Autumn Running

Fall by Rocky Mountain High

What’s that you say? How’s the running going?

In a word?

It isn’t.

October has been a rough month for me running. It’s been cold, dark, gray, rainy, wet and windy. It’s the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up with a good book and a cup of tea, not pull on your running shoes and sports bra. Of course, it is also getting dark much earlier, and is dark much later in the morning, which completely removes all my motivation. There really is no good reason I can’t run in the dark, (I have several times,) but when it is also cold, wet and windy, I just don’t want to.

That doesn’t mean I am not working out. I’m still strength training every other day. I am also using the Lift app to build a daily habit of exercising. My goal is simple: at least 15 minutes a day doing anything I want. The strength training days are easy. My routine is a little over a half an hour. On the alternate days I’ve been doing a lot of walking.

Since it has been so miserable out in the evenings, usually the best time of the day to get outside is while I am at work. I’ve been packing my lunch, eating at my desk, then putting on my spare pair of sneakers and hitting the sidewalks. I can’t run (my office doesn’t have showers or a changing area,) but I can power walk the neighborhoods around my office. I am almost always out at least 20 minutes, but I usually go 30-45, and occasionally I go the whole lunch hour. It just depends on how I feel.

On the weekends, or when I can’t quite get out of the office, I’ve just tacked on at least 15 minutes to my daily dog walks, which is something my little hound appreciates! The nice thing about walking is that I feel more comfortable knowing how to dress for the weather. Running is tricky because I heat up so much. With walking, I can dress in layers and take off my hat or gloves and shove them in my pockets. That’s harder to do while on the run.

I haven’t given up running all together though! I still have a goal to do 100 miles by December 1, and I have toughly 25 miles to go. Friday we had a rare day of almost sunshine, so I went trail running. Trail running is my favorite. I promised myself I that’s where I would go in order to make it more enticing. The trail was absolutely gorgeous. It might be a bit nasty here weather-wise, but the Midwest is gorgeous in the fall. I was slow, partially because I was out of condition, partially because of all the tree roots hidden under layers of wet leaves, but I had a wonderful time. I even had three white-tailed deer running alongside me for a bit!

Even though I don’t enjoy running as much as I would like, I really love what it does for me. I like feeling strong and having stamina in a way I never had before. I am going to keep at it. I am not giving up!

…but there may be a few less running posts over the next few months.

Photo credit: Rocky Mountain High on flickr

A Case of the Blahs

Overtaken by Wind on a Rainy Day 1882This past weekend was awesome. There was a big formal event on Sunday and at the close of it, two of my dearest friends became engaged. The fun part? A huge group of their friends (including yours truly) got to be a part of it. I’ve never been a part of anyone’s engagement before and it was wonderful! It makes me cry to even think of it. If I can get ahold of any photos, I’ll post a few. (Sadly, I didn’t take any, I was too giddy to even think about it.)

But on Monday, I got a case of the blues. Basically, I think it was an emotional hangover. It wasn’t an actual hangover, (I didn’t drink that much,) but I just felt sad and out of sorts. All of us that were in on the big surprise have been talking about this engagement for days. It just kept building up until we were all wound up like springs …and then we sprung! It turned out perfect (everything went off beautifully,) but afterwards there was this little letdown, you know?

I had planned to go for a run Monday night, but didn’t have it in me. Instead, I ended up taking myself out to eat, which was a mistake. The food was good, but I wasn’t in a place to enjoy it. If I am going to do something like that, I should revel in it, not wolf it down and slump on home. What I should have done is gone for that run – exercise is a good cure for a general malaise. (Although it is also the very last thing I feel like doing.)

I do have one cure for the blahs – music. Me? I prefer ah… “unique” voices, catchy beats and if portions of it are in a foreign language – all the better! So, I popped this in the CD player and everything was a little brighter.

Photo credit: Evelyn Saenz on flickr

I Paid $300 to Find Out My Dog Just Really Needed to Fart.

