runfreeforever

Live. Love. Run. It's what I do.

The Evil Cookie Monster strikes again

Merry Christmas!

nativity cliparts kids

Jingle Bells! Walking in a Winter Wonderland! Frosty the Snowman! Not-so-silent nights, family, friends, and lots and lots of food are here! Joy to the World!

To all my readers, I dearly hope that your Christmas is filled with love and joy. Christmas is one of my favorite times of the year. I love seeing my cousins and family, singing Christmas carols, drinking hot chocolate, and – my personal favorite – making snowmen!

Jesus’ birth is celebrated, Santa comes down the chimney, and……OH NO!!! The Evil Cookie Monster!!!!!!

I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

He looks all nice and innocent but then WAIT!!! What’s that around your waistline? What? Why am I suddenly running a minute-per-mile slower than usual?? NOOOO!!!! It’s that sneaky little cookie monster!

If your extended family, neighbors, and friends are anything like mine, I’m sure you must be drowning in an overload of delicious cookies and other assorted treats this holiday season. And I don’t think that I’m the only one who doesn’t stop after eating just one. Or two. Or three. Or even four…or five…..oops…… I mean, when there’s so many different kinds to try, you gotta test all of them, right? Just to make sure they all taste good! And then you gotta have a few more of your favorites! My family is full of amazing cooks, all of whom assure me that since it’s Christmas, I should definitely go ahead and have as many cookies as I want! But then this morning I tried running and did not like my mile times at all. I don’t think that I should attribute all of it to the few-too-many treats I’ve been eating lately. I know that the colder weather has something to with it, as well as the fact that I haven’t been keeping up my miles like I should. But still. An almost-ten minute mile??? Really?? I didn’t think I was that out of shape!

So how do we fight this cookie monster? Here’s my battle strategy:

  • Eat when I’m hungry. Don’t eat when I’m not.
  • Don’t mindlessly eat (like while watching tv…or It’s a Wonderful Life or Charlie Brown Christmas!)
  • Say “no” to some food sometimes
  • Take the time to slow down and actually enjoy the delicious cookies and treats
  • Keep in mind that it is Christmas, that Christmas only comes once a year, and it won’t be the end of the world if I do eat a bit (or a lot bit) less healthy than I should this week
  • Keep running!

So I know that fighting the Evil Cookie Monster at this time of year is probably a losing battle. It’s so tempting to have the plates, platters, and cute little tins sitting all over the house, just begging to be eaten. But maybe if we can eat cookies in moderation, it’ll really turn out okay in the end? Christmas will be gone before we know it and the new year will rush in faster than the snow whipping past your windshield. I’m going to enjoy my Christmas, enjoy my family, and enjoy my one or two cookies before they’re all gone!

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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On wrestling, weight-loss, and worry

Before you ask, no, I am not in wrestling. I think girls who wrestle are crazy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not in an offensive way! It’s crazy to wrestle just like it’s crazy to run, I think we’re equal. Anyways. My boyfriend is in wrestling, and it’s his first year out (btw I think he’s a bit crazy too in a good way of course 😉 ). I know I’m not supposed to worry about his eating habits during the wrestling season, but I kind of can’t help myself. I have this friend who goes to another school who has been in wrestling for the past three years and I heard from his sister about how he would eat nothing but a little salad and drink nothing but water during the season. And then these eating habits would continue even after the season because he said he wasn’t hungry. I know that my boyfriend doesn’t starve himself totally like this, and he assures me that it’s perfectly healthy and that he’ll be fine, but I’m finding myself to still be skeptical. I know that making weight is just part of the sport and it’s inevitable, but really, isn’t it a little extreme or at least a bit concerning? These guys who are out for wrestling aren’t fat! They are a healthy weight already and don’t really need to lose anything. What if they made girls starve themselves too for their sports? Wouldn’t a lot more people become concerned? When you’re working out, you need those calories to refuel your body and replenish its supplies. Maybe it’s just the runner mentality in me, I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazier than I thought.

When these guys are starving themselves so they can be within a certain weight range, I see it as a huge potential open door for an eating disorder. I’ve seen eating disorders up-close. I’ve been that girl who was unhappy with her weight and over-obsessed about it and tried to change it. And maybe I’m overreacting to the whole weight-loss-for-wrestling thing, but I know how hard it is to break bad habits and to change the way you think. I think that the current system for wrestling is just inviting those bad habits and dangerous mentalities into all these young wrestlers’ lives. Eating disorders are serious and scary. They can have life-long effects, both physically and mentally. Even when someone thinks that they’re over it, the mentality can still come back and lure them back into an unhealthy eating pattern. Girls aren’t the only ones subject to eating disorders, they can affect guys too.

