Tuesday, February 28, 2012


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Since learning about my tendonitis diagnosis, I had planned to make my comeback run in Prospect Park on February 25th - ten days after my doctor visit - since I was registered for an event that day.

Thursday night:
I picked up my bib from NYRR with every intention of running on Saturday. But in the days leading up to the run, my ankle area started giving me intermittent pain again.

Saturday morning:
The morning of the run arrived and I still didn't feel 100% and was too afraid to chance it. So I did something I've only done once before - missed a run due to illness or injury. As much as I was looking forward to my "comeback run", I just didn't want to risk injuring myself further.

In fact, I didn't do any activity this weekend, other than stretching.

Monday afternoon:
I attended my weekly yoga class and noticed I was able to bend a little further than usual (maybe this stretching thing is working?!). My tendonitis wasn't bothering me. And I told myself that if I still felt ok after work, I'd go to the Total Body Conditioning class at my local gym since I hadn't been there in 3 weeks and really missed lifting weights.

Monday evening:
Without any recurring symptoms, I decided to give it a go. I figured if it started to bother me in class, I'd stop doing whatever we were doing, take a break and stretch a little. Normally that class is all weights and core work, but the instructor on Monday nights does it a little differently and it's an even mix of those elements plus cardio.

I arrived with my water bottle, mat, 3 sets of weights & jump rope (I don't mess around!) . Just seconds into the warm up I realized how happy I was to be there. I missed working out so much, especially the cardio element. I was so happy to be doing the simplest things - jogging in place and jumping jacks! I missed that feeling of movement! We lunged, did squats, jumped rope, worked our core, biceps, quads and hamstrings. It felt amazing! I was actually *sweating* and I never sweat in class! But I still knew I had to be careful and take it easy. I was very mindful of my legs and paused a few times when I needed to take a little break - not because of the tendonitis but because I hadn't worked out in 3 weeks and my body wasn't used to all that intensity anymore.

I made it through the class and left feeling fantastic! I felt a happiness I haven't felt in a long time. I had missed working out even more than I realized. And since I didn't have any tendonitis pain, I was ready to run again! I knew I'd run at work today during lunch...

Tuesday morning:
I caught a later bus than usual and while on the bus, another passenger told me she enjoys my blog. That got me excited. Then we started talking about running and marathon training, and that got me even MORE excited. Her name was Kim and she already knew a lot about me (I love that about my blog readers!) I told her how today I was going to go out for my first run since my tendonitis episode and how nervous but excited I was. She mentioned that she's a member of North Brooklyn Runners. Now, I'm very familiar with this group. I've met more NBR members than I can count. I see them all the time at running events and running in groups when I'm on my bike. Several have encouraged me to join but I found the whole idea of being part of a running group very intimidating, so I never did. But talking to her this morning convinced me that all the fear was in my head. There was no reason to not join - it was no pressure, it was social, and I could go to as few or as many of their events as I wanted.

That was it. I was sold. I was ready to join a running group!

After arriving at work, I did just that. I joined North Brooklyn Runners! I figure I'll go on some fun runs with them and maybe join them for some of the longer training runs I have to do before the marathon. I'm actually really excited about it now and kinda can't wait to get a t-shirt so I can represent! (Thanks for the info, Kim!)

Tuesday afternoon:
I got changed for my run with no idea what to expect - how I'd feel, if my tendonitis would act up, etc. I told myself I'd just take it easy and see how it went. If I had to do a shorter run or walk some of it, I was fine with that. I got dressed and took off...

yep, that's my super sexy breathe right strip

I started off really well - no pain - my heart rate just got very high very quickly (after no cardio for 3 weeks my heart wasn't used to all the exertion!) so I slowed down as needed, then started up again and ran.

I was doing great, alternating running and fast walking until just before my halfway point.

another jogger! No one ever jogs on this road except me!
I passed another jogger?! I've only seen 1 other person running in all my lunchtime runs!

Now I'm very familiar with this route, and I know there are areas I need to look out for because the sidewalk is kind of a mess in a few spots. But as I was running through one of those parts I just wasn't paying attention and I felt myself tripping. I've tripped there before, but caught myself without going down. Not this time. I went down. Hard.

My immediate thought was "F$%&*@ my camera!" - but it was still secure around my right hand and not broken.

My next thought was "&*@! my knees!"
Now, I fall down fairly often. Usually in flats and for no reason. And when I do, I always break the skin on my knees (I have permanent scars). Because of that, I'm all too familiar with how long it takes for that area to heal. And until it does, bending them hurts. This is problematic for, oh,  *everything* - walking, stair climbing and of course running. But somehow I managed to get the brunt of the fall on my palms and not my knees. (My left palm was especially bloody)

As I sat there for a moment I thought "Eff this, I'm going back to work". A passing car had stopped and the driver got out to offer help. As I stood up, I told him thanks but I was fine. And then I thought "Wait - Why should I give up and go back to work now? I'm fine and I'm not done! I'm not injured enough to not run, so I'm finishing!"

