Tag Archives: Weight loss

Sunday Runday

Chinaman's Hat in beautiful Kaneohe Bay
Chinaman’s Hat in beautiful Kaneohe Bay

Our running group just wrapped up week 4 of marathon training and, if I do say so myself, we are looking pretty good.

It feels great to be reunited with this bunch of like-minded freakazoids who’s idea of a relaxing Sunday morning is lacing up their sneakers for miles of sweating. I really missed the camaraderie of the group over the summer; it is a lot harder to push yourself to go a little farther and a little faster when there isn’t any one else holding you accountable, and it’s also a lot less fun.

Last weekend I skipped the group run for the second of the BioAstin Marathon Readiness Series races. This was a 20k (or 12.4ish mile) race that consisted of three laps of a 4+ mile loop. It was hot and a little boring, and overall I felt tired and was disappointed with my time of 2:02. I had hoped to run it in less than two hours, but I guess I should have run a little faster. I’m still working on moderating my pace early in the run so that I can finish strong instead of dwindling to a sluggish stagger at the end. Today, I suffered a similar fate.

We gathered this morning at the Kualoa Beach park for a 10 mile out and back along the coast. This is a run I have done a few times before and, while it is a lovely run with ocean views, it can be quite hot as there is little shade. Today we got lucky and there were some tradewinds blowing, but it was still warm. Although I enjoy this run because it is quite scenic, I kind of always sputter out at the end; there is something about an out and back or a repeated loop that psychs me out.

I think the spontaneity of an unfamiliar route helps keep me engaged when I run; I can’t fall into the trap of remembering that I was going a little faster when I passed that stump the first time, or, I wasn’t quite so hot and sweaty when I saw that dead bird before. I get mentally bogged down by having “been there and done that” already, and it is a habit I need to break. Today, I ran a little above my pace on the way out, and, as I left the safe harbor of the aid station at the turn around point, I felt my legs protest when I began to run.

My gut instinct, when my legs feel rubbery and I’m hot, tired and can’t breathe, is to get discouraged. It is easy to look at the backs of the faster runners receding into the distance and think ” you guys have it made,” but, honestly, running sucks for everyone. This is important to remember. It doesn’t matter if you’re fast or slow. If you’re running 10 miles or 5; running sucks (although, yes, it’s safe to say that there is twice as much suck if you are running 10 miles compared to 5). Running sucks, and it isn’t easy.

I reminded myself of this as I started on the second half of our run. My legs felt heavy and rubbery, my lungs had collapsed, and I was leaving a trail of sweat droplets in my wake. I saw the pair of ladies who had left the aid station after me pass me and then surge off over the horizon, and, just as I started to think “it’s easier for them,” I caught myself and instead thought “you go girls.”

As soon as I let go of that discouraging thought, I felt better. So what if it was hot out and I was running at a 12 minute pace, at least I was running. And so what if those ladies, who I am normally ahead of, were having a great day and I couldn’t keep up; good for them. They were just as hot as I was, they were breathing the same humid air, and they were working at least as hard as the rest of us. Kudos to them.

I allowed myself the luxury of plodding along for a couple of miles and then felt rested enough to try for a strong finish for the last three. It was a beautiful sunny day, and I was running along the sparkling ocean; another great day to be alive. Next time, I will remember to slow down at the beginning of the run and not try to keep up with those who are feeling fresh and fast if I’m not also feeling it. You’ve got to run on the legs you have and not the ones you wish you had, and some days are better than others.

kaaawa

 

Sabotage (Do I hear the Beastie Boys?)

We like to eat at my workplace. The team I am a part of actively seeks excuses to go out to lunch, to bring celebratory baked goods to share (Hooray! Did you hear? It’s Tuesday!), and  to coordinate pot-luck feasts. While I appreciate the camaraderie and the good eats, it sometimes gets to be a little overwhelming and I find myself trying to hide when I see the pastry box coming around the corner.

I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that we had the occasion to go out for lunch on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday- my poor salad sat wilting in the fridge looking less appetizing by the day, and was pretty sad looking when I finally ate it today- and we have had three cakes to share this week- one for every day of the week thus far! On Monday we had a birthday celebration, Tuesday was a farewell, and today, well, today we happened upon a bake sale, so naturally we needed to buy an entire cake. I was managing to exercise my willpower pretty well until today when I heard the magic words that send me into a hypnotic, eating-everything-like-Garfield-eats-lasagna (with both paws and a wide open maw) state: carrot cake.

