I went to the gym once this week and promptly remembered why I hated going to a gym. If I am left to create my own adventure, I’d rather sit down and read a book. Put me in a Zumba class, and I’ll sashaaaaay my way across the floor like a maniac with no rhythm like all the others. Yoga, spin, a master swim team — I’m your girl.
I am, I now remember, no longer the girl who can put in headphones and happily run along for 60 minutes on a machine.
Treadmills make me feel like a human rat trying to beat some caloric experiment. “If I go another 10 minutes, that’s another 100 calories. If I stay on this thing another 30 minutes, that’s a glass of wine. God, I should be drinking less. Or walking more. Probably both…”
As such, I spent considerable time putting together a tutorial on how I pack a gym bag (which I did five days a week for nearly 10 years, without complaint). This week, I did it once and I spent more time putting together these photos than I did at the gym. I’m not going back. Instead, I am begging my yoga studio to add more early morning classes and making an effort to bike to work in April (with heavy help from an express bus.) And walking Nelson 10 miles or so a week. This is enough. My glory days as a spandexed runner are lost, if they ever existed.
Anyway — here is what was in my gym bag, which is now my new yoga bag. At least the yoga studio has hot water. How do you build such a huge corporate gym and not have hot water in the showers? I suppose it was the same genius who decided to let new people in the gym to give themselves a tour. What a mess.
Bright side? I got a cute new workout bag with an REI dividend and a renewed sense of who I am (yogi, one who likes to sleep in) and who I am not (bone skinny, perpetually sore, runner.)
As I’ve told other girlfriends this week elsewhere, I’m leaning in to sleeping in.
- Posted in
- Get Fit
A friend asked me to put together a few tips for those who may consider riding a bike to work. Here are my recent observations:
1. Pack light. My shoes and lunch are typically the heaviest items in my panniers. I now have a couple pair of shoes at my desk so I don’t have to pack a set daily. I also get everything together the night before so my morning rush isn’t anxiety fueled.
2. Stock up. I have stocked my desk with favorite snacks and used a driving day to load up my toiletries. I take a shower at work after I arrive, so having everything necessary here and ready to go makes my bags lighter and getting to my desk a faster process.
3. Take your time. I’ve seen so many things I passed right by in my car. Like the auto detailing shop near the interstate that is half-way painted with a giant orange chicken. It may be a phoenix. There are plenty of old businesses with antique neon marquis too. There’s a “vegans for peace!” hand-painted sign in a Tempe front yard, where wildflowers and leafy greens from an unkempt garden ramble up the sign poles. There are plenty of curious people too. I nod at the two guards at the federal court building, who are responsible for looking under each car with a mirror as they enter the garage. They’ve started waving back. I cheer the anti-Joe Arpaio protester on the downtown corner, who also holds a hand-painted sign and spends half his time keeping his long hair from blocking the message as he rants. I’ve spoken with more than one bus driver who has a window down and is waiting for the same light, while I’m rocking on my toes in the bike lane. And, I stand next to the same guy each morning on the light rail platform. He rides a bubble gum pink fix gear bike and is covered with retro tattoos. Sadly, he is not overly chatty at 7 am.
4. Use the light rail or bus line if necessary to make this process work for you. I use the light rail for a few miles in the morning and it gets me to work in time without being totally exhausted. I try to ride the entire 14 miles home because I’ve got more time. This may change with the impending summer heat — but for now, it works. And I’m still not on the highway.
5. Also: bike shorts. They will make your undercarriage thank you. And pump your tires every day. Even a little bit low, it makes the afternoon slog harder. And be patient with your body. It takes a good 2-3 miles before my left hip clicks into a comfortable place. That hip never bothers me otherwise, but it screams first thing in the morning when I get on the bike.
That’s it. I was pleasantly surprised by how fun this change has been. I look forward to getting on my bike come Monday morning and don’t feel a bit of guilt when I want a giant carne asada burrito with all the cheesy, green sauce extras for lunch. And the miles add up; I’ve ridden more than 250 in the last month — almost a full tank of gas.
The only downside is I am pretty much too tired to accomplish anything when I get home, other than find food and make sure Nelson sees the park for a brief walk. There is a specific pleasure in walking around this physically tired all the time. My anxious edge at work is gone and I’m feeling stronger.
- Posted in
- Arizona, Get Fit
A coworker said to me the other day, “I need to lose 40 pounds by May. How can I do that?”
I shrugged. “Easy. No sugar.”
Of course, then she scoffed at how that was impossible and I replied, “Yeah. I like pizza more than being skinny too.”