I googled wrestling and weight loss, and I know that there are rules and  guidelines in place to keep wrestlers healthy and safe, but a little voice in the back of my head tells me to continue being concerned. I will have to apologize to my boyfriend. I just don’t understand it.

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My Goals

Hey guys! I just added a page for my goals for running. I included goals for the rest of the winter, for this upcoming track season, for the summer, for my cross country season next year, for college, and beyond. Go check it out! Since I’m making it all public and everything, I’m hoping it will add one more thing to motivate me to keep pushing myself to that next level. I don’t just want to run without a place I’m running to. I need to keep pushing forward so I can become a better runner. But not only do I need to become a better runner, I also need to continue pushing myself to become a better person. Through pushing myself in my running, I am learning to not give up and to stay strong. I learn to appreciate my legs and my body just the way they are, because they’ve gotten me through all these miles just fine so far. Running gives me confidence in myself and who I am. Running helps me sort out my thoughts and feelings. In every stage of  my life, I want to continue running if physically possible. I need the structure, its stress-relieving capabilities, the motivation, the confidence and the euphoria after a good run. So looking back at what I wrote, I think I included in every one of my goals something along the lines of “Keep Running.” Because that’s what I do. I run. And I run. And I run some more. Yet it is most definitely not everything I am; it doesn’t define me. I define it. My body is my machine that I am learning how to use most efficiently by working it day after day. And one of these days, I will reach my goals. One step at a time.

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My frenemy the treadmill

Eww. I hate treadmills. Or do I love them in disguise? A disguise where I am a really really really good actor, so good that I even almost start believing that it’s true? I was in the school play the past two years, maybe some of my acting skills carried over? Maybe?

Anyways, it’s winter….which unfortunately means cold, snow, ice, painful breathing in the frigid air and numb extremities (aka I CAN’T FEEL MY NOSE OR MY FINGERS OR MY LEGS ANYMORE!!!!! AHHHHH!!!!!!) But I still gotta get my miles in! I can’t let myself get so out of shape like last year! So what do I do? Do I take the constant runny nose and the icky cough? Or do I embrace my dreaded treadmill and stay inside for a few miles? My running buddy wants me to get a membership at the gym, where about 10.5 laps is the equivalent of a mile. None of these sound like ideal choices to me, but what else can I do? Decisions. Ugh. I’m the worst decision-maker in the world.

I ran about 3.5 miles today, just around my neighborhood. The weather wasn’t great, but with a few layers, the wind didn’t bite quite so much and I stayed relatively warm enough. But then tonight the snow started falling and we’re right in line for a blizzard to bring the Christmas spirit in. School has already been cancelled for tomorrow – PARTY!!:) but really, this just means it’s gonna get harder to find a place to run and the motivation to get me to subject my poor unwilling body into submission to run longer than four miles.

I have a treadmill at my house, which is nice once in a while, so I can get in a mile or maybe two at night or on those -20 degrees with wind chill days when a run outside is impossible without getting frostbite or hypothermia or something like that (ok, maybe I’m exaggerating a bit, I could probably run outside without dying). But when I try to do a whole, for-real, quality treadmill workout involving more than a mile or two, I just can’t do it. I get so bored. I was running on the treadmill yesterday, and after half a mile, I just kept pushing the faster button. Faster. Faster. Get me off this thing because I’m so bored and I’m getting nowhere. Faster. Faster. I’m running at a 6:30 minute-per-mile pace. Faster. Ugh. Finally I gave up. I quit after a mile and a half. It’s embarrassing, I know. I’ve looked for ways to run good treadmill workouts. I haven’t yet found anything that can keep me going. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

On the other hand, if I didn’t get so bored out of my mind, treadmills are great. You can stay out of the cold. You don’t have to go anywhere. If you’re not feeling it, you can stop anytime without worrying about being five miles away from your car. There are pros, there are cons. Maybe they work for some people. I’m just not so sure that my dear friend Treadmill and I were meant for each other.

