31 July 2013

What I Love Wednesday: New Balance Ionix 3090

When I first started running I didn't realize that running shoes should be treated like car tires. That is, that they get natural wear and tear that will make them less effective and they need to be replaced on a pretty regular basis. The rule of thumb is 300-500 miles. While that's a pretty wide range, other factors come into play like if you run on road versus trail versus treadmill. Even your weight is going to effect the condition of your shoes.

I'm actually pretty bad about sticking to any sort of rule like that. I ran in my first pair of proper running shoes for close to a year before my friend Staci mentioned I was probably due for a replacement pair. After that I bought a pair of New Balance Ionix 3090 and have been running in those for the past six months.

They are a minimalist shoe and to be honest I am not even sure I could give you the entire run down of the difference between minimalist and traditional. The two big things are a low (for the Ionix its 4mm) heel to toe drop and they are usually made with lighter material.

To say I love them is a bit of an understatement. The fit is perfect, I love the flat sole, and they are so light it's easy to forget I'm wearing them. Minimalist running shoes are seen as a transition from traidtional to barefoot running and while I don't think I'll go barefoot anytime soon I definitely prefer a lighter shoe. I have a pair of traditional running shoes that I wear for spinning class but every Monday night when I put them on they just feel weird. Heavy. Clunky. And it's strange to walk on that higher heel to toe drop. They get the job done for that class but I'm always itching to put my Ionix on.

I'm 2 1/2 weeks into my half-marathon training and on some runs I've noticed a slight...twinge in my left ankle. Bad sign, peeps. Sign that it's time for a replacement pair. So on Sunday I headed over to the New Balance store at Crocker Park.

(Of course, I sort of forgot that it was Sunday and that most of the stores opened later than usual so in an attempt to kill time I may have wandered into the Barnes & Noble and then it's possible I walked into Ann Taylor empty-handed and walked out with a new dress. Possibly. Maybe. Very likely. But it was their Semi-Annual Sale and the dress is so very Joan Holloway with a key hole back that was made for my 100 pound reward tattoo. So, really, it would have been a crime against the goddesses of weight loss to not buy it.)

After that small spontaneous shopping trip I walked into New Balance and told them I needed the Ionix 3090 in a 7 1/2.

Need me to measure your foot?


Want to try them on?


I wonder if all runners are like that when they go shoe shopping. That is, if they have a brand and style they know they love if they just go in and let the store know exactly what they want in their size.

(Interesting note about sizes: when I bought my very first pair of proper running shoes a year and a half ago they were a 9. Today I wear a 7 1/2. True story.)

Yesterday morning was my first run in the new pair and as soon as I laced them up I could feel the difference between these and the pair I had been running in. I was definitely well overdue. The support my older pair had been lacking from use is back and the ankle twinge is gone.

I did the math and even with all the training runs between now and October 6th I'll still have plenty of mileage left on the shoes even after the Rock 'n' Roll Cleveland Half Marathon! I'm going to try and keep better track of mileage as waiting until it hurts is probably not a good idea. Plus since I know how much I love these shoes, I can always stock up in advance if I ever happen to catch them on sale.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

29 July 2013

Yoga Rock the Park Cleveland

A few weeks ago, Alicia from Poise in Parma sent me an email asking if I'd like to join a yoga class she was teaching as part of Yoga Rocks The Park. A national program, the Cleveland location is Lincoln Park in Tremont. Every class is taught by a different area instructor and following the hour long class there is a small performance by a musician.

Yoga outside in one of my favorite neighborhoods of this city with a mini concert after? Right. Like I'm going to say no to that.

Tickets are $12 if purchased online in advance (though there is a small processing fee on top of that) and $15 at the door. I was offered the opportunity to attend Alicia's class for free and this was the first time I got to go to an event and say I was on the Media List.

I felt very swanky.

I spent all week looking forward to practicing outside in the heart of Tremont so I was a little bummed when I woke up to rain and knew the class would be moved into the nearby Merrick House's gym. But once I got inside and set up my mat and felt the energy in room I was reminded that yoga is yoga no matter where it is practiced. Location is completely unimportant or at least it should be.

Alicia led a really powerful practice, assisted by her teachers from Nishkama Yoga where she regularly teaches. The first half was a strong vinyasa flow followed by some inversions and back bends and all sorts of good stuff. It was an all levels class so no matter where you were in your practice there was something for you. It was also an all ages class -- there was this adorable little, oh, 6 or 7 year old up front who was so cute watching as she attempted to do the balancing poses without falling over.

Talking with Alicia after class, we discussed how kids are pretty fearless and just don't really care about falling. They go for it no matter what. It's only as adults we get all self-conscious about stumbling or appearing clumsy or unbalanced, especially in front of other adults and strangers. I've lost count of the amount of times I've fallen over while practicing yoga yet there is still that split second concern of Oh no, did anyone see me? whereas kids just bounce back up and try again without a second thought.

That's your deep thought for the day.

After class I also got to meet Chris, the gentleman who sent me the GI Jayne kickboxing DVD so that was a nice surprise. It's one of those things where you realize that Cleveland is a mid-sized city but has that small town feel.

If you're looking for a unique yoga experience I highly recommend attending a Yoga Rocks the Park session, whether it's actually held outdoors in Lincoln Park or at Merrick House. The entire set up is great and I love how it brings together so many different kinds of people here in Cleveland and the musical aspect is fantastic. Definitely a great start to my Saturday.

There are a few more sessions left in the 2013 season and hopefully I'll be able to attend another one soon!

