28 September 2012

so you want to take a yoga class

September is National Yoga Month. Of course, I'm only getting around to mentioning this at the end of the month, but better late than never, yes?

Over the weekend I had a friend tell me he was going to his first yoga class and was looking for some advice on what to expect. It's a fair question, especially if you have absolutely no experience with anything quite like yoga. Not that there actually is anything quite like yoga, though I suppose Pilates could maybe be considered a cousin.

Maybe you have your first yoga class coming up and have no idea what to expect and are, naturally, a little nervous. Maybe you're still on the fence about trying yoga and are in need of a little encouragement or advice. Either way, here are some of my tips for a first time yoga class:

Go In With An Open Mind
This is probably the single most important piece of advice I can bestow. Over the years, yoga has been given an ... elitist reputation. As though it's only accessible for the skinny, the affluent, the young, and/or the female. Or the tree hugging hippies. Nothing could be further from the truth. As y'all know, I love showing off as a curvy yoga ambassador. I love proving that you don't have to fit some physical ideal to practice yoga and have a ball doing it. Also, I was a vegetarian before I started practicing and one of my regular classmates is an older gentleman.

Yes. That initial class will be very intimidating. You're trying something new and it's going to challenge your body. I was sore for, like, a week after my first Ashtanga class. Depending on the class or the style, there may be chanting. Threw me off the first time, but now I love it. Love it enough to have a Sanskrit word from the closing chant tattooed to my body. I mean, hello.

The first time I had to go to a class different than my regular one, I had to remind myself of this advice. New environment, new teacher. It was scary, but I went in with an open mind and had a fantastic experience. If you're going to give yoga a genuine and sincere effort, the best thing you can do is check all stereotypes and cynicism at the door and go in blind without any expectation. Believe me, your practice will be better for it.

Don't Get Discouraged
As a curvy yogini, I appreciate more than anyone else the fact that our bodies often physically limit what we are able to do in our practice. Please don't let that dissuade or discourage you. That's why a good instructor will encourage modifications and why women like Anna are so awesome. Instead of seeing your body as an obstacle, see it as an opportunity. This is your chance to see the power of your form and you never know, it might end up surprising you.

Yoga is a life long endeavor and it's called a practice for a reason: nobody perfects it, you just continue to be challenged. Take Ashtanga. I'm only in the Primary Series, which means that on the off chance that I ever manage to conquer every pose, I still have the more advanced series and poses -- of which there are many -- waiting for me. Patience is key. It took me three months to get to headstand and I spent those three months hating the pose. No. Really. I told my instructor as much after one particularly frustrating practice.

In other words, unless you are a natural born contortionist, you aren't going to walk into your very first yoga class and suddenly be super flexible. That's okay. You aren't expected to. Take advantage of props like blocks and straps. Use modifications. Realize that there is a very real possibility you will be more open on one side than the other, which means you may be able to do a pose on one side but require assistance if you switch. That's okay. Also realize the uneven openness doesn't just go away. Even now I know which poses I can do on one side but can't on the other. Your body, your flexibility, your openness may change class to class. You could have a fierce streak where you're rocking a pose week after week and then all of a sudden you go to class and can't do it. Maybe it takes you a few times to get your legs up in headstand. Maybe you can only do one Wheel instead of two. That's okay. It happens to all of us at one time or another.

Finally, keep in mind that there are people who have been practicing for years who still struggle with certain poses. The point is to at least try every single time you are on your mat.

Listen To Our 26th President



Chances are, when you go to that first yoga class, you are going to have classmates who have been practicing for months, maybe even years. They are going to be more adept at certain poses than you are. Just the natural order of things and you can't let it get to you.

Yoga is not a competition. Yoga is about getting in touch with your spirit. Your body. Your soul. Your practice. Don't worry about the fact that ol' Suzy Q can effortlessly grab her hands in Marichyasana. Instead, focus on the fact that with each class your hands are slowly, slowly moving further up your strap. So what if George and you started at the same time and he seems to be progressing at a faster pace? Maybe you can do poses that challenge George, but you're too busy comparing what you can't do to notice.

Everyone is working at their own pace and that's the sheer beauty of yoga. That's why it is so accessible to people, because everyone can come in at whatever level they are at and go up from there. It's not a race, there's no rush, no test you have to pass. All you have to do is focus your energy and intentions on your own practice and shut out the rest of the world.

Lorelai If You Have To 
In the Gilmore Girls universe, to Lorelai is to scout out places for the best location, be it coffee shop or pizza parlor. In this instance, don't necessarily judge yoga by your first class. (Unless you have a really awesome one.) Me, I wasn't so lucky the first time and had I completely written off yoga because of one negative experience, I never would have found Ashtanga and my Saturday morning class with Jessica. Talk about depressing.

