Tuesday, December 31, 2013

End of the Year

I have fumbled with this post for a long time. Summarizing this year without saying things I haven't already (e.g., "my new job is not flexible like my old one, pays less, and my commute is two hours a day" and "I'm kinda over the running thing") is difficult, because I seem to have focused on those two things a lot on the blog.

Off-line, I enjoyed a lot of good food, worked on not being such a bad in-law, left the country for the first time, read quite a few books, listened to a lot of music, and became more cynical and, most of all, a lot more anxious.  My clothes, makeup, and running spending also hit a five-year low.

In the new year, I'm hoping for the strength to run Carlsbad Marathon and Big Sur without a feeling of torture or dread, knowing as I learned the other day that I can't even drag my body 20 miles like before.  After these races, I will be out of the marathon-ing game for a while, as I've grown tired of spending precious hours training and pushing my body to do something that it has told me many times that it can't handle too well. 

I hope to learn to relax more and finally be happy with the way I am, though not so complacent that I don't try anything new.  I plan on trying lots of new things, actually.  I'm hoping that overcoming my anxiety will help me be more of the person I know I can be.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Body After Running (a Lot)

I've been on the down-trend for the past year.

Long story short, running has become less and less fun for me, and time before more and more sparse.

As I was ramping down (down, down) my weekly mileage, I started wondering what would happen.  Would I grow a "spare tire," struggle to pick up a 15-pounder, or huff and puff at the slightest jog?

I find it laughable each time I'd visit the doctor, when the nurse would do a little intake interview, asking me about my fitness habits.  It used to be, "Oh, I work out 6-ish days per week, an hour at a time."  Then, it became, "About 5-6 days a week, 45 minutes to an hour."  Most recently, it was, "Five days a week, 40 minutes."  Luckily, the system still flagged me as "active," but in my eyes, I know better.

Over the past few months, most mornings would involve a 3.7-ish mile jog, though some mornings I'd do a 30-40 (tops!) minute workout video instead.  Physique 57, Xtend Barre, and 6 Week 6 Pack were most frequent, because more intense stuff like Insanity or Focus T25 are off-limits until we figure out a house-friendly solution to the jumping.  Some days, I'd just "sleep in" (6 AM versus something in the 5's).  Sometimes, several days would pass before I'd work out, or I'd count light yard work as a workout just to feel less lazy. 

Of course, because I still have some races on the calendar, we've been running longer distances on the weekends.  For a month, we did no long runs, so we had to back-track when starting up again, and I'll be going into my next marathon under-trained. I've done worse running-wise, but I think I was more fit overall, though.

So what has the effect been?  In short, not much.  Overall my weight has been more under control.   Granted, I know some is muscle weight, but my appetite is so much more controlled than before.  Recently, I did a long run and ate a large amount of food for days afterward, food I did not "need" calorie-wise, but I couldn't help it.  Outside of this, there is more of a natural stopping point these days, and in return, I've gravitated toward a place that I'm fine with -- losing more would mean cutting out food and working out more, which is stressful (and who needs that?!), so no.

Yes, I run more slowly now.  I was never that fast to begin with, and I'm not trying to break any PRs now.  My hilly stomping grounds, on the other hand, have helped me run more evenly on inclines and declines.  Yet I get sore from squats and lunges these days, ha ha!  In general, my legs are less stocky, yet firm.  I spend a lot of the day standing, walking in heels, walking from place-to-place, and that's a workout in itself.  Oh, and I haven't had to deal with a running injury in forever, which means I am always ready to go.

Strength-wise, I don't lift heavy anymore.  I still do push-ups and other weight-bearing exercises, but I am content with my 5-pounders in barre and sometimes my 15-pound kettlebell.  My upper body is naturally broad and bulky (like The Hulk, but not buff), so maybe this is for the best; I'm still as strong as I need to be.

In short, there IS a life after running, I assure you, and it doesn't involve eating bon-bons on the couch or whatever.  I think a lot of people take up long-distance running because they think it will result in weight-loss and that not running a ton will lead to ballooning, but I don't think that's the case for everyone.  Another percentage of people keep running because they feel it has become critical part of their identity.  I still struggle with this sometimes, but so far, it is fleeting.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Holidays (after Age 18)

Each year, the holiday season comes by more quickly.  Given our trip, a late Thanksgiving/start of shopping season, and the daily grind, I feel that it has truly snuck up on me this year.  I mean, I saw lots of Christmas decorations in Japan, but somehow, it's mid-December, and I'm still scrambling along.

