10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself So Far in This Quest (Part Two):

If you have not seen my last post about this subject (the first five things I have learned) then you can just look back to this post. I really wanted to make sure that I understood, as well as my readers, that this is a completely new learning process for me. Well, as stated before, I am trying to pick things that I’ve learned in my recent endeavors, and things that I have known for years but did not make a connection to until now. So before I kill you with complete boredom, here are:

The Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Myself So Far (the second half):

5.) I absolutely am in love with barre workouts for strength conditioning. And it completely baffles me as to why I hadn’t thought of it as a viable way to work on leg conditioning without bulking up with weights. I mean, I’ve been dancing for years between various classes and rehearsals for dance-heavy musicals. So I wonder why the knowledge of this particular exercise stayed hidden in my little noggin all this time. Well, as far as barre is concerned, it’s really easy and low impact (you don’t even need to use weights if you don’t want to), but it is super effective. I usually try to do it in the evening, three times a week, when I get home from work. Since I do my running training at 6am, I like fitting it in later. If you don’t know what barre workouts are, here is a great video by the folks over at FitnessBlender.

4.) This fitness, training thing is so much easier when you cook for yourself. Now I can’t pretend that I didn’t know that already, but it really is something I have to reiterate. It is also much more cost effective to cook for yourself while training. The only problem that I have is the whole cooking for one conundrum. Granted, there are a ton of things that can be fractioned as far as recipes are concerned, but I have always been very experienced in the kitchen. When you know how to improvise, cooking for one is so much easier. Another problem that I run into is that I can never use fresh produce fast enough. Even though I try to use it as quickly as possible, and buy as little as possible, there are times when it will go bad anyway. One example of a great way to work with what you have is by cooking what will be useful throughout the week. Example: the boyfriend and I made a roast chicken with roast potatoes and carrots for the Super Bowl. We ended up eating all the veggies but had more than half a chicken left. I put that in the fridge and made various other lunches until today. Today I pulled the chicken apart to use for various things like chicken salad, country pie, etc.

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Ew.

I separated it into three piles: what I couldn’t use went into the trash; what was clean-pulled went into a bowl; and what I could use went onto the red lid. Because I had so many useful pieces (but not stuff I’d want to eat, though), I decided to make a stock that I would later freeze.

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I know it looks completely gross; but trust me, it’s tasty.

In case anyone is wondering, the stock includes the full carcass of the chicken (with fat, skin, etc.), a bunch of baby carrots, half an onion, two cloves of garlic split, and salt and pepper and some thyme. Then I made dinner with a half cup of shredded chicken, half cup of sauerkraut, a garlic sour pickle chopped up, chopped onions, a quarter cup of chick peas, pepper, paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder. Over it, I had a couple latkes I made two days ago (yay leftovers!). (If you’re interested, the sauerkraut and garlic sours are from the world famous gourmet shop Morse’s Sauerkraut and European Deli.) So as you can see, having different things handy helps keep me on track.

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I swear those latkes were not as burnt looking as they are in the picture. ūüėČ And by the way, it tasted JUST like a super sloppy Reuben (but way healthier).

3.) I absolutely, 100% do not want my endeavors to change who I really am, deep down inside. I know this journey will change me in some ways. Heck, the whole point is to change my attitude about exercise and fitness. But I don’t want anything drastic. This is that serious conversation that I eluded to in the last post. I think what triggered it was my boyfriend asking me if I had seen any of those movies about bloggers, because they ruined relationships. I know he was joking (you sarcastic jerk), but his words really made me think. I told him this past Saturday, while we were out to breakfast, that I wanted him to promise to keep me in check. He told me he wasn’t worried, but I told him I was. I didn’t want things to take complete hold of my life. I saw someone make a drastic (and similar) lifestyle change once, and it led to a divorce, and that terrifies me. But I guess the indicator I’ll be okay (we’ll be okay), is the fact that I’m already concerned about it. Luckily, we just concluded to cross that bridge when we get there. If we get there.

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I’m looking at you, “Julie“. (Photo credit: goodfoodstories)

2.) I want to have a healthy heart. My boyfriend works in a setting where he sees people with heart problems all the time. Sometimes he’ll have these horror stories that worry me, as I have a history of poor heart health from every side of my family. It’s scary stuff. And as I realize that I want to be around for the people I love as long as possible, I need to keep my heart pumping blood. I know I want to live long (and prosper), but I’m not ready to leave the ones I love either. That may be a little selfish, but I’m thinking ahead here.

