Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Sunday Night’s Yoga (8/29/10)

I don’t know how it happened, but somehow, I found myself with free time on Sunday night.  It was delightful, the unexpected release from do-this, do-that, don’t-forget-about-blah-blah-blah.  I’m never a slave to my to-do list, and nothing is as much fun as procrastinating (oh, the guilt! oh, the rush of getting things done at the last minute!), but there is a sweetness to having all your ducks in a row.  That was my Sunday evening—everything prepped and ready to go for the big week ahead.  I’m taking a deep breath right now, just thinking about what a big week it is.  Sometimes all the pieces just come together, and it feels almost like magic.

But I don’t mean to digress about work here.  Instead, let’s talk yoga!  On Sunday night, I did a round of Lunar Flow.  As I was flowing, the instructor asked us (me) to notice where we feel resistance, and immediately she asks us if it’s the breath.  Do we resist the slow, rhythmic breathing that is such an essential part of yoga?  For me, the answer is yes.  In everyday life, I have the unfortunate habit of breathing very shallowly or even holding my breath if I’m nervous or scared.  By not taking deep breaths, I amplify my anxiety to unbearable levels, at which point I think my stress level just might kill me on the spot.  For a few years now, I’ve been trying to take deep breaths whenever I think about my breathing, as a gentle reminder that in everyday life, it’s best to be relaxed. 

It’s a little amazing to me that even in a setting like yoga where I am reminded to breathe over and over again, I still find it hard to let my breathing slow down and deepen.  This observation convinces me that I’m on the right track with the gentle reminders to myself that deep breaths are good, and I deserve to feel good.

Lunar Flow was wonderful; I felt so relaxed and refreshed by the end of the class.  I can’t think of a better way to start of the week.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Weekend Rider

A Good Ride

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday Bike Rides (8/26-8/29/10)

Having a bike to ride is really, really great.  A bike makes commuting so much more fun, especially when work calls to me on the weekends and experiments demand my attention.  Having a bike to ride to and from the lab somehow makes the whole working weekend thing much more pleasant.  I swear, on Saturday mornings, when I’m riding to campus at 8 or 9 AM, I feel so good and so clean despite all the sweat pouring out of my skin.  It’s almost spa-like, this feeling that I get.  Maybe it’s because of the sweat!

My bike commute is about 25 minutes each way, so if you add it up, I spent more than two hours pedaling around town this weekend.  I haven’t done that much bike-riding in a long time, and my legs held up pretty well.  I started to feel some fatigue on the way home from campus on Saturday, and on Sunday I rode slowly and easily because my legs were tired.  Tonight, the night after my triple dose of weekend riding, I’m taking it easy—I may do some yoga or some Pilates, but the legs get to rest.  They’ve earned it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

On the Streets

Thursday’s Run (8/26/10)

It’s back-to-school time here in College Station, Texas, where all of the Texas A & M University undergraduates are swarming into town and getting ready for classes to start on Monday.  The whole place has a hustling kind of energy; pick-up trucks are all over and after a sleepy summer, this city feels ALIVE.  It’s exciting!  I love it, almost despite myself.  It’s been a long time since August was back-to-school time for me—eight years, in fact.  When I was a graduate student, fall classes started in September, but before that, I was a college student and classes always started in late August.  Texas A & M’s semester takes me back to my own college days, even though my work now is independent of the academic calendar.

With all the excitement on the streets, I felt eager to take my run outside today, even though it’s been almost a month since I last ran outdoors.  Nevertheless, there is no time like the present to take advantage of good running weather—not too hot, not too humid, almost like a decent Midwestern August evening.  What it reminded me of, in fact, was a cross-country training run early in the season, when the sun still hangs in the sky until 8 PM and the heat of the day lingers until nightfall.

School Pride

Because I had not run outside in close to a month, I knew this one would have to be slow and easy: 15 minutes nonstop at a very gentle pace—probably not faster than a 10-minute mile.  My legs felt fine with this run, if a little heavy.  What surprised me is that my lungs were more taxed by this work-out than I would have expected, given that I’ve been running on the treadmill and even doing speedwork.  I can only imagine that a “real” run is harder on the cardiovascular system than a treadmill run, so my lungs are working harder than I anticipated.