I picked myself up and continued my run, towards my halfway point.

Half way point
My halfway point. This time with extra blood and less skin!
Then I turned around and started my run back to work.

On my way back, I passed the area where I fell and took a photo -

this is where I fell
I tripped over here - either on that metal thing or where the ground is uneven, I'm not sure
For the record, here's another tricky area - 

this is one of the rough parts of my run
It's a mess on this sidewalk!

Still running... and bleeding!

yeah, I'm bleeding
Hi, how are you?

One of my favorite sections, running on this little median between the bi-directional traffic

I'm past the 3 mile mark here

And I kept running and running, all the way to my start/finish line -

Finish Line
woo hoo! 3.7 miles!

From there I ran to work, cleaned out my wound, put on some bacitracin & a bandaid. And don't worry - then I stretched :)

As I told my co-workers about my experience, I thought about what happened and how it's a literal analogy for what we say all the time - it doesn't matter how many times you fall, as long as you get back up again. I mean what was I going to do - sit there forever? No, of course not! I was going to get back up and keep going!

So sure I was a little bloody and I ripped holes in my compression pants but all things considered, the injury wasn't bad at all. I was so grateful that I really didn't hurt myself badly and that I was able to finish the run. If I had been less lucky, I could have probably broken my wrist or twisted my ankle. I was also thankful my tendonitis didn't act up!

But most importantly: I was especially thankful (and so happy) that I can run again!  

I'm back, baby!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Restaurant Challenge! (how I made it through a restaurant meal victoriously!)

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I mentioned in the January update blog post that I had gone out to dinner with my Dad that month and was so impressed with how I handled it that I would devote a whole post to it. If  you're thinking "big deal, you went to a restaurant" then you probably don't know dining out has always been very challenging for me - so much so that I rarely do it.

I guess the simplest explanation for this is I just prefer not to socialize over food. I'll socialize over coffee, beer, music, or activities. But I don't want to socialize over food.

I think I've mentioned why in previous posts, but I'll try to sum it up here:
  • I don't enjoy being in what I consider "food saturated situations" for long periods of time. This applies to restaurants, but also includes holiday meals, and any other event where food is the "main attraction". The longer I'm around food, the greater the chance is that I'm going to give into it. If I don't see it or smell it, I'm much less likely to think about it, want it or consume it. Food's mere presence is incredibly distracting to me. So why torture myself with temptation any longer than necessary?
  • At a restaurant, just about anything on the menu will cost me more (in PointsPlus values) than it would if I were preparing it myself. Of course I could order something safe where the values would be the same, like steamed vegetables or a salad, but my thought is: if I'm going to eat something that simple, I would rather make it myself at home. Which leads to...
  • If I dine out, I want to eat something I don't know how to make myself. And I tend to go for foods that are less healthy and higher in PointsPlus values (french fries or onion rings, anything from Food Swings, baked goods, peanut butter anything). Obviously I need to limit how often I eat that way.
  • As a vegan (even as a vegetarian) I find the smell of cooking meat really disturbing and prefer not to have to smell it. (Of course this is not an issue in veg restaurants, but then there's the temptation of knowing nothing is off limits on the menu - a whole new challenge)
This is not to say I never visit a food establishment -
  • If I do dine out, I make the experience as brief as possible and tend to do it alone. It's more functional than fun. The only person I eat out with on a somewhat regular basis is my favorite vegan pal, Amanda. That's because she's one of the few people I hang out with/bike with and we're both vegan. When I'm with her, we usually go to a vegan restaurant (or one with an incredibly vegan friendly menu) but we aren't sitting anywhere for 2 hours, and the meal isn't the 'destination event' - we're out on our bikes and factor a quick meal into our other super-fun plans.
Since the entire dining out experience often fills me with more anxiety than excitement, I just don't feel the need to subject myself to it. Because if I'm not going to look forward to it and even agonize about it, why bother? It's not like I need to dine out to survive. I'd just as rather not dine out.

That's why, when I found out I was going out to dinner with my Dad, I knew I had to plan. I would be in the exact situation I dread - a social gathering around food - and I'd be sitting in a restaurant for hours. I had to tap into all my inner strength to navigate successfully. Where would a Weight Watcher turn to for that? Why, to the Tools for Living, of course!

