Friday, August 31, 2012

Simplifying Food: Week One Update


Well, I can honestly say that this week has been a bit more difficult than I thought it would be. Let me give you some examples:

Monday:  In-laws came over for dinner and didn't arrive until later than we normally have dinner. "Rule: NO Eating After 7 p.m" broken first night out of the gate. Lovely. But I cooked one of our 7 Meals for the week, so at least we were on track there.

Tuesday:  I seriously struggled with whether or not the Nutella in my cupboard was, indeed, considered "chocolate". I mean, it's hazelnut spread really. It shouldn't violate my Rule of "NO Chocolate", right? Yea. . .I didn't think I could justify it either. So I convinced the hubby to eat it as fast as he possibly could so it would stop being a temptation.  The things he does for me. . .:)

Wednesday:  All I wanted to do was grab a quick pizza for dinner. There's always so much rushing in between school and getting the kids to church and then to our couple's bible study.  A cheap "hot and ready" would really hit the spot right now, but that goes against the Rule "NO Fast Food", so I came home and made our cheeseburger macaroni meal that was planned. And wouldn't you know, we were still on time for everything.

Thursday:  I ran out of bread. This is not something that should be allowed during this whole 7 experiment since all I can have for lunches is sandwiches or protein shakes. In order to avoid breaking my Rule "ONLY ONE shopping trip per week", I improvised and made us turkey wraps with tortillas instead of turkey sandwiches. Same diff.

As you can see, I'm struggling a bit with the boundaries that I've set up for myself.  I've also had to answer a bunch of questions as to why I can't have this or that or why I've made up these rules for myself. Most of my answers include the phrase, "As a means of fasting. . .and just to see if I can pull it off".  Really, it's causing me to do the one thing that I set out for it to do.  This whole process is making me extremely aware of the fact that I'm very used to food being readily available and at my disposal.  I realize how often I eat without really putting a lot of thought into what I'm eating.  I'm coming to grips with the fact that food is a means of security for me.  It's my comfort.  In turn, I'm really learning how to cope with the stresses of daily life without using food as a crutch.  As something I can reach out to when I'm bored or vulnerable.  I'm learning that I've seen food as a hobby, something that I do socially, and something that is meant to be enjoyed and not what it really is--nutrition.  I've removed the convenience of food by doing this experiment. It's no longer something that I can do without thinking. At least for the duration of these three more weeks.

I will say that I have focused so much on myself this week and what I could not have because of the rules that I have set for myself. This was not my intention and I really hope as this fast continues, my focus will move from food to inner change.  I pray it will bring me more to a place of thankfulness for what I have.  And I pray it will bring me closer to God. I feel like this turning point is just around the corner. I so want for this time of surrender will bring me to a place of hunger for God that I've not known for some time. I know Jesus fasted in the desert for 40 days. Even HE fasted, in order to get closer to the Father, to get closer to God. I want that hunger. I want to turn every stomach growl into a reminder to pray.  I want for every craving to remind me that I need to physically crave Jesus more and more as well. I want to leave this four weeks of fasting in the food department  full of God.  After Jesus' fast, He then began healing, rescuing, and redeeming.  The Spirit filled up the emptiness Jesus created, launching Him into ministry.  In some supernatural way the abstinence from food was the catalyst that Jesus needed.  Never again would Jesus fly under the radar.  His powerful ministry was activated after His fast from food. After thirty years on earth, His story truly began.

"He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them, he was hungry." (Luke 4:2)

I want to be that hungry.

Here's to three more weeks!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Looking At Food From A Different Angle



We've all felt the clutter of life at one time or another. I think that it comforts us to a certain degree. Having more "stuff" makes us feel secure, distracted, and accomplished.  I've truthfully never been very materialistic. Stuff doesn't mean very much to me. Just ask my husband in the way that I take care of my mess of a car, continuously pile clutter in every corner of my house, and resolve to the fact that we will never have super nice furniture because we have kids. I'm okay with it. To a certain extent, I've been a horrible steward of my stuff. I should take better care of what I'm given/what we afford. I've just always had a very "disposable" mentality about stuff. It's here today, it's helpful, if it breaks/is stolen/goes through the ringer, it's okay. It's all disposable and we will just get something else. I trick myself into thinking that my stuff does not own me.  Maybe it doesn't. But my perspective on my stuff does. Just because I don't cling to my stuff, doesn't mean I don't take it for granted. I'm not concerned with it being gone, because "out with the old, in with the new". Do you struggle with this? Or do you hold on to your possessions as if they define you? 

