Monthly Archives: December 2013

First Back-To-Back Run Days

Since my first 5K training run on September 23 (during which I ran a whopping 6 minutes total), I’ve always had at least one, if not two days between every run. I’ve consistently run 3 days per week since then. When I officially start training for my half marathon, I’ll have to run four times per week, which three back to back runs. I’ll also (of course) have to work up to progressively longer “long runs” on the weekends.

This weekend I took a step towards both of these things. On Friday I was super antsy at work, and since I didn’t carpool I actually had freedom to leave early. So, I took the afternoon off and decided to take advantage of the gorgeous (30 degree) weather. I got home and mapped out a long run, which for me currently is 4 miles. I tried to do this at as easy of a pace as possible, and completed it in an hour (15:00 pace). 95% of the pavement was clear, but I learned that I’m not a fan of the 5% that wasn’t AT ALL. Whether it’s packed down snow or messy slush, I don’t like winter weather on the roads. That makes me glad I invested in the gym membership.

I’m glad I took to time so I could get out on the road in the sunlight and do this. I forgot to take a photo until I was inside the house.

Post-Run PhotoI then settled on the couch to watch Run For Your Life (free on Amazon Instant if you are a Prime member), a documentary about the founder and long-time director of the New York Marathon. It was an excellent film.

Today I got up and was greeted with another beautiful weather forecast. I thought about running, but knew that today was supposed to be a rest day. Instead, I headed to Brookfield to pick up our race packets for the Run Into the New Year 5K. When I got home, I started watching another running movie—Hood to Coast—about a 12-person team relay race in Oregon similar to the Ragnar I’m considering running in June. (Clearly, I’m on a running movie kick.) About half way through the movie I paused it and decided I needed to go for a run. I threw on some running gear, intending to run a couple of miles around our block (which happens to be a perfect mile). About 2 minutes in, I decided to just go for a quick mile. It looks like running on tired legs is going to take some getting used to.

My Nike+ app decided to randomly pause towards the end of my workout (which is also did yesterday—UGH!), so I quickly re-created my time by looking at what music I listened to during my run. I think I ran a 12:40 mile, which is excellent for me. However, I know I can’t run a 5K at that pace yet. I’m hoping for a 42:00 – 43:00 5K next week. Not speedy by any means, but I’m much more concerned with building up my mileage than speed, right now.

So, 2 runs in 24 hours. Neat. Tonight the arctic cold comes in, so if I decide to do my scheduled Sunday run it will be on the treadmill. Current forecast for the 5K: 7 degrees…which is much warmer than the 3 degrees that was forecasted yesterday 🙂

Suck It, Treadmill

I got a Christmas workout in, and I was never alone in the gym (not everyone eats their way through the holidays!). I was bound and determined to gut out a 5K, since I have one coming up next week. I did it (with a few walk breaks), and I even managed negative splits! Turns out the key to lasting for over 3 miles on the treadmill is to start slower. That probably should have been obvious, but I’m still a newbie.

December 25 Run PicAll the treadmills at the gym are the same….except for one. This one is higher off the ground and seems to facilitate a softer landing, at least for me. The belt is louder, but I don’t care. Except for my first night at the gym, I’ve been on this same treadmill every time. It’s in between televisions, so if it’s dark outside I spend the entire time staring at my own reflection in the window directly ahead of me. I definitely know what I look like when I run!

Dec 25 pace chartI ran a mile at 3.8 on the treadmill (yes, that’s running—or at least jogging—for my short little legs), then walked a minute and kicked it up to 4.0….then walked a bit and tried to kick it up a little higher after each walk break. I ended at 4.5. As the pace chart shows, I can actually vary my speed quite a lot when the treadmill is set at a steady pace (by shortening or lengthening my strides). I have a tendency to do that to follow the beat of some of the more powerful songs.
Dec 25 SplitsI felt good tonight. If I can run this distance on Friday & Sunday, then complete my 5K on Tuesday, I’ll just barely break the 40 mile mark for December…that would be the most monthly miles yet, I believe.


My Next Crazy Idea: Run A Half Marathon

On Christmas Eve eve (Dec 23), I went to the gym to get a run in. I didn’t have a plan. When I hopped on the treadmill, I decided I wanted to do 3 miles. The first mile was great, but then I had to take a few breaks and I ultimately stopped at 2.5 miles.

