Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fitness and Healthy Eating - Motivations and Goals

A friend of mine pointed out that I mentioned the "Body Transformation Contest" in passing without much context, and the idea that I am trying to further transform my body is a bit crazy.  So I decided to write a broader post to describe both my own goals and motivation, and my perspective on it more generally.  I'm curious what all of you think on this issue, and what your own goals and motivations are when it comes to fitness.  But this also might be a boring post for some of you, so as always feel free to ignore it.  :)

First, the contest - I'm not really trying to transform my body.  One day I popped into my usual GNC-type-store to get some protein bars, and they happened to be just starting up a new 6 week contest.  I'd get 10$ store credit just for doing it, and $100 would go to the winner in each category.  Given my category roughly translates into "old women," and at that point no one had signed up in my category, there probably wouldn't be much competition for me.  :)  So I signed up.  Since the only requirement is to come in a few times to get weighed on their fancy scale, and I'd be going in to the store anyway, and enjoy seeing qualitative numbers about weight and fat percentage. etc., it was a win-win-win-win.  In terms of how I could possibly beat the other woman or two who might sign up in my category - it will not be through losing fat.  In my opinion, I really shouldn't lose any more.  If I end up with competition and win, it will be through gaining (gaining more muscle than fat).  I wanted to gain some weight this fall anyway, and this is a nice push to work on that.  It takes a lot of effort to gain weight healthily, and pride plus $100 can help to push me to make that effort.

Now, the more general:

What Motivates us to Exercise and Eat Well?
In my opinion, there are 4 broad categories of motivation.  Tell me if your personal motivation falls into these or not:
1.  To look good (however we personally define that)
2.  To feel stronger and more energetic
3.  Because it is fun - whether you have found a sport you enjoy, like the sunshine and outdoors, or appreciate the endorphins
4.  For health reasons - this is usually focused on long-term health, but usually comes because of some big "scare" moment that makes you suddenly realize you really do need to take action now to protect your long-term health.  A vague general "I want to be healthy when I'm 90" motivation is rarely enough here.

In the past
I knew from the past that exercise really helped me with (2) and (3) - I enjoyed it like crazy and felt so much stronger and more energetic.  When I learned to ski, I didn't get tired, and I had no problem getting back up when I fell down - because I was in such good shape.  So I had a blast!  And I even enjoyed the workouts themselves, especially anything related to weights.  Honestly, (1) - my appearance - had never been a motivation before, because I never watched what I ate so I usually gained weight if I worked out.  I'm naturally thin - that's just how I am.  And I'm usually pretty happy with that.

This time around - getting started
This time around, appearance was a factor. I've always had a tummy and post-baby it was bigger than ever.  It was to the point where the rest of me looked the way I wanted it to, but that tummy - man it was annoying to have to shop and dress around it.  And it was going to be a little hard to feel comfortable in a string bikini over the summer with it sticking out.  At the same time, I was feeling a lot lower energy than I would like.  I was getting tired easily and just didn't have the energy to play with the kids the way I wanted to.  And then we booked the Wyoming trip.  SO, what really motivated me to start working out and eating more healthily last spring was:
(1) Appearance - I wanted to get rid of that tummy in time for bikini season!  And I wanted all the "feel good about my appearance" feelings that would come with it.
(2) Strength and energy - I wanted to be able to hike on our trip to Wyoming.  I had *loved* hiking when I was in shape before, but I knew that I did not have the strength and energy to enjoy it as of last spring.  I also knew it would take me a few months to get there.  So, I wanted to get there.

And continuing:
What has kept me going?  I hit my appearance goals to my satisfaction within less than two months.  And I hit my hiking strength/energy goals with room to spare by the time of the trip.  Now it's really all of (2), (3), and (4) that motivates me.  (4), long-term health, probably wouldn't be enough by itself, but it's always in the back of my mind, and some things I learned from my dad lately have really reinforced it.  (After all, I have genetic risks for the same things.)  (3), having fun, is probably the main reason I'm running - man oh man is it fun!  *Especially* because of my awesome running buddies.  And (2), strength and energy, is the reason that I do everything else - the weight-lifting and yoga especially.  I love love love being able to run and jump and play with the kids all day long all weekend long and not feel tired.  And I'm not quite there, but I feel like every week I get closer.  I have so much more energy and can do so much more with them (toss 4-year-olds into the air or twirl them around so their feet lift off the ground?  Sure!) than six months ago.

