Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Year in Review or, Where the hell have you been?!

And rightly so. I mean, if you were actually wondering where I've been. Well, I've been here and there. You know. Doing things. Not blogging. Feeling slightly guilty about it. But I guess sometimes you need some time away from something you like before you realize how much you like it. And blogging, I just want to tell you this one thing: I missed you! I'm glad we were able to work on the problems we were having. Let's never fight again <3.

Honestly, though, I sort of went through a bit of a slump (surprised?) during which I didn't really feel too much like broadcasting anything. But now I'm feeling better, and I feel like egotistically and self-indulgently rambling about my life on the internet once again. Bless you, internet, for giving everyone a chance to feel important. You're the greatest. I mean it.

So, what have I been up to since September 1? Well, the past four or so months have been full of change for me. First of all, there's the new job and the fact that I am no longer living below the poverty line as a graduate student. That is some fun stuff. Second, I am still trying to weight train consistently. But come on, if you read this and found out I had all of a sudden managed to start lifting three times a week with the dedication of a zealot, you would probably be disappointed and possibly (actually, let's say definitely) incredulous. So why lie to you? I'm still working on this. But I got these really cool books for Christmas that I think should answer some questions and set me on the right track. More about that later, I promise. I have big plans. Third, I successfully completed my second marathon and although I had thought my training was lackluster, I managed to shave around fourteen or fifteen minutes off my time. I call that an awesome win, all around. I also picked up about fifteen pounds (one for each minute off my time? I am not sure I think that's fair) which I am hoping to shave off. I mean, I feel like I am just carrying around extra baggage. It's so uncomfortable. The weird thing is, I don't think you'd really notice a difference if you'd seen me before the weight gain and after. But it is definitely there. And it needs to go away.

Right now, I am training for my third marathon, the National Marathon in Washington, D.C. on March 21. I'm a bit nervous about this one, considering what happened last time I tried to go from one marathon to the next without a significant break in between. It remains to be seen whether I will manage to pull it all together and not somehow sabotage myself into not being able to run this one; if I do run it, obviously this will be a pretty significant achievement for me, psychologically. Stay tuned, folks, this is bound to be a fascinating journey.

To cap the year off, I am running a 5k this afternoon with my mom. Recently my pace has begun to speed up for reasons I do not completely understand. For the longest time I felt happy if I could average something under 10:00 minutes per mile on a run over three miles. Now I'm (fairly) easily maintaining sub-9:00 min/miles on six-mile runs, and feeling really, really good throughout. For some people, I know this is still a tortoise-like pace. For me it's a really big deal. I'm excited to see how the race this afternoon plays out. I mean, not that I expect to place at all, but I don't think I've ever raced a 5k faster than 28:xx minutes (this may also have to do with the fact that I rarely run 5k races). I'm shooting for around 24-27 minutes today. I know, that's a pretty broad range. But I have a chest cold and I'm not sure how that's going to affect my ability to, you know, breathe. I hear that oxygen is kind of important.

Anyway, that concludes my rambling. For now, anyway. I hope everyone has had happy holidays and enjoys the new year!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The return of the weekly challenge

So, yeah, my previous weekly challenges weren't all that successful. I'm the first to admit it! They weren't all spectacular failures, though, which is important to note--I am still pretty much Diet Coke free. I do have one every now and then, but it is super rare. So score one for me and the weekly challenge!

At any rate, I thought that given all the life changes I'm going through lately, and all the effort I am making to sort of reset my life, it would be appropriate to bring the weekly challenge back. As of tomorrow, I am going to give getting up early in the morning to run another shot. Not only will this be more convenient with my work schedule, it will also give me a chance to relax during the day and not worry about going running in the afternoon or evening, and will (hopefully) help me to avoid some of the crowds in Central Park (which have been exceedingly unpleasant lately).

On a semi-related note, I have started the 100 push-up challenge over again. Man, am I out of shape. Since today is September 1st, I think today would be a good day to make a commitment to strength training. I've been so bad about doing it consistently in the past, but lately the importance of it has really been driven home to me and I'm kind of scared of the consequences of not doing it. Case in point: a couple weeks ago I visited my paternal grandmother, who is in a rehabilitation facility recovering from a knee injury. One of the women who is in the rehabilitation facility with her is there because her bones pretty much collapsed one day while she was watering her garden. Essentially, her bones were so porous as to be see-through, and got to a point where they could no longer support her weight. While she was watering her garden, they just shattered. Hearing about that was a wake-up call! And, to a slightly lesser extent, so was the difficulty of doing those push-ups this evening.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Load of crap

Do you ever have those days where it seems like absolutely nothing is going right? For me, that day has been about two and a half months long (although in the interest of full disclosure, I have to admit it has not exactly been a stellar year) and seems to be reaching its apex now, at the end of July. This either means that things can only get better in August or that things are going to veer toward this massive disastrous catastrophe for an unspecified amount of time to come. I would be optimistic, but I kind of feel like I've been living in a sh*t storm for a while now, and nothing will kill hope like a situation like that.

The day started with me having to weigh myself for my ediets check in. I started the diet in April and then went off of it in May, came back to it in June and have been on it since. Although I initially lost some weight (and felt listless and lethargic in the process), I gained it all back when I went off the diet. Since going back on it, I haven't been able to report a net loss of any pounds. I will lose a pound or half a pound in a week, then promptly gain it back the following week, without doing anything differently, really. My mom thinks I should be running more, but I don't really know that this diet allows for much more activity than I already have in my life (3-4 days of running a week which will be steadily increasing mileage-wise as I get into my training for the marathon and 3-4 days of pretty intense yoga), unless I want to be totally drained of energy pretty much all the time, meaning crappy workouts and, more generally, feelings of crappy all around. So the day started with yet another weight gain, and when you report weight gains to ediets, they kind of scold you and then ask you if you want to reduce your calorie intake, because that is sure to boost your energy levels. I'm done with ediets. I'm totally, 100% over it. What a great start to the day!

I have to move again soon (in spite of feeling like I just moved, which I sort of did) and that is turning out to be disastrous. What makes it even better is the fact that I am moving for this new job, which I supposedly started on July 1st, except that as of today, I am still not in the system as an employee. This is just another thing on the list of things that have gone wrong so far with this job.

This is all just so tiring. I feel overwrought, overwhelmed, fed up, and run down. All of this BS has really just drained my energy and the last thing I feel like doing right now is going for a run, even though I can acknowledge that it would probably do me some good.

What I really want is to just leave everything behind and start over somewhere. I have a vacation to San Diego coming up and the idea of just going out there and staying is looking better and better by the minute.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

6 things about me that will undoubtedly blow your mind

I know this one has been a long time coming--here are my 6 things that I'm posting because I was tagged by Rachel about one million years ago.
  1. I really, really dislike the taste of milk. I don't mind it in recipes, but I cannot stand it on its own and I will pass on a bowl of cereal if there is no soymilk to be had. I think the idea of milk is weird, too, because when you think about it, humans are the only animals to drink the milk of another animal. I sort of have a problem with that (it just seems sort of gross to me) but oddly enough I am a big fan of cheese.
  2. I started running when I was high school. I did track in my sophomore year and hated it (or at least really disliked it, because I am not all that fast and don't really do short distances) and cross-country in my junior year and really liked it. My friend and I would run together during practice and developed a nice pace that we lovingly referred to as 'the comfort stride'. It was like magic. We also skipped one or two long runs by ducking into the woods and waiting for people to pass us on our way back! Those were the days.
  3. I went to a public school with a French immersion program and started learning the language at the age of five. From kindergarted through sixth grade, my education was primarily in French even though it followed the same curriculum as all of the other public schools in the county. I continued studying French for 21 years and just left school after a BA, MA, and two years of PhD study in French literature.
  4. I've been up and down the east coast (although I have only really driven through some states, like South Carolina and Connecticut) and visited parts of California but have seen very little of the country other than that. I spent a few hours in a Texas airport (Houston? Dallas? I think it was Houston. Maybe) and a couple days in Baton Rouge, LA, but have never been to the midwest.
  5. I really don't understand why Sandra Lee (of the Food Network) uses 'whipped topping' instead of something like reddi-whip. I understand the concept of the show, with convenience food and all that jazz, but I don't really see how 'whipped topping' is more convenient than reddi-whip. And not that I'm endorsing reddi-whip, but at least it is made with real cream and would actually qualify as a food. 'Whipped topping' is an adjective and a noun, neither of which are actual foods. It just seems to me that you shouldn't sacrifice food quality if you don't have to. Plus, if you can so easily use real whipped cream in a recipe, why wouldn't you? This really, really puzzles me.
  6. On two separate occasions, Huey Lewis has told me very emphatically that I am pretty. When I feel bad about myself, remembering this makes me feel better. Unsolicited compliments always have that effect.
Since I think just about everyone else I know has been tagged already, I am going to take advantage of the fact that I have blogging friends and family members (who, to be honest, do not all have running-related blogs, but I don't think that matters) and tag them! So, I am tagging Mike, Suewho, Zebeckras, and Binx. No, that doesn't add up to six, but oh well. Here are the rules:

-link to the person who tagged you.
-post the rules on your blog.
-write six random things about yourself.
-tag six people at the end of your post.
-let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
-let the tagger know when your entry is up.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Time for Training

After I registered for the Philadelphia marathon, I spent some time looking for a training plan (honestly, I may have started looking for the training plan before registering. Really, though, the order in which these things happened is inconsequential) and, in a fit of delusional perception of my current fitness level, chose to use Hal Higdon's Intermediate I training plan. The plan is well-balanced with two twenty-mile runs toward the end of the program, five runs a week, and a fair amount of weekly miles (starting at around 24 for the first week). The problem is that I tend to go into denial about certain things and I like to believe that I can do things that I am not entirely prepared for. Such as (just in case you are not following me here) this training plan. I think the problem is that I chose something thinking that maybe if I shut my eyes real tight and forgot about reality, I could pretend that maybe I hadn't lost an enormous amount of fitness in the past few months. What can I say? It's hard to go from easily running 8-10 mile training runs to being exhausted by four or five. So I guess I kind of thought that if I chose a training plan that was appropriate for me about six months ago that I would be magically transformed back into that six-month-ago version of Emilie.

