I gained weight.

One thing I’m struggling with right now is the fact that I am gaining weight.

About 8 pounds.  I know…you’re thinking 8 pounds…hmmm.  That’s not a lot.  But for someone who started this fitness journey at 100 pounds, this weight gain is really freaking me out.  I guess it’s because most people measure their fitness achievements in weight loss.  Maybe I didn’t have anything to lose?

I know that I have been eating really healthy, have cut out alcohol-ish (except on special occasions), and have kept my daily caloric intake between 1300-1700 calories.  I also workout about five times a week, and this isn’t the typical “get on the elliptical and sweat a little” workout; if I’m not doing Les Mills BodyPump, BodyAttack or CXWorks, then I’m running at least a 5k or lifting on my own.

I’m not 100 percent sure, but I’m pretty sure that this weight gain can can only be attributed to muscle growth.  And maybe because I’m working outside for a few hours everyday in the heat – I’m drinking more water and I feel like my body is swelling…can a person’s body swell from warm/hot temperatures?

Anyways, aside from trying to eat healthier and in a way that will fuel my activity level, my workouts have intensified in the past year.  I know I’m gaining muscle; the way my body is cut is very different than it was last summer.  I actually have abdominal muscles now, which protrude a bit on my tiny stomach.  This is new.  When you go from being skinny and having no stomach to having muscles grow where they have never been, it’s a little weird and I’m not exactly sure how to feel about it.

My body has changed (and is changing) into what I can only describe as an “athletic build”.  I was never “cut” before, and now I can really make out the definition in certain areas without flexing.  During BodyPump, I look at myself in the mirror and ask, “Is this the girl who used to despise fitness?”  She is now obsessed.  She now has definition.  What happened to this girl who was afraid to sweat?

I’m also so much stronger and faster.  I never thought I would be capable of doing some of the things I do in the gym or on runs.  And to be quite honest, I didn’t even know this level of fitness existed.  Now, I’m really getting intense in my workouts and pushing myself to the max.  And I love the way it makes me feel.  I love being fast.  I love lifting challenging weight in BodyPump or not taking a break and going all out during Attack.  The pool of sweat on the floor is proof that I’m working hard.  It’s like I’m proving that I can do what once wasn’t possible.

But I’m still adjusting to the changes I see in my body.

If I showed you a before and after photo, you might even think, “Hey she looks BIGGER after“.  So I have this dilemma because I don’t feel like I’m being a good fitness example.  Sure, I’m strong and my endurance is great, but I feel like there’s nothing to show in terms of weight loss.  I’m also not eating like a rabbit, because I am a foodie, and I workout to be able to enjoy good food (yes, like pork belly and fried things).  This means that I’m not all muscle because my dietary habits aren’t all carrots and celery.  You get what I’m saying?

So that’s my dilemma.

Question: Are there any tiny people out there who have put on weight and muscle since working out?  Did it bother you?  Was it visible?  Did you change your routine at all?

On a more positive note, at least I could probably reach the required weight to give blood now – 110 pounds!

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I’m not very fast.  In fact, my running pace is just enough to be considered “running”.

But running isn’t about beating the person next to you; it’s about accomplishing something for yourself.  It’s about improving your personal speed by five seconds every week.  It’s about running just .5 mile more without stopping than you did yesterday.

Our bodies are all different, and no matter how great of shape you’re in, sometimes you just aren’t able to run a 7 minute mile.  Even if you’re at a 10 minute (or more)/mile pace, you’re still running.  And that’s amazing.

Two weekends ago, on April 13th, I got to run in the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, which is one of my favorite races.  When I first ran this race in Spring 2011, I fell in love.  It was (and still has been) one of my longest races at 6.2 miles.  The first year I ran, it was pretty chilly, and then last year, it was drizzly and cool (my favorite running weather), but this year, it was a beautiful, sunny 60 degree day.

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Qualified to run in a seeded wave this year!

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Starting line

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One of America’s Premier Races!

