Monday, November 22, 2010

Weeks 4-6: Smarten up by being dumb.

So, you know about my biggest issue — you know, the "eh, screw it!" problem. It has powered the weighty rollercoaster I've been riding since I was... 15, maybe.

"Eh, screw it!" is that heartbreaking (but frequently delicious) moment when for whatever reason I overindulge myself into the guilt sweats. It used to be a Thursday-night tradition that would last all the way to Sunday night. But this week, I finally had a break.

See, I was retaining some serious water last week. Even though I was getting in some incredible workouts, eating way right and feeling fab, I stepped on the scale Thursday morning to see... 129.0. (Insert expletives here.)

I was crushed! All that work for nothing. Sure, I knew it was a bad week for weigh-ins, but I was hoping for the best. And hope, it turns out, isn't a weightless thing. That and fem cycles weight a ton.

So, I stood at that crossroads: all that sacrifice and hardwork... and I gained two pounds: do I throw in the towel and be happy with my big butt? Or do I accept that not every week will deliver a weigh-in victory?

Thursday wasn't so bad. I made test-batch #1 of candied jalapeno-gingersnap bread pudding (it's for Thanksgiving), and only ate slightly more than I should have. But it wasn't a wasted diet day. Then something snapped on Friday. I don't even remember when it started or how it happened. I do remember there being a lot of chocolate, plenty of cookie cake, even more plenty of cookie cake frosting, too many bowls of Cinnamon Life, Crunch bars, 100 Grand bars... and that icky, icky feeling. You don't get more "eh, screw it!" than that.

It may have just been crazy-lady must-have-chocolate emotions. Exhaustion. Whatever. The difference between this moment and pretty much every other "eh, screw it!" weekend, however, was that I cut it super short.

I woke up early on Saturday, got eating right from the start. I cut way back in a healthy way on my calories that day (still maxed the protein), drank oodles of water and tea, and completed a challenging day of workouts and housework. Same for Sunday. While I realized all wouldn't be saved by two days of super-behaving, I hoped I'd at least not go up on the Monday-morning weigh-in.

Efforts rewarded.

When last I wasn't retaining too much water, I weighed in at 127.4. This morning I was 126.2. So, I'm just a tad behind on my pound-a-week quest, and more than five pounds down from the starting line. I'll take it!

But "eh, screw it!" faces a seriously challenge this week: Thanksgiving 2010. Not only am I eating the family dinner, I'm cooking it too.

My bootcamp trainer does a great job of passing on useful diet/fitness info. One of the recent articles was about preparing yourself for the big holiday dinner, avoiding a bulge battle and gearing up to not overdo it. Sure it sounds a little bit crazy, but admitting you have a problem is the first step. Step #2 is doing something about it.

So, here my now: I will break into the 125's by Thursday morning weigh-in and not weigh more on Monday morning.

Dear Thanksgiving,

You will not defeat me this year. You are delicious. But you are my bitch.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Week three: Let me hold that water for you.

Step challenge reports were due at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, and I was really pumped to turn in 571,504 steps for my team-of-five! The goal is 70,000 steps per person per week; my team averaged 114,300.

You'll be happy to know I didn't do all the steps for them. They're just awesome.

What was I responsible for? 204,611. It averages to 29,230/day, which I'd like to take up to 30,000/day this week. While it's easy to pick up 35-40K steps on boot camps days when I cycle for 45-60 minutes in the morning, boot camp for an hour and then run for another 30-45 minutes, less intense days are harder to step up.

I tried to even out my "rest" days with a pretty intense weekend: close to four hours cycling, plenty of dance cardio, circuit training and aerobics. On Friday I decided to aim for a 100K weekend — 50,000 steps each day — but I only eeked out about 82K.

The 100K killer was my tight right calf. I'm done taking chances, so I laid off running for the weekend, which would have surely put me over the 100K line. Another weekend is here, and another shot at 100K.

The problem with 100K, however, is it takes so much time. While I'm used to devoting plenty of time to fitness, 100K might be taking a little more of it than I'm able to give right now. Thanksgiving is fast approaching — I have rooms to prime and paint, curtains to hang and mantels to perfect. At least plenty of those activities have step conversions, so it won't be a total wash.

What also hasn't been a total wash is the weight-loss plan. I'd pie-in-the-sky dreamed the step challenge would magically melt away pounds, but turns out I still like pie and foods that purposely melt.

Actually, the diet hasn't been that bad: I had my trainer analyze my nutrition log — yes, I included the sweet binges that I've cut back on ubermuch — and the usual suspect (protein) wasn't appearing in enough of the scenes. I had thought that 50g of protein were sufficient for me; he suggests 60-100g per day for my activity level. Makes sense.

I struggled the past week to fit in that extra protein without a ton of calories. Sure, you can throw in some balsamic grilled chicken breast, but how many times can you eat that? I made a pretty decent salmon salad and figured other ways to add animal to my diet.

The problem is I've been really content with what I've been eating the past few weeks (and I don't really like animal). Plus, it's been effective for my weight-loss plan. So, I'm going to try adding a sunny-side-up egg atop my morning oatmeal, continue eating my daily protein bar and gnaw on a chicken breasts in lieu of an afternoon snack.

All that food adjustment, however, through the pound-a-weight off a bit. My Monday weigh-in was higher, per usual. And this morning I weighed in at 127.4 — 0.2 pound off last week.

According to my scale and how I feel, I know I'm retaining plenty of water, despite how much water I drink every day. So, I'm going to hope for the best next weigh-in. Just bad time of the month to be weighing myself, I suppose.

Perhaps by next week I will have given all that water back, stayed on diet track and entered the realm of 126 — a place I haven't visited in quite some time. I welcome you dear random number. I welcome you with open arms.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Week two: three parties, one holiday and a C+ performance

The 10,000 Step Challenge couldn't have arrived at a better time: three parties, plus trick-or-treating over three days. How's that for a holiday test scenario?

But first, the rest of the week!

Well, boot camp finally broke me. And all it really took was a bad night's sleep.

By Monday I was still sore from the previous week's boot camp and at-home exercises. I definitely pushed my upper body and core more than necessary outside of boot camp, and I paid for it that first day. Top that with no sleep all weekend, and I wasn't looking great.

The circuit was a rough go as it was, and in the final 10 seconds of knee-in planks at the end of a 10:00 ab sequence, I just had to hold plank and pray for the end. I survived, but felt a little wussy.

You know how they say missing just a little sleep goes a long way? They're not lying. While I picked up some decent hours into Tuesday, I was still operating on a deficit. The same into Wednesday. In fact, when I loped into boot camp on Wednesday, I knew it wouldn't be pretty. It wasn't.

Let's just say in the middle of suspended push-ups (with feet in suspended straps, alternate knee-in and push up), I had to break — even from holding a steady plank. It always bugs me when people just give up on an exercise, but that was me last week. I just had nothing left.

I survived that session, nevertheless, and tried to catch up on my zzz's the rest of the week. And by Friday, I was on a better track. I hit the road with a running gang on Friday night — DH, E-Speed, NB and I covered about 4 miles over 10 intervals. It was my first really chilly run, but was a nice warm-up to the rest of the weekends workouts and parties.

We went straight from the run to party #2 (#1 was earlier that day), wear I arrived dressed as Forrest, Forrest Gump.

I knew ahead of time this week would be filled with temptations and over-eating obstacles. We took my co-worker out to lunch on Thursday and three parties in store for the weekend, and then candy all over the place on Halloween. Just look at a small portion of the spread from the daytime work party:

My approach: avoid the sweets/carbs and use a small dish. So, at work I used a small cup for all my food. Typically, I fill a plate with everything at once, scarf and go back for more until my stomach tears and I sweat with guilt. With the cup, I just took one thing at a time, ate and tried a little of something else. It worked really well, and I ate plenty of a deelish broccoli salad and my own butternut squash soup.

The problem came when I helped with cleanup. I hate throwing away food and found myself just popping extras in my mouth. Bad, bad girl! It wasn't too awful. The three pieces of pizza at party #2 later that night, however, were a little excessive. Even if I did skip the cookies. For the most part.

