April 12, 2011

Recommitting to a healthy diet

Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.
Thomas A. Edison 

Do successful weight losers ever get off track and gain weight? You bet they do! My weight fluctuates all the time; it's just part of life. The National Weight Control Registry has found that among successful maintainers we closely monitor our weight and when we find it up a few pounds we take action quickly to use the skills and tools we have learned to stop any further gain and return to our maintenance weight. Is it easy to do? NO! I have found as I age my body's metabolism also changes and I must always try new things and strategies to outsmart those fat cells, such as changing my activity up or tweaking my diet. I recommit every day and every meal to continue the habits of a healthy lifestyle. Perhaps the hardest part of that process is stepping off the path where we fall into old unhealthy habits and finding the motivation to get back on the path of establishing newer healthier ones. I believe weight loss and maintenance should be called "practice" because there is no perfection with it, it is a constantly evolving learning process!

There can be a lot of anger and guilt with the realization that you have become derailed. What is important is that you don't beat yourself up over it! What's done is done--so it happened, so you gained a few pounds, so you ate something that wasn't on your eating plan--all is not lost!! Too often the brain can form an all or nothing attitude, "I ate a few cookies, by diet's blown, so I might as well eat the whole bag!" It doesn't have to be that way. Often it's not the one indiscretion that causes weight loss failure, it's the behavior that comes afterward where a few extra calories can become a few extra pounds because of the negative self-talk we tell ourselves and then try to alleviate those feelings with even more food.

Take it one meal/one day at a time. Be here in the present, don't dwell on the past or fret about the future, focus on your next meal, make it healthy. Bring to mind your successes, you did it once--you can do it again! Eat that healthy meal and relish how good you feel doing something good for your body!

Why someone gets derailed off their healthy eating goals can be as varied and individual as the person themself. What is it that led you away from your goal? Stress? Emotional hunger? Life just getting in the way? Does your environment support your goals? Refrigerator and pantry full of healthy and easy to make foods? What do you need to change? What can you do differently? 

Perhaps you need to go back to the reasons why you made your goal in the first place. Does it still fit how you feel now? Perhaps you went on a diet for a special occasion and that occasion has passed. Now what? Instead of making a goal for the next special occasion choose some reason that matters to you down to your core. For me, I choose to follow a healthy lifestyle because I want to be around for my family for a long time in an active and healthy way. I know how I feel healthy and I know how I felt overweight and sick and those thoughts and goals keep me focused and continually eating healthy and working out even though I don't always want to. Make sure your goals are realistic and attainable.

Now might be a good time to try a new exercise class or activity, or make a new fitness goal. Changing up my workouts by trying new activities, making the ones I do more intense (or easier!) helps keep me from getting bored or overworked and the new challenge inspires and motivates me.

Turn to your support system. It's easy to be part of a group when you are succeeding, but it's the times you aren't that you need support the most. Don't be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help.

Put yourself first and believe you can do it! Then go something that makes you feel good that doesn't involve food.

February 23, 2011

Runners Roudtable 114 - Crosstraining Can Be Fun

Tired of yet another boring workout on the bike trainer or elliptical machine? Ever wondered what Cross Fit is, what is a TRX, what goes on in those hot yoga classes, and is Pole Dancing a legitimate workout? You'll get some answers to these questions and more when you listen in to our chat from Wednesday, February 9, 2011 with several runners who supplement their running with a variety of fun activities. We discussed what cross training and supplemental training are, why you should consider it it, and what activities you can add to your running. Hosted by Margaret Suddeth (Flutter-Bys), with Ann Brennan (Ann's Running Commentary), Tim Doiron (ICannotSitStill), and Nik Wong (4 Feet Running). Joining them will be Joe Garland (RunWestchester), who purports not to cross-train.


