Thursday, September 09, 2010
I haven't been blogging much since I got serious about changing my life. I'm not sure why, because normally I like to write and I'm not shy about putting my thoughts and feelings out there. Maybe itís because I've been having such a good time cruising around, reading other people's blogs, learning and conversing with folks....or maybe I've just been a little lazy. In any case, I've gotten so much inspiration from reading other people's blogs, I thought I would try to return the favor.
So first of all, thank you to all of you for your inspiration and encouragement and support -- it's kept me moving forward and for that I'm so grateful.
When I started seriously sparking back at the end of May, I decided that I needed a goal to get me focused and keep me on track. I've been a runner for 13 years and I've done a few races over those years, including some 10 mile races. I've never had the urge to do a full marathon, but a half sounded like a good challenge. So I found a half marathon race in September 19th and started to step up my running a little bit, and figured I would just keep on upping my miles little by little until I hit 8 miles or so just before the race. For some reason, it didn't occur to me to do any formal training for the race until a friend who runs marathons suggested that working up to 8 miles probably wasn't enough and suggested I look for a training program.
Hmm...I decided maybe she was right. I wanted to be ready for the race and I didn't want to hurt myself by overtraining or training in the wrong way, so I started checking around on the internet and found a bunch of training programs, one of which was from Runner's World magazine. There were programs outlined for 3 levels, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. Surely, I thought, I am an Intermediate runner. I read the description: had done a number of races, set and achieved speed goals, done speed work, including hill workÖwhat? I hadnít done any of those things! Iím a runnerÖI run! Isnít that enough? WellÖno, apparently not! I went to the Beginner page: has been running for a while, maybe even run a few races, but the only goal was finishing. Yup, thatís me. A beginner. After 13 years!
I decided to work the program, follow the plan and set some solid goals. First I needed to get an assessment of where I was. For losing my first 5 pounds , I had decided to reward myself with a Garmin GPS Forerunner (for runners!). What a cool toy! It gives you your time, your distance and your pace Ė just what I needed! When I started running with the Garmin, I found out I wasnít even doing a 12 minute mile> I had always assumed that was where I was, so I was a little surprised.
All in all, I realized that I had never truly challenged myself physically. I had assumed that I just put on my shoes and run, that would be enough. Well, that would be fine if I were happy maintaining the status quo, but I had already decided that I want to be my best possible self, not just good-enough. I want to reach and stretch in all ways Ė physically, mentally and spiritually. I had challenged myself to do that, and in setting a goal and making a plan, I felt like I was on the right track.
So I got to work. I learned that rest days were important because itís on those recovery days that your body builds new muscle, and they also help prevent injury from overwork. I got my pace down to a twelve minute mile, and started doing some interval training and sprints. Over the summer, I was able to get my regular pace down to an 11 minute mile for a 4-6 mile run, and after working on extending the intervals, I surprised myself and did a full mile at a ten minute pace. Victory! I was really proud. I also learned to love how it felt to sprint, running full out for a short distance, maybe 20-30 meters. I was a sprinter when I was a kid and could usually beat most of the boys in a short race.
I decided not to set a speed goal for the race until I had worked the program and seen what kind of progress I was able to make. Over the months, Sunday runs have been getting longer and longer, with the first 10 mile run last Sunday and another 10 mile run next Sunday, one week before the race. Iíll set my speed goal after that, but I am thinking for this 13.1 mile race, Iíll probably set a goal no faser than a 12 minute mile pace.
To make the first 10 miles interesting, I decided to map out a run through Washington DC, my adopted hometown. I really love DC, its history, its monuments and its reputation as the capital of the free world. And I decided to snap some pics to give you a runnerís eye view of my favorite cityÖ.so here goes...
I started on the Virginia side of the Potomac River. You can see the Jefferson Memorial and the Washington Monument in the distance, across the river behind the railroad bridge.
Then I ran a few miles up the Virginia side of the river and crossed over the Roosevelt bridge into Washington. The Kennedy Center is on the left. I don't go there much -- too expensive -- but they do have some great shows.
And on the right you can see the Washington Monument again. Boring pic, but I'm using as a landmark, and running a big circle around it.
Next I ran by the Lincoln Memorial -- my favorite Republican! And so many tourists! Some of the natives here don't like the tourists but I am happy to share this awesome city. I have an almost religious feeling about democracy and I like to think people catch a little bit of that when they come here.
Turning around, you get an beautiful view of the Washington Monument and the Reflecting Pool. If you look hard you can see the Capitol in the distance too. Getting closer!
Then I ran down the path by the side of the pool and looked back where I came from. I like this shot.
