Friday, December 21, 2012

First Experiences: Calorie Crusher!

Calorie Crusher is best described with one word: intense. It's a 55 minute calisthenics/aerobics class that can pack a major calorie burn-if you work for it. It's held a few times a week at my local gym, but can easily be done on your own or even at home.

When you walk into calorie crusher, there are 10 sheets of paper taped to the floor-to-celing mirror. Each sheet has the name of one type of exercise on it. Each exercise is performed for 60 seconds, and then you progress to the next one until all 10 are complete. At which point, the instructor will scream something such as "Rip it down, or we'll do it again!" Someone will run up and rip the #10 exercise down.

Then we go through exercises 1-9 again, each for 60 seconds. At the end of this round, someone (hopefully) will rip down #9. And so it continues until all 10 rounds have been completed.

 Each class, the specific exercises change. Some of them are familiar, such as:
  • Run/March in Place
  • Squats
  • Jumping Jacks
  • V-sits
  • Planks
  • Burpees
  • Pushups

Others are less familiar, but easily learned:
The class has taught me a lot of new exercises, and has challenged me to go outside my fitness comfort zone (which typically revolves around cardio only). It can easily be done at home as well, although it isn't quite as easy to stay motivated without having an instructor hollering at you.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Weekly Goals #9

#1. Drink more water. I took a body fat % measurement today, and it had an additional measurement called a body hydration index. Mine was -0.72, and a normal amount is in the single (positive) digits. While I'm not sure how this number is calculated or how accurate it is, I already know that I don't stay hydrated enough. To help this, I bought quite a few store-brand sugar free vitamin waters at the grocery store this week. I'm much more likely to drink them than water, and they are easy to refill at work.
Report out: I did much better with this because I prepared by purchasing and bringing in bottled vitamin water to work. I would drink most of it before lunch, then refill it 1-2 times in the afternoon. Having a physical, disposable bottle helped a lot. I was sick with the flu (or something) this weekend, but tried to drink as much as I could keep down.

#2. Strength train 2x this week. Ideally this would be a session of yoga and then upper and lower body each once. I went to a strength training class yesterday, and it felt really good. I'm still sore. Should be ready for yoga tomorrow night though as it will have been >48 hours between sessions by then.
Report out: Done-yoga on Monday, and legs/butt on Friday. I was going to do abs and upper body this weekend, but decided not to do to being sick.

#3. Take a half hour walk at lunch at least 3 days this week. This helps prepare me mentally for the afternoon, and helps to break up a day of sitting at my desk.
Report out: Only did this once. It is a start (sort of).

#4. Go to gym at least 5 out of the 7 days this week. If I can do all of them, even better. Unless the weather is good enough to go outside on the weekend.
Report out: I believe I did 4 of the 7 days. I took a break due to soreness on Thursday, and then got sick this weekend.

#5. Learn the basic outline of putting together major release data at work. This is the one major aspect of my job that I have not done yet, and now is a good opportunity to learn, as things are slower.
Report out: I would say I did 10% of this. It's a start.

#6. Find a way to measure an important response for a study I'm doing. We may or may not have the right tool in house, but it is the next major step in the study and I've been busy (procrastinating).
Report out: Done! On Friday, I stumbled on a measurement method that was stable, repeatable, readable, had the required resolution, and -best of all- inexpensive. Now that we have a good measurement system, we can move forward with the analysis.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Reflection: Life is Good

Tonight, I am especially grateful for life. There's no guarantee of the next day, and so each morning that greets me is a gift. Another day to improve, another day to grow, another day to be alive. Despite the difficult and tough parts of life (and there are many), it is still good.

Goals are an important part of life for me-both small and large ones. I want to take a moment though to focus on how grateful I am for the life I have right now-to reflect on the many things that give me joy. I'm one of the lucky ones. I've had a tough life, but a very good one. In no particular order, I am naming some of the things that bring me joy and for which I am grateful.

The comfort of a morning cup of coffee
The greeting of our cats each morning and when I return from work
The satisfaction of getting things done at work
Being enveloped by my husband in a hug
The ecstasy of music, which is the closest I've experienced to heaven on earth
Organizing my desk after a good day's work
The soreness of muscles after a good workout
The warmth of a hot shower after a cold day
The way my nieces squeal with delight when they see me
Sitting in the same room as my husband, each of us engrossed in a book
Reading in bed before falling asleep
The realization that while I have felt alone at times, I was never really alone
Finding a quote that resonates with me
Observing human conduits of God's love in a broken world
The hope of redemption

Life is good.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Weekly Goals #8: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving plans have changed a bit for me this year. After a death in the family this past weekend, I'll be heading down to my folks' in South Carolina instead of to my husband's family in Arkansas. I'm sad for the circumstances, but also glad to get to see my family, too.

Goal #1: Walk/run at least 10,000 steps/day Sunday and Wednesday-Saturday. I've found that this can be very challenging to do on days that I work, as my job is very sedentary. It is still do-able, but usually requires time at the gym, which doesn't work out every day. However, there are a few non-work days with the holiday this week, and so I want to hit this goal on those days. I've already logged 11,000 steps today, so I'm off to a good start.

On days that I travel to and from SC, I will probably need to either get some walking time in the morning before leaving, or stop during the trip (or a combination of both). 

During the two days there, I can usually count on one or both of my parents to accompany on a walk, which results in both good exercise and quality time.

Report Out:  Done! Even managed to get the steps the other days of the week as well. The tally is as follows:

Sunday 10k
Monday 11k
Tuesday 9.8k
Wednesday 10k
Thursday 10k
Friday 14k
Saturday 10k
Sunday 10k

Goal #2: Read one of the two books my counselor loaned to me. One is about making the most out of the life one's been given, and the other is about dealing with difficult people. Both look like good reads.

Report Out: I am half way through the one about dealing with difficult people, and I've already been able to apply some of the concepts. The book is called "Who's Pushing Your Buttons?: Handling the Difficult People in Your Life" by Dr. John Townsend (same guy who co-authored Boundaries with Dr. Henry Cloud.

One of the concepts that stuck with me is the reminder to examine how I might be contributing to the overall problem, be it by tolerating or even enabling the behavior. Although I can't control how others act toward me, I do get to choose and own my response.

Goal #3: Be good about eating over the holidays. I know what this means for me, and holidays can be difficult because they are deviations from the usual.

Report out: I did pretty well. I didn't eat too excessively and really tried to take my time and enjoy the food I ate. I didn't panic too much about eating foods that were outside my comfort zone (i.e cheesecake, cinnamon bun, stuffing and mashed potatoes).

Goal #4: Stay calm and be professional at work no matter what arises. I was talking to my counselor today about how someone at work made me "feel" a certain way, and she stopped me. "No one can make you feel anything-you have to decide to take that on yourself", she said.  No matter what circumstances arise, I have the ability to control my reaction to them. I need to remember that.

Report out: I did get mad once at the IT guy because I perceived him as not caring about the excessively slow network speeds we've all been dealing with for the past two weeks. I'm sure I was visibly upset, but didn't say anything I regret (I just asked him to help me understand why it took more than two weeks to address a problem that was affecting productivity and costing the company money in lost man-hours every day). It would have been better for me to focus less on my perception of his attitude and more on what was or wasn't being done to solve the problem.

Other than that incident, I think I am making progress in being calmer. Even when the reason I am upset is justified, I don't want the message of my response to get lost in emotions like frustration and anger when I am addressing it with others. This is nearly a daily battle for me, as I can get hot-headed about things that I care about. But work is work, and I am a professional and want to behave as such in all circumstances.

