That Nutrition Thing

What came first? The chicken or the egg ?

I think it’s like asking in the health and fitness world, what came first?

The knowledge  your body needed movement and exercise for better health? Or that you needed to eat better and make intelligent food choices for better health ?

We all arrive in different ways. If you are gonna get out there and kick your butt in some hard physical activities , do you really wanna come back in and feed it garbage ?

Oh, in the beginning it might be like that. “I worked out today! I deserve this!” as the cheeseburger and fries go down… or the fancy sugary coffee drink or whatever your poison is. There’s a sense of entitlement.

It might take awhile, or not so long, for the shift to occur. To realize if you’re doing this hard work you don’t want to undermine your efforts. You start looking at things in a different light.

If your physical activities are really hard and demanding it doesn’t take long to understand that what you put in you IS fuel and you need a) enough fuel and b) the right kind of fuel to sustain your activity level.

Last year I picked up a sports nutrition book for endurance athletes to read and teach myself more of what I needed to do. Training for that 50K I knew I needed to really eat…. intentionally.

Let’s just say, there were a lot of days I wasn’t eating enough for what I was physically doing. It takes planning and forethought to consume foods to not only support your daily living and activities but also your purposeful exercise.

I’m learning. I’ve learned a lot and don’t think I’ve arrived at getting it right. It’s a constant work in progress.

Anyway on my journey of the foods I eat, salad has always been a standard for me. Not as a “diet” food. Not because I “had to”… I’m a weirdo… I just enjoy them.

Before I became somewhat knowledgeable of foods and nutritional content one of the food groups I enjoyed in my salad was…… Ranch… yes, Ranch dressing.

It is a food group, isn’t it ? 😉

Then I started getting smarter and realized I was killing and totally negating any positive effects of salad by the dressing on it. Now I was horrible about it, not like some salads I’ve seen where the lettuce is buried under a sea of white dressing, almost no longer visible….

Over time, I slowly weaned myself away from it. Oh, I have it occasionally ( I like it with my salad and pizza 😉 but this is rare for me.

Let me say this. I often eat salads. Most days of the week they are my lunch staple, because I really, honesty, enjoy them. And, you can seriously get all your daily servings of veggies in with it….. double win.

My salads are not just the standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber kind of salads. I throw all kinds of colorful veggies in, sometimes a fruit of some type, some nuts, seeds or other crunch along with some protein. I’ve learned to use spinach as my “lettuce”. It’s a creative venture for me each time 😛

Seriously, spinach is like a powerhouse of amazing, good for your nutrient rich stuff for almost zero calories. You wanna eat that stuff. Our store has been carrying locally grown and it’s spoiling me!

So I learned, if you add enough texture and variety of tastes and flavors to your salads, dressings are only needed in very minimal amounts.

But, as mentioned, when you are on a health and fitness journey, you do begin to look critically at how and what you eat to support and sustain those goals.

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A sample of a lunch salad…lots of fresh spinach!

One of the main “suggestions” I offer to people who are wanting to lose weight, is to keep a record of what you eat for about a week, and really consider all the little “extras” you might consume but don’t consider empty calories piling into your days.

Things like an over abundance of salad dressing, mayo, and other creamy sauces and the like really do add up. When you can see from your food journal what your consumption of certain items are, you can then begin to examine what you don’t need or could eliminate to help you on your journey to shed weight and get healthier.

Small steps can lead to big, long term changes!

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Who Me ? A Runner ?

It’s the question that can come without fail.

“Did you play basketball in school?” after my 6’0 frame has been assessed. “Why, no, I didn’t…”

“Oh, then you must have been in track”

Again, no, sorry.

I smile and tell them I was in band, and a twirler, my claim to fame and athletic prowess.

But… you run now… and you didn’t run in school…  is the next part of conversation…. ( well I did, chasing boys 😉

Then as it does, the conversation shifts to how I, somehow, without any youthful skill or pursuit of running, am doing it now.

Seriously.

