Monday, August 30, 2010

August Goals Wrap Up and Setting Goals for September

Well, August is almost at a close and that means it is time to see how those monthly goals went....
  • Run a 5K race! I put a check-mark next to this goal earlier this month when I ran the Track Shack's Celebration of Running (here is the recap).  Overall it was a good race.  I do live in Florida though and it was extremely hot and humid, which made the run tough, so I took a few walk breaks.  I am still glad that I did it and it is the fastest I have ever completed a 5K race.  (Here is my journey to running a 5K.)  I am currently trying to decide what my next race will be!
  • Get organized and get a job. Well this goal is almost complete.  I have slowly been organizing my stuff, but I still have a little bit more to do, so it is on it's way to being completed.  I did however, get a job, finally!!!!!  It has been tough trying to find one since graduation, but at the beginning of August things started looking up.  I am now a substitute teacher for a school district.  School just started last week, so the application process was sped up so that I could be in the classroom then.  One of the local schools was looking for a elementary music teacher for the next month or so, and after talking with some people at the school they asked me to come and teach.  So I met with the regular teacher and discussed lesson plans and am now teaching music at this elementary school!  This position only lasts for about a month, but the district always needs subs, so it should all work out.  The job is definitely a challenge; teaching is no easy task, it can be mentally and physically draining, but seeing how excited the students are about participating and learning in class is pretty rewarding.  It is going to be a great learning experience for me as well, so although it is tough, I know it is worth it.
Now that those are complete, it is time to set new goals for the month of September.  Here are my new goals:
  • Practice yoga at least twice a week.  I have been reading about the benefits of yoga recently and have actually tried it a few times.  We have on demand Exercise TV and they have a lot of great yoga classes available.  The few I have tried have been great and I would love to incorporate it more into my lifestyle.  I also think the yoga will be a good compliment to running and as a de-stressor after those tiring school days.
  • Get in bed by 10:30 PM on weeknights.  This is something I am really going to have to work on this month.  I am a bit of a night owl, but with my new work schedule that doesn't really jive well.  I have to get up kind of early to get over to school in time, so getting in enough sleep is important.  I know I will be much happier if I am well rested. 
Join along and make some monthly goals yourself!  What are you going to try and improve this month?  Any new fitness goals?  Let me know!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Do You Get in 10,000 Steps A Day?

I recently tweeted about getting a free t-shirt and pedometer at my gym.  I go to the local YMCA, which has turned out to be a pretty fabulous gym.  It has really nice equipment, a good pool, and offers group fitness classes as well.  The Y also offers several different programs throughout the year for members and to attract new members each year.  The new program they have started recently is called the Get Moving Challenge for people to get in 10,000 steps a day.  So when you sign up to participate you get a free t-shirt and a pedometer to track your steps each day.
This program reminded me of the benefits getting in 10,000 steps a day is.  The sign-up also came with a bunch of information that I thought I would share with you all.  If you are just starting your new healthy lifestyle or want to increase your physical activity getting a pedometer and tracking your steps is an easy and great way to do so.  

Why 10,000 steps?  Well 10,000 steps equals about 5 miles.  We all know that getting in exercise is important and the notion of tracking your steps is one way to gradually increase your activity.  A study in 2005 found that more steps are achieved if a goal of 10,000 is recommended compared to the recommendation of 30 minutes of activity. (source

So what do you do?  Well if your local YMCA is offering this Get Moving program as well I would check it out.  If you are not member by signing up for the program you get a free two-week membership to the Y, along with the pedometer and t-shirt.  If there is not a Y near you or if you already have a gym membership, you can buy a pedometer from any athletic store and even superstores like Target or Wal-Mart.  They usually cost less than $30, it just depends on how fancy you want the pedometer to be.
You simply attach the pedometer to your waistband each morning and track how many steps  you take each day during your regular routine.  The first week of tracking should just be your normal routine.  At the end of each day write down the number of steps shown on your pedometer.  These numbers will be your starting point and what you will be looking to increase as you continue.  Most people log around 900-4,000 steps a day during there regular living.  
At the end of the first week you can start to set some goals for how many steps you want to log each day.  A couple ideas are to take the day with the highest amount of steps and get in that many everyday or increase each day's steps by 500-1,000 steps each week until you reach a desired goal.  You could also plan to set a goal for the month to be walking a certain amount of steps each day (i.e. 5,000 steps/day by the end of September and then 7,000 by the end of October) whatever numbers work best for you.  The plan is different for each person so choose goals that will be challenging, but attainable for you.  Each week you should be adding more and more walking into your schedule so that you eventually reach 10,000 steps per day.  

