Slow Running For the Win

I have been vindicated, you guys.

Ok, let me back up a bit, so as to explain that vindication: I’m a slow runner. Painfully — no, embarrassingly — slow. For years, I’ve been both appalled and slightly ashamed of the fact that I routinely average a 10:30 mile. I manage to do 11:00 if I’m tired. 9:30 if I’m feeling awesome. 8:30 if I’m in the best shape of my life and had a cup of coffee the size of a Winnebago.

After the Great Health Implosion of 2013 and the ensuing 14 months of bloat-inducing medication, my mile time slowed to such a plodding pace that I stopped referring to these forays into outdoor exercise as running and instead called them by a more appropriate name: lumbering.

As in, I’m going lumbering and will be back in 35 minutes or so. When I got tired, I’d start singing Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On” in my head — but I’d change the lyrics to say Lumber on/Now’s the time/The time is now…

Meanwhile, when I read about all these amazing runners who can roll out of bed and bust out multiple 8 minute miles, I feel like the athletic equivalent of a manatee.

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BUT NO LONGER!

This afternoon I saw a column in the Times health section which said that slow runners have greater longevity than either sedentary people or fast runners. To quote the article:

Plodding joggers tended to live longer than those who were faster. And in fact, the people who jogged the most frequently and at the fastest pace — who were, in effect, runners rather than joggers — did not enjoy much benefit in terms of mortality. In fact, their lifespans tended to be about the same as among people who did not exercise at all.

The results suggest that the “optimal dose of jogging is light, and strenuous joggers and sedentary non-joggers have similar mortality rates,” said Jacob Louis Marott, a researcher for the Copenhagen City Heart Study and co-author of the study.

YOU GUYS. Today, I am vindicated. Today, I stand before you a newly-proud slow runner.

The timing of the article was perfect, too: the weather here has been too cold and miserable to run outside, so I’ve been either bonding with the treadmill or the elliptical lately. Today, though, presented the one shining reprieve in our weather pattern.

All week I’ve been planning to take advantage of today’s nice weather, so I went for a lumber. I lumbered on for 3 ¼ miles, plodding along with my 10:30 pace – but when other people sped past (and even when one dude passed me twice), my competitive side, which gets obnoxiously vocal when I’m doing anything sports-related, was quickly silenced. Instead, it was replaced by me imagining myself standing on a park bench and yelling, like a super-creepy self-proclaimed prophet who tries to preach to the masses without being fully coherent, “Yes, you guys are all way faster than me – but I MIGHT NOT HAVE ANYTHING TO BE ASHAMED ABOUT AFTER ALL! BECAUSE SCIENCE! SLOW RUNNING 4 LIIIIIIIIIFEEEEE!”

So, to any other joggers who enjoy running but are totally cool with their non-competitive pace, I say this: slow runners unite!

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Solidarity, my fellow non-competitive slow runners. We shall inherit the earth, possibly, if the results of that study are legit.

Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K*

* And by Circle K, I mean the gym. I know, it’s not super accurate — but I couldn’t resist the temptation to use one of my favorite quotes from Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

Anyways, I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’ve seen some really weird stuff in my years of gym-going.

Some of the most bewildering things have happened in the locker room, because this is a place where people feel it’s completely acceptable to parade around butt nekkid in front of strangers. Call me old-fashioned, but this creeps me out.

The worst case of this happened when I was working as a lifeguard during grad school. My usual routine was to hit the gym before my shift and then change into my pool gear in the fitness center locker room, but this became increasingly untenable. Why, you ask? Because and every day, without fail, there was a patron who’d prance around said locker room wearing only a leopard-print thong and clear lucite heels. She’d do her hair and make-up in this get-up, and would strike pouty supermodel poses in the mirror while doing so.

Not only was this bizarre and incredibly awkward, but I also I began to question my own perception of reality. Had I somehow wound up in the back room of a strip club instead of the locker room of the fitness center? Was I losing my mind?

Thankfully, I’ve had a gym in my apartment building for the last 4 years — so I’ve been able to avoid the dreaded locker room weirdness. In recent years, though, I’ve started to realize that apartment gyms have their own weird cast of characters. Behold, the following cases in point:

  • The dude who wears street clothes — and not just any street clothes, but jeans and a button down shirt under a sweater — as his workout attire. How is this not incredibly uncomfortable? I mean, I sweat like a wildebeest when I work out in shorts and a t-shirt, so I can’t imagine how he doesn’t feel like he’s suffocating under multiple layers of regular clothes as he huffs and puffs on the treadmill.
  • The chick who wears a full face of make-up for her workout. Maybe it’s because I have sensitive, zit-prone skin that practically looks for an excuse to break out, but my only discernible thought when I see women schvitzing through their copious foundation is HOLY ZIT INCUBATION, BATMAN. Bacteria! Sweat! Clogged pores! Complexion devastation! Whhhhyyyyyyy?
  • The dude who gets on the bike and pedals blissfully while drinking three — count ’em, three — big cups of jet-fuel strength black coffee. Now, I love coffee. (Y’know, hence the name of this blog.) But when I can smell someone’s high-octane java from 20 feet away, it’s kind of absurd. I also question the wisdom of drinking coffee while working out: I mean, it’s a diuretic. It dehydrates you like a mofo.  I get thirsty — insanely, deliriously thirsty — when I’m at the gym, and the idea of quenching that thirst with a cuppa joe, especially one so strong it could double as propulsion fuel for a rocket, makes my kidneys want to jump out of my body while waving little white flags of surrender.
  • The dude who gets on the elliptical and goes into what can only be described as uber-rabid-beast mode. Simply being in beast mode isn’t enough for him — no, he’s pedaling so fast and hard that the machine is swaying and making horrible noises reminiscent the scene from Titanic when the boat is sinking and breaking in half. Homeslice, I get it: you’re more hardcore than all of Seal Team Six combined. But the machine is showing signs of metal fatigue, and you don’t want to meet your demise at the hands of an elliptical that can’t handle the brute force of your very existence.

I can’t be the only one who sees weird people doing weird things at the gym, right?

It’s storytime, folks: have you ever seen things that made you pull a Scooby-esque “BWWWEH?!” while working out?

Weekend Recap

Aaaaand just like that, the weekend is over. Blergh. I don’t know about you guys, but this is how I feel each and every week:

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No dice on that one, I’m afraid — but at the very least, I can revel in the fact that I had a lovely weekend. I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning, and I decided to take advantage of this and get some errands done before the hordes of people descended.

A quick side note about DC: it takes freaking forever to get anything done around here. Between traffic, finding parking, dealing with the crowds in the store, and then waiting to check out, two errands — like hitting up Walgreen’s and Trader Joe’s — can take hours under normal circumstances. There have been times when our entire afternoon is consumed by just going out to lunch and hitting up Whole Foods on the way home, so I decided to circumvent that whole mess and hit the road at 7:45.

Happily, it wound up being awesome. I was one of the only people at Walgreen’s, and TJ’s was blissfully lacking in huge crowds. I was out and done in record time, which was a huge win! I also picked up epic loot at TJ’s; I didn’t get a picture before putting everything away, but let’s just say I could’ve used a barge to transport it home.

 

After the grocery run, I met one of my dear friends for coffee — which, I must say, was awesome. Once we had caffeinated ourselves and talked for aaaaaaages (it’s a time-honored tradition with us), I came back to find Brandon watching The Conjuring. Now, Brandon and I have divergent views on horror movies: Brandon really likes them, but I hate — nay, abhor with every fiber of my being — anything even remotely scary.

I have a wildly over-active imagination, which means the slightest hint of something scary will send me over the edge. I’m 32, and I totally close my eyes during previews for horror movies. When I finally got up the nerve to watch Scream in 1998 — a movie that most of my friends thought was funny because it was just so campy and ridiculous — I could barely answer the phone for a week.

So, I created a rule that Brandon can only watch horror movies when I’m not home. Since I was at coffee for a few hours, he understandably seized the opportunity to watch the horror movie he was most interested in. It wound up working out well: when I got home from Starbucks, I knew I needed to hit the gym — but my motivation was flagging. Knowing that The Conjuring was playing in my living room? MOTIVATION RECOVERED. I grabbed a magazine and my headphones and then booked it towards the door. I. Was. Outta there.

 

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This is an alarmingly accurate depiction of what I look like after merely *hearing* the previews for horror movies.

 

After 50 minutes of cardio, I was pleased to find that the movie was long since over once I got back. Biggest sigh of relief ever, y’all.

After a busy Saturday, I spent most of Sunday getting caught up on stuff around the apartment. Sundays tend to be my big chore days — when I clean, do laundry, and chop veggies/act as my own sous chef — and this week was no different.  I get all kinds of discombobulated and flustered when things aren’t in order for the week ahead, so Sundays are when I prepare, organize, and try to come up with ways to save time during the week. (Outer order equals inner peace, folks.) I had a truly ludicrous pile of laundry to deal with and an equally ludicrous pile of veggies to chop up, so one could say that I had my work cut out for me.

 

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Yup, a Mt. Everest-sized pile of laundry seems about right.

 

I did, however, take a break from all this in order to hit the gym. I’d intended to go for a run, since the weather we’ve been having lately — cool, crisp, and sunny — feels sublime after an oppressively hot and humid DC summer, but my running route was blocked off as part of the Marine Corps Marathon.

As I headed to the gym as my Plan B, I thought about all the people running the marathon and promptly realized that I have a confession to make: when it comes to running, I max out at 4 miles. I can eke out five miles if I’m really, really feeling awesome and ambitious.

But a marathon? Nope. I mean, I know marathons are all the rage these days. Marathons are one of the trendiest trends ever right now, and it seems like everybody who’s anybody is doing them. Those people all deserve major credit for doing something so challenging, because holy crap — that’s an impressive undertaking.