I love carrot cake. The moist shredded carrots, that velvety, slightly sour cream cheese frosting; it is perfection in a 9″ round pan. Carrot cake, especially when it is not homemade, is often the victim of poor handling and can be underwhelming and bland. I’ve had my heart broken by a grocery store carrot cake a time or two before, so when I saw that the cake purchased from the bake sale came in a commercial box and not the trappings that would have been provided by a home cook, I thought I was safe. And then I heard the rumblings:

“It’s so light,” someone whispered.

“Real cream cheese in that frosting!” I overheard.

“The nuts on the edge are candied,” was tossed over a shoulder by a colleague passing my desk.

I tried to console myself and reinforce my willpower (It can’t be that good, right? It’s just that free cake always tastes better than not free cake, right?), and I managed to hold out until three thirty when I walked by the open cake box. This was no grocery store hack job, this was the real deal. Yes, it looked light and moist, yes the frosting was a creamy, ivory color that only real cream cheese can provide, and yes, there were candied walnuts pressed into the outer edge of frosting, but the real nail in my coffin- the raisins.

No carrot cake is complete without the raisins. There should never be nuts in the batter and there should always be raisins. End of story.

As I cut myself a piece and sandwiched it between two paper plates for the drive home (I was determined not to allow myself the pleasure of devouring it until I had at least gone to the gym), I felt a little bit of me die inside, and I wondered if this was how Superman felt  when faced with kryptonite? It is so hard, as a social creature, to resist the daily sabotages that pop up in an office setting. Someone is always offering a taste of this, and a bite of that, and not only is eating a very communal thing, but I also feel badly if, on Monday, I sample Sandy’s cookies, and then on Wednesday I turn down Marcia’s brownies. Nobody, and I do really mean nobody, wants to hang out with the Debbie-downer who eats only wheat germ and yogurt and glowers at everyone else with a superior sense of self-satisfaction while watching them happily roll around in their cream cheese frosting.

I know my officemates already think I’m a little weird for being a vegetarian (meat is the base of the Hawaiian food pyramid, the next level is pineapple), so I’m careful to not appear too wheat-germy, but when you really get down to it, I’m a rolling around in the frosting kinda gal at heart. My hope is that I have a savior in the office- someone who was willing to take one for the team and bring what was leftover of this beautiful cake home to share with their family. I know it will be hard to resist if, when it’s time for elevensies, I open the fridge and see that tasty treat is up for grabs; there is no contest between it and my usual snack of oven-roasted almonds, and I can already taste, in my mind’s mouth, how it will compliment my morning tea. Although I gave in to the siren call of the cream cheese today, I at least prefaced it with a trip to the gym, and my hope is that I won’t fall victim to it again tomorrow.

 

 

Why is it Always Running!?

“Ugh, why is it always running!?” a little boy exclaimed as he rounded a corner of the sidewalk on his scooter and was faced with a herd of sweaty adults clomping toward him. I belonged to that herd of runners and, after a hot and arduous set of repeats up a hill that looked deceptively small from the bottom but was in fact endless, shared the little boy’s sentiment; why, indeed, is it always running?

I had a really great run on Tuesday- the night we charged up the aforementioned hill. Some days, the gears seem to be turning in sync, and running feels much easier; I have been having more of these days of late, days when I am able to push the discomfort of being sweaty and out of breath aside and focus on going a little faster than feels natural, days when I am actually sad to reach the end of my run.

There are still, however, many days when I hate running.  Days when all I can focus on is the fact that I am hot and tired and I wonder if I can sneak back to my car and drive away without anybody noticing. I had two of these days this week, and one of them was today. The hardest part about today’s run was the fact that we ran past our parked cars in the middle of our run, and one member of the group actually did decide to go back to his car and drive home. It was difficult to tell him “See you Tuesday and have a nice weekend” as he walked toward the parking lot when what I really meant was “Take me with you!”

