Friday, February 12, 2016

Ways to Measure Fitness Progress that DON'T Include a Mirror (or scale)

It can be seriously discouraging to track meals, make time for the gym, sweat it out, wake up sore...only be feel like you're not seeing progress when you look in the mirror every day. More often than not, that is why people quit eating right or exercising. They just feel like the effort that they're putting in isn't translating to the results they want.

And that is where people go wrong. Placing all of your fitness and health goals on how you look is a sure-fire way to be disappointed. You shouldn't be working out and eating well only for a flatter tummy or reduced cellulite. Those things are great, and can sometimes indicate the effort you've been putting in, but those results are slow to come. They aren't going to show up nearly as fast as some of the OTHER ways to measure your fitness progress that DON'T include a mirror, and are just as satisfying (if you know to look for them).

1. You can go faster, climb higher, last longer, or generally DO more than you could before.

Remember that staircase at work that always put you out of breath? Now it's not even a blip on the radar. You can do even ONE extra rep, or you've added weight to your exercises from where you began. Maybe your mile time hasn't decreased, but now you can run two miles without wanting to die. Every single one of those examples is a reason to celebrate, and it's important to recognize where you've improved instead of focusing on what hasn't changed quite yet.

2. Your attitude about every day life has improved.

One of the major benefits of exercise is the endorphin release that naturally accompanies it. I know that no matter what kind of crap the day has thrown at me, I will feel better post-workout than I did before.

Plus, not only does your mood improve post-workout, but it improves all around. When you're regularly let out negative emotions and energy through exercise, the stressers of every day life don't throw you for a loop quite as bad as they used to. It's easier to recognize that there is always tomorrow to improve something.

3. You're sleeping better at night.

If you're not sleeping better at night, you're not working hard enough! This is one of the easier improvements to see right away after beginning an exercise routine. Often times, our bodies don't even begin to work to their potential sitting at a desk all day. So by the time bedtime rolls around, our bodies may feel tired, but they actually haven't done much to induce quality sleep. ANY kind of exercise will seriously improve quality of sleep, which will give you more energy to keep up your exercise routine the next day!

4. Your skin/hair/nails are clearer, longer, and stronger.

Putting your body under healthy stress (ie, exercise), means that it becomes more efficient at working out it's problems. This is why people who exercise regularly are less likely to get sick! This also means that things are working a little better at a superficial level too. Your skin turnover gets better, helping to clear up acne or scarring. Your nails start to grow faster (goodbye acrylics!). Hair looks shinier and doesn't break off quite as easily. I'm certainly not complaining about any of that!

What benefits did you start to see after working out that didn't include a mirror or a scale?

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

How I Survived My First 5k Race

If you can remember way back to three weeks ago, I had written a post journaling the start of my training for my very first 5k race, and this past Saturday was the culmination of all my efforts of the last four weeks.

Now, I don't want to seem like I'm bragging, but for me to finish a 3.1 mile race is something of a small miracle.

(that's me in the green, very excited to no longer be running)

Never in my life have I been a natural athlete, and certainly not a natural runner. My boyfriend had to actually teach me how to move my arms and legs in sync with each other, if that gives you any indication of my natural born talents.

I'm sure some people will scoff at running a 5k. "You only ran 3 miles? That's my warm up!" But I know that there are far more people out there who are thinking that they WISH they could run a 5k...and I'm here to tell those people that if I can do it, then so can you.

It literally takes nothing more than time and determination. Having said that, it can be hard to believe it's as simple as that, so I've outlined a few of the tips I followed and will share a few of the revelations I had along the way.

