Saturday, March 30, 2013

Something New: Infrared Yoga

Yesterday I had the chance to try something new: infrared yoga.

I've been going to Hatha Yoga classes for about 9 months now. Held at my local rec centre. I started going last summer on Toonie Tuesdays because the class was only $2. It was stretching room only and you had to get there early if you wanted a spot. The class moved to Monday nights, pre-registration a month at a time, and costs $5 or $6 bucks a class now and well... the crowd has thinned. But I'm getting off topic. Sort of. Two things this intro should demonstrate: 1) I like yoga and 2) I'm cheap.

So a few months back when I discovered a Living Social offer for a free session at a new yoga studio in my community, I snatched it up. And forgot about it. Mostly. The voucher expired this weekend and looking at my workout calendar for the weekend, I realized yesterday that it was then or never. Checked the schedule and decided a Hatha/Core class was the best option and off I went.

Filling out the requisite forms & waivers, I observed that it smelled nice in there - some calming essential oil blend. When I was done with the paperwork, I was let in to the studio where a couple of other students were already chilling on their yoga mats. OK, chilling is the wrong word. It was warm in there. Warm and dark, with a few candles glowing. I was led through the room to the back and shown where the washrooms are and told to help myself to whatever props I wanted. Nice. I grabbed a block. Didn't use it - but nice to see a large supply of blocks, bands, bolsters, and balls to choose from. (And likely things that don't begin with B, although none come immediately to mind.)

My yoga experiences are relatively limited so I don't really have much to compare this to other than my usual Hatha class. It was equally gentle. I've had guest instructors enough to know that every instructor tends to have favorite poses. For example, my regular instructor Sandie (who is awesome) loves the downward dog. One night, a guest instructor had us doing a downward dog-plank-baby cobra over and over and over again. The instructor at yesterday's class - we'll call him Robert (because that's his name) - seemed to favour twists. Not a single downward dog. Lots and lots of twists.

So - how was it? Well... sweaty. A little claustrophobic feeling at times, from the heat, if I allowed myself to fixate on how warm it was. But all in all, I have to say hatha yoga in a heated infrared studio = incredibly relaxing. I don't think I'd make it a part of my regular fitness routine mostly because I'm cheap. But I do think this would be a good addition to one's wellness routine and what I'm thinking here is that if times are particularly stressful or you haven't had a good night's sleep in a while, then one of these classes would be a great antidote.

For those of you who are also cheap like me, and are disappointed to have missed the Living Social deal, fear not! According to the website, you can try a class for free.

That discovery prompted me to have a look at the other yoga studios in my community (there are 3 all together, which I could send me on a rant about limited businesses and lack of diversity but really, who reading this cares?). And it turns out that all of them allow you to try a class for free. I think that's great. Because 1) I like yoga and 2) I'm cheap.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

What I Ate Wednesday #1

Here is the first installment in what could become a regular feature on the blog. Unless I lose interest. This isn't an original idea, I've seen it on other blogs. It seems appropriate for this one because "so... what do you eat?" is a question I get fairly regularly. Also, what's not awesome about looking at pictures of food? I have a Pinterest board dedicated entirely to food that looks spectacularly delicious but that I will probably never eat. (The board is titled Food Porn and features copious shots of chocolate, caramel & melty cheese.) Should What I Ate Wednesday ever start to resemble my Food Porn board, I'm in trouble.

So, here is yesterday, in all its delicious glory.

1) Pre Swim
I'm on holidays this week so enjoying a certain flexibility in how I schedule my day & my work-outs. I had the opportunity to sleep in a bit and still hit the pool for a morning swim. Standard pre-swim fare: whole wheat toast with almond hazelnut butter and a banana. Coffee.

2) Post Swim
I did 2400m in the pool and came home with a big appetite. Fried up a diced sweet potato & some onion in a tsp of olive oil. Added a bell pepper, mushrooms, and broccoli. When the veggies were cooked, added a couple of beaten eggs. Then tossed in 50g of Tillamook pepper jack cheese (calorie decadence right there!). Topped with sliced avocado & some salsa. Coffee. This time with some french vanilla soy creamer.

3) Mid Afternoon
I followed that big plate of eggs & veggies with a weight workout and a shower. Then it was off to the massage therapist for an hour of bliss, followed by a coffee date with a friend at Starbucks. This cup of joy is a soy hazelnut macchiato.

4) Dinner
Baby spinach, cucumber, strawberries, blueberries, chicken breast, sliced almonds, 25g goat cheese, and Renee's creamy poppyseed dressing. Mmmm.

5) Post Spin
The last of my tri-club's indoor spin workouts was last night. Hill simulations. Joy! Came home from a 75-minute class feeling spent and hungry but it was after 9 p.m. so I didn't want too much: a pear, sliced up and dunked in almond hazelnut butter. Cup of decaf with french vanilla soy creamer.

