Friday, September 30, 2011

Nutshelled: September

Can you believe it's practically October already?  October.  As in, the 10th month of 2011.  We'd might as well be in the new year.

September has definitely been a good, but hectic, month for me.  I began job hunting in earnest, I re-started my Awesome Internship, I began re-hauling my health through major diet and fitness changes, I began this blog, I started volunteering with Stratejoy, I joined a small group at my local church, my best friend got married and I spent a weekend in Hawaii with my family, and for the first time in maybe ever, I don't have a plan for my future and I'm sort of okay with that.

All things considered, these past 30 days have been pretty big for me!

Coming into this month, I didn't realize all the changes that were going to happen.  I knew that there were changes I wanted to happen, but I'd been wanting these things to happen for a while now and they just never turned out (or, a more accurate way of putting it would be that I just never stuck with it long enough to make them turn out).  For example, I'd been wanting to "get healthy" -- whatever that meant in all its vagueness -- for as long as I can remember.  I've tried so many diets its stupid to even think about it.  I've started working out for periods of time, but it's always just fallen to the wayside in the end.  So many things always just fell to the wayside in the end.

But there was something in the water this September.  I mean, shit got done.  Maybe not everything -- e.g. I don't have a job yet -- but even my whole mentality about those still as-yet-to-be-done things has shifted a little and I find myself less crazed by it all.  I wish I had a job, yes, because the money is important for you know, things like rent and food and all, but it's okay that it's taking some time.  Because maybe that means that I'm going about it the right way this time.  And until such a time as I get that "right job," I'm filling my days like it's nobody's business with other things I really care about.  Like health and fitness and Stratejoy and friends and my dog and reading and [hopefully soon] writing.

And if October does happen to bring even more big things for me (like said job), then I hope that this all proves sustainable, because it finally feels like I'm reintroducing things into my life that I've been missing without even knowing it.

I feel like I'm starting to be me again.

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Workout Stats

Type of Workout:  Treadmill - run/walk
Duration:  25 min.
Calories Burned:  177.1 cal.
Description:  10 min warm up walk, next 12 min alternate between 1 min walking and 2 min running, 3 min cool-down walk.

Today was a somewhat unusual day.  On a typical day, I'll wake up and head straight for the treadmill.  I do this because the first hour of my day is [surprisingly] my most productive and energetic; the longer in the day I wait to workout, the more tired and low-energy I become and the less likely I am to actually do it.  But today was a little different because I woke up later than expected (once again) and jumped straight onto a call with Molly over at Stratejoy.  By the time the call was finished, it was 11am and I had yet to run.

However, just to show how well I've incorporated exercise into my psyche, the thought didn't even cross my mind not to actually workout today.  Instead, as soon as the call was over, I changed my clothes, laced up my shoes, and began my run.  Little victory #1!

The run itself was good, but not easy.  I'm pretty much back on track for where I left off, so today's run/walk was the most I've run since forever ago (here's where I wanted to make some self-deprecating comment about how I know what I actually ran isn't much and yes, it's slightly embarrassing, and blah blah blah.  But then I thought, screw it, at least I'm doing something) and I definitely felt the effort it took.  I got really tired around minute 18 and definitely wanted to stop, but I didn't so little victory #2!

I followed up my run/walk with some stretches that The Fitnessista posted in a video this week.  That felt nice, especially on my calf muscles which I noticed were cramping a little this morning.

All in all, a late but great start to a Friday!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Workout Stats

Type of Workout:  Yoga (in the absolute loosest sense of the word)
Duration:  Maybe 20 min?
Description:  Yoga Journal's Yoga Basics DVD with Patricia Walden (circa forever ago)

So as promised yesterday, today I decided to try working out in the morning before my internship.  It turns out this wasn't so hard to do because I was working from home today, so I'll have to give it another go around on Tuesday and see how it's really going for me.  But I'm celebrating the little victories here so Yay! for doing what I said I'd do!

My workout of choice was yoga.  Now, for those of you who don't know this yet, I've tried yoga all of once in my life, and that was three or four years ago.  It was ugly then, and it was ugly now.  I don't know, maybe it's because I'm just not flexible (yet) and don't know the poses (yet), but it's just so hard.  And maybe even a little boring.  Granted, this was yoga at home by way of DVD, and my choice of DVDs at the local library was sorely limited, so I have to believe that it can only get better from here with a few changes (i.e. researching a really good beginner's level DVD and getting that one instead).

