A Semi-dry September

I just realized that my sister’s wedding is in two weeks and I’m still fat. (Okay, a little chubby.) I had meant to be thinner by now. Apparently I like food a little too much…and beer. It’s probably the beer.

Earlier this calendar year I talked about the weight gain that has accompanied me starting dental school. I spoke of the need to scratch out time during the (extremely) busy week to run regularly as a means of, hopefully, losing a few pounds but also to keep myself healthy. Fight the man impending hypertension!

I’ve been fairly successful at implementing a plan to run at least three times a week. There’s been a crazy week here and there that I haven’t, but overall I’m back to regular running. I’ve even been managing to drag myself out of bed a little earlier on weekdays

to get in three miles instead of the two I had been. On top of all that I’ve been eating a salad for lunch pretty much every day that I’m at school.

But still that freaking scale has refused to budge.

Over the August break (18 whole days od freedom between the summer and fall terms) I saw a slight downward flux but then school started and it was like those four pounds were never gone. So much for positive momentum.

Obviously I need to do something different. What’s that they say about insanity and doing the same thing over and over? Yup, I’m feeling that. Which is why I’ve come up with the idea of having a semi-dry September. It’s like the “dry month” many people take (or talk about at least) in January when they’re all full of hope and enthusiasm for healthy living except kinder and more gentle.

Plus I know myself and, let’s face it, an entire dry month is out of reach for me right now. My day to day is too mentally demanding to impose the level of self control required… and before you start lecturing me about unhealthy attachments to alcohol and all that check how many pops…err, sodas you’re drinking a week. I don’t drink all that much but I do enjoy a good quality beer in the evening. And unfortunately the beers I enjoy tend to be quite high in calories.

That’s right, KBS, I’m looking at you!

So, this September I’ve been going semi-dry and (mostly) limiting my intake of super yummy but sadistically high calorie beers to the weekend. Hopefully the reduction in calories this brings will tip the scales in my favor.

Thus far I’ve had mixed results but it’s a start, maybe a start that will lead to better habits. And, at the end of the day, we are our habits.

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Self-sabotage, my old friend.

To be human is to practice the art of self-sabotage to some degree or another; whether we acknowledge it or not, everyone does it. Some of us, like myself, are well practiced at self-sabotage. Maybe even a master. I mean, if you’re going to do it, do it right! Go big or go home! (I’m a fan of using ridiculous mantras to justify my life choices…especially the bad ones.)

This past fall I started dental school. It’s a pretty big deal and a goal I’ve worked towards for a total of twelve years total. There were some diversions and a span of a few years where I did not think this was going to happen. To be honest, I could have made things much easier on myself and taken a more direct route. But, like I said, I’m a master of self-sabotage. Now that I’ve made it, for all intents and purposes my goal of being a dentist is as good as accomplished (minus four years of intense schooling that leaves VERY little time for anything else), I thought I had moved beyond the habit of self-sabotage. Silly me!

School started in August. It’s been six months (I’m on spring break now hence the random blogging); in that time I’ve grown quite a bit. The first semester was a lesson in adaptation; it took a hot minute to feel comfortable in my class of (mostly) very pretty and privileged (mostly) 22 year olds. I’ve learned how to manage my expectations of myself while balancing 25 credits a semester with 2-3 hours of commuting a day and the demands of managing a four-kid-household. I’ve realized that C’s really do get degrees and are okay (once you’re actually in your program) as long as you’re learning everything you need to know to be successful. Like I said, I’ve grown quite a bit… I’ve also grown a bit physically too.

Before mid-August I was running quite regularly, doing fun runs every few weeks. When school started my activity level declined dramatically. Along with not running much I was sitting, literally just sitting, eight to ten hours a day five days a week. I manged a fun 5k with my nine-year-old and a random 10k race in October but on a day-to-day basis…pretty much nothing.

sitting and studying

When I’m not in school sitting I’m at home sitting and studying. So. Much. Studying!

Just before Thanksgiving I discovered that my blood pressure had gotten high. For a weekend it was very high. I was both shocked and panicked (which probably just made my blood pressure even higher).  How did this happen? I’m healthy, I’m a runner!!! Well, I was a runner. But still, it hadn’t been that long!