December 14, 2010

The Runners Round Table: RRT 109: Vegan Running

Have you ever wondered what veganism is? Why people decide to become vegan? How it influences health, fitness and running? If so, this is the show for you! Come along with us as we discuss the ins and outs of being vegan and an endurance athlete. We will discuss what veganism is, how it applies to health and the advantages and disadvantages of this lifestyle.

Show hosts include well known podcasters Megan (Run Vegan Run), Gordon (This Running Life) and Jake (Run Like Health) as well as bloggers Margaret (Flutter-bys) and Amanda (ChemE Runner).

RRT - 109 Vegan Running Podcast 

November 30, 2010

The Runners Round Table: RRT 107: Nutrition Discussion with Nancy Clark: Dec. 1st at 5 PM EST

Tune in live or download the episode afterward!

The Runners Round Table: RRT 107: Nutrition Discussion with Nancy Clark: Dec 1st at 5PM EST: "What are the key elements of appropriate nutrition for active runners and athletes? Recognizing that many runners' prime motivation is their desire to maintain or lose weight, how do they do so without impairing their health or their athletic ability? What are the key guidelines in properly tapering before a race? Do runners' nutritional requirements vary by gender, with the extent of exertion and/or age? During a race how should a runner optimally fuel and hydrate?

To discuss some of these nutrition-related questions, and to ask your own questions through Talkshoe.com's chat facility, join us on Wednesday, December 1st at 5 PM EST. This episode of the Runners Roundtable will be hosted by Mark Ulrich, Toni Harvey, Colin Hayes, Craig Macfarlane and Margaret Suddeth, and will feature special guest Nancy Clark, internationally known sports nutritionist and author.

So, plan to join the Runners Roundtable for another interesting episode"

November 24, 2010

Thanksgiving Feast of Gratitude

I have mixed feelings about Thanksgiving. I love focusing on being thankful for all the blessings I have in my life, but creating a day whose focus seems to be to stuff yourself with as much food as you can just does not appeal to me. More and more it seems to me that Thanksgiving kicks off a season of gluttony, holiday parties, treats and goodies that does not end until New Year's, when the mood changes to atonement and guilt, and undoing all the abuses done to the poor body in the previous 6 weeks. I am grateful to live in a society where food is abundant. But when many go to bed hungry, I feel fortunate that I am able to make the choice to decide what to put into my mouth. My goal is to honor that blessing by treating my body with respect and feeding it healthy foods in only the amounts it requires.

The greatest joy for me of this season is to celebrate the non-food delights of the holidays, such as visiting with family and friends, and focusing on the conversation and not what's on the buffet table. My most treasured Thanksgiving heirloom is a tablecloth I started about 6 years ago. I purchased a plain white tablecloth and a package of permanent markers and invited all those sharing the holiday with me that day to write on the tablecloth what they were most thankful for. It is wonderful each year to pull it out, relive the previous years' blessings and record the new year's! I also enjoy taking a family walk on Thanksgiving Day. The crisp leaves underfoot and chilly air invigorate me as I celebrate the transition between fall and winter.

As for food, I try to limit myself to something that really IS only available at this time of year, such a fresh fall and winter squash and sweet frost-kissed kale and root vegetables. My ideal Thanksgiving feast is not one of abundance of food, but of a few dishes exquisitely made with quality healthy ingredients with lots of love and joy and celebrate the fall season. This year it will be my husband, two sons and I around the table. The plan is for each of us to focus on one dish to make and enjoy each others' company in the kitchen as we prepare and eat our meal. It won't be too long before my sons are on their own so this time together is very precious to me.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!

