Saturday, October 26, 2013

FNCE 2013

Last weekend was the National Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It was in Houston this year, so I was able to go. The classes I attended were wonderful, and I hope to post about a few of them soon. The greatest part of the conference for me was that I presented a poster about my thesis. It had been a little while since I had talked about my thesis, so I didn't know if I would remember much about it. It came back to me, though. People seemed genuinely interested in my study, which was a much needed boost to my confidence. It was nice to be able to contribute to the conference as well as learn from the other presenters and speakers.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Yoga for Happiness on Class FitSugar

One of the goals I set when the school year started was to have more variety in my workouts. I've always struggled with this. I recently discovered Class FitSugar workouts on the POPSUGAR Fitness YouTube channel. Most of the workouts are 10 minutes long, and you can mix and match to create a workout. I alternate upper and lower body days and also throw in some extra cardio and yoga here and there for about 30 minutes to an hour. Yoga for Happiness is one of my favorite things to do after I run and workout. It's a great way to start my day.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Reasons You Hate Running

January will mark ten years since I started running. It was a scary thing to start for a lot of reasons, not the least of which was embarrassment. I was used to exercising in the privacy of my own home. Taking my workout to the road meant letting the whole world see me at some of my worst moments. At least it felt like the whole world was watching. I was quite surprised by the reactions of others when I started running. I heard everything from horror stories of how running would destroy my health to concerns for my mental well-being to jokes about my sanity. Believe me, we runners have heard all the jokes and wisecracks known to man. "I only run when someone is chasing me",  "What are you training for, the Boston Marathon?", "Run, Forest, Run!", or someone sings the Rocky Theme song. It's not offensive, just a little tiring. I have to wonder why some people feel the need to either explain their own reasons for not running or try to make me feel silly for running. Plenty of people are supportive, always giving me a smile and a thumbs-up to show their approval.

This post is not to convince you that you should run. Let me make it clear that I do not believe that everyone should run. Exercise is important, but it doesn't have to be running. Find an activity that you enjoy, follow guidelines, clear it with your doctor, and go for it. With that said, I do believe that everyone should be open to the idea that maybe you would benefit from running and even enjoy it if you examined some of the possible reasons you don't like it. If you don't want to run, that's perfectly okay. But, if you think you might like to run, even if you have just a glimmer of desire to run, this post is an offer of advice to help you overcome those fears, excuses, and wisecracks and give it a try. You still might not like it, but at least you'll know.

You start too fast. This might be the most common mistake for new runners. Many times throughout the years, people have asked me for guidance and support as they start their own running program. This is always a thrill to me, and I'm happy help in any way I can. Usually I invite them to come along for a run. I never mind adjusting my own running schedule to help someone discover the joy of running. So, we meet one morning and get going. Almost every time, the new runner takes off at full throttle, and I find myself having to sprint to  try to catch them. It's much better to start slow and find your groove before you ever even think about speed. What is a good pace to start? That is going to be different for each individual, and it can be difficult to answer that question for several reasons. If I say to a beginning runner, "Just run at a comfortable pace," I might get laughed at, and for good reason. There might not be such a thing as a comfortable pace when you begin. I can say start at a perceived effort of about a 4 on a scale of 1-10. That's not always easy to figure out, either. Just remember that if you do not currently run, it will be a challenge and mildly uncomfortable. It's best to run at a pace that you can maintain for at least a minute without pushing yourself to exhaustion.

You start too long. Did you notice that I said to find a pace you can maintain for at least a minute? That was not a mistake. When you begin a running program, I would not recommend running a longer distance than about 1/10 mile intervals, give or take. If that sounds too short to you, don't worry. If you are truly a non-runner, you will be adequately challenged on a run that far, and you will build to longer distances soon enough. When I first started running ( the first time I started running), I thought I should be able to finish at least a mile. After all, that's what I could do when I was in high school. I laced my shoes and skipped out the door, thinking I would not, could not stop before I reached the first mile marker. You can imagine how wimpy I felt when I had to stop at the end of my street, not even a quarter of a mile from my house. What a relief it was when I found out that a mile was very ambitious for a new runner, and I would have much more success if I started smaller and added slowly. I promise it works.

You aren't ready to run. Ideally, you should be able to walk at a brisk pace for about 20-30 minutes before you begin a running program. The solution to this one is pretty simple, but it requires patience. Just start walking a little each day until you feel pretty comfortable with it, then start running gradually. You will enjoy it so much more if you do.

You expect to do what seasoned runners do. You want to be healthy and fit like your neighbor. Your neighbor runs five miles a day. Therefore, you should run five miles a day. Wrong. Same as before: start where you are at and gradually build from there. If not, you will probably burn out or get injured before you become a seasoned runner. Then you will really hate running.