Ahem.

Ahem.

So… back in August I found out that my dog Hermes had a giant, softball sized tumor in his spleen. (I wrote about it here.) One emergency surgery, two doggy blood transfusions, and thousands of dollars later, my pooch seemed to be on the mend. Then I noticed something odd.

It was the weekend that I got back from my trip to Georgia. I decided to paint the back porch. It’s been needing it for years, and with winter coming, I decided it was finally time to get out the paintbrush and take care of it. I spent most of that Sunday, and a few more hours on Monday night, outside painting. (It needs some touch-ups, but it has been so cold lately, I’m glad I got done what I did, when I did.) I had Hermes outside with me on a tie-out so he could sniff around the yard and lay out in the sun.

It was sometime after that, that I caught him eating grass. Now, the last time he was in at the vet she had told me that when dogs eat grass it is frequently because they are nauseous. That made me worry, but when he vomited in the living room, I wasn’t terribly surprised. In fact, I hoped he got whatever it was out of his system. Sadly, that didn’t prove to be the case. For the next couple of days, every time I took him out he mowed grass like he was a cow, and then puked it back up, usually on my carpet. (Ever notice that dogs almost never throw up on the linoleum? They’ll walk off the nice easy-to-clean-up floor to make sure and hit the rug.) There was also another odd thing. We’d be out on a walk and he’d suddenly stop and stretch. It was weird. Hermes is usually all “go-go-go” on a walk. Stopping in the middle for a stretch just struck me as odd.

Then that Thursday morning we went out for a walk and after a few blocks, he just laid down. He refused to walk. I ended up picking him up and carrying him all the way home. Forty pounds of dog, five or six blocks – I’ll tell you, I was glad I do strength training! I was petrified the whole way home and knew it was time to call the vet. Honestly, I knew I was going to anyway, but after everything with his health back in August, I was scared stiff. I had almost convinced myself that he had another tumor, and this was the end for my little buddy.

So, I brought him to the vet. They did an exam and then they did a test for pancreatitis, which was the next least expensive test they could do that might be the cause. It wasn’t that though, so naturally, he had to have x-rays. (My dog has had so many x-rays, I really should get a bulk discount.) They didn’t find any tumors, what they found was gas bubbles, big ones, and when the rolled him over on the table… he then dispelled said gas.

When the vet told me this, I started giggling, “Oh gosh, doc. I am kind of glad I am not you right now.” She said, “Oh LongView…. it is impressive! I mean, just… wow.”

They suspect that when he was out with me he found something terrible in the back forty of my yard. Most of my yard is well maintained, but there is an area at the back that is pretty wild – like open meadow. He loves it, but I suspect there was something awful (or delicious depending on if you are me or a dog,) that he got into back there. So, the vet gave him a shot for nausea, and I put him on a bland diet. Since then, he’s been doing great. The good news is that I have my four-legged trainer back to his old self again. The bad news is the money I had started to save up again? Yeah…. ah well.

A Great Article on Meditation

Meditation Labyrinth by Nancy McClureAs you know, I am working on getting meditation back into my life on a daily basis. It just so happens that Dale Favier, a Message Therapist who has a blog that I follow, put up a great article last week about what to expect (and what not to) when starting meditation practice.

Here’s a quick excerpt:

Confessions

[] The thing to bear in mind is that it isn’t sitting down and being quiet that has made you nuts. You were already nuts. Sitting down and being quiet has just given you the chance to notice that you’re nuts. Your mind is doing that all the time. All day, all night; a ceaseless fret of worry and desire, fantasies of the future and replays of the past, a constant evaluation of everything in terms of what it means about me. What does the fact that I’m sitting down to meditate mean about me? What does the fact that my mind won’t settle down mean about me? What does the fact that I’m worrying about what things mean about me mean about me? It rolls on that way, playing out as dream at night, playing out as “reality” in the daytime. []

If you have thought about meditation, you should pop over to his blog and read the whole thing, it’s a great article.