Still, it was great to be outside.  I even got to hear the crunch of dry grass under my sneakers, and during my cooldown, I saw the most beautiful, huge, glowing-pink sunset.  I hurried home to get my camera so I could share it with you, but all I got was a glimpse of the sun from behind clouds.

A Hidden Sunset

Happy almost-Friday, friends!

These August Nights

Wednesday’s Long Walk (8/25/10)

On Wednesday night, I had three goals.  The first, and most important, was to roast a batch of these fantastic Oil-and-Vinegar Oven Fries, which are addictively good.  If you want to stop reading now so you can click on over to the recipe, please do.  I won’t try to stop you.  The second goal was to be in bed by 10:30 PM, as I have been staying up too late, getting up too early, and not getting enough sleep.  I love my sleep.  The third goal, which turned out to be every bit as nice as the oven fries, was to go for a long walk at dusk.

It may be a bit of an illusion, but I swear I can feel just a hint of summer fading here in the Lone Star State.  It is still very, very hot, but either I’ve gotten used to it or the heat is just a little less intense than it was earlier this month.  I like to interpret this as a sign that fall is on its way.  Fall used to be my favorite season, or at least it was when I lived in the Midwest, and I still feel excited about its arrival, even though fall in Texas is not nearly as magical as it is elsewhere in the country, where the leaves are set afire with color and the mornings and evenings are tinged with cool breezes.  But at least we’ve still got apples, even if they aren’t local!

At any rate, last night was cool enough outside that a long walk sounded delicious.  I still feel like I let too much time go by between long walks, what with all the bike-riding and yoga and treadmill runs that fill my days.  I set out on my walk around dusk, and the sky was filled with clouds.  It felt a little like home, home as in Chicago, land of clouds and grey.  It’s funny how the endlessly cloudy days of Chicago used to feel so depressing to me; now, in Texas, land of sunshine and heat, it’s the cool grey days that make me smile.

I walked an out-and-back path, a shorter version of my hour-long loop.  I didn’t feel the need for an hour of walking, so I spent forty minutes strolling underneath that dusky evening sky.  Toward the end, I busted out my power-walking moves, suddenly feeling itchy to add some speed to my otherwise leisurely stroll.  I got home early enough to watch an episode of The L Word, clean up the kitchen a bit, pack my lunch, and climb into bed with just enough time to peruse an old issue of EatingWell before turning out the lights—at 10:45 PM!  Is there anything better than going to bed early?  I think not.  Also, I think I may be twenty-eight years old going on seventy-five.  Early bedtimes, power walking…at least I’ve still got my red hair.  That ought to keep up my youthful illusion for a little while longer!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Runner and Her Yoga

Monday’s Yoga (8/23/10)

It occurs to me that I spend more time writing about yoga than running on this blog.  Hmm.  What can I say to defend myself?  I love my running and my yoga, but it appears that yoga is more of an everyday thing for me.  I spend so much time running around that when I get home from work, yoga is what I want.  It’s what I need.  I need the stretch and the stillness of the poses, the feeling of being in one place with my body and my mind.  Yoga is how I wind down.  It’s part of who I am.

Monday was one of my craziest days at work in a long, long time, and when I finally got home, AFTER leaving my keys at work and calling a friend to rescue me, I was exhausted.  Thank goodness dinner was a snap to put together, and it wasn’t too much work to watch a new episode of The L Word on Netflix while laying half-comatose on the floor.  Then, and only then, was I ready to consider physical movement of any kind.  Since I had done a long run the day before, I wanted to do a gentle yoga class, so I chose Gentle Hatha Yoga #3, which I hadn’t done in a while, so it seemed like a nice change of pace.  This class is a great choice for runners because it features a lot of lunge poses and a decent amount of time in downward-facing dog, which is good for stretching all the muscles along the back of the legs.  I hadn’t really thought of #3 as “Hatha for Runners,” but I think that’s the best way to describe it.

I felt wonderful afterward—it was exactly what I needed after my insane day.  I just crossed my fingers that the next day would be a little more calm—and that I’d remember to take my keys home with me.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

And So I Did

Sunday’s Run (8/22/10)

For me, every long run requires some bargaining between my brain and my body.  My brain says, “Okay, legs, 40 minutes on the treadmill today.  That’s only 10 minutes more than last week, so let’s do this without stopping.  Go!”  And at first my body says, “Yeah, whatever, okay, I’m going.  Oh, you’re turning up the speed!  Okay, I’m really going.  Oh, we’re running now!  Whew!  Yes, I remember how to do this.”