Enter the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker and my life is wrecked. 

Well, great. 

I was scrambling to find interesting books to read on our vacation to South Padre Island last week.  Remember, it was a grueling 13 hour car ride one way and I needed something to distract me in the car as well as on the beach. Boy, did I find something worthwhile! Well, little did I know at the time (God sure knew at the time!  He’s so sneaky) that this simple-looking book carried a BIG message.  A message that would stick with me all vacation.   


I wonder how many people have sat at a beautiful ocean condo pool and read a book about EXCESS?  It sounds awfully ironic – doesn’t it?  Well…for me, it just didn't set right. And since I've started it (and many months leading up to this as well) things didn't seem right for us as a family. Don't get me wrong, we were enjoying a beautiful week on the beach, thanks to a gift from my parents and were oh, so thankful for this time. We have been blessed more than just about anybody, but our souls have been unsettled for some time about the lifestyle/world we live in. 

Yes, that photo above is me being convicted in South Padre and naturally I posted it on Instagram (Yes, I like Instagram…sue me!) The caption should have read, “Not an easy book to read while on vacation.  Try reading it at the pool…in your ocean condo…while your kids argue about cable TV stations.”  It did feel wrong.  I was so spoiled at that moment.  No, it wasn’t wrong to go on vacation.  Actually, it was an amazing free blessing/gift to our family and we are humbled by the love that has been shown to us.  It just wasn’t an ideal place to read about excess. Not at all.  We just have so much stuff and are so selfish.  Don’t you ever get tired of how greedy we have become?  It seems like the more we get  -  the more we THINK we need.  We feel like we DESERVE it all.  It’s a terrible cycle and I am ready to get off.  Something definitely has got to give.  I soaked in each word and let it simmer in my mind and heart.  This stuff isn’t new but Jen Hatmaker did something about it.  She put feet to her words.  I spilled my many thoughts and feelings to Hubs.  He probably thought that this was just “one of those books” and I would be fine in a few days.  But he was wrong.  The earlier simmer has come to a full blown boil.  Well, do you know what is next?  I will not just be another woman who simply reads this book and says that it’s a “life changing” book.  I want to do.  I want to act.  I want to be wrecked to the point of change.  Reading isn’t enough for me.  This has shaken me to the core.  It’s official.  I don’t want to be comfortable anymore.  It’s been coming.  God has been working. And now, more than ever is the time to step out and do something about the culture that we've been living and consuming in as a family. 

I've decided to devote the next seven months to this experiment that Jen Hatmaker outlined in the book.  She focuses on seven areas of access in a person's life, and dissects each, choosing a way to fast, so to speak, from each area. The 7 areas are: Food, Clothes, Possessions, Media, Waste, Spending, Stress. Everyone is different, every family's needs are not the same, and everyone finds their life "excess" to be different.  I will not be conquering 7 the same way that Jen does. I will be making minor modifications so that this time of reflection and fasting really resonates with us specifically. And I'm not gonna lie, I'm making modifications because Jen is a HERO in the fasting department and there is no way that I could actually pull off some of the stuff she has come up with! So I will improvise. Bare with me. :)

Before you start thinking that I am a radical or that this is just yet another one of my thingsneed something like this. We need God to shake us up, meet us intimately, and give us new direction. This is not just a social experiment.  This is a grasping for the new life God has for us. For that, and two main reasons, I'm pursuing this time of fasting. The first and foremost is repentance.  7 will be a tangible way to bow low and repent of greed, ungratefulness, ruined opportunities, and irresponsibility.  It's time to admit that I'm trapped in the machine, held by my own selfishness. It's time to face our spending and call it what it is: a travesty.  I'm weary of justifying it.  So many areas are out of control, so much need for transformation.  What have we been eating?  What are we doing? What have we been buying?  What are we wasting?  What are we missing?  These questions grieve me, as they should and I'm ready for some deconstruction in my life. 

The second reason is for preparation.  Most of my life is in front of me. I'm only 30 years old and only 5 years into my assignment as a mother.  The bulk of my life-work lies ahead of me. My children are young--still entirely impressionable.  It's not too late to untether them from the lie of "more".  Our new mission as a family is really just beginning.  I'm hungry of the reconstruction of something so much bigger than ourselves. 

