Monday, May 31, 2010

A Dud

I was starting to think that all the HPER classes were pretty decent.  Sure, I have enjoyed some more than others, but I hadn't encountered one yet that I couldn't wait to leave.

Friday, my readers, I found that class.

In an attempt to combine socializing with working out, I made plans with a friend to go workout at lunch.  "Core Yoga" or "Hard Core Abs/Booty Burn"? I inquired.  She wanted to do the abs/booty class, so I made plans to meet up with her and walk down to the HPER.

We got there, and I dashed to my locker to grab an elastic band for my hair.  When I got back, she'd saved me a spot and grabbed equipment for me (what a great pal!), and the room was packed.  Then we started.

It was okay, at first.  Then it just got...complicated.  I know that I need to work on building up strength, but I quickly realized my inability to do most of the poses was not exactly my fault.  The number of people failing to understand the instructor or to hold the poses was more than half.  Some of the moves were straightforward and effective, but many were unnecessarily complicated and possibly dangerous for inexperienced students.  There were props everywhere when one or two would have sufficed.

At the end of the half hour, we were both frustrated and incredibly annoyed by the instructor and the class.  Sure, I felt like I worked my abs (and they were sore a few days later), but I didn't enjoy the experience.  I didn't want to stay for the second class, and after seeing some of the props being added in addition to the ones already out, K decided she didn't want to stay either.

I want to try the class again, but with another instructor.  Part of good instruction is being able to see that your class is struggling and make adjustments accordingly.  Sure, she was in shape, but she didn't do much to help us get there and enjoy the process.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pilates or Yoga--You Don't Have to Choose!

Occasionally, there are minor turf wars between Pilates acolytes and yogis: they both use mats and have some focus on breath and stretching, but the goals are often different.  Well, at least I have different goals when I do Pilates than when I do yoga.  The yogis glare at the Pilates folk with their focus on core and their occasional use of weird rings and other props, while the Pilates people might consider yoga to be not as good a strength workout. Or something.  Personally, I'm okay with both, though I really like Ashtanga yoga the best.

Recently, it's become a trend to blend different approaches to exercise.  Can't pick between Pilates or yoga--take a PiYo class!  I find the name a little ridiculous, but agree with it in spirit.  (Another class offered is "Yolates".  Ha!)

This week's new fitness class is PiYo, offered midday.  (I really like these lunchtime classes. They get me out of my office for a longish walk, and I return so very hungry, thus adding enjoyment to my lunch. There's nothing like an appetite to make food taste even better).  Taught by Stacey, the class is "a faster paced yoga class.  Experience an athletic fusion of style, strength, and flexibility."  Sure, whatever.  Again, the class was small (six students), but my overall verdict was that it was enjoyable.

Initially, I was a little disgruntled because the music was a bit loud and the instructor wasn't giving clear instructions, but then she turned down the music and the instructions were much better.  The class itself was a mix of yoga, Pilates, and some ballet moves--I could tell that the instructor was most likely a dancer, and at least one of the students was too.  I definitely felt like I was working my muscles and stretching, which I liked.  There were also lots of balancing poses, and since I need to work on balance, it added a good dimension to my workout.

I may have said it before, but I prefer strength exercises that don't use weights.  So if you prefer lots of weights, this class probably wouldn't be one you'd like.  I, however, enjoyed the opportunity to escape my office, get in a good walk, and get a light workout in at lunch.  While I was a little sweaty, I wasn't dripping and dried off quickly so that I didn't have to worry about showering or anything before returning to work, making it an ideal midday workout.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Pleasures of Spring

Nothing signals spring to me quite like ripe strawberries and asparagus.  I anxiously await asparagus season, which is far too brief, snatching up the crisp bundles like sacred relics.  Nothing is better than fresh asparagus, and the supermarket offerings are tawdry substitutes.

Asparagus comes first, followed closely by strawberries.  A fresh-picked strawberry is a joy and a delight.  Lance has a strawberry bed, but his come in a little later than some of the sellers at Farmers' Market, so I bought a box one week and savored them over the course of a couple of days.

Then Lance's berries began to ripen.  I awaited eagerly to eat them, savor them, enjoy them.  They make the monstrosities purchased from the grocery store taste like only the red-tinted idea of a strawberry.  These are Strawberries, pure spring delight that cannot be replicated.

I used to be ambivalent about strawberries: if offered, I would smile and take one, but I didn't go nuts for them.  Then I started eat strawberries that were picked when they were ripe (instead of slightly before and then shipped hundreds of miles), and I discovered a whole new world of taste.  Now I greedily hoard them, like a dragon protecting rubies, sharing only with those who are worthy.

This morning, I brought strawberries to work for a snack.  As I bit into one, it completely captured my attention.  It was delightful.