Even on the days when I feel like I’m totally sucking, I’m still faster than I used to be. Our entire group, actually, has gotten faster overall. I’m able to keep up with the “fast” members of our group and I, generally, don’t feel quite so close to death at the end of each run.* We are all becoming faster and fitter, and it is a great feeling to know that, not only am I improving, but that the program is working for everyone, and we are all very different people.

A contributing factor to my crappy running today and on Thursday  was the fact that I’m still figuring out how to manage my time so that I am getting in good workouts on the days that I don’t run. This week was a fail for me in the time management department and, because I was tired from long days at work, I didn’t drag myself to the gym as often as I should have. The one day I did make myself go, I merely pedaled the elliptical while I watched a few episodes of Forensic Files; it was better than nothing, but just barely.

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Fifty shades of green.

One thing that I did really well last week, and have done already this week, is plan healthy meals and make them ahead of time so that I have a higher probability of having time to make it to the gym. I think I’ve finally found the meal planning technique that works best for me, and that is to make one or two dishes on the weekend that we can eat all week. For variety, we make some sort of salad to accompany our main dishes and that keeps us from getting bored. This week’s star is a cauliflower/asparagus soup, and I am looking forward to it.

When I think “healthy” I think of a meal that is made mostly of vegetables and doesn’t have a lot of added fats, sugars or processed ingredients. It has taken some time to train myself not to add cheese to everything I eat and to substitute a salad for a side of sugary, carb-heavy bread (sometimes), but I’m getting there. This week, I’m going to stick to my healthy diet (and avoid the booby-trapped cupboards full of Girl Scout cookies) and make a better effort to drag myself to the gym even if I am tired and traffic is bad and I get home from work wanting only to snuggle with my dog and cat.

Essentially what I looked like all last week.
Essentially what I looked like all last week.

 

*By “keep up” with the fast runners, I mean that I can see them for the entire duration of the run instead of just glimpsing them as they disappear over the crest of a hill in the distance.

Hazy, Hot, and Hilly

Yesterday was the perfect beach day. The sun rose in fiery glory above Koko Head crater, the air was thick with the kind of humidity that encourages a beach blanket snooze, and temperatures were already creeping into the high 80s by 6:30 am. What was I doing, you ask? I was running 16 miles.

It's getting very real.
It’s getting very real.

We gathered early at the Kalapawai Cafe and were disappointed to feel the sticky heat of the day already making itself known. From the cafe, we were shuttled to Hawaii Kai, about 16 miles away, and dropped off to run back to Kailua. Sunday seemed to be a busy day on the island and we met many other runners and large groups of cyclists as we made our way home, and everybody looked as if they were melting in the heat. I felt myself fading early in the run, and, when we stopped at an aid station and someone mentioned that we were at the halfway point (ONLY the halfway point!), I wanted to cry. I was moving pretty slowly, but I focused on staying hydrated, eating enough to keep going, and making it to the end of our route. The heat made everything else feel worse: my knees hurt, I was tired and thirsty, my armpits were chafing, and it was so hot that to run another 8 miles felt impossible.

The other things that were starting to feel impossible were all of the hills that we had to climb. It seemed that as soon as we crested one, another was in sight and I began to understand how Sisyphus might have felt; struggling to the top only to have to do it all over again. But, like Sisyphus, maybe there is an element of joy I can find in the struggle because here’s the thing: the marathon doesn’t have many hills. While I was running up yesterday’s steep inclines in the blazing sun, I questioned the purpose of running all of these motherf@#&ing hills when there is, I’ve been told, only one real hill on the entire marathon course, but, in all honesty, these mother@#%ing hills are making me stronger.

I think that if I can make it through 16 miles of heart-stopping hills without my heart actually stopping, there is a chance that the marathon will seem not necessarily easy, but also not like a death-defying feat. If my legs are accustomed to propelling my sad little body up steep hills again and again, then maybe they won’t buckle underneath me at mile 23. And if I’m used to talking myself out of lying down in the bushes on the side of the road and hoping a wild animal eats me when I’m at the base of YET ANOTHER HILL- OH MY GOD, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU MIKE????, then maybe I’ll be able to talk myself out of veering off course, breaking into someone’s house and having a nap on their couch at mile 24. I think this is Mike’s plan; he’s putting us through torture now so that we get to mile 20 without even realizing it, and when the going gets really tough, we’ll be tougher.

