Monday, May 25, 2009

Another day year older

My cake doesn’t look anything like the photo, but since cupcakes are everywhere this year, I thought I’d try to be trendy.

Trendy is not my style.

Okay, so yes, it’s my birthday, the big Five-Eight. What a boring age to be. There’s nothing exciting about 58 at all. Age is not a factor when I plan my day or create a to-do list. I can’t wait until I’m old enough to get away with being eccentric.

Since today also is a national holiday here in the United States, I nixed the idea of going out for dinner. Who wants to eat in a restaurant on a big picnic day? We’re having an old-fashioned American meal today: grilled ribeye steak, tossed salad and a baked potato (mine will probably be a sweet potato, my husband’s is a russet). For dessert? I thought about chocolate, of course, but ended up making a carrot cake. It’s not frosted yet but I’m using real cream cheese. None of that neufchatel crap on my birthday.

Next time I get married (kidding, honey!) I’m going to find someone who makes a Big Deal out of birthdays. I should have known, when my husband turned 50 and didn’t want a party, that maybe I’d be spending the rest of my life wishing for a bit more celebration on my big day. I have always respected his wishes not to make a fuss; I kind of wish he would respect mine and make a big one!

But really, I have very little to complain about. He always gives me two cards, they always are wonderfully thoughtful (one of this year’s has an illustration of the husband painting a big heart on the wall – so appropriate considering all the redecorating we’ve been doing lately) and he always gives me whatever gift I want most. This year it’s an iPhone, but I’m waiting to see what the new model is like. It’s supposed to be introduced sometime in July.

Tomorrow I think I’ll take some of the suggestions in this article. I haven’t totally blown it, and my weight has remained the same (miraculously!), but it’ll feel good to get back on track.

Of course, it’ll feel good to have carrot cake for dessert today, too!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Friday Quote Day

“A [wo]man too busy
to take care of [her]his health
is like a mechanic too busy
to take care of his tools.”

~ Spanish proverb

That would be me.

My to-do list gets longer and longer, and even though the days are getting longer and longer, too, there’s just not enough energy to go around. When the weather is nice, as it has been the past few days, I’m finding that starting the day with a run means that’s all I do.

And I can’t neglect the to-do list in favor of running. I just can’t.

So I might be MIA for a while, while I (in preparation for the annual 4th of July reunion):
  • paint woodwork and doors
  • clean up the perennial beds
  • finish planting the vegetable garden
  • mow, mow, mow
  • clean the garage
  • get crap out of the guest room
  • etc., etc., etc.
I’m not especially happy about this, as I felt I was beginning to get back on track there for a couple of days, anyway. I’m learning, reluctantly, that getting older takes a toll, at least it does on me.

Stuck in the middle of holiday prep will be a short visit to my daughter and her family next week, and some health-care reform activities thrown in just to keep it interesting.

Not only do I need a run, I need a nap!

Hope y’all are managing your time better than I am.

Monday, May 18, 2009

The wheels of government …

turn slowly, apparently.

This post will be completely lacking in health or fitness content, mostly because being on the road and then being exhausted – emotionally and physically – has resulted in a lack of health or fitness content in my life over the past few days. This post also is kind of lengthy and might not interest you, particularly if you live someplace other than the United States and/or are happy with the state of your health care.

So, here’s how Washington, DC, works. You and thousands of others drive and drive and drive – slowly – from all directions into a tiny little section of real estate surrounded by several outerbelt highways. You get lost a couple of times and finally find your hotel. Which, as it turns out, isn’t in a particularly nice part of town, so you have a bag of microwave popcorn for dinner.

You’ve driven in DC before, so you are willing to find a parking garage and walk to Capitol Hill the following morning. That process actually went very well. The weather was great, the city was bustling, you could feel the energy of Important People going to Important Places to do Important Things.

My husband and I counted ourselves among them. We were on a mission: We were going to convince our Senators (Rockefeller and Byrd) and our Congressman (Rahall), all Democrats, that single-payer health care is the best way to reform our system. It works in every other industrialized nation in the world. Most Americans and most physicians favor this plan.

There were 10 of us altogether. Among our group were four doctors, a former mayor, a college student, a social worker, a retired economics professor and an Australian native who is now a U.S. citizen who will be returning to Australia to have a hip replacement done. And me.

