Sunday, September 30, 2012

What NOT to ask a woman: a post about body image

I just returned to the U.S. from my week-long trip to Italy for a professional workshop/conference. In fact, I'm currently sitting at the airport, waiting for the last leg of my trip home. It's been a long 24 hours. When I've recovered from jet lag and uploaded and sifted through my pictures, I'll post some. Italy was a great experience on both personal and professional levels; I was expecting it to go well, but it far exceeded my expectations.

But I wanted to talk about something that happened while I was at the workshop, something that chipped away at what I thought was a solider-than-ever self-image.

The first day, I wore a dress. I've worn this dress various times in various settings, and I was under the impression that I look nice in it. I felt confident in it. But during dinner that evening, someone asked me whether I was pregnant. And then the next day, when I was wearing just my usual jeans and t-shirt combo, someone ELSE asked if I was pregnant! I'm not pregnant. At all. No chance. Awkward. I felt worse for the people who asked (both women, by the way) than for myself because I know how awful it feels to mess up like that. (Although come on. Is it not a well-known universal rule that you NEVER EVER EVER ask someone if she's pregnant?!?)

Now. Granted, I'd been eating a lot of delicious food without trying to limit myself, but a) it wasn't like I was gorging and b) even if I was, can a food baby grow THAT fast? I kept looking in the mirror to see whether I'd somehow expanded significantly within a timespan of 48 hours, but to me, I looked like... the same old me.

I have never had a flat stomach. I didn't have one before I was pregnant, and I don't have one now - especially because growing a human in my uterus resulted in some spectacular stretch marks and skin that will never re-learn how to bounce back. A good diet, lots of exercise - I see the difference when I work out and feed my body well, but I have come to the conclusion that I will never lose my curves or my soft belly. You could make me an island castaway, Tom Hanks style, and even on a diet of raw fish and coconut milk, my belly would still be there. (Maybe I could paint a little smiley face on it and make it my own personal Wilson...)

I don't resent the women who asked me (though I do question their social skills). I get that they weren't trying to insult me. After all, pregnant bodies are gorgeous. I DO resent the self-consciousness that has started to creep back in. Over the past few months I've started to feel really strong. I've started to feel more appreciative of my body, in spite of (and because of) its "flaws." And now I'm being critical of myself again. I also wonder how many other people have wondered whether I'm pregnant, thanks to my somewhat chubby middle. 

I think, too, that the incident recalls some bad memories. Like when I was 16 and a peer told me that I had "great legs and great hair," but that I "just needed to work on my stomach." Or, worse, when my (former) best friend told me that she'd always felt bad for me because I tried so hard to keep myself in shape but I couldn't lose the tummy. Or when my mom asked me, a few weeks (WEEKS) after the birth of my son whether I was pregnant again, whilst patting my middle. 


I just have to keep reminding myself that:

-people come in lots of different shapes and sizes, and that diversity is beautiful.
-a strong body doesn't have to be a skinny body.
-a healthy body doesn't have to be a skinny body.
-there are soooooooo many other things to worry about - things that are more important by multiple orders of magnitude.
-sometimes people don't think before they speak, but that doesn't make them bad or rude people. I have a muffin top; they have foot-in-mouth disease.

Anyway, I'll share a couple links to articles along these lines:

What makes you feel self-conscious about your body? And what do you like/love about it?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Five: Prepping for Italy edition!

1. I'm going to Italy tomorrow! I'll be there for a week, participating in a conference/workshop a couple hours north of Rome. I'm nervous about traveling, not knowing the language (though I can count from zero to twenty in Italian!), and the potential for coming across as a total dunce at this workshop, but mostly I'm just excited. September in Italy is supposed to be beautiful, and made all the more beautiful by Italian wine and Italian coffee.

2. This week's mileage:
Sunday: 15 miles (see previous post)
Tuesday: 5 miles
Wednesday: Xtend Barre class
Thursday: 4 miles
Friday (today!): 13 miles! I stayed home, packed, and went on the 13-miler with my husband. The weather was sunny and cool, and my legs felt good for most of it. I'm bringing my running attire to Italy and will go out for a jog if I have time. But if not, at least I completed this week's long run, and hopefully I can get right back into the swing of my marathon-prep schedule when I return.

I'm not sure I've ever run 37 miles in less than 6 days before!