What about body image issues?
To be honest, I do often forget that I am quite thin.  I don't see it in the mirror clearly.  Luckily, it is obvious to me in photos.  And since I do this blog, I see those photos of myself quite often, and that helps to remind me just how thin I am.  I probably do suffer from some body perception issues in that sense.  But the great thing is that how I feel about my body is very positive.  There's not a thing I would change about my appearance at this point.  And that has been true for about 4 months now, even as my body has fluctuated in subtle ways over that period.  That's a great feeling. (Even before, it was just that annoying post-baby belly that I wanted to get rid of.)

I mentioned that I'm tracking my calories/fat/carbs/protein for a few days to get a feel for how I eat.  Well, yesterday was a 2300 calorie day.  Do I feel like I need to exercise more or eat less to make up for that?  Not one bit.  I have to admit I do feel a little of "Wow, that's *awesome*.  Who would think someone who looks like me eats 2300 calories on a random Wednesday?"  But I'm guessing that's a perfectly fine reaction to have.  :)

What About You?
So, what motivates you to exercise or eat healthy?  Now and in the past?
And if you don't, do you think any of those motivations might apply to you in the near future? 

Sometimes you can feel it creeping up.  I did with (2) - I knew that I didn't feel as strong as I had in the past, and I could tell it was bugging me more and more.  It was the booking of the Wyoming trip that was the catalyst to act, but that feeling of wanting to be stronger and have more energy had been building up...

My new Tory Burch flats

This outfit includes two new items - a new sweater, and new shoes.  I think the shoes deserve the title spot in this case.  :) 
My favorite, and most-used, pair of flats are my black Ferragamo flats.  I only bought them because I got a ridiculously good deal on them, but 10 years later they are still going strong, look great, and are very comfortable.  After that experience, I have started to understand the value of high-end shoes.  That said, I am a woman who likes to have a couple hundred pairs of shoes for variety.  I am not going to be buying multi-hundred dollar pairs for each of those.  However, for certain key basics, which I expect to use a lot, paying a little more does seem to make sense.
Enter Tory Burch.  I was always a little turned off by the very visible logos on Tory Burch shoes.  They are a very non-Boston type of thing.  But I live in Orange County now, and no one blinks an eye at logos all over the place.  And her shoes do seem to be very high quality.  My sister-in-law recently bought a very pretty pair of Tory Burch work shoes, and I saw how nice they looked, and how practical they were.  And she mentioned that she's getting compliments on them all the time.  A friend of mine has all sorts of Tory Burch stuff, and again it always looks good, and seems to last.  So, I decided it was worth trying.  And compared to Ferragamos, they seem like a bargain!  They are roughly half the price.
After looking at the Tory website several times, I have also realized that if you are willing to wait, you can probably get them on sale.  Things on sale sell out fast, but even the most basic styles seem to go on sale every once in a while, and less popular colors or styles often go on sale at up to 40% off.  Just in case you're thinking about trying some out but aren't quite willing to pay full price - subscribe to the email list and jump on the sales.  :)  
Tory shoes tend to fit a little wide for me, but this pair is narrower than most and feels made for my foot.  This is just the second time I am wearing them, and the first time I'm wearing them to work and all day, so we'll see how they do.  But so far, I am quite happy with how they look and feel.
(Sweater: Express, Pants and cami: White house black market, Shoes: Tory Burch, bought from the Tory Burch website/store, necklace and earrings: old and I can't remember)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Body Composition and Eating

I entered a body transformation challenge a couple of weeks ago, and as a result I have had my body fat analyzed weekly for a few weeks.  I'm less than half way through the challenge, so I will have more to say in a few weeks, but one thing that jumped out at me based on both this challenge and a few conversations I've had lately, is how different peoples' approaches to fat loss can be.

In particular, many of us cut calories or carbs, skip meals, etc., to drop pounds.  All of those do work in the short run, but I wonder if they are the best approach for sustainable shifts in body composition.

