Fitness, Healthy Eating

On starting over with running

I started running in 2010, the fall after my daughter was born. She is now seven but I have to say that I had a stretch where I didn’t run. I would make excuses for why I couldn’t but at least a part of it was an overwhelming depression that came from my job. That’s not an excuse because I should have still worked at it. But I didn’t. I ran a half marathon in 2012, nearly five years ago now. By now, I had hoped to run a full marathon. Instead I find myself almost starting over.

I know that running makes me feel better. It’s evident to me after a run when I can still smile even when I feel like I’m wiped out. It’s evident to me in the fact that I keep looking for time to do it even though my schedule looks like a jigsaw puzzle of trying to find time. It’s evident to me that I have started looking at articles about running again. I am starting to feel that old drive of wanting to find a partner to run with. I’m pretty slow and have yet to find someone who can run with me.

(An aside… Anyone interested? I run an eleven minute mile, consistently for up to four miles.)

This time, however, I have a new appreciation for what I need to feed my body in order to run my best. I have eliminated the processed food almost entirely. I still eat processed food – I love some cheese-its – but I have replaced most of the convenience, easy to make foods with real food. Actual fruits and vegetables, real meat (when I eat it), real pasta or potatoes. It’s amazing how much better real food tastes and how quickly your tastes for food changes. Food I never would have eaten before, I now enjoy eating. I have been working very hard to be careful with how much I eat out. When I started nursing school, I would often eat fast food after class. Now I come home and eat actual food. In fact, I got some mozzarella sticks from Sonic the other day and they were not as good as I had hoped. I do love me some cheese and fried cheese is still amazing but it just wasn’t as good as I thought it would be.

I think that I’m in a good place. Will I ever get faster? Maybe. Does it matter? Not really, anymore. It’s a goal but it’s not a priority, if that makes sense. I know that there are other things I can do to build strength and speed. For example, lifting weights has done wonders for my running. So while I don’t really like it, the way I love to run,  try to do it at least twice a week so that I don’t lose any of the strength I’ve built up. I need to get back into my yoga, to keep my muscles stretched. I’ve noticed that some of my muscles will get very tight the day after running. I’m sure yoga would help that. Another run helps too, but that’s a short term fix.

So, that’s it for today. Give running a try. Keep an open mind. It’s not going to be easy at first but if you keep at it, you may be surprised at how you feel and what you can accomplish. And remember, it’s about health. Do something everyday to make yourself a little more healthy. Until next time!

Fitness, Healthy Eating

Meal Plan (or even the best plans go awry)

So, I planned out my meals for the week, like I do every week. This system normally serves me very well. Except today, not so much. What went wrong? Well, honestly, I need to plan better. My class schedule caused a change in when I get to the gym each day. This by itself is not a problem. I simply go after class instead of before. I don’t mind going after class. However, the past two days have shown me that if I am going to continue to do that (and I will for the next few weeks) I need to plan for that.

My mornings look something like this:

5:45 am: get up, wash face, meds, get dressed (yes, this is done in 15 minutes)

6:00 am: make breakfast (usually oatmeal or eggs of some kind)

6:20 am: get kids up, fed, dressed, ready for school

7:00 am: go to bus stop

7:30 am: head to school

8:30 am: class starts

12:00 pm: class ends, then gym

You will notice something about this scenario that is a problem. I eat at 6am and I don’t eat again after that. I drink water. Generally, I don’t feel hungry by the time class ends. I have enough energy to sustain going to the gym but I don’t think it’s a good situation to not eat until after I leave the gym, which is usually close to 2. That’s what happened today. I left and I was starving. I ended up going to Moe’s, which was not the best option but was on my way to pick up the kids and was a better option than McDonalds. Also, I had planned to make tacos for dinner tonight. Oops.

I modified dinner and still fed everyone (I ate carrots because I wasn’t really hungry but felt I should eat something because I still have 200 calories to eat (well, 150 after the carrots). And after talking to the nutritionist at the gym, I should probably be eating a bit more than what I am.

So the end result is I need to make sure that I bring food to eat during class so that I have enough energy to lift, run and not feel like dying later in the day. Meal planning is great but it’s becoming apparent to me that I need to plan more of my meals or at least give significant thought to what my day looks like so I have access to enough healthy food. This is a new challenge for me. Before I started this, I would have simply grabbed something to eat at a fast food place and not worried about anything. I also probably wouldn’t have gone to the gym after class but I digress. I need to keep in mind that I need healthy food access with me when my day is a little crunched.