And the number one thing I have learned so far:

1.) I have the BEST support system in the world. Honestly, you are all the best friends, family, boyfriend, colleagues, and loved ones ever. I couldn’t possibly ask for better people in my life. So, thank you.

10 Things I’ve Learned About Myself So Far in This Quest (Part One):

It has become apparent to me that when you take on a goal and journey as dramatic as the one I have, you quickly start to learn various things about yourself. These could be new discoveries that shed light on why things are the way they have been, or they could be things that have always been in the back of your mind but didn’t want to acknowledge. I have slowly been coming to terms with both these ideas. With my sister living in a different country for the next five months or so, I’ve had little opportunity for my usual venting sessions with her (and she with me). I love my sister and already miss her dearly, but I’m sure you can all tell she’s already forgotten about me and having wicked good fun. Without her usual guidance, I have since had to sit back and really look at what was in front of me; where was this adventure leading me? My boyfriend and I actually had a pretty serious discussion about it this past weekend (more on that later), and I really felt it was important to look at this journey from every angle. So without further ado, here are:

The Top Ten Things I Have Learned About Myself So Far:

10.) Never underestimate what kind of power you really have over yourself. A year ago, I would have thought everyone crazy who would have told me that I would be in training for a marathon (eventually) by now. Nope. Wouldn’t have believed you for a second. I’d probably ask you if Santa was real and expect a different answer than the one you’d give me. But your brain is a very powerful organ. It can work against you to convince you that you don’t really want something, even though your heart is in it; or it can completely rationalize your every desire. I was lucky in the sense that I somehow ended up with a brain that works. Obviously if you are a living, breathing being, your brain functions. What I mean is that my brain didn’t try to psych me out this time. It didn’t go searching for a rationale on why I couldn’t run a marathon with how out of shape much I’m not a runner. It didn’t try to convince me that this wasn’t something I could ever accomplish. No, what my brain did was magical. It rationalized my desire and mapped out a plan. It worked with my whole heart to convince me that this is¬†something I can do. And it told me that I was not allowed to give up (however, it did tell me to be realistic and that if I came to a plateau or a problem outside of my control, I would have to work through it). I was so proud of my brain. And I never thought I would be so enthusiastic about running.

I ate these - ants in the Amazon 2003

Your brain can convince you to eat these ants… you know, for survival. (Photo credit: exfordy)

9.) Working out on a regular basis significantly lowers and increases your appetite at the same time. I’m talking about full on meals here. I’ve noticed that I’m actually eating much smaller amounts at regular meal times on days that I work out (forget you, weekend!), and eating more throughout the day. As in eating less but more frequently. I know that there is some scientific hormonal change that happens that causes this (and I’m not talking about metabolism), but I’m too lazy to look it up right now (okay, maybe not). Maybe one day I’ll have the motivation to find evidence of this idea. Oh, and if anyone is wondering, I’m eating about three “meals” and two snacks a day.

The Hunger Games

Yup, don’t have to worry about that. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.) The reason I had such a hard time running in the past is not from muscle soreness, but from labored breathing.¬†And I am still struggling with this. A very difficult part of my workout/training is that I am limited by my breathing. I am not having a hard time running longer than 15 minutes straight because of sore muscles, it is strictly because of my arduous breathing. My body has not¬†accustomed¬†to the continuous jogging/walking/running cycles I have been putting it through. The funny thing is that I’ve read a bunch on how one “should” breathe while running, but it doesn’t seem to give me results. I even tried really hard to work with Michelle’s method from I Run With It, but I still haven’t gotten the hang of it. Deep breathing is insane stuff. Seriously, the method is an ab workout in itself. I have been a singer most of my life, so I have trained in how to breathe this way for a long time. You’d think it would come as second nature; but I guess my brain has other plans. Either way, I’m going to really work with it and keep trying until I get it right. Who knows, maybe it’s ONLY my breathing that is holding me back on going farther for longer (because I don’t ache… at all).

