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, 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


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!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Post With Some Numbers

More numbers than usual, I dare say, but not too many numbers.

Yesterday I earned 3 points for myself.  I was lacking in meditation and intuitive eating.  Basically, I engaged in the habit that I'm really trying to break, which is mindlessly eating while on the computer.  It's just so easy to eat 8 dried peach halves that way.  Plus slice number 2 of raw vegan banana-cocoa pie.  Plus 6 squares of dark chocolate.  You get the idea.  If I had been honestly hungry, I would have eaten everything with no hard feelings, but since I wasn't paying any attention to my fullness or engaging in mindful eating, I totally lost that point.

Here's where the artificiality of the scale comes in to play: Tuesday morning I weighed 150.5 pounds.  Yesterday it was 149.75, and this morning I was 149.0, even after yesterday evening's sweetness extravaganza.  It all has to do with my hydration levels.

Eating more calories than usual will not translate into a huge weight gain.  It just doesn't work that way.  A pound of food doesn't turn into a pound of fat.  Even an additional 3500 calories doesn't turn into a pound of fat, because your body will 1) use calories to digest the extra food and 2) increase your metabolism to deal with the increased load.  Overfeeding studies have shown this time and again.  However, every body is different in how it handles the extra food.  Some bodies might really crank up the heat while others will store more fat.  Two bodies at the exact same weight can have very different metabolisms.

I spent 38 minutes on the treadmill this morning.  After 2 minutes' walk at 4.0 mph, I started in on the 3, 2, 1 intervals.  First 5-min block was at 6.2, 6.5, and 6.8 mph simply because I was psyching myself out.  Then I ran at 6.3, 6.6, and 6.9 mph for the next four 5-min blocks, and it worked out just fine.  I even spent an extra 20 seconds running at 6.9 mph at the very end because, well, it felt good.  Total distance was something over 3.5 miles in 38 minutes.

Very happy the way that I've been able to build up my distance and stamina.  4 miles of constant jogging on the trail, through inclines and declines?  Fabulous!  The consistency of training is a significant factor.  It's reached the point where it would take a major intervening force for me to not hit the gym before work every morning, simply because my schedule is organized such that it's easier to do so than to not.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Red Pony

I started something new yesterday: I am giving myself points to reinforce healthy habits.  I wanted stars, just like in elementary school, but Target didn't have any, so I bought the round, mardi gras-colored stickers, which are easy to write on.  Here's what gives me points:

  • Eating intuitively
  • Engaging in movement (for fun or profit)
  • Flossing
  • Meditating
  • Doing all my chores
The last one is in there as an incentive for me to not let dirty dishes linger in the sink.  I decided that movement could be done for fun or profit (that is, regular exercise), because I'm still allowed to move around on my rest day, and wouldn't want to lose my movement point simply because I didn't go for a 30-minute run.

Yesterday I earned 4 points, since I didn't do any meditating.  I have yet to decide what these points will go towards.  I might make a list of exchange rates with special random treats for myself--like a movie, or a latte, or a Sunday morning spent in bed with a lot of comic books.

Totally unrelated to comic books, last night I finished the last two stories in John Steinbeck's The Red Pony.  When I went to the library, I wanted to check out The Grapes of Wrath, but the downtown library didn't have a single copy.  Remembering the scene in Matilda, I checked out The Red Pony instead.  Beautiful.  Simply beautiful.  The details were so wonderfully rendered, the characters were all sympathetic, yet realistic, and I found myself transported to that ranch in early 20th century California.  What it interesting to me, upon reflection, is the way that each story follows the protagonist, Jody, but after the final climax of each, there is so little feedback from him.  Instead, the reader is allowed to be swept up in the actions and emotions and feel their own conclusion to each vignette.  I recommend this book to everyone.

I'm also currently reading Jack London's The Call of the Wild, and may dip into a book of Virginia Woolf's short stories, if I get called in to the county court to hang around waiting for potential jury duty.