Disappointed after 2.5 milesWhile this is better than sitting on the couch, I was disappointed in myself. While I was training for my first 5K, I met my daily training goal every single time. I thought about this when I got home, and realized that I didn’t really have any goals right now, except to run 3x per week. I need schedule that tells me what I need to do every single day. I had a few options; I could shoot for a faster 5K, train for a 10K….or go balls to the walls and train for a half marathon. The more I looked into it, half marathon training didn’t look too bad. The weekday runs seem totally doable, and the long run steps up no more than a mile at a time.

I looked into races, and there’s a half marathon in early May just a few miles from my house. The course looks fairly flat except for a big hill at mile 7. I figured wrapping up my long runs in May would allow me to re-evaluate my running goals for the summer, when I’ll have more on my plate (my ambitious back yard garden, resuming writing and an elective course for my dissertation, etc).

So, I’m going to run a half marathon. Along the way, I’ll run my first 10K. A friend pointed out that this would be excellent prep for me to join her Ragnar Relay Chicago team in June, and I might consider doing that as well.

I’m going to follow Hal Higdon’s Half Marathon Novice program, with some slight modifications. I have more than 12 weeks to prepare, so I’m going to stretch out the second part of the training as I get used to long runs, and I’m going to add in an 11 miler so I get closer to the ultimate race distance. I’ve also flipped Sat/Sun on his schedule, as I prefer to do my long runs on Saturday. Here’s what my modified program looks like.

My Half Marathon Training Schedule

The 5K race is a local St. Patrick’s day race about 15 minutes from my house. It looks like just over 200 people ran it last year, so it will be a good race to actually run competitively (and hopefully PR). The 10K race is approximate. I will run that on one of the first three weekends in April, but I haven’t yet found one that fits into my schedule. I’ll be guaranteed to PR since it will be my first one :). For cross training I’ll probably do the bike or elliptical in the gym while it’s still snowy outside, and transition to hiking in our local state park or biking (once I get a bike) as the weather warms.

I’m currently running 3x per week, which usually works out to Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I’m going to spend January trying to get accustomed to the Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday-Saturday schedule. I’m currently capable of doing the distances in weeks 1 & 2, so I’ll just need to get my body used to not having a rest day after every run. This plan will kick off with my next 5K on Tuesday, December 31. The forecast just keeps getting more and more grim—right now the high is 8 degrees. But unless the race director advices otherwise, I’ll suit up and gut it out.

I’m looking forward to this journey and reaching this goal. I welcome any advice, but I can’t guarantee I’l take it ;).

And for those of you that celebrate…Merry Christmas. We’re off to see a movie, and then I’ll go for a run and cook some lasagna. Just a quiet day with me and my husband.

Cookie Dough Is Evil

Yesterday was my weigh-in. I use my morning weight (without clothes) as the official weight in my Weight Watchers app, but also weigh in right before lunch at my meeting. Whenever I refer to a change in weight here, it will be based on my at-home weight.

It wasn’t good. I gained .9 pounds. I stayed within my points last week (just barely), so all I can think of is I did a poor job estimating points. When I went to the party on Saturday, I was doing really well…and then a late-comer brought out chocolate chip cookie dough dip with graham crackers. I didn’t even know that was a thing! I told myself I’d only try one bite, but I kept going back for more. Since we vote on the best dish at our parties, I felt like I had to try it…but thinking back, I should have just stayed away.

My weight loss has been erratic over the last month:

11/26: -3.5

12/3: +1.1

12/10: -2.7

12/17: +.9

I didn’t weigh in on 11/19 because I had the stomach flu. So, from 11/12 to 12/17 I’ve lost 4.2 pounds. Now that I’m writing that out, it really doesn’t seem that bad. Thanksgiving was in there, and I’m still averaging .84 pounds per week. I’m a slow loser, and I’ve averaged about .5 pounds per week since joining Weight Watchers.

I’m glad I wrote this blog post—I’m still not happy with a gain, but at least I had a chance to step back and examine my progress.  I’d like to erase this week’s gain and then some by year’s end….so I’m hoping for a total of 1.5 pounds lost between now and New Year’s Eve. That would mean I just need to keep going with last month’s average weight loss for the next three weeks.