We didn’t get to meet with the politicians themselves, but spent a good deal of time with representatives of each. Congressman Rahall’s representative wasn’t very knowledgeable about the issue; we felt we were educating her. She wanted to know what AARP thought of single-payer, and I thought several of us might fall off our chairs. AARP is profiting quite nicely, thank you, from the system the way it is. If you think they are an advocate for senior citizens, think again.

Senator Rockefeller’s aide was quite emphatic that what we want is not going to happen. It is politically impossible at this time. Period. End of story. She listened to all our stories, said she would read all our resources and repeated that single-payer isn’t an option in the current debate.

Senator Byrd’s aide said the same thing, but he was much nicer about it, and he also seemed very sympathetic to the cause. Senator Byrd doesn’t sit on any of the relevant committees, as Rockefeller does, so he can’t be of as much help anyway.

What we heard from both Senators – and this is where you come in – is that they are getting more phone calls and letters from people wanting less government interference in their lives. They didn’t specifically say that these constituents were against single-payer healthcare, so we took that to mean they don’t want anyone messing with the Second Amendment to the Constitution. But the bottom line is that these Senators really do seem to listen to what people are saying. Single-payer advocates apparently aren’t as loud as those who want to keep their guns. And we definitely aren’t as loud as health insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists.

If you care about the state of our nation’s health and economy, please contact your Congressional representatives and tell them what single-payer can do for America and Americans. Solving the health care problem will go a long way toward solving our economic woes. Go to PNHP for talking points. Common Dreams has an informative article written just last month about the obstacles we need to overcome. Spread the word in your blogs, in your workplaces, in your families, at your doctors’ offices. Here is a list of groups and organizations supporting HR676, which will lay the foundation for single-payer. (It’s also available as a .pdf.)

Although it has no scientific validity whatsoever, I’d love for you to answer this question at urtak, and to ask others to answer it as well.

This is not just a personal issue for me. I care about my country and the people who live in it. Millions of people are uninsured; millions more are underinsured. If you haven’t had an insurance company deny one of your claims, you will. Our systems is “working” right now by having an army of office workers in doctors’ offices fight with an army of office workers in insurance company offices. Thirty percent of our health-care dollars pay for this fight.

That money can be spent far more wisely.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end. I wish I could give you a prize! All I can give you is my heartfelt thanks for doing whatever you can do to help get this done. The political climate is oh-so-close. You could be the tipping point.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

This training stuff really works

Keep in mind that I'm training to Train. I'm not really Training for a race yet, because according to all the experts you have to be able to accomplish a little bit of sustained running (three miles seems to be the starting point) before you begin Really Training.

Until yesterday, I couldn't manage even one mile. Yesterday, my first mile was smooth as silk. And my total time came down, as well, averaging out to 12:36/mile for four miles.

The new Runner's World came yesterday and I actually saw the words "thirteen-minute mile" printed in their pages. It was in a training article, in which they suggested that if you normally run a 10-minute pace, you might want to back it off to 13 minutes starting out. (I'm in the office, the magazine is down a flight of stairs and in my house – a separate building – so I don't really have all the details.) Suffice it to say I was startled to see anyone being told to run a 13-minute pace for anything from the pages of RW!

I recently finished reading a book that Wendy recommended more than two years ago. Yes, I'm slow, but you knew that when you read my average pace, didn't you? Heh. Anyway, I finished the Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer and have been using one of the recommended techniques the past couple of runs. They suggest creating a little mantra, a paragraph of encouraging sentences that you say to yourself as you run. I'm sure I'd get tired of it after 13.1 or 26.2 miles, but it works pretty well for four. (Mine is eight sentences, and I'm not sharing. Heh.)

I ran in the afternoon yesterday, instead of first thing in the morning. The day was perfect – a light breeze, temperature was 70-ish – and I guess since I'd been up and busy for several hours, maybe my body just worked better. I don't know. I do know that as the days and weeks roll from spring to summer, morning runs will be the norm. It's the only time of the day when it's cool enough for me to get out. But this year we're having spring, (as opposed to moving straight from winter to summer) and I'm really enjoying it.