Hot Dog's Day

*GASP!* “I…. need…. to cool…. down….” *GASP!* (Photo credit: jokeroo)

7.) I really don’t need to use pain relievers on my runs… yet.¬†I have seen many people who write on their blogs or even various articles about taking pain killers before a run, to help with the painful joints and muscles after. I hate taking pills for things. And I mean HATE. I’m a firm believer that we can always find alternative methods for what ails us, before subjecting our bodies to medication to which we may become resistant (it’s like if you take antibiotics for everything, eventually your body gets too used to them and they won’t work as intended anymore). Granted, I am allergic to a lot of antibiotics and cannot take most pain relievers. This could eventually have proven to be a problem, as¬†acetaminophen¬†is the preferred medication as it is the mildest (I cannot have that, aspirin, or even ibuprofen, except for in the case of complete¬†desperation). I can, however, have any form of¬†naproxen,¬† but that is not helpful as it is too strong on the stomach and the liver to take it regularly. Luckily, there are people out there who understand my plight and have produced posts for these specific topics. I want to avoid taking pain relievers as long as possible, but if I run into a dilema, I can go by things that bloggers like Amanda at Health.com have to say.

6.) I am much stronger than I think. I mean this physically and emotionally. Of course, I do cry at the drop of a hat at really sappy and sad commercials.

sarah mclachlan commercials Pictures, Images and Photos

(Photo credit: fiterature)

That is not what I’m talking about. I really thought about how emotionally taxing this whole journey (including the blog) is going to be on me, my boyfriend, and my extended family and friends. I had pledged to myself that I would not use anyone’s specific information unless given permission to do so; and I would certainly not mention names, unless they are for citations and mentions of celebrities. I don’t want to offend anyone, and the last thing I want to do is alienate myself. But I have been strong about many things in the past, and I know that I won’t let things get me down. I also am a lot physically stronger than I thought. I am absolutely amazed at how strong my legs are. I have known for years that I have pretty strong legs (I mean, some pretty closely related family were professional soccer players in Italy), and it’s in my genes. But I never understood the magnitude, until I started pushing them to work their hardest when I started this a few weeks ago. I am really proud of their hard work, and I really want to improve their different strengths. I just hope they get stronger, not weaker.

What have you learned about yourself in the past? Are you coming to terms with things you have learned might affect your goals?

My Strongest Suit

Have you ever experienced weather that made you curse your decision to leave your house? Well, living in New England, that is pretty much a norm for me. Besides the crazy -12 degree weather we had last week (which, trust me, was not fun), it was in the fifties last night. But really rainy. And windy. And it was a cold rain. The kind that if you get your clothes wet and take them off as soon as you get inside, you’d feel like they were still on the whole day. Since I had to head that way to get home from work anyway, it was easy to just take a jaunt over to the gym last night. Treadmill training galore! It was so much fun that I felt completely exhilarated afterward.

Working out in the evening can sometimes be an issue for me though, as it completely energizes me. After a workout, I’m so hopped up on endorphins that it takes me forever to fall asleep. This is why I’ve chosen to start my workouts at 6am, which means I wake up at 5am. I have been told many things about this decision, from being crazy for forcing myself to wake up so early, to being so incredibly disciplined for actually going through with it. Honestly, I personally thought it would be impossible. I’m not a morning person at all. In fact, it is still incredibly difficult for me to wake up so darn early. Who the heck would want to wake up that early unless they had a very, very good reason to? Not me, that’s for sure. And the old me would have definitely considered going for a run a terrible reason. I could always work out after work, blah, blah, blah. Well, I discovered something. I get lazy after work. After a long day at the office, I just want to veg out on the couch, as most people would. My new desires to run have completely transformed that way of thinking.

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I love your enthusiasm, Jenna! [image source]

Anyway, now I’m really glad I went to the gym this morning. First of all, even though it was windy, it was nowhere near what it’s like out right now. I live in an old converted mill and I’m half expecting a tree to fly through my window (I’m so glad I’m safe inside and avoiding this crazy mayhem).

Second, I decided to listen to the Elton John and Tim Rice’s Aida soundtrack. For those of you not familiar with this musical (not the opera), you really should listen to it and watch some of the scenes on YouTube. It is fantastic. Really. Just awesome. The music is a mix of pop, rock, gospel and jazz. It’s just amazing. Anyway, I was running/walking along to the soundtrack and I was having a BLAST! In fact, as I was in that musical this past summer, it was taking every fiber of my being to keep from doing choreography while on the treadmill.

Get it?   [image source]

With that said, I think I’m finally getting the hang of this thing. After my run/walk today, I realized I wanted to go faster for longer. Of course, with having to be at work 45 minutes after the end of my workout, I had to hop out of the shower (I forgot my shower shoes today; ewwww! Don’t EVER forget your shower shoes!). This just means that I can increase my running times! Do you know how exciting this is?! I will now be going from 50/50 running/walking, to 75/25!!! This is probably the most exciting thing ever for me, as I never thought I’d get this far. But a part of that is my amazing cheerleaders, and I could never express how thankful I am to have them in my life.

