You Can Always Go For A Run, No Matter How Long It Has Been

I was sitting on the couch tonight (I’ve been doing a lot of that lately, hence no Gross Gets Fit blogging), and had the now unfamiliar urge to go for a run. So I did.

I didn’t start over on a Couch to 5K program, or pull up a training program, or map out a route. I dug out my running clothes, laced up my shoes, asked my husband to join me, and walked out the door.

I didn’t have a plan, or expectation, other than I wanted to run. So I ran. I stopped to walk a few times, but more often than not, I ran. Runners would call it a fartlek, I guess. I set a goal of how far I would run each segment, and sometimes added a stretch goal, and I hit every. single. one.

I wasn’t fast. I didn’t go incredibly far. But I did exactly what I set out to do, and I felt really good about it.

After logging the workout in Nike+, I realized that it had been exactly 5 months since my last run. A lot happened during those 5 months. I planted the garden. I harvested most of the garden. I finished my dissertation, defended it, and became Dr. Gross. My husband took a new job. We put in an offer on a new house. We put our house up for sale (still waiting for it to sell). I did complete my first 20+ mile group bike ride, but after that my fitness efforts fell pretty flat.

Many of us have been here. A lot of us (myself included) have been here many times. We have to soldier on. We have to commit to sustainable lifestyle changes and work to engrain those habits into our daily life forever. I’m work in progress, but I’m happy with how today went.

Run Photo with husband 2.25 miles

Welcome, WRC Readers!

I was pleasantly surprised to see that an older post from this blog was finally featured on the Women’s Running Community today. I hope it inspires people to post their sweaty, nasty post-run photos online to inspire others to get out on the road (or do whatever it is they do to stay active), even if they don’t look like the fitness models we see in magazines, on TV, and on Facebook. So, if you’re here because you saw that post, hello!

But, I have a confession to make. There haven’t been a lot of running selfies from me lately. Checking out my Nike+ log, my last run was a month ago. I had restarted my 5K runner program, and then … stopped. For no reason other than laziness. I’ve been on a few bike rides, and a couple of walks, but I certainly haven’t been active, and I haven’t been following a very good eating plan either. This is why I haven’t been posting much lately, because there hasn’t been a whole lot of “Gross getting fit” for me to write about.  One of these days, I need to make a decision to stop messing around and really commit to my healthy lifestyle. I have about 40 more pounds to lose. Thankfully I haven’t gained it all back (although 13 pounds has crept back on), but I’ve definitely stalled … for the better portion of a year.

I’m not writing this to whine or complain, but to be brutally honest. In a year you can go from barely being able to walk around the block to running a 5K, 10K, or half marathon. OR, you can go from running a half marathon to struggling to run a mile. It goes both ways. What we should all strive for, I believe, (and what I hope I will eventually find) is a consistent, healthy lifestyle. Being active at least 30 minutes a day, eating healthfully to fuel a body that’s the right size for you. That is what I want to strive for, and I’d welcome encouragement from any of you. I also want to encourage you on your journey, because I know it’s hard. It’s damn hard. But it can be done.

Weigh In (Quick Post)

Don’t worry, I’m still here! I just don’t have a lot of words that seem blog-worthy.

I weighed in on Saturday morning at my mom’s house. So, I was on an unfamiliar scale, but it said 179.0, so I’m booking it as a .7 pound loss. I ate all but one weekly and activity point last week.

Today Aaron and I took a 12.5 mile bike ride, that happened to include two breweries for stops, but that’s part of infusing what you love into an active lifestyle, right?

I’m a little behind on the 5K Runner schedule, but I’m still plugging along.

That’s all for now, here’s to a good week.

Weigh In & Reflecting on My Snacking Problem

After seriously rethinking my commitment to weight loss last weekend, I set my Weight Watchers trackers to reset on Saturday so I could get going with a fresh start right away. So, Saturday is no my weigh in day. Last weekend when I stepped on the scale (after a night of beer and cheese curds and pizza), I weighed 180.9 pounds. Yikes. This morning (after another night of pizza, but we’ll get into that later), I weighted 179.7. So, no matter how I feel about my eating this last week, I lost 1.2 pounds, so I will consider the week a success.