As for me, I am doing pretty good at getting back into practice. Mostly I meditate at night before bed, but I’m also experimenting with lunch hour breaks and after work outs. I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Photo credit: Meditation Labyrinth by Nancy McClure on flickr

You Can Dance If You Want To…

Dancing skipped a generation by Eirik NewthThere are things that you believe about yourself. Things that define who you are, the decisions you make, and really, how you live your life. Core beliefs, like whether you are good at math, dislike working in groups, hate computers or are great with kids. Though they might seem small, they’re part of how we describe ourselves, and they make a difference in our lives. For example, depending on how you see yourself will determine if you decide to join a friend’s amateur softball league, the church choir, or a coworker’s book club. And who you spend your leisure time with will affect who you are friends with. Or take an example like being bad at math: how you feel about math might affect the college courses you take – or even if you go to college at all.

Here are a few of my core beliefs: I have an artistic eye. I dislike crowds, but am comfortable with public speaking. I enjoy reading and learning how do things with books. Spelling is not my strong suit. I can’t sing, and I am uncoordinated.

My lack of coordination is more than “being a little clumsy”, it is so bad that I frequently quip that “I can’t even spell rhythm.” (Which I can’t. Thank goodness for spell check.) However, an interesting little set of circumstances took place over the last few weeks that has challenged this belief. (In fact, part of it took place over the course of writing this post, but more on that later.)

It started with the hoop class I took the weekend of my birthday. Hooping takes a lot of coordination and rhythm, and I walked in knowing I probably wasn’t going to be very good. However, before the class I made the decision not to care. And sure enough, I wasn’t the best in the class, but more importantly, I had a great time. Afterwards I decided to take another class the next chance I got, irregardless of my lack of skill. I decided I would just have a lot of fun and not worry about the rest. For some reason, we adults always feel like we need to be perfect at everything the first time we try it. We don’t have that expectation for children. When it came to hooping, I decided to go into it like a child – excited to have fun, but not overly worried about being great.

So that has been percolating in the back of brain, and then last week I read an article over on Fit, Feminist and (almost Fifty): On Knowing Yourself, Changing Yourself and Ending the Negativity. Here’s an excerpt:

The other day a friend was asking me about rowing. I talked about how much I was enjoying it. She’s a runner by habit and expressed concern about the technical skills required to row. She asked how much coordination rowing required. My mother smiled and said it couldn’t take that much because I could do, right? And then she looked at me for affirmation.

I smiled back, a bit puzzled, and then realized she’d said that not to be mean, my mother is very kind and gentle, but because I used to describe myself as uncoordinated. It was part of my story of myself as a non athletic book loving person. I’d been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school.

Yep, that describes me too. I’ve also been calling myself uncoordinated since elementary school. Sam B. goes on to say that rowing takes a lot of coordination and she realized that by being involved in activities that require coordination, she has become coordinated.

That article challenged my world view – something that has been happening a lot lately. Just a year ago I would have never described myself as athletic, yet now I run, bike, weight lift and am learning to box. The “non-athletic” label doesn’t fit the way it once did. Maybe the same can be said about coordination and rhythm.

Maybe the truth is different from what I once believed. Maybe it looks more like this: as a kid, I never liked sports or dance, not just because of my lack of skill, but also for a lot of other complicated kid reasons. Things involving acceptance by peers and kid social hierarchies. Since I didn’t have parents that were particularly interested in physical activities either, I simply never learned how to be coordinated. Sure, maybe coordination and rhythm is something that many people are naturally born with, but they are also skills that can be learned. However, since I had labeled myself a certain way, I never tried to overcome it.

Then came the clincher. Saturday morning I was jotting down ideas for this post and trying to put it into words, and I wrote this paragraph:

All my life I have I have felt uncoordinated and clumsy. I’ve never had rhythm or grace. Don’t get me wrong, I can hold myself perfectly well, I have good carriage, but I’m not much on the dance floor.

