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Workin’ hard Wednesday

Phew — today was a LONG day!  Let’s start with the eats:

As I mentioned earlier, I didn’t have breakfast this morning, save for 3 cups of coffee.  I was starving by lunchtime, so I had a HUGE mix of whole wheat penne with tomatoes, spinach, chicken, onions, mushrooms, peas, tomato basil sauce and some cheese:

YUM!  This hit the spot perfectly.  I polished off most of it but didn’t feel overstuffed when I was done, and the combo of protein, carbs and veggies kept me full all day 🙂


I did snack on the most ridiculous banana ever.  I included my iPod Touch in the picture for size comparison (coughthat’swhatshesaidcough):

After work — early dismissal at 4:00, yay! — I walked over to the gym and ran a quick 2.69 miles in 30 minutes, an 11:09/pace!  Yes, I know I’m slow, but I’m proud that I’m getting faster!  My marathon goal is to finish in under 5 hours, which means I’m going to have to maintain an 11:26/mile pace for the whole race.  Once I build up my short distance speed a little bit more I’m going to start adding in some longer runs to increase my endurance so I can meet my goal 🙂

I also did 15 minutes on the elliptical (crossramp 8, resistance 3) before walking home.  As part of the Holiday Bootie Buster Challenge, I calculated my total roundtrip walk from work –> gym –> home: 1.8 miles!  I was met at the door by a VERY happy Barkley:

Who can resist that face?  I took my guy for a quick walk, then made myself dinner:

Roasted sweet taters!  I was still pretty satisfied from lunch, so this hit the spot.  After dinner I hopped in the shower, then started my Thanksgiving baking projects!!  While I was doing my prep I snacked on a Fruit2Day and Clif bar, partially to keep myself from snacking on batter, and partially because I was still a little hungry 😉


Project #1 was pumpkin bread: round 2:

I used the same recipe as last time, but split the batter in half and added chocolate chips to one loaf.  Our apartment smells AMAZING right now; here’s hoping they taste as good as they look and smell!

Baking project #2 was sugar cookies!  Here’s the before:


And the delicious after:

One of these cookies may or may not have found its way into my tummy… 🙂

I use a cookie scoop (sort of like a tiny ice cream scoop) to make sure all my cookies are the same size and bake evenly.  I can’t believe I used to try and roll out dough balls by hand; I would NEVER get them even!

Matt and I each had a few of these guys while my baking projects were in the oven:

Here’s hoping I do a better job at keeping them in the house this time around!


Alright, it’s time to hit the sack.  Have a Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!

I’ll be back later tonight with my eats and exercise for the day 🙂


Update on last week’s goals

Morning!  I wanted to post an update on the goals I set for myself last week and set some new ones for this holiday week.  While I wasn’t as “good” as I hoped, I did accomplish a few key objectives:

– Get to the gym 4x this week:  Fail!  I think I only went once 😦

– Run 10 miles total this week: 6 at the gym, 4 in Sunday’s road race: almost success — I ran a little over 7 miles at the gym and at yesterday’s race.  Not so bad!

– Do yoga at least once this week: Fail.  I was going to go to a yoga class on Thursday, but got distracted by my Vegan 4 A Day fail and went home instead.  I’ll do better this week!

– Get in at least 5 fruit/veggie servings every day this week:  I’d say I was about 90% successful — I hit my 5 F/V goal every day but yesterday, and I only came up short by one serving.

–  Track everything I eat on the blog and in my WW points tracker: success with the blog, not so much the points tracker.

I’m starting to gravitate away from WW and am heading more towards intuitive eating, but I still think I need the structure of Weight Watchers to lose weight and keep my portions in check.

– Work on my sleep schedule: Almost done — I’m getting better at waking up earlier, but still not there 100%.  I’m definitely getting to bed earlier and sleeping better, though!

  • Get to bed earlier
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
  • Wake up earlier

– FINALLY clean out my closet/dresser: Done!!

  • Bring out winter clothes
  • Put away summer clothes
  • Put away anything that doesn’t fit right now
  • Donate clothing that is too big/anything I don’t really wear

– Clean our apartment top to bottom: mostly done, but I still need to attack the floors with the steam cleaner and do my laundry.

