Monday, July 30, 2012

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Swimming

Not-so-secretly, I have dropped a few hints that I have been dabbling/dipping into another sport.

First, for anyone who follows me on Twitter, you've probably been annoyed by my Foursquare check-ins to an aquatic center.

I mentioned something about some new goals in my mid-year recap.

Also, there are the Speedos in my Insanity results post, as well as vague mentions of "light cross training in the PM" on some of the weekly update posts.

In spite of my regular forays in the pool nowadays, I have been somewhat trying to not admit to the fact that I've been swimming.  First of all, I used to consider swimming something that only people with money or nice parents who would go out of their way to take their kids to a pool and pay for lessons could do.  I grew up with limited contact with the pool, and in those instances (fewer than I have fingers on my left hand), I remember mostly drowning or something to that effect.  My high school didn't require swimming, and let's face it -- by then, I was afraid of water (I used to have the "drowning dream" a lot, so I rarely cover my head in my sleep).

Later, I decided to take swimming lessons during my college days, since the class was $25 and pool access was free (with my $$ student fees).  Note that I was swimming in regular shorts and a Target swimming tankini (??) I got as a gift.  By the end of the 10 weeks, I was able to kind of get to the end of a 3-foot deep pool, but that was astronomical.  For years after that, I never really retained that level of comfort, so as I started to encounter more pools, I just waded in them.

A few months ago, a local beginners' triathlon caught my eye.  I have never been into this sport, nor do I believe at all that people who do them are any more unique, athletic or hardcore than others -- richer, maybe -- but NOT more athletic.  However, for some reason, one made it on my "bucket list" a while back, and I am considering following through, even if I finish toward the end.  With this in mind, I bought some Speedos (Big 5 sale, w00t!) and paid my way into a recreational pool and had issues in finding comfort in the 3.5-foot side.  "The Ukrainian" started to join me and spent a short amount of time teaching me the breaststroke and helping me remember what little free-styling I learned in college.  Then, he convinced me to start swimming in the lanes.  I go maybe once a week for about half an hour before closing -- not a lot of time, but it's all I've got (because of my schedule and the fact that the pool is mostly very crowded, ew).

I still don't think I can make it 50 meters without coughing up a lung, but I am definitely more comfortable and can go back and forth in the 25-meter lanes.  My form sucks, and I can't frog-kick consistently yet.  Oh, and don't put me in water deeper than 5 feet -- just a psychological thing because I never learned how to tread water and stop myself once I start panicking.  But it's a start, and I've also been practicing running in my swimming suit, and I already own a basic (not road) bike.  Good enough?

I'm reading this Complete Idiot's Guide to Swimming, which talks about all the essential and non-essential gear you need to swim and breaks down the popular strokes (breaststroke, backstroke, freestyle, butterfly, etc.) while pointing out common errors.  It also contains photos of real swimmers from the top and side, showing each movement.  Normally, when I see one of these "idiot"-type books, I always think they are too basic, but in this case, I need EVERYTHING I can get!!  =P  So far, I've been trying to follow the little tips on the strokes I already "know," such as making sure my toes stay pointed -- until they are committed to my muscle memory.  Now if only it could psych me out of my fear of deep water..... though, I'm pretty sure that's something beyond what a book should promise, right?!

Still no race sign-up yet.  Not sure if I'm ready, and I'm not going to push it if I don't feel entirely or even mostly sure I can make it.  Triathlons are not cheap, especially due to the extra $10 you need to pay as a one-day "license" to do one of those.  Either way, I'm getting some good exercise and learning to face some of my worst fears.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book and was not compensated to provide any particular opinion about it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Kit's Organic Bars

The folks at CLIF sent me a sample of Kit's Organic bars.  They come in Berry Almond, Cashew, Chocolate Almond Coconut, and this Peanut Butter flavor.

I've eaten many, many bars by now -- crunchy ones -- ones that are grain-based, gluten-free -- sticky ones, etc.  So, I was a bit worried that is one would taste just like other date and nut bars (ahem), but these are actually different.

