How Do You Eat An Elephant?

This post is brought to you by one ass kicking, brutally honest conversation with Allison. Thank you thank you thank you for getting me to shut up and get going.

During this conversation, Allison said something that got my wheels turning. How do you eat an elephant? I promptly replied “One bite at a time.” because that’s the answer.

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But it got me thinking because as I started my long run, I was feeling a little intimidated. I know I’ve done so much already, but I’m starting to feel worn out and tired. Seeing that long run scheduled on my calendar was just a little daunting.

So I guess today I’m rephrasing the question. How do you finish a long run?

You put on your shoes, pick a playlist and step out the door. One foot in front of the other at whatever pace makes you comfortable – or uncomfortable, depending on the kind of week you’ve had.

Allison also reminded me to be grateful. Be grateful for what I’ve accomplished and what I can do, even if I don’t feel it is enough to accomplish my goals. With two weeks to go before my half, the nerves are settling in hard. My last couple long runs have been just short of painful, and I had to end this weekend’s 12 miler early because my trusty old achilles started hurting badI didn’t want to push it, so I settled for 9 miles in the sunshine. But still, I’m trying to be more grateful for what I have accomplished in such a short amount of time. I’ve been working very hard, and in the span of three months I’ve gone from 2 mile runs to run/walking 9 miles twice now.

This week starts my tapering runs. Today I did 3 miles on the treadmill, plus some weights and abs, which I haven’t done since I finished boot camp at the end of December. Tomorrow I’m hoping to get out again and do 4.5 or 5 miles. This weekend is a slow 8 miler (maybe at White Rock Lake if the weather is nice?) and I’m actually looking forward to it.

I also got word that my awesome friend Ashley will be playing with her band on the half mile course in New Orleans! I’m really excited to see her again and hear her play (sort of) for the first time!

Two weeks until I run 13.1. #gulp

On Fuel and Recovery

I will be totally honest with y’all. This weekend’s run sucked. It was long, and slow, and while the weather was fantastic, my legs were just not in the mood for a five miler through the hills of North Texas. Yes, I measured and there was a hill that had a 62 foot incline over the span of a mere .8 miles. 

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I may be a little bitter because I hate running hills so much and there will be zero hills in New Orleans so I don’t see why I should be forced to run on them at all. Okay maybe I’m a lot bitter about this.

In all reality, the major suckitude of my run this weekend was my own damn fault and I know it. In a rush to get my run done and over with (and head out to get my Christmas shopping done with my friend Pamela), I failed to properly prep for my run. Which means I went out without eating breakfast or even having a glass of water. Oops. It did not help that my dinner the night before consisted of sushi, and while super delicious and full of protein, not ideal for carb loading before a run.

As a result my legs felt stiff and heavy and did not want to move. My knee was aching and it took a lot longer than usual to loosen up. Lesson learned, breakfast is good, carbs are good. Right. Fuel. That thing I keep talking about.

Luckily I did make it through, as hard as it was. I guarantee you if I was on the treadmill I would have quit, but one perk of running outside is that if I want to get home eventually, I have to finish my run. I got home and chugged a protein shake and felt instantly better. It was magical and just proved that all I needed was to fuel up properly.

Partly as a result of my poor nutrition before my run, my legs and feet felt beyond stiff for the rest of the day. I was coming to the realization that I would have to ice down every muscle from the thigh down if I wanted to walk on Monday.

And that’s how I ended up in my first ice bath.

Which was kind of magical. I mean it hurt like hell. Like holy hell it was COLD. And it took me forever to warm up afterwards, because well, I had just submerged the lower half of my body in just-above-freezing water for twenty minutes. But I felt amazing the next morning. Very minimal stiffness in my calves, zero pain in my feet or knees. This may become a Sunday night ritual for me.

RSOTW: Today’s song is What You Know by Two Door Cinema Club. It speaks to me mostly because of the opening lines:

“In a few weeks I will get time
To realise it’s right before my eyes
And I can take it if it’s what I want to do
In a few weeks I am leaving, this is starting to feel like
It’s right before my eyes
And I can taste it, it’s my sweet beginning

6 weeks until New Orleans.

That Time I Started Running

One thing you should know about me is that I love doing things. And more than doing things, I specifically love doing things with other people.

It’s part of the E in ESFJ for me to love being around people and gain energy from sharing common activities, interests and the like.

So while at first I resisted the idea of running, what with having a bum ankle and all, I was so proud of my friends who did get out there and run. Allison has long been a supporter of the idea that you should work out in whatever way fits you. But she’s also in love with running, and that’s contagious. My cousin Erin is also a big runner, and she has (for a very long time) been trying to get me to run a 5K with her, even though she’s about to run her first marathon in December (go Erin!).

