Fan Girl Moment: Check out these earphones!

Over the weekend, I lucked out and found Yurbuds earphones on sale for nearly 75% off retail price. I had tried on these earphones, which tout being made for women and using FlexLock technology that makes their falling out during exercise nearly impossible, at a race expo last year. I’d loved how they felt, but the price tag was too steep for me. (I’m hard on headphones, and I can’t see paying more than about $20 for them.)

I couldn’t help but jump on the chance to buy these. I can’t pass up a good sale anyway. And you know what? They live up to the hype.

I wore the headphones on a run Saturday, and not once did I have to adjust them in my ears, catch them as I ran or force them deeper into my ear canal to hear the range of my music. I ran, then climbed poles and ladders, did box jumps on stone benches and such at a local playground to maintain my sense of balance. I ran suicides on the basketball course, then I ran back home. Not once did the headphones fall out or stop producing great sound.

And get this — I put in my fastest mile-split time in months. I’m not saying these headphones make me faster. But I can’t help but notice that focusing on my run without the distraction of adjusting my equipment all the time made a measurable difference in my performance.

I’m not one to recommend brand-name products all that often. But in this case, I’m offering an unsolicited, fan-girl, “go buy these things” endorsement for Yurbuds headphones. I am a convert, and I suggest you try them, too.

Ill-advised life decision or healthiest thing I can do?

A week ago, I started the next chapter of my career. Three weeks before that, I chose to return to a life as a full-time freelance editor and writer, turning in my notice to resign from what some would call a comfortable position and choosing instead to find contract work on my own.

Don’t get me wrong: On a scale from 1 to Nightmare, my job as a Marketing manager at a nonprofit association was no slumber party on Elm Street. But it wasn’t serving me, or my health, either.

In my nine months behind that desk, I regained 25 lbs. I lost serious stamina, as evidenced by my half-hour slide in half-marathon time last winter. I slept poorly, I ate poorly. My allergies became almost as bad as they were on the East coast. I visited the doctor half a dozen times — more than I had since I took control of my health five years ago. I’d seen this decline before, and I couldn’t ignore the signs: Working in an office was killing me. Again.

So, I’ve decided to do what I must to regain my health. In my first week of not being in an office, I’ve slept better than I have since moving to the SoCal coast. I’ve eaten better, worked out more consistently and felt better overall than I could ever have expected.

Is the uncertainty stressful? Certainly. Is money a concern? Of course. But you know what? I’m ok with that uncertainty, as long as my health is certain.

I’m breaking a rut by doing what I think I can’t

For the longest time, running seemed hard to me. Each progression in distance, each cut in my time felt like a challenge. I loved the thrill of doing things that had sounded impossible just weeks before.

Once I got used to running, that thrill was gone. I admit it: I got bored with trying to beat a time by 5 seconds at a time, with adding a mile to my normal runs when I knew I could run a half marathon without really trying. My times got stagnant, and I started slacking.

In the past month or so, something inside me woke up. I realized my boredom and the resulting slack in my development were holding me back from being my best self. I wanted to find something that made me feel like a beginner, and I wanted to live up to expectations of myself.

Enter Spartan training.

I know, I know. I’ve done a Spartan Race before. Thing is, I know I can do a lot better if I train, and I want to do a trifecta anyway. So, I’ve chosen to accept my own challenge and get to training for three races between now and the end of 2015. And I probably will have to do them alone (unless you’d like to join me… think about it!).

First real test: 300s

I started lifting weights consistently again in early March, and I did the 30-day lunges challenge. Then, I took on the 30-day burpees challenge. I’ve been rebuilding my strength slowly and making sure not to injure myself.

Today, though, I took on a challenge that made me nervous the way a 4-mile run once did. Apparently, it’s called a “300s workout.”

I did this 10 times in a row:

  • quarter-mile run
  • 30 burpees
  • 30 lunges
  • 1-minute rest

The running part didn’t bother me so much, even though the runner in me refused to let me slack off and knew I had to shoot for 2-minute quarters. But the idea of adding my two least-favorite exercises, burpees AND lunges, at the end of every quarter felt downright terrifying.

And that’s what I wanted.

Instead of going to a track (which probably would’ve been easier), I decided to run through my neighborhood and use my GPS watch to keep track of my distance. The first two rounds were pretty easy, or so I told myself. But by the end of round 3, I was thrilled that my route had taken me to a park equipped with working water fountains. I finished my 7 rounds after that at the park, running around flatter surfaces like soccer fields and using the relative flat spaces to do the rest of the circuit.

The workout was hard — really hard. And you know what? I loved it. I plan to repeat it at least twice a week for the next month, to see how much faster I can get and how many more “real” burpees I can do instead of up-down versions.

Training for a Spartan Race (or 3)

A year ago, I ran my first-ever Spartan Race. It was a life-changing experience. Training for the race forced me to commit to my own strength and flexibility, and I haven’t found that level of inspiration since.

Now, after struggling to recover my fitness equilibrium for the last 6+ months, I’ve decided to commit myself to a Spartan Trifecta. What better to get my body into shape than to prepare for three times the effort I put in last year, especially when I know how hard the obstacles were last time?

So, get ready to hear about burpees, nutrition, running, monkey bars. And get ready to hear about how my brother and my Sherpa from last year might be joining in the training of our lives. I’ll be checking in more regularly to keep myself accountable and hopefully help the people around me be more accountable, too.

Back to the matter at hand…

Well, the last few months have been, um, exciting to say the least. I’ve gotten a new job (yay!) and moved to the beach (well, a few miles off shore, but my new town has “beach” in the name). Yet again, I’ve started over.

