Three Ways Running Is Like Drinking

I just realized as I was re-reading yesterday’s post that there are some similarities between running and drinking. So now I am thinking, why did I quit drinking in favor of running when in fact they are practically the same thing?

1) Drinking is Addictive. So Is Running.
When I first started drinking, I didn’t really like it very much. Beer tasted and smelled awful to me, wine was not much better, and I thought cocktails smelled like somebody’s grandpa. But, I stuck with it and eventually it got better. I started to crave it in certain social situations, even. Such as when having to talk to people. Eventually it got to where I was maybe not addicted but I was doing it too much and my body let me know.

It was the same with running. I started out not liking it, then my body got used to it and it didn’t bother me. Eventually, it got to where I found it pleasant and started to crave it.

2) Drinking is a Vasodilator. So Is Running.
I mentioned in yesterday’s post how drinking turns my face all red and puffy. Running does the same thing.

3) Drinking Affects Your Relationships. So Does Running.
People who drink a lot tend to gravitate to other people who drink a lot. That’s where the phrase “drinking buddy” comes from. You like the same things and you want to hang out with someone who can keep up. You need someone to go bar hopping with. And nobody wants to hang around that buzzkill who after listening to you complain about your latest hangover says, “well, maybe you should stop drinking so much.”

It’s the same with running. Only other runners will understand your obsession. Only other runners will actually be interested to hear the recap of your latest race. Only other runners willingly listen you spout off about your awesome fartlek workout or your litany of running-related aches and pains. Non-runners will hear you complain of these things and then say something logical, like, “well, maybe you should quit running.”

So there are my top three reasons why running is like drinking. Can you think of others? Add them in the comments!

Five Secrets to Youth and Beauty

Funny thing happened today when I went to get a pedicure (we’re heading into a 3 day stretch of weather above 70 here in the Seattle area. We’re talking sandal weather, so that means a pedicure was in order).

I always like to pick out the craziest, brightest colors they have, and this time I picked a nice orangey neon pink. Then, as I was sitting there sipping an iced latte and watching my manicurist Tammy do her work, I noticed she had white polka dots painted on her nails. They were super cute, so I asked her to put polka dots on my toes.

While she was doing the dots, the woman in the next chair commented on how cute the dots were coming out, so Tammy asked if she wanted hers done too. And the woman said no, she was too old for polka dots.

I took a good look at her. Were we talking about someone in her 80s? 60s?

No, I could tell by looking at her that she was younger than I am. So I asked her age, and she said 43.

Y’all, I am 46. Tammy (the manicurist with the polka dot nails) is 49.

Age ain’t nothin but a number.

So on that note, here are my secrets for looking young and feeling beautiful, long past the age where I (apparently) should no longer be putting polka dots on my fingers and toes.

1. Stop Giving a Shit
It’s fine if you don’t like polka dots or don’t want to keep up with the latest trends or whatever, but if your reason for feeling that way is that you think others will say you are too old, you need to get over it.

If you are unsure of how to stop giving a shit, then I present to you The Complete Guide to Not Giving a Fuck

The terminology is a bit different, but the idea is the same. Peace and tranquility lies in simply not caring about the opinions of other people, most of whom are barely aware of your existence anyway. This is a truth I wish I had figured out at a much younger age, but since I discovered it, I can say it has been truly freeing.

Not giving a shit will save you a lot of wrinkles and grey hairs.

2. Do What Makes YOU Happy
Life is too short to give up doing the things you love to do because of a number. Yet, a lot of people reach adulthood and stop doing the things they used to love because they are “too old.” And they don’t find new things to love because they don’t have time, money, etc.

Pretty soon, life just becomes about work, work and more work. Or it’s all about raising kids, and you’re living through them instead of having your own accomplishments.

Where is the joy in that?

I fell into this rut myself for a long time, but now that I have my kids I have become very aware of the message it sends. It sends the message that adulthood is a drag and fun is for the young.

