Friday, July 26, 2013

Dear Dairy

Dear Dairy,

This is an overused and abused quote/phrase, but "I just don't know how to quit you."

You see, a few weeks ago, I went 12 days without eating any (at least 99.9% the way there as far as I can discern) gluten, corn, eggs, dairy, peanuts, add sugars, and soy.  Slowly, I started reincorporating these things into my stomach.

This week, I had a bite of dairy here and there.  Granted, I had been eating a bit of baked goods before that, which surely contained dairy, and a sprinkle of feta in my salads...   However, with a bunch of events and festivities, I may have had a taste of froyo from the machine (in a sample cup), a small amount of cake, and a third of a wrap with Caesar dressing in it.

I've felt disgusting for days, and gained about four pounds.  Granted, I know it's not possible for me to have gained so much from a bite here and there, especially since I've been more running lately -- but my skin has flared and I'm constantly bloated.

It's not like I eat dairy very often, as I know about how it's obtained and what's in it and such (I won't go into it, but a few minutes on the web is all it takes).  I keep saying I need to stay away entirely, though I thus far haven't succeeded. 

I think part of the reason is that the more I stay away, the worse it gets when I unintentionally (or intentionally) have some dairy.  Obviously, the symptoms became WAY more noticeable after my "clean" period, and I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing. 

The other thing is, most of my favorite foods (including those from childhood) contain dairy, and the non-dairy versions haven't quite made the taste/experience grade (as well as the wallet grade, and the availability grade, lol).

I'm not quite sure what the point of this letter/post is, but I'm hoping I keep the way I currently feel in mind the next time I want to take samples at Yogurtland or eat a yogurt-covered pretzel.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Goodbye, Gym (again)

I quit my gym today.  Yep, that's big news... #royalbaby, eat your heart out! ;)

I didn't go to the gym for three days last week, which is totally out of the norm, as I am usually there at 6:35 AM every weekday morning.  Instead, I worked out at home, the way I had been for most of 2012 when I decided that the company gym was WAY too small and overused to utilize.

My relationship with this gym was fairly short -- started in mid-March and now leaving in mid-July.  Although having a gym nearby my new job was a useful part of my transition, it's an expense that I don't want to keep incurring, among other things. *cryptic emoticon here if I had one*

Now that I've gotten more comfortable with my morning routine and fitting in workouts with my commute and job, I discovered that it was entirely possible for me to work out at home, enjoy my own shower, and still make it to work on time.  I swapped a train transfer for a bus transfer, and although the ideal parking spaces at the train station aren't there for me anymore when I do this, I arrive at work much more relaxed than when I was coming fresh from the gym.

The transition back to at-home workouts WILL take some work.  For instance, this morning I ran five miles, and instead of having the luxury of a treadmill/controlled environment, I had to deal with some darkness, hilly terrain, and time-killing traffic lights.  I came back beet-faced and drenched as if I had run indoors, with slightly more painful joints afterward.  However, I got to see "The Ukrainian" leave for work, drink my protein without having to lug another dishware on the train, and change into my 9-to-5-gear in a non-locker-room style.  Not to mention, I no longer have to carry a change of clothing/shoes on the train, and I think the other passengers will hate me less for that.

