Wednesday, October 27, 2010

For the love of my legs

All my life, I have had a love/hate relationship with my legs. It's hard to grow up with a brother who can't walk and not appreciate your legs' ability to take you from place to place. My legs do things my brother can't even imagine. That has never been lost on me.

However, my legs are not now, nor have they ever been, my favorite feature. I carry a lot of weight (and by weight I mean cellulite, fat, jiggle, cottage cheese) in my thighs. So much so that pants shopping is a chore. (Thank God for Maurice's Orchid Boot Cut Jeans!) My legs are (can I type this out loud?) ugly. My calves are thick (making it difficult to indulge my love of boots) and my knees are literally a pain.

But these legs are mine, and I choose to love them. Sometimes when I'm doing my post-workout stretching, I look down at my knees and I literally say "thank you" to them, for holding me up through the exercises. I think they appreciate it.

The thing is, my legs are strong. They are capable. They do so many amazing things for me, just because I ask them to. They do things I didn't think were possible! They run. They kick. They dance. Soon, they will climb walls. They make it possible for me to get through each day. They are not perfect, but they work perfectly. They allow me to end a day with thoughts of, "I'll be damned, look at what my body did for me today!"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food, Glorious Food

Today was all about food.

When I woke up, I went to the grocery store. I got all the ingredients I'd need for breakfast, lunch and dinner for the week. Then it was home to prep apricot chicken in the crockpot for dinner, curry chicken salad to go in wraps for lunch, and make pumpkin muffins for breakfast.

There's something really nice about looking into the refrigerator and see a bunch of delicious, healthy food in there. Here's what dinner ended up looking like:
That's apricot chicken, half a cup of couscous with roasted pine nuts, and romaine with fat free French dressing.

As for the workout, today was a day of rest. Which is a good thing, because yesterday's workout was mighty tough. Strength training with Pam, and spin with Nicole. After which I needed a three-hour nap. Oy!

But at any rate, I am prepared to head into work and begin what will absolutely be a better week than last week. (Of course, that won't take much!) If nothing else, there will be good food to go with whatever comes.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Just Do It

"We must do the things we think we cannot do."
-Eleanor Roosevelt

With apologies to the fine people at Nike, "Just Do It" is great advice, and it has served me well in 2010. (Which, by the way, was christened "the year of the Maggie" back in January. Accurate? Perhaps.) This has been a year of doing things I never even considered before. That's an amazing thing.

It all began with the Muddy Buddy race in August. I remember standing there, waiting for our wave to begin, with my friend Mike and his wife Emily. I was petrified. What if I failed? What if I couldn't finish? So many what ifs! But I did it. I completed a course of running (or in my case, walking), biking and obstacles, something I decided to do just because it sounded like fun. Never in my life have I felt the adrenaline of finishing something I wasn't quite sure I could do. And that's what challenge is all about: trying something, being willing to fail, just because you might be able to say, "I did it."

And there have been more challenges. Relay for Life, the Blackhawks 5k, and - coming soon to a city park near you - the Hot Chocolate 5k. My only goal is to finish, and maybe shave a minute or two off my time. But success to me is simply defined by finishing.

Who is this woman who keeps trying new things? What happened to the couch potato? And furthermore ... what's next?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

A Tale of Two Buttcheeks

I didn't realize how much you use your gluteal muscles when running. Or walking. Or any of the mundane tasks one does throughout one's day-to-day activities. Well, you do. And the day after a run, they talk to you.

So do your quads. And your shoulders. Yes, running works it all, and over the days that follow, your muscles let you know. Sometimes, loudly.

It's been a good week, all things considered. Sure, I almost had a meltdown earlier this week when I shamefully got on the scale on a day other than Thursday. Sure, I had a margarita last weekend. But I didn't fall off the wagon. I didn't even really lose my footing. Wagon and I, securely together.

I weighed in today, and came in at 221.5. This is the lowest number my scale has seen in at least eight years. I am proud. That number represents a total of 18.5 pounds (or 74 "knee pounds") lost since I got back on track on August 24. (My sister and father remind me now and then that every pound lost is four pounds of pressure off my knees, so "knee pounds" ... like "dog years.") This also puts me at 5.5 pounds away from my first reward, because at 216 I will have lost 10 percent of my weight. Rock on!