Check the Yoga Rocks the Park website to see if YRP is offered in a city near you! 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

26 July 2013

this is where things get interesting {half training}

I'm nearing the end of week two of my half-marathon training. I had to skip spinning class on Monday because of a work thing and I really missed it! I've also found a new route for the weekday runs which for the next month or so is 3 miles two mornings week. The route I had been using was 1.5 miles in one direction, turn around and come back. It got the job done by at 6:30 in the morning man that first 1.5 miles of straight straight road ahead seemed sooooo long. This new route kind of winds a bit in half mile increments and goes over the Detroit-Superior Bridge which is fun.

I realize this is entirely psychological. 1.5 miles is 1.5 miles regardless of how it is laid out on a map but still.

Who doesn't love checking things off?

In a little bit I'll be heading out to Edgewater Park for today's long run, which is five miles. This is a distance I have only ever run in races as will be next week's six miles. After that is when I start venturing into the world of unknown distances.

Up until this point I've  been running distances I'm comfortable with. Distances I've not only conquered before but conquer on a fairly regular basis. Three miles? Puhleaze. These first two weeks have felt, dare I say, easy because of that. But now shit is about to get real. Now is where the challenge of training really begins and I'll admit it's a little daunting. Like, 13.1 miles? Am I crazy?

I know I can do it. Or at least I will be able to do it after I'm done training. I just have to stay focused and remember why I want to run those 13.1 miles. Why I want to be able to say I've completed a half-marathon. Why it is so very important to keep challenging and surprising myself with what I can do.

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

24 July 2013

what I love wednesday: PB2

By now y'all should know I love me some nut butter. While I enjoy almond butter and have even made my own cashew butter before, it's really peanut butter that is my favorite.

Of course, if I was being really honest with myself I would also admit that it is a trigger food. This is especially true during that once-a-month hormone surge when I will happily eat any peanut butter and chocolate combination in existence. Half the time I don't even bother with the chocolate and, instead, have what I call a spoon and run with a peanut butter jar.

Peanut butter is a good source of protein, but it's also high in calories and while the fats are the good kind it's still high in fats. A single serving of peanut butter -- 2 tablespoons -- is 5 Weight Watchers points.

Which is why I am so glad I finally jumped on the powdered peanut butter wagon with PB2.

What is this craziness? Powdered peanut butter? I know, kids. Just give yourself some time to wrap your mind around it.

Right, so all you do is take 2 T of PB2, mix it with 1 T of water and voila. Peanut butter.

Trust me, I was skeptical, too. Not just on the taste but what sort of wacky scientific unpronounceable ingredient list voodoo caused this magic.

Roasted peanuts. Sugar. Salt.

Wait. That's it? That list is shorter than your average jar of peanut butter. And 2 T. of PB2 is only 1 Weight Watcher Point.


Granted it doesn't taste exactly like peanut butter. But y'know what? This peanut butter lover actually really likes the taste. I also like that can I can control the consistency. So when I'm making, say, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich now (which I can do again without feeling like I'm throwing away WW points, especially when served on Simply Filling approved light bread) I make it using the recommend amount of water. But when I put it on my English muffin or in my Overnight Oats for breakfast I like it a little, erm, meltier so I'll add a bit more water so it's a runnier. I also haven't baked with it yet, but I have no doubt PB2 and my KitchenAid will be meeting soon.

Before, peanut butter always felt a little off-limits. I'd eat it, of course, but every time I did I'd wonder if there was something else I could have had for those 5 weight watchers points that might have been a better choice. Or I'd have to do some crafty math to fit it into my daily or weekly points. It's one of those things where as soon as you make something taboo it's suddenly all you want to eat and for someone where peanut butter is a trigger food this is a dangerous situation to get yourself into. With PB2 I don't have to feel that way. I can have peanut butter on my toast for breakfast and have it on a sandwich and lunch and it's still less points than regular peanut butter would have been for one of those meals. Take the guilt away and suddenly I'm not craving it as much because I don't have to, knowing I can eat it when I want to.

Now, I will say that PB2 is more expensive than a jar of regular peanut butter (although the online prices are better than in the store. May have to stock up!), but for this gal it's a very worthy purchase.

Have you ever tried powdered peanut butter?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

22 July 2013

healthy living lessons from pixar

Last weekend my friend Missy (of "I lost a Missy" fame) told me about The Pixar Theory. Inspired by a video he saw on Cracked.com, the author's theory basically states that all Pixar feature films exist in the same universe and when put in a certain order tell the story of the end of humans as we know it and the eventual robot apocalypse.

No. Seriously.

It's one of those things where you realize that there is no way in hell Pixar puts this much effort into their films and yet he brings up some intriguing ideas and points out some of Pixar's famous crossover Easter Eggs I hadn't seen before. Plus the way he brings everything together is rather clever.

Of course, ever since reading the piece I've been on a huge Pixar kick, watching all of the movies again. With some it was the first time in years I had seen the film and it all got me thinking. Which, of course, can mean only one thing.

All images copyright Disney Animation Studios & Pixar

I know. It's a tall order. But just go with me on this one, okay? I mean, if I can do it with Harry Potter and Doctor Who I can certainly do it with animated films.

"Toy Story" [1995]

Never stop challenging yourself. Never stop setting goals to work towards. Keep seeing each new obstacle, each new success, as an opportunity for improvement and reinvention. Always strive for new heights.

"A Bug's Life" [1998]

The beginning of a weight loss journey can be so completely overwhelming. Especially when you have a significant amount of weight to lose. But you have all the resources you need to get started right inside, you just have to be willing to dig down deep and give yourself the time and energy that this journey will require.

"Finding Nemo" [2003]

Right, like there was any other line I could possibly pick from this film.

