A Happy Healthy Challenge

Even at first glance, there are two things about me that are quite obvious.

  1. I enjoy eating
  2. I don’t particularly enjoy that I enjoy eating

My Pail List and mental wish list and list taped to my wall and to-do list have long held the goal of me losing weight. Throughout my childhood and for many years I was under the impression that I needed to lose weight to conform to a certain ideal, and while I still have the desire to lose some of my puppy fat (though my puppy may have grown into a fully sized dog by now), I’ve come to recognize that I should focus first and foremost on fitness and health.

But when my unnatural love of peanut butter coincides with cold months and a lack of willpower, I find myself suddenly starring down at the Papa John’s menu more often than at my Zumba DVDs.

30 day challengeMy other blog (yes, I’m openly cheating), Happiness Through Health, is going to see me attempt to create a 30 Day Challenge revolving around losing weight, logging exercise hours, and blogging out our feelings for fabulous gifts and prizes (well, two averagely exciting prizes for the winner and runner up).

If you’re interested in joining me as I find a way to still enjoy pumpkin pie and cranberry sauce and stuffing in the midst of this challenge, just head over to the original post and mention that you’re interested. Bonus points if you provide a guilt-free pumpkin pie recipe or talk me out of this idea and just let me turn myself orange from pumpkin consumption.

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How to Assemble a Grill

Firstly, let me offer you my sincerest congratulations for getting to this point. After days of searching online and creating what is sure to be a permanent indentation in the couch cushions, after hours of checking shipping updates until you could recite your order confirmation number from memory, after countless time spent wiping drool off of your lower lip at the mere thought of this heavenly gift, it has arrived. The Weber 22 ½ -inch One Touch Silver Grill.

weber grill

Standing in the doorway of your home, looking at your bundle of joy sitting neatly wrapped up at the end of the driveway, it’s understandable that your eyes begin to tear up as if the grill could already be creating a smoky atmosphere from within the confines of its box. There is nothing separating you from untold happiness besides some feeble packaging and a bit of assembly.

And yet, there seems to be a purity that the white cardboard box seems to convey. A sense of delicacy that dictates this box be opened with the gentleness and caressing care of a lover. More than willing to oblige, it seems natural to run your hands over the One Touch description, shivering as you read of its porcelain enameled bowl and lid. However, your hands dare not touch the Weber logo; there are still things in this world too sacred to suffer such defilement from mere common folk.

But now, it is time. Gently picking up the sides of the box, you shuffle to the backyard as to allow yourself a more intimate setting when bringing life into this world. Instinctively, it seems quite obvious to grasp the top of the lid and slide your fingers underneath the binding tape (tape which you may want to save for scrapbooking purposes). The lid opens effortlessly. Styrofoam packaging next greets your sight, but its job is no longer needed; you are now the guardian of the grill. There seems to be more tape placed onto the actual grill itself, containing certain parts and pieces for later assembly. The secret to life, the universe, and everything is not as heavily defended as this grill, and rightfully so.

The directions are placed neatly on top. But this process is your birthright. No instructions necessary. The only decision you have to make is whether to trash or recycle this worthless pile of paper. And seeing as the recycling bin is much longer of a walk, and therefore would mean much longer time spent away from your Precious, it is perfectly acceptable to carelessly chuck that once great beauty of a tree into the garbage can.

I’m aware that by now you’re starting to worry about how much effort and energy you’ve sunk into this project. You’ve already missed your 11 o’clock showing of The Price is Right; what if they were playing Plinko today?! But you just need to keep going, because I know you can do this, I know you’ve been working your whole life to arrive at this point, I know that you can give it at the very least, 80%. I understand that your desire may be beginning to wane just a tad, but I can assure you that the Southern Smokehouse Burger, as shown in the complimentary Weber cookbook, is indeed as mouthwatering as it appears.

southern smokehouse burger

Enthusiasm sufficiently renewed? I thought so.

Already removed the nuts and bolts from the box? That’s 80% worth of effort if I’ve ever seen it! Now look how they’re all scattered throughout the grass; look how in tune with nature we are today. Finally seeing the light of sun, the promise of greasy goodness to come, and now we’ve taken a comfortable seat on the ground to search for those screws, our hard work is most definitely paying off and soon we’ll be enjoying the finer things in life.