Just Because You Can Zip Them Doesn't Mean They Fit
I have this gorgeous pair of black pants in my closet. They have been there for three years. Wide-leg trousers, crafted of a fabric that feels very expensive, although the pants really weren't. Anyway, they've been there, waiting for me, for literally years. I put them on this morning, just to gauge my progress.

I pulled them all the way up, and I zipped them.

Now, I looked a little bit like a moose wearing a banana peel, but the point is I got them on. This is cause for celebration, no?

Did She Just Say "Skinny"?
At the gym on Tuesday night, I saw my friend Jennifer. She's awesome. About five-foot-nothin', and totally sweet. She's an athlete and a dancer, and I just love her. She hasn't been at the gym much lately, because she's on a softball team and that takes up a lot of her evening workout time. Well, she walks up behind me prior to class, peers at my face and says, "Oh my God, that is you!" And I'm like, well, duh, and she says, "When did you get so skinny? I didn't even recognize you!"

Shocked, I was. But so totally gratified! I mean, I have a long way to go, but it felt so good to have someone refer to me as "skinny", even if it was just by comparison.

That's What it's All About
No, not the hokey pokey. Variety. I love that I am getting such an awesome variety of activity into my life these days. There's running mixed with walking, there's walking on my lunch hour, there's the elliptical trainer after work, there's salsa/funk, there's weight training ... it's cross-training at its best. I realize that if I focused a little more on running, I would probably be better at it, and maybe I'd be able to run the whole race. But here's the thing: I love the variety. It really does keep me engaged, and happy with the routine. Probably because it's anything but routine.

And there's variety in the diet, too. From other people's leftovers (blissful fajitas!) to homemade soup (I am a good cook!) I'm getting a lot of color in my food, and a lot of really delicious, nutritious food. As long as it keeps working, I'm totally fine with that!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I came. I saw. I ate.

Every month or so, a group of us old theater people from the Riverfront and Aurora University get together for food and visiting. Sometimes we go out, sometimes we descend upon someone's house, and every time we have great food and conversation.

Last night, we went to Kathleen and Shawn's, and we had great guacamole. Or, should I say, I had great guacamole. I'm not sure I left any for the rest to eat.

And I'm pretty sure it's taken up residence on my thigh.

I have had a rough week or so. Biologically, I know this is the week when I am hungry all the time. It didn't help that I went out to eat for both lunch and dinner on Saturday, but I thought I made really good choices. Up until last night, I really was careful. Within my calories, or so I thought. But this morning, I got curious ... and I stepped on the scale ... and I was up a pound and a half.

Well, shit.

What am I gonna do about that? My first thought was, I can't go away this weekend. See, I've been planning to attend Homecoming, back at EIU. Haven't been in years. But come on, staying home would be punishing myself. That's just dumb. I haven't killed anyone. So, I've determined that I need to not drink beer, be very careful of what I eat, and get a run in on both Saturday and Sunday. That's it. That's the plan.

And meanwhile, I'm trying to talk myself down off the ledge. The first few weeks were easy peasy; now, it takes work. Now, I have to let myself feel hungry. I have to stick the hell with it. easier said than done. This is the point at which I usually turn back, revert to old habits, buy chocolate and wear sweats for days on end. That's just not an option now.

So, at lunchtime today, I went for a walk. Tonight, I'll hit the gym. Tomorrow I run, Thursday I'm back at the gym, and on Friday, I head to Charleston. On Friday, I will also have my official weigh-in. Maybe the pound and a half was a fluke, maybe not, but I don't weigh on Tuesdays, so I'm just going to forget that I got on the scale today.

And for the record, I am well within my caloric intake requirements for the day. Let's see how the evening progresses!

Monday, October 18, 2010


Now, before I write this, I need to acknowledge that there are some people who think I am a heavy drinker, and who would tell me that alcohol has no business whatsoever on my eating plan. The truth is, I probably have an average of one drink every two weeks. There are many weeks that go by when no adult beverages cross my lips. There are other weeks when I'll go out with friends and have a few beers. Or, there is the occasional Saturday when a dear friend comes to visit, and we go to my favorite restaurant, order Mexican food, and I drink one of these.