We run for a while like that, with the occasional complaint from my body: “The legs are hurting.  I’m tired.  When’s our walk break?”  My brain says, “No, no walk break yet.  Let’s keep running!  40 minutes, remember?  Long run!”

I made it all the way to 20-something minutes when a walk break stared to sound really tempting.  I was torn.  On the one hand, there’s nothing wrong with a walk break, especially if it helps you finish your goal.  My goal was 40 minutes of running on the treadmill; I didn’t set any limits on breaks because I just couldn’t.  On the other hand, 40 minutes is only 10 minutes more than last week.  Couldn’t I squeak out another 10 minutes of running?  Pretty please?

I made a deal with myself: let’s get to the 30-minute mark, since we did it last week and I know we can do it this week.  But once I passed 30, I thought to myself, You know, I’m just a little tired.  Nothing’s really hurting, and in these long runs, the goal is to build endurance.  I want to keep going.  I want to do 40 minutes without stopping because that’s how you build the base.  You keep going.

And so I did!  I talked myself into doing a solid 40 minutes on the treadmill, 9:31 pace, no breaks.  The hardest thing was figuring out the right thing to say to myself to make it happen.  My legs knew they could do it; I just didn’t know if I had it in myself that day.  I don’t want to sound too smug here, but I was pretty happy with the results.  I like to think that those moments in which I rise to the challenge are like money in the bank: the next time something challenging confronts me, I can look it straight in the eye and know that I’ve got what it takes to overcome the challenge.  This is just another reason why I love running.  It’s so much bigger than a work-out.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Could Feel It

Saturday’s Bike Ride (8/21/10) + Sneaky Evening Exercise

One of the things that has surprised me about my first August in Texas is that in the mid-day heat, riding a bike is not only do-able but even fun.  My favorite pen pal tells me he has a theory that the relative comfort of bike-riding has to do with dry heat and evaporation: even though you sweat on the bike, you’ve got the breeziness of a bike ride to keep you cool.  Whatever the reason, I am grateful, because it means that even when I find myself biking home from A & M’s campus at 2 PM, I won’t die of heatstroke.

Yesterday’s bike ride was another working commute: about 25 minutes nonstop to campus and the same back, with a long pitstop at Brazos Natural Foods, where I thought my grocery bill would shock and appall me, but I only spent about thirty bucks!  And I got organic cheese, butter, pourable wildberry yogurt, and lots of bulk pantry goodies like flour, sugar, and oats.  It was a very successful shopping trip, and the bike ride was great too.  On my way to work in the morning, I got swept up in a crew of professional-looking cyclists, and one of them shouted to me, “Come with us!”  I laughed and shouted back, “I’d love to!”  And it was true: I could feel the zippy positive energy of their crowd and the power of their legs pushing them forward on two wheels.  It was very exciting!  I wouldn’t mind getting up on Saturday morning to ride with friends like that.

Now, if I may backtrack a bit, I’ll tell you about my sneaky exercise strategy.  Some nights I have the best of intentions to do some form of exercise, but it just doesn’t work out.  So I resort to a very quick and sneaky work-out.  For example, on Friday night I wanted to do some Pilates, but I kept finding other things I needed to do around the house and time ran out on me.  Instead of staying up later, I put on some fun, upbeat music, set a timer, and for six minutes, I did push-ups, bicycle twists, squats, plank pose, and some marching in place to keep my heart rate up between moves.  Then the timer went off, and I was done.  I like this quick-and-dirty approach because it’s very focused: all you’ve got to do is keep moving for a few minutes and you can do a lot of strength-building moves in a short period of time.  I resort to this strategy when I’m feeling crunched for time, and it never fails to remind me that even a few minutes of exercise is better than nothing.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Definitely Manageable

Thursday’s Run (8/19/10)

I was so excited to find the new issue of EatingWell in my mailbox on Thursday!  It joined me for a treadmill run—at least until I had to toss it aside to focus on my speedwork for the day.  I’m not sure how other people can run and read at the same time, but I definitely cannot.  Walk and read, yes, but with running, there’s a little too much bouncing up and down for me to see words on a page.  But it was nice to have some reading material during my walking warm-up and cool-down, especially because there was nothing good on tv at the gym that night.

