As Free as the Wind Blows

I love dogs and if you’ve ever talked to me about dogs you’ll probably think I’m a little crazy. Now with James, a labrador, and Zoey, a Thai dog, I could spend hours talking about them. I have pictures and video clips of them on my phone and my eyes start to smile just thinking about them. Yes, dogs are really good for your heart and soul. For me anyways.

Watching James run around the garden and playing ball or frisbee with him, I finally understand why Labradors are so popular. Having previously had a miniature daschund, whom I loved dearly, I have to say that labradors are so different in character and temper. They are happy go lucky dogs that see the world as a wonderful playground.  Nothing is bad and everyone is your friend.

James’s favorite game in this world is “Fetch.”  He could play it all day all night and couldn’t be happier.  Everyday I try to fit in a little game of fetch, but in the case that I should forget, James will gently remind me by bringing his favorite bouncy rubber ball to my feet where it gently drops to the ground with a little squeak.  He doesn’t bark nor make a big deal about it.  He just puts it down, sits up straight and looks at me with his big doe eyes and ears a little back.  My heart melts and become his ball thrower.

If he’s not playing fetch, he’s running around the garden with Zoey.  Yes its good to have two dogs so they can keep themselves busy when you are off doing other things.   Together they’ll run round and round the garden, through hedges, round trees and underneath tables.  Don’t think about growing beautiful flowers or potted plants.  Everything in the path of powerful James running with his ears flapping and his paws pounding are taken down.  James and Zoey run as if it were the best game on Earth.

Watching them somehow reminds me of kids running around.  The happiness and joy that comes with running evokes freedom.  Running in tune with nature, wind in your hair and grass beneath your feet.  I wonder why is it that adults no longer run.  As we grow up, we forget the childish delight that comes with running the garden and getting dirt on our hands.

This summer, why not take a little breather, feel some grass beneath your feet and the wind in your hair.  It’ll make wonders.  Find that inner child and be as free as the wind blows.

Running once more

This past week I have just gotten back into my running schedule after a month or so off running. Moving house and a sore ankle were my excuses. They really shouldn’t be. Exercise is of course better done regularly. I was reminded this week after running why it is so good. The more stressed one is the more one should exercise. Its a great stress reliever.

And I am stressed. There just seems to be a million billion things waiting to get done. Europe is in a crisis and who knows what will happen. I wonder if it will be the end of the EU as we know it or not? My European me ( from being educated in a European school with a curriculum that boasted the European ideal of an integrated Europe) , makes me sceptical.
Europe has been working for six decades towards integration. It can’t and shouldn’t end just yet. But who is to say, all good things must come to an end.

And yes, domestically we are having political brawls. Boys in suits.

So I run. Run it all off. Run off all the stress, all that annoys you and all that makes you feel not so good.

It feels great. Although I felt like my legs were killing me, my stomach cramped, my heart pounding on my ribs, and my lazy me rebelling; I wanted to run.

The sweat, the beating heart makes everything feel so much better. Happy chemicals filled my grey cells and I felt like a stone weighing me down had been lifted.

Cheeks blushed I remembered: Yes I have to keep up my running routine. Exercise is good for the soul. It not only makes you feel good but it clears your brain. Ideas and thoughts, all come running out. Next week I will run again, and the week after next and after….

Are you exercising?

Socks

It’s almost the end of January, I have a zillion things to do yet right now all I am thinking about are socks. Yes, you read it right. Socks. Those soft cushy things you put on your feet to keep warm and wear with shoes. What? Are you serious? Yes, I am. I am very serious. I have to confess, I have actually been thinking about socks for a few days now so it’s about time I wrote about it.

It all started when I resumed my running schedule after a few weeks of rest. Most days, running is a bore and I do it just so that I can eat and have that delicant piece of sinful chocolate that melts in your mouth. However, one day a week or so again, I ran and ran and for the first time in a long time, I felt that running was enjoyable.

It was fun, relaxing and I enjoyed feeling my feet pacing up and down on the treadmill. I felt bouncy and my feet were happy. I could run more than I had for awhile.

I wondered if it was runner’s high, but it wasn’t. I thought that maybe it was because I had slept a lot the night before, but it wasn’t or maybe it was because I had eaten lots of carbs. It’s true these things help running, but on that day the only deviation from the norm I could think of was the socks I was wearing.

I had just rediscovered my Thorlo running socks that I had bought in the US and hardly use. I have to tell you, they are in a league of their own from the normal sports socks I usually buy. I mean, socks, you put them on your feet and stuff them in your shoe. Why spend lots on them? Now I know why. They make the exeperience that much better. There was soft cushioning on the base and the material with which it was made keeps your feet dry and cool. Awesome. Now I’m fascinated by socks and am no longer going back to those skimpy running socks I used to buy.

