Monday, June 27, 2011

I Hate Running, So Why Do I Run?

I hate running. I'll be the first person to admit it. I feel like every step I take is torture, and I constantly think to myself "I cannot go on." I signed up for the 2011 Cherry Blossom 10 miler because I thought maybe it would make me learn to love running. Wrong. I got to 6.5 miles in the training and I was like "not another step."

So why have I gone running twice in the past two days?

I can't explain it, but sometimes I just feel like I need to run. Admittedly, yesterday I was procrastinating. Even so, a walk would have sufficed. Today I was so frustrated over this mess that has become my tuition and the GI Bill that I felt like I would go crazy if I spent one more second in my apartment.

It was like Forest Gump, and I just needed to take off running.

I just felt like I had so much energy and frustration pent up that I needed to get it out. There's something about living in a small apartment that can make you go stir crazy. Luckily the weather's been nice enough (not too humid) so I can run without succumbing to heat stroke in 10 seconds.

But, there's also something about running for yourself. When I was training ("training") for the race, I felt a lot of pressure to follow the exact schedule. And I felt like a failure if I didn't. Now I'm just running when the mood strikes and it's actually kind of fun. Kind of.

I do like the idea of exercising without so much of a regimen. I think a lot of people probably feel the way I did and quit when they feel like they've fallen behind or gotten too far off their over-ambitious training plan. Now I just plan to exercise most days per week and I'm happy with that. Although my quads, not so happy right now...

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Don't Let the Bastards Get You Down

My friend's husband sucks. Even though I only met him last night, I'm confident in my assessment of him. Of the many reasons why he sucks (his need to be the center of attention, his dismissal of her friends, the fact that he's a party pooper) there is one reason why he really sucks is this: he thinks it's ok to judge other people for what they eat. Out loud. Well, more specifically, he thinks it's ok to criticize the food choices of women.

Not cool, bro.

First off, let me say, I know we all judge what other people eat. We all inspect who's eating what when. But it takes a special person to actually say something out loud to someone they don't actually know.

Let me set the scene: Sitting outside at a lovely Greek restaurant on a very nice night in DC. A third friend and I are first to arrive (by at least 20 minutes, and we know this), so we order drinks. I also order hummus because a) it's delicious and b) I'm hungry. Also, last time I checked, hummus was not a food that generally garnered disapproving comments. So I thought...

People start to arrive. Above-mentioned d-bag arrives. Other people order food and drinks. Hummus is offered to the table. Here's where things go wrong. I am eating my hummus with the bread provided and there's approximately 1/2 a pita left in the basket. Out of two originally brought. I am, I think, minding my own business when friend's husband says snidely "Do you want us to get you more bread or are you done eating."


I say "Do you have a problem with what I'm eating?" Then, trying to lighten the mood I add "I do love carbs, haha."

He goes "Yea, that is a lot of carbs." And then casts that side-long judgmental glance at my plate. Then, and this is where it gets good, I say "Well, that sangria has a lot of carbs. Are you saying that's better?" And he simply says "Yes, yes I am."

WTF dude. I don't even know you. And you're going to (stupidly) tell me that booze (not just booze, sangria) is better for me than hummus. Who is this guy??!! Anyone who's ever thought about dieting knows that alcohol is worse for your your diet than almost any food.

But, more importantly, what man, no, what person, thinks it's ok to judge someone else's food choices to their face. I'm not training to be an elite athlete or trying to be a movie star. This guy isn't anyone to me. So why would he think this is ok?

I'm mad just thinking about it. But it also makes me think about whether I judge people's food choices. Now, what this guy didn't know was that I hadn't eaten dinner. I'd been on a semi-awkward date where we split an ahi tuna appetizer. So, considering what I'd already eaten in the day, a nice hummus dish was perfect. That guy had just come from a steak dinner, so maybe my dish didn't appeal to him, but I certainly wasn't asking his input on it.

There's always extenuating circumstances. I didn't feel compelled to explain mine to him, but maybe before I judge other people, I'll think about what I don't know. And keep my opinions to myself.

