Friday, July 5, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Holiday Weekend Edition

1. salt water
2. riding waves in (theoretical, at least yesterday)
3. sand
4. happy, exhausted dogs
5. happy, exhausted us

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Independence Day Edition

1. fireworks
2. cookouts
3. various red, white, and blue foods
4. little kids with sparklers
5. adults with sparklers

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The First 100 Pounds (91 - 100)

All these posts later, and I still haven't had a chance to go to med school. Lazy, lazy, lazy. Talk to a professional before you decide a poet is a good healthy lifestyle role model of any sort.

Also, thanks to all of you who have commented, sent emails, posted, or otherwise been supportive of these posts (and of me in general). Oh, and there might be a little swearing. Nowhere near enough, if you ask me.

If you'd like to start at the beginning of the list, you can do so here. But here's 91 – 100:

I am terrible between 3 and 5 PM. I just am. If I'm going to fall asleep during the day, that's when it's going to happen. So I don't try to run during those times (I can cross-train if I need to, but those are seldom my happiest workouts). If I'm going to get my best workout, I need to do it in the morning or start sometime between 5 and 6 PM. That's just the way my particular circadian rhythms seem to work—I could try to fight them if I wanted to, but the workouts are much smoother if I honor my good times of day.

I've talked about rhythms a bit in terms of things like understanding the weird, non-linear progression of weight loss, but it applies to other aspects of the process as well. There are a few days every month where I am simply ravenous, all the time. Sometimes, I can finish an entire meal, be fully hydrated, and still be painfully hungry. It's not, of course, actual hunger—maybe I'm in a muscle-building phase, or losing fat, or maybe it's just that something happens that crosses my hunger/satiety responses, but during these periods, something is going on with my body that I don't totally understand, and while it's uncomfortable, I've learned to go with it. I eat well, I make sure I have plenty to drink, and I have reasonable snacks when I just can't stand it anymore. I recognize the symptoms and know to ride it out. Giving myself the time to understand my own body rhythms—or at least recognize them—helps a lot.

And is. This was another tough one. It's hard to look at myself in the mirror and see the good. We're trained to see our faults—just one glance at my Facebook feed gives me ads for reducing belly fat, removing hair, buying some sort of garment or makeup or pill that will somehow make my hideousness more socially acceptable. I read articles that claim to be reviews of running clothes but actually talk about whether a specific pair of pants might make my ass look too big and not about how the garment actually performs. Again, it's too easy to focus on what I'm not instead of what I am.

There's a full-length mirror in our bathroom. For whatever reason, I started looking into it right before I got into my post-workout shower. It was not easy at first. I saw the wrinkles and the bulges and the sags. But I began working on establishing gratitude to my body, for getting through another run, for getting through another day, for getting stronger, for staying uninjured. It's ridiculous and touchy-feely-self-helpy, and it is very, very effective.

Because I can. I just can't have everything I want. Because no one can. The key is in figuring out what I want. If I want to run well, I can't have eggs benedict for breakfast that day. That doesn’t mean I can never have it again—it just means it doesn't fit into my plans for the day. If I want eggs benedict for breakfast, I can't have a good run later. Again, that doesn't mean I'll never run well again—it means I won't run well that day. Both options are available to me, just not at the same time. On any given day, one will win out over the other. I know, for example, that I can do a perfectly acceptable walking workout if I've had eggs benedict several hours before—so maybe I just switch a run day and walk day that week. Or maybe I've been eating out a lot because we've had a bunch of events in the past couple of weeks. In that case, I'll go with a lighter breakfast and a run. It's all available, and I can do anything I want—just not everything I want.

This might be the toughest of all. I was not athletic in school. The only teams where I was picked first were ones for which my size (I got tall FAST, hitting my full height of almost 5'8" when I was about 11) was an asset: red rover, tug of war. (Note to all phys. ed. teachers: you know who the non-athletic kids are. Why the fuck don't you make them team captains once in a while so that the same 3 or 4 kids don't always end up being picked last? You asshats.)

