Tag Archives: Health

On your mark, get set …

Tomorrow afternoon, we set sail for a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. I so need some sunshine and relaxation.

Taking time off from my day job was easy. Unfortunately, taking time off from my own to-do list, worries, and work isn’t so easy.

It’s been months since we took real time off to relax, and no matter how much I plan to relax in Europe, I know better. With all the travel and things to do, I doubt we’ll have much time to just be.

Our trip this weekend is different, though. We don’t have high expectations or a long to-see list. I have no itinerary and no plans. We planned for this cruise to be our chance to recharge and refresh ourselves before the craziness coming up. The past few months have been hectic, and the months ahead will be even more so. We need to take some time to ourselves to reflect on what’s coming up and prepare for what’s ahead.

So I’m requesting time off from myself. I need a few days to collect my thoughts. I need time to read a book without feeling guilty about everything else I should be doing. I need to spend some real time with my husband talking and planning for the near future without work between us.

Tony is guilty, too. With his thesis due at the end of next week and graduation quickly approaching, I feel like his computer has become permanently appended to his lap. It’s rare that I’m able to pull him away from his work for a real conversation.

Because the weekends are when I do most of my writing for this site, posting may be light next week. I hope to catch up early in the week, but there’s no telling what my schedule will be like when we return.

After this trip, it’s time to get serious about packing our lives and moving north. It’s time to prepare ourselves for a new home, new jobs, and what will surely feel like a new life. So much is changing so soon. I hope we’re able to stop the clock, if only for a weekend.

Photo by lynnoel

Slow down, you’re moving too fast

Almost two months ago, I started training to run my first 5K. I started out strong and motivated, but instead of getting easier, it’s been getting harder.

For the past few weeks, motivation has been a problem for me. As the runs became longer and more intense, my drive to get myself into the gym every night started waning. I wasn’t progressing in the Couch to 5K program as quickly as I wanted, and I was dreading my workouts instead of looking forward to them.

Last week, I came close to giving up. So I decided I needed a new game plan.

Couch to 5K is based on interval training with a blend of walking and running. It begins with equal intervals of walking and running, but as your training builds, the walking intervals decrease and running times increase. I was doing well in the sprints, but as the running intervals increased, I started to struggle.

This week I wanted to increase my endurance, and so I decreased my speed a little. I’d been setting my running pace at the same miles per hour from the beginning, but I realized that the speed that worked well for shorts sprints during interval training was too fast to sustain on longer jogs.

Sure enough, my endurance was much better at the slower speed. I made it through my first long run without walking on Monday, and last night, I ran a mile straight without walking for the first time. (YES! PROGRESS!)

So I’ve changed my game plan. Couch to 5K was a fantastic training plan for me in the beginning, but it’s not working for me anymore, so I’ve developed my own training plan. I’m focusing on distance and endurance instead of speed.

I have about a month to build from a 1-mile run to 3 miles for my 5K at the end of March. With each workout, I’m going to increase my distance by a quarter mile, but my pace will remain at a relatively steady jog. As the jogs get easier, I’ll gradually increase my pace. My goal is to run the entire 5K in under 40 minutes. That may seem slow to seasoned runners, but it would be a victory for me.

It’s a relief to realize that I’m not failing just because one training plan didn’t work for me. It doesn’t matter how I get there as long as I accomplish my goal.

My problem was that I was trying to do too much too fast. I wanted to see results overnight, and when it didn’t happen as quickly as I wanted, I came close to giving up. But I reminded myself that running is a discipline that takes time and dedication, just like saving money or getting out of debt. It’s about making progress little by little, step by step. It’s important to keep the ultimate goal in mind, but you also have to keep all of those little steps in mind to motivate yourself. You have to celebrate each little step as it brings closer to your goal.

My motivation is renewed, and I’m ready to try a new approach.

Photo by chezdom

5 ways budgeting and weight management are alike

This post was originally published on September 22, 2008.

One of my first posts was about how I lost weight using basic budgeting skills. Now that I’m working to get healthier, I wanted to revisit the topic. Only this time I’m talking about why constant monitoring and reassessment are crucial to staying physically and financially fit.

Here are some tips I’ve found helpful when managing my weight and my budget:

1. Be realistic.

Sometimes it’s necessary to go on a strict budget to pay down massive debt. You may have to cut all discretionary spending for a little while to overcome a major financial hurdle. However, if you try to maintain that level of restriction for too long, it’s harder to stay on track and meet your own high expectations.