Total calories: 2013

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Product Review: energybits

A while back, I participated in TheTriChat on Twitter. [Note, TheTriChat was co-founded by Jen over at OneLovelyRun .If you haven't checked our her blog, you should. For some reason, Blogger doesn't link nicely to it so I don't have it listed on the side but she's great and her blog is worth following.] Anyhoo... this particular TriChat was sponsored by energybits who were gracious enough to give away some energybits samples to several lucky tweeps, including me. Yay! Love winning stuff. I've done pretty well in recent years, but that's a post for another day.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and my prize arrived in the mail. I eagerly tore into the package, read through the materials and thought Hmmmm.

Now... I hate to look a gift horse in the mouth but I have to say... I was a little skeptical. These promise to do pretty much anything and everything you need them to. All for one calorie per bit. Eat them instead of a meal! Or with a meal! Before bed! When you wake up! Put them in the fridge to maintain freshness... Or don't, because they never go bad! Swallow because they taste awful or chew them, and watch your teeth turn green! I feel like the marketing team lacked direction. And consequently, I wasn't sure of the best way to put these to the test. I put them in the fridge and decided to give it some thought. I wasn't sure I wanted to "risk" a workout with trial fuel. But... I will say, the tin is very cute.

Energybits are made from 100% spirulina algae. And coincidentally, or maybe I'm just noticing because I have a tin of it in my fridge, lately I've been seeing spirulina crop up here and there, named as a superfood. Yesterday it was while watching the documentary Food Matters. Today, it was in my Facebook news feed in a photo shared by my chiropractor - which I'm sharing here...

So perhaps that's why, as I was getting ready for a long run that was supposed to happen on Sunday but didn't as a result of a migraine, I found myself contemplating that cute little tin. Although I was facing a gorgeous sunny day, warm for this time of year, I just wasn't feeling the love for my long run. Not looking forward to this 32 km run (20 miles for you US-folk). Bored with my route. Grumpy about over-mileage shoes. Knees bugging me. I hadn't been eating as well as I should have been in the previous few days. The long run was feeling like a chore rather than an opportunity to bliss out for a few hours. And my Garmin was acting up. I loaded up my water belt with standard long-run fuel (Chocolate Raspberry GU Roctanes) and on impulse, tucked in the cute little tin of energybits. 

So. I'm out the door. I'm running. 45 minutes or so in, I think I ought to have a GU but I don't want to. Typically I try to follow the recommended fueling time frames rather than waiting until I feel like I need something but this morning I decided to wait. At an hour and 15 minutes, I had a GU. It used to be that I looked forward to these little pouches of yumminess but I think I may have reached my saturation point with chocolate raspberry GUs. So at the 2 hour mark, when I should have been downing GU number 2, it didn't surprise me too much that I decided not to have one. Some time later, about 19.5 km in, my Garmin died and I no longer had any idea what the exact timing of my run was - just a rough idea based on the mileage left between me and home. With about 10 km to go, I figured I should do something. I have a psychological issue with 10Ks. Too short to be a long run. Too long to be a short run. I just don't like them. I'd probably been out for somewhere between 2:30 and 2:45. My knees and hips were bugging me. I was tired. I wanted to be done. I didn't want another GU and I was already [for me] underfueled. So I stopped to take a walk, pulled out my little tin and shook 30 energybits into my hand. Swallowed them in 2 or 3 gulps, with what was left of my water ...and dusted my now green hand off on my leg. Resumed the run.

So what's the verdict? Well, I'm not sure. It doesn't help that so much was out of the "norm" for today or that the Garmin was dead. I will say that though there was a slightly grassy taste as I swallowed them, they didn't "repeat" on me, resulting in 10 kms worth of lawn clipping burps. They didn't result in any gastrointestinal distress that would cause me to question trying them on a rural route far from any pit stops. They also didn't result in a noticeable energy surge the way I noticed when I tried Roctanes for the first time. But they did get me through the dreaded final 10K, without feeling weak or like I was fading in the final kms. So, long story short (I recognize it's a bit late for that), the jury is still out. I still have some left and I will certainly try them again. Just have to figure out when's the best test... before a workout I don't want to do? A double or triple? Hills? Early morning? Late in the day? 

Would I buy them if I saw them in the store? I don't know yet. As a woman who has lost a huge amount of weight and is trying to balance fueling my workouts with keeping the weight off, I am certainly keen to find a good workout fuel that doesn't break the calorie bank, but I don't have enough evidence to know if these are them...  yet. If energybits is interested in sending me more to continue my trial and error, that's cool. I've always wondered why companies aren't interested in sponsoring the "every woman" or "every man" athlete...  I'll gladly take more samples & some branded wear to Nascar myself up through the Vancouver Marathon in May! LOL. Otherwise, I'll be figuring out how best to test the handful left in my cute little tin. And thanks energybits for sending me a sample that lets me try before I buy.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Double Double

No, this is not a blog post about the popular Tim Horton's order.

It's because this is my second post of the day, which is pretty unusual. And it's also about something else unusual. My double workout. Wait, that is not the unsual part. I do double workouts all the time. All. The. Time. Five days a week usually. And one day a week is a triple. Actually, today was a triple. But my point: my double workout. I just did a brick. And what a brick it was.