I will say that stretching certain muscles felt great, while stretching others definitely felt uncomfortable.  My back was twinging a little today and the miniscule amount of poses I was able to pull off seemed to help a little, so that's a plus!

I'm not giving up, though.  I will try yoga again until I either love it (so that next year I can go to this), or feel that I've given it a really good shot and must accept that it just isn't for me.  Until then, feel free to pepper me with your suggestions on DVDs, etc.  I'm all ears.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Want to Live a Big Life

Lately, I've been thinking about my overarching goal of finding happiness, balance and a big, bold life.  Specifically, of this deep desire I have of living a "big life".  I know, broad right?  I'm actually still not clear on how to define "big" for myself, let alone anyone else.  But I know that's the sort of life I want to live, and when I hear about certain things, or read about people I know who are doing certain things, I sometimes get that feeling, that knowing, that they are living a Big Life.  They're volunteering with UNESCO, they're traveling around Africa, they're taking language classes in France, they're in an amazing graduate program, they're starting non-profits, they're doing tons of humanitarian work.  Hell, they're getting married.  (Okay, so maybe I'm not in too much of a rush to do that last one, but you get the point).

Now usually, when I dwell too much on this "living big" part, I'm left feeling edgy, restless, wanderlust-y and dissatisfied with what I currently have.  Sort of like, wasn't I meant for more than this?  But that's not the case this time and I'm thankful for that because I really do feel that my life has been and continues to be so blessed.  So instead, this time I'm feeling this sense of...anticipation?  Like I know that [even more] amazing things can happen in my life, and that I can breathe life into these millions of possibilities that are out there.  Does that mean I can hop a plane tomorrow and start working at a refugee camp or on a wildlife preserve or somewhere in the Amazon for the next five years of my life?  Does it mean that I can stop applying for jobs this second and just start volunteering my time away (because, as I'm finding, the good, meaningful stuff is often the unpaid stuff, thankyouverymuch capitalistic society)?  Probably not.  And that's okay with me, because I also want my big life to be a balanced life.

So, like the planner that I am, rather than just jumping head first into something that overwhelms every other area of my existence, I'm doing some research and self-reflection (lots of self-reflection), scoping out the territory of opportunities out there and my own needs as well, and finding ways to live Big and Balanced at the same time.

Some questions for you: Am I the only one that ever feels like this?  Know of any awesome international charitable/humanitarian orgs I should put on my research list?  How do you define a "big life" and are you living it?

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Workout Stats

Type of Workout:  Treadmill - run/walk
Duration:  25 min.
Calories Burned:  162.6 cal.
Description:  10 min warm up walk, next 12 min alternate between 1 min walking and 1 min running, 3 min cool-down walk.

I ran a tiny bit more today than I did on Monday, not wanting to over-exert myself and ruin my "come back" (haha!), but wanting to make some progress toward getting back on track so that on Monday I can start fresh from where I left off pre-back fail/Hawaii.  The run felt great and I realized that I don't tire as easily, which mentally is such a huge boost.

I'm also super excited that I'm still so motivated!  I'll admit that I was worried that my motivation would die out as the weeks went on, much like it has so many times in the past.  But here I am, still incredibly dedicated to getting fit!  In fact, I've been thinking about my goals for September and -- though I admit that I MAY not reach one of them (the one about going to a pilates class) unless I feel confident enough in my back by this Friday -- I realize that I've totally reached my main goal of incorporating exercise so much into my life that it's become something I just do, even something that I look forward to, rather than this horrible thing I dread doing and I rack my brain thinking of excuses so I can avoid it.

I love when lifestyle changes work out this well.  :)

Something for me to work on in the next few days: Working out on the days when I'm at my internship.  I haven't been great about it lately (which is why there usually isn't a Daily Stats post on Tuesdays and Thursdays), but there's really no reason why I can't do something on those days.  I start late enough in the morning that I can fit in a short workout before leaving the house, so I'm going to give it a try tomorrow and see how it goes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

[Girl♥Health]: I Need New Workout Music!