Now for this week’s goals!  I’m not so worried about overeating at Thanksgiving dinner — I’m not a big turkey and stuffing fan — but dessert is my problem.  I’m taking a tip from Tina’s blog and will put all my desserts on a plate so I’m not tempted to graze on the spread. I always thought it was worse to fill up a plate with desserts than just grab a bite or two here and there, but when you grab a cookie every time you pass the dessert table, you’re eating way more than would on a single small plate! 😉

So, here’s my plan for the short week:

– Get to the gym 3 times this week — this should be doable, since I only have Thursday off.  I’ll try to get in four workouts, but I’m not going to drive myself crazy about it.

– Run 6 miles this week, either inside or outside (or both)

– Track my points all week, and post photos of everything I eat on the blog — the second half of this should be MUCH easier than the first.  I hate estimating points, but I know I won’t have much choice on Thanksgiving.  On second thought, I might give myself a free pass on point counting on Thursday, just to keep my brain from breaking 🙂

– Finish cleaning the apartment

– Get in 5 F/V servings every day this week

– Start Christmas shopping!

I think that’s a reasonable list for the week — wish me luck! 🙂  Have a great day — back later with today’s eats!

Do you ever give yourself a free pass for calorie counting/point tracking?  How does it affect you and your goals?

Do you set weekly goals for yourself?

Just Do It.

I am a procrastinator.  Or, if you want to be even blunter about it: I’m lazy.  I love spending my weekends sleeping in, with moving from the bed to the couch (for TV watching or curling up with a great book) being the primary activity of the day.  Want to know the funny thing, though?  I also love to have a full schedule!  When I was in middle school and high school I participated in as many activities as I could (yearbook, softball, tennis, musicals, chorus, etc.).

By the time I got to college I was pretty burned out and focused myself on a handful of my favorite extracurriculars, but by senior year I was back to my old self, bouncing from class to my part-time research job to choir to RAing to Matt’s and back again.

My “sure, I can do it all!” mentality hit an all-time level of crazy while Matt and I were engaged.  Not only was I working full-time (40 hours a week, at least), I was finishing graduate school part-time, wedding planning and trying to lose a large amount of weight.  Then, I had the brilliant idea to train for a marathon on top of it all!

I came to my senses somewhat and decided to run a half-marathon instead, but it was still ridiculous on top of ridiculousness.  I was overworked, stressed all the time, and couldn’t give anything on my plate the attention it deserved.  My procrastination/laziness went into high gear, especially with my half-marathon training.  Long runs were the easiest things to put off: it was winter in New York, miserable weather for outdoor runs (my half-marathon was in Phoenix in January), and who can run 10 miles on a treadmill?  Not me.

So, I got to the start line of my first half-marathon with my wedding three months away (but almost fully planned, thankfully), my graduate degree finished, but only one or two 8-milers under my belt.  I started out strong, was having such a great time, then BONKED harder than anyone in history (at least it felt that way).  From miles 9-13, I was hoping I’d pass out, just so the ambulance could take me to the finish line instead of having to walk the rest of the way there.  It was awful.

*Side note: “bonking” is one of those weird running words, like “fartlek“, that sound much more pleasant than they are.   Actually, scratch that: fartlek doesn’t sound pleasant at all…*

At long last (3 hours and 24 minutes later), I crossed the finish line.  One of the wonderful race volunteers came over to me as I was catching my breath and put my finisher’s medal over my head, and it truly was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life.  Despite my training setbacks and complete exhaustion, I felt like a real athlete that day.

I promised myself that I would train properly for my next long race (and lose a few more pounds) so I could cross the finish line feeling strong and proud, and that’s exactly what I did.

Or not.

My next half-marathon was eight months later in Virginia Beach, and even though the wedding was over, graduate school was over and I was closing in on my goal weight, I couldn’t find the time in my busy schedule of being lazy to get in some necessary long training runs.  This time, though, I had a secret weapon: a husband to cheer me on from mile 9 until the finish! 🙂  It was an amazing feeling to see his proud face in the crowd of spectators, but it unfortunately didn’t make running 13.1 miles in late August that much easier!  I still managed to shave a respectable 12 minutes off my time (that I attribute mostly to losing a few pounds between races) and earned the peanut butter cup Dairy Queen Blizzard that followed the race.

