The Blog is Back

3 Mar

So it’s been awhile. I just took a look at the blog it seems that I only wrote 3 blog posts in 2014. That’s sad! Especially given the fact that I “vowed” to write more in 2014 in my first post in January… whoops! So the bad news is that the blogging lapsed, the good news is that the running didn’t.

I’m sorry that I didn’t chronicle my running journey in 2014 because it was my best running year to date. I ran with more consistency in 2014 than ever before. I trained for my first marathon. I ran in six races, and though I didn’t PR in any of them, I completed four half marathons, one 10k, and one 5k. I traveled to a race for the first time and ran a half marathon with one of my best friends in D.C. I ran a half marathon in Philadelphia with my cousin who I inspired to start running. I logged hundreds of miles (I can’t give you an exact number, I’m bad at keeping track) all over Philadelphia, even eschewing the streets and hitting the trails.

But for all of the good, 2014 wasn’t without its setbacks. During the Nike Women’s Half in D.C. I aggravated my IT had to walk the last mile. I was sidelined for 4 weeks while I went to physical therapy, which meant I had to miss the Broad Street Run (again). IT band injuries are no joke, while they don’t cause lasting permanent damage or need surgery, they do feel kind of like someone has shoved a screwdriver under your kneecap every time you take a step. Fun!

Did you notice above that I said I trained for my first marathon? Did you also note that it was not listed among the 6 races that I finished? Yeah…about that. I started out 2014 calling it “The Year of the Marathon,” and instead it turned out to be “The Year I Trained for 20 Weeks to Run a Marathon and Then Fell on My Face Three Days Before the Race.” I’ll write out a full post with all of the gory details, but to wrap it up here, the marathon still looms off in the distance, unachieved, unsavored.

Weather aside 2015 is off to a good start, with some big goals. I’m going to do my best, I’m not going to vow this time, to fill you in on the higher (and lower) points of 2014, and keep you up to date on what 2015 has in store. So stay tuned.

I couldn’t write the title of this post without conjuring up the lyrics to this song in my head. So get your Tuesday started with some Elton!

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National Running Day

4 Jun

I logged on to Twitter this morning and noticed a trend immediately… It’s National Running Day! I had no idea. But I am excited!

Apparently, other folks are excited to, so excited that there is an entire website about National Running Day, check this out: http://www.runningday.org/

The website even has an app that lets you ‘Make your own badge’ to describe why you run. I was going to make one to put on here, and then I realized that I’m not really sure why I run. At least not in a clearly definable, fits on a badge sort of way.

I joke that I run for bacon and beer, because after most half marathons I go to the pub and eat brunch and drink beer.

I run because I want my pants to fit.

I wrote the other day about how I run because it is freeing and offers clarity.

I run because I feel better when I do, and I feel worse when I don’t.

It’s for the goals, and for the successes.

I run because it’s become part of who I am.

So tonight I’m going to go for a run (my PT says I can!) and celebrate National Running Day!

What would you put on one of these?

I RUN...

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

2 Jun

So much for that vow to write more in 2014 I made back in January. Almost exactly 5 months later and you haven’t heard hide nor hair of me. Well, at least I was right about one thing, 2014 has had a fair bit of awesomeness.

Since you last heard from me I:

1. Passed the Association of Social Work Boards Licensed Social Work (LSW) test.
2. Went to London and Manchester (seeing not only the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio tour, but also Chelsea F.C. play Tottenham Hot Spur at Stamford Bridge)
3. Ran the Philadelphia Love Run (in the pouring rain).
4. Ran the Nike Women’s Half in DC with my bestie.
5. Injured my IT band during the Nike half.
6. Started physical therapy.
7. Graduated with my Master of Social Work from the University of Pennsylvania.
8. Celebrated my 4th wedding anniversary and the 5th anniversary of buying our house (they’re on the same day).
9. Got a new job.
10. Went to Antigua.

Finishing up my MSW took a lot more time and energy than I was expecting, or, perhaps more than I had wanted to expect. The lack of time and energy, coupled with the terrible winter we had in Philadelphia meant that I really didn’t run much in 2014. Which meant I really couldn’t write much about running. And also meant that I was most likely undertrained when I went out on race day in DC. Which leads me to where I am now, rebuilding after an injury.

