Fitness, Healthy Eating, Running

Diet changes that stuck (and some that didn’t)

Over the past few weeks, I have been trying to evaluate what I still need to do in my healthy eating and fitness quest. I mean, progress was made for sure. I am in a much better place than I was a year ago. There is still a lot of room for improvements though, so I thought I’d stop and look and what’s working and what isn’t and more importantly, what needs to change.

So the first thing is in the fitness arena and that really involves the facts that a) the running is going well even though I don’t always get to run as much as I want and b) the rest of the fitness stuff is not working so well. I don’t like being in the gym. I like the actual process of lifting weights, usually but I have reservations about dragging my butt in there especially when there is a nice track that I can run on. I’ve even fallen off on the yoga which is very bad because it means I’m getting no muscle work. That needs to change. I need to figure out a way to get some kind of strength training in on a regular basis. Even knowing that it helps my running that much more to go and build muscle, I still struggle. It’s a work in progress for now.

The remainder of this is food centric. The positive things include that I have eliminated a huge amount of bread from my life. This includes cereal which has always been a weakness for me. I think once we get to a place where I feel more inclined for warm oatmeal and (healthy) baked breakfast stuffs this will be better. Just getting rid of the bread has helped though. Of course this past week hasn’t been good in terms of bread because I made this wonderful bread with cheese yesterday for dinner (it went with spaghetti, which is worse but I digress) but I’m going for the thought that as long as it’s not a typical part of my diet then it’s good. I’ve still managed to eliminate most of the processed foods from my diet. This is very good because they are the worst for you, obviously. I’m trying to focus on including yogurt more and increase veggies again. It’s easy to forget the veggies. Again, hopefully shifting to a place where I can cook with the oven without melting in the kitchen will help.

I’m trying to come up with a good tracker for my bullet journal. If I find one, I’ll share. That’s where I am though. It’s an ok place. Just keep moving forward, right?

Books, Fitness, Healthy Eating, Running, Writing

It might be a miracle

It’s been several months since I began running again in earnest. It does a soul good to be able to pummel the ground repeatedly with your feet. Unfortunately, I live in an oven. Or at least that’s what it feels like from (usually) May until September. That’s almost half the year if you’re keeping track. And generally it isn’t the heat that is the true problem here. It’s the 90% humidity that accompanies it. That can make breathing hard when you aren’t doing anything. Then put exertion in the mix and you have a recipe for crawling rather than running.

Our weather this year has been odd. It hasn’t been as hot as it usually is and it didn’t warm up until much later than usual. So you can imagine my surprise when I went running Sunday and did three miles with all negative splits. I’ve never run all negative splits, since I started running years ago. I could get the second mile negative but then the third would be a disaster or the second mile would be awful and the third would be better (but not better than the first). Now part of this is a poor ability to pace on my part, which I’ve been working on. But part of it is the horrible heat.

When the weather is cooler out, I can typically run about even splits, a second or two over or under for each mile. Sunday was remarkable because the second mile was almost third second faster and my third was a few second faster yet. It wasn’t a ten minute pace (it was around 10:30) but it was a vast improvement over the 11:00 to 11:30 that I’ve been running. I have no idea what I did differently and could not replicate it today. I’ll keep working at it though.

I have also made efforts to get my food healthy again. I was lax during the last few weeks of school due to stress, so I wasn’t eating as much and some of it was not the best choices (there was a lot of pizza… pizza is my kryptonite). So I’ve really put effort into ensuring that I’m eating a good breakfast and getting lots of fruits and vegetables in, especially while they are really good. I was good about not resorting to eating out all the time. So while my choices weren’t the best choices at home, they were at least choices that I largely controlled the portions and sides for. Small victories, right?

As a brief aside, I will also add that I am working on two more books currently, as I move forward on my day zero project. I have also started a book with a full complement of characters, a brief outline and somewhere around 12,000 words. This is progress and hopefully it will continue. I have research notes and may actually get a notebook to keep details in so that I don’t have to keep flipping to different computer files (it’s easier sometimes to have paper!). I haven’t decided yet what to do with the book once it’s finished. First I have to finish it but I can say with confidence that this one is the most likely yet to actually reach a point where it would be complete. Of course, I’d also need an editor because I am bad with grammar and can make mistakes that are very amateur. A person with good editing skills would need to look over this thing before I even contemplated publishing it.

See what I can accomplish when I have time off?

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!


