Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Warning--This Post is About My Uterus

Dear Uterus--

I find your lack of regularity disturbing.

Last month you decided to surprise me by having Aunt Flo show up early.  4 days early.  This month, we're right at 28 days, and she is nowhere to be found.  How do you actually make these decisions?  24 days, 27 days, 31 days.  I know that you're not susceptible to the usual external influences, boldly setting your own schedule even in the face of synthetic hormonal pressure.

I expect that perhaps you're cranky at me for not providing you an embryo to nurture.  Let's face it, Uterus, that while I trust you to do the right thing with an embryo, you really should trust me with the aftermath.  Do you realize that mammals occasionally eat their own young?  Do you want to take that risk with something of your own creation?  Do you?  Let me remind you that I have killed before.*

Is it not enough that I put up with your periodic tantrums?  Soothing them as best I can with hydration, exercise, favorite foods, occasional analgesics, and additional rest when I can attempt to achieve such a thing.  I certainly won't demand anything in return for my care and attention, but you're disappointing and confusing me here, so I would greatly appreciate some logical consideration from your end.


*Technically insects, mostly mosquitoes, but also one or two trout.

Friday, October 24, 2014


Please, please people: can we stop with the negative food talk already?

Here are the two egregious incidents, which took place during lunch yesterday.  I was in an all-day training session, and they brought us boxed lunches.  The box lunch includes: sandwich (selection of various meats or vegetarian), bag of chips, piece of fruit, and cookie.

First exchange, as I was deciding on which type of sandwich I wanted:
  Woman: "Ooh, bacon and avocado.  But I'd better be good, and stick with the turkey."
  Me: "Well, I think that you should choose whichever one would be most satisfying."
  (She stuck with the turkey, probably a bit mystified that one could make food choices not based on food policing.)

Second comment, as I was walking away with my lunch:
  Woman: "Carbs, carbs, carbs."
  Me: (In my brain.)  "Yes.  Carbs.  It's what cells crave."

At that point, I proceeded outside to enjoy my lunch in the sunshine, while looking out over the pond, which was complete with ducks, geese, seagulls, and a grebe.  I'd gone for the turkey sandwich, because I looked at it and thought, "Turkery and cranberry, that looks really good."  It was really good, with sunflower seeds adding a nutty crunch along with the turkey, cranberry sauce, lettuce and tomato.  I ended up not eating 1/2 of one slice of bread, 'cause there was just too much bread.  While I sat, a co-worker strolled by with his lunch, and I was able to unload my chips, which I really didn't want.  Then I decided that I would hold onto the apple until another day, but I did want to eat my cookie, along with a cup of coffee.

Lunch: delicious.  Feeling of satisfaction: high.  Food police: zero.  While it's rough being so familiar and aware of negative food talk, because it is indeed everywhere, it also makes me happy that I don't feel any need to engage in it myself, and I can express my contrary opinion when it seems suitable, in the hopes that perhaps, someday, other people will learn that it's just food, not a means for damning yourself.

On the weight-lifting front, we've started a new phase.  Phase 4 has moved away from the high-volume days of Phase 3, and instead is incorporating some variety in the lifting styles.  We have an exercise for power (less weight and more speed during the motion), one for strength (the typical heavy weight, for 5 sets of 5 reps), one for strength endurance (less weight, but 3 sets of 20 reps, and having to deal with definite muscle fatigue), and two on a circuit (to round things out, as far as I can tell.)  There's also some cardio intervals on the non-lifting days, though I need to figure out the best way to do them.

I'm dealing with some low back pain right now.  Nothing severe, just enough to make squats problematic.  I've got a massage scheduled for Monday, and I'm planning to book a session with my chiropractor on Thursday or so.  The neck is sore, too.  Maybe I can convince someone to give me a backrub this weekend.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014


It's funny the way that little things can trigger old memories and feelings.  Seeing a picture posted by a FB friend nearly made me start bawling (combination of sad memory and hormones).  Oh, the feels, good and bad.

Here's the story: five years ago, I was with my family in Utah, getting ready for my sister's wedding.  It was a lot of typical pre-wedding fun and craziness: getting pedicures all together, planning and buying supplies for a post-wedding brunch at my parents' house, rehearsal dinner and meeting the in-laws.  So much fun, so much family togetherness.  Gotta love it.

In the midst of this, I received a text message from my good friend and roommate, C.  A good friend of hers, and friendly acquaintance of mine, was coming off of life support after a prolonged stay in the hospital following complications from H1N1 influenza.  "Yay!" I thought, "Kitty's finally doing well enough to come off life support!"


It took me a while, reading what people were posting on FB, to discover that it was quite the opposite.  She was not coming off of life support, she was being taken off of life support because it was time to let go.  There was not much I could do to process it at the time, a death intruding into a bright and happy whirlwind of life and love and weddings.

I give a lot of credit to Kitty's friends and loved ones who were so much more deeply affected.  They have been remembering her at the start of October every year since.  It's the only way that anyone can achieve immortality in this world.

Monday, September 29, 2014

All Part of a Balanced Lunch!

I bring a home-made lunch practically every single day.  Even on those occasions where I'm going to be in a work meeting during the twelve o'clock hour and lunch will be provide for me, I still bring my own food from home just in case the catered lunch is something I wouldn't care to eat, such as pizza or anything with insufficient vegetables.

Today I have items from total ends of the spectrum.  Cauliflower soup, from a "paleo" recipe cookbook.  Creamed kohlrabi and dried apricot cake from my 1940s cookbook. Plus cocky-leeky-ricey soup, of my own creation.  This is, to me, balanced because it contains a good source of protein, some whole-grain carbohydrates, and about 2 1/2 servings of vegetables.  And I'm counting on it holding me through my workout this afternoon.

There's merit to be had in my 1940s cookbook of the standard American diet, even though I don't eat exclusively from the menus presented.  There's also merit from the "paleo" cookbook, even though I'm not a "paleo" advocate.  You can take the good from a variety of options and make it your own.

Last night I was watching "The Supersizers Go...Regency", and the episode made me a bit cranky.  First up, when Giles goes to the doctor to discuss his diet for the upcoming week.  The doctor has looked at the list of foods/meals and comments that Giles is going to consume ~5000 calories a day.  How did he even come to that conclusion?  Even if there is a list of all the dishes prepared for a single family meal, I think it's impossible that there are not leftovers.  Looking ahead from the Regency into the Victorian era, the dictates of fashionable society resulted in a ludicrous number of dishes being served at a dinner party in order to cover the table in the correct manner.  These would not be entirely consumed by a single group of diners, and there would typically be one or more additional dinner parties, with other guests, in the subsequent evenings in order to eat up the leftovers.  Also, cookbooks of the day include many recipes of made-over dishes, designed to use up extra roast meat, potatoes, etc.  Though I like "The Supersizers Go..." for their attempt at immersion into another time period, they quite often fail at real historical accuracy.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mountains or Molehills?

I've discovered that I have a problem when people think something is going to be much more difficult and time-consuming than I think it is.

Case in point: as a corrective action for a problem I investigated at work, a team is required to identify all instances where the problem occurred and correct them.  I led a meeting this morning to make sure they had a plan in place for this corrective action.  (I'm not actually required to do anything for the corrective action, I just wanted to make sure they knew exactly what needed to be done, and could start on it instead of flubbing things at the last moment.)  The meeting ended with them talking about how much work it was going to be, how they might not have time; it just seemed insurmountable to them.

Seriously?  It took a lot of tact and professionalism to point out that I could do it myself, start to finish, in 2-3 working days.  It's not like the information will be difficult to dig up.  It's not like there's any risk of scope creep.  Just three batches of material, a few rounds of testing for each, do it methodically and logically and it'll be done with no problems.  They've got an entire month to sort it out.

Not that I need to translate everything over into the realm of fitness, but apparently it's in my brain.  Perhaps this is why people back out when they're given a task which seems to be too challenging, such as running a 5K or, heck, even starting to exercise in the first place.  They see the big difference between where they are and where they think they should be and the gulf seems wide, too wide.

But every challenging task can be broken up into small, obtainable milestones.  Once I am comfortable with squatting 75 pounds, I increase it to 80.  Probably won't get the same number of reps, but that will come in a week or two.  Even though my goal may be a squat weight of 100 pounds, I don't see the 25 pound difference between 75 and 100.  I see five 5 pound differences, and know that it will take two or three months to get there.