That day we attended a friend’s wedding. I hadn’t finished the post, but parts of it were still floating around in my head, because I was determined to get on the dance floor at the reception. I decided to let go a bit, have fun. Julian is a wonderful dancer, so all I had to do is relax. So, I did.

Now I hadn’t told him anything about all this, but when we got back from the wedding that night, Julian mentioned over and over how good he thought I looked on the dance floor. He kept saying how much fun I looked like I was having – that it showed that I was enjoying my new shape. He told me I was sexy!

So, perhaps I’ve been getting in my own way this whole time. Not that all it takes is changing the way you think and suddenly you’re Ginger Rodgers, but that many of these things that I have been saying “aren’t me” are just that way because I haven’t tried – let alone practiced. Maybe I can learn coordination by learning more about how my body moves… and removing the chains of “you can’t do this.” In fact since we’ve been together, Julian has mentioned taking dance class or a martial arts class several times, and I have always turned him down.

Sunday night he brought up taking a couples dance class again. This time I said, “Sure! That sounds like fun.”

 

Photo credit: Eirik Newth on flickr

Building Slowly

I’m in the process of catching up on my blog reading. I missed a lot while I was out on the road! There were some wonderful articles. I wanted to write about a couple of them that got my mental wheels a’ turnin’. The first one is: Habit – the Real Key to Long-Term Weight Loss Success on gokaleo.com.

I’m going to excerpt a bit of it, but you should really go over there and read the whole thing for yourself.

From gokaleo.com:

Five years ago I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized that my body was the result of my lifestyle habits. The way I ate, the way I moved, the way I slept, the way I dealt with stress…all these things worked together to produce the body I had at the time. My body, and my health, were a product of thousands of small, seemingly inconsequential behaviors (both conscious and unconscious) I engaged in on a day to day level. Trying to undertake massive behavioral changes all at once, as I had done so often as I tried fad diet after fad diet, rarely worked in the long term, as those massive behavioral changes gradually gave way to the ingrained habits that had established themselves over the course of decades.

I shifted my focus. Instead of focusing on an aesthetic goal and trying to force my body to that goal, I decided to focus on those small, seemingly inconsequential habits that formed the vast majority of my day to day activity. I identified the habits, the nearly subconscious behaviors that I fell back on automatically, that shaped the body and health I had at the time. And once those habits were identified, I identified new habits that could replace them, and I focused on shaping those new habits, slowly and methodically. The end goal wasn’t ‘weight loss’. The end goal was a new habit, a nearly subconscious behavior that I would fall back on automatically in my day to day life. I believed that with new habits and new behaviors, my body and health would change. I was right. []

That’s the essence of the article, but what I loved was what she wrote about the science behind modifying behavior. I am not going to excerpt that part, (seriously, go read it on the site,) but what really struck me was her idea of creating good solid habits that you can always fall back on when times get rough. I immediately started thinking about how I could start to apply those concepts to my own life… when I realized that I already do! I didn’t have the terminology that she uses, or even really do it consciously, but it is how I have approached my weight loss and fitness. A great example has to do with my goals on being physically active.

As I have said many times, one of the things I do each and every day is walk my dog. We go for a half hour in the morning and a half hour at night. I’ve tried lots of different walk times over the past three years – at one time I was trying for 45 minutes each walk, then I tried three 20 minute walks for a while, I played with a 15 – 20 minute walk in the morning and 40 – 45 minutes at night, and so on. It took a long time to find exactly what works for me. But being able to commit to this daily isn’t just about when to do it, it is also takes other little helpful habits, like keeping dog walking clothes right next to the bed – ready for when my feet hit the floor, having routines for what I do when I walk in the door at night, always knowing where his leash, waste bags and treats are, and having them ready to go. These are all little habits that have formed over time. Now walking my dog is just something I do automatically, I don’t even think about it anymore. It’s so ingrained in me that even when things are bad, never consider not grabbing the leash and heading out.

