Hoping Cycling is Helping

I am REALLY struggling with running right now.  Not the running itself, but getting running.

I ride my bike to and from work, taking the long route whenever possible.  I ride 6-15 miles a day, and I’m making great progress on my Ride to Hogwarts, but I have three 10k races this fall – the first is this Saturday, and until yesterday, I hadn’t run in over two weeks. 

My work schedule has been crazy.  I worked 7:30pm to 3:30am last night, then 1:30px to 10:1pm today (yes, i’m at work… BAD GIRL)  I’m usually able to schedule a little extra time at the beginning and end of the day for my commute, but finding time and energy to run on top of everything is nearly impossible.  My legs are feeling so much better, and my breathing is getting stronger when I ride.  Hills are getting easier, and I’m getting more adventurous – but running is supposed to be my passion, and I’m not dedicating the time to it that it deserves – that I deserve.

Yesterday, my partner told me they’re going to train for a half-marathon with me.  This is awesome!!!  We went for a run together last night before I had to start work, and my motivation is back!!!

We did find out yesterday that the conference we’re going to Philadelphia next year for has been moved to September, so I won’t be there in June for the ODDyssey half-marathon.  Instead, we’ll just take a weekend trip in June to cottage country and do the Band On The Run half-marathon instead.

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New Shoes, Crazy Exercise Day and Cycling Loot

I tried to make my “new” Salomon shoes work, I really did.  I stretched them multiple times in the freezer, and tried to break them in gradually, but nothing worked, and so Thursday night, my partner and I headed out to Sport Chek to get new shoes.  It’s not easy for me to find good shoes with my size 11.5 feet, and almost every pair I tried was too small (the biggest any of the brands had was an 11, which fits sometimes,  but not always).  I tried several beautiful pairs of Asics, but they were just snug enough that I knew I wouldn’t be able to run in them.  Then I tried on a pair of New Balance and oh my god.  Damn.  Okay, those are comfy.  Not as flashy or pretty as some of the others, but not ugly, either, and so comfy!   I got a pair, and we got a good pair of Asics for my partner, both of which were on sale.  Then we had enough Scene points for $50 off, and I had a coupon for 10% off the entire purchase.  All in all, a pretty good score.

I decided to start breaking in the new shoes as soon as possible, with  three 10k races coming up – so I ran 3 miles yesterday morning with them, and it was amazing!  Beautiful weather for running, although it started to get hot towards the end, so I dumped some of my water over my head to cool off.

We had guys digging up our yard Thursday and Friday, so I was trying to spend as little time at home as possible.  I got home, cooled down for a bit, then headed back out on my bike.  I did 9 miles.

I saw this in the water under a bridge. It might be one of the creepiest, saddest things I have ever seen. (Don’t worry, I looked around, I didn’t see any children in the water. Thank God.)

One of the challenges that Nerd Fitness suggests is Walking to Mordor – a journey of 1779 miles.  There have been many articles written on this task – even websites and apps dedicated to it.  In fact, my partner is currently walking to Mordor to earn going back to school (another story) – it’s win-win-win, because it’s a good way for them to work on leveling up fitness while working towards leveling up career at the same time, it forms healthy habits, and it buys some time to save the money we need.  

I want to get a SmartHalo for my bike, and decided that I would have to cycle a certain distance to earn it – rather than just saving up stones for it, which would take far too long.  I decided Mordor was too far – if it’s worth a full education for my partner, it seems a little excessive for a bike accessory – even though it’s faster to ride than to walk.  I decided to see how far the Hogwarts Express would have travelled in the Harry Potter stories.  Using this article, and then this map,

I figured out that the ride from King’s Cross Station to the estimated location of the mythical school would be a distance of 612 miles by bicycle.  Perfect.  I want to get the SmartHalo before its official release in December,  because I can save a bunch of money by preordering. I picked November 25th as a deadline, and I officially started tracking on September 1st, which means 86 days for 612 miles.  That amounts to an average of 7.11 miles per day.  Now: I have three 10k race days in there, and 2 “away” weekends, so I know there are going to be missed days.  To make up for those, I plan on averaging 10 miles a day when I do ride, and hopefully that will give me enough of a buffer to hit my goal in time.

Now I just have to figure out a goal reward for my own walk to Mordor.  Maybe I should run instead…

Loot! (AKA Rewards)

One of the things that the Nerd Fitness Academy emphasizes is that there have to be rewards for achievements.  In video games, achievements get you prizes/tools/etc., and in life, we need motivation to keep pushing through the hard work.  It’s easy to fall into the trap, however, of rewarding healthy habits with unhealthy behaviours – junk food, etc – so it’s important to have a game plan beforehand.

