Thursday, September 30, 2010

By Bike or By Foot

In the Morning Light

Fall Shines with Evening Light

Thursday, By Bike and By Foot (Bike ride and lots of walking, 9/30/10)

Today and tomorrow are going to be unusually hectic because of a set of experiments I’m doing that are yielding some exciting results.  I’m really motivated to get these experiments done since I’ve been plugging away at a particular project for several weeks without getting any promising data.  But this week might change all of that and pay me back for all my efforts.  This week, the tide changes.  (Maybe.)

On top of a nutty experimental schedule in which I’m doing experiments that take 10-12 hours to finish, I finally, finally dropped the bike off at the bike shop for a flat-tire repair.  I am so relieved to have the bike in the shop!  I decided to spring for the more expensive inner tube, which I think will serve me well.  As the bike shop clerk pointed out, there is a lot of debris around here from construction and the fact that some College Station residents have taken up bottle-smashing as a pastime.

Today I was here, there, everywhere!  I biked to work.  Then, in the late afternoon, I rode over to the bike shop to drop off the bike for its fix-up, and I walked back to work.  I took the bus home, and after dinner, I caught the bus to campus, took care of my experimental obligations, and caught the bus home.  The walk between the bus stop and work is about 15 minutes, so altogether, I walked for at least 45 minutes today.  It was good, because I like walking, but my body is ready for bed.  Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday and the weekend can begin!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Like a Saturday, but Nicer

Catching the Evening Light

Better Than the Bus

Tuesday’s Bike Ride (9/28/10)

I had a really lovely day, and I think my biking commute to work played a role in that.  I just discovered Simply Bike, a great blog whose spirit of cycling fun, adventure, and earth-crunchiness resonates with me.  Plus the author, S., is an academic, and I feel a special kinship with other bloggers who work in academia.  S.’s enthusiasm for the biking commute has inspired me to try biking to work a little more often on the weekdays.  It’s a great idea: it gives me a break from the bus, the weather is gorgeous right now, and a morning ride in the sunshine makes me feel good all day long.  And today, it made a Tuesday feel like a Saturday.  I’ve been biking so much on the weekends that this mid-week ride made me feel cheerfully weekend-ish in the best way possible.  I had a good, productive day at work, with an especially good meeting with my advisor, but I had that relaxed, happy feeling that weekends bring.  It was a very nice day.

On a biking-related note: I had a chance to pop into one of the local bike shops to discuss my recurring flat-tire issue.  The good news is that this shop, which is adjacent to campus and only a 20-minute walk from where I work, can replace the leaky tire’s inner tube for ~$32-39, depending on whether I get the super thick inner tube, which should be much more durable and less likely to sustain a puncture wound.  I’m very excited about getting the tire fixed so that I don’t have to add air to the inner tube every time I go for a ride.  Whee!   

Monday, September 27, 2010

More Than a Feeling

Sunday’s Run (9/26/10)

My crazy lab life has resumed, and it was with eager beaver ambition that I was in the lab on Sunday night, watching flies have sex.  Seriously.  And those males—talk about eager!  I know it sounds like I’m being salacious here, but I’m just relaying facts here, people: Sunday, lab, fly sex.

Anyway, I wanted a way to roll my long run into this trip to campus and decided to make my commute home a running work-out.  When executed, this plan worked out beautifully: a 20-minute run, preceded by a 10-minute walking warm-up, took me almost all the way to my front door.  To do my cool-down, I had to go past my door and then backtrack.  I had feared that I’d get done with my 20 minutes of running and still have another 20 minutes of walking to do, but I must have underestimated my ability to cover the distance with my speedy legs.