Um…where was I? Oh, yeah. Athlete. It's a weird word for me—certainly one I've never had applied to me by anyone else. And a lot of my personality had been bound up in not being very good at sports. I don't have terribly good eye/hand coordination. I'm not great under that kind of pressure (although I'm fine under other kinds). I was never taught how to build myself up to the point that learning how to push myself athletically might be fun—I was just pushed to go faster, farther, more, whatever, always with the implication that whatever I was doing simply wasn't good enough. That pushing almost never included any versions of the words, "You can do it," and never seemed to take into consideration where I was physically.

But I can run twelve miles. More, actually, since it's not like I drop to the ground when those twelve are finished. I can hike hills like nobody's business. I can do push-ups and crunches and lift heavy things. I have the resting heart rate of an athlete. What else do I need to call myself an athlete? It's not a label that I wear comfortably yet, but it's one that I wear when I can.

Runners might be the most supportive people I've ever met. We're competitive, but largely with ourselves. The vast majority of people who enter races don't do so because they think they'll win—they're looking for a personal record, maybe, or they're doing it as part of their training for another race, or entering racing gives them a reason to keep up with their workouts. The running community is ah-may-zing, and I'm happy to be a part of it, so when a running friend of mine is injured, I ask how she's doing. If another posts to FB that he had a good run, I try to "like" it. Seriously, it doesn't take a lot, but being supportive helps keep me positive, and where's the downside to that?

Writing is how I process—how I come to understand myself and the events happening around me. Everything I've learned about myself during the past year and a quarter or so, I've learned through writing about it. You might process things differently, but for me, it's not "real" until I can write about it. Learning-through-writing applies to mourning, love, hatred, fear—the whole gamut of human emotion—but it also applies to this…what? transformation?...I've been making. What little understanding I have has come through writing.

Just to prove that I can, because the fact that I can speak sometimes surprises the hell out of people, and that's fun. Also, it's neighborly. The saying hi part, not the surprising the hell out of people part. I once realized as I was approaching a runner that we were wearing the exact same outfit. She gave me a little raised-fist-power-to-the-people salute (it was in the days right after the Boston Marathon bombings). I said, "Nice outfit." Then we were both gone in our opposite directions. It made me happier than it had any right to. There's a kid who likes to hang out in his yard and kick a ball around. We say hi every time I pass him (he started it—I don't accost children, even when they're behind fences). I have no idea who he is, but why not, right? And if someone doesn't return my greeting (this is, after all, Massachusetts), what have I lost?

Like whether someone says hi to me. Or when, exactly, I drop another five pounds. Or whether a given person respects what I'm doing. Or whether a particular skirt fits yet or or or or or. I try my best to let all that go. It goes against the entire nature of my being, but I'm much more content when I can manage it.

In multiple ways. I force myself to forget what I look like when I run, because I'm sure it's not pretty. I also—despite looking into the mirror to try on clothes or give myself pep talks or practice a little gratitude—quite literally forget what I look like sometimes. A friend of mine took a picture of me a week or so ago, and when she showed it to me, I said, "Holy shit, am I really that skinny?" I'm not skinny (I'm on the cusp of overweight and obese), but I couldn't recognize my own body in that picture for a bit. I don't think of myself as being that size. When I was at my heaviest, it was pictures that showed me how large I was—I had trouble recognizing myself in those, as well. When I started losing weight, it was pictures that showed me where I was. The day-to-day visuals, for whatever reason, mean very little to me, but once in a while, I see a picture and it reminds me of what I look like now. It's a little weird, but I'm figuring it out. I'm figuring it all out.

Five Things that Don't Suck, She Certainly Can Can-Can Edition

1. air conditioning that isn't turned down to somewhere in the low 60s
2. fans (window or ceiling)
3. cool breezes
4. iced beverages
5. frozen novelties

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The First 100 Pounds (81 - 90)

Potential conversation for you to have with yourself:
YOU: Hey! This is some sort of medical advice right here in this blog post!
YOU II: No, it's really not. This is written by a poet with no medical background whatsoever.
YOU: Okay. Perhaps I should talk to some sort of medical professional or something.
YOU II: Good idea, Smartypants.