Yep, I exercised this morning!  It was very similar to Monday's weight lifting.  Bodyweight rows, bench push-ups, hanging knee raises, assisted pull-ups, farmer's walk, and a little bicycling.  Picked up a copy of "Women's Health" magazine from Dec 2009 to read while cycling, and it was horrible!  So much misinformation.  Calorie shaming, a core-strengthening workout they imply will shrink your stomach fat.  'Cause everyone knows that spot-reducing totally works.  [Insert comedic eye roll and sarcastic prat fall.]  I don't think there were any useful load-bearing exercises in the whole magazine.  But there were certainly lots of products to buy!  This is why I much prefer "Men's Fitness" magazine, because that, at least, will give me a clever new weight lifting routine to try.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Red Wine and Chocolate

Mmmm...chocolate.  My sister once taught me that life is too short for cheap makeup.  (I really believe that, which is why I'm willing to spend $40 for a Laura Mercier tinted moisturizer at Sephora.  I was using a sample and discovered it was just the thing I wanted--smooth application, good coverage, light tint, spf 20 or so, and did not cause any problems with my sensitive skin.)  I believe that life is too short for cheap chocolate.  The darker, the better--even up to 100% cacao.

As for wine, well...let me just say that I need to make a run over to Urbano Cellars, Urban Legend, and try out the offerings at Rock Wall, because my wine rack is a little empty.  My rule for wine is to taste a lot of different ones until you find what you like, and then drink that.  It might be $20 a bottle, or $5, or $50.  I do hold onto particular bottles for a "special" occasion and pick up inexpensive pinot grigio at Trader Joe's for everyday drinking.

You'd think that, given my fondness for dark chocolate and wine, I wouldn't be quite so excited about this NPR news article, but let me explain.  Resveratrol May Not Be The Elixir in Red Wine and Chocolate.  Thing is, my second job here in the bay area (which I quickly came to hate) was with a skin care formulations company eager to exploit the newest health craze for patent and profit.  One of those crazes was resveratrol.  Since it had become the poster child for health and longevity, obviously if you rub it on your skin it will be absorbed and produce the same properties.

The JAMA study (it's awesome that you can get the full article) indicates that higher levels of detectable resveratrol in one's system did not influence mortality.  In fact, the highest quartile of resveratrol had the highest mortality rate.  Of course, one cannot draw significant conclusions from this single study.  Perhaps resveratrol is a magic bullet, but only at higher concentrations.  [Note: there are no magic bullets.  Except for silver bullet and werewolves.]  Perhaps the folks who were drinking the most red wine had confounding lifestyle risks, like smoking or cooking over wood fires.

There are things you need to eat in order to stay alive and healthy.  Those are nutrients and vitamins.  Unless you have a deficiency, you don't need to take a single chemical compound in isolation.  When you're spending lots of time and money on supplements, you know who benefits?  The supplement manufacturers.  Eat the food.

Today's exercise: 42 minutes on the elliptical, plus folklorico dance tonight.  Our teacher took it easy on us last week--he was depressed and discouraged after one of the girls withdrew from the class and the performance because of an injury--but I expect he'll be back on his top dynamo form this evening, making us dance until we drop.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Hiking Martinez: The Franklin Ridge Loop

Went hiking with my friend B on Saturday up above Martinez.  A general description of the area, starting at the Nejedly Staging Area is here.  I like the bit where it says, "you'll find a choice of three routes to the ridge, all somewhat steep."  The Hulet Hornbeck trail is "somewhat" steep the same way that a hurricane is "somewhat" breezy.  While not straight up, there were no switchbacks to offset the elevation change, and we had to pause several times on the way up just to catch our breath.  Once you get up to the Franklin Ridge trail, things are more level overall, but there's still another trip down the ridge and back up before having to descend once again to the parking lot.  A great workout, indeed.  From the top, the views across the bay  were amazing, but I actually preferred to watch the hillsides, with wild grasses rippling in the wind.