As the time to start the training program drew nearer and nearer, I kept looking at it and going over what it was asking me to do. I made a lot of progress endurance-wise in the past few weeks but the first long run distance of this Hal Higdon plan is 8 miles, which I have serious doubts that I can do at this point. The long run was supposed to take place this past weekend, but for screwy and frustrating reasons, it didn't happen. I don't know if I'm capable of running 8 miles, and this week I am supposed to run 9.

So I thought maybe I should shop around a little bit and consider a different program. Last year, I trained with one that I found in an issue of Runner's World magazine. This program is good, obviously--it got my through my first marathon and I enjoyed it the whole time. I never felt overwhelmed by it, but I always felt challenged. So I thought maybe I should go back to that program. But for some reason I am resistant to it. I wanted to try something different, but maybe I sort of shot myself in the foot by slacking off so much for such a long time. I don't even know exactly why I want a different plan. I've looked at Hal Higdon's novice training plans, but they don't really appeal to me and I can't even explain why. I feel sort of silly about this whole thing, because clearly I have this penchant for the Runner's World plan but I'm still second-guessing everything.

Does anyone else do this or am I just super neurotic (I mean, obviously don't answer that question by saying, 'You're neurotic!')? How do you choose a training plan? I'm interested in hearing about other people's experiences.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fighting with the Wii Fit

This week I am spending some time visiting my friend Mike in Philadelphia. A while ago (at the time of its release, actually), Mike ordered a Wii Fit and he just received it this past weekend. So yesterday we eagerly set it up and played with it for a while. Even though I have been pretty awful at everything that has to do with the Wii since I first laid eyes on it (honestly, no one is worse than me at Wii sports. I am also a pro and Mario Kart and cannot win a single race in the Wii version of that game to save my life), I thought that I would probably have a good chance of doing well with a fitness game. WRONG!

The first thing you do when you set up the Wii Fit is have it take your weight and height in order for it to calculate your BMI. Mine is, apparently, just at the cusp of overweight (it is worth stating, I think, that the weight that the Wii Fit gave me was roughly five pounds heavier than I actually weigh) with a BMI of 24.somethingabovefifty. The Wii Fit then tells me I should aim for a healthier BMI of 22 and has me calculate how much weight I have to lose in order to do so--18 pounds! I never even thought I had 18 pounds to lose. That would require me losing muscle mass, I'm pretty sure, and I'm not really in the mood to do that. We are not off to a great start.

The next thing you do is a balance test to figure out your Wii Fit Age. Mine is 39. Yeah, that's right, to the Wii Fit, I am 13 years older than I really am. This result is based on my performance on a balance game. So even though I can make it through 90 minutes of yoga classes (which involve a huge amount of balance) and do balancing poses like tree, eagle, crow, side plank, and warrior 3, I'm 50% older, fit-wise, than I should be. According to a video game.

Needless to say, I was not all that happy. I mean, I know it is just a game, it's not to be taken seriously, but it sort of felt like a real blow. I will see if the Wii Fit and I can make peace with each other. I did have a proud moment when I beat (well, by beat, I mean I got a perfect score) on one of the 'harder' yoga poses, that you have to unlock in order to do. I am, apparently, simultaneously a yoga master (according to the Wii Fit, mind you!) and 39 years old. These are things I never knew about myself.

In other news, I recently registered for another marathon which means there are now two on the horizon (Philadelphia in November and the National Marathon in March '09), and I updated my blog so that I now have links to the blogs of my fellow Virtual Run Club members. I also want to welcome SueWho to the foodie blogosphere and I encourage everyone to welcome her and read her healthy eating ideas! This is the woman who has helped me along the path to healthy eating throughout my life; she is a great cook and comes up with great ways to work healthy food into everyday eating!

I was also tagged by Rachel, and I promise I will follow up on that soon :)

Friday, June 20, 2008

A different sort of run: run down

I am out of it today! I had planned on getting up early for a 6:30-7:30 am yoga class but opted out when I woke up around 5:40 feeling absolutely drained. I went back to sleep and woke up a few hours later and haven't felt much better all day. I have a low-grade headache and a weird, lingering fatigue. It has sort of gotten in the way of my doing just about anything today.

I did manage to put air in my bike tires and I call that a win. I am going out for an early dinner to celebrate my new job and am hoping that if I take it easy this afternoon (and maybe even lie down for a while, although I really hate that idea) I will be able to hit the gym later tonight.

I'm not entirely sure why I am feeling so run down today, but I guess that's not really all that important. Some days are just like this. I just don't like the fact that it is sort of interfering with the things I would like to get done today. I'm also hoping it passes because I am running a 5k tomorrow with my sister and I don't want to feel like I am struggling through it!

Thanks to everyone for their well-wishes and support for me during my job search and its outcome. It means a lot to me to know that you are all so supportive!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Employment! And yoga!

After a long stint in the doldrums, I think I can now state with confidence that things are on the up and up! Yesterday I accepted a job at Columbia teaching French in the department and coordinating events and programs at the French house (also known as la Maison Fran├žaise). This means a couple of things: 1) gainful employment!; 2) I'm moving back to New York after a stint at my parents' in the DC area; 3) an enormous source of stress in my life is gone! If, by any chance, any of you have connections to anyone (sane) who is looking for a roommate in New York, let me know. Or if you have suggestions about places to live in New York that are not too expensive (har, har, I know), let me know.

Running has taken a back seat for a while but now that I am participating in this virtual training group, I feel more motivated. Plus I will start training pretty soon for the Philadelphia marathon. Lets hope that this training period goes better than the last one. In spite of this extended period of difficulty with running, I've been doing a ton of yoga so I have not been entirely idle. I've been going to this studio not far from my parents' house and I have to say it can be somewhat hit or miss. It has taught me a lot about what I look for in a yoga teacher, and what I sort of never want to see from a yoga teacher. It has been an interesting learning experience, if nothing else. And I have toned up a bit in the process!

Is anyone else doing any yoga? I have always thought it was a good complement to running, since it counteracts a lot of the muscular tightness that running tends to encourage. If you do any yoga, what do you like or dislike in a teacher? I am sort of curious to hear about others' experiences.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

I'm still a runner!

The last week has been insane--far busier and difficult than any other week that has given me trouble over the course of this past year. Because I left Columbia, I had to be out of my University-owned Manhattan apartment by the end of May, which, roughly translated, meant a Saturday move-out. This also meant that I spent the week leading up to this day packing, purging, and shuffling stuff around so that my move would go as smoothly as possible (as if that ever happens, no matter how hard we try). In all honesty, I hate moving. When I sat down and thought about it, I realized I had moved seven times in the past eight years (that is to say since moving out for college). That is a lot of moving. My dream right now is just to settle in somewhere for longer than two years. It is just such a stressful process. Anyway, like I said, the week involved a lot of work. Saturday I packed up a Uhaul truck and a minivan with the help of my parents and friend Mike; Sunday I unpacked the Uhaul truck and managed to somehow hurt my back (not significantly, but enough so that I was pretty uncomfortable); and yesterday I unpacked the minivan. Last night was my first good night of sleep and I still feel sort of beat up and run down. I am now living at my parents' house until I have found employment that is gainful enough to enable me to move out.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't run at all last week. There just wasn't time and with all the work I was doing getting ready for this move, I didn't have the energy. I'm disappointed about it but I am trying not to be too hard on myself about it. I have just had the hardest time getting into a solid routine. It's aggravating, really. Hopefully this week will be a bit quieter and will allow me to get back into the habit of running. I will keep you posted.

More than anything, I just wanted to post to let everyone know that I am still alive and that I am also still a runner; just in case you thought I had gotten so disillusioned that I had decided to give it all up!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekly Challenge: 20 minutes

Last week I didn't have a weekly challenge, which was sort of nice because lately none of my challenges have gone particularly well. What can I say? 2008 has not been my year so far. I am, however, stubbornly refusing to believe that I should just throw in the towel, and I think that as long as I keep trying, at some point I will accomplish something! Yay for potential!!

For that reason, I am not abandoning my weekly challenges in spite of lackluster successes with them. And it isn't like I have completely ignored them! I just have mixed results with them. At any rate, this week I thought maybe I should just do something sort of basic, straightforward, and feel goodish.