The approach that the more body-building-ish folks seem to take is one of higher-calories, medium carbs, frequent meals and snacks, and some element of "cycling" which includes built-in cheat days at least once a week with higher carbs and higher calories (though not during competition season).  These elements help to keep the metabolism high, so that although they are eating more, their bodies are also burning more.

I decided to track my calorie and "macronutrient" (fat/protein/carb) intake for a few days to get a sense of where I am.  Based on my gender, height, weight, age, and activity level, my maintenance calories should be roughly 1200 based on a few calculators I found.  Pretty low.  Given the additional exercise I do, that could go up to about 1400.  From my tracking, I seem to eat about 1600-2000 calories a day, averaging around 1800.  (I haven't tracked on weekends, but I'm pretty sure I eat at least that much, and possibly more, on weekends.)  And yet my weight is steady.  And my body fat percentage keeps going down - I keep losing fat and gaining muscle.

So what do I think is happening?  I think that the way I'm eating helps to keep my metabolism high, and of course I think that all of the weight lifting and strengthening exercises I've done over the last six months have helped me build muscle, further increasing my metabolism.  I'm no expert, and I haven't read a half dozen books on this yet, as I'm sure I will in the near future now that I'm curious.  :)  But these are my initial thoughts.

I'll let you know what I learn once I read like a crazy-person about metabolism.  :)

BTW, I basically ran out of running books I could borrow from the library with digital download - I've read 4 cover to cover now, plus parts of 2 more.  So it seems about time to transition to a new topic.  And both my competitive side, and my desire for $100, have me pretty motivated to lower my body fat percentage over the last 4 weeks of the challenge.


I did it!  I ran a 10k!  AND, I finished in 57:18!  That's a 9:14 pace.  For 6.2 miles!  I feel so good about it.  And what was really amazing, and still has me high, is how proud my husband and kids were, and how encouraging all of my friends have been! 

And yup, I signed up for the half marathon.

Here are a few pics from the 10k.  We decided to wear our race shirts and all match, which was super fun, but also meant that I wore a different pair of shorts than my usual.  These ones were *super* short!  I can hardly believe I managed to go shorter than last race - but I bought these to normally only wear at home!  So I'd say from a "fashion" standpoint, this wasn't my best race yet.  :)  But from a running standpoint, it certainly was!

Near the start, and gives you a feel for the race:

Around mile 4, and the pack was getting a bit more spread out.  I found myself an emptier patch near the side of the street.  That's the beach path in the background - our entire race was along "PCH", Pacific Coast Highway, with the beach to one side.

Right across the finish line - do I maybe look a little happy and a little tired?

And with my finisher medal!

What an experience!  Wish me luck training for the half marathon!  I've put together a training plan for myself which I'm sure I'll adjust and adapt as I go.  But it follows my basic preferences for:
1. Gradual increases
2. Rest and recovery, either with full rest days or by alternating run days with upper-body/core-focused workouts
3. Variety - especially by including strength training, yoga and pilates-based workouts (using my beachbody videos which I enjoy so much!)

One of my race buddies trained in a very different way - very very intense, with runs 5-6 days a week and a rapid increase in mileage.  And she did amazingly well.  But I'm still reluctant to try it out for myself.  I just suspect that my body wouldn't like the sequential days of running.  But who knows?  Maybe I would get stronger and faster if I train that way.  Maybe after the half I'll give that a try.  :) 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015


When I first saw that culottes were back in style, my first reaction was "You have got to be kidding me!  Those were awful the first time around!  They were awful frumpy mommy clothes!"  ...  Yeah.
Eventually I saw a photo of culottes styled with slim boots under, and I thought it looked pretty cute.  And I figured you, my readers (esp. K--), might appreciate my trying out yet another questionable trend for you.  :)  And hey, they would be comfy.  So I bought a pair. 
Then it stayed ridiculously hot here, so boots are still out of the question.  And I'm getting a bit bored of just staring at the pile of new fall clothes I bought over a month ago.  So I decided to wear my new culottes today.
I like them!  They move really nicely when I walk, and sure enough they are quite comfortable.  I kept my outfit pretty simple and all neutral so that the silhouette itself could be the star.  Is this a trend you're going to try? 
(And another hot trend I'm super excited about is the ball-back earing.  I'll do a post focusing more on those later. :) )
(Sweater: Nordstroms, Shoes: BCBG Darron pump from DSW, Culottes and earrings: White house black market)

