Category Archives: Healthy Living

Health kick update

I am pleased to report that my health kick is going well!! To recap, I had quite fuzzy goals. Nothing specific like a dress size, or a race to enter. I just basically wanted to move more, eat more veg, and feel a bit better.

I run in 90-100+ degrees currently - now THAT is dedication.

I run in 90-100+ degrees currently – now THAT is dedication.

Well, so far, I have succeeded! I have run twice a week since that goal. I am pleased that even running this small amount has allowed me to improve – I was worried twice a week might not be regular enough to see improvements in my pace and distance but I have gone from walking 1/2 of my paltry [<— must not be negative! Must be positive about my achievements!] 2.3 miles to jogging the whole way, and from struggling to get a 10.5/min mile, to averaging 9.5/min mile, with a PB of 9.23/mins. NOT BAD. Most importantly twice a week was just enough to get running vaguely pleasant – the first 6 or so runs I HATED almost every minute of – my body ached, my lungs burned and I felt like it was an uphill struggle. Now, while I wouldn’t put running on a par with eating chips on the sofa, it is now enjoyable in its own way. I am about ready to start turning one of my runs into a longer run – I’d like to build up to 10K over the next 6 months or so.

But my Houston Bayou run is pretty beautiful

But my Houston Bayou run is pretty beautiful

I am also zumba-ing once a week, and lifting weights twice a week. I am not sure if twice a week weight lifting will make much difference, but it is good to feel strong and do something a little different to cardio.

Most boring food picture int he world?!?

Most boring food picture in the world?!?

My diet *is* better. It’s not amazing, but it is better. At least 1/2 of the week I am not having a McDonalds for breakfast. The green smoothies started to make me really queasy (my body really revolts against green things), but I have managed to have a banana and greek yogurt, or oatmeal with pumpkin some of the time – that’s a step up. I have a healthy BMI, so I wasn’t looking to particularly cut things from my diet (hello vanilla goldfish), but I was looking to get healthy things in – I am having more salads, and each day I have 1 serving of carrots and 1 of cherry tomatoes as snacks. I am almost at my 5 a day!! It doesn’t sound like much, but when you are allergic to almost all fruit (except the occasional banana) and most vegetables make you hurl (see the green smoothie issue) it’s an achievement.

I am actually also quite proud that I have managed to keep things sane as well. I have never entered any kind of lifestyle change without setting crazy intense goals for myself. Last time I tried sport, I was running a Tough Mudder (all of it! No skipping obstacles!) within 8 months. When I tried a healthy eating plan, I got myself visible abs in 12 weeks (which as I started at the same weight as when I was 24 weeks pregnant with Sam was quite a hard won achievement). It’s very weird for me just to do ‘healthy behaviors’ for the sake of doing healthy behaviors, and to press ahead of them without hope of some clear short term reward. It makes it easy to think ‘oh, I won’t bother with a run today, I’ll do it another time’, but I have soldiered on so far. I keep telling myself that having things in moderation IS a healthy behavior, and I think of all these cheesy motivational quotes like:

“You can choose to make just today [or this meal] healthier”. Or “You are still lapping everyone on the couch”.

gym8-c2e2d54551bddcb807b6a51a4b1cd705_h

Kinda hokey, I know. But hey, whatever works, right?

 

Image credit

http://vi.sualize.us/pos_of_motivation_quotes_videos_tips_gym8_picture_twsM.html

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Obligatory New Year’s Eve Resolutions Post

…. In which I don’t make any resolutions. Well I sort of do… hear me out.

I was struggling to write this post, or make any resolutions, but could not fathom why. Then I read this post over at Healthy Tipping Point and it helped me understand my feelings so much.

I look back at 2012 and think… Hmmmm… how did this go?

Ringing in 2012!

Ringing in 2012!

In January I started seriously job hunting, which entailed many long trips.

Job hunting trip to Houston

Job hunting trip in Houston

In February I fell pregnant.

Big Fat Positive

In March I presented to the American Heart Association, and had my last vacation in a while: a wonderful hiking trip through Utah and Arizona.

Canyonlands hiking

Canyonlands hiking

In April I went house hunting, and in May I bought a house.

Us and our new home

In June I traveled to San Francisco to speak for NIH, said goodbye to many wonderful friends in Alabama, moved State to Texas and immediately started my new job. (I also celebrated my first wedding anniversary).

I worked very hard June-November, submitting 3 grants in 3 months.

In July I traveled to New York, and in September, 8 months pregnant, I traveled to San Antonio to present at a conference.

Central Park

Central Park

In November I had my son, suffered severe complications, and very quickly..

P1000776

in December I went back to the office.

So, 2012 involved (among other things): finding a job, buying a house, moving State, starting a new job and having a baby.

I. Am. Exhausted.

Happy, but exhausted.

Post race... happy, but exhausted :)

Post race… happy, but exhausted 🙂

Looking back at 2011… it wasn’t exactly quiet. I got a grip on my postdoc academic career, submitting a grant which was funded, and submitting about 10 papers, which were eventually published. I whittled my body into shape, achieving ‘visible’ abs for the first time in my life, and got serious about fitness, culminating in a Tough Mudder 1/2 marathon.  This was also the year Wes proposed, and I got married (twice) – not so much personal goals, but time and energy consuming happy occasions.

