Let’s Go to the Gym.

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Well, it’s January, which probably only means one thing for many people: “I want to start eating healthier and go back to the gym.” Has anyone ever gotten a gym membership in January that’s NEVER been to a gym before? I doubt it. Of course it’s a cliche to make declarations of self-improvement in the New Year. It’s so cathartic! And even though it’s totally hip nowadays to decry these resolutions as misguided and unproductive, I say Bah! Go ahead and try to better yourself. Healthy eating (Not a DIET) and exercise are good for you, and they make you feel good too. Not just physically, but mentally. And after you get past sore muscles, you feel limber and lighter. I hate carrying around a heavy body, but worse yet is my ankles and hips feeling achey. Taking daily walks always made it better.

Anyway. In the last year I went from one pair of leggings, a sport bra, a t-shirt and a sweatshirt to like, 10 pairs of leggings, 8 more hoodies, quality running shoes and a really nice sport bra. I LOVE workout clothes. I like working out, but I LOVE the clothes I get to wear. I probably lust after gym clothes more than anything else these days. They’re comfortable, they’re efficient, and brands go the extra mile now to make them ultra-stylish. Like, if I were going to be on a space ship (in the future, where I can walk around and stuff ala BSG) I’d be wearing workout clothes; they’re essentially built for the same purposes.

Anyway, AGAIN.

I honestly love going to the gym, too. I love my gym. It’s huge, and it’s always full of people. There’s energy and ambience. No harsh lights. Carpeting! A juice bar! TVs everywhere. Rows and rows of treadmills. I can really just disappear in that place. Plus a cozy locker room, sauna and pool is always nice. I like working out. What makes me happier to work out is rocking an insanely cool workout ensemble. It energizes me, makes me feel confident and motivated. When I look good, I feel good & I look good.gym&tonic

Pose Top – For Yoga. After a good yoga sesh — and they are really good when they’re good, you want to wrap yourself up in something soft and slinky. Yoga is kind of like a fitness nap. Mm, so cozy.

S’well Bottle – For HYDRATION. DUH. These are designed with eliminating plastic bottles forever in mind. Plus, they’re insulated; 12 hours for hot drinks, 24 hours for cold. And? Extremely good looking.

Dri-Fit T-shirt – Nike and Running are practically synonyms, and this is a hot t-shirt to go running in.

Racerback Tank – I’m obsessed with this brand. They’re like American Apparel for the gym – but without all the creepy porno ads. Very minimal, basic gym wear that could really just be worn anywhere.

Wireless Earbuds – Don’t be this guy.

GapFit Breathe Hoodie – Another one for post-yoga, or a brisk lake-side walk. It’s got thumb holes. It’s so cozy.

Cold Weather Leggings – I’ve pimped these a lot. They’re insane coziness, and great for running – both indoor and outdoor.

Trail Half-Zip  –  For anything. Look how flattering this *probably* is.

Wunder Under Pant – Patterned leggings always win.

Flyknit Metallic –  Nike owns running. And their shoes are mad comfy.

2015: A year of personal growth

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January 5, 2015

The above photo was taken on January 5 of this year, in the gym locker room of the now demolished Star Tribune building. It’s really remarkable how much has changed since I took it… The first thing that changed was my perception of how I used alcohol. It’s still a substance I would abuse with delight over the course of the year (and how!), but starting 2015 dry made me realize I could do it, and that it wasn’t actually that bad. My overall mood had improved, and I was productive in ways I wasn’t before.

Career-wise, in February I would start a part time job at General Mills, which was a dream. In March, we left the Star Tribune building for good and moved to Downtown proper. In May, Vita.mn shut down and I started working at City Pages. In October, I went full time at General Mills. It was around that time they knocked down the old ST building for good. Whereas in 2014 hardly anything changed, everything changed in 2015. I couldn’t have known when I took that photo up there all what was going to happen.

I got some tattoos (and found out I really like getting tattoos). I got a new camera (and a few lenses) and started being super serious about photography. I shot some shows and festivals. I started to let my hair grow out and took some trips by myself.

This probably sounds cheesy, but I learned about who I am this year. SELFPORTRAIT-10I got rid of a lot of clothes and rediscovered the cleansing power of such an act. After making a pledge in January, I lost ~20 pounds in the autumn months, and fulfilled a goal of running a 5k on Thanksgiving.