So, I will continue to shake my head at my coworkers and hope that, once it takes hardly any time at all, they freak out less the next time this comes up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Still Working on my Relationship

Go ahead and answer the following sentence.  Having a healthy relationship with food means...

For me, as evidenced by the past few days, having a healthy relationship with food means that I can ignore an array of donuts two mornings in a row because they don't have the kind I want.  Actually, this morning there was a glazed old-fashioned, but it simply didn't look as delicious as I wanted it to be.  Plus, I was already full from breakfast (lentil-rice goat soup, a hard-boiled egg, and some strawberries.)

Having a healthy relationship with food also means that I can have two slices of home-baked apple pie in the same day.  Mmmm...pie.  The traces of autumn I could detect in the air made me long to snuggle down in my house and do some wonderful fall activities.  So, inspired by a FB post, I invited a (thoroughly attractive) male friend to come over and bake the first pie of the season with me.

Having a healthy relationship with food thirdly means that I desire foods for what they are, not because they are "clean" or "healthy" or "forbidden".  At dinner yesterday evening I had the sweetest, most delicious red bell pepper I have ever tasted.  There are three more in my fridge from the same source, which I now plan to savor raw because cooking with them would just ruin the sweet, peppy crispness.  I also keep making the same coleslaw recipe over and over again because it's just so darned good!  (And so easy!  And it helps me use up the stockpile of cabbage I keep receiving from Fifth Crow Farm.)  Plus, I can cook the recipes I like out of a "paleo" cookbook and eat them alongside distinctively non-"paleo" things, and think nothing of it.  It is just food.

In muscle news, we've started Phase 3 of the body recomposition project.  I never expected to spend 50 solid minutes lifting weights, but that's what I did yesterday after work, and for only the upper body.  It was something like four different exercises for the upper back, three for shoulders, three for chest, and then one each for biceps and triceps.  There was some serious fatigue going on.  It'll be interesting to see what kind of delayed-onset soreness kicks in as today wears on.  Tomorrow's symphony rehearsal could get really interesting.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Numbers Are In!

This morning contained a voluntary health screening put on by my company.  They'll knock off something like $20 per month from my health insurance premium if I either attend the sponsored health screening or visit my doctor for the same basic tests and upload the data.  It provides a forum for intervention if the numbers aren't in the desirable range.  Sometimes I wonder whether the numbers are used for some fiendish planning, but I go for the superficial here: it's free and quick and saves me money.  So they're welcome to prick my finger for a little blood and compare my results to the recommended health limits.

Of course, it certainly makes me feel good that my results continue to be awesome!  I have the results for the past three years here, so I can see how things compare:

10/11/12 10/10/13 9/16/14 Recommended
Total Cholesterol 140 160 158 <200 td="">
HDL 70 60 69 >60
LDL 61 81 80 <130 td="">
Total/HDL 2.0 2.5 2.3 <3 .1="" td="">
Triglycerides 45 75 45 <100 td="">
Fasting Glucose 81 83 86 70-99
Weight 148 146 148 Whatevs

Also, my blood pressure was great this morning.  One thing that makes me happy is the way that my weight has been so stable for the past few years, and, indeed, the years before that.

What's my secret?  Well, it's not a secret.  It is a sound genetic constitution plus a lifestyle that actually follows all the recommendations that the health professionals hand out.  I exercise 5-6 days per week.  I eat more than five servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and minimize my consumption of processed food.  I sleep for about eight hours per night, going to bed typically before 10 pm.  I engage in a variety of hobbies that make me happy and keep me engaged with the world around me.  I'm still working on flossing every day, but I do have a dentist appointment next week.  :)

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pick up heavy thing...check.

This morning was my first day in the weight room after a week-long vacation.  Everything was heavy; it was not easy.  (Of course, it's never "easy".)  I'm in week four of the second block of my training program, which is a de-load week.  I was supposed to de-load on reps, rather than weight, but for this morning I chose to de-load on weight as a necessity.  Kicked everything down about 2.5 - 5 pounds.  I'll see what happens tomorrow.

Honestly, I've been having problems with food while on this program.  We're supposed to keep track of protein, fat, and total calories, and periodically eat at a calorie deficit to support any fat-loss goals, but all of that took me much farther away from Intuitive Eating than I'd like to be.  I'm trying to figure out a good way to keep track of things without letting the numbers drive my eating.  I already have the patterns built in to ensure that I'm getting plenty of protein.  My plan is to try logging foods in all at the end of the day, so I only see the numbers after I've finished eating.  That way I can focus on intuition but still track some numbers.

On the cooking front, while doing a little antique shopping for the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, I picked up a cookbook published in 1940.  (Lemme try to remember to take a picture of it.)  I haven't cooked anything yet, but some recipes have caught my eye.  What's particularly amusing is that the section on game includes such delicacies as squirrel and opossum.  Also, the vegetable chapter contains kohlrabi, an excellent vegetable that has fallen out of popularity in our modern times.

If you see kohlrabi at the farmer's market or grocery store, give it a try!  I like to eat it raw.  Just cut off the outer peel (the root end is particularly fibrous, so you might have to pare away more at that end), slice into chunks, and eat.  If you like raw broccoli, you'll enjoy kohlrabi.

Monday, September 1, 2014

1950s Experiment

While we were waiting in numerous lines at California's Great America amusement park on Saturday, my friend mentioned that he should send me a link to a "1950s Housewife Experiment".  Since he has a limited capacity for remembering tiny details, especially after 96 ounces of beer and an exciting iPhone versus Gravity adventure (iPhone 1, Gravity 0.2), I decided to look it up myself.

"1950s Housewife Experiment" made for a quick and easy search on Google, and I read about both of Jen's adventures in semi-immersive 1950s housewife living.  You can chose to read it all yourself here.

What vexed me just a little bit were her descriptions of 1950s cooking.  Not the molded salad abominations--we all know those are scary--but what she perceived as the unhealthiness of it all.  Describing a simple white sauce as heart attack-inducing, coming up with an uncited recipe which uses 1/2 cup each brown sugar and butter to sauce cooked carrots for two people, serving bacon practically every single morning, claiming that dessert is served after every dinner and canned vegetables are used in every recipe.

Attached as I am to my own copy of "Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book"--a facsimile edition of the 1950 original--I could not tolerate having the good name of c. 1950 meals besmirched in this fashion.  If you take a look at the nutrition guidelines presented in the Meal Planning chapter, there's some very reasonable suggestions:

"Be sure that these Basic Seven Foods appear on your table daily to fill in the circle of Good Nutrition:

Group 1: Green and Yellow Vegetables...some raw--some cooked, frozen, or canned; one serving a day
Group 2: Oranges, Tomatoes, Grapefruit...or raw cabbage or salad greens; one serving a day
Group 3: Potatoes and Other Vegetable and Fruits...raw, dried, cooked, frozen, or canned; two or more servings a day
Group 4: Milk and Milk Products...fluid, evaporated, dried milk, or cheese; 1 pt. a day
Group 5: Meat, Poultry, Fish or Eggs...or dried beans, peas, nuts, peanut butter; 1 serving each day
Group 6: Bread, Flour, and Cereals...natural whole-grain or enriched or restored; three or more servings a day
Group 7: Butter and Fortified Margarine...(with added Vitamin A)"

So, let me get this straight: Betty is advocating 4 or more servings a day of fruit and veg, protein sources, whole-grain cereals, and consumption of Vitamin A.  This is unhealthy how?  Since it was published in 1950, it's based on cooking habits coming out of the 1940s, where there was much less dependance on pre-made ingredients, like canned mushrooms and cake mix, and a lot more basic recipes using easily-available, real-food ingredients.

Oh, there's also some basic meal planning for "adequate meals" and "abundant meals".  (I'll put the "abundant meals" add-ons in brackets.)

Breakfast: Fruit, Cereal and Milk, Bread and Butter, [Egg or Meat]
Lunch: Main Dish, Vegetables, Bread and Butter, Fruit, [Cake or Cookies or Pudding]
Dinner: [Appetizer or Soup], Meat and Potatoes, Green or Yellow Vegetables, Salad, Bread and Butter, Fruit, [Pie or Cake]

So, "abundant meals" means a couple hundred more calories in the shape of carbohydrates.

