I was feeling on the precipice of abs success, but that’s gone; and my ass is a crisis zone. I can feel the literally pounds of fat settling there.

And more room for being disgusted with myself. I’ve mentioned my terrible eating habits growing up. When I was 20 or so, I remember going into the store to buy a candy bar. Caramello bars were on sale 3 for a $1, so I bought 3. And then yes, I ate all 3 in one sitting. I was really angry with myself, and said “That’s it, I’m not eating candy bars anymore.” And I didn’t, truly, for nearly 20 years. I could have a dish of candy on my desk and never be tempted by it. And then a couple years ago at work, I was very stressed, and I had a candy bar. And then another, and another, and another. I literally ate like 20 fun size bars. And I have not been able to get back on the wagon. I would go a few months, then slip again, often just completely binging when I slipped.

Needless to say, the cleanse in December put me back on the wagon. And last weekend, during my day So Bad I Didn’t Even Log It, I ate peanut M&M’s. While reaching for them a voice in my head said “NO!! No candy, it’s been 2 months, don’t do it!!”, but I did it anyway. And yesterday I rummaged through my baking supplies, found a bag of M&M’s and ate a lot of them. I didn’t even like it really. What the hell is wrong with me?

Oh, and Friday night we went to the always awesome Banff Film Festival, where we watched films about incredible athletes. On the way home, I was listening to the Spartan Up podcast, which is really motivational stories of athletes and how they find success. What did I do on the drive home at 11 pm – you know, after almost making it “on track” for the day with my eating? Yeah, a milkshake from McDonald’s.

I woke up around 4 this morning, just really angry with myself. I finally got up around 5 (which is ungodly early for me; I really don’t get up that early unless there is an international vacation waiting for me). But I couldn’t sleep, I’m just so angry with myself. I got up, weighed myself (pretty well as bad as I thought it would be), and threw away the rest of the M&M’s bag.

OK, I’m back on again. I will mark a new starting point for No More Candy in my book. I will prepare my meals for the week. I will go to the gym today. I will stop eating crap after dinner. I really just have to stop eating after dinner, period. I just have to.

Now for a few pats on the back, because it hasn’t been 100% awful.

I did go to the gym 3 times this week. I did three strength sessions. I did cardio 3 times. I did yoga. I practiced the yoga tree-pose-airplane sequence on my own a few times. I got my stability chair set up at work on Thursday and used it exclusively after. I attended a training session via conference call and stood up for an hour of it – and while standing I alternated between standing on one leg (balance practice!) and doing butt squeezes. I upped the running speed on the treadmill another notch. One of the OCR’s I’m signed up for is having a free boot camp, and I actually e-mailed to see if I could participate (yeah, that’s a bit out of my comfort zone).

I would like to do the cleanse again, it’s just not a good time right now; it is also difficult to go to the gym while on it, so I’d really like to reset myself without going that route.  I can do this.

Today is a new day; I can’t undo what I’ve done, but I can endeavor not to repeat it. Just two months until my first OCR of the season!   Focus, focus!!!

For some fun: the highlight of the Banff Film Festival for me was the Alex Honnold-Cedar Wright Sufferfest 2.  For some world class athletes who have a great sense of humor, these short films are total awesomeness.


Sufferfest 2

No Balance

I can only describe my eating habits this week as “horrible’. Even worse, they were daily so close to great, only to fall off the wagon HARD at the very end of the day. Why oh why do I do this to myself? And today was a train wreck virtually from getting up; I’m not even going to bother trying to figure out what to put into myfitnesspal.

Otherwise (not that I can overlook the above), I had a decent week. I got in my goal 3 cardio + 3 strength + 1 yoga sessions. However, the yoga session was a bit frustrating, because once again, my balance is a whole lotta suckola. I have never once come even remotely close to getting through a balance sequence on one leg, never mind both legs. I even stepped off the mat thinking the solid floor as opposed to the semi-squishy mat would help. Nope. It might have gotten worse.

So this week, I’m doing some research so I know what to work on. It’s a little depressing, actually, as every article basically starts out with some variation of this:

Older adults with poor balance are more likely to trip, stumble, or fall while performing basic daily activities. In fact, 1 in 3 adults ages 65 and older fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Those spills can lead to some scary injuries to the brain, hips, legs, feet, and even damage to internal organs.  http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance

I swear, the more I read about fitness and health, the more terrified I become of injuring myself.

Fortunately it does seem as if there is hope, as summarized by that same article:

Despite what you might think, poor balance isn’t something you’re born with—the difference between shaky steps and sure-footed strides is a matter of practice. In fact, the simplest way to improve your coordination is to stand up. “It’s use it or lose it,” says Julia Valentour, programs coordinator for the American Council on Exercise. “The more we sit and the less active we are, the more likely our balance will deteriorate.”