Sunday involved...another run!  The Serpentine loop twice, for 3.8 miles, plus a little extra running on the Edgewood trail to come in at 4 miles of solid running.  This was the first time I ran the loop counter-clockwise, and it made for much easier inclines.  (After all those steep slopes the previous day, I needed all the help I could get.)  I'm in ahead of my targeted training distance, which is fine by me.  This coming weekend, I might do this same four miles again to really cement the distance, or I might run just a little bit farther.  My legs feel fine today, though my running partner, P, is complaining of lots of soreness.

(Of course, the reason that P is sore is because this was his first run in quite some time.  I'm not sore because I train regularly.)

Did some basic weight lifting at the gym this morning.  Push-ups (against a bench, so I was able to do more reps), body-weight rows using the squat cage, pilates roll-ups, assisted pull-ups, and horizontal cable chops.  Lots of nice core and upper body work, and strenuous enough that I know I'm going to be sore from this tomorrow.  :)

Purchased my first stone fruits of the season at the Vallejo farmers' market on Saturday!  Cherries and apricots.  The two apricots were devoured after the hike; a cup full of cherries enjoyed with my lunch just now and more for the next couple of days.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Welcome to Friday!

There's still seven minutes left until noon, so I say, good morning!  I hope you're having a lovely morning so far, because I certainly am.  In my work as a "senior research associate II" for a biopharma company, I much prefer the days that get me into the lab to the days where I'm pushing paper around on my desk.  There's a super-ultra-important analysis that needs to have results by Monday morning, so I'm trying to be all enthusiastic about the prospect of coming into work tomorrow--that is, Saturday--afternoon.  I haven't managed to muster any enthusiasm yet, simply general resignation to my fate.

Hamstrings/glutes are still sore, and I've got a weekend of hiking and running ahead of me, so this morning was all about the upper body work.  I started, however, with 6 minutes on the treadmill, walking to warm up, and finished with 15 minutes on the bicycle, basically to relax and read a magazine.  In between I was doing Power 5s!

What's a Power 5, you ask?  It's when you run through a series of weight lifting exercises, lifting enough weight that you can only manage 5 reps at a time.  I did the following, for 3 sets:
Shoulder press (50 pounds)
Pull-up (30 pound assist)
Push-up (nothing fancy here, just dropped and gave myself 5)
Machine row (100 first set, then 90 next two sets)
Doodle bugs (aka dead bugs, but my brain kept calling them doodle bugs, so the name has stuck--10 reps each leg)
Farmer's walk (90, 80, 70 pounds)

I decreased the weight on the farmer's walk but made it more difficult for myself by switching from plates to dumbbells.  Dumbbells are much wider, which means you have to hold them farther out to the side, adding more engagement to the muscles.  They're also more difficult to hold on to, which helps for grip strength.

I was inspired to try the dead bugs as an exercise in whether I'm engaging my abdominals correctly for support in other exercises.  Basically, you're doing it right if you can keep your low back connected to the ground over the full range of the exercise.  Nailed it!  Guess I've been working on abdominal support for long enough that my body knows what it's doing.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Woolton Pie + You Are Not One Body Part

Yesterday was one busy day, thus the lack of blogging.  I'll make up for it now, I promise!

Just hanging out with the penguins at the Academy of Sciences.

My workout Weds morning was the New Spartacus workout, written about earlier.  Just to make things confusing, 3B was replaced by 1C, and 1C became lunges with 40 lbs of weights.  Oh, and instead of doing a dumbbell dead lift, I used the 50 lb kettlebell, since some guy working out on the stair climber decided to nick one of the 25 lb dumbbells.  There's a little weight room etiquette for you: don't monopolize any of the weights or equipment!  Use what you need for your set, and always allow others to work in.

This morning's 3, 2, 1 running workout was performed at speeds of 6.2, 6.5, and 6.8 mpg for the intervals, and walking at 4.2 mph.  Once again, running + dead lifts yesterday = some sore glutes and hamstrings.  I've just eaten an excellent recovery breakfast, though, so I expect my body to bounce back.

