Monday, February 18, 2013

February Goals Check-In

Already half way through the month
Time for a check-in on this month's goals. [I wrote this last week but failed to post!]. 

Home - One 20/10 a day: I’m doing pretty well with this! To be perfectly honest, some days my “20” isn’t even cleaning--it is just 20 minutes of doing stuff I don’t want to do that are vaguely home-related. Think taxes, paperwork, etc. But doing a daily pick up + wipe down of surfaces is really helpful. I still have a tendency to save the big stuff for the weekends--typically a deep clean on the bathroom, kitchen, and floors every other week. But I have been trying to incorporate more frequent cleaning, or at least cleaning touch ups, which makes actually doing the “real” cleaning way more manageable. 

Body - incorporating morning workouts: I feel...mehhh on these. On the one hand, I truly LOVE getting them done. It makes the rest of the day and evening so much better. On the other...I kind of feel like death when I do them. I’ve only tried running outside once in the morning so far, and I felt like I was just completely slogging through and low energy. And I just refuse to wake up early enough to eat a real breakfast (I just have half a banana or nothing) and coffee before running. The treadmill days haven’t been as bad--the TV is entertaining enough and I only do 3 miles on it. But it still doesn’t feel as easy as post-work running does.

I think going forward I’m going to try to incorporate two morning runs a week (at least until mid-March...when that elusive big work thing is supposed to hit. We’ll see; it keeps getting delayed). My two shorter weekday runs--a 4 miler and a 3 miler. This will give me the opportunity to stay at work later without stress a couple nights a week and also give my body a break by sleeping in the other days. 

Mind - 10 minutes of reading a day: I’m doing pretty well on this goal! I’ve completely missed only one day so far this month, and on many days, I end up reading for more than just the 10 minutes. I wasn't loving the book I was reading, but I finished it on Friday, fortunately! One of those where you want to know what happens but don’t really want to go through the process of reading it...anyway. In the sake of full disclosure, I've read magazines only since finishing the book Friday (my original intent for the goal was books)--my brain wasn't quite ready to move onto the next book! But I'm starting a new book tonight, so hopefully I'll get back at it. I’m glad I’m keeping this up and definitely enjoying the non-computer/TV-downtime it is providing. 

Relationships - contact one person a week: Honestly, I've failed at this so far. I just am not quite sure what to say to some people because I've let it go too long...need to buck up and do it! I know I'll enjoy reconnecting, but I just feel ashamed of what a bad friend I've been.

Will keep plugging away at these and update once the month is over.

Weekly Workout Summary - February 11 - February 16, 2013
Monday: 5.5 miles @ 11:23. Experienced some...gastrointestinal distress on this run. Nothing too serious, just enough to make running a bit uncomfortable. But I'm glad I got it done!

Tuesday: 75 minute power vinyasa flow. Soo good to be back to the studio after a lot of at-home practice. My studio ran a Groupon recently (and maybe this new instructor is just gaining popularity?), which I'm guessing contributed to how FULL the class was. Which, meh. Of course I'm happy that the studio is growing/thriving, but smaller classes are so nice for adjustments and space purposes.

Wednesday: 4 mi @ 10:58. Did this in the morning outside--not so bad, but not nearly as relaxing as night running!

Thursday: 3 mi on the treadmill in the morning, with 4x400 at 6.0-6.1. I should be pushing myself more on these runs.

Friday: REST. Did it on a Friday this week so Dan and I could enjoy Valentine's wine without me needing to get up early to workout!

Saturday: 9 miles @ 11:36. Ahhh my long run. Not going to lie, it wasn't pretty. I tried out a new route that just involved too many stop lights/stop and start. But then I got really discouraged when I saw my pace. I use the RunKeeper app for Android, which has an auto-pause feature where it takes out the time where you are stopped to account for appropriate pacing. [Maybe that isn't the real way I should be counting, but whatever, it is what I'm used to!]. So anyway, I thought this was my pace without the stops and was so frustrated that even with all those stoplight breathers I was still slower than I have been recently. I got home, was all upset to Dan, and then was looking at my splits and realizing that they went up a lot when I was in the busy area. Hmmm. Turns out, I had downloaded the new RunKeeper version (which is great, btw), but it hadn't carried my preference for auto-pause over to the new version. Sooo long story long, the pace was included my stoplight time, which is why it was so slow. That being said, that route was terrible and I will not be doing it again!

Sunday: 45 minutes yoga at home, cobbled together from YogaDownload podcasts. I should start going to studio yoga on Sundays; I have passes to use. Just hard to get myself out of the house!

Total mileage: 21.5 Bam.