Here are some tips from http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/fitness_articles.asp?id=1377

1. Change Your Base of Support. Balance is your ability to maintain your center of gravity over your base of support. When you’re standing up, your legs are your base of support. The wider your legs are, the wider your base is and the easier it is to balance. The closer your legs are together, the narrower your base of support is and the harder it is to remain balanced. One of the easiest ways you can challenge (and therefore help improve) your balance during any standing exercise is to gradually narrow your base of support until your feet and legs are together while you perform your exercise. Bring your legs closer together while you do standing biceps curls, shoulder raises, squats or other upper body moves. Be sure to keep your abs pulled in tight and make sure you’re not leaning backward as you perform your exercises.

2. Try It on One Leg. Once you’ve mastered doing an exercise with a narrow base of support, you’re ready for the next challenge: balancing on a single leg. Instead of standing on both legs during some of the same moves above, try it on a single leg. Start by just lifting one heel (keeping your toes on the floor) while doing your upper body moves or working up to a single leg squat. As you get better, lift that foot off the ground completely. From there, you can play around with the position of your lifted leg—holding it behind you, in front of you, to the side or, for a greater challenge, moving that leg while you balance on the other leg and perform upper body movements. Just be sure to alternate legs to keep your strength and muscle tone balanced (no pun intended) between both sides of your body.

3. Close your eyes. Your sense of vision is a big part of the balance equation. It works hand in hand with the vestibular (inner ear) and proprioceptive systems to maintain balance and prevent falls. By staring at a single focal point (minimizing your head and eye movement), you’ll balance more easily. If you move your gaze or take vision out of the equation altogether, it’s harder to balance. This option is definitely a challenge—not something for beginners and not something you can do in any given situation. You’ll want to make sure you’re in a controlled environment and that your body is planted (don’t attempt this while walking or hiking or moving through space). You can start by just standing up tall and closing your eyes without moving. Over time, combine the narrow base of support with some one-leg balances while closing your eyes. You might be surprised how challenging it is to simply stand with your eyes closed, let alone stand on one foot or while doing a biceps curl.

Number 3 made me laugh; during yoga the instructor often says “find a focal point”, and that seems to do a whole lotta nothing for me. I guess I’ll have to consider closing my eyes to be super-advanced!

Most other articles indicated you need to strengthen your core to improve your balance. Here are some exercises I would like to give a try to:

Stability Ball Leg and Arm Lift http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance
Sit on a stability ball, arms by your sides and feet planted wide on the ground for a good base of support. Lift your right leg and extend it in front of you while simultaneously lifting your left arm to shoulder height at your side. Return to starting position and repeat on the left side, lifting your left leg and right arm. Use slow, controlled movements to retain your balance while you alternate lifting for 10 to 12 reps.

Make it harder: Place your left foot on the flat side of a Bosu ball with your right foot on the floor. Slowly lift your right leg and left arm as you did in the original exercise, hold for a breath, and return to starting position. Then switch sides, placing your right foot on the Bosu and your left foot on the floor.

Dynamic Balance Leg Swing http://www.fitbie.com/get-fit/exercises-improve-your-balance
Stand with arms by your sides, toes pointed forward. Lift your right leg in front of you to 45-degrees, and then slowly swing your leg behind you to about the same height. That’s 1 rep. Continue swinging your leg back and forth for 10 reps before switching legs.

Make it harder: Stand with your left arm extended straight up and your right arm at your side. As you lift the right leg forward, lean your torso backward so that your body creates a straight line from your head to your right foot. When the leg swings back, lean your torso to the front to maintain the straight line. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps before switching sides.

Make it even harder: Try this on a BOSU ball!

Stork Swim http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
Balancing on your left foot, bend your right knee and raise it behind you to hip level. Reach both hands (palms up) straight out in front of you. Bend forward and extend your right leg straight behind you. (As you become more comfortable with this move, work toward getting your torso parallel to the floor.) Hold for 10 seconds. Return to starting position. Do 25 reps. Switch legs and repeat.

T-Slide http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
With your feet together, lift your heels off the floor and balance on your toes. Reach your hands out to your sides, palms facing forward. With your arms, pulse 1 inch forward and 1 inch back. Do 25 reps. Turn your palms toward the ceiling and do 25 reps. Turn your palms toward the back of the room and do 25 reps.

Make it harder: Hold a 2-pound dumbbell in each hand and close your eyes

Russian Twist http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/exercises-improve-balance
Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and cross your right foot over your left foot at the ankle. Gently place your hands on your knees, lift your feet off the floor, and lean back 45 degrees. With your hands loosely clasped in front of you, lower your elbow (first the right, then the left) toward the floor. (Keep your legs and spine in the same position — only your core will twist slightly as you move your arms.) Repeat 25 times on each side. Switch sides (crossing your left foot over your right foot) and repeat 25 times.

I expected that if I googled “how to improve your balance”, yoga would be the first thing that popped up, but it wasn’t. In the end I actually had to put yoga into my search to get anything on it. Here are some poses I feel comfortable working on:

Tree http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Shift your weight onto your right foot. Bend your left knee and place the sole of your foot as high as you comfortably can on your right inner thigh. Point your toes down. Raise your arms overhead and relax your shoulders. Repeat on the other side.

