Tuesday, August 30, 2011

And Yet…

Trellis Again


Week of August 21, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Run: Friday (outside, even!)

…despite my rant the other day, exercise really does make you feel great.

But here’s the thing: exercise can do that, regardless of weight loss.  Weight loss, to my mind, is a slow and steady process.  It happens over the course of weeks or months.  But exercise can be almost instant gratification: put on some sneakers, run for 20 minutes, and you can feel great afterward.  Even if you run really, really slowly.  Even if you have to walk during your “run.”  Even if you have to stop to catch your breath.  Whatever—it doesn’t matter.  What matters is moving your body, taking deep breaths, and staying positive.

Ironically, when I spied those offending women’s magazines, I was doing a run/errand run.  I “warmed up” by walking over to the store and picking up a few things.  Then I started my little 10-minute run by running back to my apartment, dropping off my things, and then finishing my run.  And even though it was hot and humid and I am SO READY FOR AUGUST TO END, it was still a good run.  I felt better afterward, even though I felt kinda fat after seeing gorgeous women in bikinis on those magazine covers.

So in lieu of “Lose Weight, Feel Great!” I’d recommend “Go for a Run, Feel Great!”  There, I feel much better now!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

In Which I Rant (Consider Yourself Warned!)

My Plaid Bikini

I was in the grocery store the other day, waiting in line, and my eyes scanned the cover of some women’s magazine: “Tone Every Inch!”  “Lose Weight, Feel Great!”  And I got mad.  Really?  That’s all it would take to make me feel great—losing weight?  How about the fact that it’s been over 100 degrees outside for the past umpteen days, so my greatest stress-reliever—spending time outside—is not available to me?  Or how about the fact that I’m living in professional limbo, not sure if I’m going to have a job in November?  You think that might be contributing to my not feeling so great?  Or how about the fact that I haven’t had a vacation in eight months?  Perhaps I’m constantly stressed because I work all the time?

But oh, if only I could lose some weight, I’d feel so much better!

Women’s magazines drive me absolutely insane.  It’s not that I hate them unconditionally; I did have a subscription to Self for a long time, and I occasionally buy issues of Shape if I’m curious about an article or a special feature.  I have a few work-outs from Self that I’ve saved from old issues—an 18-minute cardio/strength circuit, a yoga-for-abs work-out.  But I hate how I see these magazines marketing themselves to women: ladies, you need improvement!  Come on, buy this magazine, get tighter abs, and your life will be so much better!  Oh, and your sex life will improve too!

I may be one of those rare women who is really happy with her body, despite my short torso and ample junk in the trunk.  My body and I get along well: I treat it well, and it carries me loyally through all my adventures.  I have pretty healthy habits, and I’m definitely an advocate of taking care of one’s health and appearance.  But I hate going to the grocery store and being pelted with messages about improving my body.  I would love to do my food shopping without seeing images of women in bikinis.  Even though I am very happy with my body, it’s hard for me to see those photos without thinking, Yeah, I don’t look like that in a bikini.  And perhaps there’s a tiny part of me that feels like she should look like that.

I no longer subscribe to any women’s magazines because I grew tired of all the messages about losing weight and getting fit.  They were messages that no longer appealed to me.  I knew I didn’t need to lose weight.  I was already active, working out and enjoying habits that kept me healthy, like walking a lot.  But I’m not immune to those societal messages about a woman’s appearance.  Despite the arguments about how it’s about health now, deep down inside I can’t help but believe that it’s still about appearances and being pretty.  And for me, right now, with all the stress and anxiety I’m carrying around, I just want to tell those magazines to kindly fuck off and leave me alone.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Grace, in the Form of Raindrops

Rain Off the Patio Roof

Rain Finally

Rain with Bike Tire

Week of August 21, 2011:

Bike: Thursday

Yoga: Wednesday (Gentle Hatha Yoga #2)

Just when I’d given up on the bike for this week, we get rain!  Buckets and buckets of rain!  It was like two months’ worth of rain, coming down in one evening rainstorm.  I ate dinner, listening to the sweet slapping of raindrops against the roof, watching the deluge form rivers.  I walked outside and raised my face to the sky, savoring the feeling of water splashing against my face.  It was glorious.