Your best bet is to find a comfortable balance between necessary bills, discretionary spending, and saving. Maintaining a reasonable budget requires constant monitoring, but it shouldn’t be incredibly difficult or make you feel deprived.

2. Frequently monitor your progress to catch yourself before you veer too far off track.

Once you find a comfortable budget, it’s crucial that you measure your progress regularly. Without careful planning and monitoring, you could easily throw your entire monthly budget off track with one weekend of bad decisions. Imagine how bad it could get if you just stopped monitoring your spending for months at a time.

Just as you check your budget frequently to make sure you’re not overspending, you must weigh yourself regularly. A slight increase in weight could alert you to a problem in your diet and activity before you veer off track to an unmanageable degree.

3. The longer you avoid the problem, the harder it is to resolve.

It’s much easier to pay off your credit card balance every month than it is to pay down several thousand dollars of debt that’s accrued over months or years. It’s also a lot harder to lose weight when the pounds have packed on over time. Overcoming a 1-pound weight gain usually just involves watching what you eat closely for a few days. It’s a lot harder to get back on track if you wait until you’re 40 pounds overweight.

4. Constantly adjust according to your changing needs.

When it comes to budgeting, everybody knows that you can’t continue spending the same after a major pay cut. When your income decreases, your spending must decrease, too. Likewise, when you welcome a new baby, your discretionary spending is probably going to take a hit to accommodate for diapers and formula.

You must find the same balance between activity and calorie intake for weight management. I first started struggling to maintain my weight after my job changed two years ago. In retail, I was on my feet 8 hours a day running around the store, moving heavy objects, and constantly moving. I didn’t watch my diet as closely as I should have, but the constant activity made it easy to keep extra weight off. Now that I’m sitting at a desk all day instead of moving, I need to seek out more activity outside of my job and become mindful of what I eat to avoid weight gain.

5. Sticking to it and making the right choices are the hardest parts.

Everyone knows that the easiest way to stay ahead of the game financially is to spend less than you make. We also know that the best way to maintain a healthy weight is to burn more calories than you consume. It all sounds so easy when you break it down into those simple equations, doesn’t it? The truth it, it’s not that easy.

The part that’s left out of that equation is the constant struggle every day to make the right choices and stick to your commitment. After all, if it was as easy as it sounds, nobody would struggle with their weight or their finances.

The best thing that weight control and budget management have in common? They’re both totally worth the struggle.

Photo by nataliejohnson

Simple ways to save time and reduce stress

As I try to stay sane for the next couple months despite my mile-long to-do list, I’m looking for quick and easy ways to reduce stress.

Here are a few things I’ve tried in the past few weeks that have helped immensely.

Plan ahead.

At the beginning of each day (or each week), take a few minutes to make a rough outline of what needs to be completed and when. It may feel like you don’t have time to stop and regroup before you tackle the day, but making a game plan will help you prioritize tasks, manage your time more efficiently, and keep you on task.

Delegate and ask for help.

It may seem like you’re on your own, but chances are your support network is more willing to help than you think. Enlist your spouse, children, or co-workers to handle appropriate tasks on your to-do list. Once you’ve mapped out your game plan for the day or week, figure out which tasks would make the most sense to outsource.

Deal with it now.

I have a tendency to let a million little things pile up in my life. I leave a ton of emails in my inbox. I let the junk mail pile up on the kitchen table. I wait until the last possible minute to do everything.

If you want to cut your stress instantly, try taking care of those little bothersome things right away. Archive or delete every email as soon as you’ve read it. Throw junk mail into the recycling bin as soon as you’ve read it. Wash your dishes as soon as you finish eating. By taking a little time to take care of this stuff as it happens, you’ll reduce the total number of items looming over you on your to-do list.

Make your health a priority.

You may be tempted to give up relaxation, exercise, or sleep in favor of work or chores. When you sacrifice your health, you’re not at the top of your game, which will lead to less productivity. Take the time to take care of yourself, and you’ll get more done in less time, leaving you with more hours in the day when your work is done.

Photo by charliedees

Setting boundaries to maintain my sanity

With everything that’s happening right now, I’ve been more than a little overwhelmed. I’ve been thinking of ways to cut down on stress and make time for the things that relax me.