I wish everyone could have the opportunity to experience food in this way.  Eating can be a source of pleasure in addition to fueling the body, and understanding that will make more people pursue good quality, fresh, and local food instead of accepting the flavors of things that barely pass as fruits and vegetables.  Everyone should have access to this kind of food, not just those with the skills and resources to grow it themselves, nor the individuals who can afford to shop at Whole Foods or other stores that offer it at a premium.

Strawberries should also only be available part of the year, and  I don't buy strawberries unless they are in season, and I very rarely by them from the supermarket even when they are in season.  They are a visceral pleasure of spring, along with asparagus, that I only enjoy in its proper time.  Perhaps that's why the moment of that first bite of asparagus or the first strawberry from the garden is such a delight: I only get to enjoy it for a brief window each year until the next time spring comes around.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lessons Learned on the Run

In two weeks, I will be once again subjecting myself to torture participating in a half marathon.  Two weeks from yesterday, in fact.  So today is my final long run for the training cycle, a lovely 12 miles.  The last time I did a 12 miler, it was just before Hogeye in April, so the weather was much nicer.  And I got up early.  It was a great run.

This, however, is not the story of a wonderful training run, but rather a story of a grueling and rough run.  There was no blood, but there were blisters and upset stomachs, and a pee break at Wal-Mart.  And lots of walking a smidgen of depression/despair.

See this foot?  Isn't it lovely?  I like my feet.  They are good feet, and get me to where I'd like to go reasonably well and with little fuss.  They may be an awkward size to find cute shoes (seriously, what's up with that guys?  A size 9 is not ginormous, yet we get shafted on the selection of shoes at Payless).  Today, that foot has two blisters, thanks to running--one on my little toe, and one on the other side of my foot, on the pad. Ouch.

So: normally, I try to run early.  However, this morning since I'm hanging out alone, I took my time getting up and ready and eating breakfast and drinking coffee and petting the kitties and doing dishes--basically, just putting it off a little longer because a twelve mile run is not something one just undertakes without proper mental preparation.

Since it was going to be hot and I wanted ID/phone with me, I used my little CamelBak for the first time--I bought it specifically for long runs in the summer, because I don't like dehydration. And it was the high point of my run--I could just take a little sip without fuss.  And the sloshing only annoyed me a little, and it certainly announced my presence to unsuspecting, slower trail-users.

Everything was going okay for the first 6 miles: my legs were tired from a 40 minute run the day before and a workout class on Friday, but usually I can get past the soreness.  About mile 4, I realized I had to pee, so I did what any smart woman would do: locate the nearest facility in which to use their bathroom, since I'm not a fan of urinating in the outdoors (unless I absolutely have to).  Luckily, the trail runs right past Wal-Mart, so at mile 6, I ducked in to use their restroom.

Then I noticed a hot spot on the side of my foot, on the pad.  Uh oh.  I think I know what that is: blister.  It did not feel pleasant, though it wasn't excruciating.  It was my first running-induced blister, a distance running milestone I had avoided thus far.  (Along with black toenails, or completely loss of a toenail.  Why the hell do I like to run again??)

After mile 6, I started alternating running and walking because my legs were dead, my body had no energy (I was getting really hungry), and my foot was feeling very uncomfortable.   I ate my gel, which usually gives me a wonderful boost of energy.  I felt slightly more energetic, but really, I wanted some real food.

I ended up walk/running until about mile 10.5.  Then I just quit.  I briefly contemplated using my phone to get a ride the rest of the way home, but I sucked it up and walked.  (Repeating: there is no shame in walking, there is no shame in walking...)  I had a smoothie when I got home, but it just upset my stomach.

Now I'm really sore.  And I think my blisters popped already. Thank God tomorrow is recovery day.

So what'd I learn?  Eating 45 minutes beforehand is a great idea, because 2 hours later that energy has already been directed elsewhere, so I should have eaten a little snack.  Also, running earlier is better because the sun is lower and it's not so damned hot.  Also, we had cloud cover for most of the  morning from when I intended to run (7 or 8), which was gone by the time I was half done.  I'm glad I stopped for a bathroom break, though, because I didn't have to suffer through that on the last 6 miles as well as being in agony from sore muscles.  And I love my CamelBak, sloshing and all.

All I hope is that this isn't a sign for how Hospital Hill is going to go.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Things I Did Today

Very occasionally, I have the house to myself.  I usually use this as a time to explore on my own, or mostly to clean and relax without worrying about more dirty socks appearing.