3. I went shopping today for travel snacks, and I found THESE. At TARGET! 

Nutritionally-complete (well, mostly), gluten-free, vegan travel snacks. I never thought I'd see the day. True, I don't like the amount of packaging these require, but there's some measure of comfort in knowing that even though I'll be spending a total of >15 hours in flying metal sardine cans, at least I'll have snacks that I can eat and that taste good.

4. I hate packing. I do it a lot and it never gets any easier. I'm trying to stuff everything into a backpack and a small suitcase. Should be totally doable, but somehow I'm struggling.

5. I am grateful for:

-awesome family
-awesome friends
-awesome therapy guy
-awesome advisor
-health - especially that I am healthy enough to run
-pharmaceuticals that work, and that I have been feeling like a normal, relatively happy person lately (knock on wood)
-the ability to grow and to gain new insights, even from familiar experiences
-travel opportunities
-blogs (I love reading blogs! My guilty pleasure.)
-Blue jeans
-New episodes of Guiliana and Bill on Netflix

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to create a coffee eruption

Step-by-step instructions:

1. Wake up earlier than you'd like to for a run. Make sure you're super groggy and running late.

2. Grind coffee beans. Place in filter. Turn coffee machine on.

3. Wait five minutes.

4. Realize you forgot to add water.

5. Turn coffee pot off, just to be safe.

6. Pour water into coffee maker.

7. Wait as the steam created by the pouring of cold water into hot container somehow wends its way up up through the base of the coffee filter.

8. Watch coffee grinds shoot into the air and land all over the counters, floor, and you.

9. Curse a little.

10. Clean up grinds, dust yourself off, and go for a five-mile run.

Monday, September 17, 2012

BIG DAY, Part 2: 15 miles DONE!

To quote Dora the Explorer, We did it! We did it! Yaaaaay!

This run could be broken into three chapters: Chapter 1 (miles 1-5): Misery. Chapter II (miles 6-12): Feeling Fine! Chapter III: Calf Muscles are Screaming, But I Can Ignore Them For Now (miles 13-15).

Chapter I: Misery

Yesterday afternoon was hot. I think it was actually somewhere around 80-85 degrees, but the sun was blazing, so it felt more like 95. I don't run well in the heat - unfortunate, since this is the south and temps can be consistently, uncomfortably high for up to 1/3 of the year.

Within the first block, I could tell that I was not going to have an easy time of it. Running Friend was chatting, not out of breath at all. I was entirely focused on just putting one foot in front of the other, and my mood declined with each passing mile. RF wanted to talk, share stories - but she soon realized that it was going to be a pretty one-sided conversation. I wasn't having any of it. I think I may have growled at her a couple of times, and then she backed off and we ran in silence.

Sometimes that's the best I can do. Sometimes I need to go totally into myself and block out everything and everyone around me. I know I can run the distance - but sometimes I have to go to a place of quiet, angry determination to make it happen. This is how I am in running and in life. I overcome challenges, I push through, but it's never very pretty.

The worst part of this phase was when we were running on the shoulder of a very busy road and another running buddy, who'd agreed to join us for 4-5 miles, suddenly ran up behind me with a chipper hello. Scared the crap out of me, and I just about decked him. I have quite the startle response.

Chapter II: Feeling Fine!

Once some clouds rolled in and we veered off onto more shaded roads, I started to feel better. I had some water and a Hammer Nutrition gel, and within two minutes my energy level ramped up. Suddenly I was talkative and light on my feet.

The roads were still busy, but not AS busy, and that also helped me feel calmer. By mile 10 I could feel my calf muscles starting to get grouchy, and I had a cramp around my ribcage. But those things seemed way more tolerable than the heat, which by then had dissipated significantly.

At around mile 12 we stopped at a grocery store for a quick water break. I felt tired, but by then I knew the last three miles were going to be okay.

Chapter III: Calf Muscles are Screaming, But I Can Ignore Them For Now

I was worried about my knee going into this run, but it was a non-issue. My calf muscles, on the other hand, were totally seized up by the end of the run. Thinking back, I recalled that this had been a problem when my husband and I had trained for our first marathon 10 years ago. My lungs had been fine, my energy levels had been manageable, but sore legs had been a real drag.

Nevertheless, I kept putting one foot in front of the other, and soon we we'd reached our goal.