They are less moist than similar bars, and they are around 100 calories less for approximately the same size.  They also have a little salty flavor in there, so it's not just a sweet brick of dried fruit.

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this product to review and have not otherwise been compensated for posting a particular opinion.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

CORE Foods Bar (Giveaway) - updated

UPDATE: 7/24/12

First of all, I loved some of the comments you guys left.  Gotta try that rubber band thing sometime!

The winner is #33, Katie at Wish and Whimsy!  I will contact you, but if it misses you, please e-mail me your address!

For everyone else...

Even though you didn't win the giveaway, CORE Foods wants to give you a chance to try CORE Meals too!  SAVE 20% on a single sample pack of CORE Meals at our online store.  Use Coupon Code "acaseoftheruns" after checkout.  This discount expires 8/8/2012!


This post has been sitting in my Drafts, for a long time, but I'm super excited about it because I REALLY love this product!!

I've tried and reviewed many, many bars in recent times, but CORE Foods bars are truly something different.

You might think I'm a pig, but when people claim that something "keeps me full for hours!," I end up disappointed when, after an hour, I'm hungry again.  This is mostly true in the earlier parts of the day because I generally tend to eat the most at breakfast, a little less at lunch, and even less at dinner.  This is just the way I work or have learned to work over time.

Oatmeal -- might last two hours

Fruit -- 30 minutes?

Nut butter -- an hour, maybe an hour and a half?

most bars, eggs -- an hour or two, depending on protein content

yogurt -- an hour and a half (non-dairy), longer if dairy because I usually get a stomachache and my appetite disappears

So my breakfasts will consist of a combo of these foods, and I often have to space them out so I don't get too full or too hungry at one time.  However, this isn't always convenient.

One day, I was swamped and food-less, so I tried this sample of a CORE Foods bar that I was sent.  The bars come in two varieties, Warrior (contains whey) and Defender (vegan).

The bars are meant to be had with two glasses of water.  This was easy, because I am a huge water drinker and the bars actually made me want to drink the water.  I can't really describe the texture of these bars, except that it literally seems like you're eating oatmeal -- no crunchiness or brittled sugar -- just a fresh, sweet-enough (I have a sweet tooth just so you know), somewhat dense bar.  They need to be kept in the fridge, a sign that they are definitely wholesome.

Check out the 100% organic ingredient list!

And believe it or not, that kept me going until lunch time.  I thought it was a miracle.

I have seen CORE Foods bars at Whole Foods (refrigerated section), and while they cost more than other bars, they can truly replace a meal (which can cost a lot more)!

Defender Meal flavors: Raw Cashew Cacao, Raw Almond Raisin, Raw Walnut Banana

Giveaway Time!  -- One Sample pack of CORE Foods bar -- Defender Meal 

(Open to US residents and ends Tuesday, July 24 at noon PST.)
Please please leave ONE comment per item you do -- combining a bunch of actions into one comment will count as... one comment.

+1 Follow CORE Foods on Facebook OR Twitter and leave a comment

+1 Follow this blog on Google or let me know if you already do

+1 Retweet this giveaway (include @nobel4lit) so I can find it and leave a comment

+1 Answer ONE of the following questions:
- Which flavor would you want to try?
- What foods keep you full during the day?
- Are you a good water drinker?

P.S. If you don't win, I can provide a 20% off code so you can try the bars for yourself!  Let me know in the comments if you'd like me to send you this code after this contest ends!  Thanks!!!!
FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a complimentary sample pack of this product but was not otherwise compensated for hosting a giveaway or providing any particular type of opinion.

Monday, July 23, 2012

The Line Between 'Runner' and 'Exerciser'

Between June 4 (after the Ojai Marathon where I ran a good-for-me 4:22) and June 29, I ran one time.  I was in Boston and didn't want to leave the city before logging some miles there.  Did a grand 2.5.  It wasn't a pretty run, either -- the weather was humid and about to rain, and I was running around the airport with a sore ankle that I got from wearing heels for too long during my stay there.