Goal #5:  Enjoy the holiday. Be with family. Love.  Because life really is short.

Report out:  I really enjoyed seeing some of my family and spending time with them. It was good to be with my mom, especially. I was sad to see her grief, but I needed to be with her.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Weekly Goals #7: Tough Week

I'm not very impressed the goals progress this week, but on my behalf it was a tough week. I was "surprised" Monday evening with the news that I would be presenting to the VP of engineering on Thursday on a study I had been working on. It was a great opportunity that required some extra effort. The long days at the office and the added stress were challenging, but I survived it, and the presentation went reasonably well. I had to adapt my thought process for the week though, and didn't have as much extra time.

#1) Get up earlier (6-ish) every work day and go to the gym (should be able to do 30 minutes at gym). This is such a good way to start the day, and helps if I can't work out in the evenings, which I haven't been doing much of lately. Mid-day walks would be good as well, when I can fit them in. I would like to start getting in the habit of working out in the mornings again. It's great to start the day off by accomplishing something first thing.
Report out: I did this only on Monday It is a good goal, but last week was not a good week to try to achieve it. I needed that extra half hour of sleep more than I needed to go to the gym, or at least I think I did. The weather wasn't great for lunch time walks, and I worked a lot of late nights, which meant that I didn't work out again until Thursday-yikes. I think that working out in the mornings is ultimately what I want to do more regularly, but last week was not the week to do it. I'm sort-of-OK with not reaching this goal. At least it was a conscious decision.

#2) Write at least one page of memoir this week. Someone this week told me that my story would make an interesting and/or inspiring read. I've on-and-off written a few pages here and there, but really want to work more consistently on it. As time goes on, my memories may become not as sharp and clear. I want to speak my truth as well as I can.
Report out: Done. I wrote mostly dialogue, which takes up a lot of space for not-so-many-words, but it still counts.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Weekly Goals #6: Go Get 'Em

1. No more than 1 can diet soda per day. Last week I struggled with this-one day I had about 40 ounces of diet soda over the course of the day. It makes me jittery and bloated, and less likely to drink the actual water my body needs.
Report out: Done, although on Friday, I had a 20 oz bottle instead of a can, and had some Sprite Zero in the evening.

2. Go to one yoga class. It has been a couple of week since I've gone to one, and I miss it. Plus I haven't been doing much for strength training lately.
Report out:  Done-went for 40 minutes on Wednesday. The class was an hour and I left early because I was bored/tired (not the best of reasons, but true).

3. Avoid snacking on chocolate candy at work. I've been doing this a little mindlessly lately and would benefit from healthier choices. I'm not eliminating all candy though--I will still probably enjoy the occasional atomic fireball.
Report out: Had one piece of a chocolate covered stick that a co-worker brought back from Japan. I honestly forgot about my goal until after I ate it. Other than that, I did eat any. I have to admit I wasn't very tempted though-there wasn't anything other than 3 Musketeers available.

 4. Do a bang-up job of delivering results of simulation study at work. I want to ace this assignment.
Report out: I stayed until 6:30 on Monday to write up the results, and I think I did a good job. The results themselves were inconclusive, so I'm going to continue the study when I have down-time.

5. Pray/meditate for five minutes every morning. This seems like such a good way to start the day, and I want to give it a try. Plus, I need to reconnect with God--been putting Him on the back-burner lately, and it's no good.
Report out: Done on the weekdays. I used the time while the coffee was brewing in the morning to sit and pray and just be still. It was good to reflect and ask for guidance for the day ahead.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Weekly Goals #5: Short and Sweet

1. Identify project out work that is outside of my normal job responsibilities, and begin to figure out how to solve it. I have now been in this new job for more than two months, and while I have much to continue learning, I am ready to start contributing.
Report out:  Sort of done. I volunteered to work on a simulation study that wasn't "necessary" but I think could be very helpful. It is in addition to my needed job duties.

2. Take fish oil, multivitamin, and calcium chews every day. I usually take them sporadically, but want to take them more regularly. I've packed a day's worth into multiple small plastic bags to make it easier to grab a pack.
Report out: Done. Can't say I feel different, but I know they are good for me.

3. Write notes/emails to at least two people I don't talk to regularly.I am not typically good at staying in touch with people, and I want to be.
Report out: Done-including a phone conversation with my grandma and my friend Katie. I am notoriously inept at keeping in touch with people, so this is good progress.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Weekly Goals #4: I'm Back

Just six goals this week. And they are:

1. Buy nothing at work except max of 1 cup of coffee and cup of hot water for tea per day. While I almost always bring my lunch to work, I do occasionally purchase less-than-healthy and expensive sodas and snacks from the vending machines. Coffee is relatively cheap (70 cents) and I'm OK health and money-wise with getting a cup a day. 

Report out: Done--I came very close to caving and buying a snack one day and a soda another day, but did not and and am glad for avoiding the unnecessary $2.00
2. Drink two bottles of water at work every day. I've been doing better with this, and want to keep it up.

Report out: Done 3/4 days. On Thursday, I had one bottle in the morning but then drank diet soda that I had brought all afternoon. Doesn't count.
3. Read Bible for min of 5 minutes/day. I've struggled with this goal in the past when I attached prayer time to it. I'm going to go back to solidifying this habit first. 

Report out: 2 out of 7 days. I am still struggling with this, mostly because of laziness which is not a good reason at all. I always have time for at least a few minutes of reading before bed. 

4. Send IRA paperwork in. Good grief, I need to finish this!

Report out: Report: Done-Mailed Friday. 

5. Make appointment for Lasik eye surgery evaluation. My contacts have been getting increasingly uncomfortable and I've gone through more than 10 monthly lenses for each eye already this year. 

Report out:  Done! My consultation appointment is this Thursday at 2:15 pm and lasts three hours. I have to wear glasses all day starting tomorrow, which will be somewhat of a challenge as they are old and my vision won't be as good as it is with contacts. But this is important to me, and I would like to find out if I am a candidate for Lasik or another similar corrective vision surgery.

6. Finish typing up notes from premarital counseling. This is part of my push to get organized and to have electronic versions of important notes and memories. 
Report out: I typed up a couple of pages but am nowhere near finished. This was not an important goal to meet this week, so I'm not too concerned with not meeting it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Weekly Goals #3: Ambitious

This week was a difficult one in terms of accomplishing the goals I set out for myself at the beginning. I got sick with a head cold, which caused me to change gears and interfered with some of the goals. Others I did not meet because of bad planning and/or laziness. I am OK with having adjusted some of my goals due to being sick, but there is definitely room for improvement for the goals that had no good reason for not being met.

1. Drink at least (2) 20 oz bottles of water at work each day.  I generally do not drink enough water
Report out: This was done (I think). On Friday, I'm not positive that I had the full second bottle, but I think I didn't. I just don't remember. Probably should drink more water.

2. Be in bed and ready to sleep (eyes closed!) by 10 pm at the latest on every work night. Just a good idea.
Report out: Did not accomplish. I got to bed at 9:55 on Monday night, and had to choose between this goal and Goal #6. I chose Goal #6, which was a good choice, but it would have been better if I had not put myself in an either/or situation to begin with. Once I realized I wasn't going to have a perfect record of meeting this goal, I pretty much gave up for the rest of the week. Classic perfectionist attitude.

