Not To Be Trusted With Knives

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I Declare December The Month of Vegetables!

Vegetables
I’ve decided to get serious about vegetables. Along with my slothiness when it comes to exercise, I’ve been rather lackadaisical when it comes to my fruit and vegetable intake. I mean, it’s not like I’ve been eating *no* fruits and veg, but I haven’t been eating enough and I certainly haven’t been getting enough variety. I’ve been better in recent weeks, since I started making a bit of an effort to up the fruits and veggies, but I think it’s time to kick it into high gear.

Now, I know you are probably thinking, “Beth, have you forgotten that December is the month of shortbread and gingerbread cookies and egg nog and other such tasty treats?” Rest assured, I have not. I really do expect that I shall be partaking in festive goodies. But that’s all the more reason to focus on the veg! Filling up on healthy fruits and veggies will (a) make sure that I just have one tasty treat, not an entire tray, and (b) don’t feel guilty over those treats!

I do have a few specific plans in place help me be successful in this month of plant-based goodness. These include:

  • planning my meals in advance, so I’m not just throwing something together quickly and forgetting the veg
  • keeping stocked with cottage cheese that I can have with fruit for breakfast1
  • keeping stocked with some canned fruits and vegetables so that if I run out of fresh stuff, I’m not completely fruit & veg-less.
  • keeping stocked with V8 juice2
  • stocking up with veggies that I know Devon also likes3, so that he’ll be inclined to make a tasty veg on the nights he makes dinner.

I’m sure I’ll come up with a few more strategies, but these should get me going.

Also, just after I posted my blog posting about using my epic fail from the November Threeway Challenge of Awesomeness as a learning experience rather than beating myself up over it, I saw this article over on Lifehacker: Want to Create a New Habit? Get Ready to Break It. It’s all about how we shouldn’t beat ourselves up if we try to create a new habit – like exercising every day – and then we don’t succeed every.single.day because it that’s just setting one’s self up for failure4.

For the record, I have actually scheduled in my exercise for this week. Today I biked 11 km on the stationary bike when I got home from school; tomorrow, Thursday, & Friday I’m going to yoga; on Wednesday I have a hockey game; and Tuesday & Saturday I’ll do some biking. I shall keep you posted on how this experiment of thoughtful scheduling and veggie-focusing goes!

Image Credit: Posted by Martin Cathrae on Flickr.

  1. This will also help with my desire to actual eat breakfast regularly. []
  2. Yes, I know it’s crazy high in sodium, but I like it, so I know I’ll drink it, and I have low blood pressure, so I’m not overly concerned with sodium. []
  3. He’s picky about veggies, but does like, for example, asparagus, beets, and kale, and can tolerate squash. []
  4. In conclusion, the Internets say I’m right! woohoo! []

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NaBloPoMo, Yo.

NaBloPoMo November 2012Reading Chris’s blog yesterday, I was reminded that November is National Blog Posting Month (a.k.a. NaBloPoMo), the month where bloggers try to post a blog posting every single day. And since I blogged yesterday, and now I’m blogging today, that means I’m 1/15th of the way to completing this! I’ve successfully completed NaBloPoMo every year since 2008, so if I can do it again this year, that would make it FIVE years in a row!

I’m also two days into the November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness, which is going just swimmingly1. Yesterday I had to work from 8 am until 7 pm, as I had to attend the launch of a program at two different hospitals, once of which didn’t a morning coffee session launch and the other of which did a dinner launch event. And, being the evaluator for the initiative, I needed to be at both events to discuss the essential evaluation issues. Which meant an 11 hour work day. I’d originally thought I’d have some time to do some office yoga, you know, with it being an 11 hour work day and all, but with the various events and meetings and traveling to said events and meetings and scrambling to get a few tasks done in between said events and meetings and traveling, I barely had time to scarf done my lunch at my desk, let alone get my bend on.

But I knew that I couldn’t fail on the November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness *on the very first day* – see, there’s that accountability thing we were talking about – so when I got home after my 11 hour work day, rather than saying “I’m sooo tired, I just want to sit on the couch and read/surf the Internet”, I said, “I have to do some physical activity!” And I headed down to the exercise room with my computer, where I rode the exercise bike while watching an episode of Dexter2! October Beth would not have done that, but November Beth was completely motivated. And the 50 minutes of biking flew by! Go me!