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Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl

I recently read a book called Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl. It’s a non-fiction book, and before I talk about it, I just want to say that lately I feel like I’ve realized that I’ve had a lot of misconceptions about things. Such as the idea that all non-fiction books are completely boring and would put me and all other normal people to sleep after about one sentence. This book has helped me realize how wrong I was, because it actually was very interesting to read, and I actually enjoyed reading it and wanted to read it. Crazy, huh??

Anyways, this book is a memoir by Sandra Beasley, a woman with a plethora of severe allergies. She’s allergic to dairy (both from cows and goats), eggs, soy, mango, grapefruit, beef, shrimp, mustard, cashews, macadamias, pistachios, honeydew, and cucumber, just to name a few in the agonizingly long list. Despite her severe allergies which have the capability to send her into anaphylactic shock (a life-threatening allergic reaction), Beasley has learned to make the most of life despite her condition and has become a successful writer and poet.

Reading Beasley’s account of her life with these allergies has made me much more aware of the reality of food allergies. Not having any food allergies myself, I’ve never had to worry about meticulously reading ingredients lists on every food I eat, asking restaurant waiters for ingredients every time I go out to eat, or what my boyfriend eats before I kiss him, like she has had to do in order to keep herself alive.  Beasley addresses all aspects of living with multiple severe allergies, from the medical aspects and the common testing procedures to the social implications on everyday life. While she does use complex medical terms, and it is full of information, her personal stories from her life and sometimes humorous accounts keep the tone light and makes the book truly entertaining to read.

With allergies so prevalent in today’s society, I never realized the extent to which they can affect all of those people’s lives. I think that now that I’ve read this book, I am a lot more sensitive to allergies and my understanding of them has become much clearer. Whether you have allergies or not, I would definitely recommend reading Don’t Kill the Birthday Girl and maybe it will change your perspective on allergies as much as it changed mine.

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Getting Back in Shape

Finally. I ran again today for the first time in two weeks!:( I had surgery on my wrist two weeks ago for a ganglion cyst. It looked gross, felt weird when you touched it, and hurt a lot, especially when I was writing, typing, or playing piano a lot, so I’m glad I had it taken off after having it for about three years. But since I couldn’t run for two weeks while I had to keep my brace on full-time, I think I’m getting out of shape! Terribly out of shape! I struggled far too much for only a three-mile run! Granted, we may have started out a bit too fast, but I am unbelievably disappointed by how out of shape I’ve become. My legs didn’t want to move, I was gasping breath while I was trying to talk to my running partner, and I know it’s awful but I was tempted, so tempted, to take a walk break around mile 2. Awful. Embarrassing. I know. This is exactly the opposite of what I want to happen over this winter! My goal was to try to stay in shape and to keep my fitness level at least close to what it was during my cross country season so I’m not as slow as I was last year at the beginning of track season. Last year I hardly ran at all over the winter. I’m pretty sure that I’ve run more since state cross country than I did all year last year! As a result of my little training last year, I think I was running around a 7 minute 1500, and a fourteen-or-fifteen-something 3000 in our time trials in practice. At the first meet of the year last year, I ran a 2:47 800m, and I only got down to 2:37 by the end of the year. In comparison, I ran the first 800m (half mile) of my 2.5 mile state cross country race this year in 2:46. That’s a good second faster than I ran at that first meet in track last year, and I didn’t have to run 2 more miles afterward! That absolutely must change this year. I was an alternate at state last year for my track team’s 4×8 relay. If I want to make my claim to my place on that team this year, I need to get below 2:30. I’ve set some goals for myself this upcoming track season. I need to be at least under 6 minutes for a 1500 at the beginning of the year. I need to be under 12:15 at the very very very really-bad-day slowest for my 3000m. I need to be definitely under 2:40 for my 800m at the beginning of the season, but preferably I won’t run any 800s slower than 2:35 all season! I really want to get my 800 time down to a 2:26 by the end of the season, but I guess we’ll see how that goes! For now, I need to become more regular and consistent with my winter training, get in touch with my coach, and stay focused! February is closer than it seems!

See you out running tomorrow!