This whole thing is so WEIRD. Really, it's okay to think I'm becoming one of those Christians. But in the words of our pastor, "I welcome WEIRD. Normal isn't working anymore." It's not. I'm sure that most of Jesus' ideas werent' so popular either.  I'm convinced that He got the "I-thought-you-were-normal-but-now-I-see-I-was-clearly-wrong" face plenty of times. He seriously knew how to thin out a crowd.  He always gunned for less, reduced, simplified.  He was the most fully and completely unselfish, ungreedy, unpretentious man to ever live, and I just want to be more like Him.  It's as simple as that. If limiting myself of my favorite things for 7 months can help Jesus overcome me, then so be it.  I'm okay with an oddball label. 

This first month, I will focus on food.  I've picked only 7 meals that our family will eat for the entire month. We may get tired of these 7 meals, but we will cling to the fact that this is all we have to eat. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Well, you are correct. I've also added 7 rules for myself in the food department that may cinch the line in a bit and really make the fast this month more uncomfortable. These 7 extra Food Rules Are: *NO Fast Food.  *NO chocolate.  *NO pop/soda.  *NO alcohol.  *ONLY ONE grocery trip per week.  *NO Pork.  *NO EATING after 7 pm. 

I'm starting this first phase this Monday.  Every Friday, I'll give a summary on the blog as to how it is going and what kind of spiritual/emotional knowledge I am gaining from this time. I recognize that this is a fitness blog, and some of you may not care about how I am cutting back in the other areas of my life, but bare with me. This should be a worthwhile experiment and should develop some disciplines in me that I have lacked before.  In the meantime, I HIGHLY recommend you go buy/borrow the book 7 by Jen Hatmaker. Eye-opening, I tell ya! 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Eating Out Without Ruining Your Diet



Come on, we’re women! What woman wouldn’t love to eat out over having to slave in the kitchen for hours, right? But we’re women, which means that weight loss is ever present on our minds. So how does one combine those two important things – eating out and weight loss? Here is some advice and tips that I've recieved on it!



1. CHOOSE SALAD

Just because you’re eating out doesn’t mean that you can’t choose a healthy dish! And what could be more healthy (and more delicious!) than a beautiful salad? Colorful and so yummy, and totally healthy! Can’t beat that, can you? And you can find salads at just about any place you choose to eat – even McDonalds!

2. RESEARCH

So many restaurants have a web page with menu information. Why not spend 20 minutes looking over the menu, so you have your healthy food choice picked out before you go. This will eliminate the chance for you to cave in your weakest moment of smelling the food. Go in, ready to order, and don’t even glance at the menu there – you already know what you want, right?

3. BEWARE OF THE “LITTLE EXTRAS”

Words like “breaded”, “gravy”, “cream sauce” or “extra toppings” should be avoided! Extras like these mean extra fat and calories that you want to avoid! Stick to the plain and simple!

4. MODIFY

Don’t be afraid to ask that your meal be brought out different. Most places don’t mind if you request your dressings and sauces on the side, or even to leave the batter off. They want happy customers that will return!

5. AVOID FRIED THINGS

As much as that fried chicken tastes so good, it isn’t good for you. Instead, choose grillede, roasted or broiled. And if chicken is getting old, go for beef loin or flank. This is the more lean beef cuts available.

6. GO FRUITY

Bonkers for bananas? Go fruity with a fruit plate instead of fattening desserts. Strawberries, grapes, melons – these are all sweet, delicious, and healthy for a wonderful dessert tray!

7. BYPASS THE BUFFET


Buffets are so tempting, because they offer such a variety of choices. However, they are incredibly tempting to over-eat! It is hard to stick to just one plate. If you must go to a buffet (sometimes those husbands just don’t understand our need for less food) give yourself only bite size proportions of the (healthy!) food you choose. That way, two trips to the buffet won’t be so hard on your waist line!
Eating out is so much fun, and it’s wonderful to not have to deal with cooking and cleaning up. It’s very important, though, to think wisely when choosing a restaurant, and what we eat there. If you practice enough, it will quickly become second nature to eat out and eat healthy all at the same time! Do you have another eating out/dieting tip to share? Please do!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

7 Ways To "Get-Up-And-Go" In The Mornings



It’s morning! Rise and shine! Or in my case, Rise and "glow" ever-so-dimly. That's about all you get.  Are you like me? Do you have a problem just hearing that alarm and getting up? Heaven, help us! I don’t do mornings very well at all. So, here are a few things I have found that have helped me to hop to it when morning comes!