Just three short weeks after my decent showing at VA Beach, I ran my third half-marathon in Philly; I caught the racing bug BAD!  The combination of lovely fall weather, a very friendly downhill course and increased confidence after my last half made this my best race yet, and I broke through the 3 hour barrier.

Unfortunately, I think the barrier fell on me as I crossed the finish line, because I COULD. NOT. MOVE. a few minutes after I was done.  The hotel where I was staying with a few friends was about a mile and a half from the finish line, and it literally took me an hour to get back there.  Did I mention I took a cab most of the way?  Oh my, it was a mess.

Thankfully, a hot shower and a giant Gatorade made me feel a thousand times better, but I was hurting, again thanks to my lack of proper training for the distance.  But did I learn my lesson?

No!  Of course not!

I had one final half-marathon on my schedule for 2008: the Richmond Half in November.  For whatever reason, this race is sponsored by McDonald’s, and it remains the only race t-shirt I’ve ever thrown away.  I was down to my lowest weight ever in late September-early October, and really optimistic that I’d have another PR at Richmond.

Then, my birthday hit in mid-October and I had a meltdown, the first of many that fall/winter/spring.  I was unhappy at my job but didn’t know where I could go, and, on top of it all, had to spend my entire birthday alone.  The one co-worker I was really close with was out of the office that day, and Matt didn’t get home from work until after 9 or so.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all the frustrations in my life, and by the end of the day I was inconsolable.  That day was a turning point for me, but not in a good way at all.

After my miserable birthday I stopped working out for a few weeks, content to go straight home after work to hang out with the dog and eat snacks on the couch.  It didn’t help that it was the most stressful time of the year in my department; stress on top of stress on top of stress = lots of emotional eating.  When I got to the start line in Richmond a few weeks later, I was up 5 lbs. from Philly and not at all prepared for a half-marathon.

I told myself to take it easy and just walk the course, but my competitive side took over and I ran right from the start.  I could barely finish the first mile without stopping — it was pathetic!  The race just got more and more painful from that point on, and by mile 8 I felt worse than I did at the end of Philly (dehydrated and exhausted) and Phoenix (bonked beyond belief) combined.  I had to stop at a gas station, buy a granola bar with a sweat-soaked dollar bill, and ate it while laying on the grass on the side of the course.  Not my proudest moment.

I knew I couldn’t just quit — I’m way too stubborn for that — so I shuffled along as best as I could for the rest of the race, struggling mightily.  FINALLY, I crossed the finish line and was handed my medal.  With the freakin’ McDonald’s logo on it.  Ugh.  As it turns out, I finished this race only a few minutes slower than my first race in Phoenix; considering how horrible I felt the whole 3 hours and 30 minutes, I’d call that a victory!

So, what have I learned after all of this?  Well, for one, race training schedules are not just fancy pieces of paper with random numbers on them — they are incredibly important fancy pieces of paper with random numbers on them, and  you should follow what they have to say!  Your body — especially your legs, lungs and feet — will thank you for it in spades.  I’ve already got my 18-week marathon training schedule printed out, and I plan to follow it to the letter.  Or number, I guess.

There’s no place for procrastination when it comes to training for a long run.  You can’t do nothing for six weeks, then run 10 miles 5 days in a row and be properly prepared for a half-marathon.  The work has to be constant and consistent.

I was reminded of this today when I saw Kath’s post about regrets.  She mentioned that she’s never regretted a workout, and I completely agree.  Not only do you get an immediate benefit from exercising, but every mile you run, every class you take, and every minute of cardio you do builds a base of fitness that you carry with you always.

So what are you waiting for?  Don’t procrastinate or overthink it — get out there and run.  Just do it! 🙂

Weekly goals

Quick lunchtime post and run at lunch – I’ve got a busy day at work!

