Fitness Update

I thought I would post an update to my previous post about working out and eating right again. I’m on my third week of following Weight Watchers and the Fitness Blender workout plan, and I feel great! I’ve lost almost 4 pounds, and I feel like I am getting better and better at the workouts I’m doing. My arms and legs look and feel more toned, and I feel better overall. I have been sleeping much better as well. Now that I am actually below my weight goal, I’m really focusing on toning up and getting rid of the jelly tummy left from carrying a human being around for 9 months. I really can’t say enough good things about the Fitness Blender workouts and training plans. When I joined my previous gym, I had 3 sessions with a personal trainer, which I really loved. The workouts were simple but effective, and I felt like the time I spent at the gym was really efficiently used. I haven’t felt that way since until I started using the Fitness Blender plan. I know this sounds like an infomercial, but no one is paying me to write this, I promise!

I bought some new kicks because my heavy stability running shoes were not comfortable for all the plyometric exercises. I picked up these ASICS Gel-Invasions, and they are light and bouncy in the right places.

Love my new cross-trainers. Way better for my @fitnessblender workouts than heavy motion control runners.

As a Weight Watchers lifetime member, I can go to meetings free and get eTools (the website and apps for tracking) for free as long as I stay within 2 pounds of my goal weight. So now I’ve been going to WW and weighing in so that should keep me motivated to keep the weight off hopefully. I have a feeling when Margaret completely weans (she nurses twice a day now) I will have to adjust to less food again so I’m trying to be proactive about it now.

I will continue to keep you posted! I’m really looking forward to seeing my progress at the end of the 8-week workout program. I plan to purchase another one of their plans at that point since this one has been so awesome!

Working out again and a review.

Hello, long time no see! For several reasons, this past weekend I started working out and watching my diet again. At my physical, my doctor noted that my HDL levels are in the normal range, but could be higher. The best way to improve that number is exercise so he is going to check back with me in 6 months to see if I’ve been able to improve it with lifestyle changes. Also, in the past two months I gained around 5 pounds due to BabyFab’s decreased nursing. I guess I have to start eating like a normal person again without the extra calorie burn! For diet, I’m using the tried and true Weight Watchers plan. It has always worked for me, and I like the apps on my iPhone and iPad for easy tracking.

For exercise, I am using Fitness Blender’s 8 Week Fat Loss Program.

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I stumbled upon the Fitness Blender YouTube channel one day when I was looking for a quick warm-up to follow before going for a run. Wow, it is amazing how high quality the free workouts they have created are! Unlike some of the other online fitness gurus who shall remain nameless, they are not selling sex. They are personal trainers who are fit and attractive, but are attainable role models. The videos are simple with a white background and a voice over explaning the exercises. Also, they are tough! Once I tried a few different workouts, I decided to spring for one of their $6 ebooks that give you an 8 week training plan to follow. It’s nice to just do whatever workout they say on any given day and not have to plan out my exercise on my own. The equipment required is minimal. So far, I’ve just needed dumbbells, an exercise mat, and something to use as a weight bench.

The first day of the program was a fitness test, which was nice because I’ll have something to compare with after I finish to see my progress. I don’t really need to lose more than a few pounds at this point so it will be important to have other benchmarks for progress. So far I’ve done a (super intense) cardio/abs workout and an arms/shoulders workout. Their warm-ups are nice and effective, and I really loved the pilates cool down after the strength workout last night.

I will update you as I progress through the program. So far, it is a lot of bang for the buck when you think about the cost of a Beach Body program, which only gives you one set of videos to repeat over and over. Those programs (I’m thinking of P90X and Chalene Johnson’s programs) work, but I enjoy the gimmick-free videos from Fitness Blender. Nothing to roll my eyes at! Daniel and Kelli are providing some really high quality fitness content and using the internet to its fullest extent with their offerings.

Mixed Bag

1.  A few weeks ago, I shared Fed Up With Lunch: The School Lunch Project, a blog about a teacher eating school lunch every day to try to make people aware of what kids are eating (and it ain’t pretty).  A few days ago, she had a guest blogger who is notable because she is a high school student interested in improving school lunch.  The frustrating story of her efforts to simply get the list of ingredients from Aramark is here and her own personal blog is School Lunch: Subtract the Additives.

2.  Harvard University now has an iTunes U channel with lectures and lab demos (via Resource Shelf).  These might be interesting.  I’ve listened to a few iTunes U lectures before.

3.  On the AMC website, Science Fiction author, John Scalzi, describes the pros and cons of living in several popular fictional universes.  I would choose life on the Enterprise for access to the Holodeck alone.