I Can’t Believe I Ran Today

I had lots of good excuses not to run today. We got hit with a surprise snowfall (well, it was expected, but it wasn’t expected to be this heavy) which turned my reliable 51 minute commute into an hour and 45 minutes. When I got home, I knew I would have to take care of the snow because Aaron had a league championship soccer game tonight. The roads were terrible, and I had chores to do.

But, as soon as dinner was finished, I went out and shoveled. It was very light snow, and it only took me 35 minutes. I logged that and only received 3 activity points. I was still 5 points in the hole, it was only 7:35, the snow had stopped, and the roads really weren’t that bad. So, I changed clothes and headed to the gym.

I only ran two miles, but they were solid miles. During the last half mile, I kept increasing the speed on the treadmill every few minutes and went from 4.0 to 4.4 by the end. Oddly, my splits say that the second mile was slower than the first. Looks like I’m really just using Nike+ to keep track of distance until I can get back out on the road—which is fine, I’m not all that concerned about pace right now.

Running pace chartI still don’t understand why my pace chart looks like this. For about the first 1.5 miles, the treadmill was set to 4.0, then towards the end I kept increasing it.

I’ve already run 20 miles in December! That might not be a lot for most runners, but it’s a nice number for me to see.

I was so excited when I got home. I had earned 6 more activity points, leaving me with 1 remaining activity for the week (weigh in is tomorrow). You know that that means? Fudgesicle!


Learning To Make Smart Choices

We decided to go out to dinner last night, and I let Aaron pick the place. He picked a local place that is known for its pizza (although it also serves sandwiches and pasta). I did not have a plan to deal with this. I only had 4 daily points left because I had indulged in a chocolate chip cookie after lunch, and I was already down to 24 weekly points. The smart thing to do would have been to cook out of the fridge (probably brown rice, eggs, and kale), but I really wanted to spend some time outside of the house with him—without screens in front of our face.

So, we went to the restaurant and were told it would be about 30 minutes for a table. We went to the bar, and while Aaron had two beers, I had water [SMART CHOICE]. After 45 minutes I went to check on our table, and it was taking longer than they expected. After about an hour, they showed us to our table and offered us a free round of drinks for the wait. Not one to turn down a free drink, I got a glass of wine—still a sensible choice. I looked at the menu and realized I couldn’t make that many very good choices…and Aaron wanted deep dish pizza. I told him to order a small and get whatever toppings he wanted, and I ordered a house salad with balsamic dressing [SMART CHOICE] and chicken piccata. Garlic bread was brought to the table, and instead of eating half the order, I limited myself to 2 small pieces, which I estimated at 5PP [SMART CHOICE]. When the chicken came, I realized it had two small chicken breasts, so I immediately asked for a to-go box for one of them [SMART CHOICE]. The pasta actually seemed to be a sensible portion, so I ate that, the whopping four pieces of broccoli that came with the meal, and one small chicken breast. I didn’t even have a bite of Aaron’s pizza [SMART CHOICE]. Instead of looking at the dessert menu, I suggested we go to the local gelato shop where I knew I could get low-calorie, fat free sorbet [SMART CHOICE].

This morning, I was sitting on the couch after eating breakfast (light english muffin, 1 T peanut butter, low-fat string cheese, 2 clementines) and Aaron got out the leftover pizza and had two pieces. I decided to look it up in the tracker, and my best guess is that it’s about 11 PP per piece. Before Weight Watchers, I probably would have had 2 pieces of pizza, 3-4 pieces of garlic bread, 2-3 glasses of wine, and dessert. The meal probably would have been something like 55 PP. Instead, I was completely satisfied with a 23 PP meal. That’s half the calories!  And, I used my leftovers sensibly (the chicken & leftover sauce was combined with 1/2 cup brown rice and 1 cup green beans).