I had some dismal shopping failures recently that really made my anxiety spike.  The first was at a craft store; after circling the area multiple times and getting within scary proximity of other cars with incompetent drivers behind the wheel (even more than me, which is shocking), I decided to abandon my mission, wasting 30 minutes of time that is so precious these days.  The second happened after visiting my parents -- I decided to make a stop on the way home, but as I got there, I got a "the store is closing in 15 minutes" warning, lines jutting to the back of the store.  That was definitely not enough time for me, so I started putting everything down in a panic, yet somehow still browsing until the store closed.  I've been trying to shop online more, but there are certain things that should be seen in person... within the mob circling Target.

My fancy holiday work party is this weekend, and I can't say I'm looking forward to it as much as I had hoped.  I really should have sought out a makeup artist, but it was tough to secure someone affordable.  Plus, it seems like no matter how much effort I put in, I look frumpy all the time.  My feet hurt a lot these days.  My dress was purchased over a year ago, on a whim in New York and hasn't surfaced since, so I have no idea how that will go.  Also, a lack of exercise has made changed my body shape, I think.  At least this gnarly rash I had is clearing up so that people won't wonder whether I ate radioactive fish while I was overseas. 

If only Christmas was about spending time together, baking, and watching children enjoy the holiday....  I guess I used to be one of those children, but now I'm old and don't really mind whether someone gives me something that I could probably buy myself if I needed/wanted it that badly.  Maybe this mentality will change if I have children of my own.  "The Ukrainian" asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said, "More time to relax" and "To have my friends choose any other cuisine but stinky, meat-y Korean BBQ for a gathering."  Cue Ebenezer Scrooge.

In addition, the anxieties multiply when your family grows.  When it's your biological family, it's easy to "come as you are," but once you've attended your third Thanksgiving meal, you start to feel the weight (pun intended) of having in-laws upon in-laws that require separate dinners for each subset.  Then, the "when are the babies coming?" question dampens the mood until we can brave the traffic home.  Also, time to shop for more gifts, yay.

Overall, though, the holidays are nice.  The weather is cooler, for one, and I'm one of those odd people who enjoys the sub-40s Fahrenheit that other Southern Californians find apocalyptic.  Yes, the uncharacteristic temperature have nudged me to skip workouts in a time that I already don't do enough of them, but there is something so nice about enjoying the comforts of home, seeing all the lights, and doing all that traditional stuff that brings you back to childhood.  I just wish that I had started shopping earlier, and that I could realize that being shoved into really isn't worth fuming over.

Oh yeah, I have a marathon in five weeks, and it has been a month since I've run over 10 miles.  Stay tuned for an comical/abysmal race review soon...

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Ten Lessons Learned in Japan

Since I returned from my 10-day (8-day without traveling) vacation, things have not been the same.  I haven't had a lot of time to process things, as I returned on a Sunday afternoon, returned to work Monday, blew through four holiday meals (without running at all), and am just coming up for air.

Things haven't been the same, because going on vacation for that long had not yet happened in my adult life.  The longest I had been off of work is 5 days , and I took 6 off for this one.  Also, this was my first time outside of the country.  That alone is such an eye-opening thing to do, and I can't believe I've waited so long to do it.  My world used to be so small because I was extremely sheltered, but that has made me appreciate everything so much more.

Anyway, I really miss Japan.  I know I only got a limited glance of the country, but already, I could see the stark differences between there and my home country, differences that make me long to be back there as I go about my day-to-day life back at home.  I'll elaborate more about this below.  Hope this doesn't seem antagonistic in any way... just observation.

Lessons Learned in Japan

1.  TMI alert! -- This didn't quite happen IN Japan, but en route.  So, this being my longest flight ever (~10 hrs), I prepped to be comfy -- glasses, Kindle, provided bedding.  Usually, when I feel nauseated during take-off and landing, I pop in a cough drop.  I was feeling fine and was even able to eat, but we hit an hour of turbulence, and no cough drop was able to keep me from getting sick (multiple times, mind you).  Since I had never been sick on a plane before, I wasn't prepared and used an inappropriate bag... which leaked.  Although I managed to miss my stuff, clothes, the bedding, and other people, I felt like the most vile person ever.  The rest of that flight was what I imagine when one would feel like in hell -- cramped, smelly, hungry, and dizzy.

Lesson learned: no matter how well you prepare, or how many shorter similar experiences you've conquered, your body can rebel.  Oh wait... I already learned that with running!

2. Japan is a place with endless beauty, a mix of the old with the modern.  We could all learn to bridge tradition with everyday life... an eternal struggle.