RF let me hang out at her place for an hour or so to ice my knees, guzzle another bottle of water, and take an Advil. That post-race care seems to have worked, because when I woke up this morning, my legs felt fine. A little sore, but way less than I'd expected.

Oddly, the thing that's bothering me more are my shoulders. My right one is particularly sore. Maybe my posture was poor by the end of the run.

Now I'm drinking coffee and a peach/banana/blueberry/kale smoothie and trying to make myself get started on a work project.

Any tips on dealing with leg cramps during long runs?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

BIG DAY, part 1: Prepping for 15 miles

Today's the day Running Friend (RF) and I run 15 miles in prep for the Space Coast Marathon. I'm excited, but also pretty nervous. I have a tendency to be quite slow and creaky for the first two or three or four miles. If I don't start out well, my positive mentality fades and then I have to fight the entire way. Maybe this will be one of those rare runs where I feel like I am treading on air... Here's hoping!

Also, if I'm being totally honest with myself, my knee is a bit wonky. But I can't tell if that's from running too much or sitting too much. Oftentimes, the latter makes my leg really achy. I'm going to ice it for a bit this morning, in case it's a little inflamed.

While we're running, another friend will be watching my son. I hope he does okay today... After his nap yesterday afternoon, he was a whole lot less cranky, way more cuddly, AND he slept like a rock last night. So I'm hopeful that Saturday's stressful drama was just a blip.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Parenting FAIL day

My husband is out of town, so it's just me and my son this weekend. So far, not so good.

It started when my son decided he wanted to do a craft project at 6:30 a.m.

Him: You have TWO choices: make glitter butterflies or build a LEGO house.
Me: I need coffee. I can't do anything until I've had breakfast and coffee.
Him: That isn't one of the choices.
Me: I'll help you with a craft after I've had breakfast and coffee.

At which point I retreated to the bedroom, put a pillow over my head, and said I was feeling sick. Then I stared at the ceiling and thought about how this "You have X choices" thing his teacher is using to get her students to do stuff is totally backfiring.

Then my friend (a former college golfer) texted me, offering to give my son the golf lessons he's been asking for. Great! I'm pumped, he's pumped, we have a cheap club from Goodwill, we're ready. We meet my friend at the park. My son takes his first aim at the tennis ball she's provided to help him get used to swinging. He misses.

Cue a temper tantrum that could put one of John McEnroe's rants to shame. He threw a golf club, marched around, screamed, said he was DONE. I suppose we should have gone home right then and there, but my friend had driven a ways to meet us, and we'd had to drive a decent distance, too, so we stuck around and I practiced hitting tennis balls while Cranky McGee wandered around muttering angrily to himself.

Later, we went to the bookstore. He asked for a cookie. Conversation:

Him: Mommy, I am really hungry. I need a snack.
Me: I brought grapes and Cheerios.
Him: But I don't want those! Here are your three choices. Points at three different cookies, each the size of his head if not larger.
Me: No cookies today.
Me: This is causing too much drama. We're leaving.

At which point he REALLY let it rip, and the entire store and parking lot got an earful until I had him packed up into his carseat.

Five minutes from home, he fell asleep. He's still sleeping.

Maybe he misses my husband. Maybe he's exceptionally tired. I don't know, but he's not usually this volatile. He's a lot like I was when I was little, so I'm trying to be sensitive while still setting boundaries and expectations.

It's just hard sometimes. Parenting is not easy and a lot of times it's not particularly fun. I often feel like I have no idea what I'm doing, and that even though I'm trying my best, it isn't good enough.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Daydreaming of the Alps

Jill's descriptive posts about the Tour des Geants have me reminiscing about the month I spent hiking in the mountains of Germany, Austria, and Italy.

It was a long time ago. Eight years ago. I can't believe so much time has passed since then, and how quickly. I have fond memories of: the huts, muesli, calloused feet, stinky wool socks, near-vertical ascents up wooded slopes, fluorescent shoelaces, via ferrata, breathtaking views.

It was one of those times when you know you're in the midst of a special experience. Jill's pictures, and these pictures, make me want to go back.

"May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds." - Edward Abbey

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Running on the Space Coast

Yesterday my running friend (and good friend outside of running) and I signed up for our first marathon together: the Space Coast marathon in Cocoa, FL. It's near the Kennedy Space Center and the event has, not surprisingly, a space theme. People dress up as astronauts and aliens, and there are photo ops with space shuttles, rockets, and the like. We said we wanted a fun run; this fit the bill. She's excited, I'm excited, we're excited.