In addition, if you look at Betty's serving sizes, they are very modest compared to what we're accustomed to eating today.  Recipes involving 1 lb of ground meat (filled out with eggs and milk) stretch to serve 6.  Ham and egg pie uses 1/2 lb ham and six eggs, and once again serves 6.  She offers three ways of making a basic white sauce: thin, medium, and thick.  The thin sauce uses 1 T butter, and can be used to make creamed vegetables to serve 4.  That's less than 1 teaspoon of butter per person.  Cookie recipes make 4-6 dozen cookies--and you might get two cookies from the cookie jar if Mom is feeling generous; otherwise that's one 2 1/2 inch oatmeal cookie that you're eating per day.

In fact, I feel so good about these recipes that I'm going to start cooking more of them.  I've started already.  Last night I made creamed vegetables using a medium white sauce and steamed potatoes and green beans.  Tonight I whipped up "New Netherlands Cole Slaw" to pack in my lunch tomorrow.  I've got my eye on the "Green Rice" supper dish, replacing the spinach with some baby kale I received in my CSA box last week.

How about you?  Do you have any favorite recipes from early cookbooks?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Angel Island 12K & 25K Recap

Long time, no writing, I know.  I'm stealing just a few minutes to talk about last Saturday's race.

It was awesome!  I had a great run: challenging, rewarding, and fun.  The weather was perfect--nice and cool, overcast but still light, a great breeze on occasion.  The trail was awkward in spots, where I figured it was going to be awkward, being a very narrow dirt trail on a hillside with high poky plants on either side.  I did have to walk on some of the uphills around mile 4-4.5.  It was steep enough and my legs were tired enough that I just didn't want to push myself to the point of foolishness.  I would walk for 10 paces, then run for 10 paces and decide if I needed to walk again.  Deciding that it would be more fun while dressed as a superhero, I put on my Hawkgirl-inspired costume from the superhero trampoline adventure back in January.  Yellow leotard, green tights, red briefs and tall socks, plus black sleeves because I knew it would start off cold.  No one recognized me as Hawkgirl--several people called me Robin.

This is Hawkgirl.
This is Robin.

My official time was 1:15.36.  I was aiming to come in under 1:20, so hooray!  I also thought this was a pretty good time for running 7 miles.  Then I realized that 12K is nearly 7.5 miles, so double hooray!  Also, it was nice to see that I was fourth in my age group (females 35-39) out of 26 runners.

Maybe I should put the 25K run on my calendar for next year.  I'm definitely scoping out a half marathon to do next spring, if I can find a reasonably flat one.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Stuck in the Middle

Within the past week, I have been on opposite sides of the FA/HAES world.  I was able to interact personally in one incident, and decided to remain outside of the second.  It was an interesting firsthand experience with 1) thin privilege and 2) exercise hatred.

First was the positive experience.  While hiking with my college chums last weekend, while they were talking about their favorite forms of activism, I spoke up about the activism that I'm interested in, which is combating sizeism.  The first comment of one friend was along the lines of, "Well, fat people are okay as long as they're not unhealthily obese, and they should all work to lose weight."  After a few teaching moments on my part, on the issues of size acceptance and HAES, and because this friend has the capacity for rational thought, she realized that her initial statement was a knee-jerk reaction based on her life experiences, so she took it back and was understanding of why I feel the need for activism on this subject.

Second was a more negative experience.  On an online FA forum, a woman wrote in about a friend/cousin/someone, a dancer and frequent exerciser, who had fallen and done some damage to her low back, including a broken L5 vertebra.  Her doctor had said something along the lines of, "Good thing you've been exercising, because the damage could have been worse."  The responses within the forum were 99% in the vein of, "My fat gives me extra padding from falls.  Maybe if she hadn't been breaking down her body with so much exercise, she wouldn't have been hurt so badly."  Needless to say, as someone who both loves to exercise and has suffered from back problems over half her lifetime, this response upset me.  I know for a fact that I have recovered from minor back injuries faster and have had fewer problems and less pain because I have strengthened my back.  But I'm afraid to write in and have my opinion discounted because of my thin privilege.

It's just interesting to see the herd mentality on both sides.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Water, How I Love Thee

One aspect of the High Performance Body Recomposition project which I am doing, is that all 16 or so of us participants, along with the two online coaches, are together in a secret group on Facebook.  This does provide a useful means for the coaches to share files regarding our workouts and diets, and for everyone to have an opportunity to learn from one individual's question.  The disadvantage, as far as I'm concerned, is that there are a few highly vocal individuals who like to step in and make my question about them, or who are trying to be at the head of this imaginary class by somehow finishing the second workout of week two before week one is over.  (Seriously, are you lifting weights every day?  Did you not read the bit where the two plans are classified as "three workouts per week" or "four workouts per week"?)

As I mentioned, one of our tasks for month one is to establish our maintenance level of eating: the number of calories that will sustain us at our current weight, performing the workouts as delineated.  A couple women (there is only one man in the group) were thinking that they'd need to add in some calories because in the first week they'd lost...drum roll...one pound.


Do you know that two cups of water weigh one pound?  So if I chug a pint of beer after a run (The Judge has declared that beer is the perfect post-workout recovery drink), I will increase my weight by a pound.  Or if I don't drink very much in the evening and sleep in a warm room for eight hours, sweating and respiring all that time, I can wake up a pound lighter than when I started.  Or, frankly, if I have an epic trip to the loo.  One pound of difference, in the short term, does not signify weight loss to me.

Or perhaps my thinking is just flawed.  When I stepped on the scale at the gym this morning, it indicated that my mass versus the earth's gravitational pull was producing a weight of 147.0 pounds.  This is after consistently weighing in at 150.0 pounds for all of last week.  Did I think to myself, "Hey--I've lost three pounds.  Better up my calories a bit."  Nope.  I thought, "Hey--I've lost three pounds.  I must be a little dehydrated."  Warm night, peed a lot yesterday, sweated during my morning treadmill workout => dehydrated.

However, if my weight stays at 147.0 every time I weigh myself for the next couple of weeks, then I'll believe that it represents actual weight lost, and I'll need to add some calories.

In other news, you may think that water is the best liquid for hydration...and you'd be right.  Yet another study, published by the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, has demonstrated that "neither coconut water nor sports drinks were better than water in hydrating young men after hourlong workouts."  I learned this over at Marion Nestle's site Food Politics.  Her write-up is here, and the original paper is available (free access!) here.

This morning, I spent some time hydrating myself with my favorite water of choice, tea.  :)

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reminder: Food Does Not Have Moral Value!

First, let me up and apologize for all those times in the past when I was locked into my own personal low-grade eating disorder.  I was wrong.

While out at lunch with coworkers last Friday, there were two incidents of, well, food shaming.

First up, one fellow commented on the fact that he ate a bowl of ice cream for dinner last night.  My response: "Well, if that's what you wanted to eat and it satisfied you, then no worries."  His reply was that he only ate ice cream because there was no other food in the house, and he couldn't be bothered to go shopping or out to a restaurant.  Well, at least he was honest.  :)

Second, a woman was deciding on her lunch, and was talking about "being bad" by ordering the salad + quesadilla combo.  Another woman, seated across from her, agreed heartily.  I didn't butt in with a response at the time, but it would have been along the lines of what I said above.

You are not a bad person for eating food.  Food is not inherently good or bad, or absolutely healthy or unhealthy.  Even the unhealthiest foods I can think of still provide calories, and our bodies run on calories.  I don't beat myself up anymore if I eat something containing white flour or processed cane sugar.  A bagel simply is.  A doughnut simply is.  A strawberry would be a poor choice for someone who is allergic to them, while a cheesy breakfast burrito would be a fine choice for someone who likes having a hearty breakfast.  No single meal, or single day of eating, will undo an overall balanced diet.

Friday, July 25, 2014


Things have been very busy and non-routine lately, thus the large gap in posting.  Hopefully things will get back to normal soon, maybe even today.

Spent four days with my family back in Utah.  We visited Idaho on a whirlwind trip (drive up on Saturday morning, drive back Sunday afternoon; fortunately only ~5 hours each way) and saw lots of relatives.  And lots and lots of relatives' children.  There are only a three adults in my generation who have not spawned, and given the nature of LDS families (7 of my cousins are Mormon), that makes for a lot of wee ones running around underfoot.  Of course, I like kids when they want to run around and play, so I was frequently escorting anklebiters down to the creek or joining them in a jump on the trampoline.