The Monument Avenue 10k is such a friendly race, and I believe it is in the top 10 of America’s most popular races.  There were 32,000 runners to complete the race this year!  It’s also incredibly organized with like 30 something start-time waves, a lot of water stops, a post-race party and meeting area, shuttles to the race, and even a bike valet!  It is run down and back one of America’s only historically recognized streets, Monument Avenue, which is absolutely beautiful and dotted with a handful of monuments recognizing great American leaders.  Part of it is run on cobblestones, which makes for a more challenging course, but it is relatively flat.  It is a wonderful “first” race, if you are looking for something longer than a 5k or have been running for a while, and trust me, if you’ve never done a race before, you will be addicted to running afterwards.  There are also walker waves – it’s a family friendly race!

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Happy Runner?

The community support along the route is amazing.  People standing on the sidewalk, cheering, clapping…clowns, cheerleaders, dancers, great signs like “I’d run, but who would hold this sign!” and “Free beer for quitters” (people are partying on their front decks and balconies along the course).  I see red solo cups and I run faster, if you know what I mean.  Bands line the street, bubbles are in the air.  It’s so much fun.  I am also really proud of my hometown for putting together an organized, exciting race every year that thousands come to participate in.  Great job RVA!  And props to SportsBackers, the non-profit that organizes many of the region’s races!

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Sweaty Asian Runner?

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American Gothic runners? These two won first place in the “Dress Up and Run” contest…and they ran the 10k holding the frame just like this!

Okay, to be honest, about mile 4, you might feel like you’re dying and want to quit.  But it’s still fun.

I really hadn’t set a “goal” time this year because I didn’t have a lot of time to train.  Of course, as a runner, we all like to do better than our previous PR (Personal Record).  And I ended up being decently happy with my time which was…

58 minutes, 10 seconds.  The exact same time as last year.  To the second.  Well, at least I can say I’m consistent.  However, my 5k split was faster, which bodes well for future 5k races!

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Yay! Finished!

Mom and Dad drove me to the race and watched this year.  Also, they probably saw me at my worst, at like mile 5.5 when I was kind of dying a little.  Still, it was great to have their support!

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Mom, the non-runner.

And then, I rode a runner’s high for the rest of the afternoon before the soreness hit the next day.  Runner’s high = Best feeling in the entire world.  I drove back to the DC area on Monday, but since I’ve been back, I’ve been nursing some weird stomach issue and haven’t felt like running, but I feel like I’m finally getting back to normal.  I’m excited to lace up my shoes for my next run though.  Maybe the next race will be a half-marathon? Maybe? Who knows!

Happy running!

We run to overcome.

My heart absolutely breaks for the runners, volunteers and spectators in Boston yesterday.  As a runner myself, and having just finished the Monument Avenue 10k in Richmond that over 32,000 people completed, I was in disbelief that someone could be filled with such evil and selfishness to destroy a day that is supposed to be filled with happiness and celebration.

While I share, along with the rest of the world, the disbelief and sadness of these events,  I wanted to take a different route in the words I’ve decided to put here.  Instead of writing about the bad, I wanted to write about the event that this evil affected.  I want to write about the power of running.

Why do we run? 

We run to clear our heads when life gets stressful.

We run to prove to ourselves that we are capable of doing what we thought we could not.

We run to show ourselves that we can overcome.

Running takes dedication and commitment.  We lace up our shoes before the sun rises, or hit the pavement after a long day of work.  We trudge up hills and feel the sweat dripping down our faces.  It teaches us transformation through dedication.  Generally, in life, we don’t get to where we want to be overnight or without frustration, maybe even failure at first.  To experience both physical and mental transformation, a lot of diligence, persistence and patience come into play.  Success doesn’t come overnight.  Running teaches us that.