View during breakfast one morning: Atami, Japan.

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Kyoto

Imperial Palace, Tokyo

Kimono Show @ the textile district in Osaka!

3. Ramen.  Need I say more?  Speaking of ramen, check out the eggs that I ate in Japan -- the chicken yolks are SO orange and tasted GREAT.  It seems that something is definitely wrong with the U.S. food supply, so we're planning on switching to organic eggs after we run out.

Found this gem at Tokyo Ramen Street

EGG (Ichiran Ramen in Kyoto)

Hot spring egg at the Imperial Tokyo Hotel

4. Japan is SO clean.  You'd think with so many people living in a country the size of California, it'd be riddled with ickiness, but that simply wasn't true.  There was hardly any leftover gum on the floors, no dirt-covered cars driving around, no trash on the floor, and public places/things were... clean!  Even the homeless kept to themselves and didn't smell of urine and weed.

It seems like littering and such is just in bad taste over there, and people have so much more respect for property than in the U.S. (I was told crime rates there are pretty low)  Take note, Americans -- "freedom" doesn't mean you should make a mess!

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)
Also, even in crowded places, there was order in the madness.  It seems that people understand that rules exist FOR A REASON.

5. Going out of the country means trying new things.  Although meat is not something I willingly eat, I decided to try Kobe beef, knowing that this was probably the best and everything is "downhill" from that.  Again, something is wrong with the U.S. food supply.

Kobe beef

6. That being said, in spite of my theory that I would one day return to meat-eating permanently, I don't think I'd want that.  Yes, I had actually considered it for a while, but for one thing, meat is generally fraught with yucky things, so I'd only eat it if my parents made me or if it became medically necessary.  And even then, I'd limit it to necessity.

Todai-ji Temple: Nara, Japan

Besides, Kyoto (a region in Japan) has AMAZING tofu -- and tofu soft-serve.  I mean, the stuff in the U.S. is just not the same...

Tofu at the Miho Museum in Kyoto

Tofu soft serve in Arashiyama, Kyoto

7. Try new things.  Going this far away was new, but I'm referring to everyday things.  Like putting on a necklace to work, which I never did because I thought it'd give muggers on and en route to the train yet another thing to grab me by (seriously). In the short time since I've returned, I've met up with an old colleague that I didn't know very well, got into skin care masks, bought an AppleTV, and started eating rice for breakfast.

Oh, and singing karaoke in a yukata robe is definitely a new thing.

8. Simple things... are great things.  We stayed in a ryokan (Japanese-style hotel) for a few nights, and although sleeping on the tatami floor wasn't reminiscent of a Sleep Number bed at all, my back did like it at times, and on one of those nights, I was sleeping to the sound of waves crashing.

And let's face it... I can sleep practically anywhere.

You also don't need a zillion pieces of pasta to feel satiated.

And when it's just you and your food, you can focus on its inherent flavors so much more.

Ichiran Ramen (Kyoto)

9. I will always be a child at heart.  I don't have a huge number of pleasant childhood memories (not that it was all horrid, but generally mundane), but as an adult, I can still get excited about going to a Pokémon store and pose the original "starters" together for a group shot.  I wanted to take a lot of these home, but I've been so anti-clutter these days that this did not happen. =/

Pokémon Center at Osaka Station Mall

10. At the end of the day, or when you wake up in the middle of the night, it's nice to have a warm place to go.  Enough said.

(On a related note, I did use the non-Western style toilet, and it really wasn't that bad.  Kind of more natural, actually.)


I'm so glad I had this opportunity, and I will try not to stew over our pesticide-ridden food, dirty trains, or lack of manners too much as I await my return visit.  I will treasure my vacation photos (these were just a small percentage of the 1100 I took!) and the few souvenirs that did make it home as a reminder of something I will look back on when I'm on my deathbed.

And you can bet that I won't be littering any time soon (not like I was, but now I'm extra-conscientious).

Monday, November 11, 2013

Year One

Last November 11:

Some quick stuff about our first year of marriage:

This has been a tough year for me, personally.  The first part of the year was all about learning my new role as a member of an additional family, job-searching, acceptance, interviewing, the rise and fall of hope... all that good stuff.  My poor husband for having to hear about it all.  After I finally did find something, it has been a matter of getting used to everything, and it has taken me much longer to adjust than I had hoped.  All the while, we were having our house-hunting episodes where we couldn't seem to agree or really find anything that we could afford, until finally, we got lucky.  Then came moving and adjustment to that situation and worrying about our financial future, which leads us up to now.