November 14, 2010

Clean Eating #3: Transitioning

When transitioning to a "cleaner" diet, one that minimizes processed foods and centers around whole foods, start by making a list and prioritize the changes you want to make. Go slowly, maybe one new change a week. You want to make changes that you can sustain, and that don't feel depriving or painful. Be compassionate with yourself, and only make the changes you feel comfortable making. Have fun, experiment! Don't worry about getting it right, the only goal is to to feel healthier. Here are some suggested was to start:

1. Eat breakfast every morning and eat it at home. 

2. Find and swap what you are already eating with cleaner versions. If you've been reading labels you probably have a good idea of products that are full of preservatives and additives. Compare ingredients on a variety of products, you may be able to find alternatives with less sugar and less additives that taste the same or even better than what you are currently using.  Buy organic products, produce, dairy and meats. Certified organic foods do not contain artificial ingredients or preservatives.

3. Transition to whole grains. If you are currently eat white bread, to make the step up to 100% whole grains easier, try eating grains that include a portion of whole grains and white, such as a multi-grain variety or one that includes whole wheat or other grain. Whole grain blends of pasta are another way to transition. You can even mix in a little brown rice to white. Your taste buds will adapt more easily to the taste of whole grains, and you may soon find yourself preferring them. (see my post dated 10/30/10 for more about whole grains).

4. Add more whole fruits and vegetables to your diet: 
  • Swap processed packaged snacks for healthy fruits and nuts. Take snacks from home when you go out so if you find yourself hungry you won't be tempted to get something from the vending machine. Apples are extremely portable. I wash one and stick it in a baggie and take it with me. Add a small handful of nuts as well for a complete and filling nutritious snack! I don't buy energy bars (have you read the ingredient lists on some of those?) Another option is to take along some trail mix, or make your own from nuts and dried fruit.
  • Add a serving of veggies to each of your meals. Keep bags of frozen vegetables in your freezer to add to casseroles, omelets, stir fries, pasta sauces, and canned soups. 
  • Each week try one new fruit or vegetable or whole grain.
  • Shop at a farmer's market; all those whole foods can sure be hard to resist! Nothing beats fresh produce in season just picked from the farm! It's also great to meet and talk to the farmers directly. If you are unsure of how to prepare a new food, or even variety of fruit and vegetable you haven't seen before, just ask them. There's something also to be said seeing many people buying a vegetable you haven't tried before, always makes me wonder what I'm missing out on!
  • Make smoothies with frozen fruit with low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt or tofu.
  • Put fruit in plain sight in your kitchen. The easier it is to see, the more you will reach for it.  
  • Keep a container of washed and ready to eat finger fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator and reach for them first when you are hungry and want a snack. I chop up a bunch of vegetables at once to add to salads, they last for days in the fridge. I also buy frozen fruit in bags or cut up and freeze myself fruits such as pineapple, berries, bananas, grapes and mangoes. A bowl of low calorie frozen fruit is my favorite evening dessert!
    • Top sandwiches and pizzas with sliced vegetables.  
    • Demote meat and grains to the supporting role and not the main attraction in your meals. I no longer center my meals around meat and grains. Vegetables now take the starring role with only a small amount of meat and grain thrown in (if at all!). Check out Mark Bittman's books and column that focuses eating in this "minimalist" way. You might even consider going vegetarian one day a week. There's a great movement gaining speed recently called Meatless Monday, even some restaurants are joining this bandwagon.

    6. Don't drink your calories. Swap fruit juice for fresh fruit, cut down on the soft drinks and other liquid candy (such as just about anything but black coffee or tea from coffee bars). Even cutting back to one every other day instead of daily is a great way to start. Include a glass of water at each of your meals. I don't go out anywhere without a refillable bottle.

    7. Cook more meals at home. Eat out one meal less a week and bring your lunch to work. Prep your food ahead of time so it can be quickly prepared after or before work. When you cook, make extra to serve at another meal or to bring to work for lunch.