I ran for five days in a row when I was in the Chicago area, mostly for the same reason but also because I had just finished Insanity and needed to do something different.  The hotel I was in had a pretty good gym, though stuffy.  My 3-4 milers on the treadmill would end in urgency and a good amount of sweat.

Then, back at home, I ran a couple of times on my usual routes.  I can't say I felt any different having been away from it for a few months.

I'm about to start P90X, or some variant of it.  Where does that leave running?

Running almost always seems like a good idea in my head.  When I'm taking a stroll during my lunchtime, I think about how I could probably run the same stretch pretty easily.  But I know that isn't true, because I HAVE run those stretches before, and they make me feel like I'm dragging my huge legs up a huge slope.  Or sometimes...even in the summer, we get a nice, overcast morning, and I start thinking that running would feel really great.  But in those instances in which I actually pull myself out there, I run a mile and then feel too warm and my quads are like bricks.  I fight the temptation to walk as much as I can, giving up somewhere around the 2-mile mark.  And then I'll run/walk the next mile and struggle to wrap up the last one.  It has been this way since last year, yet I've been running pretty good race times this year.  Go figure.

I'm not sure how I feel about racing anymore.  First of all, I keep struggling with not clocking in fast enough versus training a lot and winding up disappointed with the major time investment that I no longer feel like making.  Also, it used to be novel and exciting, but now I feel lost in the stream of people who get faster while I don't, fundraisers (myself included), and somewhat of a lost "cool factor" because most races have become so large and the term "long run" thrown out so casually.  Nowadays, I mostly sign up for races because "The Ukrainian" does or because I have some naive belief that it will motivate me to train -- or at the very least, motivate me to run better after a poor-to-me performance.

Then, there's laziness.  If I can work out without ever putting on my running shoes, plopping on sunscreen/a hat, finding my Road ID, beating the sun, etc., then yes, I'm going to stay inside, thanks.  And driving to the gym for a stuffy environment and treadmill?  Thank you, but no.

I used to run because I didn't want to be "untrained," but I think I run for different reasons now.  I want to balance out other cross-training that I do, get some fresh air, or use items that required my $$ investment (shoes, Garmin, etc.).  I often feel like I NEED to run in order to not have to start back at Square One, but perhaps I'm already there.

One thing I never call myself anymore is a "runner."  Even before, I had trouble with that word because I am not very fast or consistent at times.  Nowadays, I mostly say that yes, I have run.  A lot.  These days, I feel more like someone who runs "just for exercise."  Is that bad?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Polar FT60 Heart Rate Monitor

When I bought my Garmin, I thought I'd never feel inclined to buy another fitness watch again.


But as I learned while doing Insanity, when you try to use a running device during a regular cardio workout, the distance value that gets plugged into the watch's formula is zero.  And zero times anything is zero.  I later learned that my Garmin model doesn't track calorie burns for cross-training (the CX models do).  Luckily, I plugged in some numbers online to get that number, so no big deal.  I just wanted a number so I could tell how hard I was working (and how many candies I would need afterward... =P).

As an even bigger issue, I was wary of the accuracy of Garmin's heart-rate monitor, as sometimes I'd be dog tired, heart exploding in my chest, and my heart rate would jump way low.  After a month of this, I decided to take the plunge and buy a dedicated heart-rate monitor.

My verdict so far: totally worth it.

Here are the pros of this particular dedicated HRM:

- no need to charge: operates like a regular digital watch in that sense
- tells you how many minutes you spent in each heart-rate zone
- takes a resting fitness test for you and stores the number
- tracks your stats, weight, activities, and 'sends' you reminders and records achievements
- doesn't keep telling me that I have lost satellite reception and doesn't depend on distance to start tracking
- accurately displays heart rate from moment to moment
- chest strap is pretty comfortable, even while running
- relatively light on the wrist
- no annoying touch bezel, though the buttons are small and a little hard to press but at least very intentional
- integrated with (my Garmin won't sync with any of my computers, and I'm pretty tech-savvy, so I'm pretty sure the mechanism is defunct) 

Of course, the main con is that there is no distance tracking, which is definitely something that Garmin seems to do best right now.  Still, for runs of a known distance, workouts other than running, including strength training, I can use my new Polar as some indicator of how hard I'm working and how my body responds to exercise from day to day.

