Tag Archives: positive thinking

Worst blogger ever

Atlanta, dusk – my photo

So much for New Year’s resolutions, right? I started this blog to keep up with my writing and motivate myself to keep working out. Now it’s mid-March, two and a half months into 2012. Let’s do a little review:

– I wanted to write. I wrote a lot in January. In February, I got busy and stopped writing. March has been similarly barren thus far. Grade? Fail.

– Exercise. I wanted to work out at least four times a week. In January I faltered. In February, I ran a lot. Then I began experiencing stabbing pain in my ankles, not just during runs but all the time. I stopped running. But we did start rock climbing, and with that, attending an abs/core class at the gym. I can now climb a 60-foot grade 5.8 route with an incline. Not bad for a beginner. Grade? Pass.

– Learning. I wanted my Spanish to improve, my guitar playing to improve, to learn piano, to take more photographs, to apply to grad school. Well, it’s embarrassing to admit that I haven’t put much effort into any of that. Grade? Epic fail.

I could come up with any excuse in the book to explain how poorly I’ve been doing with my goals. But the truth is, it’s poor time management coupled with constant exhaustion. If we climb four times a week, then come home to prepare and eat dinner, I’m completely spent and will pass out on the couch by 11:30 at the latest. I must be awakened and dragged to bed, lest I spend all evening curled into a back-tweaking crescent shape against the angle of the couch. Also, we’ve been on a mission to eat at home as frequently as possible. There’s no excuse not to: I can cook, and it makes much more financial sense for us at the moment. But food preparation, and then cleaning the kitchen, takes more time and energy. It’s worth it, but between a full day at work, exercising, and then making dinner? There’s not much time for anything else.

Things are somewhat frustrating on the exercise front at the moment. I’ve been working out hard, putting on tons of muscle, and eating very carefully, but I’m stuck in that awkward stage that’s in between muscle addition and fat burning off. So the scale hasn’t changed a bit. My clothes aren’t fitting better yet. I’m trying not to be discouraged, but it’s hard to stay positive when I feel like my hard work hasn’t paid off. I am trying to focus on the fact that I feel stronger, better. And I know that muscle weighs more than fat, so the fact that the scale has stayed the same while my arms are jacked and a serious six-pack has taken up residence under my belly fat means that I have to have lost something. But it’s tough.

On a brighter note, climbing is awesome. I’ve been having so much fun! It’s so incredible to think about how far we’ve come in just a month. When we first set foot in Stone Summit, we were limited to the bouldering room. Bouldering is ropeless climbing, where the climber follows routes set along a 10-15 foot wall. It’s highly dependent on endurance and brute strength, and you spend a lot of time using your arms to hoist yourself up and do crazy moves across the wall. The routes are rated in difficulty from V0, which is basically a staircase set onto the wall, to much harder ones (V14, I think is the toughest). As the route difficulty increases, the holds are smaller, farther apart, harder to grasp, and set onto tricky slopes.

Where we started

At first, I could barely ascend a V0. It wasn’t so much the difficulty of the route that held me back. My issue was mostly in the comfort level of the climb, and my fear of heights. When you’re scared of heights, leaving the ground in any capacity is a challenge!  But I kept at it, and eventually I was able to reach the top of the wall and scamper down quickly.

After a couple of weeks, Xavier and I took a belaying class so we could learn how to top-rope and climb on the larger walls in the gym. Ever since, we’ve been having a blast. This type of climbing requires more endurance than brute strength, so there are many more options for us. We started on the easy walls, just to get the feel for it. Now, we’ve progressed to some of the more challenging routes. As I climb, I’m realizing that I’m doing things that I couldn’t do last month – lift my entire body weight with one arm, for example. I feel much more comfortable on the wall, and am having a great time. The panic still sets in sometimes, like when I look down from 50 feet up and my arms are so tired that I can barely hang on. But I know that I’m perfectly safe with Xavier belaying me, and that helps me to make it up and reach that last hold. It’s a really cool feeling.

Where we climb now- well, not the upside-down parts yet.

The only problem I’m having with climbing is that my hands are becoming very tough and callused. It’s not exactly conducive to shaking hands, giving massages, or really touching anyone without hurting them. Fortunately, my boyfriend’s hands are the exact same way, so I think he understands.

Does anyone have a story to share about their own mental blocks while exercising?  How do you stay positive when your hard work has resulted in your jeans still feeling quite uncomfortable?

