Category Archives: fitness

Not Crossfit. Not Paleo. Just Healthy.

Those of you that still follow me on Twitter have already been subjected to (or ignored) my Crossfit tweets. Before you click away, this isn’t a Crossfit post. It’s about a fitness challenge issued by the Crossfit affiliate gym where I spend so much time and sweat.

Starting Monday, we’re eating clean. Somewhat Paleo, but Paleo has become such a fad that there are way too many cheats labeled as Paleo. A gluten-free cupcake is still a cupcake! No, we’re going for a grain-free, sugar-free, cleaning eating challenge. Along with that nutritional throwdown, we’ve also been issued a challenge to drop body fat and gain muscle. How? Simple. Eat clean and exercise frequently.

Who’s with me?

It’s so quiet in here I don’t even hear the crickets. Well, crickets don’t need to lose body fat, but a lot of us who sit in front of the computer all day absolutely do! Join me, dear Readers, in these three things–

  • Don’t eat grains, sugars, or anything you can’t pronounce.
  • Exercise five to six times a week. With variety — Lift heavy weights, run, play a sport, practice yoga.
  • Sleep. Yes, sleep. Lack of sleep can reduce reflexes as much as drinking, and work sucks when you’re tired.

Last time I did something like this I felt amazing. Sure, it was hard to give up the flavored coffee creamers, and the margaritas, and the caramel chocolates, but it was worth it. I had more energy. My clothes fit better. I don’t know why I left it behind. It was a slow decay to be sure, but it happened. Tomorrow I throw away whatever junk I don’t eat tonight, and I start fresh. Oatmeal, Sun Butter, chicken, fruit, veggies, eggs. The list is endless if only you look beyond the candy aisle.

If you’d like to join me, take a “before” picture. This is only for you, so don’t worry about anyone seeing it. Pick the activity you’d like to improve — start running? Gain flexibility? Get stronger? And now benchmark it. Measure your time, speed, weight, whatever your goal is, and jot it down as part of your “before”. We’re going for faster, more flexible, stronger, better balance, more endurance. You name it, you can change it.

Happy Sunday, dear Readers. See you next week, with some thoughts on this challenge. I hope to see you there.

~PV

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The Easy (er) Sport

They say running is an easy sport to pick up. Just put one foot in front of the other. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

It’s not that easy. Sometimes the feet end up higher than the hips.

I don’t trail run often but I’m no amateur either. With a recent break in the August heat, I ducked into the woods when I would’ve normally been running laps around the office campus. As I neared the end of the trail, I experienced a brief moment of distraction which ended with my foot catching… something, and the rest of me continuing with the momentum of my run.

I never thought myself a fast runner but that little trip had me rushing at the ground pretty darn fast. Not so fast that several thoughts couldn’t race through my mind as I fell.

Pick up your feet for fuck’s sake.

You got this.

No, you don’t.

Ground to knee. Ouch.

Shoulder’s gonna hurt if we don’t do something.

Tuck and roll.

Not exactly.

Gotta try. Pulled shoulder in, tucked chin to chest.

Roll. Yes. Got this.

Stopped.

Then I’m sitting on the edge of a bed of ferns, my legs splayed out in front of me, my water bottle gone, and I’m looking around like I expect to discover I’ve fallen down the Rabbit Hole. There was no caterpillar and no grinning cat. Just the trees, the sky, and a lot of dirt.

Okay, no biggie. It’s over.

Am I hurt?

(pause) Nothing feels hurt.

I glance down the length of my body, somehow amused that my legs are splayed out straight in front of me since the last thing I remember is hoping I don’t jar my shoulder.

Everything seems okay.

My gaze falls on my Gamin. Time’s moving. Gonna mess up my timing.

I was on my feet, brushing dirt and pine needles off my arm as quick as I hit the ground. I paused to check my knee. Blood. Dirt. Lifted my foot. Everything still worked and time was ticking.

I’ve heard it from mountain bikers. Rub dirt in it and get your ass back on the bike. Okay. I look around for clean dirt. Yes, I did. Go ahead and laugh. There are a lot of geese on campus and I wasn’t going to rub goose crap in my wound. I scooped my fingers across the ground and then rubbed dirt over the blood on the side of my calf. I decided there was enough on my knee, and turned toward the trailhead. I was two hundred meters from the end, but I wasn’t letting that trail win. I stepped off the trail and then circled around to do that loop again.