If walking for exercise is not for you, you can convert the exercise you do do into steps for the 10,000 step challenge. 
Here is little conversion chart: (source- YMCA informational packet)
Steps Per Minute
Aerobic Dancing
Aerobic Step
Bicycling (cardio cycling)
Bicycling (moderate)
Circuit Training
Jogging in water
Jumping Rope
Running (10mph or 6min/mile)
Stair Climber
Weight Lifting

The benefits of exercise and physical activity (if you didn't already know or just want a refresher) source
-Boosts energy level and improves mood
-Assists in weight management
-Reduces risk of chronic diseases
-Increases muscle and bone mass
-Reduces stress and tension
-Improves sleep
-Increases circulation
-Improves balance and flexibility
All of those benefits sound pretty good to me, so why not get moving!  I know that adding exercise into my routine makes me feel so much better.

How many steps equal an active lifestyle?  As your daily number of steps increases so does your fitness and health.  Here is a table to inform and motivate you:(source- YMCA informational packet)
Steps Per Dy
Activity Level
Less than 5,000
Slightly Active
Moderately Active
12,500 or more
Very Active

The point of this whole program is to get you moving, by adding physical activity to your daily life.  I think it is great way to gradually increase your activity level and improve your health in general.  If you already exercise regularly you can still benefit from this challenge as well.  I am a regular exerciser, but I am taking this challenge to see if I can increase the number of steps I take on rest days and just to get an idea of how many steps I take during a regular day.  I think it will be interesting and I look forward to increasing my activity a bit more.  

Here are a few website resources to learn more about walking 10,00 steps a day:
10,000 Steps Library
Shape Up America
10,000 Steps a Day to Your Optimal Weight (book)

Are you up to the 10,000 Steps a Day challenge?  What are some of your fitness and exercise goals?  Do you use a pedometer to track your steps?  Do you get in 10,000 steps a day?  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Race Recap: Celebration of Running 5K!

Yesterday morning I actually ran a 5K race! Track Shack, the local running store, organizes most of the running events around the Orlando area, and one of the first races this season was the Celebration of Running 5K.  I felt like this would be a good first running race for me to do.  (These posts talk about how I got into running: July Goals and Journey.)
I woke up early in the morning, around six, and got dressed in my race day outfit.  I know they say not to wear new clothes for a race because who knows how it will feel, but I bought some new shorts and that running shirt the other day and felt like they would be good for the race.  I really don’t recommend doing that it could be uncomfortable otherwise.  Luckily my outfit wasn’t a problem during the race; in fact is was perfect!  After getting dressed I went downstairs and enjoyed a mixed bowl of Kashi Cinnamon Harvest and Vanilla cereal and a glass of water.  My mom and I took a few pictures and then were on our way to the race.  

I forgot my sunglasses initially and had to run back in to get them.  Then as we were halfway there I realized I forgot the headphones for my iPod.  They were with my iPod touch at home.  I was totally bummed.  I have never run without my music.  The beats help me power through my workout so I was nervous about having to run without it.  My mom gave me some words of encouragement and said I could do it and to just enjoy the things going on during the run.  I sipped on some more water in the car and ate a strawberry fruit strip as we pulled in the parking garage.  After we parked we walked down to the starting line.  My mom was the designated picture taker and supporter for this race; I was glad she could come.  I stepped into the 10+ minute per mile section and did a few leg and arm stretches to warm up.  The race started at 7:30am and before I knew it we were off!

Serious Stretching Pre-Race
I wanted to make sure I started slow, so I didn’t burn out too quickly.  I found a good pace and ran the whole first mile.  Now I said I wanted to run the whole thing, but it didn’t end up working out exactly as I planned.  During mile two I took a few short walk breaks.  I trained on the treadmill about twice a week and once a week outside, but it was so very hot and humid yesterday morning and it made the run difficult.  Also my sunglasses kept getting all foggy and I was sweating like crazy.  The race path actually had us run by the Track Shack and there was a DJ playing some upbeat music and it put a bit more pep in my step.  
Racing to the Finish
I kept saying to myself that I could do this, but the heat was getting to me.  As I passed the second water station going into mile three I decided that I had to do the best I could.  Unfortunately there were a few small uphill sections in the last mile and I ended up taking a few short walk breaks.  On one of my last walk breaks as I was wiping my sunglasses and sweaty brow, I noticed the finish line was coming up.  I started to run again, even over the slight uphill section.  It got closer and closer and as I turned the final bend I picked up my speed and ran fast through the finish line.  As I was running by I heard my mom cheering for me, which was a great encouragement to get me through the end.  Seriously people, the heat and humidity were CRAZY and I was a sweaty mess when I finished, but I did it!  My time was 39:35 which I am pretty happy about.   