I’m at the point in my training now where some pieces of equipment have failed me, and some have proven their worth a million times over. I’m still in love with my Topo Fli-Lyte sneaks because of their lightness and roomy toe box (although I was starting to have some mild foot pain after runs over 10 miles, so I did get some SuperFeet inserts for them and this seems to be just the ticket for my big ‘ole footsies), and I’ve recently fallen in love with Lululemon’s Pleat to Street running skirt. I love this skirt because it has all the benefits of wearing tight spandex shorts (no chafing, no shifting) without the embarrassment of wearing tight spandex shorts (ummm….they are made of spandex and are really tight, need I say more?). I bought this skirt (off the clearance rack, total score!) on a whim, and after wearing it on a couple of longer runs and then switching back to running shorts yesterday, it has become my bottom of choice. I love it so much that I’m considering going back to the store and buying another at full price.

Charge
The FitBit Charge HR in tangerine; ain’t she cute?

Sadly, my Polar FT4 heart rate monitor was a total fail for any run longer than 8 miles. Even when I applied copious amounts of BodyGlide to my ribcage, the strap caused a lot of chafing. I even tried to put an extra-big bandaid over the chafed spots, but it didn’t help. I was pretty disappointed because I had become accustomed to pacing myself based on my heart rate, but I managed well enough without it until I found an alternative. Two weeks ago, my FitBit broke (it was old and had lived a hard life) and I upgraded to the Charge HR that tracks my heart beat using sensors on the back of my wrist. And, in true FitBit form, even though my old one was too old to be covered by a warranty, the company offered me 25% off the purchase of any model of new FitBit. I dug the discount, and so far, I’m digging the new technology.

ChargeHR
Tracking my heart rate while I bench press.

My water bottle belt is a mixed blessing. I enjoy the luxury of having a drink of water available whenever I need it, but occasionally one of the water bottles will get bounced out of its holster. I think I’ve solved the problem by tightening the strap and placing the belt a little higher on my waist (I hate to toot my own horn*, but I do think I’ve lost a little weight- even if it is just from sweating) because I think the problem might be that the belt was sliding too low and getting bounced more than normal. I’m looking into some other portable water options for the race just in case the belt proves to be more trouble than it’s worth. One other downside to the belt is that the storage pouch is a little small. I wish there was another one on the opposite side of the belt so that I could fit my gels and my keys without having to worry about busting the zipper.

Things seem to be aligning as we get closer to marathon day; I’m nervous about our upcoming 18 mile run this weekend, but I won’t start worrying in earnest until Thursday night after I’ve made it through our weeknight runs. 18 miles seems like such a long way to run, but I remember feeling the same way about each double digit distance, and so far I’ve managed to make it and feel pretty good at the end of each run. I know some of us, yesterday, were questioning our desire to run the marathon, but I think that is probably a good sign that we are giving the distance the respect it deserves. We are not in danger of being unprepared. Although yesterday was very hot and I was going more slowly than I did when we ran over the Pali, I actually felt better at the end of this run than at the end of the other, and I think it might be because I ate more snacks along the way. In addition to a gel, I also ate a few Clif Shot Bloks, and they might have made the difference.

This morning I expected to feel stiff and crippled, but I hopped out of bed and felt no worse for the wear. At the end of our run, the proprietor of the Kalapawai Cafe (who met us at the finish having run 20 miles himself) treated us all to breakfast and I enjoyed the most divine egg and cheese sandwich ever to grace my lips. I didn’t think I was hungry, but I remember taking the first bite and then looking down to see an empty plate. I did some pretty extensive stretching after I hobbled home, and then joined Mel, a fellow runner, and her family poolside to finally enjoy the weather the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I didn’t do much swimming, but I did enjoy a Mai Tai and leaned my elbows on the edge of the pool, kicking my legs lazily while her children showed off their jumping skills. It really was a perfect afternoon and I wonder if that brief hydrotherapy made the difference in my lack of soreness and stiffness today. Perhaps it was the Mai Tai; either way, I’m considering giving it all a go again after Sunday’s 18 miles. It can’t hurt, right?

Post run R & R. Thanks Mel!
Post run R & R; just what the Doctor ordered. Thanks Mel!

 

*No I don’t; that is the entire purpose of having a blog- tooting one’s own horn.

