Thursday, March 30, 2017

My New Sports Tracker - Garmin Forerunner 35

I’ve been hitting the Danville walking trails during my lunch hour for around six weeks now. This entire time, I’ve been using my iPhone and the Endomondo app to track my time and distance. I did notice some pretty major flaws working with Endomondo. One day, it had tracked me as having run 22 miles in around 35 minutes. Most days, it was steady at 2.25 miles in the 35ish minutes that it takes me to run the course. It was also reporting an average of 635 calories burned each day that I ran. I accepted averages as truth and just deleted workouts in which I could have held my own against the Flash.

On Tuesday, I received my first sports tracker watch, a Garmin Forerunner 35, which I ordered after completing my first 5K on March 25. Setup was quick and easy. It synced with my iPhone flawlessly, and was able to connect to Facebook and My Fitness Pal, the app I use to track my calories, exercise, and water intake. Brilliance! The Garmin 35 even transferred my current weight from My Fitness Pal and calculated my BMI. I entered my goal weight into the Garmin manually.  I also entered my normal bed time and wake up time so that the Garmin could track my sleep patterns. I’m pretty impressed already charged the watch to a full charge and messed around with the new Garmin Connect app that I downloaded onto my phone.

I took it out for a test run on Tuesday at lunch time. I ran my normal course, and found that my distance and time weren’t as accurate as I had hoped. For the exact same course I run day after day, I found that instead of the 2.25 miles that I normally track, it was only 2.2 miles. I also learned that the number of calories I burned was only 376 compared to the 635 I’d been logging. Oh well, everything I did before the Garmin still counts for something.
I did manage a new personal best on my run. I ran the entire 2.2 miles without a walk break. That is the farthest distance that I have managed to date. I did run the last half of my first 5K, but that was only 1.5 miles. That is a .7 mile improvement!

A little about the Garmin Forerunner 35:

I purchased the unit on for $169.99, and it shipped for free because I am an Amazon Prime member. HERE IS THE LINK.

The features of the Garmin 35 are pretty cool. (These are taken from Amazon’s product page).

  • Built-in GPS - built-in to acquire satellites quickly to track how far, how fast and where you run, even under tree cover. No phone required!
  • 24/7 heart rate monitoring - warm gives you heart rate all day and night -no additional Strap   required.
  • Vibration alerts - helpful vibration alerts notify you of running prompts, activity tracking       milestones, smart notifications and virtual pacing progress.
  • Updated display - new high resolution display that is perfect for indoor/outdoor viewing.
  • Smart connectivity - auto uploads, smart notifications, live track, music controls and automatic sw updates.

The Garmin Forerunner 35 also alerts me and displays text messages, Facebook notifications, and even emails from work that come through the Blackberry Work app. I LOVE THIS FEATURE!

Here are a few screen shots from the Garmin Connect app, which syncs with the watch.

I want to mention that I have not been paid, and have not received any merchandise for this review. I purchased this watch on my own and love it, and I just want to share my experience with you.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Anxiety - My Biggest Demon

One of my daily struggles is social anxiety. I’ve had many people, family and friends alike, comment to me that they would never have thought that was an issue for me. I’ve been told that I’m outgoing toward people and that I have confidence and a strong personality. I don’t see those things in myself, and those close to me would be really surprised to know my thoughts and feelings in any given situation. I’m going to share a few.

At work, I know my job well. I’ve been at it for several years now. I’m advanced in Excel and the other elements of Microsoft Office, and have taught an Excel class to some of our co-workers. I know AutoCad inside and out. I set up, administer, and train users of two huge databases. I have even been acting IT for the plant for a few months while the company was between employees. There have been only a handful of things that I found myself unable to complete in my 9 ½ years on my job. I have a solid work ethic, and my attitude is that “my job is to make my team look good”. I try hard every day to juggle the zillion things on my plate, and “I can’t” is never an option. I frequently support other departments as well as my own, even though that isn’t part of my job. If I’m asked by anyone for help, I do my best to help them. I know I’m good at what I do, but there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think at least one (most days all) of the following:

“If I make a mistake, they’re going to fire me”.
“I sent out the wrong attachment, everyone things I’m stupid”.
“I can’t do anything right”.
“Mr. Manager hates me”.
“I don’t have the skills or ability to do this”.

In my closest circle, I have a solid group of people who love me and stand behind me no matter what. I’ve chosen my companions well. I nurture those relationships. I love fully and without expectations, I give without wanting to be repaid. I compliment, but I do so genuinely. I try to build people up and help them to see how amazing they really are. I listen and offer compassion when they have a problem and offer advice when asked. I know I am good to them. Anxiety still tries to kill those relationships. What anxiety whispers to me are these things:

“He/she really doesn’t want to be around me. They're just bored”.
“Our relationship isn’t like it was, something is wrong”.
“We don’t see each other as much as we used to. They’re bored with / hate me”.
“This relationship is about to end and they just don’t want to hurt my feelings”.
“If I tell them how I really feel, they won’t like me anymore”.