High Lunge http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Starting in a runner’s lunge, raise your torso upright and reach your arms overhead, palms facing each other. Make sure your front knee is parallel to the floor, back leg straight, hips forward. Repeat on the other side.

Extended Triangle http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Stand with your feet roughly four feet apart, turning your left foot out on a 90 degree angle. Raise your arms out to the sides so they’re parallel to the floor, palms down. Keeping your legs firmly in place and only moving your torso, reach your left hand down toward your ankle and your right hand to the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

Half Moon http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Starting in Extended Triangle, slide your right leg closer to your left. Bend your left knee to lift your right leg until it’s parallel with the floor while placing your left hand on the ground. Lift your right hand to the ceiling. Repeat on the other side.

Lord of the Dance http://www.organicauthority.com/7-easy-yoga-poses-to-improve-your-balance/
Shift your weight onto your left foot. Bend your right knee, reach your leg back and grab onto your foot or ankle. Pull your right leg behind you as far as you comfortably can, while raising your left arm in front of you and keeping your hips forward.

Both Big Toe http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042         

Sit on your mat, bend both knees, and hold onto your left big toe with the first two fingers and thumb of your left hand, and do the same with the right side. Concentrate on staying balanced on your bum, and as you’re ready, begin to straighten your legs. Once you feel stable, lift your gaze and lower your head behind you. After five breaths, release both feet to your mat.

Extended Sage http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042 
Begin in Down Dog and step both feet together. Place your right hand about eight inches to the left so it’s in the center of the top of your mat. Roll open to the left, lifting your left arm in the air and stacking your flexed feet, so you’re resting on the outside edge of your right foot. Raise your left arm straight up for Beginner’s Sage, or extend it over your ear, lifting your hips into the air and arching slightly. Hold here for five breaths and repeat this pose on the left side.

Crow http://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Yoga-Poses-Improve-Balance-22078042 
Begin in a squat, placing your hands shoulder width distance apart on the mat. Spread your fingers as wide as you can, creating a strong, stable base. Straighten your legs slightly, placing your knees as high up onto your triceps (back of your arms) as possible. Slowly shift weight into your palms and lift your feet off the ground. Stay here for five breaths gazing at the floor in front of you.

And finally, apparently I should not just be using a stability ball at the gym. I found an article that outlined a few points of interest to me on why I should be sitting on one at my desk (http://www.gearfire.net/10-reasons-to-use-an-exercise-ball-as-your-chair/):

  1. Forces proper spine alignment.
  2. Causes you to frequently change positions.
  3. Improve your balance.
  4. Your body primarily uses your core (abdominal) muscles to help compensate for changes in balance. Thus, you’re essentially getting a low-key abdominal workout.
  5. Using an exercise ball will keep the blood flowing to all parts of your body, throughout the day.

I especially like the last one, as I have Reynaud’s disease, which is a circulatory issue. So I’ve already researched what size I need and put it in my cart on Amazon. Now I’m just waiting for a response from the Office Administrator at work so I know whether to get just one for home, or if I’m also allowed to bring one into work.

Now if I can just get my eating back on track…

Sweet and Salty

I’m coming up on 2 months now since the cleanse, and overall things continue to go surprisingly well. I still have not had any cookies (other than the ones I made without sugar, flour, butter, etc), cakes, brownies, pastries, etc. I actually picked up a cake from the bakery for work, and while it was in the car I thought “WOW!! That smells like sugar!!” I can honestly say I didn’t really want it. I had thought when the time came I would have a sliver, but in the end I passed…I didn’t want it enough to have it for the sake of having it.

That’s not to say all has been perfect. While I have been doing great on the sweet front, I seem to have traded it for salt! I previously could easily binge on sugary items, and while I won’t lie – I might have eaten no-sugar-added Breyer’s vanilla ice cream to excess recently – I have noticed that if I start to have a salty snack, like Chex Mix or salted peanuts, I can easily tip into overboard mode. I had to switch to unsalted peanuts, and it seems I really just need to not start on a salty snack altogether.

What gives? I did a little googling, and it turns out, according to a buzzfeed article, “that salt activates the same neurological pathways that narcotics do, triggering the brain’s ‘pleasure center’.” This seems awfully similar to recent new articles about sugar and artificial sweeteners. What the heck, body, does everything fun have to trigger a craving for more?!

Worse, it feels like the food companies really truly are out to get us; snack food is mostly just garbage – empty calories designed to make you want more and more and more, and it just does nothing for you (except make you feel guilty when you look at the carnage). I found an article on mercola.com that mentions a book called “Salt Sugar Fat” by Michael Moss: “food manufacturers go to great lengths to find the perfect blend of salt, sugar, fat, and additional flavorings to excite your brain’s reward center, thereby assuring you’ll be back for more.” Awesome.