And that, friends, is the truth. I like pizza and a glass of wine and even the occasional scoop of ice cream way more than that one pair of pants in the back of my closet that haven’t fit since 2006. (Also, those pants are pastel yellow and likely weren’t in style when I bought them, much less now. Time for a hard truth closet clean up.)
While out for a walk recently, I considered how many posts have been written here about my latest and greatest adventures in eating a different way for a new and improved me!! Many. Along with countless dollars spent on diets and cookbooks and things that frankly haven’t worked. The only thing that does work to keep me healthy in both pant size and attitude? Moderation.
It isn’t sexy. It isn’t marketable. It does work.
The easiest way I’ve found to keep my weight healthy and my mind and spirit even healthier is to not count calories, but instead eat and drink what I want in smaller portions. I’m also lucky in that I love to exercise and feel stir crazy on the off day when I don’t get out for a couple mile walk or trip to the gym to lift weights.
And so, how do you lose those 40 pounds? Not eating sugar and moving more are certainly great catalysts, along with a sprinkle of being kind to yourself and top it with moderation. Hopefully, you’ll find the same happy results.
- Posted in
- Get Fit
I am participating in a veggie challenge at work this week. The idea was to encourage all colleagues to intentionally eat more veggies for five days. Each cup of veggies was scored at 2 points, while a cup of fruit was scored at one. (Couldn’t be easier to follow, right?)
I was shocked at how many of my coworkers at the health department sulked around saying, “But I HATE vegetables.” I am big believer as both a gardener and a cook that if you “hate vegetables,” you simply haven’t had them prepared well. A can of green beans can be soggy and gross, where as beans picked off the vine, sauteed in a bit of butter with almond slices and sea salt? Divine.
And of course, since this was a challenge, I had to win. I am fairly incapable of competing in things and not wanting to be the best. (It’s a sickness.) As such, I figured out ways to super size the portions of veggies my team was eating this week. How could we get in 2-3 cups of veggies at breakfast, lunch and dinner? Smoothies, salads and soups.
My favorite tools for eating more vegetables are the blender and the immersion blender. I like a good spicy punch of ginger and kale and apples for breakfast.
And I never met a blended veggie soup I didn’t love, especially if I had the time to roast a head of garlic to throw in the pot too. (The raspberries were dessert.)
And slowly but surely, I’m getting D to try more veggies too. He adamantly does not like a few, which I can understand, but I appreciate his willingness to at least try others. Last week, to our surprise, he liked lima beans.
LIMA BEANS, PEOPLE!
I’m calling that progress.
Happy veggies trails to you,
- Posted in
- Get Fit, Public Health
I’m guessing many of you are floating along with me in the same “holy Moses, how did my pants get so snug already” gravy boat. Thanksgiving was delicious. And the two weeks since haven’t really been much different. My exercise routine hasn’t been the same thanks to work travel and lack of motivation once it turns dark at 4:45 pm. The result is tight pants. And dark red marks when I take off my bra. And fingers that look like happy sausages.
Rather than waiting for the first of January, when I’ll be a good pant size larger at this pace, I’m calling a truce on the nonsense. Not because I need to look a specific size to make myself feel good. (If that were the case, I wouldn’t have such a range of sizes already available to me in my closet.) But because I feel better when I am eating well and exercising.
That is the common sense part of this healthy lifestyle that we collectively throw out of the sled this time of year. It is madness and I’m just not playing along anymore. Yes, the bean dip tastes fantastic. And then keeps me up all night with a sick tummy. Yes, that next glass of champagne is lovely. And makes my head pound sooner than later. And oh, yes. That peppermint bark calls my name. And then mocks me with jiggles as I run.
This weekend I went through the freezer and pantry, made a meal plan for each dinner, and scheduled time in my calendar for exercise. Today is day 1; I’m already feeling better and sanctimonious about my choices.
Because really? What’s better than that smug feeling of fitting into your holiday dress and looking fantastic? Certainly not the feeling of another helping of sweet potatoes.
Fa la la,
- Posted in
- Get Fit, June Cleaver
Last weekend was the Golden Gallop. 5.28 miles, half a slightly uphill slog, half a total blast downhill.
This photo was shot at about the halfway point when I realized I wasn’t going to die. In fact, I was going to keep running as fast as I could. I’ve been nursing this stupid heel injury for three plus years, leaving little motivation for running. If I ran, I spent the next 2-3 days limping, grimacing and swearing.
And yes, I tried everything. Shots. Shock therapy. Expensive shoes. Insoles. Physical therapy. Magical thinking. Massage. And lots and lots of pity party hosting.
I can’t run! I am a runner! A runner who can’t run is just a chubby walker.
Let’s be frank. The last three years have included a lot of chubby walking. I’ve gained weight without my morning 60 minutes of sweaty, heart screaming cardio. (Go figure.) Imagine my delight when the Golden Gallop came along, I signed up, and was able to complete the race without debilitating pain?