It is unrealistic for me to expect myself to stick to a training schedule without life getting in the way, and I want to learn to not feel guilty when I am not getting in all the running I would like to. What I want to do this week is focus on just getting in twenty minutes of activity every day. Rest days will be 'active rest' days, and days when I run will be, obviously, more than twenty minutes of activity. The point here is not to exhaust myself but to keep myself in motion (even if it is just a walk around the block or through the park or something). I feel so much better when I have done some sort of physical activity than I do when I just sit around my apartment and get nothing done. I have been in such a slump lately, and feeling so lousy has really helped me to recognize how much better I feel when I just get up and do something, no matter how minor it is. So in an effort to preserve that feeling and chase the blahs away, I am taking on this 20-minutes-a-day challenge. Like I said, I am not working for a better body, just a healthier state of mind.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Oh, thank Heaven

First run with the running skirt and I am in love! I mean it, I love this thing :) I feel covered and comfortable. You do get some odd looks, though. Some of them are clearly, "Is she really running in a skirt?" kind of looks, which I really don't care about because the people who are giving me those looks don't look like they have run a day in their life and thus probably don't know the obnoxiousness that is running in a pair of shorts that just don't feel right no matter what you do. The others, though, are a bit more bothersome and are more along the lines of, "Ooooh, she's running in a skirt...I wonder if I'll be able to see her underwear if I look hard enough?" I mean, honestly. Grow up, men. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's just that the warmer weather makes people a little more friendly and thus more likely to give you unexplained smiles (or are they leers?)...but I kind of doubt that that's the case. Regardless, I enjoyed the experience, a full two thumbs up, and a hearty wish that I had more pairs so that I could run like a girl more often!

The run itself was good but the conditions were pretty rough, with killer wind on the way back, which is, of course, the exact time when you want to be fighting a head wind. I guess this is what I get for running by the Hudson, although it really felt at times like I was just running in place. It was that bad.

I also conveniently forgot to put Body Glide on my upper arm and I once again have a welt from that stupid nike+ armband (I HATE THAT THING). And oddly, my feet are killing me. This is a problem I haven't really had before. All of a sudden, my shoes feel like they are tighter than usual, or something. I am getting chafing along the arch of my foot as well as on both of my pinkie toes. I am not tying my shoes tighter than I usually do, and I haven't laced them differently either. They are also not new shoes, nor are they old. I have been running in this model for a while and ran the half-marathon in my current pair (in addition to multiple training runs) without a problem. This also happened on Tuesday but since my run was shorter, it bothered me less, and at the time it really only affected my left foot. After this run, though, both of my feet hurt in the same places. Has anyone else had a problem like this come up out of nowhere? I'm wondering if it has something to do with the warmer weather causing my feet to swell or something...that's the only explanation I can think of, really. The pain really had an effect on my run. Around my fifth or sixth mile, it really started to set in (especially in my toes, which feel like they blistered or something--it is definitely a chafing issue and not something cramp-ish or anything like that) and I ended up taking a page out of Irish's book and dissociating as much as I could just to get through my seven miles without having to stop. I managed, but I wish my feet felt a little better (obvs).

Anyhoo, I got in a 7.11 mile run (see, that's where the post title comes from! Ha ha, I made an advertising-related joke!) which ain't too shabby.

Total mileage this week: 11.31

My life in six words or less

I've been tagged by Chris, which means two things:
  1. Obviously, I have hit the big time as a blogger.
  2. I have to write a six-word memoir and tag five additional people. I'm not sure I know another five people to tag, since Chris has already tagged some of the other bloggers I know!
So here is my memoir. It has nothing to do with running, but I think it accurately sums up my life (at least for now):
No longer a student. What next?

As for the people I am tagging in return...
  1. Jen at Birthday Challenge '08.
  2. Irish at Do It.
  3. Charlotte at Music and Veganism, if she ever gets back to blogging...
  4. And, erm...more to follow? That's all I got for now :(
In other news, I am now the proud owner of a running skirt! It's cute, too--black with a thick pink stripe up the side and pink compression shorts. I <3 Alissa's point about varying my activities and taking time to discover other activities is a good one, and it is something I am going to start focusing on as soon as I am a bit more settled (i.e. not getting ready to move in a little over a week).

At any rate, stay tuned for my comments on running in a skirt! Now that my stomach is less upset than it was yesterday I am planning on getting a run in later this afternoon/evening.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Hills are Alive

Okay, I admit that yesterday for my hill training I ran on a treadmill. Guilty as charged. And I started off at level four and ended up moving down to level one (but only after 25 out of 40 minutes). So maybe these weren't the most daunting hills ever. But the thing is I'm slightly out of shape, and this is the longest run I've logged since the half marathon, so I was pretty happy with the way things turned out. Unfortunately, as I sit here typing this, I am struggling to cope with an inexplicably upset stomach, so we'll see whether today's mid-distance run actually happens or not. If it doesn't, I can always just scoot things back by a day and make this a day off. No big deal, right?

I really appreciated everyone's comments on my training schedule--I thought you all made really good points that I hadn't taken into consideration, and based on your input I am thinking of making some modifications. Here's what I have in mind:

Monday: Off
Tuesday: Hills
Wednesday: Mid-distance easy run, weight training
Thursday: Speed/Tempo
Friday: Off, weight training
Saturday: Long run
Sunday: Easy short run, weight training

In terms of mileage, right now I think 30 miles might be a slightly lofty goal for me (given the shape I am in--that original training plan was pretty ambitious of me!) but shouldn't be unattainable once I get back into running more consistently. I think for now I will aim for 20-25, ideally even slightly over 25. We'll see how it goes!

Total mileage this week: 4.2 miles

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Driftwood

At the moment, my life has no structure whatsoever. It's scary. I'm now formerly a graduate student, having chosen to leave school; I have finished all the grading for the class I taught this past semester; and I have no job. I am moving out of Manhattan in about two weeks, and I have no idea what to do with myself between now and then.

"Oh!" you say, "You're so lucky! You have all the time in the world to do so many things! You could run all day if you wanted!" Technically, those things are true but unfortunately those things are also not that easy. Since finishing the half-marathon, I have felt sort of lost running-wise. This isn't unusual and it is, in fact, the reason why I started training for what would have been my second marathon immediately after finishing my first. This time around, instead of diving right into a new event, I've sort of just sat around doing very little. Except a lot of eating (and mostly for emotional reasons. The stress of not having a job and, essentially, no direction in life is incredibly weighty and entirely new to me). At the same time, though, I don't want to repeat the same mistake I made last time and start training for something else.

The structure has to come from somewhere, and it looks like I am the only one who can give me the kick in the butt that I need to move on from this driftwood state and start using my free time to accomplish things. So I have been thinking about what my non-training running schedule should look like. Here is what I have been thinking so far:

Principle goals: 1) run 5-6 times a week; 2) run about 30 miles/week.

Weekly breakdown (subject to change or modification):
  1. Monday: off, weight training.
  2. Tuesday: Hills (4-6 miles)
  3. Wednesday: mid-week middle-distance (6-9 miles), light weight training.
  4. Thursday: tempo/speed work (fartlek, intervals, whatever you want to call them) (4-6 miles)
  5. Friday: off, weight training.
  6. Saturday: long run (10-15 miles)
  7. Sunday: easy 5-8 miles.
Any suggestions? I have never really attempted anything like this before. Before I started training for my first marathon, I would just do whatever felt good, trying to meet a minimum amount of mileage. I think this is a pretty balanced plan, but I am also wondering if it isn't a little bit compulsive. I guess that's the nature of running, though. I would like to work on my speed and strength a little bit, and figure the hills and tempo/interval training are essential for that, and I also want to have a little bit of variety throughout my week. Any comments or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Food for thought: What's the deal with sugar?

As I have already mentioned, I have the worst time with nutrition. I know the fundamentals, I have a clear idea of what I should and should not be eating, and I think that for the most part, I probably eat pretty well; however, I am almost always low on energy, poorly-fueled, and I tend to get hungry pretty soon after I have eaten a meal. Clearly my application of my knowledge of nutrition leaves much to be desired, and I am admittedly extremely confused about certain things.

At the top of that list is sugar. What, exactly, is the deal with sugar? I know that the completely ubiquitous (and seemingly completely unnecessary) high fructose corn syrup is to be avoided, and I try my hardest to check the ingredient list of pretty much everything I buy because man! that stuff will sneak up on you!! It is in most cereals (even those that claim to be healthy, such as Special K) and even whole wheat breads. Even foods that are salty have high fructose corn syrup now, and don't even both trying to get a light dessert because you are probably much better off just having a small portion of the full-fat version rather than buy the low-fat, low-cal, high fructose corn syrup containing variety.

But I digress. I often wonder if my mid- to late-afternoon dips in energy have anything to do with sugar. Am I eating too much of it? Should my carbohydrates be less refined and more complex? Should I be cutting sugar out of my diet? Most importantly, how exactly does one do that? Does that mean I have to cut out foods that have higher levels of sugar even if they are fruits? One thing that always blew my mind about the first stages of the South Beach Diet was how much fruit was looked down upon because of its potentially high sugar content. I know it depends on the fruit, but I'm speaking in general terms here.