1. SET MORE THAN ONE ALARM

Sure, go ahead and set an alarm right beside you, where snooze is close by, but if you really need to get up, set another, more annoying alarm (in my case, the irritating "duck call" ring tone) in the next room, or at lease across the room where you must get out of bed to turn it off. That’s sure to get you up – as long as you don’t dive back in the bed!

2. WATCH YOUR BEDTIME

I don’t know what it is with us adults, but for some reason, we think that because we’re all grown up now, that bedtime doesn’t matter anymore. This is my nightly struggle! It's my only ALONE time, to do what I want and not have to listen to the demands of little people. However, if you have to get up at 6 A.M. it isn’t wise to be awake at 1 and 2 in the morning! Go to bed!

3. LOVE CAFFEINE

If you haven’t fallen in love already, it is a good idea to start dating Mr. Coffee! I hate black coffee and because of that, I’ve stayed away from coffee for years. Lately, I’ve discovered the deliciousness of International Delight creamers that come in a variety of awesome flavors! I have fallen in love the Chocolate Caramel, and my favorite, Caramel Mocchiato! Heaven in a cup!

4. TRAIN YOURSELF

I found this really cool blog article. This man says that he re-trained his mind to get up as soon as the alarm goes off, by holding practice sessions during the day. You can read his entire article here: stevepavlina.com.

5. TURN ON SOME MUSIC

It’s good to bring your spirits up with some jive-y tunes in the morning. So, shut the alarm off and straight over to your favorite station for some morning music! Dance on the way to the shower. . .or on the way to lace up those sneakers and head out for your morning torture session--Exercise/Run. Maroon5 and Nelly can help comfort you along the way. 

6. SHOWER

While some prefer showering before bed, to get the day’s dirt off, I prefer a morning shower. It’s a great way to wake up! Splash some cold water on your face at the sink, then step into a nice, warm, refreshing shower to begin your day!

7. LET THE SUNSHINE IN

I love that song my Mama used to sing when I was a kid…”So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin. Smilers never lose and frowners never win. So let the sunshine in, face it with a grin, open up your heart and let the sunshine in.” Get up and get those windows open. Sunlight is good for you in so many ways. Not only the vitamin D, but also, scientists say that it regulates serotoninlevels, which decides whether you’re sad or happy. That’s why many people in places like Alaska suffer from depression – the lack of sunshine!
I hope these tips have helped learn how you can wake up and get to where you need to go, on time. How do you wake up on time?

Monday, August 13, 2012

When It's Hotter Than Hot. . .


Have you seen the temps in the Midwest lately?  Oklahoma City, I kid you NOT, was hotter than Death Valley, California nine days out of ten the last few weeks! Here's a little snapshot of our prior week:


Our Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallins issued a news release last week asking Oklahomans to pray for rain. She wrote:
“I encourage Oklahomans of all faiths to join me this Sunday in offering their prayers for rain. For the safety of our firefighters and our communities and the well-being of our crops and livestock, this state needs the current drought to come to an end. The power of prayer is a wonderful thing, and I would ask every Oklahoman to look to a greater power this weekend and ask for rain.”
CBS News sheds light on just how intense the weather has been:
For 47 straight days, temperatures in Oklahoma City have topped 90 degrees. There has only been one day below 100 so far this month, and it’s expected to top the century mark through at least next Friday.
This summer’s searing heat is setting new records. This month alone high temperatures have been tied or broken over 800 times.

I don't know about you, but this is so discouraging when all I want to do is go for a nice, brisk, cool morning run when I wake up. Even then, at 6 a.m., we are looking at 95 degrees! No bueno. My fitness/run goals have been hit and miss, to say the least.

I hope the weather where you are is a bit more reasonable, but if it's not, you can take some of these ideas that I've (with the help of Pinterest!) come up with to stay cool and beat the heat!