 

What’s the Best Diet? Healthy Eating 101 According to Dr. Mike Evans

I came across this video on my Facebook newsfeed earlier this week; it was posted by the Wellness Center I used to visit in Germany and it does a great job of succinctly presenting advice for healthy eating habits. It’s definitely worth a watch if you have any confusion about what healthy eating means and want to reaffirm your desire to stay away from fad diets that are unsustainable because there is no way in HELL that you can go the rest of your lifetime without eating potatoes or bread!

Scared Straight

In college, I had an acquaintance who told me that when she was a teenager she started to get into a lot of trouble, and her parents (I think maybe in conjunction with the local police force- the details are foggy in my memory) hired someone to pick her up and pretend to arrest her in order to show her what life might be like if she didn’t change her behavior. Essentially, they wanted to “scare her straight.” I have just finished disc one (of three) of ‘Weight of the Nation,’ and this movie has had a similar effect on me; it almost elevates poor health as result of bad diet choices and lack of exercise to the anxiety-inducing level of terror that climate change causes me to feel. At this point in the film, I’d like to eat only lettuce for the rest of my life and pledge myself to working out for an hour before going to work, on my lunch break, and after work every day. On weekends I think I’ll just spend the entire day working out. I’m kidding, sort of.

I actually am not as terror-stricken as I would have been prior to starting this fitness journey, but seeing the rise of obesity rates detailed in cold, hard data really emphasizes how dangerous this problem has become. The body type that people considered heavy in the 1980s is much different than the one we consider heavy today; this point was illustrated for me about a year ago when Don and I were watching the movie ‘Stand by Me.’  In this movie, there is a boy whom the others tease for being fat, and to me he looked like an average boy. Our idea of what a healthy body type is has changed quite a bit. This problem is so dangerous not only because it is costly for our health care system to have to treat all of these completely preventable problems, but the personal toll it takes on us to watch our friends and loved ones, or even ourselves, succumb to these diseases, some of which, as you’ll learn if you watch ‘Weight of the Nation,’ did not exist thirty years ago.  After I watch the rest of the movie, I’ll give it a proper review along with ‘Forks Over Knives,’ ‘Hungry for Change,’ and ‘Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead.’

I started the weekend by checking-in with Kim about my progress toward my 10k in under 75 minutes goal. We (she) decided that I should set an actual calendar date deadline as opposed to my sort of vague “by the end of March” original deadline, so I chose March 28th as the day. Soooo….. I have four weeks to talk myself into running with enough of a sense of purpose to cram those 6.2 miles into the length of time it takes to watch a Disney movie. I feel good about this (at least that is what I keep telling myself).

Yesterday, I bailed on my running date with Kiki and opted to trudge out alone. We had had a late night out at a beer garden sampling bock bier- a delicious seasonal dark beer that has a high alcohol content and is the first sure sign of Spring in Bavaria- and had made plans to run whenever we both felt up to the task. When I awoke yesterday morning, it was immediately apparent that at no point was I going to feel up to the task. I was a little hungover which put me in a foul mood, and sometimes misery loves company, but not yesterday.

I ended up going 5 miles (5 endless, excruciating  miles) on a different part of my dog walking path in one hour exactly. It was hard work and it was decidedly not fun, but at the end I felt like I had redeemed myself for my excessive indulgences the night before and my foul mood had transformed into a cheerier one. What I’m learning about running is that the hardest part (after the pain in my legs from having to propel my body faster than it wants to be propelled, and after the feeling that my lungs are going to burst, and after the hammering of my heart that makes me wonder if it is going to explode in a Game of Thrones-ian firework of blood) is the mental aspect. Some days you go out for a quick jog and end up running 5 miles because everything felt so wonderful, and other days you set out for your long run, and when you feel certain your legs are going to give out from exertion, you look over your shoulder to realize you haven’t even made it out of the driveway yet. Its really a tough sport.

I’m going to keep on plugging away at my training plan and hopefully the good days will outnumber the not-so-good days. March 28th will be here faster than I want it to be!

 

What to Expect When You’re Expecting…. to Lose Weight Over the Holidays

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Failure.