(And yes I know it appears I missed a film. Trust me on this one.)

Look, this isn't easy. Losing weight, adopting a fitness regime, getting healthy. Whatever it is that you want to do is going to take work and there will be times where you have a bad day or a bad week and feel like you want to give up. Maybe you get injured and have to cut back on exercise. Maybe you go on vacation and completely fall off your food plan. It is going to happen but all you can do is just keep going, keep pushing through.

"The Incredibles" [2004]

Edna Mode is, without a doubt, one of the best secondary characters Pixar has ever created. She also offers some pretty tough advice with this one. Tough, that is, to follow through on. While I do think it is sometimes necessary to remember where we came from, where we started, we shouldn't dwell or concentrate on it too much. Focusing too much on the Old You can make it near impossible to appreciate the fabulous Current You.

This really hit home when I started at a different job location and realized that none of my new coworkers know me other than the me I am right now. And while most of my old coworkers forget the old me, they at least know about my journey. People I meet for the first time these days have no idea about my past unless I volunteer the information and, instead, take me and my weight at face value. To them, there is no other person than who I am right now and that, in turn, helps me see myself that way, too.

"Cars" [2006]

Obviously a play on Muhammad Ali's famous Float Like a Butterfly, Sting Like a Bee, the message nevertheless remains the same: Stay elegant and classy. Nobody likes a show-off or a braggart so be that demure butterfly who lets the beauty and results speak for themselves.

But when necessary, kick some serious fucking ass and show everyone just how far you've come.

"Ratatouille" [2007]

I am one week into my half-marathon training. Me. The girl who walked the mile every single year in high-school. The woman who didn't run up until about a year and a half ago. Before that, it wasn't that I didn't want to run (well, okay, it was partly that) but more like I couldn't. I weighed 311 pounds and while now I've been in enough races to know that heavy runners do exist, I was not one of them. I could barely walk a quarter of a mile without stopping to catch my breath so the idea of running that let alone running a full mile let alone running multiple miles was so not happening. That's where I come from but I refuse to let that stop me from getting to where I am today. Don't let it stop you, either. Never allow your past to dictate your future.

"WALL-E" [2008]

WALL-E is a film that needs no explanation about the dangers of over consumption and a sedentary lifestyle, not to mention what will happen if we don't take care of our planet. On Friday I took my half training long run to the Cleveland Metroparks and on Saturday I was able to attend a mini yoga class led by Alicia from Poise in Parma in front of the shark tanks at the Greater Cleveland Aquarium. It's impossible to fathom a world where green spaces and wild animals don't exist up close and in person and while the reality seen in WALL-E is far outside of our lifetime, we still have to be conscious and aware of it so it doesn't happen to future generations. The scene where all the obese residents of the Axiom are camped out in their hover chairs, plugged into their little television screens, blissfully sitting around the gorgeous pool totally unaware it's even there ("We have a pool?" "We have a jogging track?") speaks volumes. Scary, scary volumes.

"UP" [2009]

Remember kids, it's the journey not the destination.

"Brave" [2012]

This film gets me every.single.time. I think it's because when I was Merida's age my mom and I had a relationship not unlike the one she has with Elinor. (Then again, what teenage daughter doesn't?) Sure, I didn't become a redhead until college but I was definitely headstrong and independent and wanted to define my own path, chart my own course, and there were many, many times when my vision for my life and my sense of self clashed with my mom's.

Ultimately, though, it is our lives to lead and we are the ones that have to make the necessary changes if we want to alter our fate. This may mean breaking carefully agreed upon social situations. Like those friends who love to go out to eat at restaurants high on the fried food scale and having to say no. Or not going out as often or not staying out as late because you have to work out. It takes courage to stand up for our health and lifestyle and it isn't always easy or fun. But anyone who truly loves you will support your decisions and understand. For all you know, your bravery may inspire them to make some big changes of their own.

"Monsters University" [2013]

See, told you to trust me on the absence of Monsters, Inc.

Turns out, Mike and Sulley are both right. It's a careful and delicate balance. Mike isn't lacking in confidence and believes he can do anything he wants, which he can, but that much bravado can get you in trouble. It can blind you to potential weaknesses, mostly because you don't think you have any. Plus, if you don't really truly believe in what you're doing -- if you're only doing it, say, halfheartedly without really knowing why other than because you can -- you aren't going to be successful in the long run. At the same time, though, as much as gumption and tenacity are important, if you don't believe in yourself and have the confidence to know you are worth it, your heart might not be enough to get you through those moments of doubt. One might come easier than the other but both are equally important for any sort of lasting lifestyle change.

Do you have a favorite Pixar movie?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

19 July 2013

cereal killer

Cereal and I have a long and sordid history. I don't really like cereal for breakfast but as a snack it's my favorite.  Problem is, my definition of a "snack" was a bit skewed. Back in the days of binge eating I could easily polish off an entire box of Lucky Charms in, oh, a day. And of course I was never over indulging on healthy cereal, it was always the super sugary stuff that's more appropriate for dessert than anything else.

When I made the switch to Simply Filling a little over a month ago, I saw that certain kinds of ready-to-eat cereal were included in the plan. Specifically cereal that was whole grain without added sugar, dried fruits or nuts and has at least 4g of fiber per serving.


And not very easy to find. It's the 4g of fiber that throws it off because plenty of cereals meet the other requirements but only offer 2 or 3g of fiber per serving. Plus there is the added sugar bit because it isn't always going to be listed as "sugar" on the ingredients list.