Together, these two convinced me to get out and try running.

Not on purpose, but by being an example. I saw through Facebook, Instagram, E-mail and everyday conversations. They would always talk about how running helped them relax and set their life in order. Oh, and they were getting in wicked awesome shape, which is always a nice side benefit.

So after I finished my boot camp last spring, I finally felt healthy and fit enough to start running. It was a lot easier to motivate myself because I already felt good about my body. I felt like I could conquer the world after boot camp, so why not running too?

Turns out its not as easy as it seems.

I was used to having my trainer (Hi, Meridith!) encouraging me during boot camp workouts, reminding me why I was there, pushing me when she saw I was slacking (#sorrynotsorry).

You don’t have that when you’re out on a run. You just have yourself, your music and the pavement.

julia after a run

Me and my post workout high.

It was hard. But after searching for a replacement for the post-boot camp high of sweat, adrenaline and exhaustion, I found it in running.

A lot of people run to keep their life in order. A lot of people run to manage stress. A lot of people run to lose weight.

I run for the feeling I get after a run, or any really good workout. Dripping in sweat, gasping for air, feeling the sun beat down on me as I try to control my heart rate.

I don’t feel tired or worn out. I don’t feel pain or fatigue.

I feel powerful.

It’s in those moments when I know exactly how powerful my body is, and I revel in that feeling. I love the feeling after boot camp when I look around and realize that in one night, I did 80 burpees. The feeling after a run after work when I look at the lake I run around, knowing that I did that.

The ache the next morning is just a reminder of what I accomplished.

Do you run? Why? What gets you out there?

(Side note: I am also motivated by select pictures of the monster I call “Fat!Julia”. I must beat her.)

How Did I Get Here?

It’s National Women’s Health Week, so I’ll be posting a couple of articles about my views on health, weight loss and fitness.

First off, I want to give you a brief history of myself and what I’ve been through with my body, because that colors how we view these issues so dramatically. So here it is, the scary truth.

(Yes, this post will contain a lot of photos. Deal with it.)

Disclaimer: I was really lucky to grow up with a group of friends where our weight and body type was not a giant concern for us. At least we didn’t think it was. Looking back, however, it was always there. At least it was for me.

Here I am in my senior year of high school, weighing in at 150 pounds and standing 5 feet, 4 inches tall.

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Not too bad, right? Most people always guessed my weight at around 135 or 140, but that’s because I was strong. I played basketball, ran, went to the gym, all of that. I had broad shoulders (still do) that held a ton of muscle. I could squat around 90 pounds and lift two cases of raw chicken at once. (I used to work at a Boston Market, okay? A case of raw chicken weighed about 10-15 pounds on average.)

Here’s a front shot, taken on the same day, wearing the same clothes. (disregard the ridiculous sunglasses, they were  a gag gift because I was moving to Ohio).

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I was strong. And I hated it. It came from years of playing soccer, basketball, horseback riding, and pretty much any other organized sport you can think of. I was always told that I was built like my father, which in my head translated to: You are built like a boy.

So that is what I looked like when I left for college in the fall of 2006. Desperate for a new physical activity, I joined rowing. And gained 8 pounds of pure muscle.

Honestly? I was horrified. In my mind, I was already a hulking beast of a girl, who could squat more than most of the guys I hung out with. (Church boys and nerd boys, amiright?) And don’t get me started on the girls. I was surrounded by what seemed to me to be the smallest girls who looked just like what the world wanted out of a woman’s body.

This was taken during Thanksgiving break, 2006, after 4 months of being a NCAA Division 1 athlete.

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I was 160 pounds of muscle and 20-30 hours/week of work outs. That’s the life of a D1 athlete, if you didn’t know. Rowing is one of those sports where a 3 hour training session will burn between 1500-3000 calories. So basically I ate whatever, whenever and how ever much I wanted. I didn’t hate my build as much then, mostly because it helped me win races. But I still wasn’t 100% accepting of it.

But then I quit rowing. But I kept eating. And I quickly ballooned (yes, that is the proper term) to around 170 pounds.

By the summer of 2007, I was like this.

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I started hiding behind my clothes. Layers, long shorts and wide straps.

Then I looked back at my pictures from the previous semester. I was appalled. I had gone from a normal sized girl who was strong and happy, to someone who hid under layers, avoided cameras, and untagged any photos that weren’t from exactly the right angle, or showed anything below the waist. Seriously, try and find pictures on my Facebook of the spring of 2007. They’re gone.

I had been 160 pounds of muscle, but in the span of 5 months, my lack of exercise and my horrible diet had turned the majority of that muscle into fat, and landed me in the doctor’s office for high cholesterol. 