Each practice, each instructor, each studio has their own vibe and identity. Which means that each class is going to be just a little bit different. Not good different, not bad different, just different different and if you want a successful practice, it might mean trying out different classes until you find the right different for you. Hell, it might be as simple as the time of day. The best decision I ever made was to quit the 6am Ashtanga class. My body is just not awake that early in the morning. At least not awake enough for a 90 minute practice and I'd always leave feeling like I took two steps back from where I'd been the previous Saturday (see: don't get discouraged).

Before I started Ashtanga, I was completely naive to how many practices there are. I just thought yoga was yoga. Not so much. Just because one practice doesn't flow well for you doesn't mean there isn't another one out there.

What this also means is that if you are ever made to feel uncomfortable in a yoga class, do not return. Do not pass Go, to not collect $200.

Despite it's current reputation as a form of exercise, yoga is, first and foremost, a spiritual discipline. Take that to mean whatever you want (I mean, hi, I'm an agnostic), but realize that when it comes to your spirit and soul you don't want to settle on the first available. Understandably, I live in a major metropolitan city and have the luxury of options. Not everyone is as fortunate. #FirstWorldProblems and all. But if you are given the opportunity to have choices, I suggest taking advantage. It might take time to find the right space for you, but when you walk into that studio for the first time and something clicks deep down and you just know in your heart they were waiting for you, the time and effort will be worth it.

Any of my yoga practicing readers have any more advice out there for someone considering taking their first yoga class?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 September 2012

twenty seconds of insane courage

As much as I love fall, it's kinda killing my mojo this year.

Don't get me wrong. This isn't like last time. Running is still fun and I continue to look forward to my Friday runs. This past Friday it was just a wee bit chilly and the Metroparks were fairly absent of other people, so I could just focus on me and my run and it was, well, lovely. The overcast sky was messing up the GPS on my running app (or at least I presume that's what it was), so distance and pace weren't even factors. Which ended up being quite liberating.

But as the warm weather and bright days sunset into cool evenings and dark mornings, all I want to do is stay in bed just a little bit longer. Waking up early to work out during the week is getting harder and harder, even when I don't have to actually leave my bedroom to exercise.

My fourth 5K is next Saturday and my fifth is still a month away and as much as I am looking forward to running them, I knew deep down I needed something extra. Something with a little more oomph. Something to really get me excited and out of my autumnal ennui.


Like I often say: go big or go home, yes?

When the Rock 'n Roll Marathon Series announced a few months ago that they were coming to Cleveland, I first felt that spark of Hmmmm. Maybe... It's a big deal, running a half marathon. 13.1 miles. Farthest I've ever gone is 4.25. Of course, y'know, there are training schedules so it's not like I'm going to just show up at the starting line and expect to run thirteen miles.

And then I sorta forgot all about it. Oh, I'd vaguely tell people I was considering training for a half in 2013, but I never actually went beyond just the idea of it. Then last night, outta nowhere, I found myself on the registration site. Really, I couldn't even tell you what prompted me to check it out, but there I was. And I waffled, back and forth back and forth. I had no real excuse not to sign up, but my mind was going a million miles a minute with reason after reason why this was a bad idea. Or why it could wait until later. Or why I should just think about it some more.

But then, in one sheer moment of blind optimism, I registered. I registered for a half-marathon. Since it's non-refundable and non-transferable, there's no turning back now, kids.

I have no idea how I'll feel about running a half marathon. I may hate it, but at least I'll be able to say I did it. Or I may love it and move up to full marathons. No freaking idea, which is, of course, part of the fun. It's new and exciting and completely unlike anything I will have ever done before. Falls into that whole getting out of my comfort zone thing.

Now, to be fair, the Rock 'n Roll Cleveland Half Marathon isn't until October 2013. So I have, y'know, roundabout a year until this is something I really have to worry think about. Based on a twelve week training schedule, I don't need to start until mid-July, which means early morning runs before work are possible and by the time my fall fatigue sets in again next year I'll only be a few weeks out from the race.

But I'm excited already and love that I can officially say I'm training for a half marathon in 2013!

Any advice for a first time half marathon runner? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

24 September 2012

onederland

I was not at all prepared to write this post. In fact, I had a different post already planned and while I thought there was a possibility that I might have to whip something up like this come Monday morning, I didn't want to jinx myself by writing it too soon. Because that's how my brain works sometimes, as ridiculous as that sounds (and I know it does).

Instagram: JillGrun

Ladies and gents, I don't even know if I could hazard a guess at the last time I weighed under 200 pounds. Eighth grade? Ninth, maybe. I know I wasn't this small when I graduated high-school.

Those are freckles, FYI. Not liver spots.