I took stock of the situation and realized I had also managed to tack on close to fifteen pounds of extra weight. (I know that’s not really That much but I’m a small person, even five pounds on my five foot two self is notable). One of the sets of scrubs I had bought at the beginning of the school year didn’t even fit anymore. Yikes! This didn’t happen all at once, it was a slow, steady creep to an overweight and unhealthy me. I had this idea that I was a fit, healthy person but obviously my self-perception was inaccurate. High blood pressure has wreaked havoc on the women in my family lately. I was motivated to do better, I started getting up even earlier than I already was to run a couple miles on my handy-dandy treadmill a few times a week.

And it was helping. My blood pressure went down to borderline high instead of Yikes high. My monthly mileage has been close to 40 again. I felt pretty decent, like I was building better habits and being healthy…But my weight was not really moving. Sure it would go down for a day or two but it always creeped back up. What the actual F was going on here?

I was starting to get frustrated…Until one day, just after an early and gross two miles on the treadmill, it hit me…Self-Sabotage!

Here I was pushing myself to get up and run, working hard to get back to a state of good health, but at the same time I was eating whatever was convenient and drinking a good (heavy) craft beer or two at least four times a week. And I was using the more regular running to justify it. I’d tell myself it was a treat… you know, for all that hard work. (eye roll!) It was one or two steps forward, one or two steps back which equals not moving at all! As soon as I saw it I was irritated with myself. What’s the point of missing sleep and working to get back in shape if I was just going to pull the rug out from under my feet and end up back where I started at the end of the day?

self sabotage

Self sabotage at its finest! 

Now that I’ve caught myself employing the old self-sabotage tactics I’ve been a little more conscientious about what, when, and why I’m eating and drinking. Awareness is half the battle.

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Awareness = knowing. Now all I need are some lasers.

Time will tell exactly how effective my new found awareness of my own negative tendencies will be in getting back to a fit and healthy state. Either way this has been a good reminder of the importance of consistent good habits and self-awareness (not my strongest suits). You can’t sit back and coast on yesterday’s success; reaching one goal, even a big one, does not mean you can just stop working. (Mantras again.)

Here’s to health, well-being, and regular running!

 

Respect the 13.1

A funny thing happened recently. Okay, maybe not haha funny. Or maybe not really funny at all, maybe more of an anomaly. I had not been running as much as I like to in the warmer summer months and then I signed up to run a trail half marathon. Rather my guy & I signed up to run a half marathon. We had tossed this idea around for a while but didn’t commit until maybe six weeks before the race.

Having done five halves over the past three or four years this wasn’t a super intimidating thing for me. Still, I’d prefer to be physically and mentally ready for a challenge of that magnitude. I said as much a few times leading up to race weekend but my schedule was just crazy. Three weeks before the race I was up to around 20 miles a week but then the next two weeks got extra crazy; I was only able to get four runs in…over two weeks. I know tapering before a big race is part of a lot of training plans but that only works when you actually have a training plan.

My guy was preparing for the half even less than I was. In the past he’s been able to go out and do some pretty tough races without batting an eye even though he doesn’t run regularly. A lot of the time he has more energy and speed than I do even when I am running often. It’s super annoying!!!

We’ve done lots of basic 5ks, some 10ks, a couple “doublers” or 15ks including a brutal trail 15. Earlier this year we had a back to back races with an easy 5k on Saturday and a not so easy 5 mile trail race early Sunday. He still killed the 5 mile trail run; I struggled a bit. (Like I said, it’s super annoying.)

A half marathon is different though; 13.1 miles feels like a lot more than even a 15k. I mean, it is. More than just 4 miles, 13.1 is a different level of mental challenge and stamina. It requires at least a little preparation!

But life is…life and preparation did not happen. The exact opposite of preparation happened. (Negative preparation? Reverse preparation? De-preparation? Idk. One of those.)

The day before the early August trail half marathon my guy had a golf tournament for work. No big deal. Except that he was out in the sun all day, drank more than is smart the day before a long race in the hot sun, and probably didn’t eat very well either. See, negative preparation!