My sock world has now changed. I am going to splurge for happy feet. (I guess it will make me enjoy running more too) What about you? Do you have any running socks you like in particular? Please share.

In case you want to try out some cool socks, I found a review on socks on runner’s world (http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-240-320–13925-1-1X2-3,00.html) Have fun!

Christmas Weight Tip: Ramp up your running

Since the flood prevented me from exercising regularly and now that it has gone, I find myself in the festive season with my weight going uphill.  I gained 3kgs last week (now 2kg down and 1kg left to go) which is the most I’ve ever gained in the last year or so.  It’s during festive times like these when our weight go up and up. (I mean it’s a time for meeting friends, hanging out and having fun.  What this means is a lot of eating, drinking and late nights.  A routine that is wonderfully suited to gaining weight. )  Fear not, with some exercising planning, you can keep your weight in control and get it back down before you find yourself unable to fit into the pretty dress you had ready for New Year’s Eve.

Of course, in between meals do not forget to also watch what you eat.  The more you eat the harder you have to work at burning it out.  Since I gained 3kgs, I had to find a way to get it down and fast it must before it reaches a new steady state.  When the weight is in a steady state (meaning at a level for a longer period of time), it becomes harder to burn it off (for me anyways).

What to do?  Add an extra day or two to your weekly exercise routine.  For example, if I used to run two times a week, I now run three.  If I feel like I’ve been eating like there were no tomorrow, then I will run four times a week.  The more I eat, the more I run.

If you can do it, running two days in a row will also just push that metabolism up and burn burn the fat away.

Don’t forget to give yourself an hour rest after the running before your next meal.  This lets your body burn fat for an extra hour after you run.

So yes, beat the Christmas weight gain and go run!  If you want to eat, then you gotta run! Good food makes running worthwhile. 🙂

Love Thyself

Many people think health comes along when you have another “half” another “soul” to be by your side. Some say “love” will make you lose weight, be healthy.  There is some truth to it, but I think that is somewhat oversimplified.  You do not need to have “someone” to get healthy.  The only reason you should get healthy and lose weight is because you dearly want to yourself.  Because you love yourself and you think that you are worthy of the attention.  Once you have found that love for yourself, then love for another comes more easily.

Health is a great cure for the soul. It rejunevates, energizes and gives you strength you previously didn’t know you had.  You can somehow run those few kilometers and walk up flights of stairs without feeling tired. Walks that were once unappealing, now seem like a little walk in the garden.  The hot weather becomes less annoying, and the chair more comfortable. Yes, even just sitting on chairs becomes a more enjoyable experience. One can now twist and turn around in the chair without feeling restricted by its side. (If you’ve been stranded in a small chair, you’d know how uncomfortable it can be)  It feels great to not have to worry nor be tired out by little daily tasks.

Shopping becomes a whole new experience.  Now the question is not whether A or B will fit me, but whether A or B will look better on me?  The choice is limitless.  I no longer have to settle for the shirt that fits, over the style I’d rather be wearing.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  A new found happiness.

To enjoy all these benefits I think are a few of the gifts of good health.  You don’t need any other “incentive” other than a love for yourself.  If you lost weight only when you were in love, and only for other people, does this mean that the rest of the time you will regain that weight and forever remain chubby ?  It’s a vicious cycle.  If even you do not love yourself, who then would love you? Since no one loves you, then you’d eat and gain weight?

So love yourself, love the wonderful person you are and take care of your health.  Have a good health everyone!  Who knows what could happen then? Lightning could strike.

Don’t Think, Just Run

I feel like I’ve somewhat passed a strenuous physical exam after recovering from a super strong strain of flu that had my brain dizzy, muscles sore and made me just collapse into a sleeping beauty every night.  My immune system is now super charged and ready to take on what come.  Now it’s time to get ready for the Bangkok Marathon in November.  This week, I’ve started doing extra long runs at the gym. (Not really that long for a professional runner, but long for me)

I usually run two sets of ten minutes in the mornings, but that is really not far at all.  It takes me only roughly a little over a kilometer.  To make 5km, I’m going to have to keep running and running and running. Running for around 40 minutes non-stop.

To do that, this week I’ve been doing running stretches of 20 minutes.  Knowing that my brain would want to give up after ten minutes, I eased myself into running 20 minutes by lowering the speed slightly, but keeping the incline at 1% (so that the treadmill will resemble the outdoor a bit more).

I also had to stop thinking.  Yes, don’t think when you run.