At parties or gatherings where there are many people, the anxiety becomes almost crippling. I’m polite and speak to people with a huge smile. I treat everyone the same. I offer to help with whatever may be going on at the time. The people I do know are great about introductions and making me feel like I belong. My issue is that I’m very socially awkward, and much prefer people to approach me rather than me approaching them. I feel as if I’m forcing myself onto people, and the last thing I want is to put myself off onto people who don’t want me around. These are the things I hear anxiety say:

“If I say hello, they’re going to think I’m barging in on their conversation”.
“Those two whispering and laughing across the room are talking about me”.
“That person looked at me like he/she already doesn’t like me”.
“I don’t fit in here”.
“If I try to add to the conversation, I’m going to say something stupid”.

*** [I want to interject that in attempting to write my positive attributes to show why I shouldn't have these feelings, that I found myself trying to apologize for having them. Anxiety is speaking to me even as I write] 

The above are only a few examples of  thoughts I have during almost every interaction with other people. I also over think and attempt to figure out what hidden meanings could be behind small comments. I interpret silence or delays in response during conversations as the person is bored with me and isn't engaged. When I don't hear from someone as often as I'd like, I feel that they are detaching from me. It goes on and on.

Social anxiety is crippling. At work, I isolate myself, spending no more than a few minutes each day interacting with the people I work with, keeping most conversations to things like a quick “good morning”. I work in solitude and I take my breaks alone because of the energy it takes communicate with others. In my inner circle, I’ve driven away people who may have adored me because I felt something was wrong and ended the relationship before they had a chance to hurt me. In my social life, I've backed out of events and even almost left a few because the anxiety was too strong to deal with. I’ve surely missed out on making new friends because I wouldn’t allow myself to add to a conversation for fear of looking like an idiot. I’ve likely driven people away because I come off as “stuck up” or “uninterested” because of my silence. The fact is that I crave interaction. I need to find ways to silence this demon known as Anxiety.

I’ve read so many articles from psychologists as well as life coaches. They all seem to agree that anxiety is caused by situations from your past. Identifying those causes are listed as the first steps to dealing with anxiety. Over the course of the last year or so, I’ve identified some of the causes. Some still seem irrational. Learning how to deal with them is my next step. I’m working on it, but it is damned hard. It may take me the rest of my life to get there, but I’m going to keep trying.

Do you have these same thoughts? How do you silence them? Do you put on a mask and pretend they aren’t there, but still silently suffer? I’d love to hear the ways you deal with anxiety.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Journey for Jenna - My First 5K

I ran in my first 5K on Saturday. The Journey for Jenna 5K Run/Walk was held in Danville, Virginia at Angler’s Park to benefit Jenna, the nurse at my workplace, who is battling breast cancer.

I signed up for this run at the last minute. I’ve been training for what I thought would be my first 5K coming up in August. I heard about this run, knew it was for an awesome cause for someone I know, and looked at it as just another workout day. My plan was to continue my regular workout, walking for two minutes and then running for two. No pressure. I filled out the entry online and paid my fee. I didn’t really think any more about it until Saturday morning.

Saturday morning came and I got dressed and made my way to Angler’s Park. I picked up my package and attached my first bib to my tee shirt. It was chilly out, but not terrible. I knew that I would warm up fairly soon. More and more people began to show up to support Jenna. There were more than 200 entrants.

I took my place at the start line, started my opera playlist, and cranked up the volume, and when given the signal, began my slow, steady running pace. I was being passed on either side by so many people, but that didn’t matter. I was there and I was running. I watched my clock for two minutes, and then took it down to a quick walk. I repeated that process over and over again. 

For about the first half mile, the negative thoughts started to creep in. “What have I gotten myself into? I already feel like I’m dying”. “I have a whole mile more to do today than what I’ve been doing”. “I’m out of breath”. “My legs are starting to burn”. I wasn’t having any of that. I shook off those thoughts and started thinking about the pavement as it passed under my feet. I concentrated on my foot strike. I focused on my breathing, inhaling for three steps, exhaling for two. I listened to my music and let all of those things take away any outside thoughts. There was nothing left but me and this run. Nothing in the world existed but that. 