How at the crossroads of “middle-aged womanhood” when I’m supposed to be getting soft and fluffy and settling into sensible shoes and clothes,  do I turn into a running junky who now sports the hard and lean look?

What possesses a woman to dive into a sport that people half her age scoff at doing ?

I’d like to claim pure insanity, but I kinda just almost, casually stumbled into it. I didn’t wake up one morning, jumping from bed, proclaiming……………..

“Today, I become a runner!”

I’d always viewed running as a sport requiring a lot of…effort… and one I wasn’t willing to dial up that kinda energy for.

If you’ve read my personal page you might already know that I started off as a happy disgruntled walker.  My doctor had encouraged me to get back to some kind of exercise, so since I used to walk, I just picked that back up again. Rather grudgingly in the beginning I will admit.

As time went on ( and I mean probably a couple years) I found it almost easier to do light jogging for short times. My legs are long and I walk fast ( my sons accuse me of “power walking” at all times, anywhere haha) when I realized the wheels didn’t fall off with that activity, I kept trying to go a little farther.

I still didn’t die.

Then at some point I thought I’d try pushing up my pace a little and attempt to go farther.

Then it happened. I got to a point where I was running more than walking. I kept at that process challenging myself to run to the next tree, or driveway, or mailbox, whatever was a short attainable goal. I usually got to that spot and set my sights on a new one.

And one day someone called me…. a runner. I was flattered and startled all at the same time.

Me? A runner? How had that happened ?

It was a slow gradual process of challenging and training myself. I never set out intentionally to do it. And you know something ? I’m so glad I did.

Physically, mentally and emotionally it’s the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done on many levels.

The other thing? I’ve never met a community like those within the running community who are so encouraging, supportive and helpful to each other. Oh, and let’s not forget, we relate to so many things our non-running family and friends don’t…. so again… it’s awesome to have a huge group of  insane   committed runners to learn from and share victories with.

They understand when you gleefully post “I did negative splits on my run today!!!”” on your Facebook page. They get the crushing blow of defeat and frustration when injury hits or goals get missed. They understand the total euphoria of crossing that finish line…. again….. and what that means…and why you want to do it all again.

So yeah.

I’m a runner.

At this point now, I comfortably call myself that.

I don’t fully understand how it all unfolded, I’ll just say, that I’m glad it did.

Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014
Moments after the finish of my second marathon Dec 7, 2014

Those Long Runs

Long runs.

When you’re a runner, there’s nothing more foundational to your training than a weekly long run. They are key to building strength and letting your body slowly adapt to greater distances. They are  crucial when you’re an endurance runner.

Countless Saturdays  these past months have found me out on the road in the wee hours of the morning. Seriously, what sane person is out at 5:30, leaving behind a perfectly warm bed to go out running ? My long runs have tapered down to my races recently and although I’ll be doing my 50K on the 28th, I’m not putting in any crazy long runs before then.

I am planning a long (ish) run for Saturday, you know, something in the double digits ? 😉

Is it weird that I want to see those numbers show up on my watch ? even in my last race when it was over 10 miles I remember thinking… “yay, double digits, now we’re getting somewhere”.

I’ve gotten to a point though that I really look forward to them. Some nights I’ve been so hyped up I’ve had a hard time sleeping ’cause I’m playing the route out in my head. I look forward to them ’cause on their own they singularly offer a new weekly challenge to me.

Long runs are so  life sucking  empowering for me.

Long runs have also carved out the most intense discipline in my life. It takes a lot to leave your bed and put yourself out on the road to be prepared to go…. in the dark…the cold…….the misty drizzle…. or know you’ll most likely encounter rain before you finish. So many weekly variables to the long run. To  understand that what you’re about to do is crucial to your success as a runner mentally and physically.

But let me tell you about what goes down once I’m out.

I live in the hill country so it’s always dark and very quiet when I leave. I take my music but never use it until the last few miles and by that time, it’s nice and bright out 😉

I take off and let my body slowly wake up and settle into the rhythm of the run.