1. CREATE A SHORE STORY

One of my personal favorite things to do when it’s hot outside is to visit my local park, which happens to be right next to a lake. I usually round up the kiddos, grab a large sheet, and sit right next to the refreshing water. If you’re feeling particularly brave, go ahead and jump in –the water might be a bit chilly, but wouldn’t you rather take a dive than sit there letting your make-up melt off your face

2. BUY SOME BALLOONS

Fill ‘em up with water and stage an epic fight. A water balloon battle in the backyard is a fun and an inexpensive way to cool down fast. And it’s perfect if you have kiddos –or are a kid at heart!

3. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE AC

If you rely on your trusty air conditioner and are in search of something to do when it’s hot outside, consider kicking back and relaxing. Mix a fresh pitcher of iced tea, crank up your new summer playlist, and delve into the romance novel you’ve been meaning to read for the past month. Or, take a cue from yours truly and watch “Law and Order” reruns. They don’t disappoint (believe me, I know).

4. HOST A SLEEPOVER

Though I’m in my thirties, I’ve never quite gotten over the girly greatness of a sleepover. Get your best friend or sister on the phone and tell her to check out a few flicks on her way over. Meanwhile, order delicious take out and get your nail polish ready. It’s going to be a long –and chill– night!

5. START A BLOG

One creative thing to do when it’s hot outside is to sign up for your very own blog. For me, it all started last year on a miserably boring September afternoon and a simple Blogger.com account. Today, I have a few hundred regular readers and a parenting/health blog I update every other day.  Blogging about your passions can lead you to scoring a job doing what you love. Plus, it’ll improve your writing skills and help you make valuable friends and connections. Pretty good for a hobby, no?

6. UNLEASH YOUR INNER SHOPAHOLIC

Lots of ladies know that online shopping is a wonderful thing, especially when you do it with your gal pals. I’d use the heat as an excuse to hit up my usual haunts for summertime essentials –and since you have time to kill, don’t forget to check retailmenot.com to save a few bucks.

7. WHIP UP SOME DEVILISHLYDELICIOUS DESSERTS

No oven needed! From refreshing smoothies to mouthwatering pies and everything in between, there are countless recipes out there. I’d start with cookinglight.com for some healthy (and not so healthy) sweet treats that’ll help you beat the heat.

8. CATCH UP ON YOUR “ME” TIME

One thing to do when it’s hot outside is to hop in your air conditioned car and walk around a local museum or aquarium. It’ll help you stay cool and learn a few neat facts that you can brag about. After you’ve taken a peek at all you can handle, treat yourself to a fresh smoothie at the local cafĂ© or a mani/pedi at the nail salon. Don’t hold back girl –you deserve it!
These are only a few of the coolest things to do (pun intended) when it’s hot outside. I won't pretend that I haven't escaped to the beach this week. . .the hubs and kiddos and I are on our way to South Padre Island, TX to lie on the beach and rest and relax for 8 glorious days! But if I were home, I would be taking advantage of any/all of these ideas.  Which ones will you try? Do you have cool-down methods of your own? Do tell!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Reasons I Run. . .


Sometimes, all you need is a little visual stimulation. Here's for those days. 
The following are reasons that I run. Every day. 
They may not make sense to everyone, but they make sense to me.
They make a difference in my ongoing decision to RUN. . .
To keep training for that elusive marathon idea.
I know it will happen someday. 
I'm not proud of my before pics. They are quite repulsing.
But someday, I want to look back on them fondly and think to myself,
"Whoa, you sure came a long way!"
 Is it totally vain and conceited that I want to be a "bikini-clad mom"?
Oh, well, that IS the case.  And I will get there. 
Unfortunately, it may not be this beach vacation, but the next one. . .
Oh, it's most certainly ON!
 I cannot count how many times I have lost the weight
only to have it come flooding back
because I was careless and didn't take care of my overall health.  
The changes that I'm making this time are for long-term results.
Running AND nutrition.  It's the only way this will work.
 You know I'm right.
 I'm a happier girl after my runs. 
That's putting it simply. 
The high I get from all the natural endorphins are way better 
than the temporary high of an energy drink. 
 A bunch of you friends can relate to starting something and not finishing.
My follow-through has always been a tad broken.
This goal with NOT be one of those. 
I run because I want to prove to myself and others that I can.
 Wouldn't this be fun?
So many of my friends are personal trainers. 
I have no intention of starting a business like they have. 
More than that, I want to be able to give advice to the people I care about most.
Advice that comes from trial and triumph. 
 I regret every day that I don't run.
Every. Single. One. 
I see it as a missed opportunity to add progress. 
 I'm so tired of clothes shopping and not finding anything to fit my body type. 
I used to love heading into those dressing rooms, arms full of clothes 
and swimsuits. I loved buying things that expressed my personality.
One of these days I hope to experience that again.
 All my fellow moms know exactly what I'm screaming here. 
26.2 miles of peace and quiet, 
rocking out to your own music,
basking in your own private thoughts without the 
constant interruption of little people demanding more and more of you. . .
Running is heaven on earth. 
The longer my runs, the longer I get to reside there.
I see glimpses of the me that I can become just by accomplishing this one goal in my life. 
Being proud of oneself is something that cannot have a price tag attached to it.
It's gold.  It's priceless.
Far too few times in life do we have self-defining moments.
Most of the time, we get lost in our days, 
our routines, our responsibilities.
Reaching your dreams brings you out of the ruts and into the spotlight,
even if only for a moment. 
I run for that moment.