4. I giggled about this xkcd comic for a while the other night.  Click the image to go to xkcd.com to see it bigger.  It has to be tiny to fit in a post.

5. “Is IMAX the Next New Coke?” – NPR’s Monkey See blog points to this article about how IMAX is branding smaller screens as IMAX screens, and customers will not know what size the screen will be until they’ve already paid for the ticket.  Scroll down to see the difference between a traditional IMAX screen and one of the newer ones.  That’s definitely not worth the extra money.  Buyer beware.

Mixed Bag – Links for you.

We’ll see if I can make this a regular feature.  Here are some interesting links I’ve found recently:

1.  A New York Times “Well” blog post by Tara Parker Pope titled “Six Meaningless Claims on Food Labels.”

2.  Fed Up: School Lunch Project – A public school teacher who is fed up with students who can’t pay attention after their high carb, high fat school lunches is eating school lunch for a year and blogging a picture every day.

3.  Nicholas Sparks and Miley Cyrus are working together. From USA Today. Sounds like a big pile of puke to me.  I love this quote because it’s so ridiculous that he thinks he’s somehow better than romance writers:

“I don’t write romance novels.” His preferred terminology: “Love stories — it’s a very different genre. I would be rejected if I submitted any of my novels as romance novels.”

4.  The Help is being adapted to film.  From Variety.  I’m reserving judgement for now.

5.  Reese Witherspoon, Christoph Waltz, and Robert Pattinson will be starring in the screen adaptation of Water for Elephants. From MTV.  One of these things doesn’t belong here, and it’s not Reese or Christoph.  This is another movie I’m nervous about.  Leave my favorite books alone!

6.  Hilary Duff has a book deal with Simon & Schuster.  It can’t be worse than Lauren Conrad, I guess.

Running and Fitness Report – February 2010

I’m a bit late with this report, but here you go:

  • Running: 70 miles
  • Swimming: 4000 meters
  • Core fitness workouts: 2
  • Lower body workouts: 2
  • Yoga sessions: 3
  • Pounds lost or gained: No idea

Comments:

1.  My main accomplishment this month was the Virginia is for Lovers 14K.  I finished it in 1:50, which was a personal best for that distance because my pace was 12:38 overall.  For anything longer than 7 miles, my pace typically slows to 13:15 or so.  My race report is here.

2.  I stopped weighing myself until after the half-marathon.  It is just frustrating to run 20 miles one week and gain two pounds.  I refuse to keep being disappointed with my weight when I’m working so hard and eating well.

3.  Due to the increase in mileage in my training plan this month, I slacked off on cross-training.  My IT band has not acted up as a result so I’m not too worried.  After the half-marathon, I’ll add in more cross-training and do lower mileage runs.  The problem is that all of my runs now are at least 1 hour long and almost 3 hours for my long ones.  After that, I just don’t have time to come back and do strength training if I want to have dinner and enjoy at least some of my evening or weekend.

4.  We had a health fair at work last month where we got our blood pressure, cholesterol, and BMI checked and then talked to a counselor about our numbers.  All of mine are excellent except my HDL.  It is 47, which is normal, but they prefer that women keep it above 50.  I talked to the lady to try to find out what I can change to improve this number.  Here is the conversation we had:

  • Me: “What can I do to improve my HDL?”
  • Mean lady: “You can start doing aerobic excercise.”
  • Me: “Well, I’m a runner already.”
  • Mean lady: “Do more.”
  • Me: “I run 20 miles a week. My marriage might fall apart if I spend any more time exercising.”
  • Mean lady, with a look on her face that she didn’t believe me: “Well, you can eat more fish and nuts.”
  • Me: “Thanks, have a nice day.”
  • Me, inside my head: “THANKS BITCH! YOU ARE SO CUT OUT FOR A CAREER IN HEALTH COUNSELING.”

So, anyway, I am eating more fish and taking an Omega-3 supplement now.  I also snack on almonds on my breaks at work.  We’ll see if that works.

Booking Through Thursday – Winter Olympics

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You may have noticed–the Winter Olympics are going on. Is that affecting your reading time? Have you read any Olympics-themed books? What do you think about the Olympics in general? Here’s your chance to discuss!

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I absolutely love the Olympics – Winter and Summer.  Watching the events this week has definitely taken over my reading time.  Generally, I watch very little television, and I watch on TiVo so what I do watch takes even less time, and I spend the rest of my free time reading or knitting and listening to audiobooks.  I’ve been trying to do more reading on my lunch break at work this week to make up for the evenings.  I usually knit and listen to podcasts at lunch to rest my brain from working with the public.

