The 2 Minute Swim (or How I Learned to Run)

Sometimes I like to brag that I’ve run a half marathon.

This is only half true. I haven’t run a “real one”- one that was timed and had a medal and a finish line and all of that exciting gold stuff, but I’ve run a half marathon on a treadmill. I took pictures of my mileage. As evidence. Okay, maybe that’s not even impressive at all. Whatever. But I did it.

So I can run. I run a lot, sometimes 4-5 times a week, with 30 minutes of running being my bare minimum for a workout with running.

I really like running, actually.

However, during my first running workout- excluding gym class in grade school- I didn’t even run for THREE MINUTES. I’d never run as a workout before because I didn’t really do any kind of workout before. I thought exercise was against the nature of my body. This really meant that I gave up on my running career before it started in order to pursue my fated path of couch potato extraordinaire. Alas, it was not to be.

The first time I whimsically decided to work out, I told myself I would only run for two minutes…and I barely made it! When I got to one minute and 30 seconds, I almost had to stop. But I kept going, and made it to two minutes, and then turned off the treadmill and walked away. For the next few days, I did the same thing: two minutes of running and then walking away. After that, I upped my challenge to three minutes for a week or so, and then to 5!

Suddenly, I was running for 5 minutes straight, and then 10! It probably took me a few months to get to 30 steady minutes of running, but everything came from that first 2 minute run! My success really boiled down to allowing myself to change only 2 minutes of my life.

When I jumped in a pool last month at an Orlando hotel, I tried to swim a bunch of laps, and quickly got exhausted after maybe a quarter of one. I haven’t really tried to swim in years. Actually, I’ve never really swam laps- maybe once. I don’t really know how to swim, for that matter.

And as I took a choking, water-tinged breath in the Olympic sized pool, a vision of my first 2 minute run from long ago popped into my head. I allowed myself some mercy. “Just 2 minutes of laps today!” was my mantra, as I swam a wholehearted 6 feet or so and then gasped for air. But I went back under and swam my 2 minutes- and then another 2, and then another. I don’t know if you’d really call my swimming “laps” or “skilled” for that matter. But there was movement.

And sometimes a little movement is all you need.

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How to See A City In Your Thirties

How to See A City In Your Thirties

One of my favorite ways to see a city on foot is to take what I’ve lovingly coined a “run-walk.”

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I’m a fan of running, and it’s nice to see new places and things in a city while also getting exercise. However, a lot of times when I’m just running, I don’t stop and really appreciate the scenery, nor do I take my touristy photos on the way. But when I’m solely walking, I don’t usually get as far, nor do I get the extra exercise I can get while on a run.

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I used to have a travel blog called You Somewhere Else where I wrote about travel tips as well as run walks and other fun and possibly useful travel habits. I’d photo blogged about my Seattle run walk before, and now I’ll share my Downtown LA one.

What’s great about a run walk is when something interesting comes up, you can stop running, and simply walk and take photos.

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Run-walks are usually longer than your run, but way shorter than a walk, because you can cover more ground faster. You can also run right past the boring spots.  You’re allowed to stop whenever you want and take as much time as you like.

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You can take pictures of bizarre things that strike you.

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Or scary things that make you want to go the other way.

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Or funny things.

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Things that kind of remind you of home.image.jpeg

Things that seem to come out of nowhere.

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Touristy things that are still cool to you.

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Things that are happy but sad at the same time.

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And beautiful things you may never have noticed.

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No matter what you choose to photograph and explore, I highly suggest run-walks in new cities, at least one time. They’re a laid back yet energized way to open your eyes to new sites. Enjoy the journey!

 

Getting Your Exercise On in Your 30s

I’ll be honest – I don’t have a regular exercise practice. I walk pretty regularly as  part of my life, but when it comes to regular exercise, I just don’t do it. I probably exercise about 2-3 times a month, normally a pilates class or a elliptical/treadmill session at the gym. But it’s not enough, and I know it. Because I’m not overweight, people always assume I’m healthy and completely fine, but I don’t feel that way. I feel lethargic a lot of the time, and I get sleepy early in the evening.

I’ve read a number of articles that say – if you don’t have an exercise routine in your 30s, now is the time to prioritize it. For one thing, your metabolism decreases by 2 -3% in your thirties, so you have to do more work to maintain your physical status quo. But the bright side is that your bone mass and the growth hormones that were flowing in your 20s are still working their magic. But they will start decreasing in your 40s. So this is the best time to start exercising, before you experience the gradual loss of bone density, strength and flexibility.

The old adage “Better Late than Never” applies when it comes to exercise. Do you watch Girls? One of my personal career icons, Jenni Konner, is the executive producer of the show, and she wrote about her personal exercise evolution in Self magazine, and I could TOTALLY relate. This is an excerpt from the article:

I was 38 when I started exercising. That’s right, 38. My exercise history reads like a bad report card. Everything fitness-oriented was mandatory and completed by the skin of my teeth. The President’s Physical Fitness Test was my Everest. Each year in elementary school, as the day drew nearer, I would plot my illnesses. “My fever must be high to the point of danger. I probably have scurvy,” I’d tell my mom. My parents never fell for it, and the day usually culminated in tears and terrible sit-ups.

