A kid’s point of view: Back in action!

By Colleen, age 12

colleenLast night I went with my friend Dani to a soccer open gym run by the high school coach. First we ran 2 laps around the school. I fared pretty well, which was nice considering I really haven’t run since basketball. Luckily the doctor gave the me the “all clear” this week on my stress fracture. I still have to wear my brace for a while but finally I can play!

Then we did some cone drills that I definitely could have done better. Finally, the fun part came: scrimmage! I was on the same team as Dani. On one end of the gym, we used the wall pads for a goal. On the other side, however, we just put 2 bags of soccer balls about 10 feet apart against the wall. That was definitely the most sports fun I have had since I basketball!

I was fairly nervous about going to open gym at first, but now I really think I’m going to be fond of them. I mean, I got 13,000 steps on my FitBit! I usually barely get 12,000. Plus it’s interesting to run through the school when it’s dark and nobody is there.

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Chia seed pudding is like tapioica on steroids

Chia seeds gelatinize liquids, turning them into a kind of pudding.

Chia seeds gelatinize liquids, turning them into a kind of pudding.

Why would anyone eat tapioca pudding when they could have chia seed pudding instead?

Frankly, I could go the rest of my life without eating tapioca – also known as “frog spawn” in some circles because of its gooey little balls of texture.  It comes from an actual  plant – who knew? – but as far as nutrition goes, it’s pretty starchy. One cup (of tapioca pearls, not the pudding) has 544 calories and 134 carbs, with less than a gram of protein.

Tapioca pearls are tiny balls of starch extracted from the Cassava root.

Tapioca pearls are tiny balls of starch extracted from the Cassava root.

Chia seeds, on the other hand, are a nutritional powerhouse food, touted as a source of energy among the Tarahumara “running people” in Christopher McDougall’s book, Born to Run.

We’ve had some around the house for a while, but I’ve only used them in their seed form. Turns out if you stir them into a liquid – in this case, almond milk – the tiny seeds soften up and convert the liquid into a gel.

Some runners use a homemade chia gel in place of energy gels. I don’t care for goop on the run myself (I prefer honey balls). But the chia pudding in neurologist and author David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain Cookbook sounded like a major upgrade from the tapioca pudding I remember from my childhood. And I have to say, it was actually fairly tasty, even if it does look somewhat similar to tapioca.

Raw Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seeds are pretty normal looking. I used 1/4 cup in my most recent half-batch (just in case I eat the whole thing)!

Chia seeds are pretty normal looking in their dry state. I used 1/4 cup in my most recent half-batch (just in case I eat the whole thing)!

2 cups almond or coconut milk (we used almond)

2 Tablespoons almond butter (I used 2 T. of PB2, a dehydrated peanut butter powder, instead)

1 T. stevia (I used one packet)

1 t. almond or vanilla extract

½ cup chia seeds

Stir the powdered ingredients into the milk, then add the chia seeds and refrigerate overnight to allow the seeds to soften and thicken the pudding. Top with blueberries, if you like.

Note A: This recipe is supposed to make four servings, but since I’m the only person who eats it at this point I prefer to make a smaller batch so that if I’m tempted to eat the whole thing (duh!), it won’t be such a calorie hit.

Note B: The recipe in the book calls for almond butter and recommends running the concoction through a blender. Since I used powders I just stirred it with a fork and it turned out fine, but if you use a nut butter you might want to go with a blender.

Nutrition information (per ¼ batch serving, as made per the original recipe using almond butter): 160 calories, 14 carbs, 9 grams fiber, 5 grams protein, 10 grams fat, and 2 grams sugar.

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Building a circuit workout you can live with

I HATE circuit workouts.

Remember this? This is the only exercise video I ever learned to do all the way through.

Remember this? This is the only exercise video I ever learned to do all the way through.

I’m not one of those people who can “sight read” an exercise video, so it takes me a while to learn one well enough to follow along. Usually I run out of patience long before that happens. In fact, the only workout video I ever actually “learned” was a Jane Fonda step aerobics video back in the 1980s.

