Saturday, November 14, 2009

Better, Faster, Stronger

My constant quest for self-improvement has prompted me to get more serious (read: organized) about my workout schedule. I'm already a gym rat, but I don't keep very good track of my workouts to gauge my progress. If it wasn't for Liz's organizational skills, I would be content to run the same distance and lift the same amount every day, vaguely wondering why it wasn't making any difference.

Of course, there's nothing wrong with eating right and working out without working toward a specific goal. I've just reached the point where I'm ready to take the next step, and for me personally, setting a challenging goal is an easy motivator.


Let's go back in time for a minute...waaaaaay back....back to the spring of 1999. This is me: scraggly hair pulled into a thousand tiny braids, baggy wide-legged jeans and a Megadeth t-shirt, sitting on the couch eating an entire box of Wheat Thins dipped in salad bowl filled with melted cheese. It's pouring rain outside and I'm watching The Offspring's "Pretty Fly for a White Guy" video on Total Request Live. This is my typical after-school routine when I don't have golf practice, my wind-down before hitting the books.

Then suddenly, out-of-nowhere, I got bored.

It had never happened before. There was nothing in the world that held my attention better than the television and a giant bowl of finger food.
I felt antsy, like I needed to move. I was confused.

So I got up, grabbed an umbrella, and ventured out into the rain with my portable CD player balanced carefully in my pocket (so it wouldn't skip), and I walked for two hours.

I passed the familiar landmarks of Linda's house, the Fern Hill Library and about 50 Korean churches, finally ending up at the Fred Meyer on Pacific Avenue, where I bought a Mr. Pibb and a Cold CD then caught the bus back home. The next night, I did it again; and again the night after that; and again and again.

Then one day I picked up the pace a little, and I started changing up the route, and I started going farther. I was too embarrassed to run in public (no one wants to be the fat girl trying to run), so I moved into the backyard and began running tiny laps around our maple tree and patio set. Until the day my Mom noticed I was wearing a track into the grass, and made me move to the street in front of our house. Eventually, I was running 5 miles at a time, at least 3 times a week. It felt incredible, I was finally doing something, and I was seeing results.

At my largest, I weighed 190 pounds and wore a size 18. That was my freshman and sophomore years of high school. I have talked to people that I attended classes with all four years who honestly don't remember me being there the first two years. By junior year of high school, I had dropped to 135 pounds and wore a size 9. My eating habits were still horrible, but the exercise allowed me to maintain a healthy weight.

My weight was stable until I got my first apartment sophomore year of college, and promptly gained 20 pounds. I tried everything to get back to where I was, but I fell into a trap of telling myself that whenever I exercised, I deserved to go out to dinner or have some ice cream. Like: "I walked all the way to the McDonald' now I get a milkshake!" Any gains that I made by walking or riding my bike, I completely wiped out by eating like a six-year-old on the loose at an M&M factory. I took diet pills, tried detox/fasting diets, cut out foods that I loved only to devour an entire box of donuts after a few days.
But I lost weight, it dropped and climbed, but I was down to 120 pounds and a size 10 on a good day. I weighed myself every single day, sometimes a few times a day, I obsessed about everything I ate. As a result, I was jittery, malnourished and underweight, but still fat. I just didn't feel the same drive to move and run that used to be so strong.

One day in 2007, after moving into my house, Erin called and asked if I wanted to go to the gym at Eastern with her. I said, "sure," even though I didn't really feel like it. When we got there hopped on an elliptical trainer and suffered through the hardest 20 minutes I'd had in a long time. Afterward I was sore and sad, but determined to try again. We went to the gym at the Phase until her Fast Fitness class ended. Then, on her suggestion, we all joined the Oz Fitness gym in downtown Spokane.

The first thing I did at Oz was try to run on the treadmill, and I made it about a quarter mile before I had to walk. I was so disappointed in myself, I couldn't believe that I had let myself fall so far even though it seemed like I was constantly trying to loose weight. One of their personal trainers gave me a body fat analysis and set some goals for gaining weight (gaining!) and reducing my fat to muscle ratio.
He told me to eat real food and get at least 1,500 calories and 40 grams of protein each day. My weight gain goal was set at 135 pounds.

