Friday, October 30, 2009

Disconnect

I’ve probably mentioned this in the past, but I have a bit of a contentious relationship with my gym. Of course there are a range of people who workout where I workout, but mostly, my gym is an aging frat boy heaven. In general, I have no problem ignoring this fact, even when I use weight room, which has an air of “No Girls Aloud,” but it is what it is.

I don’t mind it so much, and lately, I'm so used to it, I barely notice. But last night, when I walked into the gym, tired, starving, and PMSing, I was hit with a full frontal assault of gym staff dressed in their Halloween finest, which of course meant that every woman looked as though she was an extra on the set of The Dukes of Hazard (sexy farmhand?).

Worthy of an eye roll to say the least. I expect them to young; I expect them to weigh under 115 pounds; I expect them to be tan in the middle of winter and overly made up for the gym; I can even expect that on Halloween, the gals of Aging Frat Boy Athletic Club will take the opportunity to show as much skin as is legally possible.

I changed. I thought about how tired and hungry I was. But, I sucked it up, and headed to the treadmills. That’s when I smelled it. Food. Now granted, I had smelled food when I was heading to the train, while I was sitting on the train, and at first, I assumed it was my state of hunger/PMS creating a mirage.

Alas. I was wrong. It was not my imagination. Approximately 10 feet in front of my treadmill was a table filled with pizza, pasta, salad, bagels, and various other goodies from nearby takeout restaurants. Apparently, it was customer appreciation day.

Let’s be serious gym management. I understand that having free food is a nice way to “thank” your customers. But your customers are people who are coming to a gym, who are making a conscious choice to do something healthy, and being confronted with six kinds of takeout upon starting my workout is more a test than a reward. I felt like a Biggest Loser contestant staring at the hard-bodied gym employees while I debated whether or not to indulge in pizza. Somehow I managed to keep myself away from the table of food. It just seemed a little unfair that I had made a healthy decision to go to the gym only to be tempted to have an unhealthy dinner.

I speak only for myself. Not everyone who goes to the gym is like me, as in, not everyone has to fight to not overeat like I sometimes feel like I do. Maybe it wasn’t a struggle for most people who were there yesterday, but I can’t imagine I was the only one who walked in and thought, “Are you kidding me?”

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Everything Old is New Again

In light of my new initiative, I decided it was time to set out on my own rather than follow someone else’s “diet” plan. I don’t want to diet. I do not want to mess with point systems, pre-made food, expensive services, books, fads, other equipment, shakes, pills, supplements, or a mess of “helpful” tips and articles about weight loss, diet, and exercise emailed to me multiple times a day. I want to know simple, quantitative information. I want to base the majority of this attempt on the very cut and dry equation of calories in vs. calories out, and tweak other nutrients as necessary. I want information; I want it to be up to me how I use that information; and I want to go on living my life.

There are a lot of free tools on the Internet that provide this type of tracking. I considered SparkPeople, but there’s so much other stuff going on there. I opted, instead, to pay for a site, $9 a month. It’s called myfooddiary.com. And I think it was the right choice:

The user interface is very clean. The reporting is extremely clear about telling you exactly how many calories you can eat to reach your goals, whatever they might be. It changes the amount of food I can eat based on how much I exercise. And, the kicker, which really sold me, is that it’s mobile Web site, is clean, works on my Google Phone, and is very easy to use. That way, in my new job where I sit in the middle of cube land (I do miss having an office), I can discretely track my meals on my phone rather than hanging out on the Web site all day.
A couple snapshots of the interface:


Clean, simple, easy.

Though I think including items like “No dessert!” is a little cheesy for this “At a glance” section, I have generally found the information that is included in this chart very helpful. Like, for instance, I eat a ton of sodium. I honestly had no idea.

Then, it will tell me how many calories I have left at any given time of the day: how many I can eat to “maintain,” to “lose 1 lb per week” and to “lose 1.3 lbs per week.” That way, I know if I have a snack attack at 9pm, I have plenty of calories to work with. I also know that “If every day were like today,” I’d have a very successful week.