Saturday morning come 6 A.M we were trying to get out the door for the race and he was not feeling so hot. Using all my previous experience and half marathon knowledge I told him to eat a decent breakfast and hydrate like hell on the way to the race. Oh, and to let me set the pace. He’d never make it if he set off at his usual race pace. (Heck, I wouldn’t make it either.)

Of course we were later than we wanted to be getting to the course. We started towards the back of the crowd and the first couple miles guy trapped in a group. The narrow trail made passing a challenge. Maybe that was a good thing though, it gave us time to find a nice, steady running groove. By the fourth mile the crowd had thinned out a bit and we were able to settle in at a slower but okay pace.

The course wound around the outside of the state park including some short road segments. There weren’t many hills other than a good sized one somewhere around mile four but the trail surface itself required some attention while running. There were a lot of pits and uneven areas which kept the pace a little slower.

In a trail race if it’s not the hills slowing you down it’s the terrain.

Somewhere between miles 7 and 9 the lack of preparation started to show. Well, for my guy they did. He was really starting to slow down. I was being a good girlfriend and mostly staying with him, trying to encourage him along. In a half marathon the last three or four miles are the toughest. Besides, I didn’t really have any goals for this race. Because I was running this half marathon without really training the goal was to have fun and finish.

My efforts to make this half marathon thing a more pleasant thing for my boyfriend dropped off sharply right around the ten mile marker. I was stuck behind a cluster of runners we had been back and forth with for two miles because I had slowed down to stay with my guy. (First time ever that I was feeling better and faster during a race than he was.) I turned my head to see something behind me and BAM! My foot hit something and I went down, skidding on the dirt trail.

I jumped up, super mad, and assessed the situation. Blood running down my right leg, dirt everywhere but mostly okay. My boyfriend and another runner were asking if I was alright. I responded briefly, yanked a dangling piece of skin off my scraped and bloody knee and took off. No more of this slowing down and waiting around thing, it was time to finish this race!

While I wouldn’t call my last three miles fast, they were definitely quicker than the previous few. I finished the race alone and went straight to the first aid tent to get the dirt dug out of my wound.

By the time that was done my guy was crossing the finish line. I had had plans to find him in that last terrible mile but the timing just wasn’t right.

One of the first things he said to me is “That was brutal!” And then maybe I’m not doing that again any time soon.

I think we both learned something that day: You’ve got to respect the 13.1!

I Like Deadlines

Well, actually, I need deadlines. I’m good if there’s an impending….something. I was listening to the Jordan Harbinger podcast and he had on Gretchen Rubin who talked about “The Four Tendencies…” which is about the origin of motivation. She describes which, external or internal, motivations prompt action depending on the person. I do take a lot of this research with a grain of salt, however, it did give me some insight when it comes to following through or, as the case may be, lack of following through. After listening, I noticed that I respond well to external motivation. I do well in school, there are deadlines, and consequences for missing them. I’m productive with work stuff because, again, there are outside influences telling me when something has to be done. I’m not nearly as good when the motivation needs to come from me. I need a push to get the ball rolling. I’m trying to use this knowledge to create motivation for myself. If I can create deadlines that actually mean something maybe I’ll actually get some shit done!

battling-artificial-deadlines

I slowly have started to put this in action. When I decided to take up photography I knew I wanted to take a class to learn the camera better. After the first class I continued because I liked having photography homework. Not only did it make me try new techniques, but it also gave me a deadline. It’s not that I don’t take photos without the class but I enjoyed being “forced” to make time for my hobby.

I have been renovating my house FOREVER. This is partly due to time constraints and partly due to simply putting it off. In an effort to play to my strengths and motive myself I scheduled the floor guy in advance. (I’m getting my hardwood floors sanded and refinished.) Now, I have a month to pull up carpet and repaint two rooms, one being the main living area. It’s completely doable and with that deadline fast approaching I’m feeling more pressure to get stuff accomplished.

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Now I just need to figure ways to apply this to other areas of my life….like cooking, blogging, and exercise!

