Mission Accomplished!

The Mission, if accepted: Complete a 5k on Sunday, June 6th, 2010 (motivated by the Weight Watchers 2010 Walk-It Challenge)

My Personal Goal: Walk/Jog said 5k and complete in under 45 minutes (i.e. 15-min miles)

The Contender(s): Me, and my beloved team of support (AKA my husband and friends)

Location: The Pasadena Rose Bowl – site of the famed Rose Bowl Tournament and the Tournament of Roses Parade — complete with a perimeter pedestrian path of 3.2 miles (5k)

Front view of the Pasadena Rose Bowl

The Pasadena Rose Bowl, courtesy of VirtualTourist.com

The Lowdown: At 6:40-something on Sunday morning I hear my husband’s alarm going off, knowing I now have about ten more minutes before my back-up alarm goes off.  I greedily relish every second of half-sleep, peeping one eye open every other minute or so to see how much time I have left.  Finally at about 6:50-something, about three minutes before the alarm time, I get out of bed, left leg, right leg, and out…realizing that I’m awake.  Teeth brushed, bananas sliced, cereal poured, milk waiting, workout clothes on, I wait for my hubby to join me for a healthy, somewhat hearty (but not too heavy) breakfast together.  We lace up our shoes, make sure we have all we need, even grab the camera, and head out by 7:40 to the Rose Bowl.  Although it’s supposed to heat up to a smokin’ Southern California 93 degrees by mid-day at 8-ish in the morning it’s sunny and cool — perfect for a nice 5k jaunt around the Rose Bowl.

Picture of Proposed Updates to Pasadena Rose Bowl Pedestrian Path

Image of Proposed Updates to Pasadena Rose Bowl Pedestrian Path courtesy of la.streetsblog.org

Upon pulling into the arena area and driving towards our chosen parking lot, we notice the proposed updates to the pedestrian path have now become a reality.  Roads have been paved, clear pedestrian and car lanes have been drawn, areas shaded, and new white lines have been painted — it looks great and incredibly inviting.  As soon as our friends join us we take a quick before picture, and head off to join the many other walkers, bikers, and runners.

Continuing in the interval format, my friend and I start off with a 5-minute walking warm-up, then progress to intervals of 3-minute jogs and 2-minute walks.  We pace ourselves, and manage to carry on conversations, but bring on the activity enough to break out a sweat and get our hearts beating.  The slight up and down grades are manageable, and the sight of fellow exercisers, plus a refreshing breeze keeps us going on our merry way.  Although I will still firmly say, “I am NOT a runner!” I do admit that the bump in activity, the stretching of my legs in a non-walking way, and the amazing feeling afterwards is enough reward, that I will confess to being an interval jogger.  Slower pace, shorter intervals, manageable level of activity — this I can do.  About 40 minutes and 50 seconds later (inexact due to user and stopwatch miscommunication) we reached our goal and completed the 5k.  With a little rounding-off that makes for less than 14-minute miles (getting close to 13.5) — in a very good pace.  More Math – adding up our intervals means we jogged for about 21 minutes of our 40 minutes, meaning we jogged for more than half of our 3.2 miles.  For me, non-runner, hater-of-running, the fact that I jogged for 21 minutes is awesome!  And the fact that I felt comfortable in our pace and our activity – great!

Mission Accomplished!  Words of encouragement to the fellow non-runners out there.  If I can do it, so can you.  So go ahead, choose a goal that is seemingly impossible, break it down to the manageable, and go for it.  And then, share your stories?  What’s your goal?  How’s your journey?  How’s your mission?


Put on a Happy Face…

…after all, the show must go on.

No worries – the title of the post is not implying that I’m in a down mood and in need of cheering, but rather that sometimes when I don’t want to do something, I just need to move myself through the steps of preparation and then before I know it, I’ll be doing my thing. I think about actors sometimes, having to display emotions on their faces and bodies that may not necessarily match what they’re feeling inside, yet as they say, the show must go on, and like Tony Bennett crows — “Pick out a pleasant outlook…Slap on a happy grin…spread sunshine all over the place…and put on a happy face.” So today’s challenge is to get back on the wagon. Yes, I’m talkin’ about the walking/running wagon.