One other thing not going my way is that I started stress “chain chewing” gum again at work. I will have to do some research on how bad that is, though I do feel like all the packaging and tossed gum can’t be good for the environment.

Otherwise I’m reasonably happy with things, though my weight really isn’t budging. It will drop down a pound or two for a day, but it keeps reverting to just under 130 pounds. I’m not complaining, 130 was my first mental milestone, but I would like to be making progress towards the next milestone (getting into some pants I haven’t been able to wear in a looooong time).

I had purchased an on-line deal for a massage several months ago; it was supposed to be my reward for hitting that next milestone. But here it is about to expire, so I would up using it this weekend in spite of not getting to that goal. I rationalized that it was a reward for being focused on my 2015 goals and having a successful January. Even the week where I skipped yoga I managed to “catch up” the following week; for my goals of cardio and weight training, I averaged out to better than hoped for. That totally justifies a massage, right?  Sweet!

Yoga: Is This Really A Good Use of Gym Time?

Yoga is one of those things that I have started doing because I “think” it is good for me, rather than something I am sure about.

I don’t feel myself getting more flexible or see muscles developing or have a sense that my core is stronger. Yet, it’s “supposed” to be great for me, so I added it to my new year’s goals to try to do it at least once a week. I know that won’t be life-changing, but it’s a start for now.

I had done yoga a few times in my early twenties, but I didn’t “get it”. The whole “breathe into yourself, let your troubles go” thing didn’t work for me, and I found myself instead using the time to make mental lists of thing to do. Plus I actually knocked a candle over and had to fumble around while everyone else was trying to reach a new place of peace mumbling “sorry, sorry”. It didn’t take.

A few months ago, I had a core routine with my trainer and it went badly. Things I had done previously with no problem had me sweating profusely, I couldn’t get through a set of anything, my heart was racing. Afterwards I felt physically achy all over. I had been stewing about trying yoga again, and the next day took a class. I left there feeling great – all the aches and tension magically gone!

But did I hop on the yoga bandwagon? Nope. I just can’t help but feel I’m not “really” exercising, and if I’m going to spend an hour at the gym, I’d best get my heart rate up and burn some calories. Doing a few pushups as part of a yoga routine doesn’t seem like exercise.

But then…

This week’s class had maybe 25 people in it, and fully HALF of them were male bodybuilders! There must be something to this, right; I mean, these guys wouldn’t be taking the class just to look at girls in cute yoga outfits? Then the instructor mentioned that the Seattle Seahawks actually have a yoga instructor for the team on staff! I googled it, and it turns out many teams and professional athletes endorse yoga.

So what’s the big deal? Here’s what I found that will keep me coming back.

•Stress relief and general well-being. At yogahealthfoundation.org, it says that yoga “has a positive effect on all the body systems involved.” It also says it can lower blood pressure, cholesterol and resting heart rates. Apparently relaxing is good for you; who knew?
• Flexibility. I have been surprised as I get older to find myself getting less and less flexible, even though I’m pretty active. Apparently over time with yoga I can gain back some of my losses. In my head, I think this will help me with obstacle course races, though I’m not precisely sure how. At webmd.com it said “In one study, people improved their flexibility by up to 35% after only 8 weeks of yoga”, though I feel like that claim is missing some info (What kind of yoga? How often? How do you measure improvement in flexibility exactly?).
• Build muscle strength. I feel like this is what I have a trainer for, but then remember how I want to do crow pose and can’t (yet). Some of the positions do seem to involve serious muscle usage. And admittedly, my strength workouts aren’t working on flexibility at the same time. Yogajournal.com says “Countless studies show that a lack of exercise can lead to muscle mass decline beginning at age 40. If you stay sedentary, by the age of 70 you could lose about 30 percent of your muscle mass.”
• Helps prevent injury. Again, as I get older, I find myself worrying more and more about injury, how it will be much harder to bounce back than when I was younger, how easily it could derail what I’ve been working on. At yogajournal.com they say “Each time you practice yoga, you take your joints through their full range of motion. This can help prevent degenerative arthritis or mitigate disability by “squeezing and soaking” areas of cartilage that normally aren’t used. Joint cartilage is like a sponge; it receives fresh nutrients only when its fluid is squeezed out and a new supply can be soaked up. Without proper sustenance, neglected areas of cartilage can eventually wear out, exposing the underlying bone like worn-out brake pads.” Well, there’s something to chew on.
• It’s good for your spine. Apparently all that movement helps keep your spinal disks in shape, and gives them nutrients, too (see point above). This is all news to me.
• Bone health. So apparently yoga can help ward off osteoporosis. I had to do a little looking about the risks factors for that, and it almost made me laugh in a not-funny way: female (check), getting older (check), menopause (starting), being under 127 pounds (even though I’ve been stuck at the same weight for three weeks, I’m hoping to soon say “check” to this one), being white (check). Then I read over at healthywomen.org “After about age 30, your body breaks down old bone faster than it builds new bone. This process speeds up dramatically as menopause approaches and for several years after. In the first five to seven years following menopause, you can lose up to 20 percent of bone mass.” Well, isn’t this nice. Yogajournal.com offers the following comfort: “It’s well documented that weight-bearing exercise strengthens bones and helps ward off osteoporosis. Many postures in yoga require that you lift your own weight. And some, like Downward- and Upward-Facing Dog, help strengthen the arm bones, which are particularly vulnerable to osteoporotic fractures.”
• Improved balance. Another one that I think will help me with obstacle courses, but after the above, I am now terrified of falling down and hurting myself, so better balances seems good to me. Plus I really, really, really want to be able to do the tree pose-airplane sequence without touching my foot to the ground (repeatedly), though I can’t explain why I want to be able to do that.
• Breathing. I notice I am often not breathing at all when doing exercises, or I seem to be doing it at the wrong time. The trainer sometimes points it out, too. Yoga seems very focused on breathing correctly, and I have definitely seen how you can breathe yourself into a deeper twist. I’m hoping that what I learn in yoga will cross over to other activities.