Instead of starting with a quote tomorrow (since I'll be meeting with Important People in Washington, DC), I'll leave you with a bit of inspiration, and hope you have a kick-ass weekend:

"Don't lower your expectations
to meet your performance.
Raise your level of performance
to meet your expectations.
Expect the best of yourself,
and then do what is necessary to make it a reality."
~ Ralph Marston

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Kicking ass

Okay, back to running for a paragraph or two.

I was out of town last weekend and didn't get to run Saturday or Sunday, so I'm making it up by running every day this week. Still planning for Friday to be a rest day, although it won't be, really (more about that later).

Monday's run was on the treadmill because it was ... can you guess? ... raining! Again! My grass is so beautifully green and lush and, um, long. It wasn't a very good run, if good equals fast. It was more of a walk – three miles in 42 minutes – but at least it was miles.

Yesterday was a perfect May day and I did four miles outside. Pace was faster than last Thursday's, but still slow – 13:03/mile. I only stopped to walk about six times, which is a tremendous improvement. Progress!

Now, about Friday. I'm putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and joining a group of WV citizens who are meeting with Senators Rockefeller and Byrd, and Congressman Rahall. We have appointments at 9 and 11 a.m. and at 2 p.m. – a full day of lobbying for healthcare reform! I can't just sit back and not get involved. My participation so far has been peripheral – I've attended PNHP meetings, made phone calls, written letters – but I feel that the tide is turning and I will do whatever I possibly can to make it happen.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Discouraged? You betcha.

This will probably be a downer kind of post. It might wrap up on a high note, but the way I feel right now – probably not.

When I applied for private health insurance almost a year ago, I was taking an antidepressant, which increased my premium significantly. One of the side effects of it was decreased appetite, and I liked that. Another side effect was a rash, and I didn't like that at all. I stopped taking it for six weeks to let the rash clear up, and when I started it again the rash came back but it didn't affect my appetite. My husband, who is a psychiatrist, says that sometimes happens: A side effect may be present upon initial dosing, but it will clear up or go away later. I quit taking it at that time.

In order to reduce my premium, I had to document that I had been off the antidepressant for six months. My doctor insisted on seeing me in his office (which meant paying for an office visit – my insurance doesn't cover office visits), signed a letter saying that yes, I had been off the pills for six months, and I applied for a rate reduction.

Well the records which I was required to send to the insurance company included – of course – my weight. And since I'm obese, my premium had to stay the same. Didn't matter to them that I'm otherwise healthy or that I run long distances or that my lab values all fall into the perfect or better-than-perfect category (including my TSH, darn it). The only thing I can do to reduce the premium is to reduce my weight.

Well, y'all know I try. And try. AND TRY. There is something about this body of mine that just won't release weight in any significant amount, no matter how many miles I log, no matter how few calories I eat, no matter what combination of foods I ingest, no matter what.

Yesterday I got a letter from the insurance company saying that because of rising healthcare costs, new medical tests and higher drug prices, they were raising premiums for all their policyholders. My rate increase comes out to 15 percent.

I know it's a good idea to lose weight, but if or when it happens my premium will still be higher than it was when I first applied and was accepted. I suppose I should be thanking my lucky stars that I was accepted. It's the insurance company's job to deny, deny, deny – both applicants and claims.

My Senator, Jay Rockefeller, has introduced a bill that would allow early entry into Medicare for those aged 55 to 64, and would eventually enroll every child in the United States into a program called MediKids. I called his office yesterday to thank him for his forward thinking. It would be great for me if that bill passes, but I have little hope. I think introducing bills in the Senate makes individual Senators look good whether the bills pass or not.

The bottom line, though, is that we need Medicare for everyone. The 19- to 54-year-olds out there need to go to the doctor, too. The Senate Finance Committee meets this morning at 10 a.m. to discuss healthcare reform. Not a single representative for single-payer healthcare has been invited to the table. Max Baucus (D-MT) has been quoted as saying, regarding single-payer, "I'm not going to waste my time."

So yes, I'm discouraged this morning, for myself and for my country. Fixing healthcare would fix so very many economic problems in this country. I guarantee I would not hoard my insurance premium if some of it were in my pocket instead of in Aetna's.

Do you support single-payer? If so, please contact Senator Baucus at (you can call the Finance Committee office at 202-224-4515) and let him know. He's under the illusion that single-payer is not possible under the current political climate. I think it's more possible than ever. Also, contact your congressmen and women and ask them to support HR676. Do it today. Please.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Friday Quote Day

Few things are impossible
to diligence and skill.
Great works are performed not by strength,
but perseverance.