I talk and write about the Tools for Living pretty often. They're my favorite part of the plan because they're so incredibly helpful regardless of situation - food or otherwise. They can be applied to anything in our daily lives. This is how I used the Tools for my restaurant challenge:
  1. Motivating Strategy: When this event occurred, I had just been back on plan for about a week (after MONTHS of being off plan). I was still in the phase of slowly building positive momentum. I was doing everything I could to start getting back into a routine because I wanted to feel good and healthy again. I was not going to let this one meal derail me. I was motivated by my desire to keep that positive momentum going.
  2. Reframing: Instead of letting myself get stressed out and dreading the whole event because I would be in a food saturated environment for hours, I reminded myself that I don't see my Dad very often and the rest of my family even less, so this was more about spending time with my family than eating. (it's not about the food, it's about the event. The food is NOT the event.)
  3. Positive Self Talk: This probably starts as soon as I reframe the situation. I remind myself that it's just one meal, one event. I've done it before and I can do it again. I just have to be prepared and be strong and I will be fine. I can manage this situation. I'm worth it and I can do it!
  4. Winning Outcomes: The best way to use this tool is to decide your goal (or outcome) first, and then work backwards to outline how you're going to get there. I started by knowing how I wanted to feel when I left the restaurant (satisfied - not full, content with my choices, on plan and in control) I used that outcome to work backwards and plan how I would do that. That's where the next tool comes in...
  5. Storyboarding: I estimated approximately 4 hours I had to plan for (including travel). I thought about how I would handle the entire day - not just the event itself. I came up with the following plan: That morning would include a healthy breakfast, followed by a gym visit for weights & cardio. Before leaving for the event I'd have a healthy mini meal. The car ride both ways would have NO snacking. The restaurant itself would be the trickiest part for me but I knew I what I would be looking for on the menu, opting for vegetables, beans, maybe a few chips and as little oil as possible.
  6. Mental Rehearsing: I used to go to this particular restaurant often BWW (before Weight Watchers) and back then I really overindulged when I went out to eat. I'd consume at least one basket of chips myself (with salsa & guac), black bean soup, at least one appetizer and an entree. There may have been beer and/or dessert involved too. Obviously I had no intention of repeating those behaviors. I visualized myself ignoring the chip basket, carefully reviewing the menu and asking about particular items - modifying them if necessary, drinking lots of water and keeping my focus on the people and not the food.
  7. Empowering Beliefs: I use this tool so often that empowering beliefs have become the way I naturally think now. They've become part of my internal monologue. I tell myself things like You can totally do this! You can and you will. Just like Dad says "Once Sheryl sets her mind to something..." I used empowering beliefs more before the event than during the event.
  8. Anchoring: I didn't use this tool ahead of time, I used it at the meal itself - I have a few "Bravo" stickers that I received from Melanie on the back of my cell phone cover. I kept my phone on the table and those Bravos were within eyesight at all times.
With all of that prep work, by the time that day arrived, I was ready! I had planned it so carefully in my head that now all I had to do was execute it: I went to the gym (this burns calories, curbs appetite and gives bonus PointsPlus values!), I ate healthy before I left (preventing me from arriving famished and making poor choices) I kept my positive self talk/empowering beliefs/motivating strategy in mind and didn't let myself get stressed out (reframe, breathe, let it go, it's going to be ok. It's just a meal!).

My brother drove me there and we were seated at a table with a big basket of chips and some salsa. I was surprisingly unphased by the chips. I told myself I didn't want them. And I didn't touch those chips. I just drank water... for 45 minutes because my Dad was that late. I managed to sit there and not touch a piece of food for that entire time. I was very impressed with myself. Eventually my Dad arrived and it was another while before we ordered.

My family knows I'm very... particular (about everything) but the waiter had no idea what he was in for. I opened with "I will apologize to you now because I know I'm a pain in the ass" That made him laugh and gave him an idea what he was in for. Since I didn't like anything "as is" and nothing was vegan, I asked about a few things on the menu that I wanted altered - I went with something that resembled a quesadilla but it was just vegetables in between 2 corn tortillas with no oil (and no cheese, obviously). I didn't like any of their salads so I asked for just a plate of spring salad. No dressing. Nothing. Yes, really, that was it.

Eventually the food came and I ate slowly reminding myself again that it's not about the food. I can make an infinitely better meal at home, don't worry about the food. Just enjoy the quality time with your family.

I didn't photograph the tortilla & veggies thing, but this is some of my salad (I ate about half before taking this shot) and the beautiful handful of chips I rescued from the basket, along with what I estimated to be 1/4 cup of guac (I'm great at eyeballing measurements - I practice at home all the time).

mmmmm salad with salsa, 8 chips and a dollop of guac
My meal - very thought out and specific. I was in control!

At dessert time, I reviewed that menu too, not allowing myself to be distracted by decadent descriptions. Instead I looked for what desserts had fruit. Sure enough I saw something had a banana and something else had berries. Once again, Special Request Sheryl ordered her own thing: banana & berries. That's it. No sauces, no pastries - just plain fruit please! And they were kind enough to oblige. This is how my eTools tracker looked for that whole day:

Restaurant Blog 1
Breakfast & Lunch

Restaurant Blog 2
Dinner & Snacks

Activity 20120114

I can definitely say it was a successful dining out experience, but I did a lot of work ahead of time to make it so. All of that work for just one meal out. I'm sure if I ate out more often this would be a far less arduous process, but like I said at the beginning, when it comes down to it, I really don't have a desire to eat out. Unless it's something I can't make myself and is worth a PointsPlus/calories "splurge", what's the point? I would much rather eat my own food.