    Links:
    http://thehealthylifestyleconsultant.com/MakingtheTransitiontoWholeFoods.aspx
    http://www.organic.org/home/faq 
    The Food Matters Cookbook: 500 Revolutionary Recipes for Better Living

    October 30, 2010

    Clean Eating #2: Getting Started

    To get started to eat a cleaner diet, begin by reading the labels not only in your own food pantry, but also when shopping to acquaint yourself about what is actually in your food. Once you have a good idea of what you are currently eating you can decide what you want to change. When reading labels I look for:

    Nutrient content claims. I use this to quickly identify healthier options, such as "no added sugar", "100 percent Natural", "Whole Grain." While I use them to find healthier foods, I always check the rest of the label to see if their claims are accurate and if it meets my standard of healthy.

    Ingredient List: Not only will you want to look at the nutritional breakdown of the product and what the portion size is, but you will want to pay particular attention to the ingredients list as well. First off, the fewer the ingredients the better; optimally there should only be one or two. Your goal is to get as close to the original, whole food as possible. Specific things to look for in the list include:
    • Added sugar: The "sugars" listed on the nutrient fact panel of the label under "Total Carbohydrates" is the sum of all naturally occurring and added sugars in the product. Some foods such as milk, fruit and grain contain natural sugars, while helpful for managing carbohydrate intake, the listing for sugars won't  tell you much about how much of those grams of sugar are added. Until labels show the amount of these added sugars you will need to estimate how much added sugar is in the product by reading the ingredient label. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. Look for foods where sugar is not among the first few ingredients. Look for words ending in "ose" (suffix meaning sugar) and other names for sugar:
      barley malt, beet sugar, brown sugar, buttered syrup, cane-juice crystals, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, confectioner's sugar, corn sugar (high-fructose corn syrup), corn syrup, corn syrup solids, corn sweeteners, crystallized cane sugar, date sugar, dextrin, dextrose, diatase, diastatic malt, erythritol*, ethyl maltol, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, glucose solids, golden sugar, golden syrup, grape sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, isomalt*, lactose, malt syrup, maltodextrin, maltinol,* maltose, mannitol*, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, refiner's syrup, sorbitol*, sorghum syrup, sucralose (Splenda), sucrose, sugar, syrup, turbinado sugar, and yellow sugar , xylitol* (*sugar alcohols, while low in calories, they are highly processed and while some might be "found" in whole foods, they are not natural).
      • Whole grains. The FDA recommends that at least half of the grains we eat should be whole. Look for the words "whole" and/or "100% whole" before the name of the grain, such as "100% whole wheat", "100% whole grain oats." Just because the product says "whole grain" on the label does not mean it is entirely made of whole grains: it could be a blend of whole and other grains. Likewise watch for the words "whole grain blend" as this is also a combination of grains. When a package lists multigrain, wheat flour, bran, semolina, etc, these are not whole grains. Only whole grain, by FDA definition, contains the 3 main parts of the kernel of grain in the same proportions as they are found naturally (bran, germ and endosperm). The best grains to buy and eat are whole grains you need to cook before eating, such as quinoa, oatmeal (not instant), brown rice, wheat berries, whole barley and amaranth.
      • Fats.  Do not choose foods that contain trans-fats. Trans fats listed on the label should be "0". But even if the label says 0, the food, by law, may still contain .5 gram per serving and still be listed as 0 trans fat, so look in the ingredient list for hidden trans fat. Any fat listed on the label as partially-hydrogenated is a trans fats. For more guidelines on trans fats see Know Your Fats (Am. Heart Assoc.). Avoiding hydrogenated oils is also preferable, as they are processed manufactured fats and saturated, the worse kind for your heart! Choose foods made with vegetable oils, such as canola and olive oil. 
        Once you have acquainted yourself with what is in your pantry and grocery store shelves go through your pantry and toss out what you no longer want to eat. Yes food is expensive, but your health is priceless! But don't get rid of anything you aren't comfortable parting with, the best way to make lasting changes in your diet is to gradually ease into it.

        Next post: tips on transitioning into a cleaner diet.