This morning, it rained intermittently and everything was suffused with a soft blue light.  Clouds hid the harsh August sun from sight, and thought it was humid, the temperature was so pleasant that I knew I had to take advantage of it by getting back on the bike.  I rode to work slowly, even though I was already late.  This cool weather, I knew, was only temporary.  It was only a matter of time before it would be scorching hot outside again.  I rode through the quiet neighborhoods, feeling absolutely, perfectly peaceful.  I spotted a blue jay in a tree.  I slowed down and hopped off my bike, hoping to take a photo, but the blue jay fluttered away.  I rode on.

I’m feeling like maybe I can make it to September after all.  Just six more days…

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

August, You Win

Incredible Light

Week of August 21, 2011:

Bike: Sunday

Run: Monday

Yoga: Not yet…

Oh dear.  We’ve passed some sort of heat tolerance level for me, so I’m trying to stay indoors this week.  Normally I bike at least twice a week to work during the Monday-Friday workweek, but this week, the bus seems so much more comfortable and sane, knowing that it will be 100+ degrees outside when it’s time for me to go home.  August, you win!  I surrender! 

I’ve spent so much time on the bike this summer that I don’t really miss it, at least not yet, but I may decide to ride to work again before Saturday.  We shall see.

On a lighter note, on Monday I hopped on the treadmill for my 20-minute long run, and it was terrific!  I’m happy to be running again, even if it’s in place on a machine.  I didn’t have control of the tvs during this work-out, and playing on one of the televisions was an old episode of Sex and the City.  I’m not sure what this says about me, but all I could think as I watched was, Wow, Carrie is a crazy woman.  I actually felt sorry for Big as he tried to talk to her about how he was seeing other women, but she was too busy going crazy about the fact that he was SEEING OTHER WOMEN!  How dare he!  Listen up, Carries of the world: if you want him to be exclusive with you, you need to speak up.  It’s not fair for you to expect him to read your mind.  And don’t act like a pouty, jealous child.  That act may work for a short time, but over the long haul, it’s really unattractive behavior.

(Okay, I’m stepping off my soap box now.  Hope you are all having good weeks!)

Monday, August 22, 2011


[Insert clever graphic art here]

I tried to do some fancy graphic design here to show you the schedule of long-distance races in Texas in 2012, but…let’s just say I’d rather have you click over here than look at my work.

Speaking of work, things and people have been crazy around my workplace, and I suppose I must now include myself in the “Crazy” category.  Or maybe I’m just feeling all jazzed about running again after reading so many lovely posts from all of you, my dear blog friends.  Your enthusiasm is contagious!  I love it.  You are all so much deeper into your running programs than I am, with my little twice-a-week treadmill runs, and while I may feel a tiny bit sheepish about it, I am more inspired by your examples than anything.  This is why we write blog posts about running: to inspire and be inspired.

Here’s the Crazy thing: I’m thinking about running not one but two half-marathons in less than two months next year.  I anticipate that in March, College Station will host its annual Armadillo Dash as usual, which I’d like to run.  Raquelita’s post today got me thinking about an out-of-town race, something I could use as an excuse to get out of here for a weekend.  Austin has a half-marathon in February and another one in March, and I think it would be so much fun to run in Austin, which is a great city in which I have not spent nearly enough time.

Is it nuts of me to think I could run (almost) back-to-back half-marathons?  I’ve never challenged myself like that with two long-distance races so close together.  I’ve never even run two long-distance races in one year, let alone two in two months.  I’d have to do some research to come up with a training plan to balance recovery from the first race against keeping up my strength and endurance for the second race.

I’m excited and nervous and a little overwhelmed at the idea.  Maybe it’s what I need, running-wise: a new challenge.  Or maybe I’ll come to my senses tomorrow…

Sunday, August 21, 2011

It’s a Well-Documented Fact: Pretzels Help You Run Faster

Pre-run Snack

Week of August 14, 2011:

Bike: Thursday and Saturday

Run: Thursday

Yoga: Wednesday, I think (DIY Pajama Yoga)

I think I say this after every week, but this time I really mean it: what an utterly EXHAUSTING week!  Oy.  Yesterday, which was Saturday for crying out loud, I felt so beat down by the week that I was thisclose to bursting into tears.  Postdoc life is hard.  I’m not sure I’m a fan of it.