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Office casual

This is a sort of "I'm on sabbatical, pretend I'm not here"/"I'm running 13 miles this week, my feet deserve flats"/"I'm going in to the office so I guess I better still look a *little* professional" outfit.  I'm also having a little fun with these nail decals that a friend of mine was selling.  I'm going with "accent nails" on my left hand so that my right hand still looks nice and professional.  :)  

(Top: Old Navy - looked good but man did it pull easily - way more easily than similar tops I've gotten from other places, tank: Spankx from Nordstroms, Shoes: Macys, Pants and necklace: White house black market - a bit of a cross between normal crops and leggings honestly, but so cute with flats, Nails: blue polish by Revlon, patterned nail decals by Jamberry)

Training for a 10k, and pondering a half marathon

I haven't posted about fitness in a while.  After my 30-day boot camp trial, I went on vacation, and then when I returned I focused on running.  I'll do a post on boot-camp soon, but here's a little about my current endeavor:

The nerdy part
I've read three running books cover to cover now, and parts of two more.  I feel like I'm getting a pretty good handle on views on running.  And it basically comes down to two camps:  The Running Runner Runners camp believes that the more you run the better (40 miles a week? Great!  What?  You only run 40 miles a MONTH?  Well, then you're not really a runner...), and the Everything in Moderation camp believes that running three days a week is perfect, maybe four.   The Running Runner Runners camp believes in the value of strength training - when done on the same day as a run and completely focused on muscles that will be helpful for running - and believes in the value of cross-training - when it happens to be the elliptical or pool running, because that's what cross-training is, right?  Another variation on running?  The Everything in Moderation camp takes a bit of a broader view on strength training and cross-training.

Even though it clearly comes from the Running Runner Runners camp, this book had a lot of very helpful tips in it:  
This book is obviously for after you've read the beginner books (or gotten the key points summary from me :) ) and actually started running.

I fall squarely in the Everything in Moderation camp.

But that said, I definitely see the charm in running long long distances, and often.  There's something really soothing about running.  And there's something incredibly rewarding about the constant improvement - knowing that your body can just jog on and on and on or working to get there.

I've also learned a little about funny little things like running belts, hydration systems, sport sunglasses, and GU.

My current training
The latest phase in my running life started after I came back from our fabulous vacation in early September, and I started preparing for the 10k that's coming up in 2 weeks.  I started reading more, and started a program of basically: 1 stroller jog per week, 1 "long run" per week, and 1 intense/speed run per week.  Each one is different, and each one helps me get fit in a different way.  I figure the combination is good for me.  As I read more, I concluded that this intuitive training approach was pretty much spot on, but there were some nice ways to fine-tune it.  How much do I increase the distance on my "long run" every week?  What types of intense/speed runs should I do?  etc.

SO, here's the plan I'm using:

Sunday: Stroller jog pushing the double jogging stroller.  Typically 2.5-3 miles at a conversational pace (since I'm with my running buddy and her daughter, and all 5 of us are conversing!  LOL.  It's a party on the run.  We often make people running in the other direction smile.  :) )

Monday: Upper body strength training  (21 DFX or P90X3), possibly with some additional core-focused stuff

Tuesday: Long run - "long" run started at about 4 miles and increased by about a 1/2 mile each week.  Ideally you want to increase weekly mileage by no more than 10% a week to minimize the chances of injury (giving your body a chance to grow stronger to keep up with your increasing demands on it).  

Wednesday: Yoga (21 DFX, P90X3 or Piyo)

Thursday: Random - sometimes upper-body, sometimes pilates, sometimes yoga, sometimes a rest day  (21 DFX, P90X3 or Piyo)

Friday: Speed run - typically 2.5 miles with varying speed workouts like:
- From the running books: (warm up well) 1 minute run really fast, 1 minute jog slow to recover, repeat  (cool down well)
- From the running books: (warm up well) "fartlek," aka "speed play:" run pretty darn fast until a specific point ahead that I choose, run slow to recover until I feel relatively recovered, run fast until a new point that I choose, etc.  (cool down well)
- And NOT from the running books but still fun, inspired by my hubby who said "Just run fast and keep going": (warm up well) run fast for as long as I can, walk to recover because, oh man, a slow jog just isn't going to cut it, jog the rest of the way  --> This is a fun one for a beginner like me because I think sometimes we beginners don't even know how fast we can run.  This one helps us figure that out.