Last night's cooking experiment of Woolton Pie turned out seriously delicious!  Here's one general recipe and here is another.  I made mine as follows: Make a pastry out of 2 T butter and 1/2 C whole wheat flour plus a dash of salt, using just enough water to bring it together.  Keep in the fridge until ready to roll out.  Place 1 1/2 C diced potato, 1 1/2 C diced cauliflower, 1 C diced carrot, and 1 C frozen green beans in a large saucepan with a little water (about 1/2 C) and steam until just fork-tender.  Transfer all the cooked veggies to an appropriate casserole dish and reserve the hot cooking liquid.  Sprinkle about 1/2 T fresh thyme over the vegetables, and some freshly ground pepper to taste.  To the hot liquid, add about 1 T flour, mixing thoroughly to remove any lumps, and about 1 T of homemade vegetable bouillon.  Pour the gravy over the vegetables.  Roll out the pastry and fit it over the vegetables.  Cut some slits for steam to escape.  Bake at ~350°F until the crust is browned and the veggies are bubbly.  Let it cool just so it's not volcanically hot and serve it forth.  Serves 4 as a side.

So, I'm single, and doing a little bit of dating here and there.  I use OKCupid as my online dating site, but I may expand out into other venues just because the signal-to-noise ratio has not been very good of late.  Plus I'm doing a bit of a social experiment, in that I just changed my profile to adequately reflect how awesome I think I am, utilizing Maya Angelou's poem Phenomenal Woman, which may serve to exponentially increase the number of men I intimidate.

The other day, OKC used their mystical matching algorithm to declare that one fellow was a particularly excellent match for me.  One fellow with the screen name, "BigBlack10Thick".  Now, he could be particularly proud that he's large, and black, and a perfect 10, and thick-headed.  However, considering that his profile picture was shot of his muscular torso from crotch to chin, with no facial features whatsoever, I'm assuming that he was basing his identity around his penis.

Dear men in the dating world: I am looking for more than a penis.  If I want a big, black, 10-inch cock, I can purchase one at any of the online or local adult toy shops.  (I was hoping to provide lots of links for you, but I figure you should just enter "big black 10-inch" into your own Google search window and see what happens.)  I'm looking for a man with an interesting character, a sense of humor, two legs to go hiking with me, two arms to give me hugs, assorted organs to keep his body functioning, and all the bits in between.

You may over-focus on flabby arms, or narrow shoulders, or thin ankles, or sturdy hips and think that's the only physical characteristic you have to offer to the world.  I assure you, it is not so.  I have smaller breasts.  They do not exist on their own.  I have hazel eyes.  They do not define me.  I have thick, strong thighs.  They do not limit me.  Realizing that I am a whole package, and I'm in the market for the whole package, enforces the idea that each of us is, in fact, greater than the sum of our parts..

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

WWII Rationing

Two-fer Tuesday!  This morning was a typical laid-back cardio workout: 20 minutes on the elliptical and 15 minutes on the recumbent bicycle, then stretching.  I had one of the ellipticals right by the window, so I got to spend my exercise time looking out at the morning and generally letting my mind wander, which is very healthy.  Tonight is folklorico!  That will be very interesting, with these sore calf muscles of mine.

Lacking a TV, I use Hulu when I want a television fix.  One of the shows I tend to watch over and over is The Supersizers Go...  They're good about giving you a dose of history, but their attempt to spend a week eating a typical diet of the time period needs to be taken with a grain of salt.  They tend to show a range of meals, from the highest austerity to the greatest hedonism.  For example, in the first episode, The Supersizers Go...Wartime, while one actor is grubbing about the countryside for a meal of nettles, bracken, and rabbit, the other is slurping down champagne, venison, and ice cream in Churchill's underground dining room.

There have been some attempts by bloggers to follow the WWII rationing diet in an effort to lose weight and improve health.  One of those has a blog called The 1940's Experiment.  Britain's Ministry of Food was very focused on ensuring a healthy diet for everyone, even with rationing, so the pamphlets and cookbooks of the day are focused on balanced eating, with emphasis on vitamins and minerals and lots of vegetables.  I've got the ingredients for Woolton's Pie, so I may give that a go tomorrow evening.