But "The Ukrainian" has always been there, even in the times we manage to push each others' buttons.  To be fair, I probably do most of the pushing.

Without being too wordy about things that words cannot describe (or preaching about marriage because I'm definitely no expert), I will simply say that I am so very thankful for our relationship and for every day that we can enjoy it.

Time to eat defrosted cake!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Halloween 2013

Halloween is peskily falling in the middle of the week this year (as will Christmas and New Years' Day, unfortunately), so my sisters' annual costume bash has already taken place.  Admittedly, Halloween (<~ click link for all the other times I've blogged about this holiday) kind of snuck up on me this year for some reason mentally, though I was proactive and planned our costumes as early as I could after knowing what the theme was.  Oh, and I also made my usual Halloween Chex Mix.

I was a bit lazy this year and purchased most of our costume elements.  However, when I couldn't find certain things (at a reasonable price) I had to do a little crafting:

The final product:

The theme this year was "magic," so we were able to piece together a bunch of stuff for "The Ukrainian"'s costume.  It's hard to see in the picture, but he even trimmed his beard in a different way for the occasion.  We only needed to get a robe (Party City) and hat (eBay again, fairly cheap!), since the rest of the ensemble was re-used pieces of previous costumes or crafted out of stuff we already had.

I went the basic route: witch.  Worse yet, I eBay-ed my costume for under $20.  I thought I was being lazy, but luckily, all the girls were witches, so it worked out.  I tried to make my haggard hair look even more haggard by spraying the heck out of it with dry shampoo, which sort of worked, but mainly on the top of my head where the hat was covering it.  Boo!

Before leaving for the party, I had to try sneaking in a picture with this white prop.

Later on, I found a gash in my arm from this encounter, because he'd rather be doing this:

Also, at the last minute (just as the festivities were starting), I managed to carve a pumpkin.  I wasn't sure if I/we would pull it off that quickly, but years of carving experience allowed it to happen.  I didn't even follow all the steps that are typical and free-handed parts of it to save time.  I'm pretty sure I've been carving at least one pumpkin every year since I was 13/14? years old, more recently trying to follow the party themes.  Although I ended up doing a somewhat easier one than originally planned, the streak remains alive!  In record time!

Speaking of pumpkins, that's my niece dressed as a little witch (Kiki).  I think I've given this cutie many mentions on this blog, though this might very well be her first appearance. 

On Halloween night, I plan on staying home to see how many people actually show up to our new home.  I know I've said this before, but this holiday is kind of the first signal of the holiday whirlwind to come.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Seven Years of the "Runs"

And just like that, it's been 7 years.

Like last year, I don't really have a lot of sentimental ruminations about the anniversary of my first real post about my first Long Beach Half-Marathon.

However, I have been thinking about the blog and its future lately, more than usual.  When I started, I basically lived and breathed running.  Of course, I was also a (college!) student, newly into the workforce, and all that good stuff, but I used to take the little vacation time I had just to run... just to train, even.  Nowadays, perhaps because working the "9 to 5" for years kills your soul (so to speak), running occupies such a smaller space in my life, both time-wise and mentally.

This past weekend, after 4 months of running no more than 5 miles (most days under 4), I ran 13.1 miles in 2 hours and 2 minutes -- in a training session, faster than a good percentage of my actual half-marathons, not even at 100% effort.  I truly believe that this came from my "mental space" becoming clearer from not "running myself into the ground" moreso than my actual physical fitness (which isn't much, based on total training time and lack of weight-/cross-training).  Overall, it felt good in the Fall air, and that run kind of helped me affirm that running is always going to be a part of my life, even if I am slowly decreasing my race registrations this year. I had to adjust to a lot of new things since last year, and I'm sure there will be a lot of other new things in the future. People go through many phases in life, and there will always be a need to be active and clear the mind.

So the blog will stay, even though it sometimes feels like the blog world is spread too thin, and nobody wants to really blog anymore in favor of Instagram and such.  The blog will stay, through running and not running, because I have a feeling and hope that the best is yet to come.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Jillian Michaels - 6 Week 6 Pack

Wow, it has really taken a long time for me to review this DVD.

If you've been reading for a while, I have tried quite a few of Jillian Michaels' workouts.  However, I got all excited and wrapped up about Insanity and T25, which now I can't really do at this time due to logistical issues.  Jillian's videos are not really as high-impact, so I have been doing more of them lately.

