A Quick Update

Mom! Let's go track some snowmen!

Mom! Let’s go track some snowmen!

I’ve been a bit MIA lately. I am working on a few new projects, and those combined with the holidays, is keeping me hopping! I might be posting a little bit less for the next couple of months. I am trying to get all my ducks in a row on some big things, and it is taking up a lot of my time and creative energy to write.

I’ve also not been able to exercise the way that I want to. I keep trying, but I think I just have to accept that in December, dog walking and snow shoveling is about all I am going to get done. I do have one small complaint, however. I wish RunKeeper (the app I use to track my walks) had a feature where you could input the number of inches on the snow along with a modifier for the percentage of negligent neighbors who haven’t shoveled! I don’t really mind that they haven’t shoveled, but want extra “slogging” credit on my calorie count! (Also, most of my neighbors aren’t really negligent, I know that those who don’t shovel usually don’t have the wherewithal to do so, but I loved the alliteration of “negligent neighbors.”)

Hermes and I are still out for about an hour a day. I’ve added ice fishing cleats to my boots and a few extra layers, but we’re still getting out as much as ever. He loves this weather. He jumps in snowbanks, buries his nose in it and always grabs a few mouthfuls. Even though I am bundled up like I am going on a expedition to the North Pole, it’s hard to be grumpy when he is so dang happy.

So that’s the latest. I’ve got lots of irons in the fire, but I’ll be around, I promise!

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Snowflakes are Falling

winter wonderlandHere’s me, feeling festive! Like much of the Midwest, we’re getting a fair amount of snow. That opens up a whole other area of winter exercising – snow shoveling! Also scraping off cars, donning winter gear, and of course the ever popular sport of clutching the steering wheel white knuckled with fear. All good for the heart and respiratory systems!

The funny thing is that I have always loved winter. As a kid I had pretty bad seasonal allergies and winter was one of the few times I could play outside and not be bothered by pollen or dust. It’s also a lovely time of year. One of my favorite sights is fresh snow at night when it is like a big sparkling blanket.

I have to say though, that it’s a little different having lost forty pounds. Winter is still pretty, but brrrr! I am so very cold! Of course, Hermes the dog thinks this weather is awesome, so we’re still trekking through the neighborhood twice a day. I swear he deliberately looks for snow banks to jump in, silly little dog. I mean, I know he is wearing a fur coat, but the bottom of their paws is just skin – how is it that they don’t care? It’s a mystery.

I am so ready for this!

Yes! Winter!

I won’t be running in this, that’s for sure. I’m just too scared of slipping and falling. I even wear cleats on my boots when I am walking the pooch, so I don’t think I’ll attempt running. My new snow pants are awesome, though: “Bugaboo” by Columbia. (I got them at T.J. Maxx.) They much such a difference! They really are warm, and they keep the snow and damp off me, which is even more important.

What about you? What winter exercise do you do? What are you planning on? What’s the weather like in your part of the world?

Rain Boots and Snow Pants

Rain boots and Hermes

Hermes admires my new rain boots and snow pants.

The weather here in the Midwest has been… interesting. By interesting, I mean cold, windy and wet. We had thunderstorms, high winds, tornado warnings, and snow, all pretty much at the same time. Sunday night I busted out my brand new snow pants, which are pictured here, with my brand new rain boots.

I wrote about wanting rain boots awhile ago, but it took me awhile to find the right pair. I stopped at every store I could think of in town, (including following up on some suggestions from people who commented on my blog,) but without any luck. Then I found the perfect pair on Amazon. They were everything I wanted, and in the right price range. The only problem was that the design I wanted ended up being backordered. Curses! A couple of days later, I was wandering through our local mega-grocery store and lo! they had rain boots! They were the same brand I had picked out on Amazon, but a different pattern. They were on sale, so I picked them up. This way I can see how much I love them, and when I wear them out (I am really tough on footwear,) I can order the other pair.

I also recently bought snow pants. I wasn’t actually looking for snow pants when I bought these, I was looking for water-resistant pants. However, the only thing I could find with water-resistant layers were snow/ski pants – and all of them were expensive. I finally lucked out with a pair of Columbia ones I found at TJ Maxx. These will do nicely. (I also bought some water-resistant spray on coating, and I plan on making my own lighter pair.)

With the crazy weather, I’ve needed both. The snow pants are super warm and I went and splashed in several big puddles and found the rain boots are doing the trick for keeping me dry. That’s all good, winter is coming and Hermes and I have many, many more miles to go.

I apparently really, really like this pattern. Note all the water on the pants. It was pouring!

I apparently really, really like this pattern. (The rug and the boots were not bought at the same time.) Note all the water on my pants. It was pouring that night!

A Weekend Hike

I thought about going up to the cabin this weekend. It was one of my few weekends that was completely free before the onslaught of holiday busyness kicks in. What stopped me? Daylight Savings. Since Daylight Savings last weekend, sunset is at 5:30pm. By the time I got up there on Saturday, there would only be a few hours left. Then I would have to come back early on Sunday to avoid driving in the dark. (It’s fall, which means the deer are moving and there are a lot of deer by my cabin. I try to avoid driving in the dark up there this time of year if I can.)