I was pretty tired by the end of that 😉

So, what now? I am looking for a change of tact. I am now looking to seek contentment over happiness (or perhaps as well as). Let me explain… I am a very happy person. I think anyone who knows me (even people who have only known me a short while) would describe me as extremely happy.Everything above made me very, very happy. However, perhaps it is a Type A personality trait: I am rarely ‘content’.

A good example of this is: Getting fit enough (actually getting fit at all!) to run a 5K easily made me happy… but then I had to run a 10K, which also made me happy… but it became a 15K and a 1/2 marathon.  Having a great boyfriend made me very happy… but I wanted to marry him… and have a baby… Doing well in my postdoc was wonderful, but I had to publish more… have more students… submit more grants than any other postdoc at UAB… get a good faculty position…

And so it goes. Always very happy, never very content. This has a darker side, because I am never content with anything much, and while that be OK for running PRs, and Science publications it is not so great when you start to want to improve your husband, and your house, and when you look around and don’t like where you live because you could live somewhere with better walking… and better shops… and less guns… and so on. Things you don’t have the power to improve can quickly make you unhappy when you are always striving for everything to be better.

Cliched now, but true for me.

Cliched now, but true for me at the moment.

So, for just a while, it is time to stop. My resolution is to seek the kind of contentment which will allow me to look back at the end of 2013 and say ‘I am happy, and I am content’. I want to be content with my house, and content with my beautiful son (who I love so much I want to cry when I say that), and content with my amazing husband (who yes, can be cranky and difficult, but is also hilariously funny, beautifully sweet and who puts me & Sam first like no one else ever could).

This doesn’t mean that I am going to lie about eating cake on the sofa and not trying at anything (although that doesn’t sound like a bad plan 🙂 ). It means I am going to work on the things I have, without always having to be ‘bigger, better, best’. I can work on small steps which will allow me to be content with what I have. So, I don’t really have resolutions, more ‘vague things’ I would like to do in 2013:

I would like to be content with my house, so I hope to work in decorating and refurbishing it, and make it make it a lovely, welcoming place to be, and reflection of mine and Wes’ tastes and personalities.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

More beautiful rooms like this, please.

I would like to be content with my career, so I hope to build a research program which is defined not by papers and grants (although they must surely come!) but by the exploration of novel ideas, and the possibility of generating results that could truly improve human health.

I would like to be content with my family, so I hope to spend more time with them, just enjoying them, and understanding who they are where thy come from. I hope more time together will help me always remember their good qualities.

Pretty good family to be content with.

Pretty good family to be content with.

I would like to be content with my body (it is funny, the more you workout, the more you lose, the leaner you become… the less content you are. Or so it was for me). To work on nourishing it, keeping it healthy, appreciating its awesome power, and loving it for what it is.

So… no resolutions. No steps. No goals. 23% chance I will go crazy in March and roar ‘I must achieve something’ and make a huge ‘goals’ list and be running a full marathon by June. But for now… No tick boxes for me – I personally have had quite enough of those the past 2 years. I just resolve (I guess there is a resolution there) to stop, enjoy what I have, and seek contentment. I don’t see this as a permanent state of mind, more of putting down some good foundations for the future. Building a safe and happy base, from which I can take on more work responsibilities, or have another child (high on my list of thigns I want to eventually do) – all in a healthy, stable, happy environment.

I hope to be putting down some solid roots, so a strong tree can grow.

Happy New year y’all 🙂 Have a wonderful 2013!! What are you striving for in 2013?

Image credit

http://lifechangequotes.com/the-serenity-prayer-reinhold-niebuhr/

A plea to all my readers…

EDIT: Apologies for all the very many typos. My keyboard battery was dying.

So, here is what happened to me today (NO FRETTING, it has a good ending):

2 months ago, my friend Clio noticed a fairly prominent mole just above my bikini line had got bigger while I was pregnant, and if I was concerned. I had kind of noticed it too, but more in an ‘ewwww… gross’ kinda way, that a ‘what is wrong with this?’ kinda way. But, Clio noticing it was enough for me to mention it to my OB.

My OB took a look, and said “it doesn’t look too bad, and we don’t deal with things like that while in pregnancy, but I’d like you to get it checked out 6 weeks after birth by a dermatologist, just to be sure”. I agreed, but really, I wasn’t sure how likely that was to happen.

Fast forward 2 months, and my OB says to me “Hey, I was at lunch with a dermatologist and I mentioned your case. She said they *do* check people out in pregnancy – so here is her card”. She made me agree to call. Knowing I would be ‘checked up on’, I called, and got an appointment in a week’s time: today.

Ugh, the dermatologist was an hour late, at an extremely busy time for me. Honestly? I nearly just walked out claiming another appointment, and honestly? It was because I really don’t worry about my moles. Sure, I know the warning signs, and I look out for them, but it just didn’t seem like a likely, or an urgent, health concern. Anyway, as I was about to high tail it, they called me in.

