Sunday, February 28, 2010

Calendar Girl

If you know me or have been reading this blog for any period of time, you've probably caught on that moderation is not a talent of mine. I tend to live and act in extremes, spending most of my time in a hyper-disciplined, rigid, but rewarding environment. Rewarding in the sense that I accomplish most of what I set out to do, but its at the sacrifice of having little to no balance in my life. I spend a lot of time exhausted, which results in being sick because I don't take the time I need to rest and recover from myself. It's a frustrating cycle, but in a way it suits me.

From time to time I tinker with the idea of incorporating moderation into my life, with the belief that its a key component to true wellness from a holistic perspective. You know, all of that "mind, body, and spirit," crap. I try to incorporate planned rest times, I schedule some dinners or lunches out so I have to break out of my rigidly strict nutrition plan...and after a week or so I am such a downer to be around that people are practically begging me to go back to being extreme me. I'm not happy in the middle; I don't know how to act there. I smile and nod and try to keep up but I'm checking my watch. I want to go back to Crazy Town.

I've been trying it for a couple weeks now, and man, I gotta say this is tough!!! Not only do I feel like a complete sloth, I haven't cracked a smile in days because I am so focused on being "casual." LOL I'm doing it all wrong! So I'm chickening out and going back to what I do best - complete and total focus on absolute excellence every day. Well, excellence in my own eyes anyway.

So I have a little goal for March, and I am challening you to join in. That's right, audience participation! Groan, eye-roll, and then listen up. You're gonna like it.

You know how sometimes its hard to find a happy-medium between monitoring big goals and small goals? There's a fine line between keeping an eye on the big picture and paying enough attention to the details of the action steps to achieve the goal. It's easy to get hung up on a series of not-great days and not see that while one week may not be a huge step forward, the week before was awesome enough to make up the difference.

So what I do to try and stay balanced is to channel my inner teacher's pet: I give myself gold stars. A calendar hangs on my pantry door, and each evening after dinner I give myself a star sticker for a good workout day and a smiley face sticker for a good nutrition day. "Good" is somewhat relative; usually it means I hit the mark on calories, macro-nutrients, and vitamins/minerals, but other times it means "as good as could be expected considering the circumstances." Generally, if I am proud of my nutrition and exercise choices for the day, I get a sticker. I love seeing those stars and smiley faces all lined up, and seeing more and more days in a row with stars just makes me want to get more of them. My goal is always to get 100%, but I average between 85% and 90%. But in February, I had just 80%. I was trying to moderate. I clearly sucked at it.

But today I turned to a fresh, new page in my calendar: March. I looked at that blank calendar, and checked my inventory of stickers. I have enough to put one on each day of the month. So that's my goal: 100%.

Join me, won't you? Come on, go all over-achiever with me for a few weeks! It'll be fun!

I admire those of you who can live "in the middle." I don't think I'll be taking up residence anytime soon. And yeah, I can see the irony of choosing the easier road of control-freaky-comfort versus the real challenge of learning a new behavior; I'm ignoring that for now. Maybe someday when I am old I'll give eating crap and slacking off - oops, I mean relaxing - another shot.

Until then, I'd rather be happy. :)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Regina Benjamin Sweats Off Her Makeup and You Should Too

You may recall a few months ago when President Obama announced the appointment of Regina Benjamin as Surgeon General and her charge of tackling our nation's obesity problem, and the subsequent questioning of her ability to lead an overweight nation into a healthier place when she, herself, was not exactly channeling Denise Austin in her stage presence. Nope, she was a regular old American - overweight, over-scheduled, and just as vulnerable to the siren song of a Grande Java Chip Frappuccino (460 calories and 19 grams of fat, justsoyouknow) as a soccer mom on her last pick-up of the day.

But I guess the nation eventually realized that they didn't really have much room to be judgemental. In a nation where one in three U.S. children and 67 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese, finding someone to tackle the job who didn't have a weight issue would be a challenge. And, her credentials are solid.

But more than that, she's a straight-talker who has a pretty sane perspective on where we've gone wrong and what needs to change in our country to reverse the statistic that estimate that by 2015, nearly 75 percent of the U.S. population will be overweight or obese. In a press conference this week, she described some of her plans for making sure "Wall-E," with its blimp-like mush-people happy to sit in recliners and eat cupcakes in a cup for the rest of their lives, remains a work of fiction.

In this interview, Surgeon General Benjamin focuses on practicality, some tough love, a few reality checks, and her reasonable expectation for Americans to take personal responsibility for their health and realize that when it comes to getting (and staying) fit and functional, there isn't an app for that. You have to do it yourself.

Some highlights that made me a fan:

1. She calls out the food manufacturers on their aggressive marketing of unhealthy foods, and the practice of offering healthier options as an alternative, not a first choice. Educating people about the value of eating healthier food only goes so far; more communities need access to fresh produce at an economical scale that can compete with the dollar menu so people can act on the knowledge they have gained, not just know it.