Margarita Azul from Salsa 17 in downtown Arlington Heights.

It was delicious. But oddly enough, I think it created an all-jacked-up weekend for me, because on Sunday, I had the worst run ever. The only thing different was that I had a drinky-drink on Saturday, so I'm assuming that my body did not want to metabolize the alcohol, and it took it out on me. Margarita Azul, you are my sworn enemy.
I took a half hour run/walk. I wanted to cry almost the entire time. I went less than two miles. So I've decided that, until the race on November 6, there will be no drinking. Not a big deal, really. And we'll see if it makes a difference. If it does, great. If not, well, no harm done.
As for my weekend, there was a lot of delicious food. Oddly enough, I have become the Girl Who Eats Half Her Food. My refrigerator is full of leftovers from the weekend! Plus, I made tortilla soup yesterday. Of course, I forgot the tortilla chips, but that's okay. The soup is hearty and beautiful, with just a little bite. I'm having it for lunch, probably every day this week. And it will be fabulous!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Well, that was different

This has been a tough couple of days. In case you didn't notice (but you did; you check every day for updates, don't you?), I didn't log my weigh-in yesterday. Why? I stayed the same.

Where's the shame in that? There really isn't any. But for about 36 hours, I let it totally psych me out. I let it feel like failure. And yet ... I kept pushing forward. I went to the gym last night, and I had the greatest hour I have ever had on an elliptical machine. I hadn't realized that, lately, those workouts have just been me, going through the motions. Last night, instead, I pushed myself. I concentrated on moving those damn pedals around, particularly using the muscles of my left quad, hamstring and glute. Yep, this is the way to support my knee! When I finished, I was a sweaty, wobbly mess. I had proven something to myself: I'm not afraid of my limits. Nope. Not at all.

Then today, I got on the scale again. So hopeful! So foolish. No change still. For those of you playing the at-home version of our game, that puts me at 224 - still a far cry from the 290 I was at which I was tipping the scales when I first joined the gym. Still immense progress. Still 16 pounds less than I was on August 24, the day I got back on the wagon.

Today was a rough day at work, so when I got finished, I really didn't want to take a run. I was tired. I was crabby. I was ... Maggie. But I did it. I got on my gear and I headed out. Just a half hour, I asked of myself. Three minutes at a walk, two at a run, for half an hour, with five of walking tacked on to the end. I can handle that.

And ya know what? I so could handle that! It was as if, all of a sudden, I could run those two minutes without thinking I wasn't going to make it. I am improving. I have a long way to go, but dammit, I am making changes. I am no longer content to sit when I could be in motion. Oh, let me amend that: I am no longer content just to sit. I like to move, to. And I like running! I like being able to do it. I don't like that I'm slow, I don't like that when the two minutes are up I'm breathing like a serial killer, and I don't like that I'm running roughly a 16.5 minute mile, but hey ... that's way faster than I move when I'm sitting still.

As I neared home at the end of tonight's run, I lived a scene that felt like it was right out of a movie. I was approaching a group of young kids - about 12 or 13 years old, I'm guessing. There were seven or eight of them, on bikes and skateboards, hanging out around the sidewalk. I figured they'd either ignore me, or make jokes at my expense as I passed. (Yes, I do always expect the worst.) Anyway, as I was in the midst of their little group, one of them put his hand up and said, "hi-five!" and so I hi-fived him. He looked at me and said, "I love you!" and I responded, "Love you, too!"

Pure. Simple. Validation. He has no idea that his gesture bolstered me the entire way home. A little bit of support from an unlikely source; how sweet is that?

So here goes: virtual hi-five, from me to you. I love you!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Scrapbooks, running and mole de puerco

I had quite a weekend.

With the money my dad gave me for my birthday, I treated myself to a weekend scrapbooking retreat with my friend Diane. Three days of photographs and memories ... blissful! On Friday evening we settled in to our "spots" in a conference room at the Country Inn & Suites in Naperville, and got to work. The group of girls at these events are just awesome. We laugh and joke with each other all weekend long. I got a lot of work done and enjoyed the company even more than the work I got done on my books.

On Saturday morning, I agreed to go for a run with Diane. Now, she is an accomplished runner. I am ... not. But she assured me she would let me establish pace, and we'd go however long I wanted. So I went.