If you want to start from the beginning, you can do so here. Here are 81 – 90:

This was huge. I don't have fat pants and thin pants. When I shrink out of my clothes, I donate them to Goodwill or give them to friends who wear that size. I don't need a safety net, and when my clothes are too big I look like I weigh more than I do. So off they go to Goodwill, as quickly as I can ship them out. This all means that I'll never have a picture of myself standing in a single leg of one of my old pairs of jeans, and that's fine by me.

Speaking of Goodwill, I am cheap. I hate the idea of spending real money on clothes that might, if I buy them a little small, fit me for a season. I also have problems with the politics of a lot of clothing retailers—I don't want to support businesses that outsource their labor to countries where factories are unregulated and dangerous. I don't want to support businesses that treat women like prostitutes or porn stars or objects. I know I can't avoid this completely (isn't that sad?), but if I get my clothes from Goodwill, I'm at least not supporting those brands, even if I end up wearing them. Buying used also fits in with my environmental efforts—no packaging, little-to-no transportation costs and fuel use, putting to use something that might otherwise end up in a landfill somewhere. Plus, it's possible to score really good, well-made, classic pieces at Goodwill. I've got clothes from L.L. Bean, Ralph Lauren, Ann Taylor, Eddie Bauer, and probably some places I can't think of right now. The most anything has ever cost me is $4.99, and some items cost $2.50, sometimes with the tags still on them. Sure, there's plenty of worn-out stuff at Goodwill, but if it's worn out, I don't buy it. Problem solved. Yes, someone I don't know has worn it before, but that's why we have washing machines (if the idea of this grosses you out, you probably don't want to know how many people touch your "new" clothes during the process of making them). Building a wardrobe this way takes patience, and it can be sad to try on a cool piece only to find that it doesn't fit, but it works for me.

That said, I prefer to have some basics. I like to own one pair of black pants, a black t-shirt and a white blouse—the rest of my wardrobe can rotate in and out of color palettes, but those three items go with almost anything else I might buy. I think about them as my essential teaching wardrobe, but the fact of the matter is that I want the same things in the summer: give me a pair of black capris and a white short-sleeved blouse and I am good to go. These things can be hard to find used in good condition. Think about it: you might stop wearing a certain shade of blue, or maybe your mom bought you a green shirt that makes you look like you died a week ago, but if you have a great black t-shirt, you wear that sucker into the ground. I also don't rely on Goodwill for special occasions. There are some events—like weddings and funerals—where I'm willing to shell out for the right dress, even if it means spending more money on one dress than I've spent on the rest of my wardrobe all year. This doesn't mean I don’t check Goodwill first—I do. I'm just prepared to spend money when I really need to.

I have a problem with sugar. I get very involved with blood sugar swings, for one thing—I eat candy, my blood sugar spikes, it dips, I crave candy, I eat it, my blood sugar spikes…you get the picture. I've read a zillion studies and articles about studies, and I could give you a bunch of different potential reasons why I have trouble turning off the sugar once it's on, but I know about myself that I can't have sweets in the house. Not baked goods, not candy, not ice cream. I'm not going to say that I'm incapable of regulating my intake, but I'm damn close. I do know, however, that it is physically impossible for me to eat more than two Tootsie Pops in a single day—it would tear up my mouth Cap'n Crunch-style. So I always have Tootsie Pops in the house. If I'm craving something sweet, there it is, in a little single-serve, 60-calorie package. And—and I think this is the key to the whole thing—it takes me a long time to eat a Tootsie Pop. Think about, say, how many M&Ms you could eat during the time it takes to get through a Tootsie Pop—certainly enough to get into those blood sugar swings I was talking about. One lollipop takes care of my craving and takes long enough to eat that it doesn't kick off a cycle. They might be made of magic.

I tell people about this a lot. I'm convinced (and there are studies that back this up, although there are others who disagree) that artificial sweeteners cause more sugar cravings than they fix. I know I was never able to get a handle on my sugar intake until I gave up artificial sweeteners. I traded "lite" yogurts for organic yogurts made with actual sugar, and then, eventually, for plain yogurt sweetened with my own fruit; I turned in my Diet Coke Fan Club membership; I made the decision that if I was going to have sweets, they were going to be actually sweet—usually made in my own kitchen, and for some sort of event that would help ensure they didn't stay in my kitchen. A few months after I gave up my one lonely Diet Coke a day, I had one. It was disgusting. It tasted like a bubbly combination of the can it came in and some sort of industrial solvent. Which is kind of what it is.