Did I say the plan worked out beautifully?  That’s a half-truth.  My plan had two snags.  The first was that this running route is a lot of stop-and-go traffic, so it’s not great for endurance because there are too many resting moments.  But it’s fun running through campus, and it’s really nice to be able to commute home quickly on two feet.  The other snag was more like a flying leap where I landed not on my feet but on my hands and knees.  I was running along when all of a sudden I was airborne, in the worst way possible.  I must have tripped over the metal supports of a road sign, and I went flying.  I landed so hard that I was sure I would be completely, horrifyingly bloody—a terrifying thought.  I picked myself up and saw that the damage wasn’t nearly as bad as I had feared, though I do have a nice slit of a wound on the side of my left knee.  My palms absorbed most of the impact, and they were bruised and bloody.  My left palm went numb for a while, but it didn’t hurt very much.

I could have easily broken something, so I am very, very grateful that I was still in one piece after my fall.  In all my years of running, I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a fall that bad, so I’m a little stunned by the whole thing.  My left knee is a little sore, but I think it will heal quickly.

The lesson?  Watch where you’re going!  Yikes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

I Can Take a Hint

The Rain Came Down in Buckets


Saturday’s Yoga (9/25/10)

I had the best of intentions to go for a run yesterday.  Really, I did!  But the truth is that I’m still not feeling like myself yet.  This cold is clinging to me and making me lethargic and sleepy.  When it started to rain cats and dogs and goats outside, I took the hint and moved my work-out plans indoors, in particular, to my living room.

I allowed myself an ambitious yoga session: the entire work-out in Crunch’s Fat Burning Yoga video.  Usually I do the first 20 minutes of this video and call it a day; I’m not into really long yoga work-outs.  But today, I felt motivated and inspired, even with my cold.  My one mistake: not turning on the air-conditioner.  The living room was hot and humid, and more than once I felt a little dizzy and sick from the steaminess.  But I persevered, stretching and lunging and toning my abs as I was instructed to do.  I’m glad I finished the work-out, but I was relieved when it was over.  I could have fallen asleep during the final savasana.  In fact, sleep sounded like such a good idea at that point that I decided to take a nap after yoga.  I woke up feeling much better.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Before I Pass Out

Friday’s Yoga (9/24/10)

I’ve got a lingering cold which has turned me into that annoying person who clears her throat every five minutes.  Generally, I feel okay, but my body is craving more sleep.  Since I returned from Michigan, I have had two early morning call times, so my sleep debt remains unpaid.  In an effort to get back into the exercise groove, I did some yoga last night, my first time doing more than five minutes of yoga in many days.  I missed my yoga!  But between biking and getting ready to go out of town, the idea of trying to squeeze one more thing into my day felt like it might suffocate me.

Now things can return to normal, which means yoga a few times a week.  Sleep was pressing down on me last night, but I stayed awake long enough to do Gentle Hatha Yoga #1, that much-loved and much-practiced favorite of mine.  It was a good choice for yoga after a long absence.  During downward-facing dog, I could feel the tightness in my legs.  During mountain pose, I could feel my body remembering what it felt like to stand tall and steady, arms straight up in the air, breath flowing in and out of my lungs.  It felt great.

You know what else felt great?  Waking up this morning without an alarm clock, and dozing in and out of sleep before my belly decided that it was time for breakfast.  Then, after breakfast, I had the pleasure of re-reading some of my friend Ammie’s old posts (I especially like her post about scheduling free time—she has such a way with words and ideas) and looking at some gorgeous photos on the blue hour.  I created a folder on my computer labeled “Autumn” and bookmarked this lovely post.  That first photo is, to me, so quietly, perfectly autumn.  I need more leaves and books in my life.

Happy Saturday!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Back in the Saddle (so to speak)

Backyard Beauty

Vacation and Thursday’s Run (9/23/10)

I’m back in Texas after six days in the Mitten State, home of the tall trees and my beloved family.  It was a slow, lovely vacation.  I played with my niece, ate delicious food, took some amazing photos (if I’m allowed to brag), and went for slow walks around the neighborhood.  I had a great time, I barely exercised at all, and I certainly didn’t go running.  But it’s all good because that’s what vacations are for: rest and food and enjoying your favorite people.

(The photo above is a view of my brother’s backyard.  He and his family live on an acre of land in a suburb of Detroit, and most of the yard is a field filled with goldenrod and tall grasses.  The trees outline the edges of the property, and around the field is a path that’s been mowed through the grasses.  We like to take my niece for “hayrides” around the field in her jogging stroller.  In the wintertime, I hear that there are slayrides around the field.)