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Simple Solution to the Internet Problem?

I've only been doing it for a little bit...
But I think I’ve found a super basic way to help myself not stay on the internet all night long: I’ve been keeping my laptop/laptop charger at my desk. This seems so stupid, I know. But it is really working!

My desk is in our “den” aka office, which usually is just where Dan hangs out when we are doing separate activities (he has a whole big computer set-up in there and likes to play games/tinker on it). I usually take over the living room, with my laptop plugged in there, where our big comfy couch and TV are.  Well this usually results in a lot of inertia--it feels difficult to get off the couch and why would I, when I have everything I want to do within arms reach (TV and internet). If I’m watching a TV show, my laptop is right in front of me when I finish, so I just naturally go on to internet reading as the next activity. 

My desk in the office, on the other hand, is separate from the TV and features a quasi-uncomfortable chair (or at least a chair that doesn’t invite me to sink into it for long periods of time like our couch!). When I go in there, it feels very “work” mode--sitting up straight, cleared off desk, etc. It definitely doesn’t feel as relaxing as the couch and living room, and the chair is uncomfortable enough that I don’t really want to stay in it for too long. Luckily, Dan doesn’t seem to mind too much that I’m crashing his party in the office. :)

Terrible picture of austere desk set up. The whole "desk" (large table)
+ chair set up cost literally under $45 from Ikea. Oh those crazy Swedes.
I’m not saying I don’t move the laptop in to the living room to settle in for an hour of internet-reading occasionally. But when I do, I’m making the conscious choice to do that, instead of just doing it because my computer is sitting in front of me and I finished up my previous activity. It is no longer my rest state--it requires effort! So it is easier to choose to do something else that requires effort (reading a book, cleaning, etc.) because I’m choosing between effort vs. effort, not effort vs. rest. 

Plus, by keeping the charger in the office, I’m self-limiting my time that I can spend on the computer because my laptop is super old and dies in 90 minutes, tops. Eventually, when I want to computer-game for an extended period of time (yes, I’m a nerd!), I’ll move the charger to the living room. But I’ll be sure to move it back when I’m done!

I’ve only been keeping at it for a little over a week, so we will see how it works in the long-run. But for now, this is a great solution. Creating self-imposed barriers to doing things I don’t want to do is maybe an odd way to go about building a habit, but it is working!

Weekend Wrap-Up
I failed on the pictures front, so this will be short. On Friday night, I went with my friend to Oyamel for DC Restaurant Week. It was really delicious, and I actually liked going for Restaurant Week, despite hearing negative things in the past about the whole experience. It was definitely crowded, but the service was on point (they knew they had to perform!) and the fixed style menu encouraged me to try things I wouldn't have normally ordered.

On Saturday, after my long run (details below!), Dan and I headed up to visit his sister, brother-in-law, and their NEW BABY in Balitmore. I hadn't seen the baby since the day he was born! He had grown so much and is just as a really cute age. Really enjoyed spending time with him!

We didn't get back from B-more until dinnertime on Sunday, so the weekend felt a little short/full. But full of fun and people I love, so no complaints!

Weekly Workout Summary: February 4 - February 10, 2013
Monday: 5 miles at 11:12. Pretty standard run! Crazy to me that 5 miles is now seeming not-super-daunting and do-able after work.

Tuesday: 20 min yoga at home. Ugh. I really wanted to go to yoga in the studio that night, but ended up getting held up at work. Bummer. I tried a new Yoga Download 20 min routine that I was just not feeling, so I didn't do a second one. Lamesauce.

Wednesday: 4 miles at 10:55. I only decided half-way through that this would be a "pace" run, so it probably should have been a little faster. Also notable was that I had originally intended this to be a morning workout, but failed miserably and reset my alarm when I woke up before it and felt terrible--and then ended up not falling back asleep. Don't you hate that? Lesson learned.

Thursday: REST. I'm trying out switching my rest day from Friday to Thursday, and so far I'm liking it. It gives Dan and I some extra time on a weeknight, and Fridays are actually kind of nice days to work out--not so bad to do so in the morning (the promise of sleeping in the next day), or at night, no rush to get home.

Friday: 3 miles on the treadmill, with 4x400 at 6.0-6.2 mph. This was in the morning! For whatever reason, the treadmill is seeming much more appealing in the morning (whereas at night I'll always prefer outside). Who knows, but if it gets me up, I'm fine with 1-2 treadmill sessions a week.

