And We’re Off!

13 Jun

Broo13_Desktop_1280x800

 

I’m writing this on the cusp of a 4 week spree of incredible and eclectic experiences. Up first, Bonnaroo. What a way to start! 5 nights of camping, 4 full days of amazing bands. And of course, an ’85 Winnebago… oh boy. Obviously, I won’t be able to post throughout the trip, but I will typing little notes in my phone when I think of it. Last year I went to Lollapalooza in Chicago, and it was very fun but I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I drank way too much, and spent too much time walking around instead of listening to bands. I will not be making either of those mistakes again. First of all, it will be too damn hot to be drinking much of anything besides water. And I will be sticking with a group and making sure I see as many bands as possible.

I feel like I’m 12 years old again and it’s the night before camp… If Paul McCartney and Tom Petty had been playing at camp. I’m all packed, and now Blair and I are just waiting to be picked up by our RV to begin the 10 HOUR drive through the night to Manchester, TN. From there the adventure begins! I want to remember as much as possible, but mostly I want to have an experience of a lifetime, and I don’t think I”ll be disappointed. More to come 🙂

 

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Happy Belated National Running Day!

6 Jun
Okay, so I'm a day late!

Okay, so I’m a day late!

Yesterday was National Running Day, did you celebrate??

I’ve thought a lot about changing the name of this blog to something that relates to running and/or food. I feel like that’s what I’ve been talking about quite a bit recently more so than my other random thoughts. Part of this is because I’m not writing enough; trust me I have plenty of random thoughts to fill a blog with. The other reason is that running has actually become a fixture in my life. Over the last few years I’ve had this obsession with becoming a runner. I imagined that if I logged enough miles, got fast enough, and could run 6 miles with no problem, I would transform. Magically, my whole aura would change, and people on the streets would see me and think “That girl is definitely a runner”. Like most of my obsessions, I have spent most of my time imagining and thinking about running, and not nearly as much time actually running. I’ve come to realize that obsessing over something is just another way for me to be lazy. I allow myself to be so consumed with thinking about it, that I don’t actually do it. This isn’t really a novel idea, and I don’t consider myself a ground-breaking philosopher, but I’d never really thought about it this way.

The cool thing is, over the last 5 weeks, without trying that hard, I’ve managed to make a habit of just getting outside and hitting the pavement. I don’t stress about it, I don’t guilt myself into it, I don’t put it off until the last possible minute, I just go out there and do it. The first week, I got really ambitious and wanted to time myself every day, and log my miles so that I could constantly track my progress. This is not a bad thing; I think it’s important to measure progress if you want to get better at something. But again, it became obsessive. That first week I ran four times, the next dropped off to three, and the next down to two. But after that week of only running twice, something happened that normally doesn’t. The next week I picked it back up. I didn’t spend any time telling myself that I had fallen off the wagon, or that I was never going to improve because I’m not dedicated enough. It’s almost like my brain was sick of beating me down. So I just ran. I’ve stopped logging and tracking, which is something I do want to get back to, but in a much more relaxed way. Instead of thinking of it as a report card, I want to think of it the same way I think of journaling/ blogging. It’s just a photograph, a footprint, a mark of where I was at that particular time. This week I have thoroughly enjoyed my runs, and even looked forward to them (despite extremely sore quads; I lifted Monday for the first time in a while. Ouch.) I’m still not fast, and I still walk sometimes. But my breathing gets easier all the time, and running itself is starting to feel good. I hope to start taking the obsession and stress out of more things in my life, because if I could feel as good the rest of the day as I do for 45 minutes of running in the hot sun, I’d be in a pretty good spot. I plan on writing a lot about food and running, but I’m not ready to just put my blog into one category. I have so much other random junk floating in my mind that should be discussed, not to mention I don’t know what my  many adoring readers would do without my humor in their life!

 

WIN

15 May
Taken midstride. Key Bridge connects Arlington to Georgetown. Running it without being blown off is its own accomplishment.

Taken midstride. Key Bridge connects Arlington to Georgetown. Running it without being blown off is its own accomplishment.

