Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Mythbusters and binge eating

No, really. This relates.

I've been in a total snackaholic mode lately, trolling the pantry and shelves, looking to see if there's some bag of chips, chocolate, or chocolate chips that somehow was overlooked on my last dozen or so scavenging missions. I think it's in the air right now, given that Easter is just a few days away.

When I was able to interrupt the Must Snack soundtrack playing in my head, I thought of a Mythbusters episode I saw some time last year when I was in the midst of losing weight. I rarely watch TV, so when I do tune in, it makes an impression.

This episode was dedicated to testing those time-honored methods of sobering up after a night of binge drinking that we usually see in movies. (Hang with me here.) It was nothing short of hilarious to see them determine the effectiveness of drinking coffee, dunking their heads in cold water, getting slapped in the face, and running on a treadmill.

Guess what won? Exercise.

Not long after the show, I had hit another carb binge and was sitting in my beached whale state, feeling sorry for myself and spiraling into a waste-of-time abyss of self pity. I know, you've never been there. Sorry if you can't relate.

I remembered the episode and had a flash of inspiration. If exercise negated the effects of alcohol better than anything else, what would it do for a sugar OD?

I started my journey to better fitness not because I wanted a certain dress size or I was going to a high school reunion. I just wanted to feel better. I didn't want to be a person who sat around mentally berating herself for having a muffin top and immersed in victim thinking.

I got off up the couch and decided that I would go for a walk. Nothing hard core or strenuous, mind you, just a walk. Ten minutes stretched into twenty, and I was feeling much better. I decided to go in the house, do a load of laundry and tackle the pile of dishes that was sneering at me.

The lesson for me here was that even though I had made the negative choice of eating too much, it wasn't permanent, and all it took was a few minutes walking outside, pedaling on the bike trainer or doing a few core exercises for me to get back to the place where I felt powerful about my life again.

Here's my gift to you this Easter. You have permission to forgive yourself when you binge and give yourself a few minutes to get back to where you want to be with your body. Take a minute to believe the best about yourself.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shorter workouts, better health. Really.

 Leaner, meaner, faster me waving while running a 10k this month. No arduous training schedule!

That's right! Less time on the workout clock can still get you a better workout, provided you do your workouts right. And it's really not that complicated.

Science Daily recently reported on a Canadian study repeating the current wisdom in the exercise world: interval training makes a smarter workout. The basic formula? Push, rest, repeat. Studies are proving that cranking up your heart rate for a minute or two and then stepping back for a minute or two and repeating that pattern for the duration of your workout builds more endurance, speed, and strength than plodding along for a longer period of time.

The theory is that our miraculous bodies quickly adapt to whatever exercise we get on a regular basis, and interval training shakes things up. Walking two miles a day for weeks may keep your legs toned, but after the first week or so, you might not be burning as many calories because your body has adjusted to this new level of activity. Doing one mile of walking where you pick up the pace for one minute then slow down for two has the possibility of saving you time while getting a better workout.

The key is to change the interval length. One week, do repeats of one minute fast, two minutes slow. The next week, try two minutes fast (not gut-busting fast, just out of breathing hard fast) and one minute slow or two minutes fast and three minutes slow. This keeps the body guessing.

For those of you wondering why you're not losing weight even though you're on the treadmill faithfully for an hour each day, this could be your ticket. Of course, check with your health care provider before you start an exercise regimen, especially if you have medical issues.

Doing interval workouts was definitely the key for me as I tried to lose weight last year while home schooling three boys and not wanting to spend tons of money on child care or a health club membership. In 30 to 45 minutes, I could get a decent workout in and see results fairly quickly, which kept me motivated to keep looking for the time to fit in another workout.

Interval training also allowed me to go from couch to 10k in the space of three weeks in 2009. No kidding. While I am NOT recommending this route to anyone, I will report that even though I had never, ever run 3 consecutive miles, let alone any race of any length before March 2009, I finished the Run to the Pub 10k after beginning my training in late February.