Saturday: 8.5 mile long run at 11:10. Woot! New PDR. I was running into the wind for the first half, so instead of doing a loop like I normally would, I turned around at half way to enjoy the wind on my back. Haha, that was definitely the way to go. I felt good on the run and even at the end (maybe all that wind?)--like if you really wanted me to, I could probably go another 1.5 miles for 10. Which means training is paying off!

Sunday: Unintentional rest day (Baltimore visit!).

Total mileage: 20.5 miles.

Happy with my running this week, but I really need to be better about getting to yoga and doing strength training. I know they ultimately help my running and help my body recover faster!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Running for Weight Loss, or Not

So, Weight Loss. 
Recently, I was asking Rachel via her comments about her weight loss/maintenance, wondering how she was maintaining/still losing despite her relatively low key exercise schedule (that doesn’t focus much on cardio) and eating what seems to be very normal foods. I encourage you to go read the exchange over here; it was very thought-provoking and helpful! She emphasized that the big thing was getting her eating under control--learning to listen to her hunger cues and eat slowly and mindfully. She also noted (and has written posts about) that reducing her overall high cardio level helped her not feel so hungry all the time and eat fewer carbs.

Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I’ve been running and my own weight loss goals. I’m a former calorie counter, and that totally worked. Seriously, weight loss at its most basic is just math; calories in vs. calories out. It works. But I was, of course, miserable and had a terrible relationship with food and exercise. None of it was joyful or enjoyable and it kept me in the wrong state of mind.

This time on the wagon (starting in fall of 2011), I focused on running and exercising as opposed to calorie counting in order to lose weight and become healthier. I tried to eat healthfully, but mostly was concerned with improving my running ability and fitness. I had this idea in my mind of “runners are so thin and have their shit together and get things done!” Which obviously isn’t true. But I thought maybe if I ran I’d automatically be like them. And now that I’m running consistently, I’ve realized that it isn’t so much about the actual running of X number of miles that matters for healthiness (duh), but more the commitment to and habit of ANY physical activity. It could be yoga, ellipticalling at the gym, a strength routine...etc. As long as I’m doing something, I’m working on my health. 

And moreover, I’m not really losing weight easily while I’m running. Like Rachel noted, all this cardio makes me hungry. There is a very vague general downward trend for my weight, but we’re talking five pounds over the course of a year--nowhere near the results I could see if I was counting calories.

So I’ve spent some time wondering if running was really right for me right now. Could I do a less intense form of exercise (maybe yoga  few times a week) and focus more on my eating habits? Maybe focus on protein consumption and strength training?

And honestly? Despite not reaping all weight loss benefits I expected to from running (and generally finding it really freaking hard), I am absolutely still 100% committed to running as my main exercise of choice. Why? Three primary reasons:

1) It helps me sleep better.
2) It makes me feel accomplished.
3) I have stuck with it.

Let’s talk about those for a minute.

Sleep. Sleep is amazing. Sleep is one of those things that you have no idea how important it is to a healthy lifestyle until you have it and realize oh my god I feel so much better about everything all the time. When I wasn’t sleeping enough, I was so stressed out about everything and ready to cry at the drop of a hat. Sleep seriously regulates my moods and makes the world seem so much more...manageable. 

It is seriously shocking to me how much running helps me sleep and sleep consistently. I lead an average, mostly sedentary lifestyle--a desk worker, not a ton of physical activity beyond my workouts. So I rely on running to physically wear me out. No other workout does it in the same way--maybe because running is just naturally harder for me? But I feel truly exhausted at night on the days I run, which makes falling asleep a snap.

And, they say this is true for babies, but I think it applies to adults too: sleep begets sleep. When I am sleeping enough consistently, it seems so much easier to fall asleep every night. And those nights I’m having anxiety and trying to fall asleep but can’t and then am getting more stressed out about it and then have more anxiety that keeps me know the cycle. Even on those nights (which are fewer and farther between), I don’t get super stressed about it anymore. When I’m sleeping well consistently, one night of less-than-desired sleep isn’t the be all and end all. But when you're regularly not sleeping enough, it is just like OH GOD IF I DON’T SLEEP NOW I WILL NEVER SLEEP AGAIN. Consistent sleep completely eliminates that sleep panic.

Accomplished. I am such a gold star person. I love checking off boxes; I love meeting clearly articulated goals; and I love external feedback that I’m doing a job well done. And running gives that to you, 100%, in a way that other exercises don’t. Sure you can conquer a new yoga pose or increase your weights. But running provides constant feedback and growth with every run: mileage increases, speed increases, etc. 