I managed to keep my feet on the ground on the second loop. One foot in front of the other. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Easy…er.


The 5K Revolution

I’ve been running for a while now. I had been working my way up to attempting my first 10k when I broke the third metatarsal of my left foot on what was supposed to be a lazy, easy running day. (On what was supposed to be a rest day, but I digress. That’s a topic for another time.)

This spring, I officially acknowledged that I was finally back to where I was before that injury. Sure, it might’ve come a little sooner but each time I’ve come close to declaring being 100% I’ve had an issue – shin splints, hip pain, foot cramps. Well, you get the idea.

I still struggle with Charlie-horse-like cramps in my arches on bad days, but I refuse to let that keep me down. At least, not down past the time it takes to soak tired feet in cold water before bed. Seriously, it feels great, and I sleep better when my feet aren’t hot. Two birds, as they say.

So, anyway. 10k. 6.2 miles. I’ve been toeing that line again lately. When I go to run club speed work sessions it often adds up to five to six miles, and when I run without watching the clock on Sunday mornings, it tends to reach that point as well. I’m not yet up for running 10k all at once without walk breaks but the potential for a fall 10k race has been on my mind lately.

Then I read a great piece about the 5k by Lauren Fleshman in Runner’s World magazine:

“10 Reasons the 5K is Freaking Awesome”

Yes, I’ve fallen for the same things she talks about in this article. I can do 5k; it’s time to do more. Or, after finishing a “long” run of walk/run five miles, 10k is doable, and the half is right around the corner. For you non-runners, a half is 13.1 miles, a half marathon. Or, in some circles only half crazy.

It gets worse from there.

Yes, I’ve considered training up to a half-marathon despite my frustrations with injury, heat, cramps, and other TMI things. I’ve considered it… but only a little. I like running. No, I love running. It is my private time. Just me, and the battle between I’m tired. I can walk now, and Yes, I’m tired, but I’m not going to improve if I don’t push. I can still do that in 3.1 miles. For 6.2 it’d be all about whether or not I should do 2-mile intervals, or set a stretch-goal of two threes.

It was already out there, but Fleshman’s article hit home at a time when I was thinking of doing something besides setting a 5k goal for the 2014 season. This spring, as I started speed work with a running club for the first time in my life, I set a goal of a sub-30 5k by the end of the year. 10k wasn’t in the plan. It doesn’t need to be. If I can break 30 minutes in the 5k, I’ll be thrilled. I’ll be fitter at 40, than I was at half that, and if that’s not something to be proud of, I certainly don’t expect to feel any better finishing a six-point-two at any time.

I don’t need to keep adding miles. I don’t need to daydream about running the Rock n Roll half-marathon in Vegas (Ok, I do – daydream, that is – but not seriously.)

As Fleshman put it: The 5K is freaking awesome.

I don’t need to be crazy, or half-crazy. I only need to run.

 


Hunger Games: Like a Marathoner

I wrote this post on Marathon Monday, but then I took it down after a bomb shattered what has always been an amazing event. It still was — amazing, that is — but for a different reason. Boston natives, runners and their family and friends, and the entire country banded together in the face of tragedy to show that we, as a people, are stronger than one or two dissenters. We are Boston Strong.

(Reposted in its entirety.)

Today is Marathon Monday, the annual running of the Boston Marathon. Oh, no, I’m not going to advocate a marathon as part of our Hunger series. I’m a runner and I think 26 miles is insane. Yet, tens of thousands of people run every year, not to mention all the other marathons across the US, and internationally.

Why do they do this? In one word, passion. Marathoners are passionate about running. Not just running, but long-distance, physically-exhausting running. I can support this. I may not have any interest in running that many miles in one try, but I am passionate about running. It’s not something I’ve ever been able to explain to non-runners successfully, but it’s there. The endorphin high, the comfort of tired, well-worked muscles, the wind in my face, the sweat in my cleavage, the rhythmic strides, each foot hitting the road/trail briefly to bounce back up and propel me forward, all of my own volition, all through my own power.

Get it? It’s okay if you don’t. The theme to this post isn’t to convince you to run. It’s to guide you into finding the exercise that inspires the same passion. Maybe for you it’s swimming, or biking, or belly dancing. If you dread your daily visit to the gym, you’re going to find excuses not to go, and/or you’re not going to work as hard and efficiently as you would if you enjoyed the routine.