That would be my senior class ring. I found it yesterday while cleaning my apartment. It's fucking huge on my ring finger, is comfortable on my middle finger, and I can wear it on my thumb. Hello. I'm actually wearing it today on my middle finger and I suspect it may become a permanent part of my jewelry rotation. I don't wear rings, but this one in particular is a nice reminder of how far I've really come. Not just on this particular journey, but over the course of my life.

I graduated from high-school in 2000, so as a general frame of reference I'm going to ballpark it and say this is the first time I have weighed under 200 pounds in fifteen years. January 24, 2011 I weighed 311 pounds. Today, September 24, 2012 I weigh 199. I have lost 112 pounds, folks. One hundred and twelve.

Processing. Still processing.

While I'm processing, I'd like to let y'all know that The Year of the Phoenix is now all Facebook Official with it's very own page. So if you like this blog, take a moment to consider liking it on FB!

The majority of my adult life has been spent weighing above 200 pounds. Actually, the majority of my adult life has been spent weighing above 250 pounds, so to be in Onederland (pronounced "wonderland") is....strange. At the beginning of this journey I had a history of self-sabotage after hitting a milestone. My disordered eating would rear its ugly head, but I'm not worried about that this time. Of course, the last two weeks I've had some big losses, so next week could show a gain just 'cause that's how the body works sometimes. But c'est la vie. Won't worry about that until next week comes.

As I'm figuring out, though, physically losing this much weight is much easier than mentally losing it. People don't tell you that part and it's a learning process that has some obstacles along the way. Sometimes, especially with regards to dating, I still see myself as weighing 311 pounds and my baggage and insecurities related to that resurface. When you spent a lifetime thinking one way, it's not easy to change the hard wiring in your brain.

But, as the sub instructor in my yoga class said on Saturday: If we can change our beliefs about our body, we can change our beliefs about our life. 

Here's the thing, though. The ultimate real-life take from this post lesson: I have gone from weighing over three hundred pounds to weighing under two hundred.

You don't have to be a celebrity or on a reality television show. I mean, hello, I'm just a librarian from Cleveland with a blog. You don't have to have a personal trainer or even a gym membership. The only thing I pay for is my yoga class. Everything else is done for free or using free/cheap iPhone apps. I'm not saying it's easy. I'm not saying you'll be perfect every week. I'm not saying it's an overnight thing. Took me exactly twenty months to get from 311 to 199.

But I am saying that it can be done.

It takes guts. It takes heart. It takes time and work. It takes destination, determination, deliberation.

But I did it and so can you. You just have to be willing to take that first step.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

20 September 2012

Gabourey Sidibe & Body Image

I'm a bit of a Pinterest addict. During downtime at work I tend to go through the Food & Drink category looking for new nomworthy recipes and the Quotes section is good for motivation and I love that there is a new Tattoo page. Not that I'm in the market for a fourth. (At least not yet.)

So it was while on Pinterest the other day that I found a quote from actress Gabourey Sidibe that originally appeared in a Harper's Bazaar interview shortly after Sidibe entered the acting world full force in Precious.

If you haven't yet seen Precious, I suggest you stop reading this post right now and go watch it. No. Seriously. It's cool. I'll wait.


It's a fine line some of us tread. The idea of losing a significant amount of weight while still advocating fat acceptance. It can be done, though. They aren't mutually exclusive ideals, although I understand how some outsiders may see it as hypocritical.

These days, after 108 pounds lost, I'm witnessing the other side of the coin. Co-workers showing surprise at the fact that I still want to lose another 40 or so pounds. Saying things like "You aren't going to get all skinny, are you?"

A lot of FA supporters were in love with the Dove "Real Women Have Curves" campaign that came out a few years ago. Me? I hate them. I hate the idea that it suggests that only women with curves can be considered "real" women. Or only heavy women have curves, which, let me tell ya, is not the case. I have plenty of skinny, curvy friends.

On Facebook and Pinterest you see pictures comparing Dove women with Victoria Secret Angels, the idea being that the Dove women with their curves are more beautiful. Or should be considered more beautiful just because they have a little more oomph on them.

One side of the spectrum is not more beautiful or sexy or curvy or more "real" than the other. Which is why I don't advocate fat acceptance, but body acceptance. It's an entirely personal choice, just as the idea of sexiness and beauty is completely subjective. It's all about you and me finding the weight and size that leaves us feeling happy and healthy and completely comfortable in our own skin.

Which brings me back to Gabourey. No, she doesn't look like a Victoria Secret model but they are all just as beautiful and sexy in their own ways. And when asked where she gets all of her confidence, Gabourey said:

 It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl … It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you. What matters is what you see. Your body is your temple, it’s your home, and you must decorate it." 