The dermatologist looked at my mole. Her verdict? “Eh… doesn’t look worrying to me. It is the size we routinely remove, but not in pregnancy. Although the procedure is safe for pregnancy, we really don’t like to mess around with the body at that time, so I’m happy to leave this one”. As I was about to get dressed, I said “Oh, my husband noticed a mole on my upper back had changed – could you take a look?”. She did, and said there were no moles to worry about. She noticed (but was kind enough not to say!) that I a very mole-y person, and said “you know, there are some moles that could be checked on. But we really don’t mess with pregnant women’s bodies, if we can help it. Come back after the baby is born, say December… no rush… whenever… and I’ll do a full skin map for you. We can then just have a baseline for any future changes”.

Sounded good. I doubted whether I would really, actually make it back. Pressures of work and all, you know? I mean, she had given me a few months’ pass… whatever. Not a health concern. Then she suddenly said “Stop”. She bent over my lower back and said “Yes, this one comes off. Now”. Slightly dumbstruck I looked at her and said “Right, in December? When I am not pregnant, yeah?”. “No. Now. Today. It goes to pathology”.

A quick sharp intake of breath (lidocaine injection), a scalpel (100% painless) and a band aid later – the mole was removed and apparently I’ll have a fairly unattractive scar.

So… I am not really worried about this mole and the results. I mean – no one likes waiting for such results, but I am not especially concerned. But, it was a wake up call.  I take my health very seriously. I always have. I was less than 5 when I informed my parents I wasn’t getting enough Vitamin C and there might be too much fat in my food (for the record, my parents are pretty healthy eaters, all things considered). I was under 12 when I banned all artificial sweeteners. I exercise regularly, I watch my BMI, I stick to a reasonably healthy diet, I try to get my 8 hours of sleep, on average. I do love Diet Coke, but I restrict it and I drink it with guilt when I do 🙂

To me: health is a personal responsibility thing. With the upcoming election, I hear the Republicans talk about this a lot: when it concerns finances. How people on welfare are just not taking responsibility for their lives, and it costs others. In fact, an old tape of Romney’s has just been released in which he says exactly that:

“”There are 47 percent of the people [those who do not pay income tax] who will vote for the president no matter what. … who believe that they are victims,  These are people who pay no income tax. … [M]y job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.

Whether you agree with Rommers or not, I do feel the same health wise (although I sorta think my ‘job’ is to help people take responsibility for their health, not to give up on them). In my opinion: We all have a personal responsibility to take good care of our health, or it costs others: be it costing $$ to those on your insurance plan, $$ to those who contribute to your welfare, or more worryingly to me: be it a huge emotional cost to your friends and family.

Do you have children you have a duty to be there for? Do you have a partner you promised to look after? Then you have a responsibility to look after your health, in my mind. Do you feel a responsibility to your parents – to be around for them? Again: then a responsibility to look after your health to your best ability.

I really feel that strongly about it. It enters into the quasi-religious to me as well: God gave me this body, and I am grateful, and so I should look after it. Yet, yet, I have had “get moles checked” on my list for years. YEARS. And done nothing about it. Why? I don’t know: apathy? fear? ‘it won’t happen to me’-ness?  All of the above. Ignorance about who to go to and when? Sure. Reluctance to dole out a $35 co-pay when I moved to the US and it was no longer ‘free’ [prepaid]? Yup. The feeling that I know enough about health care to know if something was really wrong? Bingo.

And what happened? A mole got to the stage where a dermatologist who is clearly very against any interference in pregnancy wouldn’t wait 2 months to deal with it. A very cautious specialist believed it needed action: NOW. Not in another 3-4 years when I finally bothered, not even in 2 months. Now.

I maintain: I am not especially worried, but I also maintain it should not have got to this stage. I am annoyed at myself for not taking responsibility for my health.

So: please, look after your health. Get outside, eat well, wear sunscreen and do all that. But also: go and see your healthcare professional. Get a mole map, get your pap smears, do your breast / testicle examination. All of those time consuming, money eating (if you are in the US… although perhaps not so much now, after ObamaCare), slightly boring, probably embarrassing, and quite awkward things.  Learn the warning signs of stroke and diabetes. Get to healthcare provider if you are at risk of any of them.

Look at it this way: we KNOW preventative care is cheaper and more effective than emergency troubleshooting (why do you think Romey practically invented ObamaCare? It wasn’t out of love for the health of people of Massachusetts…). We know it is financially more cost efficient, and emotionally too. We know it saves lives. And we are so lucky to be able to access it. Lucky to have it open to us (if in the US without adequate –  or any – insurance then my heart goes out you), and lucky to position to perhaps prevent an illness others have thrust upon them. Not all cancers are preventable (as an example) – some people have no choice but to battle it. You may be lucky enough to be able to prevent that.

So please, please use the best  preventative care offered to you at the moment, in every way that you can.

I’ll keep you posted on the mole results, but know that I am sleeping well 🙂

(Re)building a life

So, it is the end of my week’s vacation: and through a combination necessity and will, I have actually taken a proper vacation from work. Out of Office autoreply on and emails ignored (with no small measure of guilt). I felt I needed a week between my postdoc and my first faculty position. Well… really, I didn’t feel that I needed a week, but I didn’t want to realize from a place of mental ill-health, 8-months down the road, that I did. So, a break I took.

