And Then…

The last year (or two, if we’re being honest) have brought a lot of changes, and there haven’t been many opportunities for introspection.  But that seems like too much to tackle, and so today I write about “Flotsam and Jetsam,” running down Nostalgia Lane to revive an old Profanation series.

I’ve been saying that I need a hobby for awhile, and I think I’ve found one: I think I’m going to participate in Novel in November this year.  No topic, no theme, no characters in mind – but I crave a long slog and big project all for me.

I’ve been branching out on my reading, and I just finished “The Night Circus,” by Erin Morgenstern.  It was enchanting, and I immediately began re-reading it.  No spoilers, but the book jumps around in time every chapter.  I’m getting more out of my second read.  Am I the only one who does this?  I think more people should re-read books.  Or I should slow down when I read.  When I’m really engaged in a new book, I basically inhale the words through osmosis, rather than forming each word in my mind, or picturing the scenes, or trying to hear the dialogue in my mind.  Without having any way to prove my suspicions, I think I imagine everything at warp speed, too.

I have finally chosen my pre-workout mix of choice.  I don’t know if I even need it, but for some reason, it makes me look forward to my 0500 alarm.  So I’m keeping Cellular C4 (in either Strawberry Margarita or Pink Lemonade) in my line-up.

Also added to my morning line-up: Vital Proteins Marine Collagen Peptides and GNC’s CLAs.  The first because these law-school-induced stress lines are starting to get deeper as 30 looms closer and closer, the second because, duh, fat-burning.  I can’t say that my stress lines are being reduced, but my nails and hair are already substantial stronger.  I think my Kiehls obsession has more to do with my improved skin tone than the collagen, to be honest.

We (more on the plural later) spent last weekend in the Talladega National Forest.  We planned during my lunch hour on Friday, and we launched after a leisurely, nonscheduled Saturday morning.  It took us four hours to get there and two hours to get back (why are we so bad at navigating?), but we did get to drive through a lot of historic Alabama as well as the national forest.  Just one night outdoors, but we slept under the full moon without the rainfly on – talk about rejuvenating.  Sligo was the only thing missing.

Talladega Natl Forest.jpg^I bought a new Macbook Pro (!!) yesterday, and I even downloaded darktable…but I haven’t learned how to edit my photos yet.  More to come.

 

 

 

Body-building

I recently embarked on a diet designed by a body-builder.  It’s aimed at maintaining muscle and focused on fat loss only.  More diets should be like this – I can already see greater definition in my abs.  It’s day 5.  Anyway, this particularly diet has sparked my interest in vegan body-building.

The NYTimes just posted an article about this growing niche in the competitive world of body-building.  It just goes to show that you can get enough protein, build muscle mass, and see muscle definition without eating animal proteins.  Some do it out of environmental or animal concerns, and some do it to rebel against the rampant steroid culture that exists among gym rats.  Any of those reasons are groovy, but I tend to relate most to those who want to achieve results naturally.  As I stated the other day, supplements freak me out.  I guess I’m learning to accept vitamins, but some of the stuff you can get at GNC or The Vitamin Shoppe is terrifying.

Don’t believe me?  Try it for yourself.

Fun fact: my brown rice protein powder has only 3 ingredients and dissolves in liquid WAY better than any whey protein I’ve ever tried.

Vits

I’ve always had a hard time accepting that I should consume things besides food.  To me, it seems like a caveman ate food, so I should eat food.  Also, I seem to be in a constant battle with my body, and I really want it to suck up and just perform properly.  However, the last few months have forced me to concede that these are irrational views.  Mind over matter only goes so far, my friends.

Specifically, I’ve been suffering from a lot of muscle cramping.  At first I ignored it, but it worsened to the point that I couldn’t walk down stairs because my calves were so tight.  I stopped running, I stopped wearing heels, I stretched daily, I drank gallons of water, but nothing seemed to work.  One expert suggested I eat more bananas.  So I ate bananas, but apparently potassium wasn’t my problem.  Another expert saw me try to run, and she suggested that I wasn’t consuming enough salt.  I took this opportunity to eat more French fries, but it didn’t seem to solve the problem.  Finally, a sports med doctor opined that I was Vitamin D-deficient.

At first, I was afraid she was going to tell me to give up my veganism; I worried that my deficiencies came from an inbalance in my diet and a lack of nutritional understanding.  However, she explained that 75% of all people who live in Chicago are Vitamin D-deficient because we never see the sun.  I began taking 2000 units a day of Vitamin D, and 1000 units of B12 (which IS actually in response to my veganism), and my problem was solved within 2 weeks!

And so, I am ushering in the age of supplements!