Once a coxswain, always a coxswain

As a real coxswain: winning NY States in ’06

So, let’s get the good news out of the way first: I ran 10 – yes, ten – miles this week. For the first time since I set a goal of running four 30-minute sessions per week, I actually accomplished it.  I know there are people who run 10 miles in a single session, and I applaud you people. Maybe someday I’ll join you. But for now, coming back from a long hiatus, four 2.5-mile runs this week feels pretty awesome. I wanted to start slow so I could strengthen my back before getting into longer runs. This is critical since I tend to throw out my back like it’s my job, especially when I don’t run for a while and then bust out a super-intense five-miler. The slow approach seems to be working well, and I haven’t had any back pain.

Now let’s get the bad news out there: I think I ruined someone’s day today.

Here’s what happened. I was running my standard lap, the 1.25 mile loop around my house and the surrounding neighborhood. Long enough to keep things interesting, close enough to return home should I experience cramps, thirst, or tears. As I approached a crossroads with the main street, I saw two girls. They were jogging together, not quickly, and they made a left onto the road that I was following. No big deal. Then, at my snail’s pace, I began to gain on them from behind. This was slightly annoying. For some reason I felt weird about passing them, probably because I have lots of deep-seated doubts about my abilities as a runner. We began ascending a hill. About twenty meters up, one of the girls slowed her jog to a walk. Since I was going strong, I knew I was going to pass her fast.

But once a coxswain, always a coxswain. Despite the fact that I wasn’t thinking clearly (all the blood was rushing to my legs and lungs to fuel the run, my brain left completely out of the circulatory loop), I decided that I’d try to motivate her as I ran by. This was a perfect stranger. Now that I’m safely ensconced in my home office and my run is over, I have no idea what I was thinking, except I felt really guilty about going past someone who was having a hard time and wanted to show some encouragement.

So as I ran by her I yelled “You got this!” She kind of jumped, looked at me, and laughed awkwardly – you know, a standard reaction when a stranger screams at you in the street. Then she said “Oh, I’m so out of shape.”

I replied in a ragged gasp – “You can still do it! This is only my fourth run back out.” Intending to convey, of course, that she could just try really hard and run through the pain. But what I actually conveyed was something along the lines of ‘haha, I’m so awesome and I’m going to rub it in!’ I knew that as soon as she looked at me with something between horror and annoyance, and felt so bad. Instead of stopping to explain, though, I ran away. Because I was running. And it felt like a good out.

Girl-who-was-jogging-slash-walking-around-Piedmont-Heights today, if you ever read this, I’m sorry. I was just trying to help.

My outburst gave me something to cringe over and consider as I finished the run. The years of rowing definitely contributed a lot to how I exercise. It’s ingrained in me to always finish strong on a workout, ending in exhaustion. And I’m completely obsessed with my Garmin Forerunner, of which my coach was quite a fan. The technology has really moved forward in just the last five years. My college rowing Forerunner was a giant brick that strapped onto your wrist and prevented any hand movement, much like a splint. My grown-up Forerunner is a pretty gray and pink watch that allows me to hold Riley’s leash, daintily wave ‘thanks’ to cars that let me pass, and re-tie my hair. Victory, 2012.

Tomorrow is Sunday and I’m going to attempt three laps, that means four whole miles. Will update if I’m still alive. Hope everyone has a great weekend!

Things I Learned This Weekend

Doesn’t it seem that the older you get, the faster time flies by? Approximately three minutes ago, I was leaving work on Friday afternoon. Now it’s Sunday night and I’m full of gotta-get-up-early-for-work dread. Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I just hate waking up early.

Albeit short, this has been an interesting weekend, I’m feeling a little bit motivated to write.

This weekend, I learned that writing a blog post with an interesting title will get many more page views than any previously-written boringly-named post will get. But, as you can see from today’s title above, I am not going to take advantage of this lesson. I’m writing for me, not you. But it was interesting that so many people read my blog this weekend, and very nice to hear comments from friends old and new! Thanks for your feedback, everyone.

This weekend, I learned that tattoo removal hurts like freakin’ crazy. Should I back up a little bit? How did I learn such a thing? Well, when I was in college I took a religious studies course about Islamic Mysticism. It was a really cool class. This was way before I had fully developed my current views on theism, and I really appreciated learning about Sufis. The Sufis love their god, and some were known to express this love in the form of poetry. Have you ever heard of Rumi? He was born in 1207, but his work is beautiful and relevant today.
Let the lover be disgraceful, crazy,
absentminded. Someone sober
will worry about things going badly.
Let the lover be.”