But this time, it was worth all the work because I spent time with my family. And I was so proud of how I handled myself at that event because I had done everything I set out to do! I used all the Tools for Living to achieve the ultimate - my winning outcome! When I left that night, I felt exactly how I wanted to feel - satisfied, in control and happy with my choices.

Since I put so much work into this one day/meal, this singular experience instantly became an anchor. Because I'm not going to forget what I went through to make it happen. This now gets filed under the "If I did that, I can do this (fill in the blank) too" memories.

And even though I know I can dine out successfully when I set my mind to it, please don't ask me to dine out with you. That was a special exception for Dad. :)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ten Days

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I haven't run in over a week. In fact, I haven't done *any* activity since last Tuesday. No running, no stairs, no elliptical - not even my favorite weights class. That's obviously very out of character for me, especially considering I just recently got back on track (still doing great, thanks!) and should be training for the NYC half marathon, which is just a month away.

Why did I stop working out? Here's the story...

I noticed a few days into January that my left inner ankle area felt weird, kind of sore. But I told myself it was probably nothing and would go away. It wasn't a sharp or excruciating pain, just an occasional dull soreness. I'd massage it a little and continue to work out. I really thought it would go away.

I was registered for a half marathon on January 21st, and quite honestly I was wondering how I'd be able to do it considering how my ankle felt. So I was pretty relieved when it snowed and was too dangerous and cold for me to walk 13.1 miles. Instead, I went to the gym that day. I had a goal to run 5 miles. But I only lasted 20 minutes, doing under 2 miles. My left ankle hurt that badly.

I went a few days with no activity, then ran again. It didn't seem too bad that time. I thought it was getting better.

That pattern of the pain flaring up and then going down went on for a month. It would hurt randomly throughout the day and always when I was working out. Finally, during my run last Tuesday, it just hurt way too much and I knew something was wrong. It was probably the worst it had felt and after dealing with this for a month, I knew I had to see a doctor...

The earliest appointment I could get was for tonight. And I figured it would probably be best to cease all activity until I knew what was wrong, so I haven't done anything other than yoga since that run last Tuesday.

Finally, tonight, I went to my Podiatrist. He told me what Melanie (one of the few people I told) predicted: I have tendonitis. And he attributes the inflamed area to a few factors, none of which should be very surprising:
  1. My calves and hamstrings are extremely tight (a fact I've shared many times on this blog and to my close friends repeatedly.)
  2. My left leg (the strong one) was overcompensating and working extra hard because of my weaker right leg (I've been writing for a while about how weak my right side is)
  3. I need to stretch (I know this, and all of you tell me this. Often.) 
He did a very thorough exam - watching me walk barefoot and even then could see odd things my toes do as a result of having such tight calves. But he said my knees and hips line up (I don't have one leg longer or shorter than the other), so that's good. He also told me my legs are very strong (I know!) and was pleased (almost surprised?) that particular ways he squeezed my feet and ankle area didn't cause me any pain (that's gotta be a good thing!). So I really think it isn't too bad. In fact, the good news is that I should be back to normal without drugs or surgery or any of that...

My 'prescription' is to (you guessed it) stretch. I have 3 exercises to do, on each leg, 3 times a day. I might also have to get orthotics. But that's undecided for now (I'm sure I'll get comments for and against this, go ahead...).

In the meantime, he told me to curtail any physical activity for ten days. I knew I probably couldn't run but what about the stairs? No. Spin class? No. Weights?! "Not if you're on your feet - only things like pushups, crunches, or anything where you're sitting down."
Me: "So no activity for ten days?!"
Him: "Ten days."
Me: "But just to be clear - It's been 8 days already - do you mean ten ADDITIONAL days?!"
Him: "Yes, ten more days."
That was quite a blow. I had a feeling he might say something like that but was hoping maybe I could use an ice pack and some tape on it and start running again tomorrow.

Of course I'm looking forward to being active again, but I understand having to sit out for a little while. The last thing I want to do is injure myself to the point that my routine is severely impacted. In fact, if this had to happen at all, better now than closer to the marathon.

I walked home from his office and can't tell you how many times I repeated it to myself like it wasn't real: "Ten days? Ten days.". And when I arrived home, what should be waiting for me but a great new running bra that's been on back order for a while.

After I laughed at the irony of receiving it just in time that I can't use it, I told myself I would wear it as soon as I could run again... in ten days. And then I wanted to start looking forward to my first run, so I thought What date will that be? Today is the 15th, so that's the 25th. I'm actually registered to run that day! A 4 mile run in Prospect Park. So to get myself excited for it, I'm declaring it my "comeback run". I may have to take it easy, but I will get it done.

It's a perfect opportunity to break in my awesome new pink bra. It's from Victoria's Secret - they carry my FAVORITE sports bras - They have GREAT support (the girls don't move at all), under-wire (I only wear under-wire bras) and no boob mashing (so you still look like a woman!)! This one even closes like a real bra in the back. I'm totally in love with it and can't wait to wear it, so I modeled it tonight -

New pink workout bra = awesome!

trying to show the back closure, hard to photograph by myself

So that's my situation right now. I'm lucky it's not worse. I'm going to take care of my very important muscles a little better and I'll look forward to getting back to my full routine in ten days. It'll be here before I know it!