I know for me, I gave up some of the things I used to love (such as riding horses – too expensive) but found other things I loved to do instead, such as running, skiing and cycling. But the important thing is not what the activity is, it is how it makes you feel. At the end of a run I feel like I accomplished something (well, usually). I’m not breaking any land speed records, but I love to do it – I love the escape it offers, and how good I feel when I am done.

It’s okay if the thing you love isn’t a physical activity. As long as it puts a smile on your face, that’s what matters. If scrap booking or painting are the things that give you joy, then by all means, do that. But if that’s the case, see rule #5.

3. Make an Effort
You don’t have to dress in the latest fashion, or pile on the makeup, but I do think that one’s happiness and self esteem are really boosted by taking a little care with their appearance.

Myself, I usually go pretty light on the makeup, as I actually don’t think it flatters me very much. But, I do work hard to maintain my fitness and keep my weight at a healthy level. This has the added bonus of keeping my skin reasonably clear and healthy looking as well. I also know it makes me look and feel better than when I don’t.

And while I don’t spend a lot on my wardrobe, I do try to wear things that I think are cute and flattering. No mom jeans. When I found out I would have to have surgery, I set aside some money for a wardrobe refresh afterwards, and I think it has helped me keep from feeling depressed, especially on the days when I wasn’t feeling great. It is kind of amazing how that works.

I also make sure to wear sunscreen. I was a latecomer to the whole sunscreen thing – didn’t start wearing it religiously until my late 20s, but I do think it has helped to stave off the worst of the wrinkles and sun damage. My makeup routine on most days is a color correcting face lotion with 30 SPF, and a tinted lip gloss. If I’m feeling fancy, I might add a cat eye and red lipstick to the mix. But that’s about it. That’s what I need to do to look like I feel – which is pretty good most of the time.

4. Watch Your Intake
Nothing will age you faster than carrying around a lot of extra weight and the dirty fact of the matter is that as a friend of mine told me, you can’t outrun your diet. And I think the biggest culprit for a lot of people is partly WHAT they eat and drink, and also how much.

I have to admit that I am not the greatest with the WHAT part of the equation – but I do keep an eye on how much. My big downfall is sweets. I have to sugar pretty much every day. I try to keep a lid on it – like one sweet thing a day is enough (two if they are small) but it’s basically my one major vice.

As vices go, I am good with it. Most of my other vices are long gone and as long as I watch the quantity, sugar is not SO bad. I’ll run it off anyway.

As for other vices, specifically drinking: personally, as I have gotten older, I’ve mostly stopped drinking. And to be honest, I hardly miss it. I still drink socially, but even then I am a lot more judicious than I once was.

Not drinking means a lot of empty calories I am not ingesting. It’s a choice – if I have to choose between wine and chocolate I’ll choose chocolate. If I have to choose between either of them and looking and feeling good the next day, I usually pick how I will feel the next day.

Also, alcohol is very aging. It is a vasodilator, which means when you drink, your blood vessels swell. That is why people who drink a lot will get red, puffy looking faces. I am one of those people who is really affected by this – I turn beet red, and my face swells like a balloon after two drinks. It’s called the alcohol flush, and it is not pretty.

Anyway, the important thing is to know your your calorie needs and try to stick to them as closely as possible. A little indulgence here and there isn’t usually going to do long term damage,but if it becomes a regular thing, it WILL catch up to you.

And before you know it, even if you only gain a pound or two a year, at that rate, 10 years = 20 pounds. Then you are 10 years older than you are now, 20 (or more) pounds heavier, and feeling like crap.

It’s not just about your intake, though. You also have to consider that…

5. Exercise and Sleep Are Critical
If you are not getting enough exercise, it wreaks havoc on your body. I know this first hand. Before I got back into running last year I was having trouble sleeping, had all kinds of aches and pains. I wasn’t that heavy, but I was unfit and I felt crappy.

But lo and behold, since I started exercising, most of those problems have disappeared, along with about 10 pounds. It is not necessarily true that your metabolism naturally slows down as you get older. But what does happen is that you lose muscle mass unless you are doing something to maintain it.