That said, though, I’m actually pretty sure I’m the only health/fitness-ish blogger alive who isn’t in marathon or half marathon training — which probably totally negates my credibility as someone interested in health and fitness — but I can’t even express how much my knees start screaming in protest when I even contemplate running a marathon.

 

This course is about 21 miles too long for me and my creaky knees.

 

So, that’s my big “I’m a lame health blogger” confession: I have no desire to run a marathon. Do I love running in 5Ks? Heck yeah. Do I love solitary four milers? Absolutely. But marathons are so, so not in my future. Forgive me, running gods, for I have sinned!

That being said (please don’t turn me into the health blogging police!), I also took a break from my mountain of chores to watch my beloved Broncos take on the Redskins. As a displaced Coloradan who only gets to see her boys when they play on national TV (as opposed to every Sunday back in the Motherland, le sigh), this was a big deal. I like to get decked out for game day in all my Broncos paraphernalia, which probably looks ridiculous — but whatevs, anything in the name of team spirit! (Is it overkill to wear a Broncos sweatshirt while drinking out of a Broncos glass? I think not.)

Anyways, now that another work week is upon us, I hope you’re all getting your day off to a good start!

And, with that, tell me: what was the highlight of your weekend?

TGIF: A Veritable Hootenanny of Random Awesomeness

Happy Friday, y’all! (And, um, did you like the use of “hootenanny” in the title? I wanted to use something more entertaining than “compilation,” and that’s what popped into my head. I’m nothing if not weird, folks.)

I apologize for being late with this morning’s post — I’m taking a sick day due to, ahem, some rather hardcore lady-troubles. (Sorry for the TMI.) I decided that instead of trying to force myself to be productive at work (and probably doing a really sorry job of it), it’d be better to ride out the pain by lying on the couch and communing with my heat pack and a bottle of Tylenol. Sooooooo, here I am.

But anyways, on to happier topics! Yesterday at work I started an email chain wherein we all wrote in haiku format, which might have been the best work-related email thread ever. (It also goes down in the Annals of My Greatest Accomplishments, which include such acts as quoting Team America: World Police in an international law paper that I wrote in grad school.) With that in mind, here’s a haiku summing up how I feel about the upcoming 3-day weekend:

Thank God it’s Friday
Times ten for the long weekend
I need this like woah

Obviously, I have a lucrative career as a farcical haiku author ahead of me.

Seriously, though, I’m desperately in need of a 3-day weekend. I reeeeeaaaallly hope that the aforementioned lady-troubles abate so that I can, y’know, actually enjoy the holiday.

In the meantime, though, and in the spirit of celebrating the long weekend, here’s a random compilation of awesome things that happened this week:

1) On Tuesday afternoon I went for an awesome run around the National Mall with the help of my beloved and trusty Charity Miles app. I donated my miles to Every Mother Counts, and listened to Florence + The Machine’s Shake It Out on repeat while I ran. There’s something strangely spiritual about these runs on the Mall — the trees and the monuments all make it feel like sacred space to me. While running by the World War II Memorial, I decided to get a picture of the portion memorializing my beloved home state. Not that I’m counting down or anything, but in two months I’ll be here:

 

WWII Memorial Colorado

 

2) While walking home from the bus stop the other day, I suddenly got a whiff of honeysuckle and immediately felt giddy. I love this stuff — it smells so effing good — and the first time I encountered honeysuckle as a child is one of my more vivid childhood memories. My dad and I were coming home after a bike ride (and by “bike ride,” I mean that I sat strapped into a seat in the back while he did all the hard work) when we passed a bunch of honeysuckle.  I asked what smelled so good, and he stopped the bike so I could basically bury my face in it. To say the least, I get really happy when I encounter this stuff, and I haven’t seen much of in the concrete jungle of the DC Metro area. So, as you can imagine, this was an awesome surprise!

 

Honeysuckle

 

3) After all the Crock Pot flops, we had a serious winner of a meal last night: chicken saltimbocca. This stuff is divine, y’all. Chicken breasts wrapped in Prosciutto and sage leaves, then sauteed in lemon juice and olive oil? Freakin’ awesome. The dish lived up to all my hopes, and I was seriously happy about it. I know the picture doesn’t look too appetizing (gravy/sauce has a way of doing that), but I promise: it was gooooo-oood.

 

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Anyways, I hope everyone has a fabulous long weekend!

Do you have any big plans for the holiday?

What’s your favorite place to go running?

Do you have any happy childhood memories that pop up whenever you see/smell something?

No Mas: A Rant

Well.

I was going to write a post today about our meal plan for the week, but last night as I was working out, Brandon went to pick up the mail — and when he returned, I saw that this month’s issue of SELF Magazine had arrived.

I’ve been a subscriber for a few years now, and although I originally liked it, over time I started finding that reading it makes me feel like sh*t. So, a few months ago, I decided that I wouldn’t renew my subscription when it expires this summer.