Keep on, Keeping On Amigas!
And shed some insight into some of YOUR reasons for running: 
I'd love to hear them!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

My Favorite Songs To Sweat To

Summer is in full swing, and if you're suffering from the heat wave that has been affecting so many regions, the thought of sweating through your workouts may be hard to bear. You can do a lot to stay cool in the summer heat (exercising in the shade, putting an ice pack in your sports bra or under your hat, and wearing moisture-wicking workout clothes), but you can only do so much to motivate yourself to get going. If you need help putting a pep in your step, start with your music. It makes such a difference in motivating you to get out the door and keeping your going!


The last few weeks in Oklahoma have been brutal. We're talking, 105 degrees at 8:30 p.m. as the sun is setting and I'm heading out for my daily run. I feel like I have massive boob sweat before I ever make it down the driveway. It's too much. If I didn't have my iPod stocked with loads of bumping tunes to motivate me, I'm not sure anything could keep me from falling to one, massive sweat heap on the pavement. 

There are so many great songs out right now that I'm having a hard time adding them to my own workout playlists fast enough. To make it easier for you, here are the sweet 16 songs I'm sweating to (and loving it) so far this summer. 

(Links go to amazon.com for mp3 purchases.)

Calvin Harris ft. Ne-Yo – Let's Go


David Guetta ft. Sia – Titanium (This is my jam! I listen to it on repeat during my runs.)


Ellie Goulding – Lights


Imagine Dragons – It's Time (only $0.25 on amazon.com!)


Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built


The Killers – Runaways


Linkin Park – Burn It Down


Maroon 5 – Payphone


Neon Trees – Everybody Talks (Everything on this album rocks.)


Owl City ft. Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time


P!nk – Blow Me (One Last Kiss)


Pitbull – Back In Time


Rihanna – Where Have You Been


Train – Drive By


Usher - Scream


Walk The Moon – Anna Sun (currently a free download on amazon.com!)
 

What songs are you sweating to this summer?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Naked Running

I feel naked if I run without my ipod and iphone. I rely on Lady Gaga and Usher to push me through my first mile. The beats of Kanye and Jay Z help to quicken my stride as I get into the groove.The numbers obsessed part of me can't help but peek down at my Nike+ every five minutes to see my mile splits and distance.

But it hasn't always been this way. 

The first time I went for a "run" I was 19. GPS tracking hadn't been invented and iPods were a lawyer's kid's luxury. I was happy with my mixed CDs and a Discman. Eleven years later and these gadgets are as essential to a run as my legs themselves. Dependency? Maybe a little. 

However, there are days when I need my run to accomplish one thing: quiet the noise inside my head. This can't be done with "Poker Face" on repeat. 

Being more interested in distance rather than my organic movement along the roads of the Edmond, America suburbs makes my run feel tense and exhausting. For me, this adds to the noise inside my head. 

Work has been rough lately. By "work", of course, I am talking about my neverending job as a Stay-At-Home Mom. This 9-5 (HA!) demands more than I have to give some days. One day last week, I had reached my emotional threshold and needed to run. I cared nothing about how far or fast I went, I knew I just need to go. 

I spread a smear of peanut butter on a bread slice and chugged a cup of ice water before I headed out. 