I don't think I'm much of a gym person to begin with.  Sure, I guess you can say that going to one changed my life, but here some of the other factors beyond money that were part of my decision:
  • I've always been one to overheat in gyms.  At home, I have my own portable fan (I don't turn on A/C ever, but a fan is enough). 
  • Since I use public transit and work in a social job, I get anxous when people get into my personal space when I'm working out.  That's my "me" time, some of the only "me" time I get in a day outside of the restroom.  I'd be in a remote corner doing circuit training, and people would get set up camp in space that I was clearly using.  Also, when a person chooses the elliptical right next to mine, when there are many other empty ones around, I feel creeped out.
  • Older ladies would always shower for a long time, sitting with the door open, in the first stall so that no matter what, you'd have to acknowledge them before getting to the next ones.  Oh, and they put on lotion in the sauna... they should really crank that thing up so people don't feel tempted to stay in there that long.
  • Oh, and I definitely won't miss seeing the person I call "runner girl," and I think it's because of my "jelly-hater"-like tendencies.  She reminds me of myself in my early 20s -- energetic, able to run a lot without consequence, working her first "real" job, and excited about everything fitness-related to the point that she has the join the faux "Crossfit" group and talk about running alllll the time, wearing Lululemon all the while.  Because she didn't rely on transit, I'd get jealous that she was working out longer than me and had the time to actually enjoy it, rather than rushing through.  Of course, I am perfectly aware that my negative feelings toward her are not good, but I'm being honest... and glad I won't keep falling in that comparison trap.  Some people might find it motivating, but not me. 
  • A weird guy kept egging me on around the indoor track.  I had taken a break from it and then came back to that level to use the treadmills, and he gestured toward the track.  I could tell he had a little bit of a crush on me, so I kept staying away.
In all seriousness, I'm sure I'm going to have moments where I'll miss the gym, but for now, I feel like this is the right decision for me.  I hope to someday have a nice home gym, but for now, I've got my TV, yoga mat, workout DVDs, my one kettlebell, pair of 3-lb weights, pull-up bar (that I am not strong enough to use at this point), set of resistance bands, and my pepper spray for when I run outdoors.  Oh, and did I mention my fan?!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Focus T25 - Alpha - Lower Focus

So after doing Ab Intervals, Lower Focus is the second workout to do on the first Friday.  This basically means that you're following up an ab-whopping with an.... ah, never mind.

This video consists of a lot of leg and hip-flexor work, as you might imagine.  Think: squats, lunges (oh, the lunges!), lunge pulses, and even some calf-specific exercises. 

For me, lunges are not normally a problem, but my legs were definitely screaming through this.  I think the bigger challenge for me is some of the hopping exercises -- my flat feet aren't that flexible, so when Shaun T tells you to stay on the balls of yor feet, my poor inflexible feet are tortured.

Not a TON of sweat, but a LOT of "focus."

Other than that, this video is not exactly eventful, probably my least favorite so far, but I'm sure beneficial to my leg strength (for running!!).

Caloric burn (without stretch): 169**

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**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, July 18, 2013

My Virgin Diet Stint

***Sorry about the long-winded post, but I just wanted to share my story for anyone who is curious about this plan.***

At the beginning of the year, I started gaining back the weight I had lost since last July (I won't mention specifics, since this isn't really a weight-loss blog). Some might call it post-marital bliss, though for me, it was more about the stress of having to finding a new job quickly, adjusting to my new routine, and house-hunting. I knew I had to do something because I was starting to avoid wearing some of my clothes, so first I tried working out harder.

Due to feeling heavy from all the running around I do during the day to commute to/from work, I had switched to the elliptical for most of my cardio exercises. I started doing more high-intensity workouts (Insanity) and "heavy" weight interval training, as well as even working out on Sundays to compensate for the fact that I wasn't doing long runs on the weekends anymore. I wasn't able to stick to this EVERY week, since I'm usually exhausted by the weekend, but I kept at it as much as I could.

When I shared my plight with "The Ukrainian," he told me I was most likely stressed and that my body was holding onto extra weight because of it. I kept trying to deal with my stressors, but things aren't going to change anytime soon, and my adaptation process is taking MUCH longer than I had hoped.  And some days, I don't even have time to use the restroom at work, I'm rushing to make sure I clock in and out and out to lunch and back on time, and some person spits on me on the train, or a stoned person crams himself in the seat next to me.  Yes, adaptation will take a while.

The last piece, and maybe the largest, was nutrition. In general, I've been eating healthier this year than in past years, cooking my own food and not going out much and cutting down on bread, but perhaps I was starting to not mind my portions because frankly, I was HUNGRY all the time from everything I had going on, and I wasn't about to let myself be "hungry" when my current schedule is often like a game of survival.