I’m not being pessimistic here, I’m being realistic. During this long season of festivity*, it’s a difficult enough task to not get sucked into the black hole of holiday goodies, and to think that we can try to avoid the goodies enough to actually lose weight is crazy-talk. My goal this year, and I’ve been told by my friends at the Wellness Center that it is a good goal, is to simply maintain.

This is a challenge that is compounded by the easy availability of all things deliciously associated with this time of year and by the generosity of my co-workers making and bringing sugary goodies to work and plunking them down on the communal table which is inconveniently located NEXT TO MY DESK (although, upon opening a box of chocolates for investigation, I discovered that they were shaped like bunnies and eggs. When questioned, the coworker who brought them confessed that they had been kicking around her house since Easter (she evaded my question of WHICH Easter) and they became immediately easier to resist). The challenge is not to turn down all treats, but to have enough presence of mind to eat only the ones you truly enjoy, and only in quantities you aren’t embarrassed to log into your MyFitnessPal account.

‘Tis the season to celebrate, and if you are going for total abstinence where the holiday cocktails and cookies are concerned, not only will you miss out on some really tasty things that maybe aren’t available year-round, but you will also probably not be invited to many holiday outings next year; when the goal is to eat drink and be merry, having a teetotaler around is kind of a downer. Save that stuff for the New Year, but do what you can to avoid blowing up like Violet Beauregarde a la “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”

To get me to the other side of Christmas without packing on the pounds, I’ve been employing a few key strategies. The most important of these strategies is that I’m still making my workouts a top priority. Even if I can’t make it to the gym, I’m setting dates in my living room with Neila Rey, I’m trying to walk instead of drive whenever possible, and I’m setting my alarm so that, on days when I have time for the gym, I’m not tempted to sleep through my workout.

Another key to making sure I’m staying healthy through the holidays is eating a good breakfast. Sure I’d save myself twenty minutes by grabbing a pastry and coffee-to-go at the bakery on the corner, but my oatmeal with banana helps ease me into the day and makes sure I’m staying fuller longer than the pastry could and for half the calories. I’m also saving the treats for truly special occasions. While I could happily sip glühwein all by my lonesome as I work on chores around the house, I save it for when I’m out with friends. The same goes for my meals; when out with friends to celebrate the season, I’ll indulge, but for the quick lunch I grab at my desk or for a normal weeknight dinner with Don, I’m making healthy, veggie-laden meals.

I will not be fifteen, ten or even five pounds lighter on January second than I was at the start of the holiday season, but I’m confident that I also will not be five pounds heavier. Do yourself a favor and let yourself off the hook a little bit over the holidays; it is the time to indulge and celebrate the spirit of the moment. Stick with your workout routine as much as you can (and if you don’t yet have a workout routine, maybe you should try adopting one now instead of waiting until 1 January so it will be that much easier to kickstart your resolutions), eat a good breakfast, keep the treats as treats- don’t make them an all-day-every-day affair, and remember you are not obligated to eat a piece of fudge that somebody brought to the office unless you really, truly want to eat a piece of fudge.

 

 

*This long season of festivity extends from 31 October (or whatever the date is when you buy and begin to “sample” the candy for trick-or-treaters) to when the last of the leftovers are eaten sometime at the beginning of January. It is, as they say, not a sprint, but rather a marathon.

Fitness on the Go and a New Gadget

I recently was fortunate enough to have a lovely vacation; on a brilliantly sunny Autumn day, Don and I took a train through the German and Austrian Alps and the Dolomites, winding our way through what I think of as “Hemingway’s Italy” finally arriving in Venice. We had a few days of leisure in Venice before we boarded an ENORMOUS cruise ship and headed out for a week in Greece and Croatia. Having never before been on a cruise, I was uncertain what to expect where my fitness goals were concerned.

My understanding of cruises was that they were a 24-hour smorgasbord of all things that are lovely to eat with not much opportunity for exercise. Fortunately, the food on this ship was merely mediocre and, not only did we have the opportunity to do a lot of walking in the ports, but the ship also had a gym on one of its decks. Working out aboard a ship (if you’re curious, we sailed with Costa– what can I say, it was a bargain compared to the other cruise lines…) is an experience that took some getting used to.

Going up! Many of the sights in Greece are located conveniently on top of a hill.
Going up! Many of the sights in Greece are located conveniently on top of a hill. This is part of the old fortress of Corfu.