And, yea, I finished the hummus.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Some Bike Safety...Please!

Sorry for the hiatus. If you live in the eastern U.S., you know how hot it was last week. It was too hot for almost everything, even blogging, haha.

But, I'm back now, and I want to talk about something important, especially in the summer. Since I consider myself a bike commuter (and new cycling enthusiast), I have to say, some people are truly atrocious cyclists. So, here are my points for people looking to have a fun and safe biking experience, this summer and beyond.

1) Wear a helmet. Seriously. You wouldn't get in a car without wearing a seatbelt, so why would you ride a bike without a helmet? You're afraid of looking like a nerd? This isn't middle school, get over it. I see people biking morning and night, and I don't think anything about people wearing helmets, but the people who aren't wearing them, I think "WTF?" This is the single safest thing you can do while biking.

2) Don't listen to music.  Maybe this is just me, but as someone who rides in and out of traffic, and in crowded areas, I think it's important to be able to hear your surroundings. I'm trying to let you know that I'm going to pass you, and you're jamming to Train (yes, Train. Because I imagine that's what idiots listen to).

3) Hydrate. I made the (probably) dumb decision to bike a little bit extra after work last Wednesday when it was approximately 10,000 degrees and 200% humidity. That's what it felt like anyways. But, stupidly, I didn't bring a waterbottle with me. Obviously, this was a bad choice, and I was cramping within 15 minutes of starting. I know biking seems easier than running, but summer is still a time when heat can be dangerous.

4) Invest in extra safety equipment as necessary. If you ride at night or at dawn/dusk, get a headlight. As for me, I just bought a mirror and bell. I've been commuting now for a few weeks, and I realize that because of the volume of traffic and roads I ride on, I need more equipment to make my ride safe. Do what's right for you.

5) Finally, you are not Lance Armstrong. You are not training for the Tour de France. I understand if you want to bike for fitness and are a fast biker, but you need to share the path or road. Sometimes you might not be able to zoom around as quickly as you like. But, that's the price you have to pay. Share the road and we'll all be happy.

Ok, these are my bike safety suggestions. You should search your local government's website for more specific laws regarding cycling. Have a fun and safe summer!

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Dieter's Paradox

There's a bit of a Catch-22 when it comes to all this. If you truly love and accept yourself, how can you want to change yourself? Aren't these two ideas complete opposites?

I guess the shortest answer is: it depends. It matters what your desires to change are based upon. If you look in the mirror and say "I hate (insert body part)," then you aren't actually accepting yourself. If you look at a magazine and think "I wish I looked like (insert celebrity or model)," then your desire to change is not based in improving yourself.

I think that if you do really love yourself, the idea isn't so much about change, but about preserving and improving. You want to be the best version of yourself. You want to push yourself to be better, not just more fit. It's why we continue to go to school, earning bachelor's and master's degrees. It's why we sign up for marathons or Italian lessons.

The thing we absolutely don't want to be is stagnant. You'd never set about trying to compose a masterpiece when you don't know how to play the piano, right? You accept that that's not one of your skills. You accept that you're better at math than writing. You can accept all different aspects of yourself except your appearance. That doesn't make much sense!
I strongly believe that you can't succeed in change if your desire to change is based on outside forces. It has to come from within. That's why it's so hard. Think about the people that are told they have high cholesterol or blood pressure or diabetes that then go on to change their lives. They do because their health is at risk. It's no longer about aesthetics, it's about survival.

If it were easy to change because we want to look good on the beach, then we'd all have done it by now. One of the reasons it's not easy is because we haven't accepted ourselves and, therefore, our goals are all off. I'd love to have legs like Gisele, but that's not going to happen. Ever. First of all, I'm 5'5". But, does that mean I can't have fit legs? No way. I just have to accept who I am and make a decision about what fit legs means for me.

Of course, I'm always going to push myself to do more, to be more. I keep coming back to the idea of balance. I have it in so many places in my life. This is one area where it's hard for me, but I'm gaining perspective. Sometimes the harder thing is easing up.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Fighting Back Against Clones

I guess this shouldn't all be about food and exercise. That would be pretty boring. This is about life and living life to the fullest. And, sometimes that involves reflecting and changing course.