3. Walk for at least 15 minutes during lunch break 3/5 days this week. The weather has cooled down considerably. I did this today, and found that I had more energy to get through the afternoon (even without a soda...see side note below)
Report out: Did 2/5 days (Monday and Tuesday). On Wednesday, I had an hour long lunch meeting (ugh), and I don't remember why I didn't walk on Thursday. On Friday I chose to work through lunch to get a project done. I think this is a goal worth continuing to shoot for.

4. Work out for at least 60 minutes/day at least 5/7 days this week.  Given that my injury has been acting up again, I'm reducing this from the 6 days/week of last week to five. So far this week, I ran/walked for 30 minutes before work, walked 15 minutes at lunch time, and did a 1 hour yoga class after work.
Report out: I think I ended up at 4/7 days. It was a conscious decision not to meet this goal, because on Tuesday I came down with a bad head cold. When I am sick and work out hard, it seems to delay my recovery. Not to mention that not being able to breathe well makes it very difficult to get a good workout. To honor my body and help it recover, I chose to not work out as much as I would have liked to. However, I did go for a run and a walk on Saturday and a bike ride today, both very gentle.

5. Read Bible for 5 minutes/pray for 1 minute each day.  Let's try this again.
Report out: I did not even come close to accomplishing this goal. I did Monday, and that was it for the entire week. I'm not sure why I am struggling with it so much, although I think waiting until the end of the day has something to do with it. You would think that setting aside 6 minutes for something as important as this would be easy, but I have been very lazy about it. Not good. 

6. Meet one new person at work. Just one. This shy self can do it.
Report out: Done! Two people actually. Stephen and Nick.

7. Paint the patched bathroom wall. Doggone it, I will finish it!
Report out: Done, albeit last minute! It looks good.

8. Get up before work at least 2x this week to work out. One day done so far-a run/walk at 6:10 am. Felt very good to have something accomplished before 7 am.
Report out: Only 1/2 days (went for a jog/walk Monday morning). I did find that I had increased energy through the day, but due to getting sick, I did not do it again this week. 

9. Make a conscious effort to avoid engaging in negative conversation about people behind their backs. I struggle with this sometimes, especially at work when it can seem like there is nothing else interesting to talk about (which in itself is rather sad). I need to disengage myself from conversations or change the subject when they start going down those roads. It's not professional, it's not nice, and it is not Christ-like. I want to be "beyond reproach".
Report out: This is a difficult one to quantify, but I do remember feeling more aware of what I was talking about during conversations, and making an effort to be positive about people. I still have a ways to go here, but some incremental progress was made.

10. Do something fun with my husband this weekend. This is an easy goal! I realized I didn't get much time with him last weekend, and want to be sure we do something together this weekend. I like the guy :)
Report out: We went on errands together Saturday morning, and a wedding shower. He came with me to help with the church nursery today. Not necessarily "fun" things, but made better because we were together. I spent a lot of time sleeping trying to get rid of this cold, and he had a lot of studying to do.

On a side note, recall the "No more than three diet sodas" goal from last week. Today, I found myself wanting a soda. I thought to myself: Hmm, no soda goal this week...I can do what I want!" I grabbed a dollar and a quarter and headed downstairs to the vending machine to get my Dew fix. Somehow I had forgotten that sodas are actually $1.35. Being ten cents short, I trudged back up to my desk...and stayed there, sans soda. I finished the work day without my fix and found that I didn't really need or maybe even want it after all. Interesting. Also, I was $1.35 richer.

Weekly Goals #2

1. Work out 6 days this week, for a minimum of 50 minutes each time. This is a goal from last week with the 50 minute part added on. One day down already-- 60 minutes of Calorie Crusher! It was a lot of fun with a packed class for Labor Day
Report: Did 5/6 days. I was feeling a little sore Friday and just wanted to relax, so I took it off (in retrospect, I wish I had done something that day). On Sunday, my gluteus injury was really hurting and I honestly needed to take the day off. The other days:
  • M-All-American Calorie Crusher! (70 min, special event)
  • T-1.5 mile run + 2.0 mile walk (50 min)
  • W-20 min on elliptical stepper and 60 min yoga
  • Th-Turbo Kick (55 min)
  • F-Off
  • Sa-30 min elliptical, 50 min spin class (20 miles, 375 cal), 15 min walk/jog
  • Su-Off          
         I would give myself a solid B+ on this goal. The injury flare-up made it challenging.

2. No more than 3 12-ounce cans of diet soda for the entire week. I really would like to reduce the amount of soda I consume-it provides nearly no nutrition and almost always leaves me feeling bloated.
Report: Done! I came very close to buying one at church for a meeting yesterday (yes, my church has a vending machine), but I thought of this goal and how much I wanted to be able to say I did it, and so I passed on the soda.

3. Read Bible for 5 minutes + pray for 1 minute each day. I know this doesn't seem like much, but I am beginning to form the habit and find it is easier to get started if it doesn't seem overwhelming.
Report: 4/7 days for Bible, 2/7 days for praying. I didn't do very well on this goal, and will be repeating this goal this week. Putting it off until the end of the day might have something to do with my lack of success.

4, Continue to have lunch with coworkers at least 3/4 times this week. This is the same # of times as last week, but with greater frequency due to the shorter work week.
Report: Done! And on the other day, I went out to grab a sub with a coworker (see #6....special occasion). I think 3/5 days is a good goal for next week and possible most weeks. 

5. Learn six new Catia tricks at work Last week, I tasked myself with learning five and only learned one. This week, I'm adding another!
Report: Done! Just barely fit the last one in on Friday afternoon. They were:
  • Tip #1: Hide everything in tree except element of interest, then right click on element.
    Select “Show Parents”. In window that comes up, right click on and show parents. This makes it easier to concentrate on an area to fix.  
  • Tip #2: Isoparameters-a very quick and useful way to create geometry from existing features.
  • Tip #3: Extrapolating points into lines. I knew I could do with lines into surfaces, but didn't know about points.
  • Tip #4: Right click, select “center graph” to show element in tree (I have used this multiple times since learning it--it is a huge time-saver.
  • Tip #5: Creating formula-base constraints  
  • Tip #6: Surface connection checker.  More investigation of this powerful tool is needed.

6. Don't buy any food or drink items at work. Usually, these end up being not the healthiest choices (recent purchases have included diet soda, Chex mix, and potato wedges) and they are expensive to boot. I have an emergency stash of soy nuts in my desk drawer, so there really is no need to purchase anything.
Report: Done, if you don't count Jimmy John's on Thursday. They were having $1 subs, and I love Jimmy John's. I'm OK with it.  I didn't get anything at work though, and I definitely want to try to continue that. 

7. Plaster and paint patch of wall in bathroom. It needs to be done. I have the tools, now the motivation.
Report: 50% done. It is plastered, and now needs to be painted. Small steps... 

8. Finish paperwork and forward check to new IRA fund.
Report: Only a little progress. I received the paperwork on Friday. I need to get my husband's signature notarized, which I probably could have done on Saturday, but didn't. I have until December to get this done, but the sooner the better.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

How to be Healthy with a Desk Job

I started a new job this week that is very different from the one I used to have in terms of physical activity. At my previous job (where I spent almost 3 years), I was used to being on my feet almost half the day, and sometimes more.

Now, getting up to walk around isn't nearly as frequent of an occurrence. I sit in front of three monitors, manipulating 3D drawings and running simulations most of the day. Occasionally we need to go out on the floor and see some actual prototypes of our digital parts, but only once or twice a week.

It has been only a month since I have started the desk job, but I have learned some tips to help keep myself from going to complete mush.

