Monthly Archives: March 2014

Enjoy the Vitamin D….until you have to pee.

On Friday morning, the thermometer read about 60 degrees Fahrenheit and outside it looked like this:

Blue skies! Brightly shining sun!
Blue skies! Brightly shining sun!

Since rain and cool temperatures were predicted for this weekend (and the prediction unfortunately came true), I couldn’t bring myself to hop in the car and drive the 25 minutes to run on a treadmill inside the dark confines of the gym. I knew that if I did, when I was watching the rain stream down my windows the next day, I would regret the missed opportunity to spend an hour in the sweet, sunshiney bliss that permeated Bavaria on Friday. And, since, in my last post, I claimed that running outside made me slower and was more work, I thought it would also be a good opportunity to test my theory out.

On Tuesday, I ran on the treadmill in the gym and went about 3.6 miles in 37 minutes. Not an impressive distance or speed for most people, but I’m not most people and, honestly, the fact that my heart didn’t explode or my lungs spontaneously burst into flames is the more impressive achievement. I don’t want you to think I maintained a constant speed throughout the entire 37 minutes- that would actually be impressive, instead, I did a slow lap followed by three fast laps and continued on in that pattern until I reached the bottom of my gas tank and couldn’t go on.

On Friday, with the sun shining on my legs and the wind in my hair, I did 2.5 miles in about 40 minutes and maintained a consistent (slow) speed. Now, accounting for the two crosswalks I had to wait at and the one time I tripped both my dog and myself when I got his leash stuck on my shoe, we can say that in the same amount of time it took me to run 3.6 miles on the treadmill I ran 2.5 miles on varied terrain. I’m glad to know that it doesn’t just FEEL like I’m moving in slow motion when I’m running on sidewalks and dirt trails. I really enjoyed the beautiful Spring weather, but I’m still standing by my treadmill- while it probably took the same amount of effort, I feel much better about the 3.6 miles than I do the 2.5 miles; it’s a point of pride! And also, the treadmill is so convenient: there is a nice little cubby for my water bottle, a bar on which I can hang my sweat-mopping towel,  a shelf for my iPod when the armband gets too sweaty and sticky, and, most importantly, if nature calls in the middle of a run, I can simply hit ‘pause’ and make my way to the rest room instead of doing the ‘gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now’ shuffle for the last mile back home.

Looking for ways to spice up your treadmill routine? My good friend Amy sent me this link the other day (thanks, lady!) for ten treadmill workouts that keep boredom at bay- I’m going to need a FFF to demonstrate the Gauntlet Workout for me, but I’m psyched to try the others!

One (very slow) foot in front of the other

The treadmill is probably the machine I dread using the most of any of the machines in the gym. Running is in the league of burpees and push-ups for exercises I really, REALLY would rather not do (I’ve been keeping my pledge to do push-ups at least once a week, by the way, but I have not done a single burpee since the LiveFit trainer ended, I just don’t see the point), but I have been trying to subconsciously incorporate more running into my weekly workouts.  As I have discovered, it is very difficult to subconsciously add something to your own routine, but I’m trying to do more running and I’m trying not to notice that I am doing it!

I guess it really isn’t the treadmill I dislike so much as the actual act of running itself. I’ve discussed before how running is a unique form of torture that involves collapsed lungs and buckets of sweat, and I’d actually rather run on a treadmill than in the great outdoors. Call me a control freak, but I like to be able to adjust my speed according to my current lung capacity and I find running outside, especially on a non-paved surface, more work than being on a treadmill (and higher potential for twisted ankles if you are uncoordinated like me).

Despite all of my complaints, I’m actually getting better at running! I am able to go farther and faster- don’t get me wrong, I’m no match for Usain Bolt and I’d never consider entering a marathon (or even a 5k to be perfectly honest!), but its getting easier. I find that adding variety helps so I try to increase or lower the speed every few laps (this also helps to allow me to catch my breath, double bonus!), and, I’m trying to run on my toes which requires extra concentration.

This is not me. He is going so fast that one of his shoes seems to have caught on fire.

Toe-running involves changing your running form a little bit, and at first it feels very strange. When most people run, they land heel first and in doing so, place a lot of strain on their joints and hamstrings. Landing heel first is also a less efficient way to run as the entire foot must break-over in order to complete the stride, and (especially if you have big ‘ole feet like mine) this can take a little bit of time. Instead of landing heel first, I make an effort to land toe first. Not only is there less wear and tear on my joints (and therefore less chance for injury for any of you super dedicated runners who go long distances), but I’m actually a lot faster because I don’t have to wait for my size 10s to finish breaking over; instead of breaking over in a fluid motion from heel to toe, my foot actually acts sort of like a spring: I land on my toe, the rest of my foot briefly touches down and I’m on to my next stride. Because I’m not working as hard to get my feet off the ground, I am able to stay taller with my upper body while I run which opens my ribcage and helps with breathing, and, maybe this is purely coincidental, I’ve not had any of those awful side stitches in a while. I’ve been working on my running form in earnest for a few months and I can now do most of my run on my toes. When I first started to work on my form, It felt very strange- almost like trying to write my name with my left hand, but I progressed slowly and feel comfortable enough to go a few miles now. The next time you’re out for a run, give it a go for a few minutes and see how much easier running feels, its ALMOST enjoyable!