Inspired by Gina’s really ambitious fitness goals for the week, I decided to write up my goals for the week to keep myself focused.  Here goes:

–          Get to the gym 4x this week

–          Run 10 miles total this week: 6 at the gym, 4 in Sunday’s road race

–          Do yoga at least once this week

–          Get in at least 5 fruit/veggie servings every day this week (so far, I’m 1/1)

–          Track everything I eat on the blog and in my WW points tracker

–          Work on my sleep schedule:

  • Get to bed earlier
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night
  • Wake up earlier

–          FINALLY clean out my closet/dresser:

  • Bring out winter clothes
  • Put away summer clothes
  • Put away anything that doesn’t fit right now
  • Donate clothing that is too big/anything I don’t really wear

–           Clean our apartment top to bottom

I’ll re-post this list on Sunday night with my progress.  For some reason, I’ve always loved making lists, even when I am too busy to actually cross anything off the list!  🙂

How do you keep track of your weekly fitness, health and life goals?


Ladies, this post is (well, mostly) all about girls.  Also, since I have a lot of topics to cover, I decided to add headings to each section — brace yourself! 🙂

Part 1: Zumba girls

So, I had a little bit of a haphazard afternoon after work yesterday.  I had a bunch of stuff to return to Old Navy downtown, then went back uptown to the gym, then back downtown again for dinner with the girls, then back uptown to go home.  I think I hit all the NYC transportation bases: bus, subway, walking and taxi!  Quick side note:

New York City Fun Facts #1 and 2:

1. If a taxi has its top light on (the 4-character taxi number), then it is open and you can hail it.  If the light is off, that means there are people in it, so don’t try to catch it or get upset if it passes you by.  I didn’t know this for YEARS, and wasted many an arm wave trying to hail an occupied cab.

Also, some taxis will still pick up passengers if their off-duty lights are on, but only if you are heading in the same direction they are.

2. In a city of 6+ million people, you will still ALWAYS run into people you know.  On my walk from Old Navy to the gym I ran into an old co-worker and a guy I served on jury duty with.  So random!

Anyway, back to Friday.  So, I get to the gym a little after 6:30, planning on a 2-3 mile run and some elliptical.  After I changed I looked at the class schedule and saw there was a Zumba class at 7, and decided it would be fun to give it a try.  I ran a quick 1.51 miles in 18 minutes (11:30 something pace — yes, I’m slow) and got to the class right on time.

Let me tell you a few things about me.  One, I am very self-conscious, especially when it comes to group workout classes.  I feel like everyone is watching me, and it makes me uncomfortable.  Two, I have absolutely NO rhythm and am incredibly uncoordinated, as many high school musical videos will confirm.  Zumba is a cardio dance class with complicated moves (the website says they are “easy-to-follow dance moves” — HA!) that takes place in a huge mirrored room with windows for spectators to watch through.  Not the best call, Kara.

I am always up for a challenge, so I decided to give Zumba a try.  After a 1+ mile walk to the gym and a quick treadmill run I was ready to go, but after the dance warmup my heart was racing and I was sweating up a storm!  Did I mention it was only 7:05 at this point?

Once we got into the heart of the Zumba workout I started to really struggle.  The extra pounds I’m carrying make me pretty slow on my feet so I had a hard time keeping up; that, combined with my general lack of coordination and self-consciousness (especially because I couldn’t stop noticing the sweat stains on my shirt…ick) made the first 15 minutes of the class really tough.  Plus, the instructor wasn’t wearing a microphone, so I had to stare at her intently to know when we were changing moves.

Right around the halfway mark of the class I stopped focusing so much on myself and started looking around the room.  The class was full of women of all shapes, sizes and ages who all seemed pretty new to Zumba (translation: equally uncoordinated), and many of them were just laughing hysterically while they shimmied around.  That’s when I realized I had a decision to make: I could either stay in my stressed-out state of mind, admonishing myself every time I missed a step, or I could just enjoy myself and have some fun while dancing around with some cool ladies for an hour.  Unsurprisingly, I chose the latter option 🙂

There was one woman in particular that stood out to me in the class.  She was tall, beautiful and incredibly thin, and picked the front row center spot in class, something I would never do.  For the first half of the class I assumed she was a Zumba veteran because of how well she moved, but then I started to realize she was as clueless as I was!  Her confidence, fearlessness and fun spirit were contagious, and by the end of the class we were high-fiving each other after finishing each song.  Who cares if her moves weren’t perfectly coordinated with the instructor?  Not me, and certainly not her.