As an aside, I am going to be participating in a virtual half marathon (though, I won’t be doing all 13.1 miles at once) and I am considering doing a 5K that’s coming up next town over. The 5K I’ve done before and it’s pretty flat which is nice but I haven’t run a 5K in years at this point. I did run a 5K distance today because I wanted to be sure that I could (I can) and that had lifted my spirits that I can do it again. Also, since it’s not on a weekend (it’s a Friday night) I can do it without worrying about work schedules. This is always a good thing. I still haven’t decided yet but I will let you all know if I decide to give it a go and see what an official time would be for a 5K now (it was close to 30 minutes before I stopped running and I don’t expect it to be that good).

So that’s my advice for you all today. Think about your eating schedule each day. When do you need to eat? How much? Will you be able to have access to healthy food out and about? What can you do to fix that problem? Sometimes we need to think ahead. I certainly do! Until next time, keep at it!

 

Fitness, Life

Yoga for stress relief

Sometimes you just need some way to get out the stress. When I have the chance to run that’s a wonderful way to decrease the stress. Unfortunately, sometimes leaving the house for a run isn’t an option. It may be too hot or it may be storming. On occasion it’s actually too cold. When those things happen, I need an alternative. I’ve tried a lot of things but there are really only two that work. I’ll discuss the other one at another time. Today I’m going to talk about yoga.

I started doing yoga in January as a way to try and tone muscle. It works well for that. It’s also caused me to become more flexible and allowed me to listen to my body in a way that’s resulted in a developed sense of what is to much, just enough and not enough when it comes to effort. All of those things has been useful to me in my fitness journey. Especially listening to your body and learning what it can do and what is beyond your limit.

However, most importantly, yoga has given me the skills to relieve stress. It sounds a little silly because it’s exercise. Most people simply view it as a path to fitness. It goes deeper than that though. When you truly start to practice yoga, you listen to your breath. You learn to sync your breath to your body movements and different ways of breathing. You learn how to meditate in some practices. A good yoga session ends with a savasanna (which may not be spelled right), which is essentially a mini-meditation. Those skills have been crucial in allowing me to relax in moments of great stress.

When I’m at home, I can do a yoga practice on my mat, obviously. When I go out into the real world and can’t just start doing yoga (like during a test) I can still use calming breaths to relax myself. I can even take a moment to close my eyes and relax a little further. Those moments are great because it’s like a mini break for my brain. That is the best gift that I can get. Some of the situations that I’m in are high stress and being able to calm down in those moments is critical.

Learning stress relief is crucial for mental health. Otherwise I end up overwhelmed (and you probably do too) and when that happens, I can’t function as well and I can’t think as well. If you have a high stress situation that you need to deal with, I suggest yoga. I also recommend it if you have test anxiety. The ability to calm your brain could help (and it definitely can’t hurt!). Today is a short one lovely people. Consider a new way to relax, if you haven’t. Maybe you too start with fitness as the ultimate goal. I bet you’ll learn something new though. Until next time!

Fitness

I am normal!

Ha! I read that title and laughed because let’s be honest. I am not normal. I’m a geek and that alone makes me a little weird. The title actually references something else.

You see, this morning I stepped on my scale, as I do about once a week to see how much I weighed. It has this neat feature where it estimates your body fat, bone density, water percentage and BMI.

Let me digress for a moment before I tell you about this morning. Yes, BMI is not a perfect assessment tool. It does not take into account the amount of muscle mass that a person has. It only looks at height and weight. That makes it flawed if you have a lot of muscle. However, let’s be real for a minute. Unless you are a professional body builder or run upwards of fifty or so miles a week, you are probably not carrying enough muscle mass to make a BMI measurement really off. For the average person, it’s a pretty accurate assessment of whether or not you’re overweight. I realize not everyone agrees with me. That’s fine. You take the information and believe what you want about it. Now, back to my story.

The scale cheerfully told me that I now weigh 135.8 pounds and then informed me that my BMI is 24.8. I stopped and stared at the scale for a minute and could not believe what I was seeing. Normal is 18.5-24.9, and there I was at 24.8. It is normal. For the first time in close to 20 years (and let’s be honest, I was not a skinny child), my BMI is within a normal range. I still have plenty of work I want to do. I want to be stronger. I want to run faster. I truly want to lose another ten pounds and be well within my normal range for weight and BMI. But it is normal now.

