6.27.2007

Slacker!

How quickly we forget how difficult it is to go back to exercising after a break. So I am supposed to be training for the NYC Half. Ha! I went on vacation, which was luckily an “active” vacation, meaning hiking and biking. However, I did not run the whole time I was there (about 10 days). Then I got home and immediately got sick. So… a couple more weeks pass by.

We now come to last week, my first week trying to get back into the swing of things. I went to the gym on Monday and was going to run (really!) but I forgot my socks (darn it!). I had just read an article about making excuses and how we need to stop doing it, so I put my shoes on (sans socks) and made my way to the treadmill. However, after about a mile I could feel a blister forming, so I walked a little and then lifted weights instead.

Day Two of “the revival” was spent procrastinating running by doing the elliptical and then lifting weights again. On Day Three an attempt to run was made, but was ended when Top Chef started due to a conflict of interest. On Day Four I committed to running a two mile race in City Park, and almost flaked at the last moment. Instead, I dragged my lazy butt to the park and ran two miles in the 850 heat and 80% humidity (at 7:15 pm!)

I almost died.

My lungs hurt; my legs hurt; I could feel my face burning bright red like a beacon in the night. Once finished, I walked with quivering legs to the line for water and drank about one hundred and forty tiny Dixie cups full of water.

Turns out I ran my fastest mile so far – about 8 minutes. However, this is only the beginning of a very long journey which ends in New York City and lasts for 13.1 miles. So, two miles at a time, day by day, I struggle to reach that path. I have a long way to go before I am ready.

Why Weight?

I lost 4 pounds in the last two weeks and I didn’t even mean to. My diet plan: get sick, lie in bed, don’t work out and eat a lot of junk food and carbs. I should write a book, right? Seems like everyone and their mother has come out with their version of “how to lose weight”. Don’t eat carbs, eat only carbs, eat only high cholesterol foods, eat only raw vegetables, eat for your blood type, eat for your hair color, eat only in the morning, eat 10 meals a day, eat a big lunch and a small dinner, eat only cabbage soup…the list goes on.

When is the world going to realize (and it has been said over and over) that the secret to losing weight is not any of the above, but is…wait for it…EAT LESS, EAT HEALTHY and…here is the kicker...EXERCISE!!! There is no magic pill; there is no quick fix (well there are but they are dangerous to your health). There is only hard work and dedication. It is like anything else in this world – if you want it, you have to work hard to get it. You cannot just sit on the couch eating Cheetos and watching TV every day and expect to slim down to the size of Kate Moss. You have to actually turn the TV off and get out of your chair and take a spin around the block (at least a couple of times).

Unfortunately, people have become inactive over the years. We used to have to work hard for everything – if we wanted food, we had to grow it, kill it or raise it; if we wanted a house, we chopped down trees and built a house. If you would have mentioned a gym, the old settlers would have laughed in your face. Now we sit in our car, we sit in the office, we sit at home. To get any exercise, we have to force ourselves out to the gym or the park. And inactive people breed more inactive people. Our kids are following in our footsteps. Well actually, they are following in our butt prints, if you want to be literal about it.

Shape Magazine suggests getting a half an hour of “cardio-type” (walking, running, biking, etc) exercise per day. This could be done at lunch, or by walking up and down the stairs at work or home a few extra times, or by parking farther out in the parking lot. But we don’t “have time” for that. We still want a quick fix or a magic pill to make it all go away. We want someone else to take care of it for us.

Are we so busy living that we cannot even spare a half an hour a day in order to save our own lives?

6.26.2007

A Road Less Traveled

I think it was Robert Frost who said, "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled." Well I think I understand what he was talking about.

This weekend I went to New Hampshire to visit a friend who is currently living in Portsmouth. This is a very cute little New England town, complete with a central square full of people, a harbor full of boats and foilage which can only be found on the East Coast.

I arrived early Saturday and after having lunch at the Friendly Toast (good stuff!!) we went on a nice walk along Odiorne Point, stopping to pick up starfish, play with the whale bones and ogle the HUGE blue lobster at the Seacoast Science Center. Then we went kayaking along the Portsmouth Harbor and Piscataqua River, which separates Maine from New Hampshire. The weather was nice, about 70; the water was a bit choppy and not warm enough to swim in (about 45, I think), but not too cold when you got sprayed by it.
Sunday, we went to Pawtuckaway State Park (man you gotta love these names, huh?) and hiked up one of New Hampshire's high peaks (a towering 1000 feet up in the air) in order to get a "breathtaking view" (according to the website). It really was breath taking. At the top was a fire tower, and you could see for miles and miles... We got lost on the way back down the mountain...because we took the road less traveled (!!)...but were directed by a nice lady with a small horse and even smaller jockey, whose house we just happened to end up at
I made it to the airport just in time to make my flight, only to find out that the flight was going to be leaving late anyhow - damn US Air! 90% late and climbing! Overall, however, it was a very good trip!