02/16/2012 update - a few points:
Since so many asked in the comments, I will mention it here: Once this pain started in early January, I really kept my heel wearing to an absolute minimum. I did mention to the Podiatrist that I wore heels exclusively for over 10 years but in the last year or so, have worn them less than I used to. But yes, I'm sure that wearing them so often for so long is what caused the tightness to begin with.

I always feared an injury preventing me from working out and believe me, I know ten days is NOTHING - I'm beyond thankful that in my 5.5 years of working out, this is my very first 'issue' and it's a very minor one.

Today I did my prescribed stretches and I actually haven't felt the pain since. Of course I don't think I'm cured - I'm going to continue to do them but it's a very encouraging sign that this is really the problem and I can really fix it (what a relief!).

I also bought my very first foam roller. It's pink, of course. Now I just have to figure out how to use it.

I do love and appreciate my body. I know how special it is. I want to take great care of it. I'm perfectly willing to sit out ten days. I just miss being active, but I'm fortunate enough to know that I will be active again.

Thanks for all the well wishes and comments!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Upcoming Weight Watchers Events in Manhattan

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Attention all NYC area Weight Watchers peeps! First, I want to alert you to a handy new page on Facebook that lists upcoming events in Manhattan. Some of those events include the following -

WW Event001
3 more events left this month

WW Event002
Descriptions of the upcoming events.

Yes, you missed the "Decadent Desserts" class but I hear that one is very popular, so I'm sure they will have it again!

Remember, these events are *free* and open to the public. They are held in a nice new WW center and are led by Weight Watchers leaders. My own leader, Melanie, is hosting the 2/23 event "Spring into Activity" and yes, I will be in attendance!

So that's what's left for this month, but be sure to "like" the Facebook page so that you'll get advance notice on upcoming events.

this is a great quote

Thursday, February 09, 2012

How I Went Vegan (and a few other FAQs)

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Originally uploaded by Vanessa52

You may have noticed that I don't mention my veganism very often on this blog. It's not that I don't feel strongly about it, it's because I feel that what I write about and share is bigger than my choice to be vegan. I also don't ever want to come across as preachy. Nor would I want to alienate any meat or dairy eaters who read the blog. The thing I love about my blog is sharing my adventures, victories and even the setbacks and what I learn from them - but those things have nothing to do with the fact that I'm vegan.

The simple fact is I think many of us who are overweight and/or have dysfunctional relationships with food all have very similar challenges - regardless of what foods we choose to include in or eliminate from our diets. And I like to focus on those challenges as opposed to the food itself. If you think about it, the particular foods we eat are only a small part of the whole picture. That's why I prefer to write about the mental aspects of the journey - the things I learn and observe - because those principles are so important and so universal. I think the "how" and "why" we eat is often more revealing than the "what" we eat. And they can determine what we eat. But everything we go through starts in the head, not the mouth.

All of that being said, I do want to answer a handful of vegan related questions I get on a fairly regular basis. Feel free to read on or skip this entry, but there's nothing graphic or judgmental here...

1) What made you decide to go vegan?

I became vegetarian at 12 years old (in 1983 or 84). I actually remember the night I decided it, too: I was in this restaurant in Yonkers with my Mom, Dad & brother, and I had ordered a hamburger. I asked what the hamburger was made of (I don't know how I made it to 12 without knowing what it was) and I don't recall who answered, but when I learned it was a cow, that fact bothered me. I was, what I would consider, an especially sensitive child and always had a great love for animals. Thinking about a cow being killed for me to eat this burger rattled me greatly and I decided I did not want to eat animals anymore. I became a vegetarian then and there, that night.

I remained vegetarian for about 25 years. But for the most part, I was what I would consider a "junk food vegetarian". My main food group was candy & junk food, followed by pizza and processed food. I didn't get enough fruits or vegetables or consider my protein or other requirements. I was also overweight and obese for most of those 25 years. (So that just goes to prove being vegetarian or even vegan doesn't mean you will be healthy and/or thin.)

On May 1, 2009, I completed my first bike tour/first ever registered athletic event: The Five Boro Bike Tour. I tell people all the time that it changed my life. And I'm not exaggerating. While riding in the cold and rain that day, I had a lot of time to think. I remember thinking how amazing my body was to be doing what it was doing, despite years of abuse and neglect I put it through. And it was on that tour that I decided to eliminate artificial ingredients from my diet because my body was far too special to put non-food ingredients into it. Ingredients that could, years later, impact my health. It was one of my biggest epiphanies while on plan. I began questioning why I was eating things that weren't even food and realized it was because of taste. That no longer was an acceptable answer. And I gave up non-food ingredients on the spot. It was one of my biggest changes, and of the simplest to initiate because of how I had reframed what qualified as food. This is what I refer to as my "thinking beyond taste" epiphany.