But my Mondays are super busy, so one of those 20-minute high-intensity circuit workouts that work a bunch of muscles is a good fit on those days – especially during Janathon, when I’m trying to do something every single day.

The workout I’ve been doing this month might be the one that gets me over the hump, though, because I’m building it myself, using simple moves I already know.

I’ve written before about Dr. Temple Grandin’s philosophy of improving oneself  by “building from the ground up” (improving on past successes) rather than “from the top down” (struggling to emulate others). This really works for me, in all areas of my life where I’ve applied it. So when it came to building a circuit workout from the ground up, I started with what I already had in my fitness repertoire.

My primary concern was getting my heart rate up. For that, I went with 5-minute chunks of step aerobics. Then I added two simple moves that nonetheless are challenging, at least to me: Planks and kettle bell squats.

The first couple of times, that was it – just wash, rinse, repeat for four sets.

Because I knew what to do – and knew I could do it – I attacked this workout with confidence. Then the fun part began: adding moves that sounded fun or ramped up the intensity (or both).

So far the keepers are kettlebell windmills and skipping while dribbling a basketball. (The floor in our rec room is concrete). I’ve also tinkered with the planks, switching from forearms on-the-ground to more of a pushup style because that made it more like a yoga position. And that was a huge morale boost, because instead of straining through the planks I began to take slow, deep yoga breaths that made them much more workable.

I don’t recommend this circuit workout to anyone else. Build your own. You’ll like it better and do it more often.

Janathon update:

Day 19 – circuit workout

Day 20 – 20-minute treadmill ladder run, followed by basketball drills and a game of one-on-one with Colleen at the Y.


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4 years of blogging — and I still haven’t figured it out


I got a little message yesterday reminding me that it’s been four years since the creation of this blog.

In a way, it’s kind of embarrassing. Don’t I have anything better to do? With four kids and three part-time jobs, it’s not like I have too much time on my hands.

It used to be interesting to see how many people stopped by, and from what part of the planet. But I stopped paying attention to blog stats a long time ago, which is why I’d forgotten it was anniversary time.

The idea back on Jan. 19, 2011 was to try to figure out what to tell people when they asked the inevitable question, “So how’d you lose all that weight, anyway?” “Diet and exercise” seemed like an insufficient, almost smart-alecky response, even if it was the simplest and most accurate version of the truth.

“Weight Watchers and jogging” provided a bit more specificity, but I knew there were dozens of changes large and small in my thinking and behavior that had ultimately made the difference, and I was determined to figure those out – partly to help others who were genuinely looking for answers but also to construct a road map for myself. So that if I ever got lost again, I could find my way back.

That led to a series of interviews with people I considered to be naturally thin, to see if I could learn whatever it was they did to avoid weight gain. (I’ve been revisiting this topic lately, here and here.)

In the years since I’ve managed to adopt some of those habits, while I’m still working on others. I still like to ask people why and how they eat the way they do, though I’d like to think I don’t pester them quite as much as I used to.

And along the way I’ve continued to explore my love of running, which has lately gotten me hooked on trails – the more rustic, the better.

At the most basic level, this blog keeps me focused on health and fitness. Letting up now doesn’t seem like a great idea, especially since I recently turned 50.

But the biggest reason I’m still writing is that, like Jake Epping in Stephen King’s 11/22/63, I’m “one of those people who never knows what (she’s) thinking until (she) writes it down.”

This blog keeps me sane. It keeps my head from exploding. And if I happen to occasionally write about something that interests even one other person besides myself, then that’s cool, too.



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Duct-tape dryness factor in foot-deep snow: 3 miles

The first time I ran a snowy trail I thought my frozen toes might fall right off – and I wondered if I’d even know it.

Stupidly, I was wearing shoes with “breathable” mesh uppers that invited the snow right in from the very first step.  Eventually, after my blood got flowing a couple of miles in, my toes rejoined the rest of my body. But my socks and feet were soaked the entire time.

Duct tape, screws and new inserts made these ancient running shoes feel pretty good again, at least on the trail or on snow and ice.