However, it’s a murky, dark area to many.  And I’m no nutrition expert . . . which is likely why I have this problem.  So I wanted to point out that there are few things of which one should be aware: water is good for your body, you can easily eat at least one banana a day in order to get all the potassium you need, salt is not the enemy – those who exercise a lot are sweating much of it out, and Vitamin D is integral for muscle function.

What vitamins do you take?

2011 Holiday Gift Guide

  1. Versaliner gloves ($45)
  2. Cando Extra-Firm Black Foam Roll 6” x 36” ($18.34)
  3. Nike Pro Compression Training Crew Sock ($8.00) (These are made to compress my problem areas – ankles and calves – during a workout but also keep you dry via Nike’s Dri-Fit fabric.  They’re absolutely on my list!)
  4. iTunes gift cards
  5. Scape’s Athlete Sunblock ($14.95)  (Because, people, you’re not helping yourself by running if you just end up with skin cancer.)
  6. Brooks Infiniti Beanie ($24) (Not too thin, not too thick, and made to wick away sweat)
  7. Garmin Forerunner 405 Wireless GPS-Enabled Sport Watch with USB ANT Stick and Heart Rate Monitor (now $152.77 on Amazon.com)
  8. Tennis balls (The perfect thing for massaging tired feet and stuffing stockings.)
  9. DYNA-BAND 6ft Medium Resistance Band ($7.27)
  10. Saint Ralph ($12.99) (Love this movie)
  11. Birds of a Feather Wrist Wallet ($25.00)  (No pockets?  No problem!  Put your keys or ID in a wrist wallet from miamor.com)
  12. “Run Less, Run Faster: Boston Training Programs” ($17.00) (Seems foolproof to me)

The Times, They Are A’Changin’

As my best friend would tell you, nostalgia is like kryptonite for me.  I get sad during events before they’re over because they’ll be over eventually.  It’s likely irrational, but it does make me particular sensitive to the changing of seasons.

I also track changes.  I find chronicling evolution and metamorphoses important.  I reason that it’s because I like to be aware of accomplishments or something.  I used to obsessively journal, which I guess has turned into blogging.

But something passed me by almost unnoticed.

Last night, I registered to run the Turkey Trot with my father and some family friends on Thanksgiving morning.  It’s just a 5k, but this choice is particularly significant for me personally.  I’ve never run a road race.  I started running and training to apply for JAG a year ago, but I haven’t raced yet.  To me, the Turkey Trot represents a culmination of all of my efforts and obstacles for the last 12 months.

In years gone by, I’ve been baffled by my friends’ desire to run at all, or even perambulate in an area that wasn’t between the dining room and the couch, on Thanksgiving.  I thought that was ridiculous.  After all, Thanksgiving might be about pilgrims to some, but to most of us, it’s a day of complete sloth, gluttony, and lethargy.  And I liked it that way.

Today, however, I find that I am the type of person who will take great enjoyment out of running a race with my father and some friends on Thanksgiving morning.  It seems like a fun family activity.  I might not be able to keep up with the family friends, all of whom are tremendous athletes, but I’m really looking forward to it anyway.  Old Kristin was completely shocked and seemed disapproving, but new Kristin is very excited about this change.  Also, it seems very positive to burn a few hundred calories before we eat ourselves into stupor.

A new Thanksgiving tradition has been born, all when I wasn’t looking.

What are your Thanksgiving traditions?

Carbo-Loading

As athletes, we’re told to load up on carbs the night before races or meets or sporting events.  I think the quintessential meal is probably pasta.  The idea is to increase athletic performance by increasing the amount of fuel stored in your muscles.  Normally, one’s muscles only store a small amount of glycogen, but consuming a lot of carbohydrates stores a lot of extra fuel in your muscles, thereby combating fatigue.  On a simple level, this makes sense because physical activity requires fuel in the form of carbs.  It’s supposed to be an especially effective technique for endurance sports, such as marathon running.

A man’s glycogen levels will be increased up to 100% by carbo-loading.  Studies done on women and carbo-loading have yielded mixed results.  Some studies indicate that women may also need to significantly increase caloric consumption in addition to carbohydrate intake.  Others suggest that the menstrual cycle will substantially diminish the benefits of carbo-loading, though the reasons are unclear.  Most researchers agree that women, on the whole, simply oxidize fewer carbohydrates than men.  Women appear to burn more fatty acids from adipose tissue (fat deposits) during intense exercise while using fuel from skeletal muscles during rest.

What can we do to combat fatigue and increase performance time?  It seems that there is a fairly high threshold for increasing carbohydrates before it becomes effective.  One researcher found that a daily increase of 12 rams of fat-free carbohydrates per day, combined with a totally cessation of physical activity (rest days) allowed men and women to utilize the same amount of glycogen.

Me and You, Just Us Two

I’ve reached an age where seemingly everyone I know is having babies.  I stumbled across this extremely pertinent article, and I think it’s something every mother-to-be should be told: there is a link between your fitness levels during pregnancy and your baby’s heart health.