Saturday started with the second annual Halloween run in the Metroparks. Jen and Sara took me on my longest no-break run yet, and it couldn't have felt better. Prior to this soft-ground 5-miler, I'd only run one mile sans breaks. They were terrific company and support on the go. It was super, too, to spend a very sensible breakfast (two sunny-side eggs with wheat toast and green tea) with the speedy ladies.

That 5-miler wouldn't make up for the slightly more indulgent Saturday party #3. I did manage to avoid most sweets (seriously: there were cupcakes there, and I only had one small swipe of frosting off one of Neil's) — I grabbed a couple cookies to eat with some baked apples. It was the uber-fresh pumpernickel bread that did me in. And the spinach dip. Then the spicy guacamole that showed up a little later. So, the carb-ditch didn't exactly pan out at #3. I get a D+ there.

But where do I get an A-? Halloween. I walked to the store Sunday afternoon and picked up $30 of candy, including a bag of Dove dark chocolate for home. I had one Dove on the walk home and one much later that night. I handed out all the candy, and ate none myself — even when I was sitting by myself waiting for the rush to happen. Not one.

Sunday was a generally good day on the diet front, and I just crossed my fingers that I hadn't done too much damage. Plus, I ran a pretty consistently paced 5.25 miles @ 9:00 pace on Sunday (well, last mile was 8:13... but that was fun) and walked quite a bit scoping out Halloween scenes in the neighborhood after candy ran dry.

Whenever I have one party — let alone three! — I wake up on Monday morning and weigh 133-something. That's the norm. That's my party weight. That's my upper threshold. I don't ever want to pass 133, and I was kind of hoping not to touch it again. But I knew the trends. I knew what I had done.

So, I step on the scale in Monday's dark morning: 129.4. Not too, too bad!

I realize it's almost a full pound more than last week, but it could have been much worse (and often has been worse). So, I'll take it. Sure, some of it's water weight, bloating, sugar lumps. It still looks like 127 will have to wait for next week. I give myself a C+ for handling these holidays, and plan to tweak my approach for at least an A- Thanksgiving.

At least I have thousands of steps to help me along the way.

Make that 33,000 steps, chump.

The 10,000 Step Challenge at work kicked off on Monday. After adding up my weekly activities, I decided to aim for an average 20,000 steps each day. Some days are bound to be steppier than others; twice the minimum for fitness seems pretty sane.

Monday, however, was totally insane!

I've been cycling 5-6 days a week since September and building up from 10 measly minutes at first to 45 Monday morning. My goal is at least an hour cycling each day, filled with plenty of intervals and high-tension that will get me set for spring.

It will also get me set for the step challenge! Great thing is that other exercises count too, and I'm using a conversion chart to get credit for my extra activities. So, 45 minutes of cycling? About 9,000 "steps" (45:00 x 200 steps/min).

Now that's the way to step off on the right foot!

Unfortunately, I forgot to bring home my pedometer, so I missed the 1,000 or so steps I would have accrued getting into work. But I walked and worked out enough during the day, I think it'll just be a wash (remind me I said that when my team loses by less than 1,000 steps!).

Sixty minutes of fitness boot camp right after work racked up 10,680 steps (60:00 x 178 steps/min for circuit training), even though six-minutes circuits involving pushing a 35-lb plate across the floor, wall sits and rowing burpies with 20-pound weights seems worth more to me than the morning pedaling!

Then I ran with E-Speed and DH when I came and walked back to their house for some pretty great steps. My pedometer read for the day was 13,000.

Grand total: 32,680 steps.

I figure with the missed a.m. steps I would have hit 33,000, which will be my new active-day goal. Two of my teammates came in with 12,000 and 19,000, so I think we're on solid ground. Go, Team Awesome!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

10,000 steps

Rumor has it that it takes 10,000 steps (or the effort behind it) to keep Americans healthy. I think it's roughly five miles. And it's the number I'm looking forward to outdoing every day for the month of November.

Why, oh, why?

Because it's a challenge. No, literally: it's a challenge. My department at work is taking on another department to see who's fittest. We're making teams, reporting every day and seeing who steps the most for all of November.

I don't think I need to tell you how glad I am the crutches are gone!

One of the best parts of my office is that we're 20+ hyper-competitive people all in one place. Honestly, I can't point to a single person and say, "s/he is a slacker." That's why we hyper kick butt on a daily basis. And there are no tubs, at all. What's more is we all get along. We have really great leadership, and no one's so insecure in his/her job that they need to overcompensate. I think it might be one of the first times in the history of offices that this has happened. In my life, at least.

So, why am I so concerned about having randomly pulled teams? Yes, the competitive weenie is rearing her wildly untamed head. But I don't want to end up on a team with people who will neutralize my ability to win. I guess I'm just afraid of begrudging someone who doesn't step up for this challenge. Maybe I'll just have to become a good motivator. Maybe I'll have to realize it's just a silly workplace competition.

Funny thing is the prizes aren't extraordinarily fab. The winning team of the winning department gets lunch with some senior VPs I don't know (I'm not sure that's a reward). The team with most steps picks up a six-month membership to the local fitness center. At least all people over 10,000 steps per day get one-month free memberships.

Bottom line: i just want our department to win. It's good PR! And we need it.

While we are currently a department of butt-kickers, we're still plagued by a legacy of bad news and service from slackers past. What better way to win people over than to pile-drive them and drop elbows in a fitness contest?

I was relieved to hear that the 10,000 Steps Challenge wasn't just about steps and walking. It's an overall fitness contest. So, all my walking, cycling, swimming, circuit and strength training, running, yoga and dance count toward my totals.

Conversions for non-step activities are done by minute equivalencies. Circuit training, for instance, equals 178 steps per minute. I do a minimum two hours of circuit/strength training each week, so I picked up 21,360 steps. If I run about four hours over the course of the week, it's approximately 48,000 steps or 200 steps per minute. And at least an hour's worth of yoga each week = 600 steps, or 100 steps per minute.

Bare minimum extra activities minus general daily steps puts me around 17,000 steps. I'm hoping my general walking will push me to my goal of 20,000. And worry not: I fully intend to do all of this without breaking myself. Just a few hearts.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week one redone.

No, you weren't the only one sick of the tubby talk. I can't promise it's over. I can believe the worst has passed. (Knock on wood.)

And now for something mildly different.

It had been 10 days since I ran when I hit the road on Saturday. A couple weeks ago I felt a sharp pain in my shin during some cardio. And, well, I hate crutches, so i dropped the impact and took to the bike.

I also took to fitness boot camp.

If you dropped by my tweets last week, you caught that boot camp day one didn't blow mind as imagined. Sure, I had some slight soreness two days later, but I was looking for a royal butt whooping. On the plus side, I discovered that I wasn't remotely as out of shape as I feared. Four months off wasn't a strike out.

Day two was a little more intense, and I can still feel the soreness in my inner arms. It starts with 30 minutes of an intense circuit/interval model, followed by 30 minutes of plyometrics and ab work. Yoga, it turns out, does make you a fitness all-star. I'm grateful, though, for the extra work on my back muscles, which I've neglected since spring.

While it's only been two days, I feel more in touch with my muscular structure. My larger muscle groups definitely feel worked and some of the middle groups have burned as well.

I've tried to maintain a miniature version of Tracy Anderson mat work going at home to continue toning and getting in touch with my smaller muscle groups. I really dig Tracy Anderson and think this break for boot camp will make my heart (and butt) grow fonder.

Saturday, however, was the first time I had run since the sharp shin pain and since the start of boot camp. Would I have lost too much fitness? Would the pain return?

No and no.

I ran a warm up mile straight (sans walk breaks) around 9:30/mile and didn't want to die. Not even a little bit. Then I turned up the heat.

After 1:30 walk break, I continued with 2:10 run, 1:30 walk for about 4.5 miles. My muscles were happily loose and warmed up, so the 7:33-7:58 pace for those 2:10 segments felt just right. Typically I wouldn't have pushed that tempo, but I was so deadset on not checking pace (and getting discouraged) that I just ran with it. And run I did.

I followed up with stretching and light massage. The only quirk was tight hamstrings when I cooled down—probably a product of last-man-standing split lunges last Wednesday.

We didn't push it so hard today when NB and I ran 3.25 in 2:20/1:30 intervals around 8:30-9:00 pace. It was my first two-in-a-row since spring. We'll see on Monday—during boot camp, probably—how my body reacts.