I grabbed a bottle of water, some recovery juice, and sample smoothie from a few of the tents set up after the race.  The Florida Hospital also had a body fat measuring station and I decided why not get tested.  They pinch the back of your arm, your stomach, and inner thigh; it was pretty painless.  I wish I had known my body fat percentage before my lifestyle change, but I know that it is much better than it was.  It was getting hotter and hotter as we looked around the booths and we decided to head home.  I stretched a bit in the parking garage, because my legs really needed it.  On the way back we stopped by Einstein’s and I got a delicious blueberry bagel with some reduced fat honey almond cream cheese to dip it in.  I think it was the perfect post-race treat!  When we got home my leg muscles were a bit tight so I did some more stretches and made sure to drink lots of water after the hot race.  

So I didn’t run the whole thing, but I ran almost all of it and it was definitely the most I had ever run before (my usual runs are around 2.75 miles).  I would say my Couch to 5K program was a success though.  The run/walk method has helped me become a runner.  I was a little bummed I couldn’t run the whole race, but the mixture of heat and slight uphills were killer, and not having my music was a challenge.  This was really my first race that I have done by myself though, so I am proud!
Tired and Sweaty Post Race, But Happy
I learned a lot from this race experience.  I now know what areas I need to work on for the next race, because there will be another one. I am already trying to decide when the next 5K I sign up for will be!  I am still a novice runner, so I will continue to work on slowly building up my distance, working on my endurance, pushing through tough spots, and uphill work.  It feels great when you cross that finish line.  The work I put into learning to run was well worth it and I can’t wait to run again, especially when it gets a bit cooler.  I think I have come a long way in my journey so far and this race is definitely a highlight!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Journey to Running a 5K

If you don't know already I am doing a 5K this Saturday morning.  I am a little nervous.  This race is important to me because it will be the first time I run a whole 5K.  Signing up for the race was a bit nerve racking, but I have committed to doing it, and that is what I plan to do.  I have walked two other 5Ks before, a Turkey Trot in 2008 and the Reindeer Run in December 2009, so I kind of know how the whole thing is organized.

My brother, sister, and me Thanksgiving Day 2008
The Turkey Trot was a family activity we did one Thanksgiving and it was fun.  Not everyone was super enthused about doing it, but we all had a good time and the registration fee went to help feed those in need.  This race was before I made my real healthy living change, so I was not really prepared to do it.  I had been having several ankle issues.  My ankles must have been very weak or something because I kept rolling my left ankle doing everyday things (not good), it even happened the morning of this race, but luckily it was nothing serious.  I ended up walking the whole thing with my mom and finished in about 57 minutes.  It was kind of tough, but a great way to start Thanksgiving Day.  When I got back to school in January I decided to make a change in how I was living my life and joined Weight Watchers, thus beginning my new healthy living lifestyle.  
The Reindeer Run last December was kind of a last minute decision.  I had been losing weight for almost a year then and had lost around 45 pounds.  I had also been walking pretty consistently and attending a body tone exercise class twice a week.  I was looking for 5K to do and when I found this one online I asked my mom if she would walk it with me.  I was really excited about this race.  We walked most of the race, but had a few minutes of running mixed in and of course a final run through the finish line.  We finished it in about 43 minutes.  It was a way better race than the Turkey Trot the year before.  My ankle issues seemed to have disappeared over the year (I contribute it to the walking and body tone classes) and my general fitness and health was much improved.  I remember looking at the pictures we took after the race and for the first time noticing that I looked different. 

"That Picture"
My mom and me before the Reindeer Run 2009
My friends and family had noticed my weight loss along the way and that was encouraging, but I don't think I could really see the change in myself until I saw that picture.  I had noticed the number on the scale going down, but it was always in the back of my mind of how much more I needed to lose.  I did recognize that I could wear different clothes and that I was getting stronger (thanks to that wonderful group exercise class), but looking at that picture really hit home for me.  I thought I looked happier, more comfortable, healthier.  It is interesting to see yourself in a picture, because you have this idea of what you look like in your head, but getting an outside view was eye-opening in my case.  All of that is to say that it was a good race and a good day.  It was encouraging and motivating to see that my hard work and dedication was paying off.  It was the longest I had ever committed to a "diet" which it wasn't really because it was how I planned to live my life.  That is the mindset I had when I decided to join WW.   It is not a diet, because those are temporary, it is a lifestyle change and I am worth making a change for.  I feel like after the race was when I realized I was actually doing this and I could keep doing it forever.  It really was a great feeling.