Science says its the better way to be!

Winter is…um…leaving…

Spring is on its way! I know that you in the states just rolled your clocks forward an hour and even though you are still (from what I hear from my family and friends) digging out from under snowbanks and chipping away at the ice floes in your driveways (when did we go through a Game of Thrones-ian time warp and end up in a land with decades-long winters???), you can look forward to more daylight time and the promise of warmer weather soon to come- winter can’t go on forever, can it? Here in Germany, things have been feeling super-Spring-y this week.

We’ve had lots of sunshine and temps this weekend even passed the 50 degrees fahrenheit mark. Not a minute too soon, I say! After my lovely vacation in Spain, I’ve been feeling a little ‘blah’ about both my gym work and my dedication to eating healthy/avoiding junk foods.  Blame it on the damp, cloudy days preceding this week or blame it on the giant displays of Cadbury eggs lurking in the corner of every grocery store, but I have just not been feeling it.

Even so, I still went to the gym almost every day this week, and I’m glad that I did; there is nothing more likely to derail good intentions than letting yourself off the hook when you are feeling lazy! While I definitely did not give 100% effort at the gym (I gave an average of 75-80% effort), I still went, lifted some weights, got a little sweaty and made myself stick to a schedule. I’ve decided that simply going to the gym and doing SOMETHING when you’d much rather not is worth congratulating myself for; it took a lot of willpower for me to not dawdle and- oops!- conveniently run out of time for a workout.

I’m letting myself off the hook a little bit for not giving 100% every day this week. Its probably unreasonable to expect that I’ll be able, physically and mentally, to give 100% all of the time, and when the choice is ‘some’ or ‘nothing’ quantity is better than quality. These last few sun-drenched days have chased away some of the ‘blahs’ and have made it much easier for me to look forward to getting out of bed. I’m also starting to look forward to some spring and summer activities.

The kale patch, weeded (courtesy of Don) and ready for action
The kale patch, weeded (courtesy of Don) and ready for action

For my birthday last week, my Mom sent me a cookbook of kale recipes (I’m going to try out my first recipe from the book tonight, will let you know how it tastes) and located in the first part of the book are very good instructions for growing your own kale. Why not, right? I picked up two packets of kale seeds yesterday and will try my hand at gardening as soon as the weather is a little bit warmer. The new recipes to test and the (extremely happy) thought of having my very own kale ready to eat in my backyard this Fall have helped keep me from derailing diet-wise and going over to the dark side that is Cadbury.

Two kinds of Kale to grow, what luxury!
Two kinds of Kale to grow, what luxury!

I hope that you’ve been able to avoid the late-winter blahs. I find that the early winter holidays and then the determination to stick to a resolution help us get through early and mid-winter, but after February, it gets difficult to remember why anything but camping-out under the covers and waiting for Spring is important. Whenever I’m tempted to use a silly excuse to justify avoiding my workouts, I remind myself of how guilty and sluggish I feel after skipping-out on exercise, and how even just a little tiny bit of exercise makes me come out ahead of where I would be if I didn’t do any at all.

I’ve just rolled out of bed and every part of my body is stiff or sore. Yesterday was cardio day and I spent some quality time on both the treadmill and the stationary bike (read: full-blown ‘tomato-face’ and lots of sweat!); the day before was legs day so I squatted, pressed, and lunged until I thought my legs would snap off. Getting back into the swing of things after vacation has been rough, but I’m finally feeling like I’ve found my groove.

Tonight I have to head straight from the library to a function for Don’s work. The bad news is that my most flattering and most favorite dress which I last wore in December was accidentally given to somebody else by the dry-cleaners (they are still awaiting a response from this someone, I’m about to give up hope of every seeing this marvelous dress again). Since  my go-to dress is MIA, I’ve had to do some rummaging in my closet for something that is both work-appropriate and dressy enough for a corporate dinner and the only thing I could come up with was the infamous grey Calvin Klein dress that I have previously referred to as ‘the dress that broke the camel’s back.’ A year ago (almost exactly, in fact), I tried to wear this dress to a similar function without success; try as I might, I could not get the zipper to close more than a couple of inches. It was a really hard moment, but one that was ultimately for the better because it kick-started my dedication to better health, and THIS time, one year later, when I slipped the dress over my head and said a silent prayer to the Gods of the Greased Zipper, the dress fit! No tugging, no fussing, no holding my breath as someone else yanked, two-handed, on the zipper pull, it just fit. This is actually better than good news, it’s great news! I will post a photo later, I promise.