Today I have a teleconference at 11 am, so that should be good for at least a half an hour of yoga stretches! And then I’ll be 1/15th of the way done my NTWCoFA! Hooray for challenges!

  1. Though I haven’t, as of yet, gone swimming. []
  2. I’m still an episode behind, so no one tell me what’s happened in the most recent episode! []

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Schedule It!

So my sister brought up a pretty good point in her comment on my blog posting yesterday. I was talking about how I failed to do some sort of concerted physical activity every day in the month of August and my sister, in her great wisdom, reminded me of a conversation we’d just had a few days ago. Nancy is a college instructions and in addition to teaching her content area, she also teaches sessions on Time Management for first year students1. One of the things she teaches them about is the idea of taking your calendar and blocking out all the times that you are busy doing stuff. I mean, you probably already book in your meetings and classes and scheduled sports (like, say, hockey games). But then you block in other things that take up time that you don’t usually include in your calendar, and thus don’t appreciate how much time they are taking up, like eating, showering, and driving. And *then* you block in your guilty pleasures that you probably don’t even want to admit to spending so much time doing – surfing Facebook or reading blogs. Once you do all this, you can see how much time you actually have left for such things as exercise and getting work done.

“Of course!” I thought. Not sure why this didn’t occur to me sooner. I’m pretty good at getting my exercise when it’s scheduled in – following my training plan for the half marathon means I know that I have to run a certain distance on a certain day, so I schedule that in2; if I have a hockey game or a hike with friends scheduled, that goes into the calendar. So all I need to do is look at what days don’t have exercise booked in and then block off some time to do some – even if it’s just some pushups or crunches or a stint on the exercise bike while I read a textbook.

So, here’s my upcoming week, with time for exercise booked in orange3 ,4 ,5 ,6:

weekly calendar with exercise

Thanks, Nance! Don’t know what I’d do without you and all your brilliant brain thoughts!

  1. This may come as a shock to anyone who knows me, but my sister has many jobs and does many, many things. Not that I know anyone else like that. []
  2. Though I’m being a total slacker and really only doing my long runs and *maybe* one other run during the week, instead of the 4-5 runs per week in the training plan. []
  3. Oh yeah, my Longest Game reunion is also in orange, because that’s the colour I use in my calendar for sports-related stuff, but I won’t actually be doing exercise during that time! []
  4. Note: I don’t have all my stuff booked in here yet. []
  5. Also note, “long walk on the beach” might be a joke. But I’ll definitely do something exercise-y during that time. []
  6. And another also note: I have *no idea* why my class schedule shows up in my Google Calendar twice. But I’m too afraid to delete one in case on is being updated and the other isn’t and I end up deleting the wrong one! []

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I Like to Move It, Move It

So while I’m on a healthy living kick, I figured it was a good time to share some of the things that have been inspiring said healthy living kick. I mean in addition to the fact that I can’t fit into a fair number of clothes that I could fit into mere months ago (!).

Death-By-Sitting!

First, there’s been a lot of reports lately about research showing that sitting all day is going to kill you. Now, I have an office job and, depending on what phase I’m at for different projects1, I can find myself spending 7.5 hours sitting at my desk, day after day. And when you combine that with hours upon hours of sitting doing homework when I get home, it really is a miracle that I’m still alive. It sort of makes sense – we didn’t evolve to sit for prolonged periods of time – and I can tell you that my massage therapist can tell when I’ve had a week of lots of sitting as opposed to a week when I’ve been on the go. My muscles are full of nasty knots and various sorts of ugly tightness when I’ve been sitting – much worse than when I go in for massage due to my running- or hockey-related muscle tightness.

Given that ever doing exercise2 does not make up for the damaging effects of prolonged sitting on one’s health, I’ve been looking for simple ways to break up my sitting. I still do my teleconference yoga whenever I have a teleconference or webinar, but since I don’t have those with any regularity, I’ve tried to find other little ways to break up the sitting – apparently moving at least once per hour is what’s needed. Getting up to make tea, walking to the far bathroom instead of the closer one3, and even just stand-up-and-stretch breaks4. I do find, however, that I can get lost in my work sometimes and a few hours will go by where I don’t move anything except my typing fingers. Starting tomorrow, I’m setting an alarm so I’ll get up and stretch every hour!