I’m making other smart choices today. When Aaron was eating pizza, I got up and put my workout clothes on and went to the gym, where I gutted out 3 nonstop miles on the treadmill (I still don’t like the treadmill, but I’m glad to have it as an option when the roads are snow covered). Then, I went to the grocery store to pick up ingredients to cook for a party tonight. Our friends have gatherings that revolve around food, which we call Rage Against The Cuisine. We give each gathering a theme and turn it into a competition for the best dish. Tonights theme is dips. I’m making some low-point options that I think can compete for the prize—Roasted Red Pepper & Sun Dried Tomato Dip and Middle Eastern Bean Dip. When I went to the store I picked up carrot chips, cucumbers, and sweet peppers. I’ll serve them with my dip, and also use them to sample others so I don’t end up eating a bunch of crackers and chips I don’t need. I’ll be drinking sparking water.

In a Weight Watchers meeting earlier this year, we talked about how many choices we make in a day. I think it was over 200. Slowly but surely, I’m learning to make more smart choices, and set myself on auto pilot whenever possible so I can engage in healthy behaviors without feeling like I’m making a choice.

I’ve Lost 25 Pounds! (And Completed My First Treadmill Run)


Look what I got today!!!

Weight Watchers 25 Pounds Lost

I hit the 25 pounds lost milestone today. Woohoo! I knew last week’s weigh in was a fluke. I made a point to drink a lot of water, and I’d like to think that had something do with it (I also stayed within my points and earned over 30 activity points, so there’s also that…).

Last night I gave in and joined the local Snap Fitness. It was literally zero degrees outside, and our streets were covered in snow. Everyone talks about how terrible running on the treadmill is, but I knew I wouldn’t be braving the frigid weather to run outside. I hopped on a treadmill, raised the incline to 1% to mimic outdoors, and pushed the pace to what I’d been running recently (about 12:30).

That lasted about a minute. I thought running on treadmills was supposed to be easier! I was huffing and puffing almost immediately, and felt like I was working much, much harder than when I run that pace outside. I moved it up to a 13:57 pace, and finished out the first mile (with one or two quick breaks). I did the second mile at 15:00 pace (with another two breaks). This entire time, I was wearing my iPhone on my arm and using my Nike+ app on the treadmill setting. It says I was running an average 12:43 pace the entire time.

I have no idea what is calibrated incorrectly—the treadmill, my Nike+ app, or both…but since I’ve been using Nike+ to measure my outdoor runs, I’m going to stick with it to measure my treadmill runs as well. What matters most is my progress over time, not what the “real” number is.

Now my goal is to run a 5K on the treadmill without having to stop. I’m sure this is more mental than physical, so I either need to find a really engaging podcast, or bring my iPad and watch movies (the gym has wifi, although I haven’t tested it out to see how speedy it is).

Today in our Weight Watchers meeting we got the new Simple Start booklets. I think this is a really great addition to the program, and I’ll probably try it next week. I already used to get ideas for more filling snacks. Are any other Weight Watchers members thinking abuo


Weekly Meal Planning

After the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, I never got around to planning out our meals for the week. I had lunches planned, but after three days I failed miserably at eating them. I was ravenously hungry, and wanted something more filling than turkey soup. And dinner was a free-for-all (although I stayed within my points, so that’s a small victory).

This week I’m going to try to eat two high protein snacks during the day, and I’ve planned out our dinners like I normally do. I have no problem eating the same thing for breakfast and lunch for the entire week, so those meals will look like this (PP stands for PointsPlus):

Breakfast – 5 PP: Morning glory muffin (made with dehydrated blueberries instead of raisins & half whole wheat flour-lowers PointsPlus to 4), low-fat string cheese, 1 cup grapes

Snack – 3 PP: .75 oz almonds and a banana

Lunch – 7 PP: 1 cup vegetable chili, 1/2 cup brown rice, apple

Snack – 3 PP: 1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt and 1/2 cup blueberries

The only deviation will be Thursday, when I’m going out to lunch with some co-workers. We’re going to a restaurant I’m familiar with, and I already have a healthy choice planned. That leaves me with approximately 11 points for dinner and maybe an evening snack (of course, I have weekly points to use, but I’m trying to save them for a meal out and an evening with friends). Here’s what our dinners will be:

Sunday – 9 PP: Spaghetti squash with meat sauce, garlic cheddar biscuit, one cup skim milk. Aaron loves this and will eat leftovers for lunch throughout the week.

Monday – 10 PP: 1/2 cup brown rice, 1/2 cup kale sauteed in 1 tsp olive oil & garlic, 2 soft boiled eggs, one cup skim milk.

