Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Crap-tastic Run

Today's run goes on my list of the worst runs I've had (Ok, so the combination of the word "runs" and the title of this post made me think of the bathroom... sorry, I can't think of another word. I guess workout, but it doesn't really fit. Just go with it! lol). It all started the other day when I downloaded an app for mapping my route as I run (Mapmyroute.com's free app is available on iTunes) to Chris' iPod touch (I have a nano, so no internet nor apps). It's not the newest version, so it needs access to a wireless network to work. I did not know this when I downloaded the app. So, when I got home today, I thought, "I can't wait to use this app! I'll download my running playlist and go!" But the app said, "Not so fast, Courtney!" You have to have a login for the website in order to access the app's full potential. So, I tried to create an account through the app. When that failed, I created my account online via computer. An hour later, I was able to access the app through the iPod and my new account- Yay!.... Hah. This is when Chris pointed out to me that the iPod probably needs to be connected to the wireless network for the app to work. I thought I'd try it anyway because I'd worked for an hour at it.
Before I left, Chris asked me to take the doggies out. They did their business and, as we were walking back, 2 ladies were walking a dog across the street. Naturally, our big doggy started barking her head off, at which point, little doggy darts off, rips the leash out of my hand and tries to jump the fence. (The fence has been bent down in one spot where people climb over it as a short-cut out of the apartment complex.) I'm running after her, trying to catch the retractable leash and trying to control the other dog. So, little doggy's leash gets stuck in the fence (which I am so grateful for!) and big doggy then tries to jump the fence too. Little doggy gets caught in brush, big doggy continues going nuts, Courtney is fuming. And to make it worse, one of the ladies started walking over to me asking me if I needed help. Ugh, no, thank you.
I'm finally ready for my run (recap: an hour spent trying to set up the iPod and a disastrous dog walk).  Oh, and I have no arm band for Chris' iPod, so I am destined to be tangled in the headphone cords (which I hate, see 5 Tips for a Better Run). I did my best. I could not get the app to work, except for the timer. Thus, I gave up on it, which made me even more upset because I could've just ran with my nano. :( Here's where it gets good... I'm running, finally, getting out of my funk when something wet hits me on the cheek. I'm thinking, "That's odd... it's not raining..." So, I used my sleeve to wipe my face. Lo and behold, a bird... has pooped... on my face. Mind you, I am only halfway through my 2.5 mi run (I decided not to go the full 5 mi after the miserable start). The entire remainder of the run, I am wiping my face, feeling my hair, checking the front of my shirt, sure there is bird poop down the back of my shirt. It was such a small amount that I was sure there was more somewhere on me. I wanted to stop and ask everyone I passed to check for me. It was the worst paranoia. I got home and what does Chris do? Laugh and say "It's good luck!" Thanks, dear.
Bird poop wiped on shirt
Moral of the story? I don't know.... everybody has bad days?
Other bad running days:
Running in a thunderstorm (skies opened up as I was on my way home)
Tripping over a crack and falling on my face (two different times, same crack)
Running with the dog after not running with her for a couple of weeks
I'm sure the list will just get longer, but I'm going to keep on keeping on :)

Sunday, February 26, 2012

How Do You Do It? (Part 2)