I guess what it boils down to is this: for a while I have been toying with the idea of reducing or eliminating sugar in my diet (or my eating, since diet has somewhat negative connotations) but I have no idea how to do it. Do I just get rid of added sugar and continue eating things like honey, fruit, and other foods with naturally occurring sugar? Or do I just cut it out entirely? Or is it even worth addressing?

One thing I am hoping to take a look at after this week of keeping a food diary is how much sugar I am having in a day, and whether or not it seems to affect me in any way. Maybe after that I can start making some changes, if necessary. I mean, I don't think I am a sugar junkie by any stretch of the imagination, but the whole thing does have me a bit curious.

Have you all ever tried changing the amount of sugar you eat? How did you do it, and did you see any results?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Weekly Challenge: Food Diary

I feel like proper nutrition is the bane of my existence. I go on a diet, I'm tired all the time; I go off the diet, I'm tired all the time and I gain weight; and so it goes. So I am going to try and start with a clean slate by keeping a food diary this week that will also include keeping notes of how I am feeling, particularly before/during/after running. I figure this way I can (maybe) finally get a clear idea of what is working and what isn't.

Simple, right? Why didn't I do this before, you ask? Laziness! Plus, it can be so embarrassing sometimes to look at what you have eaten and realize that yes, you really did eat about five cookies when you weren't actually hungry.

Milestones

Wow, the past few days have been crazy. I apologize for my extended absence from the blogosphere; I went home to the D.C. area on Wednesday night, had a job interview on Thursday, pre-wedding (not mine, but a friend's) primping on Friday, a 5k Saturday morning and then a ceremony, reception, and party to attend (as a bridesmaid) that afternoon, and then Mother's day stuff yesterday. It was exhausting, but nice to do so many things with so many people that mean so much to me.

One of the best things about the weekend was definitely the 5k, which I ran with my older sister. It was her first 5k, and I am so proud of her! She was incredible :) It was a small race at a private boys' school in our area that benefited a foundation created in the name of a former student of the school who died in his twenties of diabetes. I was so excited to run with my sister, who has been working on her running for a while now, and always impresses me with the progress she has made. The course we ran was around the neighborhood where the school is located and had some serious hills in it, which my sister attacked pretty fearlessly! I know when I was running my first 5ks, hills terrified me. If she was terrified, she certainly didn't show it. Our father, her husband, and her daughter all came to cheer us on, and it was a great feeling to get to the final stretch of the race and see them there waving and cheering. My niece was so excited to see her mommy run that she was still talking about it the following day! She also cannot wait until the day she can run her own race. I love the fact that we already have a runner-in-waiting in the family. That certainly warms my running heart.

I know this is the beginning of a long and healthy series of races for my sister, and I hope she and I can keep running together. I know we probably won't be able to do all of our races together, but it was an honor and a joy to me to be able to be there with her for her first!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

What's Next?

You can't go through one marathon (or, in my case, 1/2 marathon) training season without giving any thought to what comes next! I had been split...Marine Corps Marathon? Or the Philadelphia Marathon (which, because it was my first marathon, will always have a special place in my heart)? I was having a hard time deciding, until this morning, when I went to the Marine Corps Marathon website in order to register. And what did I find there, you ask?

SOLD OUT!

I kind of expected it, to be honest. I guess it will have to wait for another year. As for me, I guess this means I'll be running Philly :)

Monday, May 5, 2008

Weekly Challenge: Spring Cleaning

I am still looking at the title of this post and thinking maybe it isn't quite right. I want this week's challenge to be about nutrition, and maybe that title is misleading. Maybe it seems too closely related to...how can I put this politely...high-fiber diets? This challenge is diet-related, but not necessarily fiber-related. What I am really aiming for is a feeling of 'cleanliness'. It's a bit hard to describe. I just don't want the junky, weighted-down feeling I get from eating too much of what is wrong and not enough of what is right. So I think it is time to get things together nutrition-wise.

After my diet debacle, I decided it was time to just get back to regular eating. Call me crazy, but I feel like not feeling totally drained about midway through the day is a good thing. Plus last week, when I was no longer on the diet, I felt better while running. Hmm....At any rate, this week I would like to challenge myself to eat more balanced meals, but in a concrete way. What does this mean, exactly? 5 fruits and vegetables a day! From what I understand, 5 servings of fruit/veggies is the recommended minimum, and as I have a tendency to leave those things out of my diet (buying produce in NYC is a pain in the b-u-t-t), I am going to make a point of getting my minimum.

I am hoping to weight things a bit more heavily on the veggie side (3:2 veggie to fruit ratio), and surpass my minimum when possible. As usual, this is a challenge that I am hoping to stick with even after the week has ended.

Hopefully this one goes better than my early wake-up call...maybe once I have left the indulgent life of the graduate student behind I will try that again :p

I hate running in shorts!

That's my confession: I hate running in shorts. I love the warm weather, I love the cool breezes, I love not having to pile on layers, I love feeling the sun on my skin (although I don't like the thought of a sunburn)...I just hate wearing shorts while experiencing all of these things.

See, I can't relax in shorts. I am constantly tugging at them: they are sitting too high on my waist, or not high enough, or (and this is most often the case) they are riding up between my legs. They are bunching up between my thighs. And my thighs are not particularly large. And it doesn't seem to matter what sort of shorts I wear. I have tried different brands, different lengths, different cuts, different materials, and it never seems to make a difference. No matter what I do, I find myself yanking at my shorts while running so that they stop riding up.

As a result, I dread the warm weather. I wish I could wear capri pants all the time, no matter what. Sadly, with the summers on the east coast, capri season is rather short and fleeting. What's a girl to do?

Has anyone else had a similar problem? Or any other gripes with gear that just never seems to work, no matter what you try? Misery does love company, after all.

1/2 marathon thoughts

After running 13.1 miles yesterday, I feel surprisingly comfortable today; I have no muscle soreness, no fatigue...it is weird, it's as though I didn't even run yesterday! Who knows what is going on with my body? I give up on trying to figure it all out.

As I mentioned briefly yesterday, the half-marathon went far better than I had thought it would. I don't actually remember the last time I did a long run (I know it was 18 miles and I know I was thirsty in spite of having my fuel belt on but I can't remember when it was exactly), and as I think I said, it had been a while since I had even run more than once or twice a week. My runs had gotten a point where they were depressing more than anything and I had definitely lost that loving feeling (toward running, anyway).

On Saturday, I made sure to pack my suitcase with everything I thought I might need: multiple pairs of shorts, t-shirts, capris in case it was colder than I was expecting it to be, a quarter-zip pull-over, two bottles of gatorade, sports bars, etc. At that point I headed downtown to catch the bus that was taking all the TNT to Long Branch, NJ. The bus ride was pretty short, not too too painful, and got us to NJ around 2 p.m. I checked into my hotel, and spent the afternoon resting and feeling half-worried, half-confident. I had to keep reminding myself that I was not just running a 5k or a 10k tomorrow, that I was going to be running 13.1 miles, which I had not done for a considerable amount of time, and which I was not sure I was capable of doing. I also had to do a fair bit of convincing myself that if I had to stop running or couldn't finish, that it was alright. I hate having to walk during races or even just training runs. I hate feeling like I have failed at something. My mom came up to NJ that evening and we had a pasta dinner that was overpriced but yummy. After she left, I went back into rest-mode, reading in bed and trying to answer my roommate's questions while still making it clear to her that I was not all that interested in chit-chat. It didn't work too well.

Sadly, I failed to sleep well. I know I slept a little bit, but it couldn't have been much. My roommate (I had no idea who she was prior to meeting her when she came in the room on Saturday afternoon) snored like an outboard motor most of the night. Not ideal. This didn't help my confidence--I'm supposed to run a half-marathon on very little sleep even though I haven't run more than 6 miles in weeks? Are you crazy?! I tried not to think negatively, and also tried to ignore how tired I was as I made my way to the starting line of the race.

The course itself was completely flat. You'd think this would be a good thing, but it was incredibly boring and tedious for my muscles. There were very slight inclines (on short bridges, for example) that were a welcome break from the flat but that didn't last long enough to really give the course any excitement. For the first four or so miles I felt fine but incredibly bored. I wondered if I was going to be able to make it through 13.1 miles of this. I was running slowly, trying to take it easy, not know how I would feel after passing the halfway mark.

Miraculously, after the halfway mark I seemed to get my second wind. Things all of a sudden felt easy. I was able to speed up a bit, feel comfortable with my stride, and enjoy myself a little bit more than I had during the beginning of the race. The boredom dissipated and although the course remained monotonous, I didn't mind so much. I remembered what it was about running that I liked--the motion, the movement, the fact that you are moving forward no matter what, accomplishing something with every step you take. My mind felt clear and my body felt strong. It had been a long time since I'd had that feeling, and I relished it. It carried me through the second half of the race and to the finish line.

My half-marathon PR is a 1:58 or so. Yesterday I ran a 2:11, but I think of it as a victory in spite of it's being thirteen minutes slower than my best time. Running those thirteen miles was like recharging my battery--I felt like I was finally a runner again.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Home again, home again

After being in New Jersey for a hot minute to run the half marathon, I am now back in New York. I am exhausted and slightly dehydrated (at least I think that is what the headache is all about) and don't really have the energy to write a long post right now. I just wanted to say, though, that I finished the 13.1 miles in 2:11, ran the whole way, and felt much better than I thought I would.