  • Find excuses to walk. There are two restrooms in my building, one upstairs near where I work, and one downstairs. I try to use the one downstairs, so I have a bit of a walk and some stair-climbing.
  • Brown-bag it. There is no better way to have control over what you consume for lunch than preparing it ahead of time. Although I usually join my coworkers at the company cafeteria, I bring my (healthy) lunch from home. Occasionally I'll supplement it with a cafeteria item such as soup, especially if I know I have a hard workout planned for that evening.
  • But smartly. You won't get the health benefits of bringing your own lunch if you bring a baloney sandwich, chips, and cookies. I try to make sure I have a healthy dish with plenty of vegetables. One of my favorites is Smart Ones' Chicken Caberona fortified with extra fresh spinach.
  • Workout (almost) daily before or after work. This was important even in my previous job, but has become even more so with my desk job. Now, I generally work out at least 4 of the five work days, taking a break occasionally on Fridays, since I have been doing a Saturday morning group class. I'm more relunctant to take a day off, knowing it is the only real chance my body gets to exercise.
  • Eat a little lighter. I'm spending more hours overall sitting-despite my best efforts I'm probably not going to burn the same amount of calories throughout the day that I used to. I need to adjust accordingly.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Weekly Goals #1

Say you have a long-term goal, such as, "In 5 years, I'll be debt-free". The success or failure of this and other big goals is built on smaller, every day decisions. For example, to be debt-free, you need the funds to pay off your existing debt. and this requires you to both make and save money. This requires choices to be made...every day, mundane, frequent and maybe seemingly insignificant choices that add up for not-so-little results.

Being debt-free doesn't happen because you made a grandiose announcement of your intentions. It happens because you make choices every day that are consistent with your goal. It's choosing to get up on time to get to work instead of sleeping in an extra five minutes and risking being late. It's buying a plain coffee instead of a grande latte, because those few dollars will bring you a little bit closer to your goal.

The same goes for health and fitness-you don't make improvements by saying that in six months you will have _________(run a marathon, lost 20 lbs, lowered your cholesterol by 10%, etc). Setting the goal is important, but it is only the start of the road to the accomplishment.  You get there because you get up early to go to that 5:30 am spinning class. You choose yogurt over ice cream, or a salad instead of fries. You push yourself to finish the last few sit-ups even though all you want to is relax and look at the ceiling. It's all these 'little' choices that add up, and become something meaningful.

Daily choices matter. Which is why I want to start making some shorter-term weekly goals for myself. It's mostly 'small' stuff that is seemingly mundane. But they are important, and I want to reach the end of the week having accomplished them.

If I could add another 'A' to the S.M.A.R.T. goals acronym that most of us have heard of (if not, see this post), it would be for Accountability. One of the most important things you can do to progress toward your goals is to ensure you are accountable for them. To help myself do this, I'm going to "report-out" on how I did this past week.

#1: Transfer retirement fund from previous employer's 401k to new account. I tend to procrastinate when it comes to financial stuff like this, and I need to get it done soon. So, this is the week.

Result: I did as much as I could. Called the investment company and they are mailing me the paperwork to sign and have notarized before they can mail me the check. Once they mail the check, I will forward it to the company with whom I have my new IRA fund.

#2:  Work out 6 days of the week. Spinning, Calorie Crusher, Turbo Kick, and PIYO are looking pretty good (I have been addicted to group classes lately!)  

Result: Done! The details:
  •        Monday-spinning (45min)
  •        Tuesday-elliptical (50 min)
  •        Wednesday-Calorie Crusher! (60 min)
  •        Thursday-Turbo Kick (60 min)
  •        Friday-3 mile walk (40 min)
  •        Saturday-Calorie Crusher! (60 min) + 1 mile walk (~15 min)
  •        Sunday-rest (all day!). 
I feel especially pleased that I stuck with it despite almost bailing out on Tuesday and Friday
nights due to, well, laziness! But I didn't and it feels good.

#3: Read Bible/meditate in morning for five minutes (starting small.) Done 1/7 so far, and was surprised at how quickly those five minutes went by. 

Result: Done, although I ended up shifting it from the morning to the evening. I used an app called YouVersion and selected several short reading plans (Wisdom, Diligence, What is Love? and Addictions). Just a few minutes proved valuable and helped to remind me of my main goal in life: loving my God.

#4: Take care of getting prescription refilled. I can be really lazy about staying on top of this, especially since I have new insurance. It's important for my health.  

Result: Done!  And despite the hassle of new insurance info.

#5: Have lunch with coworkers at least 3/5 days of the week. I tend to be very introverted, and it is good to get to know some of my coworkers better this way.   

Result: Done! I am very glad I did this and hope to continue. I was feeling lonely at the beginning of the week, but by the end I was feeling much friendlier. Lunch is a great time to get to know and spend time with people, and it sure beats sitting at my desk.

#6: Learn at least five new Catia software tricks at work. I tend to get stuck in a rut doing the same things the same way because that is what I'm comfortable with.   

Result: Only 1/5 tricks learned (how to add layers). Part of this was because I had a hard time finding the Catia help files on my secure workstation. I did eventually find some and learned about the layers in the last 10 minutes of work on Friday. I'll work on this again next week.

#7: Find a project to do around the house when my mom comes. I really like doing projects with her, and it gives us something to do together.  

Result: Did not do, but that's OK, as we had several other things to do together, and that gave us the opportunity to spend time together. The main objective of the specific goal (spending time with her) was accomplished, so I think it was a success.

Creating goals to work toward this week was an excellent way to both get some necessary things done and to challenge myself. I will definitely be doing this again.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Salvaged Workout in Detroit

Oh Detroit. I have seen you twice this summer already, and you think I would have learned by now. Up north, there are two seasons: Road construction/maintenance season, and snow season. I happened to be visiting during the former for a five day software training course last week. 

You think I would have learned by the end of the second visit that I need to give myself extra time to get anywhere in the greater Detroit area. But I seemed to have forgotten as I planned out how to spend the 4 hours between the end of the class and when I needed to return the rental car to the airport.

The previous day had been a rest day, so I wanted to get a good workout in before getting on the plane home. With temperatures in the upper 70s, it was the ideal weather to exercise outdoors.

I scoured Google Maps for a safe outdoors area to run at. I wanted it to be at least sort-of on the way from the training center to the airport. I picked Maybury State Park in Livonia, which promised hiking trails. I figured I could travel the 20 miles there in 40 minutes, hike for 90 minutes or so, and even have time to visit a bookstore on the way back to the airport.
Maybury State Park...(source)

Unfortunately, things did not go as planned and it took me more than two hours to get to the region of the park. This included a 20 minutes grocery-store stop for a mid-afternoon meal consisting of blueberries, cherry tomatoes, and a mini-Subway egg white sandwich. By the time I got to the area where the park was located, it was 5:15 and I had to be AT the rental car agency by the airport by 6:30. And despite my adherence to my Android's navigational promptings, I still couldn't find the entrance to the park. Reluctantly, I did a U-turn and head toward the airport.

I was upset that I wasn't able to go on my planned hike. The weather was just beautiful and I really wanted to spend some time outside. Since I had just come off of a rest day, I especially felt like I owed it to myself to get some exercise.

On the way back to the airport, I spied a small park with some paths. Psssh, I thought to myself. I would have a half hour at most. Not nearly the 1.5-2 hours I had hoped to hike at the park. It's not worth it.

But I knew that wasn't true. Even a quick workout would boost my endorphins, contribute to my fitness, and just, well, be good for me. So I parked the car and enjoyed a 30 minute run/walk. And I'm happy to report, it was a pretty decent salvaged workout, despite it not being what I initially intended it to be.