In addition to this being motivating information, it’s practical. I know that there are days when I can plan exactly what I want to eat, and days when I will go out and let loose. This type of information is empowering because I don’t always have to hit those “lose” targets. If I hit the maintain targets once or twice a week, I will still have a net lose.

So far, I’m very happy with it .

Friday, October 09, 2009

Let’s Reminisce: The Wedding

Can you believe it's been almost two months since the big ol' wedding? Yes, now I'm just old and married. It is good times though, and less stressful than say... planning a wedding. Am I right?

Of course I am.

In the confusion and craziness of the pre-ceremony wedding day preparation, MM's running/triathlon buddy and groomsman D managed to get his hands on my phone and used the opportunity to text MM the following: I can't do it. I'm sorry. I'm running away with D.

My sister Sarah, the maid of honor laces up the back of my dress.

The bridesmaids (from left to right): Anastasia, @, Kelley, Sarah, and running buddy Meg.

MM escorts his mom down the aisle. Our wedding was outdoors at Rabbit Run Inn, a bed and breakfast in Sawyer Michigan.

The infamous Lars, my sister's significant other, stepped in and saved the day when I dropped the ball (hell, I didn't even pick up the ball) on ceremony music. As you can see, the weather was touch and go. I managed to not have a meltdown, and we all went with the flow. Notice that the piano is partially covered by a tarp.

With the help of her significant other (and a little bit of editing from yours truly), @ wrote our "Couples Story," which she read during the ceremony. It was a big hit with the audience. Really the entire ceremony was perfect. Our officiant, a woman, had a sort of Unitarian/everything-but-the-kitchen-sink religious/spiritual background, and she was fantastic. Her advice and the various parts of the ceremony MM and I chose were extremely heartfelt, but also very practical and realistic about the meaning of marriage. I'm so glad we went this route instead of forcing an overtly religious ceremony to fit our pretty much non-religious ideals and lifestyle. This was definitely more meaningful for us.

And then it really started raining. The wedding party went into the gazebo and everyone else put up their umbrellas. People were good sports about it.

It's official. He's stuck with me.

After the ceremony, prior to the reception, we had wine and cheese at the Rabbit Run Inn. Since the weather was still touch and go, we all crowded into the house. It was tight, but it worked.

The wine.

The cheese.

Running buddy Lindy (who finished the Chicago Marathon on Sunday btw) is an amazing baker. If you ever need cookies for any reason, you need to order from her. These are the most amazing sugar cookies ever.

Sarah and MM's best man both gave hilarious and sweet speeches. I believe this is the reaction to MM's best man's slightly inappropriate joke. It was just enough to get the crowd going without going to far. Hilarious stuff people. Photo credit.

The dining room at Soe Cafe.

We did our first dance to Winter Song, which was a little weird considering it was August and the song is technically a holiday tune. However, it's beautiful, and MM and I struggled to come up with something to dance to. Once we found this song, we went with it. Photo credit.

This is my mom who appears to be at a funeral, but no! She is just watching our first dance. This is one of my favorite photos. I laugh every time I see it, which I think makes me a horrible daughter.

And then things got a little crazy. Oh yes, I probably should have put down the wine glass at some point in the evening, but I failed to do so. No matter, it was great fun. By the time the DJ announced the last song (which was Outkast's Hey Ya), the dance floor--the restaurant's screened in porch--was packed and people were "shaking it" like their lives depended on it. Which is, of course, exactly what I wanted.

My only regrets are that I did not stand up straighter during the day (mom was right... damnit!) and that we didn't have the party go a little bit longer. Last call was at 11pm, it felt like we had just gotten there. I think those are OK "regrets."

Other than that, if I had had a vision of my perfect wedding when I started this madness, this would have been it. I'm so glad we took a chance and chose some non-traditional venues and moved the wedding from Chicago to Sawyer. I'm thrilled with the way everything turned out: from wedding dress #3 to the colors, the flowers, the music, and the food to the fact that we paid extra to bring the DJ and the officiant from Chicago (totally the right call). And of course there was our wonderful friends and family who showed up to celebrate. My wedding party was fantastic and several other friends pitched in to make sure the day went smoothly. I realize that I am really lucky to have so many fantastic friends in my life, some who I've known for a decade or two, some who I've met in the last couple years.