Pumping Iron

One thing I’ve never been good about, even when I’m at my most active, is weight training. I’ll run, I’ll bike, I’ll swim, I’ll play hockey, but I’ve never really been into lifting weights5. But the thing is – lifting weights is good for you. Here’s a video with a prof from my favourite of my alma maters talking about it:

Simple Advice for Better Weight Training (sorry, this video won’t let me embed it, so you have to click the link)

The exercise room in my building has a few weights, so I’m thinking perhaps I should actually use them!

Just 23.5 Hours Per Day

But the thing that’s most inspired me lately is this video, which I saw awhile ago, then promptly forgot about, but then my sister just reminded me of it the other day, after Dr. Dan posted it on Facebook:

Can you limit your sitting and sleeping to a mere 23.5 hrs per day? When you put it like that, it really seems ridiculous to say “I don’t have time for exercise!”

And one bonus tip!

Being healthy isn’t just about physical activity, of course. Nutrition plays into as well. I’ve long been a fan of the book Intuitive Eating, which essentially brings the concept of mindfulness to eating. When I get really busy, though, I often forget and I scarf down my lunch at my computer – or sometimes even just while engaged in a good conversation – without even noticing. So I’m now trying out a tip I read recently: eating with my left hand. But doing this, which isn’t my usual pattern, it forces me to be more mindful of what I’m doing, rather than just eating automatically, just out of sheer habit. I just started this, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

  1. For example, if I’m in a data analysis or writing phase (e.g., writing plans, writing reports, writing emails, etc.) vs. if I’m in data collection phase (e.g., going off to various locations to do site visits, run focus groups, conduct interviews, have meetings). []
  2. Such as going for a run/bike ride, going to the gym, playing hockey, etc. []
  3. And given my continuous consumption of coffee and tea, my trips to the bathroom are frequent! []
  4. Conveniently for me, my officemate is equally terrified of death-by-sitting, and will join me in said stretch breaks. []
  5. Though I do have my pushups thing going on during homework times – so that’s something. []

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Early Thoughts on My Month of Hot Yoga

I think I’m in love with hot yoga. I mean, it’s only been four days since I started, so we are still in that “honeymoon phase” and maybe I’m willing to overlook hot yoga’s short comings, like how I have to get up at 5 a.m. to be there for the 6 a.m. practice, which is the most convenient one because I can do it before wrok. But seriously, four days in and I feel like I can already feel a difference in my muscle tone1. It’s also helped me to see which of my muscles are tightest and need the most stretchy goodness and I seriously need the work on balance!  Plus, I absolutely love the heat – you are just dripping with sweat throughout and by the end of the practice, your clothes are soaked right through, just as much as if you’d jumped into a pool! Also, there’s the mental benefits of yoga, like just taking the time to still the mind.  Oh yes, hot yoga has everything!

Except, of course, that while my 30 days for $30 Groupon was a good deal, the cost of hot yoga is rather unaffordable. The usual price for 30 days of hot yoga at the place I’m going to (Westcoast Hot Yoga in Surrey) is $150. If you sign up for a whole year, you can get it for $980. That’s not chump change. I already spend about that much on hockey in a year and it’s hard to justify doubling my exercise budget!  Especially knowing that I wouldn’t be able to keep up a yoga-every-single-day habit, as I’ll want to get back to running after this little 30 days of yoga reprieve and I do play hockey one or two times per week. This got me thinking about Darren’s recent post on Groupon – and I quote:

“Buying Groupon deals provides a way for middle-class people to scratch an upper-class itch.”

Since I’ve been going to the before work practice, I’ve been bringing my clothes and makeup to the yoga studio so that I can shower and get ready for work there2, and in doing so I’ve been chatting with the others who stick around to get ready for work3. So far I’ve chatted with – and I’m not making this up – a doctor, a lawyer, and a wealth manager. Seriously.