To me, running has always been a metaphor for life.  Things get tough.  We face adversity.  Last year, a few weeks before I ran the 2012 Monument Avenue 10k, I had my heart broken.  I was devastated because I had made a life with this person, and I didn’t know what direction my life was going to take without him.  But I was set on running this amazing race that over 40,000 people from all over the country and world come to participate in – a wonderful mass of humanity.  I knew that the spectators and the positive encouragement along the course would be one of the best cures for sadness.  And on mile 4, when I started to get my runner’s high, I remember telling myself that I was capable of anything.  In that moment, I could fly if I wanted to.  I didn’t need another person to make me feel some sense of worth.

Running helped, and still helps me when things get difficult.

Running teaches us resilience.  There are times we want to stop and give up.  Our minds tell us we’re through, we’re done, we’re going to pass out from fatigue.  That we are defeated.  There are days where we have sub-par runs, but we must get up tomorrow.  The sun rises and it’s a chance to begin again.  A new day; a new run.  One thing runners learn very early on is that we must be resilient, as our bodies are strong enough to keep pushing forward.  In running, and in life, we are stronger than we thought.

We can get through this.

We can get through the events of Boston, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and Virgina Tech.  We’re resilient, but we never forget.  Our lives move forward, and if anything, they move forward in a fashion where we hold the people close to us dear, where we remember to say “I love you”, where we don’t let the trivial things get to us as much.  We enjoy life.  We smile more.  We take time out to help and be there for others.  We realize, life is precious.  And simultaneously, when humanity bands together in times of turmoil, we discover, we are loved.

We also see that race events, whether it be a 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or the full 26.2 bring out the absolute best in people.

I posted this as my Facebook status yesterday, and I’ll close this post with the same thoughts:

“The thing I love most about races is the feeling of “oneness” between total strangers.  There’s so much love and support for people we don’t even know; people cheering you on with words of encouragement, giving free high fives and countless smiles that keep you pushing forward when you want to stop, when things get tough.  Running races reminds me there’s still good in the world.  There are still people on your side.  Thoughts and prayers to all the people at the Boston Marathon today.”

Run, run to the treadmill, as fast as you can!

I’ve been trying to get my workouts done in the AM so I can go home in the evenings and relax/get things done/cook, etc.  This morning, I woke up at 4:45 am (I was already weirdly awake and couldn’t get back to sleep), and headed down to the gym.  The place I moved has workout facilities, which are really like one treadmill, a stationary bike, and some weight machines from the 1970s.  It sucks when you want to use the treadmill and someone is on it, but usually I can find it free.  The other apartment buildings in the complex have workout rooms, but the treadmills are on uneven ground and they make a horrible noise (the one in my building is on carpet).  It’s so convenient to be able to go down to the basement, or run on the W&OD trail right near the apartment when the weather is nice.

Here’s one issue:  There’s this older lady with a severe attitude problem who, when she saw me enter the workout room this past Monday morning at 6 am, told me that ‘nobody ever comes down to the gym that early except her, and she needs to use the treadmill and walk for an hour because she has an injury’…and implied, ‘don’t try to use the treadmill in the morning’ between 5:30 am –  7 am.  If she didn’t have such an attitude the first time she spoke to me, I maybe would adjust my workouts, to fit her needs, but,  I, too need the treadmill in the morning.  If I get the treadmill first, I’m going to use it until I am done.  You snooze, you lose! Wow, DC has turned me into a biatch, huh?  I kind of felt a little bad because I was on mile 2 when she came in…she asked how much longer I would be just as I was hitting my runner’s high, and I told her 10 minutes, and it ended up being 20.  Hey! I was having a good run that turned into 4.25 miles!  I figure that if I can start my run at 5:15 am, she can use the machine at 6 am, which was when she started using it the first time I saw her.  Oh, and can I also say, she brings in a radio with a 2 foot antenna that has to be plugged in.  Classy.

Anyways, I’m trying to do this morning thing because I’ve been lacking some serious willpower to spend another 2 hours in the gym after a long workday; my energy levels are really low, and I also have a problem with feeling nourished enough to have a satisfying workout.  I also am a huge grouch at the end of the day and the gym feels like a huge chore.  But this morning, once I started going, I felt so calm and clear-minded.

