Thursday, February 27, 2014

Approaching Lent

I'm home sick recuperating from a bug.  I have a new acupuncturist here- he's been working on loosening up some chronically stiff things, and while sessions are not exactly comfortable, I am definitely noticing a massive difference.   I was supposed to have a session on Tuesday, but when I arrived and he discovered I was sick, he booted me out to go home, take my medicine and rest.  "If you don't rest, the medicine will not work!"

For a guy who is all about the alternative healing, I was surprised.  He actually went on to say, "Rest means you go home.  You go to bed.  You can watch some TV. You should drink THIS much water, and some of it can be coconut water, for the electrolytes.  That's what you do.  Oh, no, you don't go back to work."

He was quite adamant.

So while I'm home sick, I'm taking the chance to (ahem, rest, of course) and catch up.  I have letters and a sermon to write, a project to work on, and an email app to select so I can process my inbox to zero.  I'm hoping to get the letters written and the email app selected today, in between bowls of Italian wedding soup and glasses of coconut water.

I'm trying very, very hard to not let the Inner Negativity Voice get the upper hand as I take this week off from the gym.  Negativity Voice says, "But you'll LOSE EVERYTHING!"  My Inner Wimp says, "But it SNOWED! Instant, valid excuse!"  Tough Girl Voice says, "Your joints and back weren't THAT painful.  I'm pretty sure a Navy SEAL and/or an NFL Cheerleader would have both giggled at your wimpiness."  And it takes the acupuncturist to say, "Look, you had these minor recurring injuries.  Rest for THIS WEEK entirely, and you'll actually heal."  Maybe I should promote my acupuncturist to the role of Sick Coach… you know, the person who tells an overly-driven person how to rest and get better.  I'm really not good at the sick thing.

(Which, by the way, is how I ended up with this whole dairy allergy thing to begin with.  Pushing too hard and sending a natural intolerance over the cliff.  You'd think I'd have learned something from last year, no?)

I'm contemplating Lent and what discipline I'll do this year.  I'm feeling strongly this time that I don't want to do a deprivation-based discipline.  After all, with the dairy allergy, everything is deprivation.  I've liked the no-Facebook-after-5 disciplines and that's a good standard now, and I really liked the "take a hike a week" discipline that I did last year in Oregon that I kept pretty quiet because it was just for me.

This year, I want to do something simple and graceful, based in gratitude.  M is talking with me about what we might want to do together.  We are considered cutting out purchased carbs (breads, tortillas, pitas, pasta, our usual sandwich fare) and making a 40 day rule that we are going to make all our own bread.  It would be a learning process for him to learn to bake.  I'd make it a blanket requirement for myself: no processed carbs at home OR while out, except for what we make ourselves.

Some day, I will learn how to make these go in the right direction!
Bread that I made last year when I was working on a no-knead recipe.

I feel I've learned enough about nutrition AND my training load is light enough right now for this to be a sensible and safe discipline.  I know that the act of baking tends to force me to slow down and build in extra time, meaning that I have to be grateful for that gift of time and energy.  Being able to give up something like bread and to bake it ourselves… I admit it IS a luxury.  It won't be an easy luxury, but the reality is that we are in a place in our lives where we can afford the time and energy to do this discipline.

We'll have to make up some rules for ourselves, I'm sure.  Maybe Sunday afternoons are going to be baking days?  We might even pick up the grain grinding jar for our Vitamix, to help with this discipline… who knows!

This could dovetail nicely with work for me.  My parish is participating in a project called 'Change for Lent'.  Basically, you set aside a jar, and put a certain amount of money into it each day.  Some suggestions are to give up your Starbucks coffee and put the cash amount of that coffee in.  (Yes, that is hard work in our increasingly cashless society!)  I think we might figure out how much we are spending on bread products and put THAT amount in… including the amounts that we would have spent on a sandwich, had we gotten a sandwich while out and about.

How will this be a spiritual practice for Lent?  Well… It'll be both a health and a spiritual thing.

Eating fewer processed carbs tends to make both our bodies happier.  We eat pretty high on the vegetarian scale, so our diets are very naturally high in whole-food carbs, so cutting out processed carbs is like scraping off some of the icing from a cake.

Emotionally, I tend to be extremely hard on myself with a lot of negative self-talk around food.  I have noticed, looking back on journal entries, that I tend to be much more gracious with food I have cooked myself.  If I ask myself to bake my own bread for Lent, and/or as I eat the bread my spouse will be learning to bake, then I think I'll be more grateful for the bread, and more mindful of the eating.  It will likely help me focus on reducing that negative self talk.