The SCM is in 11 weeks. Yeah, we made our decision a little late, which explains why we will be going 15 miles for our first long run this weekend. We've already had several people inform us that we are crazy/overly optimistic/out of touch with reality. But whatever. It's 15 miles. It's doable, and not just for sponsored superhero athletes. For regular people like me, too. We choose to look at it as taking half a day to do an enjoyable training run in the great outdoors in a city we both love.

Here's our training schedule. We'll likely need to make some schedule-based modifications to the shorter runs, but we are determined to stick to the long runs, the longest mid-week run, and the Saturday run:

Today was 7 miles, and we KILLED that run. Killed it. She was keeping track of the distance; I wasn't. I was truly surprised when we hit our goal because although it was challenging (as most runs are for me), it was also a lot of fun, and the time passed quickly.

Did I mention that I'm really, really excited?

Aside from the opportunity to challenge ourselves and spend time in a beautiful part of the country, one other very important aspect of this - for me, anyway - is that I'll be running this with a friend. A FRIEND. MY FRIEND. Two years ago I didn't have any friends. Yes, I had kinda-sorta acquaintances, but that was about it. Running has been the best thing for providing an atmosphere, an environment, where I can be myself - where I don't have much choice BUT to be myself, because I'm usually too tired to think about self censorship. When I run with people, I feel so much like myself that I don't even think about myself. Does that make sense?

Plus, I love poop jokes, other runners usually love poop jokes... It's the perfect arena in which to find like-minded individuals.

Tomorrow: 4 miler!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Forced rest and spicy carrot-bean-garlic soup

Every now and then, it's almost a relief to be well and truly flattened by a seasonal illness - because then I am forced to slow down, regardless of all the things I think I need to do or how far behind I think I'm getting or what a lackluster parent I think I'm being. A minor cold, random stomach issues, a persistent cough - I can work around those things, even if I feel really bad. It's only when I can't get out of bed that I have no choice but to stop and give in.

Wednesday morning, my nose was runny and my eyes were watery, but ragweed levels in our area were high, so I thought that was the culprit. I took some allergy meds and waited to feel better. Nothing happened. Wednesday afternoon, I started coughing. Wednesday night, I felt feverish.

Thursday morning, I stayed home from work and went in only to teach a lab. I thought about asking my advisor (who teaches the lecture counterpart of the course) to take over for me, but he's not one for excuses. Being that I was upright and could drive, I figured he wouldn't be all that sympathetic. During lab I was so wrecked that I wanted to crawl under a table and take a nap, but the students in the class were so pleasantly determined, enthusiastic, and interested in what was an admittedly challenging set of activities that I rallied and tried to meet their level of energy. Did that happen? Not exactly. I sensed that they were taking some pity on me. I must have looked like roadkill by that point.

I slept for a total of maybe three hours on Thursday night and by sunrise I could barely sit up in bed. I ended up working from home and took frequent rest/nap breaks. Normally I'd feel guilty for not going to work, but I realized that I was in absolutely no shape to get behind the wheel, drive 20 minutes on the highway, and communicate with people in a functional manner. Plus I would have passed on this flu to my colleagues.

I'm still feeling exhausted today. I'm also dizzy, but I think that has more to do with me forgetting to take my Zoloft yesterday and this morning (classic symptom of antidepressant withdrawal, according to The Google). Hopefully I'll continue on this upswing and be ready to get back to work, running, and more energetic mothering come Monday morning.

All that said? It does drive me crazy to not be able to do what I want to do, especially run. But I know from past experience that if I try to run while I'm still congested, this thing is just going to drag on.

I did have enough energy to make something yummy and healthy for today's lunch: a spicy carrot-bean-garlic soup. It's a spinoff on one of Marlow's recipes over at Gluten Hates Me (I love that blog - go check it out, even if gluten loves you. She has great recipes.)

I heated oil in a saute pan and added 1/4 an onion and two cloves of garlic. When they were soft (~5 minutes), I added a few handfuls of chopped spinach, a can of garbanzo beans, and ~1/4 cup black beans, stirring occasionally until they were warm.

I also added several dashes of cayenne. Anything to help clear my sinuses.