This DVD consists of two levels of workouts, about half an hour each.  I don't think I've ever tried to do both in one session, though you totally could.  Usually, I will do about 15 minutes of cardio or something to supplement this workout.

I actually think Level 1 is a touch more difficult than Level 2.  In Level 1, you're doing a lot more floor work, which is definitely effective. In Level 2, there are a lot more standing exercises, which seem to engage more areas of the core.  Both levels go through two circuits, and then you do both circuits quickly for a final time.  Less reps, but more speed.  There's the cardio!  Both levels can be done without equipment, though a light handweight can be used to amp up some of the moves.

After a while of not doing this video, my legs/glutes got super sore after doing some lunges in Level 2.  And in both levels, there are definitely moments of panting.  Whew!

While I haven't been doing this workout enough to know if it would flatten your abs, I always feel like I am getting a good workout.  Plus, I feel this is one of the few core videos that 1) work different muscles around the core area without burning the heck out of your hip flexors, and 2) provides some adequate cardio.

The video ends with some stretching, with Jillian rambling about reflecting upon your workout the way you would about other stuff in life.  While it's not bad stuff, you just get tired of hearing it after a few times. =D

Overall, this is one of my favorite go-to Jillian workouts -- just a touch under my desired video length, but perfect in that it's low-impact.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Treadmill Hunt

It's starting to cool down around here (finally!), so I know that my days out (very) early morning running around the neighborhood might be over.  While I've gotten used to running in the dark (unpleasant as is), "The Ukrainian" has clearly stated that he'd rather not run in the rain.  The formerly "hardcore" runner in me wants to ignore him, but for the sake of not slipping or damaging my shoes when I'm too cheap to replace them, I'm now seriously considering a treadmill.

A treadmill is something that I've always eyed, but I couldn't justify spending money on something that I wasn't sure if I'd use, which is a funny thing to say since I've been running (no serious distances) as my primary source of exercise these days.  I used to run on the treadmill a lot, but since I'm gym-less, I am not used to it anymore.  I'm sure I'd use it if it were there, I had some entertainment on, and the weather was bad.  Of course, it would be great to have one around just for walking, though.

I'm just waiting for the right opportunity.  I tried Craigslist but decided that it'd be better to get one from a place who would offer assistance should something break.  This treadmill from Sears is one of my top contenders, but the bargain-hunter in me is hoping I can do better.  Whatever the case, this treadmill will live in the garage, and I will just pop it open each time I use it and hope spiders, praying mantis-es peacocks, or whatnot come to get me.

Any suggestions would be welcome.  Although I've been running 4-5 times a week now (yay!), I'm in no way ready to run any of the big races that are on my sidebar.  There are 15 weeks left until the Carlsbad Marathon... yikes!


On the life front, workload is ebbing and flowing, thankfully.  When it's crazy, it's crazy, but I have been getting a little more downtime, which is NICE because things had been just consistently crazy for a few months now.  Never before have I procrastinated so much in my life, both at work and on a personal front.  The weekends have been pretty busy lately, but I think we're going to get a couple of much-needed quiet weekends soon, which excites me.  The thought of spending some time in the home we worked so hard to acquire is blissful, especially if the cooler weather holds up, and we can watch movies and make cold-weather grub.  Yum!

Also, about a month from now, "The Ukrainian" and I are going on our big trip, our "second honeymoon" so to speak, mostly to get my "I've never been out of the country" jitters out.  I haven't had a lot of time off of work this year, so needless to say, I am excited to spend some days away from all obligations (and there are many!!).  I'm sure I'll be posting about this more later!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

YMCA Stair Climb 2013

EVENT: YMCA Stair Climb
DATE: Friday, September 27, 2013
LOCATION: Los Angeles, CA
RACE BEGAN: 1:30 pm

To me, stairs are pretty much as bad as hills.  However, unlike hills, stairs can actually be quite dangerous, so I tend to avoid them.  Unfortunately, as a public transit user and a high-rise worker, I come across many stairs, and when I do, my legs often feel like lead.

I'm not quite sure how I agreed to sign up for this event.  Although I consider myself decently fit, 1) I'm out of shape from cutting back on working out, and 2) stairs have always made me lose my breath and get my legs all locked up.

Notice how this building dwarfs the others...

This event, which benefits the YMCA, involves climbing up the stairs of the U.S. Bank Tower, one of the tallest buildings on the West coast.  (The "down" portion is elevator, thankfully for my knees.) This sucker is 75 floors tall.  As a reference, the building I work in has 54 floors, and in my previous job, 3 floors.  It's not like I even use the stairs regularly, unless it's just a few floors.  And a few months ago, I tripped on a stair step at Union Station in front of everyone during rush hour.

