Friday, February 3, 2012

W.O.W.: Running

I like to run. Scratch that. I love to run.

Well, most days.

In the past two and a half years, I went from someone who huffed and puffed after a quarter-mile to someone who has ran a handful of 5ks and 10ks, three half-marathons, a 10.5-mile trail race and a 16-mile trail race. I'm someone who's training for a fourth half-marathon and looking toward a full.

And despite thousands of miles logged, I'll be the first to admit that I am not an expert.

Just wanted to put that out there before I answer your running questions.

Robyn asked: I am planning my training schedule, and for the first time have a speed goal, not just "survive a marathon without dying." I have the long, slow run thing pretty much down. But how fast are you doing your weekly short runs, intervals and tempos, relative to your goal pace?

I am sort of ashamed to admit this but I totally wing it when it comes to running on a pace. For tempos, I run comfortably hard and for intervals, I do almost all out. Wouldn't recommend it. 

What would I recommend? McMillan Running Calculator. The site allows you to input your best time, and it will give you paces for different workouts. It's best to have a race, such as a 5K to use, to give you numbers but you can also use a goal time.

For example, I'm training for the Martian Half-Marathon in April. I could put in my best half time (1:54:12) but I was at peak fitness and had trained to go sub-2. I will not be going sub-2 this time, not 9 months after a baby. I think my realistic goal will be 2:10, 2:05 if I'm having a good day. For a 2:10 half, I should be doing long runs at a 10:58 to 11:58 pace; weekly short runs at 9:56 to 10:13; tempo intervals at 9:31 to 9:56; and 400 repeats at 2:03.5 to 2:10.6.

Notice I said should.

When I was training for my sub-2 half, I did most of my long runs far faster than I should have because I was doing them with Mark. Also, my intervals were far faster than dictated because I was so nervous about meeting my goal. Most coaches would not suggest this, and I'm pretty lucky that my body held up and I didn't get injured.

Anonymous asked: I started training for a 5K on December 1st (I started the Couch to 5K program). Just this past week I started jogging for 25 minutes...straight! Albeit at a 3.8 mph pace. But that's okay. I've only jogged outside once though (on a trail by my house). The rest of the time I've been on a treadmill. To be honest, I'm scared to death to run "in the real world" (on the roads). I'm so self-conscious. Did you feel that way when you started running/jogging? Do you have any tips for me to overcome this feeling?

Yay for you! It doesn't matter how fast you go as long as you go. Twenty-five minutes is no joke.

I was definitely self conscious when I first started running. Even as a more experienced runner I wondered what people thought. I wondered how much my butt jiggled or how slow I looked.I wondered if I had the right form or had the right clothes. One day, when I was running at the track in 900 degree weather, I stripped down to sports bra and shorts. I was so self conscious because I have extra skin and not flat abs. After spending one too many minutes worrying, I decided that people could snark if they wanted but I was the one out there. I was the one running and doing the best I could do.

No matter what you do, people will judge you. Let them judge you for doing something good for yourself.

Leah asked: This is slightly off topic, but, have you ever had any issues with your knees that prevented you from running when you first began this journey? Or did you wait to run until after you'd lost some of the weight?

People are going to hate me but I have been very lucky to run pain free. Sure, I've had my fair share of  aches but nothing crazy. My biggest problem was shin splints and runner-up was knee pain. I noticed that things got better as the weight came off (I didn't start running till I was in the 180s) and after getting good shoes. 

It's so important to invest in yourself and go to a specialty store where they can fit you for shoes. Good support and cushion, in my opinion, are vital for a beginner, and shoes from Kohl's or even Dick's won't provide those.

Don't know (flap)jack

I don't run with music.

It's not so much a "I'm better than you, and I don't need it" thing. It's more of a safety thing as most of my runs are with the dog and the stroller, and I need to be aware of cars in the event their drivers aren't aware of me.

When people hear that I run "naked" so to speak, the question I most often get asked is: What do you think about? Things. I think about things. Sometimes it's the day ahead or how beautiful the day is (today was a gorgeous "warm" 28). I sometimes write my grocery list or, if I'm lucky, I completely zone out.

Today, though, my thoughts were not focused on any of those things. I had just one focus: Pancakes.

 Lots and lots of pancakes.

I normally like to eat a protein-rich breakfast because it holds me best. However, Mark will be out tonight and I'm going to take advantage, eating a dinner he won't - breakfast. Seeing as I didn't want eggs twice in a day, pancakes seemed an appropriate way to end a 4-mile run.