Amen sistah.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

17 September 2012

a tiger in a cage can never see the sun

One thing I love about Ashtanga is that it's a practice that truly allows you to see your progress. Because it's a set series, every class is the same order of poses and so each time you're on the mat you have a chance to work. Going deeper in poses you are already comfortable and familiar with while also working on those poses that still prove a challenge. Some poses come easier than others. Some are still an obstacle, nearly a year later. But it is called a practice for a reason.

Just look at headstand. I spent months hating that pose -- no, really. I even told my instructor that once -- but I refused to give up. No matter how inferior that pose made me feel, I always at least tried. Week after week, month after month. Then one random Saturday, a Saturday like any other, I was suddenly upside down.

Six months later and I still need to utilize the wall. But I no longer need to bang my feet against it for support, I can get them up more fluidly. And eventually I know I'll be rocking it out in the middle of my mat. Just have to keep practicing and with Ashtanga I get to do it every week.

At the same time, though, as much as I love a set series it's one reason why I also love checking out different classes as it gives me an opportunity to challenge my body in unfamiliar poses. Sometimes I even get the opportunity in class, which is what happened this past Saturday when my yoga instructor Jessica was telling us about another class she had taught recently where they did One Handed Tiger.

As I watched her gracefully lift her hand and leg, grabbing her back foot, I thought I want to do that.

So I did.


I love being surprised by what my body can do. Sure, I can't get my leg up very far, but just look at that arch and twist in my back. Balancing poses are my challenge and it took me about four five times before I was able to stay up long enough for a photo, but I did it.

The one thing that yoga has really taught me is to believe in the power of my body. To love my body, every fucking inch of it. Looking at the photo I don't see the excessive upper arm fat, I see the fact that I'm balancing on a single arm. I don't see fat thighs, I see the beautiful curve of a leg as I reach back to grab hold. I see focus in every limb. I see strength and determination in my gaze. I see strength and determination in all two hundred plus pounds of me. And nothing speaks more to the significance of those two hundred pounds than the shanti tattoo peeking out above my top.

Looking at that photo, I have never felt prouder, stronger, or more beautiful. It's the best type of beautiful, too, the kind that comes from the inside out. An esteem that resides entirely inside and is not dependent on external forces. Too often in the past my sense of self has taken its cues from other people, but not anymore. These days I go through life holding an energy, a fire, deep inside that leaves me buzzing and glowing. The sunlight streaming through my bedroom window onto my face isn't the only light visible in the picture.

I'm talking about the light you have to ignite all on your own. The light that says take me or leave me. The brave, confident light you take off the mat and carry into the world.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

15 September 2012

running and a winner!

Right. So, I was totally kidding the other day when I said Friday's would be my only run day. Because I went running yesterday morning. Pretty short, only three miles, and when I got done I thought that's it? The idea of only getting in one run a week was highly disappointing, so I may have to start throwing in a second run on Sundays and figure out a different rest day during the week.

#sweatpink

For yesterday's run I stayed close to home instead of driving to the Metroparks. It should be noted that the Metroparks are fairly flat while I have different levels of inclines on my home route and good goddess could I feel it. Plus I started off just a bit too fast so my pacing was off for the whole run. But I had a 14 minute average, which is better than my last few runs have been. My next 5K is three weeks a way so I definitely want to keep up with my runs and work on pacing and timing, because race day will be here before I know it!

Also, congrats to Tayla Anne who won the jar of peanut butter from Peanut Butter & Co.!


Tayla said that would want to try the Cinnamon Raisin Swirl if she won (excellent choice, if I do say so myself!) Tayla, please contact me at jill [at] theyearofthephoenix [dot] com with your mailing address so I can get your jar to you! If I haven't heard from you within 72 hours, another winner will be chosen. Thanks to all that entered!

I hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend! I had a bachelorette party last night and tonight I'm going to see Finding Nemo 3D. Yes, I am a nerd and way more excited than a thirty-year-old woman probably should be, but that's why y'all love me.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

14 September 2012

Friday Favorites: You've Got Mail

As an independent adult, most of the time when I open the mailbox at my apartment I'm faced with bills and catalogs (mostly bills). So when something special comes along in the form of, say, a package, it's like being an excited kid all over again and this past week was very packagriffic.

It's even better when the package is completely unexpected, which is what happened on Saturday when I came back from yoga class and had a gift waiting for me from my dear friend Mama Marchand.

find me on instagram: JillGrun

Along with being a fabulous blogger, Tricia owns an Etsy shop where she makes upcycled jewelry. A few weeks ago she asked for my address, but I didn't know why until I opened the package and found this "after" necklace inside. Representing how close I am to be an "after" (versus being a "before"), I feel weird wearing it now because I'm not quite there yet. So it will be a very, very exciting day when I get to put it on for the first time. Until then, it's good motivation!