I returned home late on Tuesday night.  It’s been tough trying to transition back into work mode after such a nice vacation, in part because it’s such a grueling trip to travel from Michigan to Texas.  I’m happy that I made it to Friday and that I have most of two days to rest and recover from all the activity.

I did, however, lace up my sneakers and go for a run last night.  I haven’t been running much, and I know that the time has arrived for me to get serious about my half-marathon training.  October is the month when the mileage needs to start increasing, which means I’ve only got a few more days to physically and mentally prepare for that commitment.  I think I’m ready.

Last night’s run was an easy ten minutes around the neighborhood, just to remind my legs that yes, they can run!  It was fun.  I felt like I could have run more, but I didn’t want to overdo it, so I kept it short and sweet.  Tomorrow, I hope to hit the pavement again—perhaps for twenty minutes this time?  That’s not too ambitious, right?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ride On, with Better Luck Tomorrow

Weekend Bike Rides (Saturday and Sunday, 9/11/10 and 9/12/10)

This weekend taught me that I have not completely adjusted to life in a small town.  I rode my bike to and from campus Saturday morning (again…sigh) with no problems, but when I did the same ride on Sunday, I left the lab to find that my back tire was completely flat.  Like, “oh WOW how did that happen?!?” flat.  It was not good.


My first thought was to go to the bike shop near campus.  Certainly they’d be willing to diagnose my tire and help me out!  Then I discovered that the bike shop is closed on Sundays…what?  That was also not good.

So I did an awkward ride/walk home.  I know I shouldn’t try to ride a bike with a flat tire, but it was so hot outside and I was hungry and wanted to get home for lunch.  But I felt guilty enough about doing something I know I shouldn’t do that I took lots of walking breaks and rolled my bike alongside me.  Fortunately, I think it only took an extra 15 minutes or so to get home.  That was good.

On Sunday night, I set out to Michael’s to buy wrapping paper for my niece’s birthday present—she turned four today!—and discovered that Michael’s closes at 7 PM on Sundays.  Doh!  Am I just out of the loop with my big-city ways?  Fortunately, I made a note that on Monday, they’d be open until 9 PM, so I was able to snag some pretty paper with polka-dots in pastel colors.  I hope Lydia likes it.  It certainly beats a flat tire on a hot Texas morning!  (And I got it 50% off with a coupon!  Score!  I suppose this blog post has a happy ending after all.)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

An Exercise in Gratitude

Friday’s Run (9/10/10)

Of course there are days when I do not want to run, do not want to work out, do not want to do much of anything but collapse on my couch and hope that the maid will bring me dinner.  (Note to self: hire a maid.)  Sometimes, I indulge and I take a rest day, or I do something light and easy—some yoga, a few minutes of Pilates.  I do think that even a little bit of exercise is a good thing.  But some nights, I know that the thing I don’t want to do is exactly what I should do.  So I pull out my bag of tricks, and I try to find something that will motivate and inspire me.

Inspire.  To me, it means “to take in.”  Just like when we breathe, we take in fresh air.  Running is an act of inspiration.  The first thing I do to inspire myself is give my body some running fuel.  Yesterday, it came in the form of a blueberry-banana smoothie, one that was a delicious, frosty purple drink that I sipped while blogging and catching up on my internet fun.

Another Smoothie

The second thing I do is convince myself to put on running clothes and walk out the door.  And the third thing I do is try to think about gratitude instead of how tired I am, or the problems I’m having at work, or the inconsiderate thing some random stranger did to me.

Last night, once I started looking for them, I found lovely, inspiring things everywhere.  There was the way the air smelled, a delicious combination of grass, earth, and fried food, probably drifting over from a nearby restaurant.  There were the enormous, helicopter-like dragonflies that floated above me, almost in defiance of the laws of physics.  There was the cat lounging in a driveway, relaxing after a long day of chasing bugs and napping.  There was the peacefulness of a quiet neighborhood, where there aren’t too many cars driving by and I can run slowly and happily, admiring the flowers and trees along the way.  There was the way my legs and lungs forgave me for not running in a week, gamely accepting my challenge even though my running has taken a back seat to weekend bike rides to campus for work.