2. She debunks the role of genetics in our obesity problem. It's true that some people suffer from genetic disorders that make maintaining a healthy weight more difficult than others. But by and large, obesity is more related to lack of activity and chronically poor nutritional choices due to a over-indulged sense of entitlement in our country. We work hard, and we deserve a 650-calorie Blizzard, God-dammit. No. No, we don't.

3. She calls for the reinstatement of recess and physical education in our schools. Not only does research show unquestionable links between regular physical activity and the reduction of stress, take a look around at kids today. Enough said.

4. She talks like a normal person without a personal agenda. I love that she references going dancing and "sweating off her makeup," her personal elliptical workouts, and her admitance that if she didn't pay attention to her nutrition and exercise she would be a "big blimp." To see and hear a national leader be frank about what they are personally doing to be part of the solution, without placing blame or promoting an agenda, is refreshing and inspiring, and I applaud it.

I'm a fan of Regina Benjamin. I'm encouraged by her perspective and am on board to help her achieve her goal of creating a healthier nation. Read her Vision for a Healthy and Fit Nation for more information on what you can do to join in and yeah, blah blah blah, make a difference.

And then go sweat off your makeup. :)

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Bike Thing.

Yeah, so I think the first thing I need to do to prepare my bike for my upcoming triathlon is to take the baby seat off the back.

The triathlon I signed up for, then told my husband I wasn't going to do anymore because I needed to simplify my life, then decided was back on because I already paid for it, and at least twice a week decide I don't have time to train for is in about a month, give or take a few sinus infections. At this point, I've turned it into an experiment to see what happens when someone just shows up for a triathlon with no preparation whatsoever and decides to compete. And you know, I'm okay with that.

But then it occurred to me that they probably have some kind of maximum time allowance for these things, and the people volunteering on the course are likely not that interested in spending their entire Saturday waiting on some girl on a Huffy to haul her butt over the finish line. And also my son has a birthday party to attend that afternoon. So I figured I should probably train a little just to be on the safe side.

On Sunday I headed out for a little challenge - ride 15 miles on my bike, then jump off and run three miles. I got my bike out of the shed and tried to take off the baby seat. It was pretty complicated and I hadn't had any coffee so I decided to just go with it. I mean, it was just practice, right?

The little foot rests fell off as I turned the first corner.

So thanks to a handy little site called MapMyRun, which I have used in the past to chart out runs in new cities or just confirm that what I thought was six miles really was six miles, I had a route planned out, which basically involved riding a loop around my neighborhood a couple of times. I had my iPod stashed in the mailbox to put on when I returned and ran along my normal 3.1 mile route. Easy peasy. I checked my watch and took off.

And then I realized I forgot my gloves. Damn it. Luckily I remembered reading an article about how muttering obscenities under your breath helps relieve pain and created some new vocabulary for the books.

Riding out in the cold and solitude of a Sunday morning was really nice. There was little traffic, I got to see some gorgeous wildlife (15 deer!) and if I could clench my teeth hard enough to ignore my frozen hands, I could feel spring coming.

But it was pretty clear that my Giant Sedona wasn't going to cut it in the triathlon locally known as the "Revenge of the Hills." I found myself enjoying my ride, but spending more time trying to peer over fences to see what kind of patio furniture my neighbors had than focusing on my time or technique.

So I got home and did a little research on what kind of bike I should be riding. You know, just in case I change my mind and decide I actually do care about my triathlon performance. I found this article about choosing a bike for a beginner triathlete. It gave me some good ideas of things to consider when shopping, and inspired me to at least start looking in the classifieds for something used that I can tool around on.

I may not have as much time to train for this event as I need or would like, but I still want to feel like I am somewhat prepared and ready to compete, and I am fairly certain that I will give it another go when my life is more suited to focus on training. So I'm open to advice from you vets out there - what do you recommend for a beginner triathlete?

Until then, I'm pretty sure I'll be the only one lined up with a basket and a bell. :)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Do I need a new heart rate monitor watch? No. But I want one!

I only have about 15 heart rate monitor watches so I've been thinking...I sure could use another one! I've heard some buzz (or is it more of a thump-thump?) about this particular beauty....the Mio watch that incorporates the 3500 Calorie Countdown Program, which (theoretically) calculates how many calories you are burning each day and counts down from 3500 to 0 and tells you when you have (theoretically) burned a pound of fat. I'm not sure exactly how it does that but I am guessing I will have to crack some kind of flashing-LED code to figure how to enter my height, weight, and favorite color into the watch, then wave a magic wand over it, turn around three times, click my heels, and drink a raw egg or something to make it work. Luckily I am married to an electronics geek so I don't really addle my pretty little head with such details, I just give it to him and then pester incessantly about when he will be done so I can have it back. But I do wonder if there is a setting that will play a little song whenever I hit 3500 calories burned. That would be cool. I wonder if it would play Jambalaya.