But the good news is that I had an excellent, excellent speed work-out on the treadmill on Thursday.  This was my sequence of events:

5 min. walking warm-up

5 min. at 9:05/mile (my normal/easy pace)

8:30 at 8:30/mile (the faster pace I’m using this month to keep my treadmill work-outs interesting)

2 min. at 9:05/mile (a running cooldown)

~5 min. walking cooldown


It was a terrific work-out!  I felt very strong and confident.  I think it’s all because of the pretzels.  I am completely smitten with these Everything Bagel Pretzels from Rold Gold.  They’ve got the wonderful savory flavor of an everything bagel—a little onion, a little poppyseed—and they pair well with a few slices of Organic Valley cheese for a nice snack after I get home from work.  I’m finding that being outside in 100-degree heat takes a lot out of me, and I usually need a snack after I come inside from it.  On Thursday, I especially needed a snack because I rode my bike to and from work and I decided to squeeze my treadmill work-out into that evening.  So I needed some running fuel, and pretzels (along with cheese and some blueberries) were perfect for the job.

PS  Don’t forget to start thinking about those Speed Demon entries for September 1!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Calling All Speed Demons!


So you like to run.  Me too!  Do you make yourself promises about doing speedwork “some day?”  Do you daydream about running 10, 9, 8, 7(!) minute miles?  Is speedwork something that sounds scary yet exhilarating at the same time?  Could you use a few cheerleaders to keep you on track or even to get you to the track so you can do a few timed laps?

If you answered yes to any of the above, you are not alone.  I’m right there with you.  Hi.

I’m starting a Speed Demons feature here at Feels Like Flying, in part because I myself could use an extra boost to move faster during my running work-outs.  I’m selfish that way.  But more than that, one of the delightful things about writing this blog is that I’ve met a lot more bloggers with whom I feel a sense of connection, and one thing we have in common is a desire to become faster runners.  It occurred to me that it might be nice to give each other a boost, to celebrate our victories and urge each other to keep up the good work.  Of course there are the comments we leave on each other’s blogs, but how inspiring would it be to see a half-dozen or more “best of” speed work-out summaries in one place?  I think it would be awesome.  I’m inspired just thinking about it.

Here’s the deal: once a month, on the first of each month, I’ll post a round-up of your best speed work-outs, dear readers.  (I’ll throw mine in there too, for good measure.)  You can submit your entries in one of two ways: either leave me a comment in a post before the first of the month or send me an e-mail at lifeloveandfood [at] gmail [dot] com.  Either way, if you have a link to a blog post or a Daily Mile entry, share it with me!  We’ll get our Speed Demons all linked up.  I should add that you don’t have to have a link to participate.  You can always just let me know what your favorite or best speed work-out of the month was, and I’ll include you in the round-up.

And remember: speed work is all relative.  It’s about pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and running faster than what is easy for you, right now.  One person’s speedy eight-minute mile might be another person’s recovery mile.  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is you, running faster, feeling stronger, making good on that promise to work harder in your work-outs. It’s about challenging yourself to be the best YOU that you can be.  So get out there and unleash your inner speed demon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Play by Play

Getting Ready to Ride

In Motion

Week of August 14, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday

Run: Sunday

Yoga: Monday (Hot-Power Fusion #1)

A little midweek play-by play:

* Sunday run:  I did a solid, 20-minute “long run” on the treadmill, and it felt great.  I got a little tired by the 15-minute mark, but overall, I’m happy to be increasing my run times little by little.

* Monday yoga:  I tried a new-to-me yoga session (see above) and got lost a few times.  I don’t think the cues were very good in this one because when I got lost, I had literally no idea what I was supposed to be doing.  Absolutely NO CLUE.  But I enjoyed what I could follow, and when I got lost, I did some warrior poses and spent some time in child’s pose because I was feeling very tired toward the end.  Next time, I’ll check out the pose guide and hopefully that will help me transition into these mystery poses.

* Tuesday bike:  The usual bike commute.  In the morning, it wasn’t too hot, but it was very, very humid.  I was sweating buckets by the time I got to work.  My evening ride home was very hot, too hot for me really, but the heat did give me a good excuse to stop at the store for a few things.  I am so happy that there are only 14 days left in August!  I am ready for cooler weather, and I think my face is too.  I seem to be breaking out right now, and I can’t imagine that the heat is helping my skin.  Oy.

On a slightly related note, can I just say how much I like cycling in my wedges?  They’re so comfortable to wear on the bike, which surprises me because I think of them as dressy shoes, but they work really well.  Here's a previous look at my daring footware.  One of these days I’ll take a photo so you can see them from the side.