Then, on Wednesday, my official Sweat Pink swag arrived from Fit Approach!

#sweatpink

The little postcard says Kicking Ass Is Best Done In Pretty Shoes. Word. The package included a Sweat Pink tank top and several pairs of pink shoelaces. As you can see, I was so excited I changed out my own laces almost immediately. Last week when I got the official Welcome email, I was in the middle of my funk and it felt unearned. Now that I have the gear in hand, I am super pumped about this ambassadorship and cannot wait to rock out in my new shirt on my run this morning

Don't forget: today is the last day to enter my giveaway for a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter! Winner gets a jar in the flavor of their choice, so you don't want to miss this opportunity! Speaking of giveaways, since I do have these extra pairs of pink shoelaces, would anyone be interested in winning a set?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 September 2012

the girl on fire

So, I gained a pound this week but c'est la vie. I saw it coming, so I wasn't surprised when I stepped on the scale Monday morning. I haven't had a gain since May, which might sound like a good thing, and it is, but there was a period of time when I could have told you what week I could expect to go up just a smidge. It stopped right around the same time I noticed changes in my cycle, so apparently it's all connected in some weird mystical way. Only this gain wasn't a standard monthly thing, this was entirely my own fault. So, again. Not surprised and still at 105 pounds lost. I mean, hello. One pound in the grand scheme of things? Not worth complaining about.

The number is such a small part of this overall journey, I don't stress or worry about it at all. It is what it is, good and bad. The way I see it, putting too much focus and pressure on the losing can be just as warped as putting too much on the occasional gains. The number does not define you, whichever way it is moving.

I think we all sometimes just need to refresh and reboot, so I'm viewing last week's funk and gain as an opportunity instead of an obstacle. The pressure of running three days a week removed, of focusing on overall distance instead of days, I feel free to find other ways to fill my before-work exercise void.

You know I love me my iPhone Apps, so after doing some quick hunting I decided to download the free app, Nike Training Club (not to be confused with Nike+ Training). The app offers multiple 30-45 minute workout routines with focuses like getting lean, getting toned, and getting strong. Most seem to require some kind of equipment like free weights or medicine balls (right now I'm just using one of my heavier dumb bells instead). Each routine has quick snippets of different activities and so far I'm really liking it. The quick pace keeps me on my toes and from getting bored. One thing I never liked about strength training was the tedious repetition of sets, but I don't have that problem with this and it is surprisingly quite challenging. I was shocked at how much I was sweating by the end of the first routine.

I've also started doing the Hundred Push Ups program, after I saw a friend mention it on FB a few times. Attempting to do Day 1 showed me just how much I need to add more strength training in, so better late than never.

Best part is, with both programs/apps I don't have to leave my apartment. Seeing as how I pretty much sleep in yoga pants 90% of the time, all I really need to do is roll out of bed and throw on a sports bra. Since I'm doing it in my apartment, I don't even bother with a top. I can just get up, get it done, and get on with the rest of my day.

My plan is to use Nike Training once or twice a week, Push Ups three times a week, running on Friday and yoga on Saturday, with Sunday as a rest day. Of course, even after finding an activity I enjoy doing before work, waking up at 6:30 to exercise isn't exactly fun, so I'm giving myself a bit of alarm clock encouragement.


Sometimes you just need to put things in perspective.

Well. That and I'm a nerd.

Made any changes to your workout routine lately? Don't forget, you still have time to enter my current giveaway for a free jar of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

10 September 2012

Giveaway! Peanut Butter & Co.

As I said last week, I decided to take advantage of a discount that Peanut Butter & Co was offering to purchase their Big Six variety pack. Oh sure, you say. Peanut Butter is Peanut Butter. Au contraire, my dear readers. I mean, hello, just look at all of the amazing flavors they offer. We're talking fancy schmancy gourmet peanut butter. Plus, not only is it all-natural, it's the non-stirring kind. Holla!

From their website: Peanut Butter & Co.'s line of all-natural peanut butter contains no hydrogenated oils, no cholesterol, no trans-fats and, no high fructose corn syrup. Our flavors are gluten-free, vegan (except for The Bee's Knees which is vegetarian), and certified kosher. Lastly, but just as importantly, we only use USA-grown peanuts in our peanut butter.

The Big Six, as you can figure out, includes six of the ten varieties they make: Smooth Operator, Crunch Time, Cinnamon Raisin Swirl, The Heat is On, White Chocolate Wonderful, and Dark Chocolate Dreams. Yup:  those are peanut butter flavors and over the past week or so I've had the opportunity to try all of them.