If you’re a runner, you know what I mean. It’s this zone you just get your body in.

The only sounds I hear are my feet hitting the road and the soft sound of my breathing. If I’m lucky, sometimes, the sky is bright with stars or the moon, and  it’s the most awesome, amazing, privilege  to be out then. It makes me feel so very, very small and once again, in awe of our Creator and creation. One morning I saw four shooting stars…. silent, swift, and quiet streaking across the dark sky.. at that point… you don’t miss your bed at all.

All I can think is…. “If I was in bed I woulda MISSED that!”

I pass houses, dark and silent, the owners still tucked into bed, dogs not let out yet, single quiet porch or night lights still on. There’s a part of me that feels rather accomplished at that point for being out there, already having miles under me.

The night sky gradually leaves as the new day pushes into existence. If I’m fortunate, I also get to watch a glorious sunrise too.

You know that term “break of dawn” ?

It’s a real thing. It happens. But usually we are either inside, busy, or not really paying attention to see it, to actually even notice because it’s swift and fleeting.

Yet, when you are on the road, running, it’s all in front of you. A front row seat to the new days arrival.

It’s that soft subtle move that changes the last glimpse of night, to day time.  Blink and you miss it.

Long runs also give me time to think, process, or mull over ideas. I often get some of my most creative thoughts as I pound out that pavement. Oh yeah, and the therapeutic aspect at times can’t be beat.

By the time the sun is rising in the sky and people are getting out I’m closing in on finishing my run. I’ve usually popped music in to kick me a little more into high gear. I remind myself I get bragging rights when I finish 😉  and coffee…. yes, a little caffeine too…. I’ve earned it…..so  glad my Starbucks peeps love me messy in running gear as much as when I’m all girly again…

Finally, the last couple miles are in sight….. the finish line.

Depending on the distance, my legs could be asking…. “are we there yet ?”  Knowing the end is so close, I dig in deeper to push it all the way (it’s just…..evil…… in the last 1/4 mile I’ve gotta pull this hill that seems to sometimes get taller in front of my eyes 😉

And then, I’m finished, hours after leaving my comfy bed.

I’m tired. Sweaty. Hair dripping. A proverbial hot running mess.

Long run done and as always, I feel freaking victorious.

That Stupid Scale

20150311_170859-1Let’s face it…. truth time…..

In our lives we’ve all had relationships with scales… and it’s usually a love/hate relationship.

THE SCALE – our judge, jury, condemner, slammer of our self-esteem and worth. The “thing” that has the ability to take our good, happy day and turn it to crap based on what numbers dial up like a slot machine in Vegas. Those numbers can make us feel like a million bucks or a huge failure.

If the numbers are “good” we allow it to stroke our self-esteem… like our personal value is hinging on those numbers.  If we determine they are “bad” then it can single handedly take us down, making us feel instantly bad about ourselves. Might as well paint a big loser symbol on our chest and send us out into the world.

Let’s establish this right now… you are not “just” a set of numbers… ok ?? There is far more to you than a set of numbers.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The scale does have a value, but it’s a tool, and there are times we need to use that tool, but use it wisely.

When I started my fitness journey, I needed to lose weight, and my weekly weigh in’s were important to my progress.

Did you note the key word here?  Weekly.  Not many times in a week, a day, or several times a day, weekly… once.

I won’t lie. I was in the same boat.

Some weeks,  I loved the damn thing. Other weeks, I had to resist throwing it out the window. I understood for my progress to be successful it needed to be slow and steady, which it was. Some weeks there was more, some less, but it was forward movement.

You know what that scale didn’t tell me ? What it doesn’t tell you?

How awesome you are no matter your size, even as you are seeking to be less of you. It doesn’t take away that amazing feeling you have finishing a workout. Before I’d lost any weight worth mentioning, I mentally felt great after coming in from my walks (that’s where I started in the beginning before, the sickness started, you know, the sickness that is making me run a  50K 😉

The scale also doesn’t show all the cool stuff that is going on INSIDE you. It doesn’t show your lab tests improving, your heart and lung health getting stronger, your resting heart rate getting lower (and a whole lot of other scientific stuff)  or the way you think of yourself, your growing confidence and stronger self-esteem, or the way those workouts help you feel less stressed.