 

Win. Such a fun word, because it symbolizes hard work that has impacted an outcome. It’s a simple way of saying “It was worth it”. That is how I have felt each day for the last week and a half as I write the word WIN next to my workout plan each day. Whether it was a 5 mile long run, or just following through with the promise to my body to take the day off, I have won every day for the last 10 days. My diet has been another story, but let’s stick to the positives, shall we? This past Sunday I tried to run my heart out on the windiest of days, through a 5-mile loop to Georgetown. This run is killer because the last 2 miles or so are peppered with very steep hills. I don’t consider myself an advanced enough runner to do specific “hill workouts” and I generally try to avoid hills at all costs, but in Arlington, they are simply unavoidable. The cool thing about sticking with a workout plan for the first time ever, and really pushing myself to run fast, is that I’m actually seeing results. I ran with my coworker yesterday and we decided to do a quick 3 miles, and she said we ran much faster than we did last week when we attempted the same run. I feel myself getting stronger, and running with a partner yesterday made me realize something that made me proud and ashamed all at once: I’m starting to listen to my breathing and pay attention to the rhythm of my footfalls and arm pumps. This may not seem like a big deal, but if you ever pick up a Runner’s World or any other running magazine, you will read all of the pro-runners babbling on about not listening to music because they want to listen to their bodies, or some nonsense like that. I always scoff, roll my eyes, and flip the page. I don’t have time for that kind of pretentious judgment about the fact that I literally need Britney Spears in order to finish a run. But yesterday was different. I didn’t have music, because that would have been rude to Alison, but we were also running too fast to talk. I started to hear an almost musical rhythm between my breaths and my feet hitting the ground, and it was like a mantra, telling me to keep pushing. It was very cool. I don’t plan on running solo without music any time soon, but I do plan on keeping the volume low enough that I can still feel that rhythm.

I’ve never been in such a good place with running, and I hope I can keep writing WIN next to my workouts for months to come.

 

Now If Only I knew Where to Find the Yemen…

11 May

Tonight I had the unique and treasured opportunity to spend time alone. I’m a weird mix of introvert and extrovert, so a night like this is perfect for me to reset. Right as I settled in to my night of solitude, I started thinking of the people in town I could call to make plans with. One of my most infuriating traits, I am NEVER satisfied. If I’m alone, I want to be with people; when I have plans, I pout in my head about how nice it would be to sit around and do nothing. When things stay the same, I crave change; when I make a move, I totally freak out.

After I stashed away my thoughts of making plans for the night, I curled up onto my couch for some relaxation and TV watching. But the sun was still out, and I think all the running lately has made it difficult for me to veg out for hours at a time. I decided to take a stroll by myself, with no particular destination or purpose. Last night Blair’s friend Matt texted me about a band he’s been listening to lately called Lord Huron. They will be playing at Bonnaroo and he suggested I give them a listen (and this is why you make the decision not to be a hipster, but to have hipster friends to tell you about good music without being a stuck up snob that wears a fedora to be ironic). They’re this cool mix of folksy-rock (that’s a very technical term for you non-hipsters), and I put them on as I walked around Arlington by myself. As I type, I realize this reads like a very depressing post, but I felt happy as I took my stroll alone. I moved here in a blur and immediately disliked my job and started stressing about money. I haven’t taken the time to appreciate the things Arlington has given me that Philly couldn’t. I can walk to the metro to take into the city whenever I want. I have a Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s just minutes away in one direction, and a Target in another. I feel safe everywhere I go (within reason), and have already hiked and run to beautiful places right in town.When I want to go some place, I go, with no fear of not being able to find parking when I get back. I have a gym equipped with the only equipment I really need, and it’s two buildings away from me. For some reason, it’s been so easy to forget why the idea of living here appealed to me so much. But tonight I remembered, and it felt nice.

When I got back I put on a movie that I had DVR’d only because I had heard decent things about it during Oscar season, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. It’s quirky, so I liked it immediately. It was very slow moving and dry, the perfect movie to cozy up to on your couch with some week-old Chardonnay (yikes, don’t tell anyone). There was moment, and I can’t even remember what was happening in the movie, but I’m sure it was something uplifting, when I thought to myself, “I’m going to be okay. My life is going to be okay”. There are some people in this world who would find that quote to be utterly ridiculous, because they’ve never had any thoughts to the contrary. I’m very happy for those people, and at some point would like the chance to punch them in the face. For the rest of you humans, I am sure you can empathize with that one moment, that brief second in a world of chaos when you hear a song, or look out a window, or do anything that causes a ripple, or even possibly a long breeze of calmness and relief to wash over you. It doesn’t have to last long, and I’m sure by tomorrow when I’m at work on a rainy Saturday I will have forgotten all about it, but in that moment, I remembered myself. It felt really good. If I had given in to my characteristic need for company and called someone to hang out with me, I wouldn’t have had my little epiphany with the fish. I can’t predict how I’ll feel tomorrow, or next week, but just like the days that I plan for 4 miles and actually run 4 miles, today goes down as a WIN 🙂