After the Saturday of family togetherness was finished, I took the opportunity to do a long run, to keep up with my training even while away from home.  It was about 5.5 miles from my aunt and uncle's house to the motel where I was staying, on a mostly downhill road with very minimal traffic.  Thank goodness it was mostly downhill, because there is a big difference between running at sea level and running at over 5,000 feet.  Normally the first mile is the hardest; this time, the first two miles had me huffing and puffing for air before I hit my stride.  Of course, if I could have stayed there and trained for the next three weeks, I would be in great shape for the race!

In other news, the "High Performance Body Recomposition" program that I joined officially started on the 20th.  (Technically, I started executing it on the 22nd.)  The first month is all about getting introduced to the level of weight lifting we'll be doing, and establishing a baseline of nutrition that maintains our weight.  In terms of the nutrition, to keep track of everything I have been recording my diet over at fitday.com.  I'm doing my best to have a relaxed attitude towards what I eat, and not let the total calorie count (aiming for 2100-2200, a maintenance level determined by two different formulas for my 5' 7", 150 pounds) or my macro goals (~20% of calories from protein, 25% from fat) overcome my intuitive eating.

Since no single day of "unhealthy" eating can overcome a majority of healthy days, I figure that I'll also calculate a weekly average and focus on that, rather than any single day.  I know that on Wednesday, my fat consumption was up around 35-40%, whereas yesterday it was more like 20%.  Wednesday involved a company-provided lunch, including potato chips and a chocolate chip cookie.  If I'd completely forbidden the chips, I probably would have eaten my own bag and grabbed one of the extras, feeling guilty about it the whole time.  Instead, knowing that I could have potato chips if I wanted them, I chose the flavor that was most appealing (hot jalapeno!), and then I ate a few alongside my sandwich until I was no longer hungry, saving the rest of the bag to be eaten when I was hungry again later.  This was a great psychological victory for me!  Every time I can approach a highly-palatable food and eat it in an intuitive fashion, I smile.

In the weight room, I'm back into squats and deadlifts, plus a few new exercises I'd never heard of before.  I'm doing my best to follow the program, but realizing at the same time that my short-term goal is keeping up with the running training needed to succeed in my 12K coming up in...21 days.  When one's quads are aching from a morning of squats, it's awfully hard to run.  Plus, it's awfully hard to recover from heavy lifting by running.  So I'm working on maintaining some level of balance.  Tomorrow will be a rest day (hooray!) with just some pleasant walking planned, plus housework.  Sunday I'll do a trail run, and then Monday I'll be in the weight room again.

I'll close with this shot taken by my Dad, of me explaining to a 3-year-old cousin that the flower is, sadly, too short to wear in my hair.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Inconvenient Truth

I could blather on for several paragraphs to lay the scene for the cold, hard truth, but instead I'm going to flat out say it: really building muscle, increasing stamina, changing your body composition from fat to lean is hard work.  You can't do it with light weights, going for an easy 30 minute walk every evening, or pedaling on the recumbent bike while reading the latest issue of Elle or Men's Fitness.  You have to challenge your body, really challenge it, dealing with discomfort and frustration, push yourself to the limit more often than not.

Fighters from Giganti's Scola overa Teatro from thearma.org

Back in the days when I did a lot of historical European martial arts, my friends and I would joke that the style of Nicoletto Giganti was lazy man's fencing.  The postures were very efficient, utilizing body mechanics to defeat one's opponent in the smoothest way possible.

The human body likes this; like many natural phenomena, it will seek the lowest energy state.  Not engaging in a lot of physical activity?  Slow down the metabolism.  Not using those muscles?  Recycle them for their proteins.  Ingesting extra fuel?  Burn some of it, then store the rest as fat for later.  Unlike other mammals who can rest for months during periods of hibernation without significant muscle loss, humans must use it or lose it.  Even a few days in zero gravity will leave one weaker.

So, especially for a woman in her mid-30's who has never been particularly athletic or even believed that she could be athletic, it's an uphill battle all the way.  I won't lie: right now I'm battling some pain.  Active trigger points in my trapezius, overworked hamstrings, and pectorals and triceps that will be really sore tomorrow.  It was all I could do to reach 6 reps in my third and last set of push-ups.

Why?  Why am I battling myself just to do 6 push-ups?

Because, a couple months ago, I could only only do 3.

It's hard to see the gains when they come so slowly, but they're still there.  I am stronger than I was.  I can lift more, run farther, climb higher.  While it is a work in progress, and hard work at that, I can see the progress, slowly but surely.

Last week, I decided to sign up for 6 months of online coaching.  It was at a reduced price, to be a beta tester for a trainer's new body recomposition program.  The program officially starts on Sunday, July 20th; I have yet to see any of the details.  I had to take photos of myself: front, side, and back, and send them in.  That was psychologically very difficult, as much as I love myself and my body, I have no delusions of my photogenicity, especially under fluorescent lighting in the gym mirror on a cell phone camera.  :)  I am excited and optimistic, keeping my goals realistic, and believing that I can really be fitter than I ever thought I could be.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Angel Island Pre-run Hike

Yesterday, two friends and I took the ferry over to Angel Island in order to hike the route I will be running in August.

What I really wanted to do was ascertain the intensity of the elevation changes.  The profile looks moderate, but how steep are these inclines, really?

I'm so glad we did this hike, because I really gained a lot of useful information to enable me to have more effective training.  I felt like the inclines are very comparable to the ones I get in my county park.  However, I definitely need to work more on duration.  Running up hills is difficult enough; running up hills for over a mile is serious work.  What I can do is park in a different spot and enter the park on particular trail which will give me around 1.2-1.4 miles entirely uphill.

At least half the trail is very narrow (one person wide) which will make passing etiquette very important.  There are also many portions with dangerous footing--dirt trail breaking away from the hillside, tons of rocks to trip you up--and other running hazards like low-hanging branches and underbrush.  It will require a lot of focus to ensure my feet land in the safest spots and I lift my toes enough on each stride to avoid tripping.

I'm really looking forward to the mostly flat portion from 1.2 to 3 miles.  The fire road is wide, smooth, and open to wonderful vistas all around the bay.  I'll be able to relax and really enjoy the run, pretend like I'm flying even.  Also, overall, the terrain is very conducive to imagining being chased by, say, a Utahraptor, or pretending to be one myself.

(Image from Smithsonian)

Thursday, July 10, 2014


You know that feeling you get after completing a challenging workout?  Feeling like you're Wonder Woman, ready to take down any villain that crosses your path; feeling like you're as fast as The Flash, feeling like you could dead lift Iron Man.  I feel so great after my morning workouts--they always put a positive spin on the rest of my day.

You know that other feeling, after completing a challenging workout that was also the first workout you'd had in several days?  Feeling like every muscle between your waist and knees is cursing your name?  Feeling like you have to use the handicapped stall in the bathroom because you need the assist bars in order to find the least painful ways to maneuver into a sitting position?

Delayed-onset muscle soreness, you are literally a pain in my ass.

(Asses courtesy of Free Pictures.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

I Put It In a Spreadsheet

I ran on a treadmill this morning.  Ideally, I was supposed to run outside, but what I really wanted to do was have an easy workout on the elliptical, so the compromise was running on the treadmill.  Turned out to be great and I really enjoyed myself.  I did a variation on the 3, 2, 1 combination; it's a little too complex to explain easily in words, so I made a spreadsheet:

Walk, 2 minutes, 4.2 - 4.3 mph, then...

Run [mph]
30 sec 20 sec 10 sec
6.0 6.3 6.6
6.1 6.4 6.7
6.2 6.5 6.8
6.3 6.6 6.9
6.4 6.7 7.0
6.5 6.8 7.1

And repeat.  I did 5 blocks, for a total of 40 minutes, then walked for 4 minutes to cool down.  Ran 4 miles in 40:40.  That's a lot of fours.  (I like the number four.)  During the last block of running, I started at the top speed and worked my way down.

You want to see a number that is not a four?  150.  That's how much I weigh, and I'm amused by the fact that it keeps showing up on the scale as exactly 150.0 pounds, whether analog or digital.

No word about when folklorico dance classes will start up again.  My interests are wandering to additional, never-before-attempted forms of physical activity.  Battling for top billing are horseback riding and pole dancing.

