I Did It: Climb to the Top

2 Mar

climb-1Editor’s note: “I Did It” is a feature post running on I’m Skinny, Now What where I will tackle a new workout or diet for a week and give you my opinion. Wish me luck, because I don’t like changing my routine.

Before the Race

A couple of months ago, my workout nanny sent me an email about a race to the top of Rockefeller Center benefiting multiple sclerosis research. All I saw was “stairs, lots and lots of stairs.” Sixty-six flights of stairs, to be exact. She got super excited about it and kept sending me discounts for registration. The details on whether she said she actually signed up are muddy (I say she did, she says she didn’t), but eventually I signed up. She did not.

phylicia_sideeye

How does one prepare for a stair-climbing challenge? Had I taken the race more seriously, I would have gone here, here or even here. I didn’t. The winter doldrums got to me. I’d half-ass some workouts at the gyms with 20-30 minutes of cardio and some squats. Or I’d make full use of my workout DVDs so I wouldn’t have to deal with this.

snow

As the date for the race neared, my training remained non-existent. When I told my boss about the race, he snapped me back into my senses with a couple of questions.

Boss: Have you trained at all?

Me: I run. I work out at the gym and do squats.

Boss: But have you tried like going up 20 flights of stairs?

Me:  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The day before the race, like all races, nerves started to settle in. I climbed the stairs from a very deep subway platform and got winded. That’s just a subway platform! I’d be climbing 66 freaking flights of steps! What the hell did I get myself into?

Race day

I get to Rockefeller center nervous and pissy—nervous because race day; pissy because I had to get up at 5:45 a.m. and I’m not a morning person. As with any race, there’s an overexcited guy on a mic trying to get the racers at least a tenth as excited as he is. I wanted to throw my shoe at him. My workout nanny came for support and also tried to allay my nerves. I just wanted it to be over. As my 7:20 heat line filled, the nerves started to dissipate. When we got to the third floor to begin the race, I barely felt a flutter in my stomach. When I got the cue to go, the nerves were gone.

I ran up the first six flights…like a BOSS! Then I hit the wall. For those unfamiliar, a wall is when you’ve exhausted your extra energy and are forced to move at a passable pace. By floor 13, my thighs were burning. By floor 18, I was grateful for the water station because my chest was feeling tight. By 35, I was praying that my 15-year streak sans asthma attack would continue. By 45, I’d accepted my fate as woman taking sips of air with supertight thigh muscles. By 53, the only sound you could hear were people trying to breathe. By 60, I knew we only had nine more flights. Then all of a sudden I was on top of Rockefeller Center looking at downtown Manhattan. I finished in 18 minutes, 42 seconds.

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What I learned

  1. I can climb 66 flights of stairs in 18 minutes and 42 seconds! What?!?! On the registration site, it says the average participant makes it up in about 30-45 minutes. I was shocked.
  2. Being short of breath is the pits. I haven’t had an asthma attack since college, but the familiar sensation that comes before one hits isn’t pleasant. The water stations helped, but I would have appreciated a few more of them. I talked with a coworker who reminded me that stairwell runs aren’t the same as regular races. There’s dust, lack of air circulation and a confined space. When running outside, those factors are minimal. He said I’ll be a little wheezy for a couple days. Great.
  3. Read the fine print. I’ve done a few charity races before, but this was the first time where I had to raise a minimum to participate. I was nearly turned away at the check-in counter because I was short. I made up the difference, but it didn’t help my sour mood seeing as how it wasn’t 7 a.m. yet.
  4. Size means nothing. There was a big, fit guy in front of me whom I ended up lapping. I was proud of myself for lapping a quite few people. Nothing boosts the ego quite like passing up some of your fellow racers.
  5. The only good thing about an early morning race is the post-race pancakes. Yum!

pancakes

Verdict

You really never know what you’re capable of until you try. Sixty-six flights is A LOT. It’s not something a logical person would consider for a Sunday morning activity. But when challenged to do so, it’s amazing to me how willing and ready I was to accept. I would definitely do it again. However, I’ll read the fine print next time so as not to harass friends and family to donate at the last minute. Speaking of, thanks to Ingrid, Willa, Quiana and Beth for helping a sister out! If you’d like, you can still donate here.