Note to future (and hopefully wiser) self: When visiting Detroit and its surrounding suburbs during the summer (aka the only season where it is almost certain to NOT snow), give myself at least twice, and perhaps thrice the amount of time you would think it would normally take to get to point A to point B. Also (perhaps more importantly): Adapt for the things that are worth it.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Mid-Year 2012 New Year's Goals Report Out

 It is important to evaluate progress toward goals at regular intervals. Here is my belated mid year report on how I'm progressing.

  1. Run a sub-55 minute 10k:  Due to running injury, I won't be achieving this this year.
  2. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon: See #1.
  3. Design, prototype, and test my running apparatus idea: Not done, but I don't know if I want to do this anymore.
  4. Continue improving eating habits: This feels like it is 2 steps forward and one step back at times. Still, I think overall there is progress.
  5. Support my husband through the end of his 2nd year of law school, whatever summer work he ends up doing, and the beginning of his 3rd year of law school: Hopefully I am doing this. He is doing great.
  6. Write at least 150 blog posts: Only about 20 so far.
  7. Write at least 50 pages of memoir: I have written about 5 pages, so have a ways to go.
  8. Between the two of us, save at minimum the equivalent of half of my 2011 salary: We will most likely achieve this goal this year.
  9. Draw closer to God. Pray for at least 5 minutes/day on average. This is a hard one to quantify. I'm making some progress, but not nearly as much as I should/am capable of.
B goals:
  1. Take week-long finance course at work  N/A. Got on the wait-list 2x for this, didn't get in the class.
  2. Execute another Six Sigma project at work N/A to an extent due to job change.
  3. Learn more about mold design and manufacturing. Done. Went to a trade show and read literature, prototyped some new mold designs.
  4. Finish painting our living room ceiling Done!
  5. Explore where we want to live after Shane graduates Mostly done. We have talked and our order of preference is: Lexington, KY; Knoxville, TN; Louisville, KY, Winston-Salem, NC; Raleigh-Durham, NC; Charlotte, NC; and Cincinnati, OH.
  6. Tighten ties with family and good friends A work in progress
C goals:
  1. Grow a small vegetable garden on my patio: In progress. Very dry summer, so not very successful but I have enjoyed at least 20 cherry tomatoes this season so far.
  2. Try running with a running group. Just once. Probably will hold off on this due to running injury.
  3. Try a yoga class. Done-numerous times! And PIYO (Pilates + Yoga), Zumba, weight-lifting, and a boot-camp style class, too! It has been the year of the class.
  4. Cook more and experiment with new recipes. So-so. Haven't really tried many new recipes (although did make guacamole for the first time last night).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Honoring My Body

It's no secret that I have been very frustrated about my injury and its consequent impedance of my running. Six months ago, I could not imagine not being able to run at least 3-4 times a week and maintaining a weekly tally of at least 20 miles. Running gives me energy, an outlet, and goals to work toward. My life without running was unfathomable. That sounds a bit extreme, but it was true. It was the mentality that kept me running even when it became painful.

Psychologically, I gradually came to the realization that if I continued trying to run, it was going to be a perpetual exercise in fighting frustration rather than in improving fitness. There was nothing more from a medical perspective that could be done other than stretching and limiting exercise to what I could tolerate (a rather vague recommendation left wide-open to personal interpretation). Drastically reducing my weekly mileage from 25+ miles down to fewer than 10 didn't eliminate the discomfort even during those fewer miles.

For the past few years, my identity has been wrapped up in being a runner, albeit a very slow one. "I'm going for a run," was a common phrase uttered to my husband as I headed out the door, sunglasses and iPod in hand, after a long day at work. I often told people that running kept my head on straight. The pride of finishing my first half-marathon last year was intoxicating, and later that day I was already planning which race to tackle next.

That was about 8 months ago. I haven't run more than a few hundred yards at a time in over a month now. And I survived. Actually, I've more than survived. My weight and energy levels have been about the same, and my overall fitness has actually improved. These benefits aren't solely due from not running-rather, from replacing running with other activities such as yoga, power walking, elliptical, group fitness classes, and spinning. I even ventured back into the 90's and enjoyed some roller-blading! 

During yoga class, the instructor often reminds us that while some discomfort is OK, pain is not. If we are feeling pain during any pose, we need to modify it or return to child's pose. She uses the phrase, "Honor your body," and it is simple but true and sometimes very hard to do. My injury is still healing, and it will probably be some time before I (hopefully) feel back to normal. I can say that in the past month, the rate of progress of recovery has been at its highest.  My overall fitness just might be too, in spite of (or perhaps because of) not running.

I think that I have come to the conclusion that identifying myself as "fit" is much more broadening and liberating than being just a "runner". I think my body agrees with me.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

First Experiences: Yoga

It's only March, but I can check one thing off of my 2012 to-do list: Trying yoga. Actually, two things, as I tried a kickboxing class a few weeks ago too. But since that didn't go as well as yoga, I think I'll just write about the yoga experience. (Side note: apparently my natural rhythm is about 10 seconds behind that of every one else's, hence the reluctance to discuss the kickboxing experience! Perhaps another time).

For those of you who don't have the good fortune of living in Kentucky during basketball season, you may not  be aware that there was a rather HUGE game today with the Wildcats playing Baylor University for a place in the Final Four. Now, don't tell of my fellow Kentuckians, but do I say this...I really don't care (much). So when Yoga Class time happened to coincide with the latter half of the Big Game, the choice was easy for me. I figured the Wildcats didn't need my help on their way to another big win, so I packed up my new yoga mat and headed to the gym.

I arrived to find the large, multipurpose room dimly lit and occupied with only a few people. The die-hards, the ones who forfeited beer, wings, and basketball to sweat it out. Or, fellow non-carers like myself. Either way, we were all here to salute the (non-visible) sun together. I rolled out my mat and prepared for some gentle stretching and relaxation.

Everything started according to this plan. We sat cross-legged and stretched our arms above our heads. So far, so good. I can handle this. No need to use the modification blocks I grabbed at the teacher's recommendation for first-timers. Not sure where I'd put them any way--under my butt? If I had one complaint, it was that the floor was being especially floor-like and not so kind on my butt bones (you know the ones I'm talking about). Oh well, what's gain without a little pain?

Then the instructor (yogi?) introduced us...well, probably only the "plank" followed by the "downward dog". The plank is just like it sounds--think the position you are in at the end of a push-up when your arms are extended. Then she had us do things like pick one leg up and hold it there for an uncomfortable period of time. Then the other leg.  Then again! I was surprised at how difficult it was to hold these positions for extended periods of time. I could feel interesting muscles working, ones that I don't typically use in my usual fare of running and biking.

The downward dog is similar to the plank except that you bring your hips up to form more of a triangle with your body. It puts more weight on your arms, and mine were already complaining from all the planking. From there, we did more leg-lifts and some arm lifts as well. Then we jumped (well, more like glided) into some lunges. Now I've done weighted lunges before, but never for more than a few seconds per leg. This was intense--probably more than a minute per side. I had to take a break about halfway through and drop my back leg down.