I used to think that heart rate isn't important, but just like any other muscle, the heart should be considered something you need to be careful not to strain too quickly.  And in general, it's tough to know externally how it's doing.  I'm still learning where my heart rate SHOULD be during workouts, but I'm sure I'll get a good idea once I use this more often.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Insanity - Week 9: My Insanity Graduation (Part II)

In case you missed any of my Insanity posts (although how could you miss all that?... ha ha), here they are:

Phase I
Week 1 - Secret Insanity
Week 2 - Can't Stick to Any Diet
Week 3 - How Hard is It?
Week 4 - Running versus Insanity

Recovery Week
Week 5 - Tough Month Ahead

Phase II
Week 6 - I was Lazy Before
Week 7 - How Long Should One Exercise?
Week 8 - Taking it on the Road
Week 9 - My Insanity Graduation (Part I) and (Part II, this post)


All Sorts of Results

Here are the results of my final Fit Test alongside the others.  I really smashed it on the last Fit Test, probably because of a hard hotel room floor that I had to use because I was away.  If I ever do this program in its entirety again, I need to hide this table from myself, because I would have a "PR" mentality (e.g., the world sucks when I don't beat my old time) when it came time for these, which isn't exactly how I want to approach these exercises.

Fit Test 1
Fit Test 2
Fit Test 3
Fit Test 4
Fit Test 5
Switch Kicks (2 sides=1 rep)

Power Jacks

Power Knees

Power Jumps

Globe Jumps

Suicide Jumps

Push-Up Jacks

Low Plank Oblique (2 sides=1 rep)


Weight change: Zero.  Maybe even less than zero.  I fluctuated a pound or two throughout but am pretty conclusively at the same weight as when I started.  Is this a cause for dismay?  No -- during my Insanity plight, I was able to wear jeans, bathing suits, and even sleeveless things (side note: I normally hate my arms since they tend to store fat first, and it doesn't help that my shoulders slope down and cause my arms to lay closer to my body = accentuate flab) without worrying about undesired body mass poking out -- this is not typical.  My clothing size stayed the same, but right now, that same size looks a lot better on me.

Inches lost: Consistently, 1"... at the smallest part of my waist, but I think I lost mostly from my lower gut, which was not measured... booo.  My abs are generally not bad and can get definition pretty quickly, but I have never seen them flatten down that much, which means that the supposedly "deep, bad fat" must have decreased.  My arms and legs generally stayed the same but are definitely a lot more toned and definitely contain less fat.  Overall, I feel a lot more... solid?   Body composition changes rule.

Here is where I am going to insert a couple of pictures.  While they aren't good pictures (and are totally and utterly embarrassing... but since there's gotta be some proof...), they are all I have.  Why I chose these Speedo-type suits that hold everything in anyway is beyond me.

Day 23 vs. 43... the angling of the photos are slightly off and there's a dark object behind me in the "after" shot.  I usually took these shots after dinner (and nothing seems quite right after eating or drinking of any kind)... so see below.

Day 56... not sucking it in at all for these.  No before picture, either.  I know, I blow.

A Note on Body Image: While I didn't get ripped (and I didn't expect to!), and while I'll never be "skinny" to some people's standards, I'm happy about doing this program.  Recently, while watching the infomercial, Shaun T says that people often see pictures of people and think, "Oh, I want to look like them."  But everyone's body is different, and so we should aim to be the best we (as individuals) can be.  Your wisdom is infinite, Mr. Buff Man.