The World War II Memorial is right here, too. An organization here does something called "Freedom Flights" where they fly in surviving World War II vets and bring them to see the Memorial. I've seen them coming off the planes at the airport and every time, everyone in the entire terminal cheers and gives them a standing ovation. It's very moving.
The Washington Monument was really close at that point and I should have taken a picture of it. Darn! Instead I turned left and ran to the White House. What a great crowd in front of the White House! People from all over America and all over the world, asking each other to take their pictures. These nice folks from Nebraska took this picture of me and I returned the favor for them. Theirs is going on their Christmas card!
Around the corner is the Treasury. One thought: get it together, guys!
Turning around, I'm getting ready to run up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol -- you can see it in the distance. The hotel on the left is called the Willard, and from its lobby the term "lobbyist" was coined by President Ulysses S. Grant, who used to go sit in the lobby, where he was endlessly approached by people seeking favors.
And here we are at the Capitol...
After I took that picture, I ran up the Hill to the Capitol. Ouch! I hadn't really thought about that big hill coming so close to the end of the run, but it was good training for my half marathon, since there's a big hill close to the end of the course. Cool views of the Capitol...I don't think you can see them in these pics, but there people climbing around the scaffolding!
Not too many more pics because I was dragging at that point. And just as well...this is getting a little long!
A quick picture of the Jefferson Memorial, and then I ran back across the 14th Street bridge to Virginia.
I was pleased with my run -- not counting the time I took to stop and snap these shots, I did it in less than two hours -- a twelve minute mile pace!
I'm pleased with all I've learned over the past three months too. To seriously challenge myself. To set goals. To learn as much as possible from as many resources as I can find to achieve and exceed my goals. And best of all that there is a wonderful, supportive and inspiring community right here at my fingertips!
I hope you enjoyed this little tour of my beloved town! And my deepest, most heartfelt thanks for your encouragement over the past three months! When I run the race I will be thinking of all of you who have inspired me to keep stretching and striving to be the best possible me I can be!
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Iím leaving Monday for a 9 day trip Ė 4 days in Wisconsin for work and 5 days at my Momís in Canada for her 75th birthday. Each with its own particular challenges! So I decided Iíd better think about my strategies in advance.
I noticed last time I was on work travel that I react to stress by stuffing every possible thing in my mouth, which was interesting because prior to that revelation, I didnít even realize that I was feeling stress during work travel. And there is always much food available as my organization loves to feed people! So here below are my strategies for dealing with stress and sticking to my plan.
ē I am looking ahead and identifying potential stressors, and taking action in advance. For instance, while Iím usually well prepared in terms of substance for presentations, I am going to do a little more practice and visualization to help me be more fully prepared.
ē I will try to be aware of stress as it arises and respond accordingly. Maybe itís something that can be fixed. If it is generalized, Iíll try One Minute Meditations to bring the level down.
ē I plan to bring healthy snacks (not always available on site) like granola bars, almonds, dates and fruit. Iím going to stay away from sweets and desserts completely because itís so easy to get out of control! And Iíll continue to avoid alcohol.
ē Iím pretty sure I can stick to my workout schedule, all the hotels have fitness rooms. Iíll add some additional short yoga practices (time allowing) because it is an awesome de-stresser. I have yoga on my laptop from www.yogadownloads.com. C heck it out!
ē And hereís the best thing: I have a colleague on the trip who has recently lost a lot of weight and we have pledged to support each other with our food and fitness goals. Woo hoo!
Visiting my MomÖdefinitely we are tempted to stress eat with family, right? It will be great to see everyone Ė both sisters are coming along with sisterís kids and BF and his son too Ė but with all the usual family tensions and plenty of GREAT food because my mom is an incredible cook, plenty of opportunity to WAAAAAYYY overeat!
ē I decided my Momís b-day itself will be a ďfree dayĒ and I wonít restrict myself to the upper limit of 1590 calories I normally (try to!) stick to. I plan to stick to the no alcohol pledge I made to myself though (not drinking until my beach vacation the second week of August, and re-evaluating after that). Iíll tell everyone Iím in training for my half marathon...
ē Already put in a request for healthy food!
ē Iíll probably get some extra workouts in, and hopefully do some walks with my sis who turned me on to SP 6 years ago.
ē Yoga and meditation as needed!
Iím looking forward to the trip, and feel good about the plan.
As always, Spark friends, all suggestions, comments and advice are welcome!
Sunday, July 04, 2010
The new scale I bought this week has been a problem.