But as you prod and poke at the metal frame, the aluminum vents and ash catcher, the glass reinforced nylon handles, you may begin to notice the distinct change of sunlight. Despite the copious amounts of free time in your possession, you now reach the cardio section of the program, as with renewed vigor, bolts are beaten in and screws and screwed into place before the light disappears (Note: It may be more effective, in the retelling of this harrowing feat if you were to search the Internet for some real construction phrases). Despite the time taken to puzzle over the involvement of extra bolts and question why any sane human being would design a black grill with black screws, you come to the conclusion that good things are worth waiting and working for. And the memory of that Southern Smokehouse Burger sure is a good thing. With hunger and a gluttonous desire to drive you forward, the grill will begin to resemble something that you could actually use while cooking.

Once the grill comes together in a manner not entirely unlike the diagram in the instructions booklet, with a faint marking on the side that is slightly resembles Jesus Christ, comes the most important part of assembly: the test phase. I know you’ve really worked up an appetite by moving that arm back and forth while screwing in some of those pieces. And the fact that you had to miss lunch is now probably starting to catch up with you. Believe me, I understand the effort required in sitting down in the lukewarm sunlight while debating which cut of beef you’d like to allow to first grace the fruits of your labor (not that a fruit would get within 10 yards of your Precious). You’ve really worked up quite an appetite, and it’s time that that appetite was rewarded with what your doctor has frequently and loving referred to as “heart attack inducing bundles of grease and fats yet unbeknownst to man”.

As you hurry back into the house to grab that classic hamburger patty (an old favorite deserving this ceremony of honor), be careful not to trip over that Groupon-bought elliptical that’s still lurking in its battered box in the hallway. You’ll really need to open that box on a day when you have enough free time to find that pair of scissors…

battered elliptical

From Bucket List to Daily Gift

One day I got it in my head that I would like to run an official race before I eventually and inevitably kicked the bucket. While I had always had a rocky roady relationship with running, I was unsure where this decision would lead me and was faced with the real possibility that my Pail List would contain an item that I may never cross off.

DSCN0843Yet, earlier this summer, I did indeed get to cross off “run an official race” after completing the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K in Maryland. Despite twisting my ankle a bit I came out of the race with the feeling of glowing accomplishment and a decent time of a bit after 36 minutes.

And then I kept running.

And I compiled a workout playlist

And I bought nice shoes.

And I printed more training schedules.

And I felt good about myself.

And I learned the words to Mambo No. 5

And I kept running.

Just today I ran a 5K at the University of Maryland. My time hovered between 29:30 and 32:30 minutes. I ran the whole entire way. I smiled throughout the hills. I laughed at the twists and turns. I high-fived the volunteers. I had a beautiful time.

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I am so grateful for having comprised a pail list. Had I not had the courage to acknowledge what I wanted to get out of life, I would never have pushed myself as hard as I did, and I never would have discovered my love of running. Yes running, I can say it now! I love you! And it all started back when I began my first training plan and discovered my love of the treadmill with a well timed episode of Say Yes to the Dress and the rolling and gentle hills of my neighborhood and the springy track at school which makes me feel as graceful as a gazelle despite looking like an awkward antelope.

Though singing karaoke will probably not lead to me becoming a world famous singing sensation, I am quite satisfied knowing that I’ve chosen to explore such different and fulfilling areas of life with the activities/events/circumstances that preside on my Pail List.

For me, life isn’t always about having momentary bouts of fun, it’s about living each day pleasurably with a contentment that provides a sustainable happiness. That’s why I have my Pail List, and that’s why I’m grateful for my list leading me to more of life’s pleasurable moments.

Writing Exercises, My Kind of a Workout

When I was in the seventh grade, I had an English teacher named Mrs. Stroloski. Mrs. Stroloski made us learn and memorize the most difficult of vocabulary words (though I was completely enamored with the word disheveled), encouraged us to read from books far overreaching our comprehension level (in my expert opinion as a middle school student), and bid us to write in cursive at all times during her class period (a skill I hadn’t put to use since the fourth grade). Aside from her gorgeous handwriting and affinity for the color purple, I was never too fond of Mrs. S.