So in summary, yes, it really does seem like yoga is good for me in many different ways, but I’m mostly not going to see it.  I just have to have yoga faith.

New Year’s Goals (not resolutions)

One of my goals: crow pose.  Image from http://www.theyogaposes.com.

One of my goals: crow pose. Image from http://www.theyogaposes.com.

It’s probably the accountant in me that likes making lists and being organized.  Every year I make a list of “goals” for the year- things I hope to accomplish over the next twelve months.  It’s always aggressive, never completed, and by the end of the year I get itchy to make a new list.

The goals – and I do think of them as goals for the year, not resolutions – are wide ranging, from things I want to do for me to things I want to do for others; trips I want to plan, projects around the house, craft projects that need finishing.  Learning a new language.  Cooking more, reading more, dancing more, exercising more.  Trying new things.

Anyway, this year, much as in past years, there are a number of fitness and health-related goals, though they’ve gotten more specific then they’ve been in the past.  Here’s what I’ve got:

1. Do yoga once per week.  Supposedly yoga is good for you, but I’m not entirely convinced yet.  It seems to feel good when I do it, though I often feel like I should be spending the time doing “real” exercise.  The weekday class times are at 8 pm, which makes for a long day – if I go home first, let’s be honest here, I’m not going back for the class.  But I won’t get home until 9:30 if I take a class, and so far the DVD I bought to “do it on my own” remains unopened.  I had been good and gone once each of the first two weeks of the year, but I missed this past week, which already means I need to catch up, which I am planning to do this week.

2. Accomplish specific yoga poses (crow pose and the tree-airplane sequence) and increase flexibility.  The crow pose seems near-impossible, since I usually wind up laughing while trying it, and I have a healthy fear of doing a total face plant.  This is not unreasonable, see picture accompanying post. Apparently it involves upper body strength, which I’ve been working on.  The tree-airplane sequence (is this a standard yoga sequence, or just my teacher?) requires a lot of balance; it’s a long sequence on one leg before shifting to the other and starting over.  I’ve never once done it without touching down, sometimes a lot.  As our instructor says, “I’m seeing a lot of turbulence out there.”  Indeed.  Yoga has also made me aware of stretches I did as a kid that I can no longer do, like spread my legs wide and touch my nose to the floor; I seem to be several feet away from the floor these days, but I hope to improve.  It seems like increased flexibility and balance can’t be bad things to work on.

3. Trail running.  After doing a couple 5k’s last year that weren’t on a treadmill, I realized I need to up my game in terms of terrain and grade variations.  I haven’t gotten far with this yet, as it’s too icy-snowy for me.  The run I did with my neighbor around the neighborhood reinforced this, as the hills had my butt screaming “this is not the treadmill!!!”

4. Pull-ups.  This is now turning towards obsession, I don’t know why.  I have been so far from achieving this, I don’t know why I put it on my list, as I generally don’t like to set myself up for failure.  I have been using the assisted pull-up machine at the gym on and off over the year, and effectively felt like I had made zero progress.  I mentioned this goal to the trainer and then he had me try doing the pull-up using a resistance band.  For the first time, I feel like this is attainable, and I said as much to the trainer.  He responded, “Oh yes, you’ll be able to do one within a few months.  Maybe two of them.”  Ok, that burst my bubble a bit.  Anyway, I seem to think pull-ups will help me with…

5. Monkey Bars.  I know, what do I need this for?  Well, it’s cropped up at a couple fun-runs/obstacle course runs, and I was a lot surprised that something that seemed effortless as a kid is so difficult now.  Yeah, it’s a little creepy to hang around a playground so I can get onto Monkey Bars designed for kindergartners, but this is serious.  I had make some progress last year, and as soon as the weather warms up a little, these are back on my radar.  I don’t understand why they don’t have them at the gym.