Over the years as my weight has gone up and down I have not watched it closely or recorded it regularly. Something about it bothers me. Maybe itís that having gone through some experiences with eating disorders in my family, Iíve always shied away from focusing too much on the number. And I have a tendency to become a little obsessive at times myselfÖ I guess I worried the scale might become an obsession.
So, the new scale.
I bought my old scale after my youngest (now 22) was born. Still struggling with post-baby weight, I picked it because it told me I was 4 pounds lighter than the other scales. I know, must have been the hormones. Soon realized that was a problem, but it was one of those spinning gauge scales, so I could set it at -4 pounds, which is how Iíve used it for all these years.
Now with my new goals and determination, I decided it was time to retire the old scale, with its cracked face and impossibly small unreadable numbers. And while I didnít really realize it at the time, it might have been about facing demons too. Not letting past *issues* rule my behavior. Enough foolishness. I set a goal and I want to be able to track my progress accurately.
So of course I obsessed a little bit about buying a new one: which one to get, is it accurate (every single sample model at Bed Bath and Beyond tells me a different weight) But after only one return -- the thing read a 4 pound difference within three hours -- I settled on a scale. It said I was 1.5 pounds heavier than my old scaleÖno problem. I adjusted up with no stress, since Iíve been pleased with my progress this month.
So whatís bothering me? I weighed myself obsessively all week long. And yes, the news was good. Between the old scale and the new scale, I donít really know what happened when, but over the past 4 weeks Iíve lost an average of 2- 2 Ĺ pounds a week, which is great! Iím not complaining Ė I love it that I can fit back into clothes I havenít worn in years, and that friends have noticed the difference.
But it is bothering me is that Iím doing what I was afraid if -- obsessing about the number. I need to find some balance with this thing. Fact is, the scale is only a symbol of that struggle.
Yes, itís good that Iím not avoiding the number anymore, because when I was ignoring it I wasnít making my goals specific and charting a course to achieve them. Now I need to take the next step and get to the place where I use it as a tool, not the be-all and end-all. Where losing the pounds isnít more important than doing my yoga practice at least once a week and meditating 5 days a week. Or picking up a paintbrush and painting a picture or setting goals and training for my upcoming half-marathon. Or compulsively avoiding any additional calories and never letting go and just enjoying a great big delicious meal with friendsÖ
So this holiday weekend I let up a little bit. I stayed away from the scale (mostly). I kept working out but I let myself indulge a little bitÖlast night at the Gipsy Kings concert and tonight at a BBQ before the fireworks, I had a little chocolate, some extra potato salad and a two brownies. Exceeded my calories but not ridiculously much. And I may have a piece of the cake Iím baking for my sisterís barbeque tomorrowÖbut itís definitely not coming home with me if thereís any left!
Balance. I think I can do it. One goal among many for my mind, body and soulÖ.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
According to my Sparkpeople fitness tracker, thatís the number of fitness minutes I have racked up. Wow -- thatís a big number!
It averages out to 2.5 hours a week, figuring from the tracking reports which go back to January í08. Iíve actually been a member since í04, and since then, Iím pretty sure Iíve lost and gained back the same 15-20 pounds at least three times, with the top number higher than I was willing to record.
Also during that time, I got divorced, my boys grew up and left home, my dad passed away and I made a major career change. Iím pretty sure that putting my running shoes on and hitting the pavement or going to the mat for yoga practice helped me to face these changes with strength.
Iím glad I had the opportunity to spend 20,000 minutes of my life taking care of me. I'm so lucky to be able to lace up the shoes and go, taking the time to work my body and free my mind, taking the space to find solutions to hard problems or just a little quiet when the noise got too loud. I'm so fortunate to have a beautiful trail on the banks of the Potomac River to run, with bald eagles watching over me....I am so lucky to be able to go to the yoga mat and with the help of wonderful teachers discipline my body and my mind...I'm also lucky to have found good friends here at Sparkpeople to help me take the next steps...thank you and Namaste!
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
This blog is kind of personal. I canít believe I am posting it. But Iím going to be honest here in an effort to make this change stick.
So here goes.
All last week I was on a high. I was on a roll, sticking to my plan, even on a stressful business trip. Ok, it was a stressed out high, but a high nonetheless. I lost 2 pounds for the second week in a row, and I had a revelation about stress and caloric intakeÖI know, seems basic, but the experience of examining it in real time and stopping it at the source was eye-opening, to say the least. Definitely pointed out the need to find new and better stress control techniques (as opposed to getting lost three times and locking the keys in the car) but a victory nonetheless. And my presentation went well, so all was good.
Also, I was really looking forward to a date this weekend. A second date, need I say more?
So why, by Monday morning, was I feeling down and depressed?