I went on my run yesterday: 4.84 mi at a 13 min/mi pace. Not too bad. Felt pretty good after not being out there for a week. I have no intentions of doing that again, though, especially after reading this great blog entry on SparkPeople by Coach Nicole titled "8 Cold, Hard Truths about Exercise". One single sentence really struck a chord with me about the strength and endurance I've worked so hard to build up: "It starts diminishing when you rest just 2 days!"
Image from arthlete.tumblr.com
I normally wouldn't let this happen (going a week without exercising), as I have a great support system set up for myself. This leads to post 2 of my "How Do You Do It?" series. :)
Accountability. Having someone or something keeping you accountable can help you stick with anything. One of the reasons for this is that, the person you choose to keep you accountable knows your goal(s) and will be rooting for you every step of the way. If you take a misstep, that person will be there to help you get back on track and give you words of encouragement. Also, in the back of your mind, you know that you have to tell someone that you did something you're not proud of and risk disappointing someone other than yourself.
This has played a huge factor in my "sticking with it" this time around. Here is a list of some of the ways I've been accountable and ways I'm staying accountable
  1. Food Journal. I started this journey by writing down what I was eating. I wasn't paying attention to serving sizes or calories, just what I was putting in my body. (By the way, this is not how you should do it! lol See #4 below.) This journaling made me think about what I was eating and, quite frankly, embarrassed me. I found that I didn't even want Chris reading it! It opened my eyes to what a problem I'd gotten myself into, the unhealthy habits I'd developed over the years. With it all laid out in front of me it so obvious that I needed to make a lifestyle change.
  2.  Friends, Family, and Co-workers. Next, I let friends and family in on my decision. I told them I was trying to eat better and exercise more, live a healthier life (most people are calling this a diet, but I don't). It was good, but I don't see them or talk to them everyday. So, I also let people at work know. Since I spend so much of my day at work, it was important to me for them to know. A few of my co-workers are dieting, so it helps to exchange stories and information with them. Making my co-workers aware keeps me on track at work. They ask me what I'm having for lunch or whether I decided to indulge in a cupcake. This is something that I've never done before. I've always kept dieting to myself, that way if I failed, nobody knew. This way is so much better: I am actively making better choices, I have people encouraging me, and people to talk to about the struggles/triumphs. 
  3. Accountability Partner. Initially, I was still feeling overwhelmed, especially when we had a potluck at work one day. I tried to eat in moderation, but I still felt guilty and confused. I texted my sister and asked her to be my official accountability partner. She's been an athlete all her life and even played soccer in college. Now that she's graduated, she's also trying to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle. Of course, she agreed and we exchanged emails with motivational websites and healthy recipes.  We frequently exchange texts with pictures of a particularly healthy meal or the scenery during a workout, things we might be struggling with, a good website we've found, and goals for the day or week (run 2 miles after work, complete legs workout, eat a well-portioned dinner, etc.).
  4. SparkPeople. This handy-dandy little website has made all the difference in my motivation and perseverance. It has tons of tools for weight loss, weight maintenance, fitness, and healthy living. There's community message boards, blogs, personalized diet and workout plans, articles, nutrition and fitness trackers, exercise demos and videos, recipes, success stories, quizzes, challenges, motivational quotes,  and more. And the best part? It's all FREE! Yep, as in no charge. The part of the website that has kept me on track the most, is the nutrition and fitness trackers. The nutrition tracker is virtually an online food journal. It's way better than any hand-written one (#1 above) because you can enter how much you ate and it will take into account the serving size for that food to tell you the nutritional facts (whether you like it or not!). After you enter the food you ate for the day, you can look at the nutritional facts totals to see what you consumed throughout the day. You can even run a nutritional report for feedback on what your diet is lacking or what's in excess. If your food does not show up in the search, you can search the member submitted information or enter it manually (this is when I started paying attention to appropriate serving sizes, another thing I've never done). To use the fitness tracker you enter the activity (strength training or cardio) and see how many calories you burned (cardio only). I especially like the "Map Route" feature that allows you to mark out your route to see how far you went. Then, you can enter the time and your weight to get an estimate of the calories you burned (you can pick bike or walk/run). Click here to get started.
 Now get to it! :)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lunch Packing: 101

I have to admit that for the the past week I haven't been as committed as I would've liked. I twisted my ankle when I tripped a couple of weeks ago. I kept running on it until last Saturday, as I hadn't really realized how bad it was until I saw this:
I know, my feet are kind of vein-y (especially after working out, which was when this was taken).

I decided that continuing to run on an injured ankle was not in my best interest. I know, I could've at least done strength training, but I guess I just got knocked off my game. :( On a positive note, I continued eating healthily, despite the lack of working out.