Simple Little Things

One thing that has really gotten me going with the writing aspect of this blog, is feeling a little guilty when I take a break. Besides the fact that I didn’t have a computer to work with all weekend, I also wasn’t feeling the part. With the past couple of days being out of commission, I really had to put my mind¬†forward¬†and think. What are some ways to keep me motivated with my goal, even when I can’t get out and run? Is there anything interesting that I didn’t know about running that I might want to research, while I can’t get out? The more I looked different things up, the more I became confident in what my plans were, and that is the most important thing, right?

I wish I looked that good when I run.

One thing I found I really enjoyed were all the YouTube videos. There were so many that I really enjoyed watching, which I didn’t think I would. I tend to find those inspirational or instructional videos you see on there a little annoying, but these were interesting. I think this is solely because I’m now¬†obsessed with the idea of becoming a runner, but really that’s what I was going for the whole time, anyway. And then I ran into a video that I absolutely¬†needed to see, it made me want the hard work and aching joints. You’ll see what I mean:

Get it, girl!

There are things in this world that will make me want to give up (like learning that running can lead to your toe nails falling off — eek!!), but I know that I absolutely, one-hundred percent cannot give up. This is what I’ve been wanting to do: something different, something new, for a very long time. The running bit has only just been entered into my equation, but I’m married to the idea of being a marathon runner some day. Someone I know just recently commented on one of my posts that she also had a really hard time with starting a running routine. That is not a deterrent for me. That only shows me that there are other people out there who know what it was like, and yet they made it through the hurdles. That means that I just have to keep going myself. In fact, I’m headed to the gym right now…

Look at this stuff; isn’t it neat?

I want to talk a little about what I’ve been doing now that I have set these goals for myself. If you haven’t read my first post, you can find it here. Basically my goal this year is to run in at least one 5k (I’m shooting for three of them total, if I get that first one out of the way), and my longer-term goal is to run a full marathon in four years with some other races in between. I know I can do it, it’s just going to take a LOT of hard work and dedication from me. A lot of love and support from my family, friends, and a lot of coaching. I’m lucky, because I already have a ton of support from my boyfriend, which he offers while wincing back the thought of me waking at 5:00 a.m. every morning.

Coaching. Huh. Such a fun word. I haven’t had a real “coach” in years, unless you count the drama director whom people mistakenly called coach when I was in high school. Anyway, I got myself a coach. I took advantage of the awesome personal training programs available through my gym (which I’m still trying to figure out, by the way). We have a meeting soon, but I’ve been doing lead-up training on my own until then.

I started out going for long walks on the treadmill and using the bikes at the gym. I have been avoiding the¬†elliptical, because I hate that¬†dreaded¬†machine, but I figure I’ll have to use it eventually. I mean it simulates running, right? In the same workouts, I’d use the gym’s free weights to do some hip reduction workouts, just because I could. Not going to lie, it felt really strange being the only woman at the gym during those times to use the free weights. It was weird. But hey, I was working out. I didn’t care if anyone judged.

I then started consulting friends here and there about what they thought. I mostly spoke to people who I see often who were/are long distance runners. And the pretty unanimous thing every one of them told me was to not bulk up. Not that I was planning on becoming the Arnold, or anything, but that was an interesting piece to learn.

Apparently you can't run like this.

Apparently you can’t run like this.

So I stopped doing anything with weights, but I’m still doing push ups and crunches and the usual core workouts. Let me tell you: it’s hard to not lift weights. I mean, I’ll do whatever the trainer tells me, but I’ll hold off for now just in case.

