Friday, October 5, 2012

Food Friday: Eating, lately

I've done something magical: I've trained (nearly) for a marathon, and I haven't gained weight. In fact, I've even dropped a couple pounds.

OK, it's really not all that magical. Weight loss is about calories in and calories out. Simple as that. There's plenty of calories out during training but there's also the tendency to put a lot calories in. The trick is to make the calories good stuff as the gorgeous Kim (the other one) pointed out.

Van's Lite Waffles with Razzle Dazzle PB Crave and blackberry jam. Love Van's. Love PB Crave.

Taco Lentils with Garden of Eatin' Sweet Potato Corn Tortilla chips, red onion and just a sprinkle of cheese - it's like nachos gone healthy. The chips were sent to me for review, and I am loving them. I like them more as just a snack, a few in the afternoon to quell the salt fix, but there are nice with both my lentils and black bean chili.

Unreal candy. Have you guys seen this in the store? They have it at my CVS (yes, it's mine), and it's candy without the "junk" or so they say. There's no corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients, GMOs or preservatives. So, obviously, it is healthy. Duh. OK, maybe not but it is better for you and the varieties I've tried (UN 54, UN 5, UN 8, UN 77) all tend to have fewer calories than their "junked" counterparts.

Pad Kai Mao. I had a rare evening by myself last night, and I decided to treat myself to dinner. I couldn't decide what I wanted, though, and I randomly found myself at Ma Hnin Asia Restaurant, a local place that serves Burmese and Thai food.

Fun fact: Fort Wayne has one of the largest, if not largest, populations of Burmese people outside of Myanmar.

I've always wanted to try Ma Hnin but the place is a bit suspect looking. Then again, all the best places are. I got a chicken-noodle dish that featured fresh, handmade noodles and lots of veggies. I got just a little bit spicy, which was more than enough (especially after I bit right into a pepper). It was delicious and I loved ... all the bites I could eat. It's all about portion control, my friends.

Ice cream. So I skip dairy ... most days. On long run days, though, once the miles are logged, I have a treat or two.

I'm apparently unable to enjoy time by myself because after I painted my nails and watched two episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," I called Mark to see if he and Miles wanted to meet me for ice cream before coming home. It was probably the last warm night of the year and the last time we'll visit for the season. Baby cone for Miles, black raspberry shake for Mark and chocolate sundae for me.

It's hard to believe that Miles couldn't hold the cone or sit on the bench like a big boy for our first trip this year.

What have you been eating lately?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Three Things Thursday: Make my day

This morning did not have the makings of a good morning. I went to bed early but slept poorly and felt less than rested when the alarm went off at 4:40 a.m. My back was tight from my adjustment at the chiropractor, and my legs felt heavy. All I wanted to do was curl up in bed and sleep till the ungodly hour of 7 a.m.

But there were things to do.

Like running 12 miles.

1. Miles and I are going to Cincinnati this weekend. The last time I visited, I saved my long run for Sunday evening and it promptly turned into an epic fail.  I was certain that I didn't want to go through that again, especially after Sunday's not-so-long run, and decided that my 12-miler would happen today. I originally thought I might sneak it in after work but with temperatures creeping near 80, I knew it would be in my best interest to do it this morning.

And so I did.

It was my best run by any stretch of the imagination but it was a run and it was completed. More importantly, I feel like I crossed one big giant to-do off my list. From here on out, my Columbus Marathon training is full of 3- and 4-milers with one 8-10 miler next weekend. The hay is in the barn, and the barn door is locked.

2. I was a quarter-mile from home when Miles and I needed to cross a somewhat busy street to get to our block. As luck (or good planning) would have it, we cross near a school and there's a crossing guard there from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. I feel a sort of kinship with her as she's helped us cross many a times - last fall when we were mostly walking, in the spring as I trained for the Martian half and now as I wrap up Cbus. As I darted across, she said, "You sure did lose a lot of weight. Nice job!" I see myself every day and still get wrapped up in my flaws (another post, another day) so it was good for me to hear from someone who doesn't have to be nice to me to be, well, nice.