Sigh of relief :)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A thank-you note to my readers, friends, and family

Now that I am beginning to move beyond the melt-down I had earlier this week, I am also managing to come to terms with the fact that this weekend I will be running a distance that I haven't run in a while. This weekend I will be running the half-marathon in New Jersey. I am planning on running it like a long run, nice and easy, in a way that I hope will allow me to enjoy the experience and not worry about a PR, or even a decent time. I am just going to put the runner's ego away for a while, run these 13.1 miles, and then move on.

Yesterday I was able to break through my running block--I ran a good, comfortable 6.3 miles at a comfortable pace and didn't feel frustrated (or like crying, for that matter) afterwards. This gave me some hope for this weekend.

The other thing that gave me hope, though, was the outpouring of support I got from everyone after my depressing post the other day. I had no idea that saying how I felt would have such an impact. I guess sometimes we all need a boost from people who understand what we are going through, and I have to say that the one I got was more than I could have asked for. So, what I want to say more than anything is thank you.

Thank you to Chris, whose idea to have everyone run their longest distance in support of my effort touches my heart; thank you to my mom, who insisted on coming to see me run even though I told her she shouldn't in spite of the fact that deep down I really wanted her to; thank you to my older sister who still cites me as her inspiration even though I find her much more inspiring than I have ever been; thank you to Mike who sticks by me even when I am insufferable and has always believed in me; thank you to Sean who sends me texts messages about robot invasions and how odd looking ears are, which always make me laugh, and who, like Mike, has also always believed in me; thank you to Sonia for being such a great long-distance running buddy; thank you to everyone who left a supportive or helpful comment; I know this isn't everyone and I hope no one is upset if they feel they have been left out, it is certainly not my intention to ignore anyone or anything. I just want everyone to know how grateful I am and how lucky I feel to be surrounded by such a great group of individuals.

thank you all.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Blergh

Yuck.

I have a marathon/half-marathon to run in less than a week (Sunday, to be exact) and I don't have the mental strength to make it through 3 miles anymore. My lack of appetite and inability to sleep when I am exhausted are probably also not helping at this point.

So tonight's crappy workout was 3 terrible miles at the indoor track at the school gym followed by a piddling 15 minutes of the Minna Lessig workout. I can't remember the last time I ran more than once a week, and I also can't remember the last time a run hasn't ended in a feeling of complete defeat accompanied by a generous amount of tears.

A word to the wise: don't sign up to run a second marathon after you have just finished running your first unless you have seen the future and you are sure it is something you must, absolutely must, do. If this is not the case, do yourself a favor and take a break. Otherwise, you risk dealing with what I am dealing with right now, which is to say a complete lack of enjoyment from running (something that you once loved more than life itself) and a profound sense of burnout and failure.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Problem-solving follow-up

First of all, thanks everyone for your great and helpful comments! It seems that the consensus is that more carbs=a good thing (please don't sue me, Martha Stewart). I had thought my diet was pretty balanced, but the majority of my carbs are coming from fruits and vegetables, and to be honest I don't feel like I am eating very much at all. I may need to add more whole grain sources to my fruit and veggie repertoire, which I guess is where I will start tweaking.

I am also considering going in to the doctor this week to see if I can have my iron levels tested. As a vegetarian, I feel like iron deficiency is always potentially an issue, so it seems like it would be worthwhile to just have a look at that.

Other than that, I think it may just be time to move on from ediets. Their program doesn't seem especially suited to athletes who are looking to perform well (which is not what it advertises, anyway, so I am by no means trying to discredit them or anything. Truth be told, I should have thought a bit better about trying out their program given my somewhat rigorous workout schedule).

With any luck, things will get a bit better and I will be re-energized in no time!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Problem solving

I have been so sluggish lately, which has really been getting of the way of my succeeding at this week's challenge. I haven't been going to bed too late, I have been sleeping well, and for a decent amount of time. But I cannot, for the life of me, get up in the morning. When I do, I feel like I have just been dragged out of bed after sleeping a mere two hours, and my eyes take several minutes (10 to 15) just to focus. It's weird. I have to give myself ample amounts of time to wake up, and I tend to feel better once I have. But it's not long before I feel groggy again. By mid-day, I am ready for a nap. By late afternoon, I am nearly a zombie. I have never been heavily dependent on caffeine, but I am starting to feel like even if I had a coffee IV I would still be low on energy.

About three weeks ago, I started following a diet plan through ediets, in an attempt to shed a bit of weight I had put on. Shortly thereafter, I started missing runs because of traveling and other things in life, and then I got sick. The thing is, starting the diet kind of coincided with the quality of my running going way down, but I think that was due more to outside factors than anything else. I am eating a much greater variety of fruits and vegetables now, and feel pretty well-nourished. But I am tired all the time. What gives? At this point my energy level is so low that I find myself having a hard time getting to the point where I feel like I can make it through a run. Maybe the lack of exercise is the reason for the lack of energy? I don't know.

Has anyone else experienced anything like this? Anyone have any suggestions or solutions they would care to share?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A change of plans

Oof. I just finished doing "Tank Top Arms, Bikini Belly, Boy Shorts Bottom" with Minna Lessig (who, it is true, does use a lot of somewhat silly expressions) and my muscles are still shaking. Last time I did it, I didn't do the whole thing; I omitted the total body workout, which, it would appear, is like the double-chocolate whipped topping, and cherries, and sprinkles on top. I mean, the whole DVD is challenging, there is no doubt about that, but doing the full hour is wow a tough workout. As I write this my triceps are twinging a little bit. In the best way possible, of course. I know I will be feeling it in the morning.

So why revisit this DVD, since I have already mentioned it here? Well, because I decided that instead of doing that workout for your shape routine featured in Fitness, I would try doing this routine three times a week over the next month. At that point, I will have firmly established a weight-training routine. Plus, I think that in order to get the full effect of the Fitness routine, the best thing would be to do the cardio workout that goes along with it, which I would prefer to do after finishing up with this imminent marathon. So that's the new plan, just thought you might like to know :)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Weekly Challenge: what next?

I'm pretty proud of myself: I managed to get up to 10 pushups over the past week. That's not bad--a jump from 2 to 10 (while being sick) is pretty respectable, I think. Especially seeing as how it was an eight pushup jump in a very short period of time. So I'm nowhere near G.I. Jane craziness, but it is a definite improvement.

And now it is time to pick out a new weekly challenge. I'm not entirely sure what to do this week. The one idea I've been knocking around has been getting up in the morning to run or workout. I tend to put it off until later in the day, but I have always wanted to commit to running in the morning, getting it out of the way, and having many hours in front of me during which I do not have to worry about when I am going to be able to fit a run in.

So here's my idea for this week: wake up around 6:30 or 6:45, eat something (a Luna bar, maybe?), digest, and be out for the run about an hour later.

This will probably be the most trying challenge to date but I guess it is now or never and I am going to have to rise to the occasion (and yeah, I admit that originally there was no pun intended there but then I thought about it and realized that it was punny, and I wrote it anyway. Feel free to groan).

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Splurge on shoes!

Now that the weather is finally beginning to vaguely resemble something Spring-like, I think more and more of us are ready to shuffle off our wintry coils and get outside for some activity. Of course you all know what my favorite outdoor activity is: running (duh)!! One of the greatest things about running is that you don't really need any fancy equipment to do it--all you need to do is throw on some clothes that you don't mind getting sweaty (for a start, anyway. When you get serious about it, you may find you want to invest in some wicking material in order to prevent the dreaded chafing), grab some shoes, and head out the door.

The problem here is that a lot of people end up grabbing the wrong shoes. This seems to happen a lot, and to a certain extent, fitness magazines do little to stop this problem in its tracks. Recently, Fitness magazine ran a piece about the best shoes for different activities, identifying one shoe for walking, one for running, one for cross-training, etc. The problem with this is that there really isn't a single "best" running shoe--everyone's foot is different and everyone needs a different shoe. Going in to some big sporting goods store and just picking out what a magazine told you is the best shoe is one of the least productive things you can do for your wallet and your body.

Running in the wrong shoes can be extremely hard on your body, and seeing as how running is an activity that is inherently hard on the joints, it seems to me that you would want to minimize or mitigate damage as much as possible. Getting the right shoes is essential when it comes to preserving your knees, ankles, and hips! I know it may sound silly, but the difference between the right and the wrong pair of shoes could mean the difference between running happily for the rest of your life and running miserably for a few years (if you make it that long) before injuring yourself to the point where running is out of the question.