I truly believe that if you find that activity (or activities) that you enjoy with the passion of a marathoner, you’ll look forward to the exercise instead of dreading it.

Don’t just go through the motions. Love what you do.

Healing energy to all the victims, their families, and their friends, and everyone who watched with pain in their hearts as the events of day unfolded. If you haven’t already, please consider donating to The One Fund to help those affected by this tragedy, and if you have, Thank You.

Learn more about The One Fund here: https://secure.onefundboston.org/


Two Quick Reads

Go Patriots!

Yesterday was my day at Slash & Burn. I shared my Just For Fun post there: Are You Ready? As in Are you ready for some football?! Even if you’re not a football fan, drop by and see The Gronk’s naked cover shot for ESPN. Football bodies are almost as fun as the game itself.

Everybody Run!

If you’ve ever been shy about starting an exercise program, or had that awful feeling that people are staring at you as you try to learn how to take better care of your body, read this. If you’ve ever thought, what’s that fat girl trying to do or, why do I have to share a gym with him? Read this. If you’ve ever smiled encouragingly at a fellow exerciser, read this. This blogger said what I’ve been trying to figure out how to put into words lately, so just click and read, and hear me in the background shouting “You go, girl!”


A Simple Joy

As I worked my way through my strength training routine, watching other gym rats walk or run beyond the TV bank, an epiphany hit. I had actually enjoyed the treadmill. After four months of rest and recovery following a stress fracture in my foot, I managed to run three intervals of five minutes each, and I didn’t hurt. I had that runner’s high back. I felt good. I couldn’t wait to tell my love about that big, huge, exciting five minutes. Almost a half mile at my slow, training from injury pace of a 12-minute mile, but it was almost a half mile!

A year ago, I was running four to six miles at a time and dreading the inevitable return to the gym as the narrow roads were too dark after work to run safely. Soon enough, snow banks would add to that danger. I hated the thought. I hated the treadmill. I needed to be outdoors with the fresh air, beautiful scenery, and random turns through my neighborhood, and several others nearby. I needed to be outdoors like I needed to breathe, eat, and sleep.

And yet, as I swung my arms in a delt fly, I realized I had enjoyed the treadmill like I enjoy running outside. It took eight weeks of crutches and eight more of easing back into things as simple as walking around the grocery store to make me appreciate five straight minutes of running in place staring at TV programs I wouldn’t be caught dead watching if I was anywhere else.

The treadmill is not evil. I will not let myself go back to that loathing. As long as I live inNew England, I will suffer brutal winters that force me to use the gym’s treadmill to run. If I start hating that machine again, I will get lazy again. I love to run too much to let something as unavoidable as winter interfere with the soaring beauty of a great run. In my determination to run faster and longer, I had forgotten the pleasure of simply running. Now I remember.

Now I run.


Great Combinations

Like chocolate and peanut butter, or condoms and lube, running and writing has gone hand in hand for me over the last year. When I was running, I was writing. When I didn’t write, I didn’t run. And so forth.

For the past month, I’ve been impatiently waiting for a minor injury to heal enough to run properly. By properly, I mean hitting the road for more than twenty minutes. I don’t want to jog around the cul-de-sac and back. I don’t want to do run/walk intervals. I want to run.

When a story bugs me, I set it aside and I run. Mentally, I’m focused on stride, pacing, breathing, cars, dogs, people, muscle strength, and energy level. Underneath all that, and away from my conscious mind, I’m working out whatever issues stumped me on the story. Likewise, when my body gets regular attention, my mind is more focused when it is time to sit down and write. I have the mental energy when my physical energy levels are regulated through regular workouts.

Lately, I’ve only been able to manage short workouts, usually of mediocre quality. This morning consisted of: walk ½ mile, run ½ mile, walk ¼ mile, run ¼ mile, walk ¼ mile, run ½ mile, walk home. Boring. Miserable. Not the energetic, enjoyable runs I looked forward to every other day last summer and fall. Nothing close to the 10k goal I had when the first snowfall hit. And not close enough to the 7k race I’m registered for next month.