So, while I love my hot yoga so far, I think I’m in it for a good time, not a long time. After my 30 days are up, I’ll probably switch to just doing yoga at home, where it is a nice and free4, and maybe just pop into a hot yoga session once in a while as a treat. You know, to scratch that upper class itch.

  1. of course, I may just be delirious from all the dehydration and exhaustion []
  2. side benefit to early morning yoga: it’s made me become way more organized – ensuring I have my lunch and other necessities for the day packed and ready to head out the door. I even planned out my outfits for every day this week on the weekend so I wouldn’t have to think about it when I’m packing my yoga bag []
  3. a lot people just head home to shower, but for me it’s more convenient to do it at the studio and head right in to work []
  4. and my living room is big enough to be a yoga studio anyway! []

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Way More Than You Ever Wanted To Know About My Calf Muscles

So I’ve finally resurfaced from beneath the grant application I was working on this week1.  The nice thing about working on grants on contract, as opposed to actually being responsible for the grant, is that you can set your contract to say “I’m going to give you deliverable X by date Y to level of quality Z” and then you do that. And in this case, it was my job to deliver a solid draft of the grant, but not the final product2. So while the grant isn’t due ’til October 1st, my piece of it is done. The person for whom I was working on this asked if I’d like to take on a second contract to do the next round of revisions, but I declined, because I’m just too freaking burnt out and I need my life back!  I am, you may recall, scheduled to run a half marathon in two weeks, but I didn’t do a single run this past week. Not a single run! I played hockey on Sunday and Wednesday, but hockey is a different type of exercise, and I really needed to get back to running.

Collage of varius Gray's muscle pictures by Mi...
Image via Wikipedia

But when I tried to go for a run yesterday, my calf muscles totally cramped up. Like to the point that I had to stop running and turn around and limp back the 2 km I’d just run. Not impressed. My calves had been giving me trouble lately – the morning after my first hockey game I woke up with a wicked charley horse, but I chalked it up to dehydration.  A few days later, another charley horse, though this time I hadn’t been playing hockey. Then, over this past week, where I had been doing no running and lots of sitting, my calves were being really twitchy. Not charley horses, but little involuntary muscular contractions which ranged from annoying to ouchy. I chalked this up to going from lots of running to no running – my muscles were clearly staging a revolt! I figured that going for a run last night after work would work out the twitchiness out. Clearly, I was mistaken. Immediately upon arriving at home from my aborted run, I booked a massage therapy appointment. My main massage therapist is always booked up3, so I tried my back up massage therapist, but she’s away at a seminar today. So

Day 94

I Googled to find someone who could take me and managed to get an appointment for 8:30 this morning at a sports massage therapy clinic. As it turns out, the guy who worked my muscles today also works the muscles of the BC Lions and, starting next season, the Vancouver White Caps4.  After my massage, my calves felt so much better it was ridiculous. I went out for a nice run – not too fast, ‘cuz I didn’t want to push it, but not that slow – and my calves felt fine!  Hooray!

Also, the massage therapist seems to think that the problem probably resulted from my lack of stretching after hockey and insufficient stretching after running. Because I totally suck at stretching. My thought process is usually “I’ve just spent 2 hours running, I need to get on with my life!”  Or I am so exhausted that I want to do is have a “post-run shavasana” and then, when I have enough energy to pick myself up off the floor, hit the shower. Granted, my main massage therapist, my back up massage therapist and my chiropractor have all, at various points, noted the importance of stretching post-running. But, you know, I’m not very good at doing what I’m told. Now that I’ve seen the repercussions of my lackadaisicality regrading post-exercise stretching5, however, I think I will actually do what I’m told this time. Also, this massage therapist suggested that soaking in hot baths (with epsom salt) is also good for hardworking muscles. And he suggested that one can multitask by soaking in a hot bath with a glass of wine. Multitasking FTW.

