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Archive for December, 2012

I have no beef with New Year’s resolutions, but I find I get a lot more traction out of “before the end of the year” resolutions. For the past two years I have resolved to declutter my house before the end of the year. Yes, the very fact that I’ve made that same resolution two years in a row reveals that I was not exactly successful in accomplishing my goal. However, I cut myself a lot of slack on that. When we moved from Michigan to California, we went from a home with a 1,700 square foot basement to a home without any basement at all. (What’s up with that, homebuilders? You think basements are only for cold country? Basements are for JUNK STORAGE, obvs). So, here we are without even a crawl space. Zip, zero, zilch space to put all that “stuff” that for some reason we thought it was important to hang on to for 13+ years.

I have made a lot of progress over the last few years since we moved into our home and there are only five spaces remaining to declutter:

1. The linen cabinets in the upstairs hallway. We have way too many hand-me-down, mismatched sets of bed linens. Time to purge those and get organized so I can tell what goes with the master king bed, the queen beds, and the full bed.

2. The extra cabinet in my 8-year-old’s room. It’s filled with photo albums and scrapbooks and miscellaneous papers that need sorting. There’s no reason for all that stuff to be in my daughter’s room.

3. The laundry room cabinets. Those are the cabinet versions of “junk drawers.”

4. The garage. We have made tons of progress on the garage. The proof is in the fact that we can now park two cars in our three car garage instead of only one. It’s sad how happy that makes me.

5. The master bedroom closet. That closet has been clean in the past, down to the shirts being organized by sleeve-length and color. Right now I would settle for “no crayons dumped on the floor by the toddler.”

Am I going to get to all that in the three days remaining before the New Year? Heck no! I’ll be satisfied to do one of those. (The linen cabinets are calling my name: “Purge me, Angela. Use your extra energy in the off-season to make me pretty. Go crazy and make labels! You know you want to.”)

The thing about resolutions is they’re not absolutes. They’re goals to work toward. They’re not all or nothing. The key word is progress. If you can say you’ve made progress each year, moving forward toward your goals, I’d call that a huge success.

When I peeked back into the archives of my journal for 2012, I found this entry on January 4th:

I don’t have resolutions or goals. The two words that sum up my hopes for 2012 are “progress” and “prompt.” Make progress bit by bit on keeping the house clean, staying fit, making friends (for me and the girls), going down the “to do” list. Prompt means not procrastinating on big tasks or small. Laundry, dishes, paying bills, doing things on the “to do” list that are bothering me.

I confess that by the end of the year I’d forgotten about the words of intent I’d chosen for the year — “progress” and “prompt” — but I can say that I lived by them for the year. I made progress keeping the house clean. There are still many times when it looks like a tornado hit the downstairs (“tornado” being “three girls I am desperately trying to teach to clean up after themselves”) but with my decluttering efforts we are never far away from being tidy.

I definitely made progress on “staying fit.” In 2012 I ran my first 8K, half marathon and full marathon. That’s epic progress!

Making friends for me and the girls? In addition to my high school friends who remain close, and the lovely book club ladies, I made a new friend in my half marathon coach Stephanie. I’m a die-hard introvert, so for me to have someone I can reach out to for companionship on a long run is wonderful!

I made lots of effort for the girls to have playdates here at the house and local parks. We do not live in a traditional neighborhood with sidewalks, culs-de-sac (yes, that is one of the grammatically correct ways to say the plural of cul-de-sac, which is French for “bottom of the bag” or “bottom of the sack”) and a school within walking distance. We have to go the extra mile (literally) to get the girls together with friends.

As for the last goal of paring down the “to do” list? Progress on that front too. Sure there are big things remaining (“power wash the deck and stain it” is not likely to happen anytime soon) but when it comes to things that I can realistically accomplish in the next day, I am pretty darn good about knocking items off the list faster than I can add them. I couldn’t say that when I had young babies, but with my youngest turning age four last July, I’m gaining traction. It feels good.

What about you? Do you have any resolutions, goals, or words of intention for 2013? How did you do in 2012?