Muscle burns more calories than fat, so if your muscle mass is going down, the number of calories you are burning is also going down, even if your weight stays the same. If your calorie intake stays the same as it was when you had more muscle, eventually weight gain will start to happen unless something changes.

This is what people refer to when they talk about your metabolism slowing down. But, it’s not something that has to happen or that cannot be controlled, or even reversed. You can reverse it, stop it, or at least slow it down by exercising, especially exercise that helps maintain muscle mass (that means not just piling on the cardio, but some strength/ muscle building activities too). Keep the muscle, burn the fat.

The other benefit is that you maintain the strength to do the activities you enjoy, and stave off the day when even your daily activities and sense of balance (proprioception) start to be come impacted. Lack of core strength is one of the reasons why elderly people have balance problems and are at risk of falls. The good news is you can prevent it or at least put it off as long as possible.

In the even shorter term, getting enough exercise also helps with sleep. Because you are too tired to have insomnia. Nothing makes a better sleep aid than physical exhaustion. And nothing helps you look healthy, happy and pretty like getting enough sleep.

None of this is original advice, and unfortunately none of it includes products that can be bought. But I guarantee that if you try it, it will work and you will look and feel years younger.

And if you don’t?

See Rule #1.

And for Heavens sake – get polka dots if you like them!

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Nutella Fruit Dip

Here’s a yummy, easy snack idea that’s pretty healthy, or at least as healthy as something that contains Nutella can be. It’s reasonably low in fat, with lots of protein. The fruit brings in vitamins and fiber. Great for sharing with kids.

1/2 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 heaping Tbsp Nutella
Sliced fruit of your choice (bananas and strawberries are great with this)

Stir the Nutella and yogurt together until it reaches a smooth, pudding-like consistency. In fact, you could just eat it by itself as if it were pudding. You could also just eat Nutella straight from the jar.

Not that I would know from personal experience or anything.

Apparently, you could also substitute peanut butter for the Nutella. I don’t know why you would want to do that, but you could.

Place your dip in a bowl and surround it with fruit for dipping, and go to town.

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Goals With Plans

One of the things I like about running is that it gives me a chance to exercise my muscles in goal setting and planning, things that I feel I don’t do very much of as a stay at home mom type person. I do plan to clean, do laundry, etc., with the goal (possibly unachievable with two little boys in the house) of having a clean or at least presentable home – the accomplishment of which feels less like I’ve accomplished something awesome and more like all I did was keep filth and chaos at bay.

Suffice to say, it’s not the most motivating thing to just be treading water all the time. The mess and I are in a constant competition to see who will win. Usually it is the mess. I would feel worse about this but it is 4 on 1 including the cat, who as the only one that poops in a box and coughs up hair balls on the regular, makes the most disgusting messes of all.

The odds are always against me.

But running is an area of life where I can actually feel like I am somewhat in control of things. I can see and feel myself making progress. When I am not injured or having surgery, that is.

Now that my surgery and recovery are mostly behind me, I am in a goal setting phase with running again. So, what’s next? What do I want to focus on?

Well, between the ankle injury and fitness lost from recovery, I am not sure when I will feel ready to start training for longer distances. Stamina is basically gone. I think it will come back, but I also don’t want to place a lot of repetitive stress on a healing ankle. So I think I will focus on getting back to doing 5k and 10k races and work on getting faster at those distances.

I’d like to think I’ve learned something from the injuries I’ve dealt with since I started back to running over the last year, and I would say the big takeaway is that the experts are right – you cannot work on speed and distance at the same time. And since I apparently have to choose, I guess I’d rather run fast than far. I’d like to do both but it seems I have to choose one thing at a time.

My next race will be the Inspiring Hope 5k on May 10, which I will be running and walking. Gotta start somewhere I guess.

There doesn’t seem to be much that looks interesting enough to plan for until July. Starting in July I’d like to do:

Mill Creek Run of the Mill 5k – July 12
Run-a-Muk 10k – August 23
Snohomish River Run 10k – October 26

Other things might crop up, but these are the races I will plan to do. After October I will decide if I want to try moving up to the half distance or stick with 10k’s for a while longer.