1) Start small, and don't overestimate your abilities
The first day I tried to run the full three miles after an 8-hour work day of wearing went about as well as you might expect. I ended up running a mile and a half before quitting with huge calf cramps and deflated spirit. It's key to just start off gauging your abilities. I'd say try running a mile (walking when needed) just to see what your fitness level is. From there, build up to the full 3.1 miles. There are TONS of programs on the internet, and Pinterest is a great place to find some easy to read programs. I have a ton of easy ways to get started and fitness motivation on my fitness board...check it out here!

credit: Jeff Henrickson Designs

2) You're capable of far more than you realize
This may seem to counteract what I just told you in point one, but it's also seriously important to recognize how amazingly adaptive our bodies are. The heart starts to condition itself for cardio activity as soon as after THREE cardio activities! That means your fourth workout could already start to feel significantly better than when you started. Telling yourself your aren't capable of something is the worst thing you can do keep yourself from a dream.

3) Don't compare yourself to other people
There was always a handful of people I was consistently passing up on the track...but far more who were consistently passing me. It can be discouraging to think that people are looking at you or wondering what you're doing. But I promise, everyone else is so wrapped up in their own workouts that they don't even hardly notice you. So try your best not to take notice of them and focus on how much better YOU are doing than the person you were yesterday.

4) No matter how crappy you feel during, you'll feel amazing when you're finished
The first time I actually finished the 3.1 miles in training, I felt like I was going to puke afterward, and it had taken me 40 minutes to finish. But as soon as I stepped off that treadmill (after cooling down for at least 5 minutes!) I felt like I was on top of the world. And this didn't get any less satisfactory as time went on.


5) Don't skip two workouts in a row
This is probably the biggest and most helpful piece of advice I found, and I'll definitely be doing another blog post on it later down the road. The basic concept is that every one needs a day off every now and then, even if it wasn't out scheduled off day. And that's okay. But that skipping two scheduled workouts in a row building a psychological momentum that is hard to break. So even if you don't do what you planned on doing, make sure to do SOMETHING physical after an off day. It can be stretching, yoga, or a light walk around the block. Anything to keep your body from getting complacent with sitting around.

And that's about it. Of course it was super helpful that I had a wonderful cheerleader (thanks, Seth) making sure that I almost never missed a workout. However, I found the most important thing was to stick to a routine, even when I didn't feel motivated.

Have you ever completed a 5k? Half-marathon? FULL marathon? What fitness goal are you going to work towards now?
xoxo, KT

Sunday, November 15, 2015

How I Started Training for My First 5k Race: Week One

I would never describe myself as “athletic”. I was the kid who was always picked last in gym class. I’m 95% sure that the only time I wasn’t picked last in gym class was when we learned to play basketball. Please note that this was probably the last time I was picked first to play basketball. I’m about as coordinated at dribbling as a t-rex would be (I’m assuming they can’t really manage that skill).

Consequently, I’ve learned to hate most physical activity, but most of all running. The only thing that I might hate more than running is box jumps. Once, Seth tried to make me do box jumps- I cried. He hasn’t tried to make me do them again.

So it’s a safe to assume that while running isn’t going to make me cry, it isn’t on the list of things that I do for fun. It just doesn’t really make sense to follow up drinking wine and shoe shopping with running.

So when a work friend sent out a email about a 5k happening in Madison in December, I laughed, and moved on. But a few days later I came back to it and said oh what the heck, and handed over a $15 check and my soul signed away on a waiver form.

On Monday of this week I realized that I had only one month until the race, and that I should probably start training. Thankfully, my boyfriend, Seth, trains athletes for a living and has run more than his fair share of 5k races. He suggested that I spend the first week just gauging my abilities and feeling out how I felt after each session before starting a true training program. What better way to do that than a blog post?

(Remembering to stay hydrated before, because once I actually got sick from not drinking enough before a run.)

Day One, November 9:
Forgot gym bag sitting next to the front door in my tornado of trying to get out the door on time. Combining the start of training with a two week spending ban probably wasn’t my smartest idea. So instead I looked at graphs of how to train instead of actually training. How Type A of me.