I popped my ear buds in and hit the pavement with a half hour until sunset. As I picked up my feet I struggled with the heaviness of the first quarter mile. The dimness of the dinnertime sky coupled with the dropping temperatures of nightfall would normally have dissuaded me out of my sneakers and back onto the couch. But I was invigorated. After five minutes I had a "Forrest Gump" moment where, figuratively speaking, I felt like the braces broke off my legs and I was freed to really run. I felt good and strong. Mostly though, I felt free. 

I didn't expect this. After-work exercise rarely feels good and fun for the first ten minutes before the endorphins kick in. 

How could this have been? What did I do differently? 

I looked down at my wrist and noticed I never hit "start" on my ipod. I looked at the face of my phone and saw nothing. I never turned on my music. I hadn't even thought of it until that moment. 

I realized I didn't need Maroon5 to power me through the next mile. I couldn't have cared less about my pace. I was satisfied with the quiet. No pressure, no distraction, just my ponytail and me moving through the breeze. 

Lost in the warm peach glow of the Oklahoma sunset before me as I turned the corner toward home, I found the nakedness of no music or GPS to be liberating. It was a kind of Zen. 

"How was your run?" My husband asked as I walked through the door. 

"Good…" I answered. "Really good." 

My answer didn't faze him as he slaughtered zombies on xbox. I didn't expect it to. How could I adequately communicate the feeling of Zen anyway? 

I took off my earbuds and tucked my phone away. Maybe I'd bring them on my next run. Or maybe I'd be OK with the nakedness of just my ponytail and me, moving through the wind, quiet and free. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

7 Horrible Things I'd Rather Do than Work My Abs

We live in an abs-obsessed society. You can't walk by a newsstand or channel surf without being bombarded by huckster-esque pledges like, "Get a six pack!" or "Killer abs in 30 days or your money back!" Google "Get better abs" and you'll literally get 107 million results. Through no fault of my own, I live in Abs Nation. I also live in Butt Nation, as "Get a better butt!" mania also rages. But I'll keep this discussion above the belt.
I love many forms of fitness--swimming, running, basketball, driving a golf cart around the course, even strength training--except for training one muscle: my abs.

My abs are my nemesis. Biceps curls? Yes! Leg Lunges? Bring it on! Those are glamour muscles. I also like planking, which make my arms a bit toner and keep my pectorals looking, well, taunt? 
But even at my sexiest last summer (in my own opinion, as I had dropped down to 135 lbs), my abs were nowhere to be seen, despite my excruciating and considerable efforts to bring them into the light of day. There's no six pack in my past or future. Maybe working my abs helped shrink my belly. Maybe they helped me lose weight. They definitely strengthened my core, which is very important to my overall body health.


I still work my abs, albeit less frequently, but there's something about the distinct type of strain and pain on those last few crunches and other ab exercises that I find unbearable. So one goal of this hopefully therapeutic post is exploring a few ways to overcome aversion, even revulsion, to certain forms of fitness you know are good for you.


But a cornerstone of therapy is that you have to fully recognize the scope of the problem before you can reckon with it. So, I did some soul-searching and, in search of catharsis, came up with 7 Horrible Things I'd Rather Do than Work My Abs:


1. Go to engineering school: I majored in English for a reason: I wanted to be fluent in my native language, and that was the only unqualified success of my college career, except for the fact that I didn't quite graduate. My friend was an engineering major. All he did was study. I'd get an 88 on a breezy sociology exam; he'd get a 39 on an engineering exam, putting him in the 60th percentile of his class. At my school, liberal arts majors coasted and got degrees. Math and Science majors suffered and got real educations and degrees. I didn't even know what calculus was until I asked a math professor I met a few weeks ago. But I'd rather suffer through four years (actually it would probably take me six) at the University of Oklahoma than work my abs.


2. Read Ulysses: I read a lesser-known James Joyce book in college, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young ManMy fluency in English didn't help. The book was unintelligible. Even the Monarch Notes were hard to follow. I'm only glad it was fiction and that I never had to meet the protagonist. That would have been one torturous, insufferable dinner party. Still, nothing made me feel more ill-equipped for life or the workplace than my dismal failure to decipher a novel by "one of the greatest writers of all time." But I would read Joyce's most celebrated and convoluted classic,Ulysses, in a heartbeat if it could get me out of working my abs.