I had an interesting realization today while on the¬†treadmill, though. I had made playlists on my iPhone when I first started for when I work out. If any of you know me, you know that I like a WIDE range in music. I put everything on there from The Who, to Mumford and Sons, to Madonna, to Backstreet Boys (yes! don’t judge me!), to various musicals. While I was doing my walk/run alternate workout (I’m not able to run a full mile yet and I’m working on building endurance by alternating for several miles), I noticed something about my music. Apparently, my success was measured by what I was listening to. Usually people tell you to put together a playlist that will pump you up and get you into a good rhythm with your workouts. Apparently “pump you up” is a relative term, because I had 3oh!3 on and I was struggling with my running portions of the workout. Then I’d go back to walking and I’d be fine. Then another really up-beat song would come on while running, and I’d still struggle. Finally something from¬†Godspell came on and I was workin’ it! I had a great rhythm going and my breathing wasn’t labored, and I was smiling while I was running. Then the same thing happened the next running portion. Another musical number came on and I was keeping up, and this was not an up-beat musical number either! Apparently, my love for musical theater and missing it is transcending my need to work out. Which is fine, I’ll take it! It was a little bit of a bizarre realization for me, but then I started to think something else. How loud are my headphones? Can anyone around me hear what I’m listening to? I as having a really hard time NOT singing along to those musical numbers, and mouthing the words here and there. I must have looked like I was talking to myself. Just imagine what it would be like to have someone singing along (out loud!) to a musical in their head while they’re at the gym…

God save the people!

God save the people!

Anyway, it was an interesting experience, to say the least. But I have now updated my playlists to have mostly musical numbers. We will see if this improves my performance. It’s a cool experiment to work with. Maybe I won’t freak out too many of my machine neighbors. Maybe.

There’s something there that wasn’t there before…

What is this new, wonderful, exciting thing in my life you are all wondering about? It’s this. It’s a new beginning. It’s a story of how one girl decided one day that she was bored and needed to get moving. That’s it. Really.

Okay. Let me start from the beginning. I have been doing theater my entire life and I just finished a production of¬†The Wiz in November 2012. I was the Production Assistant, and it was going to be a long time before I worked on another show (Summer of 2013 I’m auditioning for Monty Python’s Spamalot). I’m usually an exceptionally busy person, so when I was going home after work, I was just plopping myself on the couch for the rest of the night until bed. It was great for a while, especially on the weekends when the boyfriend and I would hang out, but I was starting to get antsy. I decided I wanted to do something. I know that I had promised myself (and my boss) I wouldn’t get too busy and would take a real, actual break from theater, so I couldn’t go back to that. I didn’t want to spend the money to take a class on something I might not enjoy, so that was out. I tried picking up knitting again, and that worked until my joints started hating me because of the cold. I was¬†dying of boredom. First world problems, am I right?

One day, I decided I wanted to start working out regularly again. Theater was my form of “working out”, if you will, for a while. I danced, sang (which, if you don’t know that singing is a work out, you’re not doing it right), was on my feet, everything. It was great. But when you go from that to just sitting on the couch all day, you get crazy. I mean, I’m-going-to-walk-to-the-grocery-store-because-that’s-how-badly-I-have-the-need-to-move-around crazy. And that’s when I started reading about women who made complete and new lives for themselves, just by changing their lifestyles. I’m not doing anything differently here, except for one thing. I’m training.

This is a very loaded statement. I know this. Reading blogs of other women got me motivated. I started researching gym memberships and finally decided on one that worked for me and my schedule (as well as my budget, ahem). After spending just one night there and realizing how amazing it felt to be back on a treadmill, just walking, I made a decision. I was going to start running. This may not seem like a very big deal to most (I’m looking at you, track people), but this is a VERY big deal to me. I never run. Period. That’s it. I’ve always said that as an Italian, I’m not made to run. Have you ever seen someone from Italy win any of the races in the Olympics? No. They win at soccer. They run if a ball is rolling in front of their feet. That’s it.

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Or, you know, to chase their sheep (I come from a long line of shepherds on both sides).

So that’s the basic end of it. The other side is that I have set up four goals for myself over the next four years. The goal for this year is to RUN in at least one 5k. The extended goal is to run in three 5k’s this year. The second goal is to run in at least three 10k’s in the second year of this process. The third goal is to run a half marathon in the third year, with that as my only race for that year but continuing in training. The fourth and final goal is to run in a full marathon by the end of the fourth year, and to continue running as a lifestyle.

I know this will be difficult. I know there will be trials and tribulations. I know that this blog might put strains on various relationships. I know that I might run into life events that could postpone these goals (for which I would adjust realistically). But I am willing to try and work around those things. I am willing to work with this. I want to be able to do something new to me for me. As I sit here writing this mini novel of a post, I realize that this may very well change who I am. And I am prepared to tackle anything as it comes. I don’t want to change, so I will try my hardest not to. But I know a part of me will always be affected by this choice. So here it goes. My new outlook. You will get a glimpse of everything I do in this journey, so just you wait. I can’t.