Spiritually… I think something like bread is really tied into the Christian faith in our rituals.  In our culture, it is everywhere and easily accessible… but that wasn't necessarily the case in a time before factory bread.  Bread used to be something that took time and planning.  The heels of bread were a treat, not the icky part that kids refuse to eat.  Pasta was a family affair- a multi-hour process of rolling dough and stirring sauce.  Bread is something real to all the senses, real in a way that we often lose when we pull it out of a plastic bag from the market instead of baking it ourselves.

I think, for me, it will be about slowing down and consciously connecting with family as we knead or roll or mix dough.  It will be about pressing pause on my inner critic who is too quick to snap at or stop my spouse in the kitchen as I teach him how this works.  It will be about me learning to be grateful for a food source instead of pricking myself with guilt every time I want to stuff my salad into a pita.  It'll be about me trusting someone else to manage the bread baking sometimes, and to let go of the inner Control Freakazoid.

So that is what I've been mulling today, as I work hard to take a rest day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Still alive

I have been a bad blogger!  I just realized that February had almost gotten away from me.  I keep thinking to myself "Ooo, this would be a good moment to write a little post" but by the time I am settled with a computer, I have either forgotten, or I'm tired, or I have a ton of little work emails to respond to.

Let's hit the big points.

-The gym is going well, and I'm finding, as always, that I just work harder when there's an instructor telling me what to do.  I push myself.  I have only gotten one instructor I don't like and there's others who are lots of fun.  A few have said that they've seen an improvement, so hopefully that muscle memory is coming right back.

-Work has been pretty busy.  I'm hitting my third or so week in a row of not having my day off for various reasons, all of which are good reasons and none of which are truly life-or-death reasons.  So I'm going to really focus on getting stuff this week so I can take my next day off… really OFF.

-I took my first bike ride on the W&OD trail yesterday.  It was pretty fast and crowded.  At one point, a guy on a decent road bike caught me and passed.  So I decided to put up a chase.  I never quite caught him… but I chased hard enough (and he knew he was being chased) that by the time we had to stop for a traffic light, he'd found himself in serious need of a hanky.  Yes, it's gross.  But it's also vindicating.  Hey, athletes are gross, OK?

-My BMC gets a lot of attention round these parts.  That is fun.

-Cooking has been going well.  We've been downloading some of the recipes we like to cook together, so we have a pretty functional app by this point.  I did, however, have a total screw up on the cake.  Angel food cake pans, I guess, are not like bundts after all.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

More time in the gym and letting things settle

Yesterday I did the 45 minute stretch class (which I preceded with a fast 15 minute ellipsis workout for a wee bit of cardio), and then today I went for the Suspension Ride.  That's a class where you do 30 minutes on the spinning bike followed by 30 minutes of TRX. 

The MSA (in Eugene) had TRX,a dn we bought one of them when it closed.  So we have our own... But no place to put it up.  So I was eager to try this class.  

First off... Let's just say that the spinning saddle is a different shape than my beloved Firefly, and I noticed I definitely had some different places to be saddle sore in! I knew the pain would subside once I got warmed up so I gritted my teeth and squirmed and leaned into to the pain and sure enough it went away over the course of the ride.  It's a necessary evil of riding! 

TRX was nice and tough, as well.  Being the tallest girl in class meant I was a helper for the petite girls who couldn't reach the rig that the straps hang from! I notice how weak my abs are right now, so I did the best I could.  I felt felt extremely large and ungainly, which is a different issue altogether.  I will definitely return to this class for more butt kicking. 

The large and unwieldy is an issue I've struggled with all my life.  I've always been tall and not petite.  I'm built with a lot of muscle.  Teachers used to tell me I was a "big, good girl".  As a kid, I knew I was bigger than everyone else.  Even though I'm average height and weight now, I still feel like the tallest kid in class.  So feeling large is a self-conscious problem for me.  

I'm also carrying a few actual extra post-recovery pounds. (Weight gain is what happens when your metabolism goes bananas after lots of gut issues!) I keep reminding myself that my weight has dropped before and it'll drop again and that I'm only about 7 pounds over where I was last summer... 

And then I noticed as I was taking off my socks and my watch that the finest details were imprinted on my skin.  My rings were tight.  My ankles felt stiff.  Oh, duh.  Water retention.  Think about it.  I've added a bunch of new workouts.  I'm stressing my body in new ways.  What happens after, say, a big race or a tough training ride?  I retain a bunch of water.  So I need to be on top of things and drink lots of liquids to help my body flush out all the extra water.  

It's annoying.  When I retain water, it tends to be around 7-9 POUNDS of water. Seriously.  After my 70.3 last summer, I was 9 pounds heavier when I got home than on race day.  A week later, I was 12 pounds lighter.  I've talked about this with my Oregon doctor, but he didn't think this was harmful... Just uncomfortable. He advocates lots of drinking and flushing out the system.  I take my vitamin B complex like a good vegan (even though I'm not totally vegan), and I am just going to have to wait this out.  

