Sunday, August 28, 2011

Running and the Total Gym (or is it TotalGym?)

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted, and things are progressing along exercise-wise.  I actually took it easy and only focused on my running the week immediately following my last post.  I bought a new pair of shoes (ASICS Men's GEL-Kayano 16 Running Shoe,White/Royal/Lightning,13 M) that was recommended by my running coach.  Of course they're vegan, as most running shoes are, and they address my overpronation while giving my knees some cushioning.  I'm still very, very slow, but I am running for longer periods of time and noticing an improvement in my technique.  My coordination in the running drills is also getting better, so I am feeling pretty good.  So far, I am the only person in my class to have attended every single time.  What can I say, I'm motivated!  The more I train, the better and fitter I'll get.  As I drop more weight and the weather cools, the running should get easier.  I'm excited about that!

I'm planning on signing up for a run in October, and the Dell Children's Medical Center 5k looks perfect as far as giving me enough time to train for it.  Even though a 5K may seem relatively easy, this will be my first race.  My goal is to run the entire race.  I'm not at all concerned with speed right now, particularly since I am regularly passed on the trail by young and old, fit and fat. :)  I haven't signed up for the race yet, but I'm fairly certain that this is the one that I want to participate in.

As expected, the Total Gym XLS that I ordered arrived on Monday, August 22nd.  (Jessica likes to say "TotalGym" running the two words together.  I was giving her a hard time about it, and then I noticed that one of the personal trainers on the beginner's DVD says it like that too. :-/) I also purchased the Total Gym Ab Crunch and Total Gym Dip Bars and a boatload of DVDs with a variety of workouts.  I opened it up immediately and have to say that I am impressed with it.  It allows you to do a variety of exercises, is easy to store, and both Jessica and I are having fun using it so far.  We've only done the beginner workout, but I anticipate that we'll move into the more sophisticated exercises within a couple of weeks.  One of the criticisms I read on the web is that it isn't for people who are very advanced, and that at some point, you will surpass the machine.  If that's the case, then I am okay with that because that means I will have reached a certain level of fitness.  There are so many things you can do to amp up the workout that I think that is something I won't have to worry about, at least for a long while.  For right now, it's very challenging as it is.

I'm certain that training with the TG will help me with my running, so it'll be interesting to see what kind of difference I notice in the next few weeks.  It will be impossible to know how much of the improvement is from the TG and how much is just from running itself or from the drills.  Regardless, it has been proven that cross-training makes a difference in running and improves overall fitness.  Besides, anything I can do to lose fat and gain muscle will help me achieve my goals.

8/15: Running class
8/16: 0
8/17: Running class
8/18: 0
8/19: 0
8/20: Running class
8/21: 0
8/22: Running class + Total Gym beginner's workout
8/23: 45 minutes walking
8/24: Running class
8/25: Total Gym beginner's workout
8/26: 65 minutes - treadmill incline work
8/27: Running class

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Current Status

I have started to enjoy my running class a lot more and am going to start doing runs outside the class soon.  I finally had my running coach assess my feet and running stride to determine what shoes I need.  I'm an overpronator, with medium to medium-low arches.  Unexpectedly, he told me that the shoes I have are perfect for me, except that these are worn out.  I'm also wearing a shoe size smaller than I should for running.  I need to be in a Size 13.  That explains the pain in my toe and the black nails (bruising).  Ouch!

He made some recommendations for me, but I have to wait for RunTex to get my size in next weekend.  I will definitely buy from them, since they have helped so much. I am wondering if I should go ahead and get another pair online though.   It would allow me to have another pair to alternate so that I could run every day.

I'm also really excited because I ordered a Total Gym XLS.  Yep, that's the one that bad-ass Chuck Norris hawks on paid infomercials.  I've heard a lot of good things about them over the years, and I think it would allow me to work out on a more regular basis.  I have a gym membership that I don't use enough, mainly because the gym is not that close or convenient for me.  I'll keep that because it only costs me $54 a year (yes, you read that right), as long as I keep it active, and they do have some good equipment there and free classes.  But, you can't beat having something in your home that lets you do all kinds of crazy exercises that easily stashes under your bed.    Now I have no excuse to not exercise!

8/10: Running class that was pretty intense
8/11: 75 minutes walking
8/12: 0
8/13: Running class
8/14: 0

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Running Gets Easier

My right knee is still acting up a little after each run, but I noticed on Saturday that I was able to run much longer.  I also became aware that when I run, my right foot doesn't land pointing forward but points to the right instead.  On Monday, I consciously tried to land with it pointing forward and my knee did feel better.  I still need to get some new shoes.

8/4: Not sure, so I am going to call it 0
8/5: 50 min walking
8/6: Running class with a long run
8/7: 0
8/8: Running class
8/9: 65 minutes walking

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

My Vegan Story

I've shared my vegan story a few times over the years in discussion boards or with people who know me well, but I think it's especially important that I share it here. 

