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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Crochet, No Way…

As a young girl, I remember sitting on the couch next to my mom as she crocheted brightly colored afghans. I was the designated string lackey and unwound coils of yarn with faithful precision. She would churn out blankets so quickly (thanks in part to her dedicated string lackey), that our household was never in want of some warm and brightly colored covers.

4 years ago, I began my crocheting journey. I wanted so badly to string together such beautiful creations, that I ran to my nearest Joanne’s and bought all of the blue yarn I could get my hands on, I picked out the shiniest crochet hook I could find, and I examined my mom’s handiwork to get an idea of what pattern I wanted to try my hand at. I was ready. I was set. I was good to go.

4 years later, and I’m a bit more than halfway through crocheting this afghan thanks to a host of unforeseen challenges:

  • My awkward hands took so long to grow accustomed to the necessary movement of the yarn
  • As the blanket grew, it became difficult to move around and continue working
  • Afghans make you warmth, and too much warmth makes you uncomfortable and antsy
  • I never really understood how to keep the edges the same length, so it looks a bit loopy on the sides
  • I vastly underestimated how much string would be needed, and had to continue making trips and spending money for more yarn
  • I overestimated how much I enjoyed crocheting

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IMG_2234To make matters worse, my boyfriend bought me an animal crochet kit as a surprisingly thoughtful birthday gift (while I was on my initial crochet high) whose impossible instructions have only fueled my frustration with this silly art form.

Despite being hidden away in a bag for the past two years, my afghan is out and about once again, and more than ready to be finished! While I’m not too enthused to begin crocheting, I’ve received a sudden outpouring of motivation from wanting to complete just one of my many  projects, and wishing that I wouldn’t have to look at bags and bags of string whenever I pass by my living room.

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

Summer Strivings

list of goalsI love goals. And lists. And putting check marks next to the goals on my lists. So this summer I’ve decided to make note of the things that I’d like to accomplish.

I had tremendous success with this method over the past year, and know that if I want to see real results in my life and have a good time achieving them, I need to write them down and frequently revisit them.

Here are the things that I’ve decided I’d like to focus on:

  • Spend time with my family and boyfriend
  • Make time for fitness
  • Perform well at my internships
  • Remain relatively stress free
  • Eat moderately
  • Visit friends from back home
  • Stay in touch with friends from college
  • Lose 10 pounds
  • Volunteer
  • Spend money carefully
  • Just keep running
  • Stay motivated

While I do intend to do things like visit Hershey Park, I want to make sure that I’m taking care of myself on the personal level first, and I think it starts by attending to these main goals. A lot of my goals have to deal with my health, but I think that it’s important to focus on it while I won’t have the overwhelming influence of work and school in my life.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASince I intend for weight loss/exercise/maintaining a healthy lifestyle to take up a good portion of my summer, I think it’d only be fair to devote a whole new blog to the topic. I have a clear focus with Living the Life and don’t want to diverge from all around well living by focusing too heavily on health. So, I’ve begun a new blog called Happiness Through Health that I’m going to be posting to as well. Feel free to check it out or completely ignore this information.

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.

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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.

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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.

Lessons from the Lama

DSCN0608This past Tuesday, the University of Maryland hosted the Sadat Lecture for Peace, featuring His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet.

I jumped at the chance to miss my morning classes and to eternally brag that I had heard the Dalai Lama speak live. Yet, I wasn’t at all sure what to expect from this lecture. Moral ramblings from an outdated source? Spiritual musings the likes of which the world has never seen?

After trekking across a rain sodden campus and patiently waiting amongst the masses in line, I took my seat in Comcast Center (our indoor arena) and decided that I was thoroughly unenthused. This man has probably lectured thousands upon thousands of times, and I didn’t think there was much that he could bring to the table in the ways of relating peace and love to the world. We get it, peace is peaceful, love is lovely.

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Once the Dalai Lama entered the stage, the whole stadium rose to their feet, applauding and cheering for the adorable old man who stood tall in his red robe. I recognized that unlike most modern celebrities, this man had truly earned his fame, and I clapped with as much enthusiasm and rigor as those around me. I was in the presence of a clearly meaningful human being, I needed to appreciate this.

From that initial encounter on, I was completely captivated by what His Holiness had to say regarding life, love, and the lot:

  • DSCN0635Don’t trust material valuables for inner happiness, they will only disappoint you
  • Real value and beauty is within us and our genuine smiles
  • Trust is key for friendships between all
  • Dialogue is the only way to overcome violence
  • We all have the same potential, the same goal. And this makes it possible for genuine harmony between people who differ
  • Think more

Obviously I paraphrased a good deal of what he said, and obviously I could never convey the tone or true power behind his words, but these things that are seen as common sense, really need to be taken to heart and utilized for the creation of a better world.

Not only did the Dalai Lama give a remarkable lecture on the state of society’s spirit, but he also graced us with his sense of humor. Every so often he would tell an amusing story, place a UMD visor on his head, or snuggle up on the comfy lounge chair he was sitting in. This man’s smile brought about my laughter in a completely innocent and genuine way. To hold such a high position and still make jokes about the bright spotlights, I was in the presence of true happiness, and it brought laughter to my heart and joy to my soul.

DSCN0618Thank goodness I attended this lecture; I needed a reminder about how magnificent life can be when you approach it with beauty and positivity. Thank goodness I opened my heart to his message of tolerance and peace, to recognize the unity of humanity. And thank goodness I am living, and free to acknowledge these wonderful conditions for the rest of my life.

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.