I've been taking a class about conflict management and negotiation. You might think that really doesn't have anything to do with this blog, but hear me out (or at least keep reading). Today we talked about recognizing when you've gotten into a bad situation and how to get out. I think that can be applied to a lot of areas in our lives, relationships, financial endeavors, and even our diet and exercise plans.

Think about it. How focused are you on reaching a certain weight? On eating a certain number of calories? On running a certain distance? You've thought a lot about these things, but what do they really mean? And if you get there, what happens next? The fact is, most of us forget about being healthy in an effort to be "perfect."

And this is my next point. How awful would the world be if we were all "perfect?" I think we often get lost in the thoughts that people will only accept us if we meet these incredibly high standards that we only hold ourselves to. Physical standards, anyways.

When you think about what you like most about your spouse/partner/bf/gf (whoever), is it their rockin' bod or something else? Is it their smile, their thoughtfulness, their work ethic or sense of humor? Or are there even more intangibles that you can't quite describe because they sound dumb when you say them out loud ("he just gets me, ya know??"). It's pretty obvious that the things we value most in other people are not biceps and abs.

If we just took a moment to recognize what we like about other people, and think maybe, just maybe, people value those things about us, I bet we'd all be a lot happier. And a lot less hard on ourselves. The world would be terrible if we were all the same, so celebrate the individual gifts you have to offer.

Being in good health is important, no doubt. And, it's something that's achievable. Part of my whole plan is to focus on the things that bring me good health, like fitness and eating fruits and veggies. But not killing myself in the gym or making foods off-limits. Balance, commitment, and sustainability are what I'm after. So I'm not going to be so hard on myself (and I won't be hard on you either, I promise).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

I'm Not A Hipster, I Just Bike A Lot

Nothing against those that ride bicycles ironically (whatever that means), but there are those of us that really enjoy riding bikes. Or, as my former US Cycling Team coworker would say, “cycling.” “Biking” is for nerds and the uninitiated.

I recently started biking to work. Well, I should say that I restarted biking to work. Back in 2008, when I lived in San Diego and gas prices were sky high, I didn’t see the point in driving three miles to work, so I bought a cheap bike and rode in. Unfortunately my bike was stolen shortly after I moved to DC (surprise).

I’ve decided to start again for a few reasons. First, people think it’s hot in DC in the summer, but have you been in the metro in the summer?? It’s a raging sweatfest. At least when I’m biking, sorry, cycling, I’ve got the breeze. Plus, my bike commute is 18 minutes door to door. Can’t beat that even with the bus and the train! I lock my bike outside the building gym, shower, change, and I’m in the office at about the same time.

But, more importantly, I was getting lazy. One of the best things about living in the city is walking, but once I realized there was a bus stop right outside my apartment, I would just head there in the mornings.

Biking to work is a great way to feel energized in the mornings. I am by no means a morning person, but a quick burst of activity, plus a feeling of accomplishment really makes me feel great.

I’ve always heard that morning exercise is the best, but I never seemed able to do it. I hate waking up early (and going to bed early). And too much exercise just drains me by lunch time. But this is just enough to get me going. Obviously, there are hazards (DC traffic), but that keeps you on your toes, haha.

I do wonder if there are negative effects from breathing in so much car exhaust. However, I’m too paranoid to google the question because I don’t really want to know the answer (if I’m going to get lung cancer, don’t tell me!).

Also, now that I’ve started biking, I’ve found out a lot of my friends own bikes and want to use them. We’ve got some great rides planned for upcoming weekends. Isn’t it interesting that once you start doing something, you find so many others looking for the same thing?

I keep stressing the idea of balance and fun. I’m not a morning exerciser, there’s no way that could ever happen, so I don’t fight it. I don’t try to make myself do something I hate. Biking to work is fun, fast, and a better commute. It’s the perfect balance for me.

Now, biking home, sometimes that just sucks, haha. At least I don’t live uphill. There are supposed to be terrible storms this afternoon, so fingers crossed for me!