Hebrews 12:1

"...and let us run with patience the race that is set before us." Hebrews 12:1

Friday, May 25, 2012

Unexpected Visitor

I went for a run this morning. I didn't set out with any specific mileage or time in mind - I just wanted to run. Instead of following either of my normal routes, I ran what will be the course of the Hot Biscuit 5k in July. Um, can you say HILLS?!

I had to pee before I even began my run, but since we moved gyms I don't have a pit-stop ready on Main Street anymore. I figured I'd out run it; I'd started races needing to pee before and the urgency usually disappears. It didn't today, so I decided to stop at the bathrooms at the Duck Pond. Now, this is like 7:45 in the morning... There's no one around. I was very glad of this when I started to open the door, a huge bug of some sort flew up at me and I squealed like a five year old girl. However, what I saw next made me wish there had been other people at the park.

When I got past the bug and into the one stall ladies' room, I saw what I at first thought to be big, Hefty trash bag lying on the floor. I just thought "gross" and started looking for the light switch. Then I saw the pants and shoes sticking out from under the "trash bag," that was actually a big, black coat, and the long, scraggly hair under a hat sticking out from the top. There was someone sleeping in the bathroom.

You'd better believe when I realized what I was looking at I turned tail and ran faster than I had all morning, probably faster than in any race I've ever run too. By the time I got to the road, I couldn't breathe, so I slowed down and that's when I realized I was shaking and my face wasn't just wet from sweat. I walked back up the street to the tech school trying to calm down. But once I got over the initial shock and being frightened by what could have happened if I'd continued into the restroom (a knife to the stomach being the main image in my mind... I watch too many CSI/Law and Order shows), I was over come with emotion from what I'd seen.

I mean, you see homeless people in Atlanta. You hear the statistics about how there are homeless in your hometown. But, to my knowledge, I'd never seen a homeless person in Jasper before. It just affected me more than it does when I see them in Atlanta asking for money. I kept thinking, what if this is someone I know? Like someone I went to school with, or someone I've met in passing? I kept wondering what their story is. Why were they sleeping on the bathroom floor at the nastiest park in town? How many more people are sleeping in similar places all over town? Are any of them kids? It just totally shook me up.

I went on and finished my run, but next time I think I'll have some pepper spray with me just in case.

Friday, May 18, 2012

If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it. - Albert Einstein

Yesterday I was wasting time in Small-mart before my Pump class when I was struck with an idea that literally made me LOL. Now, you have to understand, the Jasper Walmart is the reject of all Walmarts. I feel pretty confident in saying that it carries less than half of the inventory of all other Walmarts, hence the name "Small-mart." It isn't a Super Walmart, but I don't really believe it lives up to even regular Walmart standards (Walmart standards... ha ha!).

Anyway, back to my giggle inducing idea. I had walked over to the fitness accessory aisle just to see what was there. A box containing a "waist trimming belt" caught my eye, so I had to pick it up and investigate. Next to that box was a box of "thigh slimmers" and next to that were neoprene shorts. All products are designed to make you "shed water weight" and "instantly slim down." There were even a couple of different "sauna suits." Being the skeptic that I am and believing only in hard work, repeated day in and day out, and that shortcuts that will "instantly slim" you don't exist, I rolled my eyes and put the box back on the shelf and looked at heart rate monitors.

But then as I started to walk away, I picked up the thigh slimmers once again and really wondered why people would waste money on such a product. There wasn't even any scientific information on the box as to why the product works as it claims. But then I remembered people will do anything for a shortcut. Then I thought, who am I to say these products in fact don't work as promised when I've never tried them myself? Of course I can come up with several logical reasons as to why I don't think they would work, but how do I know unless I try it myself? So that's my idea. I want to test fitness products like these and other fitness fads so if I'm ever asked about these things, I can give an answer from experience, not just my opinion on how I think it works... and I think it'll be fun to try all the crazy things out. ;)

So be watching for product review posts. This should be entertaining! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

health is available to everyone for a lifetime -- and it's personal.

While subbing in PE today, I spent some time during planning and lunch reading through the Fitnessgram assessment guideline book. I love the program philosophy and mission of Fitnessgram - they call it the "HELP Philosophy." HELP specifies that "health is available to everyone for a lifetime -- and it's personal." I love it.

The program has only recently been implemented in Georgia and I, for one, am very excited to see how it will grow. If handled properly and taken seriously (which I understand may take some time) by educators and parents, and thereby taken seriously by students, Fitnessgram has the very promising potential to positively impact the health of millions. If you are unfamiliar with the program, you can check out http://www.fitnessgram.net/home/ for more information, but I'll give you a brief overview.

Fitnessgram is an assessment tool used for measuring students' fitness levels, teaching students various techniques to build upon current fitness levels, and aiding students in developing an appreciation for the benefits of a physically active lifestyle. Students are assessed using a variety of health related fitness tests including aerobic capacity, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body composition. Some examples of these tests include a timed mile run, pushups, curl-ups, and the sit and reach flexibility test. Scores from these tests are not graded "pass" or "fail" but assessed against a set standard (called the Healthy Fitness Zone) for each student's age. Results from the tests are reported to parents along with suggestions on ways to help students reach and maintain an age appropriate fitness level. The benefits of leading a physically active lifestyle are also included in the reports.