I mentioned vaguely in a recent post that I was following a nutrition plan, and now I'm ready to review it. My co-worker told me about The Virgin Diet, but since she had lent her copy of the book to a friend, she typed up some instructions, and I basically went by those instead. Basically, she told me that if I avoided seven things for 21 days, she promises weight loss. Although the name of the diet was cheesy and lame, at my wit's end after a particularly bad weigh-in, I decided to try it and see how long I'd last.

What I followed is just a loose intepretation of the book. The book is more detailed and strict in the timing of meals and the amount of natural sugars (i.e., fruit) that are acceptable. It also instructed not to count calories, although I did, and for the most part, I was eating approximately the same number as typical.  Anyway, in short, I had to avoid:

- sugar (except what occurs naturally, like in fruit)
- corn
- soy
- gluten
- dairy
- eggs
- peanuts

Now, 21 days is a very long time, so I had no intention of doing the whole she-bang, not to mention that if you do, you have to reintroduce the foods very slowly. Given life as it is right now, I could not do anything this restrictive for THAT long, so I really just dove into it day-by-day. In the first five days, I lost about 2-3 pounds, and my skin seemed a little clearer. It was hard, really hard. I subsisted on quinoa, almond milk, brown rice, veggies, rice cakes, fruit, fish, and sunflower seed butter, though I did eventually figure out how to make a cornbread-ish concoction out of garbanzo-bean flour and found gluten-free bread that met all the requirements (it was HARD to find one).  While I can't know whether I managed to be at 100% (tiny things like vegetable oil may have snuck in, though I really tried to investigate everything before eating), I think I was at 99.5%, which was "good enough" by my standard.

I remember going to Vegas (not by choice) during this time, and I managed to survive thanks to a fish dish at the restaurant we went to and eating at our timeshare (not by choice) instead of out. Somehow, I still gained a pound back while there, and it never went away. I had one particularly rough night a few days later when an emergency led me to a friend's place after work until late, and they were all eating pizza while my stomach kept asking my WHY I was being so cruel by not obliging.

Soon after that night, with my stress through the roof and my company picnic coming up, I decided it was time to quit. My weight was nearly back to the starting point for some reason, and my skin was no longer as clear. I had lasted 12 days, and that's just a really long time to be on ANY restrictive plan. While I know this is how most people should be eating and that it's not THAT restrictive, I didn't think it was worth all the trouble for the net loss of 1 pound over that period. I quit ceremoniously by having a tiny bit of grape juice and more challah than I care to note after shabbat services one evening. I did not feel sick, and the next day, I went to my company picnic, had a veggie Dodger Dog, some Cracker Jack, and cookies. I did not gain weight the next day, or the day after, or the day after that.

Following this plan for the 12 days was probably very beneficial to my body (because those 7 foods stress the system and may impede natural weight loss), but there were diminishing returns weight-wise after the first 5 days. Considering all I went through to stick to this (did I mention this was HARD... and I went to VEGAS?!), this was truly disappointing.  I DID learn to moderate my consumption of certain things, and I still haven't been eating a lot of dairy (I had previously been eating cheese regularly as my lactose-intolerate stomach could handle) since I quit. I've also lost my taste for peanuts and corn; I'll eat what I still have at home, but I won't be buying anymore of those things for myself.  In general, I've been eating a bit healthier and watching my portions more, though nothing is changing otherwise.

Every time I have a really stressful day at work/commuting, which is sadly becoming more common these days, I keep wondering how anyone manages to keep weight off at all.  So my weight saga continues.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Focus T25 - Alpha - Ab Intervals & My Review of the Program So Far

When I saw the title of this next Focus T25 disc, I was wondering what kind of workout this would be, since I had been used to a lot of cardio in these workouts. A "miniMat" is required for this workout, though "The Ukrainian" and I just used our yoga mats.


The 25 minutes begins on these mats, so immediately, I could tell this particular video would be different from the others. The two main positions that we were in a lot were plank and v-sit. If you've done Insanity's Cardio Abs before, some of the moves will be vaguely familiar, but they are actually quite different... and much more prolonged. For example, there are low planks and pulses, but then you quickly flip over and do some leg taps in a v-sit position. Also, there is a (seemingly) long section where you jack up your arm and leg to meet, but your head is up the entire time. My noggin is heavy, so this burned!!