Saturday: rest day (or really "playing with the kids so quasi-resting" day)

To half-marathon or not to half-marathon
I'm up to a 5-6 mile run for my "long run" and I can do that comfortably with my fabulous running buddy.  Now that I've realized that we're basically half way through a half-marathon training program, I admit I am toying with the idea of trying one of those.  But that certainly violates the Everything in Moderation approach.  It would require longer runs, up to 10 miles, and that is starting to get pretty darn long.  That's a lot of pounding for the joints to take, and a lot of stress for the tendons, ligaments, etc., to bear.  While I'd certainly work my way up gradually, each body has only so much it can truly take, and I'd be risking going over my own body's limit (which luckily I have not hit yet).  Plus my wonderful running buddy wouldn't join me for a 1/2 marathon, and 10 miles without her might be pretty boring!  :)

AND, our recent 5k 
In the midst of this 10-k training, my friends and I ran a second 5k.  I ran it in 29:22!  It was a goal of mine, but I wasn't wedded to it, to do the 5k in under 30 minutes.  And I certainly did.  Some time next summer, I want to do a 5k in under 28.  I think I can do that.  (And let's just say that in my head there may be some even more aggressive "after that" goals... ;) )  If there were a local 5k in December to sign up for, I'd be signing up for that. 

For our 10k, my only goal is to run the whole thing.  I don't have any time goal in mind.  I'm going to stick with my friends' pace, and have fun - and wave at the kiddos and hubby when I run past the house (the 10k route goes right by)!  That's the goal.  :)

A lot of people take up running to lose weight.  From everything I've read, that's really not a good idea.  Here's why:
  1. You want to lose most of the excess weight before you start running, because the pounding on your joints will be much worse if you are heavier.  Walking is great, but when running the impact on your joints is roughly 8 times your weight (I've seen quotes of anywhere from 4 to 12).  An extra 50 lbs means an extra 400 lbs of force on your knees and ankles.  Not good. 
  2. Your hunger urges will go up, probably more than the extra calories you are burning.  This is particularly true for women.  So if you eat to satisfy hunger - you'll end up gaining weight.
  3. There is a psychological effect that people often feel like they can eat more, especially more starchy carbs and more junky sugary food, because they are running.  Some of the starchy carbs are good, but a lot, and certainly the sugary stuff, is not.  
That said, guess what my results have been so far?  Well, I've gained weight.  I'm up about 3 lbs.  BUT, my body fat percentage went down!  I've gained muscle!  And lost fat!  I am eating more total, more healthy fat, more healthy carbs, and more dessert foods with basically no nutritional value whatsoever.  But I guess between the running and the strength training that I've maintained, my body has been able to put a lot of those extra calories to good use.  

SO, despite everything I read, maybe running is good for *fat* loss?  At least when part of a well-rounded fitness routine?  Maybe.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Peplum dress

Every time I wear this dress I love it.  It just looks so polished and put together, but it's also so easy to wear.  This time I paired it with red accessories and kept my blazer (in case of over airconditioning) simple. 

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pleated shorts

The last time I wore pleated shorts I was 12, a little chubby, and horribly awkward. I wore them with big baggy t-shirts tucked in, and the shorts went to my knees.  Twenty years (plus a few) later, they look a whole lot better.  I wear them much shorter and know better than to tuck into them with my short torso.  The jacquard fabric on these makes them a little dressier too.  But they do still poof out a bit in front.  I suspect that's inherent with pleated shorts.  

And yup, it's still shorts weather out here.  

(Shorts: jcrew factory, on super-sale right now.  Top: old, don't remember where from.  :). )

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Wearing high heels comfortably

To be clear, any podiatrist or physical therapist you ever talk to will tell you not to wear higher than 2" heels, at least not on a regular basis.  And they will tell you to wear wide chunky heels that are nice and stable.  But hey, you want to wear heels anyway?  Here are my tips to doing so somewhat comfortably.  These are just the things that I've figured out over the years work well for me.