I even bought myself an Xbox One and like to game now. I did an impulse buy of a BB-8 remote control toy. I took some sword fighting classes. The year I was the most grown up I’ve been is also the year I acted most like a kid.

I also blogged a lot, which I love, but which I’m still figuring out.

I guess, what I learned about myself is that when you’re in control of your life is when you’re most successful. Clearly, alcohol controls me. It makes me sluggish and sad. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE drinking, and with friends? Why, that combination can’t be beat! And the dichotomy of my year is that I was having the most fun drinking with my friends — but I felt my best when I was abstaining and exercising a lot. You can feel a lot of things in life, and sometimes the things that make you happy are incompatible with each other, and that’s OK.

Being in control and making choices – not just about drinking, but about ALL things – is how I succeed.

For 2016, I want to take all the good things I did in 2015 and expand those. Maybe it’s a myth that the new year actually changes anything, but I’ve always seen it as a hard reset button on your hobbies or your habits. It’s what you want it to be. If January 1 is a good time to start making yourself better, then more power to you (but, please know that any day is a good day to start making yourself better). I think it has powers, and by the power of grayskull, I will harness it for good!!

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December 9, 2015

Life List: Run a 5k

5K-1I’ve never been a runner, but I have tried. In 2009 I could run a solid 2 miles without stopping (2 whole miles!). I’ve talked before about what happened in 2009 though. I lost a bunch of weight, was pretty healthy, but I also turned 21 and that was *fart noise* the end of that for a while.

I first decided I wanted to run a 5k long ago. I knew it was possible because of the Couch to 5k program. Seemed like an achievable goal. Just needed to start running. Well, I didn’t really start until like *a couple months ago*. I registered for the Turkey Day 5k though so I knew I was going to run regardless. I just never did the program. In fact I didn’t run much of all in the lead up to this. On the day of, I was kind of in a daze, like, I couldn’t even picture that I was about to have to run 3 miles.

Plus, I was super cranky. It was cold and snowing that morning, and I was in between how much clothes I should wear. I was also annoyed at Alan for asking me a thousand questions about where I go and what wave I start in (the answer was: any wave I feel like). I was also completely on my own, as my sisters dropped out (read: never registered) due to various reasons. So, I didn’t feel like having my picture taken pre-race. I was sad. I couldn’t get excited. I almost just wanted to walk away because this isn’t the way I wanted to do my 5k.

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Taken by Alan unbeknownst to me. Gotta teach that man how to use a camera.

But I just sucked it up and did it anyway. They said don’t wear earbuds but I ignored that rule of course. I felt it was important to have a carefully tailored running playlist that would start out getting me pumped, carry me through the middle, and then lift me up at the end when I felt I couldn’t keep going. Oh man. That playlist is so good.

With the sound of the horn, I started in a little trot, and weaved my way through the crowd to a little spot where I could keep a steady pace, and I was kinda doing it! I think my problem with running before was that I was starting every run with a view to gun it. Starting out at a moderate pace – just quicker than walking – was the key. I glided to the first mile marker with ease, and the second mile was exhilarating. Mile 3 was a struggle (first of all, there’s a long slow incline in mile 3 – come on guys), and it’s when I probably walked the most during the race. Once I turned the corner on 1st Ave and could see the finish blocks away, I pledged to myself that I would keep running and not stop.

Even though I was totally bushed, I still made sure to yell “Feel the Bern 2016!” to some guys with a Bernie Sanders sign. I made it across the finish line right around 9am, making my time probably 43 minutes which is not bad at all for someone who didn’t train a lick.

I couldn’t find Alan at the finish line, even though he was there, and he didn’t see me finish. It was a disappointing end. I didn’t get to tell him how good the race was, instead I just cried because nobody saw me achieve this thing that was important for me to do. Probably cried because I had just run 3 miles without having eaten any food too and I was tired and sore and feeling a lot of feelings.