I’d been diligently following my Active plan and had completed the fourth week, when changes in weather, visiting Contractors for a week, and my internal lazy monster made their visits.  This isn’t to say that I ditched my exercise plan altogether — I did compensate with in-home cycling sessions at varying levels of intensity, and did continue my beloved walks admiring beautiful homes, and scaling the various hills in my neighborhood.  However, when I tried incorporating some running into a walking errand last week, I did notice that my body was not havin’ it.  Although I do try to push myself further, I also value listening to its signals, so I jogged the bits and pieces that I could, but knew that I needed to get back into THE PLAN.

So, today, Monday — I am moving myself back to the start of week 2 of my Active plan, and will work my way back to where I was.  Although I am even more utterly convinced that I am NOT a runner, I am determined to thoroughly complete this eight-week plan.  My end goal, besides improved health and the joy of completing the challenge, is to get myself to a point where I can run a good part of a 5K event.

My running attitude may currently be gray and gloomy, a “full-of-doubt-look” may be covering my outlook, but I’m in my cutest exercise clothes, the Nano is charging, and I’m determined to spread some sunshine, and Put on a Happy Face!

Not Just About the Numbers

For most of my life I have struggled with the fact that I LOVE to eat, LOVE food, and usually prefer the mellow types of activities (reading, watching movies, writing, crafting) rather than the more physically-demanding ones.  Really I should say that it’s not with these facts alone that I struggle, but more with what the result has been — an unhealthy balance that has lead to an unhealthy body.  Throughout the years I’ve tried various approaches, and though some yielded results temporarily, I never found a method that genuinely worked for me.

A little less than two years ago I started following a plan that made sense to me.  All the expected knowledge was there: more calories burned than calories taken in equals weight loss.  But more than the science, I learned about ways of making healthier choices, ways of moving more and in fun ways, and about making changes in my lifestyle that felt and feel good for me.  When I made the decision to begin following the plan, I was not motivated by wanting to see numbers change on a scale, not to see clothing tag numbers change, but rather, I was motivated by want for improved health.

Slowly and steadily I have made the changes: a substitution here, substitution there; taking the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator; being intentional about incorporating more physical activity in my days, eating only until satisfied.  As I have been committing to these changes in my lifestyle, those other things — the numbers, they continue changing, too.  It feels good.  I feel more in tune with my body, feel more strength, and more self confidence.  And there’s more.  When those numbers change, it feels fabulous, too.  This means feeling great in my clothes, more shopping fun, and the ultimate — increased health.  Now this is not to say that I don’t sometimes become obsessed with those numbers — wanting and willing for them to change more quickly, but then I have to remember that slow and steady wins the race.  More importantly, I remind myself that this is my journey, and it can sometimes be smooth, sometimes be rough, but most importantly, I continue, and it remains mine.

Recently Jennifer Hudson, too, joined the program — Weight Watchers — and has become their newest spokesperson.  Kudos to her!  Word on the Weight Watchers street is that Jennifer, too, is on her own journey.  Her focus has been her health, making changes in her lifestyle, and making better choices for herself and her family.  So in the ads, the focus is on her journey, on her victories, and NOT just about the numbers.  She is now “ME-powered!”

Not Just For Directions

For nearly four weeks now I’ve not only been stretching my legs through my neighborhood streets, but also Googling my way through various twists and turns trying to find the best routes.  The best route can include anything from pretty houses to downward slopes to pedestrian-

friendly sidewalks.  With the aid of Google Maps I was charting my path and mapping out my distances.  The “map-by-walking” feature was nice to give me an estimated time, however, the one drawback was the fact that my feet did not always take the same path as the wheels on the cars around me.  Minor, and totally livable, but a drawback when every step, every minute, and every tenth of a mile count.  I don’t know how I found it, but the other day when searching for local 5K and the like in my area, I came across the Gmaps Pedometer.  This is a cool tool.

Here's what the Gmaps Pedometer interface looks like

Using the Gmaps Pedometer one can map out a running/walking or cycling route, can follow paved streets, or add in those cuts through the park, measure distance, measure calories burned, and for those with the inclination — even measure via the metric system. You can even view an analysis of the elevation, but truthfully, when I clicked that option the results meant very little to me, other than viewing a small graph with hills and valleys.

Here’s a quick run-down of how it works.  It is pretty intuitive, free, and even produces a URL for saved routes that one can bookmark or save to favorites for future reference.  NOTE: I accessed this tool using Firefox on my Mac; it might vary slightly across other browsers, and even possibly, other platforms.  When you first visit http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/ you’ll likely see a screen with the main interface (pictured here), and a map with a box for entering your starting point.