Once the bean/spinach mixture was hot, I poured in one box of Trader Joe's carrot-ginger soup and let the whole concoction simmer on medium heat until it was steaming. I LOVE this soup. It's delicious - tasty, but not salty or overpoweringly ginger-y.

The result:

I've already had three bowls. Moderation is not my strong suit. But then again, don't they say to feed an illness? I can handle that.

While recovering, I'm reading triathlete Chrissie Wellington's book A Life Without Limits. It is truly inspiring. Of the three running-related books I read this summer - the others being those by Rich Roll and Scott Jurek - I think this is my favorite. Although it's about her life and accomplishments, it's also clearly about the reader. It's making me think about my own perceived limits and the importance of testing them, seeing how far back I can push them.

Her take on rest and recovery: "The idea of rest flies in the face of every value I have lived my life by. I should be the last person to preach downtime, having indulged in so little of it during my life before triathlon, but I am fully converted now. I realize it is not the actual sessions of swim, bike and run that make you fitter, it is the periods you spend recovering in between, during which your body adapts and regenerates. That's why I say I train 24/7 - recovery is training. It's the most important part of it, in fact."

Well okay then. If Chrissie says so, I will go back to sitting on the couch.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Sickie sick

I'm not sure if this is related to the workout-palooza I've been on for the past couple weeks, the start of school and the bringing together of lots of different germs, or my ragweed allergy (likely some combination), but I feel like crap. Stuffy nose. Inflamed sinuses. Watery eyes. Sore throat. Postnasal drip. Yum. Skipped Xtend Barre last night, skipped running group this morning, probably won't work out at all today.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Five happy things, with asterisks

Five happy things today:

1. My running girls and I had a great six-miler this morning. We started early, headed across town through intense humidity*, conquered at least three steep hills, and wrapped up feeling like we could have gone at least six more miles. Running highs are the exception to the rule for me, so I definitely appreciated this one. I especially appreciated sharing the experience with my friends.

*At least it was relatively cool. Autumn is on the way, and although I am not ready to say goodbye to summer, autumn provides much better running conditions.

2. I have therapy tomorrow, and I am so looking forward to it. It's been two weeks since I last went and I feel like I really need a chance to vent/let loose to someone who will listen in a nonjudgmental way*. I have been seeing this therapist on and off for more than two years. My meetings with him have become an important aspect of my life, even when (especially when?) I'm not in crisis mode. We have a special rapport that I value.

*Because who else is going to let me blather on about myself for the better part of an hour?

3. Peanut butter Larabars topped with melted dark chocolate for dessert*. I don't like most Larabars on their own, but with the chocolate on top, it's like a gluten-free, vegan peanut butter cup.

*I love dessert.

4. I'm looking forward to reading with my son tonight*. We're in the process of establishing a family reading hour before his bedtime. Last night we read for 20 minutes. We'll up that length gradually.

*I love Trashy Town and Cat in the Hat. I can't stand Wacky Wednesday.

5. My husband made dinner. It involved lots of potatoes and it was delicious*.

*I eat like a linebacker. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Prepping for an early morning run

I am useless pretty much anytime before 9 a.m., but I'm at my worst when I have to leave early for running group. I do things like fall asleep on the toilet (yup) and pour orange juice into the cereal. And even when I do manage to get all geared up and out the door on time, I tend to forget things - like a change of underwear, for instance, or my lunch. (After running group, I go straight to work.)

Thus, any early morning run requires some preparation the night before so as to minimize damage/lateness/absence of essential articles of clothing:

  • Make sure there's gas in the car.
  • Grind coffee so that all I have to do is dump it into the machine, add water, and press start (though sometimes I simply press the off button without realizing it and walk away).
  • Set pill bottles right next to the coffee maker so I don't forget to take my prescription before I leave.
  • Place wallet, keys, and phone next to my bag. Otherwise, I won't be able to find them. Even if I place them *in* my bag, I will not be able to find them. They must be in my line of sight between the kitchen and the front door.
  • Prepare lunch. Place all food in appropriate containers. Place containers in clear view in the fridge and on the counter. Place utensils next to food.
  • Fill water filter pitcher.
  • Lay out running clothes.
  • Lay out towel, toiletries, change of clothes next to running gear. Include EVERYTHING I need. In the morning, I won't be functioning well enough to hunt for my stuff. I hate this part because I hate packing of any kind, however minimal.
  • Check to make sure there is toilet paper in the bathroom.
Plan for tomorrow is to run ~4 miles, but I'm hoping to push for a few more. I think we can handle it - especially now that the weather's a bit cooler.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Fig cake: Gluten free. Vegan. Delicious. It's possible.