I found myself doing slight modification of the poses often doing during the hour long class. I was worn out at the end. I think part of me was expecting yoga to be easier than my usual cardio-based workouts but it wasn't. It was completely different than what my body was used to, and so my body struggled to adapt. I'm pleased because it is a new way to challenge my body and build strength as well as improving flexibility and balance. It kicked my butt, and I liked it. And Kentucky advanced just fine to the Final Four without my viewership.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My New Kicks

This weather is fantastic. I'm taking full advantage of both the extra hour of daylight and the balmy temps, as you can see:

This is how I roll
While you're looking, check out my new shoes. They are rather remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, they are awesome and really comfy.  Second, I just bought a pair of shoes back in November, and I sure as heck haven't put 500 miles on those yet. I'm generally pretty frugal, so it is pretty unusual for me to buy a new pair of shoes unless the old ones are starting to wear out (which they weren't).

My shoe-buying extravaganza was prompted by a trip to Fleet Feet about a month ago, when I learned that I have high arches and underpronation (aka supination). Armed with this new-found knowledge, I declined the $450 inserts the Fleet Feet guy was trying to sell me and turned to the internet for further research.

Well, it was a little embarrassing to see that I'm learning something so fundamental to running (shoes and stride type) after 10+ years of engaging in the sport.  Me so smart. I've noticed that my shoes always wear down first on the outside heel edge, and just thought this was normal. Apparently this is one of the major signs of underpronation.  To make matters worse, I've always gravitated toward trail running shoes even for road running, because I like that they have a little extra grip and that they usually come in darker colors, as I usually quickly irreparably stain my shoes (I am attracted to mud). Well, trail shoes are usually more stabilizing than your typical running shoe. A stability shoe is not what you want if you underpronate like me--you want a neutral shoe to encourage movement of the foot during the stride. And with lots of cushioning to absorb the increased impact high-arched strides put on the heel and forefoot.

The Asics Nimbus kept coming up in my Internet meanderings as one of the best shoes for supinators such as myself. (Asics in general seems to get good marks for people with high arches, it seemed). I decided I'd check them out at Dick's. They felt great, then I checked out the price tag. $125!! I've never spent that much on a pair of shoes. In fact, I usually go to Marshall's and get whatever running shoes they have that fit (usually in some wild colors, but I don't care as long as it isn't too crazy).

But I decided that my poor feet were worth it, and bought them. And a $20 pair of high arch inserts to stick in them, too.

I can't say that the hip pain went away (if it has gone away) because of the shoes, but it could very well prevent the inflammation in my hip from occurring again after the cortisone shot. Also, I know that by helping to compensate for my stride, this will help my running efficiency, which is by itself an excellent reason to get properly fitting footwear. And did I mention, they're awesome?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Bargains and Bursitis

First off, I have to share about these most excellent finds. 99 cents apiece!

On the left, we have a rather large container of brown rice. Tower 1 contains 2 packages of dry roasted almonds, and two  "Athlete's Assortment" trail mix (yellow and regular raisins, chocolate chips, and walnut halves). Tower 2 contains 2 more Athlete's Assortments, almonds, and dried cherries. Tower 3--more cherries, dried papaya, and a "Delight" mix with pumpkin seeds, raisins, sunflower seeds, and cashews. Finally Tower 4 with its 3 additional containers of AA and more almonds. All for just over $18! My husband especially likes the trail mixes for snacks at school. I like to sprinkle a handful of them onto my morning oatmeal sometimes. 

Onto my pesky hip--I "gave in" and went to see an orthopedic sports medicine doctor. Once I decided I was doing it (Thursday morning) I called and was able to get in that afternoon. 

They did two preliminary x-rays of my hip, both with me lying on my back. The first was with my knee bent up, and the second was with my knee bent but opened so that the outside of it almost rested on the table.

When I finally saw the doctor, he said that my x-rays looked normal. No bumpy bone spots anywhere. he then asked me some questions about the onset of the discomfort (7 months ago, after increasing my mileage) and the location. He asked me twice if I felt any discomfort in my groin area, but I told him it was all on the outside of my hip. He pulled on my legs and folded them from side to side a bit. Whenever he folded my right leg out, the hip would ache more. 

His diagnosis...bursitis. Inflammation of the hip bursa caused by repetitive use, perhaps aggravated by me wearing the wrong type of shoes for my foot type. He recommended an injection of a drug similar to cortisone to help reduce the inflammation. I was definitely game for that, and 10 minutes later I had my shot and was out of there.

My hip has hurt more in the past couple of days since then, which makes me think he probably hit the right area since the pain is very similar to what I've been experiencing, just worse. Today it has cleared up a lot. It is supposed to take 48-72 hours to fully kick in, so I should have a good idea by tomorrow if it is working or not.

I really hope this provides relief. Spring is here and I am itching to start training again. But I'll take it slow. With my new shoes and inserts, I feel like I'm learning to run again anyway.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Frustration and Foam Rollers

It's taken me a while to write about this, but I have been feeling pretty frustrated for the past couple of weeks  I have significantly reduced my mileage (i.e. < 5 miles/week) after coming to the realization that I need to figure out what is going on with my right hip that is causing me so much discomfort. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be working.

Background: I have been struggling with my hip ever since I started significantly increasing my mileage for my first half-marathon last year. I started to feel sore in the hip region after the 3rd or 4th mile of a long run. Sometimes the pain would run down my hamstring, and other times it would stay in the hip/butt region.

Lately, my hip area has started to throb during non-running activities, including walking on the treadmill, using the elliptical, and hiking. More recently, it has been uncomfortable sometimes when I'm just laying in bed.

I've tried a few things to try to identify and fix the issue:
  • Stretches targeting the hip region. I've been doing this before and after working out after a massage therapist recommended some specific ones. These stretches have been incorporated for the past 6 months with limited success. Sometimes when I stop and stretch in the middle of a run, I will feel temporary relief but the soreness will return in a few minutes. 
  • Foam rolling.
    aww yeah!!
    I just started doing this about a month ago after reading about other bloggers' experiences with it, and I really like it. It has not made a huge difference with my hip, but it has definitely helped with overall muscle soreness after workouts. Plus, it might still be too early to tell if it is effective with my hip, and I might not be doing it frequently enough. 
  • Chiropractor visit. I only went once for an initial evaluation and adjustment, but I wasn't impressed. He said that because my femur heads were even (as shown in a standing x-ray), I didn't have a leg length discrepancy. I'm not completely convinced that we can rule that out. He said my sacrum was misaligned, which may or may not have been true, and if it was, may or may not have been causing my hip issue. He did one adjustment on it, and I didn't see any improvement. Results: Inconclusive.
  • Massage therapy.  I haven't been going regularly lately, but I probably went 3-4 times during my half-marathon training. Limited results. Didn't make the discomfort go away, although I maybe was a little less sore. However, I haven't had a massage therapy session concentrated solely on my hip. Maybe that would be a good idea. 
I haven't exhausted my options yet though. There are two other things I will try that I think stand a decent chance of being successful:
  • Shoe-fitting. I had a shoe-fitting a couple of weeks ago but balked out and didn't purchase the recommended shoes. The person who did the fitting said she noticed from my gait that something was odd with my right side, but didn't have any specific recommendations for that. I think I would like a second opinion. There is a store near us call Fleet Feet Sports that does fittings that I think I will try out.
  • Orthopedic sports medicine visit. Given my specific symptoms, maybe it is something they can diagnose and possibly treat. I'm not really sure what that might be that I can't just Google myself, but hey, I'm not a doctor ;-) 
And if neither of those work, that brings me to my final options:
  • Stop running (boooo) and probably still have pain (I've laid off the running for a week and it hasn't gotten any better)
  • Keep running through it and see if it gets worse.
 Soo...don't really care for either of those options so I"ll try the shoe-fitting/orthopedic dr. first.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Tire and a Sledgehammer

Yesterday was a chilly 42 degrees with 20-25 mph winds. We had hoped to go hiking, but due to the weather decided to forgo long periods of time outdoors. I wanted to get a workout in though, and since I had done a tempo run on Friday, I wanted to give my joints a break from running.