        Sources:
        http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/whole-grains/NU00204
        http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/ucm059088.htm
        American Dietetic Association Complete Food and Nutrition Guide

        October 18, 2010

        Clean Eating #1: My Definition

        In the genetic game of life I rolled a snake eyes with hereditary conditions of both high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Since a healthy diet is helpful in managing both, I researched and read about what I could do and what might work best for me. What I settled on is a way of eating best described as Clean Eating. Eating this way makes the most sense to me among a sea of nutrition debate--meat or not meat, dairy or no dairy, carbs or no carbs, etc. Not to mention all the ambiguity about what nutrients we need, how much we need and whether they are good or bad!

        Simply put, clean eating to me is eating real food. Food that is not some concocted substance created in a factory. Clean eating is avoiding processed foods and all the artificial ingredients, unhealthy fats, refined grains, preservatives, chemical additives, sugars and salt they contain. It is buying foods in their raw state, or as close as possible to how they are found in nature. Clean eating is preparing at home and eating:
        1. Whole grains
        2. Fresh fruits and vegetables
        3. Lean meat, mostly fish and poultry, minimizing red meat
        4. Healthy fats such as olive, and seed oils
        5. Nuts and legumes
        6. Eggs and reduced fat dairy
        When purchasing these foods I try to buy as much of them as I can organic. If I want a processed food, I look for those with ingredients I would keep on my own shelves (or at recognize the name!), with the fewest amount of ingredients and with the least amount of added sugar, salts and fat.

        It is a habit on mine to always read labels and don't assume that if it's organic, vegetarian or vegan it's healthy. A processed food made with organic ingredients is still a processed food; as is fake cheese and meat-like products made from soy or grains (such as seitin, or gluten).  While it can be argued that eating a vegie burger is preferable to eating a hamburger made from regular ground beef. I'd rather have a burger made with very lean beef, turkey breast, or mashed beans than from soybeans over-processed into a food-oid product. The same goes for other imitation foods such as margarine, non-dairy topping, many non-fat dairy products, and most foods you can find a coupon for or listen on sale in grocery store fliers.

        It is also a goal of mine to limit sugars--ALL sugars including: honey, agave nectar, maple sugar, raw and plain old white sugar, and artificial sweeteners. If sugar is listed among the first few ingredients on a packaged food product it usually goes back on the shelf. I try to satisfy my sweet tooth with fruit, eating fresh fruit for snacks and using dried fruits and juices in baked goods.


        One of the best books on this eating lifestyle is
        Michael Pollan's book Food Rules: an Eater's Manual.
        It is a concise handbook with simple guidelines
        on what to eat and what to avoid.


        Am I perfect at eating this way, heck no! One of the joys of eating is breaking the rules now and then and not obsessing over them. But by striving to eat this way on a daily basis means the occasional times I don't won't impact my health and happiness.

        Upcoming Post: How to get started eating clean.

        Resources:
        Clean Eating Magazine
        Dash Diet to lower blood pressure and cholesterol
        Michael Pollan