Personally, White Chocolate Wonderful is my favorite, with Crunch Time and Cinnamon Raisin Swirl tied for second. Don't get me wrong, they are all good (although, despite the name I was not prepared for the amount of heat in The Heat Is On), but if I was to continue to buy just one after the six pack is done, it would probably be White Chocolate Wonderful. The taste and texture is perfect, and I love the balance of peanuts and peanut butter in Crunch Time, while Cinnamon Raisin Swirl has actual raisins in it. My ants on a log have never been easier or tastier. Of course, I still have yet to try The Bee's Knees and Mighty Maple varieties, so who knows, I might like those better! Other than sampling Dark Chocolate Dreams, I haven't really eaten it yet as it's pretty rich. I think of it more as a dessert flavor, so while I won't put it on my oatmeal pancakes I can't wait to bake cookies using it.

So now it's your turn to get in on the fun because I'm offering you an opportunity to win one jar of Peanut Butter & Co. peanut butter in the flavor of your choice!

We are gonna go super easy with this one, kids. To enter to win a jar of Peanut Butter & Co. in the flavor of your choice, all ya gotta do is leave a comment on this post letting me know which flavor you'd want if you win! That's it! Easy peasy, right? Entries will be accepted until Friday, September 14th at 11:59 PM EST. Winner will be announced the following day. Also, please note that I moderate comments on the blog, so your comment won't be published immediately, so don't panic if you don't see it right away.

If you don't have a Blogger account, you can still enter. Just select "anonymous" for the comment and make sure you leave a name and/or contact info. Entries won't be accepted if there's no way to contact you or let you know you won.

Fine Print: Peanut Butter & Co. is not sponsoring this blog post or giveaway. They are just being super awesome in sending a jar to the winner. I purchased the Big Six pack on my own without any prior affiliation with the company and am not receiving any compensation in exchange for this giveaway or post. All opinions are my own. Winner will be selected using random.org. Open to US residents only. 

Happy entering and good luck!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

08 September 2012

just what the doctor ordered

I meant for this to go up earlier today, but my area of Cleveland had some power outages. Anyway, my weekend started bright and early Friday morning with a doctor's appointment. (I know, you're all so jealous.) It was just my, y'know, annual "woman's exam." (Again, I know y'all are jealous.) I didn't know what the wait was going to be like, so I've been saving this month's issues of Library Journal, Yoga Journal, and Vegetarian Times as they've been coming in to take with me.


Turns out I was the first appointment of the day and barely flipped the cover of one before I was called back. My blood pressure is decent (120/82), which has honestly never been a concern of mine. Even at over 300 pounds it was never something that came up in doctor's appointments and I know I'm lucky in that regard.

Now, at the risk of entering too much information territory (boys, cover your ears) the one question I had for her was related to my period, which has gotten significantly lighter and shorter since losing all my weight. Adipose (body fat), it turns out, produces estrogen. As soon as she told me that it totally made sense as to why less body fat would have a positive effect on my monthly cycle.

Also, I know I am a Whovian when I didn't have to ask what "adipose" means because of Doctor Who.

I was out the door within, oh, 40 minutes and I then headed back to the Towpath Trail for a run. After giving myself an out earlier in the week, I was really looking forward to this run. And as soon as I hit that pavement I felt back in the zone.

Ever have one of those runs you just didn't want to end? It was like that. The Towpath stretches over 80 miles and had I the physical capability I would have attempted to run it all, because mentally I wanted to. Instead, I turned around after 2.5 miles to head back and had a glorious run of 3.5 miles.

(ps: I use PicMonkey for my collages)

After that, the heat and humidity started to beat down and my body got a bit resistant. Instead of forcing it, I listened and then walked the remaining 1.5 miles back to my car. So, all told I did 5 miles!

Running, walking in the beautiful outdoors along a gorgeous trail with all sorts of wildlife was just what I needed. It's hard to tell, but the upper right picture in the collage is a bird of some sort. Heron or crane, perhaps. Just hanging out in the river. Later I saw another relatively large bird soaring and circling above the tree line, black mark against the crystal blue sky.

Ahhhhh.

I'm still working on a new workout plan since the transition from summer to autumn is messing up my normal schedule. I know that eventually I will have to move indoors and onto the treadmill. I mean, I live in Cleveland. There's no way I'm going to attempt to run outside in our winters. But I'd like to postpone the treadmill as long as possible and since  know I need to add strength training, this might be a good opportunity. I have free weights that I need to use more and I know there is a push-up app available that is very similar in structure to Couch-to-5K (the running program I used to start) that I might download.

Part of the problem is I set myself this goal of running three times a week, which was feasible in the summer when the sun was up a little after 6 and I could wake up early. Not as easy now. So all I really need to do is change my goal and come up with a new plan. Instead of worrying about how often I run, I'm going to focus on how far. Distance instead of days. Long runs are easy on the weekends, considering I get three days and I still have awhile before the snow starts and I have to go inside. If I plan runs for the weekend, that means I can find other things to do during the week, like the dumb bells or pushups or my Wii Fit. Because I like starting my mornings with some sort of physical activity and have a better day when it begins with endorphins.