The writing is coming back to me. It helps that I have a hard deadline for LI. My own self-imposed deadlines are nothing compared to one resulting from a contract I signed. As I work through edits, my mind whirls with other characters and the stories they have to tell. The injury will heal. Whether that’s sooner or later, the passion for storytelling cannot be completely subdued, but I do look forward to the moment when running and writing are truly reunited.


Two Queries and Year End Intentions

It’s not quite the end of the month, but the last round of resolutions weren’t really resolutions so much as a game plan. As you know, I’ve never been a fan of resolutions, so no surprise that I’ve transitioned away from that concept.

Stop. Grab tangent. Turn it around and get back on focus.

My last game plan was to have a number of things done prior to the start of NaNoWriMo next month. So far, I’ve completed everything I needed to do, and only have left the ‘extras’. The NaNo project has been outlined, but it needs to be typed up. I still need to write ahead on CRANK, but if I don’t finish that, it can be fit in during the month as it usually is. Besides those items, the two WiPs – the two important tasks – have been sent out to publishers with my fingers crossed.

Finishing Summer Lust and Man Whore (the first of the Personal Demons series) lifted a great weight from my shoulders, but success on this front came at an expense in another. I haven’t run much over the past month. Now that’s partly due to a week-long cold, and then a week of recovery after pulling a calf muscle, but I’ve also been short on time, editing every day whether I wanted to or not. These things happen. Moving on. Keep your fingers crossed for me, dear Readers. Hopefully soon I’ll write a blog post announcing that these two stories have been accepted for publication.

My new game plan is still a little rough, but here come the basics.

First and foremost, I’ll be writing a new contemporary M/M story for NaNo. This one will involve a sexy musician who is nothing like Crandall and Mike from CRANK. I expect this story to be roughly 30-40k, so if I finish it, I’ll be working on Adam’s story, the untitled second book to my Personal Demons story, for the remainder of NaNo.

Next on the to-do list is to get back into running ten to fifteen miles a week. I miss it desperately. I must buy new shoes and then get back into regular runs. Part of accomplishing this will be to check out the new gym a couple of miles up the road to see if I like their treadmills. Ah, New England. The autumn is beautiful, but soon icy, snowy weather will make running on the roads very dangerous.

For December, I’ll be editing the NaNo piece and continuing Adam’s story. Here’s that either/or. Depending on how much I get started in November, I may postpone Adam’s story until January and pull down the first chapters of CRANK to start the rewrites required to put it into novel format. That’ll be a lot of work, but as the second story arc continues strong, I’d like to make the first one available in an easier reading format for newcomers.

So there we go. The end of the year seems so far away right now, but I know November will fly by with the craziness of NaNoWriMo. What are your plans, dear Readers, for the remainder of this lovely year?

Ciao,
Pia


Resolutions and Sparks

Here we are, another new month. I see a problem with monthly resolutions. They make the months roll by all the quicker!

Last month, I did well. I wrote down everything I did for writing. Some days, even when I did write, I didn’t further my goal of getting published. These are the days new ideas drove me to scrawl furiously in my notebook because I had to know the real story behind new characters. Some day, they’ll be up at bat to have a full story, but they’re not the top of the priority list. Most days, however, I stayed focused. I’ve been working on edits for Summer Lust (in the second round now), started a synopsis for Morgan’s story (and yet still no title), and revamped CRANK for its debut last Sunday.

I’ve been busy. I got off track with new boys once in a while, but seeing that in the notebook refocused my efforts on the much needed editing phase of the other two stories. I intend to continue with this recordkeeping process through August.

On a similar note, you may have noticed I talk less of healthy resolutions now. It is not because I’ve given up. On the contrary, I’ve been doing well. I can run a 5k and am actively looking for a race that fits into my busy summer schedule. I don’t expect to win, but I want to finish, and that is very doable at this point. I’m snacking not on potato puffs, but on broccoli coleslaw with a red wine vinaigrette dressing. I don’t miss most junk foods and now grab an apple or peach after dinner instead of potato chips. It’s not a conscious choice anymore; I simply crave healthy food much more often.

My work at creating a healthy lifestyle has been focused on SparkPeople.com. I blog about my efforts there, so it lets me focus on writing in this blog. I want to make an exception today, to share with you why I love SParkPeople.com and how it helped me finally get my lazy ass in gear.