Of course with a home to create, this has not exactly been an idle time. Nonetheless, I have saved some time for myself; evenings especially, and the weekend. Leaving me at a loose end: what to do with myself? Before the move, I was guilty before of doing too much: accepting every invitation, giving my all to every social occasion and opportunity, always being 1/2 in work mode, working out twice a day, pushing my body to the limits each time and yet rushing through my workouts so I could meet my friends / answer that email / get that thing done. I don’t think I ever just ‘was’. I had lost my tendency to complete activities in stillness and solitude.

It was strange at first: to have time on my hands. Strange and quite isolating; like I said, I am used to filling every space in my calendar. I didn’t know what to do but slowly found myself gravitating towards certain activities: cooking, baking, horticulture, reading fiction, even (in desperation 😉 ) just hanging out with the husband. I could while away the hours planning my veggie garden and sowing the seeds, tending my orchids, baking homemade bread from scratch. And feel very calm after doing them. Or even, calm does not describe it: centered and complete. Like ‘zen’ was the perfect word for this feeling. I remembered that these were things I used to do all the time before life got crazy.

Husband approves of my re-found love of baking

So… now I feel I am at a cross roads. I have no social obligations here, no weekly gym classes, no friends nearby who I am dying to see. I am starting work with only a few papers to tidy up and submit after co-author revisions: all my postdoc papers being done, I have no real work obligations yet. I have dropped my workout schedule to zilch due to busy-ness, shock at Texas heat, a lack of a gym membership and some prenatal bleeding (no worries… all good…. just got a bit over strained with the move); I am basically starting from scrtach on the fitness front it has been so long. So: I can be selective in what I choose to do, and of course, I can choose to do nothing. Literally, I feel like I have been offered a fabulous opportunity to rebuild my life (time) as I like.

Within reason of course: I want to be very successful and productive at work, I want to remain reasonably fit and healthy, I want to have friends and actively engage in church life. But I don’t want the frenetic pace of before, the feeling that I am not giving anything my all, the feeling that I am a hands-grasp from exhaustion / burn out. That I am running on caffeine and wondering how I am going to give my all to my next activity.

In particular: I want to stop worrying about how I am going to fit a child into my life, and start waiting for a child to complete a part my life (crazy first few months not withstanding). My husband has always been very good at this: saying no, keeping ‘me’ time, not over stretching himself. I don’t know exactly where my balance lies yet… but I hope I still achieve, and still have success while actually enjoying it – rather than congratulating myself as I head into the next thing. I literally want to stop and appreciate the beauty in life.

My minor obsession with orchids has resurfaced 🙂

It will take some examining as to why I have lived my life like that: fear of rejection, fear of missing out, fear of failure. Partly the desire to excel at everything: why publish 3 papers a year,w hen you could do 4? Why ‘take up jogging’ when you could train for a half marathon? Why stop there – why not complete Tough Mudder? But, I think I came dangerously close to ‘Jack of All Trades, Master of None’, or ‘success on paper, but failure in spirit’: how much was I really there for my friends? How much in my exhausted state did I really give them? How great was my Science, when I was so very focused on completing more than was expected and / or asked? It is not the spiritual life I wanted. I don’t feel I was giving my best to Earth.

It will take some work, and I am sure I will make mistakes. I am not even 100% sure what I am looking for in balance, and a sense of the holistic, and stillness and being. But, with all my newly found free time: I’ll keep you posted. 🙂

Tough Mudder, GA, 2012

Holy Moly I write this to you from a world of pain. Tough Mudder is a whole new race experience: very tough, but so much fun. Here is my experience:

It was a cold, cold Georgia day. It reached about 40 degrees, but the biting winds took it down to a ‘feels like’ 24. Yes, Europeans, that’s below freezing in your language. After the classic pre-race breakfast of a McDonalds bacon, egg and cheese biscuit (what?? all the best athletes eat this I tell you) I donned my Tough Mudder T-shirt (thanks Gabe!), joined my teammates Andrew, Andrea, Gabe and Amanda and registered. Obligatory war paint later…. we were off.

You climbed over a wall into a pen for your start wave, and the MC did a great job at getting us fired up… I was bemused / surprised / bewildered at having to salute the American flag before an obstacle course which threatened hypothermia (were we tying America to voluntary stupidity?? Who knows…) but enjoyed listening to the anthem. This nationalistic pride is a while new thing to me (I’m from a land where we say “I’m British… sorry…”). Then boom – we were off. Here is my hazy and imperfect memory of the race:

(1) First obstacle jumping over muddy-water filled trenches. Done.

(2)Second obstacle: crawling through deep, deep mud under barbed wire. Done. So far, so good. Then a 5K – easy peas… wait, what was this? The mud setting on my body like a plaster cast? Weighing me down and feeling like it was made of ice? Hmmm… OK, ok, I could do this.

(3)Third obstacle: scrabbling over walls. No problem! I didn’t even need help… but could help others…

jumped down and ran to

(4) a dumster filled with water. And ice. So much ice. I decided I didn’t care and leaped in next to Gabe. I did care at that point:

The shock was immense. Literally, breathing in was difficult. Then there was a wall up to the water level, so you had to fully submerge and swim under. OK… OK… it hurt. It really hurt. Amanda and Andrea were smart to go around this one. But we sign up for pain, right? So, I carried on, enjoying the challenge.