Day Two, November 10:
I remembered to grab my bag before leaving, but I packed my usual training shoes and leggings instead of running shorts and shoes. Ideal for lifting, not so much for running. If that wasn’t enough already, I didn't really think about what my usual heels would mean for this new plan. I found out that they are actually a terrible idea when I tried to start running and my calves cramped up so bad that I almost fell on my face on the track in front of everyone. I documented the aftermath on my Snapchat, ktcat92, and let me say, it wasn't pretty.
Length: 1.25 miles
Time: 18:25

Day Three, November 11:
Victory! Nothing went wrong! I didn’t finish the entire 3.1 miles, but today was legitimately the longest I’ve ever run for in my entire life. I felt like doing a little happy dance, but my calves were still on fire from the day before, so I settled for a victory wiggle instead.
Length: 2.5 miles
Time: 31:15

Day Four, November 12:
In an effort not to tire myself too badly (or get so bored that I quit), I decided to forgo running and lift instead, an activity I actually really enjoy. I don’t feel completely uncoordinated, and it also helps the booty (can’t so no to that). Unfortunately, I forgot my Polar Heart Rate Monitor, so I didn’t get to watch my heart rate climb or see my calories burned at the end. Still, a pretty successful workout.

Day Five, November 13:
I did NOT want to run this day. But I've found that one of the best ways to trick yourself is to just put on workout clothes, and walk around the track for a while. More often than not, I'll say to myself "Well, I'm already here. I might as well work." Almost every single time I'm more than happy I workout out (almost).
Length: 2 miles
Time: 23:22

I didn't work out yesterday or today, mostly because I didn't want to run outside since I'm still pretty unfamiliar with my surroundings up here. Still, my body feels pretty good and even though my legs are a little sore, they don't feel like they're going to fall off like I expected. Overall, I'd say this week went FAR better than expected. We will have to see what the coming week brings with an actual training program in place.

Have you ever done a 5k? If you haven't, have you ever thought about doing one, and what's stopped you from taking on the challenge?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Shopping Ban Update 11.13.15

It is officially day 4 of my shopping ban and I haven’t broken down. I’m feeling pretty good, if a little under caffeinated. The free hotel-quality coffee they have at work isn’t cutting it anymore, and if I didn’t already know I had a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card stashed away for tomorrow morning, I might’ve been seriously tempted to get a latte.

UPDATE: I wrote this last night. It is now Day 5, and sleeping terribly + needing to get gas = no time for Dunkin Donuts. I almost had a breakdown.

(Me, not enjoying the work coffee, but drinking it anyway)

So far this experiment has been less about money and more about preparedness (I made a terrible Girl Scout back in the day). It might seem stupid, but I know myself well enough to know that I’m not going to prepare a lunch the night before. Consequently, that means I’m making it in the morning now, which translates to waking up earlier. The free coffee at work continues to looking worse and worse.

Still, I’ve managed to eat something different at lunch every single day this week!

Day 1: Turkey sandwich, apple, cottage cheese
Day 2: Chili and crackers with ½ avocado
Day 3: Whole wheat wrap with turkey/avocado/salsa plus an apple
Day 4: Peanut butter and jam sandwich, ½ avocado, apple
Day 5: Crockpot chicken thighs + brown rice

The fact that I’ve actually remembered food every day this week is a small miracle. It also proves that maybe I’m not giving myself enough credit. I’m wondering if maybe my spending habits really are just out of laziness rather than lack of time…

I could also just be feeling philosophical from lack of espresso.

It has yet to show itself yet, but I’m also curious to find if I drop a few pounds at the end of these two weeks. I can’t hop down to the little cafĂ© and grab a snack now, and I sure as hell don’t plan far enough to remember one. Combine that with the added exercise I’ve been doing, and we’ll maybe have a happy unexpected correlation. Starting a shopping ban at the same time as training for a 5k probably wasn’t my smartest choice, but we all have to live with our decisions, don’t we?

The weekend is approaching, and that normally means $$$. This is actually the first weekend since I’ve moved that I don’t have any plans, so it will be a true test of occupying my time considering I’ll also be alone. What are some of your suggestions for weekend fun that don’t include spending money?