Hurts So Good

I got my full Physical Therapy routine started at yesterday’s PT appointment. I’m going to Experience Momentum, which was recommended to me by a running friend who had used them.

They designed an exercise program to help with flexibility and hip strength, and to strengthen and stretch the muscles of the calf so that my posterior tibial tendon isn’t forced to work so hard. Most of the exercises aren’t too difficult except for two that directly target the area of my right hip that is the weakest. So although I can barely do them, I know I have to keep at it since whatever they do must be what I need to work on.

I also think it’s interesting how easy these exercises are on my other leg – major muscle imbalance between left and right side going on. Which I guess is not totally surprising given that I never have been able to walk or run in a straight line – on the treadmill I am always slowly meandering between the guard rails.

So far I’ve been impressed because the exercises they’ve given me and techniques they’ve used have already made a big difference. Last week, my ankle flexibility was so severely limited that I literally could not get my knee forward past my toe without a lot of pain – now I can get within a couple of centimeters of what the other ankle to do. That’s a lot of difference in a week. Now we just need to strengthen that hip so it can do its job a bit better.

Also might be nice to be able to walk straight – call that an added bonus.

In addition to exercises and stretches, yesterday’s appointment also included something called ASTYM. You can click to visit the website if you want to read the scientific mumbo jumbo, but what I was told is it’s basically a deep tissue massage of sorts that utilizes a hard plastic thingie that the therapist scrapes along the muscles and tendons that are causing your pain. The hard plastic thing supposedly helps move inflammation and scar tissue and also stimulates blood flow to promote healing.

It is rather uncomfortable but not excruciating – I yelped a little but mostly I laughed. I just tend to laugh at a certain level of pain. I know that makes me sound like a badass. But I am just talking about the level of pain where it also comes across as somewhat pleasurable because your body isn’t quite sure what the heck is going on. Like being sore after an extremely tough workout.

Of course, much past that level of pain comes yelping, then shouting, then tears. And kicking or punching if it doesn’t stop. We were at the laughing and yelping level, though, so the pain was of the hurts so good variety. The therapist told me she had only ever made a person cry a couple of times – laughter and the “hurts so good” sentiment being more common.

I was sad when she stopped.

Anyway, I woke up with my ankle feeling pretty good this morning, so either the technique actually works, or the placebo effect makes me think it does. Whatever the case, I’ll take it!

Open Face Egg Sandwich

The great Easter dilemma is upon us – what the heck do we do with all the hard boiled eggs after the Easter bunny has had his way with them?

Myself, I would like to go with making a big ol’ batch of egg salad egg-cept (ha!) for the fact that no one else in my house will eat it, and if I eat it all by myself, I will be fat. Because good egg salad = lots of mayonnaise.

Fortunately I did figure out a way to have the flavors of egg salad without all the fat and calories – an open face egg sandwich.

This is similar to one of my favorite sandwiches in the world, the open face egg and shrimp sandwich from the Ikea cafeteria. You don’t want me to get going about the Ikea cafeteria but I will just say this: I love that place.

I know – I’m wierd. Who loves the food at Ikea? Well, for what it’s worth, it’s also similar to a sandwich I once had at a cafe in Madrid. In both cases it was surprising how a simple egg, mayonnaise and bread could be so tasty.

Anyway, this version of the sandwich is a total win. Sliced eggs, tomatoes, lettuce, and a little mayo on whole wheat bread – totally simple, yet delicious.

Open Face Egg Sandwich

1 slice whole wheat bread
1 Tbsp. Mayonnaise
1 sliced egg
1 sliced Campari or Roma tomato
1 leaf of butter lettuce.

Spread the mayo thinly on the bread. Slice the eggs and tomatoes thinly – an egg slicer works great for the egg, not so much for the tomatoes. Arrange the lettuce, then tomatoes and egg on top.

That’s it – enjoy!

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