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You know you’re part of a Fit Fun family when the Christmas stockings are ski boots:

Ski boot stockings

and the big present is a new (to us, via Craigslist) mountain bike for the 10-year-old and hand-me-down bikes for the 8- and 4-year-olds. It’s a coincidence that they’re all Specialized bikes:

Three Specialized Bikes

And the Fit Fun Mom gets a new bike helmet, a white and silver one that was chosen not because it matches Bullet but because it is more visible (and thus safer) than the potentially more fashionable black one (thumbs up on that choice!):

New Giro helmet

The whole family got out for a bike ride today around the regional park. All three girls did well in spite of some challenges learning the new brakes and gears on the bigger bikes. We rode for over an hour by the time it was all done. I froze my fingers off in the 60 degree weather (wimp) and hopped in the hot tub when I got home. If you can’t have a white Christmas, you can have an (Angela White) Christmas in the jacuzzi.

Did you get anything fitness-related this holiday season? Happy Holidays!

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As I mentioned yesterday, the nagging injuries in my left shin and right groin had put me in a bit of a funk. Show me a runner who deals with injury well and I’ll call her a liar. I aspire to handle injury with grace, but as my husband can attest, that remains a mere aspiration. In fact, half the reason I started this blog was to have someone else (a community of someone elses, in addition to my patient husband) to talk to about running and injuries. Along with running my mouth off (ha ha), I’ve put in place a Happiness Plan. I told myself, “Quick, think about the things that make you happy. Make a list! Put it into action!”

1. Exercise six days a week. Five workouts of running, swimming or cycling, and at least two of weight training. One full day of rest and one day with only strength training. [Note that I have stuck with this plan for the last week, running 20 miles, biking for 50 minutes, and doing several strength training workouts].

2. Get outside for half an hour daily or more. This is a must for me. I am a terrible homebody and my natural tendency is to stay inside, preferably curled up in bed with a good book. At the same time, I recognize that I am happiest when I am out of doors, and if I make the effort to get outside, I’m richly rewarded.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

A gorgeous winter (?!) day in Southern California. This was my view on my 50-minute bike ride through the park on Sunday.

3. Keep a “to do” list. Each day do the one thing that’s bugging me most (often the very thing I least want to do). Then knock out as many of the others as possible.

4. Keep up with the laundry (that includes putting the clean clothes away!) With five people in the family, including three little girls who love to play dress-up and a few athletes who often go through two sets of clothes and a sweaty towel a day, that adds up to a lot of laundry. If I do two loads a day, I can keep on top of it. A clean house = peaceful mind.

5. Focus on nutrition. Two fruits and seven vegetables per day. Ten 8-ounce glasses of water or other liquids (and that does not include alcohol!) That might sound like a lot of water (and I do know it’s possible to over-hydrate) but I can tell you that it is so dry here in Southern California that I often get headaches if I do not drink enough water. Add on turning on the furnace in winter and it is super dry here even with the rain we’ve been getting lately.

And if you think eating your veggies is a strange part of a Happiness Plan, check out this article from three days ago that confirms that eating more veggies and fruit can make you happier.

The more vegetables you eat, the happier and more satisfied with life you are. In fact, in one survey, eating seven to eight portions of vegetables was more strongly associated with happiness and overall well-being than employment status. On the whole, the paper concluded that well-being peaks at seven daily servings of fruits and vegetables, but the surveys also showed that people who ate just five servings a day (the amount that the USDA recommends) were as happy–or very nearly so–as people who ate higher amounts.

Love it, but I don’t need a study to tell me that I feel better when I eat better. (Note that the study cannot confirm whether happy people eat their veggies or eating veggies makes people happy. I’m not sure it makes a difference to me — I want to be a happy vegetable eater either way!)

On the whole, my Happiness Plan seems pretty basic and straightforward. I would argue though that it takes living with intention to stay on track with the Happiness Plan, and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

Do you have a Happiness Plan? What are the must-do items on your list? In addition to the five things on my list above, I’d add the one thing I take for granted: spending time with family. The happiest times of day for me are the times I spend snuggling my youngest in the morning before school, or reading to the girls at night.

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It’s been six weeks since my first marathon and during that time I’ve been in a bit of a funk. I loved the marathon experience and I remain glad that I did it. However, the physical and emotional letdown afterward took me by surprise. I knew to expect a little post-marathon depression. Lots of people experience that and it seems pretty normal to me. You’ve focused so intensely on a goal for four to six months, and looked forward to race day for so long, that when it comes and goes you are left at a bit of a loss, asking yourself, “Now what?” Usually those post-race blues are cured by signing up for another race. Yet I did that — I signed up for an 8K and another marathon — and it didn’t work for me.