Woes of the Forever Novice

6 May

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In the last three years, I have run two half-marathons, one 10-miler, and a handful of 5k’s. At the start of each I have only two goals: 1.) Finish (obviously) 2.) Run straight through without walk breaks (Not as easy, but usually doable with the exception of bathroom and water breaks). It’s always seemed just a little too risky to add any other goals. I’m in good enough shape that finishing the race in any mount of time is not just low-risk, it’s no-risk. While this mindset saves me from any possible disappointment on race day, (after all, who wants to feel disappointed after running 13 miles?!) it also has become a barrier to progress. Every so often, I buy Runner’s World magazine (I really should just give in a get a subscription), and I immediately flip to the novice section. I could skim the experienced runner articles but there are always weird words/phrases like “fartlek”, and “tempo runs”, I mean how am I supposed to know if I’ve run 400 meters if I’m not on a track? These articles usually discuss time splits, which is a slippery slope into the world of racing for a time. No, no, I’ll stay in my safe beginner’s zone, thank you very much. You can keep your hoity toity heart rate watches, I’ll just keep jogging over here.

The problem is, the novice articles focus on just “getting out there”; there are countless “Work Your Way Up to a 3-Mile Run” plans with a 2 minute run/1 minute walk format. I’m not fast and I don’t have great stamina, but I can run 3 miles straight with no problem. And so I find myself in an uncomfortable position. After running 4 days this week, including a 5 miler with Blair yesterday, I’ve come to realize that I want more. Maybe it’s time to make a race goal beyond just completing the race. I want to be fast. But mostly, I want progress, improvement. At a time in my life when I’m desperately searching for a career I want with little success, this could be my time to step it up, train harder, take a risk. I could apply for a hundred jobs over the next couple of months and not get so much as an interview, and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it. However, I’m willing to make a bet on myself that if I focus and push for the next month, I can speed up and increase my stamina. I don’t have to rely on outside factors, it’s all me. I still plan on reading the novice section, but I’m not going to let advanced training techniques intimidate me any more. It’s pretty scary, especially given that I’m not feeling so hot about my professional life, to think of trying and failing, but I’m hopeful for a big pay-off. It’s like when you lose some weight, and your clothes are starting to feel loose, but you can’t decide if you’re ready to take the plunge and buy the smaller size. It should be a no-brainer that you will sustain this weight loss, and maybe even lose more, but there’s always that mean little voice in your head that says you’re going to start eating badly and not working out. It’s time to tell that mean voice to get lost.

One of the articles I read this month focused on the mental aspect of running, and how pessimistic thinking is a top roadblock for runners of all levels. I myself struggle with this every single time I run. An interesting idea I picked up from the article is to rate each day as a win/loss, fitness-wise. A win could be running 5 out of the 5 miles you planned on running, and a loss may be a day that you were supposed to rest but you couldn’t help getting in a 30 minute cross training session (If my plan says rest, I have no trouble resting, so this is not an issue for me!). The point is to look back on your week and realize that the individual days don’t matter as much as the collective effort. Coming off a loss one day, doesn’t mean the next day can’t be a win, and the goal is to have more wins than losses. I plan on rating each of my days this week and I’ll see if it boosts my positive thinking juices while I run. The next step will be signing up for a race so I can put myself out there and see how my training pays off. Any suggestions?

 

Outsmarting Yourself: Easier for some than others :)

29 Mar
This...

This…

 

Doesn't earn this

Doesn’t earn this

The mysterious relationship between the mind and body is one that humans have spent eternity trying to understand. We have clues, little insights, but when it comes down to it we really don’t have a clue what’s going on. Until the science of pathology catches up, we have to rely on relationships, studies, and the outcomes of behaviors observed in groups. Something one learns on the road to becoming a dietitian (or by flipping through any number of fitness-related magazines), is that when a person starts an exercise regime, one of the first things he/she often does is dramatically increase his/her calorie intake. Dramatically. Ran 3 miles? Great have an extra 2 slices of pizza. Shoveled the walkway? Fantastic, have a chocolate milkshake. Human beings are so stressed out that we love when things can be mindless and simple. So instead of paying attention to whether or not they are hungry, they assume they have “earned” whatever high-fat/ high-sugar/ high-carb/ high-garbage treat they plan on inhaling. It’s easy to look past the fact that a 3 mile run is most likely only burning around 300 calories, which doesn’t exactly cover the close to 800 calories two extra slices of pizza will give. Many dieters will kill themselves in the gym and make the mistake of thinking they’ve burned thousands of calories, but the body doesn’t really work that way. These dieters will become frustrated when the scale doesn’t budge, or (gasp) it creeps up as they continue their fitness plan.  The novice gym-goer needs very few extra calories to maintain peak energy and fuel workouts, and it’s more the quality of food rather than the quantity that will affect performance.