The line between work, home, and work-at-home has become too blurry. Chores around the house are being neglected, and I feel like I’m constantly “on the lock.” I’ve decided to set some boundaries for the next couple months to keep me focused and give me time to chill out.

No laptop in bed.

One of the things I miss most when life gets hectic is reading fiction. When I’m stressed, nothing is more relaxing than forgetting about my to-do and immersing myself in a book. Stress also leads to insomnia for me, especially when I’m working right up until I try to sleep. Reading before bed calms me and takes my mind off the stress in the moments before I sleep.

Solution: I’ve banned myself from bringing my laptop to bed with me. For the past week, I’ve been forcing myself to read instead of work or plan, and it’s definitely helping me sleep better and relax a little in the evening. It also gives me an opportunity to spend time with my husband without our laptops between us.

Set time limits.

Since I work full time throughout the week, I do the bulk of my personal planning and projects on the weekends. Since the weekends are my only chance to relax, working too much on Saturday and Sunday cuts back on my “me” time. I feel like I spend all morning working and the afternoons are eaten up by errands and household chores.

Solution: Weekend days are now “work days” with the same limits. I work 8:30 to 5:30 on the weekdays, so why should I be on the clock non-stop on Saturday and Sunday? I’ll spend weekend mornings planning, writing and working until 2 p.m. From 2 to 5:30 p.m., I’ll get household chores done, but the weekend evenings are mine to relax, exercise, and spend time with Tony.

I’m making myself and my family a priority.

I think we all have a tendency to put what we can on the back burner when time is limited. That means that the things and people we love most often get the shaft. I’m definitely guilty of this. If I’m busy, my work out is the first thing I cut. After that, I’m likely to sacrifice time with my husband if I’ve got a lot going on. But why should the things that are most important to me take a backseat?

Solution: The things that are most important to me are non-negotiable. I’m limiting “overtime” when it comes to personal projects. During the times that I’ve allotted to myself and my family, taking me time and being with my husband are the only things on my to-do list.

Have you set boundaries for your sanity? What would your rules be?

Photo by redvers

Slow & steady

Yesterday, I started week 6 of the Couch to 5K running program. I have to be honest: it’s still really hard. I don’t love running. In fact, I hate it more days than not. I’m bored and tired and every second feels like an eternity. But I set a goal, and I’m making progress.

Even though I started off in decent shape (I’d been working out regularly for over a year), running is a whole different ball game. On my first run two months ago, running for two minutes straight almost killed me. Monday night I was supposed to run 20 minutes straight, but I only made it 13 minutes before I had to slow down and catch my breath.

When I left the gym, I was beating myself up a little. I’ve been training for 8 weeks now (two of which I spent out of the gym because I was sick and then recovering from oral surgery). I want to be able to keep up with the program.

Then I reminded myself of how far I’ve come. Though I’m not advancing in the program quite as quickly as I’d like, I’ve increased my running time from 1 and a half minutes to 13 minutes. I’m running faster and longer. I’m finally losing weight again (only five pounds, but at least the scale is moving).

Most importantly, my training has made me more aware of what I’m putting into my body. My diet has been mostly healthy for the past five years, but I have a tendency to eat too much of the healthy foods we cook. Watching the calorie tracker on the treadmill as I push my way through my run has made me aware of how hard it is to burn off that extra serving of pasta.

It’s also a lot easier for me to resist the occasional temptation. When my entire office went out for Mexican food on Tuesday, I stayed at my desk and ate my Lean Cuisine. As much as I love unlimited chips and salsa, it’s not worth derailing my hard work.

I don’t know if it’s the 5K training or the extra push from the knowledge that I have to wear a bathing suit on our cruise in 2 weeks, but running has helped me accomplish my main objective: increasing my motivation.

In about 6 weeks, I’ll be running my first 5K. If I continue to train this hard, I should be able to run the whole race without stopping. Here’s hoping I can reach my goal.

Photo by cdm

Pixar & pain killers

I made it through the surgery just fine, and as all of you predicted it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I can’t thank you enough for sharing your experiences with me. The scariest part was not knowing what I was getting myself into, so your encouragement and advice helped calm my nerves more than I can even express.