All in all, I think I’d probably go back to Zumba again — I think even my uncoordinated behind could pick up the moves after a few classes.  Plus, I never shimmy the girls around when I’m on the boring treadmill!

Part 2: Girls night out!

After my workout I hopped on the downtown bus to meet my girlfriends for dinner.  A few college friends (both of whom I’ve known since high school, weirdly enough!) and I started a tradition about three years ago to have a monthly dinner out to chat, catch up on each other’s lives and laugh up a storm 🙂  It is one of the best parts of every month!

So, we met at the aforementioned Belgian restaurant for dinner around 8:30 and stayed until after 11, chatting about boys, relationships, famous Belgians (including Jean-Claude Van Damme, the “muscles from Brussels”), wedding planning, work, the blog, and more!  Last night we were 4 instead of 3 — T’s roommate through all four years of college joined us too — and it definitely was the more, the merrier!  Matt joined us once for dinner when we were at a restaurant in our neighborhood, but it wasn’t as fun; it is very hard to talk about someone when they are sitting right there! 😉

Having girlfriends to talk to/vent to is good for the soul.  As someone who grew up with lots more male friends than female friends (I was SUCH a tomboy growing up), I always felt like I was missing something by not having a group of girlfriends.  Now that we’re all in the crazy minefield of life known as the mid-twenties — jobs!  grad school!  relationships!  weddings!  babies! — it helps to know we’re not alone in the craziness.  Love you girls!

Part 3: “The girls”

When I was thinking about a girls’ night out post, I realized I haven’t talked that much about my job.  I work at a major cancer hospital in the breast cancer research service.  I spend most of my day abstracting (pulling out valuable data points) patient charts and entering data, and I find it really interesting.

I realized I would be a bad healthy lifestyle blogger, bad public health school graduate and bad cancer hospital employee if I didn’t talk a little bit about breast health and cancer prevention!  I’m sure I’ll come back to this topic plenty of times in the future, but I wanted to mention a few important things about breast health in your twenties and thirties:

  • Make sure to get a clinical breast exam (by your OB/GYN or primary care doctor) annually, and be sure to point out any areas of concern or strange symptoms you’ve noticed.
  • Also, make sure to get an annual pap smear; ovarian cancer tends to be asymptomatic (meaning, you don’t know you have it) until it becomes very advanced and much less treatable.  Primary prevention — engaging in healthy behaviors and health screenings to reduce the risk of disease — is key!
  • There’s been lots of talk in the news about the benefits (or lack thereof) of breast self-exams, especially for young women.  The most important thing I can recommend is to examine your breasts multiple times throughout the month, to feel what is normal for you at different points in your cycle.  Young women have really dense breasts that can feel very lumpy sometimes, but knowing what is normal for you (painful, swollen breasts right before menstruation, for example) will help you recognize what isn’t normal and may require medical attention.
  • If you have a history of breast and/or ovarian cancer in your family, make sure your doctors are aware of it, and talk to them about genetic screening and primary prevention.  It is recommended that women with a strong family history start annual screening mammograms and ultrasounds at age 25; in contrast, women without a family history start annual mammograms at 40.
  • Eating right, getting regular exercise and staying at a healthy weight reduces the risk for developing all cancers, especially breast.  The earlier you adopt a healthy lifestyle, the better!

Alright, I think that’s all from me for now!  If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to comment below or e-mail me at marathonkara@gmail.com — back later with today’s recap! 🙂

Today’s eats and challenge!

Before I start on today’s eats, here’s a quick glimpse into my life:


This is where I work!  Matt and my dad were both curious about my new two-monitor setup (the black monitor was installed yesterday), so I thought I’d share what my cube looks like.  The most important things on my desk are definitely the Nalgene, my iPod Touch, my camera case and the pic of my husband and I 🙂  Now, onto the eats!

Breakfast was my go-to favorite: oatmeal with brown sugar and a venti skinny vanilla latte from Starbucks.  Here’s what it looked like when I had it for breakfast last week:


Lunch was sort of a hodgepodge: I had half a turkey, cheddar and tomato sandwich on pretzel bread (MMM!), an unpictured banana and some lemon green beans and potatoes from the hospital cafeteria.