Of course as the genious dietitian that I am, I know all of this. I know that the brain is programmed to tell you after a workout that you’re twice as hungry as you normally would be. Yet I still fall for it. I’m not twice as hungry, I just have twice the appetite. Hunger and appetite are what my generation calls frenemies. They act like they are BFF, but hunger really doesn’t want anything to do with appetite, and appetite is always stealing the spotlight. Every night that I run (which has been three out of five nights this week, applause please!), I come home and eat a dinner that is far bigger than what it normally would be. Now, I have been eating much healthier lately, and so this meal is usually plant-based, with whole fruits, vegetables, and nuts, so I don’t feel guilty about it at all. The problem comes at work the next day. Girl Scout Cookies that I had long since forgotten about under my desk during this last month of cleaner eating are suddenly jumping up and down for some attention. You’ve been working out all week and you look great, have a few Thin Mints!  That’s fair, right? I ran three miles last night, my metabolism is probably still buzzing. Except it’s not. And neither is yours. This extended calorie burn exists only in our minds, and only affects our bellies. My challenge this past month was to eat cleaner. And I did it, and it’s been amazing. This month I have a much more difficult challenge, one I pose to everyone trying to be fit and eat healthy: DO BOTH. Growing up, I mastered working out/ fitness, and eating mildly healthy . In college I mastered eating and drinking everything in sight (hello 25 pounds!), and in my mid-twenties I’m trying to reach that perfect harmony of food and exercise. The knowledge that sometimes our brains work against us with false ideas of how much we need to eat can be our weapon. I won’t eat a treat because I’ve earned it, I’ll eat it because I’ve decided I really do want it in that moment, and it’s my splurge. I’m in charge of what I eat, and I’m wise enough to know that 20-45 minutes of daily activity coupled with a mostly sedentary remainder of the day does not warrant an ice cream sundae every night… But maybe every once in a while!

Did you hear that, weather? First day of SPRING

22 Mar

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Just because Punxsutawney Phil and the weather can’t get their stories straight, doesn’t mean I can get my Spring on. Hence this wonderfully Springy dinner of asparagus topped with an egg. The extra little something that makes this dish absolutely pop is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. It makes all the difference, and added a citrus-y pop to this hearty dish. And let’s be honest, is there anything that is not made better by a hit of egg yolk? I didn’t think so.

As I walked home in the bitter cold today, listening to NPR tell me about how the weather is not going to get much better, I could already picture how my night was going to go. It’s been a very similar story each night since I moved here. I’ll give you the highlights: warm sweatpants, couch, DVR. Just thinking about it was depressing. When did I become that person? I wondered. It’s almost scary how easily actions become habits. It’s even scarier how hard it is to break these habits. I came to the sad realization that if I waited for warm weather to arrive in order to come out of hibernation and be active, I could very well be waiting another month. I’ve allowed myself to make every possible excuse to sit on my butt each day after work, but enough is enough. I have made some incredible, life changing modifications to my eating routine, and now it’s time to dive back into something that used to be my favorite thing: fitness. It started today, with a very non-impressive, but statement-making run. As I was running on the treadmill, I was pleasantly surprised to see that they fixed the spin bikes in our gym; a sign! So while I wait for Mother Nature to get off her lazy ass, I’m going to get off of mine 🙂

Here is some Thursday food for thought: The NY Times reported on a study last year estimating that for every single hour of television watched after the age of 25, you take 28 minutes off of your life expectancy. Yikes! Keep that in mind during this last month of cold weather, and turn on some music instead of the TV, and feel free to cut a rug!

This weekend: I plan on hitting the farmer’s market to load up on some local produce. Spring’s fruits and veggies are on their way, and I plan on trying all new recipes this season. What spring fruit/vegetable are you looking forward to most in the coming months?