Monday, July 7, 2014

A Story About Donuts

As I was walking down the corridor towards my cubicle this morning, I noticed a catering fellow leaving the area with an empty cart.  The group admin has a tendency to feed us treats at random, so I wandered over to see what had been dropped off to welcome us back to work after the holiday weekend.  As the title indicates: donuts.

These are my favorite kind of doughnut, the old-fashioned style, either plain, or iced with chocolate or maple.

These are the only kinds of doughnuts I actually care about.  There are other kinds I will eat, like cake doughnuts covered with rainbow sprinkles, but the old-fashioned varieties are the only ones that really tempt me.

I ate doughnuts a lot when I was a child.  They were a popular weekend treat in my house, and they were a cheap breakfast occasionally during the week.  In other news, I was a fat child.  (My sister also ate donuts, and she was a skinny child.  Every body is different.)  I feel as though if I were to eat doughnuts frequently nowadays, I would backslide into a world of processed junk food, full of sugar, white flour, trans fats, and a lack of anything resembling an essential vitamin or mineral.

However, a great way to make something more tempting is to make it forbidden, thus I am totally allowed to eat a doughnut if I want one.  Or half of one.  I personally feel that they have no nutritional value whatsoever, therefore I would never try to make a meal out of them, but treats are fine.

The doughnuts available this morning looked similar to the ones from...ugh...Krispy Kreme: poofy and covered in too-sweet frosting.  Even though I am receptive to the lure of highly-palatable foods (mmm...fried and sweet), these were not exactly what I wanted, so they were not tempting in the least.  I instead enjoyed my breakfast of buttered toast, hard-boiled eggs, apricots, and tea.  Instead of feeling deprived, it was quite the opposite: feeling that I was eating intuitively.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Taking it to the Streets

This morning I went outside my comfort zone, that is, outside the gym.  Instead of running on the treadmill, as I have been doing for the past many weeks, I felt that I'd better do some "real" running.  For those of you who've never run on a treadmill, or who have only run on one, there is a big difference between having that belt moving beneath you, where all you have to do is lift your feet, and the stationary earth staying stationary beneath you, where you get to do all the work.

There's no way to keep up a perfect, constant pace.  No flat surface to rest one's water bottle.  No pre-set  incline or climate-controlled indoor atmosphere.  And no television screen in front of one's face to provide a distraction.

On the other hand, there is fresh, cool air circulating around the bay, providing a headwind in one direction, and not much of anything in the other.  Various wetland plants brushing up against one's shins and bringing forth a scent to the air.  Assorted stray cats taking their morning promenade.  Bicyclists sharing the trail, on their morning commute.  And the knowledge that it's just you, out for a run on your own two legs.

I did 38 minutes total, an unmeasured distance somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

42 Minutes

Goal for this morning's treadmill workout: 42 minutes of solid running.  (I managed 40 minutes last week.)  And this goal was achieved!

Or, since the World Cup is on:

2 minutes warm-up at 4.0 mph, then started jogging at 6.0 mph, working my way up quickly to do most of the run at 6.3 mph.  As the timer rolled past 44:00, I dropped back down to 4.2 mph to cool down for a bit, after which it was time for some quick stretching.  Overall mileage was ~4.85 miles.

While I was tempted to keep running a bit, as I wasn't completely tired, the fact was that I definitely was tired, so the distance was enough to provide a challenge for me.  As this goes on towards building up longer and longer times ahead of the August deadline, the hardest part may be waking up early enough to reach the gym and run for 50-60 minutes.

Have I recommended Kat Whitfield lately?  She's a personal trainer with an "obvious passion for de-bunking popular fitness and diet myths."  On her website, there are some wonderful analytical and sarcastic diet book reviews, good resources for women in fitness, and her own Free Fitness Industry Guidebook.

My own bullshit detector was set off yesterday.  An interest in the Physical Culture movement that started in the late 19th century had me looking for the works written by an assortment of old-timey muscle men, which led me to one who wrote on isometric exercise.  After determining that my local library system had nothing (total bummer!), I turned to Google and discovered one reasonable-looking website by a trainer in isometric exercise.  However, his statements on how he bulked up in only 7 weeks using isometric muscle contraction, and how anyone can achieve the same results in, as he puts it, "7 seconds a day", really set the BS alarm wailing.  Then he went off on a diatribe about cardio exercise.  (Plus, he wasn't correctly differentiating between "your" and "you're", which I simply can't be having with.)  Can isometric muscle contraction be part of a body-building program?  Certainly.  Is this guy's slick sales pitch worth anything?  Hardly.

Bullshit detection system, activate!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Fast Run = Fast Post

Okay, so it wasn't really that fast.  However, this morning, as I headed into the gym, I made it my goal to run for 40 minutes on the treadmill.  This goal was accomplished: 2.5 minutes warm-up at 4.0 mph, 40 minutes of running at 6.2 to 6.4 mph and at 0.5% incline, then about 3.5 minutes cool-down at 4.0 mph.  Total distance = 4.6 miles.

While 6.3 mph is not terribly fast in and of itself, it is fast compared to my previous general training speed of 6.0 mph.  Plus, the difference between a 9.5-minute mile and a 10-minute mile really adds up when you're going the distance.  And I do like to improve little by little.  A little bit more distance, a little bit more speed.  Enough to keep the challenge there without making it unattainable.

So, high fives all 'round.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Protein On A Budget

Protein is one of the nutrients essential for life.  For example, your body is made of protein.  It's not just in your muscles--protein makes up your organs, your red blood cells, your enzymes, etc.  Studies have shown that humans require approximately 10% of their calories from protein in order to maintain a baseline level of health.  However, if you are working to actively increase muscle mass, you need more: 20 to 30% of calories.

Protein is also helpful because it is known to be very satiating.  Think about potato chips.  You could fairly easily knock back 600 calories of chips without really realizing it, or even feeling very full, right?  I know I could--and have.  On the other hand, think about eating 600 calories of tuna--that's 3 to 4 cans.  You would soon eat your fill.  Your stomach feels satisfied, so overall it's easy to maintain a moderate calorie intake.  Also, protein-rich foods are generally not as processed as carbohydrate-rich ones, unless you're consuming lots of protein powders.

However, think about prime rib.  And lobster.  And sushi.  What do these have in common?  $$$$  Animal-based foods are generally more costly to produce than plant-based ones, so some sources of quality protein can be expensive.

What to do if you're on a budget?

As an exercise, I went shopping at my local Trader Joe's and purchased the foods that I normally consume.  I calculated the overall cost per gram of protein, and sorted everything into a handy table.

Item Cost serving size serv/package g protein/serving g protein/package cost per gram
lentils (dry) 1.69 1/4 C 9 12 108 0.02
peanuts 3.29 1/4 C 16 7 112 0.03
turkey burgers 2.99 4 oz 4 22 88 0.03
peanut butter* 4.99 2 T 14 8 112 0.04
canned beans* 1.19 1/2 C 3.5 7 24.5 0.05
sharp cheddar** 5.49 1 oz 16 7 112 0.05
skipjack tuna 1.49 2 oz 2 14 28 0.05
quick brown rice* 4.49 1/4 C 20 4 80 0.06
chicken thighs* 4.99 4 oz 4 22 88 0.06
cashews 4.99 1/4 C 15 5 75 0.07
ground beef** 5.99 4 oz 4 20 80 0.07
pastrami 4.99 2 oz 4 13 52 0.10
Greens+protein bar 2.29 1 bar 1 15 15 0.15
*Organically produced
**Grass-fed cows

The winners?  Legumes!  The losers?  Processed foods!  Let's take a closer look at these results, eh?

I was actually a little bit surprised to see lentils there at the top, at only 2 cents per gram of protein.  What's awesome about this is the fact that lentils are also a useful source of iron for vegetarians, plus have some great minerals and lots of fiber.  As we know, vegetable sources of protein are incomplete; they don't contain all of the essential amino acids.  However, legumes + grains = complete protein.  If you're avoiding grains for whatever reason, legumes can also be combined with dairy products, as all animal-produced protein is complete.  Lentils have a great shelf life, they're easy to cook because they don't require soaking (though they can take some time to soften if they're particular old.  If your looking to balance your blood sugars, legumes are low on the Glycemic Index, which means that their fabulous carbohydrates are more slowly absorbed into your blood stream.  So they're winners all around!

