Not To Be Trusted With Knives

The Internet’s leading authority on radicalized geese

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Um, January? Hello?

How, exactly, is it February? It seems like just yesterday I was finishing up my lovely restful Christmas holidays and *poof* it’s February! This means, of course, that we are 1 full month into the new year and it seems like an excellent time to check in on those goals that I set for 2013, doesn’t it?

goal

First of all, since I actually set measurable physical activity goals, I’ve been using a spreadsheet to track my progress on those goals1. For my pushup and biking goals (1,300 pushups and 500 km of biking, respectively), I have divided by 12 to set my monthly goals, but for running, I set individual month goals based on how much running I need to do in each month to train for the 2 half marathons I’m planning to do this year. I didn’t actually set goals for yoga or hockey2, but I’m tracking those too. Turning to the spreadsheet, I can see that for January I completed:

  • 212% of my monthly goal for pushups (230 pushups)
  • 111% of my monthly goal for running (11 km)3
  • 59% of my monthly goal for biking (24.6 km)4
  • 370 minutes of hockey
  • 460 minutes of yoga

I’m also happy to report that I’ve kept up with my goal of doing some kind of physical activity every day for a year, which I started on Dec 30! Some days it’s just been a little bit – like 10 pushups – but the point is to not break the chain and sometimes that’s all I can fit in on a given day5. So far, I’ve been able to keep the chain intact!

I have not, however, knocked anything off the 101 list, including the item that I chose to focus on for January, which was “78. Clean up my boxes of papers!” However, I have friends who will be visiting later in the month who will be staying in the spare room, which will be just the impetus I need to actually clean up those boxes, as they currently reside in the spare room! In addition, it’s almost tax season, so I’ll have to go through all my papers anyway to find the stuff I need to take to my accountant.

Also, in order to keep up with the goal of knocking 13 items off my list, I need to pick an item to focus on for February6, so I’ve decided to pick item #52 – “cook a decent tasting eggplant parmesan.” Mmmm, eggplant parmesan!

Of course, all of this is well and good in a month where I don’t have my usual classes7, so we’ll have to see if I can keep it up throughout February!

  1. Thanks to Dr. Dan, who shared his physical activity tracking spreadsheet with me! (He actually shared it last year, but this year I’m actually using it to it’s fullest potential!) []
  2. My implicit goals for those are “go as often as I can given the yoga class schedule of whatever studio I currently have a Groupon for” and “go to every scheduled game that my school schedule allows me to go to,” respectively. []
  3. This is all thanks to Alicia, who invited me to go running with her on weekends when my schedule allows. She’s training for different races than I am, but we really like running together – it really helps motiviate me to get out there – so we are doing that when we can. []
  4. I’m not too worried about this being below my goal for the month. I usually ride the stationary bike in my building’s exercise room while reading for homework and since I’m not taking the modules from my program this month, I’ve not done as much reading as I normally would. I’m confident I’ll catch up once I get back to my regular school schedule in the middle of this month. []
  5. For this goal, I have to be realistic – I’m just too busy to do a big workout every day, but I can do a reasonable workout most days and make sure I do something else – like a few pushups – on the other days []
  6. Meaning I’ll have to do 2 items this month – my punishment for not getting an item done in January! []
  7. I have another class, but it’s stretched over 3 months instead of 2 weekends, so the intensity of the workload is much less! []

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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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Getting My Bend On

A few months ago, I got a Groupon for a yoga studio about a 3.2 second walk from my apartment. I bought it at the time thinking “this will be perfect after I’m done my half marathon – a chance to focus on some yoga’ing to stretch out my overworked marathoning muscles.” Well, it’s been awhile since that half marathon, but technically this is still *after* my half marathon, so I wasn’t wrong.

Inspired by the November Challenge1, I activated the Groupon today and went to my first of 20 classes. It was dubbed a “flow for runners & cyclists” class, and since there were only 2 students, it was like having my own personal yoga instructor!

The instructor was excellent and I love the fact that I can walk to the studio in 3.2 seconds. It seems a bit pricy for non-hot yoga though – drop in classes cost $18, which is the same as drop in at the hot yoga studio I like2, and the hot yoga studio has to heat the room up and provides showers and fancy pants soap in said showers3, but we’ll have to see after those 20 classes if I’m impressed enough to spend this kind of non-Group level coin.

