Saturday, March 22, 2014

Birth Dates - 6 Weeks Late

For the past several years, I’ve set up a birthday dinner for myself where I invite many of my favorite people so we can catch up. Nothing makes me feel more loved than to know that people went out of their way to come to a birthday celebration for me. And to see all these awesome people gathered around just for me is so fun. I love my people. 

But this year, I just didn't really want to deal with it or set anything up. I also maybe didn't want to celebrate going into my late 20s. Not super excited about it.

Even though I didn't do one big dinner, I got the chance to celebrate my birthday with several different people in different environments, one-on-one.

On my birth day, I got flowers delivered to me just before leaving work. They were from Patrick. He came over to my apartment while I was working out in the complex gym. He had presents and everything set up for me on the table. He got me a German chocolate cake. He had a present wrapped in a really cute bag. And he got me a darling card. My present was a donut pan which I’ve wanted for quite some time. I was super excited about it! I hope to make some clean (and not so clean) treats with this new pan. We went to dinner at Cheesecake Factory where I had the pretzel crusted chicken and fried avocado, mushroom, and zucchini. It was delicious. Then we went and saw the Lego Movie, which I loved. We both laughed a lot. And also, everything is awesome!

On Saturday the 8th, Rachel came and picked me up around 5:45. We ate dinner at Macaroni Grill, and then she gave me my card which had two tickets to the symphony in it. The symphony was for a Mozart mass, and a Russian war piece by Shostakovich. It was my first time at a live, professional symphony. It was amazing and emotional at the start. Those people are so talented. I was in kind of a daze about 3/4 of the way through, and found it really hard to keep my eyes open. I’m not sure what overcame me, but it was hard to stay awake. It wasn't because I was bored or not enjoying myself. The music just put me into a funky state, akin to receiving anesthesia before surgery. Anyway, I will always be amazed by composers and their abilities to put different instruments together to make such amazing music.

On Tuesday the 11th, Patrick and I headed to my grandma’s house so we could have dinner with my mom. We went to Chili’s, where I ate way, way too much food. I was ready to vomit—not exaggerating. We came back home, and I opened presents. My mom got me a couple of DVDs (Little Mermaid and Despicable Me 2). She got me a mini muffin pan (which I have been wanting for a long time!). She also got me a meat tenderizer, and a mug with mocha cappuccino mix in it. My grandma got me a pressure cooker! She made me a German chocolate cake. My brother, uncle Bry, mom, grandma, and Patrick sang happy birthday to me. But I had none of that cake until Thursday because of the other one Patrick got me.

On Saturday the 15th, Kristen and I went out to Texas Roadhouse. I had my fair share of delicious rolls and other yummy food. I tried a burger for the first time there. It was pretty darn good, and really messy.

I got a Cold Stone gift card from Chad, my home teacher. I love me some ice cream.

I got a check and a card from my grandpa Mike.

I got money and a card from my grandpa Gabe.

I got a Kohl’s gift card and card from my old nanny Carmen.

I got a card in the mail from my friend Brittany.

I got lots of Facebook comments and lots of text messages and a couple of phone calls.

Also a student left a package of Milano cookies on my desk. I've been eating one of those at a time and still have some left, almost six weeks later. 

So even though I didn't have my typical celebration and wasn't really excited for my birthday, I'd say I got pretty spoiled and made quite the week out of it! Thanks to everyone who made it so great. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Workout Wednesdays: Relax

Today's post is coming to you from my couch. That's right. My couch--where I opted to plant my butt instead of exercising today.

For reasons you probably would prefer not to hear, I am not working out today. It sufficeth me to say that I do not feel well, and my body needs a break. 

So here are my thoughts on commitments and why I allow myself to take breaks. 

I have figured out the way my brain works with requirements. Let me give you some examples: 

- I love reading, unless I have to. 
- I love eating healthy, unless I have to.
- I love exercising, unless I have to.

I learned that if I decide to cut things out, or put rules on myself, I instantly want to rebel. A teacher at my school last year decided to issue monthly health goals and challenges to the faculty. You'd be entered in drawings if you participated, and receive special prizes if you were a top contender. I won several drawings and did really well with his challenges. But one of the challenges was to cut out junk food. 

Now, everybody knows I have a sweet tooth. But usually I'm good with two Oreos or a piece of cake or a shake or something at the end of the day (worsttimetoeatsweetsIknowdon'tjudgeme). However, I am not the kind of person who eats an entire package of Oreos, or a whole pan of brownies, or a whole pint of ice cream. I don't do it--just never have. So I've never really thought I had a major problem with excess eating. 