The Gmaps Pedometer map

If starting your route from home, you can just enter the address and click go.  There is the additional option of customizing the zoom level before clicking “go”, or just enter go and adjust the zoom on the map itself.  When you’re ready to start adding points to route, click the “start recording” button.  You can now either enter addresses, or use the cursor to drag the map to your desired direction, then double click to enter a new point on the map.  As you continue adding points, you’ll see the distance begin to add up.  By default, the pedometer will be set to automatically draw the route for runners or cyclists, but if you like to take those non-wheel-friendly cuts in the path, you can switch to the “manually” (straight lines) option, make that cut through the park, and then go back to automatically — finally a way to go off the beaten path.  If needed, you can “undo the last point” or even “clear all points and start over”.  If you choose to do so, you can even enter your weight and receive a “calories burned” number.  When finished, you can click “save” and the program will produce a URL for you, that you can use to “save to favorites” or “bookmark”, you can print, and for those who need it, there is also an option to export to GPX.  Like I said, very cool.

Here's what my route most likely looked like in college...

In addition to creating a really nifty tool, the good folks at Google, have also been kind enough to put together some basic usage directions.  Of course, I saw these after playing with it and finding my way around, but like I said, it’s quite intuitive.

For those of you interested in a review of the Gmaps Pedometer alongside some other route-mapping tools, check out this article from Anick Jesdanun in The Berkshire Eagle.

Happy mapping!

Who Says Christmas Comes But Once a Year?

Yes, I know it’s April, nearly four months after Christmas, and another eight months until we celebrate again, but sometimes I just can’t help myself.  In college I would chide my roommate for digging out the carols in October, but now I totally get it.

Today on my “Active” Run a 5K plan I was set to walk 30 minutes.  Admittedly, at the end of the day, just before dinner, and with daylight hours fading I can’t say that I was raring to go — even if only to walk for 30 minutes.  In an attempt to motivate myself, I threw on my workout clothes, laced up the shoes, got my Nano ready and set out.  I chose this evening to stay close in the neighborhood, and admire the beautiful homes around me.  As I was scrolling through my playlists trying to find just the right one, I came across a beloved favorite…”Unique Sounds of Christmas”.  Although the beats weren’t all fast, the rhythms slower than normal, the music sang to my soul, and again my feet were moving.  Beauty pulsed through my ears, beauty passed before my eyes — the effect filled me, heart, body, and soul.  The walk that I was dragging my feet to take, was now fast becoming the best part of my day — spring flowers radiated in their color, families dined on their patios, and dog-walkers reveled in the mountainside views.  Each step filled me with confidence, strength, exhilaration.

So, for those of you interested in infusing your adventures with a little holiday spirit, check out a Christmas iMix that I posted on iTunes the Christmas before last.  Enjoy, and may it be a merry one!

Thank You to The Muses

Being unemployed can be incredibly discouraging — not only the main element of not having a job or income, but even the hopelessness of searching for jobs and not finding possibilities.  Or finding possibilities, and then facing the daunting and seemingly-unrewarding task of spending hours crafting a fitting resumé and cover letter, only to click submit and send both off into a black hole of nothingness.  The hours, days, weeks, and months upon end of not hearing any word or making any progress.  Rather than let myself be consumed by these circumstances, I made up my mind at the beginning of this journey that I would allow myself to honestly process these emotions, but I would not wallow in them.  I know and believe that there is a greater purpose to this season in my life — it even ran across my mind the other day, that like Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”, I could be in my Italy right now – and totally miss it by looking in the wrong direction.  So, to gain the most from this time, I am determinedly making the most of each step of this journey, remaining hopeful, and pursuing those things that I love.

March has been a particularly inspiring month for me.  I finally started my blog, added more items to my Etsy shop, I have started walking AND jogging, and in the process of accomplishing all of these, I have done many of the things I love.  And I have done none of this alone.

Wikipedia defines “muse” as “the goddesses or spirits who inspire the creation of literature and the arts. They were considered the source of the knowledge, related orally for centuries in the ancient culture, that was contained in poetic lyrics and myths.”  Even though I am not living in Greek and Roman mythology, these goddesses or spirits remain ever-present.