It turns out that gestating babies are actually involved in the mother’s exercise, and that the training response lingers on through gestation and even after birth.  Mothers who exercise during pregnancy produce babies who have healthier hearts than other infants.  The health benefit continued even after birth.

For a long time, scientists have known that fetuses’ heart rates increase during a mother’s workout, but a few recent studies have demonstrated that the cardiovascular benefits extend after birth.  It is not a transient response.  Specifically, the studies demonstrated that aerobically-inclined mothers have babies with lower heart rates and greater heart-rate variability than babies born to sedentary women.

Even more significantly, there is a direct relationship between a mother’s level of exercise and the baby’s cardiac health: the mothers who exercised most had the children with the slowest heart rates and the strongest hearts.  The women in the study were assigned to different control groups according to exercise: some did cardio, some lifted weights, and some did yoga.  Aerobic exercise proved the most beneficial.

There are a lot of theories about why this occurs.  Some researchers believe that a woman’s increased breath sounds are loud inside the body, and the fetus responds to that.  Others thinks it is a special music of the blood.  Some reason that the effect on the baby is a hormonal response.  Whatever the cause, the effect is clear.  Mothers, embrace cardio.

Surviving

Cancer.  That’s a scary word.  Breast cancer.  That’s a scary word to a lot of women.  However, a study recently completed at Oregon Health and Science University (OSU) could bring a ray of hope to those who are diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Kerri Winters-Stone, an exercise scientist at the Knight Institute at OSU, did a study on  female breast cancer diagnosees and survivors who are 50 or more and the effects of exercise.  Her study spanned three years.  She put her survivors on an exercise regimen designed at OSU for cancer-free women. The program focused largely on strength-training.  Dr. Winters-Stone wanted to prove that women with cancer can train in the same way, at the same level, and achieve the same results as women without cancer.

After one year on the program, her survivors demonstrated a complete cessation in bone loss in the spine and 25% more strength in their arms and legs.  Chemotherapy increases a person’s risk of bone fractures and falls, and Dr. Winters-Stone’s research has demonstrated a way to combat these injuries.

I was unable to find Dr. Winters-Stone’s own article or research in a document form for this particular study, but she has lots of other interesting publications on the same topic.  Her book is called “Action Plan for Osteoporosis,” and it was published in 2005.  It’s available on Amazon.  She also gives lots of presentations on this topic, and here is a link to one of her presentations.

Also, a dear old friend of mine writes a great blog that covers his own journey for weight loss and has good tips that anyone can incorporate into their own regimen.  Check it out here: 3xlandback.com

Strength-Training

I think it’s safe to say that many women dislike or are afraid of lifting weights.  In the past, it has seemed like something for muscly men hopped up on steroids.  At least that’s how I think I regarded it at one point.  Also, when you’re at the gym and doing lat pull-downs, sometimes the guys glare at you for using the machines they regard as their own.  Testerone runs rampant in the weights section of any gym.

Happily, an article I just read proves that many of us are discarding this view and taking back the weights (if we ever had them in the first place).  This is great because weights help tone muscles.  This leads to stronger skeletal muscles, which leads to healthier bones and prevents bone loss.

The bad news is that women are particularly prone to injuries from strength-training because (1) we’re susceptible to bad form due to wider hips and (2) we’ve developed our muscles unevenly by only sweating away on cardio machines.  The article made the following suggestions for using weights and staving off injuries:

1.) Never skip a warm-up.  Don’t just hit the machines cold.  Spend 10-15 minutes on an elliptical or something first and do some stretches.  Working out stiff muscles could lead to a tear or strain.

2.) Concentrate on your form.  Make sure you notice which machines are supposed to work which muscles, and then concentrate on using the proper muscles while using that machine.  Keep your head up, your abs tight, shoulders squared to your hips, and be careful not to round your shoulders.  Also, remember to breathe evenly; your muscles need oxygen to work.

3.) Don’t perpetuate strength imbalances.  For example, you work out your abs but not your back.  This will encourage injuries.  If you do crunches, make sure that you’re doing supermans or something, too.  Another common strength imbalance is to work the hamstrings but not the quads.

4.) Ease into it.  Lifting weights is like anything else, and doing too much too soon can be disastrous.  Start out with little weight, and gradually increase.  Doing tons of reps with less weight than you could do is still really good for you, and can help avoid injuries.  Gradual conditioning helps to avoid torn ligaments and tendonitis because it gives your joints and connective tissue time to adjust to the weight.

These common sense principles really apply to all aspects of your workout, but I think you’ll notice an immediate difference in your weight training if you remember to warm-up and keep a proper form.  Embrace the weights!  There’s great satisfaction in walking up to a machine and using the same amount of weight as the strutting dude before you did.