Monday, May 5, 2014

No Rest for the Wicked. Er, I Mean Over-committed

There was a lot (a lot!) of exercise that happened this past weekend.  Saturday morning was my long trail run, which turned out to be longer than I'd anticipated.  It was not that the overall distance was more, I just ran farther than planned.  See, I discovered that everything was taking more time that I had in my schedule, and with a hard deadline of 11:30, I had to be as quick as possible.  Instead of running just 3.25 to 3.5 miles, I ended up running 4 miles on the trail, and another half mile or so on the road heading home.  I'd like to applaud my legs for handling all those hills and still having enough spiz to tackle a little pavement.

I'm still working on running consistently up hills.  They are exhausting.  I push myself as far as I can, and then go ahead and walk for 30 paces or so to take a little break.  As the months go by, however, I fully expect that it will become easier and I'll be able to tackle the inclines without feeling a need to collapse.

After this intense morning workout, I found myself walking all over Golden Gate Park in the afternoon.  First it was to, around, and from the Academy of Sciences.  Then it was at the other end, by the beach, and getting slightly lost trying to find the bison paddock.  I had energy enough, it was just that my feet were becoming incredibly sore.  Thanks for keeping me supported, feet!

Sunday involved a 9 mile hike around Lake Chabot.  If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend this hike.  It goes from pavement to dirt roads (shared with bicyclists) to narrow trails and back again as you wind all around the various nooks and crannies of the lake.  Some of the elevation changes are challenging, but they're typically fairly short.  When you don't get sweeping views of the lake and sky, sometimes reaching out to the bay, you get stretches of eucalyptus, ferns, and native wildflowers.  There is no drinking water along the trail, but there are outhouses.

I went straight from this hike over to Alameda, to show a couple friends of mine how to use the weight room in their new apartment complex.  I'm hardly a certified personal trainer of any sort, but I feel comfortable in showing friends how to do the basics in order to feel comfortable as a woman in a weight room.  The equipment--squat rack, cable machines--were older than I'm used to, but the principles are, of course, the same.  While I wasn't lifting heavy for the purposes of demonstration, I did show off once I found the pull-up bar on the squat rack.  Almost two complete chin-ups!  I also left them my copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women, because Alwyn's workouts are really good for beginners and the techniques are very well explained and illustrated.

This morning, I couldn't just give myself a rest day, because it would throw off my driving schedule.  I went to the gym as usual and took things a bit easy, mainly doing basic arm-centered lifting techniques.  Push-ups, seated cable rows, shoulder lateral raises, lat pull-downs, and crunches.  Then lots and lots of uncomfortable foam rolling to combat the weekend of delightfully excessive walking.  :)

Friday, May 2, 2014

High Five!

What d'ya do this morning, Melissa?  Ohhh...just lifted NINETY pounds and went for a walk!

In case it's not obvious, I'm a little happy about upping my farmer's walk weights from two 35 lb plates to two 45 lb ones.  On the drive in to the gym, I completely changed my planned lifting routine from Spartacus to basics.

Ball crunches: 30, 24
Dead lift (bar +): 50 lbs, 8; 55 lbs, 8
Alternating dumbbell bench press (50 lbs): 8, 8
Bent-over row (bar + 30 lbs): 8, 8
Dumbbell military press: 40 lbs, 10; 50 lbs, 6
Chin-up (45 lb assist): 8, 8
Farmer's walk: 90 lbs, 2 sets from the weight room to the front door and back
Finished up with 10 minutes of stretching, mostly low back/glutes and shoulder girdle.  Then, for my post-workout recovery breakfast, I had three types of protein from two different animals: chicken sausage, a hard-boiled egg, and milk in my tea.  Plus vegetables Maddalena and a slice of bread.  (Vegetables Maddalena is my catch-all recipe for cooked veggies in marinara sauce.  Today's selection, left over from dinner last night, was broccoli, red bell pepper, and rainbow chard stems.)