  1. i.e., I knew I had to do some physical activity today and I thought “why not activate that Groupon and get my bend on? []
  2. Monthly and yearly memberships are also about equivalent at this studio and the hot yoga studio I like. []
  3. Sadly, the hot yoga place I like is one million miles away). The Groupon price was good ($69 for 20 visits []

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November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness

Sloth BethThe other day in an email exchange, it became apparent that Rick, Dan, and I were feeling like a trio of sloths. Due to various things and stuff1, the three of us – who are usually running, yogaing, hiking, P90Xing, hockeying, and various other sorts of physical activity-ing – have not being doing all these various sorts of physical activity, resulting is said sloth-feelings.

Further emails determined that what we needed was a Challenge with a capital C! A Challenge that would shake us from our slothy ways and get us back on track to being our usual state of awesome awesomeness. And thus the November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness was born.

Sloth DanThe rules of the Challenge are thus:

  • We must do some sort of concerted physical activity – doesn’t matter if it’s cardio, stretching, strength training, etc. every single day in November
  • The second rule of the November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness is that you *must* talk about the November Three-way Challenge of Awesomeness. Where “talk” = log the activity in the Spreadsheet of Awesomeness2.

Those are all of the rules.

Sloth RickBy doing the challenge together, we have encouragement and community. By having a shared spreadsheet, we become accountable for our actions. Sloth-like inaction = no entry on the spreadsheet = 🙁

And no one wants to be a 🙁

So, come Thursday, expect Rick, Dan, and I to be focused on being active, being healthy, and being awesome. Words of encouragement and suggestions of excellent ideas for physical activity will be much appreciated!

Image credits for original photos (which I may have touched up a wee bit):

  1. Where things and stuff include such things and stuff as work, school, flooded condos, travel, attending weddings, just to name a few. []
  2. A Spreadsheet of Awesomeness is a spreadsheet in which one tracks awesomeness. Obviously. []

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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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August Challenge – How Did I Do?

Hey, remember that time that I said I was going to do some kind of physical activity every day in August? Apparently I didn’t. I started off strong, with some running and walking and hiking and a few token pushups on days that I spent driving long distances. And then at some point I seem to have just forgotten completely that I was trying to do this. I blame the frogs. I did manage to climb a mountain, play some tennis, and run a total of 69 km1, including a zombie obstacle course race, so it’s not like I was a *complete* slacker. Just didn’t actually do something beyond my regular walking & taking the stairs on every single day of the month. I have a 12 km run and a hike planned for this weekend and then the hockey seasons starts, so maybe I’ll have better luck in September?

I did, however, manage to achieve the other part of my August Challenge – as soon as I hit “publish” on this blog posting, I’ll have posted a blog posting every day this month, something I haven’t achieved since November of last year. Since school is starting back up next Friday, I don’t expect that I’ll be able to keep this one up, but I’ll try to post as much as I can!

  1. Tee hee! []

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August Challenge

By Odin’s beard, how is it August? I mean, really, people. I’m sure it was January about two weeks ago, and now it’s freaking August. Gah!

On the plus side, August means two weeks of vacation-y goodness1! But it also means I’m just 5.5 weeks away from being back in classes – eep! Clearly, I must make the most of my 5.5 weeks of (relative) freedom. And how I intend to do that is to do the two things that I find I haven’t been able to make time for during school:

  • blogging every day
  • doing physical activity every day

Yup, just like the May Challenge, I’m going to make a concerted effort to actually move my body every single day. I’m also going to be trying to maintain some semblance of physical activity once school starts back up, what with my astute realization that that being healthy is more important than getting the best possible grades on every assignment. With any luck, a month of doing so will get me in the physical activity frame of mind2.

I’m also going to try to blog something every single day. Because blogging is something that I think is only reasonable to sacrifice to spend more time on homework during the school year, but it is something that I miss when I don’t have the time to do it. So expect more blog postings from me over the next 31 days. Though you may want to ration them – they’ll be scarce come September!

August Challenge Day #1 – blog posting complete! Physical activity planned: going for a run after my business plan teleconference this evening. w00t!

  1. With a side of homework. []
  2. In fact, doing some sort of physical activity every single day for a year is #26 on my 101 list. And what better time to start it than today! []

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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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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? []