I obviously wear fairly high heels fairly often to work.  And I often teach 3 hour classes on my feet in them, go 10-11 hour days, including carrying a toddler around for a little while.  Over time I've realized that there are a lot of things I do to make wearing heels more comfortable and practical that are just a part of my regular life, but that others might not think of.  I figured it might be helpful if I share some of these tips and tricks that I've figured out over the years.

  1. Buy good shoes!  One woman I know was complaining about how she can never wear heels.  It turns out she was buying them from Payless Shoe Source.  You don't have to buy $500 shoes, but there are some features that you should look for, and that most $15 shoes won't have: 
    1. The shoe should be well balanced so it stands up on it's own, and it feels stable when you rock your ankle around a bit trying them on.  Basically the shoe should do the work of keeping your ankle stable, so you don't have to constantly work at it.  (You'll have to work at it a little anyway.)
    2. The slope of the arch and where the sloped part starts and ends feels right on your foot.
    3. There is sufficient padding or support under the ball of your foot (which will support more of your weight in heels than in flats). 
    4. Your toes are not squished, pressed, and definitely not being forced into unnatural angles. 
    5. The bottom of the shoe (both in the front and at the bottom of the heel) has sufficient grip that you won't be sliding.  For leather-soled shoes you will have to rough them up before this is the case, but I've found that for artificial materials the starting level of slickness is a pretty good indicator of what they will be like. 
  2. Work your way up.  If you don't wear heels often, or you haven't worn them in a while, then start by wearing lower or chunkier heels or wedges, which are easier to walk in.  Wear them on days when you have a shorter day or less standing/walking than usual.  And gradually work your way up. You are developing certain special muscles, and just like with exercise, you want to gradually build up.  You also want to give your body a chance to rest and recover.  And know your limit - for most of us 3" or 3 1/2" is a reasonable limit.  Yes, I sometimes go higher, but I keep it to at most two days a week, and never on teaching days. I will never "work my way up" to 4" heels every day, or to *ever* wearing a 4 1/2" heel without a platform.  It just wouldn't work for me.  For some of us, we'll never really work our way over 2 1/2", and that's fine.  But you still don't want to go from wearing sneakers all the time to wearing 2 1/2" heels every day - work your way up.
  3. Take your heels off when you drive.  We Californians spend a lot of time in our cars.  I almost always take my heels off (especially 4" skinny heels) when I'm driving.  It makes a huge difference to how my feet, ankles and calves feel at the end of the day.  
    1. The public transportation analogue to this: have a pair of flats or flip flops that you can wear for your commute and then change into your heels just before going in to the office (or once you get there).  I sometimes did this back when I lived in Boston.  
  4. Use a rocking foot-rest, sloped foot-rest, or take your shoes off at your desk.  One person I know takes her shoes off, turns them around, and then uses them as a sloped foot rest!  Obviously I wouldn't actually take my shoes off.  ;)  So I have a rocking foot-rest that I keep at an angle that offsets my heels, and that I occasionally rock back and forth.  This means that even though I'm wearing heels for a 10-11 hour day, for most of the time, when I'm sitting at my desk, my feet feel pretty much as if I am wearing flats.
  5. Stretch!  At the end of every day, some time between coming home and taking off those heels and going to bed, do a full set of leg, hip and butt stretches.  Most importantly, stretch your calf and hamstring out really well.  Sometimes I will do some calf stretches mid-day as well.
  6. Protect your arches.  This means both exercising them to strengthen them, and massaging them to relieve tightness and increase blood flow.  The image I've put here includes exercises targeted to people with plantar fasciitis, but the exact same set of exercises can strengthen your feet for wearing heels.  Toe grasping exercises work well with a towel too (or some imaginary item, once you get the hang of it).  To massage my arches, I use a tennis ball which I put on the floor and roll around under my foot, putting just enough weight onto it to get a good massage. And, along the "protect your arches" idea - in certain shoes you may want to add additional arch supports.  I do this in most of my flats, but for me personally I don't need the extra arch support in heels.  I only buy heels that have a good slope/arch for my feet.
SO, why do I do all of this?  Because I love my heels, but I want to be (relatively) comfortable and I want my feet and legs to stay healthy.  So if you also like wearing heels, I hope a couple of my tips are helpful.  And if you just really don't care enough about wearing heels to do this stuff - then you're probably a little more normal than me.  :)