I have the privilege of following in the footsteps of my muses – inspiring women, doing what they love, and making the history of tomorrow.  They are scattered around the nation, taking brave steps in unfamiliar territories, and encouraging others by their example — often unknowingly.  Many of these women I have not met in person, and most are not even aware of how they have energized me, but each in doing what she loves, leaves an innovative footprint in this world — pursuing her passions and doing so in a way that only she was uniquely gifted to do.  So, in celebration of the last day of Women’s History Month 2010, I want to take a moment to give a shout out to some of the women of tomorrow’s history.

Katherine Scoleri & Joelle Reed, founders of Moxie Design Studios, authors of "The IT Girl's Guide to Blogging"

The first two women I would like to acknowledge provided me with the tools to make my “ifshedidwhatsheloves” blog possible.  Since last summer I have had it on my mind and heart to begin a blog.  I have always loved writing; it’s incredibly therapeutic, and a tangible way to chronicle the history of the heart.  Many who are close to me have encouraged me in my writing, and especially in this challenging time, I have had this voice in the back of my mind saying, “Start your blog.  Start your blog.”  But it was the hot pink book, the catchy title of “The IT Girl’s Guide to Blogging with Moxie“, and their uniquely-made-for-women style that got me started on my blogging path.  Katherine Scoleri and Joelle Reed are the two women of Moxie Design Studios.  The MoxieGirls have pursued their loves of Art, Web Design, blogging, and more.  The fruits of the labor have been spending time with family, sipping martinis, and working in their pajamas.

Joy, blogger of "Joy of Stamping", co-founder of Eclectic Paperie, co-designer/co-founder of Our Craft Lounge

Robyn, blogger of "My Pink Stamper", creator of online cardmaking video tutorials

As I have been delving deeper into the world of handmade cards, two women who have taken their art and skills to the worldwideweb have inspired me.  Joy from JoyofStamping and Robyn from My Pink Stamper.  Both women started off as sellers or demonstrators of rubber stamping products, and each then chose to take their interests to new levels.  Joy regularly shares her latest cardmaking creations through her blog, has co-founded her own cardmaking-supply business – Eclectic Paperie, and has started co-designing her own “Our Craft Lounge” line of stamps and products.  Robyn continues sharing the latest and greatest products and techniques through her blog and site, My Pink Stamper, by presenting online video demonstrations from her personal “Pink Loft” and answering questions or showcasing cardmaking supplies on her blog.

Karen, founder of kgarnerdesigns, creator of exquisite jewelry

For her exquisite jewelry designs and sharing her story as a “Quit Your Day Job” Etsian, I would like to acknowledge Karen of kgarnerdesigns.  Karen started off making jewelry for the creative release it provided, as well as for an intimate and less expensive way to dress up her bridesmaids.  When considering a way to stay at home with her son, she kept coming back to jewelry-making.  On a budget of $10 a week, Karen knew that if she wanted to keep her hobby, she needed to get something back for her time and investment.  The results — kgarnerdesigns — her Etsy shop.  In the vast world of Etsy shops, Karen distinguishes herself with her timeless designs, the classic metals she uses, and her wedding-day or everyday inspirations.

Heather, blogger of "Wanderlust"

In the world of health, fitness, and learning to love oneself, I would like to send a special shout to to Heather, otherwise known as MadTownMotzie, the author of “Wanderlust“, a blog about one individual’s journey to better health with the help of Weight Watchers, changing food choices, increased fitness, and frequent attitude checks.  Although Heather has been on her journey for life, and has been blogging since August 2009, I only stumbled across her blog last week.  In reading her older posts I have been particularly inspired by her ODB – Operation Disney Bod – in which Heather steps up the exercise, cuts back (but doesn’t cut out) holiday indulgences, and gives herself regular pep talks in order to reach a goal.  I especially appreciate the honest and oftentimes vulnerable way in which Heather invites readers along her journey.

Lisa See, author of "Shanghai Girls"

Most recently, I had the pleasure of joining a women’s book club through my church.  First of all, I want to thank this unique circle of women for hosting the book club because without them, I would not have read “Shanghai Girls” this month.  Moreover, I would not have come to be acquainted with Lisa See, its author.  Not only was I utterly entranced by See’s writing and brief windows into the histories of Shanghai, Angel Island, and Los Angeles in the 1930’s and onward, but I was also incredibly inspired by the manner in which Lisa See carries her love of what she does across all facets of her life.  I read that See has a special fondness for forgotten or untold stories.  By exploring her bio, I also learned that she helps resurrect these stories, not only through her writing, but also by participating in such projects as recording narratives for walking tours of Los Angeles, giving of her time as a guest curator of select Chinese-American museum collections, and serving as the Los Angeles City Commissioner on the “El Pueblo de Los Angeles” Monument Authority.