ANYHOO, I'm stumped on which one to buy. Well, first I'm stumped on whether I should even get one. This article gives it an average customer rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Not stellar, but I am intrigued by the calorie countdown feature and the fact that there is not a chest strap requirement. The Mio website claims that Consumer Reports liked it.

So that brings me to the issue of which one? I'm going to level with you here - I'm super cheap, so I want the most uber-fancy model they have for like $4. My options are:

So. Questions.

Does anyone out there have one of these? Would you recommend it? Is the 3500 Calorie Countdown Program legit and worth the hype?

I currently have a Timex Personal Trainer Heart Rate watch that requires a strap but works well and is rated well as well. (I think that was a personal best on number of times using the word "well" in one sentence, just sayin.)

So if the calorie countdown program is just "eh" then I'll probably stick with the Timex.

I mean, usually I just wear my calculator watch anyway.

Whaddya think? Let me know! The future of my wrist depends on it!

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Locker Room, Same Butts

Since I've been following my triathlon training schedule, I have been back in the pool swimming laps a few days a week. And you know, wow, I had forgotten how much I love swimming until I snapped on my goggles and pushed off the side of the pool, gliding through the water and finally being alone with my thoughts. One of my favorite parts of lap swimming is the solitude. It's impossible to carry on a conversation, you can't really see anyone, and its virtually silent except for the splish-splashing of the other swimmers, too caught up in their own little world to notice you. The pool where I swim has a cover on it for the winter, so it is even more quiet than it usually would be. As a chronic yabbermouth, having this forced quiet time is really therapeutic for me. Thirty minutes practically fly by, and at the end of my workout I feel relaxed, calm, and at peace.

And then I go into the locker room.

I've dressed in many a locker room, and over the years I have learned that each one has its own set of etiquette. As a newbie in this particular scene, I wasn't sure what the rules were. I am specifically referring here to nudity - each locker room has its own unwritten rules. Some locker rooms are full of women who stand in the corner, face the wall, change as quickly as possible, and make a stealth escape. Others have women who stand in the middle of the room, naked as a jaybird, and exchange recipes for bean dip. You just never know what you're going to walk into. I'd put myself somewhere in between. I don't mind being naked, but I do realize that not everyone wants to see me that way.

So I was halfway between getting out of my suit after my swim when I realized...I didn't know if this was a naked locker room or not. I was in a bit of a pickle.

A quick scan of the room provided no help. It was practically empty, with just two other women who were already dressed. I was going to have to just go with my gut, pun intended. I walked nonchalantly into the shower area and saw my first clue - there was no obvious place to hang my towel. This was a naked locker room, it was clear to me now. If people brought towels which which to hide themselves post-shower, there would be hooks. There were no hooks. I left my towel behind.

As I tried in vain to get the chlorine smell out of my hair and skin (it never works), I had to laugh at the absurdity of it. I mean, we're grown women, we know what we've got. And trust me, none of us has anything to be ashamed or particularly proud of. We've got c-section scars, stretch marks, cellulite, real boobs, and back fat. By the time we get back into our cars and drive back to our respective workplaces, all of those things have been effectively camoflauged, but in the locker room, its all the same butts.

So I walked my butt back to my locker (naturally I had chosen the one furthest away) and dared someone - anyone - to imply that my choice to go toweless was anything other than practical. No one did. No one cared. They'd seen it before.

The ear infection has sidelined any swimming for a while, but I still have my suit and goggles in my gym bag, ready to go when my ears return to normal. I'll remain camoflagued until then, but hopefully soon I'll be back, keeping it real in the naked locker room.

Have a healthy day, naked or not.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mother Nature: One Tough Mutha

Yeah, its a recurring theme in this-here blog.

I get sick, I pretend I am not sick, I get a little better and use that as proof that I was never sick to begin with, and then I get so sick that I end up sitting in the doctor's office, crying from pain in my eardrums (its true, I actually cried. dude, ear infections suck), being sent home to be phone-scolded by my husband for not really resting when I said I was (lying on the couch watching HGTV is resting, I just don't have my eyes closed), and naturally fretting about not getting to follow my training schedule for the triathlon that is six weeks away, which I was already late getting started on, and which has a non-refundable entry fee! All together now: "We told you so!"

But I have to say, this was not my fault. Forces of nature are conspiring against me. I have it on good authority (mine) that God and Mother Nature have gotten together and decided to tag-team on the smiting so I am rendered both crippled and emotionally vulnerable and will finally admit something. What, I don't know. I wish they would just tell me so I can go ahead and say it and get back to what I was doing.