I have come up with my personalized loot system to share, and I have a couple of different levels of loot.

The first level is for daily healthy habits.  I have created a jar with ribbon tape marking points along its side.  Each ribbon marks a level of approximately 50 stones, and I can earn up to 5 stones a day for meeting my goals.

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My daily goals are to eat at least 5 servings of fruit and vegetables, to drink 3 litres of water, to get at least 7 hours of sleep, to work out (biking to work, running, going for a swim, a hike, whatever), and to meditate or do yoga.  Each 50-stone line on the jar represents a $15 reward.  I can either redeem those stones as soon as they hit the mark, or I can keep saving them until I reach a higher reward level.  While it will be up to me to decide at the time what I want to use my loot rewards for, I have come up with a few ideas for some of the levels.

$15 – New book (digital or paperback), World of Warcraft mount/pet, inexpensive computer game

$30 – New nerdy t-shirt 

$45 – New running outfit

$60 – New bike tires or accessory

$75 – New craft supplies

$90 – New running skirt

$105 – New running shoes

$195 – SmartHalo for my bike (this is a major loot goal for me right now, it combines so many features I want to add to my bike into one device)

I also have major achievement goals.  

  • There is a new WoW pack coming out that I would like to buy – it costs about $70 USD.  Since I didn’t start my loot quest early enough to earn it before the release date, I have set a goal of not purchasing any candy at work (one of my biggest weaknesses – stupid vending machine…) from now until it releases on August 30.
  • There are a couple of piercings I want to get. Two, in fact, which will be hidden… *ahem*…  Anyway, I can get them if I don’t miss any two workouts in a row between now and the end of September.
  • I have my heart set on a running skirt from Sparkle Skirts, but they’re expensive.  If I complete my trail run in November in less than 1:45:00, I will be ordering one.
  • I am planning on running a half-marathon next June (more on that in a future post).  When I complete that, I will be getting a tattoo on my foot, which is going to be reflective of my running. I am going to post some design ideas later as well for feedback.

Lastly, for completing all of my workouts in a week, I will be rewarding myself with a long, hot candlelit bath.  It won’t cost me anything, but it’s something I don’t often take the time to do for myself.

I’m already noticing a difference in my behaviours with these rewards.  I look longingly at the vending machine at work, then remind myself that I want the game.  I almost didn’t get up yesterday morning to run, but then reminded myself that if I miss one workout, I’m more likely to miss two, and then I won’t get my piercings at the end of September (plus I get Epic Quest points if I stick with all of my workouts for long enough, so there’s another motivator).

So many things to work for, and I’m psyched!  Bring on the loot!

My Big Why

​So one of the first tasks in the Nerd Fitness Academy is to find your Big Why. This is the motivation that keeps you going. It has to be powerful, and it has to be deep. Sure, I want to look good in a bathing suit, sure I want to shop at “normal” clothing stores, but what’s my REAL reason? Why is it, deep down, that I want to do this?

I don’t want to live my life as a diabetic. I know I will always have diabetes, yes. But there is always a chance of getting off medications and controlling by diet and exercise. This is a huge goal of mine, because it would mean no more needles (just careful testing to make sure everything is okay), no more gulping water at 3am because I can’t quench the thirst, no more being judged for everything I put in my mouth (although I will always have to watch it, at least it can be ME watching and not everyone else), and four fewer pills a day.

I want to feel like I’m not subjecting my partner to intimacy. Because I feel like no one should have to come near me naked, and I feel like that’s not normal in a marriage.

My partner and I are 33 and 34 years old, respectively.   We have talked for years about having kids, but never had the money – we still don’t, but are at least actively putting money into savings.  At 35 years old, there is an added risk factor to having a baby, and that factor increases with each additional year. I have to be as healthy as possible so that my diabetes and PCOS don’t prevent me from getting pregnant, and I have to be healthy enough to carry a baby safely – for me, the baby, and for my partner – I have to be here for them after all is said and done.

In keeping with my last reason, I want to be an active parent. I didn’t come from an overly active family – my parents were (are) amazing, but they often didn’t have time to do a lot of physical activity outside of work. Meals were often convenience foods, and even the homemade ones were huge portions. I want to give my kids the knowledge that I didn’t have about healthy eating and exercise, and make sure that they grow up loving the outdoors and activities. I don’t want them to go through what I went through.