However, I'm not one to back out from something like this, so my ego got the best of me once again.

I knew I should train, but I was never serious enough to stay after work to attend organized training.  In the couple of months prior, I tried to walk up the stairs during lunchtime walks, but this wouldn't last very long due to me sweating in the summer sun in my work clothes and somewhat uncomfortable "work-appropriate" lunchtime walking shoes.  A few mornings (and once or twice after work), I'd take the elevator to the lowest floor that was permissible and walk ten floors before going to my floor.  Sometimes, I'd go back down and repeat this.  I timed some of these and saw I was coming in at around 2 minutes and 15 seconds, which I figured wasn't bad because I had my canvass bag full of stuff and was not in workout gear.  However, these jaunts would get me sweaty and short of breath, and I'd multiply 10 floors in 2.25 minutes by 7.5 (for the 75 floors of the actual event) and lose confidence in myself.

I did not enter this with any intention to "compete."  Since there were team-timings in addition to individual, though, I worried I'd let my team down, especially since I'm fairly new at my job and have a reputation as a runner... not good, especially when said job/commute sucks up a lot of what used to be "training" time.

I honestly don't have a lot of memories of these 17 minutes.  There was a lot if heavy breathing, sweat, and general nervousness that I'd fall. I started to lose it/get nauseated by the 60ish floor, though my heart rate was sky high by the 20s... Counting down seemed to help.

Just like a running event, I was never so happy to reach the finish!!

Post-mortem (like what I did after LA Marathon 2012), here are some tips for doing this event that I am jotting down for future use:

1) Bring a water bottle.  This Amphipod one that I have would have been great because it stays on the hand. The air was dry, and water stations were not frequent enough for me. By the end, I was so dry that I tasted slight blood (tmi?).

2) The air is stuffy in stairwells, unlike outdoors (generally), so breathe calmly if possible.

3) Don't start out too quickly! I was conservative because I knew I would die if I did... Maybe a little TOO conservative, but better safe than hurling.

4) Although tempting, don't stop! Just keep going if you can. Extra heaving breaks aren't particularly useful, so I kept going. Plus, I was getting crampy, so keeping at it was best.

Overall, I just wanted to accomplish this new vertical PR in one piece. Next time, I would definitely train more and wear lighter shoes/clothing.

Some pics of the day:

Friday, September 20, 2013

Five in a Row

I ran five days in a row this week!  The last time anything like that happened was more than a year ago, when I was on a business trip that didn't require me to wake up at 5:15 am every morning in order to fit a workout in the day.

This "mini-streak" was "The Ukrainian"'s idea.  As I've mentioned, it's too dark, hilly, buggy, wild animal-y and uneven to run alone in the mornings.  Morning is really the only time I have without counting on myself to go on a run when it's hot out after work and after wearing heels all day and often standing on the hour+-long commute home.  It just wouldn't happen, and the evening chores don't do themselves.  So I only run when "The Ukrainian" says he'll run with me in the morning, which had gone from once or twice a week to three times a week... and this week, five times.

We basically ran the same path daily, which is somewhere between 3.5 and 4 miles.  When time and exhaustion don't give me excuses on the weekends, we run a mile or so more, a little later so it's not as dark and I can actually enjoy the views rather than fear every rustle and keep my head looking down for cracks in dark crevices.  This is not a lot of mileage by any means, but the majority of it is uphill, particularly in the ending parts.  Beyond the challenges listed in the paragraph above, it had been hot and humid a lot of this summer, even that early in the day.  By the time I'd be climbing those final inclines, I'd be huffing and puffing like a contestant that just started on The Biggest Loser.  At least, that's the first image that popped in my head as I was struggling not to heave.

As we've been running more, I feel myself struggling less.  Perhaps it's because it has actually been in the 60s instead of the 70s in the mornings lately, or maybe.... I'm regaining some of my fitness?  I sure hope so... because as you can see from my sidebar, there are a couple of races in my future that seem practically impossible right now.  I'm pretty sure I've even slimmed down ever so slightly, which is an indication to me that I haven't been working out hard enough and need to figure out how to do that in the new dwelling.

While running five times is nothing to gloat about to some (many?), I'm hoping it will be a turning point for me.  Now that the weather is just starting to be a bit merciful, I'm hoping I can do some longer runs on the weekends and since I won't be given more time on the weekdays, I can consider those "speed work."  Well, that and running several blocks to catch the bus home.