3. Brush the Harshest Kitty: Loyal readers may recall that my family has an issue with adopting stray animals.  This is a blessing and a curse, really. If it's roaming the streets, it will find us. A few times, some of those fostering failures turned out to be "kitties from hell". One find, in particular takes residents at my madre's house.  She has six toes on each foot and we have affectionately named her DIGITS, but what we should have named her was HARSH KITTY.  The Harsh Kitty hates anyone infringing on her personal space. She'll hiss, bite, swat at you with massive tiger claws, and make a god-awful gurgling noise from deep within her throat and threaten your very life if you come at her with a brush. I'd much prefer not ever do it, unless the only other alternative was working my abs.


4. Cleaning up "Harsh Kitty's" Trophy Collection:  The unvarnished truth is that the Harsh Kitty is a vicious, bloodthirsty, sociopathic serial killer. She devours and dismembers birds and mice, then deposits their severed heads, entrails and dismembered legs on my mom's doorstep. We aren't sure if she's offering these remains as a gift, or showing off, or saying, "If you brush me again, you're next." But being the undertaker for her gruesome, merciless crimes beats working my abs any day of the week.


5. Burn my collection of multi-colored flip flops:  I mostly couldn't care less about clothes, but my prized possession is my collection of flip flops every color of the rainbow.  I've bought out Old Navy time and time again! I have some with heels, some without, some with jewels, some with feathers. I adore flip flops.  If I'm not running or forced to attend a function that is "closed toe" only, you will find me sporting my favorite shoe accessory.  But I'd rather douse my whole treasure trove in lighter fluid and strike a match than work my abs.


6. Watch the auto-insurance commercials of every leading insurance company:  What's up with all the auto insurance ads? If a Martian came to Earth and watched television, especially sports, for 24 hours, he would think that saving 15 percent or more on car insurance is more important than going to school, getting married, having a job or any other endeavor on Earth. If auto insurers really wanted us to save on car insurance, they'd stop spending so much money on advertising and passing the cost on to consumers. Every auto insurance ad I see leaves me awash in frustration and annoyance, but compared to working my abs, it's like swimming in the Mediterranean off the Greek Isles in July.


7. Actually try to figure out which auto insurance to buy:  With so many competing claims and loaded corporate mathematical frameworks, trying to calculate which policy actually would save me 15 percent or more on car insurance would render this (almost) English major a quivering mass. But it would absolutely rock compared to working my abs. (For the record, I buy an all-in-one insurance policy through an agent I trust and call it a day.)


Now that I've probed the depths of my aversion, how can I possibly bring myself to work my abs, and gear up for other forms of fitness when I really, really don't feel like it?


1. I remember that, more often than not, motivation doesn't create action; action creates motivation. The aversion to starting to do something is usually stronger than actually doing it. How many times have you told yourself, "Hey, this isn't so bad after all"?


2. This English major draws on what she loves: the infinite power of words.My go to source for one- or two-liners that will get me off my booty can be found at Healthy Inspiration from SparkPeople. Today's nugget is from Lance Armstrong: "Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever."


3.Find an Incentive that Encourages You to "Pay the Price":  I've always been someone that needs constant motivation.  What happens when my motivation and drive fizzles? The answer for me is, "Nothing." Thank goodness that many people have an easier time losing weight than I did. "Unless you have a specific medical condition that hinders weight loss, at the end of the day, your ability to lose weight comes down to whether you're willing to pay the price; whether you've reached the point of being sick and tired of being sick and tired of making the same old choices and excuses…. A successful weight-loss journey requires consistently paying the price by ditching previous habits and making healthy choices again and again in daily life... When we commit ourselves to paying the price, we're doing more than just improving our health and reaching for other goals… We're saying "Yes" to enthusiasm, performance, purpose, striving, integrity, character and life…"

Sooooo. . .my new personal fitness goal for the month of August will be a "CRUNCH FEST".  I understand, aside from the Plank-a-thon that I just completed, crunches and sit-ups are the key to getting this stomach in perfect beach shape is a million crunches. Tighten and tone. And repeat. A million crunches seems to be a bit overzealous, so I will round it to 50 sit-up/crunches per day for 31 days.  That's a total of 1550 crunches in August. Let the "CRUNCH FEST" begin!


Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go work my abs. Ulysses will just have to wait for another time.


What is your greatest source of overall motivation? What exercise or form of fitness do you dread most? What unpleasant things would you rather do? How do you get yourself to do it?