I have a small confession to make: I'm really bad at keeping up to date with new hip-hop/rap/r&b/dance music.  Like, really bad.  Example: You know that song "Shots" by LMFAO?  Yeah, the first time I actually heard that song was two weeks ago.  Two weeks ago.  It came out in 2009.

Sidenote: In all honestly, I think I've avoided listening to that song until now because holy crap the lyrics are horrible!  What the hell is wrong with us that we actually like this stuff?!

I mean, I don't live under a rock so I've of course heard of these sort of songs, but it's just really not my type of music.  Unless -- and here's where the entire point of this post comes in -- I'm working out.  Then, I want to listen to this crap like it's going out of style.  It's high energy, it's got this massive beat that's great for running, it gets you pumped, it's pretty perfect really.

But my knowledge of music outside of my typical genres consist primarily of my Taio Cruz Pandora playlist (and the only reason I have that playlist is because my best friends listen to it all the time and it's rubbed off on me) and music that came out while I was in college, which was more than six years ago.  So I'm in some serious need of some new workout music!

I would love to hear your suggestions.  What do you like to listen to when you workout?  Don't worry if the lyrics of these songs are just as bad as "Shots" -- at this point, if it's giving me the energy to finish my runs, I'm not discriminating.

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Workout Stats

Type of Workout:  Treadmill - run/walk
Duration:  20 min.
Calories Burned:  116 cal.
Description:  10 min warm up walk, next 6 min alternate between 1 min walking and 1 min running, 4 min cool-down walk.

I'm back!  Well, almost back.  I'm at about 97% after nearly two weeks of being useless to my exercise plan because of my back.  But -- at long last -- here I am, fresh from my post-workout shower, munching on a pink lady apple, and so ecstatic that I was able to do some running this morning!

So I took it pretty easy today, both because of that pesky 3% of my back that still insists on being a little stiff and painful, and because I was hesitant to jump straight back into things at full-speed at the risk of not meeting my daily workout goal and dealing with the disappointment that would cause.  I also promised Nate that I would start up slow again so I wouldn't get injured my first day back.

But the run/walk was great.  There's some soreness in my lower back muscles now that the workout is done, but nothing I can't handle.  And best of all, once I began running, I realized that I wanted to run longer!  Did you get that?  I wanted to run longer.  That is huge.

Needless to say, I'm a happy girl this morning. 

What's coming up for me this week?  Finding exercises to strengthen my back, continuing to stretch properly when I workout, and trying my hand at yoga.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

When the Weather Gets Gloomy...

...There are a few things I love doing.  Breaking out the scarves is one of them, and cozying up indoors is another.  I daydream of Seattle in the fall, and I like thinking of warm meals made of root vegetables and roasts.

Today was definitely one of those gloomy days here in my neck of Northern California.  It drizzled, it was foggy, the temperature dropped enough for me to wear a rich colored scarf, and hot chocolate was definitely on the menu.  So after an unexpected and extremely welcome wake-up call from a close friend hoping to grab some breakfast together, I ventured out into the slightly misty morning for some grub at Crepevine (Mazatlan omelette = YUM!), then came home to find Nate and another friend eating brunch and ready to head to Bittersweet for something warm to drink.

Note to reader: if I could live at Bittersweet, with all of it's colorful worn wood furniture and delicious chocolate drinks, I totally would.  I mean, wouldn't you?

I love the classic hot chocolate and double chocolate cookie.  Mmmmm!

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Fairly Big Stack of Books

Since I'm meeting with my bookclub tonight, I thought I'd share with you all what my current book list actually looks like.

I'm just about finished with "The Book Thief," which is what we're discussing tonight at bookclub, and it's so good.  I'll admit, it's not the type of book I usually gravitate toward, but I was surprised to find I actually really enjoyed it.  We'll be starting "Middelsex" next and I hear good things about it, though I haven't the faintest idea what it's actually about.  

I'm also sort of re-reading/skimming the two Nora Roberts books that are in the stack (don't hate on romance novels if you've never read Nora Roberts), and am taking my time to get through "Food Matters" and "The Gifts of Imperfection" -- two other books I highly recommend.  I find that it's easiest for me to enjoy what I'm reading when I have a ton of things to choose from on a daily basis.  My home library is getting pretty big (yay!), and I buy a couple of books a month so it's continuing to grow.  Because it's sort of a pain to lug around all these books when I go places, I've almost started considering a Kindle or Nook, but I just can't let go of hard copies!  Wouldn't you miss the page turning?  The smell?  The simple act of opening a book for the first time?