The comment is one of two favorites I've gotten over the past week. Last Friday, I ran Miles to my mother-in-law's house, and a man (in an awesome polyester, 1990s track suit) said, "I wonder what you would do if you had another arm." I assume it was that I was doing a pretty good job corralling the beast (Denali) and the beast (Miles).

Oh, and if I had a third arm/hand, I'd be drinking coffee as I ran. For the record.

3. I've been (not so) patiently waiting for the official race photos from Fort4Fitness, and I have found myself stalking the Action Sports Images page. Multiple times a day. While the photos aren't searchable by bib number, there are some shots of the homestretch for browsing. I was hoping to see me ... no luck. And then I was hoping to see MIL+FIL+Miles ... still no luck.

But I did see these.

The joy ... the heart .. the accomplishment ... I can feel it radiating from the photos. These women are amazing and inspiring. I hope someone tells them that today.

Mis-'Matched'?: A BlogHer Book Review

I was compensated for the following BlogHer Book Club review but all opinions expressed are my own.

◊ ◊ ◊ 

I sat attentively at my desk in the carpeted, chilly classroom that belonged to Mrs. Heiber. From the front of the room, perched on a small chair, she read aloud. Her voice was clear and strong, the prose smooth and captivating.

I stared at her, her long skirt puddling at the floor, as I anxiously awaited what was next and, at the same time, wishing it wouldn't end.

My seventh-grade teacher, who still holds a special place in my heart, was reading "The Giver" to my language arts class. The story of Jonah and his "perfect" world was one that stuck with me, and I have found myself over the years re-reading the book by Lois Lowry. (I most recently read it, and the companion novels, late this summer as Mark considered it for his own seventh-grade class.)

To me, "The Giver" is not just an interesting tale nor does it offer just an insight into what we think is perfect. To me, it is a work of great literature - as evidenced by the awards it has received.

And so the bar was set high when I cracked open the green binding of "Matched." While it is an interesting tale that offers insight into our society and the idea of a controlled society, it is not a great work of literature. But it didn't need to be. And once I accepted that, I found myself captivated by Ally Condie's story.

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander's face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham's face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it's a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she's destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can't stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society's infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she's known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Aptly described by one reviewer on the jacket as "The Giver" meets "Twilight," the story sucks you in with the love triangle but leaves you wanting more with the writing. The prose was a bit too poetic at times and made me feel like the author was trying too hard to make Cassia, who tells the story, sound introspective and thoughtful.

I was able to look past it, though, as I found myself wondering how I would do in such a society. The world in which Cassia lives not only controls occupational and societal choices but recreational ones as well. Cassia is limited to how many times, at what pace and how far she can run on the "tracker" and her daily calories are controlled (and limited) by the society.

As all of you are sure to know, I would not do well and seeing Cassia think - actually think, a novel idea in her society - about how she liked to be controlled like that was - dare I say - rewarding. And once she figured it out, I was left captivated (and up far too late) by how far she was willing to go.

You can find out more about Ally Condie's "Matched" in BlogHer Book Club. Read her bio, read and excerpt of "Matched" or join the discussion here. If you are interested in following Ally on social media she has a Facebook page  and a Twitter account. She also blogs here.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Issuing a crack down

I did something today that I never thought I would do: I went to the chiropractor.

After cutting my long run short on Sunday because of hip discomfort and having continued awareness the next day (though I did have a pain-free 5-miler!), I wanted some assurance that I wasn't injured or in danger of being injured. I could have gone to my primary care physician but a co-worker regularly sees a chiropractor, and her positive experiences prompted me to give it a try.

There are probably 5 billion chiropractors in my area but I decided to go to one that I was familiar with, often passing it on my way to some of my favorite downtown restaurants. It didn't hurt that "Sports" is in the name.