Since the ship belongs to an Italian company, the free weights were measured in kilograms (imagine my shock when I grabbed what I thought was a nice, friendly 20 lb weight and couldn’t lift it one-handed), so not only did I have to shop around for the right heft to be lifting, but the rocking of the ship often caused the weights to roll away from me in between sets. The first time this happened, I failed to notice until a nice elderly man returned them to me.

For a gym on a boat, I thought that this one was pretty nice, but what I found strangest about this gym was the placement of  the treadmills. They were facing toward the windows overlooking the sea, so that when you looked at the treadmills, you imagined a relaxing view of the waves while you ran; however, when actually standing upon the treadmills, the sea was far below your sight line and what you actually saw was a mirror above the windows that reflected your midsection. I’m not sure which practical joker hung those mirrors at that height, but there is little that I can think of that is more defeating than watching your stomach jiggle while you run. I’m not alone in this line of thinking, am I? Needless to say, I steered clear of the treadmills.

I don’t think any of my workouts on the boat were very high quality, but they were certainly better than nothing and they, combined with the walking I did while exploring the beautiful islands of Greece, helped me to offset the extra calories consumed (Italian hot chocolate, anyone?). A few weeks before the trip, I got a new gadget in the mail that makes keeping track of calories in and calories out much easier.

On one of my visits to the Wellness Center, it was mentioned that people usually overestimate the amount of calories they burn during a workout and underestimate the amount of calories they eat in a day. I’m sure you can see where this is leading? Burning fewer calories than you think + eating more calories than you think = not being able to button your jeans.

Ummmm… guilty as charged. I know that I do this. In fact, upon hearing this bit of information, my first thought was “someone has hacked into my MyFitnessPal account.” I’m guilty of thinking that, if I spent an hour and thirty minutes at the gym, I spent an hour and thirty minutes working out. We all know this is not true; some of that time was devoted to stretching, some of it was devoted to resting between sets, some of it was devoted to chatting with a friend about dinner plans, but, when I log 90 minutes of gym time on my app, it gives me credit for 90 minutes of hard work. My apps are so naive.

Similarly, sometimes when I’m logging a food into the app, I will see how many calories a serving actually has and instead of thinking “Gee, I guess I shouldn’t eat this any more” I will think “Gee, I guess I didn’t eat a full serving.” One serving of Nutella has 200 calories and I definitely do not eat less than a serving when I slather it on my banana. Who am I kidding?

To reconcile this discrepancy, I purchased a heart rate monitor that will tell me exactly how many calories I burn, and I’m also trying to warm up to the idea that not every single banana I eat must be accompanied by Nutella. So far, I’m finding my monitor, the Polar FT4, easy to use and easy to wear.

The monitor is worn on a band strapped around your ribcage and it transmits to a digital watch that you wear on your wrist. The watch tracks your heart rate during your workout and will beep at you if you aren’t working hard enough. You can also use the watch as a timer and you can compare your workout history. Not only does it give me an accurate count of the calories I burn during my workout, but the FT4 has also helped me be more efficient in my workouts; I think I used to waste a lot of time by resting longer than I needed to, and now that I can see when my heart rate returns to ‘normal’ I’ve shortened my rest periods and can fit more workout into the time I have. I wouldn’t say this piece of equipment is necessary to have, but it is fun and is certainly helping me get a better idea of how much I’m doing. If you have any Fitness Freaks on your Christmas list, this might be a gift they’d enjoy- think how happy it will make them to track the progress of their lean, muscular hearts as they casually sprint 26 miles, each beat another affirmation that they have reached a level of physical superiority that justifies the bloody toenails and the Paleo-diet. Cyber Monday is just around the corner…

To better track my calories, I’ve also stopped logging my activities into MyFitnessPal. I use the FT4 to make sure I’m burring about 500 calories in a workout (what was estimated by the Wellness Center when they calculated the amount of calories I should eat for healthy weightloss), and If I burn less, I try to eat less too. I use the MyFitnessPal app to track calories eaten, and then I keep in mind my goal for the day. The equation has become much simpler.

The Polar FT4, reminding me, after a 3 mile run, that I am not a fitness freak.
The Polar FT4, reminding me, after a 3 mile run, that I am not a fitness freak.