          October 4, 2010

          The Secret to Weight Maintenance: Top Ten Tips

          If you know please tell me! Honestly and seriously, if there is one thing I've learned in maintaining my weight loss for over 5 years is that there is still much to learn. This is an ongoing journey of trial and error, of committing every day to do the best that I can to maintain. I am far from perfect from it, but there are a few things I've learned along the way:
          1. This is a practice, there is no cure or "magic bullet" mistakes will be made, but most important is to forgive myself and get back on that healthy lifestyle train ride as soon as I can.
          2. And since there is no "magic bullet" there is no secret formula or combination of foods that yield easy weight loss or keep that weight off. It's hard work, I won't lie. It's not as hard as dieting, but it takes just about as much vigilance, perseverance and dedication. (It's just a heck of a lot more fun in a slimmer body). For me it boils down to simply calories in/calories out. There may be no easy answers, but there are things that can make it easier among them:
          3. Learn mindful eating. I will talk more about this in a future post, but what I mean is I learned to tune into the difference between physical eating and eating for other reasons, such as boredom, stress, fatigue, frustration, or any other myriad ways we can eat other than to meet our bodies need for fuel.  I also try to be mindful of my body's cues of hunger and fullness and eating just the right amount to feel satisfied, but not more than I need. 
          4. Manage eating triggers and crossed wires. I learned what my eating triggers are and how to manage them. I also learned to identify my crossed wires, those conditions of stress, fatigue, etc. that produce cravings to eat when I'm not hungry instead of taking care of my needs in more fitting ways. For this I use EBT training. 
          5. Monitor eating. When I first started loosing and maintaining I found it very useful to use a computer program to keep track of my calories (I used Fitday). Now I use that program mostly to figure out calories in recipes or new foods. What works best for me is eating similar types of foods and amounts daily. And that leads me to another tip--
          6. No one knows me better than myself. I tailor my eating and exercise plans in ways that suit me and my preferences. I know I would never be happy eating a diet that is high protein/low carb or that tells me what to eat, so I didn't follow that kind of diet. Instead, I eat as few processed foods as I can and lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, with a bit of lean meat and healthy fats.
          7. Make every bite count. I know on average how many calories I need to maintain my weight and tailor my diet accordingly, packing as much nutrition as I can my daily calorie budget. Some people think that because I run I can eat whatever I what--oh how I wish!
          8. Exercise regularly for not only the calories it burns, but feeling the joy of a body that is vibrant, toned and full of energy. Feeling that motivates me to keep it feeling that way! I explore what works best for me. 
          9. I changed my lifestyle to support my new weight. That included making my workout time a priority. People who know me know that I exercise in the morning, go to dance club on Friday nights and do a long run on Saturdays, and know better than to expect me to do otherwise! I also make sure I try to get enough sleep and practice stress reduction techniques such as yoga and meditation.
          10. Create a supportive environment. I made friends with people who support my goals and inspire me. I also cleaned my family's diet preparing for them the same delicious foods I prepare for myself.
          I'm sure I could think of 100 tips if I gave myself the time, but these are the core I strive for every day. I have been asked to to post more on this topic, weight loss, nutrition and exercising in general and my goal is to do so in a frequent and informative manner. Please send me your comments and suggestions!

          July 18, 2010

          Wired for Joy! a book review

          Emotional Brain Training (EBT), is a method to retrain the brain with intensive practice to respond in more healthy and positive ways to stress. This new book on the method, Wired For Joy!: A Revolutionary Method for Creating Happiness from Within, written by the program developer Laurel Mellin, incorporates the latest scientific research of brain neuroplasticity of the emotional brain and updates a program that has been active for over 30 years.

          I am a graduate of the EBT method and fully believe that I am a healthier, happier person as a result. Six years ago, before I discovered this life-changing method, I was an overweight yo-yo dieter who used food as a stress reliever. My life profoundly changed when I learned how to cut the drives to overeat and replace them with healthy ways to take care of myself. Not only did my relationship with food change, but also the way I approach life’s problems and challenges. My self-esteem and self-image changed from one that was very negative to one of self-acceptance and love. Today, I am a healthy weight and have kept off the 60 pounds I lost thanks to the tools discussed in this new book. I have also overcome several stress related illnesses, again using the tools I learned in this method, as mentioned in this new book. I have never been more fit, vibrant, and happy in my life. I love life and all it has to offer.

          I found the book easy to read and entertaining. I was fascinated and riveted by the scientific explanations on how the brain works in regards to the stress we encounter in our everyday lives. Even as a graduate, mentor and practitioner of the EBT method I am continually amazed by the refined development this method employs to embrace new science and research in brain science.

          The methods and tools outlined in this excellent overview and practical guide of the EBT program are effective and easy to use in everyday life. I urge you to read the book, try the tools and see if you agree with me that this book can change your life for the better, freeing you, as it has for me, from the strangle-hold of stress and moving you to more moments of joy.