Beginning at 5am, I got up and went out to Devil's Den to hike to a lookout point to see the sunrise with a friend who will soon be embarking on a new adventure.  I think it was totally worth only getting a few hours of sleep...
Then we came back to town and went to the farmer's market, where I purchased asparagus, eggs, and new potatoes, and a lovely bouquet of flowers.  While waiting for the yarn store to open, we drank coffee and had some breakfast at one of my favorite downtown haunts.  Then we went over to the yarn store so that I could pick up a skein of yarn to finish another two-toned shrug (from Fitted Knits--love. this. pattern.)

Back to home, where I lazed around, watching Bones, cleaning, and sitting on the couch, knitting.  Then I went to get Sassy, whom I was dog-sitting:
Such a sweet dog.  She's easy to watch, and she even ignores the cats.

Then I lazed around some more, went for a walk with the dog, went for a 40-minute run, picked gobs of strawberries, and watched more Bones while eating dinner.  I made a beet-yogurt soup, which I shall have to share because it was pretty tasty, and I sauteed onions, new potatoes, carrots, and a huge mound of chard from the garden.  Delicious.

I like these occasions to just do what I want.  As much as I love hanging out with Lance and spending time with him, it's nice every now and then to just have a day to myself.  It recharges and replenishes us both, and keeps life from getting too dull.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Lunchtime Yoga

In the summer, the pace of the office slows down for a few weeks.  Students lazily trickle in and out, staff members and faculty are often absent, and everybody just relaxes for a while.  (Then orientation starts, which is fast and furious for a month, then calms back down again).

The HPER offers a few classes at lunchtime, so I wanted to take advantage of the relaxed atmosphere to escape for a class.  Today, the schedule showed "Core Yoga" taught by Tracy, described as "A mix of practical pilates and yoga.  Starting with breath work, stretching, pilates, sun salutations, arm balances, and inversions."  Okay, that doesn't sound so bad.  Also, I keep hearing how a strong core makes one a better runner, so core strengthening is always a good thing.

I quickly changed and walked quickly down to the gym.  The sun was out, so it was a lovely walk.  The class had maybe eight to ten people, so it was nice and small.  We grabbed mats and waited for the instructor to arrive, who came breezing in, loud and full of energy.  I tried to keep an open mind and not make any judgments until the class started, but I was afraid she'd be a bit obnoxious.

I was wrong, luckily.  She was loud, but only at moments where a little extra energy was helpful.  When a pose got more difficult, her energetic cries to keep going made me laugh a little, distracting me from how hard I was working.  The class was a good environment and not at all intimidating for novices--the instructor made sure to tell us to "listen to our bodies."

My only complaint is that she didn't give a lot of modifications--I knew a few because I've done enough yoga to know, but there was one student who was having a hard time and could have benefited from modifications or direct assistance.  The instructor didn't really walk around and help anyone who was struggling, which I'm not really used to, especially in a small class.  The class was also fast-paced, so she may not have felt there was enough time to assist anyone directly.

The class flew by quickly, and I felt that I got a good arm and abs workout as well as a stretch.  In fact, I felt stretched enough that I wanted to go run because running after yoga always feels really good.  It was definitely more of a pilates/strength training class that it was a purely yoga class--we didn't hold the poses as long as I'd like to really relax and stretch out the muscles--but I still liked it.  I may have to try it again!

I'll leave you with a picture of the birthday treat I brought for my co-worker, which enjoyed after lunch:
Berry shortcake!  The cream was freshly whipped in the office (though whipping was a bitch after all the arm work I did shortly beforehand--feel the shoulder BURN).  We picked the wild blackberries from southern Arkansas, and the strawberries were from Lance's garden.  Delicious!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, I was standing before a crowd of 17 and 18 year olds, giving a painfully brief valedictorian address.  Because I was so shy, I had a hard time coming up with something interesting to say and I probably just read it hurriedly, saying nothing of note or interest.  I barely remember what I said, only that it was short.  I was proud to be up there, proud to have the honor, but I had no idea about how to give a good speech.  I still think about it with a twinge of regret, and will likely avoid watching the video of it, if asked.

That failed speech, however, taught me a lot.  I still get nervous speaking in front of people, but I'm getting better about delivery and actually saying something interesting.  Thanks to a great freshman year speech class, the constant requirement to speak in front of large groups, and my desire to be a professor, I've worked on it.  I've also become a lot less shy, which helps enormously.

Ten years ago, I was a high school graduate, naive and scared of the big, wide world.  Now I'm beginning a Ph.D. program in the fall and setting my sights on scholarship, research, and teaching.  It's exciting, this life of mine, if only to me.

I feel like such a different person now, but the reality is that I'm still that teenaged girl, just grown up and with more life experiences.  I'm different because of my experiences: college, travel, friendships and relationships.  Each taught me something new and helped me learn more about myself and how to navigate this not-so-scary world.  I used to be terrified of the unknown, but now I embrace it and acknowledge that it's still a little scary.  But part of the fun is the twinge of anxiety when facing something new.  I've learned to see the world differently, and that's why I feel so different now, ten years after leaving high school.