~ Samuel Johnson

Good old perseverance. Or, as my mother liked to call it, stick-to-it-iveness.

This has been a really good week so far, despite my whining and bitching about the weather. The plan?
  • Saturday: Run 3 miles
  • Sunday: Run 4 miles
  • Monday: Total Body Workout
  • Tuesday: Run 3 miles
  • Wednesday: Total Body Workout
  • Thursday: Run 4 miles
  • Friday: Rest
Well, here we are on Friday and I’m ready to rest. Taking last week a day at a time, I actually did everything on the schedule. Even more amazingly, I ran 18 seconds/mile faster on Thursday than I did on Sunday.

Don’t believe everything you read
Remember how I wrote yesterday that I wasn’t going to be able to mow or run outside? Well, God must have been listening, because the sun came out – the sun! the sun! – mid-morning and I was able to do both. It didn’t start raining again until after dinner.

(How lovely to hear from you, Marilyn – I didn’t know you were still reading! Hope you’re doing well.)

The run was pretty good. I ended up doing a run/walk combination in which I let myself walk for only one minute at a time. The running (okay, jogging) probably averaged out to about three- or four-minute intervals. I was listening to music and tried to push myself to keep up with the peppier beats. If a “slow” song popped up, I skipped ahead to the next fast one.

The schedule is the same for the coming week, but I already know the weekend is screwed. We’re on the road today and tomorrow, eating out all three days, blah, blah, blah. I hope the only thing that gets lost in the shuffle is Saturday’s three-miler. I might do the Sunday run on Monday, along with the workout.

Then again, I might not.

As always, I hope you have a great weekend.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grrr.

Today’s grrr is brought to you by Mother Nature.

It has rained here in the Middle of Nowhere every day for the past 10 days. It is raining now. Not a light rain, as the weather.com graphic implies, but a steady pour.

On the one hand, I still haven’t had to water the newly planted garden space. So that’s a good thing.

On the other, though, I haven’t mowed the grass in 11 days. You can just imagine how lovely it’s looking about now.

And that explains the recent treadmill workouts, as well. If I’d registered and paid for a race, I’d certainly run in the rain. My preference, however, is not to, and so the treadmill and I have a date again today.

Grrr.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

When is an afghan not an afghan?

When it’s a throw! (Warning: Knitting talk ahead.)

I was supposed to knit 36 repeats of the 8-row lace pattern. I stopped at 30. Actually, I think the proportion turned out better, because if I’d done a gauge swatch (Swatch? Swatch? I thought that was a pocket!) I’d have realized that I should have added a couple more repeats widthwise, as well.

As it is, the finished piece blocked out to fit on top of a twin bed – no overhang, and starting where the pillow ends. Thus, it is a throw. And it looks so nice on the couch in our “new” living room, doncha think?

I did three miles on the treadmill yesterday morning, a jog/walk combo that averaged out to 15-minute miles. Which, I guess, makes it a three-mile walk. It’s amazing how different I felt yesterday compared to Sunday – slow, heavy, just plodding along. Increasing my speed was very difficult, and I could only manage it in quarter-mile segments. (On Sunday I was able to run continuously for 1.25 miles.)

The plan I’m following right now is getting me ready to train, and I’m going to keep doing the first week until I can run every mile. (The first week is four running days and three rest days; I’m doing the total-body workout on two of the rest days.) Had I not done something like this in late 2006/early 2007, before the Country Music Marathon in April, 2007, I’d be discouraged already. But I know from experience that training increases stamina, speed and confidence.

Or at least it did a couple years ago. Let’s just hope history repeats itself.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Progress photo

Well, not progress, really, this is the new starting point.

I’m happy to report that I did the South Beach Phase 2 Total Body Workout yesterday, which targets, um, the total body. You’re supposed to use a step for a couple of moves, and since I don’t have one I used the bed of the treadmill instead. It seemed like the perfect height and I got to watch television at the same time!

And for the past three days I’ve managed to down two bottles of water each day. Baby steps!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and encouraging comments. I wish I hadn’t done this so many times before in my life. For those of you who are younger than I, and especially those of you who are losing a significant amount of weight for the first time – figure out now what you need to do for maintenance. I know you’ve read all the same magazine articles that I have, and they’re right. You can’t pick up where you left off once you reach your weight-loss goal. Maintenance is for a lifetime.