I thought I would make my favorite, banana pancakes. Heck, I could go crazy and add some chocolate chips to the recipe ... until I discovered that Mark ate the last one. Jerk.

So I made the next best thing*: Oatmeal Applesauce Pancake for One.

*Note: This excludes any pancake with pecans because those are on a whole other level of awesomeness.

Source - I don't have a photo of my actual pancake because ... well, let's just say it was a little crispy.

Oatmeal Applesauce Pancake for One

1 egg white
1/4 cup no-sugar added applesauce
2 tablespoons skim milk
Scant 1/4 teaspoon maple extract
1 pouch instant plain oatmeal
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/2 packet Truvia
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

In a bowl, beat egg white until foamy. Whisk in applesauce, milk and extract. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Gently add dry ingredients to wet, mixing until just combined. Spoon batter onto a hot skillet sprayed with non-stick spray or coated with canola oil. Cook like a pancake. Serve with toppings of choice - I had light I Can't Believe It's Not Butter and Sugar-Free Hungry Jack syrup.

If you don't like the texture of rolled oats, you could pulse them in a coffee grinder or food processor to achieve a finer, more palatable consistency. 

Nutrition (without toppings): 205 calories, 2 grams fat, 41 grams carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

W.O.W.: Getting started


It's amazing how it just slips away.

One minute, you're looking at a day (off) full of possibilities and the next minute you realize it's time to pick up the behb from day care. You aren't any more rested, the house isn't any cleaner and dinner isn't made. In fact, it seems that the only thing you have to show for yourself is a stack of homemade baby invitations.

Apparently invitations take 55 hours to do, and they are the precise reason I didn't write my W.O.W. post on my motivation at the start of my weight loss journey. I hope you don't mind if I give it to you now. (#twss)

If you have read my weight loss story, you know that I didn't just decide to lose weight and - BAM! - x amount of time later, I weighed 122 pounds. No. It took a long time, with a lot of up and downs. Along the way, there were a lot of things that motivated me to start, restart and to get serious. I'm going to talk about the moment (moments, really) that helped me get to the track in August 2009 and stay there.

My mom's death. As I've shared in the Woman's Day/Yahoo! story, watching my mom die - not just the moment she took her last breath - but the years of seeing her destroy herself, made me look at the way I was treating my body and myself. I was so mad at her for not caring enough about herself (and me to be honest) to do something. As I worked through those feelings, I realized that I had no right to them if I wasn't willing to do something.

However, as a commenter pointed out, having someone in your life to be an example of what NOT to do is not enough. If it was, I probably would have never let myself get to 245 pounds. There were other things - almost a perfect storm, if you will - to get me going.

Getting the picture. In my weight loss journey, I lost 50 pounds then another 25. Those 25 pounds were lost and regained through three cycles, the last loss cycle just before my wedding in December 2008.

When my mom died, I was under the delusion that I was looking good and far better off than she ever was.

And then I saw photos from a girls' weekend in Chicago. Not only did I not look good, I looked big. I tried to blame it on camera angles and unflattering clothes but there's no denying that my weight had crept up. I had to ask myself whether the person in those photos was who I wanted to be.

Buddy system. I mentioned it in my previous post by my BFF joined Weight Watchers just before I did. The program really clicked for her, and she was able to give me an example of what to do and what I could be.

Support system. Also, in that vein, it's important to surround yourself with people who will encourage the changes you make. I mean no offense by the following but you tend to surround yourself with people most like you. If you are fit and active, your friends are fit and active. If you are sedentary and unhealthy, your friends are more than likely the same. It's important to reach out to those - without alienating your friends - who will encourage you. Mark, a lifelong runner, joined me for my Couch to 5K runs and never grumbled about going slow with me.

Again, with the dog. Mark and I inherited Denali so to speak from my mom, and we brought him home in late July. I wanted so desperately to be a good dog owner, and I knew a key to that was exercising our Siberian husky. I also knew that it couldn't be just something I did when it was nice. Come rain, come sun, come snow - Denali would want to go out. I made it my goal to be able to run a 5K by winter as I knew running 3 miles would be less painful than walking 3.

Breaking it down. I never looked at the big picture when I started. With Weight Watchers, it was about losing 5 percent, then 10 percent. I then looked to getting in the 160s, where I had never been, and down "decade" by "decade." It would have been hard for me to be successful otherwise because I would have felt overwhelmed.