When I was a kid and my grandparents would visit my mom would buy Shredded Wheat for them to have for breakfast. I'm talking about the big ol' original biscuit that I clearly remember thinking was the weirdest thing ever. It just seemed so bland and then as I got older and figured out the whole fiber thing and staying regular I chalked Shredded Wheat to being an older person's food that I would stay far away from until retirement. (Of course, frosted Shredded Wheat was totally allowed.)

Turns out, Shredded Wheat is one of a handful of cereals that fit all of the requirements to be a Simply Filling food and when I decided to give it a try a few weeks ago I opted for the Wheat and Bran variety, probably because it sounded fancier (ie: younger) than the big biscuit option.

I have since become obsessed.

Seriously. I have three boxes of it sitting on top of my fridge as we speak. Or, well, as I type. (Whatever, it was on sale this week.)

Again, I don't eat it for breakfast but it has become my absolute favorite evening snack. Some skim milk, handful of berries and delish! I think the thing that surprises me the most is that I find it naturally sweet. Every once in awhile I'll sprinkle just a bit of sugar on top but most of the time it's not needed to satisfy a late night sweet tooth.

But what I really love is that because it's cereal and has that hint of sweetness and I eat it for a snack at night it feels like an indulgence without actually being an indulgence. And, really, aren't those the best kind?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

17 July 2013

what I love wednesday: psycle spinning

So the morning of Sissy's wedding, Sissy, her other bridesmaid N., and I joined Papa G. at his gym for good ol' fashioned sweat fest. Sissy and N. had been there the day before (I was helping my mom and aunt and uncle set up the rehearsal dinner space) and N. had seen the class schedule and noticed they had a spinning class Saturday mornings that fit with when we were going to be there. On the spur of the moment I decided to join her while Sissy and Papa G. headed to the machines.

Oh. Em. Gee.

I had never taken a spinning class before and it seriously kicked my ass. But in that way that makes you think you are a potential masochist because as soon as I got back home after all the wedding festivities I was on the hunt for a local spinning location which is how I discovered Psycle.

They have a 5:30 PM Monday night class that fits perfectly with my work schedule and they offer a $5 first time rider price, so a couple of weeks ago I decided to try it out.

Oh. Em. Gee. Squared.

The class at Papa G.'s gym was basically, well, just spinning. Sometimes sitting, sometimes out of the saddle with inclines and resistence and such. The class at Psycle includes all of that but also adds in a lot of upper body moves, like bracing yourself on the handle bars and doing push ups or side crunches as well as some work with hand weights (which is good, 'cause we all know my bat wings need help), while the speed is dictated by the music with riders peddling to the beat. The instructor, Hallie, is incredibly personable and energetic and sets a good sense of motivation for all of her riders. Lights are kept low or even completely off and Hallie reminds us that this is our time and I take full advantage of that sentiment and really focus on just me and my ride.

To say it is intense is the understatement of the year. There were a lot of out of the saddle moves but I had to sit for about half of them because I just wasn't strong enough. And my poor one pound hand weights felt like ten. I left that first class a few weeks ago with legs that felt like jello. Just walking down the few steps to the parking lot made me feel like I was going to tumble over. But Hallie did remark that I did a really good job keeping up with everyone.

So, again, showing my true masochistic tendencies, I naturally bought a multi-class pass.

I had to skip last week but I was back again this past Monday. Going in this second time I felt much more confident. I knew how the machines worked and where the seat needed to be set. In fact, as I was setting the bike up, the woman ahead of me came over and asked "Are you Jill?"

Uhhhhh. Pretty sure I gave her the most skeptical and dubious glance as I said yes.

"Hi, I'm Alexa. From Cleveland's a Plum."

Ohhhhh! See, this is why I love Cleveland. We've been reading each others blogs and doing all the usual social media connections for years so it was great to finally meet her, especially because it was so completely unexpected.

Once again, there was a ton of out of the saddle riding but this time I managed to do all of it without requiring sitting for brief periods. That first class left me feeling exhausted, this time I felt powerful and fit. Those one pound weights only felt like five. (I know how that sounds, but when you're trying to do all sorts of curls and shit while also keeping balance on the bike and spinning to the fast beat they get very heavy very quickly.)

For my half-marathon prep, Monday is reserved for cross-training and I love that this class includes cardio and strength training, both of which are excellent non-running forms of exercise that runners can benefit from. The time flies by in a way I don't get from a lot of other activities and I have no doubt that I'll continue going to the class even after my half is over.

Any other spinners out there?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

15 July 2013

and so it begins...

So about a year ago I did something kinda crazy.

I registered for a half-marathon.

At the time I had only participated in 5Ks and the longest distance I'd ever tackled was about four miles. Now, of course, I've added 10Ks to my roster and a couple of 5 mile races so participating in a half-marathon seems like the next logical step. But after spending the past nine months or so anticipating this, it's still hard to believe it's actually here. You see, as of yesterday I am officially in training!

The training plan I'm using from No Meat Athlete lasts 12 week and includes four runs a week, two cross-training days, and a rest day. I actually had the training plan long before I registered for the Rock 'n Roll Cleveland Half, back when I had (very) briefly considered running a different half. Luckily the schedule as is required very minimal tweaking to fit my routine, like making sure the one cross-training day was on Saturdays for my yoga class.

I take organization to a scary level

Four years ago, life handed me a huge motherfucking bag of lemons. My entire world was flipped on its head and I spent a good six months nearly suicidal. Details are unimportant, just know that it was bad. Very bad. I was a very different person back then. Almost unrecognizable and I don't just mean physically. Mentally, emotionally -- all of it really does feel like a lifetime ago. And if the differences are noticeable to me I can't even imagine how it looks to an outside observer. So for my half-marathon training to start on this weekend of all weekends seems....fitting.