Seriously. I am a woman. I know how to do passive-aggressive, and if I don't automatically assume that God is a man, three can play at that game. Bring it, God! Bring it, Nature! Rain those pollen-y allergens down on my house and let's just see who caves first! (In case you didn't get the visual on that last part, I am shaking my fist menacingly at the sky.)

Unfortunately, though, it has already been brung, and subsequently thrown at me like a glob of mud on a new Sunday dress. A dress I will not be wearing to church because I am totally boycotting. So there.

The diagnosis: a double ear infection (that rules out swimming laps at lunch for a few days), sinus infection (there goes a good run), and an overall laws-of-nature-don't-apply-to-me attitude. Unfortunately there wasn't anything she could give me for the last bit.

I'm not going to say that I've learned my lesson, because I've said that dozens of times (see here, here, here, and here. I'm not going to say I will rest more, because I already feel like I rest enough. I'm just going to move to a climate that is completely devoid of trees, covered in concrete, and with nothing that could move into my sinuses and send out change-of-address cards. Like Orlando.

So, God and Mother Nature want to smite me? Go ahead! I'm armed now - I have antibiotics, and I have Flonase, and I have Claritin, and we will just see who has an inner-ear problem, thankyouverymuch. Now what is that old saying about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results? Yeah, I never liked you anyway.

I have "resting" to do. But let me give you a little hint in case you're planning to go all David-and-Goliath on seasonal allergies: Mother Nature? She don't play.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Stuck Between Reality and Reality

Yeah so I just printed out the triathlon training schedule recommended by my track club, and.....yeah.

I am surprised that I am so surprised that the triathlon training program doesn't say, "just keep doing what you've been doing!" No, this is going to require me to actually adjust my life. And I just got it to start behaving again!

But seriously. It's eight weeks. I can change my routine for 8 short weeks. Actually, the training program is 12 weeks long but I only have 8 weeks until I don my wet suit and run into the lake so....yeah. Even better. :)

I am a creature of habit. I like to get up at some insane hour when the rest of the world is slacking - ooops, I meant sleeping - and get a head start on being awesome. I like my morning sweat-a-thon. I cross-train so it's different each day, but it happens on my schedule and I like it. If I were not simultaneously typing and chewing at this moment, I would have my arms crossed in front of my chest, brow furrowed, and lower lip poked out to indicate that I am not happy about this change of circumstances and planning to hold my breath until it changes.

But I know I'll be much more prepared for the triathlon if I follow a program designed by someone who has actually done one before than if I just go about it my way like I usually do. Believe it or not, I am learning, albeit slowly, that I don't actually know everything! But we don't really need to dwell on that pesky little dose of reality, do we? No.

Anyway, the training program has me alternating endurance days with strength days, and some long runs and bike rides that I am a little intimidated by. I have a lot of questions, for example, why do I have to run for 75 minutes if the race only has a 5k? Why do I have to train on Sunday? I don't like to train on Sunday. I like to watch HGTV in my pajamas on Sunday. I suspect that most of my questions will be best answered with, "don't ask questions. Just shut up and do it. You have DVR. Deal."

So I'm stuck between reality and reality. The first reality is, I have a full-time job, a full-time kid, and a full-time husband. All three of them have expectations of me being present for a good portion of the day. I already spend a lot of time working out, and I'll admit I have a good bit of mental security tied up in those workouts. They work for me, they soothe me. I get lots of good cardio, I have time to get in all of my weight training, and I have this nice little routine that is comfortable and works for me and makes me happy and nice to other people. Is that so wrong???

So while I was sulking/figuring out what to move around so I can get all of my training in, I went to get my salad from the office kitchen, where a co-worker was sitting eating his lunch. I asked how he was, and he told me he was getting used to eating off of smaller plates. We talked about change, and how sometimes you have to show yourself the tough love through that initial grumpiness of change until your body gets with the program and becomes less grumpy. I got my salad from the fridge and went back to my office.

And I realized...I needed to show myself the tough love through this initial grumpiness of change until my body got with the program and became less grumpy. I preach all day long to people about change, how change is hard, how to change, how to engrain permanent change...and now its time to heed my own advice and, well, change.

Because the other reality is that I want to do well in this triathlon and in order to do that, I need to actually participate in triathlon training, which means singing from someone else's song sheet for a while. I can suck it up, I can change, I can be flexible. Okay, I that last one is mostly wishful thinking. I don't really want to be flexible.

On the bright side, there is one piece of information in the notes of the plan that give me some confidence: "This is a recommended plan. Adjust to meet your needs." Oh, don't worry. I'm going to make that my screen saver.

So I'll sing from their song sheet for the next two months, and you know, I think the change will be good for me. But I hope they don't mind if I sing the harmony.