What little control I have over my relationship to sugar, I have—I am convinced—because I gave up artificial sweeteners. For a long time I had a rule that I wouldn't buy sweets. It wasn't that I couldn't have them; I just wasn't a person who bought them. It kept me from having them in the house, but allowed me to have dessert when, say, we went out for a special occasion or had guests for dinner. At this point, I'm learning how to manage sweets and how to mitigate the damage they do. If I'm dying for a candy bar, for instance, I'll often get a Twix, because I can hand one of the sticks to Jed. The point is that when I'm craving something sweet, there's probably a physiological reason, and eating an artificially sweetened whatever-it-is isn't going to address the issue that caused the craving, and so I'll keep seeking it out, whereas if I just eat actual sugar, and figure out how to restrain the portion? I’m good.

Because our bodies need them. Do lots of people eat too many carbs? Yes. Yes, we do. Do we eat too much fat? Yes. Protein? Often. Plants? Probably not so much. Although I love steamed vegetables with a love beyond measure, I have never said, "I just can't stop eating these steamed vegetables!" and I doubt anyone else has, either. But lots of people eat too much in general. If I go on a low-carb diet, I'll lose weight, but it will largely be water weight AND I won't be giving my muscles the glycogen supply they need to help me run well. If I go on a low-fat diet, I risk robbing myself of the fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids (some of which my body cannot make) that I need to be healthy. I need it all—I just don’t need too much of it, and it's probably a good idea if I consider its sources.

I was amazed at the difference this made. Half a cup of oatmeal plus applesauce and skim milk at 6:30AM = me hungry before 10:30. Half a cup of oatmeal plus applesauce and skim milk and about 15 grams of almonds at 6:30AM = me not hungry until after noon. An extra hundred calories of fat and protein buys me hours of satiety. If I'm going to have a long run that day, I'll add something to that breakfast: a bowl of cereal (the hours before a long run are not a good time to be adding fiber or worrying about excess carbs), or a hard-boiled egg, half an avocado, or a bit of peanut butter and honey on a piece of toast. Something like that. I'm going to need the energy.

I've already said that if I'm having a lot of cravings for something specific, I usually eventually give into them. But I don't have a lot of cravings. When I start craving, say, ice cream, I wonder if it's because my body needs fat or calcium or sugar—or some combination. If I add a little more yogurt to my post-run snack or get a little more fruit into my diet and the craving goes away, I have my answer. It's not that I'm substituting one for the other. No one should ever try to convince me that yogurt with a handful of blueberries is "just as good" as an ice cream cone because all the people involved in that interaction know it's a lie. It's good in its own way, don't get me wrong. But it's not ice cream. Sometimes the craving is nutritional, and by meeting the nutritional need, I can get rid of the craving.  When all is said and done, if I still want the ice cream, I have it. And I love it. And all is right with the world.

Eating broccoli is not "being good." Spending a day on the couch is not "being bad." If I say to myself, "I was good and ran ten miles today," then the next time my long run rolls around and, say, it's 90 degrees out (like it has been recently) with jaw-dropping humidity and I'm feeling a twinge in my left hamstring and it's the day before I'm supposed to get my period, but I manage to drag myself through eight miles before calling it a day, does that mean I'm bad? Of course not. Words are important. The way I talk to myself is important. I start most runs with the attitude that I will finish—it usually isn't even a question. If I'm not myself for whatever reason, I adjust that to, "Let's see what I can do," and far more often than not, I get to the end of my scheduled run. But behavior is just behavior. Food is just food. Look, brownies are delicious. Spending a whole day lying on a raft in the middle of a lake and lazily sipping something cool, fruity, and possibly alcoholic is also delicious in its own way. Then again, so is broccoli, and so is finishing a run strong.