Next on the legume list, peanuts!  I'm going to lump peanuts in with tree nuts to make a point.  Now, here is one place where I diverge from some folks in the vegetarian/vegan contingent.  They like to say that nuts are a great source of protein.  Nuts are actually a great source of fat, with some protein coming along for the ride.  Nuts and peanuts are part of a healthy diet, but I personally try to limit my daily consumption to 1 or 2 servings, simply because of the fat content.

I'd like to take a moment to say that the frozen turkey burgers are awesome and convenient and tasty.  I can cook one up quickly and throw on top of some lettuce for a burger salad, which makes an easy lunch to pack and bring in to work.  Cheese was also interesting to see in its place on the list.  This particular grass-fed New Zealand sharp cheddar might be more price that some of TJ's other offerings, so other varieties could be even more economical.  From some of my readings about Victorian class consciousness, the upper classes did not eat cheese at their meals simply because it was economical and nourishing--and therefore a food eaten by the lower classes.

Take a look at the way that the cost per gram shoots up from ground beef to pastrami--both cow products, but one is specially processed into a different food.  As my dear friend Scottish Morn noticed, even though she's buying fancy produce at the farmers' market every week, she's overall spending less money on food because she's stopped buying lots of packaged, processed goods.  The protein bar is another stark example of this.  Sure, it's convenient to grab and go, but it's definitely not economical compared to the whole foods.  Of course, there are a lot of cheaper protein bars at TJ's, but they are full of things I refuse to put into my body.

I know this list could be expanded, but it is at least a start.  Try it with the foods you normally buy--you'll hopefully be able to transition your buying habits to maximize both economy and nutrition!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Bell Curves (And Belle Curves! Belle Straights, too!)

Last Saturday, the dance studio where I take my folklorico classes was having a dance recital as part of the general grand opening celebrations.  The show started at 7 pm; our call time was 5 pm.  The two other folklorico ladies and I spent most of the time in studio 3, putting on makeup, walking through the choreography, hydrating, etc.  Meanwhile, all the ballet dancers were doing a dress rehearsal in the stage space.  I ran into a bunch of them in the hallway, and the sight actually threw me for a loop.

They were all so thin.  Their heights varied from tall to short, but all were thin.  I had to comment on this to my folklorico ladies, simply because I don't see ballet dancers very often.  I suppose I should say "slender" rather than "thin", since "thin" can have a negative context.  I did not make any assumptions that they were anorexic, or unhealthy, since some people are naturally very lithe, and those people can be drawn towards ballet since their physique is desirable for the dance form.

I'll call the other two ladies Athena and Demeter.  They're both older than me and both Latina.  Demeter is the eldest, she does a lot of yoga, and is slimmer and finer-boned than I.  Athena is definitely the heaviest--probably about a size 14, 16 or so.  I don't know whether she does any exercise outside of dance class.

Anyway, at class last night, Athena was complaining about being fat, saying that she felt like the fattest dancer in the school, and how she needed to diet and lose weight.  I am simply not someone who will automatically reply, "Oh, you're not fat", because I don't want to flat-out negate her perspective or deny reality.  So, for better or for worse, I replied, "You know, Athena, logic dictates that someone has to be the heaviest person in the group.  You are the shape that you are.  What I think is important is that you're here dancing, 'cause it's fabulous dancing with you."

There are extremes in everything.  No matter where you go, someone is going to be the tallest, the shortest, the thinnest, the fattest, the most loud, the most proficient.  There are small people who are terrible dancers, and large people who are fantastic dancers.  It's not about defining that curves, or lack thereof, are better.  Just be yourself, do what you enjoy, and share that happiness with the world.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Good Outweighs the Bad

For me, a good run will always make up for a bad run.

Sunday was my scheduled long run: 5 1/4 miles.  I reached the park at a time which I considered to be early enough (8:30ish), hiked the mile up to where I start running the loop, and set off jogging.  Since I wasn't feeling at my best, I thought the thing to do would be to go back and forth along a 1/2 mile section of trail that had mild elevation changes.  The first mile is always the hardest, and this was no exception.  Only problem was, the second mile was even harder.  I didn't help that, as often happens on long trail runs miles away from any facilities, I really needed to heed the call of nature.  As I huffed and puffed up the very gentle hills, I started to feel terrible: shaky, slightly sick to my stomach.  I decided the best thing to do would be to run back down the slope to the park entrance, take care of myself, and call it a day.  All told, I did put in about 45 minutes of running, but it wasn't the training that I wanted.

There in the restroom stall, once I noticed how much I was sweating, I put two and two together.  There's been a heat wave on the peninsula lately, I was running in direct sunlight, I hadn't been drinking too much water because I really had to pee, etc.  This combined with the shakiness and nausea meant that I was dealing with mild dehydration and/or heat stroke.  So the best thing for me was exactly what I was doing: drinking the rest of the tepid water from my water bottle as I gently cooled down and stretched in the shade.

This morning, as occasionally happens in the morning, I was negotiating with myself while still in bed.

"Do I have to get up and go to the gym?  I was up twice during the night, so I haven't had the best sleep.  I'll be dancing tonight, so I'll still get some exercise.  It'll be easier to wash my hair here at home."

"Yes, I do need to get up.  Getting out the door will be super-fast.  I'll feel so much better during the day if I go to the gym."

"Waaah!  But I don't have any get-up-and-go!  I'll waste my time at the gym."

"It will be fine.  All I have to do is walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes.  If I want to do more than that, I can."

I think it really helps to have the mentality of showing up and doing something, even if it is less than you really want to do.  Every bit of movement is beneficial.  Plus, exercise does make me feel a lot better.  I know that I can take it easy and do a simple workout on the treadmill, or elliptical, or bicycle, so getting in to the gym is not intimidating.  As it turned out, I walked for 3 minutes on the treadmill, then ran 3 miles at a 6.2/6.3 mph pace.  Finished up with some stretching and foam rolling.  Now I feel great, and I'm happy that I was able to do a good run.

[Trigger warning: Calories and calorie restriction.]

I'm on a mailing list for trainer Sean Flanagan, who linked to this article by Mike Howard: Calorie Denialism.  Overall, I like it, specifically for the following two quotes: "To be clear, eating wholesome, minimally processed, nutrient-dense foods is the best way to ensure good health....[But] You CAN still gain weight eating unprocessed foods."  Yep--dried fruit and nuts are very calorie-dense, and I find it very easy to eat those in substantial quantities.  "I will ask you to ponder the irony of those calling calorie counting obsessive while they meticulously avoid anything that didn’t exist more than 10,000 years ago or voraciously scan ingredients lists to make sure there are less than 3g of carbs per serving or ensuring they are devoid of gluten."  As if folks who are not trained anthropologists even know what foods were actually around prior to 10,000 years ago.

Where the question lies for me, is whether one can successfully combine Intuitive Eating with mild calorie restriction for the purposes of fat loss.  I'll have to think on this more.  One of the pitfalls of calorie counting with calorie restriction, is that one might be so focused on hitting a target calorie count every day.  If that target is 1800, and your intuitive eating has led you to consume only 1600 calories, you might feel the need to tack on another 200, just so you meet your quota for consistency.  Then, two days later, you've eaten your 1800 calories, but you're so, so hungry and would really be satisfied with a piece of toast and peanut butter.  But that 200 calories will be too much.

For me, Intuitive Eating needs to trump.  It's more important to be attuned to my body's needs, and to deal with my mental and emotional attitude towards food, than to attempt to maintain a "500 calorie a day deficit" in the hope that my body will consume itself and lose a pound a week.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

No Thanks, I Already Have A Bikini Body

Why you should NOT read Women's Health magazine: because they throw rubbish like this at you.

Why are they implying that I don't already have a bikini body?  Do they honestly think that a body can be significantly reshaped in 21 days?  Given the high end of possible healthy fat loss, i.e. 2 pounds a week, that's a weight loss of 6 pounds.  However, if you're eating at a calorie deficit, your body isn't going to be inclined to put on muscle--even if Women's Health advocated heavy weight lifting, which they don't.  The concept just makes me so upset, I'm losing the capacity for rational typing.  I'm nearly frothing at the mouth.  (Which reminds me, I could use another latte...)