You worry too much about doing it right. Running can be a major stress relief. But, I've seen people who worry so much about every little thing, that it becomes more of a chore than a joy. They worry about their form, what to wear, what to eat, when to eat, what gadgets to buy, etc. etc. I'm not into name brands much, but I have to agree with Nike on this one. Just do it. Just put on your shoes and go. People have been running for fitness for a long time before the marketing niche came about. You will figure out what works for you through trial and error as you go along, and they probably will be different than what works for everyone else. I buy mostly cheap stuff since I have to replace it fairly often. I'll just tell you, I buy BCG shorts and bras from Academy, Danskin shirts from Walmart, and Champion socks from Target or wherever I can find them. These are all personal preferences, and I'm not too picky anyway. I do buy Brooks shoes, but I have friends who swear by Mizuno, Asics, and others. My point is, there's not a right or wrong.

Concerning form, it's good to be a mindful runner, and it might even be helpful to get some advice from a trainer or coach on the matter. However, you still don't need to worry too much about it. Hardly any runner has perfect form. Whatever feels comfortable to you is probably right. You will tweak and improve as you become more conditioned. If you're worried you look silly, don't. Most people will be impressed that you are doing something good for yourself. A while back, I wrote about a time when I was wrong in thinking someone was judging me:

As for what and when to eat, you don't need to worry much about that as a new runner, either. Do what you normally do for any other exercise. Eat a balanced diet in general, don't go hungry, but don't over-stuff yourself before a workout, and drink plenty of water. You can learn more about fueling for training and racing when you get to that level. 

You aren't consistent. Once, I posted something on Facebook about running, and a friend that I hadn't seen since high school said, "I HATE running. I have to run a mile every year for a fitness test and I HATE it!" Well, that makes a lot of sense. If you run a mile only once a year, you are running a mile you are not conditioned to run, and you will hate it. Be consistent in your running, and other workouts as well, and you will enjoy it a hundred times more.

You expect to feel a runner's high. In nearly ten years of running, I've experienced a runner's high...well...hmmm...have I experienced a runner's high? I think maybe a handful of times I have. Most of running is not a blissful experience. A little bit of the time it's drudgery. Most of the time it's mundane. Sometimes it's exhilarating. Rarely, it is euphoric. That kind of sounds like life in general. However, it always feels good to know that you can do hard things. It always feels good to do something good for yourself. It always feels good to be in shape and able-bodied. So, if you make peace with the difficult aspects of running, you might find that you don't have to love every minute of it to embrace your inner runner and treasure the benefits gained and time spent running.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Conference Resolutions

This weekend has been another wonderful general conference. In fact, I can agree with President Monson when he said at the end of this morning's session that this has been one of the most inspiring sessions of any general conference he's attended. I feel I have received answers to specific prayers I have been searching for, including questions about my professional life and roles as woman and mother. I feel inspired to not only relish the spirit of this meeting, but also to move to action in my own life. Every January, I set New Year's resolutions. Now it is October, and I want to set Conference resolutions. These are three areas that I felt nudged to improve. There are so many more, and I plan to add to this list as I read and listen again to these beautiful talks.

1. I resolve to never lose sight of my most important calling in life: mother. One theme I perceived throughout this conference was the value of womanhood. I am finding out how difficult it is to pursue a professional life after years of staying home to nurture my family. Admittedly, there are moments of doubt when I wonder if I have hurt myself and my family by giving up those years in the workforce. I am now reminded that the Lord has blessed my family abundantly and will continue to do so as we strive to keep His commandments and put Him first in our lives. Success will come if I wait upon the Lord.

2. I resolve to be more diligent in my personal spiritual development. This was another noticeable thread to me, and it was a clear answer to my prayers for my own children. If we are to lead our children in love and righteousness, we are going to have to increase our own personal righteousness. This means more purpose in our prayers, and more consistency and focus in our studies. I will pray on my knees every morning and night and check in with the Lord throughout the day through a prayer in my heart. I will not let other interests impede my scripture study time.

3. I resolve to be a better visiting teacher. This ones stings quite a bit. I love the sisters I visit, but I'm not very good at making visits. I will not only make visits early in the month, I will also check on them throughout the month and pray for them daily. I think it was Richard G. Scott that said something to the effect that visiting and home teaching are our most important church callings. That means it's more important than my Relief Society calling, and I need to remember that.

Monday, September 30, 2013

What Does Prayer Mean to Me?

Yesterday at church, the question was asked, "What does prayer mean to you?" There were many things I could have said, but I knew that my thoughts were not gathered well enough for more than a ramble, so I sat quietly. I always have answers to questions a day or two after they are asked. So, I'll share my answer here.

Every day, I put my best foot forward. I try to make myself feel good by doing what is right. Then I try to make myself feel good by justifying the things I do that might not be right. I think we all have to pretend a bit. Not that we're all fake, but to a degree we all have to fake it. I think it was Huckleberry Finn who said, "You can't pray a lie." That's what prayer means to me. When I kneel in prayer, all pretense is set aside and I have to get real. I can do that, because I know that my Heavenly Father loves me anyway. Prayer is a time when I can say in all honesty, "This is who I am. This is what I've been doing. Please accept my devotion and help me continue doing the things I'm doing right. Please help me to change the things I am doing wrong or could be doing better. Please help me to know Thy will and plan for me, and then help me to follow it." It sounds simple, but at times it is a very painful process. I'm not a perfect pray-er. But, when I put myself in the right place, both physically and spiritually, prayer is what keeps me grounded and aware of who I am and the direction in which I'm headed.