Nor does it show how empowered you are becoming with each workout and positive step forward.

No. It won’t show you any of that.

Being a certain number doesn’t make you “healthy”…. nor does striving to just be “thin”….. it can make you skinny fat which basically means you have more body fat percentage than lean muscle mass. Ah, the benefits of building lean muscle mass… another topic to be pursued….

The goal shouldn’t be to get “thin”.  Oh, years ago when I was starting to lose weight that WAS my mentality.

“I just want to be thin and fit in size 10 jeans again!” at that point that’s all I knew….all I wanted.  Make the scale say less… life would be good.

I didn’t realize it could be so much better than just a quest to be “thin” and trying to achieve some perceived number of “perfection.”

But then…. things happened along the way. Yeah, I was losing fat. But other cool stuff was happening too.

Losing fat let my muscles start showing up. Lifting weights wasn’t just giving me some muscles but making me stronger for ALL  of my daily living. I went from cute 5lb weights to the 35lb I currently use.

Running was shaping me in crazy ways. My legs are not only wildly strong but have awesome muscles. I can’t tell you the times total strangers stop me to comment my legs. My abs leaned out.  Actually I can’t tell you a single area that running hasn’t improved on me.

I got faster. I could lift more. I tackled projects in life without needing someone “stronger” to help me.

I got mentally stronger….tougher.  My confidence grew. I was empowered and didn’t ( and don’t)  consider that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do.

Oh wait…… hold on ……. do you see my numbers at work here ? Defining me ?  No, I don’t either.

You see now days I’m more concerned about what my body can do, and how it can perform doing the things I ask of it, rather than if my numbers are bouncing around on any given day. Today I can’t think of a better compliment than when someone tells me I look strong.

I honestly get on a scale maybe twice a year and it’s at the doctors office. Total freedom.

You see the scale was a “tool” to get me moving. I used it for it’s purpose. It allowed me to see my efforts of eating better and moving more were having results.

Today, all my clothes  are single digit sizes. Remember me mentioning all I wanted was to get back into my size 10’s? I never thought a day would come they’d be two sizes to big. As long as my clothes fit well, I don’t concern myself over numbers hopping around on any given day.

I mean, why ?  Don’t we have enough in our days to trouble us ? Enough negative to potentially bring us down? Do we need to give something like …a scale… that kind of power ??

Ok…. the take away for you my lovely 1.5 readers….

The scale is a tool. Use it as one ( wisely) on your weight loss journey.

It is not your moral judgment.

If you are at the weight you desire to be, how your clothes fit should be a good indicator of your weight, however, if you check in with it, once every week or two is probably enough.

Remember, you are not defined by a number! It’s doesn’t give you value or take away your value.

Focus on all the cool things that make you feel strong, empowered, and confident.

Celebrate your body and what it can do. There’s only one of you in all your awesomeness.

Most of all, love yourself, on the journey to your destination =)

You Run What ??

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My view looking up the hill I was about to run….

Hills.

Is there anything that can make you cry like a baby tougher, stronger, and more of a beastly runner than running hills ?

I know a lot of runners shy away from them, hate them, or grudgingly do them. In the few years I’ve been running I’ve actually come to love hills.

In a practical way, they are speed work in disguise, but they also build strength and power in our legs like nothing else can.

In a  “I feel pretty freaking proud of myself”  kinda way I love that I can power up hills.. not walk or crawl… but let those powerful muscles I’ve built do that work. It’s especially nice in races to nail those suckers 😉

One of my neighbors once told me, “I see you running those hills and I don’t even think I could walk up them!” well at one point I couldn’t powerhouse up them either.

Training. Training gets a lot done.