Well, for one thing, two of those pounds reappeared when I hopped on the scale this morning (I usually weigh myself every day as a sort of an early warning system Ė but that may stop soon!)
That was depressing, but really not the thing that was bothering me most. No, what really did it was the fact that after a perfectly lovely date on Friday night, this prince among men didnít call all weekend. And then another fellow, a lunch date I was looking forward to this week, emailed wanting to reschedule for next week. And I said to myself, what? Really? I donít think so! Do I look like someone who can be rescheduled and ignored? In Dirty Dancing, who was it that said, ďNo one puts Baby in the corner!Ē I was so thereÖand in a very short time, I got myself well and truly wrapped around the axle!
Now before you start thinking that I am a bit of flake making such a drama of a couple casual little dates, let me be the first to say, you may be right! It surprises even me, a liberated woman from birth. And anyway, you may ask, what does this all have to do with my Spark plan, anyway? A little background:
Four years ago, I went through a divorce after an almost twenty-one year marriage. It was devastating, it was heart-breaking, it was all those awful things so many of you know so well. But since then, Iíve rebuilt my life and itís pretty good. I have two sons whoíve grown into fine young men, a job that mostly makes me happy, and great friends whoíve stuck with me through thick and thin. I have a lot of interests and Iím never bored.
Since I was divorced, Iíve had one relationship that I ended because I it wasnít going anywhere that I wanted to go. Good decision, no regretsÖ.and when I looked at what lead me to stay with the guy for almost two years, I had to look at some hard truths. In short, I had a tendency to put other people first.
So I stopped dating for awhile and took some time to think about what I really wanted. I came up with a pretty good idea of what I was looking for. And spent some time reconciling how to be happy on my own at the same time that I was looking for someone to share my life. I think thatís a pretty tough balancing act and probably the cause of a lot of stress in the world. (Need I add, especially among women!)
Also, I think a little tiny corner of my brain believed that old saw that says when you stop looking for it, itíll find you. Hmm, maybe for some people, but I am pretty sure itís not going to find me when Iím sitting home on my couch in my jammies Öand PLEASE GOD donít let it find me at work, because we are not going there!
And itís true, it would be nice to find someone. I enjoyed being married, all things considered.
So I started dating again. I hear itís like the lottery, if you donít play, you canít winÖ
But I needed a new attitude. A cíest la vie attitude. A ďdonít get all wrapped around the axleĒ attitude. An attitude that says I deserve the best. So thatís one thing Iíve been working on, a new attitude. Part of changing my lifeÖ
And I actually enjoy dating, unlike some folks I know. That is, until I meet someone I really like a lot. Doesnít happen much.
As a matter of fact, hasnít happened in ages. Hence the bad morningÖ.
In my rational mind, I know damn well it shouldnít bother me if a man doesnít call the next day. Either heíll call within a few days and maybe weíll go out again. Or he wonít, and we wonít. Fits in well with the new attitude, right? In theory, perfect!
But in my non-rational mind, yes! It bothers me. In the past, I would deal with a little disappointment like that by getting together with my girlfriends and having a glass or two of wine and engaging in some satisfying trash talk. And blowing my calorie count, because after a couple glasses of wine, a nice appetizer sounded pretty good. And whoops, there went the exercise plan out the window, too.
Even worse, I would put too much emotional energy into maintaining my equilibrium, focusing way too much attention on something I had no control over.
Same old story, isnít it? I know youíve heard it before. But itís my same old story, so I have to pay attention! Or itíll be playing in an endless loopÖGroundhog day all over againÖ
So this time, when it hit me again, I sighed in recognition, a weary tired sigh. I am tired of this reaction, the old programmed response.
So Iím trying something new. I am staying with my program. Monday morning, I got up, I made my breakfast, I packed my lunch and I went to work. Unapologetically late, because I slept an extra hour to catch up on the sleep I didnít get the night before. I worked all day. Work was my salvation when I was going through the divorce, the only place I could forget everything and focus on the task at hand. It works pretty well. When I came home, I wrote for a little bit and then I went for a 3 Ĺ mile run, a little tough at first but the last mile, all downhill in the cool green shade ending by the stream that runs behind my neighborhood, was beautiful. When I got home, I made some dinner and called my brother to make sure his sonís birthday present arrived. And I sat down again to write. And I felt better.
What took me so long? Ah well, what does it matter? Iím getting there. So, maybe heíll call and maybe he wonít. Maybe Iíll reschedule lunch or maybe not. But whatever happens, Iím not going to let my irrational responses to things that are beyond my control highjack my sanity. This is my resolve and I am determined to stick with it.
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