Recipe: Spinach, Chick-Pea and Olive Pasta

27 Feb

photo (12)Time: 10 minutes to prepare; 20 minutes to cook

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces dried radiatore or rotini pasta
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped fresh spinach (about 2 ounces)
  • 15-ounce can no-salt-added chick-peas, rinsed if desired and drained
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped bottled roasted red bell peppers, rinsed and drained (about 6.5 ounces)
  • 12 kalamata olives, drained and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil, crumbled
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about 1/2 cup)

Procedure

  1. Prepare the pasta using the package directions, omitting the salt and oil. Drain in a colander and run under cold water until completely cooled. Drain well.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients except feta.
  3. Add pasta to the spinach mixture, tossing gently yet thoroughly to coat. Add feta and toss gently.

Verdict

I love this pasta salad. It’s colorful, tasty and super easy to make. It’s a great summer salad, but occasionally I’ll whip it out in colder months because it’s so damn easy to make. Definitely eat it in the first few days of preparing it, as the spinach will wilt pretty quickly.

Courtesy of Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol Cookbook, Third Edition

Why I’m not a winter warrior

25 Feb
Well, it bothers me! Courtesy of Tumblr

Well, it bothers me!
Courtesy of Tumblr

I live five blocks from the subway. In Manhattan, that’s an OK deal. Compared to other boroughs, that’s a luxury. Five blocks may not seem like much. You’d think it’s about five minutes from the train to my door. And you’d be right.

What you’re not considering is the elements. The elements are wind (I live right by the river) and water (mother-effin’ snow). In case you live in California or Hawaii, you’re likely aware that it is cold as a penguin’s nose out right now. For some reason Mother Nature raised her hater-ation game to a new level. Boston has had so much snow MIT students are actually climbing a mountain to class. There are icicles hanging in the underground subways stations. Schools in Texas—Texas of all places!—are getting snow days because the world is just too damn hot.

And with all of this, my favorite activity has fallen by the wayside. That’s right, skinny people, I haven’t run outside in more than a month. I did a quick run while visiting family and friends last month, but it was 50 degrees out. I had to leave my jacket in the car.

I’ve said before that I’m getting better about lowering my degree threshold for a run. I’ve got it down to 37 degrees. But that’s above freezing. You know why? Because I am not a winter warrior.

Winter Warriors are the people who say eff it when the thermostat drops below 20 degrees. Their endorphines and sweat will keep them warm. That’s beautiful. Do you, boo. I am not one of those people.

I don’t like going outside when the wind is whipping my hair back and forth like Willow Smith. I hate when it feels like I’m being smacked in the face with icicles. Running with my hands in balls makes them hurt even worse. So now instead of focusing on my breathing and my pace, I’m focusing on the pain in my hands and if my nose will fall off from being so cold.

That’s too much stress. I run to clear my head. Running is simple: you just need good shoes. The winter requires much more thought and effort: thermal-lined pants (possibly two pair), knee-high socks to keep your calves warm, shoe spikes in case you run into a patch of ice, a beanie to keep your head warm, gloves, and a jacket. It’s just all too much.

I applaud anyone who can look outside, see Elsa’s playground and think it’s the best time to get in a run. It takes true dedication not just to your health but to your sport to continue on in these conditions. Get in a couple of miles for me. Runners are my people. But on this, we take separate paths.

I’ll be hanging out at the gym, putting in my time on the elliptical.

Would you consider yourself a winter warrior? How do you keep warm on winter runs?

#AskHerMore

23 Feb

Show time! ❤️ #Oscars (dress @TomFord; jewels @TiffanyAndCo; styling @lesliefremar; hair by @hairbyadir; glow @mrsbymrs )

A photo posted by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on

I’ve been a fan of Reese Witherspoon’s for a while. Most people fell in love with her in “Cruel Intentions.” But my adoration began with “Man in the Moon.” It’s a coming-of-age where she plays a spunky and smart 14-year-old who doesn’t conform to what people think she should be. She likes a boy, so she makes that fact known to him. She likes to run and swim, so she goes running and swimming. Her parents suggest being a little more feminine, but they don’t push it on her. There’s more to her than her femininity.

I’m reminded of this because before last night’s ridonculously long Oscar ceremony, Reese put a photo up on Instagram with the hashtag #AskHerMore. For years, questions posed to women on the red carpet have centered on “Who are you wearing?” “How long did it take you to get ready?” “What’s in your purse?” “Did you diet before the coming here?” On one hand, I want to know who the designer of the dress is out of curiosity. On the other, what someone has in their purse crosses a line of invasion. How long it took a woman to get ready is such a misogynistic question that I can’t even. If there’s more to put on, it takes longer to get ready. That’s just facts; no need to dwell on it.