I wanted a solid, not-too-long running work-out, and I was feeling motivated to do some speedwork, so I used one of my favorite types of running work-out.  I’m not sure what the name of it is, but the idea is that your speed becomes faster, step by step, and then you slow it down using the same steps.  Perhaps this is a ladder-style work-out?  I’m not sure.  At any rate, here was my plan:

* Warm up by running for 5 min. at 9:31 pace (a very easy pace for me now!)

* Begin the speedwork: 1 min. at 8:00 pace

* Step up: 1 min. at 7:30 pace

* Fastest pace: 1 min. at 7:00

* Step down: 1 min. at 7:30

* Final speed step: 1 min. at 8:00

* Finish the run: 5 min. at 9:31 pace.

You can see that it’s a total of 5 minutes of speedwork, which is definitely manageable for a not-so-speedy runner.  It’s also not kick-your-ass hard because the steps are short, both in time and speed increase.  If you try this work-out outside and you are pacing yourself, you have to be careful not to go too hard in the first few steps—the idea is to train your body to run faster over a sustained period of time.

I finished the work-out drenched with sweat, and I felt amazing.  Sometimes I think that running gives back to me way more than I put into it.  This was one of those times.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Yoga as in Life

Wednesday’s Yoga (8/18/10)

The yoga streak continues with a round of Gentle Hatha Yoga #1.  Hatha #2 still isn’t playing on my computer!  I always find it ironic when technical difficulties get in the way of my yoga.  Don’t I deal with technical difficulties all day at work?  Don’t I deserve a break when it’s time to do yoga?  Doesn’t it go against the spirit of yoga to be annoyed by computer snafus?  Sometimes I just turn off the computer and go freestyle, which can be very refreshing.  But most of the time I think I prefer the structure of a class.

I’ve done this class at least a dozen times, and it never fails me.  The pace, the instructions, the soothing voice—I feel like I could do this class four times a week and not get tired of it because I feel so good afterward.  In the interest of not falling into a rut, I try to mix up my work-outs, but I return again and again to Gentle Hatha Yoga #1.

I noticed that my focus during class seems to have returned, continuing the trend from Tuesday night.  I’m glad that even though I feel stressed about work, I think my stress is fading faster after I’ve left work for the day, and I haven’t been worrying obsessively quite as much as I was earlier this week.  I’m still very nervous about the future, but in yoga as in life, I’m trying to take it one day, one move, one breath at a time.  And I know that these things have a way of working themselves out, so there’s no sense of making myself miserable trying to solve every problem at once.  One thing at a time!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Lovely Way

Tuesday’s Yoga (8/17/10)

My attempt to save my sanity continues with another evening session of yoga, this time with the poetically named Lunar Flow class from yogadownload.com.  Lunar Flow was my second choice on Tuesday night.  I tried to do Gentle Hatha Yoga #2, but the class won’t play on my computer when I attempt to start it.  Has anyone else had a problem with this class?  Yes?

Lunar Flow turned out to be a lovely way to do yoga.  I’ve done this class before, and it is an easy, gentle class.  The flowing quality of the movements is very relaxing, and I found it much easier to let go of the day’s worries than I did on Monday night.  There are some downward-facing dogs and lots of “roll around on your back to massage your spine,” which I always feel silly doing, but I can’t really mock them because I felt so much better afterward.  In another yoga class I like, the instructor says that if you slow yourself down while doing these back circles, your mind will slow down too.  I think she’s right.

The transitions between movements in Lunar Flow are slow and gentle, which means there is a little less multi-tasking during the session.  In a lot of yoga classes, the goal is to synch up your breath and your movements, which means you’ve got to be paying attention to both.  But when I’m feeling frazzled, my attention is weak and it’s hard for me to focus.  I wonder if the less-demanding nature of Lunar Flow makes it a better class for those times when you need to stop multi-tasking and think about one goal only: breathe.  It’s worth considering one thing at a time when life is making your hair stand on end.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Worth a Try

Monday’s Yoga (8/16/10)

I am really stressed about my job right now.  At a time like this, yoga is more important than ever, so I’m doing it like my life depends on it.  During yoga, one is supposed to focus on the breath and the movements.  Yoga is a way of letting the brain rest while the body relaxes itself.  Unfortunately, my brain has other ideas about what to do during yoga.  For example, why stop worrying just because you’re doing yoga?  You can worry and stretch!  And don’t pay any attention to that breathing thing—that’s just a scam that should be ignored so you don’t forget what you are worrying about.