I began running, and became frustrated when I wasn’t seeing any difference on the scale. I know now that it was because I kept eating like crap, and would continue to do so through college.

So once I got my cholesterol under control, I became complacent. I figured this was my body and I’ll just have to deal with it.

It got to the point that I didn’t even notice the weight come back until 2012, when I went to the doctors office and weighed in at 185, with high cholesterol and a vitamin D deficiency.

2010, college graduation. I really like that this angle doesn't show my multiple chins.

2010, college graduation. I really like that this angle doesn’t show my multiple chins.

2011, the year I realized I was letting myself go.

2011, the year I realized I was letting myself go.

At first I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to bulk up, but I was so unhappy with my body that it started affecting other parts of my life as well. I was working 2 jobs and freelancing as well as doing some volunteer work at my Church. I stopped working out because I didn’t have the time anymore.

Things didn’t get better. When 2012 came around and it began to sink in that this wouldn’t change unless I did, that’s when I took action and joined WeightWatchers.

The rest is chronicled on this blog for your reading pleasure, but I’ll sum up the changes I’ve made that have taken me from the cusp of wearing a size 16 jean to swimming in my size 10 jeans in just a year.

  • You are what you eat. Seriously, about 80% of your body is what you put in it. The rest is your activity level. You can run all day long, but if you’re fueling your body with crap, you won’t see results.
  • Diet can only take you so far. I lost 10 pounds using just diet in the past year. Unfortunately, since I wasn’t pairing it with adequate exercise, I gained most of it back.
  • Honestly? Throw out the scale. I am convinced it is a deranged torture device used to keep women from focusing on the issues that really matter. Use your measurements as a guide. Use your energy level. Use the number of squats you can do in a row. Anything else, really.
  • You don’t have to eat food you hate to be healthy. Seriously. My meal plan calls for tofu, and mushrooms and other things I will not touch. (ahem, tofu). Talk to your doctor, your trainer, the internet and find an alternative. If not, throw it in the blender with some fruit and milk and drink up. Eating healthy is delicious.
  • Most importantly: you do not need to look like the girls on TV or in magazines to be beautiful. Be strong, be healthy, be who you are. If your body naturally leads you to be small and petite, that’s awesome. If you are naturally muscular and curvy, that’s awesome too. Love your body, love yourself, love your passions.

A big milestone for me was in the past few weeks when I learned that it is good to be strong. It is awesome to be able to squat 90 pounds at the age of 16. I have a new found sense of awe at the power of my body, and I can’t wait to see what else it can do.

I’m not ashamed of being strong anymore.

And that’s the whole truth, nothing but the truth, so help me God.

(and just in case you were curious, the biggest change I have seen has been in the past few weeks during boot camp. See below.)

April 1, 2013

April 1, 2013

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May 10, 2013

4 Healthy Energy Boosts

We are all busy folk here, right? I know that, and I do appreciate when you take the time to read my ramblings about food, weight and my vain attempts at becoming a runner.

actually, please don't.

But what happens when we start to feel exhausted? Life is hard. Sometimes you can’t go to bed when you want (or can’t fall asleep for various reasons). Sometimes you need help waking up in the morning. Or, if you’re like me, you need help staying awake in the afternoon.

I have a few energy tricks up my sleeve that I would like to pass on to you, however. Beyond the obvious coffee and cokes.

  1. Water. I feel like it’s the answer to everything. Isn’t it though? It helps you lose weight, clear up your skin, relieve muscle pain and it helps wake you up. It’s a miracle drink that comes out of our faucets and we take for granted every day. At least I know I do. My love for water has been detailed at length on this blog. Water actually helps you stay awake because it literally wakes up your muscles. Plus it does about a hundred other amazing things for your body. Plus, if you don’t feel the effects right away, you’ll stay awake for the sheer need to get up and pee every twenty minutes.
  2. Black Tea still has caffeine in it, but the lower amount means it wakes up your brain without overstimulating your heart. It also has a ton of antioxidants, polyphenols (cancer reducing enzymes) and theophylline. While caffeine chiefly targets the brain and muscles, theophylline stimulates the respiratory system, heart and kidneys. This helps maintain a healthy cardiovascular system. True, the energy boost is a bit slower, it’s better for you and will keep you alert.
  3. Apples. Or any fruit with a large amount of vitamin B. Vitamin B complexes naturally wake up your muscles and your brain, reduce stress and about a thousand other awesome things. Read more here.
  4. Excercise! I know, not unexpected and it’s actually pretty obvious, but working out in the mornings or even on your lunch break can reduce stress, help you wake up and make you feel more productive.

How do you keep yourself awake when you’re feeling tired?