Yesterday I went out for my second post-injury run. I walked half a mile, then did intervals of 5 minutes of running/1 minute of walking for 3 miles, and walked half a mile to cool down. It was hot out, and I could feel the loss of cardiovascular base as I panted along. There were a few 5/1 cycles that were probably actually 4/2 or 3/3 as I slowed to catch my breath, but I made it and I wasn’t in pain. More importantly, I loved it. And, I felt so much better after.

Not running (either at all or enough) over the past few months has left me feeling sluggish, both physically and mentally. I spent a lot of time yesterday feeling punchy and anxious, my thoughts were unclear and jumbled, but as I rounded out the last mile I felt calmer and more collected. I’d had time in those 50 minutes I was out plodding along to rearrange my thoughts. To take deep breaths. To get my brain chemicals flowing again.

I also felt better physically. Not running has left me feeling stiff, lethargic, and kind of pudgy. I’ve not put on a noticeable (to other people) amount of weight… but you can’t stop running and keep eating like you run five times a week, and not expect your shorts to be tight. Even after one run yesterday I felt a difference. I mean, my shorts are still tight… but I feel looser, less achy.

As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. It seems that these few months “off” has made me realize that much more that I love running. Hopefully, absence has also made your heart grow fonder; I hope you’re excited that MainlyRunning is back!

New Year New Post

7 Jan

2014 is going to be a great year. I can feel it. Or at least, I’m going to pretend I can feel it, and hope for the best.

Here are the top five reasons why I feel that 2014 is going to be awesome: 

1. I’m running the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC with one of my besties who recently took up running.

2. I’m going to London, which means running in another country AND seeing the Harry Potter Warner Bros. Studio Tour.

3. I’m graduating with my MSW in May.

4. I’m going to start my new career. 

5. I’m going to run my first full marathon in November, Philadelphia Marathon here I come!

In addition to those five reasons, I’m also going to try to post more, which will also be awesome. To all of my loyal readers, I’m sorry for the mega lapse in blog entries, tweets, and Facebook posts. Please know that I’m still running, still social working, and overall just keeping on keeping on.

Hope your New Year is off to a good start, and I hope you share what you’re pumped about for 2014!

Friends, Fitness, Fun, and Food-Grade-Dyed-Cornstarch

2 Oct

I’ve participated in a lot of races in my day. At this point I’m not sure how many 5ks I’ve done. Not because the number is particularly high (I’d guess we’re between 10 and 20), but because after 5 or so I stop paying attention. I do know for a fact, though, that this Sunday was the first time that I finished a 5k a different color(s) than I started it.

Obligatory "Pre-Color" Shot

Obligatory “Pre-Color” Shot

It seems that my college roommate and I started our adult-onset athleticism around the same time. When we lived together 7 years ago physical activity was not exactly part of our repertoire. Oreos, ranch dressing (not with the Oreos), and Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Yes. Anything beyond the amount of walking living in a college town requires? Absolutely not. As we noticed each other’s fitness related posts on Facebook we started to reconnect over it, and at one point she said “maybe we can run a 5k together one, preferably one where they throw color at you.” I wasn’t sure we’d ever make that happen since she still lives in State College, and we’re in Philly, but I liked the sound of it. Then they announced that The Color Run was coming to Penn State, and we rallied to make this dream a reality.

From their website: “The Color Run™, also known as the ‘Happiest 5k on the Planet’, is a unique paint race that celebrates healthiness, happiness and individuality.” The Color Run’s goal (besides making cash, they are for-profit) is to promote healthy living. They estimate that more than 60% of their runners are doing their first 5k, as was the case for Leah (and I was so excited to be there for it!). Because the series is geared towards getting people active (and covered in paint) and not towards handing out winner’s medals, the atmosphere is a lot less intense than any race I’ve been to. There is a Runicorn (read: dude dressed as a running unicorn) mascot. So, seriously, not intense.

The Runicorn, and his doppelganger

The Runicorn, and his doppelganger

The event starts off with a pre-race party where folks mill about and dance to the music that a slightly crazy DJ is pumping out, while the aforementioned DJ throws prizes into the crowd. Then the Penn State Fitness team led the crowd through a Zumba routine (this one baffled me, why are we doing a 25 minute workout before our workout?) which was interesting. I’d never done Zumba, and found I didn’t really love it. In fact, I may have been heard saying “dude, I run so I don’t have to do Zumba” you know, with a lot of whiny inflection.