Exploring. It can feel limiting to take on a new lifestyle/diet. The things you like to eat might not fit into your program. I really went outside my comfort zone and tried things like vegetarian patties, faux sausage and low-carb tortillas. I searched for WW friendly recipes and heeded suggestions from members. Slowly, I began to find new tastes and textures that appealed to me and helped to bring excitement to planning my menu.

Splurge. Living healthfully can be expensive, and it was easy for me not to buy the things I needed to be successful. However, if you want to order a crap ton of VitaTops to help you stay on track, do it. If you need Laughing Cow wedges for a wrap but they aren't on sale, buy them anyway. You'll be motivated to eat better if you have not only what you need but what you want.

In it to win it. I am not sure how or why but so much of my success is because I decided that I was worth it and made the changes. I would no longer accept that I was just meant to be overweight. I would no longer sell myself short. I would treat myself how I wanted to be treated - with love and respect - and take action to do so.

Are you a weight loss success? What can you share with others?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

W.O.W.: Staying motivated

44 degrees. At 6 a.m. This morning. January 31.

Days like today are made for running. Even though I didn't have any miles on tap because parent-teacher conferences are shaking up my schedule, I found myself digging out the capris and lacing up my sneakers. It would be a shame to squander such a gift, I thought to myself.

Not every day is like today, where I find myself genuinely excited to run and so antsy to get out there that I can't even wait until Mark leaves for work. There are days I have to fight like hell to live the life I've created. The life I want to live.

When I went through the comments for Words of Wisdom (W.O.W.) week, I was surprised to see just how many were related to motivation. You wanted to know how I got motivated and stay motivated. You wanted the key.

The truth is: I’m not sure I have one. It's just that I've assembled a powerful arsenal, if you will, to keep me going.  

Fear. No matter how much I’ve tried, I cannot shake the fat girl. I worry that I will gain back the weight I lost or slip in terms of eating and exercise. I don’t want to lose who I have become and the pride I feel in her just because “I don’t feel like it” or “I can’t take it anymore.” When I was training for my first half marathon, I was so scared that I wouldn't finish that I wouldn't dare run even tenth of a mile less than the plan dictated.

Accountability. It’s not so much about motivation but learning to be accountable to yourself. If I choose not to work out, it is me making the decision. If I order a large chocolate malt, it’s my decision. And to flip that reasoning on the side, it’s not Mother Nature dropping a thunderstorm on your area the day of a run just to ruin your run. Your husband wasn’t acting like an asshole so you’d eat a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. OK. Maybe he was but then he wasn’t acting like an asshole – he is an asshole (another topic all together).

Passion. I personally like to run. I like the challenge, seeing myself get better and the structure of a training plan. If someone told me that the only way to lose weight was to swim, I’d be a million pounds because swimming is very often a suckfest for me.
Tangible ways to measure success. For the past two years, I have tracked nearly every mile and recorded my pace in an Excel spreadsheet. It's not only useful for training purposes but for motivation. When I get down on myself for not running the way I did pre-Miles, I can look back and see how far I've come since my first brutal post-baby run. Carrie just posted about being frustrated with the scale and then saw a pleasant surprise when she took her measurements. This works, too, with a weight tracker. You might have had a bad week but how has the scale looked over the course of a month?

Treat yourself. And don't forget to celebrate the gains you see when tracking. There's nothing like new gear to make you want to workout.My very generous BFF sent me a pair of running sleeves and a running skirt for Christmas, and I've been dying to wear them ever since. This morning's mild weather was just what I needed to try them out. On the other side of things, I remember the first time I tried a pair of size 10 jeans and they fit. A new pair of jeans was just what I needed in the middle of my journey.

Friendly competition. Enlist a friend in your efforts … and then try to beat her. When BFF and I were doing WW, and her success helped motivate me to do what I needed. The desire to beat her at the weigh-in (sorry, love) helped motivate me to do more. I find the same thing in terms of running. I have a co-worker who is a lifelong runner and goes out 5 to 6 days a week. On the days he runs, he will walk past me and quote his mileage. I love being able to “one up” him.

An annoying dog. I know I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again: the thought of wearing the crap out of Denali is enough to make me want to run a marathon some mornings.