Hobbies, My New Pastime

Since graduating nursing school and my short-lived time at a hospital, I’ve been on a 9a-5p schedule since February. It’s amazing. I had seven years of 2nd and 3rd shifts, a ton of weekends and generally being unavailable when the rest of the world was off work. I had forgotten what it was like to have a relatively set schedule that falls in line with day light hours. I still must work the majority of Saturdays but it’s really a small price to pay for a consistent schedule. Now I can plan things with reasonable assurance I’ll be able to do without requesting time off. It’s freeing.

I started a photography class, a continuing ed type, at a local community college back in February. It was my Christmas present to myself. I really loved it. I enjoy school, the learning aspect anyway, and I enjoy it even more when there aren’t grades. I decided to take the next level of photography class this spring. As I was looking through the classes I noticed I wanted to take them all! There was a craft beer class, wine tasting, cooking, ceramics, and language classes.

It feels as if there’s been a shift in my focus. For so long I was focused on getting through school, working full time and generally just trying to keep my head above water. Now I get to slow down and have some fun. I want to do All The Hobbies!!

Of course, that’s not totally practical, at least not to do them all at once. The joy is the possibility. Sure, I have all the normal life adult crap to deal with and home renovation projects to complete but I also have the opportunity to do some stuff just because it’s enjoyable. And to do it without the guilt of knowing I should be doing something else. It’s a good change.

A Two Race Weekend

I’m a little late to post about it but the weekend before this one that just happened my fun little running gang (aka my boyfriend and whichever of my kids I can coerce into running) and I had a two race weekend. (In case you couldn’t guess that from the title up there.)

Really just my boyfriend and I did both races but my two youngest sons (ages 13 & 8) did do the first one with us.

Saturday:

This small out and back 5k through a lakeside neighborhood was more than just a fun race for us. It was a fund raiser for a friend of the 13 year old who has had some major unexpected health issues this year. His story has a happy ending, he’s on the other side of them now, but it was a little scary for a bit. It was a difficult time for my sensitive and often emotional teenager; we were more than happy to contribute to the family by participating in this run.

Other than the cause and atmosphere there was nothing too exciting about this 5k. The course had some light, rolling hills that made it enjoyably challenging and the morning was chilly (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit) but it was a pretty basic 5k.

Usually running with my boyfriend pushes my pace a bit (which is good) but we planned on taking this one easy since the race on Sunday was going to be much more difficult and we were running with the eight year old. The attempts at getting him to run in the weeks leading up to the race were… Not entirely successful, to say the least, so my goal was to try to get my son to run the first mile and to finish in under forty minutes.

Lucky for us his teacher showed up and decided to run with us (my little guy loves his teachers). The teacher did a great job of motivating my little guy to run the whole race.

That’s right, he ran the whole 3.1 miles. The 8 year old, his teacher, my boyfriend, and I all finished in about 31:40. Not too shabby for an untrained eight year old!

The 13 year old decided he was not feeling so motivated that chilly morning and walked almost the whole first mile. At the 1.5 mile turn around the rest of the group was at least a quarter of a mile ahead of him. He must have really pushed himself in the second half of the race because he ended up finishing about twenty seconds after we did. I was a little surprised and quite impressed to see him hauling in right behind us. After the run we hurried over to a family First Communion party already in progress where we ate cake then ran around playing basketball. Everyone was pretty beat that night.

Sunday:

Sometimes I poke fun at the cheesy memes and sayings about “being your best self & living your best life” and all that crap but early Sunday morning I was most definitely not my best self.

My guy and I had to be out the door before 7am (on a Sunday!) to get to the five mile trail run we had signed up to do. And boy was I cranky that morning! First, my boyfriend didn’t have the clothes he needed so I had to scrounge up some running pants for him. Then the neighbors were texting me to complain about the stupid dog barking (she had literally been out for less than five minutes before turning on the obnoxiousness). And of course we were leaving late.. ugh.

Despite all that we did get to the race course with (just!) enough time to get our shirts and numbers, hit the porta-potties, and join the large crowd behind the start line. Because this was a rather intense trail run the race started in waves. They weren’t time based or at all organized, just groups of people about the same size started a few minutes apart. I’m not sure which wave we started in but we didn’t wait too long before politely pushing our way to the start and beginning this challenging trail race.