On Monday night, I clicked over to my favorite Dave Farmar work-out and attempted to downward-dog my way to calmness.  But I just couldn’t get into the feeling of yoga!  I had the attention span of a moth, and my breathing kept speeding up, so I never really found the calm yoga groove I was seeking.  It was frustrating, but I figure that crappy yoga is better than no yoga.  It was worth a try.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Permission Granted, Goal Reached

Sunday’s Run (8/15/10)

I don’t know if it was physical or emotional exhaustion, but this run was hard.  On Sunday morning, I headed to the gym which was, thankfully, empty.  I hopped on my usual treadmill, turned on my usual Food Network, and began my 30-minute run with a 5-minute walking warm-up.  The work week had ended on a very down note for me, and I tossed and turned all night with worry about the present and the future.  I can become downright obsessive with my worrying, and it is exhausting.  So before I started my work-out, I gave myself permission to take it easy, to take breaks if necessary, to even do a shorter work-out if 30 minutes felt like too much.

But I did it: I made it through a full 30 minutes of treadmill running with no breaks.  The pace was a 9:31 mile—not particularly speedy, but not too shabby either for my long run.  It was mildly therapeutic, the repetition of putting one foot in front of the other.  That’s how life is, right?  Bad things happen, but we just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

I did have an excellent distraction to keep me entertained during my run.  For the first time ever, I watched one of Rachael Ray’s 30-minute meal shows.  I have to say, I enjoyed it much more than I thought I would.  She was cooking an Indian-themed meal—I love Indian food!  On this show, she made an amazing-sounding lentil salad with potatoes and this green salad dressing of fresh spinach, cilantro, and mint.  Wow, it sounded so, so good!  And because it’s Rachael Ray and Food Network, the recipe was waiting for me at home, right here in fact.  Consider this a bookmark for a future dinner, one that I think will be earthy and spicy and refreshing.  It’s going to take a lot of lentils to get me through the next few weeks.  Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Such a Treat

Saturday’s Bike Ride (8/14/10)

I was on the bike by 8:30 AM on Saturday morning, pedaling my way to campus for a work meeting.  Getting out the door that early any day is hard; I made it easier by minimizing my grooming and throwing on work-out clothes.  Normally I like to look nice and dress up a little at work, but I think on Saturday, nobody cares what you wear.  The rules of dress on suspended on the weekend!

It had been a while since I’d had a nice, long bike ride.  I think my last long bike ride was motivated by shopping in July.  And this post, Just Riding Along, is the last written record I have of any bike-riding.  All of this is to say that I’ve missed the bike!  Being able to ride on Saturday morning turned out to be such a treat that it didn’t matter where I was going or how sweaty I got on the way there.  It was glorious!  I’d estimate it was about 25 minutes of biking to campus.  On the way back, I picked up my weekly groceries from the best little hippie food store in town, Brazos Natural Foods, then biked my way back home with meal provisions.  I love doing errands on a bike; it makes them so much more fun.  Except when it’s raining.  It’s not as much fun then.  But if we got rain, I would not complain.  Come on, clouds!  Come on over to College Station, Texas!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Best Thing to do with Two Legs

Friday’s Long Walk (8/13/10)

Here’s a secret: I think I like walking more than running.  I know they seem like very similar activities, but they feel very different to me.  Running feels like hard work.  I have to push myself to run, especially these days when I’m trying to get back into good running shape.  I like the challenge; I embrace the challenge.  Then I write about the challenge on this blog.  But walking is different.  Walking is my therapy and my sanity.  I haven’t been walking much, at least not like I used to, and I’ve missed it.  I feel the effects of not walking as much—my stress level is a little higher than I’d like, my mood a little lower.

Last night, I had planned to go for a bike ride.  Then the sun disappeared, and I got nervous about riding around in the dark.  Instead, I decided to take a long walk, following a big loop that took me about an hour to complete.  I actually had no idea how long it would take to walk that loop, so it was a learning experience!  Oh man, I really needed that walk.  Underneath the big Texas sky, stars winked at me and a breeze ruffled my hair.  It was still hot outside, even with no sun, but that fresh air was refreshing.  And the moon!  When I started my walk, the moon was a slim white crescent, following me down the street.  When I returned, it had transformed into a fat yellow moon, still a crescent, but so much bigger!  It hung low on the horizon, hiding behind buildings and trees.  As I stood outside my apartment, I couldn’t even see it.  I went to bed, wondering where it had gone.