I think the only thing that made it successful was my activity. I set a goal to be active for at least 30 minutes every day. I met that goal 5/7 days. Not terrible, but not perfect. I had a total of 215 minutes of activity, so I did manage to average 30 minutes per day. I haven’t completed Day 3 of Week 1 of 5K Runner, so I’ll need to do that tomorrow (although I suppose I could still go out in the dark tonight, but that is highly unlikely).

I’m actually pretty happy with my activity this week. It’s not where I want it to be eventually, but it is a good start. My eating, on the other hand, was not really all that great. I tracked 6/7 days last week, and ended the week somewhere along the lines of 65 points in the hole (after burning through all my weekly points and activity points). Looking back through my food log, the overages can be attributed to:

  • Saturday, when I didn’t plan out any of my meals and ate 2/3 meals out
  • Sunday: unplanned snack of pita chips (2 servings)
  • Monday: unplanned snack of cheese curds (2 servings)
  • Tuesday: unplanned snack of cheese curds (10 servings – yes, 10)
  • Wednesday: unplanned snack of cookies and milk
  • Thursday: unplanned snack of cookies and milk
  • Friday: mindless eating while working from home, delivery pizza for dinner instead of homemade

Wow, looking back on it, I “screwed up” every single day. It’s clear that the unplanned snack is my downfall. Without them, the dinners out on Saturday and the delivery pizza on Friday would have fit into my weekly point allowance. It seems like I just can’t keep food in the house that isn’t on my meal plan (which isn’t all that great, because Aaron isn’t on the same meal plan as I am). I need to figure out a way to control this behavior. If anyone has any advice, I’d be happy to hear it.

Today was a good day. Although I didn’t have my meals (other than breakfast) planned, I was mindful as I went along. I had my standard oatmeal with blueberries for breakfast, and I added a banana because I was out of milk. Immediately after breakfast I went to campus so I could start working on my data analysis for my dissertation, but I packed a lunch from Thursday’s leftovers – chicken breast, quinoa, peppers & zucchini, and spinach. I also brought an orange, apple, and string cheese for a snack. When it came time to talk dinner, I suggested Indian (Aaron’s favorite restaurant near our house), and scanned the menu for options that wouldn’t blow my points budget. I settled on papadum, a cup of rasam soup, and the tandoori sampler platter (grilled chicken, lamb sausage, and shrimp). I actually snuck my food scale into my purse and weighed out my meat portions at the restaurant so I know exactly how many points I consumed. I still had points leftover, so after dinner we went to the gelato shop where I ordered sorbet. My total point count for the day was 29, which is completely acceptable (my daily target is 27).

Tomorrow I need to get a run in, maybe take a nice walk or bike ride with Aaron, and then focus on grocery shopping and meal planning so I have good choices to get me through the week. An out-of-town coworker is visiting, so I have two lunches and one dinner out planned, AND another coworker has warned me that he will be bringing something chocolatey to a meeting to celebrate an application release we just deployed. If I am mindful, I can work these things into my week. I just need to plan, and somehow stop myself from indulging in unplanned snacks.

One Year Ago

April 18, 2014: Aaron and I went out to dinner with my parents at Braise, a delicious farm to table restaurant in Milwaukee. I can’t look far back enough to see if I tracked my points, but I weighed 174.8 pounds. I was just a few weeks away from running a half marathon.

A Runner Starts Over: Day 2

It’s absolutely gorgeous outside. 60+ degrees, sunshine, birds chirping, slight breeze. Great day for a run, right? Not for someone who has spent the last few months “detraining” (shout out to Lisa for posting that link on Facebook). Today was Week 1, Day 2 of the 5K Runner program. The workout looks simple: 5 min warmup, eight 1 min run/1.5 min walk intervals, 5 min cooldown. It was not.

5 minute warmup? Piece of cake. (mmm… cake.)

The first running interval was fine. The second one was ok. The third one was manageable. Every single one after that was quite difficult. However, by the looks of the pace chart, I wasn’t losing much steam on them, which is good.

April 15 Pace Chart

I’m kind of second-guessing myself that I somehow only did 7 intervals, but I think the longer one in the beginning is two intervals in one, somehow. The time matches up for me to have gotten them all in. A thought ran through my mind while I was running the final interval that is almost too embarrassing to share, but here it goes: The one-minute interval literally felt as hard as the last straightaway of my half marathon. In the race, I had been running for over 3 hours at that point in direct sun. Today, I’d been doing intervals for about 24 minutes. Sheesh.