It's the small steps that add up???

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Home is Where the Food Is

In spite of my lack of cooking posts, there has definitely been plenty of it around here.  A strange new place feels more like home once you start making food in it!

In those last couple weeks before we moved out, there were meals like this:

Wild Planet Foods lemon sardines.  Very convenient and tasty on baguettes and lower in mercury than other canned fish!

One of our wedding gifts in action!
In those last weeks, we were making a game out of cooking with whatever we had in the pantry.  I think I baked a batch of banana-date scones with whole-wheat pastry flour that was starting to go a bit south.  I've been back at it again.  I really love my kitchen. =)  It's not big with an island, but it's clean, and somehow we manged to fit everything in spite of less cabinet space.  Perhaps I'll post more detailed photos someday, but I really love that I can plug in my appliances everywhere, and everything wipes off easily.  We wasted the first few weeks just eating rice and salad, until I starting feeling comfortable.

I made bread again.  I've been making it a couple of times a month, usually just using the food processor.  The results have been variable since I can't seem to decide what I really want in the end.  The first time I made it in the new place, it came out pale and sunken.  Thus, below is a photo of the time before that -- my favorite so far because it had a nice, soft texture.

As alluded to in many recent posts, I haven't really been working out much on the weekends anymore.  Not that I haven't been doing other things, such as riding my bike, hiking, and yard work -- but those things allow me just a little extra time in the morning to make breakfast.

Got any crepes?  Eaten with too many Ikea jams.
Had one too many brown bananas and quickly threw together some vegan banana pancakes using the first recipe I found online.  Topped with more Ikea jam.

Lastly, dessert.  I've made these grain-free pecan "shortbread" cookies from this site a few times and am getting better results each time.  I think they key is getting them thin.

Silpat baking mat making an appearance again... was also another wedding gift!  Best thing ever!

Also, these blueberry oat bars have made a reappearance.  I used leftover (unpasteurized) pomegranate juice from the farmer's market for the juice and a mixture of frozen berries that I had on hand instead of blueberries.

I've also made vegan lasagna, various rice dishes, and a few other things that didn't make it to the camera.  Not bad for the first month.

In a time of transition, cooking/baking is comforting.  With our housewarming and holidays(!) coming soon, I definitely have my work cut out for me.  I just procured a candy thermometer, so this should be a fun holiday season.

More later!

FTC Disclaimer: I received a sample of Wild Planet Foods to try but was not otherwise compensated to review the product in any particular way.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Focus T25 - Core Speed

It's been some time since I've posted a T25 review, and there's a pretty good reason for that... probably not as exciting as for some, though.

I mentioned that I'm having a few adjustment issues since moving.  First, running in the morning is now something I can only do with company, since it's so dark out, hilly and uneven, and wild animals are known to be in the area (haven't seen any yet, though!).  I know I could "woman up" and just run on my own with lights and pepper spray, but I don't enjoy running in fear.  The other day, I was running in front of "The Ukrainian," when I started yelling because I had just run thorough a FREAKING SPIDER WEB the size of my body that I obviously couldn't see in those conditions.  I'm used to running through webs, but this one was huge and not something I could easily brush off.  I had the "heebies" until I got home and showered.

The second issue I'm having is the floor.  There is a hairline crack in the ceiling, and the house is not directly on the floor, so there are some shock-absorption issues that make me paranoid that I'll "break" the house if I jump around too much.  So for now, I've been doing barre-type workouts when I'm not running.  Once in a while, I'll still pop in Insanity or T25, but I do it at lower intensity until we figure out how to handle the new situation.

Anyway, the one I snuck in most recently was Core Speed, which is a disc that you can either get separately or thrown-in if you ordered from a Beachbody coach.  I actually met my coach through MyFitnessPal.  This 25-minute workout consists of a few series repeated a few times that increase in speed.  For example, quick jabs, 1-2-3 clap, zig-zag hop, L-squat, up-and-overs, and criss-cross/burpee criss-cross.  You do that a few more times, increasing in speed but for a shorter time.

In the second series, we meet the one-handed burpee.  How is this even possible without breaking your wrist??  I took it easy to save my ceiling and my arm, but basically, the key to this move is having a strong core.  I definitely expected this to not be so cardio-intensive (being a "core" video), but having done so many of Shaun T's workouts, I don't know why I was surprised.  You definitely have to keep holding in your core, even if you're tired.