Our wedding was expensive--basically every wedding that goes beyond a courthouse is--but in my opinion, it was worth every penny. This, I imagine, is probably how you should feel after something like this. Buyer's remorse is no fun. If you're going to do it, set a budget, do your best to stay in that budget and then just go with it. I am so glad we did what we could to make this special. We made some serious budget conscious decisions that turned out fantastic, and we made some not-so-budget-conscious decisions that turned out fantastic. It's all about balance.

When we dropped off my sister and Lars at O'Hare the next day, I cried to MM the whole way home. I had kept it together for three days, and I never realized until it was happening that my wedding was probably the only time in my life that I will have all my people--friends and family--together in one place happy and celebrating.

That's the downside to all this. On one hand it's a relief that it's over and you can go back to "normal" life, but it's sad to know that it will never happen again. I think some brides struggle far more than I did with post-wedding blues. But it was a little bit depressing for a couple of days (a few days in Mexico usually helps cure this, I'm told).

You have to move on, and MM and I have, possibly because we had no choice: He's got a new job at work; I'm in school and still settling into my new position; We're trying to balance our hobbies, our friends, work and school, and the desire to watch television. Maybe that's just me. Anyway, life moves forward, and MM and I have a lot of good times in front of us. We're lucky we're going to get to experience it together.


Thursday, October 08, 2009

Taking Stock

The Chicago Marathon is approaching. I don’t know how I’m going to feel standing out there, a part of the crowd on Sunday, but I do know that right now, with all that I have had going on the last three months, I’m somewhat relieved that there was something that I could let myself let go. I may be disappointed come Sunday when I jump in with Lindy for her last miles, but doubt I’m in for any long term regret.

As I mentioned last week, taking on school has proved to be harder than I imagined. However, I’m loving it. The three hours of class on Monday nights seems to fly by, which is a miracle in and of itself, but moreover, I’m eager to participate each class; I’m excited about my group’s final project (which is going to be awesome, and I’ve already taken on the roll of group’s slightly annoying, overly enthusiastic cheerleader); and I’m looking forward to picking a topic for a bibliography I have to put together. I’m finding out all this stuff about something I have loved for a really long time: writing. Who knew you could study it, right?

Regardless of my slightly-annoying, overly enthusiastic attitude, I’ve felt the need to take stock lately of what is important to me, and how I would like to see the next five years or so of my life play out. It’s an exercise that can become a bit obsessive in a bad way, because there is no actual way of controlling these things.

But to be frank with you audience, there are some very big decisions that MM and I plan to make in the next five years, i.e. Do we want to buy a home, and more importantly, do we want to leave the city and head to the suburbs (the horror!)? Do we want to start (and perhaps finish having) a family? Since my education is being paid for in full, I have to do well at this job and be moderately happy enough to stick it out until I’m done with school… at the very least. If that’s the case, do I really want it to take me four years to finish this degree? Or do I need to start doubling up on classes each quarter so I can finish in 2 years? And beyond the degree, is going on to a PhD something I could be serious about? And if I don’t want to go on for a PhD, what are my career options within the University or elsewhere in Chicago?

I know I probably shouldn’t be writing these things on my blog, mostly because the topic of having kids seems really taboo for some reason. Maybe that’s just my prejudice and not reality?

Anyway, I don’t need to figure all this stuff out right this very second. Sometimes I just like to write down what I’m thinking about. I do know this: This job is WAY (like a million times and then some) better than the clusterfuck of a job I left in June. And of course there is the whole sweet deal, free education thing. I am very lucky, and I do not take that for granted, but if there is anything I keep learning it’s that marketing is not where I want to be. Either I’ll tough it out until I have a good reason and the resources to quit or I’ll find something I love. It might be a na├»ve, idealist proposition, and I maybe I should know better at my age. But, I’m optimistic.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

To The Streets

Five measly miles and my legs are sore. Achy sore, not needs-a-good-stretch sore. Not sure what's up with that.