Happy training, friends!  I hope you are feeling fit and healthy these days.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Cookware Review, Long Overdue

Many, many months ago, I was offered a sweet little opportunity by CSN Stores to drop a link to their site in exchange for a store certificate and a product review.  I love working with CSN Stores, and in fact, they are a sponsor of my food blog, so it was easy to say yes.  But here’s the funny thing about blog sponsors: I almost inevitably end up spending a bunch of my own money on merchandise from my sponsors.  This has been true with CSN Stores, and it’s also been true with Five Bamboo, maker of beautiful bamboo clothing and another great sponsor with whom I am thrilled to be working.  I like to think that because I do spend my own money, in addition to any blog-generated bonuses, it makes me a more honest reviewer of the company and the merchandise.  I don’t have time to putz around with companies that don’t fit my style.  I’m not making a living as a blogger, not by a long shot, so I don’t have much incentive to deal with unpleasant sponsors or products I don’t like.

Working with CSN Stores has been wonderful: they sell great products, they have excellent customer service, and their shipping time is swift.  I used my most recent store credit to buy two pieces of bakeware: a gorgeous red gratin dish and a simple 9x9-inch baking pan.

Gratin Dish with Peaches and Garlic

Gratin Dish Closeup

Let’s start with the Bonjour stoneware 3-quart oval au gratin in rouge.  (Whew, that is a mouthful.  I just call it my gratin dish.)  As you can see, this is a beautiful, beautiful piece of bakeware.  I spend enough time in the kitchen that beauty, at least in my bakeware, counts for something.  Whether beauty counts for anything in the cook is another question! 

I’d been on the market for a gratin dish for a while, and I’m really glad I bought this pretty red one.  It’s perfect: it does its job in the oven, cleans up easily, and looks great all the time.  I’ve had it for a while now, and I’ve made braised leeks and a black bean casserole in it.  As far as gratin dishes go, this one makes me happy.  (In the photos above, I was making the black bean casserole, which is still a recipe in progress.  I’m so slow!) 

Granola Baked in New Pan


I was also on the market for a 9x9-inch square baking dish, and I decided to buy this Farberware Soft Touch Nonstick Carbon Steel 9” Cake Pan (again, another mouthful!).  This pan advertises itself as being both nonstick AND the product instructions say not to use nonstick sprays on it.  I was a little nervous about that, but I followed directions and baked a batch of brownies without using any grease on the pan.  It worked!  The nonstick coating really works!  My brownies didn’t stick at all, and they baked perfectly.  I’ve also made my very famous Addictive Peanut Butter Granola (shown above) in this pan, and the granola was just as tasty and addictive as I expected.  The pan is sturdy, functional, and those handles are useful for carrying it from one spot to another.

Thank you for pardoning this non-fitness interlude, kind readers, and may all your work-outs be well-fueled this week!  As for me, I made good on my promise to do a 20-minute long run on the treadmill today, so I feel I’m starting the week on a great note.

Happy sweating!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Feeling Fit but Flattened

By day…

Sunshine Peaking Through Trees

Cloudy Saturday Morning

…and by night.

Full Moon with Leaves

Feets at Night

Week of August 7, 2011:

Bike: Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday

Run: Monday

Yoga: Tuesday (Morning Flow #1); Thursday and Friday (DIY Pajama Yoga, the best kind!)

Whoosh! It’s been a crazy busy week over here, and I have so much work ahead of me in the next few days.  I’m feeling a little flattened by the sheer volume of activity this week, but at least some of that activity has been honest-to-goodness exercise and not just running around like a headless chicken.

The fitness highlights of my week were my treadmill run on Monday and my yoga sessions.  On Monday, I pounded out an 8:30 mile on the treadmill, with a warm-up and cool-down done at 9:05/mile, which is my normal pace.  I was rather pleased to see that I could even run a whole mile at 8:30, as I am not exactly in tip-top running shape right now.  I am in hardcore biking shape, but it’s hard for me to tell how that fitness transfers to the treadmill.

I’ve been keeping up with a more frequent yoga practice, which is doing wonders for my peace of mind.  For my pajama yoga sessions, I’m even rolling out the mat now because it just feels better to do yoga on a mat rather than on carpet.

There is, however, one goal that I’m not going to reach this week: a 20-minute run on the treadmill.  I biked four times this week, three of which were my daily commute to the lab, and I think my legs need rest today, not a run.  If I hadn’t made plans with myself to do an experiment this morning, I’m sure I would have run, but alas, right now work comes first in my life.  Tomorrow will be a better day for the treadmill, so that’s my plan.