Dr. Jen, who runs the practice Hoosier Sports & Chiropractor, has an educational background in neurology but her experience is in sports. She has worked with Olympic hopefuls, professional football players and international soccer players. As she told me, her work was to get athletes back on the field as quickly as possible but do it in a way that wouldn't jeopardize their fitness over their lifetime.

Do I know how to pick 'em or do I know how to pick 'em!?!

Dr. Jen and I talked a bit about how much I run, how fast I run, when the marathon is and what my goals are. She's worked with sub-3:00 marathoners on top of the pros, and I felt humble telling her my goal for Columbus. She assured me that we would work on getting me to the starting line healthy and helping me finish happily whether it was fixing something now or keeping it together and doing some real work after Oct. 21.

We then went through some of range of motion exercises and strength work to see what caused pain, if I had  limited movement and whether there were any imbalances. I was a bit surprised that nothing caused any real pain as I could feel my hip when I was sitting but felt cautiously excited. We did a few more things as I anxiously awaited a verdict.

Drum roll, please ...

There's nothing wrong with me, orthopedically speaking. And the problem isn't even in my right hip, where I'm feeling "it." The source of my pain is a weaker left quad and a tight left hip that is causing my right side to overcompensate. Dr. Jen said that many people live with such imbalances but might not be aware of it because of their level of activity. Athletes exacerbate the imbalances, so to speak, and will feel pain as a result.

Dr. Jen gave me an exercise to do for my left leg, as well as taped me up. The goal is to encourage the mind-muscle connection so that my brain becomes "more aware" of my left leg and uses it more. I'm also going to try carrying my 24-pound behemoth on my left side more often and alternating which arm I use to push the stroller.

Yes. I said push the stroller.

At the end of the appointment, I asked Dr. Jen whether it was OK to run during this time.

"Oh, yeah," she said. "In fact, I want you to run."

Amen to that.

Endnote: I do go back Friday to gauge how things worked and go from there. While going to the chiropractor, to me, seems a bit indulgent, I am happy to say that it is covered by insurance.

Pump you up

It's no secret that I heart BODYPUMP.

It offers a full-body workout that not only burns calories but tones and shapes the body with low weights, high repetitions and a focus on time under tension. I've created changes in my post-baby body that I hadn't anticipated with the program, and I love teaching and pushing people through the moves and music.

Want to know what I don't like about it? It's almost like an exclusive club that a lot of people want to join but can't. And I want everyone to know the joy that is seven sets of bottom-halfs at the end of a squat track.

For a gym to offer BODYPUMP, it has to have a Les Mills license and instructors who have been trained by the company. The fees can be expensive and gyms aren't always willing to go through the process. It can be a bit frustrating, to say the least, as the program seems to be so popular and widespread. Fact: There are only four Les Mills licenses in my area, and one is at the university.

But just because your gym isn't a fan of Les Mills (not yet, anyway) that doesn't mean there aren't options for the PUMP enthusiast.

Group Power. A spin-off so to speak of BODYPUMP, this program is offered by Body Training Systems. It follows the same format as BP - 10 tracks, including a warm-up and cool down, and each track taking on a particular move or muscle group. I recently sampled a class as part of a regular feature I write for the paper, and I found it to be challenging. There are moves with a different range of motion that I was not ready for and the music, a bit more instrumental, had more of a hard core feel. From what I could garner from the website, Body Training Systems programs are offered in 20,000 U.S. clubs. There's only one in my area that offers it but near my grandma in Cincinnati, where BP is hard to find, there were quite a few.

Les Mills PUMP. While I think the group exercise atmosphere is integral to the BP experience, Les Mills does have an at-home workout via Beachbody that will help you get your fix. Some of the faces seen in the series are the same ones I see when I get a new release and rehearse with the Master Class DVD.