However, there was one writing drill that she would instruct the class to complete every Friday, and thanks to this exercise, I can look back on my seventh grade English experience with a little more appreciation than most of my middle school counterparts.

strong pencilHere’s how it worked: For 5 minutes, you had to write. No stopping. No pausing. No delays. Just words and letters. Even if you couldn’t think of your next sentence, you just had to repeat the same word or the same letter until your thoughts continued to flow. Nonstop. No limits. No topics. Just you, and the constant movement of your pen writing sloppily half-forgotten cursive down on your composition notebook.

writing drillLooking back now, I can’t remember most of what I wrote as a seventh grader. I remember complementing Mrs. Stroloski on choosing the color purple to adorn the classroom, I remember talking about how excited I was that they were serving pizza in the cafeteria right after an eventful and delicious taco day, and I also vaguely remember reading A Christmas Carol in her class and expressing my love and devotion to Santa Claus. Riveting stuff, I know. I may have even used the word disheveled a time or two or ten.

But I think that’s the moment when I realized that it felt good to write. I did not like how my cursive capital letters looked, but I sure did like expressing myself through the written word.

Sometimes I still practice this drill, as it seems great for relieving writer’s block, but often, I simply reflect on my classroom experience with Mrs. S. and wonder if the other kids that she’s taught over the years still recall this activity and are able to remember what the word disheveled means.

1 Bucket List, 2 Shoes, 5Ks

bwc realI had been signed up for the Baltimore Women’s Classic 5K for the past couple of months. Ever since I began working on my health and saying yes to life, I’ve been looking for ways to appreciate myself, the community around me, and everything that is capable of being achieved. And this morning, I found all of those things and much more when I finally completed the race.

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Two months ago I was running consistently, focusing on obtaining a quality education, eating healthy foods with conviction, stretching every morning, avoiding TV time, planning for my career-oriented future, and taking care of my personal appearance.

Preparing for this race has provided me with a deep and profound appreciation for myself and my body.
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Showing up to the Inner Harbor today I looked out upon the 3,211 other female participants and was overwhelmed by the support and positivity exuding from these lovely and lively ladies who were all prepared to reach their goals and prove their worth. Attending this race has strengthened my sense of community.

I have failed. I have struggled. I have thrown in the towel, given up, stayed down, and vowed to never care about trying again. But I have also risen to the occasion, succeeded, pushed myself, and reached beyond my grasp only to find my fingertips brushing the stars.

Associating myself with this race has shown me that anything is possible.

I ran a 34 minute race. I came in 1,410th. I was 108th in my age division. And none of that matters.DSCN0852

What matters is that I crossed a life goal off of my bucket list and showed myself exactly what wonders this life is capable of holding.

Just Keep Running

A couple of weeks ago, I truly ran for the first time in my life.

beautiful running

Outdoors.

In the sunshine.

Music blurring into the background.

Feet hitting the pavement and sending chills through my body with every step.

Breathing in unison with the thoughts gusting through my open mind.

It was glorious and I was honest to goodness happy. Happy with myself. Happy with my results. Happy with my legs.

Then, the injuries came. It began with my knee, a tight feeling that made it uncomfortable to walk. Soon, the discomfort moved to my shin, creating a jarring pain every time I stepped down with my left foot. Next, my ankle took a turn, and with each bend I felt a tug on my foot that just didn’t belong.

I had to stop putting my feet to the pavement and start putting them up on the couch to recuperate. Unfortunately, weeks later and with a pair of new and unused running shoes, the jarring feeling in my left shin is still present and giving me reservations about getting back on track for my 5K running plan.

I don’t really know how to handle this situation, though I’m well aware that I should wait to get back into running until I’m completely healed. Yet, I like to think that even though I haven’t been constantly exercising, running is now one of those things that just calls to me, and I hope I answer enthusiastically sometime soon.sunshine run

Running Progress, Running Pride

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been sweating my way through a 5K training program. I’ve dropped a considerable amount of weight, become so stretchy that Gumby would be jealous, unfortunately stretched out my tennis shoes until they are sad and tattered remnants of their once grand self, and memorized most all of my workout song playlist (including all of Mambo No. 5)

run 1

I’ve never been a runner, but as “complete an official race” is on my bucket list, I knew that I had to start training eventually. Since there’s no better time than the present and I was feeling sluggish from the chilly winter weather, I hopped on the track at the gym and immediately surpassed my expectations just by showing up. I knew that it’d be a struggle to get my Pop-Tart-munching-self running more than just my mouth, so I decided to pay my 5K race fee right away to encourage actual participation. Luckily, I care more about getting my money’s worth than being lazy.