Having it written down, reduced to simple math and displayed in black and white, I couldn't help but be shocked at how simple it seemed. "Three months," he said, "I want to see you hit this goal in three months."

Here I am two years later: 135 pounds, size 5*, long distance runner. Once again sitting on my couch, but drinking a protein shake and getting ready to have a healthy sandwich with a bowl of soup.

*See that?! 15 pounds heavier than my lightest weight, but 5 sizes smaller. All muscle.

Here's what I'm up to these days:

Running Training Schedule
- 7 week cycle

3Rest53Restcross train
3Rest53Restcross train10
4Rest54Restcross train11
4Rest64Restcross train12
4Rest54Restcross train9
3Rest43Restcross train8
3Rest3Walk 2Restcross train13
cross train = elliptical trainer for 30 minutes or some other kind of aerobic activity
Also, even though the weekdays are set low for mileage, I don't stop myself if I feel like running farther. I also don't worry if I end up walking, the point is that I'm doing something.

Current Weight Training Schedule

"A days" and "B days" alternating on Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday
"A days" have been renamed to "Fun weights day" and "B days" are now "Awesome weights day"

Fun weights - 50lb barbell, 3 sets of 8
Overhead Press
Bent-over Rows

Awesome weights - varying weight, 3 sets of 8
Bench: 25lb weights each side
Squats: 10lb weights each side
Pull-ups: start with zero assistance, do as many as possible, followed by 3 sets of 8 at 70lb assistance
Sit-ups: 65lb resistance

My goal is to maintain the 7-week-cycle running schedule above and run a 1/2 marathon twice a year (one Spring, one Fall). For weights, I want be able to add 5 pounds of resistance every 2 months until I reach my max, then maintain.

Diet Supplements

As a vegetarian, I constantly get asked, " do you get any protein?!" Honestly, the average vegetarian gets plenty of protein from vegetables and meat-substitutes. In case you are worried, I became a vegetarian 17 years ago and have yet to drop dead.

If you are curious about your protein needs, check out the handy chart on this page:

As a runner and weightlifter, I do need to be more aware of my intake. This is true for any athlete, regardless of dietary choices. To get extra protein on top of what I already get from healthy foods, I drink a protein shake each morning that has 14 grams of protein (and only 80 calories!). The brand I use is Aria, it's supposedly "for women" but I'm guessing that's because it's low calorie. Since I began increasing my protein, I've noticed further definition in my muscles and less soreness after my longer runs.

So there you have it. I hope that this information is inspiring and helpful; or at the very least, informative. If you have a fitness goal, I encourage you to go for it, but make a reasonable plan and don't be afraid to ask for help. I was floundering on my own until I got real information from a personal trainer. Reaching your destination is easier with a detailed map.


Linda said...

Not sure how you maintain your all around awesomeness. I get so overwhelmed with trying to do so many things- working, working out, and still having time to do things like draw :( So far I've started going to the gym before I go to work, cause by the time I get home at night all I want to do is sleep.

PS: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger is my fav Daft Punk- I listened to it everyday for a year once

Ian & Devon said...

'Lina, you amaze me. This post was everything you promised, plus a little extra. Thank you for a) being the awesome person you are and b) showing the rest of us how we can be awesome, too. <3

~ selina ~ said...

Dev: I'm so glad to be the embodiment of awesome. Thank you for always being full of encouragement for me.

Linda: I love that song too. Daft Punk is great work-out music.

I used to think that I didn't have time to go to the gym, then I realized that I somehow did have time to play WoW and watch my favorite shows. So now I go to the gym first and play video games later if I have time (instead of the other way around). I also wait for the box sets of shows so I can do a one-day, marathon viewing session instead of trying to be home at exactly 8pm every night. It's more fun that way anyway, because it makes watching them more like an event than a weekly obligation. Although I'm really busy and never seem to have enough time, I don't compromise on my workout schedule. If I have to turn down a little extra freelance work, or let my dishes sit in the sink a little longer, I don't sweat it. I've gotten much better at turning down things I don't want to do, and asking others to pitch in if I don't have time to get things done on my own. I realized that I don't need to be a superhero, but I do need to take care of myself because it's better for everyone if I'm happy and healthy.

Linda said...

Well you look damn good- your hard work has definitely paid off. ;)