In fact, it is so much a part of my everyday life, that I just recently set myself a goal to do some kind of physical activity each and every day, without ever even thinking about the fact that I already walk an hour or more a day! It didn’t occur to me. Of course, walking with Hermes is great for a lot of things, but it isn’t enough for me to hit my fitness goals, which is why I am trying to develop this new habit. Like Go Kaleo suggests, I’m starting small. I’m shooting for at least 15 minutes a day of extra activity, and it can be anything at all – running, power walks, extra strength training sessions, time on my bike, my boxing DVD, whatever, as long as I do something.

I’ve got a few things that are helping me stay on track. For one thing, I am trying to look at the calendar and plan out what I am going to do the week before. Nothing is set in stone, but having a plan helps me make sure I have the right clothes, shoes and mindset for the day. I’m trying to use all the times throughout the day I have available – morning, afternoon and evening. For example I do strength training in the morning before work. I try to do it every other day, but if I know I have plans in the evening, that might be a great choice for that day. I also have lunch hours available, if the weather is nice, I can get a great power walk in around my office. It’s located near some really good residential areas for walking. Evenings are good for runs and bike rides (as long as the weather behaves,) but it’s good to know ahead of time when I am going to do that so I can pack my running shoes or throw my bike in the back of my car. I’m also using apps, of course. (I do love my apps.) I track running, walking and biking on RunKeeper and use Lift for daily motivation to keep at it!

Right now my goal is to simply build daily activity into a habit, to get to the point where it doesn’t even occur to me not to take an extra walk or hop on the bike when I have a few minutes. This is all part of a bigger goal, though. I love the weight that I have lost and the fact that I am in the best shape I have ever been in… but it still blows my mind. It feels fragile, like it could all burst like a soap-bubble. In some ways, it still isn’t real. But I want it to be, I want to feel like this (or heck, even better) for the rest of my life. I want to keep challenging myself and my long-held beliefs about who I am, what I look like and what I am capable of doing. I don’t want to jump into unsustainable changes, I want to carefully build and sculpt who I will become, habit by habit.


If you visit Go Kaleo, also check out their guest post: Winning the Fat Loss Lottery (not what you think…) by Sean Flanagan. It really speaks to exactly what I am talking about.

8 Hours, 8 Wonderful Hours

Hotel BedSleep, blissful sleep.

I know several people who can get by without it, but I am not one of them. For me sleep, and lots of it, is a necessary part of my life. This is why I’ve made it one of the daily habits I am working on using the Lift app.(Incidentally, Lift is a free app and I don’t get anything for telling you about it, I just like to share what I am working on.) 

Recently, I was talking to my mother about sleep. I was feeling overwhelmed, and it made me wonder how she did it all – a full time career as a teacher (which involved tons of at home work), raising two daughters and dealing with all their various activities, plus keeping up with all the house and yard work. (Don’t get me wrong, my dad was in the picture, he just didn’t deal with any of that stuff.) It is far more than I have in my life, and I am constantly feeling overloaded. How did she pull it all off? Her answer? She gave up on sleep. She said that during those years, she rarely went to bed before midnight and frequently stayed up even later. She was up again at 6:00AM. She said she got used to it after awhile. I suppose she had plenty of time to acclimate. If it started when I was born and ended with my little sister turning 18, that’s roughly 26 years of getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep at night.

I don’t know how she did it.