Then, just 3 weeks later, I was walking to my YMCA. I saw this young punk kid wearing a "Stop Consuming Animals" jacket. I loved it so much, I asked him if I could photograph it. He told me no one ever complimented it before and allowed me to take the photo. Then we talked and I told him I was vegetarian. He told me he went vegetarian and then a few days later went vegan because something to the effect of "Why do it half way?".

"Stop Consuming Animals" - fantastic!!
I began my vegan transition days after meeting this young man.

Prior to that conversation with him, I had considered veganism a handful of times. But I always dismissed it, thinking it was too drastic. Looking back, I have no idea why I thought that. But running into this young man and that brief conversation we had also changed my life. I think it was because of the new way I was thinking about my body and what I put in it, that what he said to me just clicked. It was the perfect time to hear his message. And I knew what I wanted to do - I was going to spend the rest of 2009 transitioning to vegan.

2) Don't you miss cheese?!

It's funny, I can't believe how many people site cheese as the reason they can never be vegan (*note: see #6 below). For one thing, no, I don't miss cheese. I was really never a cheese person anyway. I have more of a sweet tooth. It was the cake, cookies & donuts I feared leaving behind. (not that I needed them!) Fortunately though, I don't have to live without them because there are so many packaged vegan baked goods and even better vegan bakeries in NYC (Babycakes, Champs, Dun-Well Doughnuts, to name a few).

Though, truth be told, I do miss the occasional real NY slice of pizza. It's just not the same with vegan cheese. And if you're looking for vegan cheese recommendations, Teese is my favorite. Diaya is a distant second. All other vegan cheeses I tried have not been impressive, but I don't 'need' cheese so I don't mind giving it up entirely.

3) Did you drop a lot of weight after going vegan?

No, not at all. If you think going vegan or vegetarian is going to help you "drop weight fast", I'm here to tell you that there is nothing magical about non-meat or non-dairy foods that will cause you to lose weight. Go vegan (or vegetarian) because of your beliefs. Not because you think it might speed up your weight loss.

4) Was it "hard" to go vegan?

For one thing, I try to avoid using words like "hard" or "easy". Besides, I don't make decisions based on what is "hard" or "easy". I base my choices on things I believe in and things I want to do. That being said, no, it wasn't difficult. It was a change, and just like any change, it was simply a learning process. But there was no deadline and no punishment if I did anything wrong. So I just took my time to figure it out.

The way I did it was to finish off whatever non-vegan items I had in my fridge. Then I simply didn't buy them any more (milk, cheese, eggs, sour cream, cream cheese). I looked for direct vegan substitutes for some of those items, but I also looked for new and different foods altogether. The trickiest part is probably reading labels to figure out if something has any animal products in it because sometimes it's not obvious. I still look up ingredients if I am not sure what they are.

5) What resources do you recommend for someone who wants to go vegan?

I didn't use any resources when I switched, but obviously there is a wealth of information online if you want some assistance. I subscribe to VegNews magazine, and they have a free website too. You may know that superstar Ellen DeGeneres is vegan and is very passionate about it. So much so that she created a great site devoted to anyone who wants to know more about going vegan.

I think those are great starts, but of course there are tons of books and other resources available if you do a little research or talk to other vegans. (if other vegans have recommendations, feel free to leave them in the comments. I intend to share this post as I hear from new readers inquiring about veganism)

6) Other advice?

I tell people who are considering veganism all the time: don't overwhelm yourself. You don't have to be 100% militant vegan starting right now! Take it easy. Learn. Phase things out as you're ready to remove them from your diet. And if there is something you absolutely positively do not want to live without (cheese/eggs/whatever) then don't remove that thing from your diet. This is how I think about it: If it's a matter of being 95% vegan and happy, or 100% vegan and miserable, go 95%. And if you aren't sure just how vegan you want to go, ease into it with the mindset of making changes that are in line with veganism.

Before I go, allow me to share a few pictures - I'm not sure who is responsible for this graffiti, but here are a few "Stop Consuming Animals" pieces I've stumbled upon in Greenpoint & Williamsburg, Brooklyn while biking over the last couple of years:

Stop Consuming Animals (seriously - please stop it!)
on Ash St in Greenpoint (no longer there)

Stop Consuming Animals!
same as above (night time view)

Stop Consuming Animals
in Williamsburg

Stop Consuming Animals
tough to read, but it's up there (Willliamsburg)

Stop Consuming Animals
Williamsburg, on Driggs

Stop Consuming Animals
also in Williamsburg

That's all! I hope that answers any general vegan questions you may have had.

Go Vegan!

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Running: My first full loop in Central Park (with Lainy)!

Links to this post
In my January update post, I mentioned that I was supposed to run a half marathon in January but didn't, because that was the day in snowed. The entire 13.1 mile course was in Central Park, including 2 full loops (just over 6 miles) plus a portion of the loop again. To date I've run in Central Park many times, but I've never run the full loop. And since I didn't get to run it for that event, I've been wanting to do it...