After an amazing afternoon nap, I headed to the gym at about 5:30 pm. I started with a few gentle laps around the track, and then some arm/shoulders/chest free weight-lifting. I caught about 15 minutes of Braveheart while walking on the treadmill (5% incline for 1 mile).

That's when I got a little crazy.  When I was walking around the track, I noticed someone using a sledgehammer on a big tire downstairs. I instantly wanted to try it, but felt a little self-conscious, in part because I'm female. I don't know if this is generally true, but I don't typically see females do anything other than cardio and free weights at the gym, myself typically included.
Now I have no doubt that we women can do stuff like sledgehammering a tire, it's just that it for whatever we reason we (the collective, general 'we') don't typically choose to do so. Maybe it's stereotype, maybe it's worry we'll get big bulging muscles (which I trust most people reading this know is very unlikely given our hormone make-up), or maybe it's fear of looking dumb. I'm not sure what it is.

I think for me personally, though, it is a fear of being ridiculed for being "un-feminine".  Now, I am a through-and-through characteristic tomboy. I spent much of my childhood building forts, shooting hoops, playing catch, mowing lawns, and otherwise finding ways to get muddy. It's who I am. One of the reasons that I became a manufacturing engineer is because I love to get my hands dirty. It's not a persona I'm trying to create--it's just the way I was made.

Now I enjoy a good pedicure from time to time (when my mom pays!), and I get my hair done regularly. I enjoy many aspects of being female. It's fun to get "gussied up" to go out to dinner, and it makes me feel awesome when my husband tells me I'm beautiful.

But there's also nothing like the feeling of being able to move a 700 lb mold at work by myself (with the assistance of some key equipment!). Feeling capable feels...awesome. So yesterday, I threw my fear of the perception of strangers to the wind, and picked up the sledgehammer. OK, first off, let me tell you sledgehammers are a lot heavier than they look! I struggled a bit to get a good handle on it, but eventually got the hang of it.

I got a couple of strange looks, but it didn't matter. That tire got a pretty decent whalloping, and I felt pretty darn good about it.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Recovery and Apples

Today started bright and early at 5:30 am to haul myself to the gym. I am very fortunate in that the gym is about 1/4 of a mile from my house (and it is all right-hand turns to get there!). I'm glad, because it's hard enough to get up at 5:30 without having to drive a long way before even starting to work out.

The long run on Sunday has left me with a little residual soreness, so today I took it easy. A gentle couple of laps around the track, followed by a lot of stretching and then 3 miles on the treadmill.  I walked them at 3.0% incline, with 6x200 gentle running strides about every half mile. The strides is a new thing I'm trying on recovery days to keep my legs loose. I tried jogging the three miles on recovery days recently, and found that my joints really just need a break from the constant pounding on off days.

I followed the treadmill up with another gentle couple of laps around the track, then more stretching, and finally some weight lifting for the arms/back. All in all, I was in and out of there in about 1 hour 15 min.

After heading home and showering, I had a couple of cups of coffee, awesome pumpkin power oatmeal, and an apple. They have been on sale for 89 cents a pound at my local store, so I've stocked up.

It felt good today to have gotten a workout in before work-work. I had a good amount of energy throughout the day, and even during my 4 pm dentist appointment (no cavities this time, thankyouverymuch).

Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Heck of a Long Run

Weekends were made for long runs... although it was kind of hard to convince myself of that last Sunday when it was 28 degrees and windy outside. Check out my awesome ninja-runner outfit:

You'll never see me coming!

Today was a little better--almost 50 degrees. The cloud cover and 10-20mph winds kept it from being ideal running weather, but if I waited for the weather to be perfect, I'd never get my miles in!

There is an 8 mile asphalt trail about a 20 minute drive from my house--the longest recreational trail in the city. It is one of my favorite places to run. The trail starts near downtown, then follows a creek out of town, winding through grassy meadows and horse pastures along the way. Each 0.2 mile is marked, so I don't have to necessarily bring my GPS. There are usual quite a few other runners as well as bikers and walkers taking advantage of the trail, so it doesn't feel too isolated.

This run was one of the best long runs I've ever had. I'm not 100% sure why I felt so good. My pre-run fuel was pretty average. I ate a slightly bigger lunch than usual about an hour before the run (sweet potato carrot ginger soup with Greek yogurt, cashews, bread, and half a Luna energy bar) but nothing unusual. Yesterday evening, I had a light dinner with half a bottle of beer (I'm not great at finishing beers!) and had an average night's sleep. 

I even had a pesky headache I had not been able to shake all day. My hip was still bothering me a lot during, but I made a conscious decision to try to run through it and subsequently didn't spend a lot of time thinking or worrying about it. Due to my own wishful thinking, I was slightly under-dressed for the weather, and consequently was a bit chilly the entire run.

Physically, the odds were in favor of me having an average long run (i.e. slow & steady, with hip soreness increasing with the miles). Instead, I ran 11 miles at a relatively fast pace for me. Even at around miles 8 and 9, I still had pep in my step and could crank out 9:20-10:00 miles without nearly as much effort as they normally would have taken at that distance.

Given that not too much of the physical aspects of the run were much different than previous ones, I have to think that the improvement was psychological. On Saturday morning, the chiropractor I saw (more on this another post) determined with an x-ray that my legs do not appear to be different in length. I have thought for a while that a leg length discrepancy might be the cause of my hip discomfort, and so it was a huge mental relief to find out that wasn't the case.

Knowing that it wasn't an innate skeletal issue felt very freeing, and I felt I didn't need to be as cautious with each step. And you know what? Eventually the hip soreness didn't bother me. I can't say for sure if it actually decreased or if I just became more ignorant of it (entirely possible), but a weight has been lifted. We'll see how sore I am tomorrow morning! Right now, I feel good though.

Also helpful was running (ha!) into the pastor of our church who is a frequent biker in the same trail. He rode alongside me for about half a mile, and hooked me up with some water, which really gave me a kick to keep going.

So I am pleased right now. I had a great long run, and feel really good right now. I worked through the hip discomfort and ran strong and fast (for me!). Feelings like this remind me of why I run--because it feels so darn good.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Massages and Annoying Advice

Massages are wonderful. They are also usually cost-prohibitive for me, but I began getting them more often after I began working for my company a couple of years ago, because of a wellness program offered that covers the majority of the cost. Since then, I've had about 10 massages in the past couple of years. Some have been better than others, but they have always been a relaxing experience and have helped to loosen up some tight muscles.

I enjoy talking to the various massage therapists I've had (probably about 6-8 different ones). Each of them has had a different approach, from their physical technique to the advice they give. They have typically been very knowledgeable about the human body and have been able help with various minor complaints I've had. After a bad car wreck I had last year, I had some lingering neck pain and could not lift my as high as I used to without some discomfort and tightness. After just one session with an awesome therapist, the pain greatly diminished and a couple of weeks later was entirely gone. (Note: I am not saying this would work for everyone, or even me if my injury was serious. It did work for me in this case though).

Almost all of the therapists I've had at this place have been good, so I was willing to try a new one that was available. He was an older guy with 25 years of experience, and I figured he might have some good advice, especially regarding my right hip, which has been a recurrent discomfort for the past 6 months.