Before this program, I thought things like Bob Harper's Ultimate Cardio Body and any plyometrics (exercises involving jumping) at all were scary and too taxing.  I even groaned when Jillian Michaels put in "rock star jumps" into her 30-Day Shred.  Before this program, I felt that starting out another cardio burst when I was still reeling from the last one was insane.  Before this program, I thought that if I ever had to give up running completely, there'd be nothing else I could do to stay in good shape.  Before this program, I didn't think I could do it.

In Part I of this update, I vaguely mentioned future plans -- more specifically, those plans are to do a combined P90X and Insanity program starting around August 6, and the reason for that is because it marks the 90-day (plus two weeks) countdown to the wedding.   I got P90X for "The Ukrainian" for his birthday, but since he's still chipping away at Insanity, I decided to try some of the workouts to see what all that hype is about, and I don't think the P90X program in its original form will address my need for cardio enough.  Doing the mix will be a bit more balanced for me, since I didn't lift a single weight in the two months I did Insanity.  There are a lot of ways to mix the two programs, so I don't have the particular schedule set yet.  More to come, though I don't think I will do weekly updates on that one.

On the note of the countdown, I am tired of people asking me if I'm trying to lose weight or diet before the wedding, because I really just want to do what I can... just because I can... and when I can.  And based on my embarrassing photos above (and sprinkled around this blog), I don't care if people think I'm not as pretty or skinny as they think I should be, even when I'm supposed to be "the bride."  I don't need these programs to fit into my dress or anything, because I already bought/fit into it long before I started Insanity (plus, it's a little forgiving on the fit front).  However, I decided to do it in this timing because it will give me some sort of structure as the stressful last-minute details come... and also, I am hoping to take a small break from structured workouts leading up to, and after, the "big day"-- so I want to push myself a little before that.  In the end, I think this Beachbody DVD stuff all stemmed from being bored with running and needing structure.

In the meantime, I hope to maintain my newfound fitness and plan on running more in the interim.  The week after I finished, I ran five days in a row.  This is something I haven't done in more than a year, and although I didn't love it and miss running, it did feel good to do something different.  I was glad I was able to jump right back into running but only time will tell what I lost by not doing it.  As I mentioned, I don't think I remember feeling in this good of shape ever... I feel balanced.  So before I start a program again, I have a half-marathon next month and hope to actually train for that, whatever that means.

I hope you have enjoyed these updates.  I know I did a lot of Google-ing when I was considering the program, so I know these first-hand accounts can be useful to those in the market.  I'm not an infomercial story, just a regular person who wanted to try something new.  The bottom line is, I now have a nice set of fun and challenging workouts that can help keep me fit in the years to come.

P.S. "The Ukrainian" is starting Phase II of the program this week, so I will update you on his results at another time.  So far, he's creeping up on me in some of the Fit Test numbers. =)

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Insanity - Week 9: My Insanity Graduation (Part I)

This week's workouts:

Monday - Max Interval Plyo
Tuesday - Max Cardio Conditioning + Cardio Abs
Wednesday - FINAL Max Interval Circuit
Thursday - FINAL Core Cardio & Balance
Friday - FINAL Max Interval Plyo
Saturday - FINAL Max Cardio Conditioning + Cardio Abs
Sunday - FINAL Fit Test


How could one be so verbose about doing workout DVDs for two months?

I'm an Insanity graduate.  That means nothing... except what I just said in the line above.   When the infomercial comes on, I can say, "Yeah, I tried that."  Strangely, I actually hadn't seen one of their infomercials for a couple of years and recently saw them pop up this past month.  (Or perhaps I'm just watching too much TV.)

But, I do get to order an Insanity shirt from the Beachbody website... and I'm really excited to get it *ahem, in 6-8 weeks*, which in my opinion, is harder than obtaining any race shirt I own.