Set new goals. Maybe you wanted to run 3 miles and now you can. Think about running a 10K. Maybe you have hit your goal weight. Think about toning or taking on a new workout challenge or lifting more weights. After running my second half marathon, I set a goal to run a third and do it in less than 2 hours. Always having something to work toward gives me a reason to keep going.

If all else fails, give yourself a good talking to. I was reading Runner's World in the bath after my run this morning, and I was struck by something Kate Gosselin said. The mother of 8, who was this month's "I'm a Runner" feature, said, "If I say to myself, 'I don't feel like running today,' I'll say out loud, 'Are you a quitter? No. Are you a champion? Yes! Then why are you thinking about quitting? I'm not.' I'll say this over and over."

What are your tricks for staying motivated?

Tomorrow: How I got motivated.

Monday, January 30, 2012

5 ways not to start your Monday morning

1. Discover that the White Chicken Chili that you put in the slow cooker is still there ... completely uncooked. I swear that I turned it on - I heard the beep-beep-beep as I set it - yet the chicken showed no signs of being cooked. I guess I won't be following my menu this week. Thank goodness I had a serving of Daily Garnish's Indian-Spiced Chili and a stockpile of Smart Ones in the freezer to get me through the week.

2. Learn that your dog has found the hole in the fence again. There is one spot where Denali can sneak through some brush and get out. And that's just what he did at 5:30 this morning. I had to go over into the neighbor's yard in my bath robe and Mark's sneakers with some vanilla wafers to lure him back home.

3. Have your hands full with an inconsolable baby. Miles didn't want to eat. He didn't want to be held. He didn't want to watch "Sesame Streets" on DVD. All he wanted to do was scream and writhe. And, before you ask, yes. Yes, he's teething. He has two little sharp ones poking through the gums but they aren't all the way in. Thank heavens I found the whiskey Baby Orajel. After 45 minutes, I got him to take a bottle and a short nap.

Side note: When I came down from putting Miles in his crib, I found Denali chewing the Orajel I guess I no longer have that in my arsenal.

4. Find that your legs rival that of your dog's in terms of fuzziness. Not so much a problem unless you are planning to wear a skirt to work. Which I was. I considered throwing on some tights and letting the itchy hair poke through but Miles' nap (albeit brief) gave me just enough time to bathe and shave.

5. Realize that you'll get nothing accomplished on your rest day because the morning rivals the weekend's Mizpah Shrine Circus. Really, who needs a tiger jumping through flaming hoops when you have a fiery red head spewing oatmeal across the room?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A good run and celebrity sighting

There are two things you should know about this weekend.

No. 1: I ran 9 miles (9.2, actually) for the "fun" of it.

No. 2: I met the winner of the marathon Olympic Trials, Shalane Flanagan.

Which do you want to hear about first? Did I hear the batch of White Chicken Chili that I just threw in the slow cooker?

Sorry. You'll have to check out my new menu page.

So back to my weekend. I ran 9.2 miles and met Shalane Flanagan. Since I ran first, let me chat about that. OK? OK!

I had 8 miles on the schedule for today, and I was counting on the run going as my Sunday runs have for the past few weeks - Mark joins me for the first few miles, shares stroller pushing duties and then baby wrangles while I finish up. However, Mr. Mark woke up with a 101 degree fever and running was out of the question. I was already feeling pangs of mother's guilt for leaving Miles all afternoon so I thought I'd take him and Denali for all 8 miles.

Of course, I was naive in this plan because I assumed that Miles would sleep for the entire run. Yeah. Not so much. I noticed that he was awake at 3.75 and at 4.5 miles in, he let me know that he was not happy and was not going to be a part of an 8-mile run. Thankfully, I was relatively close to home and I was able to drop him off just after 6 miles.

I feared that the last two miles would be difficult. My legs, already tired from Body Pump, would be fatigued from the stroller's resistance (+pushing it in the snow) and my mental game would not be there. However, as I set off alone, I had one of those rare moments in running. I felt like I could run forever. I was enjoying the activity so much that I missed my turnaround and ended up at 9 miles.

Crazy, right?

Onto No. 2. I met Shalane Flanagan.

She was the keynote speaker at the track club banquet and my new BFF. I mean, it was written in the stars - we have the same shirt from Target.

Shalane had a lot of great things to say, and she is very much a testament to hard work and believing in yourself. I took notes on the things she said but I'm too tired to go get them. It's not like you need a book report, though - just look at those arms!

How was your weekend?