I really believe that if parents, and educators, would take the program seriously, it could change the lives of generations to come. I know parents see it as someone telling them how to raise their children and everyone wants to just let kids be kids and not worry about fitness yet, but good habits start early and bad habits even earlier. I really believe children can appreciate fitness and still enjoy childhood to the fullest. Improvement in aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscular strength and endurance will only enhance play and reduce a child's risk of injury or disease. And who knows, while practicing for the mile run, for example, a student may discover he or she really has a talent and passion for running that may have otherwise gone undiscovered. That passion could then turn into a lifestyle and could even lead to scholarships when the student is ready for college.

As I read over how to administer the different tests, I kept thinking how awesome it would be to have the teachers and parents take similar fitness tests and have their results compared to age appropriate standards. If kids see the adults in their lives trying to improve their health and fitness levels in the same ways they are, it's more likely they'll be motivated themselves.

Then, if parents, teachers, and students are all taking fitness seriously, pretty soon, the whole community will be healthier, and happier. I really want to work out the logistics of a "Community Fitness Day" of sorts, where such tests could be offered and people could learn about local resources to help them reach fitness goals and what works for them - be it a gym membership or learning a new walking path in the park or in their neighborhood. I've been just playing with this idea for several months, if not a year or more, now. The fear of actually turning this day into reality and it failing because most people just don't care enough about fitness, stops me from taking any action. I mean, I spend time almost every day with people who do value fitness and health; I think it might break me to have such concrete confirmation that we are the certainly the minority. I mean, I obviously know in my head that the majority of people I know, the majority of people in this community, and the majority of people in the state and country do not lead physically active lifestyles. The data (and Wal-Mart) are there to prove it. But I can at least still believe, I can still hope, and still tell myself, that if given the opportunity, the right tools, and simple, easy to understand information on how freaking easy it is to improve your fitness level (something is better than nothing!!!), that people really would be motivated enough to make a change.

I don't know. I want to see people care, and not for superficial reasons. I know there won't be just one big thing that will suddenly make all of society want to be fit for health, but it's fun to plan it. And if that day did happen, and it motivated just one person to make a change, I know it would be worth it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

There is no challenge more challenging than the challenge to improve yourself ~ Michael F. Staley

One challenge down! Like I predicted, going meatless was pretty easy. There were only two times that were even kind of hard. Once was when we ate at a sports bar for a friend's birthday and the other time was when family picked up dinner from Speedburger. It was just difficult finding items on the menu without meat, other than salad... sometimes you just don't want a salad. I did end up getting a salad from Speedburger, but even that originally came with ham on it. Otherwise, omitting meat from my diet was no big deal and I'm really not in a hurry to add it back. Today, for example, the only meat I had was two tiny bites of ham my mom had cooked in with the Lima beans she fixed to go with dinner. Jackson, my dog, will enjoy the rest of the ham that made its way into my little bowl of beans.

You've heard the less you eat something, the less you crave it? Most people apply that saying to sweets, but it's proven true with me and meat. I guess it also makes sense that the opposite would be true then too - that the more you eat something, the more you'll crave it. I find myself craving grape tomatoes, zucchini, bell peppers (well, okay I've always been one to eat a bell pepper like a normal person would eat an apple), and even brussel sprouts. I've learned that kale chips are amazing and that I actually do like sweet potatoes fixed in ways other than as fries or sweet potato casserole smothered with candied pecans and marshmallows. There are still so many veggie based dishes I want to try, and I'm in no hurry to rush back to eating meat every day just because the "challenge" is over.

I don't think I can accurately attribute the weight loss I've seen over this month to not eating meat. My diet has pretty much received a total overhaul over the last few weeks (not just March, I started focusing on creating a healthier diet before the challenge started). So I think that's what I can blame for the pants I bought right after Thanksgiving (and loved so much that I let everyone know and got two more pairs of for Christmas) suddenly being too big. I'm not complaining, though. Although I didn't have a problem with the number on the scales before and now I'm faced with either buying a belt or some new pants, I wouldn't trade the extra energy and clearer skin I've noticed for having those few pounds back just to make my khakis fit again.

So even though March is over, I plan to continue with a mostly plant based diet. :)

April's challenge is to do yoga every day. I am entirely positive this will be more difficult than my March challenge, but I'm looking forward to it. There's so much I want to work on that I'm hoping this month's challenge will become just a normal part of my daily routine and that I'll just easily keep it up after April.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"There will come a day when I can no longer do this...

...that day is not today." Although, my hamstring did try to tell me that, yes, today would be the day I'd have to quit mid-race.

My right hamstring has been bothering me all week. Friday was the worst; it hurt just to fully extend my leg and if I tried to massage it? Forget it. I tried ice, an Epsom salt bath, and a heating pad and thought I had it feeling better before yesterday. But around Mile 9 this morning it really started hurting so much so that apparently I was obviously in pain and another runner came over to ask if I was okay.