The best part of my long walk was that it tired me out enough so that I went to bed a few minutes before bedtime (a rarity for me!) and when I woke up, I felt more rested than I have in days.  That was a pleasant surprise.  I’ll have to go walking again next week.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Short and Speedy

Wednesday’s Run (8/11/10)

Tonight I resisted the siren’s song of dinner right after work.  Instead, I went to the gym and did a short but intense running work-out on the treadmill.  I was feeling frisky for something a little challenging; speedwork sounded perfect to me.  I did an interval work-out that went like this:

* 5 min. walking warm-up

* 5 min. running, 9:05 pace

* 1 min. running, 7:03 pace (begin the speedwork!)

* 2 min. running, recover at 9:05 pace (whew!)

* 2 min. running, 7:03 pace (oh goodness, don’t die!  Focus, lady, focus!)

* 2 min. running, recover at 9:05 pace (oh thank you, I can breathe again)

* 1 min. running, 7:03 pace (Last one!  You can do it!)

* 5 min. running, 9:05 pace (wow, I’m tired.  Pant pant pant)

* 1 min. slow jog to cool down (13:something pace—very slow)

* 5 min. walk to cool down (ooooohhhhh….)

The total time on my watch at the end was 27:something and I got a great mid-week work-out done.  I find these work-outs are the hardest to do because they are squeezed between so many other things—work, dinner, chores at home.  Not to mention my obligatory tv-watching.

Tonight it looked like we might get rain, but all we got was a spittle.  We need rain.  It is so unbelievably hot down here.  But at least the sunset was pretty.

A Subtle August Sunset

Click on the photo above to see a larger version in Flickr!  I think it looks better that way.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

“Make Footprints on the Sky…”

Monday’s Yoga (8/09/10)

I’ve noticed that when I’m feeling wrung out, I turn to Gentle Hatha Yoga #1 to make me feel better.  I’ve tried all three of the 20-minute Gentle Hatha Yoga classes, and I think #1 is my favorite.  I don’t know why—perhaps I should do a more rigorous analysis to figure this out?

Anyway, last night’s yoga was as nice as it ever was—soothing and relaxing, focusing and releasing.  I almost always feel better after yoga, but there is something about the Hatha Yoga classes that really works for me.  I want to recommend them to everyone!  But alas, even though yoga has become fairly commonplace in American culture, it still carries with it a touch of hippy-dippiness.  It’s too bad—I think the world would be a better place if more people practiced yoga.

I like it when the instructors guide their class with a touch of poetry.  At one point, when she’s telling you to put your feet in the air as you lay on your back, Jackie Casal says, “Make footprints on the sky…”  I just love that.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I Do Love This Sport

Sunday’s Run (8/08/10)

Saturday night, I had the brilliant idea that I would get up early on Sunday morning, eat a quick snack, and then head outside for a 30-minute run.  To which I can only say now, Yeah, right!

What a kidder I am.  I am NOT a morning runner.  Even when I was required to attend morning cross-country practices in college, it was with great difficulty that I made it to a 6:30 AM practice.  I’m slow and stiff in the morning.  It is not a good time for me to run.

I don’t mean to disparage other people’s morning work-outs.  In fact, I remain rather jealous that I can’t embrace the practice of pre-work or pre-dawn running.  I can get up in time for a half-marathon, but that’s about it for me now that I run on my own.  Sunday mornings are made for sleeping late and loafing in pajamas.

I may have slept until 8:30 AM, but I wasn’t a complete slug on Sunday.  About 11 AM, I hopped on the treadmill, turned on Food Network, and trotted for 30 minutes at a 9:31 pace.  My goal was to do 30 minutes with no breaks, but I was forced to take a bathroom break (hey, it happens).  Otherwise, I think I did pretty well.  The longest I had run in recent months was, I believe, 20 minutes.  On Sunday, I was definitely feeling the burn of adding another 10 minutes to my long run.  This experience is very common for me during half-marathon training, so I have come to expect it.  I try to stay focused and run strong: rhythmic strides and even breathing, occasionally shaking out my arms and shoulders if I can feel them getting tense.  I think focus is the key to getting the most out of long runs.