  1. seriously, the amount of work that it ended up being was far more than I could have anticipated. There were nights this week that I came home from work at ~4 p.m. then worked until 1 a.m.  Not cool. []
  2. though we did negotiate a bit of extra revisions during that process, as it was a type of grant neither of us had written before, proposing  the use of a fairly new technique as well. That’s the other cool thing about doing this type of work – in addition to making some extra moolah, I also get to learn new stuff! []
  3. in fact, I can only get an appointment with her by being on her cancellation list – she just books me in when someone cancels, because her schedule is perma-booked []
  4. And I have to say that having someone who regularly rubs the muscles of pro athletes tell you that you are fit while he’s rubbing your muscles is a nice ego boost! []
  5. lackadaisical – adjective – lacking enthusiasm and determination; carelessly lazy. See also: flossing []

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I Figured Out A Way To Increase My Step Count

Remember how I was looking for ways to incorporate more walking into my day? I found a great way to do it in just 5 easy steps!

  1. Park in a big parking garage.
  2. Go to wherever it is you are going.
  3. Forget where you parked you car.
  4. Return to parking garage.
  5. Walk around helplessly looking for your car for 15-20 mins!

Side effects of this novel exercise plan may include raised blood pressure, embarrassment, and needing to ask the security guy if he has since a little black Smart car.

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Every Step You Take

I got a pedometer last week.  I’ve been thinking that it would be interesting to have one for a while now and then I heard some news stories on studies showing that being inactive for long periods of time (say, sitting at your desk all day) is harmful to your health1, regardless of if you engage in physical activity at other times.  So, while going out for a run  is good for you, you can lose some of that goodness by sitting around all day in between runs.   And I do *a lot* of sitting.  My job primarily involves working at my desk or sitting in my car driving to meetings or focus groups or interviews, where I sit.

The materials that came with the pedometer said that the average person is sedentary, taking somewhere between 1,000-3,000 steps per day.  The recommendation is to aim for about 10,000 steps per day (or about 7 km).  But before trying to do that, it suggests that you spend a few days wearing the pedometer and following your usual routine, to see where you are starting from.  And then try to add more steps gradually, until you are up to 10,000 steps per day.  Easy-peasy, right?

The first day I had it I took only ~4,600 steps during the day – and that was a day where I had an off-site meeting which involved a fair bit of walking.  After going on my 10 km run that evening, I clocked in at 18,342 steps, but it was shocking to me that a workday that involved an above-average amount of walking, I was still taking less than half the recommended 10,000 steps!

The next day I had meetings at different sites – which meant a few rounds of walking to and from my car to meeting locations, plus I went out for dinner with a couple of friends in Vancouver in the evening, and parked a few blocks away and walked.  I still only took 5,884 steps.

The day after that I spent the day in the office and went out to an event in the evening.  I took a total of 4,345 steps.

The day after that was absolutely atrocious.  I had meetings offsite, but spend the whole day in the one location and really only walked from the parking lot to building.  And then stayed in that night.  I only took 2,561 steps in the whole day!

The following day was a Saturday, so I wasn’t in the office.  I ran some errands and went to the Night Market, where we walked around a fair bit.  Total for the day: a much more respectable, though still not sufficient, 8,710 steps.

On the Sunday I forgot to wear my pedometer, but that was because I got up at the crack of dawn to run a half marathon. I’m not worried that I didn’t meet the 10,000 step goal that day!

Monday was a work day where I was out for some meetings, made a point of walking to the corner store during the break and then ran some errands on the way home.  Total for the day: 5,108 steps – just more than half the recommended daily total.

And Tuesday was a day that I spent squirreled away in my office, working feverishly on a report I needed to get done.  I stayed at work 1.5 hrs longer than a normal workday to finish it, so by the time I got home I just wanted to sit on my coach and relax.  Total for the day: 4,399 steps – though I think many of these were added by my dancing around my apartment as I made dinner.

And now, because I cannot possess quantitative data without turning it into a graph, I give you a graph2:

steps

So it’s pretty clear that I need to do more activity during the day!  But I’m struggling with ways to do that.  Some of the most common suggestions for increasing activity throughout the day I either already do3 or cannot do4.  Taking transit is not an option where I work (especially because I so often have to drive to meetings all over the Lower Mainland) and there aren’t really good cycling routes in Surrey as far as I can tell (and again, many days I need my car to drive to meetings in other cities anyway, which rules out cycling to work). This all is a stark reminder of how much more healthy an environment I had when I lived and worked in Vancouver – I walked a few blocks each way between my bus stop and my work, I climbed up 5 flights of stairs to get to my office and back down 5 flights of stairs to leave my office, and I could walk to my grocery and produce stores instead of driving!