And I think the thing I like best about it is: I’m completely in control of my own success. There are really very few things in adult-life that make me feel like I am the sole factor influencing my success. Sure it matters if I try hard at work, but it also matters what my supervisor thinks and clients think. And I poured a lot of energy into my grad school apps, but if a sentence doesn’t sit right with the admissions committee, it won’t matter. Or even something broader--volunteer work or a pet project at work--you might not get to see the final results of your labor. But for the most part with running, when I put the time and energy in, I see the direct results. And I see them fairly quickly!

I stick with it. This is fairly self-explanatory. No matter what the number on the scale says, I feel so much healthier when I am consistently exercising. And I have tried a lot of other exercises in my adult life, and this is the only one that has stuck for longer than six months.

At the end of the day, running is bringing me more joy and satisfaction to my life than faster weight loss would. So I’m going to stop questioning it and just keep enjoying it.

And on eating? I'm going to try hard to stick to my food rules, but beyond that, just try to be mindful--but also mindful of the fact that my body needs fuel to run well. And hey, I'm still generally headed in the right matter how slow.

Today's Workout
4 miles at 10:55 average pace. This was supposed to be a speed workout, but I think I'm going to bag the elaborate speed workouts listed in my training plan until my race. I'm going to focus on making one run per week a speedier "pace" style run (like this one), and then keep doing those mini intervals for my 3 mile treadmill/strength training days. I think those will be effective in building some speed without taxing my body too much while I build mileage.

Today's Eats
Basic dinner: tofu in this marinade, roasted sweet potatoes, and green beans. I bought some garlic herb butter as a Trader Joe's treat a while ago, and I'm loving it on top of the green beans this week.

I use dinner plates, not salad plates. This is a lot of food.
I see a leftover Superbowl brownie in my future. But...mindfully.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Louis C.K and the Superbowl

Louis C.K.

On Friday night, Dan and I went to see Louis C.K.!

We didn't get to see his tummy though.
(Not my picture: source)
Dan had gotten us tickets for my birthday--the tickets sold out super fast apparently, so we were lucky to get them! He was performing at the Kennedy Center. I had never been there before--very fancy! So fancy that we couldn't take pictures in the show hall, bummer.

But I took one in the entry hall. So many flags.
Me looking way too eager at the Kennedy Center.
He was phenomenal. I didn't quite know what to expect--I had never seen a comedian of his magnitude live before. So funny! Definitely go see him if he comes to your area.

We also got dinner beforehand at one of our favorite restaurants back in Rosslyn (where I used to live): Piola! Such a random place, sitting in the middle of a bunch of offices, but it has the best happy hour. Strong, big, and inexpensive rail drinks at happy hour ($5), a happy hour that goes until 8 pm, and free passed appetizers that are super good (think mini slices of pizzas and Italian sandwiches, etc.). And they have truly amazing pizza. So good I forgot to a take a picture until we were packing up the food to go, oops.

Ugh that grey bar...sorry, need to figure that out.
Such a nice date night!

We hosted a mini-shindig at our apartment for the Superbowl. Notable since it was the first thing we had ever hosted at the apartment. Also I think this was the first event in my adult life that I hosted that went beyond "pregame" and actually provided food. It was fairly small--only three people plus us*--but I felt a little stressed about it! Just wanted to make sure the apartment looked nice and that everyone had fun.

*It was supposed to be four but a friend came down with something at the last minute. We missed you LC!
My attempt at being all Martha Stewart-y with a set up bar, etc.
Foreshadowing some amazing-looking brownies on the table...
We kept the menu easy and low-key. Lots of snacks: salsa/queso/guac with tortilla chips; carrots and hummus; and boring-type cheese and crackers (my usual cheese preferences were deemed "too fancy" for this type of gathering, which was fair).

Snacks. I regretted (accidentally) putting the carrots in the orange
bowl and the queso in the yellow one. Not Martha.
Then we ordered pizza and wings to come for some real-food dinner. And then we had brownies for dessert!

This is the best-drawn football brownie you will ever see.
Definitely Martha.
I was pleased with how it went! Everyone seemed to get along, though I failed to take any pictures of people. I suppose that means it was fun!

Weekly Workout Summary: January 25 - February 3:
Cutback week! (Explanation). Fairly light week compared to what I've been doing lately.

Monday: Rest day. I drove for four hours (grad school apps-related travel), and for whatever reason (likely: seat positioning), driving makes my knee feel tweaky. Plus I just didn't feel like exercising! So I took the day off.

Tuesday: 75 minute power vinyasa class at my usual studio. They ran a Groupon deal this week that was open to current students (!! rare), so you'll probably be seeing more of these soon!

Wednesday: 4 miles @ 11:19. First run since my Saturday 8 miler, and my legs felt like lead.