Yes, ladies and gents, this is what a big ol' glass of ice cold sparkling lemonade looks like and I can't wait to tackle those 13.1 miles.

Any advice from more seasoned runners out there? 

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

12 July 2013

bdsm: body diet scale masochism

My sense of home decor is pretty eclectic. Kind of like me. There's a bit of contemporary, a bit of vintage, a bit of just about everything. This is especially true when it comes to the art that is featured in every room. Original paintings picked up at yard sales? Check. Original paintings done by moi? Check. Cleveland Film Festival posters? Check check. Fabulous prints made by fabulous Etsy artists? Oui. Framed photographs? You know it.

There's no rhyme or reason. If I find myself attracted to a piece of art, I'll figure out a way to have it.

Such is the case with my newest addition.

This, ladies & gents, is a painting done by my cousin Katy as part of her senior art project. That would be her high-school senior art project.

I'm gonna give you a moment to let that sink in. 

Here's a painting time lapse video she did of another piece from the same series. As you can see, the paintings all feature the measuring tape as a form of restraint and when she posted pictures from her senior show on Facebook I was immedietely drawn to the one above for, I'm sure, fairly obvious reasons. When I saw her a few days later I asked her about it and was more than willing to pay her asking price (and I would have been willing to pay it even if we weren't related).

I can't speak for Katy's message behind this painting. I can only talk about my own reading and for me I wanted this painting so I would have a daily reminder to never become a slave to the scale. All the scale does is give you a number and that number is merely your body mass relative to gravity.

Look, I would weigh 74 pounds if I lived on the moon and 461 pounds if this was Jupiter.

Sure, that perspective might sound ridiculous so then why do we put so much emphasis on that exact same science as it relates here on Earth?

Same goes for clothing sizes. I own two pairs of capri pants: one is a basic black random label size 14. Other is denim Michael Kors size 12. The size 14 feels slightly tight in the waist while the size 12 is loose in the waist.

That doesn't even make any sense. 

We say numbers don't lie, but when it comes to weight and body image and clothing they might not lie per se but they most certainly fudge the data just a bit. After losing over 100 pounds I'm learning that shopping is a new experience and I'm having to relearn what size I wear in which labels. I mean, two pairs of capris, two different sizes, both fit. So which is the "correct" one?

Because of work stress over the past six months, I've managed to regain 20 pounds. Go me. I keep saying that right now I'm not where I want to be, but all that really means is I don't like the number on the scale. But the scale can't tell me all the other things, like the fact that I'm running longer distances and building muscle (sadly, not 20 lbs worth) and wearing clothes that by all intents and purposes shouldn't really fit me at this higher weight. I can buy designer labels and vintage dresses, people. I'm healthy and happy and, judging by the reactions and photos from Sissy's wedding, rather hot if I do say so myself (I'm rocking some serious collar bone action in the professional wedding photos).

The other part of this is that I was looking back through my Weight Watchers tracker and realized that I've managed to maintain this higher weight for about two months now without really trying. Since switching to Simply Filling I am confident in saying I eat healthy 70-80% of the time, but with the remaining 20-30% I've managed to do the exact opposite of what someone trying to lose or maintain a weight would do (like, say, that first weekend with the KitchenAid Mixer) and still have kept around 195 almost accidentally.

I'm a lifelong fat girl. I know about the BMI chart. I know about "healthy weight" ranges. But I also know that if I can do what I do and keep a steady weight without effort, without trying, without even thinking about it, then maybe my body is trying to tell me something and maybe I should stop and listen.

Because let's be honest here: The numbers on the scale are only one piece of a very complicated complex puzzle and while the diet industry would like us to believe different, that one number has never and will never be an indicator of health. I know healthy fat people, I know unhealthy thin people. Health is a living, moving entity that encompasses every choice you make. It flows, like water, from day to day, week to week, and on and on.

You can't take a something like a number that can be manipulated by time of day, what clothes you're wearing and whether or not you've peed right before checking and make some grand statement about someone's overall health and then a month later declare them more or less healthy because the scale happens to show something different.

That's about as ridiculous as saying "Well, I'd weigh 74 pounds if this was the moon."

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

10 July 2013

what I love wednesday: gympact

Who doesn't love getting some extra moola for something you're going to do anyway? Like, say, exercise. Or, y'know, if you need some extra incentive to do something you know you should do (like, say, exercise) then money always makes a nice motivator, right? Well, that's where GymPact comes in.

I first heard about GymPact on NPR where they were interviewing someone from the company about something completely unrelated to what the app actually does. They just happen to be a company that does whatever NPR was talking about. Regardless, I was intrigued enough to look up and download the free app that very day.

(Also, full blogger disclosure: I'm not being compensated in anyway for this post. GymPact doesn't even know I'm writing it, this is just me wanting to share and talk about a product I like and use on a regular basis. Also, I have the iPhone version. As a commenter just pointed out -- thanks, Stina! -- the Android version seems to have the most bugs.)

GymPact works like this: You set a goal (make a pact) for how much you will workout during the week. This is not how many actual workouts you will do but how many days during the week you will workout. Workouts have to last for at least 30 minutes and the pact runs Monday through Sunday. Pacts also are set the week before so if you get to the midweek point and realize there is no way you can complete your pact, sucks to be you. It would be unfair to be able to change it midweek so make sure you set a pact you feel confident about meeting.

Once your pact is set you put up monetary stakes which means at the end of the week you give GymPact permission to take a certain amount of money from you for every workout day you miss (since money is on the line, this is where that whole "it would be unfair to be able to change it midweek" part comes in though there are extenuating circumstances allowed like if you injure yourself and are physically unable to workout versus just being lazy). Stakes range from $5 - $50 a workout and it's entirely up to you to set.