Duct tape, screws and new inserts made these ancient running shoes feel pretty good again, at least on the trail or on snow and ice.

Late last week I took my duct-taped shoes out for a trail run in snow that came halfway up my shins. The sun on the snowy trees was dazzling, so much so that I didn’t mind – or really, hardly even notice – the effort involved in breaking through the crust with every step and then having to pull my foot back out again.

Eventually all that extra gravity pooped me out, and I walked for a while, only to notice that I sunk in much deeper. So then I’d start running again, until I got pooped again. And so on.

Occupied with this problem – yet still somewhat euphoric to be cavorting in this silent winter wonderland – it took me a long time to come to the realization that, amazingly, my feet still felt dry and comfy.

It wasn’t until the last mile or so of what ended up as a 4-mile run (I took a shortcut, given my difficulties) that the duct tape started to come loose and let moisture in my shoes.

By the end, my socks were nearly as soaked as on the previous snow trail run. But those first 3 miles my toes were as dry and toasty as if there were no snow at all — and that made a huge difference.

Makes me wonder how long my feet would stay dry in powdery snow, without constantly plunging through a crust. Clearly, more research is required…

Janathon update:

Day 15 — 4 mile snowy trail run/walk

Day 16 — 4 mile test run with my sister, trying out her sore knee. The verdict: Still sore

Day 17 — 30-minute fast walk around the rec room, decelerating from a day of driving to and from a funeral in Kalamazoo. (My husband hadn’t seen his cousin in 22 years, and she burst into tears when she saw him.)

Day 18 –Squeezed in a 20 minute treadmill run at the Y, plus 5 minutes on the stairmaster that stands so tall it makes you feel like Shaq towering over the rest of the room.

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A kid’s point of view: Stress fracture countdown

By Colleen, age 12

I cannot wait for Tuesday. As soon as I get the all clear from the doctor, I am probably going to jog out of Fort Wayne Orthopedics. And then I am going to run to the Y and play some basketball!

colleenOf course, I say this now and I might jinx myself and then I won’t get cleared. But I am pretty confident that my stress fracture is healing. I can’t wait!

I will also FINALLY be able to go to soccer with Dani! And I can finally run again. It’s funny how I don’t like running that much until I can’t, then I love it. I will probably just run around for awhile after my doctor’s appointment to burn off all the energy I was building up when I coundn’t run.

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1 weird way my memory’s getting better with age

When I went to renew my library card last month, the guy at the help desk demanded I get a new one – the one I’d been using the last 13 years was worn out. Unfortunately, the new card came with a new number.

“But I’ve got that number memorized,” I whined. “I type it in every week when I renew books online.”

Lesson to my kids: Whining never works. (Not that they ever read these blog posts, with the possible exception of 12-year-old Colleen.)

Anyway, the point is that I had yet another number to program into my life. Fourteen digits – five more than my social security number! Despite my griping, however, I’ve already got it memorized. Even though my hard drive is obviously faltering when it comes to retrieving things like names,  conversation snippets  and whether or not I owned a certain Duran Duran album in the 1980s (a question that came up over the holidays), it turns out that I’m getting better at memorizing numbers the older I get.

After half a century on this earth, I’ve got so many number fragments floating around my brain that there’s almost no code or unwieldy account number that I can’t break down into area codes, birthdays, uniform numbers or historic dates from my past.

Just recently, for instance, I picked up a couple of new combination locks to take to the Y. At first I wrote the code on my hand so I wouldn’t forget it. But both turned out to be not only exceedingly simple, but eerily similar — the first two numbers either doubled or were cut in half, while both third numbers turned out to be lifted from various baseball uniforms in Ben’s past.

Now that I’ve picked up on this weird phenomenon, I figure I might as well go ahead and memorize other numbers that might simplify my life. Maybe that will help declutter my brain in the process.

Janathon Day 14 workout: Playing in the snow on Ben’s mountain bike. It was still just barely above zero, too cold for me to want to go too far down the road, but it was a hoot to see how well that bike churns through snow in the driveway.


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