This is related to prioritizing exercise, but it also has to do with me giving up the mindset that working out is something to get out of, like jury duty or dinner with relatives you don't like (I love my relatives, by the way, in-laws included). If I know I'll be spending a day with friends, I'll get up early and take a walk before breakfast so that I don't get lulled into taking a day off when  I end up not feeling like working out the evening after a day of socializing. It gets done first because it's the most important thing I want to do that day. Want to, want to, want to. Not need to. Not should. Want to.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Survivalist Edition

1. taking away the itch from a bug bite by putting really hot water on it
2. any movie where someone hides out in a swamp by ducking under water and drinking through a reed
3. especially if they DON'T end up getting eaten by an alligator
4. food cooked on a stick
5. sitting next to someone mosquitoes find tastier than you

Monday, July 1, 2013

Five Things that Don't Suck, Belated Edition

1. Jed in a suit
2. impromptu zoo trips
3. lions
4. duck races
5. meerkats

The First 100 Pounds (71 - 80)

I'm not a doctor and I don't even play one on TV. Although I would, if the money were right.

If you want to start from the beginning, you can do so here. Here are 71 – 80:

Sometimes, it's putting my hands on my hips and realizing there's muscle there. Sometimes it's what I can lift or how quickly I can move. It doesn't matter—if I notice it, I take a minute to appreciate it. Seconds, really.

I know I've mentioned this before, in terms of celebrating (or at least acknowledging) my successes, but I also do it if I need a little pick-me-up. If I need to get my energy up for a run, I might slap my thigh or flex my calf. It sounds totally self-absorbed when I write it like that, and maybe it is, but I don't care. Does it work? Yes? Then I put it on this list (other criteria for this list: Can I use it to make a joke? Do I have anything to say about it? Did I think of it?). I make other people feel my muscles, too. Except the mailman. Damn restraining order.

When I started continuous runs by distance instead of time, they were all between two and a half and three miles long. I ran three times a week, I walked hills a couple of days a week, and I took two days off. It was fine, but I knew I needed more challenges if I was going to stave off boredom, so I decided to extend one run a week, to do this "long run" that I'd been reading so much about. My first long run was three and a half miles. I had never run that far before in my life, and I was proud of myself. The next long run was four miles. Pride. My first five-mile long run was a major milestone for me, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it was the natural comfort of having a number that ended with a zero or a five (why do I like that so much?). At the end of those runs, I'd walk up to Jed and announce how far I'd run, and then I'd do a little body builder pose and say, Raaaaaaar! Because I was mighty. And I was proud.

People will tell you that losing weight is a calories in/calories out proposition. Those people are lying. Or oversimplifying, anyway. Sure, if I eat more calories than my body needs, I will gain weight. If I use more calories than I eat, I'll lose weight. But on a day-to-day basis, weight is also a factor of what I've eaten (carbs, which I need to run well, hold water—that's part of their job), whether I'm hydrated or not, how much salt I've eaten in the past day or so, hormonal shifts and other monthly changes, whether my body is in a phase of building muscle…I could go on. For me, the weight loss tends to run in a pattern that consists of trading the same three or four pounds back and forth for about three weeks, then losing five or six pounds in the course of about a week. It all just goes away at once. On a weekly basis, my diet and exercise routine are remarkably consistent. I have to look at it long term, because putting too much stake in my daily—or even weekly—weight will drive me crazy. I knew, for example, when I hit the 90-pounds-lost mark that I'd have about two months more before I hit 100. That did not stop me from riding the swings up and down as my body went through pretty much the EXACT SAME PROCESS IT HAS BEEN GOING THROUGH FOR THE PAST YEAR. Even though I understand it, and even though I know that losing a pound or so a week is the best way to keep weight off long-term—it makes me crazy. So I was glad to hit 100, in part because I can stop that particular obsession for a while. As I've mentioned before, intellectual knowledge is not always the same as emotional knowledge, and for obvious reasons I'm most content when they agree with each other.

Experts differ on the wisdom of this. Early on, I didn't weigh myself at all—I let my clothing be my guide. Then, once I stopped being such a chicken, I started weighing myself once a week. Then twice. And eventually I came across some studies that said people who are successful at maintaining weight loss tend to weigh themselves every day. And since that fit into my naturally obsessive personality, that's what I latched onto. I don't tend to let my weight dictate anything—and it doesn't affect my mood or my behavior for more than a moment every morning anyway. It does help me keep on track, so I do it.