I also biked intervals today for 30 minutes and will try to catch some pedaling in the morning before work.

It's like my own little last-G-standing sequence. And I'll be standing on the scale Monday morning for the Week one's results.

UPDATE: Monday weigh-in read 128.6, which is a little lower than expected. Was I chock full of water last week? Did I lose too much water this weekend? Three pounds in one week seems a bit much (well, I'll still take it). This is where the late-week weigh-in comes in handy. But I have to manage my expectations. See, I'm wary of accepting lower-than-expected weigh-ins because they jerk my expectations... and set me up for a setback weigh-in later, which will lead to a "screw it" moment. Perhaps I can find a way to be banned from the train.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I know certain things.

When I was 15, I recognized something out loud: I know that I know nothing; I know I have plenty to learn.

Sure, it may sound simple, maybe silly. Profound or not, it was a big step for a teenager. And it's that wisdom that has helped me learn a lot over the years. Granted, one of those things was not stop running when your legs are broken, but I digress...

You think I babble too much about fitness and losing weight? Well, step inside my head. Whole new world in here. The hardest part about fitness, race-training and weight loss is that I know what I'm doing. I know what I'm talking about. I know how to achieve what I want to achieve. I just don't do it. Not necessarily that I won't do it. I just don't.

What's even more difficult is that I can see myself not doing what I need to do before I commit my sins. So, I'm in full power to stop myself, stay on track and meet my goals. But, again, I just don't. It goes back to the "eh, screw it" problem. I take one piece of chocolate and, eh, screw it! I have 17. We could go on about addictive eating, but I think it's more than that. As in: my head's way more screwy than an addictive eating disorder.

See: I don't eat compulsively. I don't necessarily eat when I'm angry or bored or happy or sad. I eat normally and then hit on something really good and BAM: screw it! It's an excuse. I eat something really tasty, and instead of enjoying it in moderation, I give myself an excuse to overindulge.

Now, this wouldn't be a problem if it happened over the holidays. Or even just special occasions. No, no. To me Tuesday is a special occasion. So is Wednesday morning. Wednesday at 2 p.m. Wednesday at 2:15 p.m. You get it.

Can I control myself? Absolutely. Do I? Absolutely not.

Monday was Day 1 of boot camp. It was fine. I learned that the average person is mind-blowingly out of shape. I was relieved to find that, somehow, I'm not!

It was a good 30-minute circuit session, followed by another 30 minutes of burpees (a.k.a. sun salutations for wimps) and other plyometrics. I broke a tiny mist of sweat while other people were wheezing and breaking quarter way through. I'm not patting myself on the back. I'm just being flabbergasted. Yes, I pushed myself. Yes, I tried hard. It's just that I've been going fast, hard and furious for four years. So, even in my bad shape, I guess I'm not so bad. (Insert sigh of relief.)

My personal trainer for the month told me I'd probably feel some soreness in my abs, legs, triceps and back. Good for me it was just my back, which has need some strength attention. Check!

The other thing PT helps with is nutrition. He asked that I log my nutrition for 2-3 days. He's going to examine and let me know what I'm doing right or wrong, what I should add or subtract, what else I need to do.

I laughed to myself when he said he'd help me with nutrition. For long stretches over the past four years, I've logged my food. You'd be surprised to hear that I'm actually an impeccable eater. About 98 percent of the time, I'm uber healthy and balanced. A recent blood exam showed I was super healthy on all my levels.

It's just that other two percent of the time—when I'm scarfing cupcake dozens, eating my dough than baking cookies, trying out new frostings, loving the whole jar of dark chocolate almond butter with NB's caramel over apples—that makes my butt huge. So, I laughed because if you look at my food log, the problem areas wouldn't jump out more if they were written in red marker. Here's how I imagine the conversation going:
PT: "So, GP, I see that you maintain a healthy balance of low-carb, high lean protein and low fat mini meals throughout the day. But what's with this 17 pieces of chocolate on Tuesday afternoon? Or the quart-sized bowl of guacamole and... how many chips? And what about these four gourmet-sized cupcakes on Sunday? Seriously?"

GP: (sheepish grin) "Want a slice of cake?"
I'm not sure if knowing what to do and not doing it is better or worse than knowing nothing at all. It certainly doesn't help my attitude when some other know-it-all tries to tell me to "just start exercising" or "just eat this way." I know. I just don't.

All this recent following a method or joining boot camp is really just my way of getting someone else to tell my things I already know... in the hope that I'll listen and do it. It's no secret that I aim to please. I've had goody-goody A-student syndrome all my life. Perhaps that need (or the threat of shame—I respond well to that too) to please or to be held accountable will break down something in my head. Even better: in my actions.

All that not knowing I knew about when I was 15 has helped me get where I am today. Too bad I didn't I wanted to lose 15 pounds back then. If I'd lost a pound a year starting then, I'd be done by now. And I'd have to blog and something more mundane than weight loss, like... nevermind.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Weight loss re-redux.

Last night's post was a little bit more whiny than I like to be. My first thought was to delete it, but sometimes it helps to keep remembrances of stupidity past.

For the final last time I'm starting this weight train again. Seriously. No, no... more serious than the last time I was serious about being serious about it being the last last time. Hold me to it!

Each time I start over I feel that the week's weight-loss sins were less bad than the week before. Sometimes it's just falling into a party of the too-good chef. Sometimes it's feeling like they might never make ganache this good for the rest of time. Sometimes it's waking up on Sunday morning, feeling light, healthy and on track, like you've lost five pounds, only to find you've actually gained two to three.

Yep, that last one was yesterday.

Talking to Monica today helped me re-get my head on straight. I told her about yesterday's weigh-in (132) and the "eh, screw it!" trip to the cupcake shop that ensued. Not that I want other people to have my habits, but it made me feel like less of a weight-loss failure when she said she shared my screw-it experience. It's nice when other people do the things you think are a little kooky. Like talking to yourself. Or posting way too much about yourself online.

We also decided that we'd both be fine if we could just grow upward a few inches. Something tells me I'd be cool with the daily caloric needs of a 5'8 girl. Maybe even a 6'0 guy. This 5'nothin' gig is the pits!

So, last night, after I finished at least half the jar of dark chocolate-almond butter my dad gave me and the tub of caramel I picked up for NB, I decided that this was it. The it of the it of the it. No more screw-it binges. Even if the scale doesn't agree with all the food I haven't been eating. I just have to stick with the plan.

And as chance would have it: boot camp starts today!

Long story short: I signed up for Cleveland Fitness Boot Camp because of a discount. It couldn't have come at a better time. One hour, three days a week. I'm really looking forward to someone kicking my ass. Three times a week.

Not that I can't kick my own ass. Another thing Monica and I discussed was our ability to exercise our butts off... without our butts going anywhere. It irks me to itches when someone tells me I "just need to exercise" or "just need to stick to get in some cardio" to lose weight. Because 50 miles a week on two fractured legs is symptomatic of a lazy doof.

I may have other problems, but laziness is not one of them.

Discount aside, I hope boot camp will give me some new perspectives on exercise and nutrition. There are obviously some serious gaps in my brain on those fronts. Plus, it's always invigorating to get a new workout, a new challenge. The only thing I'm worried about is explaining my need to be careful of impact intensity without sounding like a weenie. You know by now that I, umm, have a problem with being stupidly intense. How do you explain that you need to tone down the crazy in a boot camp? Aren't we all there to be crazy?

It might also help my plan to go someplace where they'll mark my progress — as opposed to the failed social experiment of posting my weight online. I operate on accountability. Only at boot camp, I won't be editor of the records.

So, on this day, Monday, Oct. 18, 2010, I draw the line. No more starting over. Just full steam ahead on the weight train. Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and that GP Cup isn't going to win itself.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Weight-loss redux.

Believe it or not, I actually not trying to demonstrate the ups and downs of losing weight. It just comes naturally to me. What can I say?

I have to blame at least part of it on my parents—once last weekend and again this weekend they've derailed my efforts to have a successful Monday-morning weigh-in. It's not that they don't mean well. They just bring some really good food to the table. And while their fit, trim bottoms have some level of discipline and healthy metabolisms, it appears that neither of those traits is hereditary.