Was I a running phenomenon, taking the race by storm, winning my age group and stunning onlookers with my performance? Please. My form sucked and I was very slow. But I didn't finish last, I had a great time, and I did something I never would have believed I could accomplish, which included drinking a cold beer after running 6.2 miles.

Here's another great article on interval training from the New York Times.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Hot Husband triumps again!

I know I should really take Sippie Wallace's advice, but I can't help myself. Gotta tell all y'all about my amazing man.

I had this dilemma about how many bikes this woman really needs. For years, I barely touched the one I'd had before the children hit the scene, and I know how easy it is for me to throw myself at a new interest. Couldn't I make do with a road bike and a mountain turned commuter/cargo bike? Wasn't three bikes terribly excessive?

Last week, my sinus infection kicked my can, leaving me feeling OK one minute, then crawling back to bed the next. Hot Husband wrangled the boys, so I took a little snooze and staggered out to greet the afternoon. Cautiously. Hoping for some medicinal beverage, preferably with a little alcohol.

Standing in the driveway was Hot Husband, surrounded by a cluster of boys' bikes needing small adjustments. "I was thinking," he said. "What if you took this bike I've been planning to sell so you had a dedicated mountain bike?"

What if, indeed? I shuffled to the door to grab my helmet and shoes, watching him out of the corner of my eye. Would he think I couldn't be that sick if I took it for a test drive? I pedaled up the driveway. Not bad. Climbed well, easy to manage. My head was not exploding. I felt better,  actually. But who can tell with just a cruise down the street? I needed more road testing in real-life conditions.

I convinced Tiger Boy and Dragon Boy to come along with me, and we took a 15-minute loop through the neighborhood, checking it out. Let's see--disc brakes, lightweight, already has a place in the garage, easy on the pocketbook . . .

Yeah, it's mine.

Hot Husband's mine, too, so don't go gettin' any funny ideas.

Friday, March 19, 2010

I'm so sheltered!

 photo by Amsterdamize--Definitely not me in the pic, though!

The things I don't know about because I'm a girl. Honestly . . .

I hopped over to Amsterdamize today to find that warm weather in Amsterdam has him eagerly anticipating Rokjesdag, an tradition upheld quietly but earnestly by civilized Dutch men.

Last year, he commented, "‘Rokjesdag’ means ‘Skirts Day’. Or ‘Short Skirts Day’. Most literally, ‘Little Short Skirts Day’. This is a once proclaimed and poetically described day by a Dutch writer. It’s the day when women en masse get rid of their pantyhoses or tights and leave the house with bare legs."

I can tell I'm getting older, because I'm more amused than offended by this phenomenon. Guys really get excited about this? The feminist in me can't help but wonder if the women have a day celebrating the first day when men hit the streets in shorts. Short sleeves? Shirtless? Ok, maybe leave the shirts on.

We've had a few gorgeous days here lately too, but today, it's actually snowing. Maybe I should take the time to find my bike-worthy skirts, just so I'm prepared to do my public service of flashing a little leg on a warmer day.

Today's weather, as seen out my door.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Spring is really on the way! Hope you can celebrate with a ride, a beer and some good Celtic music today!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Bike dilemma--two bikes or three?

I'm conflicted about what kind of bikes I really need. One one hand, I'm set with what's already in the garage. On the other, I would so love to have a beautiful commuter bike. But do I really need three bikes?

My first bike is the steady, durable cobalt blue Jamis Durango (above), dating from my BC (before children) days when Hot Husband and I would spin around the streets of the Midwestern town where we went to college. Nothing flashy or innovative here--it's just your basic, non-suspension 21-speed mountain bike. Nothing wrong with it either, but doesn't stir my imagination like the pretty, flirty cruiser bikes I see in stores and around town. Am I shallow for being concerned about bike candy when I've got Mr. Dependable?

My newest bike is a Felt road bike, with a women's specific frame. I LOVE this bike. It fits my body well, it speeds along like a dream, and it didn't kill my bank account. While most road bikes I saw were in the $1,000- $3000 range, this one was a cool $525, on sale. I'm sure there are far "better" bikes out there, but this is all I need right now when I have a need for speed.

