Thursday, February 28, 2013

30 Day Challenge

Today I attended a workshop on "Maintaining an Exercise Program" through the GAPSA SHAPE initiative.  We learned about SMART goals, which I've discussed before, and the importance of establishing exercise as a habit.  At the end of the workshop, we were challenged to take part in the 30 day challenge.  

If you don't already make exercise a part of your daily routine, the best way to start is to take part in a 30 day challenge: 

Tomorrow is March 1.  
March 1-30, I challenge you to take part in the 30 Day Challenge.

Do you accept the challenge?  

Monday, February 25, 2013

10k Race Training

10k training has officially begun, as of today.  As I've said before, I have this life goal of running a 10k.  Not a 10 mile, not a half marathon, not a marathon.  Just 10 kilometers, which is 6.2 miles.  To me, that's a lot... and enough.

I signed up for the Novi Memorial Day Run.  I was originally going to sign up for the Dash for Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness run in Philly (the same run I signed up for last year but kept getting sick and couldn't train, so I didn't attend), until I realized that the Novi run would be even better for a few reasons:

1. Cheaper registration fee.
2. I will be going home the week before our wedding, and that just so happens to be Memorial Day weekend... perfect!
3. The whole family is going to join, and we're going to have a picnic afterward.  Quality time.
4. We are close family friends with the event organizer (that family is actually throwing me a bridal shower).
5. If I start training now, I'll be training up until the wedding, so it's great motivation to keep me exercising.

Once I decided on a race, it was time to decide on a training plan.

This time, I chose to go with Jeff Galloway's 10k training schedule.  This plan is 13 weeks of training, beginning at a long run of two miles and working up to 7 miles before cutting back the three weeks before the race.  I liked this plan because, while I'm pretty terrified of running 7 miles, I feel like it provides ample training time.  If I complete this training as planned, I will be pretty proud of myself for completing a 7 mile run!  Additionally, on the specified cross-training days, I can incorporate strength training, like I did today.

This was today's cross training workout:

Plank sliders: On carpet, place a piece of plastic (like a frisbee, slick disposable plate, or furniture sliders) under your feet as you assume a plank position.  Make sure the item you choose is light-weight, slides easily on carpet, and is durable.  Lift your butt in the air as you allow your feet to slide forward towards your hands, ending in a position similar to downward dog.  Keep your legs straight.  Slide back out to a plank position.  That's 1 rep.  
Make it easier: Hold a plank position with the slider under your feet; bend your legs as you bring your feet to your hands.  
Make it harder: Pull against a resistance band, increase the friction, or increase the reps.

Side plank sliders: Similar to plank sliders, but assume a side-plank position on carpet with the slider under your feet.  Bend your knees to pull your feet towards your upper body.  Slide back out to a side plank position.  That's one rep.  
Make it easier: Simply hold a side plank position with the slider under your feet. 
Make it harder: Hold your top arm straight in the air.  Pull against a resistance band, increase the friction, or increase the reps.     

Image courtesy of

Who else is doing the Novi Memorial Day Run with me?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Impostor Syndrome

In the past 2 days, I've finished 2 books(!)  Okay, hold the exclamation point.  These books, both which should have taken me only 2 weeks or so to read, instead took me multiple months-- for one book this was simply due to not committing to reading and for the other book this was due to lack of excitement.

Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow (#86 on the Modern Library's top 100 novels) just didn't do it for me.  A book that is only 270 pages long in a large font and takes 4 months to read... not good in my records.  I'm not gonna dwell on it.

The other book was our graduate women in engineering's book club book last semester: The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women: Why Capable People Suffer from the Impostor Syndrome and How to Thrive in Spite of It, by Valerie Young.  If you've never heard of the Impostor Syndrome, listen up.  It's a common feeling that people get when they feel like they aren't actually good enough, that they're just faking it and soon someone is going to find out that they don't know what they're talking about or doing.  It's that feeling you get when you think you don't deserve that promotion, that award, that grant.  Wasn't it just luck or charm?  No.  The Impostor Syndrome can be debilitating in terms of career and personal growth, despite the fact that it is most common in those who are very well accomplished.  There were three interesting takeaways from this book:

  1. The source of these Impostor Syndrome feelings is widespread, including simply being a student.  That's right, we students are put in a position of constantly feeling like we don't know enough or aren't good enough (like that's shocking).  BUT...Just knowing that these feelings come with the job helps relieve some of the anxiety associated with the Impostor Syndrome.  It's not all our fault; it's partially our job's fault, so you need to take your feelings with a grain of salt.  School (particularly grad school) is meant to beat you up a bit... you signed up for this.
  2. People who have the Impostor Syndrome often have a certain view of competence that falls into the categories of the Perfectionist, the Natural Genius, the Rugged Individualist, the Expert, or the Superwoman/man/student.  As I read this section of the book, each new "type" I thought to myself, "Hey, that's me!"  These are unreasonable ways to consider what it means to be "smart" or "competent" and can hold a person back.  It's time to re-frame what competence means to you, and this books helps give alternatives.
  3. The book ends by discussing how fear limits not only us as individuals but also others.  In particular, it was noted that we should "have interesting failures."  You're going to fail at some point (if you're not holding yourself back), so at least make it worthwhile!  Don't just fail an exam-- anyone can do that.  Make your goals grander and your failures interesting. 
I would recommend this book if you ever feel like an impostor or if you know someone who feels this way.  While some parts of this book are dull, other parts describe interesting research studies and statistics that help re-frame how we view ourselves and our competency.  If you think you sometimes have impostor feelings, you're not alone, and if nothing else, this book helps you realize that.