(Sign two of dieting trouble: denial. When you start blaming other people for your overeating, you have a problem. Don't pass go. Don't collect $200. And don't, for the love of god, eat those cupcakes!)

My best weight has wiggled around 129 pounds. It momentarily dipped to 128 last week, but then the weekend happened. As usual, I have no problem doing the exercise. I have all the problem not eating when hosted and fed. It's time to start hiding on weekends. Or getting my jaw wired shut when leaving the house.

So, this week I start the Cleveland Fitness Bootcamp. Because I like gimmicks. And I get a discount for doing it. I'm eager to get my toosh kicked for the next month (blended with my Tracy Anderson Method). Please look forward to an excuse-laden post in two weeks about how I've failed again.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Time to be a loser.

It's going to take some time to shake the paranoia of broken bones on the run.

I had a slight breakthrough this weekend, however: one of the last workouts I did before Dr. T prescribed crutches was a skipping, galloping, trotting workout on the treadmill. It was lower impact than running and worked my cardio something fierce. But I remember how much I'd have to lift and support myself on one side because my leg would feel unstable (and painful!) with certain motions.

In retrospect, I know I had a neon sign hanging over my head, pointing to my leg and blinking "broken leg here." Ahh, yes, but denial shines such a blinding light.

Well, I tried the same workout on Saturday (with much caution). It took me a few minutes to gather the courage to make the first light, very low-impact hop, but I did. And it felt nothing like it did four months ago. Four months ago, my leg felt like it was wobbling beneath me, ready to keel over in all the wrong ways they won't show on television.

On Saturday, it just felt like a leg — the way legs were meant to feel.

That short treadmill session really helped me draw a line between "broken" feelings and "recovering" feelings.

It helped too when I was running on Sunday. I started to feel what I thought was a twinge in my right shin. "Aww, crap!" I thought. "I fractured my bleepin' leg again!" But when I slowed down and focused my attention on my lower legs, I could tell the very, very subtle feeling was occurring on both sides.

Could she have hurt both legs already, you wonder. No. I was wearing cropped tights and the elastic bottoms were squeezing ever so slightly over my shins. Not in a painful way. Just a gentle, butterfly-flaps-its-wings push or stretch against my skin. And I thought my legs were broken. Ugh.

One way I'm trying to combat future injury, however, is losing some of this post-crutch tub. I've been following the "Tracy Anderson Method" strengthening exercises for a few weeks. While that chick has all kinds of weird rumors swirling and some bad press, I have been supremely impressed by what this lady can do for your arms and butt in a relatively short time (if only I'd stuck with it this whole time, I'd be a killer babe right now!).

So, I've decided to be a little more dedicated and follow her 30-day plan to kick-start my lard-busting.

It's nothing gimmicky; it's just a plan of nutrition, strength and cardio to follow. And I know myself: I need a solidly outlined plan to follow. I also need to tell someone I'm following something so that I actually do it. Thanks for being that someone!

My objective: I'd like to get back to my healthy, preferred, pre-30th-birthday-pig weight of 120 pounds (yes, I never lost my 30th birthday pig-out week weight and then I hit the crutches... what a year to have my metabolism grind to a halt!).

I'm 133 today and will report each Monday how I've done with my goal of dropping one pound each week. Which means I should be down to my goal weight just in time for the holidays!

My complementary goal will be to learn how to eat like a human being and not like a famished boar. Here goes something!

Friday, September 24, 2010

OK. Go ahead. Call it a comeback.

Last Wednesday, I visited Dr. T for my it's-been-four-week-since-I've-been-off-crutches-what-now appointment. My leg, to him, felt remarkably well (I think he's just been surprised all along that I've listened to every word he's said and done everything I've been told) and, he regretted to tell me, I could start running again.

He regretted to tell me so much when he first said it, I thought he was telling me I couldn't run. Ever. He's probably just sick of seeing me and was sorry to give me a reason to be back too soon!

As in recovery, however, I will be in shape-up. So, here we go!

I was given very strict directions: every other day I could run 2:00, walk 2:00 in a gradual build-up to 32:00. Once I hit 32:00, I could start lengthening my run time, slimming my walk time. Here's how that's gone:

Day #1: 16:00 total, 4 x 2:00 at 9:35-11:10 pace with 2:00 walking recoveries. Can I tell you how incredible it felt to run for the first time in four months? I would have felt like I was flying if every step weren't hampering by the fear my leg would snap in half! Distance: 1.32 miles

Day #2: 20:00 total, 5 x 2:00 at 9:15-11:38 pace with 2:00 walks. Still loaded with paranoia, but let go, responsibly, just a touch. Distance: 1.60 miles

Day #3: 25:00 total, 6 x 2:00 at 8:46-10:51 pace with 2:00 walks (and a 3:00 walk to end). I haven't checked my pace even once while running. I'm just running by feeling and not pushing one bit. If anything even starts to hurt, alarms trigger so loudly I stop right away. But breaking 9:00 for the first time didn't ache a bit! Distance: 2.04 miles

Day #4: 30:20 total, 7 x 2:20 at 9:19-9:47 pace with 2:00 walk recoveries. OK: I didn't make it to 32:00 before ramping up. But the extra :20 was enough to make me run more focused and even, hence the more consistent paces. Distance: 2.55 miles

Day #5: 33:00 total, 8 x 2:30 at 8:01-9:00 pace with 1:40 walk recoveries. Not a bad experiment. Again, not checking pace while running. But after a couple weeks' worth of Tracy Anderson strengthening, I was feeling, well, strong. While I didn't push the intensity, I did slug either. Did I slap my hand for running 8:00 pace? Sure. Did it feel great? Absolutely. But I'm trying not to do it again soon. Distance: 3.06 miles

Day #6: 37:20 total, 8 x 2:40 at 8:10-9:38 pace with 2:00 walk breaks. I returned to the 2:00 walks because too short recoveries, it seemed, didn't really work as recoveries, per se. Just momentary slow-downs for me to run faster the next rep. And I'm not there yet. It's funny, though, how 2:00 now seems to last an eternity, but when I was doing 400M sprints, it was a blink. Distance: 3.31 miles

And that was this morning. Today was the first time since May I was able to drag my mopey butt out of bed pre-work and run as the sun was rising. I'm feeling a little sad about missing the whole summer, about not running Akron tomorrow, about spending most of year #30 momentarily disabled.

On the plus side, I can do one thing: sing Radiohead's classic "You do it to yourself" and know that in the future I can stop myself from feeling this way. By not breaking my own bones training in stupid ways.

And it will be an ongoing challenge: I'm planning on racing the Pigskin Classic 5K as my first race (it's Ohio State-UM weekend some time in November), followed by the GP family cup at the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving.

The true comeback, however, will be realized in May: the Cleveland Half. Not only is it one of my favorite races, Neil has agreed to train for and run it with me. Granted, the way he's been running, he'll hand me my butt at the finish line. But I'm looking forward to responsibly training for that not to happen.

Challenge: accepted.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's kind of like Christmas Eve...

...except I'm hoping that by this time Wednesday I'm not Tiny Tim.

I'm looking forward to being a normal human being again—even if that means I can't run a while longer.

It'll be nice to walk on two feet again. To not draw attention to myself whenever I enter a room. To be able to sneak up on people again.

But I really don't know what to expect. Is six weeks enough for these fractures to heal? I guess I'll just prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Even if imagining another couple days on crutches makes my stomach turn. I'll try to stop listening longingly to Neo on the treadmill too.

No visions of sugar plums tonight. Maybe I can still hope for a Thanksgiving race.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Seriously: for whom do they make these things anyway?

I admit it: I went a little crutch-crazy the first week I was on the sticks. But it just took one mention of bone spurs by my mom to slow me down.

I've stuck mostly to mat workouts and pretty easy going (at least I'll have plenty of weight to lose when all this healing is over... oh, wait, that's not a good thing?) the past few weeks. With respect to exercise, that is. I've still had plenty of places to crutch at work — the bleepin' bathroom is a few minutes away, my bleepin' car always ends up on the opposite site of the lot and bleepin' Starbucks, well, it's not far at all — and my social/normal life hasn't taken a backseat to fractured legs. I crutched the Tremont artwalk a couple days into crutchville and cheered Neil wildly at Joseph Monastra.