6. Increase my running speed.  That should be “running”, because I’m so slow – a 12 minute mile.  I remind myself I am competing against no one but myself, and any-minute mile is far better than I had done before.  I mostly like the idea of being able to get my exercise over with faster, is that a bad reason?  Anyway, I’m slowly tapping up the speed on the treadmill, and am hoping to get down to 10 minutes.  I’m already halfway there…OK, on the treadmill, which is flat and…what else…oh yeah, moving beneath my feet.

7. Do weight sessions 3 times a week.  Score!  So far, so great!  Can’t hope to make progress on my other goals if I don’t do this.  I’m really enjoying these lately, hope it sticks.

8. Do cardio three times a week.  Almost score!  I was doing great, but the snow this weekend waylaid my Saturday plans.  This is a crappy excuse, as we have a treadmill and exercise bike in the basement, I should have taken care of it.  Instead I never got out of my pj’s and spent the day researching things like our vacation.  I resolve to make up the lost cardio session this week, and in truth, that is the only reason I was on the treadmill today.

9. Do at least 15 Fun Runs and Obstacle Course Races.  After never having done any running whatsoever, last year I did 7 formal 5ks, and discovered that stepping out of my comfort zone is good for me – I really enjoyed the OCRs, and I was proud of myself, too (especially since I had to do them alone; my partner was traveling for all of them and my friends aren’t interested for some reason).  I’m already signed up for 7 5ks this year, and have a list of many others on my radar.  I also set up a budget for this activity.

10. Get better at pushups, both narrow and wide.  My pushups have come a long way since our baseline testing with the personal trainer just a year ago, in which I could do zero regular pushups.  I can do them now and was feeling pretty good about them, until I did an exercise video over the holidays in which the hands were together for the push-up…and I could do zero of them.  What the?!  Hello goal.

11. The Sky’s The Limit Hiking Challenge (which I wrote about here).  Because why not?  Variety is good, it’s good to be outside, and I’m grateful for the many wonderful parks our state has, why not support them?

12. Cook more.  Part of eating better/healthier means less processed food and more real food – more trying new things, more focus on protein.  So far this is going pretty well, and I’ve found a few meals I’m really happy with.  I aim to get comfortable with our food processor and crock pot.

13. Get lean.  This means losing weight, but gaining muscle.  I have a number in mind, but it’s tricky, because muscle weighs more than fat, blah, blah, blah.  Mostly I want to fit into my size 4 jeans again.  Sometimes this feels just completely impossible…I’ve been really doing great (comparatively) and the scale is refusing to budge, which is a bit de-motivating.

So yeah, that’s a long list – and that’s just the fitness/health stuff that’s on it.  I know, it’s crazy.  But I like to think it’s in a good way.

The Sky’s the Limit!

At Southford Falls State Park, I get my first "peak" in the Sky's the Limit Hiking Challenge.

At Southford Falls State Park, I get my first “peak” in the Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge.

It’s been a month since the cleanse and things are still overall going pretty well.  I feel like I’m staying on track with my eating and exercise, though I’ve discovered that home-cooked food doesn’t last as long and I keep having to throw things away, even if I have the same thing five days in a row.  I’ve also been feeling good about my strength workouts, have squeezed in a couple yoga classes, and have been keeping up with my cardio philosophy of “anything is better than nothing,” which will usually get me at least onto the treadmill, and sometimes once I’m on, I’ll do a little more than I originally planned.

But I’d rather do my cardio outside!  However, the temperatures are relatively dramatic these days, steadily holding at well below freezing, which also has led to snow and ice.  This past weekend our neighbor asked if I wanted to go for a run.  My first thought was “of course not, it’s 27 degrees outside.”  My second thought was, “it doesn’t look like we are going to make it to the gym today” – we were actually en route to the gym when our plans were thwarted – “and I will be really mad at myself if I don’t do something”.  So we made a date for later that afternoon, and I spent a good half hour researching “what to wear” and digging through clothes.  I have Raynaud’s, which means even when it’s hot out I can have very cold hands and feet (sometimes in a lovely shade of purple), so I was worried about being too cold.  In the end I brought a small backpack and stuffed it with extra layers – I would rather not need it but have it than need it but not have it.

My neighbor is clearly, despite her protests to the contrary, in better shape than me; consequently I got a better workout than her because I was struggling to keep up.  But I was super glad I did it.  It was my first 5k since before I was sick, I got to experiment with what to wear in freezing temperatures, I got to practice running uphill (why yes, it turns out there is a near-never-ending hill nearby, who knew), and most importantly, I now have a friend who will push me and I will push her out of the house.  She admitted that if I had said no, she would not have gone, either; we already have a date for this Saturday.  I’m so pleased with this development.  Plus, she’s like one of the sweetest people on the planet.