Speaking of focus, I was absolutely elated to find this picture on Flickr.  It’s one of my favorite food bloggers, Shauna, of Gluten-Free Girl, finishing her first 5K.  I was so proud of her, and it made me love running even more.  I love a sport that welcomes participants of all shapes and sizes, hares and turtles alike.  I get a little teary-eyed when I think about how running has empowered so many who were scared but brave enough to take the first step.  Bravo, Shauna!  Keep running!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Even on My Off Days

When it comes to exercise, what counts as an “off” day?

I don’t do what I would consider an official work-out every day, one that requires a sports bra, a watch, and my Brooks.  I want and need off days.  But even on my off days, I still spend a lot of time running around because I get a lot of exercise just doing what I need to do.

At work, there is a lot of walking around, from room to room, from freezer to bench to centrifuge to sink to…I definitely do not have a desk job.  I feel mostly grateful to not have a desk job (though I do have a desk, thank goodness), but it can be exhausting, trying to keep up with my to-do list.  I’m always more ambitious in my planning than in my ability to cross things off the list.  I’ve come to accept that most days my to-do list won’t be completed, and it’s okay.

Outside of work, I use my feet to run errands and get around town.  I walk or bike to the grocery store, to the coffee shop, to Target.  When my errands involve several miles of biking, I will count that as my work-out—an official work-out!—but even the short-distance errands require muscles and calories and motivation.  I also cook a lot, and cooking is an active process.  Some nights I opt to cook instead of working out, so as not to exhaust myself trying to do both, and that decision helps me to feel balanced in my approach to exercise: not too little, not too much.

Technically, I suppose, I have had two off days in a row.  On Friday night, I biked a little while picking up supplies for dinner.  Yesterday, I biked in the morning and the evening: morning, to the hippie food store and evening, to The Home Depot to look at shelving options for my writing studio and its explosion of books.  Then, before lunch, I had a burst of inspiration when I realized that the temperature outside was cool enough for me to go for a walk.  I hadn’t gone for a walk, just for the pleasure of it, in a long time, so I laced up my sneakers and did a slow, lazy loop around my neighborhood.  I walked through the dog park, too.  The dog park has this short stretch of path that goes through a woodsy section with lots of trees and shade and greenery.  There are vines hanging off the trees, too, giving the woods a slightly eerie feeling.  I thought there would be swarms of bugs in the woodsy section, but it was quite nice to visit yesterday.  I went walking through the woods a lot before summer started.  Here are two photos I took in March, earlier this year.  I love the dusky light in these shots.

A Silhouette Against the Sky

In the Woods

I think my off days are important for reminding me that exercise and activity can have a really soul-enriching effect when I’m not counting minutes and pushing myself into oxygen deprivation.  I find it’s easier for me to do the treadmill work-outs and the long runs when I know that there will be time for gentle walks, fun bike rides, and impromptu photo shoots.  The important thing is to take good care of this body that carries me through life.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Date with Dave

Thursday’s Yoga (8/05/10)

Inspired by yesterday’s freedom-granting exercise in which I postponed dinner in favor of getting my work-out done, I decided a repeat (of sorts) was in order tonight.  Because I don’t run on consecutive days, I needed to do something different tonight.  I missed doing yoga with Dave the other night when yogadownload.com’s website wasn’t working, so I made a date with Dave and took deep breaths while downward-dogging.

But!  I came home from work starving; a snack was necessary.  I made the fastest, healthiest fake cheesecakes one could imagine: Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers (a crumbly and slightly sweet cracker) topped with ricotta cheese and my new favorite strawberry jam.  My little cheesecakes were delightful.

Like Instant Cheesecake

My work-out was delightful too.  Dave Farmar’s 20-minute class never fails to put me in a good mood.  The part where he says, “Go ahead, drop your childhood too” gets me every time.  It’s good to walk through this life with a sense of humor.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Make It Count

Wednesday’s Run (8/04/10)

I’m ambivalent about after-work exercise at the apartment complex gym.  On the one hand, it’s great: just get it done and be FREE for the rest of the evening!  Ah, sweet freedom and a delicious sense of accomplishment.  On the other hand, I am almost guaranteed that other people will be there, watching terrible television, which will inspire me to count down the minutes until I can get the heck out of there.