One thing I love about Trader Joe's is its seasonal offerings. While I was there on Friday, I ran across a 1-lb container of black California figs. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with them, but I love their versatility (they're good in sweet as well as savory dishes) and the price was right. I figured The Google could help me decide what to do with them.

I found a recipe for a vegan upside-down fig cake at the Cake Duchess blog and used that as the basis for my own attempt at figgy goodness. I made several modifications: I used gluten-free flour instead of regular flour, downsized the recipe so that the cake could fit in a small, 32-oz square pan suitable for a toaster oven, added some lemon juice to the figs for a little kick of tanginess, and incorporated ground flaxseed into the recipe.

The Cake Duchess divided her recipe into four components, and I followed suit, as shown below. Upper left: ~1/2-lb. figs, quartered + 1 tsp brown sugar + lemon juice (two squeezes of half a lemon). Upper right: 1/2 cup almond milk + 1/2 tsp vinegar. Lower left: 2/3 cup gluten free flour (I used Bob's Red Mill) + 1/4 tsp baking soda + 1/4 tsp baking powder + 1 tbsp ground flaxseed + pinch of salt. Lower right: ~1/4 cup brown sugar + 1/2 tsp vanilla + ~1/6 cup vegetable oil (about 2.75 tbsp).

I melted 1 tbsp Earth Balance spread in a saucepan, dumped in the fig mixture, and let it stew on medium heat for about 5 minutes:

Note: You can leave the skin on the figs (shown above) or peel it off. The first time I tried it, I left the peels on. I love the color it imparts to the cake. However, the peeled figs were less chunky.

I mixed together the milk, sugar, and flour components to make the cake batter. If it looks runny, good - it's supposed to:

Wow. Look at that. With my iPhone camera prowess, I should really be a food photographer.

I greased the glass container with a little Earth Balance and covered the bottom with the stewed figs. Then I poured the batter over them:

Then I put the cake into the toaster oven and baked it at 325 degrees F for ~25 minutes, until golden brown (our toaster oven is a convection oven, but in a non-convection oven, I'd set the temp to 350 degrees).

Since it's an upside-down cake, in theory I guess you could run a knife along the edges, set a plate on top of the glass container, and quickly turn it over. But that sort of maneuver seems like a very bad idea for me, personally (I'm bound to end up with a totally broken cake or - more likely - a floor covered in broken glass and sugary goop), so I just scooped it out, dumped it onto a plate, and was pleasantly surprised when the figs ended up on top.

It's moist and nutty, perfect with a hot cup of coffee.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Running: Less Quantity, More Quality?

I've been running less lately, mainly because I've been going to the Xtend Barre class 3-4 times per week. It's an intense, whole-body workout that leaves me feeling completely totaled by the time it ends. But I like that - I feel disappointed if my muscles aren't screaming at me, at least a little, as I walk back to my car.

This past week I ran on the treadmill for several miles and then outside with my group on Tuesday and Thursday mornings (~4 miles each day). Overall, my mileage was relatively low. But my running buddy told me that I seem to have sped up over the summer. "Did you notice that we were doing ~9 minute miles?" she asked, pointing to her GPS-supported watch. That's a pace that I generally find challenging. Based on how I was feeling, I was thinking we were going more at 10 minutes per mile. 

Between time with my family, school/work, traveling, and my &#*% commute, my time is pretty limited. If I run three times a week for an hour, and take three classes, that's six hours away from my family, school, and relaxing. And that's not counting the time it takes to drive to class or to our group meeting place. I could cut down on Xtend Barre, but after only 2.5 weeks, I can already see a huge improvement in my flexibility, balance, coordination, and strength - all things that can benefit my running. So I want to continue with that for the time being.

I'm thinking the trick is to cut down on the easy runs and aim for really high-quality running workouts: intervals, tempo runs, maybe one long run on the weekend (more on that soon... I'm thinking of running a marathon, so that long run will be vital). Combined with Xtend Barre and rest days, I'm hoping I'll be able to maintain (and hopefully improve) the quality of my running.

I've been enjoying exercise so much lately - the challenge, the way it makes me feel, the focus it requires. 

Where I would like to be running right about now...