The problem is that I want to bike with my boys a lot more this summer, and my Felt isn't built to pull the 65-ish-pound load of Monkey Boy plus his Trail-a-Bike. The Jamis, with its beefier frame, handles the job just fine, but if I outfit it for commuting, I'm going to have to do a lot of rearranging if I want to take it mountain biking this summer. I don't want to have to pull a bike rack, panniers and basket off every time I get the itch to head for the hills. When I start looking at a cruiser as a dedicated commuter bike, I realize that three gears just ain't gonna cut it on the hills I have to tackle around here, and especially not if I'm towing the Monkey Boy rig.

But do I really need another bike?

This is the cruiser I lusted after last summer--the Electra Om. Gorgeous color, with amazing details and a very comfy ride, but three gears would kill my knees given the hills I have to tackle getting from my house to anywhere. Someday . . .

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Goin' clipless!

Hot Husband and I have this quiet war about bikes. He's an athletic, Lycra 'R Us type. I want to be more of the natural fabric, don't-need-special-equipment sort of rider, but dang it, his gear keeps saving my butt.

Take clipless pedals, like the ones he put on my bike today. I've been avoiding them because I'm afraid I'll crash, because I need special shoes to use them, and they just seem too technical for this wool-lovin', home-schoolin', organic-food-eatin' mama. I like to jump on the bike and ride, you know?

Turns out, I love them. I hopped on my road bike after he installed them and took off for Elle's for a 6-mile joy ride. I needed to fly and my muscles, still grumpy from the 10k I ran yesterday, needed a short workout so I/they won't be in agony tomorrow.

I couldn't believe the power I got with each pedal stroke. I could pump up hills far easier and take off from a stop with ease. So far, the learning curve of getting in and our out of the clips has been a cinch, even when navigating quick stops.

Who knew? Now I'm saving for a pair for my commuter bike.

Couch to 10k? Mission accomplished.

How many miles to the beer?

I finished! Who'dve thunk?

I'll admit, I am a total headcase. I've been psyching myself out of this race for a week, thinking that I'm really not in any sort of shape, and certainly NOT a runner. I only ran a few times in the past couple of weeks. I haven't been sleeping well. I'm fighting a sinus infection.

Yeah, I don't want to hear the excuses, either.

Reality? I showed up, did my best to keep up with my amazing friend Jennifer, and finished only 13 seconds slower than my best 10k time last summer when I was training regularly. No kidding. I'm still wrapping my head around that one.

Get this--my time this year was almost 14 minutes faster than last year, and last year's course was about a half-mile shorter due to a miscalculation. I finished in the middle of the race (297 out of 700 finishers) and in the top third of my age group (21st out of 60 women). Last year, I was only faster than about 40 people. Maybe.

I wish I could write something glorious here about how far I've come since I decided to get in shape, but I'm still having trouble believing it. I think I have some sort of brain glitch. I can look at all the numbers, but because I felt sluggish and lots of people passed me toward the end of the race, I have a hard time accepting that I did well.

Jennifer, on the other hand, kept saying, "This is so much fun!" Not only does she think her glass is half-full, she's convinced it's filled with a drink she loves, and she's going to get free refills. I want to see life like that.

Take-home lessons:
  • Knock off the whining. No one wants to hear it, and it doesn't feel good to do it.
  • Have a blast. While I fretted about my performance, many runners were chatting, laughing and focusing on the post-race party. That's the ticket.
  • Wear a costume. The runners wearing green tutus, women's panties on their heads, and St. Patty's afros got us all in the spirit of the race. I especially liked the guy dressed as a pot of gold. Wish I'd gotten a picture for you.
  • Pounding a jumbo latte before the race and a pint of Guinness after maybe isn't the best idea. I have never been so looped.
  • My dudes rock. Hot husband and the boys drove to several points along the course to see me run and to take pictures. My older two ran the last mile with me, and my youngest trotted along for the last 100 yards. Thanks, guys!
More on Couch to 10k
The deets: Couch to 10k how-to
Shorter workouts, better health
     Me and Jen catching up with life on the fly.