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Just Drew It

I just wanted to share a huge inspiration in my life, Drew Wall, a sophomore at my school who passed away a few weeks ago on November 26 after a five-year battle with cancer. He went to my school and I didn’t really know him personally, but I had heard a lot about him. He was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 at the age of eleven. He went through chemo, a leg amputation, and much more with more optimism and positivity than I think I ever could have. Before I wrote this blog, I decided I should check out his caringbridge website and other articles on this amazing young man. I bawled. I cried my eyes out until I was shaking and had no more tears left to cry. I wasn’t necessarily just crying over his loss of life, but more because of how much life he did live while he had the chance. It was convicting. I’ve learned so much from Drew. He has inspired me to appreciate life more, to enjoy it, make the most of it, and to appreciate the lives of the people I know and love. Drew didn’t let anything stop him from doing everything he wanted to do. He was on the golf team, he was a brown belt in taekwando, and he made sure to not only keep up with his schoolwork but to get extraordinary grades, even when he was missing a lot of school because of his health.

I want to live like that. I want my passion for life to show through the way I treat my family and friends, the way I do my homework, the way I give my all in every run, the energy I have in show choir, and everything else I do. I want to make the most of my life. You know the saying YOLO – You Only Live Once. It’s so overused and cliché, but so true. I don’t think it  gives me any excuses to try crazy or dangerous things, like the way some people use the acronym. On the contrast, I do believe it takes away any and every lame excuse I have to not give 110% in everything I do or to not keep a positive outlook on life no matter what. If Drew could make the most of every situation life threw at him, why can’t we all? If we all could only have half the faith, hope, and passion for life that Drew had, the world would be such a better place.

It’s amazing how comforting it is to know that with Christ, I will always overcome every obstacle somehow or someway. I don’t know what that way is, but I know it will be the best because it’s part of God’s perfect plan.
~ Living Strong by Joshua 1:9, Drew Wall

Drew, you inspired so many through your life and your optimism. Thank you.

#justdrewit

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My love affair with Zio Johnos

I had Zio Johnos spaghetti for dinner tonight. Delicious.

Spaghetti is the go-to dish for many carbo-loading runners. The night before a big, long race or run, it’s common to eat a large carbohydrate-filled meal such as spaghetti,potatoes, bread, or rice. The idea is to refuel the body’s glycogen stores – the energy supply your body uses up when you run or exercise.  When your body’s glycogen stores are depleted, your body must use stored fat for energy. Converting fat into energy to be used by the body is much less efficient, takes more time, and leaves you feeling awful, like you can’t take another step. If you’ve ever heard of “hitting the wall” from long-distance runners such as half-marathoners, marathoners or ultra runners, this is what they’re talking about. However, if you eat the right amount of carbs before the big race, you can prepare your body to have the optimum amount of glycogen already available. Runners’ World, a magazine on running and fitness, wrote an article on carbo-loading the right way so you can get the best results.

My love for Zio Johnos spaghetti comes not only  from its delicious flavor, but all of the memories surrounding it. I love cross country, and I love my cross country team. Several times per year, we have a team dinner with Zio Johnos spaghetti the night before a meet. It was always so rewarding, fun, and relaxing to sit and eat our Zio Johnos together as a team, to know that we were done with another hard week of training, and that we had nothing left to worry about until tomorrow when we would race. Or on other occasions a few friends and I would stop by Zio Johnos to pick up some spaghetti after getting back home from a successful meet. We would celebrate as we crashed at someones house, tired, happy, and no longer hungry. Now that the season is over, eating this spaghetti gives me more than a satisfied stomach but sentimental memories of a successful season, great times with the team, and excitement for next season when I know we will make many more memories and share many more buckets of delicious spaghetti!

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Appreciating what the holiday season is truly about

I know Thanksgiving is over, and we’ve all traded our gratitude with visions of sugar plums, Christmas presents, hot deals, and Santa Claus. Ads and commercials bombard us with the latest things we should buy, the great new phone we can’t live without, and that great new car that wouldn’t be a bad addition as well. Besides, you won’t have to pay anything until 2013, and by then the world will have ended anyway!