I probably would have burned a bit more if I could fully exert myself, but I was just happy to try this disc, finally.  It's pretty apparent that I've stepped down the intensity of my workouts, because after something like this, I'm definitely sore the next day.  Truthfully, I haven't even been working out on the weekends anymore, so out of shape, I am.  Once the weather cools down and I find a really good mat or something, I am looking forward to stepping things back up, but I think I will let myself enjoy a less intense period for a while.  I have to say, I rather enjoy the extra time, which is exactly why T25 is so appealing.

I'll eventually get to the Beta workouts!! ;)

Caloric burn (without stretch): 240** (see note above about my intensity)


**Calorie burn measured by my heart-rate monitor and will vary for people based on their gender, body composition, height, weight, and a plethora of things, so take it lightly!!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Swirlgear Capped Sleeve Shirt

It's been a while since I've worn a fun, pink running shirt.  In fact, I don't really have any pink running clothes at all.  I think it's usually more practical for me to wear whatever I get from races, and I like my shorts dark.

The exception.

It's not that I have anything against pink inherently -- I think it's just an issue with my skin tone clashing with it.  Also, pink items *tend* to be a little bit see-through, if you catch my drift -- but that's the point... don't want anyone to catch any of my drifts, ha ha.

I recently got to try Swirlgear's Capped Sleeve Shirt, which I found super cute!

I've probably mentioned before that I am pretty self-conscious about my arms because my shoulders slope down and results in my arms being too close to my body, which results in major "flab-amplification."  (I also tend to store fat in them, so double-whammy.) I can't believe I'm admitting this on here, but it's a known fact for me and I'm getting old enough to not care anymore.  So I tend to stay away from "cap-sleeves" because they tend to draw attention to my arms.

However, this shirt didn't really make me feel self-conscious because it seems to cover my upper arms sufficiently.  And it wasn't see-through.  And I thought it actually looked cute on me, or I'm just not used to seeing myself in pink.  Either way, I had an extra spring in my step because for once I wasn't wearing something masculine or frumpy.

Sorry for the long face... it was dead early in the AM.

It has been TERRIBLY humid lately, so I was impressed that the shirt did keep the sweat off my body.  Overall, a very flattering shirt!


In other news... 

I just finished with jury duty and escaped being on a 10-12 day trial, which is great because even in the two days I was out of the office, the workload piled high.  I got out particularly early yesterday and was able to basically enjoy a day "off"!  What did I do?  Stuff myself with sandwiches and Oreos, take a soak bath in my new house, and watch Magic Mike (I'm behind on stuff, so yeah... my review: meh).  Although things are crazy again with holidays (L'shanah tova!), birthdays, and everything else, I'm glad I had a brief chance to rest.

Here are some random photos as of late:

Goat and pimento chips.  Kind of stinky! (World Market)

I nearly cried when I paid my credit card bill for a dog + cat vet appointment, but it's all worth it.

I whine about the trains a lot, and this guy clipping his nails on it is partly why.  He also had all these "Money over b@^ches" tattoos...

FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of Swirlgear clothing but was not otherwise compensated to write a review.  Learn more about their Kickstarter campaign here!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Panther Vision Power Cap

Since I've been essentially doing my runs in the dark these days, I was excited to be able to try Panther Vision's Power Cap.  Sadly, I haven't really run with a lot of lighting products (I wear reflective stuff, though!), probably because I didn't used to run in those kind of conditions, and when I did, it was on well-lit streets.  I haven't rolled my ankle since my first run out, but I often wish for more lighting during some parts of my run.

Included with the cap was an LED light that can be pinned or attached magnetically to clothing.  I found the whole thing to be a little heavy for some of my thinner running clothes, but placed strategically, it's always good to be visible with a noticeable red color.

Now for my review of the cap itself.  I was sent a women's size, so it did not want to stay on my head.  I'd put it on, make it tighter, etc., but within 10 feet, it'd start slipping off.  The "head" box just was too shallow to accommodate my large-ish head.  Other than that, it didn't feel heavy, and the light was a soft white light that made me feel more sure-footed during the darker parts of my run.  All you have to do is squeeze a small area of the "bill" of the cap, and you're good to go!

The first concern I had when I saw the cap was washing, though the tag specifically said it's fully washable once the batteries are removed.  The battery pack is located toward the back of the cap, and the batteries pop out pretty easily.  I just followed the typical procedure that I use for washing my hats -- toss in cool wash, and don't let it get in the dryer!

It's definitely nice to have a clean cap instead of something that wouldn't be able to be washed!
FTC Disclaimer: I was provided a sample product but was not otherwise compensated to write a review.