Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I'm using lots of Awesome today.

For my workout this morning I lifted some heavy things (including myself)!  It involved push-ups, body-weight rows, military presses, pull-ups, and a little bit of dead lifting.  Plus 22 minutes biking.  I'm able to do at least 6 push-ups in a set; we're talking full-body push-ups, balanced on my toes.  This morning I did 2 sets of 8, with the last two reps pushing up from the knees and moving back down from the toes.  A negative push-up, as it were.  Still good for training and building up muscle!  The body-weight rows are what's been kicking my ass lately; I feel as though I should be able to do a lot more than just 7 or 8 reps.  Once I see some progress in the weeks ahead, I'll feel better about it.

We ran the routine a few times in folklorico last night, and our teacher commented that I was the only one who is performance-ready.  Certainly, I'd like to be able to give the other ladies any help that I can, so we all have a good performance, but at this point they really just need to practice and feel comfortable with the steps and music.  The most challenging thing for me about folklorico is the way the rhythm of the steps fits in to the rhythm of the music--sometimes there is an odd little counterpoint, so you have to dance three against four, or six against four, etc.  In our choreography, I've heard the music often enough to know when the key changes are, so I'm both physically and mentally prepared for them.

I'd like to give props to a couple of fabulous ladies whose blogs I've been reading over the years.  They would be Stumptuous and GoKaleo.  Each has assembled an amazing amount of simple, useful, and science-based information about fitness, weight lifting, nutrition, and health, plus assorted assertive feminist commentary.  It's all very health-centric, as opposed to thin-centric, which is really important in my world.  Go check 'em out to learn something new every day.

It's been a very stressful and busy day at work today.  Everyone is needing just a little bit too much from me.  I've been focused on my essential awesomeness as a way to get through the day, and finding opportunities to smile and laugh wherever I can.  Positive thoughts yield positive results!  However, I am looking forward to the time when I'm able to leave work, stop by the hardware store for some planting supplies, and spend some time this evening puttering in my garden.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Just a Carrot + Peanut Butter

This morning's workout doesn't take up too much space: 40 minutes on the elliptical, pedaling backwards the whole time just for funsies, plus 5 minutes stretching.  Tonight I will get the usual intense 90 minutes of musical stomping at folklorico.  We've got two performances coming up in June, so it's time to really lock down the choreography.

Had a good Intuitive Eating breakthrough last night.  On Saturday, I spent the morning on a long hike/run, then the afternoon helping some friends move.  On Sunday, I was a little eating machine all afternoon long.  Yesterday was my basic four--breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner--and I ate fairly light.  It's the body maintaining balance: eating more on certain days when there's a real need to refuel, and eating less on other days when hunger is lessened.

My favorite bit was when I finished dinner last night--turkey, potatoes, and sauerkraut--and asked myself if I wanted anything more.  I did.  What did I want?  Not something sweet.  Something crunchy, and a little rich.  A carrot and some peanut butter.  That was my dessert; it was perfectly satisfying and I was finished eating.  Intuition won!

I've got a friend who is asking for suggestions on losing weight, so that's something I plan to write more of in the days ahead.  Now, it won't actually suggestions about losing weight, because there's a big difference between "weight" and "health", but more about everything I've learned regarding the complexity of the situation.  It's definitely not just physiological factors, the actions of eating and exercising.  Psychology plays a major role.  Did you know that childhood trauma can have a major effect?  Here's another great article about the Adverse Childhood Events Study.  Also Ragen Chastain has written a lot about the connection between everyday stress, including fat shaming, and weight, so everyone should check out her blog at Dances With Fat.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Catching Up on a Monday

Not one, but two workouts to post!

First up, Saturday was my day for a long run in my local county park.  (Have I mentioned lately how grateful I am to have access to open spaces with trails?  I'm ever so grateful.)  First there was a 1.3 mile walk to the park entrance, then a 0.5 mile hike up the trail to where I started running.  3.1 miles of running along the trails in a nice loop, except for some steep switchbacks where I just couldn't run any longer and had to walk a couple, and then the 1.8 miles back home.  I didn't get exactly the route I had planned, because I discovered that the rangers were doing invasive tree removal and asked hikers to stay away from a particular section of the trail.  The route ended up being dandy, however, with lots of opportunities to challenge myself with hills.  Oh, the hills.

Sunday was a total rest day.  Everyone should have a rest day in their exercise routine.

I figured out that Monday mornings are my best opportunity to really work on legs, so that my muscles have a chance to recover before the next big running training session on Thursday.  The weight room was full of guys, so I decided to just work out on the weight machines, doing a circuit of leg presses and extensions, lat pull-downs, chest presses and flys, rows, weighted crunches, etc.  As I was finishing up the second circuit, suddenly all the guys decided to leave the weight room and come work on the machines, so I was having to work in.  Not what I wanted, so I decided to finish things up in the empty weight room with some squats (60 lbs), back extensions, crunches, etc.  Plus a couple of chin-ups.  (Not two in a row, alas.  Yet.)  Then there was 10 minutes of foam rolling.