Monday, February 3, 2014

Spinning class

So my goal of using the free gym membership continues.  Actually, I should SET a real goal, like "do three classes a week". It's really my INTENTION to use the gym.

Today was a busy day. I had my usual Monday to do list, plus it is Annual Meeting this week when I have to give a state of the church address, plus I had a funeral.  In the evening, we planned for a cheapie date night at the Cinema Drafthouse, and knowing how crowded it can get, we needed to get there early.  

My only workout could be at lunch.  I was nervous That I'd either miss class or be late to the funeral, but I went for it! 

I arrived with just enough time to change and get setup. The instructor was great- engaged, fun, and constantly modifying the workout to be just right for all of us in class.  45 minutes later, I had to slip out to get back to work. But it was definitely fun.  A quick shower n change had me back at work right in time for the funeral! 

I got some baseline stats for comparisons.  I don't think that maintenance of biking POWER is really an issue for me, but I do want to work on explosive power and sprints.  The bike coach teaching class suggested that, actually, and she watched me and suggested places I could punch it up a notch.  It was a properly tough workout and I am glad to have a decent spin class again! 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Going into a Gym. We really don't live in Oregon, anymore!

So between the polar vortex that has keep temps around here in the teens, the uncleared snow-and-ice caked sidewalks, and the short days, I've been inside a LOT. I realized, these past few weeks, how spoilt I was in Oregon.  Between the snowshoeing, the hiking, the biking, the running, I literally could be outside 12 months a year.

All the photos below are from last WINTER.

Here is a nice Saturday off in Oregon.  Sun hunting!

Feeling stressed?  No, you really aren't anymore.  Afternoon stroll. 

Funnest friends ever!  That is major snow. (Which they don't have this year.  Scary drought!)

Let's just say that is something I am really, really missing this year.  I miss those beautiful forests and being able to get outside.  I miss the sense of freedom I could get from being in the forests.  If I was having a tough sermon or a bad day, a quick amble around the Ridgeline trail would cure what ails me.

There's so many reasons why it was the right thing to move back, but I feel prickly that I don't have the option of heading to a morning's ramble in a rainforest.

 The temps here are as much as 20 degrees colder than Oregon, and the traffic is much more intense.  The daylight is actually longer, but it's not helping me when I haven't yet found running, biking, or swimming buddies to go out and learn new roads with.  (Even though I've lived here before, I'm in a different area of the Beltway, so I have to learn all new roads and new entrances to the bike trails.)

We started exploring area gyms, thinking that belonging to a gym might be useful for us.  We'd been committed users in the past, so we knew we'd actually use a membership.  It would be a good expense.

Turns out our apartment, thanks to a facilities renovation, was offering complimentary gym memberships for the first signers!  Off we went for a five month free membership at a nearby Crunch.

So far: I really like the weight room.  I had let strength training slide the last few years, focusing on TRX and body weight exercises.  That's fantastic, if I have a team to keep me on track.  Without my team, I have no work ethic.  I miss you, MSA!

The gym has these machines that I have really liked in the past- weight machines that move with you- as you lift, the platforms move.  It reminds me to engage my core, and it also feels more comfortable than a static machine.  I feel more like I can protect myself from injury.  There's even a neat rope pulling machine!

I was shocked- in a bad way- about how much strength I've lost this year.  As the enforced rest period ended in December (my doctor, after my 70.3, said "OK, now no major workouts.  You need to heal!" so I was given instructions that I wasn't supposed to work out more than 45 minutes, easy, for the rest of the year!), I've been more than ready to get back into the mix.

I think I'll take advantage of the free trainer sessions and have the trainer set me up on some strength programs.  I feel comfortable on my own for cardio, but having someone to check in on me for strength will be good.

By the time I get outside for good later in the year, I want to be back to my normal, speedy self!

In other news, REI continues to be awesome.  My heart rate monitor watch was malfunctioning, and after going through two Timex pieces, I wasn't really in the mood to keep trying.  So I had a chat with REI about my options, and will be trying out a Polar.  We shall see how it does!  At some point, I'd like to jump into the Garmin Forerunner options, with GPS and wireless connectivity and all that jazz, but for now, my budget demands I stick with options closer to what I had.  My old Timex had a stopwatch and could time a workout and give me simple lap splits.  It was sufficient unto the day, combined with my iPhone for GPS and distance.

It was fun to be at REI- we talked with an employee who is also a triathlete, and had a little Pacific Northwest lovefest with another employee who turned out to be a Seattle transplant.  :-)  Those of us who have been lucky enough to live out in the PNW… it changes us.  It gets into our bones, I think.