Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live it. Run it. A Manifesto of Sorts?

I am applying for the 261 Fearless Ambassador program.

One of the questions is this:

If you could give advice to other women who are trying to incorporate running into their life, what advice do you want to share with them? 

This question sparked some passion in me that I could barely control.  I had to edit it down to the space allotted for responses.  So I thought I'd share it.
Here is my answer:

When I started running, I did everything I could to do it in private.  I didn't want anyone to see me trying to run, trying to teach myself how to run.  I had led a very sedentary life and in my late 20s I was trying to completely change how I viewed myself, the type of activities I spent my time on, and what I wanted to do with my life outside of work.  

I was afraid other runners would ridicule me, I was afraid that drivers on the street would honk and make fun of me, yell things from their car windows and embarrass me.  I was fat and I felt old and clumsy and I was terrified of being seen in public trying to change that.  

Eventually I gained the confidence to join a group of beginner runners.  Essentially it was a Couch to 5k-type of program and it COMPLETELY CHANGED MY WORLD.  My outlook on this activity was radically changed by the time I'd finished the 10-week program.  

I learned that the running community is not a group of high school jocks who are going to make fun of me for being slower or for struggling.  It’s a group of SUPPORTERS who have my back!  

The “intimidation” and "fear" I experienced was really more about fear within myself.  Fear of failing, fear of succeeding, or maybe just fear of trying something new.  

Don’t let THAT stop you!  

Go out in the street!  
Run and walk on the trails locally! 
If you really need an excuse or to take attention from yourself, 

Just don't ever let fear control your actions.  

It's YOUR life.  
Live it.  
Run it.

Actually, now that I've written that last bit, I like it so much I think I'll make it my new tag line.  Because this blog isn't really about faster times and weight loss these days; it's about how I'm living my life, and the ways I'm changing how I live my life.  I like it!

Friday, August 28, 2015

100 Days! 100 Days!

A few months ago, @RoniNoone offered a #milestreak challenge and I proclaimed, "I'm IN!"


Today is a big milestone for me:  I have #wycwyc-ed my way to DAY #100!  One Hundred Days of walking and / or running at least one mile a day. I would like to RUN more, but right now, my life is structured in a way that makes a RUN-streak a "guaranteed failure" situation.  I loved that this challenge allowed for "Run, Walk, Skip or Crawl" - just find a way to get it done.

This challenge has required some creativity (turns out there's a 1/4-mile loop if you walk the perimeter around my office building/parking lot), some commitment on days when I was swamped (aka "needed it the most") and days when I wasn't feeling it (aka, "needed it the most"), and some decision-making about what "counts" as walking a mile ("DOES hunting for a bottle of wine count?" - "What about unpacking the car last weekend for the Race for the Cure registration event - back and forth back and forth?" I wore my GPS out of curiosity and it turned out to be about 0.5 mile - should that count for the day?  It was a long and tiring day... but I decided in that case, Nope, it doesn't count.)

I haven't walked today's mile yet, but 
Today is NOT the day I break my streak.  

I have really enjoyed this challenge.  It has reminded me that it's really not all that hard and definitely not all that time-consuming to get a mile in, even in the middle of the work day, and once in a while, the dogs can get a two-a-day, even if someone else already took them for their Daily Adventure.

Maybe this is an odd way to celebrate, but because I'm working today and won't have a lot of time for extra exercise, I plan to walk at lunch and / or after work today, and celebrate with a 15-mile bike ride over the weekend.  (Yeah, bike miles don't count for my streak, but I have this other goal in mind:)

See, a few months ago, my brothers-in-law bought their first home.  Instead of living in an apartment a few blocks away, they now live in a very small town about 20 miles away on country roads.  We see them only slightly less than before - it's not THAT far.  But ever since they moved, I've had this idea about some day biking to their house, having The Boys meet me there with the truck, and then we can eat, drink & generally Be Us, and drive home in the truck with the bike in back.  (I would also have to pack a change of clothes in the truck and probably hit the showers when I arrive, but we're all close like that, it's cool.)

I don't ride my bike all that much, and 20 miles is an awfully long way for a leisurely rider like myself with a beat up cruiser of a bike, not really made for serious road mileage.

But I'm ambitious like that.  

I've been making a point to ride each weekend, anywhere from 5 to 10 miles.  This weekend I'm upping the ante.  I figure if I can get 15 miles on Constitution Trail and the country roads north of here, and get home via a route that DOESN'T go up that one big hill near my house (trying to top that hill at the end of a long ride is how I hurt myself back in May), then I think I can probably handle 20 a couple of weeks after that.  The roads are mostly flat and if I can physically do it, the only other concern is safety - and I should be able to select a route that keeps me off of the busiest of the country roads to the house.