This!  This is the problem with the weight loss industry.  Encouraging us to believe that there's automatically something wrong with our bodies so that we'll give them money.  Encouraging us to believe that massive changes can happen--should happen--in just a few short weeks.  Then, when the impossible doesn't happen, we're left blaming ourselves instead of the system.

Do you want my 1 day bikini body plan?  Obtain bikini.  Put on body.  Go to the beach and get down with your bad self.

On the other hand, I do tend to like reading Men's Fitness magazine, because it has interesting weight lifting routines.  And shows men lifting more than an 8 pound pink dumbbell.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mittwoch Musings

Wednesday; in German, "mid-week".  I have such a long list of things to do after work: stop by the craft store for yarn and embroidery floss, wash all the dirty dishes in the kitchen, make a braid out of the aforementioned yarn to act as fake hair for Saturday's folklorico performance, futz with "I'll Fly Away" for tomorrow's folk band rehearsal, cook Irish soup to use up leeks, prep a batch of yogurt, and...there must be at least one more thing.  I'm sure I'll find something.  I'll start doing all of these things in my mind during the drive home, so I can figure out the most efficient order for everything.

I could feel my legs reaching a state of total exhaustion during dance class last night.  I felt like crying, but I kept just pushing myself to do as much as I could, as well as I could.  Of course, I let myself rest when I really needed to.  Then I gave myself a rubdown with muscle salve right before bed.

Finding that point of fatigue and balancing upon it is a difficult thing.  I need to challenge my body just enough to encourage it to get better: construct bigger muscles, make more RBCs, utilize nutrients more effectively.  However, I shouldn't challenge it too much, which can cause injury, over-training, and overall discouragement.

There are times in the weight room where lifting to true fatigue happens.  I literally cannot do any more push-ups or pull-ups.  More often, though, I come close to it, where I psych myself out into not being able to complete the last rep.  This causes me to laugh at myself just a bit, and work on my mental game.  Or I realize that I could do more reps, if I give up good form.  I'm not so devoted to huge muscles at this point that I'm willing to trade form for reps.

This morning I focused on arms, with more sets (4), higher reps (8-12), and less weight.  I did one triad set of push-ups (on a bench), rows (cable machine setting of 11), and then 20 jumping jacks.  The next triad set was wide-grip pull-ups (60 lb assist), dumbbell shoulder flies (10 pounds each hand), and more jumping jacks.  I finished up with 8 minutes on the stationary bike and then some chest stretches.  Speaking of form, I discovered that I could make the pull-ups a lot more challenging by widening my grip and focusing on bringing the elbows straight down while maintaining an overall palm-forward arm position.  This really put the emphasis on my latissimus dorsi.

Experienced an interesting moment in front of a mirror yesterday.  I was looking at myself as I washed my hands, and though something along the lines of, "Ugh, my hair is a disaster.  My skin looks terrible.  I'm so ugly."  And then I thought about what I was thinking, realized that it was rubbish, and changed it.  "My hair could use a good brushing, and it'll be better when it's not at this awkward growing-out length.  I take care of my skin as well as I can, and it sucks being 34 and still having to deal with breakouts.  I'm really not ugly, even though I don't fit the media-sponsored model of 'pretty' these days.  What matters more, though, is the fact that I'm totally awesome."

You know how that mental game can prevent you from completing a rep?  It can also prevent you from being happy by spending too much time focusing on comparisons and what you think must be wrong with you.  It's a continual task, improving my mental game while exercising, and improving it while looking at myself in the mirror.  However, it is a task that gets easier with practice.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Gimme a Break Monday

Howdy there, cowpokes!  In order to obscure the innocent (come on, they hang out with me, they don't need protecting), I have decided to name my friends after types of tea.  Also, this post is fairly long.  I have a lot to blather about this morning, apparently.

Saturday morning, Scottish Morn and I participated in the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation "Great Strides" 5K walk in San Francisco.  As was entirely typical for a morning in SF, it was damp and chilly, and my Raynaud's kicked in with a vengeance.  Spirits were high, however, and we began our brisk walk.  I ran a bit to help raise my core temperature, and finally, with the aid of a hot-air hand dryer, returned circulation to my fingers.  At the halfway point, Fort Point, I looked up and beheld the nearness of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Now, I'd never walked across the GG bridge before, simply because getting there is a PITA, what with driving across the entire city, trying to find parking, dealing with the tourists, etc.  There it was, so very, very close.  So Scottish Morn and I decided to be rebels, ditch the 5K for the time being, and find a way up to the bridge.  Despite a number of rerouted trails, we blazed our way up the hill for 1/2 mile to the foggy, traffic-laden bridge.  Walking across was lovely, on the one hand, with amazing views of the bay, surfers, birds, even a frisky sea lion.  On the other hand, it was noisy with all the cars driving by right next to one, so I plan on bringing ear plugs for any further bridge walking adventures.

We blazed our way to the other side (Marin County!), made a quick pit stop, and retraced our steps across the bridge, down the hill, and back to the Great Strides starting point.  They were just finishing packing up everything, but I don't think we missed anything important.  :)  All told, it was 2 hours and 10 minutes of walking, and Scottish Morn mapped the route at around 7 miles.

Then, yesterday morning, as part of my continuing mission to train for that 12K, I went for my long run.  1.3 miles walk over to the park, 1 mile hike up the trail, 5 miles run (twice around the loop, and then an extra back and forth to get an additional mile), 1 mile hike back down the trail, and 1.3 miles walk home.  The 5 miles run (with, as I recall, four instances of briefly slowing to a brisk walk in order to catch my breath on hills) took 54:20, which is all right by me at this point.  I'd certainly like to be faster come race day, and I expect I will be.

Once home, I had about 10 minutes to jump in the shower, gather my things for dance, and then drive up to the studio for a folklorico dress rehearsal.  We ran the routine 6 or 7 times, making some fine adjustments ahead of Saturday's performance.  The costume fits fine, they found a pair of white shoes that fit well enough for the show (they're size 8 1/2, so a little snug), and I need to put together an outrageous hair piece to match the other ladies.  So one night this week I'll have to make a trip to the craft store to find whatever yarn vaguely matches my hair color.

Then I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning my house.  This fellow, PG Tips, with whom I had enjoyed two pleasant dates, was coming over for dinner.  While not a mess, the house needed some general summer cleaning.  I made potato salad, Shakshuka, and a fresh green salad with radishes.  He brought a Sauvignon blanc, and the harvest of his kumquat and blueberry plants: 4 kumquats and 11 berries.  Everything was delicious, and PG Tips was very good company, so I had a lovely evening.

Considering just how sore my legs were, and the fact that I was so tired that I was in bed with the lights out a little after 9 pm last night, I decided that this morning would be a rest day from the gym.  I'll be back in tomorrow morning as usual.

Here's how I made the potato salad:
5 med red or yellow potatoes, boiled
2 oz chevre
1/4 C yogurt
1/4-1/2 C chopped fresh dill (according to your tastes)
salt and pepper

While the potatoes are still hot, cut into bite-sized pieces without burning your fingers, and toss in a bowl with the chevre, to melt the cheese and coat everything.  Mix in the yogurt and dill, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  4-5 side dish servings.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Going the Extra Three Minutes

I could have run an extra mile, but that would've taken more time than I had to spend at the gym this morning.  However, inspired by the efforts of some great friends who have started exercising this year, I decided to challenge myself this morning.  I was still doing the 3, 2, 1 combination, but instead of repeating for five minutes, I would repeat for 8.  So the workout ended up like this:

1-2 mins: Walk 4.2 mph
3-10 mins: Run at 6.3 mph for 30 sec, 6.6 mph for 20 sec, and 6.9 mph for 10 sec
11-12 mins: Walk 4.2 mph
13-20 mins: Run at 6.3 mph for 30 sec, 6.6 mph for 20 sec, and 6.9 mph for 10 sec
21-22 mins: Walk 4.2 mph
23-30 mins: Run at 6.3 mph for 30 sec, 6.6 mph for 20 sec, and 6.9 mph for 10 sec
31-32 mins: Walk 4.2 mph
32-35 mins: Run at 6.3 mph
35-40 mins: Cool-down walk decreasing from 4.2 mph to 3.8 mph

I went into the gym feeling tired, generally unmotivated, and wishing for a long vacation.  I came out of the gym ready to take on all comers!  It's really amazing, the ability that exercise has to lift my spirits and make me feel powerful.