I’d always wanted a tattoo. Although I wasn’t sure what to get, I knew I was looking for something with a meaning that could resonate with me for as long as the tattoo lasted. While Sufi poetry was mostly about love, they tended to use imagery of drunkenness and ecstasy. Of course, they were really inferring that a union with God was intoxicating and ecstatic, but in college, I liked those ideals regardless of intent. Along those lines, here is what I almost got tattooed on my body at age 19:

That, in case you’re wondering, is a love poem by Rumi. It’s still bookmarked on my Safari, the list of favorites having been imported from computer to computer over the years. And I’m so glad I settled with the tattoo I ended up getting, because the laser would have proven unbearable as it erased every last character of that poem.
That was my first tattoo on the first day of its life. It was supposed to be an Arabic word that meant “do beautiful things.” It was the name of a Sufi philosophy that dictated all Sufis should be on their best behavior at all times, as though Allah was watching them. While I couldn’t quite identify with that, I loved the idea of being the best I could be at all times, no matter who was there or why. As it turned out, the tattoo wasn’t quite right, which can happen when a word is culled from the recesses of Google and Arabic websites. It was missing a couple of dots. After it was fixed, I got the itch for another tattoo; getting the ink is kind of a rush, like a runner’s high. I ended up with the word “love” in Hebrew tattooed on my left ankle. It balanced out the Arabic for this lapsed Jew, I figured. This was a terrible tattoo. It was free because it was one of the artist’s first attempts at permanent body art. That explains why the letters faded away around my Achilles, like a whisper or afterthought.
Almost as soon as the tattoos became a part of my personal landscape, I knew that they would have to be removed at some point. The Arabic, for example, became particularly annoying. When I wore dresses or skirts in an attempt to present myself nicely, the word was somewhat of an eyesore. People would say “You have a smudge of dirt on your leg… oh, wait…”
So, to make a long story short, thanks to Groupon and an early birthday present, I was able to do something about the tattoos this weekend. And if you take nothing else from this post, let it be this: that laser hurts like hell. Getting the tattoos removed was approximately 5,452,921 times more painful than having them done in the first place. At the studio, I lay down nonchalantly on my belly at first, waiting for the laser. After the first blast – which felt, incidentally, like a white-hot beesting that resonated up past the knee and down towards my toes – my entire body clenched. I gripped the sides of the chair until my fingers went white, every muscle aching from the restraint of holding myself down against every instinct to get up and bolt. This continued for, fortunately, only a few minutes. Although I don’t remember saying anything during the procedure, Xavier heard me cursing like a sailor from the waiting area outside. It hurt so bad that I was dizzy for 20 minutes afterwards. Crazy, right? I’m not the bravest person ever, but trust me: this hurt. Keep your tattoos, people.
They did offer Lidocaine cream for an additional $20, which I deferred in the name of saving money and acting as tough as possible. This was an epic mistake that I shall never repeat, not for any of my remaining five sessions. Now the tattoo remnants are bandaged and I can’t wait to peek and see how much they’ve changed. I got a glimpse before the healing cream went on, and they definitely looked faded.
Although my “do beautiful things” tattoo will soon become a thing of the past, I want its message to live on. Today, I was saddened upon hearing the news story that Representative Gabrielle Giffords will not seek reelection to Congress. I just finished reading the biography that she and her husband wrote together, and it was an amazing and touching story that left me in tears. (Look for it in a What I’m Reading Wednesday post shortly!). Rep. Giffords, as you may remember, was shot point-blank in the head by a deranged gunman as she hosted a Congress on Your Corner event last January. She survived, but seven others did not, and many others were also injured. Reading the story of all that she did for her country and her constituents before her injury, then learning about her long and difficult recovery, made me wonder what more I can be doing with my life to help others. Although I have the opportunity to work with patients on a daily basis, my job is more about helping doctors to come to a diagnosis, not actually helping them in a hands-on way. That is still my ultimate professional goal: to help people feel better.
I don’t know if I believe in karma, not in the traditional sense. However, I believe that putting forth positive energy into the world will result in a better place for everyone, and you will ultimately be happier for it. This attitude hasn’t always been kind to me in return – I’ve been burned badly after trusting others. But I’ll keep trying to see the best in people, and treat them the way I’d like to be treated.  That’s what my idealistic tattooed self would have wanted, and I’m going to remember that even after a laser burns away my best-laid plans.

How to Stay Motivated on a Rainy Weekend

It’s pouring outside.

Not just a little bit of rain, the kind you know will fade away after a few hours and you can get on with your day. This is a complete downpour, born forth from cloud-blackened skies at 10:30am. Our bright, sunny house is completely dark right now, save for bursts of lightning that tense me up for the rolls of thunder I know are coming. This is the kind of rain that ruins your plans for the day (jogging outside) and makes you want to stay in bed.

I’m not in bed, although Xavier still is and it is probably the warmest, best place in the house right now. I’m in the office and it’s a bit chilly. Our office is technically a sunroom, with so many windows we have no place to hang pictures, and it leads to our little backyard. The door doesn’t shut all the way – perhaps the result of a certain fifteen-pound terrier body-slamming it when she wants to go outside and chase squirrels – so chilly air filters in and keeps me shivering enough to stay awake.