If you workout for as many days as you commited to you get money (yay!). If you don't follow through you lose money (boo!). The yay! money comes from the boo! money of the people who didn't complete their pact.

For instance, my pact is I will workout four days a week. Often I will workout more than that (when I start my half-training next week I will definitely be working out more than that) but four days is a reasonably attainable goal I have managed to meet week after week. I then have $5 stakes per workout so if I happen to get super lazy and not workout a single day then GymPact is going to take $20 from me. But as I don't want them to do that I always make sure to follow through on the pact. So instead of getting that "You owe us $X" email, I get the "Woo hoo! Here's some cash!" email.

Of course, now you're probably wondering how the GymPact app knows you actually work out. Well there are several ways the information gets verified. First you virtually "check in" at a gym or fitness facility using good ol' GPS (home gyms don't count, but don't worry there is a solution to that) although since it is based on GPS, once or twice weather has effected my ability to check in. GymPact app already has a list of facilities in there (like my yoga studio) but you can easily add one in and GymPact will check to make sure it's an actual gym. I had to do this a few weeks ago at my dad's gym and it worked perfectly and hopefully that means that if I ever go back with my dad in the future it will already be in the system.

So that's the first way. Second way is with the GymPact Anywhere option. This is the solution to the "no home gym" rule as it uses the actual physical movement of your body to verify you are actually, y'know, moving for the required minimum 30 minutes. The app suggests wearing your phone in an armband or you can do what I do which is stick it in my SPIbelt and just wrap that a few times around my arm. There is a baseline of movement that has to be met for it to count so depending on what workout video I'm doing I know I have to lengthen my warm up or cool down to add a couple of minutes because certain moves don't register during the routine (like, I wear my phone on my right arm so if the left arm is being worked and the right arm stays relatively motionless the app isn't going to know what's going on).

Third way is with the RunKeeper app. This part is actually super awesome since I already use RunKeeper whenever I run or go for a walk. All you have to do is sync up the two apps and as long as you use RunKeeper for at least 30 minutes, the activity will automatically get uploaded to GymPact and count towards your pact.

Now, though, I'm sure you all want to know about the money part. 'Cause, really, that's why we want the app, yes? Most important thing to know: your return is not going to be anywhere near as high as the stakes you put in. I offer up $5 per missed workout and the most I've gotten in a single week is about $2 total. But getting $2 is better than losing $5 and as the weeks go on the money earned adds up. You have to have earned at least $10 before you can cash it out (via PayPal) but I've already done that once and as you can see I'm more than halfway to getting to do it again. (It feeds my Starbucks habit, so the fact that it's all done through PayPal is awesome as I can just load up my Starbucks gold card directly my phone through PP without having to transfer money to and from my bank account.)

From my understanding, the amount you received is based on how many days you workout. That is, the more you workout the bigger the split of the pot. And, remember, the pact you set is just the minimum. Of course you are allowed to work out more days than that but only one workout per day will be counted towards your pact. So the more days you workout the more moola you are going to get (I think, don't quote me). The amount is also going to be based on however many people didn't complete their pact: The more people who failed means more money in the pot to be split between the people who succeeded. GymPact themselves tells you it averages to 30 to 40 cents per completed workout but I've always received more.

I will also add that while I have been pretty happy with GymPact, I know other people have had issues. Specifically with the app syncing correctly with RunKeeper. Sometimes the apps sync right away other times it can take a good long while. So if you go for a run on Sunday afternoon or evening and it's taking its good ol' time, it might not sync until Monday morning at which point the previous week's pact has already ended and your run doesn't get counted and your money gets taken. While I have had my RunKeeper app take close to 24 hours to sync it, luckily, was earlier in the week and didn't impact me. That being said, GymPact is quick to respond to problems or inquiries, either through the website or app or even their Twitter account. The app also goes through frequent updates which seems to fix many of the bugs.

Have you ever heard of or used GymPact before?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

08 July 2013

recap: bay days 5 miler

My Independence Day started with an early morning wake-up because I was registered to run in the 38th Bay Days 5 Miler! This annual race is held every fourth of July and is hosted by the Cleveland West Road Running Club. I'm more of a solo runner and had never before considered joining any kind of group run but they offer a couple throughout the week and it might be fun to check one out of these days just to see.

When I first left my apartment in the morning it seemed like it was going to be fairly decent weather for the run, mostly overcast and low 70s. The race began and ended at Bay Village High School out on the west side of Cleveland and it was apparent this is a big annual event. The parking lot was already almost entirely full and there were quite a few people who were not pre-registered. (I'm always pre-register. How else am I suppose to get my t-shirt, yo?) In the end I think there were about 620 runners for the 5 Mile (they also did a 1 mile Kids Dash).

My parents made the drive from Stars Hollow and around 8:30 we all headed over to the start to line up.

This entire course was flat. Very, very flat. And while the weather temperature remained cool and cloudy, holy mother did it get very humid very quickly. Another Cleveland runner who was at the race wrote a blog post about Dew Point and how it relates to running. Her observations about it not feeling hot but the air being really thick were spot on. I start my half-marathon training in one week (eek!) and the information about the dew point is something I'll keep in mind and look into while watching pace.

