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


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.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

WTF round-up

Lately I have been finding myself running into a lot of smallish WTF moments. No real 'experiences' that I could write out in witty detail, just a number of little pet peeve-esque, button-pushing episodes that I would like to share with you now.
  1. Not taking the hair that accumulates in the drain of the bathtub while you're taking a shower out of the drain when you are finished showering. As an extension of that, letting the hair just build up over a period of days, possibly figuring that someone else will clear the hair for you (?!)
  2. Peeing with the door open in someone else's apartment. Next to someone's bedroom. Next to a long hallway that causes every teeny tiny sound to reverberate and amplify itself. Of course, those last two conditions don't have to be met in order for peeing with the door open in someone else's home to qualify as a WTF moment. That is just a given.
  3. Trying to find a bridesmaid's dress for the wedding of one of your best friends. The dress has to meet the following criteria: brown in color, affordability, likelihood that it is something I would wear again (the more expensive, the more likely it has to be). This is, for some reason that is completely unknown to me, much more difficult than it should be.
  4. The girl in yoga who plopped herself down next to me, practically on top of me, and then proceeded to make exasperated noises while in every pose, toss her props (blankets, blocks) away from her mat and pretty much on to mine, and do her hair instead of poses on multiple occasions. I know yoga is a time to pay more attention to what you are doing with your body than anything else, but I don't think that a part of that is making sure that you disrupt everyone else's practice by being loud, obnoxious, and intrusive.
  5. Walking, going down stairs or an escalator, or running and coming to a sudden halt for no apparent reason, causing the people around you to end up in a multiple-person pile-up. This is especially bothersome when people stop at the top or bottom of a stairway/escalator, or fail to move out of a doorway.
  6. On a related note, not using the other door when people are coming in or out of one door in a double-door entryway. There is nothing that bothers me more than having to wait in front of a closed door that the person standing in front of you won't open and is, instead, blocking, because he or she is waiting for people to stop coming in the other door. USE BOTH DOORS, PEOPLE FOR CHRIST'S SAKE.
  7. This is not a WTF-inducing moment but it is something I like nonetheless and is WTF-related. A good read, especially if you have spent time in France.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Team in Training

As some of you may know, lately I have been having a hard time keeping up with my training schedule and I have been nervous about my upcoming marathon. When I was training to run in the Philadelphia marathon, I kept thinking to myself, 'If I miss a single run, I won't be able to do the 26.2 miles!' I was so superstitious about it that I think I may have sort of put myself in a bad position for this next marathon. I have missed about three long runs so far and because I am so superstitious about things like this, I had sort of told myself that I should just give up or try to find another event.

Last night was our Hill Graduation Day at our Group Training Session. For the past six weeks, we have been working on running hills--how to work the hills to your advantage, how to crest hills, how to run down hills without killing your knees, what kind of form to use when running up, all the while working on getting stronger in all those essential hill-running muscles. It has been exhausting but rewarding and I feel like I am now intimately acquainted with every single hill that Central Park has to offer. I had run them all before, but running them several times in one session was a different experience altogether. Prior to the beginning of our practice, one of my friends from the Team got up to share something with all of us. She has known a significant number of people affected by blood cancers, and runs in honor of two who are survivors and who are very close to her. Unfortunately, not everyone that she knows who has been affected by cancer is as fortunate as those that she runs in honor of, and last night she told us that she learned yesterday that she may now be running in memory of two people who are very close to her. Her father recently died of pancreatic cancer, and now a family friend who was extremely supportive during this difficult time has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although pancreatic cancer is very different from the blood cancers that we are raising money for, I think it is really important to stress that we are all still doing something that is impacting a lot of people in a really positive way. My heart goes out to my friend, but I am happy that she can be a part of Team in Training and honor the memory of people that she has lost or is losing in a way that helps so many people and possibly brings us all a step closer to less suffering and fewer losses.

My friend's story reminded me of something really important: this marathon is not about me or running a personal record, or even running every single step, it is about helping and honoring people who have fought a battle that is more daunting and difficult than any marathon could ever be. It is also about helping families of those dealing with blood cancers, and working toward a cure so that, in time, fewer people will have to cope with the pain that accompanies losing someone dear to them. Knowing this gives me the strength that I need to keep going, and I am confident now that I will be able to run this marathon; however, if I have to walk every single mile, it is still not only worth it, but only a small portion of what I hope to continue to do to help people.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

So far, so good

Yesterday was Day 2 of my new weight-training commitment (I mean, Day 2 if you only count the days on which I am weight training, which so far has been Friday and Monday). I am proud to report that so far, I have been faithful to my schedule. I think this has more to do with the fact that I don't want to let someone else down than it does with my own personal commitment, but I guess you do whatever it takes, right?

On Friday I did a series of exercises that I adapted from a workout I found online at Boy, was I in pain the next day. And the day after that. I mean, it may not have helped that I did the exercises and then did 90 minutes of yoga on the same day, but wow, I hadn't realized how thoroughly weak a lot of my muscles were. I mean, I had trouble sitting down from all of the one-legged squats and lunges I did. Ouch. It hurt.

Over the weekend I received a workout DVD I ordered through Netflix: Tank Top Arms, Bikini Belly, Boy Short Bottoms with Minna Lessig. In spite of its somewhat cheesy title, the DVD was pretty good. It is fun, keeps you from getting bored, and I felt like I was getting a good workout while doing it. My muscles are also sore (though not to the point where I can't move, like over the weekend) today, which is a good sign. My triceps and bum are especially feeling it. The DVD is divided into multiple sections: 1) warm-up; 2) tank top arms; 3) bikini belly; 4) boy short bottoms; 5) total body workout; 6) cool-down. You can do as much or as little as you want--I did the first four sections (which was about 45 minutes overall) before heading to my 75-minute yoga class and felt like I had worked my entire body pretty thoroughly. Now, I doubt it will be all that entertaining for men (unless you focus more on how pretty Minna Lessig is) but it is a great option for people who are trying to jump-start a workout routine.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

It's a small world after all

I got up early this morning to go for my long run only to realize that I am so hungry (at least I hope that it is hunger) that I sort of feel like throwing up and that this sort of empty stomach does not a good long run make. It is also about 103 degrees in my bedroom; I have opened the window so it may now be about 101, but regardless of the exact temperature, I can said with assurance that it is really, really, uncomfortably warm in here. As a result, I just feel plain old sick, woozy, nauseous, whatever you want to call it. I have put my long run off until later. In the meantime, though, I'm awake (because honestly, you can't sleep when you feel this gross and my upstairs neighbor seems to be jumping rope with a heard of elephants right above my room so I really wouldn't be able to sleep if I tried), so I thought I would do what every normal human being would do when awake at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday--play a jigsaw puzzle online.

So here's the scenario: I open the website that I go to for a daily jigsaw puzzle. Most (and by that I mean all, after a certain date) of them are credited to some mysterious camera-toting woman name Leanne, who seems to take pretty mundane but sometimes very pretty pictures that work well for jigsaw puzzle fun. This morning, I was pretty shocked to see who had taken the picture...

I know the picture is small, but it is the best I can do. The picture, entitled "Swan", was taken by my paternal grandfather, Bates Littlehales. Cah-razy.

Anyway, time to do my jigsaw puzzle. And hopefully feel a little bit better.