How are your fitness adventures going, dear readers?  Tell me about them!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

August, with Ambition

August 2011 Star Chart

Star Chart Ready for Action

Week of August 7, 2011:

Bike: Sunday

I’m back from an easy Sunday afternoon of bike riding, shoe shopping, and food procuring.  At Shoe Carnival, I found a nice pair of black flats, which I’m wearing around the house now so that I can break them in slowly.  I also found a terrific pair of brown sandals, which have this wonderful rubbery sole, and I think they are going to be very comfortable for walking and running around.  At work, I spend a lot of time on my feet, so when I buy shoes, I’m always thinking about how comfortable a pair will be at 4 PM after I’ve walked up and down the hallway 200 times.

Earlier today, I drew up my star chart for August, which you can see above.  The star chart worked so well for July that I thought I’d do it again this month.  The new star chart is a little different from July’s: I’ve made yoga a twice-a-week goal, bumped the biking down to twice a week, and added a Wild Card (WC on the chart).  I like having flexibility in my schedule, and the Wild Card reflects that.  Any moderate amount of activity can fill the Wild Card slot, so I can decide to take an evening walk instead of doing something more strenuous.  I love evening walks.

This month, I want to be a little more ambitious with my running.  For one of those two weekly work-outs, I’d like to do a 20-minute run.  I’d also like to spend some time running 8:30 miles on the treadmill, just to keep myself from getting bored while I run in place.  I like doing speedwork, but I hardly ever do it.  This month seems like the perfect chance to experiment with it a bit while I wait for fall’s cooler temperatures to arrive.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Easy Carrots


July Success!

Week of July 31, 2011:

Bike: Thursday and Saturday

Yoga: Friday

I have a habit of not acknowledging my own success, especially the everyday things I do that keep me on track and moving in the direction of my goals.  Maybe I’m trying to be humble, or maybe I worry that other people will think I’m bragging, but really, I do a lot each day for my health.  It’s a lot of work—the exercise, the homecooked meals, the grocery shopping—but I do it because I believe in investing in my health.

July’s star chart (which you can see completed above) was one of my small victories for the month.  In the middle of a hard and demoralizing summer, the start chart was a way to visualize my goals, a way to recognize my own accomplishments.  It was, to borrow someone else’s phrase, easy carrots to make me feel like I was doing something with my days.  I needed easy carrots to lift my spirits, to help me feel positive about things.  I had planned 35 work-outs over the course of 5 weeks, and I completed 33 of those work-outs.  That’s 94%!  Not too shabby!  You can see that I missed a running work-out during Week 2 and a bike work-out during Week 5.  I can live with those imperfections, especially because I’m feeling so much more optimistic about August and the months to come.  We’re into the home stretch now for summer’s heat: only 25 days left in August, and then things will slowly start to cool down.  I can’t wait.

Onward, August!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Garden Variety

Bike Outside of Garden

Feet and Wooden Bench

Feet at Water's Edge

Week of July 24, 2011:

Bike: Saturday

Week of July 31, 2011:

Bike: Tuesday

Run: Monday and Wednesday

It’s been a steamy week here in Texas, but I have no complaints about it!  My bike commutes are sweaty as usual, but the morning ride makes me feel so calm and peaceful that mopping myself off after I get to work is a price I’m willing to pay for exercise-induced happiness.

On Tuesday evening, I took a little photo walk around the holistic gardens before hopping on my bike for the ride home.  I’m so in love with that space and all those plants!  There is so much beauty, so much color, so much life in those gardens that I feel a little awestruck by them.  I’m looking forward to watching the gardens transition from summer to autumn.

Last night, I took my run outside, despite the heat and the steam, because I wanted to pick up some coffee beans from Starbucks.  I’m not a big fan of Starbucks, but my favorite coffee shop in close proximity closed a few months ago, and Starbucks is the next closest option.  I love coffee and now I drink it every morning.  I love the taste and the ritual, the way coffee signifies a new day and a fresh start and the way it eases me into my day, even and especially my busy work days.  Normally I brew hot coffee each morning, but I’ve had a craving for cold-brewed coffee lately, and I wanted to buy some coarsely ground beans for that purpose.  Luckily, happily, Starbucks is selling a new coffee blend that they use to make their iced coffees.  It makes a dreamy cold-brewed coffee and a great start to another humid August morning.

Are you a coffee person?  Tea?  Fresh vegetable juice?  How do you make your mornings special?