Review of the Program:

Assuming you're not suddenly eating a ton more or were already a super athlete, you WILL change if you complete this program.  Even me, who didn't quite adhere to the nutrition plan, saw changes.  Of course, they weren't "infomercial" results, but I think this is one of those things that is more dramatic when you have more weight to lose.  "The Ukrainian," who just completed Phase I, has already lost a noticeable few inches.

The fact that this was "only" 63 days made this very do-able for me.  I know that the thought of popping in discs six days a week for nine weeks doesn't sound grand, but I've spent twice the amount of time running and training for a race.  As I've alluded to in my Running vs. Insanity post, I saw more benefit to my body doing Insanity for nine weeks than training for a marathon for 18+ weeks.  You may have noticed that after my marathon in June, I pretty much just stuck to the schedule verbatim instead of trying to swap workouts for runs.  I found my need to do Insanity much greater than my need to run.

This is not to say that I think Insanity is the end-all, be-all of exercise (there's Insanity Asylum, too, j/k!)... and I'm definitely not dissing running, but even after all those miles, I was humbled by the experience of struggling to get through, well, "just cardio."  And spoiler for the next post: I don't think I've ever been in better shape.

had to throw in a meme sometime... found on Facebook
Lesson learned: the end-all, be-all of exercise is one that you will do consistently over time with minimal damage.  In other words, there is no end-all, be-all of exercise.

Insanity really sucked me in at the beginning.  Although the workouts would push me toward my limits, I was addicted and was pumped for my next workout just hours after doing one.  I used to get this same feeling about running (seeing someone run after I have made me want to run again), but it's gone now.  Even as the initial addiction gradually phased out, I still kept motivated by reading forums and seeing my improvements over time.  I wouldn't say motivation really became an issue until part-way into Phase 2, because each workout really did require "bringing your all," and we all know how that isn't quite most of us function.

Even if you don't do the program in full, the workouts are pretty good stand-alone videos.  However, I wouldn't do the "Max" discs as stand-alone unless you're already pretty fit or do the Month 1 videos regularly.  Each disc burned between 350-650 calories, and at my height, it's pretty hard for me to burn calories, so yes, it's good exercise.  And not once did I experience injury from this, no matter how hard I pushed (then again, I am a stickler about form and know my limits).  I learned to get what I can get out of each exercise and go at my own pace (which was sometimes Shaun T's pace but not always).  And also, I never got nearly as ravenously hungry as I often would from running.

The system is well-designed.  Shaun T is excellent at motivating you through the screen, and the music is perfectly timed to get you pumped up when you need to be.  The setting of a high school gym is cute.  The group of people exercising behind him, although very fit-looking, have their faults, and they are entertaining enough for you to 1) relate to them, and 2) be distracted from your own suffering.

Hmm, I used the word "suffer," so I should qualify that word.  Yes, you will suffer -- not all the time, but more like at certain points -- just like in running.  You might not think you can hold a squat any longer, do another jump, or even hold yourself up sometimes, but the point is to do what you can.  Don't be intimidated.  As Shaun T says, "YOU can freaking do it!" (check with your doctor first, though!)

Future Plans:

Before my next mission (more on that later), I hope to do more running, which I have (sort of) missed since the marathon I did after Month 1.  

Since this program only takes up 1/6 of the year, I think it will be feasible for me to do this two (or three?) times a year.

In Part II, I will go over my actual results (I'm sure this is the part y'all are waiting for, anyway!)... this is getting too long as it is.  If you have any questions, I can address them in the next update.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Wedding, part III

With about four months (holy @#$%!!) left before "The Ukrainian" and I are having our wedding, I've been getting a whole lot of small-talk regarding my progress. 