Speaking of what The Doctor ordered (see what I just did there?) I really want these TARDIS knee high socks a friend alerted me to. Y'know, I have a 5K in October and another in November. It's probably gonna be a wee bit chilly and my legs might need some warming up...

Does your fitness routine change season to season?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

06 September 2012

"we won't have a perfect record, all we need is a winning record"

This perhaps doesn't need to be said, but I am not perfect.

It's difficult, wearing the badge of inspiration. It weighs heavy during those moments when you are less than perfect. When you make less than perfect choices. Take less than perfect actions. When you have people looking up to you, see you as a source of motivation, it's hard to admit when you're lacking motivation of your own.

Fact #1: I have not been running since last Friday.

Fact #1b: I haven't done physical activity of any kind since disc golfing on Saturday.

Fact #2: I may have given into the six jars of peanut butter currently sitting in my kitchen cupboards. Seriously. It was not pretty. Just me and a spoon, sampling each flavor. (Well, four of the six. The crunchy one is to die for and got tasted twice. Maybe three times.) Thankfully, this post from Sweating Until Happy stopped me from doing it two nights in a row. (He also gave me the post title. It was just what I needed at that exact moment.)

I've just been feeling off all week. Unmotivated. Uninspired. The declining daylight hours has totally screwed up my running routine. I work absurdly long hours. 9am to 9pm, four days a week. I don't get home until 9:30, at which point it's well past dark these days and I'm too tired. Morning is my best time, but the sun is rising later and later, cutting how much time I have outside so all week I've taken the attitude of why bother and just continued to sleep.

Given my neighborhood, I don't feel safe or comfortable with the idea of running in the dark. Not that I would feel safe or comfortable doing that anyway, but still. And I really, really, really hate the treadmill. It's there. I have access to it, but I'm choosing to not use it. I'm choosing to not exercise. Choosing to be lazy.

But I'm also choosing to be held accountable, which is why I'm writing this post and why I tracked all that stupid peanut butter I ate. (I'm also glad I made the choice a few weeks ago to track calories on top of Weight Watchers points. It helped put things in perspective, as it wasn't really that bad in the grand scheme of things.)

Tuesday I found out my application to be a Sweat Pink ambassador was approved. I should have been excited, but instead all I could think was how lazy I've been this week. I haven't been sweating anything, let alone sweating pink.


This, you see, is one of those defining moments. Another choice to be made. I've come too far to let one week throw my whole game off, especially when the week is only half over.

So I decided to give myself a pass.

I decided to say it's okay to have an off week. It's okay to not be perfect. It's okay to yet again sleep in this morning. I've been at this for nineteen months. That's, like, 76 weeks. That's a really long time, people. Off weeks are inevitable, but instead of punishing myself for them I've opted to give myself permission for them.

But only on the condition that tomorrow morning I wake up and I kick some motherfucking ass.

Feeling guilty, feeling bad about my behavior is the sort of thing that set me on the path to disordered eating. I will not do that again. Instead, I will say that a few off days are not the end of the world. Because they aren't. I have the entire weekend ahead of me to run to my little heart's content, which is my plan for tomorrow. I will also sit down and devise a new running plan, because running outside in the morning before work no longer seems feasible for the next few seasons. So maybe it means forcing myself on the treadmill. Maybe it means seeing if I can figure out a way to run during my long dinner breaks at work. I need to add strength training to my routine, so maybe this is the jolt I need to sign up for a gym or the YMCA.

I will make sure to stock up on veggies and nutritious snacks so the next time I am confronted with the choice of hunger vs. craving, I can consistently choose wisely. I will remember that I don't need a perfect record, just a winning record. I will inspire and motivate not only others, but, most importantly, I will inspire and motivate myself.

I will Sweat Pink.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 September 2012

What I Love Wednesday: Overnight Oats in a Jar

I've talked before about how much I love oats in a jar for my breakfast. For months it was more oats in whatever jar with a lid I could find, until the oh-so-fabulous One Ordinary Mom actually gave me a bona fide Mason jar. Wrapped it up and everything.

Told you she was fabulous.

I eat this at least twice a week. It is actually the perfect breakfast for the days when I run, 'cause I can put it all together the night before, wake up and go on my run, come back and breakfast is waiting for me!

The other day someone requested my recipe and the Weight Watchers points for it. There are a lot of oats in a jar recipes out there, and that, of course, is one reason it's so fabulous since it's highly adaptable. But this is my personal favorite mix.