*sigh*  I love reading.

What are you reading?

[Girl♥Health]: Daily Workout Stats

Type of Workout:  Treadmill - walk
Duration:  20 min.
Calories Burned:  93.1
Description:  This was just a straight forward, 20 min walk.

My back is still giving me a lot of pain, so I was hesitant to get back on the treadmill.  I definitely scrapped Pilates from my workout today, but I felt like I needed to do something just to get back into the mindset of exercising daily after about a week of doing nothing (both because of back pain and because I was in Hawaii for a wedding).  The walk still gave me some twinges of pain, but I think the mental benefits of working out again totally outweighed the physical crapfest.

I was lucky enough to have my mom -- massage therapist extraordinaire among about a million other amazing things she does -- give me a back massage while I was home visiting and there was definitely a thick band of tense muscles in the lower section of my back. I'm considering going to a chiropractor to see if it has something to do with my spine.  I'm also going to try a few suggestions my best friend gave me once I can move a little more fluidly (i.e. strengthening core muscles with planks -- ohhhh, how I hate planks -- and sit-ups, strengthening my back, and continuing to stretch it out several times a day).

Friday, September 9, 2011

[Girl♥Health]: September Rolls On

As promised, I wanted to share how I anticipate things going for me this month.  This mini-action plan will essentially be how I get real with The Method to My Madness plan -- in other words, how I put all that stuff I was saying into action.  So that means including measurable goals, key activities I can actually do right now, and (best of all) a reward at the end of the month to keep me motivated and moving forward.

September in a Nutshell

My main EXERCISE goal for the month is to just get used to working out regularly, to get back in the swing of things so that at a certain point I just anticipate making time for workouts on a daily basis, rather than having to move my schedule around when I remember it at the last minute.  I also want to try out a bunch of different workouts so there's more for me to choose from. So that means trying my hand at yoga for the first time (the FIRST time!), getting my butt to a pilates class rather than just using my trusty old DVD player, and doing more hiking and running and other such fun stuff.  

In terms of my FOOD goals this month, it's pretty straight forward.  By the end of the month, I want to have stopped purchasing animal products that do not say "sustainably/humanely/naturally raised" on it somewhere.  I realize that better products are significantly more expensive than your run of the mill steak and that's fine since I'm also trying to reduce my consumption of meat products in general.  See how this all works together?  And my second goal of the month is start eating my meals more regularly -- so start eating breakfast (which I haven't done since the 6th grade), eating a larger lunch, snacks through the day, and a smaller dinner.

Key Activities:
Eat breakfast, lunch and small snacks (daily)
Run on the treadmill -- I use Women's Health Magazine's running guide for beginners (6 days a week)
Pilates at home -- I use the Stott Basic Pilates DVD (3 days a week)
Hiking (at least once a week)
Try yoga -- on DVD or at a class (at least once)
Try a pilates class (at least once)
Go to farmers markets -- where products are better and I can learn more about seasonal eating (biweekly)
Read food labels -- don't buy what I can't pronounce and what's not naturally raised

A new running jacket so that when it chills a bit here and I start taking my daily runs outside, I won't freeze my ass off!  Now where's the nearest Lululemon...

And because it's a beautiful Friday here, I thought I'd share some pictures of Finn and I on one of our weekly hikes up to the hills to get some great views!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

[Girl♥Health]: The Method to My Madness

Because I'm a bit of a nut and a planner (and so is my BFF who came up with this format), I've created a pretty comprehensive Action Plan for my health journey.  I'm hoping to create a mini-plan for every month that I'll post here (September coming tomorrow!), and I'll also be posting my weekly workout plan and roundup starting next week.

But without further ado, here is "Girl♥Health: A Method to My Madness":

Overall Vision: a healthy body and lifestyle

But what does that mean?!  The term "healthy" can mean a lot of things.  To me, these things include being well-balanced (my input/output, relaxation/activity), being within what my doctor considers to be healthy (i.e cholesterol, blood pressure, weight), having a good energy level, being fit enough to take part in fairly strenuous physical activities like hikes and runs, having a good understanding of how my body works and what it needs (and respecting those needs), and making healthy living part of my routine. 