I was just watching The Grinch, one of my favorite Christmas movies. The Grinch thought that Christmas was all about the presents and he thought that he could take away the spirit of the season by stealing the Christmas presents. To his surprise, the townspeople were just as happy, thankful, and cheerful even though they were missing what he thought made Christmas Christmas. But look around at our society today. Why aren’t stores advertising thankfulness for what we do have? Why aren’t they advertising the true meaning of Christmas – the birth of the baby Jesus? Why aren’t they advertising spending quality time with family and loved ones? Why aren’t they advertising giving from the heart – giving heartfelt gifts that will be truly appreciated by those who receive them? It disappoints me. Even if you don’t believe in celebrating Jesus’ birthday, wouldn’t you agree that the holiday season is to celebrate and appreciate family, love, and every other blessing we already have? Would we still be positive and cheerful this holiday season even if the Grinch stole our Christmas presents? Or if we had a stressful day at school or work? Or even if our turkey is too dry and the mashed potatoes a bit too cold? Honestly, I doubt that I would. All too often I forget to thank God for the blessings I have, for my family, for my friends, for my school, for my warm house, for never having to worry where I’ll get my next meal. Why am I so entranced by the ads in the newspapers, advertising all the things I don’t have but supposedly need?

My church is participating in a project called Advent Conspiracy. It’s a movement to give more of your time rather than worthless presents, to worship and celebrate Jesus, and to donate the money you would have spent on one of those presents to building wells for clean drinking water in areas of the world where such necessities of life aren’t yet accessible. Just think about it. While you’re (either out loud or mentally) complaining about your sub-par pumpkin pie, there are millions in the world who don’t even have clean, safe water to drink. It’s hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it? We see the pictures on TV of the starving and the hungry, but then we go about our days and forget about it. We don’t realize how real their need is. We don’t realize how much we take for granted. Just think about how thirsty you get on those long, hot runs, or how thirsty you are at the end of a race. What if you didn’t have clean drinking water freely accessible? I never think twice about the water I drink from bottles, drinking fountains, from my own sink. We don’t realize how much we truly have when so many others have so little.

Here’s the Advent Conspiracy video. I challenge you to at least think about it. Spend a minute thinking of how thankful you are for family, friends, food, Christmas, and water, and try to make the most of this Christmas season, remembering the real reason behind why we celebrate.

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STATE 2012

So. State cross country. Yes, it was over a month ago, and yes, I am very sorry that I was unable to write about it before. I’m hoping that by now, I’ll be able to let you know how it went without exploding with my anguish and frustration…

It was the last saturday of October, and I couldn’t have asked for better weather. It wasn’t too windy, and it was cold enough to have goosebumps at the starting line but still warm enough that we didn’t need to wear underarmour or hats or gloves. The warmup went well, and I was pumped. My energy levels had been soaring that week, and I was feeling fantastic and ready to give it everything I had. As we finished our warmup and were lining up, I started to get butterflies in my stomach, but all of that disappeared once the gun went off. It was crazy. There were so many people and it took a lot to hold myself back from rushing to the front of the crowd before I should have.

I couldn’t have asked for a better day. The conditions were perfect, the weather was gorgeous, and the spirit and enthusiasm in the air was contagious. Despite my attempt to go out slower, I still ran the first 800 in 2:46, at least ten seconds faster than I should have if I wanted to run relatively even splits. I got into my rhythm, but I was kind of disheartened when girls kept passing me rather than me passing them. I guess that’s another good reason to start out slower.

I went all out. I tried so hard to stay with our fifth girl, but I couldn’t do it. I could see her in front of me, but I was pushing myself as hard as I thought possible. I tried to stay with all of the other girls as they passed me but I couldn’t do that either. I kept reminding myself that this was it! It was the last time I would have to run for two weeks. I asked myself over and over “Why give up now when this is what I’ve worked so hard for all season??” I had to stay strong. As I neared the final 800 of the race, I could see the girl who was normally our fourth runner. She had been feeling sick lately and after the race she told me that her arms and legs felt numb. I passed her in that last 400 as well as about three other girls. I sprinted my heart out and gave it all I had, but finished a fraction of a second behind another girl.

When results were finally posted, my team had won third! We were so excited since we hadn’t expected to score so high with our fourth girl’s disappointing race. But when they were announcing the awards, they announced another school, Johnson, as third. We were all confused and ticked off. Apparently they had missed one of their girl’s tags, and her supposed sixteenth place finish bumped them up to third. My coach requested a video, but they never gave him one. The two-hour drive home was depressingly quiet.

So we ended up at fourth place, with no trophy. I have so many regrets. I know I ran my heart out and I gave it all I had, running a 15:29 and scoring 62nd place, but what if I had just been a second faster? What if I would have had like ten faster steps there in that middle mile? What if I wouldn’t have gotten sick the week before? There are too many what-ifs to name them all. State 2012 is over, now all that is left is to run my butt off for next year.

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