If I think, I always end up stopping.  So I had to keep telling my brain to just ignore the thought process for awhile and kill off the voices from the lazy me inside.  Every five minutes, my lazy me would go through the cycle of trying to talk itself into stopping.

“Five minutes is a nice round number, yes let’s stop here for a bit.”  At this point, my lazy me is smiling and making the stop seem so pleasant.

“No, I’d reply.  Another five minutes then we can stop”  Yes, I trick myself every five minutes to run another five minutes. (I say I’d stop, but actually I won’t, because I’d trick myself again later.)

This self tricking involves not looking at the timer on the treadmill when the seconds count down from 4.56 mins to 4.57mins  to 4.58mins then 4.59mins.  My heart gives a big thump.  I must not give in, no I won’t and so I ignore this awful timer and instead try to look around the room at the other people running and exercising. I look out the window, watch the flickering TV screen and note to myself that the grandpa on the other treadmill seems fitter than me.  By the time I look again it becomes 5.10mins and then I say to myself,

“Haha!! you passed the round number, might as well run to the next round number. You know you are going to feel like a better person for having finished the entire run than giving up on yourself halfway.”

When I finish the run, it is indeed a feeling of accomplishment.  Even though how little the accomplishment, I think it’s a great way to start the day.  You won over yourself and ran a full 20 minutes. You killed the lazy voices, put them in coma.  Next week it’s going to have to start being 25 minute runs.

Yes, lets all stop thinking and just run!  RUN for your health, run for yourself, run for a new life.

Get Ready for the 2011 Bangkok Marathon

This morning while running, I thought about the upcoming Bangkok Marathon.  I have to get a little more serious in my running.  In 53 days, the Bangkok Marathon will be held as it has been for the past few years.  On November 20, 2011 tens of thousands of people will be out running in the wee mornings of the day.  I will be there.  Let’s all be there.  Let’s go out, have some exercise and enjoy the experience.

For those of you who have never joined the marathon, let me tell you this.  Once you’ve experienced it, you will want to keep coming back.  It’s fun, it’s exciting and its open the everyone.  How often do you get to run on the street by the Grand Palace and watch the sunrise?

You don’t have to run the entire 42km marathon.  They have the 10K as well as the 5K for you to choose from.  I will be doing the 5K.  I want to run it all and not walk.

The first time I joined the marathon was 4 years ago, I was unfit, overweight and yes, I let many MANY people pass me by.  One of my most memorable moments was when I was huffling and puffling, red faced and short of breath. Then I looked towards my left and spotted a lady pushing another lady who was sitting on a wheelchair pass me by.  They both looked happy and not in the least bit tired.   That was a “down” moment.  I was overtaken by a lady pushing a wheelchair.   Imagine that.

The second time I joined, I had lost 15K and was running with Alex. I have to tell you the experience was a lot better.  I ran almost halfway before I took a walking break and yes, I finished it all in around 40 minutes which is not too bad for me.  I wasn’t huffling and puffing as much and my heart felt a lot stronger.  It was fun, I met friends, took photos and had a blast of a time.

This year will be third year, and I think I will finish the 5K with an even better timing than the last.  Of course, one must always aim for improvements.

So mark your calendars everyone.  November 20,2011.  Let’s all join the Bangkok Marathon.  Let’s have some “me” time and exercise!

Fear not that you won’t make it.  As a friend said the other day, “Once you start, you’ve gotta finish it.” I totally agree. No matter how long it takes, you will finish it.  Start little, start short distances if you are unsure.  5K is really not much at all. 🙂

Oh, here’s their website!  http://www.bkkmarathon.com/eng/index.php

Health Check Results

I just got my health check results today.  It’s always a bit nerve-racking when you receive the results in a sealed package and have to open it.  It makes you wonder what will be written inside.  How will my cholesterol be this year? Am I going to have high triglyceride levels?   It’s a time when you cannot run away from reality and the numbers are either telling you good or not so good news.  Getting the health check result is like getting a reality check.

A reality check that tells you how well, or not well, you have been treating your body.

A few years ago when I was at my “peak” (in terms of being overweight and unhealthy, not peak fitness level!), I never liked the health check results.  It was always had the same phrases on them:  “Lose some weight, eat healthier, exercise, cholesterol levels are high, avoid fatty foods and dairy products.”

Yes, I remember them all. It was always there and I read them year after year.  It became something predictable.  I’d start exercising for a few months and then somehow the effects of the reality check would subside. I’d forget the results, forget the exercise and go back to my unhealthy habits.  “So what?” I thought to myself, “it’s not that serious.  I’m not in any high risk level.  Just slightly overweight.”

It takes awhile for all the bad habits and unhealthy lifestyle to readjust and find its footing.