Unlike riding a bicycle, it doesn’t get easier to lose weight again once you’ve done it. It actually gets harder. And harder. It takes more vigilance over food, more consistency with exercise, more effort in general to shed pounds with each successive attempt. Once you hit that magic number, don’t let yourself go more than five pounds above it. If I’d done that the last time I was a size 8, I wouldn’t look like that woman in the picture at the top of this post.

Monday, May 4, 2009

It'll be just like starting over

I began blogging more than three years ago, here, with a very specific plan. Part of the plan was to post a first-of-the-month progress photo and to compare each new month’s to the first month. After a year, here’s what that looked like.

I planned my menus and exercised regularly. My workouts included a combination of cardio and strength training. I lost weight slowly but consistently and when I got married in 2006 I had lost a total of 39 pounds.

When I decided in January of 2007 to run my first half-marathon (the Country Music in April, 2007), my weight loss slowed down and then stopped. This sometimes happens to runners in training. Looking back on it, the weight training took a back seat to the running and I ate more, because Lord knows you need to fuel up when you run. Heh.

And that, as they say, was the beginning of the end. I haven’t gotten back on the losing side, until very recently, since.

I never made it all the way back up to the weight I was in that very first photo, but I was within 15 pounds of it. Close enough for discomfort.

I mentioned on Friday how frustrated I was with myself for not drinking water and not lifting weights. I want to run more half-marathons and I definitely want to run a full, but it would be ludicrous and disheartening to run either at my current weight.

So. Tomorrow I will post a new progress photo, all by itself. I’m starting over, and this time I’m doing what works. My weekly workout schedule isn’t difficult, but has been proven (in the distant past) to be effective: four days of cardio (starting with walking, progressing to jogging and, in a couple of months, running), two days of strength training and rowing, and one rest day.

As for food, I’m happy with the South Beach plan. It’s a healthful, satisfying way to eat. I like to cook, my husband and I don’t eat out very often and it has worked when I work it.

I’m getting bloodwork done tomorrow, to make sure all systems are GO. My head seems to be in the right place, my aches and pains are minor and I feel very centered right now, for some reason.

I think I’ll bookmark this entry, though, in case I go to hell in a handbasket in a couple of weeks. Heh.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Friday Quote Day

“It’s not knowing what to do,
it’s doing what you know.”

~ Anthony Robbins

(I found this quote last week and had every intention of having it autopost last Friday, when I was gone. Alas (I love typing ‘Alas’!), the computer was being uncooperative, so I’m trying again.)

I have a minor quibble with this quote, but generally it speaks to every one of us who is trying to get fitter and/or thinner. We know what to do. We’re not stupid. It’s not like we’ve never heard of vegetables and walking and fiber and water and … well, you know.

I would even go so far as to say that many of us – in fact, most of us – already are doing the right thing(s).

In my case, though, I’m throwing in a few wrong things, as well and, to be honest, I’m totally not doing a couple of things I used to do.

The question is, “Why?”

I wish I knew the answer. Why have I quit drinking water, for instance? I used to drink at least four, and usually six, half-liter bottles of water every day. I’ve been feeling guilty about the trash space they take up. (We don’t have curbside recycling here in the Middle of Nowhere. Heck, we don’t even have curbs!) But I have a recycling station for soda cans. It wouldn’t be difficult to set up another one for plastic bottles.

(I hate, hate, hate the taste of our water. Learning to love, love, love it would be a very good project.)

And why can I not get back to some kind of elementary weight-training program? The heaviest lifting I do is when I pick up my knitting needles. (The afghan is almost finished. Only 96 more boring rows to go. When I started there were 320.)

The quote quibble I have is when you really don’t know what to do. Say, for instance, you’d like to run a marathon but you’re not all that into running. You, being the smart person you are, know you need to train, but you don’t know the ins and outs of preparing to run that far in only one day.

What you do know how to do, though, is use Google to find training programs. Or use amazon.com to find books on how to run marathons.

Or peruse your own bookshelves to find the book you bought when you were first inspired to do such a crazy thing.

I have a little time to decide if it will be a full or a half this fall. Hopefully, it’s enough time to get back to drinking water, lifting weights and losing weight.