    Me on the gooey trail section, which I loved!

     Crossing the finish line with my dudes. I'm just to the right of the flags and sign.

    Wow. Did it!

     Post race street party at Pub 317 

    Me, Guinness and Monkey Boy. Didn't share my beer with him.

    Saturday, March 13, 2010

    Can I do it?

    It's the morning of the Run to the Pub 10k, and I have no idea if I can really do this.

    A year ago, I ran this race for the first time. It was my first race, and I had never, ever run 6 miles at once. I didn't know if I could finish in one piece or at all. Now I have two more non-catastrophic 10k races under my belt, but I'm still here wondering, "Whose idea was this?  I'm not a runner!"

    Last year, I was excited to see what my body could do. It was a gorgeous, sunny day, and the beer at the end was nothing short of a sacrament.

    This year, the weather forecast is iffy and I'm fighting a sinus infection.

    Yeah, I'm brimming with optimism.

    Off I go, loaded with one of Hot Husband's divine lattes, a jittery tummy and visions of that free pint to beer at the end.

    Friday, March 12, 2010

    Moms and boys ride!

    No epic haul, no burning quads, no tantrums borne of exhaustion. At least from the 12 and younger crowd. Just two moms and four boys, taking an afternoon ride to honor the opening of biking season.

    The outdoor ice rinks have melted down to slush fields, so the Home School Hockey Hooligans have now switched gears, quite literally. Last week, we were looking for indoor ice to pacify our need to burn off some energy, but this week, it just didn't seem right to don skates under fluorescent lights and a metal roof. The sun was glorious, the roads were tantalizingly dry, and the wind . . . well, it was still a bit nippy.

    The kids really didn't complain much as we took our first group ride of the year on roads around my neighborhood. As you can see, there is still quite a bit of snow on the ground, but most roads, paved or gravel, are cleared off nicely past the shoulder. We kept the boys on asphalt today, since there are still plenty of puddles. I can handle splatters, but I'll take a pass on full-on gumbo in my Maytag if I have the choice.

    The boys wore their winter coats, boots and mittens and seemed totally comfy. I had on my favorite wool base layer and my trusty biking jacket, basic pants over thin wool long johns to fend off the breeze, and my biking shoes.

    Total distance covered was only about 6 miles, but Elle and her son biked 3 miles to my house first, and then the same distance back after they dropped us off at home. They're studs. Tomorrow, it's our turn to bike in their direction.

    Geek moment! Just as we hit our driveway, there were two sun dogs to grace our afternoon. Does it get much better than this?
     Not the sun on a cloudy day, but a refraction of sunlight known as a sun dog.

    I live here! Well, this isn't my yard, but it's sooo close to my house.

     Elle, Bianchi and the Bridgers. She's got a sweet setup.

    What winter bikers with boys carry in their baskets. Don't ask.
    My ancient Jamis rig with cute caboose . . .

     . . . and a darling co-pilot.

    Thursday, March 11, 2010

    Why we ride

    This is such a beautiful ode to biking by

    I ride to go my own pace.
    I ride to breathe deeply and feel the sunshine on my face.
    I ride to hear the pulse of my heart, not the chatter of my head.
    I ride to fly.

    Please stop by and sign People for Bikes' pledge.

    Looks like the video is not playing in full screen on my blog. Go here to see the full deal.

    I'm here! Really!

    Hey, there! It's been a very busy week or so here, so I haven't been on my usual routine of postings, but get ready. Temps are up and the packed snow and ice has finally melted off the roads! I've gotten out for a couple of bike rides (yippee!!) and the kids have been begging to do our errands on bike. There's the positive side of brainwashing for you.

    So much to write about, and I'm eager to get it all on the blog very, very soon.

    Thanks for waiting!