Worst of all is the diet question. We live in an image-obsessed society that places too much emphasis on how much weight a person has lost or gained in any given amount of time. Not only that, but no one asks the men if they’ve been dieting or working out before coming on the show. You know why? Because it doesn’t matter. These ceremonies are supposed to be a celebration of work, not a celebration of image.

Focusing on the image only hammers home the belief that it’s all that matters. Taking care of your health is different from taking care of your image. Diet and exercise are the keys to good health. Your image is something that is personal to you. How you look and how you want others to see you is the internal struggle you’ll forever deal with. Discussing the inner workings of that process in front of the E! red carpet cameras probably isn’t the best platform to be hashing out something so personal.

That’s why I am such a fan of Reese and others who pushed the #AskHerMore hashtag. Instead of focusing on her appearance, reporters were encouraged to ask about the work. Instead of diving into a stranger’s handbag, interviewers were pressed to ask about an actor’s relationship to the role. And instead of asking about the work it took to prepare for the night, reporters were requested to ask about the work it took to prepare for a scene.

What would you ask your favorite actress at the Oscars? #askhermore

A photo posted by Reese Witherspoon (@reesewitherspoon) on

These ceremonies are just big parties where people want to ask fun questions. But it’s a party honoring work, so don’t forget to ask about that, too.

Did you make it to the end of the three-and-a-a-half hours of the Oscars? Wasn’t Common and John Legend’s performance Glorious?

 

Let’s Talk About Health, Baby

19 Feb
This will be a much less stressful conversation. Promise. Courtesy of Tublr

This will be a much less stressful conversation. Promise.
Courtesy of Tumblr

I’m a bit of a night owl. As I type this, the clock is nearing 3 a.m. “What are you doing up so late?” you’re probably asking. Well, getting this handy-dandy post up, for one. But for another, I just like being up late. I love the quiet. But when I need a little noise, I’ll channel surf.

Do you know what’s on basic cable at 2:30 in the morning? Reruns and infomercials. There are only so many times you can watch the Evanses have “Good Times” before you switch to something else. That’s when the infomercials and regular late-night commercials become some of the most interesting television you’ve ever seen. My first workout DVD was bought from an infomercial. And it sat in the box for more than a year before I actually put it to use.

The late-night commercials are something else, though. There was one that aired in the days leading up to Valentine’s. It was an ad selling a giant bear that measured up to six feet. One of the taglines was, “You could buy her chocolate, but she’ll just ask you if she looks fat?”

The ad was meant to entice men to spend hundreds of dollars on stuffed polyester that, honestly, looked like something out of a nightmare. But that line is what irked me the most. It played into the fear that people can’t handle the truth and are only looking for  a quick fix. Why buy her the health club membership she’s been talking about when you can buy her an atrocious stuffed animal no woman over the age of 13 would ever want? Forget having an honest conversation about what she really wants and needs. Get her a doll that’s sure to collect dust and fulfill nightmares for years to come.

The weight-loss journey is traveled alone. I’ve said this many times before. But that doesn’t mean you can’t talk to people about it. Joking about a woman asking if she looks fat is old, tiresome and trite. Beyond that, it halts the conversation about health. Sure, it’s an ad for a ridiculous bear (and if your boyfriend bought that for you, there are bigger issues to discuss than weight). The ad and that line rely on the idea that discussions about appearance and health are too much for any relationship to handle.

I call bullshit. Your first discussion is usually with your doctor who will notice fluctuations in your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol with your annual physical. Next comes your boo thang, who may have added a little around the middle with you as you two have grown more comfortable with one another. Then comes my favorite: your grandparents, aunts and uncles, who will never, ever forsake the opportunity to comment on how you look—good or bad.

You can take these comments and observations as insults, or you can take them as jumping off points to a bigger discussion about what your weight and body image mean to you. No one’s saying to go on a crash diet. But I believe that opening the dialog to the future of your own health is a great way to charter the path for your weight-loss journey.

What does it hurt to say, “I’m going to start eating lighter to take better care of my weight”? Or, “Why don’t we go for a walk after dinner some nights to burn some of these calories”? Observing that a shirt or a pair of pants don’t fit the way they used to doesn’t mean you’re being critical. It means you want the person you’re with to look their best. Discussing what you’ve seen and what you’re concerned about can only open up your conversations to other things, like past history with weight or even family health issues. It’s all for the greater good.

What kinds of conversations have you had with people about your weight and body image? How do you feel about discussing these things with people? Did you have a good Valentine’s Day?

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