At the beginning of the year, running a half mile left me looking gnarly and sorely out of breath. Very very very slowly, I’ve built up my run time to the point where I can now run (know that way I say “run” it really refers to a moderate jog) for a solid half hour while feeling like I don’t want to end my wretched life by the finish. What progress! And more than that, I actually somewhat somehow maybe perhaps enjoy running now. Before it would feel monotonous and more like a chore, but somehow I’ve gradually come to enjoy the simplicity in repeatedly pounding my feet on the pavement.

race 3

Though I began as a reluctant runner, I’ve discovered a joy and pride that running has brought to my life. I love being able to explain to my friends and family my running plans and the tremendous progress I’ve made. It simply feels good to exercise, and even better to talk about exercising.

bwc real

My first official 5K, the Baltimore Women’s Classic, is in June (though I’ve already completed an unofficial one conducted through UMD) and I know that I’m ready to take on this challenge. My only goal is to run throughout the whole event with no walking breaks in between. If I get below 30 minutes on the day of the run, that’ll be stupendous, but if not, I’ve already achieved something worthwhile, the knowledge that I’ve proven my self-worth through commitment, dedication, and sweat. I am so proud of what I’ve already accomplished, and I can’t wait to see how much further I can take myself before race day.

toe shoes

I don’t think I could take myself seriously in these…

But first, I need to get new running shoes.

Get Fit, Win Prizes? Sign Me Up!

I’ve been trying my hardest to take better care of my body this semester. I’ve eaten my fruits and veggies (but more fruits than veggies), sweated my butt off at the gym (literally, my butt looks smaller), and tried to move my body around when I can (my random spurts of dancing help here). But, there’s one tool that really helped me stay focused and on target while trying to shape up, and that’s the website, Fit Campus.

fit campusFit Campus allows you to log which exercises you complete while at school, and then they rewards you in all kinds of ways for committing to at least 2.5 hours of exercise each week. Last year a cruise was given away, just for going to the gym! But there are also all kinds of little prizes as well, and I got a Camelbak water bottle the last time the giveaway was running.

It’s always a struggle to drag myself to the gym, and while I usually succeed, there are some days where it seems darn near impossible to make that 20 minute walk, only to walk around some more. I love knowing that Fit Campus appreciates my effort. Also the whole fantastic prize giveaway doesn’t hurt in terms of my endearment towards them either.

Ran some laps for my 5K? Log those minutes! Met up with friends to look like a fool in Zumba class? Log those minutes! Fell over while trying to do a Yoga pose? Log those minutes and prepare an ice pack!

5Ks and Freedom

Only a couple hours ago I finished running my first official 5K. It was held by the sororities at the University of Maryland to benefit Yeardly Love and raise awareness of domestic violence. I went with my friend Jackie who is a pro at running and has done multiple 10Ks, she was so supportive and it really helped me focus on the run.

It cost $20 dollars to participate, and it return, I received:

  • A free t-shirt
  • A “one love” bracelet
  • Confidence
  • Aching feet
  • A stronger friendshipIMG_1931
  • The sense of community
  • A cool visor
  • Memories
  • Hope for my future plans
  • The freedom to explore endless possibilities

I can’t believe that I completed something so challenging while only stopping to walk for 3 minutes. I had a final time of 33 minutes, but for my first ever 5K, and in the beginning stages of training for the Baltimore Women’s Classic, I’ll take it!

IMG_1933Also, UMD was so beautiful today! We ran around a lake and I just wanted to stop and take pictures the whole time. Instead, I took this one of the Chapel near where we began our race.

Advice for Beginners

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Zen Pencils before, but it’s basically a blog where this guy draws cartoons to match famous quotes. A lot of them are really great and you should definitely check them out, but my absolute favorite is Ira Glass’s Advice for Beginners.

Right now when I’m trying to take on a lot at once, including becoming healthier and training for my 5K; it’s nice to remember that I have to put in “a huge volume of work” to truly see the results I know I can achieve. And if you all just keep trying for whatever it is your heart truly desires, it will come to you.

Luckily I'm not a beginner at tying shoes, so I'm starting somewhere!

Luckily I’m not a beginner at tying shoes, so I’m starting somewhere!