When I tell people or post that my workout was hill repeats, they have this idea of a gentle sloping hill dancing in their heads.

Mine are literally mountains that have been paved over.  I don’t kid you.

The picture in this post is one that I run. It’s ironically called… Little Hill…. someone’s warped sense of humor?? It’s crazy steep, but running to the top, and down the spine of it into a cul de sac and back over again gives me an even half mile. So I often go to this place and do like… 4 miles… of repeats.

Can you say… butt kicking ?

Yesterday’s workout was hill repeats. I’m pretty much not pushing myself hard since I have a half marathon coming up in a couple weeks and then my 50K on the 28th.

If you read my other 50K posts, you know unfortunately, the race cancelled due to weather issues. I determined I was just going to run my own personal 50K.

Dang it I didn’t train so hard to not make it happen. I’m so stubborn and hard headed… the idea of coming so close… wasn’t something that set well with me …at. all.

Anyway, that being said, the race committee sent an email letting runners know that they could do a virtual race for what they signed up for and still get their runner goodies =) How nice.

So, March 28 it’s going down. Stick around and stay tuned for how all that plays out.

And as mentioned, I’m going to be running these next couple weeks but my training is done for all intents and purposes. It’s been carved out for months now. Long runs in the wee hours of the morning. Cold miles. Wet, cold miles. Hot, humid, sweat filled runs that left me drained. Strength training. Short runs. Slow. Fast.

I finally totaled my training miles…. roughly 995 from August till March 1! I feel like a machine.

After I wrap this month, it will be time to reduce the miles and give the body some rest time. I don’t mean doing nothing. Just less mileage in my week, then adding some biking and more strength training. My goal is to keep my long run base at 15 miles.

I’ve toyed with the idea of maybe doing a duathlon later this year. So definitely some brick training days too. And of course, I’ll have my sights set on a marathon at the end of the year =)

What goals do you have set for yourself in this upcoming year ?

Share with me.

Approval Not Needed

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So with the big hoopla in the media this week about Kelly Clarkson and her (gasp) weight (is it anyone one else’s business but hers?) it really stirred up a topic that’s been rolling around in my head for awhile to write on and this was just the catalyst to let it out.

No, not her weight. Not yours or mine or the family dogs. Actually, this has nothing to do with that topic.

I was more impressed and high fiving her for her ” I don’t care what you or anyone else thinks, I’m awesome” attitude and comment over that issue.

Approval. She pretty much thumbed her nose at the idea she needed someone else’s approval to be happy and be herself. Kudos to you Kelly.

Approval.

We come into this world almost wired for it. In the beginning it’s our parents/ family, we get in school it becomes our peers, later it becomes our boss, co-workers, friends, still family, sometimes even perfect strangers.

If we’re fortunate as we grow up and mature becoming more comfy in our own skin and who we are, we become less concerned over the need for approval of others.

I mean really, at the end of the day, approval given is based on personal opinions, values, beliefs, how we were raised, and even what our personalities are.

I was recently chatting with a young friend who was expressing to me the idea of doing something and I said… “well, just do it”.

His response was… “yeah, but I just worry about what other people are gonna think”… I laughed and told him I didn’t care anymore….

He responded with… ” yes, but you’ve had more life experience to get to that point” and he’s right. I have lived enough life to get to that point. I’m grateful for that ’cause honestly, it’s total freedom.

My “approval needed” list is tiny, one digit, small now days.

I reminded him that approval can be subjective, or it can be a “control” thing with some people. Withholding approval, not giving it, can often be a silent way of expressing personal displeasure, which is then projected onto the person.
Basically, their way of saying they don’t like what you’re doing or have done or that they wouldn’t do it . As stated above, that would be based on personal feelings, beliefs, values, etc.
I reminded him that it can be those closest to us who might withhold it but if he wanted to grow and move forward, he’d need to live his own life and pursue his own dreams.

It can be a hard step to move into. But it’s also seriously freeing. You have your own life to live….. to be yourself.