As I mentioned in Friday's post, I spent much of the race at the very back of the group of runners but I was perfectly okay with that. I know my 14 minute miles, while nowhere near fast, are still fairly respectable, especially with the weather conditions, and it was clear many of the other participants were hardcore runners (I saw a ton of high-school students, so I'm thinking track. No way in hell I was going to keep up with them nor was I even going to attempt to). This was also one of those situations where it felt like I was running much slower than I actually was. Every time I looked down at my Heart Rate Monitor to see my time I was rather surprised at keeping a consistent pace because it didn't feel like I was.

I also want to thank kiss every single Bay Village resident that had their sprinklers out for us. The course ran through neighborhoods and since this is a big annual event, the people living in the homes knew about it and were set up along the street in their chairs cheering and clapping as we ran past. Some then went the extra mile (pun intended) and had their sprinklers pointed right on the street. Who knew I could love a small dose of water so very very much?

Once the course turned onto the high school track and I was able to see the finish line I dug down deep and pulled whatever remaining energy was left and picked up my pace for the final few yards. Drenched in sweat, my face beet red, I was so happy to finally cross that finish line.

Back in March I finished the St. Malachi 5 Miler in 1:08:58 so I was using that as my gauge. The weather conditions between the two races couldn't be more polar opposite so I was very, very happy with my Bay Days time of 1:09:50. That's a 13:58 mile pace and in line with all of my other overall race times.

Lemme tell ya, that free tech shirt came in super handy after this race because the one I ran in was disgustingly full of sweat. Felt like it added on another 10 pounds or something. So gross. So I naturally changed out of it before having brunch with my parents at the First Watch over in Crocker Park. I splurged on a carrot cake pancake and it was well worth the use of weekly points.

Anyone else race over the holiday weekend?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

05 July 2013

my two most important race rules

Yesterday I ran in the Bay Days 5 Miler and had a fantastic run! My recap will be coming on Monday, but during the run and even for a few hours after my mind kept returning to two distinct ideas that I constantly remind myself of while participating in a race. Consider them my rules, so to speak. The words of encouragement and motivation I constantly repeat to myself when the finish line seems so very, very far away and I think I'll never get to the end.

Obviously this is going to make sense coming from the girl who finished in last place at her very first race with a time of 47:40.

The interesting thing about this is that when I ran in the very same race last week, there were people who finished well over 50 minutes. Which means if I had made this year my first year I wouldn't have been last. I couldn't tell you where I fell in the line-up this year but I can tell you that I went from a 47:40 to a 43:03.

Likewise, I spent most of the Bay Days 5 Miler in the pack of the back. And when I say in the back of the pack I mean I spent the majority of it in the last 5 people and for a while I was the last person. This was a huge race so to know I was trailing everyone might make it easy to make a snap judgement about my pace, except I kept checking my time on my HRM at every mile marker and was running a fairly consistent 14 minute mile, which was close to what I ran for the St. Malachi 5 Miler back in cold, sleety, snowy March. Considering the amount of heat and humidity going on yesterday I was incredibly happy with that time, so while I might have been one of the slowest runners at Bay Days I was by no means running slow. Comparing my race to another person's race is pointless.

What is not pointless is comparing my time to my time. The whole time I was running yesterday I was keeping track of my pace because I knew what I had done at the St. Malachi and wanted to come as close to that time as possible. I do this with every race as each new one is an opportunity for improvement and a possible PR.

I am well aware that I am not a fast runner. I will never place in the top of my age group and I will often be at the back of the pack. But I'm okay with that because in the grand scheme of things it doesn't matter how fast or slow the person in front or behind me are going. Their times have absolutely no effect on my own and unless you actually are trying to place than it also doesn't matter how many people cross that finish line ahead of you. What matters is that you cross that finish line.

Because of the heat I admittedly had to walk a fair amount of the race -- which says a lot then about my keeping that 14 minute pace for the whole thing. If there is one thing I have learned over the year and a half of running it's that there are times when I can walk faster than I can run. Or, at the very least, can cover ground more efficiently walking.

This is especially true in the summer with increased heat and humidity. Yesterday started off overcast and cool but when those clouds broke, holy hell. My shirt was soaked by the time I was done (so that racing shirt came in handy when I went out to brunch with my parents. Bonus: it's a womens fitted size Large. Booyah!) And when I say soaked I mean so much sweat you could feel the weight of it.

I know I can run 5 full miles. But I also know that there was no way in hell I could have done it yesterday without potentially passing out and that's okay. I started strong and I finished strong, gaining a bit of speed at the very end when I saw the finish line in sight. In between I let my body set the rhythm: When it said it was tired I started walking and I could always feel when it had caught its breath and was ready to pick up the pace.

Running brings so much to my life and I want to be able to continue doing it for a very long time. But the only way to make that happen is to take care of my body and that means letting it guide me and my pace during races and if that means walking parts of the course, so be it.

What are some of your race rules or things you use to keep yourself motivated?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus

03 July 2013

how to survive a cookout

Here in the States, tomorrow is our Independence Day! This means that not only do we have a national holiday, but I'm also running in the Bay Days 5 Miler. Fourth of July is also a big day for picnics and cookouts and while these events can seem pretty innocent, like so much else there can be some hidden traps if you aren't careful.

So fire up the grills, baby! It's time for another Survival Guide.

Choose your side dishes carefully
Mayo based side decisions are often a double whammy: regular ol' mayo isn't exactly waist line friendly plus the traditional mayo side dishes like potato and pasta salads are pretty carb heavy. Even just a small serving of one of these options can pack in a lot of calories so if you aren't watching portion sizes you may end up consuming more than you realize. Lettuce based salads at first glance might seem like a good idea, until you start layering on the toppings: dressing, croutons, cheese, etc, so dress that salad with caution.