(5): Turd’s nest….  OKey doke, close by, a wall to climb over, and a rope thingie. Good good – all members of my team rocking it.

(6) Running through flaming hay. Not scary, not difficult and to be honest: darn nice to be able to warm up.

(7) Next up: bails of hay, each about 4 ft tall to scramble over, maybe 8 ontop of one and another. No safety net. Scary, yes, achieveable – yes. Up went all 5 members of  ‘tough mudder bitches’ and down again. Sweet.

(8) Then mud like I have never seen mud. I lost my shoe… Deep, deep mud and pipes to crawl through. This caused some tears from me – I am not good with narrow spaces and feeling ‘trapped’ and especially not narrow spaces with no traction…

but hey – seeing Amanda and Andrea and Andrew push through was encouragement enough. Andrew gave me a great tip: go on your side, as you don’t be able to push any other way except through momentum.

(9) Ah, next, the greased money bars. The famous & popular (spectators) or infamous and feared (runners). I mean, they would be bad enough… and painful, but of course, tough mudder had to put them over iced water. Gabe & I didn’t stand a chance, although Gabe is my all time Tough Mudder hero for doing it with a torn rotator cuff. Andrew made it! Rockstar!

Another colder, more mud covered 5 K. This was OK, although I was envious of Amanda and Andrea being DRY.

(10) Crawling through long and very dark trenches in the ground. I was terrified…. Gabe talked me through it 🙂

(11) Then running, this time over time logs piled up…

(12) to a tarpaulin on the ground, with electric wires hanging a few inches above. Bad enough, except that they also constructed a sprinkler. Water + electricity + a human = not good. I was scared, but figured I’d be able to slither through without getting touched. Wrong. As the first one hit me and felt like a sharp, sharp stab followed by a buzz I flattened totally. I remember being OK at this stage, but I wasn’t because when one spectator on the sidelines said “you’re doing it wrong, use you legs!” I stopped dead still, turned my head, glared him straight in the eye and said slowly, quietly and disgustingly: “You come and f&*!ing do it”. Then I carried on my miserable way.

Oh, look, another 5K. This one involved wading through a waist high bog of thick, foul-smelling stench (this time Gabe, Andrea and Amanda sensibly skipped it… Andrew and I carried on regardless).  Then running through a cold rocky brook for about a mile. The wind was up, I was soaked, there was no indication of how long this section would be, and when I saw ‘Mile 7’ I think I wanted to cry that I was only just over 1/2 way through. I didn’t. I carried on

I lost a lot of the obstacles here, the next I really remember was

(17) Really, really high walls, perhaps 8/9 feet (?) The guys on the course were awesome – the let me climb all over them (ouch) and boosted me over. I did both because I got so much help! BUt felt bad that I was totally unable to help anyone else.

(18) Holding wood and carrying it some way. Tiring, required mental grind but not too bad. Some guy yelled at me “That log is bigger than you!” which cheered me up immensely. It was here that the cold, cold, cold really set in. As I said, to al intents and purposes, it was 24 degrees. Not ideal. My hands were seizing up… my wet hair freezing on my bonce… but on to

(19) jumping over some tyres (with the wood) – again, quite nice and easy, except that you were so tired it was hard to keep your footing…

(20) Monkey bars number 2: swinging hoops. Me: Fail. More plunging into icy water (in the -24 weather: who cares? Me. I cared). Gabe, Andrea, Amanda: Go around. Andrew: Success! I was eternally grateful to Gabe for helping me out… a friendly face really boosted me

(21) Walk the plank. Honestly? Probably the second hardest obstacle. Climb 15ft into the air, wet and freezing, and jump into a freezing lake. I got up there no problem and stood next to Gabe. “Are we going to do it? Are we?” he said… I shrugged, “I guess so….OK”. Gabe did a count down and I didn’t want to let him down so jumped. I could not have done it without him – it seemed so high. This was the team support of which everyone spoke.

The cold was shocking. Shocking. Many people’s lungs spasmed a bit and they couldn’t breathe… this is where a few were carried off in heat blankets…. I was OK! Gabe was OK! Andrew appeared not to have noticed it was difficult and was battling on. We joined the girls who waited for us on the side and ran (I think I limped actually) onto

(22) Everest. A huge, huge plastic wall, at 90 degrees to the ground after a slope, covered in mud. You had to run up it, jump up, and be grabbed at the top by others who hauled you over. This was Andrew and I’s feeling on it:

We tried. After 2 very, very close attempts and the third failed attempt and the third set of cuts and blood trickling down my face, I walked around. Andrew: over like a champion! Waddling, limping onto:

(23) Going on your back across a wire, hanging over a lake. I actually quite enjoyed this – it hurt. It hurt like hell, but I made it well. I think Gabe and Andrew did too. Then onto:

(23) The most painful. Long narrow beams, above water (I think it may actually NOT have been iced). The girls waited on the other side as Andrew, Gabe and I slowly inched, inched our way. At end of it, I waited for the boys and broke down. My hands were frozen stiff, I was shivering uncontrollably, and couldn’t see the end.