So, a 15-mile bike ride is on tap for this weekend, in celebration of

100 Days (and MORE!) of Streaking.

Keep Streaking, My Friends

Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy, Safe and Warm

This post first appeared as a "Guest Post" on Carla is amazing - check her out!

The Hubs and I rescued this pitbull two years ago.  He's anxious, sometimes unpredictable, and early on, there were moments when he was downright scary.

We didn't know his history.  His behaviour and responses were like nothing we'd encountered in previous pets.  We wondered how to train him.  We worried if we didn't fix him address the behaviours, he'd do something really bad and end up euthanized. Longstoryshort, we brought in a professional who taught us how to teach this dog.  How to read him, how to redirect him.  How to remind him that he doesn't have to be in charge all the time.  And slowly, he learned to trust that we could keep him safe.

He still gets agitated sometimes, and when he does, one way I calm him is to make him sit (this is essential - he can't "hear" me if he's too agitated to sit), and I kneel (get down on his level), hold him steady with my face right by his (but not blocking his view of The Scary Thing That's Got Him Upset) and whisper as calmly as possible:

The world is a happy, safe and warm place.
No one and nothing can hurt you here.

Happy, Relaxed Louie
Until Louie bounded into our lives, I don't think I ever gave much voice to my own feelings on whether the world is truly a happy, safe and warm place.  Certainly people and things can hurt me (and have, of course).  From my early teenage years until I was... well into my 20's I guess, I can't quite say... I didn't really find the world to be all that happy, safe and warm.  For a variety of reasons that I won't go into, there was a great deal of instability in my life that carried on even once I had the ability to control such things (which one cannot do as a teen, but somewhere between 14 and 25 that responsibility shifts and it's on you, right?)  During that time, I would not have used any of those words, Happy-Safe-Warm to describe my experience of life in general.

I can identify the moment when that began to shift.  It wasn't a switch that was flipped (I don't feel safe did not overnight become I Feel Safe), but the day I met The Hubs, my world view began to change.  It was not "love at first sight" but within a matter of weeks, I found myself gravitating to wherever he was.  I wanted to cocoon myself in his apartment and never leave.
Louie is a fan of the Cocoon Lifestyle
I wouldn't have used these words at the time, but looking back,

I felt that as long as I was there, 
I was cloaked in something that made me feel 
Happy, Safe, and Warm.  
I felt that no one and nothing could hurt me, as long as I stayed inside of that bubble

And why would anyone leave such a bubble?  Ever?

The Hubs is a talker.  When he's happy, he's talking.  When he's angry, he's talking (but louder).  When he's reminiscing, he's talking (storytelling, more slowly).  When he's tipsy, he's talking (animatedly). When he's agitated, he's talking (faster and about anything and everything BUT the thing that has him agitated). He was willing and able to do all the talking, and he didn't need me to say much.  No pressure to talk about my feelings (yech) or my history (oh dear god no I don't want to get into that) or my plans for the future (at that point there were none to speak of) or my worries or my fears or any other damn thing.  I could sit with my feelings and listen to him and when (if) I wanted to talk, he'd listen.  Meantime, he would carry our conversations.

I wasn't SILENT, mind you.  I just didn't want to talk about anything REAL.  Not then.  I wanted to stay in the bubble, and I didn't want to acknowledge that anything else existed. And these days, The Hubs is one of maybe three people I really want to "get real" with.  (Yes, I know.  Louie isn't the only one around here with Trust Issues.) (Or maybe not? Maybe all anyone really needs is those three people.)

I read two posts from Carla Birnberg recently that sort of rattled my brain, kept bouncing around and wouldn't leave me. The first, about the concept of having a Safe Person, brought all this history to mind.  It reminded me how unstable, unsafe I felt in the Bad Old Days of my early 20's.  It reminded me what a blessing I have in The Hubs.  He has been my Safe Person.  We didn't call it that, though.  We just said "You're my favorite thing to do."

The second was this post about... well, to be honest, her words prompted me to talk to others about it, and I have had trouble explaining what this post is about!  I guess the way I read it, it's about the definition of "listening."  It touched me and reminded me of a specific conversation.  Her post resonated with me so much that I commented:

I worry often that The Hubs thinks i’m never listening. He’s a “yammerer” too and in the earlier days of our relationship when we’d snuggle into the wee hours I would often fall asleep, ear to his chest, listening to his voice.
I asked him if it hurt his feelings when I’d fall asleep while he was mid-sentence. He brushed it off – I think it DID, at least a little, hurt his feelings. Until I explained:
“Your voice calms me like a lullaby. It makes me feel happy, safe and warm. I never want you to stop talking and I never want to interrupt.”

We don't really snuggle late into the night these days like we used to. (When did that stop? And WHY? I resolve to incorporate more snuggling.)