April 15 Run Photo

And that is how I feel about that. Maybe it has something to do with the massive amount of cheese curds I mindlessly ate yesterday afternoon. If it wasn’t for the activity I’ve gotten this week, I’d be “in the red” on my Weight Watchers points, but thanks to Activity Points, I’m barely hanging on.

Speaking of activity, I have a new toy for cross training! Aaron and I went and looked at bikes on Monday night, and we each found one that we liked. They were crazy busy that night and they needed to install some stuff on mine (light, water bottle holder, kickstand—those don’t come standard anymore!), so I picked them up yesterday afternoon. Aaron was gone all night at boot camp and soccer, so I went out for a solo ride to break it in.

I meant to spend most of my time on the Lake Country Trail, which is paved and almost completely flat, but the section near my house is under construction. Once I realized this, I turned around and decided to bike around Lac la Belle instead. We have so many beautiful lakes by our house … I look forward to exploring them by bike this summer.

April 14 Bike Photo

I took a pit stop around the halfway mark to snap a picture. I may have also swallowed a bug. Biking around the lake turned out to be a bit less flat than my planned trail route, so I got a lot of practice switching gears. Any experienced area cyclists will probably laugh reading this, but any incline is new to this biker!

One nice thing about the bike is I can cover so much distance, and I know I can expect to speed up over time. Here’s what last night’s ride looked like.

April 14 Bike Map

Sadly, I’m almost at the end of my staycation. We’ll close it out with a visit to the Crafty Cow tonight so Aaron can try some special beers on tap, and then it’s back to work tomorrow. But just for two days!

Chicken Salad with Ranch & Bacon – Weight Watchers Style

I was gushing about this salad on Facebook yesterday, because it was so good! I’ve been meaning to try out mason jar salads as a way to have a healthy, veggie-based lunch that can be prepared on the weekend and last throughout the week. I made up two different salad recipes yesterday, and after trying the first one, I am in love.

If you’re not as much of a fan of from-scratch cooking as I am, you could pull this together more quickly by:

  • Purchasing fat-free ranch dressing (must be 1 point per serving)
  • Purchasing bacon crumbles
  • Purchasing pre-cooked chicken breasts

But, in my opinion, it won’t taste as good as this. Especially the dressing. Low-calorie ranch dressing always seems to have a chemically taste to me, and the dressing linked in the recipe below is rich, creamy, and takes about 5 minutes to make.

Before making a whole batch of jarred salads for the week, I cooked up four large chicken breasts on the stovetop and baked some bacon in the oven.

Grilled Chicken Breast

The bacon I used was incredibly fatty (it was from a sow that had to be butchered on our local farm). But, I knew that fat would translate into deliciousness, and a little would go a long way. I only used one piece on my salad, but counted it as 2 PointsPlus to account for the extra fat. If you’re using the regular bacon you buy at the store, you’ll get to put 1.5 pieces on your salad!

Fatty Sow Bacon

I was a little bit afraid that I wouldn’t get any crumbly bacon for the salad, but I cooked it in the oven at 350 for almost 45 minutes to slowly render the fat. The bacon came out perfect for the salad!

Oven Cooked Bacon

Recipe: Chicken, Bacon & Ranch Mason Jar Salad

Chicken Bacon Ranch Mason Jar SaladIngredients (for 1 jar)

  • 2 Tbsp Greek yogurt ranch dressing (recipe)
  • 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup sliced cucumber
  • 3 oz cooked chicken breast
  • 1.5 slices crispy bacon, crumbled
  • Lettuce


Prepare the ranch dressing and place 2 Tbsp in the bottom of a 1-quart mason jar (1 dressing recipe makes enough for 8 salads). Add cherry tomatoes and cucumbers, ensuring that the veggies cover the salad dressing. Add chicken breast, then top with bacon crumbles. To finish, stuff as much lettuce in the top of the jar as you can.

Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 6

Most people recommend using a wide mouth jar for this, but regular jars were all I had on hand, and they worked fine. When you’re ready for lunch, shake up the contents of the jar and dump it in a bowl. You’ll probably want to scrape down the sides of jar to get all the bits of bacon and delicious ranch dressing out.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

Sorry for the blurry picture, but I wanted to show how well-dressed this salad was. It was oozing with ranch goodness, and the yogurt-based recipe added very small amounts of fat and calories. This entire salad was only 6 points, and it was very filling. I’d guess a similar salad at a restaurant would be in the 15-20 point range (and likely would include cheese, which I didn’t think it needed). I made versions of this salad for my husband that included 1.5x the dressing, more chicken, and more bacon.

Starting Over: 5K Running Plan

Well, I did it. I started over today. I re-downloaded the 5K Runner app and did Week 1, Day 1. When I texted Aaron, I referred to it as a “run” in quotation marks because it only includes 6 minutes of running. But nonetheless, I ran. I’m not going to lie – putting on my running clothes, which were meant to fit someone that weight about 10 pounds less, was not fun. But I really could care less what people think about me as I run around the neighborhood.

Run Photo April 13 2015

The 5K Runner plan only calls for 3 runs per week, so this should put me on a schedule of running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This should be doable because those are the days I work from home. I’m still going to strive for 30 minutes of activity every day (last night Aaron and I took a 45-minute walk), and I think walking can get just a wee bit boring … so we’re going to the bike store tonight. Stay tuned to see what we pick up.

Staycation Day #1 has been pretty low-key so far. I didn’t get out of bed until 8:00, and then I cooked up a big pot of steel cut oatmeal and blueberries—enough for 6 breakfasts. When combined with a cup of skim milk, that’s a 6-PointsPlus day with a whole grain, fruit and dairy. I’ll stick with this until I head to the farm this weekend to get some more eggs. I read some magazines, wandered through the garden, and cleaned up the kitchen. For lunch I experimented with a mason jar salad, since I really don’t eat enough salads but love them when they’re made well. Using what I had on hand, I made a red wine & chive vinaigrette (first harvest from the garden!), grilled up a salmon burger, hydrated some dried cherry tomatoes, grated some carrots, and snagged some greens. I mixed it all up and it was quite tasty. I’m going  to head to the store later and get fixings for salads for both Aaron and I to eat all week. I’m planning to make two kinds—chicken/bacon/tomato/ranch and chicken/pear/blue cheese/ginger vinaigrette. The ranch dressing will be made with fat-free greek yogurt and buttermilk, so it’s only 1 PointPlus. I’ll try to remember to take a photo when I get them put together.

The 5K Runner app provides inspirational quotes after each run. You might think it’s cheesy, but I really liked what it gave me today. Some of us have to start our long journeys more than once.

The longest journey begins with a small step taken by a brave person. That's you!Since I’m focusing on getting back to where I was in terms of fitness, and then moving into territory I haven’t traversed before, I think I’m going to look back on what I was doing one year before each of my posts. Between my blog and the TimeHop app, I should always be able to figure it out. So, without further adieux…

One year ago: April 13, 2014

I ran a lovely morning 10K while on a business trip in Reno, NV. It was a personal PR for that distance.

April 13 Run Photo

What A Difference A Year Makes

This time last year, I was in the midst of half marathon training. I was in Reno on a business trip, and I ran a 10K on a nice river path with a personal best time for me (and realized after that a race was happening and I could have signed up and gotten a medal for my run).

A full year before that, I had yet to run a mile. I didn’t go on runs. Exercise was walking.

This year, I’m not proud of my current state of health and fitness. I’m up 7 pounds from where I was in half marathon training (although I’m down 20 pounds from where I was the year before). It has been a month since my last run, and another month since the last run before that. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve been eating like complete shit for at least three months. I got a good fitness streak going in January and February, attending twice-weekly BodyPump classes at the YMCA, checking out spinning and other activities … but then I just stopped.

On the other hand, I’ve made tremendous progress on my dissertation compared to a year ago (I successfully made it through proposal and am in the midst of collecting data), and I have every indication that I will be Dr. Liz in less than 6 months. This is incredibly awesome and can’t be ignored. And although I have used it as an excuse (because there seems to be an inverse correlation between my academic progress and my health & fitness), I don’t think this progress had to occur at the expense of my health and fitness goals.