Thursday: Quick 30 minute at-home yoga session and core work.

Friday: 3.3 miles - adventures in morning workouts. I did this on the treadmill and included 4x400 speed pickups ranging from 6.0-6.2 mph.

Saturday: 5.2 miles @ 11:12.

Sunday: More rest. Though I think cleaning totally should count.

Total mileage: 12.5.  Back to normal next week! Also, total January mileage: 76.1. My highest ever!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

February Goals

Plan for the Month - TBCT13

[See how I did on January here; info on my year-long monthly goal challenge here]

Some of these goals are brand new; others are building on some of my failures from January. I tried hard to make them as specific as possible, since that was something that I struggled with last month. I also wanted them to be more related to building habits vs. one-off things I could do in a day.

Home: Based on my reflection from January’s progress, I want to do just one 20/10 a day. A few days in January I literally set the timer for 20 minutes and power-cleaned/decluttered. It was great and I got a surprising amount done. My goal will to be to do that for every day in February. 

Body: I want to give working out in the morning a fair shot. The last time I tried working out before work was back in my just starting to run/having an hour-long commute days. Running was already hellishly painful at that time, and to add lack of sleep + early to the mix was just too much to handle. But I’m at a point now where running 3 miles is an “easy” day and I’m better about getting enough sleep. Plus my commute is short enough that I wouldn’t even need to get up until 6:30 to fit a workout in and arrive to work on time-ish (I know some of you real morning runners that get up at 5 AM are rolling your eyes right now!). So it seems like it should be doable this time around.

I will fully admit that this is the goal that I am most likely to bail on. Dan is a night owl, and honestly I do like working out after work--it helps me transition into “not work” mode. But work is about to get really intense in mid-February (lasting through the spring), and I’m afraid that I won’t be able to get out in time for quality workouts. Plus, my office is a very arrive late/stay late culture in general, and I’ve always felt a little weird about the earlier hours I keep (even though it technically shouldn’t be an issue and isn't with my direct supervisor). But if it isn’t working for me or is affecting my time with Dan, I’m going to stick to after work.

For what it's worth, I did try it out yesterday! It wasn’t so bad, but it was a short run (3.3 miles), and I did it on the treadmill because it was snowing out/slick on the ground. It was only half-terrible being up early. Though I had a bit of a slow start, running didn’t feel any harder than normal once I got going. I can definitely see the advantage of doing morning runs in the summer--way cooler! But since I prefer to run outside, we will have to see how this current freezing-cold-AM weather works out. Oh ALSO, I forgot my other major factor for not liking morning workouts until I was doing it: my hair! I have naturally curly hair that looks a lot better when it air dries (also...I’m lazy). Which when I’m showering at night is totally fine...but in the AM isn’t ideal--I feel a little unprofessional showing up with wet hair! But I feel like if it is part way dry at least and I don’t have any early meetings, I can get away with it. Or I guess I can just pull it back until it dries?

Mind: Going to diverge from the “peace of mind” theme from last month and go back to one of the original intents of starting this blog--using my free time better. I feel unproductive and unhappy when I spend the whole night on the internet. I know this about myself...and yet I still do it! And reading is something I have always enjoyed but have done embarrassingly inconsistently in my adult life (I have a tendency to race through books, finish quickly, and then not pick up a new one for six weeks). So my goal will be to simply read for 10 minutes a day. If more, great, but just 10 minutes each day. And oh hey, look how nicely that fits into a 20/10 to go along with the home goal!

Relationships: Since my general goal from January to get back in touch with people wasn’t successful, I am going to try to SMART-ify my goal this month. My goal will be to email one college friend a week (I have a list of four in mind). Let’s see how it measures up-- Specific: I have my list of four AND I will add their names to my planner. Measurable: yup, one per week. Attainable: no reason why I can’t do this. Relevant: I think this will drive me forward both in reconnecting and in getting over my initial “fear hump” of contacting. Time-bound: check--one per week for a month.

I’m going to track my progress on all my goals in my planner--I’m going to put two color coded boxes on every day (one for 20 minute clean, one for 10 minute reading) for the month, as well as weekly boxes for the relationship contact. I already schedule my workouts weekly, so I’ll just work on adding them in the morning.

Today's Workout
5.2 mile "long" run (at an 11:12 pace), since it is the end of my cutback week.Overall I feel good about the cutback week--it came at the right time for my personal life (travel, work, lots of fun weekend activity! [next post!]) and is allegedly good for my running legs. I certainly feel renewed/recommitted to training for the race, which is probably the most important part!

You really can't see it in this picture, but the geese were out in
full force today. So terrifying!