It hasn’t expired yet, though, and the June issue arrived last night. Upon seeing the cover, it pissed right the eff off.

 

 

You see, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about weight, health, body image, and fitness. I feel like almost all fitness and health information is geared towards weight loss and the aesthetics of being thin and toned, as opposed to the noble goal of simply being healthy and strong.You don’t see magazines talking about getting strong, you see them talking about burning calories. They don’t talk about how running can enhance your cardiovascular health, they talk about how to get skinny in time for beach season.

This, in my book at least, isn’t cool.

Look, I know that skinniness sells (whereas words like “cardiovascular” make peoples’ eyes glaze over). I get it. But really, I find that the emphasis on being thin consistently makes me feel awful.

I exercise all the effing time and I eat well (boneless, skinless chicken breasts and steamed veggies are my homies), but I have curves. Lots of ’em. I don’t have a perfectly perky tush, my child-bearing hips make me look like I was built to be Michelle Duggar’s understudy, and I was genetically graced with a stomach that, despite an unending number of crunches and hours of Pilates, will never be perfectly flat.  Maybe I’m wrong here, but I suspect I’m not the only one in this boat.

Anyways, back to last night: there I was, sweating like a wildebeest after a hard workout, standing in the kitchen while quietly seething about the magazine cover, and shaking with both muscle exhaustion and fury. It was a sight to behold, I’m sure.

Just as my ragey-ness was reaching critical mass, I decided to take a Sharpie and write my rebuttals all over the magazine cover. To explain where I got this idea, for about 15 years now, my best friend Susie and I have been writing witty, funny, and occasionally caustic commentary all over magazine ads we find ridiculous (and then sending them to each other at random, because nothing perks up a crappy day like an unexpected trove of advertising snark from your bestie). So, I decided to do the same thing with the cover of this month’s SELF:

 

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Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

 

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First, I’m sick to death of celebrity fitness tips. CELEBS HAVE PERSONAL TRAINERS, PEOPLE. Their careers and very livelihoods depend on them looking fantastic, and they hire a boatload of people to help them stay that way. Trainers, cooks, dieticians — you name it, they’ve got it. And yet, there’s this ridiculous idea that they work out just as much as anybody else and lead otherwise normal, pedestrian lives. I call bullsh*t on this. Celebs can give us all the “secrets” they want about their fitness routines, but nobody talks about the fact that it usually involves hours of the moves they describe in the pages of these glossies. (And I don’t know about y’all, but I have neither the time nor the desire to work out for 2-3 hours per day. I tap out after an hour, and then I go do other things that benefit my health such as hanging out with Brandon, cooking dinner, reading, or writing.)

 

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Next, the issue of beach bodies: I’m so. Damn. Tired. Of hearing. About. Beach. Bodies. This is where the fitness-for-aesthetics vs. the fitness-for-health issue really gains momentum: if you spend all year working out and eating well, why this emphasis on going super-uber-epic-hardcore for summer? If you can run a 5K, lift heavy things, and you’ve been known to slurp down green smoothies on a daily basis, aren’t you already in good health? Oh, but wait, that’s not what really matters, is it? What really matters, friends, is that you look good in a bathing suit.

Adding fuel to the fire is the whole “It’s June, people! No more procrastinating!” motif. Oh, you’re totally right! In addition to everything else I’m doing, I need to lose weight and get super toned, like, yesterday! Gosh, staying active and healthy throughout the year — not just for the summer — was a seriously slacker move, wasn’t it? Thanks for the reminder, y’all! I’m sure I’ll make people fall over in disgust when I roll up at the pool with my regular body; that said, I take full responsibility for the horrors that ensue as a result of my procrastination. (*Screams internally*)

 

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As for the alleged “miracle foods” that “practically lose the weight for you,” this is another area where the eat to be healthy vs. eat to be skinny issue fires up. Look, eating to be skinny just plain sucks. I’ve done it more than once. It drains all the joy out of life (or at least it did for me) when you have to weigh, measure, and account for every ounce of food that passes your lips. It makes food the enemy. And, in my mind at least, foods like steel-cut oats, chia seeds, nuts, beans, Greek yogurt, and lean protein should never be the enemy.

With that in mind, why not tell people to focus on eating whole foods for their inherent health-enhancing value instead of for their metabolism-revving properties? Why not encourage people to focus on nourishing their  bodies with foods that pack a walloping dose of nutrients, instead of eating particular foods because they “practically lose the weight for you”? Oh, that’s right: because, once again, what really matters is that you look hot.

 

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This one really got me. Of the seven cover features, five were weight-related. The two that weren’t were in a small font, with plain black & white text, which means that compared to the other large-font, color-blast headlines, these were the ones meant to garner the least attention. The eye is drawn towards the bigger letters with bright backgrounds, not towards the small b&w text. So, the two topics that genuinely relate to health rather than being skinny are fully intended to be afterthoughts. Awesome.