 After getting to a point where your abs feel like they can't take anymore, he has you get up and do some "cardio recovery," which actually does feel like one, though you still have to engage your abs. You'll sprint and squat, while focusing on your core. This also helps up the calorie burn for this video.

Finally, there is a section that works the back side of the core. If you've ever done Supermans, prepare to REALLY feel the progression Shaun starts based on this move... wow.

Again, there is a 3-minute optional stretch, though I haven't been skipping these because frankly, they feel GOOD after these workouts.

You'll notice the lower calorie burn, and it's obviously because this is a more ab-focused video.  The schedule tends to place these workouts on "double" Fridays when you're doing two videos, so don't fret.  =) Since I'm not following the schedule yet, I just followed this up with resistance band and kettlebell training; I usually will do an ab video, but that's totally unnecessary after this workout. ;)

Although I've been doing these videos sporadically with my normal workouts in between (running, Insanity, Nike Training Club app, elliptical, etc.), I have definitely noticed some toning in my legs and abs, though it could be due to a cleanse I was doing -- I WILL review it soon, really!!  I'm sure following the prescribed T25 nutrition plan would produce similar results.

Beachbody offers a 30-day return period, so I had been holding onto the box in case I change my mind.  However, I'm getting to a point that I believe I don't think I will change my mind... these workouts are awesome and pretty much remove all my excuses for not working out.  Equipment?  Generally not needed.  Gym?  Nope.  Too tired/sore?  Follow Tania's modifications.  Not enough time?  Hah, not an excuse here!

For those of you who are new here and found my blog through a search, I am NOT affiliated with Beachbody in any way... I'm just a normal person who commutes two hours a day for work at a stressful firm and has to squeeze in exercise in under an hour a day.  I have gained fitness over time but am not naturally fit -- I have flat feet, disproportionate proportions, sloped shoulders, a need for eight hours of sleep per night, and a major sweet tooth (though obviously working on that part).

Caloric burn (without stretch): 143** 

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**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!!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Focus T25 - Alpha - Total Body Circuit

The third video (but second disc!) in the Focus T25 program is called Total Body Circuit.  If you've already scrolled down to the end of this post, you'll notice that the calorie burn is a little less than the other workouts I've reviewed so far.

Why is this?  Well, there is more upper-body work in this one, so you're not really jumping around as much. Also, if you're anything like me, you will probably need to take micro-breaks, so there's a missed-out calorie burn there, too.

Yes, unless you're super strong or super focused, you might need to take a breather once in a while during the upper body circuits.  That's because Shaun has you in a plank position for what feels like a long time, doing plank walks, plank walks to push-ups, shoulder-taps, and shoulder-taps to push-ups.  It's definitely rough!

Not everything is upper body, though.  There are quite a few squat series in this video.  From sprints > squats to squat 180-degree turns to burpees, your quads will definitely "feel it" (he says his phrase a lot in this series, I notice!).  Again, thank goodness it's "only" 25 minutes!!

The stretch portion at the end (again, optional) was slightly longer this time, maybe 3 minutes.  I really liked this one because he has you pull against the stretch first and then relax, which made me feel it MUCH more deeply.  Definitely going to incorporate those into my post-workout stretches from now on!

One thing I'm noticing a lot from doing these T25 videos is that my legs/glutes feel the after-burn all day, which probably (and hopefully) means something good for the metabolism.

After doing this video, I threw in P90X's Ab Ripper X again.  I like to do something after these videos, since I like to keep my workouts to around 45 minutes at minimum, and the thought of Insanity's Cardio Abs intimidates me since it involves jumping, and after T25, the prospect of any more impact seems daunting.  After T25, I honestly don't think there is a need to do anymore cardio -- that's kind of the point of this program.  However, the perk is that I can fit in some abs/strength training that I often don't make time for on a normal basis.

