May 14, 2010

Novelty


(Definitely don’t do this if you live anywhere remotely sketchy)
I’m writing this, filled with the familiar feeling of post-run tranquility, at 11 pm. How am I in such a mind set if I abhor treadmills as though they are manifestations of Satan himself? I went for a run at night.
            Let me first say that I’m fairly androgynous looking and that I live in a small, super safe town, and that I live in the well-lit down-town area conveniently close to both private residences and the police station.
            Let me also say that the thrill of running down the yellow line illuminated by the comforting glow of streetlights is infinitely better than running on a sidewalk in daylight.
            Lately I’ve gotten more that a bit bored with running, with no events to train for, no one to train with, and no one to listen to my endless ranting obsessions regarding running. I needed something novel, something to spice things up, and as I was going back to my dorm I noticed a man running on the sidewalk at almost 10 at night. My first reaction was one of envy- what cajones! Then I realized that I could do that too, thanks to the aforementioned factors. I was filled with anticipation- I had never run at night before.
            Five minutes in to my normal, daytime route, I realized that there was more to running at night than needing to eat a ton of carrots. My normal route follows a road along a canyon, and I routinely see deer during the day and the odd coyote at night. Obviously the deer aren’t a serious health risk, but coyotes, on the other hand, definitely don’t care how androgynous I look and are far more inclined to notice my ineptitudes with regards to avoiding getting eaten. I turned away from the unlit canyon route and towards the main street running through downtown.
            I enjoyed the solitude, the silence, and the darkness. It seemed as though my environment was facilitating the almost meditative mindset that one enters while running, rather than distracting me from it.
            The experience was also totally novel, and a perfect fusion of two activities that I enjoy greatly- running, and wandering around at night. I was a bit more aware of cars; more specifically, if they showed any signs of slowing down or stopping after passing me, but things went smoothly.
            I did have a mild scare though- a minute or so before my turn-around time, a truck blaring music driving towards me turned in to a street directly behind me. People were hanging around outside the apartments talking and such, and after I turned around a miniature flotilla of cars (including the truck) pulled out of the street and again began driving towards me. I know my hometown well though, and was able to run down a footpath and in to another residential area, insuring that my would-be pursuers would have to make their intentions very clear before successfully attempting to snatch me.

May 9, 2010

The Humble Pushup


I’m writing this after my workout, which was slightly on the haphazard side, while eating some chickpeas, drinking juice, and snacking on crackers. Fun fact- it’s important to eat within 30 minutes of the end of your workout because that’s when your body utilizes nutrients most effectively.
            I did a round of two different workouts that I found on bodyrock.tv, then grew concerned that my neighbors were going to invade and demand I stop leaping around above their heads, so I switched to lower-impact things, including pushups. One of the bodyrock workouts that I did required 30 seconds of pushups immediately after a minute of jump-squats. To my surprise, after completing the squats, I was relieved to get to the pushups and could bust out 30 seconds of consecutive crisp clean pushups, making 90 with my elbows each time. It felt easy.
            Push-ups have never (till now) been something I felt confident about. In gym I did all right with them, but always had to rest every five or so. When I was at boarding school, you had to do 3 pushups for every letter in whatever swear word you uttered, so with the help of my exuberant use of the “F-bomb” I could do pushups in sets of 12, but beyond that my arms quickly tired and I would again have to rest. After I grew competent at 12 pushups, I naturally began busting out my truckers’ mouth with more zeal, so I occasionally had to do pushups for the “-ing,” as well.
            Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point. I can competently do quite a few pushups, which isn’t something that I ever thought I’d be able to say, let alone with pride.
            Being a body-weight exercise, pretty much everyone thinks that they’re a good idea, if not the bread and butter of some workouts. The only people who seem to have a problem with them are the body builders/people who lift a lot of heavy weights. Since I clearly am enamored with the power of pushups, I thought I’d go in to the different types and my understanding of the different muscles that they work.
            The first type of pushup is basically whatever you think of being a pushup, usually your hands are under your shoulders and when you go down your elbows flare out in alignment with your shoulders.
            Then there are the Tricep pushups- when you’re at the bottom of the exercise your hands are right next to your rib cage and your elbows/upper arms are parallel with your torso. I can do about 5 of these, which is up from 1.5 in December. Obviously they work your triceps. Triangle pushups involve making a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs, so that your hands are directly under your sternum. Of course if these are too easy, you can always up the ante by putting your feet on a chair.
            Plyometric pushups are by far the hardest. Plyometrics are exercises that involve exploding out/up, and when applied to pushups things get nasty and face smashing real quick. Clap pushups are plyometric, as you have to “jump” off the ground with your arms in order to clap. There are scads of clap pushups- clapping behind the back, clapping twice, and the illusive triple clap pushup. There are also variations that involve “jumping” on to a medicine ball or yoga block.
            Lastly, you can always do one-handed pushups. I recently learned the “girly” version. It’s hard to do them on your knees, like a regular “girly” pushup, but if you spread your knees out a ton they become slightly more do-able.
            In summation… do lots of pushups. You’ll get better and stronger and it feels good, and don’t be afraid to try new kinds or do them on your knees. And if you decide to try the plyometric ones… put a pillow under your face, because you’ll feel really stupid when you bruise your face on the floor. I learned that one the hard way…

May 6, 2010

The Protein Thing

     I'm pleased to say that when I went shopping this week I bought more eggs and thought about buying tofu and beans before realizing that I hadn't eaten all that I bought last week. I'm doing better with incorporating protein in to my diet, which is a good thing. Obviously I'm not quite "there" yet, but I'm doing better. That said, since half a dozen eggs were my primary source of protein throughout the week, I thought I'd share one of my favorite ways to eat eggs.
     I'll preface this by saying that I live at 7,000 feet, so I suggest asking someone who knows how to cook about boiling times for eggs because I learned by trial and error, which was pretty gross.
     I eat a lot of soft-boiled eggs on toast because they taste like fried eggs on toast but with less fat/oil associated with frying. First I boil water, then I poke a hole in one end of the egg and boil it for 6-7 minutes. (This is where the 7,000 feet thing comes in to play- if you live at sea level this will probably produce a hard-boiled egg.) While the egg is cooking I make a slice of toast. I pour about a tablespoon of olive oil on to the toast, though this is optional. Again with the satiety-fat connection- I become ravenous in half an hour if I skip this, though if you're trying to loose weight obviously you can modify this. Then you whack the egg in half and scrape out the egg on to the toast.
    A note on the nutritional philosophy behind this- the complex carbs in the toast (If it's whole wheat) keep your energy and blood sugar at consistent levels, the protein in the egg the third most easily utilized by the human body (the first two are whey and soy), and the olive oil makes it tasty and helps you feel full.