"And since he bids me seek his face,
Believe his word, and trust his grace,
I'll cast on him my ev'ry care
And wait for thee, sweet hour of prayer!"

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I'm a High School Dropout

It's true. I finished tenth grade, then dropped out of high school shortly after eleventh grade began. This has been a source of shame and embarrassment for me for many years. I didn't plan to drop out of high school. In fact, up until ninth grade, I dreamed of the day when I would leave home and go to college. My intended field of study changed often. In elementary school I was going to be a writer. Then it was a businesswoman of some sort, then a marine biologist, maybe a teacher. It was hard to decide, because the possibilities were endless, and it all seemed so interesting and wonderful. I've always had a love of reading and learning. It only made sense that I would finish high school and go on to higher education. Neither of my parents had college degrees. My mom had a high school diploma, and my dad  had a ninth grade education. I never thought of school as something that was expected of me the way it was expected of some of my close friends. But, I wanted an education.

Then, I went through some mid-teenaged crazies. I ran away from home, got married, made a lot of bad choices, and quit going to school. By the time my classmates were getting ready to walk at the graduation ceremony, I was expecting my first child. I regretted dropping out from the moment I did it, but I didn't have the self-discipline to make myself keep going. I'd heard all the lectures of how dropping out of high school would mean living in a cardboard box and panhandling on the side of the road for the rest of my life. It would mean that I was stupid and worthless and would never amount to anything. One of the bad things about these scare tactics is that for some students, they only work to make them feel stupid and worthless and that they will never amount to anything. Case in point: me. With respect to my teachers, they probably didn't say those exact words, but that was the message I got. So, I got my GED when my daughter was about eight months old. For the rest of my young life I did my best to avoid any conversation about high school or education, so I wouldn't have to admit that I didn't have one.

I still squirm a little when I think about my past, but I feel moved to talk about it now. I recently read about Mark Wahlberg getting his high school diploma at age 42. I love that he is being so open about it. How many people will look at him and say, "He didn't have a high school diploma? But, he's so successful!" I hope that people can hear his story and realize that we are not enslaved by our past. We can move forward and make things right. Everyone has their own reasons for wanting an education, whether it's to have more opportunities for employment, to set an example for others, or just to feel increased self-confidence and enlightenment. Mark Wahlberg said that his kids were his greatest motivation to finish. I can relate. I don't want my kids to be first-generation graduates. When you know that your parents finished school, you feel empowered to finish, too.

Now I'm 40 years old, and I do not live in a cardboard box. In fact, I have a bachelor's degree, a master's degree and I'm a registered dietitian. My husband, who also did not finish high school, went back to school and got a technical degree and has a respectable job at a local refinery. While we certainly aren't wealthy, we have never panhandled a day in our lives and have had little help from outside resources. I will always look upon others who have not finished high school with compassion and hope. I will always try to see them at their full potential and do what I can to encourage them to move forward. I will always encourage my children to finish high school and move forward to college and develop the knowledge and skills to prepare them, not just for a job, but for life.

From the article on Mark Wahlberg in Time: “To those students struggling every day and – most importantly — to those who are looking for a second chance,” the actor wrote at the end of his column, “I have a message for you: never give up. Keep believing in yourselves and don’t make small plans.”

Monday, September 16, 2013

Chicken Artichoke Pizza: A Family Favorite

Today, I took my oldest daughter to the airport to fly home to her husband in Rexburg, Idaho. I had planned to make one of her favorite dinners, Chicken Artichoke Pizza, while she was here visiting, but time got away from me. So, I decided to make it for lunch today before she left, even though there were only three of us home to eat it. It was better than stopping for fast food on the way, that's for sure. I make two at a time, which means we have plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. It's a favorite, not only because everyone loves it, but also because it's so easy to make. We enjoyed it, as usual, and I'm reminded that I should make it more often. I lost the recipe long ago, but this is pretty much how you do it:

Chicken Artichoke Pizza

Pizza crust
Cooked chicken
Mozzarella cheese
Canned quartered artichokes
Green olives, salad sliced

Layer the chicken, a little of the cheese, sliced tomatoes, artichokes, olives, and more cheese. Bake at 450 degrees until crust is done and cheese is melted and slightly browned. More often than not, I use store-bought pizza crust, like Boboli and canned chicken breasts. A better option would be to cook fresh chicken and make your own pizza crust, but I'm not going to lie and say that happens very often here. If you use bought pizza crust, a package of two works out perfectly with two large cans of chicken, one can of artichokes, and about four roma tomatoes. It's important to drain all ingredients well, or the pizza gets too soggy. You have to play around with it to get the right amount of each ingredient according to your tastes.