6.16.2007

The Latte Factor

“Save now. Fewer trips to the café now can lead to more vacations later,” says Fidelity.

“Figure out your ‘latte factor’, be it your frequent lunches out, your fetish for new shoes, or your everyday coffee, and minimize it or cut it out entirely,” says the man on CNBC.

This seems to be a common theme with the retirement gurus. Skip the coffee, save a few extra dollars for later. It makes sense, right? 5 dollars a day for coffee can lead to an extra 1500 dollars plus in your savings account. To me it does make sense, and to one friend whose dad’s motto is “save today, spend tomorrow” but not everyone agrees with us.

I spoke with one friend who when I suggested she start saving money now, said, “Why worry about later all the time when you should be thinking about having fun right now?” At first I thought, “Wow, she is so naive! She is going to be screwed later!” Then I spoke to my dad, who was the one that first taught me how to save. He said, “Sure, cut out your latte now and then, but don’t deprive yourself of all fun now by always worrying about later.”

Dad saves the day again. Leave it to him to depart some words to the wise regarding finances. Save now, sure, but have fun in the meantime. What is the point of saving all your life if you are not going to get to enjoy it? I am not saying that I am going to die tomorrow, but…what if I did? Would I be happy with my life so far? Would I wish that I had blown a little more money on shoes instead of scrimping and saving for my non-existent retirement?

No way! I am going to do it all! I am going to have fun now. AND save for later. It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine.

6.10.2007

My Very Own Pot of Gold

Last night I couldn’t sleep and I was watching a show on CNBC on how to “Retire Rich”. There were some good tips and it got me thinking a little about whether or not I am following the correct path. Will I be able to retire rich?
According to the show, 70 percent of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. Seventy percent! That is a lot! And of the remaining 30 percent who are not living that way, are they investing and saving wisely?
So today I went to Google to find out more about the subject. According to The Motley Fool, it is simple to retire rich. You can do it in five easy steps and here they are:
1. Start now.
2. Save more.3. Take full advantage of employer contributions.4. Allocate your assets to make bank in the stock market.5. Don't rely on someone else to do it for you.
Ha! So it is easy! Then why aren’t we doing it? I think it is because many people are not being educated about this early on in our lives.
Not only did my father teach me to work hard and to put my money in the bank while I was in high school, but I also got much of the above advice when I was 18. I had just started a new job where they had pretty good benefits. At that time, they would match 50 cents to my dollar, up to 6 percent. A good family friend told me to invest 10 % of my paycheck (at this time, I was making about 5 dollars an hour). I wouldn’t miss the money in the long run, it was being taken out pre-tax and my company would match 6 percent of it. What did I have to lose? He also suggested putting part of it in high risk and part of it in low risk (at the time I had no idea what that meant). Luckily, I listened to him. Thanks Mike! Ten years later, I am still investing 10 % of my paycheck and I have built up a fairly good portfolio.
There is still a lot that I have to learn. I am still hesitant to put too much money in the stock market, I sometimes pick mutual funds with the “eeny-meeny-miny-moe” method, I haven’t rolled over my 401K, I am scared to buy property and I am quite conservative, even for my age. However, I think that, little by little, I am starting to learn what it takes to…retire rich.

Do you have what it takes?

6.02.2007

Big Apple Be Ready!

I made it! I got into the New York City Half Marathon! Yay! They drew names on the 23rd of May and I got picked. So did my friend Seth, so...we are raring to go! We just need to continue training...

New York City, here I come...

Stay tuned...the race is Sunday, August 5th...

When "Face to Face" Does Not Compute

We had a meeting at work the other day and one thing that was discussed was the fact that too many emails are going back and forth. A suggestion was made: instead of shooting someone an email, get up out of your chair and walk over to their desk and talk to them. This made me laugh because our office is not large; when they said get up and go talk to them, they are talking about a 20-50 foot walk. The longest you may have to go is down or up two fights of stairs, or in the case of many, down two floors on the elevator.

Which brings me to something else: I was reading Shape magazine on the plane last weekend and one of the articles was about small ways to start losing weight. One suggestion was to get a pedometer and make sure to take at least 1000 steps per day. To do this, Shape Magazine suggested getting up out of your chair at work and going to talk to your coworkers rather than emailing them. It also suggested taking the stairs rather than the elevator.