I didn’t limp! In fact, my goal was to “run” the race in less than an hour. I crossed the line at 57 minutes and felt like I deserved an Olympic medal in pathetic suburban athletic exploits. Gold, in fact.
It isn’t my best race photo. Or longest race. Or proudest moment of physical glory. However — this moment is one of my happiest. Because, hot damn: I’m healing! I’m going to be back to triathlons and half marathons sooner than later. I’m going to feel like myself again soon, in many ways.
It may have just been a 5 mile race, but it was a huge triumph.
BOOYAH and take that, stupid plantar. And your weak ways.
- Posted in
- Colorado, Community, Get Fit, Happy Hippie
A new friend, who has been staying with me for a few months, is a professional runner. Yes, I realize I’m setting myself up for a very odd pattern of having professional athletes live with me. But, then again, it is nice to have company and someone else to take Nelson for walks.
Fine. Sarah takes him for distance runs. I take him for easy walks.
Having someone in my home who monitors every single bite that goes in her mouth as part of her job has been, well…. let’s say interesting. It’s made me take a much closer look at my fridge, plate, and scale.
I once dreamed of swimming collegiately after spending the majority of my childhood in a Speedo, but it didn’t pan out. Come to find out I am not fast. I’m not a quick swimmer, runner, cyclist, tooth brusher, etc. I can, however, go the distance. The mile was always my event swimming. The half marathon became my event as an adult runner. I loved the one half Ironman I completed. These events take as much mental discipline as they do strength; I love the dual challenge.
Thankfully, I’ve got exercise-loving genes. My parents were both incredibly active when I was growing up and continue to exercise today. My brother was on the path to being a world class swimmer once upon a time, and today can climb mountains like a monkey. Our family vacations were planned around beach time, where we’d swim and run and goof off with the paddle ball set until we’d barely be able to lift fish tacos to our tired mouths.
Living with a professional female runner has stirred up emotion I didn’t anticipate, nor considered once when hosting Matty for three years. Come to find out, I deeply wish I’d made strides athletically then, and could run more than 3 miles today without my body failing today. This buried emotion emerged recently at the end of yoga classes, bubbling up unexpectedly. It’s strange to recognize a disappointment that lay dormant for 15 years, waiting for just the inopportune time to be mined into daylight.
What can you do? I wish I’d been fast. I’m not. Boo-freaking-hoo. That doesn’t mean I can’t be a great athlete (yogi, hiker, cyclist, bowler, driving range golf ball destroyer) today.
Cooking with Sarah has been an education in dietary diversity and odd supplements. I now regularly eat brewer’s yeast. There is fish oil in my fridge. There are hemp hearts in a canister on the counter. I’m eating a ridiculous, Costco-amount of spinach each week and have started carrying a water bottle wherever I go. Sometimes an old dog can learn new tricks.
Frankly, it is more fun to be challenged to those things I can change — headstands in yoga, a healthy diet, cycling up Lookout Mountain — than spending any more time pouting about the history I cannot. I thank a regular yoga practice for both digging up what I didn’t want to address, and for learning to let it go.
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- Get Fit, Good to Great
Min sent an email a couple of weeks ago in planning her trip to Denver with Rebecca: “Girls, let’s white water raft!” My response was, “Or! We could go to hot springs and get massages and hang out at the spa.” We volleyed back and forth between our ideas.
Her: White water raft!
Her: White water raft!
Me: Mimosas and hot stone massage!
Min is notoriously nervous about travel, but loves a great rush of completely non-controlled adrenaline — like rafting and climbing trees full of bee hives.
I, on the other hand, have no problem taking a prop plane into a tiny African town, but a weekend activity that requires a helmet and public display of lycra?
No thank you.
(More about that lycra later. )
Needless to say, Mini won and by the end of the day, we all agreed white water rafting Clear Creek was one of the most fun things we’d ever done. We screamed, giggled, yelled and talked over chattering teeth as we dipped and bobbed down the 6 mile trek. Our guide, Chelsea, was the perfect fit for our high strung, type A raft. Like the Aussie surfing turtles in Finding Nemo, she was so laid back and sweet — it was hard to think what we were doing was in the least bit dangerous, dude. With a head full of dreads, arms weighed down with dozens of bracelets and tanned arms and legs that showed she rarely left the river, she called commands as we paddled like mad.
It. Was. Awesome.
So fun, in fact, I’m now trying to talk my dad into a long float trip down the Grand Canyon. I love rafting for the same reasons I love fly fishing — it brings you to the most beautiful places you’d likely otherwise not see from that vantage point. The river was breathtaking. And I’m hooked.