My training plan called for a 1:15 ride, followed by a 30 minute run. I wasn't really feeling like it but then I am cursed with being disciplined and really believing you get the race you earn. So I headed out for my favorite ride up to Tynehead Park. Took a QOM title on the climb up (follow me on Strava if you like). It was a good ride, aside from a frustrating crawl over the bridge behind someone riding even slower than me... and ping-ponging off the rails so I couldn't even pass her for fear of the ride turning into the bike version of roller derby!

Came home, peeled off a couple of layers, used the washroom, grabbed my Nikes and my iPod and headed out for the run. I glanced at my Garmin at about the 1K mark and did a double take. I was running a 5:31/km pace. I have only ever done one run faster than this and that was a 5K time trial a few weeks ago and I nearly threw up at the end. My usual pace is a minute to 1:15 slower than this. And I didn't feel like I was pushing it. Weird. Thought maybe it was a Garmin issue. And I kept going. Never going to be able to sustain that pace, not even going to try. Well... hello.

It is in these moments, there is not a doubt in my mind that this is the goal. The goal. This is so much more rewarding than the fleeting satisfaction of being 0.2 lbs lower on the scale. Oh sure, there's probably something to be said here for exercise endorphins. But still. This moment. I needed to be reminded. Strong is the new beautiful.

Moderation & the Art of Being

It's been a month since my last post. I wish I could say that I've resolved my conflict and am feeling settled. I can't. I've still bounced around between dedicated athlete wannabe and frenzied scale-fixated food Nazi. I've logged a 488 calorie day. And I've logged a 2679 calorie day, supporting the day's 29km run and 1950m swim with healthy food choices. And something new in this mix: I've also had days where I've scarfed down a couple of handfuls of chocolate chips, two cookies, or a brownie from a work meeting. I'd like to say that when I've indulged I've sat down and enjoyed it, really taken the pleasure of having a treat. Instead, it's been a furtive, frenzied chow down before I can change my mind or someone sees me. And I know it's these behaviours that if not managed will cause me to climb back up the scale. It's not the brownie. It's not the cookies. It's the idea that these are forbidden, that eating them is shameful, and so if I'm going to indulge, I must do so in secret. That's my confession. I know this is something I'll need to work on.

I think I understand the underlying issue here. You know how people say everything is OK in moderation? Well, I don't do moderation. I do hyper-restricted fruit and coffee 500-calorie days. And I do super-clean eating, nutrient-dense fueling to support my triathlon & marathon training regime. I'm black or white. Hot or cold. Slow or fast. Just kidding. I'm never fast!

I don't have some epiphany for how I'm going to master this. In my disciplined, rule-based, extreme thinking way, I'd like to create a rule about when and how treats can be enjoyed. Like, only on race days or if I've burned more than 2000 calories in exercise or it's a holiday or I saw a unicorn or all of the above. But I think that's just more control-freak, all or nothing thinking. So for now - right now anyway - I'm just going to let my awareness "be". As I typed that I was reminded of some advice I was given earlier this week: "stop worrying..turn all that energy into focus and just .........BE". Words of wisdom from my trainer. He'll never read this. Don't anybody tell him I suggested he knows what he's talking about.

Getting back to my conflict and whether I want to be an athlete or a scale obsessed wing-nut, I think I've got that figured out. Actually, if I'm going to be honest, I think I've always known which I wanted to be - yes, hello, the blog is titled Strong is the New Beautiful - but I'm starting to think maybe my flip-flopping was fear based. You know, I know how to lose weight. I can chip away at the number on the scale. I can measure progress. But being an athlete? Come on, who are you kidding? That's what my inner critic is telling me. There are no guarantees. I might not finish that Half Ironman within the cut-off times. My knees might not hold out through another marathon. I might not be able to keep up on a club run or ride. And along the way, it's harder to gauge whether you're making progress or going to be successful. And then I think maybe I should stick with what I know. Or I catch sight of The Pooch, and feel like I didn't finish the job I started with this weight loss "thing" and that I need to shift my focus back to driving that number down. Because surely another 5, 10, 15 will take care of The Pooch. Oh hey... we're headed back to Crazy Town!

So one of my challenges, in order to try and maintain this focus on being healthy, being strong, and pursuing my fitness goals is to limit the amount of time spent on my scale. Yes, I've been on that flipping thing every time I change my clothes. Before I get in the shower. On the scale. When I get home from work. On the scale. Before a run. On the scale. After a run. On the scale. You get the idea... And I often made decisions about whether or not to eat dinner based on my post-work weigh in. And after a few days of skipping dinner and logging low calories, my workouts started to suffer. No training with a purpose here. Just going through the motions. And if my goals are based on fitness, performance, body composition... is the scale really telling me that? Hmmm... maybe not. So I have challenged myself to once a day weigh-ins for the rest of March. It's been about a week since I made that decision. It hasn't been easy but I've stuck with it. I still go a little batty over the number. But I only check it once a day. And I don't let it change the game plan when it comes to fueling my training. And that's progress.