          June 19, 2010

          Recipe for More Joyful Runs


          Take one picturesque route;
          Add  one rested and nourish body;
          Take out all expectations and agenda about distance, pace and intensity;
          Sprinkle in a bit of good weather;
          Stir in an ample amount of day-dreaming;
          Mix in moment to moment awareness;
          And feel yourself come alive!



          June 12, 2010

          The story of one of my most favorite runs

          I recently shared this story on the Runner's Round Table Podcast on June 9, 2000 RRT Epi 85 . It remains one of my most joyous, spiritual runs. It is the story behind the name of my blog link (which is also who I go by on many forums) and the name of my blog Flutter-bys.

          I happen to love butterflies. I paint paintings of them, I plant flowers to attract and nourish them, and I collect just about anything that has a butterfly on it. But I don't collect live ones in nets, preferring to let them stay as I see them--tiny little free-flying paintings who beautify and grace the world for the short time they are around. Four years ago I was running my usual route along the wooded trail in the park adjacent to my house. As I ran on a footbridge, I spotted a butterfly sitting sunning itself on the rail. I stopped to look at it. Now butterflies, when they first emerge from their cocoons are sluggish little creatures, as it takes time for them to warm up and their blood to fill their new wings. I was thus able to gently pick up the butterfly to admire it. Pretty soon though, I felt the itch to continue my run, but the butterfly was not strong enough to take flight yet. So, I decided to start off and just see how long it would stay clinging to me. Well this little butterfly continue to cling to my arm, moving to my hand and around again to my arm, able to walk, but unable yet to fly not just for 1, 2, 3, then 4 miles, but for nearly 5 miles! Before it finally took off into the trees. I will always remember this run and this experience. What a gift it was for me, it is easily one of my most favorite and joyful runs!

          The butterfly, by the way, was a Red-Spotted Purple, one of my favorites! The picture I used to illustrate this post is a close up of a painting I did of my son. When he was 8 or so, we collected some chrysalises and waiting for the butterflies to emerge, it was so exciting to watch! When they did emerge, they were much like the butterfly that ran with me, slow and unable to fly. My son held the butterfly in the sun for the short while before it was ready to embark on it's maiden flight and then he  "Set it Free" (clink link to see entire painting).

          May 29, 2010

          I'm giving up speed.

          In order to make running a greater joy for me, I'm giving up speed. It's hard for me not to feel like I must keep up with the faster times of my running peers and friends.

          I'm am short (4' 9") and into my middle-age years and am quite used to making allowances because of my height. And I like to think that with a few adjustments in my daily life (such as learning to climb store shelves, or at least cleverly knocking things off of them, keeping a step stool as my trusty side-kick--which I do kick around the kitchen by the way, etc.) I can overcome this shortness thing. But this one of speed is really hard to hurdle over. It's pretty hard to not to pick up a running magazine or read about a training plan and have them not talk about speed. 

          So here I am, a rather short runner, with a pretty good average stride pace of 175 (180+ on tempo runs) steps per minute, which puts me anywhere between 10 to 12 minutes a mile depending on stride pace. Now, I did a little research and the average size runner running at 175 steps will cover a mile in 9-10 minutes. So even though I am running the same pace, it takes me about 2 minutes longer to cover that mile. This explains why I don't like to run races. Would you want to run a race where everyone around you runs 10 miles, but you have to run 12 and finish with the same times? Neither do I. I know I can cover the distance, I don't need a race or medal to to validate that.

          Over the years I've been running I've tried the logical solution of increasing my stride length to gain more distance and thus shortening the amount of steps it takes me to cover a mile. Well I gave up that idea because when I did try to stretch out my stride I ended up injuring myself as I was forcing my body to take on a running form it did not like. I tried quickening my stride pace, but even the most elite runners run on average a 180 step pace, not much faster than I am running already, so obtaining a quicker foot turnover isn't all that realistic either, especially at my age, but I will continue to try. 