Chris and I have been really good about keeping fruits and veggies on hand lately. On the weekend, I make a list of fruits/veggies/healthy foods I want in the kitchen, and Chris goes out to buy them. He usually goes to the flea market and/or Wal-Mart, but this weekend he's going to a local produce stand. (I don't always go with him because he claims I slow him down. I do love shopping! lol) One way I am able to make sure the produce is eaten before it goes bad is by packing my lunch everyday. Two of the grocery lists I've used to know which foods to buy can be found here (page 7 has printable version) and here.

For as long as I can remember, I've had packed lunches.  As a child, they included a little note from Mom or Dad.  In college, they were less put together and more whatever I could throw together.  Nowadays, they're planned out and include lots of fruits and veggies. I took some pictures of my lunches throughout the week to show you. The containers featured in these pictures are by Ziploc and can be purchased in a 2-pack at Wal-Mart. The most important part about buying a container like this is that the divisions are also made in the lid, so that the fruits or dip or veggies don't all get spilled together when you pack your lunch.
Apples, grapes, almonds, carrots, Cheddar Cheese Quakes Rice Snacks, Reduced Fat PB, FF Ranch
Salad, grapes, blueberries, Roasted Garlic & Herb Pita Chips, FF Ranch
Salad, blueberries, grapes, PB Granola Bars, FF Ranch
Apple, salad, carrots, RF PB, FF Ranch
Grapes, blueberries, carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, Quakes, Low Fat Honey Graham Crackers, FF Ranch

My salad usually consists of: greens, cucumber, carrots, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and/or raisins.  In the second-to-last picture, both of my containers were dirty, so I just used a regular container for my salad, a small container for the peanut butter (for the apple, of course!), and reused a to-go container for the dressing.  It was the perfect size and didn't spill, even though it ended up on it's side. I read that you can purchase these "souffle cups" online or from a restaurant supplier.

I know my lunches all look very similar at first glance, but they're all different and, like I said, I'm trying my best to eat the produce before it goes bad.  For a better variety of lunch ideas, you can go to the Easy Lunchboxes Photo Gallery (which I found after I started packing my healthier lunches, thank you very much! ;)). Added bonus: On their website, you can purchase similar containers to the containers I use, as well as other lunch box accessories. As far as the lunch box, I really like my thirty-one thermal tote (in the second-to-last picture). It's an odd shape, but fits the containers well and, thanks to the insulation, everything stays chilled with an ice pack. Oh, and for a drink, I just get some ice water at work. :)

I really hope this post didn't bore you to death and that you found at least one useful notion. I plan to start running again tomorrow (hubby bought me ankle braces) and writing another post afterward.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

5 Tips for a Better Run

As someone relatively new to running, I'm constantly looking for ways to keep motivated, keep focused, and, at the same time, keep distracted. (I usually try to keep distracted from how hard I'm working! lol) So here are some of the strategies I use for a better run:

1. The iPod: What you put on it and how you put it on matters!
      a. Music: For me, music makes such a difference. If I don't have music that I like or that know the words to, then I can't keep motivated. Try to pick songs that are fun for you. Don't just pick a song because it's upbeat or "motivational". I've done that and it doesn't work, you get bored. My "Get moving!" playlist includes a variety of genres, including country. Some examples: Lady Gaga "You and I", Colbie Caillat "Brighter Than The Sun", Dixie Chicks "Some Days You Gotta Dance", Taylor Swift "Hey Stephen".
      b. "Wearing" your iPod: Seems silly, but wearing your iPod backward can really make a difference in your run. I've been wearing mine backward since I was on the treadmill several years ago. The cord to the earbuds kept getting in my way. It was the most annoying thing (maybe even more annoying than being on the treadmill in the first place). So, I thought, if I turn it around and leave the cord behind me, then I'm free! :) Below is a picture of 3 different ways you can wear your iPod.
One: Under your arm; Two: On the back of your sleeve, Three: On your shoulder; all with the cord behind you