I have friends that get by on lower amounts of sleep too. Some who only need 5 hours or so at a time, others who frequently pull “all nighters” to finish up projects. I wish I could do that, but honestly, even if I get just 7 hours of sleep for a few nights, I’m a wreck. You can see it in my face. As I’ve gotten older, my eyes have developed these charming deep, dark, puffy circles that pop out at the first blush of lost sleep. More than that, you can see it in my personality. Lack of sleep makes me fuzzy headed, ornery, frustrated, snappish, confused, and basically, and all around terror to be around. I frequently pity my coworkers. (Well, afterwards, once I have had some sleep, that is.) It takes a toll. There are those people who are just a little sleepy when they don’t get a good night’s rest – not me. It completely changes my personality and I really dislike who I become. And I don’t recover quickly, it takes several nights of good sleep to get me back on track.

It doesn’t help that, by nature, I am an evening person. Once upon a time, many years ago, I used to work 11:00AM – 8:00PM. I loved that shift. My prime time for productivity is that 11:00 – 2:00 slot, so I came into work ready to go. I could head to bed around 11:00PM and get up around 9:30AM. I got lots of sleep so no one ever threatened to burn me at the stake. (That schedule was rotten on my social life, but man, sometimes I miss it.)

Now I work 9:00AM to 6:00PM. In order to get up and get the dog walked and do all the other things I have to do in the morning, plus get out of the house on time, I have to get up at 6:30AM. On strength training days I get up at 6:00AM. So, in order to shoot for 8 hours, that means I have to be in bed with the covers pulled up by 10:00 – 10:30PM. It seems like it should be easy, but it isn’t. There is always so much to do!

I’m working on it though. I honestly believe that as long as I work in the traditional workplace with a set schedule, I have to make sleep one of my top priorities, just for my own health. I’m hoping the Lift app will help me start taking it from a goal to get in bed on time, to a habit.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Photo credit: Hotel Bed by Sean MacEntee on flickr

Feeling Grateful

album-gratitudeI have two journals. This one, and a physical blank book I write in at home over breakfast. The home journal is for stream of consciousness writing, mostly centered around weight loss, diet, exercise and so forth. It’s my little space to get all the thoughts in my head out and onto the page. Honestly, it is pretty repetitive and occasionally seriously whiney, and having it helps me not bore you all with it!

However, there is one aspect of that journal that I really love. In addition to all the stuff about fitness and whatnot, I also try to include things I am grateful for and the good things I am doing for myself; things like spending time with people I love, reading good books, trying something new, and connecting with old friends.

Today I thought I would share a few things that I am deeply grateful for. In no particular order: 

  • My amazing sister. She has been such a cheerleader through my journey. We don’t always talk or see each other as much as I would like, but we’re working on it. And I love the friendship that keeps growing between us.
  • The lovely lady over at Owls and Orchids who nominated me recently for an award. Those of you that read this little blog and take a moment to comment or say hello make my day. I am grateful for your support.
  • Your blogs. I have learned from you all, laughed with you, and have been inspired so much by all of you. I honestly think that I’ve felt more confident in getting out there and trying new things because I see all that you are doing. You guys awe, inspire and motivate me!
  • My friends. They are rock stars! Some times we see each other a lot, other times hardly at all, but I know they are always there for me and always want the best for me. I know not everyone has a network of supportive friends and that I am lucky, lucky gal.
  • Technology. I keep saying this phrase: I love living in the future! Sure, I know that there are a lot of negatives to all the screen time we have nowadays, but when used well, technology is amazing. It has helped me to lose weight, start running, connect with friends (old and new), meditate, make healthy meals, find running and biking trails… the list goes on and on.
  • My health. I know I talk about it a lot, but I feel so different from I did. I have more energy and more zest for the everyday. …of course, I also have a lot more aches and pains. (Thanks, strength training!!) Still, now that I have been focusing on it, I am all the more grateful for what I have. So many folks struggle with health issues – my heart goes out to them. I may not be exactly where I want to be fitness-wise, but I am healthy and feeling good. It is something to be thankful for.
  • My guy. Julian and I have been together a little over 3 years now and things just keep getting better and better. How great is that?

What can I say? Though sometimes I get overwhelmed and frustrated, I have to say, life is good. I am very, very fortunate. It’s good to look back and remember all that.