It's not high mileage (it's not meant to be), but it certainly isn't using these things as an excuse to be lazy.

Which me to wonder: what kind of sloths use crutches these days? Because mine look like this:

worn to poop crutch grips
Yep, that's the metal bar tearing through the grip. It was really fun when it finally broke through the rubber — I was crutching through a tiled hallway to PechaKucha Night and the darned thing slid right across the floor, sending me flying. It took me a few days to remember that my mom had left some spare crutches in my basement. So, a few perilous moments followed.

Like wiggling into the crawl space to get the crutches (yick!). You can imagine my surprise, though, when I found the spare pair. The arm and hand grips were worn to tears, but the bottoms looked nothing mine:

crutch comparison
Perhaps my definition of rest is a little different than the average crutchist. Anymore rest here and I might suffer cardiac arrest. From sheer boredom and blubber.

So, I grabbed a new grip and have been crutching smoothly since. And my skillz as a crutchist are only moving up: not only have I mastered the water-bottle carry and the hot-coffee crutch, I can push a grocery cart while crutching too. It's all about rhythm. What I'm most proud of, however, is that I've experienced no residual pain from my new way to "walk." No crutch chafing. No torquing, turning or burning on the opposite leg. No crutches getting anywhere near my armpits whatsoever.

Did I mention I can crutch sideways, backward and through small spaces? Yes, I take my victories wherever I can get them. The downside is at least once a week it totally wears me out. Particularly the work environment. I can't elevate my leg and the bathroom jaunt is a stretch. But it's reassuring that I can keep doing it all.

Even if these crutches weren't made for people like me anyway.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Because my hourlong ESPN special was pre-empted by that basketball guy...

...I'll tell you now where I've been: Limpville.

But first the marathon recap: you know by now that I ran a 10+ minute PR at the Cleveland Marathon in May. It was meant to be a training run in prep for a shot at a Boston-worthy 3:40 at some June race. We dance, dance, danced the night away at Neil's BFF's wedding (talk about a guy who gives a great speech!). I got to sleep around 1 a.m., woke up before 5 a.m. and started running by 7 a.m.

It wasn't even 7:30 a.m., however, by the time I stopped running. Shin splints kicked in around 1.5 miles. By two, I was in tears limping on the side before I stopped. Some massaging and ego-kicking later, I ran with the promise that if things didn't loosen by mile ten I was out. Mile five came around, and I started feeling a little better. Around mile seven I realized that my mom and dad were coming out to cheer, and I didn't want to let them down. So, I ran the whole darned thing.

The plus side to stopping and then wobbling in tears for 15 minutes in a marathon is that once you get running again, no one passes you for the last 23 miles. At least that's how it worked out for me. I didn't push myself; I just took in the scenery, really enjoyed Cleveland's outpouring of support (big high-fives to the Shaker Heights cheerleaders!) and had a pleasant Sunday-morning long run with water stations and cheering crowds. That's your typical Sunday, right?

I felt so great, in fact, I was able to run mid-8's the last several miles, race my dad down St. Clair (around 22-23) and finish with a smile on my face. Things swelled, and I limped to my much-deserved mole-chicken pizza at the Beach Club Bistro, but it was all to be expected. I had run a marathon. My best one yet.

Well, it might be the last one. The shin splints, as it turned out, weren't shin splints after all. They were this:
dem bonesWhat you're seeing is shots from my MRI. The x-rays, which I don't have, show it better. One fracture all the way down my right tibia, a small crack around it, and stress syndrome occurring on my left.

It took me so long to tune out pain of training in my fitness life that I managed to miss distress signals when my body was actually hurt. Poop.

I waited about 3-4 weeks before I saw a doctor (not because I was stubborn -- I had run a marathon, of course things were going to feel funky!). There were x-rays, follow-ups, errant radiologists, denied MRI claims and then the final MRI. The pics were so concerning to the radiologist at Clinic Sports Health that he called Dr. T the minute I left the room. Yet, after six weeks of walking on this stuff, I barely notice my leg is ready to crumble.

So, you can imagine how rough the first couple days were of being on crutches. Not the actual crutching, but the remembering. Because I walked on them for six weeks, I don't feel the pain of fractured bones. My brain has discontinued its subscription that feeling. It's just some aching.

When my leg bares weight, I don't get a pang. I just remember, "shoot... Neil's going to catch me walking and I'm going to be busted!" Horrible, I know. But it helps. By Monday I should be totally trained to not walk like a normal human being.

Good thing is I'm OK to crutch around. I crutched about a mile my first night, and it felt amazing to be out, moving and getting in some form of new cardio. Because my left leg has some stress going on, I still need to be careful. So far my crutching isn't quite aggressive enough to yield more injury. Unless, of course you know of any crutch races this weekend....?

I'm just thanking my lucky stars Dr. T pushed for more info when radiology told him my leg was fine and that playing tennis last weekend didn't actually crumble my leg. Then I would have had to go through all of that change-of-address stuff again. I don't think I'd be a happy resident of Limpville for long.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Here's the scoop: I've had trouble doing my 20+ mile runs (pure laziness), so I decided to register for Cleveland as motivation. Cleveland, it turned out, became the 20+ run.

Without much training (as I crossed mile 18 I realized it was only the second time in the past year I'd run so far, and only the third time I'd run more than 15 consecutive miles), rest, proper sleep or healthy eating, I somehow survived. It started out pretty bad -- a little over a mile into the race my shin splints got so bad I limped off to the side in tears and decided to quit... before deciding not to quit -- but I managed to salvage it.

And run an 11-minute PR: 4:01:27.

More to come.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Thinking about your worst enemy

Wicked witch of the west
IT bands, shin splints, stress fractures and sore quads are nothing. The pain that slows me the most is in my head.

No, I'm not talking about migraines (although I struggle with those sometimes too). I'm talking self-inflicted sabotage. The wall before "the" wall. The engine that could but became wholly convinced she couldn't so she took a nap.

In my last post, I mentioned all the time I wasted last week pondering my race feelings. Do I like it? Should I be doing it? Should I sit on my lazy butt instead? Thank the angel on my shoulder for winning that battle.

It's no secret that racing isn't exactly a massage. But it sure feels great when you're done -- the exercise, the adrenaline, the endorphins, the pride, the camaraderie, the achievement. And fresh off Saturday's race, I have to admit racing a good one doesn't hurt remotely as bad as I remembered. So why all the hate?

Honestly, I can't explain it.

What I realized today, however, is that tune-up races take the wuss out of your stride. For weeks I had struggled with running my targeted paces. Sub-8's were for sprinting miles. But after Saturday's race, I've felt pretty comfortable running base miles in the low-7's without going breathless the way I might have last week.

Is my watch broken? No. Has my fitness changed in a matter of days? No. Apparently proving to my brain that I could run 7:40 over 10 miles was enough to banish the wuss covering the accelerator. Now how can I get that feeling to stick around (and ditch the wuss)?

My friend Melissa told me when I first started training that I overthink on the run, and I keep her voice with me still whenever the wuss starts creeping into my head. But all too often the wuss wins.

Case in point: a couple weeks ago, I pumped up my treadmill pace to 9 mph without really knowing actual pace. I ran with healthy effort for two miles before the math worked out in my head -- 6:40 pace. Then I started questioning myself. Well ahead of my 5K PR and not even struggling, suddenly I was stumbling over myself. It's as if my brain says "you're not allowed to do THAT!" and my legs comply. It's just not right.

After reading Matt Fitzgerald's Brain Training last year, I've made some serious breakthroughs with mind over matter. But I have such a long way to go. Sure, greater confidence comes with experience. I just need to make sure the wuss on my back doesn't stop me from getting that experience.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Not a perfect 10, but a happy 10.

Tagging my shoes before the raceIt's been so long since I've been happy with racing that I wondered why I registered for the Hermes Cleveland 10-Miler.

Seriously, racing 10 miles this weekend? Is that really the best use of my Saturday morning?

One pretty decent 18-miler and a few mid-distance runs aside, most of my outings have been junk since the Akron Half. On Saturday morning I wondered whether I even enjoyed racing.

