May 23: Pre-training for Rock ‘N Roll Half Marathon Revisted

What a weekend! In hindsight, I probably did a bit too much so I have given myself a rest day today. On Saturday, my goal was to run 4.5 miles at a 10:15 – 11:30 minute/mile pace and see how my heart rate responded. I included a second zone in the program to run 1 mile at a slightly faster pace if I still had any energy left. Well, after 4.5 miles I felt good, so I ran the mile. After 5.5 miles, I still felt good and pushed myself to run 10 kilometers! I actually beat my 10K race pace and averaged 10:30 minutes per mile *smile* My average heart rate was 176 bpm or 92% of my maximum heart rate; I want it at least 10% lower.

Initially, it was challenging to maintain a steady pace. Even though I gave myself plenty of buffer room, I found myself running faster than 10:15 minute/mile quite often. After a couple of miles, I settled in to the pace, though. After running my own 10K, I ate breakfast and headed to step and sculpt. I enjoy the class too much to miss it. Surprisingly, I still had plenty of energy for my second workout of the day.

Then Sunday morning, I was up bright and early to begin hydrating. After Saturday’s run, I lost 1.4 pounds due to loss of water. I had a slice of whole wheat bread with peanut butter, sliced banana, honey and cinnamon for a pre-run snack. After 30 minutes, I laced up and hit the pavement toward the high school track to run 4 X 800m intervals at 9:30 – 10:45 minute/mile pace. Since I am new at training with a heart rate monitor, I like to give myself some leeway in sticking to a pace. After each 800m interval, I walked for 0.2 miles (the watch wouldn’t let me program 0.25 miles). In mentally preparing for the interval training, I wanted to jog in between each interval. I found that I needed real recovery time, so I walked. Maybe next week, I will be able to slow my running pace and not walk during the recovery period.

Late Sunday, I noticed my lower back was rather sore. I wasn’t sure if all the physical activity was the cause or if I overextended my back doing supermans in step and sculpt. I stretched throughout the day and feel much better this morning. I’m usually pretty vigilant about proper form during exercising, but I must be even more mindful in the future. I have a long road ahead in training for this half-marathon. I am not interested in being sidelined with a preventable injury.

Tuesday and Wednesday, I am back to training based on heart rate rather than pace. My goal is to develop enough patience so that I can do three or four days in June using heart rate training. As I practically sprinted around the track, I felts as though I was betraying the process of heart rate training even though learning to maintain a pace for an extended distance is an important part of training for any race. I’m not going to beat myself up too badly; I’m just taking heart rate training one run at a time!

Recap for 1st five days of pre-training:

  1. Wednesday: Ran 38 minutes. Average pace: 13:52 min/mi. Average HR: 144 bpm (75% MHR)
  2. Thursday: 45 minutes in total body tone group fitness class; 15 minutes May 2011 SHAPE abs workout
  3. Friday: 60 minutes in group fitness Pilates; 51 minutes ballet conditioning DVD
  4. Saturday: Ran 66 minutes. Average pace: 10:30 min/mi. Average HR: 176 bpm (92% MHR); 60 minutes step and sculpt group fitness
  5. Sunday: Ran 33 minutes: 4 X 800m intervals, walked 320 m recovery. Average pace per run-walk interval: 11:57 min/mi. Average HR. 166 bpm (86% MHR); May 2011 SHAPE abs workout

I am going to give the long, easy runs on Saturdays another shot next weekend. But I had the most insatiable appetite after running and attending step class. I did well and ate healthy carbohydrates, protein and fats. I really, really, really wanted some ice cream though! If my appetite goes haywire again, then I will just move my long run to Friday mornings and do ballet on Saturday.

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April 3: Training for 10K stalled

I’m sad to say that my week long trip to Anaheim, California for a conference last week pretty much derailed my 10K training. Well, not the trip itself, but the fact that I was so off my normal routine. Our hotel did not have a fitness room, but I managed to workout for about 30 minutes each morning doing body weight exercises in circuits. Our hotel was at least one mile each way from the site where my division held symposia, so I at least exerted myself somewhat. By the time I learned my surroundings enough to figure out where I could run and have some sense of direction, I had lost the motivation to do that much exercising. I’m sure the most unhealthy food choices I made had a lot do with my lethargy. While I know I should have mustered up more willpower and just eaten house salads twice a day for six days, I couldn’t resist the 30th anniversary chocolate cake cheesecake from Cheesecake Factory; the BBQ shrimp and grits and gumbo; chicken sandwiches and fries; or Subway cookies. Yes, I lost my mind.

So, you see where this is going. Sunday morning, I mentally prepared to run 6.2 miles. I basically made it 1.25 miles before my hamstrings and calves just said “Eff you!” I couldn’t take the fussing out, so I hobbled on home rather than continuing to run or walk anymore of my planned route. I was truly heartbroken because I had been making such great progress in my training. I expected setbacks but not quite like this. I’m making sure to hit group fitness everyday this week and running a mile on the indoor track. I will try 6.2 again Sunday, even if I have to walk most of it.