Here are my tips when it comes to buying the right shoes:
  1. Take a look at some material online to see what is said about shoes. Runner's World and CoolRunning are probably a good place to start.
  2. There is a lot of information online about how to get an idea about the shape of your foot, how you roll through your foot as you run, and the shape of your arch. Being familiar with all of these things can really help you to identify a good shoe. You should make sure you get an idea of how a high arch is different from a low arch, and what pronation and motion-control shoes mean.
  3. Go to a running store. A lot of (if not all) running stores pride themselves on being able to help their customers find the right shoe. They want you to be running as long as possible. The longer you run, the longer you are their customer. I'm sure they are also interested in your running because they are generally runners too and want everyone to enjoy running (so it is not just a capitalistic interest)! Some stores have treadmills that are hooked up to cameras and monitoring systems, others just rely on the keen eyes of their highly-trained staff. Whatever the set-up, a good running store employee will spend as much time as necessary with you in order to find the shoe that works best for you. The best sign is when they start you off with brands you have never heard of--that is, they don't bring out the Nikes or the Adidas; instead, they start with the Mizunos, Asics, Sauconys, or Brooks.
  4. Don't be afraid to speak up. When you are trying on shoes, remember that you are making an investment in yourself and you want to find the right thing. Take your time to get a feel for the shoe and if it doesn't feel exactly the way you want it to, say something. Try a different pair. Make sure you run in the shoes, and that you don't just walk. Your stride while walking is different from your stride while running and often a shoe will feel different during the two activities. Give the shoes a test run, even if it means going out onto the sidewalk in front of the store. Most of the time, the store employees have no problem with this.
  5. Expect to pay between $75 and $120. Believe me, it is worth it. Plus, if the price is a bit too high for you in the store, you can always take a look and see what's available online (although that isn't really nice to do to someone who just spent an hour with you and helped you go through eight pairs of shoes).
I hope these tips help and keep you running for a long time to come!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

New feature from Nike+

Generally, I love Nike+ or whatever you want to call it. Now, there is one exception--I hate the Nike+ armband for reasons I have already stated and that I won't bother to go into again. Although, jeez, I really hate that thing. I mean, what a let down. But I digress.

Today, as I was logging my run (or sort of having my run logged for me automatically because that is what awesomeness does), I noticed that Nike+ has a new feature--training plans! You can choose from a walking-to-running plan, a 5k training plan, a 10k training plan, a half-marathon training plan, a marathon training plan, and a customized plan for an event of your choice. Each distance has different levels of intensity, from beginner to advanced, and each level of intensity comes with a pretty detailed description of the sort of person who would benefit from the plan, why you may or may not want to choose it, and what sort of goal you might accomplish if you choose it. Needless to say, I will definitely be trying one of these out for my next marathon. Or half-marathon. Or even 10k, if I decide I want to run it in a specific time or something. I am sort of inordinately excited about this whole thing.

AND I did 7 full push-ups this evening. So that adds to the excitement!

Fitness fixation

Good news, everybody! I can swallow again without wincing. This also means I can now eat things other than toasted bagels and orange juice. It is so easy to forget how good it feels to be healthy--not that I am entirely healthy. Unfortunately, I haven't made a miraculous recovery, I have just experienced a cold migration. Instead of my throat feeling like someone has it in a vice and is rubbing sandpaper on it, my nose is now runny. Not too pretty, but far preferable to a sore throat any day of the week, if you ask me.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand. I have a silly little dream that one day my blog will be big and awesome and people will send me their products to review and I'll get a lot of free goodies. Realistically, I don't think it will ever happen, but it is a nice little pipe dream to keep near. The thing is, I already know which products I would want to have sent to me for free, because (and this is in the spirit of full disclosure) there are certain things that I fixate on. It's true! I see the infomercials and I get drawn in. Then maybe I see the product in stores, or I go to the website, or something, and...I get even further drawn in! I become completely obsessed with these products, like they are the little miracle pill that will change my life. It's very silly, I know, but I can't help myself.
One of these products is the Bender ball, part of the Bender Method of Core Training or something to that effect. For some reason, I am mesmerized by these ads, and convinced that I, too, will have a flat and toned tummy if I get the Bender ball! I have looked for reviews of the product, and I haven't found much, but I saw an ad the other day that said that you can now get the Bender ball and the instructional DVD for like $9.95. If I had $9.95 to spend on something like that, it would be really tempting. I mean, not only would I be able to use it, I would be able to review it, too! Too bad I can't write it off for educational purposes.

I also have a semi-crush/obsession with the bar method. The method consists of classes, and as far as I know, is mostly only available in California (with a few exceptions). It would be fun to have a job where I could just drop in on classes to try them out. Ah, dreams. And if I did have that job, I would be sure to try out a spinning class. I have always wanted to try one of those because I know I am weak when it comes to cycling, but I am scared to ride my bike in NYC (something about being car-doored=not-so-appealing to me) and really hate riding the stationary bike. I think it would be a fun and hard workout, the perfect way for me to kick my own butt...well, maybe someday!

What about you? What are your fitness fixations?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Food for Thought: Keeping a Diary

Health, fitness, and weight-loss trends are constantly coming and going as though functioning on a revolving-door sort of platform; however, I have noticed that there has been at least one constant in everything that I have heard over the years about eating right and losing weight, and that is that you should keep a food diary.

Personally, I haven't had much success keeping one, but that's because I'm lazy. I mean, yeah, I'll admit it. I am lazy, and I am also picky about where I write these things down. I like to have a designated place for things like this, and if it means I can buy a cute little notebook, then I am all for it. That's why I was intrigued by this cute food diary. There is space for your meals, snacks, exercises, and notes for any given day. The cover is laminated and with 100 pages, you can keep several months' worth of information in a single book. Plus they are small enough to stash away in your purse for when you are on the go, and inexpensive enough that you can buy a new one when you run out of space.

Yet another push for money

Good news! I only need $200 more to meet my fundraising minimum. The bad news (which always inevitably follows good news) is that I need the money by Wednesday, and that if I don't have it, it gets taken out of my bank account.

So please, if you know anyone who would be willing to part with like $20-$25, urge them to donate to Team in Training. It is a really good cause, and I don't actually have $200 to fill the gap between what I have and what I owe. Otherwise, I would pay it myself.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Blogging from bed

When I thought about it yesterday, today's agenda had far more on it than lying in bed feeling miserable, eating the occasional toasted bagel, drinking orange juice and popping tylenol, and watching a few movies. I had thought I would get in a 20-mile run, work on my pushups, maybe lift weights (depending on how the 20 miles went), get my taxes done, and grade and correct backlog of work for my students. That was before I spent most of last night tossing, turning, and wondering why I couldn't really swallow.

It's nothing serious, really, just an irritated throat brought on by what I'm guessing is everyone's favorite annoyance: the common cold. The problem is that of all times, this is probably the worst one during which it could make its appearance. I'm amazed that I managed to stave off illness this long. Sadly, my body has now succumbed at this most crucial of marathon training times.

This just brings me down, really. I had been hoping that I'd be able to get myself back on track (yet again) and run my long run, and sort of reestablish my confidence in my ability to run this marathon, coming up in less than a month. Now I am really doubting myself. I wonder if I shouldn't just throw in the towel. I have been struggling to get through the training for the past four months--it has been completely different from my experience training for the Philadelphia marathon. This time around, I have felt less like a runner than ever before. Mostly, I have felt like an impostor. Of course, lying in bed with little to do except wish I felt better and my body felt a little bit stronger and not so plagued by aches and pains doesn't exactly make things easier. All I can do, really, is sit here and think about things I have done wrong, when what I would really like to do is go out and correct my mistakes.

Here's hoping that tomorrow I feel a little bit better.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Final fundraising push!

I think many of you have probably already donated, but in the event that you haven't and want to help me get to my fundraising minimum of $2,600 by next Wednesday, April 16th:

www.active.com/donate/tntnyc/tntnycELittle

If you have donated already, please spread this on to co-workers, friends, family, etc. Here are some facts you might want to pass on to them:

-A donation of $25 provides patients and their loved ones with FREE booklets that contain up-to-date information on their disease and help them make informed decisions about their treatment options.

-A donation of $25 could also pay for the cost of 1 patient’s chemotherapy drug prescription co-payment.

-A donation of $50 makes possible a Family Support group with a trained facilitator where comfort can be found and experiences can be shared among patients and family members.

-A donation of $50 could also register 1 person to be a bone marrow donor.

-A donation of $75 could provide HLA (bone marrow) typing for a family member of a patient with leukemia.

-A donation of $100 helps supply laboratory researchers with supplies and materials critical to carrying out their search for cures.

-A donation of $150 provides 10 patients access to a web-conference to learn about their specific blood cancer.

-A donation of $300 will train 25 peer volunteers who can provide emotional support to newly diagnosed patients.

-A donation of $500 could provide patient aid to a person with Leukemia or a related cancer for a year.

-A donation of $1000 makes possible one- on-one conversations with health care specialists who provide patients with information about their disease, treatment options, and helps prepare them with questions for their health care team.

Obviously, a little goes a very long way, and a donation of as little as $10 can make a big difference toward improving someone's life or the quality of care they are getting.

Days of Light

I was just sitting here at my computer (as I am wont to do) listening to one of my favorite feel-good songs ("You Better You Bet"), sung by one of my all-time favorite singers (Roger Daltrey), and performed by one of my all-time favorite bands (the Who). This got me thinking of another song that I LOVE, sung by the very same Roger Daltrey, though not with the Who. This song is the perfect thing for a Friday afternoon, after you've gotten through your commitments for the week and just want to chill out and relax. Turn it up loud and dance around. I promise I won't laugh if you do.

Enjoy!