Despite all the negative energy, I made it to the start with ESpeed and Salty, and I just wanted to run a healthy race. Beating my PR (1:21) would be rad, but not imperative. Taking a nap would have been nice. But then the gun went off, and I took off at a comfortable pace, weaving among a pretty huge sell-out crowd into the streets of Cleveland near West side.

The downside of showing up relaxed and expectation-free: I hadn't thought at all about my approach. A ten-miler is an interesting race. Obviously not a sprint, ten miles isn't a long-distance race either. And while it's twice a five-miler, I consider the intensity closer to a fiver than a half marathon. But where?

I decided early to run "comfortable, but not relaxed." It was my mantra. Stay comfortable, not relaxed. And it was easy the first couple miles: start-line adrenaline was pumping, beat of a couple thousand runner's racing feet was bumping. I was content with mile-one 7:23 split, but wasn't sure whether mile two's 7:53 split was my final glimpse of sub-8's. Shin splints had come to attack.

My race day attire was pretty flawless for the first time ever. Simple dri-fit Nike tee with new compression shorts and socks couldn't have been more breathable and less chafing. And it was the first time I didn't have to spend too much energy tugging at shorts riding up my chunky thighs. Perfect!

I'd made the compression-sock investment a few weeks earlier when several people recommended them for my shin splints. Yes, it's spring and the splints were back. I've been treating them with major hill therapy (4-5 mph on the treadmill at 10-12% grade for 2-3 miles) and figured the compression couldn't hurt.

The socks have worked wonders for my tibial tendinitis and achilles tenditis (both sides). So, if you see me at work, run, sleep or play, I'm wearing a pair.

At this race I donned a new pair of pink compression socks, which were the best pair yet. I swear they squeeze out my morning tibial and achilles aches. Unfortunately, however, they didn't scare away the splints.

I started tightening up around the middle of mile two, and then, oh, how the mental battle began! Should I stop? Of course you shouldn't; you should run harder. But this burns something fierce. Yeah, but are your shins going to break? Besides: since when is a race not supposed to hurt?

And the devil side was right. Races aren't supposed to tickle.

So, I stayed comfortable cardiovascularly, tried to ignore the fact that I have shins, checked out all the pretty houses along Lake Ave and just ran from one mile marker to the next. Pretty soon they were flying by (I even missed mile four!), my splints had eased and I was posting a pretty decent 5-mile split (38:48), which is just a minute off my 5-mile PR.

Then came the wind. I practiced my drafting techniques, skipping from dude to dude, trying to catch some relief from the gusts. It was remarkable what a difference some shield made, but I couldn't stick with anyone long enough to make a difference. Miles 6 and 7 were rough, but didn't turn out too bad: 7:54 and 8:02 splits.

One point of confidence I did bring to the race is finishing speed. I've lately take 6-8 miles to really feel warmed up, comfortable and ready to go. And that feeling didn't fail me on Saturday. I crossed the mile 7 marker and was finally off to the race.

Three miles? I can run three miles. And so I did.

I can't pretend to understand well enough how my body works, but, boy, was it fun to run those final miles. My body felt loose, and I was running a pretty good clip without losing my breath. Mile eight passed in 7:43, and it just seemed too easy. I wished all my miles felt so light. We weaved around neighborhoods and ticked away mile nine in 7:36 like I was having a picnic.

After high-fiving the volunteers at the last mile-marker and turning onto the curvy bike path toward the finish, I tried to stay comfortable without letting my exuberance peak too soon. The twists and turns helped temper my excitement for the finish, and probably slowed me down more than some of the downhills sped me up, but it was really glee from a ten-miler feeling so darn good that powered me toward the beachfront finish.

As I took some of the final turns, I noticed a pink-shirted chica trucking up on my right. I turned on my final quarter-mile jets past her and crossed the finish in 1:16:47 -- a little more than four minutes faster than my previous PR.

Oh, did that race feel great. I hugged Miranda, the pink-shirted runner who raced me to the finish, for helping me meet my goal (secretly I wanted but didn't expect to run 1:17). And as I ticked through my watch, I was really proud of my finishing speed. The last twisty-turny mile measured only 0.96 on my watch, but I covered it in 6:46 (~7:04/mile).

ESpeed, who finally rang out her Boston quads, found me fast. We cheered Salty, Monica and other friends to the finish before catching some killer egg dish from the finishing tent (whoever picked out the egg dish for post-race food should get the Nobel Prize for Awesomeness).

It was a strange feeling leaving the race. For the first time in a long, long time, I felt content. Even at the Holy Cross 5K, where I won and picked up a major PR, I didn't feel happy with my race. My Akron Half was really great for me, but I walked away with so many "but"s. Was this race perfect? No. Was it the best I could have run that day? Who knows. Was it comfortable, relaxed, smart, fun and healthy? Absofrickinlutely.

It's high time I remind myself that I'm not close to good enough a runner to get down on myself and my running results when they're not what dreams are made of. Am I running to win? Nope. I'm running to be healthy, to challenge myself and, when possible, beat all runners named GP.

Racing may not feel fab when you're doing it, but it should feel great when you're done. And, you know, it really does.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Running hard... or hardly running?

Neil and Gina run St. MalachiWhile Cleveland had a most unmiserable winter this year, I haven't had the best cold-season training. I pulled off the Pittsburgh path and gave racing St. Malachi much criticism. How could I race five miles when I was having trouble breathing (from the cold/plague that will never end)?

The answer: have fun.

Neither Neil nor I felt up to the races last Saturday. But how could I not race St. Malachi? It was my first race ever in 2007. I've run it every year. And it's for a great cause. Plus, the ranks always fill up with the coolest runners I know. Getting to see them, really is enough to run the hilly race.

If that didn't get me to the near West side of Cleveland, however, running a race with Neil for the first time would. Even if I had known what the weather would have been.

I hung with Salty, DaisyDuc and ESpeed (indoors) before the race, and only warmed up trotting uphill to the start with Neil. Wimpywimpywimpy ran high with me that day. And I was OK with it.

Before the race I had promised Neil that we could run the first mile hard, see how we felt and run the rest however we wanted. So, when the race kicked off, I led the muddy way through a mile one that I remembered being much more downhill. Neil started the day sniffling with cold/flu symptoms, so I tried to spy behind me from time to time to make sure he wasn't too far behind. He pushed through the snot and ran a great first mile.

Even with the backlooking and three stops for Neil to catch up, I ran mile one at 6:50. Neil crossed at 7:14.

Mile two ran closer to 8, and then Neil started feeling really bad. So, we slowed down and cruised the last 2.5-3 miles. He ran a consistent pace; I sprinted the hills and waited at the top (if I wasn't going to get in my tempo, I'd at least do hill repeats!). Yes, I picked up plenty of dirty looks.

At least they weren't from Neil. He pushed through his sick to run a very respectable 45 at his first St. Malachi — we had a little track meet sprint up the final hill to the finish, and he beat me by a bunch. Then we came home, ate bratwurst my dad delivered from the West Side Market (he was an awesome cheerleader too), and spent the rest of the weekend getting all resicked.

I think we're finally getting better by now. My nose-breathing is around 80% by now, and Neil's getting his normal voice back. We're eying some late-April races to redeem ourselves. And have yet more fun.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Shameless self promotion

Think Beyond the PossibleExcuses, excuses, excuses. I took off last week from impact training to give my leg a heal: it swelled up so much a few nights that I couldn't sleep. And that just wrecked everything. But it wasn't just the leg keeping me up at night. Work had its hand too.

I try not to let work interfere with my personal life. Much. All too often, however, it barges its way into every hour of my waking and sleeping hours.

At least I have something to show for it. If you have a minute, please visit my Think Beyond the Possible Web site. I'm kind of proud of it.

Only now I have to find something else to think about when I'm on the treadmill...

Friday, January 29, 2010

Will power and the cleansed brain

In my previous post, I mentioned that the refresh of cleansing, in addition to habits lost and found, helped me avoid the typical binging I commit when I'm stressed (and January tends to be a real doozy for me at work).

Apparently, I get a pat on the back. According to NPR, it's not easy.

A few questions hit about the story, so here it is — Will Power and the Slacker Brain: Why is it so hard to do the right thing? Turns out your brain gets tired sometimes and just can't fight the power... of chocolate cake.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

End of the cleanse

A Frank's bratwurst was delicious... but not very cleansing!When I crossed the finish on my three-week cleanse last weekend, I celebrated with a cold 13-miler, which broke my training into 10+ (and 30 for the week) for the first time since the Akron Half.