So I stayed in town and had a “cabin weekend” at home. I did all the things I love to do “Up North”: I slept in, read books and took naps. I also went for a couple of runs and a hike in the woods.

The “woods”, in this case, is a park near where I grew up. It’s also near the cemetery where my father is buried. After he first past away, I would go visit his gravesite then follow it up with a hike. I haven’t been out there in fall though, it was a little different. Once all the leaves came down, the trails are harder to spot. You have to kind of trust your instincts and not look too close. If you concentrate too hard it’s easy to lose your way, but if you trust your gut, you’re fine. The other tricky thing was the tree roots. In the summer someone goes out and spray paints the ones that stick up out of the path so you can see them. In the fall, those helpful signs are covered in leaves. It pays not to get too cocky when you walk.

It was a lovely though. It was a cloudy day and Hermes and I were there about an hour before sunset, so we had the trails to ourselves. (He, of course, was in dog heaven.)

Ah, Nature

The woods at dusk 1 by A quiverful of fotosI managed to slip in another run the other night. Sadly, it made me realize that my week night trail running is over until spring. I made it fine, but at the end it was getting mighty, mighty dark. It was beautiful, however. A white tailed doe ran along with me for awhile, and when I ran by the river, a great blue heron flew overhead.

From now on though, it will have to be lighted locations after work, or at least at places not deep in the woods. I wasn’t afraid of predators (two legged or otherwise) but the thought of twisting my ankle in the dark crossed my mind a time or two. I do love trail running, so I’ll try to head out on the weekends still. Oddly, one of the things I love about being out in the woods is the hills.

Yes, the hills.

Not big hills, but little steep dirt bike style hills. You know what I mean? The super sharp kind that you can run up in less than a dozen steps. I feel like superhero going up those! There is nothing like that in the paved places I run.

In other news, Hermes and I got sprayed by a skunk. Normally I keep an eye out for critters when he and I are out on patrol, but it was raining fairly hard and I had my head down. We were in a residential neighborhood and the skunk was in the middle of someone’s lawn. I see skunks fairly regularly, (especially this time of year,) but usually they hear us coming and take off. I also try to give them a wide berth. This one though was in a mood, because he was turned and ready to go. He got us both. It wasn’t too bad for me since I was wearing rain gear, but Hermes pretty much got a direct shot. We both got baths as soon as I got home, but I have a feeling my pooch will be aromatic for awhile. Here’s the bright side – I pretty much have no sense of smell, and really, skunk isn’t a scent I usually pick up. So, as far as I am concerned, it’s not all that bad. (My coworkers might tell you another story, however!)

 

Photo credit: A Quiverful of Fotos 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.

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.

I’ll Take All The Help I Can Get

I think we have a work out to do.

Why are you blogging? I think we have a work out to do.

I mentioned that I am trying to learn to do a perfect squat. I’ve got a long way to go – literally, there are a whole lot of inches before I can get my tush where it needs to be. I’m not naturally flexible, so this is a process. And can I just say that I hate instructions that say things like, “sit like you are going to sit in a chair and then just go all the way down.” Oh, really?!? No mention of “…and if your legs simply won’t bend that way because you haven’t taken a yoga class in 10 years and you are stiff as a board, try this instead…” Nope. Just go all the way down.  Sigh….

But, I am determined. So, along with doing squats while working out, I am trying to find every day ways to practice my squat.

Fortunately, I have a dog.

Times to practice getting knees to bend and my butt towards the floor:

  • Picking up and replacing food and water bowls
  • Hooking on, and removing, the outdoor tie out
  • Hooking on, and removing, the leash for walks and trips outside
  • The cleaning up of dog poo on said walks and trips outside
  • While toweling down and drying Hermes from walks in the rain
  • While mopping up the floor when he shakes in the kitchen before I can towel him down from the walk in the rain
  • While performing manditory “I love you!” scratches and pets
  • The daily chore of picking up throw pillows and blankets that Hermes has decided do not belong on the couch and would look better on the floor

Really, he does it all for me. He’s my little furry workout buddy.

Sleep… zzzzz…..

Sophie sleeping by Peter Hunter on flickr

Sleeping babies are so cute when they sleep. Ever notice that isn’t the case with adults?

I recently heard a fantastic TED Talk by Russell Foster: Why Do We Sleep? (video below) that got me thinking about sleep.

Actually, I don’t need a great TED talk to think about sleep – I am already a bit obsessed with it. I have to be. I know there are people who survive on lesser amounts, but I’m one of those folks that needs a good, solid eight hours of sleep a night. When I don’t get it, you can really tell – it’s in my personality: I am agitated, short-tempered and slow-witted. You can even see it in my face. I am extremely fair-skinned, and after as few as just two nights of short sleep, I get deep, dark, puffy circles under my eyes. I do what I can with concealer, but it is pretty obvious to anyone who looks at me.

Yet, getting enough sleep is hard. I have a set time I need to be at work in the morning, plus I need to walk the dog, get a decent breakfast and get ready for work. (You really don’t want to see me if I haven’t eaten breakfast!) Lately I have also been adding weight training and even the occasional run to my morning routine.

sleeping stone by jo-marshall on flickr

A sleeping otter holding a stone! Animals are also adorable when they sleep.