Get your H2O on
It's summer. It's hot. It's humid. So be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water! Plus, as thirst often feels like hunger it can be easy to mistake one for the other. So before reaching for food, drink some water.

Fake it til ya make it
You don't have to be a vegetarian like yours truly to appreciate a veggie burger. Both Boca and Morningstar make faux-meat varieties that even the most hardcore omnivore will enjoy and they are usually less calories and fat than a traditional ground beef burger. If that isn't your thing, consider going with turkey or chicken burgers instead.

Take a skinny dip
Not that kind of skinny dip (although swimming is an excellent way to earn some Weight Watchers activity points!). Instead, I'm talking about the other kind of dip. Only instead of buying the store pre-packaged kind, take a few minutes to whip up your own. Trust me, it's not nearly as much work as it may sound. You can often buy the packaged dry powder Ranch dip in grocery stores and while the instructions often say to mix it with sour cream, I prefer to go with 0% plain Greek Yogurt. Might as well get some extra protein while you're at it! I've also made a dip using taco seasoning mixed in Greek Yogurt as well. And hummus is another excellent option if you want something other than a regular dip. When it comes to what to actually dip, skip the chips and go for veggies: baby carrots, slices of cucumber, strips of bell peppers, etc.

Veg Out
Speaking of veggies: Most cookouts are served buffet style, so start with veggies and load that plate up. Will leave less room for the not-so-healthy options that might be available. If grilling, consider adding some veggie skewers to the line-up and swap out the bun for lettuce wraps! I did this last weekend at my parents house when my dad grilled chicken for sandwiches (mine was a Quorn naked chik'n cutlet) and I surprisingly didn't miss the bread!

Bring Your Own...Sidedish. Or dessert. Maybe an appetizer. Regardless of what it is, one of the easiest ways to stay on track at an event like this is to bring something you made yourself. Not only will you have complete control over the ingredients but it means you will know of at least one thing you can eat for sure.

What are some of your tips for surviving a cookout or picnic?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazuars

01 July 2013

three times a bridesmaid....

Here's hoping that whole ....Never a bride thing isn't true, as Sissy's wedding on Saturday was my third time. Well, actually, I've twice been a bridesmaid and this was my first time as a Maid of Honor. First time was for the wedding of my cousin Eric and his wife Kathy.

July 2008

I'm going to be honest:  I have absolutely no recollection of weighing this much at the wedding. It was years before I hit my "Before" weight of 311 but I'm clearly hovering on that edge. I couldn't even begin to guess the number but I'm going to put it at close to 300. At this time I was in a committed relationship with a man I thought I was going to marry. That, obviously, didn't happen but if it had I would most definitely not be where I am today. I wouldn't be the woman I am right now and I would, most likely, not only still be weighing close to 300 I quite possibly would have gone above 311. It's just one of those things that when I think back to being in that relationship, I have a mental image of what I looked like and it was so far removed from that above picture.


Anyway, two years later it was for the wedding of my bestest friend, The Bookslut.

June 2010

About a year before this photo was taken, that guy mentioned above broke up with me. (We actually went bridesmaid dress shopping, like, two weeks after the break-up. Yeah. That was fun.) So after the break-up, instead of turning to food I did the exact opposite and took it as an opportunity and started to lose weight, which is why I'm somewhat smaller in this photo than in the first one.

Of course, soon after the wedding I fell off the proverbial wagon, which explains how I looked like this by the end of the year.

December 2010

This time I was the MOH to my lovely little sister and was so happy to stand next to her as she married her best friend. When she was walking down the aisle I took a peek at her intended and just looking at the look he had on his face when he was watching her was enough to make me cry so then I looked at my sister and dad and that made me cry. Thank you Gavin Scott Salon for waterproof mascara.

And thank you Ashley specifically for my amazing hair. All I told her was that I wanted something with a vintage vibe. As soon as she started talking about pin curls in the back and a swoop up front I was sold.

I told a few people that if I had to be the single older sister of the bride I was gonna look damn hot doing it.

True story.

I honestly don't remember the size of the dress on the left but my guess is 26 or 28. The dress from this weekend was a 14. And can we talk about the fact that my sister and I these days take up almost as much space as I did five years ago?

Actually. Let's not talk about that fact.

As much as I love the picture of my sister and I, my absolute favoritest picture from the wedding was this one.

That would be the flower girl who is the daughter of my cousin Claudine (we were waiting until the last minute to put her in the dress). I wanted a picture with her and she started doing silly faces so I started doing silly faces. She had the best time hanging out with the bridal party and referred to us as her "sparkle girls."

Ah, to be a three-year-old again where your biggest drama of the day is being potty-trained and asked to put on a pull-up for the ceremony. We convinced her they were just special underwear and all the girls were wearing them. Then the entire bridal party and her mom hiked up our skirts to show off our Spanx. Like magic it was enough to convince her.

Best wedding ever. Honestly. I love my extended family and we have the best times at weddings and it's just so much fun getting to see and hang out with everyone at the reception. My speech was a hit: this Tudor nerd managed to throw a Queen Elizabeth I quote in there and while everyone gave me some strange looks I managed to perfectly tie it all together. 'Cause that's how I roll, yo.

Plus my dad's long-time friends were there, most of whom I hadn't seen in probably a decade (one told me I had grown-up and matured into quite the knock-out) and family friends from my parents church as well. My sister was absolutely stunning and she and her new husband were both so very, very happy which is all that really matters.

Also, not only do I have my mother's permission to get married in Vegas, at this point I think she's actually hoping I really follow through on that plan.

Seems like there were a ton of weddings going on this past weekend! Anyone else attend one?

Love from the ashes,
Lady Lazarus
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