When we were at Lance's parents' church last weekend, the service was dedicated to the high school (and college) graduates.  One guy said something about how high school was the best time of his life.  I have to disagree: high school was okay.  I didn't hate it, and I have some good memories.  It wasn't bad, but I don't think I'd ever go back (even to redo my valedictorian speech).  I feel like my life is getting better every single day: I'm in love with a wonderful man, I have purpose and goals to work toward, I have great friends and family, and am surrounded by people I love and who love me.  I have cats who like to snuggle with me in the morning.  I am satisfied with my life and know that more good experiences await me.  Right now is the best time of my life, and if you talk to me in ten years, I hope that I say that that moment is the best.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A Fit Challenge

You all know that I run. And run. And run some more.  I run because I like how it makes me feel, and I like the challenge, and I like how fast I'm getting and how far I can run.  I also run because I want to be in better shape.  If you talk to any running or fitness professional, however, they will advise that a runner cross-train and do a variety of activities.

I'm really bad at cross-training.  Well, not bad, just negligent.  I can stick to my running schedule like nobody's business, and I'll do a bit of yoga on a regular basis, but I'm not so good about regularly strength training or doing other forms of cardio.

So to challenge my running self (and, in the end, improve my running), I've decided to take on a challenge.  The university gym has several fitness classes throughout the week that I'd like to try out.  Usually, I circle the classes I think are interesting, try one or two, then neglect to go to any others.  This summer, I want to challenge myself to try out most or all of the classes I can fit into my schedule and attend the ones I like regularly.


  1. Must attend at least one new class per week.
  2. Must continue with current running schedule (I'm still training for a half-marathon, and I have to keep running!)
  3. Must not go overboard so that Lance forgets my face or starts accusing me of obsessive behaviors.  Also, must still make social time with friends.
  4. If I don't enjoy a class, I will not return to it, but I can't dismiss something I haven't tried.
  5. Must blog about each new experience.
That's probably enough rules.

Monday, I attended Strength and Flow taught by Meaghan.  The class advertises itself as a yoga/pilates hybrid.  I like yoga, and if I have to strength train, I tend to prefer exercises that don't require gobs of equipment, so I decided to give it a try.  It wasn't yoga in the sense that I like to think about it--the instructor merely incorporated yoga poses after particularly intense exercises or as a strength exercise.  The moves were pretty straightforward, and the only difficulty I had in following everything was when I couldn't see the instructor because I was hiding toward the back.

Overall, I enjoyed the class--it went by quickly, I felt like I got a good workout, and I liked the minimal use of props (we used a balance ball for a few of the exercises).  The class was also fairly small as many people went to the Beach Body class taught at the same time (a class I will likely attend next week).

I prefer smaller classes because I don't want to feel like a dork in front of a crowd of people, but I will have to get over that if I wish to complete my little challenge.

What do I want to get out of it?  I hope to be fitter and stronger (my upper body strength in particular is laughable, as I can't even do a real push-up), and I hope to become a better runner.  My run yesterday actually rocked, and I attribute it to the cross-training I did Monday.  So far, a success!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A Wedding Outfit

There's a parable in the Bible about wedding clothes: I don't quite remember how it goes*, but one of the main ideas is that you don't show up to weddings in old, nasty clothes--you go to a wedding wearing appropriate wedding garments.

I have always felt that one should show up at weddings in a Very Nice Outfit, especially when it's two of my good friends getting married and even more when I've been asked to be involved by making and standing by the guest book, as well as invited to the family/wedding party-only events.  So, I decided to make my Very Nice Outfit on my own.

A couple of months ago, I had purchased a beautiful orange and white silk twill because, well, it was beautiful and silky.  I had vague notions of a dress.  After searching through my patterns, I found a fun strapless dress, so I decided to tackle it, even though I was less than confident in my sewing skills.

The dress had boning, which was scary at first, but turned out to be fairly straightforward.  And I had to rip pieces out of the bodice a couple of times because I sewed them in the wrong way.  There was a moment of panic when I thought the bodice might be too snug on my waist.  But then it all came together and looked pretty good.

It's not perfect: a lacked a zipper foot, so the zipper is less than well placed.  I messed up a few other things, but overall, the dress was fun, and it was mine.  And the shrug I knit to go with it was quick to make, fun, and went really well with the dress, especially given that it was a little chilly at times during the wedding.

I think that this will not be my final attempt at homemade dresses.  I definitely learned a lot from making it, and I look forward to trying my hand out on some other items soon.

*I could look it up, but I am lazy this morning.