After going to the gym and making my arms hurt (oh my goodness, that was work!), I decided to see something. You see, a few years back, I bought a two piece bathing suit. This is monumental for me because it is only the second one I have ever owned. The last time I owned one, I was 23 and working as a lifeguard. I was overweight but my body was also more toned and I didn’t care anyway. Usually, I prefer the utility of a one piece anyway. You don’t have to worry about the top falling off. Anyway, when I bought the suit, it didn’t look great. At 160 pounds, my body was just not cute. One piece in the pool, fine. Show off my belly, no way. I put it on this morning and discovered that I no longer have a belly. At least not an appreciable one. I want more definition. Strength and time will bring that but the belly is gone. My belly is almost flat. It looks pretty good.

My journey isn’t over, for certain. Like I said, I want to be stronger. Those weights at the gym are daunting but they are calling my name, almost taunting me. One day, I’m going to pick up something heavy and lift it. Heck, I’d like to be able to do a pull up (I haven’t even tried since I was in high school gym class…). I can do push ups now. Real ones, not the modified ones with your knees on the ground. When we did a chaturanga in yoga, I lowered myself to the ground without dying or collapsing. Progress is happening. and I’m joyful about it. Right now I am reveling in the change to my body though and the fact that I have truly changed my mindset about food and it’s caused results. There are actual changes that have occurred that I can see. I wish I had an old picture to show people for comparison. Honestly, I never would’ve taken a picture for fear it would have gotten out to the internet somehow. You never know. Now, I’m good with that. If people want to call me fat still, hey, that’s their own issue. I am working on perfecting my body to my standard. It’s a good thing. Here’s a picture. More tomorrow. Keep working on it. Make yourself the best you that you can.

Fitness, Healthy Eating, Nursing School

Another semester finished (an update)

On Tuesday, I take my final for this class. Another class is pretty much done and over and it’ll be on to the next one soon. As a brief wrap up, I finished clinical last week although I still have to do clinical conference. We took our last regular test last Wednesday. That went pretty well. We took our Kaplan assessment on Thursday. I did much better on that than I have on previous ones, possibly because it was what we had just done in class, instead of random med-surg that they pull all kinds of questions that make you wonder if you have the right test. We went to the zoo today. It was a good day. Monday is a study day for us and then Tuesday.

After that, I’ll be helping at the senior’s graduation as a marshal, so Wednesday afternoon, I will get to watch the seniors in front of me graduate and become a senior myself (woohoo!). Then we get two weeks off before summer semester begins (otherwise known as eight weeks of hell).

Those two weeks I’m going to make an effort to do several things, the first being meal prepping. I want to get a stash of food in the freezer so that I don’t have to worry about getting food ready when I’m looking at a test every week, plus clinical and paperwork for that. I’ll be sharing what I do for that, as I go, so expect a lot of food blogs in the next couple weeks. I am planning on making spaghetti sauce, some strawberry jam and some salsa. I also need to make a stash of burgers for me (black bean) and everyone else in the family (hamburger) so I need to find a recipe for black bean burgers.

Then I’m also going to work on my fitness habits. I joined a class at my gym that’s focused on helping with healthy habits and fitness routines. I’ve got the food part down so I’m mostly wanting the fitness help. I have a set of exercises for each area now and I can modify them as I need to, so while I may need to change out an exercise here or there if I get bored, I know that I have a basic routine down that I don’t have to think about. I’m also going to focus on yoga. I’m hoping to get to a point where I can do at least four classes a week, where I do some things at home and other things with a class. The yoga has been huge for me controlling my stress and keeping my food in check. Which sounds a little silly but it really has helped with my self control.

I also have little projects, like expanding the herb box I started the other day. Currently, there are four plants but I’d like more, so I’m going to get some seeds if I can’t find seedlings and get those going. I also want to get a box for tomatoes and one for some other plants. I’ll have to look at the plant seedlings that are at my local store and see what looks good. There were a lot when I got the herbs, so hopefully, if I get it done early, I’ll have lots to pick from. I may also get some time to write. We’ll see how that goes though. I haven’t started planning to much yet. I’m hoping to be able to use my bullet journal to good effect though and gets lots of stuff done in the time off that I have. I may do another bullet journal update too as I’m about to start working on my new journal. The one I have is nearly full. I expect to get through May but that’s probably going to be the limit.

As a quick aside, I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent on labor and delivery. It was a good environment (although not the best because of the hospital I was at) and I think that I may consider switching units at some point. I like the unit I work on a LOT and they are great people. I would miss them if I moved to a different unit. However, I might want to. I’m going to see how the shadowing on the pediatric unit goes and make some decisions from there. I may just see about picking up some extra time on a labor and delivery unit when I can.