He is STILL my Safe Person, my favorite thing to do.  
He still makes me feel Happy, Safe, and Warm.  
When we met

20 years later

Last weekend - Snuggling RETURNS!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

What Day Is It?

Last night was the last night of the 2015 Heat Wave women-only running group.  I sure do love that program.  I was a volunteer leader again this year - which is funny, because I'm not SUCH a strong runner... I'm just very enthusiastic.  Even as "leader" for the "back-of-the-packers" I sometimes struggle to keep up.  Last week was awful - my calf muscles were tight and wanting to cramp and they just never let up, the whole run I was just in pain.  Until about 40 minutes in.  That's right, you heard me.  FORTY minutes.  I had a miserable night and as a "Group Leader" felt like a failure.  But I guess I can say I was providing an example of how even experienced runners have a SHITTY RUN now and then.  Suck it up, buttercup.

During THIS week's run; however, got into a great discussion of "Balance." Shifting focus from "weight loss" goals to "fitness" and "attitude" orientation, and how that can affect things both positive and negative.  This past year, my goals had to make that shift, which required a great deal of soul-searching and conscious effort to reward myself for different behaviours, set different weekly / monthly goals, and begin looking at the number on the scale in a whole new light.  That gave me some space (mentally), taught me to be kinder to myself, and ease up on the pressure to Always Be Losing.  (When losing becomes impossible, that pressure is a recipe for self-hate, not self-love.)

My goal was to stay active, enjoy the "Active Lifestyle" I have constructed over the past six to eight years, and get comfortable maintaining that level of activity in the body that I HAVE, rather than waiting to start enjoying activities when I have the body I'm "supposed to obtain."  The part of that shift that was hardest for me was learning to tell the difference between "being kind to myself" vs. "being lazy" or "being complacent."  It's still not second-nature, but when I take the time to think through my decision-making process, it's always really easy to decipher.

Sometimes, "just showing up" is a win.  And I'm all about rewarding, celebrating, and acknowledging those days and giving props to myself when I Just Show Up.

From Michelle's Facebook Page - I saved as a great reminder for myself.
But other days... I can do better than Just Show Up.  Some days, I could kick the crap out of my workout and still come back for more.

The trick is knowing what day it is, and pushing myself appropriately.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Smoothie Adventures, Horned Melon

Here's what today's breakfast looked like as it was being assembled:

Horned melon:  SCARY FRUIT! It looks obscene and rather frightening when you slice into it.  Here's a close-up:

I was also very concerned when I saw all of the seeds.  And even more so when the smell hit me.  If you LOVE cucumber, you'd love the smell of this fruit.  Me, I hate cucumber.  I'm using the word "Hate" here.  I REALLY don't like the stuff.  The smell makes me a little nauseous, the texture makes me feel like vomiting.  And the taste... I do not find it pleasing.  (I love pickles and zucchini though...)

This thing smells strongly of cucumber.  I gamely pressed on, though (and decided if I just couldn't ingest the end result, I'd hit a drive-thru on my way out of town).  (Yes, I had a backup plan, and it was a drive-thru.)

At this point, I'm fairly certain this is going to be an unmitigated disaster, so I Googled a "real" recipe for a Horned Melon Smoothie (really this is so I have someone to blame when this is inedible and I put it down the garbage disposal).  Google says those seeds are edible, so I squeezed one half of the melon until all the jelly-like stuff and most of the seeds had come out.  

Every recipe I found had basically the same ingredients:  pineapple (there's a little in the mixed fruit bag we have on hand... oh crap I'm out), blueberries (check), and mango (check).  So I throw in half a frozen banana, half a mango, a couple handfuls of my frozen blueberries, and a crapload of frozen grapes in various colors, laid the cup on its side in the freezer (so the liquidy melon stuff wouldn't just be stuck by morning), crossed my fingers and went to bed.

This morning I added protein powder and as much water as it took to fill the cup to the "max fill" line, took a deep breath, and hit "Blend."

This.  Was.  Edible.

I liked it.  It was not actually all that different in taste from the other recipes I've been making. 

Though, with the skin from all those grapes and blueberries, and of course those seeds (which were broken up pretty well, but could maybe have gone another 20 seconds in the blender), the texture was kind of gritty.  After a while I learned to just swallow and stop trying to chew that stuff.

And it was so filling (think of all those seeds...) I was only able to drink about half.

I did NOT leave a sample for The Hubs.  He wanted nothing to do with this mess!

I'm a little curious how all those seeds (think "extra fiber") are going to affect my digestive system.  But it's 2pm and I'm alright so far, for what that's worth. (Too much?)

All in all, I say it was a successful experiment.  I'm still up for trying new things.

What about you?  Have you tried something new recently?  What is an unmitigated disaster, or were you pleasantly surprised?