So, to say the least, I was mighty angry. It made me think of one of my favorite documentaries, Miss Representation (the trailer is below): if the media is both the message and the messenger, what do fitness magazines say to women? They say that it’s not enough to be healthy and strong – you have to look good in a bikini too.

 

 

Chances are, if you subscribe to a fitness magazine, you’re pretty active. You probably take good care of yourself, eat your veggies, and get your blood pumping at least few times a week. And yet, five out of seven — a whopping 71% — of the feature articles are about weight loss.

What, exactly, is this supposed to do for women’s self-confidence? While many of these feature pieces are published in the name of empowerment, I feel like what they really do is make women feel inadequate for their lack of a bikini body/Brazilian tuchus/washboard abs. This is not okay.

Suffice it to say, I’m now doubly committed to not renewing my subscription when it expires this summer. I’m saying no mas. I’m done with buying into a media message that makes me feel like crap and tells other women that they’re not good enough — that being athletic and healthy plays second fiddle to the holy grail of a tight, tiny, and toned bikini body.

There’s a phrase in Arabic, khalas, that roughly translates as “no more,” “it’s finished,” “I’ve had it,” or simply “enough.” As I Sharpied the daylights out of the magazine cover, I found that I was saying it over and over under my breath. Khalas. I’m finished. I’ve had enough.

Thursday Thoughts: Women’s Health Week & Summer Health and Fitness Goals

Good morning, everyone!

Ever have one of those nights where you sleep horribly? I had incredibly weird, messed up dreams all night, and I woke up multiple times thinking “Holy crap, thank God that was just a dream. That was awful.” It must’ve stressed me out something fierce, because my jaw hurts from having kept it clenched all night. Brain, stop being such a hater!

Anyways, on to more pressing (and uplifting) matters: the carnitas were a success! Many thanks to Jenna at Eat, Live, Run for the fabulous recipe, because after a few days of decidedly meh or outright no bueno meals, the carnitas were a welcome  (and much-needed) win. I’m hopeful that tonight’s recipe, Mediterranean chicken, will be good too — of course, I’ll keep y’all posted.

In other news, I was late to the party in finding out that it’s National Women’s Health Week — but better late than never, amirite? Women’s health is a topic near and dear to my heart; between gynecologic cancers that have affected women in my family, friends who’ve struggled with fertility troubles, and my burgeoning interest in maternal health in developing countries, nearly every aspect of my life has been affected by women’s health issues. So, y’know, the fact that there’s now an entire week dedicated to these issues makes me do a happy dance.

 

As part of this effort, women are encouraged to make their health a priority by taking five key steps:

  • Visiting a doctor for regular check-ups and preventive care screenings (an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, y’all!)
  • Getting active (gettin’ your blood pumping = happy fun times!)
  • Eating healthy (because your body will thank you profusely)
  • Paying attention to mental health, including getting enough sleep (*raises hand sheepishly, looks around*) and stress management (*raises other hand sheepishly, looks around*)
  • Avoiding unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, not wearing seatbelts (ok, am I the only one who haaaaated riding the school bus because, among other reasons, there were no seat belts?) or bicycle helmets (your body can’t function without your brain — protect your noggin!), and texting while driving (because texting while driving is basically like driving drunk, and that’s not okay).

And, in a related effort, Joelle over at On a Pink Typewriter is putting together a campaign for health/fitness inspiration boards — collages you can make the old fashioned way with scissors and glue, or digitally via Pinterest, Polyvore, or Loupe. Here’s mine:

Fitness Goals Summer 2013

Now, to explain those images:

I’m really excited about focusing more on strength training — I love how strong I feel when I lift. I hope to work my way through TNROLFW this summer, and maybe once the fall rolls around I’ll be able to kick butt using just my pinky toe. (Or something.)

I also want to do a lot of hiking when we visit Colorado this summer; I haven’t been home in almost 18 months, and I’m incredibly excited to visit for my dad’s 60th birthday festivities. While I’m there, I also want to hike the Manitou Incline — it’s not far from where I grew up, and it’s a hard-core hike. Knees, ready yourselves!

While I’m not on vacation, though, I want to take time each day to go outside and get some sun. I work in a windowless office, and I’m convinced I’m going to get Rickets — Rickets, I tell you! — as a result of my working conditions. I drink lots of Vitamin D-fortified almond milk, but I know I need some sunlight synthesis as well. If I can take even 5-10 minutes to go outside during the day, I’ll be really happy.

Lastly, this girl needs more agua in her life. I’m really, really, ridiculously bad about my water drinking habits, and I’m trying to change that. I bought myself an Aladdin cold sipper so I can drink cold water in the office without having to worry about the bottle sweating all over my desk, and I’m hopeful that it’ll help with my H2O-chugging efforts.

Anyways, with all that being said, I now have to get to work — I hope everyone has an awesome day, and happy almost-Friday! Tell me…

How do you help ensure that you get lots of water? (I’ll take any help I can get with this!)