The 30-Day Core Training Challenge for Beginners is ready to go!  In case you want in, there's a group over on Facebook called "June has 30 days, y'all".  There you can find all the info, and a group of people ready to support each other until everyone's able to hold a 60 second plank.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

It's a 30 Day Challenge! (Actually, no.)

I have a very dear friend who is working to improve her health and fitness.  I've been doing my best to walk the fine line between being helpful and being bossy, which is difficult sometimes, because I have to realize:

This is her journey.

Really, my goal is twofold: 1) to make sure that she achieves some gains in fitness (muscular strength, aerobic endurance, etc.) and 2) to help prevent injury.  My course at the Utah College of Massage Therapy gave me some official training in recognizing and coaching for good body mechanics, so I do feel somewhat more informed than the average person on the subject.

Anyway, I saw that my friend had joined a particular Facebook event, a 30-day Ab challenge.  I may have been a little too quick with the trigger finger to denounce this decision, but I just couldn't help myself.  It is fraught with peril from day one.  Actually, day three.

Here's a link to something I found over at skinnyms.com, using what I'd hoped would be a productive Google search for "realistic 30 day core challenge".

Below are 5 tips to help you get those Fab Abs in 30 Days:
1) Drink 2.5 liters of water each day
2) Give up all sodas, fast food and junk food.
3) Eat Clean by eating whole foods and fewer processed foods
4) Toss the refined sugar. Better yet, skip all added sugar and sweeteners for the next 30 days
5) Eat smaller portions, about the size of your palm

Read more at http://skinnyms.com/fabulous-abs-in-30-days-challenge/#kh061ZLsKs0d5MD5.99

Here's my response:
1) 2.5 liters?  Is 2.55 too much?  Is 2.45 not enough?  What if I weight 280 pounds?  What if I weigh 115 pounds?  The necessity of this particular rule has been debunked time and time again.  Drinking lots of water won't do anything for your abs, it'll just make your urine more colorless.  Respect your thirst and hydrate responsibly.
2), 3), and 4) are all about basically the same thing: eating processed, engineered highly-palatable food is difficult to do moderately and maintain a high muscle/low body fat physique.  But what if you don't know how to cook?  Or just aren't used to spending time on cooking?  Or have had so many well-meaning but bossy people telling you what to eat for years?  Or if the idea of "eat clean" triggers you to attempt to survive on nothing but celery sticks and fat-free cottage cheese until your body rebounds from this level of starvation by inciting a pasta and ice cream binge on day 6?  Perhaps, instead, you might consider eating intuitively to give your body sustaining, nourishing food that is also satisfying to you and your personal hunger levels.
5) Eat smaller portions of what, everything?  So I bowl of pudding the size of my palm?  A slab of sashimi the size of my palm?  A block of cheddar the size of my palm?  An apple the size of my palm?  You get the idea.  Of course, if it's only one palm, do I then get to eat every two hours in order to get enough calories to actually sustain my energy needs?  Smaller portions may trick your brain to eat less in the short term, but studies show that calories will be made up throughout the day.

Unfortunately, you just can't transform your body in 30 days.  (Except in the case where I'm being facetious; when people ask how they can lose weight fast, I tell them to deliver a baby or amputate a limb.)  And having visible abs is often a case of genetics.  Or genetics + low body fat.

Kat Whitfield has a much better idea of how realistic a 30 day challenge will be.

So, if my friend wants to complete a 30-day challenge to see how much she can advance during the month of June, I have a fiendish plan to put together something realistic and sensible for her.  Something she'll actually be able to complete, instead of dropping out halfway through because injury is a terrific de-motivator.  It'll be more than just exercises, though.  I'm planning to include lots of whimsy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Mental High Fives

Been away from my computer for the past two days, at a pharmaceutical solid-state basics course.  Interesting, but way too much sitting.  Way too many snacks, too!  I've seen this at various seminars before: there's breakfast and lunch, plus snacks and beverages available during the mid-morning and mid-afternoon break--typically very simple carbohydrates.  It was relatively easy for me to pass them up, since it was outside of my normal eating schedule, but there's still that lizard-brain impetus, "Food is available.  Should eat food, because some time it will be unavailable."

Despite the upheaval in my work routine, I was able to stick to my exercise regimen!  (The course was located conveniently close to the work gym.)  Tuesday was biking in the morning, folklorico in the evening.  Yesterday I did weight lifting.  Mostly it was my own weight because--

I can now do two chin-ups in a row.  From a dead hang.

High five!

This morning I got out of the stuffy, climate-controlled gym out into the free gym.  Briskly walked a mile down to the park, did some intervals, and then briskly walked back.  The intervals consisted of running up a hill, then walking down, and repeating.  Let me rephrase that so you get a more accurate idea: running up a hill as fast as I could get my legs to move, focusing all my mental energy on the task, reaching the point where I'm gasping for air, feeling my heart pounding, feeling like I'm running through cold molasses, feeling like I'm going to throw up, then jogging just a few feet farther to the turnaround point at the top of the hill and wanting to collapse, then walking down, and repeating.  High-intensity intervals--if you're doing them right--are less than fun, but they certainly are effective.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Quickie: Run, Lift, Scale

Very nice run yesterday.  I pushed myself to do 4.5 miles instead of just 4, figuring that the closer I can get to 12K by mid-August, the better.  I had my iPod with me, which I don't usually do, because I wanted a little extra upbeat encouragement.  On the 1/2 mile cool down toward home, "It's Raining Men" came on; I had to bust out some dance moves there in the street--living like the world is my own personal musical.  I also queued up "Fanfare for the Common Man" as my final song, and spent some time bowing and accepting the accolades of the imaginary cheering crowd.

This morning, I was back in the gym, doing some sets.
1) Jumping jacks (40), push-ups (6-7), and doodle-bugs (24).  Three sets.
2) Body-weight rows (10-12), overhead dumbbell press (7, with 40 lbs), farmer's walk (90 lbs).  Three sets.
3) Pull-ups (5, with 35 lb assist), mountain climbers (32).  Two sets.
30 minutes, all told.  Plus 5 minutes of stretching, mostly pecs, triceps, and obliques.

Weight is 149 pounds.  The scale at the gym is one of those older-fashioned beam balance type, where you slide the little markers along the bar.  According to the book Rethinking Thin by Gina Kolata, the bathroom scale was one of three items of technology which has enabled the weight craze as we know it.  Think about a world in which you weren't weighed each time you went to the doctor's office--in order to know your weight, you'd have to go to a factory or a grain operation and step on an industrial scale.

The other two items were affordable full-length mirrors and mass-produced photography.  Of course, we all know where photography has led--photoshop!  Actually even in the early days of photography, there was editing done even to shrink the waists of women already in corsets.  Even though we all acknowledge that the images in magazines are not real, they still impress themselves upon our sense of what we should look like.  However, when you look around at the women (and men) all around you in the real world, it's easy to see that we all come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Rest Day, but Stress Day!

Realizing that I had scheduled significant amounts of exercise for both Saturday and Sunday, yet again, I took today as a much-needed complete rest from deliberate exercise.

Instead, I was the beneficiary of significant amounts of work-related movement throughout the day.  This morning, my boss put forward the innocent question of, "What's your schedule like today?"  I reply that I'm doing this and that, and he says to drop everything and start working on Priority Project 1.  So I scramble to start arranging everything for Priority Project 1 and begin work, going back and forth between two laboratories to coordinate samples and machinery.

Right after lunch, boss's boss messages me to say, drop everything and start working on Priority Project 1A.  So, again, I scramble to start arranging everything for Priority Project 1A, and message boss to indicate that he should start farming out some duties of Priority Project 1 to other analysts.  In the midst of working on 1A, the machine I'd already started up for 1 goes pear-shaped, and I have to double back and get it running again, on a different machine.

By about 4:45, I felt so stressed that I almost wanted to cancel my 5:30 massage.  That's right: I was too stressed to even get a massage.

However, my logical brain prevailed, I wrapped up work around 5 after coordinating things for Monday.  The massage was lovely.  A dinner of liver & onions, broccoli, pinot grigio, and raw vegan cocoa-banana pie is in my belly.  I'm about to pick up a little embroidery for the next hour and go to bed on time.  Hurrah!