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Smoothie Love and a Weigh-In

The Hubs came home from a Sam's Club trip with a new toy a few weeks ago:  a NutriNinja(r) blender, food processor, smoothie maker and all-around most amazing tool in my kitchen right now.

The Ninja with accessories
Having this thing right there on the counter has quickly altered the way we have been cooking:  fresh salsa last night made from roasted poblano peppers - this was a last-minute decision and was considered, decided upon, and done, all in about 5 minutes.  Pureeing fresh produce to add flavor to whatever we're making for dinner just became a no-brainer.  And breakfast... well, if you follow me on Twitter, you know my whole breakfast routine has changed overnight.

I've gone a little nutty with smoothies lately. Partly it's the design of the NutriNinja... it came with three cups, which have to-go lids (hello, morning commute, how are ya?).  Total.  Game.  Changer.  What I've been doing is prepping the cup with fruit the night before (basically about 1 1/2 cups of frozen fruit plus 1/2- to 1 banana), putting the sippy-cup-lid on and sticking the whole thing back in the freezer. While I'm at it, I get my vitamins ready and set up the coffee as well.  Now I'm good to go in the morning.

Breakfast, Before and After
All I have to do is turn the coffee pot on on my way to the basement to do my hair and makeup, then come upstairs to kiss The Hubs goodbye, pull the cup from the freezer and add liquids (yogurt, juice, milk, water - some combination) and protein powder, screw on the blade and hit GO, and the IQ thingamabob does the rest.  The machine really seems to know whether or not the fruit has been blended enough to drink.  I don't have to babysit and pulse and shake it up so get fruit to fall down into the blade.  I hit that GO button and get my coffee ready and by the time that's ready, breakfast is ready too.  Put that sippy-cup-lid back on and out the door I go.

My consumption of fruits and vegetables (okay, fruits, mostly) and plain Greek yogurt has gone through the roof.  I've been practically hanging out in my favorite produce section every Sunday perusing whatever weird tropical items they have on hand (that I would normally ignore because I don't really know what to do with them). They are ALL good in smoothie-form!

Some of the ingredients I've been using (obviously not all at once... usually 2-3 at a time):

Ready for freezing
  • Dole mixed frozen fruits - a Sam's Club item that I'm burning through lately.
  • Frozen blueberries, something we've always kept on hand but ran out of very quickly last week.
  • Bananas were on sale recently at Aldi for like 12 cents a pound so we bought... well, ALL of them.  I just waited for them to get really over-ripe and then packaged in sandwich-sized sip-top baggies and lay flat in the freezer.
  • Fresh blueberries - they go bad fast but I just rinse and layer on a paper towel in a baking sheet and put it in the freezer.  In this case it was much cheaper than the frozen.
  • Grapes - see what I did to fresh blueberries.  Again, these were on sale SUPER cheap recently so I bought them all.  I've never heard of grapes in a smoothie but it works marvelously.  Also, they're fun to eat when they're frozen.
  • Mango?  Yes - a little goes a long way because it's so flavorful and you can freeze it once you bust into it.
  • Dragon Fruit?  Oh yeah.  It looks like cookies & cream but has a super mild flavor that really gets lost if you're not careful.
  • Papaya?  Getting used to it.  a little goes a VERY long way for me.  Taste is weirdly spicy, smells like a vegetable - a little like a red bell pepper, maybe? - but the texture is very much like a melon - cantaloupe or pumpkin maybe.  It's weird but a nice flavor to keep the daily breakfast smoothie from getting boring.
  • Horned Melon?  I bought one last Sunday but haven't yet had the nerve to cut it open.  I guess that's tomorrow's fruit experiment.
Giant Papaya
I love that I can "eat" breakfast in the car, no muss no fuss, and NO DRIVE-THRU.  This is working really well with my lifestyle right now.

For the record, nobody's paying me to write this.  I am just in love with the product.  but if you're interested, I believe The Hubs picked this beauty up at Sam's Club.  I've been giving out some @NutriNinja love on Twitter for a couple weeks now.  They shared some recipes and helpful tips as well!

This morning I was getting ready to leave, I went into the bedroom to kiss my sleeping husband goodbye and tell him "I love you, have a great day" as I do most Mondays and Tuesdays.  He rolls over, and still sleeping... grunts, "Oh God it's Smoothie Time again.  Close the door!"

So there's a little peep-hole into my world.

On a more serious note... I have for no obvious reason, dropped 4 pounds from my previous week's weight.  I'm skeptical, holding excitement at bay until next week's weigh-in.  I can't take the disappointment when this happens and all or nearly all of the weight reappears the following Sunday.  My goal right now is maintenance and getting fitter / healthier by eating healthier foods and moving more.  I really don't want to get caught up in obsessing over my weight right now.

But hey, I'm gonna stick to the smoothie thing for now - because I'm enjoying it - and if it happens to be putting pressure on the scale to move that direction, so be it.