**If you decide to do this, and I highly recommend that you do, then I have one more tip for you: go to the 1st song on your playlist, select it and press pause, lock the iPod, then put it on and press play. It can be difficult to see your iPod when it's on your back. ;)

2. Why, yes, we are racing: See that lady in front of you walking her 3 pups? She's about to reach the next driveway before you. You better beat her there! See that elderly man strolling in your general direction and the tree right between the two of you? You better get past the tree first! Also, the girl in her cutesy little outfit running with her doggy on the other side of the road, getting closer and closer to the crosswalk? Don't let her beat you there!... Catch my drift? Who cares if they don't know you're racing? You do... and that's all the motivation I need.

3. Checkpoints: I've been doing this one for awhile, too. As I feel myself tiring, I look ahead for a checkpoint that I think I can make it to before I am allowed to walk. Once I'm walking, I pick another checkpoint at where I have to start running again. The checkpoint can be any marker along the path: a tree, a driveway, a mailbox, a stop sign, etc. For example, in the picture below, if I'm tiring quickly, I would set the checkpoint as the next big tree or the drain. If I can go farther, I would set it as the next telephone pole.
Look at that cute lil doggy!

4. Get your game on: Similar to the #2 tip, make the run fun for you. Something silly that I like to do (it keeps me mentally distracted from the challenge of the run) is play a game. It's similar to a scavenger hunt. I think of several things that I might see while I'm out and try to find them.  Here's a list that I came up with:
One of the neighborhoods I run in has a multitude of lawn sculptures lol

 5. Quotes: I find it incredibly helpful to memorize motivational quotes. This way, as I'm running, I can keep myself motivated by reciting them. Some favorites of mine are:
             "Unless you puke, faint, or die, keep going!"
                "It's ok to slow down, just don't stop!"
   "No matter how slow you go, you are still lapping everybody on the couch"
                      "I don't stop when I'm tired, I stop when I'm done."
 "If it hurts, run faster. You won't feel any better, but you'll get done sooner."
                    "You are so much stronger than you think."
                "If you still look pretty afterward, you didn't do it right."

Now you know all my secrets. Please use them to your advantage. 
If you have any that you'd like to share with me, please comment! Thanks for reading! :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

How Do You Do It? (Part 1)

So, as I was running yesterday, I was thinking, "I can't breathe. It's too cold outside. My lungs are going to shrivel up and die... But I've only gone 2 miles! I can go so much farther!" And that's when reason prevailed. It was, like, 40 degrees outside. (Or something like that.) And for a Florida girl like me, that's FREEZING! What I'm getting to is, despite the fact that I knew I could go farther, I listened to my body  screaming at telling me to stop.

I thought this would be a good first topic of a series of posts that will answer the question I've been asked so many times lately, "How do you do it?" So, here is How Do You Do It? (Part 1):
Listening to my body is a big part of this journey I am on (the goal of losing weight and being a healthier, more fit person), especially in relation to food. In the past, I generally ate what I was craving or what looked yummy. I was really bad about snacking (especially when bored) and overeating (especially when we went out). When the hubby and I went out to eat, I could not resist the bread basket. When we went to a buffet, I couldn't resist trying whatever looked good to me. At the movies, we got a large popcorn and I'd just sit and eat during the movie without thinking. So it's quite the challenge for me to actually stop and listen to my body when it comes to food.
Last week I saw this mentioned on a message board on SparkPeople (love this site! Join- it's free!).  A member was talking about how she had gone over her recommended daily calories, but it was not out of boredom or mindless snacking. She had done a hard workout and her body needed to refuel. She listened for the hunger and fed it. On the other hand, a few days prior, she hadn't met her calories for the day, but her body just wasn't hungry.  And, believe me, it's not a good feeling to eat when you're not hungry, just for the sake of eating. You need to listen to your body to figure out:
- if you're really hungry or just bored/emotional. Check in with what you're feeling/thinking. You could even write down what you're feeling when you go to the pantry; it helped me get started.
- if you're thirsty. Have a glass of water before eating anything, you might be surprised that your "hunger" has been satiated.
- if you're full. Slow down when you're eating. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to realize that you're full. (So, chew chew chew!)