Do you ever feel like an impostor?

(I do sometimes.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For Lent, I'm giving up...

Today marks the first day of Lent, the period from Ash Wednesday until Easter Sunday (the last day of Lent is Holy Saturday).  This 40 day period (which usually excludes Sundays in the count) is used for self-reflection, prayer, and sacrifice.  People who observe Lent commit to "giving up" something as a form of penitence.  Traditionally, this "something" is food (fasting), but in current times this "something" has been extended.

I do not observe Lent, but something about the concrete period of time, the challenge, and the idea of self-improvement draws me to it.  It is a practice in self-will and determination, and we could all use a little work on that.  It is exhibiting dominance over your temptations.  It is realizing that what you have chosen to give up is a privilege, not a right.  It is acknowledgement of all that has been given up by others for your benefit.  It is introspection.  It is commitment.  It is strength.  

Last year, I tried to give up complaining... and that didn't work.  This year, I'm trying again.

For Lent this year, I'm giving up web surfing during work hours (this means Facebook and Pinterest).

Lou, if you're reading this, I don't spend all my work time on these websites, but I do sometimes use them as a means of procrastination, something to do while I'm waiting for an analysis or test to finish, or to take a break.  I could do something better with my time, and I'm choosing now to banish this habit.

I've heard from friends other great ideas of things to give up for Lent: the elevator (have to take the stairs), buying your lunch (have to bring), sweets, not eating breakfast (notice the double negative), soda, etc.

What are you giving up for "Lent?"

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Body Weight Workout

Just sharing a workout I did last week:

Most of the exercises are self-explanatory.

Back extensions on a stability ball: Rest on stomach, draped over stability ball, toes planted into the ground (upper body not touching ground).  Place hands on head.  Squeeze glutes and back to extend to a flat back.  Do not arch your back to achieve full range of motion; this can compress your lower vertebrae and cause pain for those with bad backs.  Return to the draped position.  That's 1 rep.  Do 20.

For the run, I did one minute intervals on the treadmill: 
Speed 5, 6, 6.5, 7, 6.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 6.5, 6, 6.5, 7, 6.5, 6, 6.5 until complete.

Exercise Modifications

Push-ups: To make them easier, try them on an incline so that your feet are lower than your hands or try them on your knees making sure to keep your body in a flat line (no butt sticking out).  To make them harder, them them on an incline so your feet are higher than your hands or add a dynamic movement like claps.

Squats: Form is what is most important here, so do fewer if you need to make it easier.  To make them harder, add weight or do one-legged squats.

Pull-ups: To make them easier, suspend your lower body using an elastic band, a pull-up assist machine, or a bench.  To make them harder, add weight or reps.

Back extensions: To make them easier, put your hands on your chest or lie flat on the ground (no stability ball).  To make them harder, add a twist at the top or add weight.

How did this workout go for you?

Thursday, February 7, 2013

GAPSA SHAPE Nutrition Workshop Tidbits

Today, I attended a nutrition workshop put on by GAPSA as a part of the SHAPE Challenge.  I initially signed up because I could get a participation point towards SHAPE while getting free lunch, but I managed to get more out of the seminar than just some food!  Our speaker, Katy Meassick (MA, RD, LDN, ATC... jeez, that's a lotta letters after her name!) specializes in athletic nutrition and provided some great insight into how to meet our dietary needs and build good habits.  

Below are some tidbits that I took away from today's seminar that I thought may be useful to others:

  • You must eat breakfast within 30 minutes of waking up in order to kick-start your metabolism.  If you don't eat breakfast at all right now, start small with something like a granola bar.  Eventually, you'll need to work your way up to include at 3 of the 5 food groups in your breakfast (think half a peanut butter-banana sandwich or yogurt with granola and an apple).  If you wake up hungry, it's a sign that you've trained your metabolism to hit the ground running. 
  • You should eat a meal or a snack every 4 hours to avoid hunger (which then usually leads to binges) or roller coaster blood glucose and energy levels.
  • A healthy snack includes a carbohydrate and protein.  You brain (which controls your body) runs off glucose, which is provided by carbs.  You need carbs for your body to work at full efficiency.
  • Eat 60 minutes before you exercise-- just 100 calories of carbs is enough to make sure you have the (healthy) sugar your body needs for your workout.  A good idea to avoid adding in extra food is to split the nearest meal to your workout in half.  For example, eat half your lunch before your workout (so you don't get too full and get cramps but still have energy) and the other half after.
  • Create a 20-30 minute pre-sleep routine that eliminates all electronics (TV, phone).  Try reading before bed; if you use an eReader, only use the kind that has back-lighting where the screen looks like a book (not an iPad, for example) to avoid suppressing your melatonin levels.
  • To estimate the grams of protein you should have in your diet, multiply your weight in kilograms by 0.8.  You may need more protein if you are very active, but note that your kidneys can only metabolism so much protein at a time-- overloading on protein (e.g., protein shake after protein shake after protein shake) will overwork and potentially damage your kidneys if you are not careful.
  • When setting goals, mandate a behavior or habit, NOT an outcome.  Mandating an outcome (e.g., "lose 10 pounds") will set you up for failure and put you at risk for forming bad habits or short-term, non-sustainable fixes.
  • You should have 5-9 half-cup servings of fruits/veggies a day.
  • To determine the amount of water in ounces you should drink in a day, take your weight in pounds and divide by 2; however, if you are smaller, you should drink no less than 64 ounces of water.  And we're talking plain old H2O here... coffee doesn't count!
  • To drink more water, carry around a water bottle.  And don't just throw it in your bag-- actually CARRY it in your hand.  You'll drink more if you have that visual and tactile reminder.  You can also try setting phone reminders.  You should be peeing at least every 2 hours if you're drinking enough.
  • If you're thirsty, you're already 2% dehydrated.  Don't let yourself get to the point of thirsty.
  • Peas, corn, and potatoes all count as a starch, NOT a vegetable. 
  • Beans count as a protein.
  • When portioning your meals, always eat on a plate.  As a rough guideline, a 10 inch plate should be half fruits/veggies, one quarter starch/whole grains, and one quarter protein.
  • When baking, replace half the fat (e.g., oil) in the recipe with applesauce or a squashed banana.
Importantly, if you are a Penn student covered by PSIP, the student health insurance, you have access to nutritionists at Student Health Services for no extra charge!  What may cost you a hefty sum once you graduate and have a real job (nutrition is not included in normal insurance plans unless you have a condition like diabetes), you can get for free right now.  What a great benefit that I had no idea we had until today! 

Were any of these tidbits new to you?  Which new habit are you going to try to adopt (breakfast within 30 mins of waking up, 64 or more oz of water, portioning your plate, 5-9 servings fruits/veggies, pre-sleep routine, eating at least every 4 hours, etc.)?   

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Body Cycle Studio GapFit Takeover

Alright, so this post is overdue, but I still wanted to share it.

About two weeks ago, I had the privilege of taking part in an awesome opportunity at Body Cycle Studio.  Body Cycle is a spinning studio in Center City Philadelphia.  When I first moved to Philly a couple years ago, I went a little overboard purchasing deals (LivingSocial, Groupon) for various workout classes.  One of the deals I purchased was to Body Cycle.  I had never done spinning before (mostly because I thought I would hate it; I'm not a big fan of biking in general), but I decided to give it a shot-- hey, I had a deal!  

Well, the first class I went to...

I hated. so. much.
It was miserable.
My butt was bruised.
My legs were sore.
I couldn't breathe.

I wanted to slap the instructor (because it felt like she was killing me).

But... I still had another 4 classes to use up for my deal, and I couldn't let those go to waste!

I tried again, this time having a better idea of what to expect.  After surviving my second class, I felt empowered; I had conquered a challenge.  By my third class, I was starting to enjoy it (just a little).  By my fifth class, I officially liked spinning!  Unfortunately, my 5 class deal was finished.  But I didn't let that stop me!  I bought another 5 classes to keep spinning on.    

Importantly, I didn't let my first impression turn me away from ever trying again.  I didn't quit.  I learned that first impressions can sometimes be wrong!

Now, let's flash forward to a couple weeks ago.  I hadn't been back to Body Cycle in quite some time because we moved into a new apartment that's a little bit less convenient of a location, and (being the poor graduate student that I am) I didn't want to pay for classes when we have a nice gym in our own apartment complex.  

And then, my friend (an avid Body Cycle spinnerette) posted on Facebook that Body Cycle was joining up with the Gap for a special event called "GapFit Takeover."  Basically, you could sign up for a FREE spinning class AND get a FREE pair of GapFit workout pants.  Awesome!

(Wanna know Motivation Trick #1?)

My spinning class was awesome... and the free pants were awesome-er.  There were 3 pant styles that we could choose from and try on before settling.  I ended up getting the GapFit gDance pants.  I love them!  They are fitted through the hips and thighs and have a small flare in the leg.  Just yesterday while I was working out in them, I realized that they even have a secret pocket in the back!  

A big thank you to Jenell for being my friend and sharing the event on Facebook, to Body Cycle for well... being awesome, to Barry for a kick butt free spinning class, and to GapFit for a little extra motivation to exercise in my new pants.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Pep Talk from Kid President

I first saw this YouTube video, A Pep Talk from Kid President, earlier this week when a friend posted it on Facebook.  Love love love that it's going viral!  My inspiration:

There are too many perfect lines to give a favorite, but here's one to keep me thinking for the rest of the week: 

"It's everybody's duty to give the world a reason to dance."

What's your impact?  What are you doing to get others dancing?  And what are you dancing to?