This year’s Winter Olympics are particularly interesting to me.  The US has some really great athletes that I am rooting for.  Shaun White, Shani Davis, Lindsey Vonn, Apolo Ohno, and Evan Lysacek are my favorites this time around.  I think the Olympics are so much fun to watch because these people have worked so hard to get to this point, and it is wonderful to watch them succeed, especially through obstacles like Lindsey Vonn’s shin injury.  I also love Canadian Alexandre Bilodeau’s story about switching from hockey to skiing because it was a more accessible sport for his brother who has cerebral palsy.  I was crying like a little girl when he won the gold and celebrated with his brother.

I have not read any Olympics-themed books.  I figure I’ve seen the Olympics so I don’t really need to read about them also.  One exception is a few running books that are about Olympic marathons.  Since I’m really interested in running right now, there are a few of those I’d like to read since I like learning about how elite runners train for races.

Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

I am getting a little behind on posting book reviews.  Last week was my week for posting reviews to my library system’s book recommendation blog so I wasn’t really in the mood to do more book blogging when I got home in the evening.  Now that I’m done with that, I can get back to reviews here. 

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, running has taken over my life for the last few months.  Recently, I started listening to more books on my iPod while running.  My library subscribes to Overdrive, a digital download service for audio books.  The first book I downloaded – no surprise here – is a running book, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Super Athletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall.

At the beginning of the book, McDougall states that his purpose in writing the book was to answer the question, “Why do my feet hurt?”  The book really ends up being about the legendary Tarahumara tribe in the Copper Canyons of Mexico and the more infamous members of the modern American ultrarunning community.  I found the stories of the races McDougall describes to be gripping, but the book suffered from a loss of focus in sections.  While listening, there were times when I had to try to figure out who he was writing about because he changed focus so quickly.  As a journalist, he is adept at describing the action in the races and locations.  I found myself listening long after I got back from a run to find out who the winner of a race would be.

Although unfocused at times, McDougall succeeds in arguing for a more childlike and fun approach to running.  His scientific interludes were interesting because scientists are finding that the human body is meant to run, even though modern running shoes may cause us to stride incorrectly.  I am not sure that I will convert to barefoot running, but I will try a few steps barefoot to see how my stride is different.  A recent study published in the peer-reviewed science journal, Nature, purports that athletic shoes do not improve performance.  A discussion of this study can be found here at Science Daily.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is interested in running.  Even though McDougall could have organized the book better in places, it was interesting throughout and made me want to get out there and run.

Race Report – Virginia is for Lovers 14K

This Saturday, I completed the Virginia is for Lovers 14K.  Luckily, we live about 10 minutes from the race site (the Verizon Wireless Ampitheater in Virginia Beach) so I didn’t have to get up too early to be ready in time.  I got up around 6 and had a bowl of cereal and got all of my gear together. 

We got to the ampitheater around 7:15 and there was a little bit of traffic getting to the parking lot, but we made it with time to spare.  It was so cold standing around waiting for the race!  They delayed the start by 15 minutes.  I think that was due to the traffic getting into the parking lots. 

Overall, this was the most fun race I’ve participated in so far.  The only thing I would have changed is for them to put up those markers at the start that indicate where you should be according to your anticipated finish time.  Because no one really knew where to stand at the start, the first half mile was a little crazy.  There were walkers in front of me and fast folks behind me so I was trying to pass and being passed at the same time.  Due to this, I started out faster than I intended and couldn’t get myself to slow down later when the crowd had scattered.  I finally got myself to slow down to a 12:30 pace and was feeling really good until about mile 7.  The last two miles were a definite struggle because the wind really started to blow and I kept getting snow in my eyes.  I stopped to walk once to regain my energy and once because there was a hill that I couldn’t conquer with wind blowing in my face.

Even though the last few miles were a struggle, I was really excited because I knew I was going to finish the race faster than I had anticipated.  My husband was waiting to cheer me on not long after the 8 mile mark, and that gave me a little kick to push the last bit of the race.  The bibs for this race had the runners’ first names printed on them so it was cool that race volunteers and spectators would cheer me on by name throughout the race.  The last bit actually had us running through the ampitheater and then back out to the finish line.  It was a beautiful sight.  They called out each runner’s name on the loudspeaker as they crossed the finish line, and that was pretty cool.  My time was 1:49:55.