Caloric burn (without stretch): 219** 

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**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!!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Janji Running Apparel

I recently had the opportunity to try one of Janji's Bangladesh running shirts. 

NCAA runners Mike and Dave wanted to increase their purpose of running to "run for another." 

From their website: "Through each purchase of Janji’s distinctive running apparel, a portion of proceeds funds organizations that are alleviating the worst problems related to food and water. By funding solutions and raising awareness through our apparel, Janji wants to create a nation of runners that run for another and eliminate the global food and water crisis." 



Here's me in the shirt. It says "Bangladesh" on the sleeve! I wore this to the Rosemead 5K and enjoyed being colorful. =) I sweated a ton in it that morning, but it did wick it away pretty well. 



Definitely check their site out for more. They support multiple countries and are definitely worth some buzz!

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FTC Disclaimer: I was sent a sample of this clothing but was not otherwise compensated to provide a positive review.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Focus T25 - Alpha - Speed 1.0: Review

My review of the new Focus T25 workout continues... 

After doing the Cardio disc, I could not wait to move on to the next one, which is called Speed 1.0. 

This second workout was a little different than the first. The moves did not flow in a progression as much as the first disc. In fact, there was definitely a level of focus involved in going from one move quickly to the next. After a few moves, you move into a quick stretch session, which is actually pretty hard, because you suddenly have to be still. It's actually a lot of core work to hold a quad stretch after jumping around. 

Speaking of jumping around, so far, there haven't been any "Power Jumps" on these discs, just half tuck-jumps, which are also pretty hard when they're being thrown in amongst other jumping. So I'd say that these workouts are not as high-impact as Insanity, but it makes up for it with all the "little" hopping.

"The Heisman" (a move where you put your knee to your chest while bending the opposite arm) returns in this, though with some more complicated footwork. Okay, it's not really that complicated, but I'm one of those people who struggles with patting my head and rubbing my belly at the same time. I'm hoping to get more coordinated soon, but my advice is just to keep on moving! 

As always, there is an optional 2-minute cooldown at the end. 

Caloric burn (without stretch): 237** 

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**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!!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Rosemead 5K

EVENT: Rosemead 5K
DATE: Thursday, July 4, 2013
LOCATION: Rosemead, CA
RACE BEGAN: 8:00 am 
FINISH TIME: 24:23

This Fourth of July 5K was not supposed to be in July -- it was originally scheduled sometime in February, but they moved it to the summer.  Although I hate running in heat, I actually think it was a good move.

The race was put on by the same folks as Pasadena Marathon, which is kind of a coincidence, since last weekend, "The Ukrainian" and I cheered on the course on what was a very tough day for both the race coordinators and the runners.  (I won't mention specifics, but all I can say is that Google knows everything.)

Anyway, I've never done a holiday race before, and so I've also never done a race on a day that's not Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.  These days, I get up so early that making it to an 8 AM race was almost like sleeping in... so sad.

Here's the lovely shirt!  It's cotton, but hey, that's what is expected.


Packet pick-up was easy and quick.  I believe this is the last race that will have me under my maiden name, since I registered for it before marriage.


Here's the start/finish line!  When we came around to the finish, they moved everything back to create more distance.  Tricky! ;)


The course is a loop around the northern part of the city.  There was a water station at around Mile 1, and then we looped back.  5Ks are not something I do very often, but I appreciated being able to be done.  Due to the building heat/humidity, I wanted to run this at about 8:30 pace, since it's not like I've been running a lot lately and didn't want to push too hard/weave around a lot.  Plus, 5Ks are so hard for me because I tend to burn out over the course because I naturally can't hold myself back too well.  I think I've gotten better over the years, but still.

Mile 1: 8:17 -- whoops, too fast
Mile 2: 8:10 -- whoops, even faster

I started to slow down after that, as there was no more shade and a gradual uphill.  So I never got a Mile 3 time, and that's because it ended at 2.96 miles.  Wah (although at the time, the end coudn't have come any sooner!!).


I was the 5th female to finish overall, and although this is an inaugural small-town race, there was still a pretty good turnout, so I'm going to take it!  "The Ukrainian" finished 9th overall (8th male).