WTF: An Open Letter to the Men of Central Park

Dear Men of Central Park,

Wow, pretty warm weather we've been having the past couple of days, huh? Perfect time to throw on a t-shirt and some shorts and go for a run around New York City's greatest green space. I mean, who doesn't love the Park, especially when the weather is this nice? Anyone who doesn't is clearly crazy, are you with me? Yeah, I thought so. It's great that we agree on so many important points.

There seems to be, however, something upon which we strongly disagree, and I can't keep it to myself any longer. You may already know what I am getting at here--it's the shirt thing. As in, the keeping-the-shirt-on thing. Now, I'm a runner, I know what it is like to be running along and get hot and sweaty and uncomfortable. But really, guys, please keep your shirts on. I mean, there are very few men who should take their shirts off--elite athletes, super-ripped actors, etc. The elite physique thing generally makes it a bit more acceptable. Unfortunately, and I hate to be bursting anyone's bubble here, you guys don't fall into those categories, and seeing your doughy, pale torsos jiggle as you jog along is really, thoroughly unattractive. I mean, it is really just gross. It isn't even that hot outside. If you are already taking your shirt off when it is 75 degrees, what are you going to do when temperatures go up into the eighties? Take off a layer of skin? I don't even want to think about all those exposed organs, not to mention fatty tissue and the occasional muscle. You know, the thing is, there are other men and women out there in the park working just as hard as you are, maybe even harder. They've managed to resist the urge to tear their clothing off, and a lot of them look like they are probably in better shape and may have a better-looking body to show off. This just sort of leads me to think that you're taking your shirts off in order to prove something. Like...that you have fifteen or more pounds to lose? No one needs to know that other than you and your life partner. And possibly your doctor.

Please, guys, I am begging you. Put the shirts on and keep them on. If this is too much for you, exercise somewhere that has air conditioning. Are we clear on this? I hope so.

Thanks!
Emilie

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Shape-ups for your shape


Ah, the dreaded afternoon slump. I feel like I may be in an Emerald nuts commercial. The question is what weird group of half-celebrities is going to harass me when I fall asleep? I find both the Robert Palmer girls and the Swiss Family Robinson commercials especially creepy, so I hope it is neither of them.

Instead of munching on nuts (I lost four pounds last week and I want to keep my progress going!) I thought I would blog for the third time today. What can I say? I am making up for lost time. I am probably also going to make some tea with a bit of honey because my throat is acting a bit wacky. I'll be right back, just going to pop off to put the kettle on.

Okay, I'm back with a cup of steeping tea and some interesting news to share. In this month's issue of Fitness magazine, there is an article about how beneficial following a workout plan that is designed for your body type can be. The article includes exercise plans for three different body types, generic enough that everyone should be able to find themselves in the mix. Here are your options:
  1. Pear-shaped: most of your weight is carried below your waist and you could stand to develop a bit of muscle tone on your top half to balance your ample...er, womanly, hips and thighs.
  2. Apple-shaped: you carry your weight around your mid-section and torso and tend to have thinner legs.
  3. Chile pepper-shaped: you have narrow shape and could benefit from developing muscle tone all over your body. I think this one is the best because if you are chile pepper-shaped, you can wear the "I'm a pepper" shirt that Jeff Goldblum wears in The Life Aquatic. Not the exact same one, of course, although that would be sort of hot.
After quite a bit of soul-searching, I figured I probably fall into the category of pear-shaped, what with all that junk inside my trunk, and all that ass inside my jeans (I'm hoping that at least one person gets that reference). This whole concept has made me curious. On one hand, it could just be a way to get people to exercise, and feel like they are doing a bit more than just a random set of different things. There is, of course, nothing wrong with that. In fact, I'm the sort of person who loves a concept like this and loves falling for it even if I know that it may not necessarily yield different results from those that I would get doing any weight training and aerobic exercise on a regular basis. In brief, I sort of love it and let myself fall for it when people say, "Oh, this particular workout will work well for you..." Yeah, I'm more likely to do it if I think it is slightly personalized. It just makes me feel good about myself for some reason.

So here's what I have decided. For the next 30 days, I am going to take on this "Love your shape" workout plan and see how it goes. The exercises are straightforward and not gimmicky, and require little equipment--just a set of weights and a stability ball. Plus, if it does what it says it should, in a month I will be the most toned pear on the block!

Gear: Headphones

UPDATE: My Phillips headphones are in a trash can somewhere in Central Park. Before heading out to run, I noticed that they leak sound like there is no tomorrow, which I generally hate in a pair of headphones. I think it is a sign of really, really shoddy craftsmanship. Plus, I personally can't stand being able to hear what other people are listening to when they have headphones in, and I don't want to be one those people who shares their music with the rest of the world. I mean, these things were loud enough that they could have passed for speakers. In the first five minutes of my run, they fell out of my ears about five times. I eventually had to just take them out, and after realizing what crap they are, decided that they are not worth keeping. Angry email to Phillips to follow.

One of my greatest frustrations when I am running is my headphones. I feel like I have had many "wrong" pairs, and I'm still waiting to stumble upon the "right" pair. I've looked at runners' forums, various blogs, and I've tried to find reviews and articles about the elusive right headphone.

When I got my new ipod nano, I was disappointed to find that Apple no longer packages the little black foamy covers for their earbuds with the earbuds themselves. As far as I am concerned, that was the only thing that kept my former pair of falling out of my ears on a regular basis. That pair--that is to say, the earbud with foam cover combo--was decent but the wire ended up breaking. I guess you can only ask so much of a pair of headphones that come packaged with something. From those I switched to a pair of JVC jellies. Those were mediocre, and when I passed my ipod mini on to my sister, I passed the headphones along too, since I now had a shiny new pair of earbuds. Earbuds without foam covers, that is.

As it turns out, it doesn't take much for something to knock those little earbuds right out of my ears. Wind blows them out, if I so much as touch the cord they fall out, hell, they even fall out for mysterious reasons that I cannot attempt to explain. They just won't stay in my ears. So I began a search for some over-ear models. The kind with the hook that goes over your ear and that looks like it couldn't possibly fall out even if it was yanked on. I had tried a Sony pair of these a while ago but found, oddly, that my ears were too small. Upon putting them on my ears, they fell right off. It was like trying to hang a picture in the air, there was just nothing for the hooks to grab on to. They have worked really well, as far as I know, for the friend that I gave them too when I realized they were functionally useless to me.

At Target this past weekend, I thought I had found exactly what I was looking for--white, hook-over-the-ear earbuds that looked small enough for my dainty ears, made by Phillips. I tried them out yesterday, and found them to be only slightly better than the earbuds they replaced. In spite of their hooks (which are actually uncomfortable) they fell out of my ears on a couple of occasions during my 7.5 mile run. While I am running, the last thing I want to deal with is my headphones. I want to put them in, go, and not think about them again until my run is over and I am taking them out. I'm not sure why this is so difficult.

For now I will stick with the Phillips, but only because I paid money for them and am stubborn enough to think that maybe if I find the right way to put them in my ears (which will probably have to be done while the planets are in alignment, and it is a waxing moon, and the third Tuesday of a month with R in it, of course) they will be a blessing instead of the curse they are now.

Weekly Challenge: Drop and give me twenty!

Alright, so we are past the mid-week point. I was away from my home base until yesterday, so although I would have posted a new weekly challenge at the beginning of the week, I was unable to do so for logistical reasons. For that reason, this current weekly challenge is going to last from today until the end of next week, at which point I'll introduce a new one.

I'd like to start with an update about last week's challenge: giving up Diet Coke. It has been an incredibly difficult journey, but I have been Diet Coke (and all soda, for that matter) free since the beginning of my weekly challenge post about it on 3/31/08. You know, I wish I could say that I feel like it has had palpable health benefits, like a decrease in sluggishness, or...I don't know, something. But it hasn't really had any effect that I can track myself. Of course, that doesn't mean that it hasn't been healthier. I really, really miss it, but I am determined to stay away from it. And coffee is a pretty satisfying alternative.

And now on to the new challenge. I am constantly hearing about push-ups. Fitsugar encouraged readers to take the push-up challenge and even has a poll this morning about whether or not readers do push-ups; the New York Times recently ran a Wellness blog entry about how push-ups are the best measure of fitness levels; it seems like nothing screams ripped bad-ass quite like one-handed push-ups. Or, for that matter, one-handed push-ups with someone sitting on the back of the person doing the push-up. Oof. In the midst of all this hoopla about the miraculous push-up, I have an embarrassing confession to make. I am good for one, maybe two (on a good day), push-ups at a time. If I drop to my knees I can sometimes get through about ten, but that just doesn't have the same value as the true push-up. For a while I was confused because I can hold a plank like it is my job. I can even go through the entire plank, upward dog, downward dog cycle about a trillion times without ever touching the floor for a brief rest. But I can't do more than two stinking push-ups. What gives? It turns out that the strength I need, and that I don't happen to have, for a push-up is in my chest. I have strong arms, strong shoulders, a strong core, and a strong back, but weak pectoral muscles. So for the rest of this week and the week following this one, I am determined to work on this strength and, hopefully, by the time I am done, I will have broken my two push-up record. All I am looking to do is three to five, really. I don't mind starting slow. I just want to start somewhere.