After that it was time to line up for the race, which was released across the start line in waves. So much like the half-marathon I don’t think we crossed the starting line until 30 or so minutes after the race started. Except that didn’t matter for this race, because it’s not timed. You are really just out there to have fun, get moving, and leave covered in paint.

Normally I run solo. Even the two half-marathons that I “ran with my dad” equated to us lining up at the start line together and then running our own race. The Color Run was different. We signed up as a team, and while there is no requirement to run as a team (apparently I’m not the only one with the line-up-together-go-separate-ways strategy), we came to State College to run with Leah, and run with Leah we were going to do. Her coworker, who had also never run a 5k before, stayed with us as well. Leah awoke Saturday morning with a cold, and she already fights some wicked asthma, so her lungs were working against us. She was worried that she was going to drag us down, and that we were going to be annoyed, but we weren’t. We adopted the “no man left behind” mantra, and when a walk was needed we walked, when jogging worked, we jogged, when we reached a color stop, we stopped and threw food-grade-dyed-cornstarch at one another.

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We did time ourselves, and it wasn’t a great showing, but it didn’t matter. We went out for fitness, we went out for fun, and we went out to be with friends. When we crossed the finish line I thought of all of the races I’d run by myself, and how lonely I would have been doing this race alone.

ink explosionTime changes us. If you went back 7 years ago to find me on our plaid sofa, and Leah in her papasan chair and said “guess what ladies, one day you will sign up for a 5k together, for fun, on purpose!” We’d have laughed at you, and offered you an Oreo. Leah and I drifted away for awhile, but I can honestly say that talking about fitness on Facebook and through our blogs (check out Leah’s blog at: http://www.superstarling.com) was truly instrumental in bringing us back together, not Buffy, not Oreos, but running and taking care of our health. And I am so grateful.

Sparkle and Shine Reunited

Sparkle and Shine Reunited

Follow-up Friday

27 Sep

Yesterday a friend called me out on the picture I used as the “before” picture in yesterday’s post because a picked a miserable photo to showcase how I looked at my heaviest. She’s absolutely right, I did pick a terrible photo, but I did it without much thought. Don’t get me wrong, I intentionally picked a bad photo. I looked through the photos on my computer from that time and when I saw the picture of me with bad posture, a sullen face, and the prominently displayed outline of my belly button in a too-tight shirt, I went BINGO! I set out to pick a terrible picture, but I did it without thinking about it, it was just “the thing to do.” So when she called me out I started to wonder why I thought it was “the thing to do.”

I’m sure part of it was that I’ve seen others do it, so I mimicked the trend. It was also for impact, it’s a lot easier to say that you look great now if you can show that you DIDN’T look great before. But taking a step back it also just seems wrong.  But there’s more to it than that, I’ll admit. When my friend suggested I find a photo that at least showcased my beautiful smile, and implied I should have found a better picture, I laughed on the inside and thought “come on, there are no better pictures.” I don’t believe that fat people are unattractive, but it seems that I believe that me as a fat person was unattractive. Once I started thinking about it, I realized that even I, someone who has been overweight (more often than not quite honestly) buys into the “thin is beautiful” mindset. Unhealthy body image has become such a part of our society, and our brains, that we make little choices (like what picture to use) without understanding the motivations behind it.

So here is another “before” photo, one that shows that I was not unattractive in 2007.  And an “after” picture, because my friend likes to compare bone structure.

2007

2007

2013

2013

Throwback Thursday – Weight Loss Edition

26 Sep
Spring of 2007

Spring of 2007

I’ve touched upon my weight loss journey here a few times. When I met my husband seven years ago I weighed over 40 pounds more than I do right now. That was after years of yo-yo dieting.

Sometimes I refer to my “inner fat kid,” but what I should say is my “inner fat teenager.” I didn’t get “heavy” until I was in high school. In 2001 I went through some rough times, and to compensate for the emotional pain, I ate. Everything. In one summer I easily gained 20 pounds. When the summer was over my mom enrolled us both in Weight Watchers and I began the ups and downs of weight loss. I didn’t just do Weight Watchers in my teens, we also tried the “Cabbage Soup Diet” (I swear that is a thing, and still have the GIANT stock pot to prove it), we did Slim Fast, and most likely some other fad situations that I’ve blocked out. Our efforts worked when I was playing the game. I lost weight, but I didn’t keep it off.