So, in rare form I’ll admit Mini was right. This was such a good idea. Perhaps even better than a spa day.
* Our raft trip included 6 boats full of people, including a boy scout troop. I was the only one who didn’t plan on wearing more than a Speedo to go down the river. The yoga pants I brought wouldn’t work and I just didn’t think to bring shorts. So, there I stood on the side of the highway with 35 clothed folks wearing only my lap swim bathing suit and a pair of Chacos. It’s not like I’ve got some sort of ridiculously fit bravado at the moment where I didn’t care that my butt was the only one flapping in the breeze. Oh, I cared. But when life turns out to resemble a cliche fashion nightmare, what can you do? Throw back your shoulders, slap on a fake smile and pretend you MEANT to be the only one in a Speedo.
Yep. Meant to.
The fact Mini and Bec were willing to claim me during this public display of humility? Well. They are very good friends.
- Posted in
- Colorado, Get Fit, Happy Hippie
When you take census of the things you own and the things you are willing to move 1000 miles, you are reminded of who you truly are. Our things, especially those of which we are unwilling to part, define our values. We’ve voted with our wallets. These dishes, this piece of art, this bike. They each have a story.
Part of this move is to pull myself from the vain and excessively materialistic culture I find myself so attracted to by working in north Scottsdale. BMWs, fancy designer bags that cost twice my mortgage, prescriptions to grow eyelashes longer and plump lips. Being a part of this life is my default. It’s where I find myself without any work. In fact, it feels great to walk into a trendy restaurant wearing designer jeans and having a great pocketbook tucked under my arm and diamonds in my ears.
Like these things tell everyone in the room I’m successful. I’ve made it. And really, how silly is that? My heart could be as tiny and black as the Grinch’s, but with the right clothes, I’d feel noticed and admired.
This isn’t who I want to be. I need a shedding of skin — to remind myself of the values that made me the weirdo through primary school (save the trees! recycle!) and in college (why blow dry your hair when you can spend that time reading/hiking/looking at the clouds?). Of course, with a change in jobs and income I’ll no longer be shedding that skin with a fancy spa treatment, so much as a homemade sea salt scrub.
Who do you want to be? Exactly who you are? If so, my hat is off to you. Each day I awake and think of how I could have handled the day before a bit better. What I could have said differently, how I could have acted a bit more gracious. I often hear from friends, “I don’t know who I want to be when I grow up.” Never mind most are in their 30s. We aren’t a lost generation so much as one that wants to balance luxury with meaning.
I want to be a woman who is confident without a mirror. One who regularly volunteers. One who always makes room for others in her home and at her table. One who gives generously and doesn’t care about her car because she’s on her bike. One who can get along with her mother no matter what, because for heaven’s sakes — I’ve only got one and she is dang special. I want to eat less meat, grow more of my own food and have a home that reflects a family trying to tread as lightly on this sweet earth as possible. I want to be confident in sharing my faith with others when they ask. I want people to know I’m a Christian by my actions — and I want that to mean something good and honorable in my community.
I want to spend less time navel gazing (ironic, on a blog) and more time photographing life.
(And I kinda want to change the world, so I’m going to start with mine.)
Too much? I dare say not.
Letting my homemade, optimistic, hippie freak flag fly,
- Posted in
- Arizona, Get Fit, Happy Hippie
This weekend I ran the inaugural Mountain to Fountain 15k with a team of friends, aptly named “Natalie Merchant and the 15k Maniacs.” The race started in the McDowell Mountain State Park and finished at the giant fountain in Fountain Hills. While it was a “net” downhill run, there are several considerable hills and it was one heck of a run.
I had more fun with this race than I’d have had running in a long time. It renewed my love for the sport; I can’t wait to get through a cortisone shot this week in my heel so I can get back to distance running. (Add that to the list of sentences I never thought I’d say.) Everything about this race reminded me why I like distance running: the variety of participants, the glorious scenery, the repetitive one foot after another, the battle of your mind vs. the pain, the powerful surge for the last half mile showing you can run farther and faster than you ever thought you could. There is nothing as sweet as being stronger — both mentally and physically — than you thought.
I finished smiling knowing I couldn’t have run it one bit faster or smarter than I did. That in itself was a complete victory.
And who doesn’t need the occasional win?
Thanks to my compadres, the Maniacs: Juliann, Adam, Dave and Octavio. And the mystery member of our team who signed herself up obviously because of the rad name. Whomever you are, we salute you — random Maniac. Also, many thanks to Kilimadog for photographing and driving.
P.S. Lookie who surprised me at the finish — Finny! Such a good supportive friend of crazy athletic endeavors she is.
- Posted in
- Arizona, Get Fit, Good to Great