I made it through my unathletic 20s like any other unathletic twentysomething. I ate very little, drank a lot and stood on the sidelines, cheering on hipster dodgeball games like a narcoleptic Knicks City Dancer. In my 20s, I didn’t have to exercise because no matter what I did, I looked the same—which was pretty good in hindsight.

In my 30s, it all started to catch up with me.

– Jenni Konner

Anyway, you’ll have to read the whole article here if you want to know how she got her booty into gear, but the gist of it is that she found a workout she loved. It happened to be the Tracy Anderson method, which is supposedly amazing.

The key seems to be: find an exercise you like – something that feels like play to you. What do you genuinely enjoy doing? I hate running. While I have a few friends who swear by running, I’ve never been able to get into the swing of it and find it incredibly boring. To each their own! For me, the exercises that feel like play to me are swimming and yoga. When I’m in a pool, I feel like a little kid.

So, the key seems to be to find your exercise jam in your 30s and stick to it. Finding your “jam” may mean trying everything from ballet barre classes to free online workouts at fitnessblender.com to taking a boxing class at your local Rocky-inspired gym. It’s kinda like when people say you find your “look” in your 30s – like, you find what clothing and styles look best on you.

Here’s to a Summer of fitness and finding your way of turning exercise from an “I should” into an “I want!” And if you’re already there, congratulations! We would love to hear what exercise gets you pumped.

The Childhood Calorie Dilemma Still Around In My Thirties

As a woman, I’ve grown up reading my fair share of women’s magazines. It started with Seventeen Magazine (which I began reading at age 12.)

But I was always a voracious reader even back then, so it didn’t stop there.  I began to devour Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle, Vogue, Allure, and occasionally even Redbook. I couldn’t stop. When I got to college and discovered that the gym existed and was something I could do, I added Shape, Women’s Health, and Self Magazine to my repertoire.

The magazines were “fun” and “silly” but they were also addictive and confusing. I took their advice very seriously because I didn’t have any other information about diet and exercise. I’d never really thought much about working out and being thin before. I grew up in a household that ate dessert and drank soda with every meal, and my mother always cooked wonderful indulgent dinners for us every night.

It took until college for the magazine brainwashing to really kick in, but once I was living on my own, I began to really experiment with diets in order to be the ultimate in skinny. I went through all kinds of weird food phases.

  • I tried the Atkins diet where I only ate meat and cheese, and just butter alone…with no bread.
  • Then I tried the South Beach diet, which was a modified version of Atkins- so I could add some nuts to my meat.
  • I tried skipping dinner every single day until I couldn’t do it anymore.
  • I tried skipping lunch every single day until I couldn’t do it anymore
  • I replaced dinner with milk shakes
  • I went days without eating solid food and tried to live on liquids alone.
  • I tried eating soy sauce packets instead of food when I got hungry.
  • I tried to eat only fruit and vegetables and absolutely nothing else…except occasionally soy chips.

And there were probably many other stupid phases I don’t really remember. And during most of them, I made sure to go to the gym 5-7 days a week as well, because I figured that would help. And I never thought of myself as having any sort of disorder, because it was all “normal”…every woman was obsessed with being thin. Obviously, thin was the best thing to be. And I didn’t have an “eating disorder” because I was neither anorexic nor bulimic. But I was obsessed. I couldn’t think of much else besides what I did or didn’t eat. But of course, I knew I could stop at any time…

Throughout all of this, and beyond, my focus was never on being the strongest I could be. I never thought about food as making me strong and actually physically powerful. I thought about LACK of food as making me powerful…psychologically powerful that is…because being thin equals ultimate power, right?

So when I read the article 1200 Calories the other day, it almost made me cry, because the comments it makes about problematic marketing to women are so true. Even now. The marketing is just as bad now.

I hope that one day women’s magazines will all stress eating whole foods, building muscle, and getting strong, as opposed to just cutting calories and getting as thin as possible, but I don’t know if this will ever truly happen.

The author of ‘1200 Calories’ talks about how women have been taught from a very young age, through all sorts of media sources, that what we need to do is cut calories and starve ourselves. We’re taught that being as thin as possible is the ultimate perfection. We’re taught that eating low calorie food with no real nutrients and doing as much cardio as possible is the way for us to be sexy.

“Women’s magazine covers frequently use terms like “drop X pounds fast!” and “calorie-torching workout!” and “low-calorie foods.” Men’s magazines use keywords like “build,” “power,” and “strength. Think of all the potential that is thrown out the window when women deprive themselves of food on their quest to be thin. What great things could women accomplish if we weren’t fucking dieting all the time?! It’s saddening.” 

How sad is it that the message of going for actual health, building muscle, and being strong wasn’t a message I started thinking about until recently? How much sadder is it that I still barely believe that message to be true?

What can we do about this? How can we combat the harmful marketing to women that’s still going on strong right at this very moment?

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