As a child, I always had a fondness for animals. We used to make trips to Guatemala every few summers to visit relatives. I remember going to my aunt and uncle's house where they basically had a small farm.  My cousin had a baby chick that they called Piolín. I adored that baby bird. I played with him every chance I got that summer. I was deeply disturbed when I heard sometime later that Piolín had eventually become their dinner.Though I don't recall changing my eating habits, I remember feeling really sad about Piolín and angry toward these particular relatives. They found the whole situation amusing, which horrified me even more.

My family has always loved eating, and my parents were usually pretty open to different types of cuisine.  They went to a Hare Krishna vegetarian restaurant and loved the food.  It was pretty far from where we lived, but they started taking us there occasionally.   It was always a pleasant experience.  I loved the food and really enjoyed visiting the temple with the aromas of incense and the soothing chants.  I was a little scared that they would try to recruit me into their fold, but I sometimes would take some literature.  I would skim it, and then it would go on the bookshelf.

I had a friend in high school who would constantly challenge me.  He'd ask all sorts of philosophical questions about my beliefs.  I would get frustrated with him because no matter how many answers I had, he always had more questions.  I eventually resorted to reading different religious and philosophical texts searching for some answers.  Included in my reading were the Krishna books, as well as some other books discussing similar principles and ideas.*

Now, this friend was NOT a vegetarian and never even brought up vegetarianism.  He was actually challenging me on other conventional notions that I simply took for granted.  I was already pretty introspective, but this was really the push that I needed to start thinking seriously about things.  Some of what I read really clicked with me.  I was amazed at how much sense some of these concepts made to me.  Why did we have to eat animals?  Was there any justifiable reason to treat a cow worse than the cats I loved so much?  What if I were a cow?  What if someone were raising me to eat?

I was actively thinking about all this for a couple of weeks.  I went around and around in my head.  Different things kept pointing me to the harsh realities of the slaughterhouse.  I think I may have not really been eating meat during that time, but I remember that I did on Thanksgiving even after all those thoughts.  It was done very reluctantly at my then-girlfriend's house.  Thanksgiving was a big deal to her, and I weakly succumbed.  I don't think she even realized my internal struggle.  I remember that guilt of participating in something that felt so wrong. It just made the drive in me even stronger.  I knew that I had to stop participating in this.  I couldn't dare eat another innocent animal.  On Monday after Thanksgiving, 1989, I stopped eating all animals.  

Because I knew that people would give me a hard time about it, I started out calling it an "experiment."  I knew deep inside that I had no intentions of changing back.  I couldn't look in the eyes of an innocent animal and imagine myself killing him or her, much less eating this other being.  Why eat an animal?  The transformation in me was complete.  It did take me a few weeks to realize the prevalence of the less-than-obvious meaty ingredients in food.  Twinkies and cinnamon rolls at school had beef fat. I learned about rennet in cheese (this helped to curb my cheese consumption somewhat in my pre-vegan days).  I found out that most refried beans had lard.  Gelatin was all over the place.  It soon became apparent to my family and friends that this was no experiment.  I know now that my mom still thought that I would give it up at some point, but most began to see that I meant serious business.

People would openly challenge me.  It was very difficult and painful, but it drove me to become a knowledgeable vegetarian.  I immersed myself and read as many vegetarian books and magazines as I could.  I learned all sorts of things.  I discovered veganism.  I was feeling somewhat guilty about leather from the very beginning.  In fact, I had a leather jacket that I would wear, and every time I wore it, I felt like a hypocrite.  I had decided that I would quit wearing leather from the very beginning, but I felt that I needed to learn about alternatives.  The worst part was that at Christmas my unsupportive girlfriend gave me a watch with a leather band.  I felt like crying.  She had initially asked me if I was going to quit wearing leather.  Because I was getting some attitude about my vegetarianism in general, I had said that I wouldn't, while knowing that I really had every intention of giving it up.  I started to see the problems with all animal products as I read more about veganism.  I got to a point reading about animal agriculture, when I knew that it was time to go vegan.  I wanted no connection to slaughter.

In 1990 in suburban Dallas, vegan was not something that people knew about.  I remember thinking of vegans as these sort of mysterious, other-worldly spiritual people that glowed brilliantly.  But I knew that I had to become a vegan.  One day in September, I stopped consuming all food animal products with the exception of honey (which I didn't know about) and started to get rid of all my leather, silk, wool products.  Shortly after, I learned about honey and dumped it as well, becoming a vegan.  I've never regretted that decision, only that I couldn't have come to it sooner than I did.

I have learned a lot in these many years of veganism.  I no longer think that vegans are free from all problems and sicknesses. I am all too aware of my own shortcomings.   But the one thing that I always stay true to is my veganism.  I have changed over the years in many ways.  I've been through all kinds of phases, friendships and relationships, but veganism is a constant.  Being vegan is practical and can be pretty easy in most cases.  It is not a fad, not temporary, not hip or political.  Veganism surpasses all of that.  It is based on the principles of compassion, freedom, amity,  and doing the right thing.  I don't view it as a good thing but as a necessity.    Veganism is not the solution to everything, but it is the best and easiest way to eliminate a great deal of senseless violence in the world.

* - I eventually found that Jain philosophy was what made the most sense for me.  That's a topic for another entry though.