And there was the gift of time, time to run, even if I didn’t particularly feel like it before I started putting one foot in front of the other.  Running is always an upfront investment; you don’t get the rewards until you put in the time.  This time, I ran for an easy 20 minutes outside in the heat and humidity of another Texas evening.  It was a sweaty, sticky run, but still, I was grateful to be running, to be in good health and able to run, even when I was tired after a long week at work.

Finally, waiting to greet me as I came home from my run, there was the moon, a tiny crescent of a moon.  But it was there, and so was I.

Hello Crescent Moon

Showing up is always the first step in getting anything done.  That’s what I tell myself when it feels too overwhelming to start.  Just show up.  The rest of the pieces will fall into place, I promise.

Friday, September 10, 2010


Wednesday’s Pilates (9/08/10)

It’s starting to feel like a requirement that I show up with a picture or two to share here, but I have nothing that goes along with a post about Pilates.  Nothing!  I have no desire to show you pictures of my belly.  It’s not bad, but I’d feel like an overexposed navel-gazer—literally!—if I went down that path.  So my apologies, but no picture.  You can, however, visit my Flickr page if you’d rather look at pretty things than listen to me talk about doing abdominal twists.

With all the biking and yoga I’ve been doing, other body parts are being neglected.  One could argue that those activities require total body strength, and there might be some truth to that claim, but I used to be very devoted to Pilates, but lately, not so much.  It just doesn’t inspire me much any more.  But I’ll tell you what does inspire me: a 14-minute Pilates routine that uses lots of my favorite moves and, because it is so short, can be squeezed into the few minutes at night between watching a show, prepping for the next day, and bedtime.  One of the fabulous things about Pilates is that it is very effective—maybe too effective for its own good!  That might explain my long-lasting ambivalence toward an exercise routine that I used to love.  Whereas before I was shaping and toning my middle with Pilates, now I’m just maintaining what I have.  It’s not exciting any more.

At any rate, I’m making a half-hearted effort to spend a little more time doing Pilates so that I can have a strong core (and, to be vainly honest, a good-looking belly).  A strong core is essential for running faster, and the only way for me to run a sub-two-hour half-marathon is to run faster.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In Good Health

Monday Night’s Yoga (9/06/10) and Tuesday’s Soggy Bike Ride (9/07/10)

Rainy Day

Let’s get business out of the way, shall we?  On Monday night, rather than washing dishes, I did Gentle Hatha Yoga #1, that old favorite of mine.  It was wonderful, as usual.  I am such a creature of routine.

On Tuesday, I had scheduled a doctor’s appointment just down the street from me, so my plan was to ride the bike to and from the appointment, then eat lunch and catch the bus to campus.  Today turned out to be a soggy, soggy day, with occasional bursts of excitement from tornado warnings.  Fun!  Even more fun was the part where, just before my exam was to begin, everyone in the clinic was herded into the safe inner hallways, and I, wearing my ill-fitting exam gown, joined them.  Several nurses offered to get my clothes, but I have no shame, so I said, “No, thank you.”  Who wants to get dressed and undressed twice during a doctor’s appointment?

I did end up biking to and from the appointment, but I did it very, very carefully so as not to get killed in the rain.  It was a short ride, maybe 15-20 minutes each way with my slow pace.  As I was riding home, I started thinking about how anxiety-provoking it is to take care of one’s health by going to the doctor.  Here I am, trying to be responsible about my health, but the thought of anything wrong with me makes me want to hide in my closet.  I sat in the waiting room, filling out my questionnaire, silently regretting every unvirtuous habit of mine.  I answered the question about alcohol use, wondering if I ought to give up my nightly glass of hard cider, a new pleasure.  But wait, I think.  Isn’t a drink a day good for you?  Or is it only wine?  I filled out the section about sexual health and contemplated celibacy.  Abstinence!  It’s the best prevention!  I detailed my every-other-day multivitamin routine.  Maybe I should take it every day?  Maybe my diet isn’t good enough for one multi every two days?  Finally, the question on tobacco cut me some slack.  Woo, at least I don’t smoke!