You don’t need approval to embrace your life and live it to the fullest being who you are.

So hat’s off again to Ms. Clarkson for reminding the rest of the world to smile and say “I don’t care what you think, I’m awesome”

You…. go be awesome.

No, I’m Not Eating My Emotions

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Food. I like that stuff.

Now days, my food choices are vastly different than those pictured above.

I’ll freely admit that I’ve had to get it in it’s proper perspective over the last few years. Growing up food was the “thing” that you celebrated with, gathered on Sundays for, had extra helpings of, and most importantly, you always, always cleaned your plate. It didn’t really matter you weren’t hungry anymore…  just ignore your bodies natural signals of being full and clean your plate.

Happy, sad, angry, depressed, bored, restless, frustrated, holidays, bad weather, stressed, whatever……. all opportunities to eat.

My grandmother and mom were great cooks, and it needs to be mentioned, bakers too. I freely admit to being a baked good snob and can often pass on  store bought goodies and cake mix cakes and bagged cookies. I mean, no offense, but when you’ve had a made from scratch 3 layer German Chocolate cake, anything else is simply an imposter.

They ruined me.

I mean, not totally, ’cause I’m a pretty good baker myself and can make cakes that grown men offer marriage 😉 and my sons friends immediately sought to raid my cookie jar because ( according to them) I was the “only” mom who baked real cookies haha

So yeah, food, it was a big deal…. used on many levels in a completely improper way.  I hadn’t come to the knowledge (yet)  that food was to primarily be fuel for my body.  Not a sporting event.

As I got older, I realized that my family definitely was a family of “emotional eaters”. My grandmother was very over weight as was my mom.  Actually, if I’m being honest with you, they were considered obese. My brother struggled with his weight most of his life. I had steadily gained weight for a few years when I finally got the kick in the butt to make some changes before I might too have to deal with health issues that plagued my mom, grandmother and brother.  I had watched my family use food for comfort and a distraction from boredom for years but was fortunate to have my eyes opened to that.

I often referred to it as mindless eating.

It might look like this: constant grazing while cooking, continuing to eat and pick food from bowls after the meal was long over (and large seconds had been had) eating during the clean up process, basically just consuming food without any thought of what was being done…. or an awareness you’re eating when you aren’t even hungry.

I knew I needed to make myself intentionally mindful of this process to avoid the downfall of a lifetime of emotional eating.

It wasn’t easy. I became aware of the weak part of my days/nights where I’d look for food and not be hungry or when I thought about grabbing something ’cause I might feel stressed, angry, or bored.

Over the past few years I’ll say I think I’m pretty on top of it now…. and I’m very conscious when I let myself do it.

I remember one night after a rather stressful day my husband walked into the kitchen… I had a bag of BBQ chips out on the counter (for the record… I LOVE BBQ chips… but I’m pretty sure they have crack in them) and I was standing there just munching them down… I looked at him and said….

“I want you to know that I’m fully aware I’m totally emotionally eating right now”

I was being kinda silly about it but I was serious too. I wasn’t hungry. I didn’t need to eat them.

It’s a huge step to identify things in your life that are a stumbling block to your health and fitness goals. Once you know your triggers you can make those slow steady changes to freedom.

To break free you must first:

Be real with yourself. Stop making excuses for eating what you don’t need.

Call it what it is… emotional, mindless eating. An unnecessary and unhealthy habit.

Remove yourself from temptation. And that means…get outta the kitchen.

When it was evening and I had eaten and wasn’t hungry, I just brushed my teeth. I knew I wouldn’t get anything after going through that process.

Write down times you feel most vulnerable, or things that drive you to eat when you aren’t truly hungry. Doing this for a week or two will show you patterns that you can then use as a defense strategy.

You love your family… but look at ways you may be influenced to participate in doing this just because it’s always “what you’ve known”. You can still be a part of the fam without engaging in this 😉

Finally, be kind to yourself as you move through this. Awareness is the first huge step to success. Press on and use each day to move forward to freedom =)