So I walked about as much as I ran from then on, stopping to walk when it hurt too badly and picking back up running when it had eased off and/or I had just gotten pissed off enough at it to run anyway. All the "runners don't quit," "pain is only temporary," etc. quotes I love kept running through my head. But at the same time I was questioning whether or not it was that kind of pain or the kind that if I pushed it would leave me injured for the rest of the week or longer. So I tried not to push it too much 'cause one thing I'd hate worse than not PRing at a race would be being laid up and out of the gym for any length of time.

I knew when I wiped my face at one point early on in the race and felt all the grittiness on my forehead that my sodium levels were dropping too low and I'd soon be cramping. I had hoped that since I'd never had that problem with a half before I'd be okay today but I forgot to take into account the record high temps that were making me sweat more than usual in this race. So I started keeping an eye out for a medic tent so I could grab a couple of salt packets to ward off any impending muscle cramps but never saw a single tent! Crazy! Then it was almost as though my calves had teamed up and planned it; as soon as I passed the Mile 12 marker, they started cramping just like they did in the Savannah Rock 'n' Roll marathon. You could literally see the muscle tighten up and twitch. Yeah, ouch.

My official finish time was 2:16:something, but I used Nike+ on my phone and paused it when I had to make a porta-potty stop (everyone was drinking so freaking much because of the heat!) and it read 2:11:27 at the finish line. So technically, I didn't PR on the course since last year's time was 2:15:30. But my actual running time was less than before so I'm not too unhappy with it.

I really enjoyed the ice water soaked towel and chocolate milk they handed me at the finish line. After walking around Centennial Olympic Park for a little while and stretching out some, Chris and I went back to the hotel and then to eat. The Marietta Diner is quite possibly the best place to go if you want a lot of food and fast. I had three of the biggest slices of french toast I've ever seen and a bowl of grits. Totally and completely guilt free too - just like the long nap I had! ;-)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

do NOT call me skinny!

As I was fixing my dinner tonight (quinoa with roasted zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms), Daddy walked into the kitchen to inspect - you can't cook anything in this house without someone coming to inspect within two minutes of you starting the stove. He picked up the box of quinoa, read it over, and told me, "If you get any much skinnier, I'm gonna take you to Dr. Oz." You'd better believe my blood started boiling more rapidly than the quinoa was.

First of all, I'm not skinny. I don't want to be skinny. Skinny means that on top of your bones, you have just enough muscle to get by, a thin layer of fat, and skin. You don't have to work to be skinny, you just are. Skinny bodies have no definition except bones poking out. Picture the models on Project Runway. Skin and bones. Think any of them can run a marathon or hold their own in the weight room? Go to a thesaurus and look up skinny. Not very many positive synonyms appear.

That's not me. I work 7 days a week at developing muscular strength and endurance, at cardiovascular endurance, at flexibility, and a healthy diet. So I really hate being called skinny.

Secondly, yes, I am eating healthy. No, I am not on a diet. People diet to get skinny. You eat healthy to sustain and nourish the body. I perform better at the gym and feel better all the time when I've eaten well throughout the day/week than I do when I've eaten junk. It literally makes me sick to my stomach to even imagine eating anything fast food now (except Chick-fil-A of course!). Sure, I'll get a Taco Bell craving every now and then, and I'll give in to it. Because you know what? Just like eating one healthy meal once in a blue moon will not positively affect a poor diet, eating one bad meal once in a blue moon will not negatively affect a healthy diet.

I know most people mean "skinny" as a compliment, because it's so celebrated in our society, so I don't normally get so angry when someone calls me skinny. But just know, it's not really a compliment.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Meatless March

Yesterday began Meatless March. I almost forgot at dinner when Chris fixed chicken but remembered quickly enough and didn't eat any. Like I said in the Challenges post, I really think this month will be easy. I already eat mostly meatless meals anyway just because by the time I get home from the gym I want something fast and healthy, so veggies usually win out and it's really rare that I eat meat at breakfast or lunch anymore.

It would be really easy to just continue to eat that way, but I want to use this month to try new recipes and experience new foods. I'm going to experiment with quinoa some, since my last attempt failed miserably, and try to make myself eat more Greek yogurt for protein so that I'm not solely relying on peanut butter and protein powder. I know veggies have some protein but your body really only absorbs about 75% of protein from vegetables whereas it absorbs about 90% from meat so I have to add in some other high protein foods to get what I need.

I also want to see what cutting out meat does to my weight. I'm not doing this to lose weight, I'm doing this purely out of curiosity and for the experience. I'm just curious to see how it will affect my weight as a side effect. It might not do a thing, it might go up, it might go down - I'm cool with whatever as long as my clothes fit the same and I feel alright. After my class at the gym yesterday, I hopped on the scale so I'd have a starting point so I can really measure the difference throughout the month. My jaw just about hit the floor when I saw what it said. It was nearly ten pounds less than what I was expecting. I was ready to go to the doctor thinking something was majorly wrong - you're not supposed to lose ten pounds in just a couple of days. But then I tried two more scales and both showed a number closer to what I was expecting, 8.7 pounds more than the first scale. So now I have a number to go by. We'll see what it does. :)