It didn’t take us long to catch the tail end of the previous heat. I had heard that the trail got quite narrow in the very hilly woods. I wasn’t sure how much I wanted to push myself early in the five mile race, the course was intense and early morning races are really hit or miss for me. My guy, on the other hand, was full of energy and kept bounding ahead on the packed trails. This made me a little salty but I kept it to myself. I figured I’d already used my crabbiness allowance for the morning. Eventually he slowed down a bit and I realized I really didn’t feel bad.

Other than stopping to take off a layer (Did I mention it was just above freezing when the race started?) and some minor breathing issues on one particularly arduous hill I ran the whole five miles. And I didn’t feel like I was dying, I still felt pretty damn decent when we crossed the finish.

Garmin thought otherwise though.

My goal for this five miles was to stay under an hour and I’m happy to say we did it. As an added bonus, my guy finished 9th in his age group and I was 13th in mine.

Obviously that didn’t win us any additional bling but it’s nice knowing we’re not too shabby out there.

So if you’re keeping track these were races #2 & 3 for 2018; #1 was the St. Paddy’s day run. (Or rather to help me keep track)

Last weekend was a work weekend for me so it was totally devoid of races but tomorrow we’re running one of the bigger (beer themed!) Fun 5ks we did last year. Coincidentally it’s supposed to be cold and rainy again… even though it’s been close to eighty all week. Isn’t that just how it goes sometimes!

Sitting quietly in the moment

I tend to live life in a flurry of activity. I enjoy a certain level of busyness (or as some might call it chaos). I’m a bit of a challenge junkie, always pushing myself to see what I can accomplish next.

Imagine one of those old school cartoon characters juggling plates or carrying boxes, stuff gets stacked on, higher and higher until whatever they’re carrying is teetering dangerously (and somewhat humorously) close to toppling over. And every now and then it does all come crashing down around the ridiculous protagonist. That’s a pretty accurate metaphor (simile?) for me trying to manage my life. But I like it; I thrive in chaos and a certain level of craziness.

The sweet spot is that point where everything wobbles just enough to make you question if (or when) everything you’re piling on is going to fall. That visceral feeling in your gut, hovering between fear and excitement. The adrenaline that courses, turning into a pleasant, heady rush when your personal tower of nonsense stays erect. That’s it. Because when everything is about to come crashing down into a natural disaster level mess and you’re on the brink of being declared a national emergency but then, then at the very last moment, it doesn’t and you’ve somehow pulled it off (maybe with a few more grey hairs and slightly elevated blood pressure to show for it), you feel like you’ve accomplished something. You’ve succeeded. And, damn is it impressive!

The “I don’t know how you do it all”s and comments of the sort, made with a certain amount of awe but in a baffled tone that says “why would you even try?”, they’re gratifying. Sure a normal person would not take on so much at once but who wants to be normal. Downtime is overrated anyhow right?… Right?!?!

That’s the zone I thrive in. But right now my life is not there. Instead I’m in a place of seemingly static waiting. Everything is going to change, there is going to be a major shift towards chaos, but not for months. And in the meantime…. What?

Just daily life and waiting.

I’m trying to use these next few months before dental school starts to relax and enjoy life. Play games and go to the library regularly with my kids. Do all the fun runs. Start and finish projects. Take small vacations. And that’s all well and good, but in the day-to-day it’s slow. For me that’s frustrating. My instinct is to push forward, to be focused on the next hill. To go go go. Not to come home from the morning rush of getting the kids to school and look around and think “Now what?” So far I haven’t been handling the apparently empty days very well. (To be sure, there’s always things I should be doing but they’re the boring, mundane chores of daily living that I’d much rather avoid.) I’ve been restless, antsy and on edge. My temper is a little too quick and irritations often lurks just below the surface.

It’s a struggle to sit quietly and be content in the moment. But that’s what life is showing me needs to be done right now. It’s a time to embrace the stillness, take a few deep breaths and enjoy where I am instead of trying to jump to the next phase. I’m sure in six months, when I’m balls deep in the first semester of dental school and trying to manage four kids in school and fall extra curriculars, I’ll miss this phase.