Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Hoopin' it up

So I hate doing ab work.  I hate sit ups, crunches, etc etc.  I know I need to do ab work to make my core stronger, but I would like to enjoy it.

So I'm rediscovering a childhood passion - the hula hoop.

When I was much younger, I would hula hoop for hours.  I could go and go and go.  And it was so much fun! 

So now that I'm grown up, and missing the tiny waist of my youth, I thought I'd reintroduce myself to my childhood love.

Of course now it's called a "sports hoop" and is about 100 times the cost of what I used to use.  But anyway, it weighs about 3 pounds and...

I am in love.

It is wonderful!  It's relaxing, therapeutic.  I do 15 minutes a day, that's it.  I don't know whether it will help whittle down my waist, but I don't care, because I absolutely love it.  Apparently you can burn up to 200 calories or so in 30 minutes of hooping.  So maybe I'll do 15 minutes twice a day.

I hoop when I'm waiting for dinner to cook.  When I'm watching TV.  When I need to clear my head.  It turns out 15 minutes is not hard to find.

So I'm hoopin' it up - and loving it! 

And hopefully my waist will love it too.  I'll let you know in a few weeks...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Running the Hazards

Running is not inherently dangerous.  You put one foot in front of the other and keep moving.  It's not like getting tackled by a 300 pound lineman every time you participate.  Runners have their fair share of injuries, and proper training can certainly help avoid such injuries.

But things happen.

I often run at our local park which has a 1.3 mile paved walking loop around the fields.  But that gets pretty boring on any run over 3 or 4 miles.  So I more often than not hit the roads close to home, as most runners do. 

A few months ago, I came face to face with a coyote on my road.  He stopped and looked at me and then thank goodness went on his way.  A few weeks ago on a pre-dawn run, I was run off the road by a distracted driver.  I was wearing white, plus a headlamp, plus a reflective vest, clearly visible to anyone coming towards me.  But the driver wasn't paying attention and nearly ran me over.

This past Saturday, while running at the park, my dog and I were harassed by another dog.  He came running out of the bushes, without a collar, without a leash, no owner in sight, and ran towards us barking and showing his teeth.  My poor dog and I were pretty scared.  He was a big dog - at least 3 times the size of my labradoodle Fendi.  He jumped up at us, continuously barking.  Luckily another runner came over and lured the dog away.  I called 911 and the police arrived within minutes to try and catch him.  He was now harassing another walker with her two dogs.

Calling 911 was not an extreme thing to do.  The dog was aggressive.  I didn't know if he had rabies.  He could have very easily hurt us.  We left when the police got there, and when we drove off, they were still trying to catch him.

I'm sure most runners have tales of encountering some kind of danger, whether it be the animal or vehicular type.  Or human.

On my long marathon training runs, I often run on remote country roads.  My favorite road is eerily called Shades of Death Road.  I've never felt unsafe or threatened by other people.  I always run safely - with my phone and aware of my surroundings, with my husband knowing my route.  Sometimes he even tracks me or drives along side for a while encouraging me on a 19 miler - with the kids in the car cheering me on.

The odds of something bad happening on a run are extremely small, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't run smart and with common sense - let someone know the route and approximate time of return.  Be aware of surroundings.  Take a phone. Wear the right clothing.  Run with ID - I got a runners ID bracelet from Christmas - it's great.  And pepper spray may be a good thing to have too.  I have a little tiny cannister of it, about the size of a lipstick.  These things may help, or they may not. 

The case of Sherry Arnold in Montana has really shaken the running community.  A well loved teacher and mother of three, she went for an early morning jog 10 days ago and was never seen again.  A single running shoe was found along her route.  She has been declared dead, though they have not yet recovered her body.  Two men have been arrested for her murder.  It is a tragic story.

My little incidents pale in comparison to Sherry's story.  My heart breaks for her family.

Things happen in life.  Good things and bad things.  Fear should never stop us from doing the things we love.  I love my roads and the confidence that running gives me.  I will never succumb to fear that would keep me from the road. 

Run smart. Run safe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Occupy the Hills!

Today for the first time I ran hill repeats.  That means running up and down the same hill multiple times.  Crazy huh?

I've run many hills on my running routes, but never the same one over and over, on purpose.  It's great for building strength and endurance, and it is hard work!

Here is my view at 7:10am this morning:

It's a hill just down the street, where they are building a new house.  It's a small dead end development - perfect for running!  No traffic, paved, a great slope and just the right distance.  So I happily headed out with my four legged friend Fendi and ran down the hill.

At the bottom, though, there were construction workers.  Every self-conscious woman's nightmare.  There were four men, each sitting in their own pickup truck, sipping coffee.  And I ran right into the middle of them, with my pretty little purple running skirt and cute hat.  And puppy on bright pink leash. Ugh.