The reason I’m in the office, wide awake, wishing I could stay asleep? Well, there are two. Thanks to an awesome member of the website Serious Eats, I just received 21 Meyer lemons in the mail straight from California. If you don’t know what a Meyer lemon is, let me enlighten you. It’s technically a lemon, but much sweeter, and its peel is almost orange. It’s like the difference between an egg from the grocery store and an egg from someone’s pet chicken that roams around a backyard.

My Meyer lemons!
Now that I have these beauties, I’m brainstorming the amazing recipes that I can make with Meyer lemons. First up is definitely homemade lemon curd, some of which will be turned into lemon mousse. I’m also considering lemon risotto. And who could resist the allure of classic lemon bars? There is so much to make that I can hardly wait to get started.
Unfortunately, as I plan the calorie-bombs that I want to make, it’s raining and I can’t go for a run. This brings me to my next issue: exercising. This week has been a bit of a bust in terms of working out. My dad was in town on Tuesday and we went out for a ridiculously delicious meal at Ecco. The ridiculously delicious meal was washed down with a ridiculously delicious bottle of wine. That set the stage for a week of eating delicious food. It was capped off with – wait for it – my first bowl of authentic Japanese tonkatsu ramen last night! I’ve been wanting to try real ramen for years now and it did not disappoint. It’s like the 10-cent packages on steroids, speed, and crack. The only unfortunate thing about the meal was that I couldn’t finish my huge bowl of soup. Which, by the way, was much better than anything you’ll find at Panera.
Broth, noodles, pork belly… amazing

So how am I going to work off the calories from this crazy week of food? Kickboxing, as you may remember, is too expensive for me to afford right now. It’s been raining like crazy so outdoor workouts have been hard to accomplish. But did I tell you about how I stopped by the local LA Fitness to check out membership rates last month? I hate working out at the gym, so my visit was really just to motivate myself to get back on my bike. Well, the overenthusiastic sales guy has been calling me constantly ever since. I ignore his calls, but today he left an interesting message regarding a $20 monthly rate. That is just cheap enough that I might have to investigate and consider actually joining. Hopefully it’s not a scam.
But even if I join the gym at a cutthroat rate, I’m legitimately worried that I will just not go. The gym is right next to our house, and there’s no reason for me to skip workouts, except I get way too bored during them. The ellipticals don’t even have TVs, so how am I supposed to stay entertained and distract myself from the pain, heavy breathing, and impending feelings of death and doom? They do have classes there that I might be able to enjoy. I’m not sure if they have spinning, though.
So what do you think? Is it worth joining a gym at $20/month and then hoping I manage to go once in a while? And, is it painfully obvious yet that my love of food is going to be the death of me in my attempts to stay physically active?

Wrench in the works

Bad news, world. Remember how I wrote that I was going to start kickboxing again? Well, it’s not happening. I had every intention of going to kickboxing classes. Then I heard back from the school and classes are too expensive. As much as I’d be okay with spending money on something worthwhile, I just don’t have the cash. Not until I pay off my credit cards, at least.

So it looks like I’m going to be focusing exclusively on my running plan for a little while. That’s disappointing, because I was very excited to add kickboxing for the variety. Things could be worse, though! Let’s look at this in a positive light. I don’t know why, but I have it locked into my head that running is the best kind of cardio. Where did I learn this? Who told me? No idea. But it holds true in my experience. You can spend an hour doing something like tennis, swimming, rollerblading, cycling, or the elliptical, and you never feel as tired as you do after an hour of running.

(I’ll be starting in half-hour increments, but whatever… a start is a start).

I’m not a natural runner. My body is not built for running, and it is a great challenge for me to get running and stay running. But it’s important to be challenged, because it pays off in the form of results. With something like cycling, I can get on my bike and ride for hours and be perfectly happy as long as I have a chocolate-chip Cliff bar tucked into my jersey. As fun as riding is, it never seems to get me as trim as I’d like to be. Going out to hit the pavement is much less enjoyable, but it gets results. So every time I go out to run and it starts to hurt, I’m going to think about that… and then keep going.

(As I am writing this, I’m realizing that it sounds kind of silly to force myself to work out. I wish I had a problem where I hated cooking and eating, and needed to force myself to do that. No offense to anyone who has suffered from an eating disorder, which is no joke. But seriously! Life would be so much easier if I could escape the siren call of Antico pizza and basically every carb covered in cheese. Oh, first world problems).

When I finally can afford kickboxing, it’s going to be that much more awesome – being more fit to start off, I think I’ll get more out of those workouts right from the beginning.

Have you ever had a wrench thrown in your workout plans? How did you recover?