This of course leads up to the Celebration of Running this Saturday.  Last night we stopped by Track Shack to pick up my race packet.  It came with a d-tag, race shirt, chapstick, energy bar, and crackers.  Track Shack was also having a sale where everything in the store is 20% off.  I actually found an awesome running shirt that was half-off and I bought a running hat, because I needed one that would breathe more.  I can't believe the race is in two days.  I have been learning to run over the past two months and it is all culminating in this race.  My goal is to run the whole thing.  Reading around other blogs and websites they tell me that if I can run 28-30 minutes than I can do a 5K; the adrenaline from the race experience will power me through the race, and I am hoping that is true.  I am nervous about it because I really want to run the whole thing.  I need to think that I can though because I have learned through my training experience that running is not just physical, but mental as well, so I am trying to stay positive. (My new quote for the week is what I am trying to focus on; I've got the nerve to run this race!)  I am not racing for a particular time, just the accomplishment and joy of crossing the finish line knowing that I ran the whole way.  I am excited by the prospect!  Wish me luck! I will post a race recap this weekend and let you know how it went!
Do you have any tips or stories about running your first 5K? 

Monday, August 2, 2010

July Goals Wrap-Up & Setting Goals for August

OK the month is over and that means it is time to see how the monthly goals went.  This month really helped me get past my plateau and I am happy to say that I am running farther and longer than I ever thought I could.
  • Get in more fruits and vegetables.  This was kind of hard.  I don't think I hit my daily count of fruits and veggies everyday, but I certainly got in more than I usually do.  There was lots of fresh cut pineapple and watermelon in the fridge, but I went through it pretty fast and did not go back out to the store to get more (yeah not good).  We also had lots of cherries in the house which were good with my breakfast in the morning.  I enjoyed some berries mixed with greek yogurt several times as well.  I was pretty consistent with the spinach and tomatoes in my sandwiches, I eat a sandwich for lunch about five days a week.  (maybe I should change it up?)  I also made sure that there was always a veggie with dinner.  I enjoyed lots of broccoli, zucchini, and brussel sprouts (my new favorite veggie).  Not everyday was perfect, but I got more in than I did before starting this challenge so there was some improvement and it is something I will continue to work on.
  • Run for 20-30 minutes straight!  Wow I really cannot believe I did this in a months time!  This was definitely a challenge.  I am happy to say that I can now run for 25 minutes straight!  I wanted to make sure I had a good training program I could build up to running that long, so I checked out a few different programs and decided on a Couch to 5K program.  The app is great because it goes right on my iPod touch and tells me when to run and walk through the headphones.  The plan has you run three nonconsecutive days a week for about nine weeks.  It is designed so you can run 30 minutes straight by the time you finish.  This is done by using a walk/run method in which you walk one minute, run one minute for 20 minutes.  Each week the times for running increase and the walking decreases.  Since at the beginning of the month I was able to run between 3-5 minutes I began the program at week 4 and built from there.  There were some good runs and some not so good runs, but I think that is how it goes.  Overall it feels great to be able to run that long.
Well now that those goals have been completed it is time to set some new ones for the month of August.
  • Run a 5K race!  Now that I can run 25 minutes, and am adding more time every week, I think it is time a run a 5K.  This is something I have wanted to be able to do for such a long time and the urge has become stronger as I have gotten into running.  Luckily running season is getting started soon and there are always lots of races here in Orlando.  I have signed up to run the Track Shack's Celebration of Running 5K on August 14.  I am kind of nervous, but really excited by the prospect of running the whole thing.
  • Get organized and get a job.  I moved back home after graduation to get a job and save some money.  Since I have been home, about three months now, I have not really gotten all of my things organized.  I still have some boxes lying around and don't have a desk anymore, so I feel a bit out of whack not being organized.  I think if I find a kind of system it will make things much easier.  My plan is to put some stuff away and find a place for things.  Also, I seriously need a steady job.  I have been picking up a few shifts and babysitting several times, but I would really like to have something on a regular basis.  So I am on the hunt for a job!  I think getting organized will help me with this goals too. 
This month looks like it will be full of running, filling out applications, and organizing, things that will be good for me.  The 5K and job search is a bit nerve racking, but I think if I put my mind to it I can do it!  Wish me luck!

Commit to trying something new or working on something for the month and see how it goes! What are you thinking about trying to achieve this month?