How have women’s health issues affected you or impacted the lives of women you know?

What are your summer health and fitness goals?

MIMM – Operation: Time Management

Lately I’ve been feeling like there’s not enough time.

I only have a few hours of free time each day, and there simply haven’t been enough of those hours to do all the things I love: hanging out with Brandon, writing, working out, making phone calls to friends and family, and cooking. (I’d love to have hired help, but I’d have to pay them in baked goods instead of real money – and I’m pretty sure there are labor laws prohibiting stuff like that.)

I wrote last week about how I’m ok with cutting back to 30 minutes of exercise instead of 45-60 in order to give myself more time to write, and that’s the first step in Operation: Time Management. After doing some thinking this weekend, I’m going to run another experiment as well: Crock Pot dinners.

We use our Crock Pot a few times a month, and I’ve found that my life feels a lot easier whenever we do. I have no trouble doing prep work in the mornings – I mean, it basically involves throwing meat, veggies, and sauce into the stoneware, hitting a few buttons, and patting myself on the back for being so productive before the clock strikes 0600 – and I really appreciate that it frees up my evening to chill out and do some writing before Brandon comes home.

Drafting blog posts on the couch > chopping veggies.

With this in mind, we picked up two Crock Pot cookbooks this weekend – and, after reading through them and finding a bajillion delicious-sounding recipes, we agreed to try a week’s worth of Crock Pot dinners to see if it makes our free time a bit easier to manage.

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On the menu for this week:

  • Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic (served with roasted asparagus and carrots)
  • Ropa Veija (served with chili, cumin, and lime sweet potatoes)
  • Mediterranean Chicken (served with Greek salad)
  • Enchilada Casserole (it’s filled with black beans and veggies galore, so I won’t do a veggie dish)

It’s important to me that I have enough time to hang out with my beloved, write, and get my sweat on while also cooking up nutritious food – so if this helps facilitate that goal, then I’ll be all about it!

Another portion of Operation: Time Management involves prepping veggies on Sunday evenings. I’ll gladly concede that this isn’t fun, like, at all. My inner monologue tends to get all kinds of whiny when veggie-prep hour rolls around (Uuuuuuuuuuugh! I don’t waaaaaaaannnnaaaaa dooooo thiiiis!), so I decided to cut myself some slack this week with frozen and pre-chopped onions, frozen veggies, and dried herbs.

Lastly, I’m going to incorporate more high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and strength training into my workout routine so I can maximize my newly-shortened workout times.

I’ve owned a copy of The New Rules of Lifting for Women for aaaaages, and I’d gotten through level one about 18 months ago before going back to mostly cardio workouts. (I went back to long cardio sessions when I enrolled at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition; during the course of the training program I listened to all my class lectures while on the elliptical. I’m all about multi-tasking!)

Now that I don’t need long cardio sessions to give me time to do class work, I’m excited to start lifting again. I love strength training, and I’m looking forward to doing this lifting program again!

And, with all that, I hope everyone has a marvelous (or, shall we say, maaaah-velous) Monday — be sure to stop by Healthy Diva Eats to see the other MIMM posts (and, of course, big thanks to Katie for hosting)!

And, of course, I have questions for y’all:

What are your thoughts on strength training? Have you tried it, and do you like it?

What are your favorite time-saving tips and tricks?

Friday Fun Times: Five Things I’m Diggin’ This Week

Good morning, and TGIF! (*Does Friday-induced happy dance*)

In celebration of the fact that it’s Friday, I figured I’d do another post to highlight all the things I’ve been loving on/excited about this week.

1) Although the tote I bought from Target a few weeks ago managed to break and thus meet its demise shortly after I bought it (booooo), I was able to return it without any problems. I then picked up this bag as a replacement, and I also replaced my old wallet, which was starting to fall apart a bit. To say the least, I looooooove both the new bag and the new wallet — the blue and turquoise are so pretty, and they seem so seasonally appropriate! I may or may not get a bit giddy every time I look at them.

 

Bag and wallet

 

2) The Firestarter Sessions is blowing my mind, people. This book is seriously awesome. I also recommend checking out Danielle LaPorte’s website (she’s the author of this wondrous tome); as Taryn put it (quite perfectly, I might add), it’s like reading a conversation with your best friend.

Apparently Danielle LaPorte is launching a magazine in September and is accepting writing submissions — and as you might have guessed, I’m itchin’ to submit something for their consideration. (*Starts wiggling in desk chair out of sheer excitement*) It’s scary, and the “Oh God, I can’t possibly be good enough – there’s no way I’ll get anything but rejected” voice of fear is acting up like nobody’s business — but I’m just going to channel my inner Kanye and tell that voice that “Imma let you finish, but I can write the best submission of all time!” Ok, it won’t be the best submission of all time — but it will be from the heart, and that’s the best kind of writing I can possibly do.