I’m also back on Weight Watchers, and trying to get motivated to actually work the program. Remember when I quit in a blaze of glory? Well, that’s also about the time I quit losing weight. Rereading that post now, I was blaming the program for some of my own failings. When I was not eating enough calories in a day but still at reasonable point target, I could have upped my calories by eating more fruits and vegetables (which don’t have point values on the Weight Watchers system). The day I reveled in eating 2,000 calories and scoffed at the equivalent Weight Watchers points, I didn’t factor in what I would have gained with Activity Points. I still believe that it is very possible for someone to use the Weight Watchers program as a tool for completely unsustainable weight loss. But I also think that with the right mindset, it can also be used to lose weight sustainably. The way diets are structured and exercise is done is up to the individual. I need to make better choices.

Where I Am Now

I currently weigh 180 pounds. This is 12 pounds heavier than my lowest weight while doing Weight Watchers. My goal remains the same: 135 pounds. So, I have 45 pounds to lose. Basically, what I’ve already done (which took two years and was a major accomplishment) needs to be done again.

I’m not regularly active, which is not helping. I want to be active at least 30 minutes per day. This really shouldn’t be hard. Worst-case scenario, if I can’t get outside I would throw on a podcast and walk around in circles in my house (or do the torturous 30-day shred again).

My eating is majorly inconsistent. I’m not cooking a much as I could/should, and when I go out I’ve been making some pretty terrible choices. I know better.

How I Will Get Where I Need To Be

I have the luxury of having a 5-day weekend this week. I scheduled a Monday – Wednesday “staycation” because I knew I needed a break from the daily grind. I’m going to use this time to hit the reset button and prepare myself for success. Today (Saturday) and tomorrow morning are largely dedicated to my academic goals, and Sunday afternoon – Wednesday will largely be dedicated to my health and fitness goals. I’ll get out for long walks (the weather is supposed to be gorgeous), restart my 5K running program, and take a long, hard look at my eating habits, get some meals planned, and think about sustainable routines that will support my healthy habits.

I need to recognize I can’t do this alone. While I’m still not a fan of Weight Watchers meetings (they tend to support some pretty disordered thinking), I need to seek support from others. This blog helps, and I hope to write more regularly here, if only to force myself to reflect on my habits and progress. My husband is also instrumental. I need to prioritize activities we can do together that are supportive of healthy habits, rather than detrimental. We love food and beer/wine, but my newfound love of spending ours at the local beer & burger joint (great craft beer selection!) probably needs to be examined. Perhaps he can still enjoy his beer, while I enjoy the time together and some seltzer water, or something. But we can also hike, walk, and try other activities. We’ve been talking about getting bikes for at last a year … maybe this is the year we’ll do that.

A big factor in whether or not I’m successful, in my opinion, is how I choose to spend my time between the end of the workday and the time my head hits the pillow at night. When I was successfully losing weight, I used this time to cook a healthy dinner, go for a run, and prepare my breakfast/lunch for the next day. I generally sat down on the couch only around 9:00 p.m. to do a little blogging and catch up on happenings from friends. Lately, I’m on the couch almost this entire time – up to 5 hours per night! I’m thinking about doing something drastic, like not allowing myself to sit on the couch until 8:00 or 9:00. We’ll see how that goes.

Now That That’s Off My Chest

I know I’m not the only person that has struggled with weight loss. Honestly, I’m incredibly thankful that I haven’t allowed myself to gain everything back (although I’ve gained back just over 20% of what I lost). Our society make it very easy to justify an unhealthy lifestyle. But a mindset change also exposes all of the supportive aspects of the same society – races and active community events, locally grown delicious, healthy meats and vegetables, and awesome healthy recipe and fitness blogs. I’m looking forward to continuing this journey to health and fitness after taking a brief detour. And I’d like to encourage anyone else that is struggling to get back on the bus with me.

Weighing My Fitness & Weight Loss Priorities

Admit it, you like the pun in the title of this blog post.

