Quite Continental Charm School: Day 24 — Stretch!

24/02/2012 § Leave a comment

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
Image via the Library of Congress.

Day 24: Stretch!
Confession time.

Confession #1: While I did run the New York Marathon in 2010, 2011 found me a bit lackluster in my physical activities.  I blame most of this on being burnt out after being in training for the better part of a year: working out six days a week with the occasional two-a-day, fanatically monitoring what I was eating and drinking, adjusting my social habits so that I could get as much sleep as possible, etc.  While the experience of running the marathon was amazing — and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in it! — I did not come away from the experience with an addiction to long distance running.  I like it, I even enjoy it…I don’t love it.  I also attribute my lack of exercise to a shifting of priorities, new addictions (e.g., this silly blog), and changes in my personal life.

It’s funny how I know such changes are completely normal, but I still couldn’t help feeling a bit of guilt — especially when anyone would ask me if I had any races coming up, or called me a “marathon runner.” So if you read my resolutions for 2012, you will note that it is a goal of mine to run two half marathons this year.  That’s ramping up slowly, and I am happy to report there is some progress on that front.

So what’s the point?

The point is that while I may not be similarly situated as I was last year to talk about exercise (which I continue to think is important!), I do want to talk about something related to the concept.  It’s something even lazy bums like me can do without even breaking a sweat, that will improve your posture and your well-being: stretching.

Confession #2: I’m not very flexible.  I never have been.  I sucked at the sit and reach in grade school, I labor to touch my toes, and am atrocious at yoga.  Even when I was at the height of my training, this did not markedly change for me.  I like to blame it (nonsensically) on the fact that I am tall, but the truth is, some of us are just less flexible than others.  While I may never see my way to doing the splits, flexibility is something that can be improved, if you work at it.

At the very least, you can wake up just a few minutes earlier in the morning to stretch out.  No need for complex yoga routines if that’s not your thing, just make sure you are thorough, concentrating on any problem areas you might have.  If you’re as non-flexible as I am, you might find a stretching strap will come in handy to help you deepen and hold your stretches.  With just a few minutes of concerted effort, you can start your day feeling invigorated, possibly with a clearer mind.  Maybe you won’t need that cup of coffee.  Maybe.

Also take to heart that most of us sit at desks for the majority of the day, causing our posture to stiffen and slack: our backs hurt, our circulation gets pinched, and all sorts of other not so nice things happen.  Stretching is an easy way to combat this — you’ll find it will easily fit into your workday while still at your desk and improve your energy.

Stretching is also especially important when you travel.  No matter how foolish you think you might look, on long trips make sure you periodically rouse yourself for a quick stroll and stretch session.  It is distinctly uncharming to arrive at your destination with aches or pains that will prevent you from embarking on your adventure, especially when they could have been easily prevented!

The Quite Continental Charm School
A modern guide to creating a charmed life
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Resolved: 2012

02/01/2012 § 10 Comments

Photo via George Eastman House

“Good resolutions are simply checks that men draw on a bank where they have no account”
Oscar Wilde

In referring to my often-neglected journal to find my resolutions for 2011 and 2010, I saw a few repeats, a few things I achieved, a few things I failed miserably at, and a few things I completely forgot that I had resolved to do.  With this in mind — along with Oscar’s words above — I’ve decided to pare down my list for this year, from its usual ten or eleven item list to six.  Thus, here are the six things I can achieve, and will achieve, this year:

  1. Travel to at least one new country.  I’ve managed to keep my streak alive for the last three years, and I’m definitely committed to continuing this year.  Currently thinking my new country for 2012 will be somewhere in North Africa, Southeast Asia or Eastern Europe, but this is definitely not nailed down yet.  Have any suggestions for me?
  2. Run two half marathons.  I ran the New York Marathon in 2010, and have run plenty of road races of shorter lengths over the past 4 years (view my running posts here).  Admittedly, after the marathon, I suffered from a bit of burnout and my training has been uneven ever since.  This year I resolve to run two half marathons.  I will give myself extra points for sub-2 hour finishes, but I will be more than happy with two uninjured, smiling finishes.  I’ve got a former international competitor as a training partner (eesh!), but she assures me she needs just as much training as I do.  We’ll see about that.  Have any races you’d suggest I look into?  Even better, would you like to run with me?
  3. Cook some things.  My friends frequently point out that I blog about plenty of interesting things, cocktails and whatnot, but I almost never mention food.  Were you to look into my refrigerator, you might understand why.  It currently holds water, condiments, booze and two oranges.  And the oranges are for making Old Fashioneds.  I also cannot honestly remember the last time I used my oven or stove.  So in 2012, I’m resolving to actually buy myself groceries and cook at least once a week.  (Sidenote: Please do understand that “cooking” shall be construed quite liberally.)  Have any ridiculously easy, yet nutritious and delicious recipes for me?
  4. I’m on a horse. This was actually a 2011 resolution that I did not achieve, and so it’s getting carried over.  For as horse crazy as I am, I really have no excuse for not riding anymore.  I grew up taking all different kinds of lessons — even mounted drill team…yes, I am that awesome — and I still feel the need to get on a horse almost daily.  Admittedly, it can be a bit difficult doing so, living in New York City, but this just can’t keep being the reason I don’t ride.  This year, be it lessons, a trail ride, or perhaps even a dude ranch, I will get myself on a horse.  How do you make time for your interests?  Do you ride?
  5. To read twelve books.  I’ve always been a rather voracious consumer of all sorts of information, but I have found that in the last year my reading of books has been a record low.  Not acceptable.  To that end, I resolve to read twelve books — hopefully, one a month — in 2012.  Read any great books lately?  How is this best accomplished?  Do you think I need an e-reader?
  6. To live with purpose.  Rather abstract, I admit, but 2012 will definitely be my year of living with purpose.  Making decisions, choosing actions to make sure I achieve my goals, focusing on the immediate as a way to get to the eventual.  My life is best lived when I grab it by the horns, summon up the courage and blaze my own trail.  If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have ever lived in Italy by myself, travelled alone in Europe, moved to New York, or gone to law school — and who knows what else.  No sitting on the sidelines this year.  No letting life meander on without making affirmative decisions of my own.  Live like that, and life will pass you by.  How do you put your words into action?  How do you live with purpose?

Lastly, I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring for ye olde blog.  A big thank you to everyone who takes the time to read, email me, comment, Tumbl, Tweet, Pin and otherwise share the rather random stuff I post about.  I’m deeply grateful for your indulgence and I look forward to learning more from you in 2012.

Here’s to having our best year ever.  Cheers!

6 Weeks to the NYC Marathon: You Are What You Eat – Don’t Bonk!

30/09/2010 § Leave a comment

Goal last week: 27 miles (5 miles, 19 miles, 3 miles)

Actual mileage: 20 miles (17 miles, 3 miles)

Goal this week: 28 miles (5 miles, 20 miles, 3 miles)

Dear readers, I must ask your forgiveness as I skipped a week in detailing my training and progress.  I am faulting my mismanagement of my diet for this lapse in training and posting!  As I noted in an earlier post, I did the BluePrintCleanse last week for 3 days.  While I completely believe in the benefits of detoxing and will do it again in the near future, it was not the best idea for me to try to do this in the midst of training.  In order to prepare for the detox, you have to make changes to your diet – remove dairy, meat, processed foods, and eventually cooked foods – and you have to slowly phase these foods back in when you come off the program.  It is definitely an aggressive removal of carbohydrates and additional calories, which would be okay for someone just working out a few times a week, not someone trying to run close to 20 miles in one go.  So this meant that I attempted one long run during the phase-in period, and another in the phase-out period (and in between runs, the only thing I “ate” were the juices).  Both runs were bad, and it was rather discouraging.

I have belatedly realized I am much too close to race day to try to fiddle with my diet.  Right now, I should be concentrating on maxing out my carbohydrates, fluids and salt – having only juice for three days is just foolish.  This last weekend, I actually attempted to run 20 miles, but I estimate I only managed to run about 17 of those miles and walked the rest.  My energy level was low to begin with, and when I attempted to remedy that by eating my energy gels, it immediately upset my stomach because I had not had any processed foods in my system for over a week.  I then tried to drink some Gatorade (side note: always carry some money with you on your long runs in case you need something you didn’t think to bring with you!) and that didn’t help at all.  The day was warm and I was out much later than I wanted to be because I wasn’t running…  So I bonked, and bonked hard.  I completely walked the last mile, I felt woozy and weak, I tried to sit down for a moment but that made me feel even worse, somehow.  It was an awful run and I decided to never repeat it.  The only bright spot was the fact that I did see Ethan Hawke running along the Hudson River complete with stoller, kid and dog.

This week, I have put new emphasis on eating enough food — and the right balance of foods — to keep my feeling strong for my long runs.  Lots of whole grains, lean proteins and good fats.  I went on a 5 mile run on Tuesday and I felt great!  I am sure that my body is strong enough to run 20 miles, the question is if there is enough gas in the tank…

Stay tuned as I attempt 20 miles this weekend!  Happy Running!

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