Join a boot camp or body fit-type class. My BFF is doing this insane (and insanely early boot camp) class on Saturday mornings. This past week, her instructor brought out the body bar for some fun, and many of the moves my friend described sounded like BP. Become a regular at a class like this and let your instructor know that you would love to use a body bar as part of the class. In my experience, instructors are very accommodating and want to make serve their classes as best they can.

Go big and go home. With a single piece of equipment - a body bar - you can create your own BP experience. By focusing on a single move or muscle group and changing tempo and range of motion during each set, you can feel the REP effect.

I thought I would show you some of my favorite moves, which happen to be fairly basic. The keys are range of motion and timing. Be sure to warm up for 5 to 10 minutes and cool down for an equal time to avoid injury. To spike the heart rate and increase calorie burn, try adding in jumping jacks or jumping rope for 30 seconds between each set.

But don't forget the most important thing: the music. For many, music is key to the BP experience. My new fave? "Too Close" from Alex Clare. It's a much better soundtrack than a baby who doesn't want to sleep.

Disclaimer: I am a certified BODYPUMP instructor and fitness fanatic but I am not a certified personal trainer. (Now that's an idea ...) Please consult a medical doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Marathon Monday: Mind games

I am training for the Columbus Marathon and following a schedule based on the "Train Like A Mother" finish it plan. These posts document my training. 

The week, in running:

Tuesday: 5 miles, easy (+stroller)
Wednesday: 2.6 miles, easy
Friday: 3 miles, easy (+stroller for half)
Saturday: Fort4Fitness 4-mile race
Sunday: 7.12 miles, long run (if you can call it that)

◊ ◊ ◊

It was a Sunday like any other, or a Sunday like any other in the past 16 weeks. I set out for a long run, a relatively "short" run of 16 miles. I had my Swedish fish in my Spibelt, a key, Denali and a plan. I was going to run 8 miles, loop home to drop off the dog and pick up Mark+Miles for 4 more before dropping them off to do the last 4 solo.

I was still tired and moody from Saturday's race when I set off but I chalked it up to the overwhelming feeling I have at the start of every long run. I knew that I needed to push aside the thoughts of "I don't want to do this" and "Why did I sign up for this?" and focus on what I was doing right then, right now. I needed to be in the moment.

But as I focused on the present, I felt some tightness in my ankle. The ligaments or tendons were irritated. Or I wanted them to feel irritated. I told myself that it was no doubt from the previous day's race, and it would shake out. I told my mind to shut up and settle in.

And I was right. The ankle tightness loosened up and it felt fine after a couple miles but it seemed that not long after, my right hip started to whine. At first, it was just an awareness - like, "Hey, lady. I'm right here. Remember me?" "Yeah, I remember you. I ran too fast on you yesterday," I replied. I was hoping it would shake out as well or that by diverting my attention that I would forget it was there but as I got closer to the 8-mile drop-off/pick-up, the hip became more angry and less whiny and I started to feel like I was hobbling. 

An internal debate began to rage: Could I ... should I ... would I finish the long run on this hip? I knew I would be in a better mood all day if I hit my mileage goal. However, I felt bad now - how was the hip going to feel in 10 miles. I could do the 4 with Mark and go from there as 12 is definitely better than 8. But I didn't want to do any more damage, assuming there was damage to start. Then again, finishing my 16-mile run would put me at 150 miles for the month, a goal I targeted last week when I realized how the mileage was stacking up.

One thought, though, seemed to trump them all: I just didn't want to do it. So I didn't. I ended the run, defeated, at 7.12 miles.

For weeks now, I've been feeling it. "It" being the mental exhaustion of marathon training. I no longer look forward to my runs and my life no longer feels like my own. Every night, I look at the training plan and try to figure out what I'll run, when I'll run it and who I run it with. The mornings revolve around getting ready for and completing the runs in a very specified time table in an effort to disrupt as few lives as possible. Then there's the weekend, in which the long run comes before everything. From the menu to scheduling to post-run activities, everything has to revolve around me and what the great minds behind "Train Like a Mother" have told me I should do.