Hell,  I want to stop going through what I went through. That might sound funny, but let me explain: two years ago, I took a couple of Aquafit classes at the local wellness centre. I was in the change room one night after class, changing how I always do in public – making sure I’m covered at all times – when a group of young (probably 12-13 years old) girls came in. They were whispering and laughing, and I could hear them saying things about me. I choked back tears, and finished getting dressed, all the while shaking like a leaf, unable to breathe. Here’s the thing: I don’t know if they were actually saying anything about me, or if I just heard it because my brain was filling it in for me. For those few minutes, I was back on the playground, being taunted to the point of illness (I developed an ulcer in Grade 8 from the stress).  Last year, my partner and I were out for a walk, and a car veered off the road up ahead and into a field.  There was no impact, but we were concerned that something might have happened to the driver to cause the mishap, so we watched as we approached.  As we got closer, we could see that the three occupants were fine, but the car was stuck.  We were discussing whether we should go over and help when the girl in the passenger seat started yelling “Take a picture!…Yeah, laugh it up…You’re fat and ugly and I don’t care what you think!” at us.  Needless to say, we didn’t go and help, but as much as we tried not to let it bother us, we were both shaken and upset the rest of the evening.  I’m 34 years old, and people can still reduce me to an 8 year old child with a word or a look. I want to feel like I’m worth something and that everyone isn’t judging me or disgusted by me. I want to feel like a human being.

Lastly, I am considering a career change – either something to do with animals,  or something to do with corrections, and either way, I need to be in better shape.  As a wildlife researcher (or a cop, for that matter), I would have to be able to handle working and physically exerting myself outdoors in high temperatures, and for police or correctional officer work I would have to be able to pass rigorous fitness testing.  I don’t know where I’ll wind up, but I don’t want my body to limit what I can do with my life.

I think those are my biggest reasons for now, there are lots of other little ones, which I will share later. But these are my deepest ones.

A Good Place to (Re)Start

I have struggled with my weight all my life.

I was a big kid, and badly bullied.  I ate my lunches sitting against the wall of the school building, or begged the teacher to let me help with classroom chores.  I took more sick days than most kids – partly because I was avoiding school, and partly because I was often sick from the stress.  My pets and my parents were my best friends, with few others my age breaking through the circle.  Those I let through often turned on me, throwing my weight back in my face at the first sign of a problem.  I became angry and cynical, and began experiencing blind rages when the bullying got to be too much.  In elementary school, a couple of fights actually even resulted in serious injuries of other children, because I would black out and not realize I was hurting them (one day I will get into my struggles with mental health issues – but it’s a very long story).  I developed asthma at the age of 12, which made physical activity more difficult, and my clumsiness often led to injuries when I did participate in sports.  At some point during my childhood, I developed Binge Eating Disorder, and would buy food and hide it from my parents, stuffing myself full of junk food in secret.

The bullying continued through my teenage years, although less overtly, with my first few relationships – with boys – being “secrets”.  All three of my first boyfriends insisted that no-one know about our relationships – because others wouldn’t understand.  One of those boys at that time had been my best friend for five years before that – but had also wanted to keep our friendship secret as well, lest anyone think we were more than friends.  And yes, I let my friends treat me that way.  I DID let them.  I don’t now.  But maybe that’s why, even now, I don’t have many friends.  The first relationship that I had that wasn’t a secret lasted three years, but when it ended, one of the reasons he gave for dumping me (on the night of our high school graduation, no less) was that I hadn’t even tried to lose weight (he was wrong, I had tried many times over the three years, but never been successful – just like had happened many times over the previous years, and just like has happened many times since then).

I gained weight steadily after high school, and even after meeting my partner in 2004.  My father had been diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes at the age of 42, when I was 18.  At the time, the doctors told me that I would likely develop it as well by his age if I wasn’t careful.  I figured I had lots of time.  I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome at age 22, which causes weight gain and insulin resistance.  I should have take that opportunity to really try to change, but I think somewhere in my head I used it as a reason why it really wasn’t my fault – and besides, my doctors told me it could lead to diabetes in the future, probably by age 40, according to this set.  My highest weight was 282 lbs, right around the time of my diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes – only a year after my P.C.O.S. diagnosis.  I managed to avoid having to take insulin until a little over two years ago, but have had to take daily injections since then.  I wish I could say that my diagnosis 10 years ago or having to start on insulin was the catalyst I needed to start taking care of myself, but it wasn’t.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried at all, or that I’m not aware of how important it is to take care of myself – only that I haven’t stuck with anything long enough.

I have attempted Weight Watchers a number of times over the years – the first time being in high school – and it worked a little bit the first two times, but not after that.  Don’t get me wrong – the formula works – eat better, get active, lose weight – but the format doesn’t work for me.  I find the meetings frustrating, and the online program isn’t enough accountability – and the cost can be prohibitive at times, particularly since my partner and I attend together when we do go.