Other people can watch whatever they want on tv—I’m a total libertarian on this general issue.  But I really cannot stand the bulk of pop culture these days, so I do not enjoy watching entertainment news, MTV, or anything along those lines.  Lindsay who?  Justin who?  I’m happy living under my rock and not knowing anything about these industry creations.  Unfortunately, because sometimes I like to do my gym work-outs before dinner, I’m stuck watching updates on Lindsay Lohan’s publicity stunts and Justin Bieber’s hair(!?).

Tonight, though, I think my suffering was worth it.  My treadmill work-out was simple: 5 minute walking warm-up, 10 minute run at an 8:34 mile pace (+/- a few seconds), and 8 minutes or so of walking to cool down.  The running pace made me work, so that was good.  If I’m going to do a short treadmill work-out, I should make it count by running faster. 

Now I’m showered and in my pajamas before 8 PM—whee!  For dinner, I’m making Luisa’s avocado on toast with something else on the side—maybe carrot sticks?  And for dessert, all I’m craving is a smoothie, preferably one with chocolate in it.  It’s so hot down here in Texas now that food seems almost unnecessary compared to cold glasses of water and lying on the couch with the air conditioning rumbling in the background.  But once I’ve got some dinner on the table in front of me, I’ll remember how much I like to eat.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


Monday’s Yoga (8/02/10)

Ooh, a most unusual morning post here at Feels Like Flying!  I should be flying around, getting ready for work, but I’m already late and I feel confident I’ll get all my tasks done even if I spend 15 minutes blogging before getting out of my pajamas.  Hope springs eternal!

I like to do yoga on the day after my “long run” day.  On Sunday, I put in my 20 minutes on the treadmill, so Monday was a yoga day.  Unlucky for me, yogadownload.com’s website was down last night, so no yoga class for me!  Plan B was a DIY yoga class where I do all my favorite yoga moves on my own with no instructor guiding me.  I’ve been doing yoga for a long time now, so I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how to guide myself through a decent yoga session, though I admit that I enjoy letting someone else do the thinking for me so I can just listen, breathe, and move.

Last night’s yoga featured a lot of downward-facing dogs and warrior positions, all of which I think are great for legs and arms.  I worked a little bit on some of the balance-focused positions, like tree pose and this crazy pose where you balance on one leg while holding the other out in front of you or to the side of your body.  Yikes, that one is hard!  But I like that it’s hard because it’s a challenge.

Out of curiosity, I tried to time my DIY yoga last night, but I pushed the wrong button on my timer and instead of timing myself, I set the timer for one minute and then set it aside.  Whoops!  Oh well.  Better luck next time, Yogi Rosiecat.

And now I’m off to work!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Suck It Up

Sunday’s Run (8/01/10)

Folks, the hottest month of the year has arrived.  It is now August in the Lone Star State.  Well, technically I suppose it’s August everywhere, but here in Texas, I am bracing myself for 31 days of brutal heat.  It’s going to be a hot, sweaty month.

For that reason, I feel like this month may be one of the hardest for my half-marathon training.  The runs this month are not going to be very long—30 minutes at most if I feel like bumping things up from 20 to 30 before the end of the month—but most of them will be on the treadmill.  I’m trying to be enthusiastic about the t-mill, but it’s not easy.  Today, however, was a great work-out day.

I caught myself watching Kid in a Candy Store again(!) while doing my 20-minute treadmill run.  It must be my Sunday schedule: I love doing my treadmill runs in the late afternoon between 3 and 4 PM.  At any rate, today I was treated to visions of high-tech ice cream, decadent chocolate confections, dreamy soda fountain drinks, and the spiciest ice cream known to woman or man.  It’s funny: I like the show not because I start drooling over the sweets but because I love the creative genius behind all the goodies featured on the show.  My homemade desserts are usually very simple, and they make me happy.  But an ice cream made with the hottest hot sauces and fresh peppers known to exist?  That’s insane, man!  I would never eat it (I might try it, if dared), but I’m still impressed.

The foodie entertainment made my run go by very quickly: 20 minutes nonstop, 9:05 mile pace, with a walking warm-up and cool-down.  My abdomen started to cramp up toward the end, but I just sucked in my belly and kept running.  That usually does the trick for me.

After my sweaty, sweaty run, I rinsed off in the shower, dressed, and ate a snack of granola and fresh blueberries in 2% milk.  Oh, and a big glass of icy cold water.  That hit the spot!  I feel great.

Granola in a Green Mug