Geez, I am feeling the sore already.  Good thing I packed some extra protein for breakfast: two hardboiled eggs *and* a cheese stick, plus a couple of clementines.  Interestingly, everything at breakfast had to be unwrapped.

I'd like to share some fabulous recipes with you.  Not mine, but over at This Rawsome Vegan Life.  Emily has put together a wonderful collection of raw vegan recipes that are easily assembled by any beginner with a food processor.  She has drunk the raw vegan kool-aid, so to speak, but everyone is allowed to live their life as they think best.  I like all foods in moderation, so I will totally nom on a raw vegan dessert after my dinner of liver and onions.  She particularly excels at dessert creation, and I purchased her book last week.

Yesterday I assembled a berry cream cake (one layer of coconut milk and cashews and one layer of raspberry and date goodness) which is proving to be just lovely.  I like being able to adjust the sweetness to my own taste, which runs towards less sweet.  Any dessert consisting primarily of dates, fruits, nuts, and coconut is going to be extremely calorie-dense, but a small portion is very satisfying.  Now, sugar is sugar, whether it's from cane juice or honey or dates or bananas.  Nevertheless, I would prefer to obtain my sugars and fats from natural sources rather than processed ones, in order to get other wholesome nutrients along with the sugar molecules.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I'm Honestly Curious

I have a question that rattles around in my brain a lot, but first, a workout!  This morning I was feeling in the mood to spare my lower body a bit (in light of a long trail run tomorrow morning), so weight lifting focused on upper body.  I decided which exercises to do on the drive to the gym.

Kettlebell swings: 20 @ 15 lbs, 20 @ 20 lbs
Pull-ups, 30 lb assist: 5, 4 reps
Push-ups: 7, 6 reps
Upright cable row, set to 12: 11, 12 reps
Weighted ball crunch, 5 lbs: 17, 17 reps
Farmer's walk: 70 lbs x 2 reps
Alternating military press, 40 lbs: 10 reps (each side) x 2
T & Ws (basically a rotator cuff/upper back move), 10 lbs: 10 reps each exercise x 2
Then 16 minutes bicycling intervals, and a little stretching to finish.

To lead up to my question, there's a little bit of background information.  I am a believer, proponent, activist, etc. in HAES--health at every size.  I believe someone can be of any body shape and be fit and healthy by engaging in healthy, fitness-promoting activities like nutritious intuitive eating and enjoying movement.  I also believe that discrimination based on size and fat-shaming are odious things that should be squashed out of our society.  Everyone deserves the right to live free and happy in whatever body they currently have.

One of the statistics put forward frequently in many of the body positivity blogs I follow is that only 5% (or 7%, or less than 5%, depending on the source, but somewhere in this range) of people have long-term success in keeping weight off after a diet.  Back when I was a teenager (14, 15 years old or so), I remember the scale reading upwards of  185-190 lbs.  Then, during my junior and senior years of high school, I started exercising more--going for walks and jogs around the track--and keeping track of my eating.  By the time I headed off to college, I weighed around 150 lbs, and have been at 150 plus or minus 5 pounds ever since.  So I lost 20% of my body weight and have kept it off for nearly 20 years.

Does this include me in the 5%, or were there special circumstances because I was a teenager at the time?  Was I just young enough to establish a new weight set point, compared to people who try to lose weight as adults?

What I think really made the difference for me is that, at this point, I wasn't heavily influenced by anything other than my high school health class.  I did things like just eating lower-fat, giving up first red meat then becoming a vegetarian with a varied diet, trying to eat my fruits and veggies.  While I kept a detailed food diary, I didn't really have a calorie goal for the day.  Some days it was around 1800, some days 1600, and some days 2000.  I was still getting the calories and nutrition I needed to sustain my body, at just enough of a deficit to lose some extra fat.  And it was a lifestyle change; I curtailed the junk food and learned to enjoy the pleasures of movement, and have never gone back to my childhood habits.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

New Running Workout

On August 16th, I will be running a 12K on Angel Island.  I can barely run 2 miles right now, let alone 7+, therefore lots of running training will be happening over the next few months.  Since my weight lifting days are MWF, that leaves Tues and Thurs for running at the gym in the mornings, and my choice of a longer run on Sat or Sun.

Because my time at the gym is limited (since I have yet to successfully wake up at 6 a.m. in order to spend 90 minutes at the gym, and I don't intend to start trying any time soon), the running training days there are about intensity rather than duration.

Pattern = 30 seconds jog + 20 seconds run + 10 seconds sprint.  Since I was trying this out for the first time today, my jog was 6.0 mph, run was 6.3, and sprint was 6.6 mph.

Overall workout
0-4 mins: walk @ 4.0 mph
4-9 mins: pattern 5x
9-11 mins: walk @ 4.2 mph
11-16 mins: pattern 5x
16-18 mins: walk @ 4.2 mph
18-23 mins: pattern 5x
23-25 mins: walk @ 4.2 mph
25-30 mins: pattern 5x
30-32 mins: walk @ 4.2 mph
32-35 mins: pattern 3x
35-39 mins: walk @ 4.2 down to 4.0 mph
Then stretching for 5-6 mins.