We also discovered that Connecticut is having a “Sky’s the Limit Hiking Challenge.”  We used to hike a lot – like every weekend – but in recent years have switched to biking due to the awesome bike trail nearby.  The objective is to hike 10 of 14 identified “peaks” (and I’m really using that term only because they describe it that way) to earn a medallion; if you do all 14, you get entered to win a hiking staff.  I don’t know why this is appealing to me, as I don’t need a medallion and we already have plenty of trekking poles; I think it’s calling out to the accountant in me.  Nonetheless, I mapped out all the parks, which are all over the state, and have vowed to look at it each time we are traveling to something outside our backyard.  I told my partner to add brewpubs he’s interested in to the map as his incentive to join this plan.  Last weekend we had to head down to the southern part of the state (ball dance practice, don’t ya know?), and we did indeed knock out our first hike (again, I use the term loosely, as it was only a mile or so round trip) on a very cold day.  It was lovely to be in the woods on a day like that, actually, as there weren’t many people around, and the ice formations on the water and damn were quite nice.

So the year is off to a good start, and I’m feeling strong, dedicated and motivated.  Now if only the scale would start moving in the right direction…well, I suppose stuck at exactly the same spot all week is better than it moving up!

The Connecticut State Parks and Forests challenge: http://www.ct.gov/ncli/site/default.asp

Just follow this. No this. Wait…this one is the one.

I love to read, and usually squeeze in 70-90 books a year. This is on top of several magazine subscriptions (including fitness, health and cooking), lots of on-line reading, a few audiobooks, tons of podcasts, and a number of books merely skimmed or flat-out abandoned. This year I was on the lower range of finished books (only 74), but the number of books in the “other” category sky-rocketed to 38. I like to keep track of everything, because of course I can’t remember what’s what later, so this way I have a reference to try to avoid double-reading (except when authors re-issue a book under another name, not that I’m bitter).

One should not be impressed with the number books on the list this year. My partner finished well over 300 (he’s a fast reader, a bit obsessed, and gets a lot of reading in because he travels a lot for work). Additionally, a look through the list finds a lot of fluff (those Jane Austen sequels/prequels/retellings/modern adaptations/etc. come to mind), and quite a few nutrition/cooking/this-is-the-diet-that-works/no-this-is-the-diet-that-works, many of which are relatively quick flip-throughs with a few notes along the way.

As part of my refocus/reset of my diet and exercise, there were a number of books perused in the hopes of figuring out what I should do. In addition to checking out cookbooks/nutrition books already on our shelves and countless on-line recipe/nutrition blogs, these books in particular were supposed to help me figure out what to eat, how to reset, how to run, how to lose weight, how to cook healthier, etc., etc., etc.

Yeah, it didn’t work out so well. What a confusing, conflicting mess! At no point did I ever say “I should do this”. Yes, lots of notes about “superfoods” to try to stack my diet with, but even that was rife with contrasting information. Count sugars! No, count carbs! Hello, count calories!! No, fat is where it’s at! Fruit is great – unless it’s a banana, orange, strawberry, watermelon or any other fruit with sugar, like all of them.

A few days ago I found a plan telling me I couldn’t eat beans. That was a new one for me, as beans consistently show up on “superfood” lists, and as a vegetarian, they are a bit of a staple. That was a little crushing, if I’m being honest.  It was also disregarded.

Even more of a struggle is deciding what is OK to use as a sweetener when cooking/baking: Stevia, Dextrose, Honey, Agave, Maple Syrup. So many “OK/not OK” lists and the same items are in different columns.

I also couldn’t believe how many plans were flat-out “This is the way to go, forget everything else you’ve read”, and then the diets/advice/exercise suggestions would be just completely different.

What’s a girl to do? Honestly, it was impossible to put a plan together. I’m still just feeling my way. I’ve been good about cooking and preparing my lunches, and doing some experimenting along the way.

I suppose I should be grateful I still have a stack of related books next to my bed, and large virtual stack on my Kindle…surely the answer is in there if I just try hard enough?

Here’s the full list of my reading for 2014. Exciting stuff.