I'm proud of the weight loss, I'm not gonna lie. But I do this because I love how strong I feel. I love setting goals and knocking them down. I love that I have become someone who knows how to power herself through a workout. I love the consistency and the control. I love knowing that I can outrun many of my friends during a zombie apocalypse (I'm looking at you, Mike).

So all that in #74 and #76 up there, yeah. But also: I like how I'm beginning to look. And weight is one more goal that I can set up and knock down, so why not?

This is a hard one. I am simply not good at this. When someone tells me I look good, or notices the muscles in my legs, or whatever, it's hard not to be self-deprecating or completely negate the compliment with some kind of explanation of where I want to be in 6 months or something equally diminishing. When you lose 100 pounds, people notice, and they tell you things like how good you look, or how great your skin looks, or whatever. When I wear skirts, someone often comments on how muscular my calves are. Here is what I have trained myself to say: "Thank you."

Not super-short, but knee-length or above. I declared this to be the Summer of the Skirt, in part because I'm still shrinking out of clothes pretty quickly and skirts will last a little longer than shorts before they begin to look ridiculous, and in part because I like my legs. They're still bigger than I'd like them to be, but they're strong and getting more defined every week and I'm happy to have them. Plus, skirts are cute. Do I still own a couple of ankle-length skirts? I do. I'm a poet. I think it might be required. And they are also cute. But when it's 90 degrees out, something above the knee makes me much happier.

Look. Exercise is not punishment. When it felt that way to me, it was because I didn't enjoy the activity or because I was working too hard at it. I thought getting a "good workout" meant working so hard that I thought I was going to die. That is not fun (although as I gain fitness it can be sort of fun to figure out where that point is). I'm not a fan of team sports—I like exercise where the only person I'm letting down when I screw up is me. I'm not a fan of weight training because I find it boring. I like yoga because it forces me out of my all-or-nothing mentality and makes me focus on doing what's right for me. There's no schedule, no "should be able to do this by now," no ranking of top yogis (or maybe there is and I just don't know about it). There's just me, trying not to fall over. I like it. I like running because of the 8 million reasons I've stated on this blog already: the challenge, the meditative aspects, the personal goal-setting, etc.

That's all a long introduction to this: when you enjoy what you're doing, you don't need to reward yourself for having done it. I don't eat ice cream after a workout because I've "earned" it. I don't get a new running outfit because I "deserve" it. When I do eat ice cream, it's because I enjoy it. When I get a new running outfit, it's because I need it (or because it's super-cute). I'm not constantly bargaining with myself, and I'm neither undoing the progress I'm trying to make with exercise by eating ice cream all the time nor constantly trying to figure out what my next reward should be. The running is a reward. If it weren't, I'd have to find something else, because I wouldn't be able to stick to it.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

The First 100 Pounds (61 - 70)

Damnit, Jim, I'm a poet not a doctor.

If you want to start from the beginning, you can do so here. Here are 61 – 70:

If I get hurt, I need to stop. And if I need to stop, I might not start again. Everything I have done—everything, since day 1—I have done with an eye on keeping myself injury-free. I do not need an excuse to stop, and this was especially true at the beginning. If it's really not about punishing myself and it really IS about getting healthy, then I can take a day when I need a day, or back off on a workout so that I don't get hurt. If I'm pushing through the pain or making myself run on a day when I know I shouldn't, then I'm no longer doing this for my health, clearly. And while I might not know for sure the reasons why people who injure themselves to the point of being sidelined do so, I'd be willing to bet that a good number of them have traded punishing themselves with food for punishing themselves with exercise.

I read a lot about running. I read terribly-written (really—they're very, very bad, and it saddens me that someone gets paid to write them) articles on I read Runner's World, which I enjoy quite a bit. I read better-written books about running. I started with a book for beginner runners, and I've read several since then—one for women runners, one on half- and full-marathons. Learning is how I deal with the world. It makes me feel prepared. I felt like I knew what I was getting into when I started running, because I'd read about it. When I started to feel nauseated towards the end of my long runs, I recognized that I probably needed fuel. Oh, I thought. This is what they were talking about. I didn't realize I was running far enough to need that. And I started putting a little Gatorade into my water for my long runs. I recognized it because I'd read about it—and I could have been wrong, but at least I wasn't wondering what the hell was going on. The reading I've done gives me a place to start trying to treat whatever problem I develop, be it nausea or pain or lack of focus, and I can usually fix the problem on the first try.