I’m swollen and sore, but I’m content because I’m all cuddled up with a very concerned Howie, and Tony has canceled classes today to take care of me. A Pixar movie marathon and lots of pain meds are the only thing on my agenda.

Happy Friday to all of you, and eat something delicious tonight for me! It’s nothing but applesauce and ice cream for me for the next couple days. :)

How I saved $5 by reading a label

This week I came down with a cold. The same week I’m getting my wisdom teeth out, of course. I’ve already contacted my oral surgeon, and he says the mild congestion I’m suffering won’t affect my surgery tomorrow. Whew. I didn’t want to put it off another week.

But that’s not the point of the this post. I want to quickly tell you about my trip to CVS last night.

When I’m sick, the most effective medication for me is a blend of ibuprofen and decongestant. I don’t know why, but ibuprofen seems to work better for me than acetaminophen.

I stopped at CVS on my way home from work to pick some up. I’m used to paying high prices for even generic versions of this cold medicine. The cost was $10 for 24 pills.

I started checking alternatives to see if I could find something similar for less money. I looked at a box of generic Sudafed, which cost only $5 for 24 pills. When I compared the ingredients, I realized that the only difference between the generic Sudafed and the generic Advil Cold and Sinus was that the Advil included a dose of ibuprofen. The generic Sudafed had the same exact decongestant in the same amount (30mg of pseudoephedrine).

All this time I’ve been paying double for the generic Advil Cold and Sinus when I could have just picked up generic Sudafed and supplemented it with a dose of ibuprofen, which I always have on hand at home. This morning I took a dose of the decongestant along with a dose of ibuprofen, and it’s just as effective.

The lesson? Next time you’re browsing medications, be sure to compare ingredients and think about what you have on hand at home. Otherwise you could end up paying twice as much to buy something that’s already in your medicine cabinet.

Photo by zingersb

Note to self: Never Google “wisdom teeth death”

Tomorrow, an oral surgeon will be ripping my wisdom teeth from my skull.

I’ve been putting this off for over five years, and my fear of surgery is now bordering on pathological. I know I’m being a wuss, but I’ve never had any kind of surgery. I’ve never been sedated in my life. And since I’m a textbook type-A control freak, the idea of being knocked out for an hour while someone drills into my head with power tools is just a little terrifying. It’s not the pain that scares me. It almost seems more appealing to stay awake for the surgery. Almost.

Last Thursday I went in for a consultation. I ended up waiting in the scary little room staring at the x-rays that had doomed me for 45 minutes. I could hear the oral surgeon loudly consulting with the man in the next room. Apparently, he was about 100 years old with a 215/95 blood pressure. They canceled his surgery and called an ambulance because the doctor was convinced he was about to suffer a stroke. I hope he’s okay, and it seems they caught his symptoms early enough that they would be able to treat him, but seriously? Why did I have to end up in the room next to the guy who left the office in an ambulance? I could just picture myself being carted away in a speeding ambulance due to my rare but life-threatening complications.

When the doctor finally came in to talk to me, he spent 20 minutes telling me about risks and possible complications and explaining stitches in my gums and dry sockets and nerve damage. I couldn’t help but think this whole wisdom teeth removal thing was just a bad idea. Those teeth aren’t hurting anything. They’ve been there for years. The only reason I’m removing the things is because my dentist has been telling me to do it for five years.

But this is the responsible thing to do. We don’t know if we’ll continue our dental coverage when we move since we’ll be paying so much for health insurance already, so we’re trying to get any potential problems out of the way now. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I had some serious doubts when I saw my estimated bill, though. Let’s just say, I can think of a million other things I’d rather do with my weekend and my money than have teeth ripped from my skull.

When I got home, I broke my number one rule when it comes to medical care: I Googled my condition. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from Google searching any symptom or medical condition, it’s that Google only gives you one prognosis: IMMINENT DEATH.

Sniffles? You’re suffering a rare strain of the flu that will kill you. Headaches? Rush to an emergency room immediately before that aneurism kills you. Mosquito bite? YOU HAVE WEST NILE VIRUS, AND YOU ARE GOING TO DIE.

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when I found this.

All of this is to say, I won’t be around this weekend as I recover, and I might not get back to regular posting until Tuesday or Wednesday. I want to try to get some writing done this weekend, but I have no idea how out of it I’ll be. Wish me luck and strength to stop being a wimp.