I got to college and the weight crept back on (and then some). Again I was unhappy, so I ate. Everything. And by that time I discovered drinking, which as you know, is also a pound-packer-on-er. Pretty soon I was at my heaviest weight. And I kept it going. I transferred schools a few times, I got happier, but I stayed heavy. Finally, in State College, at my heaviest weight, I decided it was time to give up the drive-thru and get serious about my weight loss. So I joined Weight Watchers again. I played the game, and played it hard. Complete with the nonsense that goes along with it, like saving weekly points for a giant splurge on Saturday. Carefully calculating what my splurge would be, and eventually letting myself splurge more than I had calculated for. It was a losing battle, full of mind tricks and unhealthy behaviors. Eventually I quit playing the game and stopped paying attention. Thankfully I didn’t gain a ton back.

I started my first real job after college and really didn’t like it. Usually unhappiness would have brought on weight gain, but not this time. I was so stressed that I couldn’t eat. So I looked on the bright side that at least the unhappiness was equating to some weight loss (can I just say: how wrong is that thought process?). I liked how the weight loss was going so I signed back up for Weight Watchers. By continuing Weight Watchers, getting a job I liked, and moving to the city where I walked more I got down to my goal weight. Between some of the weight loss on in State College, the stress weight loss, and the new job weight loss I lost 50 pounds.

That was in 2009. Over the past four years I got careless. I stopped paying attention. I didn’t want to “play the game” anymore. It was a combination of things, mostly laziness, rationalized by an “eschewing of American weight norms.” Or some nonsense that gave me carte blanche to eat whatever I wanted. I put on 30 pounds. Not quickly like in the past. Just slowly. It came back a few pounds here, and a few pounds there. I’d get frustrated at the pants that didn’t fit and try Weight Watchers again for a month or two. But the tracking would get old, and I’d fall off of it (and into a bag of Hint O’ Lime Tostitos) again.

So I tried some new things. I decided Weight Watchers was the way of the past. I was done tracking, I was done obsessing, it was too much. Tiresome and worrisome. I figured I needed a plan that just outlined what I could eat, and I could eat as much of it as I wanted. So I went vegan. It’s just plants, plants are totes healthy! Then it was vegan 90% of the time, with treats here and there. It worked some, but 10% became 20% and so on and so on. Then I tried the Happy Herbivore meal plans (which are great, I absolutely recommend them, and Lindsay Nixon did not pay me to say that), and I tried Engine 2. And it worked in that it provided me a mindset and understanding of what healthy eating looked like.

Finally, this year, I’ve settled into something that does work. And you’ll never believe what it is. I’m going to let you in on my secret, and it will Blow. Your. Mind.

I eat less. And I exercise more.

That’s it. I don’t count calories or points. I don’t only eat green foods, or eschew anything that has white flour in it. I eat a mostly-plant-based diet, with the occasional burger or cupcake here and there. The difference is that I now ask myself “are you hungry?” or “why do you want that?” before I eat something. Then when I’m about half way through a meal I ask “are you still hungry?” or “have you had enough of this?” I don’t clear my plate anymore (unless it’s a plate of veggies), nor do I eat 6 pieces of chocolate when 1-2 would suffice. I honor the cravings my body has, but I don’t fling myself down the staircase of self-indulgence.

And I exercise. I run 4 times a week now. This works wonders in two ways. 1. You’re running which burns a ton of calories. 2. You are far less likely to eat a plate of fried food and throw back 4 beers on a Saturday night if you know that you need to run 10 miles on Sunday morning.

That’s it. That’s the secret. Eat less, exercise more. By practicing this age old, super simple advice I’ve lost 20 pounds since (around) St. Patrick’s Day. And am only 10 pounds away from my lowest weight. I may not lose those last 10 pounds. When I was my lowest weight I wasn’t exercising, I was just restricting my eating. I didn’t build muscle, or tone. I actually look thinner now than I did when I was 10 pounds lighter (at least my coworkers swear I do). There is something to the whole “keep it simple” strategy.

Where have you found your weight loss success? What struggles do you still have?