3) Fitness updates: I ran 2.5 miles on Wednesday afternoon and donated my Charity Miles to Every Mother Counts (an organization I greatly admire). In my quest to do something meaningful with my life and to feel like I’m making a contribution — albeit a small one — to making the world a better place, Charity Miles has become one of my favorite go-to sources of action and inspiration. Being able to get my sweat on while helping to raise money for causes I believe in has, for me at least, been seriously awesome.

 

 

I also did more FitnessBlender and Yoga Downloads workouts this week. I did Yoga Download’s Yoga Sculpt class last night, and then I busted out Fitness Blender’s cardio kickboxing this morning. I loved them both!

I’ve also recently decided to embrace a standard of fitness that has more flexibility than I’ve allowed myself to have before. I was kicking myself for not having enough time to cook meals, work out for 45 minutes a day, and blog in my spare time — but all that scheduling insanity started really wearing on me. In light of that, I came to the conclusion that it’s ok to keep my workouts around 30 minutes each.

The fact is, blogging makes me incredibly happy, and writing brings me more joy than any job ever has — so I want to make time to do it. If it comes at the expense of those last 15 minutes of exercise, then so be it.

 

 

4) ELF cosmetics: While I was at Target, I was doing some reconnaissance in their cosmetics section as part of my hunt for new eyeliner and new eye shadow. (My collection has been rapidly diminishing, but I hate spending moolah on obnoxiously overpriced cosmetics, even at my beloved Target.) Lo and behold, I saw that ELF products are between — get this — $1-$2. I’m not kidding. I just about had to scrape my jaw up off the floor. I got two eyeshadow sets and one eyeliner pencil for $5 total, which felt like the cosmetics coup to end all cosmetics coups. It was astonishing.

 

ELF

 

5) A mailbox full of goodies: This month’s InStyle and Birchbox arrived on the same day. If that isn’t worthy of a whoop of excitement, I don’t know what is. A certain someone — whose name may or may not be Lillian — might have also picked up a bottle of rosé at Costco yesterday (because this person is super classy like that, and she obviously has really high-brow taste in wine). This person might be really excited to read InStyle while drinking a glass of vino after work, possibly while deep-conditioning her hair with one of the Birchbox samples. #SorryI’mNotSorry.

 

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I hope y’all have an awesome day — and of course, I’ve got questions for you lovely people:

What’s your favorite way to unwind on a Friday night?

Do you have any big or exciting weekend plans?

{Obviously, this is the really important question} Do you like cheap wine from Costco or Three Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s? (Please tell me yes and that I’m not the only one around here who’s the total opposite of a wine connoisseur?)

5 Random Things That I’m Loving Lately…And Some Epiphanies

Happy Friday, y’all! TGIF! Friday, Friday, everybody’s glad it’s Friday! (Am I the only person who gets Rebecca Black stuck in her head every single week?)

As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to get really excited about random little things. New shampoo? Excited. New songs on my workout playlist? Excited. New coffee mug? Practically crawling out of my skin with excitement.

I’ve occasionally been told that I’m too easily amused, but I see it a bit differently. As far as I’m concerned, my low threshold for happy dancing makes it easy to do what so many happiness and self-help gurus keep talking about: appreciating and being grateful for the little things in life.

So, with that in mind, here are 5 random things that have induced more than a few happy dances around here.

1) On a whim earlier this week, I picked up some Goody Spin Pins from CVS. I’d run out of hair ties, and I was re-stocking when the Spin Pins caught my eye.

Image source: makeupandbeautyblog.com

 

Considering that I spend all summer abandoning all hope of doing my hair — heat and humidity turn my tresses into a hot mess, and I don’t like spending four months looking like my head was mauled by a misshapen shrubberyI rely on loose chignons and buns to get me through those oppressively hot months.

And, wouldn’t you know, that’s exactly what the Spin Pins were made for.

After using them, I can say this much: my gawd, these things are awesome. They worked like a dream, which is really saying something considering that virtually nothing works like it’s supposed to on my hair. I twisted them into the loose bun I’d pulled up, et voila:

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I must say, I’m seriously excited about these bad boys. Summer hairstyling is going to be a breeze with these things in my arsenal!

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2) Wearing my favorite pink jacket to work, DC fashion rules be damned.

Five years ago, I was shopping with my mom when a fabulous pink jacket from the Gap made me gasp audibly in delight. (I know that as an ardent feminist I’m not supposed to love pink, girly things and blah blah blah, but the fact is –as you may have discerned from the color schemes on this blog — I love pink.)

I bought the jacket as a graduation present for myself, only to never wear it upon arriving in DC. I was worried that no one would take me seriously if I rolled up in such a bright, feminine statement piece. Black pant suits are ubiquitous here, and there seems to be an unspoken rule that if you want to be respected and taken seriously, you can’t wear bright or overtly feminine clothes. And, y’know, this jacket is both bright and feminine. Trepidation ensued.