But the end was in sight 🙂 1.5 more miles running, admittedly with limbs so sore from the obstacles, and with soaking, freezing clothes clinging to me – but still, 1.5 miles didn’t seem so bad.

 

(24) Walking through a bog (whatever, so over this) and then

(25) Running wet, through electric shocks. I am ashamed to say that I nearly wimped out. I stared them down for so long… Andrew ran right though, Gabe stayed to encourage me, until I started crying and told him to jut go. He did it! So proud of him, and I couldn’t bare to have tried every single obstacle except the last one.

So, I ran.

The shocks were light at first, but towards the end, strong enough that my legs gave way and I splatted into the mud.

Who cares?? Done!! Onto my free recovery beer!

I hate beer…. Wes’ fries were much more welcome.

 

 

I was so glad I did it. So proud I tried every obstacle… all the freezing water, all the electric shocks. In fact, I only ‘failed’ at Everest, because I was bleeding and battered. So impressed I ran the full 1/2 marathon, even when cold, and caked in mud. So glad my other Tough Mudder, bitches, helped me through it 🙂

Battle at Big Creek, Tough Mudder week 7 and reflections on some life choices

A section of Big Creek Trails

The earliest start yet took me to a new state for a trail run; at 3.30 am, the boy packed up some warm jumpers, two fired up puppies, a stash of snacks, and a grumpy ‘just started my TOTM and have cramps’ wife, and started the 3 hour drive to Roswell, Georgia for Xterra’s “Battle at Big Creek”. 8k (me) or 16k ( brave fools) as you wished. I arrived, glad the boy had allowed vast amounts of extra time (which I did not feel glad for at 3.30 am) as we had forgotten the change over from Central to Eastern time. But we made it fine, I got my neat little registration pack, some time to chill and warm away the Raynaud’s in the car, and time to be vaguely disconcerted that I had been registered as a 31 year old.

It was not in a state park this time, rather a “greenway” in a urban area. The trail was OK from a scenic point of view. It was fine, and it was great to be out among the changing trees, but there were no nice views and no sense of being it in endless nature (which is something I do in general love about trail running). It might not have been helped that our route missed the water. Whereas I am already planning the 2 hour drive to take my friends to hike the stunning Monte Sano in Huntsville, I am not especially planning a return trip here, although if passing, I would happily stop for a hike.

So, why did Xterra’s pick it? Well, post race, I read that they do it because of the challenge. It is one of Xterra’s hardest terrains, based on technical difficulties, steepness and condition of the trail. And Xterra’s are hardly known for mollycoddling their participants.

I knew at the start that 2 weeks wasn’t really enough to train for an 8k from 5k standard, but I am traveling much of the rest of this month so this was my only hope of getting a monthly race in. In the blistering cold (my tongue actually went numb) I enthusiastically started somewhere near the middle and slowly picked people off as I made my way to the front. It was uphill, but that was OK, as after my lesson from Monte Sano I had been doing some hill training and practicing on the undulating ground near my house. Undulating. Undulating. Not nearly 3 miles of pure climb that was so steep the trail had to wind its way up it, rather than take a direct path. Hmmmm. About 2 miles into it I was pretty miserable and thinking “I am either going to have to hate hills or train for them more”. I suspect it will be a mixture of both.

I got my head down, and at around 3 miles, started to get in the zone more and enjoy it. I picked people off one by one and felt pretty good about it. I ignored the aid stations and just pushed on, and could see around a few bends, so see that I was doing pretty well among the women – there were only maybe 5 or 6 in front of me, of which the 3 absolute spring chickens told me I was 2 nd or 3 rd in my age group. Time for a final push as I hit the last mile marker – and push I did. I sprinted for that finish line, passing one woman and making myself 2nd, which was a wonderful feeling. I gave it all, and at the last 400 meters I was overjoyed to see the end in sight. Just one more hairpin, which I negotiated with vigor… Until this happened

Ow

Yes it did hurt, although the cold saved me some of the immediate pain. I watched 2nd and 3rd place jump ahead of me

She nixed me to 3rd... fair and square

and even though I sprang up, my intended sprint to the finish line became a running hobble. Ah well, the disappointment of just losing out on a medal as 4th in my age group smarted more than the leg, to be honest.

Definitely a hobbling run

But as ever I learned a lot, and that is an important part of the process. More important than medals, right? Ahem. I learned