I don't bring up the subject on my own; people just find weddings to be a relatable subject, I guess.  I'm pretty sure I do the same with my soon-to-be-married friends, and there are a LOT of them.  (I also have a ton of expecting friends, too... people are really going through a lot of changes this year!)  I'm not sure if it's the whole "Year of the Dragon" thing or not, but there is a whole cluster of engaged or just-married people at work... as well as many of my former grad school classmates and even some friends.  Go wedding industry, go. *sarcasm*

As the date looms closer, I am starting to lose my enthusiasm again.  It did go up briefly after finding the dress, but I think it was more of a relief or my friends' enthusiasm rather than my own true energy.  NOTE: The dress above is NOT "the one," but it was in the final few contenders.  I can't force myself to feel something I don't want to feel, and right now, I am just crossing whatever limbs I've got in hope that I don't totally blow the "future house fund" in exchange for a large (to me), potentially me-centered gathering.

To date, here are some of the major milestones:

1) Florist is booked.  While I wanted to be more hands-on with the decorations, I decided that this was something I didn't want to attempt.  I think enough people discouraged me from going that route, and since I don't really have a bridal party, I figure it's better to let the pros do it.  So this item went a bit over-budget, but I'm pretty happy with the selections we made... it would have been too much for me right now to do these things myself.

2) Invitations and reply cards are about to be printed.  No, they won't be fancy, but I honestly don't reckon that people will be saving these as heirlooms.  I'll hold on to one for future generations, but that's about it.  To be sent at the end of the summer (and a few sooner than that since I will get some rare in-person opportunities with some people).

3) Entertainment is booked.  Besides something I'm keeping under wraps, one of my best buds is emcee-ing, which should entertain some of my other guests for sure. =)

4) Officiant has agreed to do our ceremony.  I am not going to reveal too much about this yet, but this was a big concern of mine.

5) Make-up artist!  I don't know how to DIY makeup to save my life, so I hired the makeup artist who essentially made me over for my engagement photos.  Along with this will come veil, jewelry, and accessory rental... knocking many birds out with one stone (excuse the cruelty of that phrase)!  I already have my shoes, too... a random under-budget purchase a few months back.

6) As mentioned above, dress is found.  It needs a couple of minor alterations and a good steam, so I'm bringing it over to my place of choice late September/early October.  Majorly under-budget for this item, so I'm pretty happy about that!

7) Honeymoon is booked.  My vision of a post-wedding honeymoon is sort of happening... a few days after the ceremony with a couple of work days in between.  We'll be in Hawaii... bucket-list will be checked!

8) Photographer is (nearly) confirmed.

There is still a lot to do, unfortunately.  A lot of the remaining details have to do with the particulars of the ceremony, which makes me a bit underwhelmed when I try to think about them.  The part I'm looking forward to most about that day, frankly, is eating cake (another item that still needs to be addressed!!).  In my earlier post, lots of comments left emphasized that the marriage is the most important thing -- and I think that's off to a great start already because we've both found the right partner.

I don't want to seem like I'm totally negative about all this -- I do look forward to having some sort of formal beginning to this marriage -- even if it (edited to add: the ceremony, not the marriage!!) does seem a little forced.  Part of me still worries about bringing together two families that will only know each other via this union, and part of me still struggles to understand my relationship with my own family and whether anything I ever do will seem legitimate.  People will always judge, and I gotta get over that.

Another wedding-related post is currently being drafted, so stay tuned for that if you're inclined.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Relay for Life

I finally got around to posting about the Relay for Life event that I had mentioned that I'd be a part of this year.  It took place on Saturday, June 9th at a local high school.

Due to all that was going on, I failed to capture some of the critical moments of this 24-hour walk-fest.  The afternoon got really warm, and even though it had been a few years since I've acquired any significant sun damage (click here to read why I'm pretty set on protecting myself), I wound up with a slightly red face and dark strip of my shoulder that I neglected to cover properly in sunscreen.

For an event whose partial purpose is to educate people about cancer prevention, this was no good.

Anyway, things kicked off around 9:15 am or so on that Saturday.  The "rule" of this event is that at least one person from your team is supposed to be walking on the track for the entire 24 hours.  I think this crowd was a bit lax about that rule, and thank goodness since we only had four members on our team.