That's right—I ice preventively. If I wake up in the morning with a stiff knee, I put an ice pack on it while I drink my first cup of coffee. If one of my tendons feels a little tender, I ice it. I don't wait. And it's worked like a charm for me. Which is good because:

It's not that I'm anti-painkillers. My mom was a nurse. I have various over-the-counter painkillers, and I know which one works best for me in different situations. But I don't use them after a run, and I sure as hell don't use them before a run. Pain is my body's way of letting me know something is wrong—why would I want to ignore that? If my workouts are causing me pain (besides the occasional muscle soreness), there's a problem that painkillers probably aren't going to solve. And covering it up could make the damage worse.

For me, that usually means low fat plain organic yogurt with applesauce and cinnamon—eight ounces after a long or hard workout, closer to five after a shorter/easier workout. Eating a combination of protein and carbs in the first 30 minutes after working out helps get those nutrients to my muscles faster, I'm told, and so I do it. I have no idea if it's bullshit science or not. When I started fueling after my workout, I experienced less muscle soreness, so I do it. The yogurt and applesauce combination works for me because I don't really want to eat anything at all right away. It's easy to stomach. By the time I've cooled down and showered, I'm ready for some real food. Other runners eat other things, like recovery shakes or smoothies or peanut butter on toast. I tried yogurt and applesauce early on and it worked for me, so I stuck with it. If I get bored, I'll try something else.

And I’m unapologetic about naps. I don't know when we decided as a culture that busyness was our end-all and be-all. I'm a poet. I recognize the need for vast quantities of down time—I can't write if I'm keeping myself busy that way. When I am busy, when I'm making excuses for things that HAVE to get done, it's often because I'm feeling particularly uncomfortable in my own skin. I need sleep to function well. I need it to write, to work, and to work out. Forget the rules of thumb about how much sleep people need—you need what you need, period. I know that I'm happier, and my life runs better, if I get between seven and eight hours of sleep. I can run on less, and do, sometimes for weeks at a time. But everything is better for me if I get those seven hours. Your mileage may vary, but I'd venture to say that you know if you're getting enough or not. And that you're probably not. Or maybe you are—what the hell do I know?

I've learned that if it's under 70 degrees, I can run on water until mile 8. Somewhere during the 8th mile, though, I'm going to get nauseated. I've never gotten sick (knock on wood), but I've had some lovely long runs turn unpleasant quickly. I tried a bunch of different fuel to see what would work for me, and found that my body tolerates Gatorade the best—I mix it in a low concentration (less than 25% Gatorade, the rest water) and I'm good to go. If I'm going over ten miles, I eat one of those 100-calorie granola bars somewhere between mile 5 and mile 8 (in pieces, not all at once). I've also learned that if it's much warmer than 70, I'd better grab the Gatorade for any run that's six miles or longer.

Yoga helps, although I've fallen out of my practice over the past few weeks (I think I need some new DVDs—the routine was getting a little, um, routine). I just know that I feel better if I stretch than if I don't. When I'm done with a run, it's tempting to just be done, and I really really really don't want to spend another five or ten minutes stretching, but I make myself do it if I can, and I'm happy when I do. I'm even happier the next day.

Yoga helps me forget about ridiculous stuff—even when I start out with my brain reeling, by the time I'm done, I've found some calm. It helps me tune out the static from outside and inside.  Running can be the same. If I'm really troubled, sometimes I can't focus at all, but it's fabulous for clearing out the cobwebs and day-to-day ridiculousness.

There is nothing wrong with relaxing. Do it more, and don't apologize for it. As a poet, putting my feet up is easy—I can do it while I'm working. But sometimes Jed and I make an appointment to spend a morning eating waffles and watching cartoons. It's awesome. I recommend it. Put on your PJs and come on over. We make really good waffles.

Five Things that Don't Suck, Open Swim Edition

1. pool noodles
2. tossing smallish children around in the shallow end
3. diving to the bottom of the deep end to retrieve various toys
4. little kids learning how to tread water (mostly the look on their faces)
5. handstands