Going out for a run, or even a walk, after work is good, but it clearly isn’t enough to maximize health – I need to find ways to be more active during the day.  I would love to be able to get one of those treadmill desks5, but my work doesn’t have the money or the space for such a thing.  I’m thinking right now that my best bet will be to make a concerted effort to take stretch breaks at work – at least this will get the blood flowing and kick my body out of its sit-related lethargy.  And then to make more of an effort to go for a walk or run every day to get that step count up!

Anyone have any other suggestions for increasing activity that would be feasible for a desk jockey who works in the ‘burbs?

  1. notably causing increased blood sugar and decreased HDL (the so-called “good”) cholesterol levels []
  2. the number of steps taken for the half marathon on Sunday were estimated based on those taken to complete the Monday night 10 km run.  There should be “during the day” steps taken on Sunday, but since I forgot to wear the pedometer, I have no idea how many []
  3. e.g., take the stairs.  I always take the stairs instead of the elevator, but I live in a basement and work only on the second floor of my office building, so it doesn’t add all that much []
  4. e.g., park further away.  At my office, we are only allowed to park in the small parking lot directly behind the building.  If we park in any of the adjacent lots, which belong to other businesses, we’ll be towed. And street parking is time-limited, so we can’t park on the street either []
  5. how awesome would that be? []

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Look At That, I Still Suck At Pushups

OK, so I have a confession to make. I’m a total, complete, absolute, 100% deliquent when it comes to my pushup/situp/squat challenge.  Week 1 went fine, but then week 2 was a total bust, as I went to New Brunswick for a few days and didn’t seem to be able to find the time for the exercises while traveling.  It’s a pretty weak excuse, I’ll admit, as it doesn’t take that long (less than 30 minutes to complete all the reps of all three exercises on each of three days in a week) and it doesn’t require any equipment, but I only managed to do it one of the days while I was away.  Then the next two weeks consists of equal suckatude – I did exercise twice one week and not at all this past week.  But now it’s time to turn down the suck and turn up the not sucking.

I did another set of exhaustion tests, just to see where I’d rank, but I’m going to start week 2 over again, since I’ve yet to fully complete week 2.  Fourth time’s a charm, right?

For the record, my exhuastion test results from yesterday were as follows:

  • squats – did 201, nearly doubly my previous exhaustion test of 105 [and anything above 41 is considered “excellent”].  Guess I don’t actually need to complete the rest of the get to 200 challenge, eh?
  • sit ups – with 56, more than double my previous 23, I jump from the “poor” to the “very good” range
  • pushups – 10, up from my pathetic, pathetic 4, steps me up to rank “2”  from “1” (where a rank of “1” is the “are you sure you really want to do this?” range and a rank of “2” is low end of “where people normally start”]

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100 Pushup/200 Sit Up/200 Squat Challenge

You pathetic maggots!   (Explore) by The mofoJT.

So, you know how every once in a while I get some cockamamie idea, like running 21.1 km or climbing up a mountain?  This is one of those.

I first heard about this 100 pushup/200 situp/200 squat challenge from Dan on our Grouse Grind and maybe it was the lack of oxygen to my brain at the time, but I said, “that sounds like a good idea! “

The idea is that by the end of a three-day per week, six-week program, you will be able to do 100 pushups/200 situps/200 squats. In a row.

Before you start the program, you have to do an “exhaustion test” – as in, you do the exercise until you can’t do the exercise anymore.  It’s meant to gauge your ability at the start to put you on the right workout schedule.  Sounds like fun, right?

So I did my exhaustion tests this weekend.  I think they show that I’m a runner:

  • squats – 105 [anything above 41 is considered “excellent”]
  • sit ups – a sad, sad little 23 [in the “poor” range of 0-37. But it’s like “upper poor”]
  • pushups – a pathetic, pathetic 4 [in the “are you sure you really want to do this?” range. *sigh*]

And that’s where I am starting out.  And today is my first day of training!  Feel free to play along at home!

Image credits:

“You pathetic maggots,” originally posted on Flickr by The mofoJT