So that’s it for now. I haven’t been posting as much but it’s because this is crunch time. It’s almost over though and then there will be more time for blogging all the interesting things I do in my time off. Until next time, wish me well for my final and I’ll be back soon.

 

Fitness, Life

Finding my strength

I left class today feeling a bit down. Not because I did badly (on the flip side, I got a 92 on my last test, so now just a final left to worry about!) but because I was feeling left out again. This feeling isn’t new to me and it’s not intentional on anyone’s part. It’s my lot in life, I guess. I am always the “extra”, so to speak. The person who is friends with lots of people but doesn’t have anyone that they really connect with. I have never had a best friend. Well, full stop. I fully acknowledge that my mom is my best friend. I love her, we have lots in common (I mean, she raised me, duh!) and without a doubt if I need her, she’s there. I really mean that I’ve never had a person in my life that has always been there and has been my go-to. That may not make sense to many people but I honestly have no other way to explain it.

Anyway, I digress because that’s not really the point of this. I left class feeling down. So I went to the gym. Now, at one point in my life, the sentence would end with the word cookies (and it still could because, cookies!) but now it doesn’t. That’s my point here. I went and worked my butt off. My arms are going to hurt, I ran for 30 minutes, I sweated (is that a word??) and an hour later, I feel better. Of course, if you’d like to apply for the position of best friend to a person who is obsessed with Star Trek, Doctor Who and cookies, I am taking applications!

I still have weaknesses. Lots of them, probably. I have things that need to be worked on and I definitely can still see the moments where my anxiety could go out of control and I end up a puddle on the floor. When I walked out of class today, I wanted to be a puddle on the floor. Instead of puddling (again… not really a word, but whatever), I drove the two minutes to the gym and worked my anxiety into submission. I’m better for it. A protein bar and an apple later and I feel as though I can make it to tomorrow. I will have to do some yoga before then though so I don’t turn into a ball of tight muscle overnight.

You have strength within you. It’s there. You may have to dig to find it but it’s there. The best way to find it is to start with a small moment and make it a big one. Put down the cookie and take a walk or lift a weight or do some yoga or go for a swim. Find that thing you can go to that will make your mind forget about the hurt, the anxiety, the whatever and find some release.

Fitness, Healthy Eating, Nursing School

My meal plan for next week

So, being in nursing school generally means that there is very little free time in my life. The key to my being able to handle everything and still eat well is that I plan out my meals (and the fitness routines that go with it). It may seem excessive but it means that I don’t need to think about what to make and am less likely to grab something quick and (probably) very processed in order to eat. I thought I’d share what next week’s food and fitness routine looks like so that you can get an idea of how I plan. A disclaimer though: please don’t copy this for yourself. I put a lot of time and research into what I eat and how much exercise I do, including speaking with a nutritionist. I work to balance out my calories and they are specific to me and my needs. They may not meet yours.

Monday I have a (my third!) test, so it’s going to be stressful. That means the morning starts with a run. I run for 30 minutes before class to help me destress. That means I need to be fueled for that run before I leave the house (I have been using the track at my Y to run on since it’s indoors). Breakfast will be overnight oatmeal made with apples, almond milk and cinnamon. I will bring along a Quest bar for afterwards, in case I need it. That provides me with protein and fiber. I usually only eat half of the bar at a time. The flavor will be whatever I feel like that morning. After class will be lunch time, when I’ll have a cannelloni bean salad. It’s mostly beans and tomatoes with some garlic. It’s roasted in the oven and then I store it in the fridge. Dinner will be a pasta bake. There’s a lot of cheese in that so I’ll roast some veggies to go with mine – zucchini and carrot probably (I have some rainbow carrots to use up). If I have a lot of calories left (I try to stay at less than 200 left over), I’ll have some popcorn or some cottage cheese as a snack.

Tuesday is a really busy day for me since I have a presentation at a health fair at school that I’ll be doing. Breakfast will be a yogurt bowl with graham cracker crumbs and berries. I have plain yogurt, since it has no sugar in it. Since I have the presentation, I won’t have time to go home for lunch. I’ll be bringing a pasta salad with corn and cucumber in it. It uses yogurt instead of mayo to keep the calories lower and it should be filling. I’ll probably bring along some fruit (apples are my first choices) and a Quest bar, just in case. Dinner will be baked chicken. I have some rainbow mashed potatoes to use up, some green beans and I’ll find another veggie to add to my plate. I have peas in the freezer and some snap peas, as well as some baby carrots. Probably one of those choices. I’ll go to yoga from 7-8:30 at night.