Besides being a short 5K (WHEN will I get to post a new 5K PR??!!!), they did a really great job making it "feel" like a legitimate race and keeping it feeling like a community event.  I liked watching the kids run/tot-trot, as well as seeing the whole town supporting inspiring athletes in crutches.  I also appreciated the water, apples/oranges/cookies/snacks at the finish line, and even a group of port-a-potties, even though the park ones were available.

I would definitely do this race again! =)  I can't wait until the benefits of my track intervals kick in, and then maybe I won't struggle so much during these 5Ks anymore!

Friday, July 5, 2013

Focus T25 Overview & Alpha - Cardio: Review

Recently, I made a little splurge purchase from Beachbody.com -- Shaun T's new workout program, Focus T25.  If you recall, I got Shaun's other program, Insanity, and completed it twice last year, so it was just a matter of time before I hopped onto getting this, fresh off the virutal shelf. 


However, I am not planning on doing the program as prescribed at this time.  I might do so in a few weeks or months, but at the moment, I am figuring things out with my morning routine and such.  That isn't going to stop me from trying the workouts, though!

In the meantime, in the interest of all the curious people on the web, I am going to review each video that I try.  Feel free to contact me for more information before deciding to commit to buying this for yourself!

Before I begin, let me explain the Focus T25 workout program (very briefly). 
  • It's a 10-week program, 5 days a week, that involves working out to these 25-minute workouts. 
  • It contains two phases: Alpha (the first 5 weeks) and Beta (the second 5 weeks).  Alpha is supposed to work you up to Beta, which involves the use of weights/bands. 
  • Otherwise, you don't really need equipment besides a mat sometimes.  (Lack of equipment needs is why I LOVE Insanity, so glad this is still mostly true here!) 
  • On Fridays, you do two of the workouts, perhaps back-to-back or spread over the day, though in Beta, it's recommended you do them in a row.  Heh, did you really think 25 minutes a day for 5 days is all you needed to get ripped?! ;)
I'll also talk about the nutrition plan briefly: it's a relatively lower-calorie plan than Insanity's, ranging from about 1200-1600 calories a day.  The booklet comes with lots of practical tips and recipes, and although it might sound low, it seems very do-able.  I'm not following it, though, because I'm currently on in the middle of doing another nutrition plan (which I'll review later!!).  If I were to do the program as prescribed, though, I totally would (try)!


Okay, onto the first workout, simply titled Cardio.  I didn't know what to expect out of an intense 25-minute workout.  Would there be a warm-up?  Well, sort of -- basically, a lot of the moves are in a progression, meaning you start off doing a simple version of an exercise, and then add variations to make it harder and harder.  So in the first part, it was just bringing your knees up, one at a time -- no jumping, etc.  Then, it builds to high knees, etc.

After about 10 minutes, I was definitely wondering what I'd gotten myself into, as my legs were definitely fatigued, especially my poor calves!!  Besides that, I struggled a little bit with form, trying to keep up with Shaun and the gang, except Tanya, who's back for this series and doing modifiers for each exercise.  I'm not a fan of her, so I didn't want to make any modifications!  I should also note that I believe Scott, in the back, is Shaun's hubby.  The second thing that was hard was coordination -- some of the moves required footwork that I'm not used to yet, although it's really not hard at all.  I just made sure that I kept moving and then eventually get on the right foot, so to speak.

At the end of the 25 minutes, there is a 2-minute (optional) stretch portion that follows.  I really needed the stretch, so I went for it.

My verdict:

I am excited to try the other videos, since I got a pretty good burn.  I'm hoping that my calves get stronger from workouts like these, which might help with my running.  You will definitely feel this workout afterward, and I love that it's short enough to do something afterward like walking, jogging, or ab workouts (like P90X's Ab Ripper X, which is what I did).  For those like me who need to fit in a complete workout in well under an hour on most days, this workout will help you "get it done"!  However, it won't be easy!

Caloric burn (without stretch): 252**

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**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!!