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.