So logically, I should just go to bed at the same time every night, but life doesn’t always work out that way. Frequently there are necessary and important social things I want to do… like spending time with friends or catching up with my boyfriend. Even the weekends don’t help much. I am still up early – the pooch’s bladder doesn’t understand why two days of the week are different from any other day. The only upside is that sometimes on the weekends I get to crawl back into bed after our walk, (which I looooove). It’s such an awesome treat to grab an extra hour or two of sleep that way, but again, it depends on how busy I am if that is going to happen or not.

I’ve mentioned before that I have another journal where I track my weight, exercise and sleep. I find it useful because it reminds me when I am running low. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes I kind of forget how a week has gone. All I know is that I am blurry eyed and ornery. Then I glance back at the journal pages and can see in a glance that the problem is lack of sleep. It helps remind me to do something about it.

Even Hermes is cute when he sleeps.

Even Hermes is cute when he sleeps.

I do have a couple of techniques I use to sneak in a few more precious Zs. Sometimes, I have to skip working out in the morning. It isn’t my favorite choice, but there are times I dearly need those precious minutes of sleep. I’m more likely to go that route if I know I can move my workout to a different time that day – go for a run after work instead, for example. Another technique is taking a nap in my car on a lunch hour. I know it isn’t elegant, and in fact, it’s a little embarrassing, but if I can find a quiet shady spot to park my car, I’ll throw the seat back, set the alarm, and get an extra hour of rest in. If I am particularly crabby at work or have a big project to work on and feel like my brain isn’t working, it’s the best way to shake off the sleepiness and function again. Finally, I also try to prepare and make up for lost sleep by getting to bed really early on days when things aren’t so busy. It’s a great concept, but not that practical in real life since I’m never not busy. The absolute best thing is to just head up to my cabin for a weekend. That resets all my buttons. I spend the whole weekend just relaxing, napping and restoring my mental health.

The in the talk below, Dr. Foster talks about how sleep effects us. I’ve also read some compelling articles that getting enough sleep is important for weight loss. However, just knowing that doesn’t make it any easier to do. How about you? How much sleep do you need? How do you try to insure that you get it?

Photo credits:

Sophie sleeping by Peter Hunter on flickr

Sleeping Stone by jo-marshall on flickr

Big Bills, Garage Sales and Pup Recovery

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks.

Why yes, I am feeling much better, thanks. I think you should give me some ham.

Hermes had the staples from his surgery removed on Tuesday morning. He’s almost like a new dog. He has so much energy right now – I love it! We just started getting back to full half hour walks at close to our old speed. (I’ve been taking it slow with him to allow for full healing.) Having him feeling better has helped my mood as well.

August was a hard month. I can’t complain – everything resolved itself well, but it was still a tough month. For one thing, it was expensive. My house is a two unit with a one bedroom apartment in it that I rent out. As a rental property, it has to be inspected by the city every few years and the furnace and hot water heater have to be checked by experts. The house passed with flying colors, but the furnace failed the inspection. Not a huge deal, it was old and I was expecting it to go any time, but still a fairly large outlay of cash to have it replaced. Then, of course, I had to pay for the inspections as well. Add to those bills all of Hermes’ emergency pet care, and I’m pretty depleted. I had to pull money from all my “extra” accounts to pay for everything. That means a few of my big plans are on hold.

It was a busy month too. I am wrapping up my freelance work for the summer. I am on the final leg, thank goodness. While I love doing it, it will be good to take a break. Plus there are all the “normal” activities that keep me busy – friends, family, my nonprofit work, my for profit job… all this plus working out 5-6 times a week. Life is good and I like doing all of it, but again, you add on extra things like meeting with furnace repairmen and running to the animal hospital twice a day, and it isn’t only my bank accounts that are depleted – it’s my energy levels as well.

That being said, I thought Labor Day weekend was going to be a turning point. While Saturday was really productive, the rest of the weekend ended up being more of the same – especially the freelance work. That took up the most time. I didn’t get any running in and I only got one of the several naps I had hoped for! (I do love naps.) The bright side was that I started work on my annual garage sale – it’s a huge project, and I have just one month.

Every year for several years now, (I think this will be our eighth,) my best friends and I have held a garage sale at my house. We keep the prices cheap, the booze flowing and good people all around. We’ve pretty much got it down to a science and we do quite well most years. I am hoping for a particularly good year – I would love to replenish some of those bank accounts I mentioned! Since the summer was so busy, we’ve pushed it all to the fall. We are planning on having it October 4th and 5th. We’ve found fall sales to be good in the past, people are still in the mood to hit sales, but there are less of them, so we get good traffic.

I’ve got a ton of stuff to do in preparation. Not only do I have a lot to sell, but the house and yard needs to be put into shape. That’s what was great about last Saturday. I managed to get started on it, and started putting a plan into place how to finish it. A plan is needed – four weeks isn’t far away at all!!

Sigh... this is probably true.

Sigh… this is probably true.