It. Was. Hard.

Over three miles of sidewalks in the area surrounding the hotel, we ran. Well, she ran. I ran and walked and kept reminding myself that all forward motion counts. We went three miles. It took me 50 minutes. Everyone has to start somewhere.

But as difficult as it was, and as much as I hurt the following day, running with Di was so good for me. She talked with me the entire time, reminding me to focus on my breathing, telling me how to place my feet and use my arms to propel myself forward. And she talked about her kids and the family and did her darndest to take my mind off of the fact that my legs were burning, begging me to take a rest. By the time we got back to the hotel, lemme tell ya - breakfast never tasted so good.

Too soon, it was time to leave scrapbooking behind to head out and tend to home and cat. Sunday also brought the best kind of dinner - food from a Mexican hole-in-the-wall with a too-loud Mariachi jukebox. Mole de puerco (pork in mole sauce) just about made my toes curl, and it was a good calorie choice, too! I chose a meal without frying or cheese or creamy sauce, and I was treated to an amazing plate of slow-braised pork in the best mole sauce I've had since Dale, accompanied by a small amount of rice and beans, and real corn tortillas. Halfway through the meal, I was full. Guess what I'm having for dinner tonight?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Weigh-in, October 7


No, I'm not playing golf while simultaneously spelling poorly. I lost four pounds this week. Now, I realize this may set me up for losing not much in the coming week; that's generally how it goes. But for the moment, I'm just gonna revel.

Four pounds.

16 sticks of butter.

One pound less than a five-pound bag of potatoes.

This is significant. We are now at a total of 16 pounds. That's eight pounds away from Reward No. 1 - pedicure! Woo-hoo!

I don't know what's so different about my quest this time. Maybe it's the fact that I'm more gentle with myself than I've ever been. Maybe it's knowing I have friends rooting for me, and going for their own goals at my side. Maybe it's the way I'm feeling like an athlete for the first time in my life (okay, a novice athlete, but still an athlete!) But it doesn't matter why it's different. It just matters that it is.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Training "Run" No. 2

Well, there are lots of good things to report.

First, I have gotten through my second training run for the Big 5K, which I will be running (I will be running!) exactly one month from today. Second, I did it without hurting my knee. These are both important changes. Third - and maybe the most meaningful - is the fact that, when I got home tonight, I really wanted to make dinner, sit down and watch television. Instead, I got dinner prepared, suited up and hit the street.

Two miles was all I made it tonight, doing a series of run/walk intervals I was sure I could handle with no trouble at all. It was a lot more difficult than I thought it would be.

Walk seven minutes, run two; repeat three times. Clearly, something is wrong with my watch, because it moves quickly during the seven minutes of walking, and very slowly during the two minutes of running.

I just kept thinking to myself, "good form; follow your breath; you can do anything for two minutes." I may not be getting better at it (yet), but I am getting from point A to point B.

The other interesting factor here is that I have now worked out (albeit only for half an hour) on two days that normally don't get me moving. Usually, Sunday and Wednesday are days of rest. I have fewer of those now; in fact, according to "the plan", Friday is the only absolute day each week of no sweat.

Feels good. Feels like change. Feels like strength.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Training for 5k


Running is hard. Like, seriously hard. I walked for a few blocks to warm up, and then I started to run. Got about a block down the road before my heart threatened to leap forward, directly out of my chest, like an alien baby.

I have never liked running. I think that whole "I'd rather die than gasp for miles on end" thing is probably why.

My heartrate monitor showed that, within the course of two blocks, my lub-dub ticker had gone from a comfortable zone two into the heights of zone four. Meaning, I had zipped right through zone three - the happy one where I burn fat - and into the sugar-burning fiesta known as zone four. Great. This is gonna be a challenge.

Can I run? Yes. In fact, the cool part is, I was able to work some pretty funky intervals. My heart rate recovery is pretty awesome, too, so within a block or two, I was down in zone three, and able to sustain it with no discomfort at all. So we just gotta work on training the old heart to manage the "one foot in front of the other"-ness of running.

Will I get there in time to actually run the 5k on November 6? Heck, I dunno. But this was only Training Day One. There's time to make progress. And it's gonna be fun.