This is my first race with a finisher’s medal, and I’m so proud of it!  Since it was Valentine’s Day weekend, the medal is heart-shaped, and they gave each woman finisher a carnation.  There was a line to have a picture taken in front of a backdrop, but I was tired and freezing so I just wanted to grab my bagel and water bottle and get in the warm car.  I think my husband and I are going to do it as a couples team next time so we’ll probably wait then to get our picture together.

I knew several people who were running this race, but in the crowd of 3000 participants, it was impossible to find anyone so we just headed home when I finished.  I enjoyed some hot chocolate while icing my knees and IT band.

Here’s a picture of me with my medal and carnation:

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Running and Fitness Report – January 2010

This year, I’m going to post monthly fitness reports.  Here’s the first one:

  • Miles ran: 42
  • Swimming meters: 8,593
  • Core fitness workouts: 4
  • Lower body workouts: 3
  • Yoga sessions: 4
  • Pounds lost or gained: 1.2 LOST 🙂

Comments:

  1. I FINALLY lost some weight.  In my sixth month of running, I started losing pounds.  It’s a good thing my motivation to run wasn’t for weight loss because I would have stopped running months ago.  I don’t know what to attribute it to, but I did do more cross-training.  We are also eating in a lot more and eating a huge salad with dinner every night.
  2. This month I learned that I cannot push myself so hard with running or I will hurt myself.  Balance is key.
  3. I had hoped to do more strength training and yoga than I did this month so my goal is to increase both of those in February.  One thing I found that will help me to do more yoga is the free Yoga Journal podcasts on iTunes.  They are between 20 and 30 minutes each (instead of the 45 minutes for the iTrain ones I have) so I will be able to fit in more sessions of yoga.  I’m thinking of getting up early enough to do a session a few days a week.  It’s really nice that they concentrate on one area of the body so you really stretch that part.  So far the shoulder opening and hip opening ones have been really good.
  4. I plan to continue swimming at least once a week, and I hope to buy a bike sometime before spring.  That will be good for cross-training when it’s not so cold outside.  Running in the cold is one thing, but cycling seems like it would be very cold with the wind you create by riding.
  5. This month I also have the Virginia is for Lovers 14K on 2/13 so I’m looking forward to that one.  My leg seems to be doing well so I should be able to run the whole thing.  I might just walk through the water stops.

Here’s a picture of bad-ass me after a 7 mile run in the snow we got this past weekend.

Me after my hard core run in the snow.

Health and Fitness Links: Science2Health Podcast.

In my quest to be a better runner, I find all kinds of interesting information about general health and fitness.  I’m going to start sharing links to this information here on my blog in hopes that someone who reads it will decide to make better lifestyle choices.

My most recent and favorite discovery is the Science2Health podcast.  Former medical doctor, Dr. Monte Ladner, produces this podcast where he discusses peer-reviewed studies on a variety of topics.  He used to record the Fitness Rocks podcast but got complaints when he started to discuss non-health related and “controversial” topics like evolution and global warming [insert eye roll here].  He is very unbiased and just discusses the studies so I don’t understand how anyone but the most sciencephobic could have a problem with his content, but there you have it.  I love hearing about the studies and the actual assumptions you can make from them instead of the sound bites on the news where the content and reliability of the study is not discussed.  In other words, he expects you not to be an idiot who needs everything dumbed down to a 5th grade level.

While getting ready for work this morning, I listened to a few episodes of Science2Health, and the first one was very interesting.  It was based on a study where the percentage of people who followed a healthy lifestyle in 1988 (15%) were compared to those following a healthy lifestyle in 2006 (8%).  This is important because following these five healthy habits decreases your risk of chronic disease by 80-90% and your risk of cancer by 30-40%.  These are the factors they considered to be important to a healthy lifestyle (paraphrased from the show transcript):

  1. Don’t smoke.
  2. Drink moderately if you drink. (One a day for women and two for men).
  3. Eat no less than 5 servings of fruit and veggies daily. 
  4. Exercise 5 times a week for 30 minutes.
  5. Not overweight – This is the most interesting/horrifying one to me.  They had to accept people into the study group who were slightly overweight to have enough people for a good sample size.  There weren’t enough people who are actually at a healthy weight in the United States to perform the study.

I won’t repeat the whole podcast here because you should really listen to Dr. Ladner’s interview with the principal investigator on the study.  I also don’t want to steal his content because he obviously works very hard on it, but I wanted to give you a little teaser of the kind of information you’ll find there.  If you go to the Science2Health website, there is a full transcript with links to the study if you want to see for yourself.

If you have any podcasts about health or fitness that you enjoy, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.