What I learned in my first six SparkPeople months (in no particular order):

1. I AM a runner. I love the breeze in my face and the sweat in my cleavage. I love the ache in my butt after a long run and I love the spring in my calves when I’m rested. Barefoot or sneakers, treadmill or roads or woods, early or late, hot or chilly, I run and it feels great. (Okay, so I’m still working on being able to stomach the hot and humid days, but it sounded good. Right?)

2. Eating a healthy diet is not the same as dieting. Eating a healthy diet is not painful or depressing or self-torture. It is something that needs to be doable forever, not just for a few weeks. Eating a healthy diet give me more energy and makes me feel… healthier. (See the note about craving healthy foods. It takes some effort, but it does happen if you stay focused on your goals.)

3. I love fruit and veggies. I fell in love, again. I always liked them and yet when I had the munchies, I’d grab a bag of potato chips and eat half of it, wondering afterwards why I was so tired and bloated. Now I grab a piece of low-fat cheddar, or an apple, or freshly chopped pineapple. When I want salty I eat a pickle, and when I want sweet I scarf down a pint of raspberries. Winter will be tougher, but raisins and pears are year-round foods.

4. I am not too old. Sure, I felt that way when I put on an extra fifteen pounds and sat in front of World of Warcraft non-stop for two years. I felt that way when a friend chased me through the woods, gave me a head start, and then caught up when I stopped, stooped over with my hands on my knees, gasping for breath a minute later. I felt that way when the stairs leading up to my office could wind me to the point of not being able to carry on a conversation. I’m not too old because those things don’t happen any more and I got carded buying wine at the grocery store again last month. (Gotta love those teenagers.)

Looking forward to those afternoon runs helps me through rough office days. It is also a great way to let the mind wander over sticky spots in the WIP while loosening up muscles when they object to sitting in front of edits too long.

It is cathartic for mind and body to simply run. And run. And run.

Ciao,
Pia


Refocusing

With two weeks left in July, I stepped back last night to grade my progress on a few things. It’s been a damn hot month, but my running program has been doing very well. I’ve been finding ways around the heat – running in the woods, running first thing in the morning during weekends, returning to the ho-hum boredom of running on the treadmill. Hey the treadmill wouldn’t be so bad if there was some eye candy at the local gym.

I’ve been slack on my barefoot running (BFR), but with good intentions. Running in shoes, I get shin splints if I push to hard. In bare feet, it’s blisters. I know better than to run on fresh blisters, so I take more rest days from the BFR than from regular running. Too many rest days means much slower progress. Too slow. At the same time I started tracking my writing efforts, I bought a new notebook to track the running. I had been logging my miles online, and while I like the reports available on that website, I like the notebook for quick skims through the past few weeks, so I do both.

OCD much? Yeah, I know.

Anyway, I do intend to increase my BFR time and continue to hold steady on the rest. I hit three miles on the treadmill without a walk break last night. I want to do that consistently. The treadmill helps – no hills and a steady pace – so the only challenge I’m allowing for the rest of July is to repeat that outdoors. No pressure. Ha!

On the writing front, the notebook is helping. I don’t want to have to write down “Friday: nothing.” Now that I’m getting back into the habit of forcing myself to work every day, I need to take those daily notes and figure out how to be more efficient with my writing time. For example, I had several days last week where I was handwriting Adam’s story. Adam’s story doesn’t need to be written right now. I need to edit Morgan’s story first since he’s the reason Adam even has his own story.

In other words, just because I’m writing/editing every day, doesn’t mean I’m moving forward. That is the next step, dear Readers. I want to move forward. I didn’t even receive a form rejection from the last place that read Fallen, but it’s out again. It’s not as good as Morgan’s story and it’s not as good as Summer Lust, so I need to get those stories edited and submitted, preferably quickly.

I’m working on it. I really am. I’ve been plugging away at a new scene for Summer Lust over the past couple of evenings. I needed to add this scene to solidify the character flaw that propels the story forward. (Or maybe that keeps the story from flying to the end too quickly. You know how pesky those character flaws can be!)

In fact, I’m going to sign off now because I stuff the first few chapters of Morgan’s story in my blog’s draft folder just so I could work on it in the office. They block my flash drive. They block my Dropbox. They have yet to block my blog… Knock on wood!

Ciao,
Pia

PS Speaking of writing M/M, CRANK will resume on August 1st. I hope you’re as excited as I am!