Needless to say, it was a bit much and probably not a fab idea to suddenly kick up my long run by 50% in less than a week.

At least the cleanse was fab.

Now that I’ve shaken the not-so-hot post-cleanse overindulgence I committed on Saturday and Sunday (bratwurst from the market, cupcakes, cookies, apple fritter, pizza on Saturday; cinnamon roll-wrapped bacon and cupcakes on Sunday) and shed weight I packed in a mere two days, I’m basking in the afterglow and digging some new habits.

It’s no secret that nutrition is both mystery and obsession for me. What’s more fun than exploring foods’ properties, cooking up a storm and understanding how food delivers energy and affects our insides, outsides, brains, feet and tears? Yet I’ve never grasped how much grub I needed to thrive (and how not to skyrocket my blood sugar all the time).

The Clean program was a good place to start. Not only did I learn about my body’s natural, regular detoxification process, I discovered a collection of foods that lessen the detox load, deliver energy and kick the habit of blocking my body’s natural ability to heal itself.

A week out of the cleanse, I'm still observing the 12-hour detox period at night and waking up with a lemon-water detox for my liver. If nothing else, these two rituals have helped my body prep for sleep at night and wake up easy in the morning.

What’s more: I began to appreciate a number of ingredients (i.e., quinoa, kasha, kale) that comprised many of my meals, use them in new ways and crave them for the great way they made me feel. For weeks before the cleanse, I had suffered from nearly debilitating heartburn. By week two, it was completely gone.

But it was the “plan” part of the cleanse that delivered the real epiphany.

While I consider myself, in general, a healthy eater (with some unhealthy habits), I don’t think I’ve ever been a conscientious eater. Particularly with respect to calories. I’ve grown up in a culture that advertises 2,000- and 2,500-calorie diets as standard. And they are. For people much larger and/or more active than I am. Even if I am training for the Ironman. After getting a basal metabolic rate assessment from my health care provider, I realized that a person my size (5’1, 124 pounds) needs about 1200-1300 calories each day. Then I get a few more for training… but not much. Who knew?

I’d used online tools in the past to measure my needs, but the standardized tools recommended 1500-1800 calories each day. Suddenly I realized how a girl running 50+ miles a week could gain weight.

Imagine my disappointment, though, when I discovered that I needed 300-500 fewer calories each day! I thought I was going to starve. But then I really tuned in to my plan and listened to my real appetite.

In the past my appetite was measured on taste satisfaction, not quantity. Cupcakes? Those are good… and I’m not full until I’ve had 30 of them. Green beans? Often delicious, but not indulgent. So, I’m full about 20 calories in.

Enter the Clean plan.

The book didn’t outline three weeks of meals, but provided a series of recipes and a recommended eating plan (i.e., smoothie for breakfast, lean protein solid lunch, light detox-friendly snack, soup for dinner). And it only took me 1-2 days to realize that the smoothies, soups and meals I was eating actually left me full and satisfied, even if they were smaller than my usual pig-out of food.

Some things like a brothy soup or grilled chicken breast tend to have filling properties, but I was surprised that I wasn’t full… my appetite was satiated. Even on heavy training days. And once 7 p.m. hit., I observed my 12-hour detox and never thought about snacking. Turns out following this plan was a lot like following a training plan for a marathon. It’s not always perfect, but delivered results.

But what will shock you to your very core: I seem to have kicked the too-sweet habit. Seriously.

Sure, I tried the weekend overindulgence, but I didn’t really enjoy too much of these goods things. In fact, I only ate one half each of two cupcakes and a third of an apple fritter before I felt too indulged (they were tasty… and are now in the freezer). I ditched plans to make fancy donuts at home on Sunday… and haven’t had anything sweet all week despite being done with my cleanse.

Don’t get me wrong: I still love my desserts and treats. But I don’t crave and think and plan and dream about them. Much (I am still alive). I have a drawer full of chocolate I stashed during the holidays (“for later”) and haven’t even reached for it. Somehow I survived a very stressful month without any stress-eating. And according to NPR, that’s not easy to do!

But how long will I stick with the good-eating habits? What will toss me from the wagon? Only time will tell. At least I have regular cleanses planned to keep me on the straight and narrow. I’m most vigilant, however, on how my nutrition affects my training. And… so far so good. My energy has been steady and strong (totally unlike calorie-cuts of the past), and I feel like I’m eating the right things, rather than less of the same schtuff.

Still so much to learn about myself, food, energy delivery... and the million things I can do with kasha.

All this Cleanliness has primed me for dropping some of my non-leanness for racing season. I dropped about six pounds over the three weeks (part diet, plenty of exercise). The only drawback: my running tights are too loose now… and loose tights lead to some mean chafing on a rough 13-miler. Ouch!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Cleanse week two, training week one (15 weeks to go)

Rumor has it that it takes three weeks to break a habit. Fingers are crossed that it’s true: I’m two weeks into breaking my healthy-diet-spoiling eating habits and hoping that it sticks.

And after a week’s warmup, I finished my first week of training for the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Here’s the full rundown on Week #2 Cleanse/Week #1 Training
On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: blueberries, cocoa, almond milk smoothie
Snack: probiotic yogurt
Lunch: snapper w/broccoli rabe, kale and pine nut quinoa
Dinner: zucchini-basil soup
*Training: 6.25 treadmiles @ 9:00/mile

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: blackberries, mango, spinach, almond butter smoothie
Lunch: grilled chicken w/pesto, spinach, zucchini, kale, chipotle sauce over polenta
D: pumpkin pudding (pureed pumpkin, probiotic yogurt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cayenne)
*Training: warm-up; progression hill repeats w/ two sets of 1:00 1-8% grade/:10 pace increments; cool down; 20:00 strength training

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: oatmeal w/blueberries, almonds, almond milk
L: Pumpkin risotto w/short-grain brown rice and grilled balsamic chicken
D: Pumpkin soup w/cilantro, onions, zucchini
*Training: 25:00 strength, 40:00 yoga, restful night

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: oatmeal w/blackberries, cinnamon, almonds, almond milk
Lunch: Sweet miso w/shiitake mushrooms and spinach
D: Bean chili (not exactly cleansing, but the best I could do out)
*Training: 7 treadmiles w/intervals between 7-8:00/mile; 30:00 yoga

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: Almond butter, mango, spinach smoothie
Lunch: Pumpkin, cinnamon, fresh ginger, cayenne, almond milk smoothie
Dinner: ahi tuna over cilantro-lime short-grain brown rice w/avocado + green beans
*Training: 25:00 strength; 30:00 medium effort cycling

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: harvest grains + steel cut oats w/ blackberries, almonds, cinnamon, cumin, ginger
Lunch: carrot ginger soup
Dinner: cilantro-lime short-grain brown rice w/avocado, green beans, zucchini
*Training: 30:00 yoga; 4:25 miles outside @ 8:50/mile

On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. herbal tea
Breakfast: blackberries, pineapples, almond butter, cinnamon, almond milk smoothie
Lunch: apple (OK, so I missed lunch)
Dinner: Lettuce, red onion, black olive salad w/minestrone
*Training: 35:00 medium effort cycling with 2x5:00 mid-high intensity; 15:00 stretches

And then I started week #2 of training with 9 miles outside @ 8:45/mile. While I thought I was being too ambitious targeting eight miles, I reached big hill at mile four and decided to tackle. It’s about a half-mile bump whose last quarter mile builds from 5-8% grade.

The sidewalk was pretty icy this morning, so the ride down wasn’t its usual relief.

As you might suspect, I’ve managed to lose a few pounds since I started my cleanse and training. But, as you might not suspect, it’s not a matter of malnutrition.

I’ve tried to drop pounds in the past during training, but found it nearly impossible. Probably because I felt entitled to thousands of calories I hadn’t earned. When I actively tried to cut my calories during training, I wouldn’t optimize my meals or my calories. So, I was left feeling weak and energy sapped and completely convinced it was impossible to drop pounds on the run.

Ridiculous, huh?

My real goal is to drop 15 pounds from my beginning-of-the-year weight by the time I race the Ironman in September.