After spending about a year and a half as a remote worker, adjusting to the in-the-office, 40-hour-plus work week has left me exhausted. I’m not nearly as healthy as I used to be, and I haven’t been on a consistent schedule since the summer when I searched for, traveled to interviews for and finally landed said job. Now, it’s time to get myself back on track.

That’s even harder than it sounds.

Truth is, I’m tired. All the time. So far, my body has refused to adjust to the idea of an 8 a.m. start time and rebels against any reason for getting out of bed other than “man, I gotta pee.” That means I haven’t been able to work out or run before work. After work, especially in the darkness of almost-solstice, I have no motivation either. All I want to do is sit around, and that’s not helping me at all.

I wish I’d returned to my blog triumphantly, reporting goal-weight accomplishments and stellar training stats. Instead, I’m here to report that I’m dragging my tired behind back to the starting line once again to improve my health a little bit each day. I’m here to report that I’m still alive, I’m still determined and I’m happy to be here.

If you have any advice for getting up in the morning, please share it. That one shift would mean a world of difference for me.

Update: Going old school led to old habits

A few months ago, I decided to put down my phone and pick up some paper and a pen to track my to-do lists and, more importantly, my nutrition and fitness. While the old-school approach did help me focus more on important work, I also gained 10 pounds since May. I knew I had to correct my course, so I renewed my commitment this week and am starting fresh.

What happened?

On one hand, tracking my food on paper made me focus on different aspects of my health. I noticed how often I waited more than 8 hours to eat, how I took fits of wanting nothing to do with anything that grew in the ground, that sort of thing. That was great, and it has helped me address some deficiencies in my diet. (Example: I now eat more spinach in a week than Popeye did. And mine isn’t canned.)

On the other hand, tracking my food intake on paper had zero influence on my decisions unless I analyzed what I’d written and figured out what changes I needed to make. When it comes to tracking my nutrition, technology has a distinct advantage over paper — it thinks for me. It does math for me. It tells me exactly how much sodium I consumed, the ratio of protein and carbs I’m ingesting. In short, it does all the work I’m too lazy busy to do.

My exercise regimen also suffered from May until now. When I was tracking exercise in an app that converts exercise to calories, I would go for a 20-minute jog just to earn enough wiggle room for a larger steak or a cookie. That motivation, as misguided as it sounds, kept me active. That didn’t translate to the written exercise log at all.

In fact, writing down my exercise reminded me exactly how much I loathe writing down exercise, particularly weightlifting progress. I learned that tracking reps and weights and supersets makes me loathe the process so much that I’d rather check the “Oops, missed it!” box and move on with my day. I fell into the habits I had before I lost 60 pounds — inconsistent workouts, permissive indulgence (read Sure, you can have the extra steak, why not?).

Without the immediate feedback an app provides, I was creeping back to a lifestyle I thought I’d left behind. The moment I realized that, I slammed the tracking notebook shut.

What now?

I know I am way more likely to reach my goals if I track what I’m doing. That’s true regardless of the project. In this case, I am the project, and I need to hold myself accountable.

So, I’m going back to my LoseIt! app for now. It isn’t ideal, because there is way more to life than calorie consumption, but the app is easy and does a lot of high-level tracking for me. I’ve updated my settings to track sodium intake as well as macronutrients, and I’m also tracking things I didn’t before — water intake, coffee intake, that sort of thing.

As for the rest of my life, I have had great success knolling tasks using a personal kanban board. (Well, it’s not so much a board as a blank wall in my dining room.) I use color-coordinated sticky notes to help me see when my expectations are out of balance, and I get passive reminders to stay focused on my priorities today every time I walk past the wall to or from the kitchen. (That’s why I used a wall in the dining room instead of my office.)

That’s not to say that I’ve abandoned my tech love at work. I use AgileZen to collaborate on my freelance projects, for example, and I’m using OneNote to track everything from my bills to notes about my clients’ progress. The big difference? I’m not bouncing between apps all day. I use my touchscreen laptop/tablet more and my phone less to manage my day, and that has made a huge difference in my productivity.

Grocery lists and the like are still tricky for me. Right now, I jot notes to myself on a whiteboard, so I don’t have to touch my devices with messy fingers. I take a picture of the whiteboard with my cell phone before I go to the store, and that works fairly well. Still, if you have a recommendation for simplifying my process, I’d love to hear it!


Leftovers are a huge commitment

Right now, I’m cooking some gluten-free oatmeal. It’s 6:25 p.m. P.T.

No, I didn’t skip grocery day. As a matter of fact, I had planned to make coconut curry chicken over rice. So why am I stirring blueberries and walnuts into mushy oats right now?

Because I have commitment issues.

For the last three years or so, the vast majority of the food I’ve cooked has been for myself. Sure, I made dinner for friends, family, the occasional boy-type-friend. But mostly, the cooking has been for me.

At first, I used cooking for myself as an exercise in self-love. I was suffering the first pains of separation, and I saw cumin-crusted lamb chops and sautéed spinach as one way to prove to myself that I matter to me as much as my marriage did. At the time, I needed that reminder that taking care of myself was (and is) my top priority.

After around a thousand days of taking care of myself since then, though, I am over it.

When I make dishes like coconut curry chicken, I have vats of food left over. The same is true for spaghetti, BBQ, carnitas — things that were once staples in my weekly menu. So, cooking delicious meals for myself now means that I will be eating the same meal for DAYS. Lunch and dinner. Sure, I could make meals for one, such as lamb or steak. But eating like that gets expensive pretty quickly.

So here I am, eating oatmeal for dinner. Oatmeal is easy, it’s tasty, and it doesn’t ask me to live with it for a week at a time. It’s the Friends with Benefits of food — I don’t have to commit.