I know prioritization is important, but what I don’t know is this: How many priorities can I have? Regardless of where they stand at the moment, I want the following things to be a priority in my life:

  • Health & Wellness (includes good eating habits, fitness, quality sleep, and weight loss)
  • Kicking ass at my job
  • Finishing my Ph.D.
  • Spending quality time with my husband
  • Developing my “side hustle” (writing, speaking, teaching, etc.)
  • Traveling
  • Eating amazing food at awesome restaurants
  • Growing & cooking my own food

So, is this a lucky 7? Or the 7 deadly priorities?

Honestly, I don’t get overwhelmed trying to do it all … I get overwhelmed thinking about doing it all, or writing out a schedule. Maybe Nike is on to something with the whole “just do it” thing…

And with that, I’ll send this idea off to the internet, because done is better than perfect.

A Barefoot Run Through Chicago Streets

My husband and I have been married for four years! To celebrate our anniversary, we took a short overnight trip to Chicago. We had traveled to the Windy City for one reason—to eat a fabulous, multi-course meal at Alinea. We’ve been dreaming of eating at this restaurant since we met, and we’d finally convinced ourselves to spend money on a reservation.

Not only are reservation at Alinea expensive, but they are pre-paid. The confirmation specifically says that you may not be seated if you arrive more then 30 minutes after your reservation time. So, while we were sitting in gridlock traffic in the cab on Friday night, watching the minutes tick by, we got a little nervous. We had 5:30 reservations, and the cab dropped us off at about 5:38.

We didn’t see the restaurant when he dropped us off, but I didn’t worry about that. I’d read (admittedly, years ago), that the restaurant was extremely understated and a bit hard to find. But quickly, we realized something was wrong. There were no restaurants here. There really wasn’t anything around us. I was so confused. I called the restaurant, but could only get their answering service.

We asked a guy at a bus stop where the restaurant was, and he pointed us to the south. We started walking, and I got more and more nervous. We were in a dark, fairly unlit area. I was wearing a black cocktail dress and bright read HIGH heels. Aaron was in a full suit. It was 5:45. We paid a guy in a pedi cab to take us a few blocks. We still saw nothing. Aaron pulled out his phone and realized I had made a gigantic mistake. When putting the address into my phone (I had organized everything with TripIt), I’d dropped a 1. We were at 723 N. Halsted. Alinea was at 1723 N. Halsted. It was now 5:50. Fuck (pardon my language, but that was my state of mind).

The slightly crazy guy driving our pedi cab couldn’t get anywhere because cars were in the bike lanes. We decided that we would run towards the restaurant, 1.2 miles away, until we found a cab. I put my shoes in one hand and my phone in the other (in case the restaurant called), and took off, barefoot, towards the restaurant. Did I mention it was about 25 degrees outside?

I ran, keeping my eyes on the ground because I was acutely aware that glass or some other unsafe objects could be in the street. Aaron wanted to run ahead (he’s a much faster runner than me), but I informed him that no reservation was worth enough to leave his wife on a strange Chicago street, barefoot. We ran some more, passed by several cabs that were unavailable. I tried to get a stranger to open his car window so I could offer him $20 to drive us half a mile. He wouldn’t even roll down the window. More running.

The neighborhood transitioned, and I told Aaron I was comfortable with him running ahead. He took off, and I kept running at my penguin pace. Now, in the street with traffic, because the sidewalk was under construction. After a few more blocks, I had to stop because I could feel a rock digging into my foot. I looked at  the bottom of my foot and realized that I had torn multiple holes in my nylons, and if I kept going they’d be ripped/running up to my knees. I looked up, and saw Aaron coming my way. I put my shoes on and took a deep breath, not wanting to hear the bad news.

Aaron had made it to the restaurant around 6:06. It would have been perfectly appropriate for the staff, knowing their rules, to turn them away. After they got over the shock of a man in a suit sprinting into the restaurant, they assured him that they would honor the reservation. I had about two blocks of walking to catch my breath, and we walked into the restaurant and were promptly seated. We of course told our host that we’d literally run to the restaurant because of a cab mistake. He seemed pretty impressed 🙂

Then, we settled into a 15-course meal. Literally, the best meal of my life. And infinitely more memorable because of what it took to get us there. I most definitely earned this dessert, which was presented to us by Grant Achatz, the chef and founder of Alinea.

Dessert at Alinea

And, in case you’re curious what running a mile down the street in nylons will do to your feet…

Dessert at Alinea