I’m also training for the Monument Ave 10k, which is my favorite race ever! It’s seriously so much fun, and this year, I’m starting in a 58 minute seeded wave.  Hopefully, I can beat my PR from last year, but if I don’t, it’s not the end of the world.

Kind of unrelated to this morning but…I  have an extreme love-hate relationship with running.

Running is so awesome.  I love a good runners high around mile 2.5.  I love that I can listen to my own music and jam out during a run!  I love that I can measure my improvement by speed and distance, and I can see visible changes both negative and positive.  I love when I can run outside and in nature…looking at trees and flowers, or shops and pretty houses.  It makes you feel strong and healthy and can be exhilarating at times.  And when you are done, all is good with the world.  Races are so much fun, all the supportive people cheering you on, the chance to run for a good cause, free goodies…and you get to compete against yourself – be your personal best.

Issues I have with running:  Hard on knees and ankles; seasonal (I just want to run outside in the mid 60s!); some days are good and some days really suck and you can’t be fast; treadmills are dreadmills;  can get boring; for some reason, it makes my stomach hurt so I have to watch what I eat before I run.

Anyways, do you workout/run in the morning? How do you motivate yourself to get up and going? How would you deal with the old grouchy lady (talk to her, ignore her, make some compromise, get to the treadmill before her)? What are your favorite songs to jam out to on a run (right now I’m loving some Armin Van Buuren!)?

My “Skinny-Fat” Days

Before I get into posts on this “I’m doing INSANITY, Yay!” topic, I think it might help for readers to understand my fitness journey.

Whenever I tell people that I’ve got to get to the gym, or I shouldn’t eat these french fries, a lot of people are like, “You’re so tiny…You do not…What is your prooooblem?”  And true, I’ve always been very tiny, 5′ 1″ and never more than 110 lbs.

But it’s not even about weight to me.  I don’t need to lose weight, but I do need to focus on wellness and strength.  What you might not know is that I was obese in my Freshmen year of high school.  At 107 lbs., I was obese because I had more fat than muscle.  Completely mind blowing!  How could this be possible?  I was probably the smallest girl in my class, wore a size 1/2, but I was obese.  Appearances can be deceiving.

So this, along with a family health scare a few years before, was a huge wake up call.  Everything started in middle school when my dad had a couple of heart issues.  Not a full blown heart attack, but high blood pressure and a blockage that he had to spend some time in the hospital for and could have been way worse if not caught.  We joke that it was caused by working late nights at the office and stopping by McDonald’s on the way home for dinner at 11 pm.  Well, this was partially true, and did happen.  We, as a family, ate a lot of fast food (probably 1-3 times a week), went to the buffet places a lot, and didn’t buy the healthiest products.

After this happened, my parents joined a gym and fast food became non-existant in our house.  My parents became healthier, but the real results were seen in my mom’s drastic weight loss.  It was weird, because the weight seemed to come off and nobody noticed until she dropped from a size 14/16 to a size 3/4.  She lost all her weight by working out and portion control.  AND she did this all while teaching 7th grade English.  My mom was in insane shape and I’m really proud of her accomplishment!

While my parents were getting fit, I still hated the idea of exercise.  I was a huge theatre kid and never did any sports growing up so I didn’t see the need to be sweating when it wasn’t necessary.  In high school I would go to the gym every now and then, would get on the elliptical, and sometimes do a few crunches, but that was it.  I was just like “meh” and didn’t push myself.  When we had to complete the mile run in Phys Ed class, I always tried to miss class for some reason or another, and when I did run it, I completed it in 12 minutes, feeling like I was going to throw up at the end.  I was so out of shape.  So I graduated in 2007 from high school a “skinny fat girl” who didn’t like exercise and wasn’t going to push herself because when she looked in the mirror, she didn’t “see” a reason too.

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Here’s a pictures of Mom & me when I was about 16 (and dessert to the right!) – I was a little heavier…and never worked out

When I got to college, everything changed.  Part of the change involved an ex-boyfriend of mine who was a college athlete.  He wasn’t in the best shape, but definitely better than me.  And so I started going to the gym, getting on the elliptical, doing the machines I could figure out, and jogging a little on the treadmill.