The binge eating disorder has never gone away.  To be honest, I don’t know if it ever really will.  I still catch myself sometimes hoarding food, as if somehow there won’t be enough later.  The addiction to junk food – primarily sugar for me – might be manageable if I could somehow spread the consumption over time, but I don’t.  My process goes something like this: “I really want chocolate.  I shouldn’t, but I’m going to go to the store and get some.  I’ll get something that’s individually wrapped so that I can eat one or two and save the rest for later.”  Then I get to the store, and it’s “I can’t decide between chocolate and candy.  I have to pick one.  I cannot get both.  Eh, maybe I can – I’m not going to eat it all at once.”  So I buy both, get it home, and hide it, and then by bedtime I’ve somehow eaten it all.

In 2011, I made a decision to at least become more active, and I took up running.  I participated in the Toronto leg of Ben Davis’ “Do Life” tour (not that you’ll ever read this, but Ben, you have no idea what you did for my life, and I can’t thank you enough).  My partner and I ran the Sandbanks Fall Getaway Fun Run that fall (5k), and then attempted the Fat Ass Trail Run (10k) at Batawa Ski Hill in November, and it kicked our butts.  We finished, but it took us over 2 hours, and we walked almost all of it.  After that, we had trouble getting back into running, discouraged by our failure.  In December, we both slowly began to return to the gym, and probably would have continued, had a run of bad luck not intervened.  My partner began to feel ill on Christmas Day, and by that night, was barely able to stand.  The illness rapidly developed into pneumonia, which meant a terrible start to 2012.  Two weeks later, I developed it myself, and was off work for a week, sick as a dog.  After recovering, I packed my bags one evening and put them in the car to take to the gym the next morning.  As luck would have it, I tripped that night, rolled my ankle, and fractured the cuboid bone in my foot, along with tearing the syndesmotic ligament in my lower leg.  I was in a walking cast for 8 weeks, unable to run, or even to drive.  It took longer than 8 weeks to fully recover, but by August, I was starting to do a little running again.  In late 2012 and throughout 2013, I did a little more running, but nothing serious.  I found it difficult to get back into it, but by 2014 I was finally getting back into the swing of things.  I even ran a 5k – the Pride And Remembrance Run at World Pride in Toronto.  Then summer hit, and brought with it a series of family tragedies.  I shouldn’t have, but I let them derail me.  In the winter, I finally decided enough was enough, and joined Nerd Fitness – a program that presents healthy eating and exercise in a RPG format, allowing the user to create a character that they level up as they improve their health.  The Facebook groups for members have been incredibly supportive and valuable, and they have helped immensely with everything.

2015 brought with it a new determination.  The losses from 2014 helped to motivate me to improve my health, and I began registering for races, which has always been wonderful motivation for me as well.  I ran the Perth Kilt Run (8k) in June, then immediately quit smoking (believe it or not, running and smoking do not mix well).  A week later, I ran the 5k Pride And Remembrance Run in Toronto again, then decided to go bigger, and registered for the 10k Oasis Zoo Run at the Toronto Zoo in September.  I ran it, finishing in an hour and 34 minutes, and ran another 10k a month later, this time a virtual race for Zombies! Run.  Admitting I needed a little outside inspiration, I registered to be matched with a buddy through a group called I Run 4 Michael, which pairs a runner with someone who cannot run themselves – for whatever reason – and was put on a waiting list.  I also joined a local dragon boat team, and moved to the competitive race team rapidly.  I loved being out on the water, and the paddling was therapeutic.

In April of this year, I finally got my match – an amazing little boy with Koolen deVries Syndrome, which is a rare deletion on the 17th chromosome with causes a number of health issues and developmental delays.  He is a beautiful, determined soul who I am happy to dedicate all of my miles to.  The day after I was matched with him, I ran the Butterfly Run, a 5k run with proceeds going to the pediatric bereavement program at our local hospital, to help parents who have lost a pregnancy or a child.  I followed that with the Kilt Run again, then the Pride and Remembrance Run for the third year in a row.  I am again registered for the Oasis Zoo Run 10k in September, and am once again going to attempt the Fat Ass Trail Run in November – this time, I will be far better prepared.  I haven’t been able to do dragon boating this year as I have had some complications with diabetic neuropathy in my hands, but have gotten back to cycling after a 10 year hiatus, and am loving the freedom that provides.

I have huge goals now for running, cycling, and swimming (do I hear an Ironman in my future…?) and am determined to reach them.

My doctors have told me that there is a possibility that I may never lose a whole lot of weight – insulin makes weight loss very difficult – but that doesn’t mean I can’t be healthy and active, and that is my exact plan.

This blog will be about my running, swimming, cycling and nutrition, and my journey through Nerd Fitness, as well as “leveling up my life” (a phrase borrowed from Nerd Fitness’ creator Steve Kamb – and the title of his book) in general – family, career, etc.

Welcome, and enjoy.