I was in my running pace and thought I may be close to my two minutes. I checked my time. I had gone 40 seconds past. Instead of walking, I decided to run to three minutes. I forgot to check my time again. When I finally remembered to check my time, I had ran four minutes without a walk break. I was feeling good, had a good pace, my breathing was rhythmic, and I wasn’t sore! “I’m just going to run until I feel like I need to stop”, I thought to myself. Just then, I hit the halfway point and took a Dixie cup of water from one of the volunteers. Downing it in one gulp, I dropped it into the trash can and kept my stride. I ran until just ahead I could see cars parked near the start/finish line. I knew at this point I was going to make it. I ended up running the last mile and a half without slowing to my walk.

Near the finish line, I could see the banner with the timer just ahead. I pulled out my phone and took a picture just 13 seconds before I crossed it. As I approached, I heard someone shout out, “Good job, 289”, and a few people clapping. I had finished my first 5K. 

My time for that first run wasn’t the best in the race, but it was *my* personal best according to my tracker. I finished in 42:46. 3.10 miles, 13:48 average min/mile and an average speed of 4.3 mph. I also burned 836 calories. The rest of the day I was so     energized that nothing could have brought me down.

This first 5K was a real growing experience for me. I ran farther and longer than I have ever ran. I found “my groove” and finally know what a “groove” is. I’ve learned how to shut out the negative thoughts and focus on the run and nothing else. I’ve learned that I don’t have to stick to the plan that I was following. I also learned that sometimes it’s just better to do what you’re able to do rather than allowing a workout schedule to push you too hard too fast, or to hold you back when you have something greater within. 

I’m already looking forward to my next 5K. I was told about the Bridge to Bridge 5K that is coming up on April 8. I’m pretty sure that I will be there. 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Reason I'm Here

This is my self-improvement journal. This won’t be a pretty pep talk. This won’t be me touting my victories without disclosing setbacks. This is me, being real. It’s going to get ugly before it gets beautiful. I’m going to strip away every layer. I’m going to peel off my happy mask. I’m going to let you see the me that no one sees.

 I struggle daily with depression, social anxiety, laziness, insecurity, and sometimes even a shitty attitude. From those struggles, I also managed to find myself more than 100 lbs overweight. I’ve struggled with my weight all my life, but there was a time when I was able to defeat those demons and came out lean and strong on the other end. I will do it again.

I’d gotten myself into a pretty bad rut. Social anxiety had clinched its fist around my throat and was choking the life out of me. Literally. I had stopped going out with friends, I stayed home in front of the TV with a glass (more like two bottles) of wine and a plate of cheese and crackers every night. I enjoyed not being around crowds of people. I was going nowhere except to work and to the grocery store.

Another issue I had was that I LOVE to cook. I was making gourmet meals every night. Heavy cream, dense, exotic cheeses, chef quality sauces, and other decedent ingredients were being consumed in high volumes. I feasted. I didn’t give a damn about the calories I was consuming, so the calories led to pounds. The pounds added more social anxiety, and the social anxiety increased my depression, fueling my need for more wine and TV time. Those rare occasions when I did go out or when I went on a vacation were cause to celebrate. A giant burger and fries along with 3-4 tall draft beers for lunch was called for, and quite the norm. All of those demons cost me 105 pounds and upped my body from a size 6 to a size 20. Looking back on it, I’m surprised it wasn’t more. 

Today I am down 60 pounds. I’ve fought tooth and nail to get here. It hasn’t been “difficult”, but it has certainly been a slow process. I’m so very proud of where I am right now. I have people making comments to me every single day. Some days there are several people who stop me and ask me what I’m doing to lose the weight or to tell me how good I’m looking. I still have more than 40 pounds to go though.

 Recently, I hit a plateau. A plateau makes it impossible to lose an ounce no matter what you do. I stayed on this plateau for seven long weeks. Seven weeks of restricting calories, ignoring the piece of homemade birthday cake at a friend’s party, and stepping on the scale every day praying for it to go down just a tenth of a pound. It was frustrating. I almost quit. Almost. 

I decided that I needed to incorporate exercise if I was going to break through the plateau. What could I do though? I have a herniated disc, and even sneezing has caused my back to go out. I was afraid of everything. I decided to start walking.

 I have the luxury of an hour lunch and a walking trail within 3 miles of my workplace. I starting going to the walking trail on my lunch hour. I would get to the trail, set an alarm on my phone to go off in twenty minutes (this gives me twenty minutes to return, and then the remaining 20 would be my travel time to and from work. I downloaded the Endomondo app onto my iPhone and started tracking my distance. I was logging 1 mile each day for the first week. I then began to walk faster and was finally able to log 1.75 miles in my limited lunch time. After two weeks, the scale moved. Two pounds down! I was finally past the plateau. 