          But, one thing I can do is be damned proud of the fact that consistently every Saturday I am out running for 2 1/2 to 3 hours at a time and running weekly a total of 6 to 7 hours. There sure aren't many 48 year old women who can do that!!! And that fills me with much joy.

          How are you going to make your next run more joyful?

          May 18, 2010

          In the Zone?

          Many would agree with me that one of the most enjoyable rewards of working out is the time spent being in the "Zone". Where it may not be the prime factor that defines a really great run for me, the absence of finding that place in any workout certainly classifies it as an rather unpleasant one!

          While being in the zone applies to states of being not inclusive to exercising, it is the one where I most frequently can attain it. No one can tell you you are in the zone but you, as I believe it is an individual experience, and I can tell you when I'm in it, but it's not a place that I can get too by repeating the same conditions workout to workout. I consider myself in the zone when the stiffness and fatigue of warming up have faded, my pace feels comfortably hard, at a level and intensity I can maintain for a while and I feel like I have infinite energy. My mind becomes free from concentrating too much on my workout, form, steps or whatever I am doing and I am just enjoying moving. But then again, I am totally focused on that workout as well, outside thoughts and environmental factors diminish, my body is snyched with what I am doing and whatever I am doing feels almost effortless. I am relaxed, happy and confident.

          One thing is certain though, the harder I try to get there, the less likely I am TO get there. At least with me, I need to be relaxed to let the body and mind work together in that wonderful unison. One reason I think I don't enjoy strength training workouts is because it's so much easier to get into that zone feeling while doing steady paced cardio such as running, cycling, and dancing or a yoga routine I know well. The body sort of goes on autopilot with those type of workouts.

          Other conditions that make it harder to reach the zone are injuries, weather (too hot, too cold, etc.), location (being inside on treadmill vs. outside, gym, etc.) and mood. Though, sometimes when I am feeling most fatigued and fowl when I head out, I am surprised with wonderful zone moments regardless--can't figure that one out!

          With all this in mind, I intend to be more mindful of the times I am in the zone, appreciate it and certainly enjoy the times I am there!

          May 15, 2010

          A new purpose, a new direction

          Why do I run and workout? Endorphins. Pure and simple--endorphins. Those wonderful class of neurotransmitter chemicals largely responsible for our feelings of happiness and well-being.
          Somehow I forgot this. I forgot it among my struggles increase my speed and endurance, overcome various injuries and illness as a result thereof, and fight to maintain a 60 pound weight loss.

          It recently occurred to me as I resisted going out the door on yet another difficult and painful run, "Why was I putting myself through this?" I thought about this more as I ran. I also asked myself, "Why was I having frequent aches and pain not related to a specific injury? Why was I even running to begin with?" Then I finished the run and remembered why. It was the feeling at the end. The wonderful feeling of accomplishment and triumph and the simple joy of moving my body.

          And then I returned to ballroom dancing. My husband and I have been away from our beloved dance club for nearly a year and were only recently able to return. It was only after I returned that I realized how much I had missed it and how much joy I felt dancing. Moving around the dance floor to me is freedom, I lose myself in the dance, allowing my true self to show and I feel like I am flying across the dance floor!

          And so it is when I lose myself in a run, I forget about distance and speed, even where I am on the trail. I don't care what time it is, when I return or even what's waiting for me at home. I realized that is what I want most from my runs. I will never be a fast runner; I'm a middle aged, very petite woman for Pete's sake, why am I trying to compete with younger, faster, more experienced runners when I have the best thing out there from my runs—JOY!
          So it is with this new purpose that I recommit myself to this blog and hopefully inspire a few people along the way to do the same—to discover the joy and vibrancy in themselves in exercising body and mind in healthful ways.
          I invite you to come along with me, comment and share your moments of joy.