March 11: Pringles Lightly Salted Original

It’s been a few days since the beginning of Lent. Since I gave up excess sodium (i.e, >1500 mg), I have had to be much more diligent about watching what I put into my mouth. I’ve pretty much abandoned looking at any line on the nutrition label except for sodium. When I went to Kroger Thursday, I made sure that nothing I placed into my cart had more than 400 mg of sodium per serving. The choice basically relegated me to fresh meats and produce, which is fine. My blood pressure has paid the price for overindulgence in convenience (i.e., pre-packaged overly processed food and fast food).

Since I planned to make peanut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches for lunch, I ventured down the potato chip aisle to see if I could find some affordable, low sodium potato chips. And wouldn’t you know it: Pringles Lightly Salted, withc 50% less salt than their original chips were on sale 4 for $5. Each serving, which is a gracious 16 crisps, has only 75 mg of sodium! I bought two super stacks.

I had them for lunch for the first time yesterday. The texture is the same as other Pringles. If you’ve never had Pringles, then Baked Lays would be another brand with a similar texture. With the original flavor, the chips are kind of bland. I would prefer a flavored low sodium chip, but I still find the flavor enjoyable. Besides, it’s the flavor that usually drives up sodium content. I’m just happy potato chip manufacturers are getting with the program and offering low sodium options as well as reduced fat choices. As I said earlier, I haven’t paid much attention to the other nutrition values but they weren’t alarming. Often with reduced anything (e.g., fat, sodium, sugar), another line item takes a bump to compensate for flavor. Unfortunately, this particular brand of Pringles is not listed on their website but the nutrition information is here. At least I couldn’t find it after 5 minutes of browsing and a deliberate search. But if you like chips and need a lower sodium option, Pringles Lightly Salted in the original flavor is a good choice.

An added bonus for my Lenten sacrifice is that I’ve lost 3.4 pounds since Wednesday! The only thing I have changed is that I’ve limited my sodium intake to 1500 mg or less. I attribute the weight loss to the fact that my body no longer has excess sodium to retain unnecessary water weight. It’s just the first week of Lent, so we’ll see what I’m talking about a few weeks from now, particularly as I travel for a conference and for a vacation. I imagine it will become exponentially more difficult to keep my sodium intake low when other people are preparing my foods.

February 5: Turtle cake and calorie currency revisted

I actually enjoyed the most indulgent turtle cake last weekend. Friday night I craved chocolate something fierce, but the weather was too bad to walk and buy a candy bar. So, after Step & Sculpt, I went to Wal-mart to buy a scale (which I’ll write about in an upcoming post) and a few groceries.

Since Loseit.com considers a week Monday through Sunday, I had only accumulated about 650 calories by Saturday, not including the calories I just burned in a cardio class. Subtracting the 200 calories from the chocolate cupcake I ate that Monday, I had about 450 calories to “spend”.  Do you know how hard it is to find something sweet that offers a reasonable portion size for 450 calories? I wanted Oreos but I knew better than to have an entire package in my house. I couldn’t find an individually sized package, though I didn’t exactly spend longer than a minute looking. So, next on my list of wants was ice cream. Breyer’s and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups co-branded ice cream was enticing. One cup was 320 calories, but I would have another cup to tempt me if I purchased the pint size. I was feeling in the mood to eat an entire pint.

All that remained was the bakery. Wal-mart sells red velvet donuts with cream cheese icing, and I had been craving  red velvet cake for weeks. Sadly, there was no nutritional label — isn’t that illegal? — so I left those alone. I think of foods without labels, or restaurants who can’t tell me nutritional information, as clothes without a price; if I have to ask, then I probably can’t afford it o_O

Well, lucky me, Wal-mart bakery sells cakes for two. While I find $2.50 a bit much, it’s a small price to pay since I can’t be bothered to exercise self-restraint when sweets are in my apartment. The red velvet cake was a hunk of sheet cake, but it was higher in calories than I had earned. I settled upon the turtle cake; two servings were 460 calories. I would spend twice as long eating the cake than I had spent on that king size package of Reese’s cups, which is 400 calories.

Turtle cake from Wal-Mart bakery; it's about 3.5 inches in diameter

Oh the turtle cake was decadent! The cake was super-moist and not too sweet. Honestly, I don’t know what two people this cake was for lol but I was happily satisfied. A wise choice, if I must say so. I finished the cake off with a cup of vanilla Silk milk *sigh*. This cake hit the spot so well, that I didn’t crave chocolate for at least a week. And as a recovering chocoholic, that says a lot. Wal-mart is a bit of a trek to make this cake a regular indulgence, but it’s nice to know I should save up my calories for times when I need to visit the big box.

While it’s been only two weeks since I began trying to will myself to exhibit some self-control when it comes to sweets, I must say that I like the idea of calorie currency. It was very quick and easy for me to say that I didn’t earn it so I can’t eat it. For most choices, it wasn’t hard to walk away. I will be honest and admit that a couple of times I wanted to put some calories on credit, but I knew that would only be cheating myself.

As of today, I earned 355 calories since Monday. With a balance from last week, I can enjoy 515 guilt-free calories. Amazingly, I don’t want anything!