It wasn't easy, but it wasn't very difficult either, so I think I can crank things up the next time I do this, increasing 0.1 mph for my jog, run, and sprint rates.  I'll need to spend a little time massaging my legs when I get home this evening--I can feel shin splints starting on the right.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Just a normal Wednesday

I learned a valuable lesson last night: running on Sunday + high heels on Monday + morning workout on Tuesday = tired ankles in folklorico class.  Of course, learning this lesson doesn't mean I'm actually going to do anything about it.  Maybe not try to break in new high heeled shoes the day after a run.

Otherwise, folklorico class was great, as usual!  Plus, like most forms of dance, it's a serious workout.  So much of the steps, to be done properly, must be done with bent knees, so one's leg muscles are really working to control all the movements.  Having to constantly hold up one's skirt in the left hand while twiddling a scarf in the other hand takes care of the upper body.

This morning it was time for weights.  I didn't have the mental energy to get too creative, so I went with my old standby routine, The New Spartacus Workout.  Of course, like everything, I modify it whenever I choose.

1A) Plank with alternating leg lift
1B) Alternating sword chop, 15 lbs
1C) Side lunge with downward dumbbells, 20 lbs
2A) Single-leg deadlift, 40 lbs
2B) Curl and shoulder press, 40 lbs
2C) Goblet squat, 35 lbs
3A) Bent-over alternating row, 40 lbs
3B) Assisted pull-up, 45 lbs/60 lbs
3C) Dumbbell deadlift, 50 lbs

I discovered that trying to do pull-ups after bent-over rows was using too many of the same muscles without enough rest in between.  So I either need to a) not substitute in pull-ups or b) figure out a better place in the sequence to do them.  Or c) add a fourth block to the sequence, in which to do pull-ups and, say, farmer's walk.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


I've decided to share another successful recipe with you.  I'm going to give it a fancy title, too!

ABC -- Apple Breakfast Cake

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup water
1/3 cup steel-cut oats
2 eggs
2 small or 1 large apple, grated
2 T honey, maple syrup, or sweetener of choice (optional)
1 T coconut oil (or melted butter or other liquid fat)
1/2 tsp baking soda
dash salt
spices to taste--I used about 1/4 tsp nutmeg, two dashes of cloves, and 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.  Grease a 9" round or 8" square pan.

1) In a medium-large bowl, mix the wheat flour and the yogurt.  Let sit for however long you like to soak your grains.  (1-8 hours will do, or longer in the fridge if you have time.)
2) Bring the water to a boil, then add the oats.  Lower the heat to a simmer and cook as long as the oats need to normally cook.  (I used some fast-cooking steel-cut oats that I have, so it only took about 15 minutes.  Alternately, you can soak the oats first in water for several hours, which will shorten the cooking time.)
3) To the flour and yogurt mixture, add the eggs, honey, coconut oil, baking soda, salt, and spices, and mix well to combine.  (I've discovered that you have to do a lot of mixing to incorporate eggs smoothly into a flour-yogurt mixture, so make sure that you get rid of all the lumps.)
4) Mix in the grated apples and cooked oatmeal.  Pour into the pan and bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 35-40 minutes.  Let cool slightly before cutting.

This cake comes out incredibly moist because of the apples and oatmeal.  I also figure it's a fabulous nutritious breakfast--and totally compact.  I baked mine in a square pan, and have divided it into 4 servings.  Had one quarter this morning, split, toasted, and with a pat of butter.

~ ^_^ ~

Some of you may notice that, holy cow, there's a blog post here!  I have taken to writing down my workouts, fitness ramblings, and health-related thoughts in a journal, but I'm thinking that I can achieve the same thing by blogging here, and pretending that people aren't actually reading.

Today is a two-fer Tuesday!  That's two workouts in one day.  Since, at long last, the planet has tilted enough that the sun is rising before I do, I can wake up early and hit the gym before work.  As I have dance class on Tuesdays, that means I get to exercise twice.  So this morning I did 35 minutes on the elliptical, plus some stretching, and this evening I will do 90 minutes of folklorico.

I don't know why I keep tracking this, but my weight this morning was 149.75 lbs on the gym scale.  There is a certain degree of negative psychological associations with my weight--I'm still a bit stuck on having an emotional response to it.  For instance, today I felt good because I was below 150.  Last week I felt bad because I was above 150, that is, 150.5 lbs or so.  This is crazy, I know, but it's the way my brain, and possibly many of yours, has been trained to work.  I need to either stop weighing myself or stop caring about what the number is.  Even though I know I'm at a very "healthy" weight for my height--as "healthy" can be subjective, since I could still be this weight eating only junk food, never exercising, smoking, and not have any healthy habits--there's still part of me that thinks I should be less, based on the programming I have received from society all my life.  Really, though, I *am* more focused on training for my 7-mile run in August and being able to do five pull-ups.