Linda, follower of dreams, stopped by nothing

Lastly, to a woman who worked as many jobs as she had to, who has made sacrifice after sacrifice, and who has consistently given generously of her heart — all in order to support and make a better life for herself and her family.  An inspiration for following her dreams and not letting things like age, convention, or the opinions of others stand in her way.  After spending 4 years in law school — while continuing in her full-time job, and more than 30 years as a primary school educator, she said “School’s Out Forever”, resigned from teaching, and has been working to following her interest in law.  Times have been tough, and opportunities are scarce, but she continues day in and day out to study for the Bar, bring in income, and keep herself busy with substitute teaching, and senior care-giving.  To the woman who has always been a great inspiration and source of knowledge in my life I say, “thank you” to my greatest Muse, my mother.

So, too all my Muses of March — in the words most famously sung by ABBA in “Thank You for the Music” and slightly tweaked by me……

So I say Thank you to The Muses, for loves pursuing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without them, I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a craft or a story what are we?
So I say thank you to The Muses
For giving loves to me

I’ve been so lucky, I am the girl with Muses and Internet
I wanna shout it out to everybody
What a joy, what a life, what a chance!

So I say Thank you to The Muses, for loves pursuing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing

(and for those who are just dying to listen to the full, original song by “The ABBA Tribute Band” you can click here to listen via Deezer)

Lessons from the Pavement, Part V: Got keys?.!

Watching Friends is one of my guilty pleasures.  Not only do I have a fondness for each of their characters and their various quirks, but I love the situations in which they often find themselves, and their regular “this is life” exchanges of dialogue.  I remember one episode somewhat early in the show (I may be a fan of the show, but couldn’t tell you what events happened in what season or episode) when the crew is rushing out of Monica’s apartment to see something outside or on the roof, and Monica yells, “Got keys?”, which Rachel interprets as “Got keys.”  This morning, I had a particular connection with this episode.

Since last night it’s been on my mind that today would be day 1 of week 3 on the “Active” get-yourself-ready-for-a-5k plan, which means that instead of my intervals of 1-minute intervals of running and 2-minute intervals of walking, that I’d be stepping up the pace just a bit, and running 2-minute intervals.  Now to some (or many) this may not sound like a big deal, nor a big shift in pace, but in my “I’m not a runner” mindset an additional 60 seconds is a lot!  I have been determined to get up, get ready, and continue following the plan as best I can.  I woke up with an “I can do this” attitude, got dressed for the jaunt, got everything together, and set out with a ready spirit.  The moment I pulled the front door shut behind me I knew it!  I was on one side of the locked door and my keys were on the other.  Then the question was, “do I try to break in to my apartment now or wait til I get back?”  I waited, or rather, I walked and ran.

The push for the additional running time was definitely that – a push.  My body didn’t feel as graceful, and I think I paid less attention to the passing views than I did to my legs, my every intake of oxygen, and my time — frequent glances at the stopwatch, hawk-eyeing those seconds, and waiting for the two minutes to finish.   In trying to extend my route a little (to match the increase in time) I snaked my way to a yet-undiscovered-by-me park, a few extra twists and turns, but eventually ended up on my path.  The scenic route added an additional 15 minutes to my outing, but by the time I was cooling down with a walk, I didn’t mind one bit.

Once the workout was complete and I was back home, I set to breaking into my apartment.  I had eliminated the inaccessible or “too difficult to use” entry points and narrowed down to one of two remaining options.  Fortunately, a neighbor was home, so she helped provide the tools necessary — long fingernails, and a Ralph’s Club Card.  I pried, prodded, and poked — trying to convince the Club Card to do its work, while also trying to persuade Misty (my cat) to lend a helping paw from the inside — until finally I made my way in.  Victoriously, I climbed in, put things back in place, returned tools, and applauded myself, not only for completing my workout, but for the additional feat of successfully making my way indoors — without my keys.

Lesson for next time – be prepared with the following:

  • can-do attitude
  • comfortable workout clothes
  • invigorating music mix
  • sunglasses
  • chapstick
  • and…KEYS!