Until that month. Once the challenge to "cut out junk food" was issued, guess what I wanted to binge on? That's right. I probably ate more junk food in the first two weeks of that challenge than I had eaten in the whole month before. It was so discouraging. I quit that challenge. I realized it was doing more harm than good for me to put those limitations on myself. 

You could call me out on my self-control, and tell me to just commit to eating better. But I know how my brain works. Once I "decide" or tell myself that I can't have something, I want it.

It is for this reason I haven't told myself I can't drink soda. I only drink one or two sodas per week, if that. Sometimes I'll go a couple of weeks without one. I've had the same two 12-packs of soda in my pantry for a couple of months. I don't think anything of it. Why? Because I don't put a limit on myself. I know that if I say, "I'm quitting soda," that's all I will want to drink!

When I started exercising, I didn't choose a minimum number of days per week because that made it something that I "had" to do, so that if I didn't meet my minimum, I would feel guilty. I didn't say, "I'm going to start exercising every day!"

I'm at a point where I have exercised so consistently for so long, that I do not feel bad taking a day off. I don't say, "Oh no, I've only exercised ___ days this week. That's not enough!" I say, "Well, I exercised yesterday, and I'm going to exercise tomorrow, and will probably go to Zumba this weekend. I also walked a lot at work today. I think I'm OK to skip a day."

This kind of flexibility keeps me sane. If something comes up that I didn't expect, or if I am having a day where I am exhausted or don't feel well, or a friend I haven't seen in a while wants to go to dinner at the last minute, I have that wiggle room to take a day off. 

Even with that flexibility and day off mentality, I still exercise 4-5 days per week. Because I love to do it. Because I get to do it. Because I can do it. Because I haven't told myself I have to do it. 

I realized I have to put a positive spin on things. Instead of saying, "I have to work out five days per week," say, "I want to exercise regularly for optimal health." Instead of, "I am going to quit eating sweets," say, "I am going to eat healthier foods more often." Instead of, "I'm going to stop watching so much TV," tell yourself, "I want to read more often in the evenings." Phrasing things in a limiting or negative way really messes with my head. 

My point? Figure out what your brain needs. Decide how you get motivated and stay committed. Learn what turns you off to things. And do the opposite of that when it comes to exercise and other healthy habits. 

Rest on, friends. Rest on.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cracking, Crooked Bones

I've seen a chiropractor three times in the past three weeks. I had x-rays done on Thursday. He asked me to come back today (Tuesday) to talk about them and the direction we are going to go.

Don't worry though, guys, it's good news! /sarcasm

I only have an excessive lower spinal curve, causing my neck to lose its own curve.

Here's how a neck should look...

But mine looks more like the middle one here...

And the loss of the curve in my neck is causing tendons in my neck to calcify. (This is why my neck always hurts.)

And the straightness in my neck means it's not moving optimally, causing the beginning signs of arthritis in several of my vertebrae.

And my neck's tendency to go straight could cause me to have a hunch neck if I don't address it.

My pelvic bone is also crooked (both front to back and up and down), which has caused my spine to go crooked to make the rest of my body feel straight.

And my crooked spine has caused the tendons in my back to stiffen up almost constantly to try to straighten out my spine. (This is why my mid-back always hurts).

All of this stuff I never knew! No big deal, right? *sigh*

Thanks to modern medicine, there are some things that can hep.

I have to do this....

And I have to bring one knee toward the opposite shoulder while lying down. These two things I should do for several minutes, twice daily if possible.

I have to strengthen my back muscles by outstretching my arms and pulling my shoulder blades back. I must do 3 rounds of 10 reps.

I also have to be careful of how I'm sitting, making sure to keep my shoulders back and belly forward with my feet flat on the ground. Ergonomics for the win!

Plus, I get to roll up a towel under my neck, making it high enough that my neck is curved back, but the back of my head still touches the ground. I get to stay in this awesome position for 15 minutes daily.

I also need to get regular adjustments, obviously.

The doc also wants me to foam roll because I have some major issues in my rear end and IT band. *cry*

So there's that. I guess it's good that I went in to begin with. For the record, since going, my pain level and pain consistency have decreased considerably, in several areas of my body. I will vouch for chiropractic care.

And by golly, I'll stretch all freaking day if it'll keep me from looking like a hunchback.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Oh, the Obstacles

Let's talk about "those days."

You know what days I'm talking about. Maybe it was a day when you woke up late, and ran behind on everything else. Maybe it was a day where you dropped something not two but three times in a row. Maybe a bird aimed for your car post-meal. Maybe you slept with your neck turned too far and pinched a nerve, putting you in lots of pain for the whole day.