The grocery store was open though! So Alan went and got us Bloody Mary fixings! Because he wanted to do something nice and I was feeling crummy after doing something so hard and good. So we drank, and all was well. What’s next, 10k? Yeah, let’s do that. Can’t wait.5kHey, you could say I have a thing for Nike. Yeah. I find their clothing to be incredibly cool and sexxxxy. I would dress myself fully in Nike all the time if, you know, I had an endorsement deal or something (cuz $$$).  Hat, Shoes, Leggings, Shirt, Socks, Hoodie.

p.s. The Life List

Breakfast of Champs

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Since starting my big lifestyle-altering regimen wherein I stop engaging in my vices and instead count calories, exercise and lose weight, I’ve started to go balls out on weekend brunch. Not as a means of rewarding myself, per se, but I think because I basically cut my calorie consumption in half and now pancakes sound awesome, in addition to bacon, eggs and hashbrowns.

And I was really beating myself up about this, too, until I discovered something magical on my trip to Colorado: My first full day there. I had a tiny breakfast. Like, a half cup of frosted flakes and a mini V8. I then hiked for about 2.5 hours and felt pretty ok. I was sort of disappointed though that the fitbit didn’t show me burning more calories. I felt like I’d busted my ass (to be fair though, I get disappointed these days if I don’t burn 2000 calories before noon. The price of being a perfectionist lol not really) only to put what seemed like a regular day’s worth of activities in, rather than strenuous activities. The next day, I wanted a big breakfast, so I went to a restaurant and got bacon, eggs, hashbrowns AND a short stack on the side. I hadn’t really planned on doing any crazy exercise that day, but after that breakfast I figured I should at least try to take a low key walk to burn some of those calories off.

The walk I took was more brief and half of it was completely downhill, but I burned either as many or more than the calories I’d burned the day before. And I thought huh, that’s interesting. Here’s my guess: the huge breakfast loaded me up with carbohydrates which my body went into overdrive to convert to energy and thus, burn more calories. So while my workout was slightly shorter and less strenuous, overall it was more effective at burning fat. So now, every weekend Alan and I get a BIG OLE BREAKFAST at whatever place, and then immediately follow it up with a walk. Above is hashbrowns, eggs and bacon and a belgian waffle (with butter and syrup) on the side from Longfellow Grill, right on the Mississippi River. I refuse to feel guilty about stuffing my face full of breakfast-y goodness because afterwards we took a 2 hour walk. Screen Shot 2015-11-03 at 12.05.24Good way to not let Halloween ruin you.

Conversely last Sunday I ate a sort of big breakfast with friends, and then sat around for an hour afterwards while we socialized. I took a walk 3-4 hours after that and burning calories was a s-t-r-u-g-g-l-e.

Moral of the story: Eat food. Convert that food to energy. Burn calories.

5 Week Fitbit Review

FITBIT-132Ladies and Germs, receive this edict: The Fitbit is the word.

I realize it comes from ultimate depths of yuppie privilege to buy such a frivolous thing to essentially help me eat less food. But at least it comes from the deepest and most earnest desire to be healthy.

I wrote about fitness trackers back in the spring, and I expressed a concern that once I got one of these, I’d abandon it quickly like it seems most people do. Besides, I know how to lose weight. It’s the simplest equation really, that everyone should know: burn more calories than you eat. Simple! Right? Well, I’d tried MyFitnessPal for a while, and while it did help me make better food choices, I didn’t see any weight loss. And in the spring I had set a goal for myself: Lost 40 pounds. A big undertaking, but with enough determination I could definitely do it. My weight was 220 lbs, which had me admit to myself that I’d gone too far. I wanted to get to 180, which was above the BMI index’s “healthy weight” rating, but which seems plenty healthy to me (FYI, for a woman who is 5’9″, they say a healthy weight is 150 to 175 lbs, which would make me look like utterly alien).

I didn’t lose the weight, and I slipped back into excessive habits over the summer. I don’t necessarily lament that loss in momentum, because I had a great time! But, I gained 10 pounds. Now, getting to 180 meant losing 50 pounds. Ugh. So, back in September I purchased the Fitbit Flex on a whim at a routine Target run. I’d done the research before, I was 99% sure I was going with this model. The Fitbit has widely been reviewed as the most sophisticated fitness tracker out there. The Flex is the least expensive wrist wearable and has the most straight-forward, no goof-around features (like, the Fitbit Surge has caller ID. Who gives a shit!). It sets goals for you based on how active you are, and what you hope to achieve.

In my case, I’ve decided to set 40 lbs for now, as that seems more reasonable and achievable than 50. To do so at a zippy pace, I need to lose at least 1.5 lbs a week. The fitbit app sets for me a number of calories to burn and how many I can eat, with a deficit already factored in. So all I need to do is just stay under target, or “in the zone” for calorie consumption, and I’m golden.