I don’t know about all this anxiety.  What I do know is that every day, I wake up and I feel happy and healthy.  That doesn’t mean my health is perfect, or even that I don’t have cancer growing inside of me right now—who knows?  But for now, what I’m doing is working for me, and until my doctor tells me otherwise, I’m going to carry on with life, trying not to worry too much about the what-ifs.  Oh, and I’ll keep getting my annual exam, rain and tornadoes be damned.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Evidence of Rain

Monday’s Bike Ride (9/06/10)

I’m in a fall mood tonight.  I give the rain credit for that; any time the sun goes away and the clouds descend, it feels like a totally different place and season.  I think it’s great, except when the rain lingers long enough to piddle on me while I ride a bike home.  Today’s “work-out” was another biking commute.  Apparently it was unnecessary for me to pedal my way to campus, as the busses were running today and the undergrads had classes.  I’m a little off today!  Maybe I should just do some yoga and call it a night.

But wait!  I must tell you that in addition to rain, we had the most beautiful evening light.  It was spectacular.  I went outside twice to take skyline pictures, and the second time, there was a full-blown rainbow in the sky.  I was stunned.

The Real Deal!

Can you see it?  I’m afraid it was better in person, but I think it looks pretty good here too.  Finally, to complement the fall mood, I baked digestive biscuits in the shape of leaves.  Isn’t this one charming?

A Harbinger of Fall

(I went a little crazy with the camera tonight.  Sometimes I find inspiration everywhere, and I just can’t help myself.  Maybe all the biking has made me a little nutty.  I did bike an estimated 20-something miles in three days.  That’s a lot.  My muscles may have sucked up all my blood sugar and left me unable to restrain myself from taking pictures of everything.  I’ll spare you the photos I took of my feet.)

To Find a Way

Me and the Bike

Saturday and Sunday’s Bike Rides (9/04-9/05/10)

The epic bike rides continue!  To campus and back, to campus and back: I am a bike-riding, science-doing machine.  I find myself feeling very happy about the Saturday morning ride for its rejuvenating and cleansing effects; the Sunday morning ride I think I could do without because I’d rather be running.  I have to find a way to more gracefully integrate my biking commute with my running goals.  This weekend I didn’t run at all—I was actually feeling a bit run down.  My calves were sore and hurting a bit from Thursday’s run, but more importantly, I was very tired.  I even took a nap on Sunday afternoon.  That was nice.

I don’t think that biking, as an activity, is bad for my running.  Rather, I’m afraid of doing too much at once, so I hesitate to run on days when I’ve spent almost an hour on the bike.  For now, I think I am going to have to do my long runs during the workweek.  These runs aren’t particularly long yet—I’d like to do another 20-minute run this week and then bump it up to 30 next week—but it always takes a lot of motivation to run after work.  But in the end, the effort always pays off.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Where I Want to Be


Thursday’s Run (9/02/10)

Thursday was special, an inauguration of sorts: the first run of September.  My goal, in the months leading up to September, had been to build a running base that would allow me to run for 20 minutes outside once the worst of the summer heat had mellowed.

It was a glorious run, all 20 minutes of it.

There was no need for speed this time—speed would come later, with longer runs and even cooler temperatures.  It was enough to just be outside, putting one foot in front of the other.  For me, the best part about running has always been the moment when everything else fades away and all I hear is the rhythm of my footsteps and the sound of my breath.  For me, that’s the zone.  That’s where I want to be.  To find it so quickly and so easily on Thursday, after not even running for a week, was incredible.