The Great Typo Hunt: Two Friends Changing the World, One Correction at a Time – Jeff Deck and Benjamin Herson
Ken’s Guide to the Bible by Ken Smith
Unlikely Friendships – Jennifer Holland
Mercy’s Embrace: Elizabeth Elliot’s Story: So Lively a Chase – Laura Hile
Mercy’s Embrace: The Lady Must Decide by Laura Hile
I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend – Cora Harrison
The Pursuit of Happyness by Chris Gardner
Longbourn – Jo Baker
Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook by Anthony Bourdain
High Infatuation: Steph Davis
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune by Bill Dedman
Etiquette & Espionage – Gail Carriger
The Day the World Came to Town: 9/11 in Gander, Newfoundland by Jim DeFede
The Rosie Project -Graeme Simsion
Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank: And Other Words of Delicate Southern Wisdom – Celia Rivenbark
Shoes to Die For – Laura Levine
The International Bank of Bob – Bob Harris
Pride Revisited – Tess Quinn
Chocolat – Joanne Harris
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Fowler, Karen Joy
Ticking Along with the Swiss by Patricia Highsmith
Mysterious Death of Miss Jane Austen – Lindsay Ashford
Snow White Must Die -Nele Neuhaus
One Summer, 1927 – Bill Bryson
Girl, Interrupted – Susanna Kaysen
Big Stone Gap – Adriana Trigiani
Ticking Along Too by Patricia Highsmith
Heidi – by Spyri, Johanna
Among the Janeites – Deborah Yaffe
Narcissus and Goldmund – Hermann Hesse
Swiss Family Robinson – by Johann David Wyss
Fidelity & Affection: A Pride & Prejudice Sequel by Yve Turner
Dear Mr. Knightley: A Novel, by Katherine Reay
Pride & Prejudice: The Wild and Wanton Edition – Michelle M. Pillow
Free Country – George Mahood
The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid
Mr Darcy Came to Dinner – Jack Caldwell
Pemberley Ranch – Jack Caldwell
For All the Wrong Reasons – Mary Lydon Simonsen
Captain Wentworth Home From the Sea – Mary Lydon Simonsen
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
Thin by Lauren Greenfield
Charlotte Collins – Jennifer Becton
The Rule of Reason – Abigail Reynolds
Fake – Clifford Irving
The Piano Teacher – Elfriede Jelinek
Wild – Cheryl Strayed
Tell Me Who I Am: Sometimes it’s Safer Not to Know… by Alex Lewis and Marcus Lewis
Demian – Hermann Hesse
The Men Who United the States: America’s Explorers, Inventors, Eccentrics and Mavericks, and the Creation of One Nation, Indivisible – Simon Winchester
Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress – Susan Jane Gilman
A Street Cat Named Bob : And How He Saved My Life by Bowen, James
The Ashford Affair: A Novel, by Lauren Willig
Professor Birdsong’s 157 Dumbest Criminal Storiesby Leonard Birdsong
The Possibility Dogs – Susannah Charleson (AUDIOBOOK)
Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls – David Sedaris (AUDIOBOOK)
Mr. Darcy’s Proposal – Susan Mason-Milks
The Truth About Mr. Darcy (originally self-published as Affinity and Affection)- Susan Adriani
Mr. Darcy’s Noble Connections by Abigail Reynolds
Loving Miss Darcy – Nancy Kelley
The Future Mrs. Darcy – Maria Grace
The Three Colonels- Jack Caldwell
Conviction: a sequel to Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice by Skylar Hamilton Burris
I Love Everybody – Laurie Notaro
What Matters in Jane Austen – John Mullan
Parents Who Killed Their Children – R.J. Parker
As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
Year of No Sugar by Eve O. Schaub
Serial Killers Abridged by R.J. Parker
Emma (Jane Austen: Marvel Adaptations) by Nancy Butler
My Own Mr. Darcy, by Karey White
Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
Spiced: A Pastry Chef’s True Stories… by Dalia Jurgensen
I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook by Sarah Wilson
A Darcy Christmas by Amanda Grange, Sharon Lathan, and Carolyn Eberhart

world’s best travel experiences – national geographic
how to start a running routine and become a confident runner – jay walkins
the vegetarian slow cooker recipe book – julia cussler
she drives me crazy – celia rivenbark
Adventure Travel – 16 stories from a world traveller hoping to provide little inspiration for your next travel adventure by Ian Usher
Nikola Tesla: Imagination and the Man That Invented the 20th Centuryby Sean Patrick
travel resolutions: 52 new ways to experience planet earth – lonely planet
incredibly delicious vegetarian recipes from the Mediterranean – vesela tabakova
Adventures Underwater – Ian Usher
Travel Tips – Ian Usher
The Vintage Tea Party Book – Angel Adoree
Bizarre World – Bill Bryson
Life in the Country by Freydis Jane Welland
What Makes You Grateful? – Anne O. Kubitsky

The Hourglass – Barbara Metzger
Cooked : Finding Ourselves in the Kitchen by Pollan, Michael
must have done something good – cheryl cory
The Joy of Sex and More Joy of Sex
Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Food, Obesity, and Disease by Robert H. Lustig
Couponing for the Beginner
33 More Ways to Reboot Your Life – Luther Cale
Simple Avocado Recipes
Stop Procrastinating: 10 Power Habits
The world is flat : a brief history of the twenty-first century by Friedman, Thomas L
Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generationby Joseph J. Ellis
Big Cherry Holler by Adriana Trigiani
Benjamin Franklin – Edmund Morgan
Fast Track One Day Detox Diet – Ann Louise Gittleman
Sugar Busters! Cut Sugar to Trim Fat by H. Leighton Steward
Clever Tricks to Stave Off Death – David Malki
The 100: Count ONLY Sugar Calories- Jorge Cruise
Running for Beginners – Gary Jones
Penelope – Anya Wylde
Keeping Up with the Germans: A History of Anglo-German Encounters by Philip Oltermann
The 21-Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally by Diane Sanfilippo BS NC
The 3-Day Cleanse – founders of BluePrintCleanse Zoe Sakoutis
Flat Belly Diet – Liz Vaccariello
Superfood Salads
DIY protein bar