So when my good friend Lainy and I made plans to hang out on Sunday and needed something to do, I came up with a brilliant plan: Let's run the full loop in Central Park!

This was historic for me because it was my first full loop, and it was historic for her because to date, her longest run ever was 4 miles. How exciting for us both! And who better to make running history with, considering Lainy was my partner for my first ever 5K just 2.5 years ago!

First, to get you familiar with the park (since some of you asked), here's a copy of the map from CentralPark.com (it's also available for $4.95):

Central Park Map002
layout of Central Park
I woke up excited on Sunday morning - ready to make history!

Ready to run! Pink & black - my favorite running colors!
It was sunny but about 35 degrees out. In my opinion, that is perfect running weather, but chilly for biking. However, I didn't let that stop me from riding the cruiser to Central Park!

On the 59th St Bridge, which wasn't even a struggle. I barely realized I was even biking up that long hill till I was just about at the center.

Hang on Lainy, I'm on my way!
I met Lainy at her place and we walked over to Central Park. We were totally ready to make history!

Inside the park at East 72nd Street, posing for our "before" photo, which an older gentleman was nice enough to snap for us
After explaining to her why I wear a Heart Rate Monitor, GPS and two ID bands - then laughing at how ridiculous I am, it was time to begin. (If you're dying to know: The Garmin has a chest strap/HRM capability but it doesn't give me the detailed stats my Polar does. So I use my Polar to track my HR stats and the Garmin to track my miles. Then I wear a RoadID because it lists my name/blood type/veganism right on the front -- with access to other vitals online -- and I wear a VitaBand because it also links to my medical history but doesn't have my blood type or veganism prominently displayed. However, it has a feature my RoadID doesn't - it's linked to a credit card so I can buy little things with it if I need a water or something. So now you know why I have to wear 4 things on my wrists when I run. Hey, you asked!)

It was cold, so we had to start moving to get warm!


We started running at a nice pace that was comfortable for the both of us. (If you want to follow our route using the map above, we began on the East side of the park at 72nd Street and ran counterclockwise.) I'm really never in a rush anyway. I start every run by assessing how my body feels and then I adjust accordingly, going faster if I can or slower if I need to. Besides, my primary goal with every run is to finish. In order to do that, I pace myself to be able to finish. If I am having a super awesome running day and happen to be able to run faster and happen to hit a time or pace record, then that's great. But that's never my goal.

Shortly into our run I hit her with "Oh, by the way, I'm blogging this. Sorry I should have warned you in case you wanted to wear makeup or something..." But I think by now she knows any time we hang out, pics are likely to end up in a blog post. Good thing she's a good sport!

Running up the first little hill, Cat Hill (you can just about make out the cat statue on the rock in the center of the photo. I've photographed it before, during other races.)
Occasionally we took walking breaks (but not very many) and I reminded her that it's all good. And I told her my running mantra: "Run when you can. Walk if you must. But never stop!" I think she liked that one!

We were talking so much while we were running that I actually forgot to take photos! It wasn't until I realized we were approaching the dreaded hill at 110th Street that I had to stop and grab a photo. I'm not quite sure you get the full idea of the steepness and length of this hill, but it's significant (and this isn't the whole thing - the hill turns to the right beyond what is shown here)

at the base of the great hill in Central Park
Elaine told me to go ahead without her on the hill, if I wanted. Like I said above, I had no desire to finish fast but I did want to challenge myself on the hill and see how far I could get without stopping, so I told her that I'd wait for her at the top.

As I was running up that hill one thing struck me immediately: It really wasn't bad at all. Sure I wasn't breaking any speed records, but I was running only slightly slower than I'd run normally. I didn't feel like I was going to die and I didn't feel the need to stop -- so I didn't stop. Another thing struck me: Running up this hill is MUCH less challenging than biking up this hill. I was actually surprised how relatively easy it was, especially compared to pedaling that cruiser up it.

I ran all the way to the top and waited for Lainy. To her credit, she wasn't far behind me!

Yeah! We did it! We conquered the hill at 110th Street! Who's awesome and has their thumbs up? These 2 chicks!
As we kept running, shortly after that I glanced at my Garmin and realized we were just past the halfway point, around the 5K mark! So of course I told Elaine the same thing I tell myself all the time - once you make it to the halfway point, you know you got it. If you did it once, you can do it again! Let's do it!!

Running in Central Park, and not because I'm being chased by a mugger or rabid dog. I don't think teenage me ever saw this day coming...
The next time I glanced at my Garmin I saw we were at 4.14 miles! While still running, I told Lainy "You did it! You beat your distance record! Congrats!!" We high-fived as we continued running. It was a special moment. 