Is this so hard to understand? Do we need bigwigs to explain it to us in a meeting? Do we need Shape Magazine to tell us? Are 1000 steps really that hard to do? If you have a 2 foot stride, for example, 1000 steps would only be 2000 feet. NOT EVEN A HALF A MILE!!! What is happening to us that we can’t even walk a half a mile a day?

I blame it on technology. Not only is this great world of email, text messaging and Internet robbing us of our friends and a real connection with people, but it is also robbing us of our health. Why go out and date when there is eharmony.com? Why walk over to so-and-so’s desk when you can email them to ask what they want to do for lunch? It saves time, right? If your eharmony.com match doesn’t work out, you didn’t even have to put on makeup and get all dressed up. If your friend has other plans for lunch, you saved yourself a walk. We are getting lazier physically and mentally.

I admit that I too have gotten sucked into this vortex of emails and texts. At this very moment I sit here and blog when I could be discussing this issue with a coworker or friend. I tell my problems to the faceless masses but withhold them from my friends. I send out mass emails asking coworkers what they are doing for lunch. I send texts to people instead of calling them. I too am mentally and physically lazy.

Can we avoid this downward spiral? We are in a constantly changing world and technology is getting more and more prevalent. Kids these days are much more technologically advanced than I will ever be. I just hope that we can continue to teach our technology laden children the value of a long walk on the beach rather than another episode of Friends, a face to face chat with a friend rather than a text, a thank you note rather than an email or…taking the stairs instead of the elevator!!

The O.C. Tour

And when I say O.C., I am NOT referring to the annoyingly cute teenagers, the huge houses on the hill or the gorgeous beach that is portrayed in the show of the same name. The places we went to had none of the above.

This time, instead of going to the beach, my friend Mira and I took a long awaited road trip from Washington (for those of you back East, that is "state" not "DC") to the great land in the north, Canada. I have been to Canada twice before - once to see Niagra Falls with the fam and once to Vancouver to meet up with some friends that I met in Australia. This time was a bit different than either of those. This was going to be that "active vacation" I have been so looking forward to.

And active it was.

The first day was (unfortunately) spent in the car. We drove from Seattle to Whistler, which is a gorgeous drive along the coast with the ocean to the west and the mountains to the east. However, due to the upcoming Olympics (Winter 2010: Vancouver) there is a lot of construction going on along the highway. They seemed to be widening the road and (very unfortunately) building several massive condos along its sides. After finding a campground we walked into town and scouted out possible activites for the next day. Another thing I have not done in a long time is camping. And it is not too bad... we set everything up fairly easy and then got to the fun stuff - poaching wood and making (playing with) a fire.

The next day was spent hiking and biking and bear watching. Yup, there were bears! I almost ran one over with my bike, then almost ran another over with the car. The day after that was spent hiking, bathing in freezing cold (snow run off - it must have been 30 degree) water and driving to our next destination (a small town between Salmon Arm and Shuswap). Soon, we developed a routine - get up, take a hike, coffee, eat, take a hike, eat, drive, eat, play with fire, take a hike, play with fire again, go to bed. Rinse, repeat. Man I don't think I have eaten so much in a while. The hiking really works up a huge appetite!!

Our route went to Banff National Park (first National Park in Canada), the town of Canmore (about 75 miles from Calgary), Lake Louise, Yoho National Park, Glacier National Park, the town of Kamloops (with a wine region - who would have thunk it?), the town of Banff and lastly back to Seattle, where we happily showered and did laundry. Oh and of course ATE. Again.

THE STATS:

Miles hiked: 50+
Most miles in one day: 20+
Miles driven: 1500
Highest mountain: ~3954 meters/~12,000 ft
Highest mountain climbed: ~2200 M/~6600 ft
Number of men in the hot springs who had man boobs: 14
Number of wild animals spotted: too many to count (4 bear, 2 moose, 12 longhorn sheep, 4 mountain goats, 9 caribou, 10 deer and multiple squirrels, chipmunks and birds)
Bricks of cheese eaten: 3
Bottles of wine drank: 6 (hey we had to try the local fare!)
Cups of coffee drank: 25
Amount of wood poached: a lot
Number of scratches from poaching wood: 15
Coldest night: 2 degrees C (about 34 F)
Warmest day: about 70 degrees
Amount of time spent in freezing cold water: 2.54 seconds

Last but not least, here it is....The real reason behind the name of the tour.

O Canada!Our home and native land!True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,The True North strong and free!
From far and wide,O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!

O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.


(to listen, click here)