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Archive for September, 2014

The last few weeks have been a period of transition. My baby girl is now a kindergarten kid and her big brother is in his final year of elementary school. I’m not sure where the time has gone. I spent the first week of school tying up some loose ends and putting steps in place to move my career as a writer forward. My husband has been at the IMTS in Chicago so I spent the school days writing and negotiating new ventures, one of which is a freelance food writing gig with a magazine that focuses on fitness. I also started working on the outline for my fourth cookbook.

Now that the children are settled in the school routine and my career is moving in the direction I want it too, it is time to get the rest of my life on track. As you’ve heard, ad nauseum, the last ten and a half months have been akin to a roller-coaster ride when it comes to my health. So much of it was out of my control and lately I’ve been dealing with the emotional side of that. Things started turning the corner a few weeks before school started and I began to contemplate what adjustments I should be making to move forward with my goals.

Mid-week I saw a post on my friend’s Facebook timeline about an eight week lifestyle challenge. She was asking for people to join her. I looked through the videos, looked at what the program had to offer and decided that I would create my own 8 Week program and call it my Fall Challenge. This is partially to support my friend but also in order to regain my fitness and make some positive changes. Supporting and encouraging my friends helps me too and it makes me accountable because I’ve made a commitment to myself and to them.

Below you will find an overview of what I plan to work on over this 8-week time frame. This weekend I will measure and weigh myself. Then the scale will be hidden away until the end of the challenge because the scale lies. You’ll notice that there is nothing mentioned about weight loss although I am sure that will be a side effect of this process. I’m removing the scale from sight because I don’t want the focus to be related to numbers, I want it to be about healthy choices, wellness, and fitness.

The Fall Challenge

Nutrition

Eating will be a conscious activity. All meals and snacks will be consumed in the relaxed environment of my dining room. This means no more eating while I am writing at the computer or checking email. I won’t nibble when I am preparing meals or school lunches.

Portion control will be a big focus. I haven’t been as careful with that as I should have been and I have gained eleven pounds since my half marathon in 2013. There are several ways I will implement being better about this and I’ll share those in another post.

Caffeine reduction is going to be a difficult one for me. I am susceptible to severe headaches when I cut caffeine out entirely so I will need to do this gently over the length of the challenge until I am down to one cup per day. I started to reduce intake recently because I realized I was drinking four to six cups a day. Another issue is time of day. There have been days where I have a coffee at 7 pm and I wonder why I am having interrupted sleep patters. It’s really the warmth of the drink I like so I will be supplementing with herbal teas and such.

Better hydration. One thing I’ve noticed during my running hiatus is that I am not hydrating properly. There are days I drink nothing but coffee and a single glass of water. While the coffee does add to hydration, I know that I am out of balance in this regard.

Choosing more whole foods especially when it comes to snacks is something I need to get back to. This year I haven’t been as selective about the type of snacks I’ve been eating and often reach for a few crackers rather than a piece of fruit or some veggies with hummus. While I did make more of a conscious effort to do this throughout the summer, I know I could do more especially in the dark green leafy veggie category.

There is one thing that I have been far too lax with and that is testing my blood glucose. I used to check multiple times a day but lately the only time I’ve done that is if it is a day that I run and as we know that hasn’t been very often. So, I will be testing more frequently and keeping a better eye on how the dietary adjustments are affecting my body from that perspective.

Fitness

I’ve already started making some of the adjustments, such walking back and forth to the school with my children even though my teenage son is more than capable of escorting his sister to her kindergarten class. I will continue this and walk a minimum of 18K a week. This will include the trip to and from the school as well as the warm-up and cool-down walks I do on days that I run. Some days I will use the school walk as my warm-up if time and weather permits.

I plan to get back to running a minimum of three times a week but no more than five days per week. I will take two rest days. I hope to have achieved this consistent level of running by the fourth week. I will also strive to be better about stretching after I run. It is important that I rebuild my running base and do it in a smart way that prevents injuries.

Every day I will complete a yoga workout whether it is for 10 minutes or an hour. I will vary what I do to keep it interesting and also to complement running and cross training. On the days I rest from running I will select a flow that is more on the gentle side so I can give my body the recovery it needs.

I’m planning to cross train more consistently than I have been. This could include hiking, cycling, weights, or boxing. I also have several DVDs that I can draw upon—everything from kickboxing and Pilates to Qigong.

The other important element here is intensity. I will ensure that at least two of my weekly fitness activities are at a much higher intensity than the rest of my workouts. This could mean hills or speed work if I am running. I will lengthen the time holding planks and yoga poses as I get better at them. Every week I will slightly increase the heaviness or repetitions of the weights.

The focuses will be improving cardiovascular ability, running endurance, core strength, and flexibility. The goal is to feel strong.

Posture

This has always been a big issue for me. I have rounded shoulders from years of slouching. I’m a tall and chesty girl at just shy of 6 feet and have always been self-conscious when it comes to my height. When I was a child I started to physically try and reduce how tall I appeared and some habits die hard.

Because I write for a living, I need to reconfigure the height of my laptop to help correct my sitting posture. Currently I have to look down and my gaze is practically at a 45° angle.

Strengthening the core will help as will watching my form while running. I will hold my head high and be proud about standing tall.

Other Adjustments

This is an emotional and social makeover too. Surrounding myself with like-minded, positive people has been so amazing for me. I don’t have time or inclination to invest in toxic relationships. The last one ended around this time in 2012 and through that I learned a great deal about what kind of BS I will not accept in my life. As I connect with new people I will remind myself to pay attention to the red flags rather than ignore them.

I won’t sweat the small stuff. This one may be easier said than done as I am a worrier by nature but I know worry is counter-productive. I need to have faith in myself and that I can overcome any problem big or small. When I start to worry I will refocus by distracting myself with something else.

Another aspect that I want to reincorporate into my life is time for me. For years I took 15-minutes a day just for myself. It made me feel good and that in-turn helped me to be a better wife, mother, and friend.

Since I broke my toes back in the latter months of 2013 I’ve been somewhat hiding out. It is time to be a little more social. This isn’t just from a family and friends perspective, I would like to be more involved with my children’s school. This week I went and picked up the forms to get a police check so that I can help out on their school trips. I will do some volunteer work as well.

One of the most beneficial changes will be correcting my sleep habits. Actually that should be lack of sleep habits. I’ve been burning the candle at both ends trying to balance being a Mom and a writer. I will attempt to get to bed at the same time each night. I will avoid caffeine after 3 pm. I will try to refrain from checking the messages on my phone if I wake up in the middle of the night.

Clutter on my desk causes clutter in my mind. It may sound odd, but for some reason it affects my writing when my desk looks like a tornado dumped half the contents of my purse, scribbled notes and scraps of paper, junk mail, flash cards, various chargers, USB keys and other odds and ends on its beautiful wooden top. I will spend a few minutes every morning to keep it from getting out of hand again.

My challenge will come to a close around the one year anniversary of kicking that 5lb hand-weight and breaking my toes. By then this should all have become a permanent part of how I live, at least that is my hope. I’m looking it as a bit of a reset—the end of 12 difficult months.

So there you have it, my plan of action—my Fall Challenge. I will start on the first day of Autumn and go from there. It’s not written in any particular order and I likely won’t be trying to do all of this at once. I believe some of this will progress quite naturally. You can find more about the program here at www.8weekchallenge.com or you could make your own version as I have. Throughout these 8 weeks I will share my successes, setbacks, and how I’m managing overall. I may even post a bit about what is going on in my kitchen with meals and even a recipe or two.

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