I think it was the body composition test that hit me hard. I was composed of roughly 40 percent of fat. (Yes, I still have the results with me) “Gosh, I’m a walking 40 percent blob of fat.” I thought to myself.  I was “almost” in the “obese” category.  A scary thought.  Just a few grams more and I would have been I think.

I lost 15 kg by the end of 2009. Started running.  In mid year 2010, my health check showed a slight improvement in cholesterol levels, but it was still above the 200 recommended level.

Now finally almost 2 years since I started running, my cholesterol level has gone below the 200 level.  It went down 10 from last year.  I’m esctatic.  I’m delighted.  It’s even lower than when I was 29 years old.  (That’s the oldest health report I could find).  Other blood test results have turned up better too.

All that exercise and running is definitely worth it.  Yes, I will probably have to keep running the rest of my life, but I love the fact now that I get tired a lot less.  I can withstand the heat more and walk without feeling tired.

Let’s all exercise regularly and take care of our bodies.  It’s the only one we have (for this lifetime anyways)  Cherish it more than anything else, for without good health, you don’t have anything in this world.  Imagine, you might not even be able to walk or go see your favorite movie… Here’s to good health!

YOU are a Priority

Oftentimes we spend our lives taking care of others and forget the most important person:  ourself.  You find your days and hours devoted to taking care of family members, taking care of clients and customers and work non-stop to meet deadlines.  Work consumes us alive as well as the zillion other tasks we have to get done in our daily lives.

Now how much time you spend taking care of family members of course depends on how large your family is.  It can include parents, siblings, your spouse, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents, inlaws, etc.  If you have a large family, this of course will consume quite a bit of your time.  If you have children, you will most often be preoccupied taking care of them.  I don’t have any but from what I see, having children is a full time job.  From the moment you wake up, until the time you fall asleep there are things that need to get done.  Many times, parents forget to take care of themselves, their relationships and the household ends up running on clockwork.  The parents forget why they are together.

I remember reading an article in Shape Magazine one day about how a mother of several children  managed to stay in shape and remain healthy.   Parents who are capable of handling business, taking care of the kids, while staying healthy and happy inspire me. This lady said one of her tricks was to post on her fridge a reminder that her time was also a priority.  That her time too was just as important as those of the kids.

That I think is important to remember.  No matter how busy you are at work, no matter how many deadlines there are, or how busy you are taking care of your family, do not forget to take care of yourself.  Your health is a priority. YOU are a priority.  For if you don’t take care of yourself, who will?  Do not expect others to take care of you, they are not you.

Once you take care of your physical health, you will realize that this will spread to a better mental health.  You will be less stressed and emotionally stronger.  Interestingly you will also discover you “seemingly” have more time.  Being in good health allows you to take better care of everyone else.  Therefore spending a little more “me” time is actually beneficial to all those around you!

Here’s to good health everyone! And remember, without good health (both physical and mental), you have nothing 🙂

Running Tip: Breathe from da Belly

This morning I went running and still even though its been over a year since I started running, I still can’t quite get the breathing right. I take short breaths in and long breaths out. I gasp for air and my legs start to go all wobbly. All I can think is when do I next get to stop. Oxygen isn’t getting to me fast enough. I feel like I’m suffocating a little. I can feel my lungs heave against my chest. I reach the end of my minutes and I heave for air.

This is not how my breathing should be and it makes me tire more easily than I should. There has to be a better way to breathe. I can’t quite get over my neighbour who is running along as if he were out on the countryside smiling, looking left and right. His breathing is calm and relaxed. His running looks so easy. His feet are quiet. I take a peak at his speed and he’s running at 10.5 km/hour! Wow. That’s very fit..I’m doing 9km/hour and I’m huffing and puffing like I was a big bad wolf about to blow down houses. My face has turned all red and sweat trickles down my face.

This huffing and puffing has just got to stop. On runner’s world website today I found a great article on “Lung Power.” It mentions how good runners must also train their diaphragms which is a muscle that helps you breathe.

I discover that what I do wrong is breathe from the chest. We are supposed to breathe from the belly. A good way to test according to the article is to have one hand on your chest, and another on your belly. When you take in a deep breath from your belly your belly should expand like a balloon with your chest remaining still. I do the exact opposite when I run. When I inhale, my stomach goes in when its supposed to go out! No wonder…

The best way they say is to practice even when you aren’t running. Pilates is supposed to help. I suppose I’d better start going back to those Pilates lessons I’ve only managed to do a few times. They’re great, but incredibly tiring! I think Yoga should help too. That’s something I keep doing on and off also.

So next time you run, remember to take deep breaths with your belly! 🙂 Happy running!

P.S. The article has some great vdos on Pilates exercises you can do to help your breathing… 🙂