A chart for figuring out what your body needs when you're experiencing cravings. (Image from Free Form Fitness)

In terms of your workout, listen to your body to prevent injury and/or exhaustion. You can also listen to your body to stay motivated, though.  If you are feeling like you need to throw in the towel, check in with your body:
- During strength training, don't be afraid to modify your workout (go for a seated exercise or the beginner's version if you're trying intermediate). You will still build strength and it will help you to go a little harder next time.
- If you're feeling so sore that you can barely walk, don't push yourself to do another rigorous strength training or cardio routine. Use an "active recovery" day: do yoga, stretch, go for a walk, etc. Don't put your workouts on hold, though, it just makes it harder to get motivated again. Give yourself a day or 2 (sometimes the second day is worse) and then get back at it!
- A lot of times your head will tell you, "You can't go any farther." (At least mine does!) At that point check in with your legs or your arms. If they feel like they're going to fall off, then chill for a few minutes (walk vs run, take a water break during strength training). If they feel good, then put a smile on your face and keep going! Just don't forget to check on them again in a few minutes.

Always remember: You're so much stronger than you think!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

"If you run, you are a runner"

I used to run 2-3 miles a few times a week during Grad School.  When I graduated, I fell out of the "habit".  I only thought of it as exercise or a stress-reliever; I don't think I truly enjoyed it.
Fast forward to 2012. I started reading motivational quotes and bookmarking motivational images. I wanted to get back into exercising, but I didn't know if running would be the way I did it. In mid-January, I discovered that my big doggy likes to run. We were walking together when she started pulling at the leash quite hard.  I started jogging and she jogged too.  The next day I took her again for a jog. She just pulled me along, motivated me, and distracted me from the effort I was having to put into it. As nice as it was to have her as a partner, there were many problems with having a dog as a running partner. She barked at every dog in sight and some people too. She frequently stopped to bark or sniff or go to the bathroom. She can't pace herself, so I was unable to pace myself. Sometimes she'd just jut out in front of me and I'd have to stop to avoid tripping over her. One day, she pushed me off the sidewalk and I twisted my ankle. I knew the days of us running together would have to come to an end.  My first day running without her was quite the challenge. It felt so much more difficult without her tugging me along. It's been a few weeks now, though, and I'm pushing myself to go farther and faster each time. And, more importantly, I'm truly enjoying myself. Today I woke up and was ready to run! I ran 5 miles in 60 minutes. That's 12 min/mile. I'm really proud of myself.
Not so proud of tripping over a sidewalk crack and completely eating concrete, but that's beside the point. (I'm a klutz, what can I say?) The best part was that I got back up and kept going for the last 10 minutes.
Battle wounds: My knee and leg banged up after taking a spill. :( The white spot just above the cut is a scar from falling off my bike when I was a teenager- See? Klutz.

John Bingham is a motivational speaker, author, and runner. Need some inspiration to get moving? I recommend visiting his website or blog. *You could also just keep following my blog, as I have much more to come! ;)

(Image from Pinterest) I love this quote!
I'm always hesitant to say I'm a runner. I typically think of people who run 10+ miles and races and look like this:
(Image from movingcomfort.com) I definitely don't look like her!
This quote from Mr. Bingham makes me so much more confident in my abilities. I am a runner. :)

Finally! A blog!

So, I finally broke down and started my blog. Recently, I've been trying to make a lifestyle change, like eating healthier and exercising more. I've felt compelled to share my journey with others and I thought this would be a great way to do it (especially since so many blogs have been inspirational to me).  I also want to share various hobbies and other aspects of my life in this blog. I'm so excited to start posting and sharing!
One of my doggies... She's excited too!
Start following me so you don't miss out!