I can’t wait to do it again.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Two-Footed Certainty

On My Feet

Tuesday’s Unexpected Long Walk (8/31/10)

It’s chaos around town these days.  The fall semester officially started on Monday, and what was once a peaceful, sleepy university town has turned into swarms of people and cars zigzagging in all directions with no concern for traffic patterns or each other.  It’s a little hard to adjust to this much change, all at once.  I miss the summer session!  Come back, summer session!

On most weekdays, I ride the bus to and from campus.  I like bike-riding a lot, but I like not having to worry about the sweat and grime after I get off the bike.  I also feel like it might be too much for my body to bike to and from work and do all the other exercise I might like to do for fun—the yoga, the running, and the occasional aqua-jog.  So I take the bus.

I was strolling over to my bus stop on Tuesday evening when I saw the bus pull away from the curb—four minutes early!  I literally watched it drive away without me.  It was shocking.  Texas A & M busses are incredibly punctual, and they are never, ever supposed to leave a stop early.  I couldn’t believe I just missed the bus because someone can’t follow instructions!

It was so, so hot that evening, with temperatures in the 90s and the evening sun shining.  I waited at the bus stop for almost 20 minutes, on the off chance that another bus would come around, but I was unlucky—and pissed.  Hot and angry, I began the long walk home.  I walked for more than 40 minutes, and as I put one foot in front of the other, I started noticing small things, like the way the wind cooled my sweaty skin or the way the sun cast long shadows as it dipped into the horizon.  The closer I got to home, the more my anger dissipated into something closer to calm.  Thank goodness I was wearing a pair of walking sandals—they kept my feet comfortable during this unexpected long walk.

In spite of the frustration of this story, I think there is a lesson to be learned here: most of the time, unexpected difficulties are not as bad as we fear they will be.  I didn’t want to walk home that night, in the heat and already tired from full day at work, but being upset about it felt worse than just accepting my fate.  I could have called a cab, but what for?  To take me home when my own two feet can do the job?  Nah—I’d rather just walk and be certain of my own strength and resourcefulness.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Worthy

Monday Night’s Yoga (8/30/10)

I waffled about whether or not I wanted to do anything special on Monday night.  My weekend had been full of exercise—lots of bike riding and a gentle yoga session.  I would have been totally happy to take a rest day.  Rest days are good.  I like rest days.  On Monday night, after cooking a nice weeknight dinner and watching my usual episode of The L Word on Netflix, I found myself with a block of time and a craving for some more yoga.  My back had been feeling a bit sore and tight, and I thought that yoga might loosen things up and help me sleep better.

I reached for something I haven’t used in a long time: one of my yoga videos.  Video, as in VHS.  Does anyone else even own VHSes any more?  I do, and I still enjoy them, particularly the yoga videos from CRUNCH Fitness featuring Sara Ivanhoe as the instructor.  Sara is an amazing yoga teacher.  I love her gentle voice and detailed instructions.  She gives just the right amount of information to guide you through her class, and she’s not very hippy-dippy about yoga (though to be honest, I don’t mind a little hippy-dippy with my yoga.  But maybe you do!).  On Monday night, I pulled out Sara’s Fat-Burning Yoga video, which I see is now available *NEW* for $4 on Amazon!  Wow, that’s a steal.  I should buy one just in case my old one wears out, which it might because I’ve played it a thousand times.

I digress.  What I like to do with fat-burning yoga is the first 20 minutes of the video.  I think 20-30 minutes is the perfect amount of yoga time for me, especially because I do yoga at night before I go to bed, and I don’t always have more than half an hour before I need to be in bed.  The first 20 minutes of this video features a flowing series of downward-facing dogs, lunges, twists, and plank poses.  It’s deceptively challenging: on the surface, it looks like it will be a snap but because you keep moving into different poses and trying to breathe with the movement, it requires physical and mental focus to do it well.  I really enjoy it, and I’m even convinced that it makes my legs look especially toned.

Does this video really burn fat?  I have no idea.  I didn’t choose it for its alleged fat-burning properties—I just wanted another yoga video and I liked Sara Ivanhoe, so I bought another Sara tape.  I do know that yoga makes me feel better about my body—fat, muscle, scars, everything.  Feeling good in your own skin is a priceless experience.