Tuesday – 11 PP: Taco salad! Green salad topped with 3 ounces of beef taco meat, 1/4 cup reduced fat shredded mexican cheese, salsa and 2 T guacamole, 1/2 cup fat free refried beans. Aaron will probably have regular tacos, and will eat the leftovers for lunches.

Wednesday – 13PP: Morningstar spicy black bean burgers on toasted english muffins with sriracha & miracle whip, 4 oz roasted potatoes tossed with 1 tsp olive oil, 1/2 cup roasted carrots tossed with 1 tsp olive oil, one cup skim milk.

Thursday – 8PP: 4 oz broiled tilapia with 1 tsp olive oil, 1/2 cup cooked quinoa with rehydrated dried tomatoes, 1/2 cup green beans, one cup skim milk

Friday will be whatever is left over, or perhaps we’ll decide to go out to dinner.

I’m fairly certain I’ll meet my good health guidelines each day, with the exception of the olive oil. While not perfect, I think the menu is pretty good.

Tonight I’m baking a double recipe of morning glory muffins to put in the freezer (they defrost in the microwave in 30 seconds), cooking the rice for my lunches and Monday’s dinner, weighing & bagging the almonds, preparing my yogurt snacks, washing and packaging the grapes, and packing the chili and rice together. This makes it easy to stay on plan every single day. This week each dinner will be made that night, but some weeks I’ve made soups and casseroles on the weekend so every night was just reheat and eat.

How do you plan and prep your meals?

I Can Run 4 Miles!

Before I celebrate my running victory today, a small confession: the Holiday Fitness Streak has come to an end. Last night (Friday), I came home from work and really wanted to go out to dinner. We tried a new restaurants  (a local supper club), and the food was great. Our meal lasted almost two hours though, because the service was slow and we were seated next to a giant party. When we got home, I thought about the streak and just didn’t care. I’m not too bent out of shape about it.

I knew I had to run today, though. I got my first two issues of Runner’s World this week, and I’ve been reading them cover to cover. I don’t know much about running other than what some friends have told me and what I’ve read on Runs for Cookies. What I’ve been reading has been making me think about how I structure my running. I’m not too anxious to get into a routine of tempo, easy, interval, and long runs yet because I’m still building up my endurance, but one idea I latched onto was that I was supposed to aim for a long run that’s 2-3 miles longer than the longest race I run. Right now, I only run 5K’s, so I need to be able to run 5-6 miles on my weekend long run. If I’m cautious and increase my mileage by about 10-20% per week, I can get there by the end of 2013!

Last week, my longest run was 3.5 miles. Increasing my mileage by 15% would bring me to 4 miles. So today, I set out to run four miles. When I woke up, I was very intimidated.

Zero Degrees Is Not Running WeatherI whined about the weather, looked into joining a gym so I’d have access to a treadmill, and then ultimately decided to wait until early afternoon to run, when it would be a balmy 13 degrees.

I dressed in the same gear from my last run (well, clean versions of that gear) and set off. The first mile felt terrible. My legs were heavy, the air was super cold so it was hard to breath, and I wasn’t enjoying myself. I told myself I could walk after a mile. When I was about 3/4 of the way around the block, I took an unplanned turn into an adjacent neighborhood. A few seconds later Nike+ told me that I had run the first mile in 12:04—my fastest mile ever! After that, every time I felt like stopping, I just turned farther away from home.

A few minutes later I saw our mail woman. I seem to see her every time I run on Saturdays (sometimes two or three times in one day). She gave me a big smile and waved. I turned further away from home. Today’s run really made me realize that I can do this. My body might hurt, it might be cold, and I might feel like stopping, but physically I can keep running. When I got home I read this in Runner’s World:

Mental toughness is built by doing something that is hard over and over again, especially when you don’t feel like doing it. Our society has conditioned us to believe that there should be no discomfort, to stop when we are uncomfortable. But the discomfort we feel when we’re doing a challenging workout us an important part of the strengthening process. Push through your down days when you’re not feeling your best (unless, of course, you are injured or ill). Dogged determination requires keeping your feet moving forward through the inconveniences, discomfort, and insecurities to reach your goal.