Or if you're lucky, it could be several of those things.

Let's review the workout edition of "one of those days."

Perhaps you brought your gym bag, but left your headphones (or insert any number of items, such as a towel, hair tie, or water bottle) at home. Maybe the equipment you wanted to use is taken. Or maybe the apartment gym with only one treadmill has been taken by an infrequent exerciser when you are usually there at that time. Heaven forbid your phone or iPod dies, leaving you without any music--or Pandora goes crazy. Maybe the rain or snow has taken your outdoor run away from you. You could just have one of those days where you aren't feeling it. Everyone might feel like texting you during your workout. The emergency switch could shut off the treadmill when you accidentally hit it. Or you could be 30 minutes late for your workout when you have plans immediately afterward.

For reals, guys, these days exist (I know, I pulled all of those from actual experience). They are days where it seems like everything is getting in the way of a successful workout. I had one of those days on Monday. I bit the side of my tongue at lunch, inducing a day-long headache. My neck had a pinched nerve in it, making stretches and a variety of other moves really painful (we're talking like I-can't-shave-my-armpits-or-switch-lanes painful). It had taken me a long time to mentally gear up for my workout, convincing myself I could even do it. I walked out the door and realized I forgot the key to the apartment gym. After pumping myself up for this challenging workout, I arrived only to find that the single treadmill in the gym was taken.

To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

What do I do when the very thing I need to relieve my frustration is what is causing my frustration? Cry?

No. OK maybe a little. But then I put on my big girl panties and tell myself that any workout is better than none. "Workout in your damn living room, Janae!"

So I put on my Jillian DVD and did level 2. I winced my way through neck pain and had a good, short sweat. I finished feeling not 100% better, but certainly better than before.

Have you ever had those Sundays where you just didn't feel like going to church? You couldn't really articulate why? You just didn't feel like it? But then you forced yourself to go and realized that you actually really needed it? You (almost) never leave church feeling like, "Yeah I wish I hadn't done that."

Pardon my blasphemy, but I'm going to say that exercise is the same as this. The days where everything seems to be standing in the way of your workout are the days you absolutely have to get it done. For your sanity's sake. And you'll (almost) never get done with a workout and say, "I wish I hadn't done that."

Just remember, "If you had started exercising when you first thought of it, you'd be done by now."

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Workout Wednesday: Tabata Intervals

It's late. And I want to go to bed. But I also really want to write this blog. So it'll be a quick one, I hope.

If you haven't already been introduced, I wanted you to meet Tabata. I met Tabata about two summers ago. I've seen it since on exercise blogs (including the one I use daily), and in my Fitness magazine.

Tabata is a great short workout, or a great addition to any existing workout you might do.

It's simple, really.

It's 4 minutes of exercises, with patterns of 20 seconds of work, and 10 seconds of rest.

Here's a video to explain it. Watching this was the first time I learned about it.

My favorite thing about these intervals is that you can switch the 20 seconds of work to any form of cardio. Jumping jacks, plank jacks, burpees, mountain climbers, high knees, butt kickers, skaters, jump rope, and the list goes on.

Today I did my three sets of exercises as prescribed at But as I mentioned a few weeks ago, I tend to add cardio/running to these workouts if I need to. So before each set, I did a 4 minute Tabata round.

My workout looked like this:

20 sec jacks
10 sec rest
20 sec jacks
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)
20 sec high knees
10 sec rest
20 sec high knees
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)

21 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 15 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 9 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups

20 sec jump rope
10 sec rest
20 sec jump rope
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)
20 sec butt kickers
10 sec rest
20 sec butt kickers
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)

21 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 15 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 9 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups

20 sec mountain climbers
10 sec rest
20 sec mountain climbers
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)
20 sec jumping oblique twists
10 sec rest
20 sec jumping oblique twists
10 sec rest
all x 2 (2 minutes)

21 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 15 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups, 9 thrusters and butterfly sit-ups

When all was said and done, I had 12 minutes of cardio, and 11:12 minutes of strength. So I finished up with 6 minutes on the stairmaster. It was a good workout. Most workouts are good, after all.

Here's a link to an arm workout I use as a backup from time to time. It uses Tabata on some days. (It refers to this as the fat blaster workout.)

Here's another workout from my notebook that uses Tabata between sets. (It refers to them as Cardio bursts.)

So there's Tabata. Great on its own if you're pressed for time, or great to add to any workout. Happy sweating!