(I ate the other half for lunch yesterday, but took the wilty lettuce off today)

IMG_0799I ate all of the green beans and half of the potatoes.

When I got home I had a few chocolate chip cookies for snackies:

coookies(not these exact ones — and not that many! — but close)

I also had a Fruit2Day mango peach juice, but I didn’t take a pic.  Thanks, Google image search! 🙂


Dinner was take-out from a local Italian place — I ordered pasta with chicken, mushrooms and spinach in a garlic and oil sauce:

IMG_0800I had about a bowl and a half of this.  Pretty tasty, but the pasta was a little overcooked and smooshy.  Saved the rest for lunch/dinner tomorrow or this weekend.

Man, we really need to stop ordering out so often!  It is way too pricey and it makes calorie/point counting much more difficult.

Unpictured dessert” was a Clif bar and a couple more cooooookies.  Too much snacking today, Kara!  And not enough exercise!  At least it was better than yesterday…

So, I’m ashamed to say that I’ve avoided the gym every day this week.  I’ve been sort of feeling run-down lately (it feels like SAD, but I’m not really sure), so all I’ve wanted to do is curl up in a ball on the couch and eat.  To remedy that, I’m going to start working out in the mornings.  For one, I need to get in the habit of waking up early; I pretty much run out the door at the last possible second every morning, and that’s kind of stupid.  Oh, the woes of a 5-block commute! 😉

The other advantage to working out in the morning is that I can get exercising out of the way for the day (for the most part), instead of waiting until after work, when life is more likely to get in the way.  Plus, working out in the morning sets a positive, healthy tone for the entire day, something I’ve been severely lacking of late.

I also decided to take part in Angela from Oh She Glows’ Whittle My Middle 30 Day Challenge!  My abs seriously need work, and I tend to do well when taking part in a challenge.  I’m going to take a “before” photo and measurements and do my first workout tomorrow morning — wish me luck!  😀

Have a great night!


So, I’m totally a statistics nerd girl.  I spent the past three years at my old job crunching numbers all day.  While I like to think of myself as a creative, right-brained person, my mind really loves to process numbers and data and stuff.

Either fortunately or unfortunately, there are tons of numbers associated with weight loss.  Counting calories/points/carbs, taking measurements, weekly weigh-ins…the list goes on and on.  When I was losing the bulk of my weight a few years ago and started exercising more regularly, I asked for a heart rate monitor for Christmas to figure out exactly how many calories I was burning during each workout.

While I loved the instantaneous feedback the HRM offered, I increasingly found myself exercising to the numbers (kind of like teaching to the test, if you know what I mean) and would stop when I hit X number of calories burned, not when I was tired or actually ready to go home.  Sometimes, it worked to my advantage; if I was tired but only at 350 calories burned for my workout I’d stay on the elliptical until I hit the magical 400, but most of the time it was a counterproductive strategy.

When I started my new job I joined a new gym (24-Hour Fitness) and decided to get myself a BodyBugg.  For those not familiar, the BodyBugg is a sort of heart rate monitor — famously worn by contestants on The Biggest Loser — that tracks all of the calories you burn throughout the day.  I thought it would work better for me as a weight loss tool because you can not only track the calories burned during exercise, but also those extra calories torched by taking the stairs or running around the office during the day.  Then, I had a bit of an epiphany.

I posted this article once before this week, and I wanted to reference it again, since it really spoke to me.  In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter exactly how many calories I burned during my workout, just that I worked out at all.  It matters that I take the stairs instead of the elevator because it’s a good healthy behavior, but it doesn’t matter how many extra calories the stairs “earn” me for the day, week, month or year.  It’s all about the big picture and general trends, not the minutiae.

Eventually I hope to embrace the same attitude with calorie/WW point counting, but I’m not self-aware enough right now to stop eating when I’m satisfied; whenever I stop tracking every bite, I invariably put on weight.  I’m working on it though!

Numbers do have their place when it comes to weight loss and developing a healthier lifestyle, but they are not the only thing you should worry about.  Focus on your energy level, how the food you eat makes you feel, and how your clothes fit, and worry less about the number on the scale or the calorie count on the treadmill.  It’ll help, I promise 🙂