What’s my problem then? Nagging injuries. The first was posterior shin splints in my left leg. As I recovered from the marathon, the pain in my inner lower leg increased to the point where I worried that I had a stress fracture. You might laugh at how I managed to resolve that question. When my anxiety about a stress fracture reached a peak and I was thisclose to calling a sports medicine orthopedist, I kept feeling around on my tibia to see if I could isolate a point of pain in either the bone or the attached calf muscle. In doing so, I massaged away the worst of the pain and I noticed some improvement. With that discovery, I started doing ice massage on the calf with a frozen water bottle, in addition to doing the calf stretches that helped me recover from plantar fasciitis. I think tight calves contributed to both the plantar fasciitis and the shin splints and I simply need to be dedicated to stretching my calves throughout the day and not just after running.

It’s also possible that the shin splints developed when my gait inadvertently changed to compensate for nagging injury #2. I’m not sure what to call that one. It’s a groin strain injury, located in the hard-to-describe area of the inner back thigh, running from the right buttock crease laterally toward the groin. As best as I can tell, it’s the adductor magnus muscle, and more specifically the “hamstring portion” of the adductor magnus muscle. It’s the muscle used to “adduct” the thigh — move it inward toward the other thigh. I feel it most when I try to balance on the affected leg (for example, when I balance on my right leg to pull on my left pants leg). This injury slows my running pace and, at its worst, affects my gait.

I have used the post-marathon period to cut back on running to see if it would let that muscle rest and heal. However, I found that resting the muscle caused it to tighten up and that increased the pain. There’s a balance in there somewhere — running just enough to stimulate blood flow to that muscle and keep it loosened up while not running so much that it aggravates the strain. Now I have a three-pronged plan in place to heal from the adductor magnus strain:

1. Run moderate amounts at a steady pace.
2. Strengthen the other groin, thigh, gluteal and abdominal muscles to support the adductor magnus.
3. Massage the adductor magnus muscle. This article (which is trying to sell a pain relief patch I know nothing about, but I appreciate its explanation of the groin muscles and trigger points) describes how:

The rear trigger point which causes pain inside the pelvis is found near the inside of the crease at the bottom of the buttock. This is best found and massaged with the help of a sensitive partner, a Thera Cane, or a ball. If using a ball, a lacrosse ball usually works best, but a tennis ball is okay. … In practice, you will put the ball under the crease of the buttock while this leg is resting up on a hard chair or table. … Rather than keeping the leg you’re working on straight … you may find it more comfortable to half-sit on the table on the buttock that you’re working on, while standing on the other leg. If you find any significantly tender points, particularly if they reproduce or alleviate the pain you have been experiencing, do some gentle massage.

Have you ever experienced post-race blues? Are you currently dealing with any injuries? Ever strained your adductor magnus? Help me!

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What kind of weirdo has thoughts on celery, and goes so far as to think anyone else would like to hear those thoughts? Me of course. Stick around, especially if you’re not a fan of celery.

1. You must buy organic celery for the best flavor and to reduce pesticide consumption. For years my husband hated celery. He didn’t like the taste, and even thought he might be allergic to it due to some odd reactions he would get if he ate it. Then we started getting organic celery in our CSA farm share box, and he loved it! It’s no wonder. Celery is #2 on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of the 12 vegetables with the most pesticide residues on them. Organic celery might not have more nutrients in it than conventionally grown celery, but it has a lot less pesticide and a lot more flavor!

2. Do the strings in celery bother you? Peel them! No, I don’t mean you should spend your lunch hour painstakingly picking out each little string in your celery stick. If the stringiness of celery offends your delicate taste buds, then get out a vegetable peeler and peel the outside curve of the celery just like you would peel the skin off any other vegetable. I learned that little trick from watching chef Emeril Lagasse teach someone how to make celery more tender and appealing. Personally the strings do not bother me and I am way too lazy to take the time to peel celery, but I can totally see doing it if it would help a picky eater in my family enjoy another green vegetable!

3. Dress up your celery. Sure you could eat celery plain or dip it in some dressing, but I like to fill the inside curve with peanut butter and top it with a line of raisins. Crunchy, salty and sweet — it’s the vegetable version of a chocolate-covered pretzel. Around here, we call it Ants on a Log, but you could also stand those little raisins on end and create yet another pirate-themed snack — Pirates Walking the Plank!

Pirates Walking the Plank

Weigh in with this weirdo celery lover. Celery: yay or nay? Peeling: necessary or not?