I saw other people on the trail. A lot of them were runners donning their skin tight leggings, fluorescent colored running shoes, tank tops and tees. Each of them ran with a confidence and a purpose that I wished I had. I wanted to be like them, but I couldn’t. My back is messed up, I have a knee and an ankle that gives me a fit, I’m 49 years old, and I am obese. Obese people shouldn’t run. At least that’s what I’ve always been told. I could get hurt pretty badly. If I even attempted to run, I just knew that I would have to call work and tell them I was lying flat on my back waiting for the rescue squad to pick me up and that I wouldn’t be back in to work today. Fear is crippling.

About three weeks ago, I was passed by a runner. I saw how easily she seemed to move. I wanted to be running so badly. I looked ahead and saw no one coming in my direction. I looked behind and saw no one was behind me. I couldn’t risk being seen as I attempted what I knew I would fail. I broke out into a five second jog. I went back to walking. That wasn’t so bad. Nothing hurt. I wasn’t feeling anything in my back. I did it again. Only ten seconds. I may be able to do this. Fear be damned!

Over the next couple of weeks, I would do short sprints (when no one was around to see me, of course) lasting no longer than 15-20 seconds. I still had that fear in the back of my mind that I would roll an ankle, or maybe my back would give out, or I might trip and fall and end up with “road rash”. I was also horrified that someone on the trail would judge me for not being able to run far. I was afraid of what they would think about me running in jeans and a dressy top. Anxiety is a bitch. This was the next demon I had to silence. 

I decided that if I was going to get serious and do this, then I had to build enough confidence to run even if people were around. I went to Target that evening and bought some leggings and a couple of sports bras (these boulders fucking hurt when they bounce). I could wear them under my clothes, toss a pair of sneakers into my car to change into, and wear a tee shirt instead of my dress tops. I also found a plan for new runners on Pinterest (photo posted). When I read that plan, I discovered that I actually had *permission* to take walk breaks! Would you believe that even seasoned runners who enter races actually walk? Who knew? I didn’t have to worry about the “real” runners scoffing at me because I couldn’t run the entire time. I felt free! Anxiety can STFU now.

Over the next week, I still had fear and anxiety whisper in my ear. I took things easy, because I was still afraid that I would roll an ankle, aggravate that herniated disc, or trip and end up with painful “road rash”. I attempted to use the “Running for Beginners” plan, running one minute, walking four minutes. That one minute was HELL. I couldn’t breathe and my legs ached after only 30 seconds. I didn’t do so well that week. I was down on myself, but still put on that mask and pretended I was OK with what I was doing. All those voices whispered to me as I ran my little 30 second sprints, “You’ll never be able to do this”, “You can’t even make it a minute, you’re pathetic”. I kept pressing.

 Looking back on the progress I had made, just getting out of my house and walking was a feat in itself. That first day “running” wasn’t so great to me at the time. But you know what? I fucking KILLED IT. I had quieted two of my demons enough to function and I had lost three pounds that week. I see that as a win!

I was determined to get past all these struggles, and I’ve always been one to educate myself on things that I was doing. I’m self-taught in most areas, and my curiosity and desire to learn has served me well in the past. I began researching. The first thing I learned was how to breathe. This seemed to be my biggest problem. I was randomly inhaling and exhaling, and constantly gasping for breath. I read about the 3-2 method and how that particular breathing pattern helps prevent injury. The article stated that on the exhale the runner is more susceptible to injury on whichever side the foot lands. He recommended inhaling for three steps, and then exhaling for two, from the diaphragm and not the chest. This method alternates the exhale every other foot. Breathing from the diaphragm also enables your lungs to take in more air during each breath. I started practicing my breathing. It made a HUGE difference. Now I could run longer and not get winded. The only thing that is left to do is build up my legs so they don’t burn and ache after a minute. That has to come with time. I continued to press through. 

It’s been 27 days since I started those 30 second runs. I’ve not been following the Running for Beginners plan as written. I’m listening to my body and pressing myself to do what I can do. This is my workout and needs to be personalized to my needs. I have the discipline to shape my own progress because it is something that I want. Today I pressed myself further out of my comfort zone that I have been though. I ran two minutes and walked two minutes for thirty minutes. I never cheated. I wanted to cheat – God knows I wanted to. But I kept pushing myself. And that’s how I know I will get to where I’m going. Because I’m determined to beat those demons. 

Right now I feel amazing. Am I an athlete? Hell no. Am I in shape? Hardly. Am I a runner? You damned right I am! I’m getting out there and running every day. I’m improving on my runs. I’m using my body more efficiently every day. I look forward to running every day. I love the way I feel after a run. I think that heart rather than performance qualifies me as a runner. Let’s see what else I can be.