Fat Flash Mob is happening in San Francisco tomorrow!  I definitely need to brush up on my dance moves tonight, and tomorrow before I head out.  I told a friend that I was doing a fat flash mob, and he gave me the answer I was expecting.  "'re not fat."  Yeah, but just because my shape is socially acceptable doesn't mean I can't join in activism for other people who aren't of a "socially acceptable" body shape.  I'm doubly excited that I get to a) be in a flash mob and, moreover, b) be in a flash mob all about expressing body positivity.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Restaurant Portions and Calories

Just read an article over at NPR regarding the high-calorie menu options at Italian restaurant chains.  While some of the language is rather poor (once again, they can't come up with anything better for fettucino alfredo than the now-trite "heart attack on a plate"?), I really liked what I saw at the very bottom:

So, why is it so easy to eat more than we intend to when we dine out? Well, until now, there's been little transparancy. If customers wanted calorie information, they'd have to look it up online.
But this is about to change. The Affordable Care Act includes a provision that will require chain restaurants to post calories on menus. The details are being finalized now by the Obama administration.
"I think we are looking at full implementation [of calorie posting on menus] by spring 2015," Margo Wootan of the CSPI told us by email. Menu labeling is already in some cities including New York City, Philadelphia and in California

I know from my own experience that posting calories on menus has had an effect on my decision of what to order.  If I see that the plate potentially coming towards me has a whopping overload of saturated fat and salt, I will send it back to the kitchen before it's even ordered.

I'd like to know your thoughts.  Do you think that having the calories posted is something that will be beneficial to health?  Would it have an effect on the food that you order?  Knowing that people tend to eat as much as is placed in front of them, should restaurants go back to serving smaller, 1950s-sized portions?  Or do you like being able to take home half your portion to eat as lunch the next day?

3, 2, 1...Go!

I had a bit of an epiphany on the treadmill this morning.  Going back to my friend who requested suggestions on how to lose 70 pounds, some of the replies were along the lines of, "Do a Whole30!" and "My doctor told me to stop eating dairy/wheat/insert food here, and I've lost 6 pounds already, so you should try that!"  That is, precipitously cut back on an entire food group (or two or three) in order to create a highly restrictive diet.  My vote: don't!

Now, if your doctor tells you to stop eating something for medical reasons, then you should.  I know several people with killer allergies and painful sensitivities.  Heck, my own brother was diagnosed with celiac disease once--which turned out to be a false diagnosis, incidentally.  If it hurts to eat something, then you should take it out of your diet to the best extent possible, or mitigate the effects with medication as you choose.

Of course you'll lose weight when you cut out entire food groups, because you have a hard time finding enough to eat.  Plus, monotony makes food less enjoyable overall (who really likes eating the same meals day after day?)  Believe me, I've been there.  Vegetarian for 16 years, paleo for 2 years; the first became unsustainable for health reasons (as I've blogged about before), while the second was unsustainable for practical reasons.  The restrictive paleo diet was not in accordance with my cultural foodways.  Plus, I was starting to wade into the lake of the latest eating disorder, orthorexia.

Anyway, back to the treadmill epiphany.  I was doing my 3, 2, 1 training routine:

2 minutes walk
[30 seconds jog, 20 seconds run, 10 seconds sprint] repeated for 5 minutes
and repeat until you've run out of time or energy.

This morning my jog was 6.1 mph, run was 6.4 mph, and sprint was 6.7 mph.  Total workout length was 38 minutes; I managed 5 repeats of the entire routine, plus a cool-down at the end.  Then 10 minutes of stretching and foam rolling.  The first running block is always the hardest.  On the last ones, the spirit was willing, but the flesh was becoming weak.  On more than one instance, I thought to myself, "Be a badass and run the next entire minute at 6.7 mph!" and "Don't stop to walk in between sets.  Keep running!"  However, then the highly civilized and logical part of my brain, the one that likes to drink quality loose-leaf tea from a laid-out set of teapot, cup and saucer, and small milk jug, would chime in and say, "Stick to the training!"

Stick to the training.  Make small advances consistently.  Set sustainable, achievable goals for the short and long term.  Eat foods that are nutritious and satisfying every day, not too little and not too much.  Engage in pleasurable movement every day, not too little and not too much.  Don't crash your body with restrictive food or injurious levels of exercise.  Stick to the training.