I'm not sure why this was something I've been wanting to do, so much so that it was on my "bucket"/to-do list, but I do know that my friend had been mentioning it quite a bit since he was personally impacted by cancer.

photo credit: Eyedea & Events
The early parts of the day were fine -- I walked with my friends and "The Ukrainian" for some periods.  I even played around a little bit.  For the millionth time, I'm going to mention that I used to run track in high school, so I still find tracks to be very fun places -- too bad it's tough to get access to one in my neck of the woods.

Eventually, I just busted out my Injinjis and flip-flops when my running shoes got uncomfortable.

photo credit: Eyedea & Events
Consumed on this day were various fruits and snacks that we brought, along with In N Out (grilled cheese for me, if you were wondering) and Vietnamese take out.  By the evening, we were realllly cold because it got very windy.

At one point, everyone at the event walked a lap with their glow sticks in the dark in silence (or the best they could do, anyway!).  That was probably the most moving part of the event, and I got to walk that lap with my bestie and love.  I'm sure we all felt thankful and lucky to be able to participate in something like that.

"The Ukrainian" and I left for a few hours to get some sleep (a band wouldn't stop playing music all night, which is great if people walked, but they didn't) and returned very early the next morning.

In total, I'm pretty sure I walked about 15 miles in total.  My Garmin ran out of batteries at some point.

I have to admit that walking 15 miles is, in many ways, tougher than running that same distance.

By the way, these wipes are very handy when it comes to feeling cooler on a hot day.  If you have some space in your pockets or whatever you carry during your runs, this might be your secret weapon on a hot day.  I, for one, exert more effort when I'm feeling nice and cool: 

FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a sample of this product and was not otherwise compensated to give a positive review.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Insanity - Week 8: Taking it on the Road

I alluded last week that I had to modify my schedule, so here was my Week 8:

Week 8 Reflections:

Monday - Max Interval Plyo (originally Tuesday)
Tuesday - Rest (originally last Sunday)
Wednesday - Max Cardio Conditioning & Cardio Abs
Thursday - Max Interval Circuit (originally Friday)
Friday - 2.5 mi run and 10 min swim (in Boston)
Saturday - Plyometric Cardio Circuit instead of Core Cardio & Balance so that "The Ukrainian" and I could work out at the same time and save time
Sunday - Rest

Taking these DVDs on the road with me was definitely a change of scenery and countered boredom a little bit, but it did add the stress of having to wake up unpleasantly early (on East coast time, too!) and wondering if I can squeeze all my jumping in a hotel room and having enough energy afterward to drive to unfamiliar places and run meetings.  Somehow, it actually all worked out pretty well, though.

Hmm, as Shaun T says, "Dig deeper!"

Meanwhile, back on the West Coast, "The Ukrainian" just completed his third week and took his first Fit Test!  He improved on all the exercises and has definitely had visible progress so far.  More on that in a later update.  He gets to work out in this room most of the time:

This picture is almost three years old, but I'd like to think I look the same. 
Jealous.  But at least since the hotel didn't have plushy carpet, I was able to use my shoes.  The change added to the challenge.

Anyway, having this structure of what workouts to do while being gone is definitely different.  Usually, I default to running when I'm on a trip -- either on the treadmill or around the area if I am comfortable.  Having a set program made things easier, for sure, though I imagine I wouldn't have done the same thing if I weren't on a regimen, so on a typical five-day trip, I would probably split videos+running half and half.  When I came back, my on-the-go eating did not pack on any weight, so something must have been right...

I actually have another work trip soon, forcing me to spend my last day of Insanity in yet another hotel room.  I can't say that having to face a tough program AND adjust to different environments is all that fun, but it does make things a little more interesting.

The next time I post an update on this series, I'll be done!!  The Week 9 stuff will probably be a two-parter, since I have a lot to say on my experience (honest review, results, and reflections) with the 63 days of the program.  Be forewarned. =D  In the meantime, if you have any questions about the program (or my experience with the program), feel free to leave them in the comments or email me on my G-Mail (nobel4lit2), and I will answer them in the post!