As we ran, we chatted. We talked about how long we've known each other (8 years now!) and I pointed out all the great ways our lives have changed in that time. We are completely different people now than we were in 2004. I was 33, separated from my husband and living in Yonkers in a house by myself. I was heavy and depressed and very lazy and sad. Lainy was like a little sister. At just 24, she was in a very transitional period in her life. She lived at home, was going to school and working part time. We've both changed and grown so much since then, and in great ways. She's still like a little sister but in a lot of ways I got to see her become an adult - personally and professionally. I'm so proud of that girl!! *sniff*

Oh yay, there's that building I like on Central Park West!
While running, I provided my usual Sheryl-isms and positive insights about Weight Watchers, life, running and being awesome in general. I think I helped a few things click for her because Lainy declared me her running coach or fitness coach or something like that. It was very sweet to know my words got through to her and she appreciated them :)

Lainy had to tie her shoelace. On her way up, this happened.
Around this time on the course, I noticed a pedicab ahead of us that was pedaling unusually slowly. I had the feeling he was waiting for us to pass him so he could talk to us. Sure enough...
Him: "So, you girls are hardcore runners, huh?" 
Me: "Helllll yeah, we are! You know, we're the type to wake up, go for a run in Central Park, train for half marathons and marathons. It's just what we do. It's who we are. Hard. Core. Runners!"
(Much giggling ensued)

Then we picked up our pace and left him in our hardcore running dust! (not really, but it's a good visual. In truth, I'm sure he passed us...)

Running shadows
And soon we were at mile 5! Less than a mile to go! At this point, I checked on my Garmin often to give Lainy the countdown while I reminded her how awesome we are and that we can do it!
We can!
We will!
We are! 
(And soon we will say:)
We did!
Sure enough, the sign for East 72nd Street was just a few dozen yards away - I told Elaine we were running all the way to the light at 5th Ave. Then I kicked it into high gear for that final little sprint, turned around, threw up my victory arms and high-fived Elaine. I stopped my Garmin & GPS, then made her pose for an after photo-

After running the full loop in Central Park, our first time and Lainy's first time running over 4 miles!
After that it was time for coffee & a bagel! I needed the coffee to warm me up and I love a bagel after a run! (NYRR no doubt planted that routine in my head)

On our quest for post-run food, we passed a church with a sign that said "Astounded by Grace". I hadn't even noticed it, but Lainy did. I asked her to get in front of it and "look astounded". This is the result -

Lainy - astounded by grace... or something
Finally we made it to a bagel shop! I got a "White Russian" - it was pumpernickel with sesame seeds. And they had tofu lox. How could I pass that up? I've never even seen it before!

Post run meal - bagel, tofu cream cheese & coffee with soy.
After we ate, I had to say good bye and was on my way.

Here are my heart rate monitor stats for the day:

Bike to Lainy's:
  • Total Time: 30 minutes
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 30 minutes 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 100%
  • Average Heart Rate: 142 
  • High Heart Rate: 157
  • Total Calories Burned: 238 
  • Total Miles: 4.25 
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 2     
 Run in Central Park:
  • Total Time: 74 minutes, 36 seconds
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 68 minutes, 50 seconds 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 92%
  • Average Heart Rate: 152
  • High Heart Rate: 182
  • Total Calories Burned: 662
  • Total Miles: 6
  • Pace: 12'26" 
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 13      
Ride home (I ran a few errands, so it was a different & longer route)
  • Total Time: 70 minutes 
  • Minutes in Cardio Zone: 43 minutes 
  • Percentage of Time in Cardio Zone: 61%
  • Average Heart Rate: 137 
  • High Heart Rate: 166
  • Total Calories Burned: 466 
  • Total Miles: 8.5
  • Activity Points Plus Earned: 5     
And then I made myself a nice healthy dinner for 8 PointsPlus -

omg yummy healthy dinner!
Coconut oil (1), peas (1), onions, peppers, mushrooms, eggplant, spinach, Gardein "chicken" strips (3), Tofu Shirataki Macaroni shaped noodles and simmer sauce (3)
How is that for an awesome day? It was SO GREAT to make history and spend time with Lainy. And I'm pretty sure this is only the first of many runs in Central Park together! I <3 you, Lainy!! We did it! And I can hardly wait to do it again!

For more information about running in Central Park, check out this article by Bob Glover on the New York Road Runners website.

(and this is random, but since so many people like my photos, here are a few from the ride home after I left Lainy...)

Whole Foods bounty
I caught part of a bike messenger cricket? polo? game on Broome St in Manhattan
I want a slick looking bike like these!
first time in months and a perfect shot!!
My favorite graffiti on the Willy B - you have no idea how lucky this shot is! (taken while riding uphill, aimed blind - without looking - having to guess where to point the camera and when to shoot while balancing with one hand on the handlebars with about 40 extra pounds of groceries. And I only get 1 take because I'm moving!)
Heck yeah! Back on the Willy B! I missed my bridge!
The light was just beautiful
Top of the beautiful Willy B
This graffiti changes often so I like to get this shot a lot
Kissing Georgia
Occupy Everything
That's all, folks!