I’m becoming mentally tough. And that’s so awesome.

I passed a neighbor putting up a Griswold-esque Christmas display (and actually had a brief conversation while running for the first time), and then turned towards home. I checked my phone and realized I probably wouldn’t hit four miles, so I took another turn away from home right when I was at the point where I was reaching “uncharted territory” – longer than I had ever run before. That turned out to be an almost perfect distance, and I did it! Here’s how I felt after hitting the four mile mark.

I just ran 4 miles!Average pace was 12:30 per mile. That still seems so fast to me.

I’m starting to think of a goal for 2014 mileage, since I’m apparently a runner now. Right now I’m running 10 miles per week. Ideally, I think I’d like to be running 3-4 miles two or three times a week, and 6 miles once per week. I suppose I might make more ambitious weekly goals once it’s nice outside. Is 600 miles for my first year of running too conservative?

I also want to run in Vienna, Prague, and Paris while on vacation next year. That should be fun.



Running In The Cold

I knew I had to run today (my last run was on Monday and right now I’m aiming for three 5K’s a week). When I got home and ate dinner, this is what the weather looked like:

Cold Weather RunningIt wasn’t the 20 degrees that bothered me—rather, the “feels like 8.” So, I complained for awhile on Facebook, and then I suited up. Running tights under athletic pants, long sleeve tech shirt topped with a short sleeve tech shirt and one of my husband’s soccer warm up jackets (I need a proper winter running jacket but I haven’t purchased that gear yet), a head band and gloves. This turned out to be the perfect outfit for this temperature.

I decided to start by running the long way around our block. As soon as I turned west, that 11 mph wind was blowing in my face, so I decided that I would do the entire run around my neighborhood block because it’s mostly north/south.

When my Nike+ app told me I finished my first mile in 12:19, I was amazed. I felt great, even though I normally run somewhere between 13:30 and 15:00 (I’m a beginner!). I decided to try and keep it up for the rest of the run, so I guess that would make this a tempo run?

I was listening to podcasts—first, an episode of Heather Weighs In, and then one of Jillian Michaels’ podcasts. This is only the third run I’ve done with a podcast instead of music. I was very apprehensive about running without music because I thought it helped me with my pace.  But I think the opposite was true; I tried to match my cadence with the beat, and at times that meant I was running slower than I could. Also, my playlist got boring. The podcasts keep my mind engaged. I’m usually listening to something about fitness or healthy eating, so it also motivates me in the moment to keep doing something good for my body. Any good fitness podcasts you can recommend?

Anyway, right about the time I hit mile 2, Jillian was saying that she could never do her own workout videos. She had only tried to do her own workout once, and she felt like she wanted to die. That pissed me off! Most of the days I don’t run, I’m working on making my way through the 30 Day Shred. I feel like I want to die too, but I keep going. Hearing that motivated me to keep running, and even try to pick up the pace.

At mile 2.75, I tried to go much faster. Most people would probably call my normal run a jog, but I finished this out at a true run, and I was huffing and puffing. I knew that each of my splits was between 12:00 and 13:00, because my app announces each mile. I was pretty ecstatic when I saw my 5K time (I stopped at exactly 5K).

December 5 5K RecordI was also very happy with my pace. It was much more consistent then my previous runs have been.

Pace Chart

While browsing the Nike+ site, I saw that it was trending my pace improvement. Look at the improvement between Monday and today!

Screen Shot 2013-12-05 at 8.34.10 PM

And finally, my splits. These are the best ever. The first mile is my fasted mile yet.

SplitsI know these are positive splits, but I’m not worried about that at this point.

So, this was an excellent run. Something else awesome happened today. I ran into a coworker that I haven’t seen since before Labor Day (she was on maternity leave). She stopped by my cube later to tell me she was amazed by how much weight I had lost! Looking back in my weight tracker, I’ve only lost about 10 pounds since I last saw her, but it’s great to know that it shows. I’m sure she would notice it more than someone that sees me every day.

My food choices weren’t the best today, but I’m still on target to stay within my weekly points. Back at it tomorrow. The arctic cold is supposed to stay for a few days—it might be in the single digits for my run on Saturday!

(The Holiday Fitness Streak is still in tact, although I took yesterday “off” and just did a lunchtime walk.)