Focus Areas:
For my BODY, I'd like to focus my energies on improving and strengthening my abdomen, arms, back and core, and I'd like to continue to properly care for and maintain my skin -- especially since I think this is the first time in my entire life that my face doesn't hate me and passively aggressively express that hate through pimples and blemishes.

In terms of FOOD, I'd like to concentrate on eating less meat and more fruits/vegetables, ensuring that the animal products I do consume come from sustainably/humanely/naturally raised animals, and trying to eat seasonally (perhaps regionally) and locally as well.  Another big focus area for me is portion control!

And in regards to my LIFESTYLE, I'm going to devote a lot of time to making exercise and physical activity a routine in my daily life and, within that, to incorporating different forms of exercise into my routine so that there's a variety for me to choose from (to stave off boredom) and the various parts of my body that need attention are getting it. 

Barriers & Challenges
We all know -- and I'll be the first to admit -- that with things like this, you're often your own worst enemy.  So in the interest of naming those habits and mindsets that will no doubt crop up time and time again, I thought I'd list out the barriers and challenges I'll probably face while trying to get all hot and fit (or maybe just fit...).  Here, for your perusal, are my favorite excuses:

Fatigue: Ugh, I'm just too tired
My schedule: I'm way too busy or I don't have the time
Laziness (ohhh, I know you well): I'd rather do anything else on earth
My own personality quirks: I need to do TONS of research before I begin (which means I'll never begin) or I got off track so I need to replan EVERYTHING before starting again
Fear: I don't want to do this alone
Negativity (the biggest bully of them all): I can't do it so why even try???

Food for thought: What are your biggest challenges in achieving your goals?  Have you named them (and does naming them even help?)?  And have you figured out strategies for overcoming those challenges?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

[Girl♥Health]: Getting Started

I've heard somewhere that sometimes the hardest part of anything is just getting started.  Well, this is me getting started, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best!  Thanks for joining me!

So here's the skinny (and who am I kidding, that pun was totally intended) on what this -- and I -- am all about:  For as long as I can remember, I've battled being unhealthy.  It was a combination of genes, socio-economics, a lack of self-confidence and willpower, an excessive amount of excuses and laziness, and a love of fatty foods.  I enjoyed eating large portions and heavy meals, and eventually got too self-conscious of my weight to want to be active anymore.  After all, who wants to be the chubby girl bringing up the rear of the class during P.E.?

All of this resulted in my relationship with both my body and food becoming a fairly abusive one.  I wanted so desperately to lose the weight, to look healthy, that I would happily go to unhealthy extremes just to get those results.  So I starved and punished and binged, then gained it all back in a moment of clarity before the cycle would begin once again.  It's a pretty common story, I think.

And yet never did it cross my mind to actually change my eating habits for the better.  I continued to eat those fatty foods I knew and loved (and let me tell you, I love me a cheeseburger, french fries and a Diet Coke) and to think of exercise only as some sort of crazy form of torture I had to force myself to endure once in a while.  Not once did I ever take a look at my food or its quality, or at my activity types and levels, and think, "Well, this is interesting."  I was just...resigned to being in bad shape, in every way.

All that changed recently, and I'm honestly not sure what it was that brought this on.  Maybe it was my doctor telling me if I didn't change my habits, she'd need to put me on cholesterol medication that would make it nearly impossible for me to have that huge brood of children I've always dreamed of.  Maybe it was me finally getting tired of looking at every picture of myself and thinking they were all horrible.  Maybe it was finally watching "Food, Inc." (have you watched it yet?  Seriously, life changing.).  I'm not sure, but I'm just glad.  I'm so glad that some change in me has happened and I am finally looking at my health (not only my weight) as a priority.

So that's what this section of my blog will be.  It will be the testimony of a girl trying to lead a healthier life.  Does that involve working towards a healthy weight?  Yes, but weight loss in my case is only one indicator of a healthy life.  Does that include trying to eat foods that are healthier and of better quality?  Yes, but I'm definitely no chef or nutritionist and will totally have a steak every once in a while.  Does that mean I'm going to be working out more?  Yes, but no one would ever mistake me for a personal trainer, so you'll want to look up workouts that would work for you if you're interested.  This is just a blog about a girl (me) who's finally in love with the idea of treating my body the way it should be treated.

Wish me luck!
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