*Again, check the course, check the course, check the course. I actually couldn’t have gotten any more info for this one, but it did remind me of the value of knowing the course. I trained how to be able to sprint / run up brief-ish hills and recover on the way down, and the long climb just destroyed me.
*Find it more about the race. This was one of Xterras 3 national qualifier races, where runners who want to run in the Nationals have to place in all 3. So, the were more elite-recreational runners than the just recreational runners I encountered last time
*Better to eat before the race and not need it, than to need it half way around. I ate a light breakfast (200 kcals) at 5 and then ran at 8.30 because it was “just an 8k” and when I train I often do these fasted. But, I don’t train as hard as I race and the hills required extra input, so I could have done with more food
*Along those lines, eat carbs the night before. I tend to avoid all non vegetable carbs in the evening (bar the occasional glass of wine). This works fine for general training, especially as I do a lot of it in the evening as I get often stuck into my work with my morning coffee, whether I intended to or not. Somehow an oatmeal carb up in the morning isn’t quite as efficacious as evening pasta.
*Wear less! Because it was cold I wore a jumper to run. It was great for about 2 minutes, then I spent the next 5 minutes annoyed I was hot and the next 30 secs slowing down and stumbling because I was taking it off. Then the rest of the race struggling to keep it tied around my waist. Recreational Jumper = bad decision. Considering a long-sleeved sorts top for December runs.
* My iPod lies! It cheerfully yelled “1/2 way point”… And then about 6 mins later I came across the actual halfway point which was somewhat deflating. More annoyingly, it yelled ‘1 mile to go’ causing an all out of burst of speed that could only last a mile, when there were in fact about 1.8 miles left. Really deflating was hearing “Congratulations! Workout complete” and not even being able to see the finish line. As someone who does not love running, it is a mind game for me.

*Don’t fall. This may be the best tip of all.

So Tough Mudder training, week 7.

This may have been my best training week yet. I completed the full DAMY complement of workouts, felt great for all of them, and did some extra. I didn’t feel at all worn out, although as I am now in week 8, I am feeling some tiredness and really just doing the set schedule, not throwing anything else in. But, very happy with this week. It went a lil’ something like:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B – DONE

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills) – DONE

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs) – Changed; no hill sprints due to lack of sleep and an early meeting

Weds:  Functional training (plyos) – DONE

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest). – DONE. So glad I went, Gabe’s kickboxing is the best 😀

Week 8 plan

Friday – rest for race after a hard week

Saturday – 8 k + DAMY B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: 5k interval run + DAMY A in the am (arms); DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Yoga in the am,  Functional training (plyos) pm

Thurs: Kickboxing

And some life choices this week

I am sure you have all heard the industry “pick two of three” paradigm. Is is where you can pick two of these for any given project:

Cheap
Fast
Good

You just can’t have more than 3. So, if something is done cheaply and quickly, it isn’t gong to be done well. Conversely, if it is done well and quickly, then is going to cost a lot. I once turned to David and said “I have had an epiphany. Women cannot be smart, cute and healthy”. It takes some qualifying as I picked catchy words. By smart I meant very successful at work. By cute, I meant well turned out with good clothes with styled hair and neat make up. By healthy I meant regularly active and eating healthy, homemade food. So, if I am going to work long hours and go to the gym a lot, I am going to look a mess. By the time I have packed up all my lunch and filled my bag with that, I don’t have time to co ordinate a decent outfit and shoes or have space in my bag for make-up. I’ll be barefaced and chances are: in my trainers all day. David thought about it and said to me “I think what you are saying, Lekki, is that you can’t do everything in life”. Spot on.

Courtesy of PhDcomics.com

This has recently come back to me as work went crazy for the grant. The grant took up a lot of time, and pushed back my other work, so the crazy-busy schedule will continue while I make up for it. And the lack of evening eats into my weekends as I have to do the cleaning. Tidying, cooking etc has to be done then. Then I have my sport which I love, and also eats my time. I loved my race this weekend, and loved the uninterrupted 6 hours it gave me with my husband. Thing is, I also wanted to go to a friend’s house and watch the game. I knew if I did that, I would not get all my house stuff done, and I would not get as much work done. It hurt, but I declined. I realized I was making a choice. The house is at a stage where it could not be left without environmental protection coming and trying to save us from ourselves, but technically work could be. However – there would not be many serious repercussions if I delayed work a little. I don’t have any immediate deadlines, and my work for today is largely a job app, when I have a promising K award and 2 exciting interviews at places I would love to work on the horizon.

So why do the app? Because I need a back-up, sure. But also because it is for NIH which would be an enormously prestigious position. And one that really allowed to conduct my Science for the next 5 years in a very stimulating academic environment. So, my career is going very well at the moment, yes, and I have better than average career prospects. But I will fight to make my prospects elite. I really care about my latest project and I want every shot to be able to complete it, and to be able to complete it in the best environment possible. I don’t know where that is yet, and I suspect I will only find out through applications and visits and tang to people on visits.

So I guess I am says that I felt I made a decision on Saturday. To prioritize my career over my social life, even though my social life is very woeful at the moment and my career is great. I am surprised how easy this decision came and how well it say with me. We all make choices and we have to live with our choices. I think it helped me to sleep better and enjoy my choices knowing that I was making them, and why.

IMAGE credits

http://alpharetta.ga.us/index.php?p=136

http://vadlo.com/cartoons.php?id=241

DAMY Health week 5 & 6; Tough Mudder training week 6

Waaaaah. It has been a tough week on the old “slough off 15 of the 25 post American lbs in 12 weeks” attempt. But, while not making any great physical progress (in fact, there was somewhat of a back-slide), I made some good mental health progress. Huzzah.