So I figured I had two choices:

I can go run somewhere else and not feel so self conscious, but not get the run I want.

Or I can show these tough dudes what a bad ass mother runner I am and kill this hill.  Multiple times.

So I smiled at the guys and headed up the hill.
And back down.
And back up and down.
And back up and down.
And back up and down.
And then back up.

It was a tough workout that left me breathless at the top each time.  But I'm so glad I did it.  I'll do it next week again.  Construction workers or not.

Eat my pink dust, tough guys!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Confessions of a (former) Professional Chocolate Taster

Last summer I accepted what I thought would be a dream job. 

Professional Chocolate Taster at a major candy manufacturer.

As a self professed chocoholic, I thought I had died and gone to heaven.  I love chocolate.  I have always loved chocolate.  I can never get enough chocolate.  And now, to be paid to eat chocolate?  Can it get any better?

The job was great.  I met wonderful and fun people.  It was only for 6 hours a week, spread over 3 days - perfect for a re-entry into the work force with young kids at home.

I tasted amazing chocolate.  I learned about tastes, odors, and foods other than chocolate.  It was fascinating to be exposed to the intricacies of what we eat and why we eat it and what makes us want more.

But then over Christmas, I had an epiphany of sorts. (good timing for an epiphany - pardon the pun)

What was I doing to myself?  I was trying to lose weight.  Run faster.  And most importantly, come to grips with my sugar and food issues.  What on earth was I doing as a chocolate taster?

I reflected on the past few months as a taster.  I had been exceptionally tired.  Grumpy.  Moody.  Yelling at the kids a bit more than normal.  Just in an all around funk.

And then I got some routine blood test results.  Cholesterol up over 20 points.  Blood sugar up to just 4 points below pre-diabetic level.

That's when my epiphany happened. 

The sugar.  The chocolate.  They were the last thing my body - and mind - needed.  Most of the candy I tasted I spit out.  But my body was still absorbing some of it.  How can it not?  What was I doing to myself? 

I had my dream job, but at what cost? 

So last week, I said goodbye to the chocolate, goodbye to the job and goodbye my new friends. 

It's been a week, and already I feel like a different person.  I've virtually cut out added sugars from my diet.  I'm following Weight Watchers on-line.  And I've lost 3 pounds.

I wouldn't trade those few months as a Chocolate Taster for anything.  Besides being fun, it was pretty cool to tell people what I did and watch their eyes grow big and mouths water!

But sometimes what we think is perfect turns out to be anything but. 

I will never give up chocolate totally. 
There will always be room for an occasional nibble. 
But I'm going to leave it at that.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

My 30-30-30 plan.

I love January 1st.  The whole starting over, resolution, new me, thing.  So I'm giving myself an overhaul.

I've been running for 2 years now.  2 whole years.  And in that time, I've run 4 5ks, 3 half marathons and 2 full marathons.  Not bad for a newbie.  But in each race I just kind of plodded along.  I focused on the finish.  Not my finish time, but crossing the finish - you know, in an upright position, smiling.  Not crawling and crying. 

So now I'm taking it up a notch.  I want to be faster.  I want to improve my training.  Be more consistent.  Change it up a little.

So I've created a plan.  I'm calling it my 30-30-30 plan. 

Forget Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan (thankfully, most people have.)  30-30-30 is where it's at.

I've committed to doing three things.
Lose 30 pounds.
Exercise 30 minutes every day. Every day.
Take 30 minutes off my marathon time.

I have tried and tried to lose these pounds for years now.  I struggle with commitment.  I struggle with sugar.  I struggle with emotional eating.  And training for a marathon leaves you hungry beyond belief.  And to satisfy that hunger and train properly, you have to make smart food choices, which I don't always do.

I'm committed to my running, but I struggle with it.  I need to have a race to look forward to.  If I don't have something on the calendar, I will easily ignore my exercise goals and skip my running because I'm too tired, because I was up too late last night, because the kids are sick, because it's raining, because I have to clean the house, blah blah blah.  All excuses.  If I have to get up at 5am then that is what I have to do.  (And the 30 minute exercise thing a day doesn't have to be running - its 30 minutes of conscious exercise.  Briskly walking the dog on a rest day will cover it.) 

I've never done speed work.  Never done intervals.  Never done tempo runs. I've just run.  Quietly trudging along my rural New Jersey roads.  Or on the treadmill.  Time to change that up.  I'm saying hello to intervals and tempo runs.  This, combined with a slimmer me, equals a faster me.

I'm not sure which marathon I'm aiming for in the fall.  I'll take my chance again with the lottery for NYC in November.  If that doesn't happen, then I'm thinking of the Wineglass marathon at the end of September. 

That gives me at least 8 months to say goodbye to 30 pounds and 30 minutes.  And hello to a healthier me.

Today was Day 1. 
3 miles, 33 minutes.
No more excuses.