Not so much. Things started out OK, with a discussion of the possible leg length discrepancy I might have as well as comments from him about how my opposite leg was much tighter than my one with the troublesome hip. It could be that my right leg is having to compensate for weakness in my left, and this is causing the hip issues. An interesting theory and one that might explain the symptoms.

Then he began to ask why I had to run such long distances. I told him that I enjoyed the challenge and how it made me feel.

"But your body is sending you a signal," he said. "You aren't made for running long distances."'

Taken a bit aback, I replied, "I think it is sending me a signal that there is a problem that needs to be looked at, not that I am not supposed to run long distances."

"You're trying to make your body do something it wasn't made to do. You think you are smarter than your body, so you keep forcing it to perform. Eventually, it's just going to refuse. "

At this point, I was a little annoyed. First of all, while my hip discomfort is bothering, I don't think it means I'm not meant to run long distances. I think it indicates that there is currently a muscle or skeletal reason for my discomfort, and I do need to look into it. But it isn't an ominous signal that I am not cut out to be a runner.

I honestly love running and how it makes me feel.  The hip discomfort is a problem that I need to take action on. However, it has not gotten worse since it first arrived, which makes me think I'm not harming my body by continuing to run (I would stop or at least decrease my running if the pain became worse, absolutely).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Early Bird Feels the Burn

I started writing this post on the elliptical at the gym at 6:30 in the morning last week. After composing a couple of half-jibberish sentences, I had to quit after I slipped and nearly fell off the machine. Blogging and exercising can mix, just maybe not at the same time!

What better way to greet a Monday morning than by waking up at 5:30am for a workout? Morning workouts, at least during the week, seem to work well for me. It feels good to complete something so early in the morning, and this sense of accomplishment sticks with me throughout the day. Knowing that I have earned the right to relax makes me look forward to taking it easy after work. I admit, sometimes I have not looked forward to working out after working 8+ hours. (On a side note, I really don't think I have ever regretted hauling my butt to the gym or for a run outside).

There are a couple of drawbacks to working out early, of course. The biggest one is the sleep forfeit. When I'm smart, I compensate by going to bed earlier, but not usually enough to completely make up for getting up at 5:30. Squeezing in 8 hours of sleep means bedtime is at least 9:30 (earlier for me, as I need a little time to read and settle down). But I'm not always smart and don't get to bed any earlier, so I do lose an hour of sleep. Fortunately that is fix-able by getting the early-to-bed idea into my head.

Second is that I don't usually have as much time in the mornings as I would in the evenings to work out. I can usually fit in a 3 mile run and 15-20 minutes of strength training. When I worked out in the evenings, I could tack on some extra time if my planned workout took longer than I expected or if I just felt like working out longer. But, the time difference isn't major--I get an hour in the mornings instead of maybe the hour and 20 minutes I might have stayed in the evening.

So when my phone alarm cheerily announced 5:30am had arrived, I hauled my sorry butt out of bed and into the gym clothes I had conveniently laid out the night before. I'm not sure how it took me 30 minutes to pull myself together and arrive at the gym (which is less than a mile from my house), but it did. I didn't even make coffee first. If I am going to make this early-rising-working-out thing stick, I need to figure out how to not piddle so much.

I've done early workouts a few times in the past, and like those times, it was nice to experience the gym in a much less crowded state. Apparently the 5:30 (no, make that 6 am) crowd is a pretty small group.

I felt that I had more physical and mental energy throughout the day by starting the morning off with a run. It was indeed a psychological boost to know that my workout was already done for the day (an item checked off the to-do list by 7 am? Yes, please!) And I've really enjoyed the evening hanging out with the hubby and cats.

Now if I could just keep my eyes open

Overall, I'm pretty happy with switching to more morning workouts. It gets me revved up for the day, and gets an important task of the day done early. I may never be an early bird, but fortunate I don't have to be too alert when churning out a few miles :)

Friday, January 6, 2012

A Belated New Year's Goals Post

I started these goals about two weeks ago (really!) but have been perfecting them (aka procrastinating) and am only now just posting them.

I've used a ranking system to prioritize which of these goals are most important. There are a lot of things that I want to do in 2012, but it's important for me to distinguish between "must-have" goals and "nice-to-have"goals. So I've ranked them with an A-B-C scale.
  • A-goals--Highest priority. These are goals I have identified as being very important to accomplish in 2012. Non-negotiable black and white goals.
  • B-goals--Important goals, but I would be happy with significant progress toward them if I didn't meet them completely.
  • C-goals--The best way I can describe these is as something I would like to do, but am not firmly committed to.
And here they are:

  1. Run a sub-55 minute 10k
  2. Run a sub 2 hour half marathon
  3. Design, prototype, and test my running apparatus idea (even if it is not successful, I would like to have one for myself!)
  4. Continue improving eating habits
  5. Support my husband through the end of his 2nd year of law school, whatever summer work he ends up doing, and the beginning of his 3rd year of law school. 
  6. Write at least 150 blog posts
  7. Write at least 50 pages of memoir
  8. Between the two of us, save at minimum the equivalent of half of my 2011 salary
  9. Draw closer to God. Pray for at least 5 minutes/day on average (have to start somewhere).
B goals:
  1. Take week-long finance course at work 
  2. Execute another Six Sigma project at work
  3. Learn more about mold design and manufacturing
  4. Finish painting our living room ceiling
  5. Explore where we want to live after Shane graduates
  6. Tighten ties with family and good friends
C goals:
  1. Grow a small vegetable garden on my patio (yay cherry tomatoes!)
  2. Try running with a running group. Just once.
  3. Try a yoga class. 
  4. Cook more and experiment with new recipes. 
Word of the year:  CALM.  Don't get riled up about things that ultimately don't matter.  Don't allow situations to control my behavior, especially at work. Apply logic and rational thinking to difficult situations.

Alright 2012. Let's do this.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Workout Times for the 9-5 Crowd

I've been thinking lately about reasons to try to fit in morning workouts as opposed to the evening ones that I typically do on week days. I actually work 8-5(ish) pm, so my options during the week are working out before work, during my 1 hr lunch, or after work. Typically I go for after work, but I've been thinking about doing more mornings lately for the following reasons:

Hooray! It's morning!
  1. Psychological benefit. The biggest benefit I can think of is the mental boost from getting a workout done first thing. I could check something off the to-do list before 7 am! It's great to not have to worry about whether or not I'll be able to work out later. It's already done. 
  2. Energy boost. I feel that I generally have more energy during the workday on days with morning exercise. Part of it is mental--I know that when I go home that evening, I don't have to work out, I can just rest. Part of it definitely is physical though. I get a kick from working out that lasts for a while. Gotta love those endorphins.  
  3. Heat beating. During the summers here, it can get very hot and humid. I have usually sucked it up and just gone running in the evenings after work, since I much prefer to run outside than on a treadmill or track. However, the morning is definitely a cooler time than the evening to run.  
  4. Food planning.  It's easier to plan what to eat for the day when activity-related calorie burn has been mostly completed. I can budget fuel input more accurately when I can account for the bulk of the physical expenditure ahead of time. 
  5. More time with hubby.  He's not an early bird, so I have a better chance of hanging out with him in the evenings. 
  6. Ben Franklin says so. "Early to bed, early to rise makes for really good workouts" is the quote, I believe.
Despite these really awesome reasons to get up early and work out, there is a one very compelling reason not to--this thing called sleep. We'll see. As long as I keep getting training in, one way or another--that's the most important thing.