After my time in Wal-mart last weekend searching for something sweet that was within my calorie budget, I realize that I shouldn’t mindlessly waste my calories on a food item. It took a lot of sweat to earn those 650 calories, and I should be able to enjoy chocolate that satisfies my craving. I felt more confident that I could demonstrate some self-control, so I actually have two York Peppermint Patties in my apartment. It’s definitely a work in progress, but so far, so good *smile*

January 25: Mighty Meal, the “healthy” version

I had one of those days. My research data was not as good as I hoped and when I went to swim my stress away, I happened upon swim team practice. The four available lanes were taken, and I was frustrated that I wasted 30 minutes of my life walking across campus and changing into my bathing suit only to have to walk back in the bitter cold without so much as  getting my feet wet. Mentally, I had zero desire to be productive, so I decided I was going to cave into my incessant craving for McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets. For the last 2 1/2 weeks, I have endured the relentless add campaign for the special pricing for a 20 piece. I live a block from a restaurant; it’s been really hard to resist. But with the day I had, I made the choice to indulge. I had 881 calories remaining for dinner, so I visited mcdonalds.com to choose a meal that was nutritionally reasonable. The Mighty Meal with apple dippers, low fat caramel dip, and 1% low fat chocolate milk and sweet and sour sauce was 620 calories. With six nuggets, I thought my craving would be satiated.

I have ordered Happy Meals and Mighty Meals before when I wanted McDonald’s but not all the unhealthy that usually comes with a visit. I mean, do I really need 10 McNuggets? Even when I think the answer is yes, by the time I finish a salt-ridden meal, I instantly regret my decision. So, while I receive funny looks for ordering a kid’s meal sans a child, I don’t care. Today was the first time I opted for the healthier version of the kid’s meal; in the past, McDonald’s was a quick and cheap place to indulge in all manner of unhealthy: McNuggets, large fries, soda and 2 apple pies!

Sweet and salty...a satiating indulgence

I prepared my dinner on a plate and enjoyed it like any other meal. I was surprised that the apples did not have skin, but they were plentiful and sweet. For once, I didn’t not finish a McNuggets meal feeling the need to drink a gallon of water to dilute the salt. Hopefully, the limited time advertisemens for the 20 piece McNuggets end before another salt-craving creeps up on me *smile*, especially after this report about how salty snacks can harm you in 30 minutes by constricting blood vessels for up to two hours following a single meal!

January 24: Calorie currency (and spinning revisited)

I hate owing people money. I would definitely say I’m fiscally responsible. I have my moments of impulsive spending, but I learned to avoid situations where I might be tempted. So, it’s a wonder why I repeatedly indulge in sugary morsels then wonder how I’m going to “pay for it”; in other words, I make decisions about how often and how intensely I will work out to burn the calories. For most people, that’s probably an okay mentality. But lately, I feel guilty about overindulging in unhealthy foods. It’s really less about the food than it is about my lack of self-control. Regardless of the nuances of my issue, the fact remains that I suffer through workouts sometimes just to burn calories that I couldn’t invoke some willpower and not consumein the first place. I wish I could bake a pan of Pillsbury cinnabon buns and only eat one. And try as I may, it just ain’t happening.

So, why not put my situation in terms that I can relate to and feel that I can actually achieve? Denying myself chocolate isn’t the answer. What if I treat calories as currency? According to Loseit.com, each week I burn about 2300 calories. My old mentality said that I can consume 2300 calories in unhealthy snacks and be good. So what if I just ate half a pan of brownies *shrug*? Well, now I am devoting 20% of the calories I burn to unhealthy snacks. That means each week, I can only consume 460 calories of chocolate or equally tempting baked goodness. If i don’t work out as much one week, then I can only eat 20% of that total. And just like money, I can save my calorie currency for a special treat. I’m not allowing myself to put calories on credit, though. If I didn’t burn it, then I didn’t earn it.

My first test came Monday. I wanted to give spinning another chance. Some friends who are spinning enthusiasts said I should  try again. I’m not going to lie: it was a great workout. I don’t think I was mentally prepared for it. So, I was in the 6:15 am group fitness class peddling myself into a pool of sweat. The workout was challenging and fun. My legs were sore, but I suspect between Bob and swimming  that they have become stronger in the last two weeks allowing me more endurance. I’m actually preparing to head to the gym for an afternoon spinning class; I guess I like this kind of tea after all!

I earned 179 calories from spinning and walking across campus prior to facing the temptation of a spread of sugary goodness in the form of Oreo cookies, Chips Ahoy! cookies, a quarter sheet of marble cake with icing, and chocolate cupcakes with icing. There was some salty goodness on the table, too, but I prefer the glucose- and fructose-filled poison *smile*. I made a calculated decision to choose one cupcake when I really wanted two cupcakes and a hunk of the sheet cake. It’s only Wednesday, but so far reframing calories as currency is really helping me make better decisions about when and how much I indulge my sugar addiction. We’ll  revisit my progress in a few weeks as I begin to build a habit of prudent calorie spending.