I am interested in hearing about your experiences with push-ups. Do you do them? Do you enjoy them? How many can you do? Any fancy tricks (one-handed, clapping in between, etc.)?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Food for Thought: Snickers Charged

In our caffeine-obsessed culture, it should come as no surprise that popular candy bar Snickers now comes in a "charged" variety, touting high levels caffeine, taurine, and b-vitamins to keep you going all day long. This may also come as no surprise because I posted about it a while ago, asking for anyone who manages to lay their hands on it to send a review. Well, lucky readers, Mike the ever-intrepid was willing to try out the new candy concoction. Here's what he had to say last night through google chat:

Speaking of which, I did try one of those candy bars
me: how was it?
9:59 PM Mike: It was a little saltier than most Snickers. There was a sort of sharp taste to it, and a little bit of lingering metallic bitterness in the aftertaste. Four bites in, I could hear colors. After the fifth bite, I could see time.
I give it a B- for taste and a solid A for expansion of consciousness.
me: yikes
so it is psychotropic, basically
10:00 PM Mike: Essentially yes.

I'm not sure if this is enticing or repulsive. Ultimately, I guess, it depends on what effect you are going for. At the end of the day, though, Snickers is still a candy bar and, as such, has high amounts of calories, fat, saturated fat, and sugar. I guess this raises an interesting question--which would you prefer as a source of caffeine: Snickers Charged or diet soda?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Weekly Challenge: It's not you, Diet Coke, it's me.

Rather than take on a bunch of changes all at once, I have decided to experiment with a new method: taking one challenge at a time, and trying it on for a week. I get overwhelmed when I think of all the things I should change about myself--eat fewer refined carbohydrates, cut down on sugar, stop drinking diet soda, eat more protein, eat more fruits and vegetables...the list goes on...and on. Although I know things could be far worse, I do have bad habits that I would like to break. And I've heard it said that it takes twenty-one days to break a bad habit. My goal here, though, is to just take something on for a week, in the hopes that the effort I have made toward improving something (and the supposed benefits that will accompany said effort) will be sufficiently rewarding that I will be encouraged to maintain my healthy habit.

This week's challenge? No more diet soda. This is going to be hard. I love the taste of cold Diet Coke. I love the first sip in the morning, I love the way it fizzes, I even love the way it smells. The problem? Well, at this point, the list of negatives far outweighs the positives. Granted, this may have something to do with the fact that the one real positive is the caffeine boost. But the negative effects of diet soda in general are actually pretty disturbing. Recently, studies have shown an association between diet soda and weight gain, metabolic syndrome, and heart problems, just to name a few of the seemingly endless soda-craving killers. In recent years, I have significantly reduced the amount of Diet Coke I drink, so cutting it out completely will, admittedly, not be as hard as it would be if I were going from a daily dose to nothing at all. For caffeine, I will be drinking tea, and probably coffee as well which, though probably not the best choice, is still far healthier than the dreaded diet soda.

I will post about how the challenge is going at the end of the week. Until then, I will be fighting off the urge to have a Diet Coke IV hooked to my veins.

What will you challenge yourself to do this week?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Blog v2.0: Lets try this again

Deep breath. Okay. I spent some time thinking about things, about how I've been feeling lately, and about how my immediate reaction to things is to stop blogging and withdraw further into myself. So instead of giving up, I am going to refocus. My initial intention in starting this blog was to make it a sort of health resource. I mean, not in any official capacity, as I am no expert, but in a sort of casual way. I think it is important that I get back to the reason why I decided to start blogging in the first place, and that is what I am going to do. I am going to make more of an effort to focus on fitness and health and use this space as an outlet for things that I want to share--not things that annoy or irritate me, but things that I think can help people, myself included, lead healthier and more fulfilling lives.

I would like to share book reviews (healthy cookbooks, etc.), workout DVD information and reviews, and ideas and tips for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. As I make more of an effort to focus on these things, I would also like to spotlight (not exactly the word I want, but it gets the point across) what I am doing to stay healthy and fit. For example, right now I am trying to lose a few pounds, and--I admit sheepishly--I am still trying to incorporate a weight training routine into my weekly workouts. I don't know, weight training is just so boring to me! But I am going to continue working and be more proactive about sharing my progress (as well as my slip-ups as I am sure there will be a few) here.

Hopefully all of this gives my post-graduate school life a little bit more structure and direction and helps to lift me out of the doldrums. This doesn't mean, though, that I am getting rid of WTFs. And I'm still waiting on reviews of that Snickers bar. I have yet to see one in a store.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

For the past while, I have been going through a depression and lately having to deal with it has made me, more than anything, irritable, listless, and, when I am not irritable, indifferent.

For this reason, I've decided to put my blog on hiatus. I feel like the only things I have written about lately have been things that have annoyed me or angered me in some way, and I don't really want my blog to be something where I just whine and people read about the things that piss me off.

This will be my last post until I am feeling a little bit better, and unfortunately, I can't really put a date on that sort of thing. I've been told that based on the law of averages, I should benefit from some good luck pretty soon, based on the fact that my luck has been crap for a while; however, I don't really believe in that sort of thing, so I guess we will just wait and see.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thanks, Captain Obvious!

There's an article in the New York Times about Starbucks' now-mainstream approach to music. The reaction? Complete and utter surprise from some, disappointment from others.

As far as I can tell, if anything about this turn of events--why not call it the mainstreamization of Starbucks?--is surprising, it is the fact that anyone is surprised by it. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my Grande Soy Chai Latte as much as the next girl, but I am really, really confused by the fact that anyone would have labeled Starbucks as anything other than mainstream.

To be fair, the article deals with the musical selections that Starbucks has been featuring in its stores. At one time, apparently, Starbucks-addicted shoppers went to their local coffee shop to stock up on independent artists, musicians they may not normally hear on the radio or see on VH1 or MTV (not that one ever sees musicians on either of those channels anymore). Careers were made as a result of exposure gained through Starbucks. Now, sadly, coffee consumers enter their cherished Starbucks and find only Jack Johnson, John Legend, Paul McCartney. In short, artists whose careers have already been made and who do not need further exposure. What happened to the Madeleine Peyrouxs of the world? Are we responsible latte drinkers supposed to just step aside and forget our responsibility to buy overly-expensive caffeinated beverages and then soothe our consciences by buying the album of some struggling musician?

What exactly is going on here? Why would this be a source of shock, horror, dismay? Starbucks has to be one of the most mainstream corporations on American (and, at this point, global) soil. If the corporation was able to bolster careers, it was because of its mainstream status. A small (maybe with a few franchises, maybe with only a single location) coffee house, a thoroughly un-mainstream coffee house, would never be able to launch a career. And now that Starbucks is being a little bit more true to itself, people feel deceived. It. Makes. No. Sense.

I think that people may need to move beyond the feeling that going into a Starbucks is somehow hip and trendy, a demonstration of the fact that they are hooked into what is edgy and up-and-coming. What should be understood is that Starbucks is not some socially-conscious and socially-responsible corporation, it is just a corporation that wants (and needs) to make money. That is what capitalism is based on. If it is so important to you that you hear new musicians, exciting artists, avant-garde music, maybe you should find an independent radio station or something. Don't just take the easy, lazy route and then complain when it backfires on you.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

WTF candy style

Fresh from the hair salon and sporting a wonderful sixties sex-kitting 'do that will undoubtedly lose its unbridled appeal as soon as I try to style it myself, I bring you the latest WTF.

I encourage you all to sample this and submit your feedback.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So...sleepy...

As I write this entry, my head is gently nodding as my eyelids grow heavier and heavier. Once I get into bed, however, I won't be able to sleep. This tends to be how it goes.

Important news items:
  1. I managed to finally kick my butt back into gear and get running consistently again. Last week's mileage total was 38.7 and included a 15k race on Sunday that made up part of my 15.3-mile long run.
  2. In spite of my renewed dedication to running, I missed a day of weight training last week. I hope Rebecca won't kill me. This week I am planning on lifting tomorrow and Friday.
  3. Tonight was the second test (remember the first one? if I had the energy, I would post a link to my entry about the first test. Maybe I will do it later in an update). At any rate, at the time of the first test, I promised to post the results. Les voici:
    • Mile 1: 7'15 (strong desire to vomit)
    • Mile 2: 7'25 (strong desire to vomit, legs like jelly)
    • Mile 3: 8'04 (strong desire to vomit, legs like jelly, uphill)
This time around, the test involved running the loop we had previously done backwards and then running the third mile up a hill. My times were not as consistent, but I guess at least now I have an idea of how I've improved. I also know that I can run close to a seven-minute mile, which is not too shabby. I can't help but think, though, that had I been better about my training, my times would have reflected that. Oh well, I guess improvement is improvement.

In other, less uplifting news, I have now been rejected for two teaching jobs. I used to think that it was worse to not be contacted by an employer. Now I am not so sure, and I wish they wouldn't send such mean emails. They start off making you think that you are going to be asked for an interview, only to dash your hopes on the rocks in the following sentence. I think it is deliberate and it makes me want to hit someone. Or cry.

I have also been thinking about writing a book, because I think I could write a pretty good one. The only problem is that I can't think of anything to write about.