Food pictures = hardest to take

What you will need: 
Mason jar (or other container with a lid)
1/3 cup quick oats, dry
1/2 cup light vanilla soy milk
1 T peanut butter
1 banana, sliced
Dash of cinnamon

Take all the ingredients and throw them in your jar. Put the lid on, give it a good shake, and put it in the refrigerator. Overnight, the oats will absorb the milk, causing them to bulk up a bit. I do eat mine cold, although you can easily heat it up in the microwave for a few seconds. And, of course, if nanners aren't your thing, you can use whatever fruit you want. I've even done canned pumpkin before and it was delish.

The whole jar is 6 Points+ as is. Sometimes I'll add some almonds or honey right before I eat it, which will add points on. I usually pair it with a small bowl of Greek yogurt. It might not sound like a lot of food, but it's super filling and will leave me happily satisfied until lunch. Quality over quantity, people. Quality over quantity.

So, there you have it. My recipe for oats in a jar. If you decide to try it, please let me know what you think and any combinations you make or enjoy!

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

04 September 2012

sky above me. earth below me. fire within me.

Holidays always make for a Happy Monday, yes? The long weekend was fairly rainy and overcast here in the Land of Cleves, but I did make the most of it, including playing disc golf. Y'know, with a Frisbee. Yes. Me. But I'll get to that in a minute.

I grew up in Summit County and one of the things I loved best about that area was walking and biking along the Towpath. 80+ miles of trails through lush Northeast Ohio, it's incredibly breathtaking. Thing is, I always thought it was specific to the Akron area. I knew there were plans to extend it north, but I didn't know there was already access up here in Cleveland thanks to the Metroparks. Not only is it up here, it's not too far from my apartment! So Friday morning I headed over to the northern trail head for a run.


All told I did 4.25 miles, which is my longest distance yet! I did have to walk just a bit between miles 3 and 4, and my pace wasn't the best but I wasn't worried about that. This run was about endurance, not speed.

#PROOF

One of my goals for next year is to train for a half-marathon. At 13.1 miles, it's something you have to work up to and since I'm still not running long distances I would like to slowly start to build up endurance so half training might be a smidge bit easier. I also know that the Towpath/Metroparks would be the perfect location for the long distance training runs. That was the one thing that concerned me, where I would run on the long days. Now that I have the spot and it's close and easy to get to, the idea of training for a half-marathon seems that much more exciting!

Right. So. Disc golf, eh?


A few months ago I reconnected with a guy I used to work with at the Stars Hollow Public Library back in high-school and we made plans to get together this past weekend. When he suggested disc golf -- a game he plays weekly -- I don't think he expected me to take him up on the offer, but, eh, what the hell. When in Rome, yes? The course was at a park in our hometown, one I didn't go to that often growing up and now I regret that because it's way more beautiful and picturesque than I ever recall.

Thing is, I haven't thrown a disc (Frisbee is a proprietary term) in years and even then I wasn't very good. I warned him about this, but I totally underestimated how hard disc golf is. Because you're not just throwing a disc. You're throwing a disc several yards away towards a little metal basket on a stand. And it really is like golf, with different discs having different purposes, like a driver and a putter. It took, like, half a dozen of my tosses to get the same distance as just one of his. But the weather was nice (well, for the most part), the park beautiful, and it was fun just walking around talking and catching up. And we did do a lot of walking, so, yay! Bonus exercise! The game was followed by dinner and drinks.

Here's what I realized very early on into the evening: Taking yourself out of your comfort zone means you have to remove all expectations. If you're going to spend the whole time worrying, you might as well just stay home because you won't be able to appreciate the experience. Here I was, crawling under pine trees to retrieve wayward discs and getting rained on while walking back to our cars and making a complete idiot of myself with pitiful throws and I didn't care. Seriously. Most liberating feeling in the world, not second-guessing yourself. Who knew?

I also went for comfort over cuteness and wore yoga pants and a t-shirt. But, as The Bookslut pointed out, yoga pants were designed to make a woman's ass look fantastic. So perhaps having to crawl under pine trees worked out to my advantage, all be it unintentionally.

How was your weekend? Ever gone disc golfing?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

01 September 2012

vlog: the one with all the peanut butter

Today's vlog post is all about my newest purchase, which are multiple jars from Peanut Butter & Co.! Yay sales and discounts!

This isn't just your kindergarten peanut butter, oh no. I mean, just look at all the flavors they offer. (For breakfast I had a waffle topped with White Chocolate Wonderful, banana, and a bit of honey. Delish!) There's some fun news at the end of the video, so you'll definitely want to watch. Enjoy the rest of your weekend! (Also, I can never seem to get the lighting right in my videos. If any other vloggers have advice it would be MUCH appreciated!)

the one with all the peanut butter from Jill Grun on Vimeo.
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