Healthy Eating, Life, Minimalism, Nursing School

Where vacation begins

I guess if you can call a week and a half off from school a vacation, that’s where I am right now. I took my final exam for this class on Tuesday and then on Wednesday, I watched the seniors get pinned. It was quite a moment. Mostly because in 12 months, that will be me. Assuming I make it through the next eight weeks of summer and then the sixteen weeks of fall and then another 16 weeks of spring. Although, written like that it doesn’t sound like as much as it feels like.

So today, I spent the day working out. Or at least the morning. I did a leg workout and then went to a vinyasa class and by the time I was home it was 11:00. So I washed the morning dishes, took the clothes in from the clothesline and then hopped in the shower. Then I went grocery shopping. I bought way to much food, I think but I’m hoping that it will last through the weekend. My kids can eat an entire grocery trip in two days – but only the junk and then they complain there’s nothing to eat. Apparently fruit is not an acceptable alternative. Currently, the dinner dishes are sitting in the sink but I needed to take a moment. I also am almost finished with scholarship applications for the next school year. Hopefully, I’ll get a good chunk paid for. I applied for a forgivable loan option but have heard nothing from that and there’s no timeline for how long that will take. I’m good with either option. Summer will be paid for by work, which means I’ll get the $500 I put out a couple weeks ago back after classes end. I checked grades earlier and saw two A’s for this semester and was infinitely thankful. I have six classes left.

Tomorrow is a day for food prep. I’m hoping to be able to make sure everything I need for meals for the next few weeks will be ready to go, or at least make my life as easy as possible. I have prep work to do and I’m planning on making some spaghetti sauce from scratch. I’m slowly working on improving my food sources. As I do that, the amount of money I spend on food will hopefully go down. I mean, making sauce from scratch will yield a couple of jars worth at least (we’ll find out exactly how much tomorrow) and then I won’t need to buy sauce for awhile. Considering how little crushed tomatoes cost and the fact that I have most of the other ingredients (like garlic and onion) already on hand, I’m excited to see how much this ends up costing.

I watched the season finale of Criminal Minds this afternoon as I was working on my planner and I was shocked with how that ended. I know they’re already renewed for next season but that was a heck of a cliffhanger. Excellent writing, IMO. But I won’t spoil anything, just in case.

Monday is going to be a day to shadow in the pediatric unit at my hospital, which I hope will be a great experience. It will at least give me some insight into the unit and whether I want to keep pursuing this path or if I want to make a small turn. The rest of next week is going to be devoted to fitness. I mean, I can’t really work ahead with fitness. You just have to deal with it as it comes and find time each week to get stuff done but I can devote time when I have it and that’s what I plan to do. I’m hoping to get another couple of pounds off in the next week or two. These last ten pounds or so are going to be a beast to get off, I’m sure but I’m working on it and hopefully as I build muscle, it will get easier to get the pounds to come off.

I also have to start looking at when I’m moving into my new bullet journal. I have the new one, although I haven’t opened it yet. I think I can get through June in the one I have which would mean the new one would start in July. That means I need to start looking at what spreads are moving to the new journal and what is being abandoned. I think I like the weeklies the way I’ve been doing them and the monthly is ok. I don’t know if I want to keep it the way it is or make some changes though. The pages may need some tweaking. I keep changing what I’m including in the monthly and what goes to the weekly. I’d like to have a definite idea by the time I get to the new journal. I also need to look and see how June ends and July begins so I know whether the end of June will be in the new journal or the old one. There’s no way I can get all of July in the old journal – I’ve only got about 75 pages left and with half of May and all of June that will leave maybe a page or two. We’ll see how that goes though.

I haven’t done any minimalism declutters recently. I’m mostly just monitoring what I have to see if I do actually use it or if it’s time for me to part ways with some things. This part of the process is taking some time though and I know that according to Kondo, all of that is supposed to be done at once but honestly, I never had time to pull an entire category of stuff at once and likely never will. So for now, I’m monitoring and making adjustments. I’ve had to buy a few things and I’ve actually been doing very badly with my no spending pact. I need to work on that again. It seems like the universe plots against me though and I end up having to go to the store even when it’s not a grocery day and then I end up getting a bunch of stuff instead of consolidating everything to shopping on just one day, which is better financially. We also had to put freon in the air conditioner and, of course, it was crazy expensive because when they built our house they did everything as cheap as possible. That means that the air conditioner unit is an older model that was probably on clearance at the time and uses older freon which is, of course, way more expensive. The leak is fixed now and the freon is full so hopefully it stays that way for awhile. I also think the house needs more insulation but I haven’t figured out how to fix that yet.

I’m going to stop here for now because I could probably write all night and there are things that need to get done before bed. So for now, I’ll leave you with a good night and until next time!

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, 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!