And the dashboard gives super in-depth statistics.

And the dashboard gives super in-depth statistics.

The most surprising thing I learn from the fitbit is how much certain kinds of exercise are worth. I found out that yoga wasn’t the burner I was hoping for, and walking is my number 1 best friend when it comes to weight loss. Because I am #blessed with a flexible schedule, I’m able to get in a pretty decent walk every morning (or sometimes in the evening, or both if I’m feeling motivated!). The fitbit lets me know approximately (they’re not 100% accurate) how many calories I’m actually burning, and this is information I never knew before. It also highlighted to me how inactive I really was. So say it’s 10:50pm (like it is at the time of writing this), and I still have 200 steps to go, and 300 calories, I might start walking around my basement with the TV on to get one last burn.

It’s either motivation, or a very effective form of shame.

The fitbit also allows me to see just how damaging certain treats will be to my overall goal. Like, holy shit, that can of coke ate up a lot of my afternoon snacking. Whoops. And I love snacks. Probably a little too much. Now, I need to be a little more considerate of what I’m putting in my body. That’s not just the shaming of a wearable though, that’s plain getting older.

That’s not to say I’m eating anything “diet” or “low fat”, I’ve actually managed to find a good balance of foods I like (I can still get Chipotle 1-2 times a week), and healthy stuff (I’ve devised a super tasty and simple smoothie recipe), and walk enough that at the end of the day, I’m still sitting pretty. (Generally. There are always days that are less active than others, and days where I just would really like a Salted Caramel Mocha from S-bux. But non-fat, no whip, you know? White girls).

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My “active minutes” for October 22. Alan and I took a 30 minute walk before dinner. 30 minutes is all you need.

So how well does it work?  Since September 17, I have lost 14 pounds. Does that make the Fitbit Flex a miracle weight loss device, like no other? Not necessarily. Almost 7 years ago, I had a fitness blog where I recorded every food and exercise I did, and I lost ~25 pounds in about 3 months. That was just good old fashioned perseverance. But I also didn’t have a job then, and barely went to school. I had a ton of time to sit around and do bullshit like that.

Not only does it tell me how many calories I’m burning (saving me the effort to log exercise into MyFitnessPal and hoping the calories are accurate), but it gives me guidelines on how many steps I should take, and how much water to drink. I’m probably healthier and better hydrated than I’ve been in years.

The Bottom Line
Why the fitbit flex is great: 
It helps me visualize the amount of food I eat, the calories I burn, and motivates me to meet goals in steps, hydration and calories. With its help, I have stayed focused and on track of my weight loss goal and I’m already 14 lbs in, with 26 more to go (And 26 sounds way less scary than 40). Plus, it has a super integrated app and online dashboard. When I meet my calories burned goal for the day, the wristband does a little happy vibrate dance.

Could be better: It would be great if I didn’t have to log every single thing I ate, and it just KNEW, you know? I’m not sure I totally trust it to accurately track calories burned for activities that aren’t walking, running or hiking (e.g. I did some moderate yoga for about 40 minutes one day and the tracker barely made a blip). Some people I’ve talked to about fitness trackers say they’re only interested in the sleep tracking capabilities. I’m here to tell you right now that while yes, it’s interesting to see how much you actually sleep at night, there is very little, I’ve found, you can do with that information. The fitbit offers no help on how to help you get a deeper sleep. You may find you have uses for that information that I do not.

Do I recommend it? Yep, if you’re someone like me who has struggled to maintain a fitness routine, or watch your calories, or lose weight or whatever, this might be the device for you. But, like all things that are difficult in life, you have to put in the work, you know? Be diligent about logging calories and find the time to do some exercise (at least 30 minutes every day), even if it’s walking around the block 5 times. If you are already pretty active (i.e. you ride your bike to work or take regular breaks to walk through the skyways) I’d say skip it, unless you’re curious. Knock yourself out.

It does help to have basic handle on good nutrition. I’m just saying. Stop eating foods designed specifically for dieters, and obviously fatty foods with no nutritional value. You can eat real, rich, flavorful food and still lose weight, but the key is portion control and everything in moderation. Weight loss is intimidating but at its essence it’s extremely simple.

And hey: You can do it.

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If I can do it, anybody can.

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