So, weeks 5/6. Along with fighting an incredible amount of lethargy I was also dealing with insane hunger and sugar cravings.  Hunger that made me feel unfocused and dizzy. Hunger that left me unable to play table tennis for more than 30 mins (although it WAS dinner time, and I HAD just workout out for 50 minutes and I DID steal some points off my victorious hubby). I gave it a few days and then emailed Amy of DAMY Health, seeing as I was especially concerned about my drop in athletic performance. Wow, I thought I would just get some quick “21 tips to break hunger”, but she responded within 48 hours, making me list everything I was eating and all my workouts. She went through my meals & snacks one by one, and either OK-ed them, or fixed them. In essence we got: A LOT more protein (some 30 g or so), which makes sense as the weight training is up to 4 days a week, and if I lift… I lift pretty heavy. Not quite the ball buster days of yore, but not too shabby either. We also got way less sugar – she switched out my beloved frozen peas and put in green beans, zucchini and broccoli (yeach! I did not follow that last one!). Oh, and she doubled my lunchtime whole grain carbs, and pretty much ordered me to have a pre-bedtime snack (Oh, you want we to force down delicious delicious chocolate pudding or peanut butter on celery eh? Oh go on then…). Immediately I felt better and Amy emailed me both the following days to check in and make me write down my diet. Not bad for a one off $98.

My hunger immediately decreased. As I swapped a lot of the fruit for protein / WG combos I immediately craved less sugar. In fact, I was back to the miracle start of the beginning of DAMY where I was not literally counting down the seconds to each meal. Good stuff. My recovery also increased tonnes – I completed every workout on DAMY (and there are a lot, and they are tough. Think 4 weight sessions, one plyo session, 2 steady state sessions, 1 HIIT and 1 HIIT + plyo, OUCH) and even got my HIIT to be hill sprints (why? why do I do this to myself) and threw in an extra 12K. Banging. Did it all… loved it all… felt great.

Then, week 6 and weigh day came. 1.5 lbs more. Really? Really? I waited a day and weighed myself: same. Waited another day: .5 lb more? Life hates me. And no shift in inches. And if I was brave enough to post the progress pics I take for Amy… you’d see some lack of definition. Gah. But, DAMY made me define non weight related goals at the beginning of the program, and I focused on these instead. Some of these were:

-To stop the endless restrict-stuff myself cycle.

-To stop living my day by the scale. Bad scale day = bad day must end.

So, with that in mind, I just soldiered on with the corrected diet, smiled and tried not to let it get to me. I didn’t have any other ‘treats’ that week at all. When I emailed Amy with my weekly check-in I explained this to her, but said it could be water weight, and yay! I was sticking to my other goals and wasn’t life great and that’s the end of that.

Amy is not so cavalier with her clients. While yes, she was pleased that I seemed to be developing more stable, sustainable eating habits, she wants me to email her all my food from yesterday (on a Sunday! Sneaky!), and is upping the intensity of my workouts a little. I am supposed to break them into 2 and do cardio in the am and weights in the afternoon (or vice versa) rather than one long session. I also have to skip between weight reps to keep my heart rate up. Bleurgh. I was in a happy rut groove, which may explain the lack of progress 🙂 But, I am glad to be working with Amy. She is a cheerleader and very positive, but not going to take sloppiness for an answer (nor not eating all your fibrous veggies it would seem. Ick). I’m looking forward to giving it a go.

So… those stats. Boo. I look forward to better news next time (although next time is slap bang at time of the month, so it may take a few extra days…):

Starting / after 2 weeks / after 4 weeks / after 6 weeks:

Weight: 143.5 lbs. / 138.5 / 135.5 / 137

Chest: 37 / 37 ” / 37 “ / 37″

Waist: 30″ / 29″ / 28″ / 28″

Hips: 38″ / 37″ / 37″ / 37″

Onto Tough Mudder week 6

This was an awesome week of training. I completed everything, ran the furthest for me yet (ha!), recovered like a rockstar ready to get at it the next day, and generally loved it. I didn’t really dread any workouts, just the first steady state as I was saving my knees so did it on the elliptical.

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state – DONE

Saturday – 5K, DAMY weights B  – DONE

Sunday – Steady state 7 mile jog – DONE (7.5 hahahahaha)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B – DONE

Tues: REST – Changed, long jog completed.

Weds:  DAMY D (legs); interval A – done, hill sprints DONE. Y-e-e-e-e-e-s

Thurs: Kickboxing (this is a good proxy for DAMY’s 6th ‘functional’ workout – lots of core stuff). Oh, I missed this. Boo. Had too much work with a grant due to UAB the next day. Changed.

Week 7 plan:

Friday – DAMY weights A, 35 mins steady state

Saturday – Hill sprints, DAMY weights B

Sunday – 8K run (+ hills)

Monday: DAMY C (weights); Interval B

Tues: Hill sprints; DAMY D (legs)

Weds:  Functional training (plyos)

Thurs: Kickboxing (maybe; have a 5 mile (8K) race on Saturday so may be fixing to rest).

I feel I am getting closer and closer to Tough Mudder fitness (sadly also to the race – eeeep). My core is getting a lot stronger, and I am completing more and more of the push ups (even when doing them immediately after lifting weights for shoulder training). My jogging / running is better and I am using the same weights for 15, rather than 12, reps. All I need to learn is those darned pull ups. Soon. Overall: super fitness progress (for a non-sporty person like me). And in 4 days time: Georgia trail race: wooooo 😀