Saturday morning, I took my running to the lakefront path for the first time since my "injury." I was going to run approximately four miles, but I was having such a lovely time that I decided to add a little distance to that destination. So five it was.

Lovely doesn't even begin to describe it. There are a lot of people out there who don't run (yet). I was one of those people, and the idea of running down the block much less five miles was horrifying. And it's very hard to verbalize, the thing that keeps one coming back to the pavement, that forces us to endure pain and can often lead to injuries. But when I have a good run, honest to God, I feel like I am capable of anything, like the keys to the universe have been handed to me, and an amazing life is right here in front of me, and is mine for the living. It makes so grateful for the present, for the journey and how far we can travel in such short periods of time, and it makes me more than hopeful--downright giddy sometimes--about what the future might hold.

I don't know that this is everyone's experience. I doubt it is, but like so many things, the reason we runners run is probably as universal as it is individual. And sure, there are the more bland reasons to run, like your health and blah blah blah, and I suppose that that's why most of started moving in the first place. But, when I make bold statements like, "running changed my life," (Hell, I started a blog to back up that sentiment) it is without a hint of sarcasm that I do so. I will never ever ever stop running as long as I can run. And it's not about marathons or half marathons or 5ks or PRs. Nope. Those things are fun, but in the larger sense, there is no better way to know that you're alive than to run as far as you can manage.

Remind me of this one week from now when my self-imposed sidelining leads me to be super pissed that the weather at the Chicago Marathon is perfection.

Friday, October 02, 2009

All About Me

Oh Internetz, it’s occurred to me that my blog has lost its way, strayed if you will, quite a bit from its original mission statement (something about “running,” if I remember correctly)… not to mention, my posting habits over the last six months have been less than par.

For some reason I’ve thought about this blog a lot lately, and I decided, I will never force the direction of the topics I write about, and I will never, possibly ever give it up even if I go through periods of time when I don’t post for months. Though this blog is a highly public, somewhat airbrushed version of my life, it has been really wonderful for me to be able to go through reflect on how much has changed. It’s exciting to think what I might be writing about over the next five years, 10 years.

So… this blog is incredibly self-serving.

OMG. I started school… again… because I’ve completely lost my mind. The program, if I haven’t already mentioned this, is called Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse. Good times!
I’ll admit, I kind of thought going back to school was going to be… um… easy. Not super easy, but no big deal, one class, one night a week. I watched MM go through a master’s program while working full time, and I always said he took it all too seriously and spent way more time than I ever would studying at the freaking library and whatnot. When I assumed that going back to school would barely make a dent in my cushy little life, I failed to factor in two things:
  1. I have never gone to school and worked. Not worked full time anyway, at a real job that is. I failed to realize that with 40 hours of my week spoken for, finding the time even to half-ass my way through the program is going to be a bit trickier.
  2. I might actually like the program enough that I feel compelled to NOT half-ass my way through it.
Really, it’s no. 2 that’s making all the difference. First of all, I have to break some bad habits. I have learned in approximately 21 years of various types of schooling (geez, I should be a doctor by now) a little about diminishing returns. Basically, the more I study, the harder I work, the more minimal the improvement in my grades (the outcome). So let’s say if I do minimal work, for instance completely bullshit a 10 page paper and write it in two hours, I’ll probably end up somewhere between an A- and a B. Getting to that A doesn’t take twice as much work, it takes about 10 times more work. Worth it? Not when I’ve been completely disinterested in almost everything I’ve studied, especially and most notably at the higher levels of education.

What am I trying to say with all these words? I feel like I’m dealing with some residual “once bitten, twice shy,” feelings from my first master’s program. I am really invested in being excited about this program, about finding a career path that really makes me tick. But, now that I’m actually getting exciting about the program, I’m suspicious, as though I’m convincing myself to like it, but I really hate it.

Whatever. I’m complicated.

In the meantime, I’m changing my habits. I’m going to the library, like constantly; I’m rereading like every article and taking notes, making outlines, preparing myself to actively participate in class. I know, this is what normal people do, but it all feels so different this time.