Wednesday will be a little more relaxing since I’m through the worst of the week.  Breakfast will be some scrambled eggs with spinach and parmesan cheese and a slice of sprouted wheat bread toasted. I’ll probably have some grapefruit with it too. I’ll have a run in the morning as well, so I’ll expect to need more calories just like Monday. Another Quest bar as a just in case and I’ll bring a cottage cheese to class with me as a snack. Lunch will be simple with some hummus, baby carrots, some tomato, some sliced turkey breast and a little bit of cheddar cheese. I try to avoid the bread in the afternoon if I can and this day I certainly can. Dinner is easy tonight. I’m making a veggie dog for myself (sausage and hot dogs for everyone else). I’ve got some sweet potatoes that I can dice and bake for a side or some tater tots (or both!) and I’ll probably have some pickles and whatever veggies look good.

Thursday is going to be an early morning because I have OB clinical, so I have to leave my house at 6am. This is another overnight oatmeal morning since I can eat it on the way to clinical. Today will be banana instead of apple though. For lunch, I’ll bring a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with some veggies and berries (I have strawberries, blueberries and raspberries). I may also bring along some ginger cookies I picked up at Trader Joe’s if there are any left. We get out of this clinical earlier than normal, so dinner is a stir fry. I have some tofu and I’ll use chicken for everyone else. Then I have a whole bunch of veggies that I can use – green onion, broccoli, carrot, and sugar snap peas. I have a teriyaki marinade I can use and it’ll be delicious and quick. I’m also planning to go to yoga from 6-7, instead of my normal Friday class. That’s good because…

Friday I have clinical again. That means overnight oatmeal again (it’s a good thing I like it!) probably with some berries, if there are any left. If not, apple and banana are both great options. Lunch will be a turkey sandwich, with an assortment of veggies and some fruit again. Dinner will be a pizza. I make it homemade, so I can add whatever ingredients I want and I know what’s in everything. Plus, it’s quick and yummy. I mean, pizza!

Saturday and Sunday are always the same challenge. I work twelve hour shifts, so pretty much all my food is eaten at work at some point. I’ll make something for breakfast the night before (I’m thinking a breakfast burrito with eggs, cheese, vegetarian sausage patty broken up, and broccoli on Saturday and Sunday… not sure yet but possibly some Rice Chex with banana). Lunches are typically my main meal and so, I try to make them filling. I’m going to spend some time Friday making lunch for the weekend (like I usually do, and I also grocery shop on Fridays typically, which makes this easier). Probably a black bean and corn salad for one day and a quinoa salad for the other. Then I just bring a Quest bar with me and pack some extra veggies and fruit for the rest of the day. Working a twelve hour shift is just hard to plan meals around, especially since I only get one actual meal time.

The one thing you don’t see above is my water. I try and drink water constantly. In fact, with the exception of coffee or tea, all I drink now is water. Even if I go out to eat, I still drink water. This is pretty impressive since I used to not like the taste. It’s much better than before, as long as it’s cold!

All this planning takes some time and most people would probably argue that it takes to much time. I say that my health is worth a little time and honestly, if I wasn’t meal planning, I’d be watching tv so I might as well meal plan. I watch very little tv now anyway (just my Doctor and my favorite FBI profilers). The addition of Quest bars is new but they are helping me out so, so much! They fill my sweet tooth since they are all sweet flavors and they all taste amazing. I mean, I almost died when I tried the first one. I couldn’t believe how good they were and they are actually pretty nutritious. They are pricy but again, I feel like it’s worth it to spend the extra money on things that are good for me and will help me be healthy. I have a couple more weeks in this semester and then a couple of weeks off. Those weeks off are going to be awesome especially because I know that summer semester is going to be eight weeks of crazy.

This is work, for sure. I wish that I didn’t have to think about food so much but the world we live in pushes cheap food that is just not good for us to eat as much as we do. I would love to see more healthy options show up in stores and actual whole foods become dominant instead of quick, cheap alternatives. Maybe as more people move toward a healthier lifestyle, that will become reality. I’m afraid it’s just going to result in more food that claims to be healthy but really isn’t. Either way, I hope that my journey helps you see how you can make changes. It can be done. Until next time folks, find that little thing to change to become healthier!