I feel like I'm living in a pit 26.2 miles deep and the only way to get out is to cross the line in Columbus just 20 days from now. I sometimes regret my decision to sign up for the race, and I look forward to not doing a marathon for a very long time, if ever again.

Don't get me wrong - I have found training to be rewarding, and I think it's been important to me, as a person, to devote some energy to accomplishing something outside of motherhood. It's been good, too, that training hasn't been perfect, and I've learned that I can fall - hard, sometimes - and still pick myself back up.

But as Mark, Miles and I walked to the park yesterday afternoon, on legs that still had miles to go after a run cut short, I caught a glimpse of what life will be like. Shorter runs, a day full of energy to be spent and quality family time.

A life about us.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Fast and furious: A race recap

The clock read 7:20. It was time to head to our corral.

We said goodbye to Miles, who would be "walking" the event (his first race!) with Nana and Poppa.

We wandered through the crowd, making a pit stop at the honey buckets for one last "shake out" of nerves.

And then we found ourselves just 10 feet from the starting line, in Corral A.

I've never been in Corral A, and I'm not quite sure I belonged there. I saw some of the race regulars - the girls who run faster than me, the ones who are most accomplished - and took a deep breath. If I was going to put my heart out on the course, this is where I needed to be.

The deep breaths continued as the mayor counted down from 10 to 3 and then the cannon went boom. It was time to move.

As Mark would tell it, I went out like a bat out of hell. I rounded the corner onto a stretch of road that I like to run when I go solo and was ready for the first hill. Not that I remember much of it. I had seen one of the regulars within a few feet after the first quarter mile and I thought, naively for a brief few minutes, that I could hold onto her. I paid attention to her, what she was doing and how she was adjusting her arm warmers. The same arm warmers from the HUFF that were sitting in my drawer at home. They were a reminder that I knew how to run in difficult conditions. I could dig deep.

The first mile marker came up quickly and for good reason. I hit it at 7:35. To the best of my knowledge, that is the fastest mile I have ever ran - besting a mile repeat clocked at 7:37 in 2010.

I was starting to realize at this point that I couldn't hold on like I wanted to and made an effort to find a sustainable pace. Or a pace that didn't make me want to cut Mark. My husband, bless his heart, was doing his best to keep me engaged and check in on me. I wanted him to shut up and stop pointing at people juggling plungers along the course. I also wanted to lie down in my in-laws front yard, which we passed. I did not. I kept running.

Mile 2: 7:54.

"We're half way there, babe," Mark said as we passed the mile 2 marker. Some people might have felt relief, I did not. I was acutely aware that it was going to hurt like hell to do that for 2 more miles. And so I didn't. I walked through a water stop and pulled back under the guise that I would kick it with one mile to go. Thankfully, this difficult stretch was made easier by going through my favorite part of the course, a neighborhood that goes all out for the race. The association draws chalk murals on the street, and residents line and cheer, blare music and offer support. It's awesome, and that quarter-mile makes the race. Every. Single. Year.

Mile 3: 8:29.

As we rounded toward the end, I knew that I wouldn't be satisfied giving in to the fatigue. I needed to fight. I needed to meet my goal of leaving it on the course. I pushed. I cursed. I spit on myself. I ran.

Mile 4: 7:56.

Coming into Parkview Field and finishing on the baseball field is one of the most amazing things you could experience. As I headed for home - literally - I knew I was close to my goal. I tried to lock down the hammer. I couldn't. But a final push came from another runner who repeated "You can be tired when your done."


The last little bit (according to the MOTOACTV) was 38 seconds, which need to fit in there somewhere though I'm not sure where. We'll say mile 3.

I finished in 32:31, seventh in my age group, 106 overall and 31 seconds over my goal. While I was initially disappointed (when are we ever good enough?), I am proud.

I looked rather badass in my black camo shorts from Target, a last minute $6 score. I went fast. I shaved more than 6 minutes off last year's time. And, most importantly, I didn't give up.