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Willpower

When it comes to willpower, I think many people believe you either have it or you don’t. You either have the ability to stick to a diet, workout plan, or resolution, or you don’t. If you miss a run in your training plan, you obviously didn’t have the willpower to make it happen, right? Wrong. In my mind, having willpower does not mean that you check off every workout on your plan without fail. It doesn’t mean that you always meet your goal of working out X number of days a week. Willpower means that when you’ve missed a workout or had a day of bad nutrition, you have the ability to forgive yourself and start over again. You have the power to rededicate yourself to your goals.

Any number of things can get in the way of your sticking to a plan. Many of them have nothing to do with what people usually think of as “willpower.” The top two things that come to mind when I think about missed workouts both have to do with illness: yours or someone else’s. You might have had every intention of hopping on the treadmill, but instead you spent the day coughing up a lung. Maybe you sat on the couch all day long, but it was only because you’d made your sick toddler a couch bed of towels on which to toss his cookies.

It might even be something less dire that keeps you from getting that workout in. Unexpected bad weather. Workout gear forgotten at home. Maybe even — gasp — a dreaded case of “I just don’t feel like it today.” Suddenly you’ve missed a workout, and now there’s something stopping you from getting back to it and getting that next workout in. Is it a lack a willpower? You didn’t feel like it yesterday, and you don’t have the willpower to force yourself to workout today? No, it’s not a lack of willpower, it’s an abundance of guilt. You feel guilty that you didn’t get that workout in for whatever reason, and now you’re blaming a “lack of willpower.” You have the power. You have the ability to kick your guilt to the curb as you hit the street for a run. Don’t waste your energy beating yourself up over a missed opportunity! Put all your energy into your next workout.

Willpower is simply the ability to see the big picture and to know that one slip-up (or two or three) should not be an excuse to keep you from doing what in your heart you know is best for yourself.

What do you think? Do you have willpower? What happens to you when you hit a bump in your training or eating plan?

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My middle daughter turned eight this month (How? How is this possible? She was 2.5 when we moved to California. Where did the time go?) In the past we’ve been able to convince her to go skiing for the weekend to celebrate her birthday, but this year she wanted a full-on party. December is a tough time for birthdays, but we made the best of it and had an 8th “brrrrrthday” party, complete with a winter wonderland theme.

I love to get the kids involved in the decorations. My oldest girl suggested getting these:

Crayola Washable Window Markers with Crystal Effects and they turned out to be super cool (no pun intended). While they take a while to dry and crystalize, it’s amazing to watch the designs come to life on sliding glass doors and windows. My girls drew icicles:

The California icicle

The California icicle

and snowflakes:

snowflake drawing

and I attempted some snowflake designs of my own:

Snowflake from template

For the birthday cake we made a dense two-layer chocolate cake from Baking Kids Love (from Sur La Table), along with this buttercream frosting except we substituted powdered sugar for regular refined sugar. It’s not an easy frosting recipe but it’s worth it to avoid the corn syrup in tub frostings. Tip: when you make the milk-flour roux, strain it through a sieve to eliminate any lumps, and then let it cool completely to room temperature so that the frosting does not separate when you combine the milk-flour roux with the whipped butter and sugar and vanilla. It makes a light, fluffy frosting that’s not sickeningly sweet. Tip #2: let your child decorate the cake herself. That takes away any pressure to make it perfect. My 8-year-old painted her snowflake on the cake this year:

Snowflake cake

and made this winter scene last year:

Oh dear, the moon and star have fallen from the sky to the snow below!

Oh dear, the moon and star have fallen from the sky to the snow below!

and this lighthouse the year before (what, you couldn’t tell that’s a red-and-white striped lighthouse??):

Obviously this is a striped lighthouse on a beach by the ocean!

Obviously this is a striped lighthouse on a beach by the ocean!

For party favors this year, I made Tanya’s Snickerdoodle cookies in the shape of snowmen, and packaged them in Ziploc winter-themed bags:

snowmen cookies

I printed winter-themed coloring pages for party crafts, and let the kids decorate some of the other sliding glass doors with the crystal markers.

My daughter loved her party and having all the guests over to play. Her favorite gift turned out to be one that fit right in with the theme:

Crazy fluffy earmuff fun. My 8-year-old is sleeping in them as I type this....

Crazy fluffy fun. My 8-year-old is sleeping in them as I type this….

Cherokee Girls’ Earmuffs from Target (no affiliation).

Birthday cakes: buy or make your own? Frosting: tub or do it yourself?

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