It’s a pretty healthy, metered pace. I’ve dropped 3-4 pounds in the past two weeks, which isn’t the pace I’ll continue, but a nice start. These first several pounds were, well, easier to drop because I packed on plenty during the holidays. Bonus pounds, we’ll call them.

So, in this final cleansing week, I hope these good habits grab tight. Obviously, I’ll allow myself the occasional blip of indulgence. But maintaining the small size and frequency of blips will be the trick.

I get the sense that it would take me far less than two week to break good habits and find myself smothered in some delicious buttercream frosting.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Spring cleaning: part two, week one

Blueberry smoothieCleanses don’t have the best reputations. Sometimes for good reason. In fact, my first experience of detox/cleanse was really unpleasant. And it was third hand.

A friend fell into the Master Cleanse—mostly a water, lemon, maple syrup, cayenne drink until you drop—while crushing on a girl from yoga. By day three he was, well, overwhelmed by the squirts (not to mentioned grossed by the salt water he had to drink), and apparently no amount of feelings for a bendy girl really outweighs the squirts.

I heard all about it, in graphic detail, from my friend Jeff and never wondered why it was called a “cleanse” again.

Then I discovered’s abbreviated weeklong post-holiday cleanse last year. It was a balanced meal plan of mostly smoothies and soups with a collection of solid meals that delivered carbs, protein, fats, vitamins, the works in a way my normal diet just doesn’t.

Whole, natural ingredients nixed sugar, high sodium and processed gunk. Regular smooth meals eased work on my stomach. The whole week left me feeling energetic and, for lack of a better word, clean.

But I’ve said all this before.

One week into my second cleanse, a three-week detox, good feelings are back. Most mornings start with lemon water, tea and a delightful smoothie; lunch is a solid meal containing most of the day’s protein; and dinner is a veggie-based soup after a post-work snack of something like probiotic yogurt or almonds.

What’s different with this cleanse is that a) it’s really blimey cold outside; b) I’m still cooking dinner for Neil; and c) I’ve started training for the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and the Rev3 Ironman in September. At first, I wasn’t sure it would work.

Training, however, blends well with cleansing: the hard breathing and sweating removes toxins and eases stress (which releases poisons of its own) in a way that plain old good eating and healthy thoughts just can’t. What’s more: I’m more dedicated to yoga practice and deep breathing during heavy training cycles, which helps kick out the bad schtuff even more.

To illustrate, here’s a few days in the life:
On rising: lemon water
7 a.m. Herbal goji berry tea
8 a.m. Kale, pineapple and flaxseed smoothie (at least 12 hours after last meal)
Lunch: Balsamic grilled chicken w/ rosemary wild rice
After work: 25 min cycling
Snack: 20 almonds
Dinner: Carrot-ginger soup
Part of the detox process is giving your body time to digest, kick into its natural detoxification process and recover. Alejandro Junger, doc-author of Clean, explains that digestion takes up to four hours, followed by eight to rid the body of toxins, and that we should give our bodies at least 12 hours to complete the cycle.

Putting the solid meal in the middle of the day and a smooth meal at night during cleanse, Junger suggests you’re giving your system greater time to recover with ease of digestion as it heads into daily detox.

Because I cook for Neil (last time he fended for himself), I had to strategize—no way he was going to dig carrot-ginger soup for dinner. How would I do solid lunches?

Easy: time shift.

Starting on Sunday, I cooked dinner for Neil, packed away half for lunch, and whipped up a soup for me. The next day I reheated the Balsamic chicken with rosemary wild rice (on Tuesday it was roast salmon w/broccoli rabe quinoa; Wednesday had Moroccan lamb w/harvest grains and spinach) and repeated.

Neil was a little put off by our different meals, but I’m thinking the deliciousness should eventually distract him.

Alongside feeling great, I enjoy how just one week of cleansing makes me feel in control of my appetite and my diet (and, as opposed to my friend’s Master Cleanse, my bowel movements ;-). Sure I have the occasional fantasy about cookies and cakes, but I’ve already shook the self-consuming cravings.

Could I go for some dulce bread pudding? Sure. Will I have some? Nah. I think I’ll have a smoothie with mangoes, almond butter and spinach instead.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I did not look like on my first treadmill run

My last trip on a treadmill? Forty-five seconds of sweaty stumbling, stopping, skipping, swearing misery that actually, according to my friend Jeff, turned me into a fire-breathing devil woman. (I'm still paying for his therapy.)

No, I didn't fall, but sometimes the threat is worse than the actual thing.

Except, of course, when it's the actual thing: 15 years ago I stood on a treadmill for one absent-minded split second as someone plugged it in. And then I was thrown across the room at 6:00/mile. Ouch.

Imagine my anxiety today when I decided to hit the treadmill at lunch. It's been weeks since I last ran, months since I've trained. Chances of me running on freezing rain: unlikely. While I've packed outdoor running clothes every day for work since October, I haven't peeled myself out of my office chair into the cold once. Oh, winter wussiness.

I must have looked I was approaching a lion's cage for the first time and walking in. The buttons were difficult to push, the moving-ground sensation took a bit to grasp, and let's just say my knuckles were white as I gripped the bar to steady myself.

I only let go after five minutes, when my arms started to hurt! Then I gripped hard with two fingers, then one on each hand. Finally: at 2 miles I ran hands free. No stumbles, zero trips and only one too-long stride. I think I'll do it again.

It wasn't a bad inaugural workout either: 4 miles @ 10:15, 8:20, 8:34, 9:00. The first mile wasn't fully slow... it took me several minutes to poke up the pace from 12-13:00!

So it begins: Pittsburgh, here I come!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Spring cleaning: part one

Nothing leaves me feeling flabby, lazy, gross and, of course, merry quite like the holidays.

My uncanny ability to down 3,000-5,000 calories of sweets and non-essential fats (in lieu of blood, a slow sludge of sugar and butter creeps through my veins) in a single sitting without diabetic coma drowns me in guilt and extra pounds every time. For some reason, I just keep doing it year after year.

A semi-hiatus from running has intensified my itch of grossity this time. I’ve been on the mend and a little lazy since September. Sure, I’ve been keeping up cardio, trainer-cycling and strength training, but nothing quite has the return on investment (for me) like running. And so I flab.

But new year, new me… right? Well, not even the glory of new year could throw me on track this year: I stepped outside for my inaugural run on Friday morning and wiped out on the new ice. Looks like only a treadmill and an indoor track can save me now. When did I become such a winter wimp?

Cold or not, I refuse to wimp out this year on mastering a healthy diet. I’m turning 2010 in February and believe my uber-healthy-on-one-hand, crazy-unhealthy-on-the-other eating habits won’t hold up in decade #3. What better way to start than a three-week cleanse?

Following Thanksgiving, I tried my first detox/cleanse. It was a weeklong process that consisted mostly of raw fruit/vegetable soups or smoothies and making me feel great. No sugar. No processed junk. Very little salt. Despite enticement from Dunkin Donuts chocolate peppermint holiday treats commercials, I felt really satisfied, healthy and clean the whole week. And for the first time… ever… I felt more in control of my appetite and my relationship with food.

Then I went to Dunkin Donuts on Saturday and drowned in guilt. Bleh.

It was such a great experience, however, I’ve been pretty eager all holidays long to get back to an extended cleanse. The trial run was based on this detox, which led me to the full plan by Alejandro Junger. So, for Christmas I bought myself and just finished reading “Clean,” Junger’s book about detox and restoring the body’s natural ability to heal itself.

Far from the “eat (this) and thou shall be saved” variety of miracles, Junger’s book explains the body’s natural (and daily) detoxification processes, the makeup of good foods, not-so-goods and toxins, and the benefits of going “clean” for a few weeks. It also outlines the plan, including recipes, recommended eating times (or, more importantly, times between eating), and detoxifying activities, such as deep-breathing, yoga and sweat-inducing exercise, that I’ll be following for the next three weeks.

It’s not gospel, but the book assures me endurance athletes can follow the cleanse while training. Good news because I’m entering a major marathon-training cycle! It should help me regain my appetite control and, I hope, engrain those lessons over the three weeks so they stick. Because on the other side of the cleanse? The next great holiday indulgence.

My birthday.