Recently, though, I’ve reached the point where I’ve just plain had it with all the unspoken rules about how to look and behave in DC. I am, by nature, goofy, funny, creative, innovative, expressive, and girly — all of which are big no-nos here.

Judy Garland I don't care

However, last few weeks I’ve found myself repeatedly thinking “F**k it. I can’t keep pretending to be someone I’m not in order to conform to cultural norms here. I can’t keep suppressing all these key elements of my personality. If I’m never taken seriously, then ok — but I’m tired of not being myself.”

When I opened up our coat closet this week, I saw my beloved pink jacket, and I knew: it’s time. Loud and proud, baby.

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3) The spate of gorgeous, spring-like weather we’ve had — and are supposed to continue having through the weekend — and the fact that the trees are now fully leaved.

Last night I was finally able to talk to my best friend (it’s tough to make our schedules work, since she’s in Seattle and thus three hours behind DC), and I decided to walk home from work in order to spend time outside while talking to her. It’s a four-mile walk along a gorgeous path, and I loved every second of it.

Some scenes from my walk:

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4) I luuuurve the new ring tone  on my phone. I was less than thrilled by the factory-setting ring tones on my iPhone, and I decided this week to see what other options are out there. I was sampling the most popular ones on iTunes when I thought “Waaaaaaaait a second. I wonder if they have Monty Python ring tones. Let’s check that out.”

A moment of context here: I love Monty Python. I come from a family of Monty Python (and British humor) devotees, and it’s to the point where we’ll all spontaneously re-enact scenes from our favorite movie, Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

Lo and behold, there’s a Monty Python and the Holy Grail ringtone! You’d best believe I downloaded it immediately, and now I do this whenever my phone rings:

 

5) Using egg white protein powder and almond milk in my morning smoothies, which gives me a luxuriously thick and creamy breakfast treat each morning.

This is a big deal for me for two reasons: first, I’ve been on a search for good protein powder that has, at times, felt like a scene from The Odyssey. My Greek epic novel-length quest has been frustrating, either in dealing with protein powders that taste awful or leave my stomach in a state of open rebellion — so I was profoundly happy when I found Jay Robb’s Egg White Protein Powder. This stuff is delicious, not chalky, and it hasn’t provoked any backtalk from el estomago.

Then we have the almond milk: I freaking love that stuff, but I haven’t been using it in my smoothies because, y’know, it has calories. I’d been using water instead, which — shockingly — lead to watery and decidedly meh smoothies. Just like my realization that I’m tired of conforming to DC cultural norms, I realized that I’m also tired of looking for every possible way to cut calories.

I love my almond milk, it’s good for you (all that calcium!), and I’m just plain tired of cutting myself off from foods I love — foods that are nutrient dense and actually really good for you — simply because they might be calorically dense as well. I want my granola, I want my pistachios, I want my GF bread with flax seeds, and dang it, I want  almond milk in my smoothies.

So, for the second time in recent weeks, I said “F**k it! I’m doing what I want in spite of all the nutritional advice to just use water and save calories. Almond milk it is!” Not surprisingly, using almond milk has turned my daily green smoothie into a thing of delicious glory. It’s thick, smooth, creamy, and generally mouthwatering.

All in all, I’m amazed by how good I feel after both the pink jacket and almond milk epiphanies. Deciding to dispose of generally ridiculous DC fashion rules and less-than-helpful nutritional advice made me feel like a weight had been lifted from my shoulders. After trying so hard to be the round peg who contorts herself in an effort to fit into the square hole, calling it like it is made me feel really effing awesome.

So, with that in mind, I hope everyone has an awesome Friday! Here’s to the weekend being within reach, y’all. 🙂 Some questions for you:

What do you like to use in your smoothies?

Do you have favorite movies that you quote, like, all the effing time?

Have you ever tried to ignore or suppress parts of your personality in order to fit in?

Pin-It Party: Workouts, Pancakes, Fro Yo, and Art

Good morning, y’all! I’m doing a quick extra post for the Lean Green Bean’s Pin-It Party – but for some longer reading, I’m going to brazenly self promote for a moment and recommend the main attraction for today: this morning’s post about the Mothers’ Day Movement.

Anywho, on to the pinnable pictures!

Gluten-free, dairy-free strawberry pancakes:

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My beloved fro-yo (this one is from the self-serve fro yo place a block away from my apartment, which will prove to be my second home once summer arrives), served with strawberries in a re-purposed martini glass:

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Gluten-Free, dairy-free blueberry muffin tops, which are among my favorite things in the entire universe:

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Some humor, because really, who doesn’t need a laugh (especially at the expense of North Korea’s infantile leader)?

NYSC Kim Jong Un A wee bit of art — I love making collages, and this one is my favorite so far: Sunday Fun Day

And, lastly, some workoutsthey’ll leave you shaky, but it’s worth it!

10x10 Lower Body Workout 10x10 Upper Body WorkoutHave an awesome Thursday, y’all — here’s to the home stretch before the weekend!