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Me in high school (I’m on the left) – sure hope that’s diet coke…

So, slowly, but surely, I started logging hours in the gym.  I started challenging myself with, “Okay, just jog 5 minutes on the treadmill without stopping.” And I started to build on that.  And it was really, really hard.  Like, “I want to throw up now” hard.  Some days I wanted to quit because my endurance levels were horrible.  And some weeks I didn’t make it to the gym at all because classes and assignments took up a lot of my time.  It wasn’t easy balancing a healthy, active lifestyle in college, but I did my best.

And then, in 2008, I did something life-changing and crazy.  I signed up for the rec center biathlon.  I went from not being about to run a mile to signing up for a mile swim, followed by a 5k.  At this point, I knew I could complete the swim, as I had been a lifeguard in high school, but I wasn’t sure I could run the entire 3.15 miles, however, I was going to see how far I could go.  This was the start of my personal challenge.  Putting myself out there for others to gauge my athletic abilities.  And I was scared.  I mean, aren’t we all when we do something for the first time?

The biathlon went really well and I surprised myself by running the entire way.  I wasn’t the fastest runner, but I completed it, and, yes, dying at the end, was so incredibly proud of myself.  I did something I never thought I could or would do in a million years.  And thus became my love affair with fitness, running, pushing myself and seeing just how far I could go.  And I have come a very long way.  Throughout college I have run multiple 5k and 10k races, logged many hours in the gym, started spinning and Les Mills classes, and, even though I also have a love affair with food, have tried to eat healthier meals that will give me the energy to keep going in my workouts.

In the past four years, I’ve become so much stronger and faster!  I went from that 12 minute mile to being able to run a sub-nine minute mile.  In 2012, I was able to run a 10k (6.2 miles) in 58:10, which is a pretty good measurement of how far I have come.

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So strong now! I got up here by myself!

 Though my weight hasn’t changed much, there is a visible difference in my body composition, endurance levels and mindset.  And I’m ready to take it to the next level by training for a half-marathon, completing the INSANITY workouts, and making fitness a bigger part of my personal and professional life.

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It is great to be strong – yay for abs!

The amazing part about fitness is that you have complete control over what happens.  There are so many things in life we don’t have control over, but each of us has the opportunity to change our bodies and health.  Sure, you might have setbacks.  For example, I injured my knee during a run and had to take running out of my workouts for a while.  And it isn’t easy.  There are weeks where I dread going to the gym, or days where I’d like to come home and nap instead of doing INSANITY.  There are nights where I’ve been out late with friends, had too many drinks and ordered a jumbo slice of pizza at 2 am.  It happens – no “body” is perfect.  We all have setbacks, but it’s about getting “back in the saddle” to keep going and putting healthy practices into our lives.

So there’s my fitness story.  And it is far from over.

Happy Sweating!

You All ROCK!

Hi Readers!

So I just want to take this moment to thank all of the people who read my blog and who have subscribed as a Follower in the past few months!  I have reached the 25 followers mark! You guys rock!  g.jpg

I know the content in my blog can be a little bit all over the place (you might see travel plans one day, and my fitness progress the next!), but it focuses on the things I’m truly passionate about in my life.  I want to encourage others to be equally passionate and share my passion with them!  I really am so excited that my blog appeals to you in some way, shape or form!

I sincerely hope to dedicate more time to my blog, especially as I continue on my personal journey.  I may be posting more fitness-related posts as I am currently involved in a really intense exercise program and want to share my results to inspire others to embrace wellness.  I may also be on the job hunt once again in the next month as my temporary job comes to an end.  While finances will be tight, I think it will allow me to seek out what I truly want to be doing with my life, whether it be a career in the fitness industry, going abroad to teach English or staying in the DC area (or a mix of all of them!).

It’s definitely time to do some soul searching.  Anyways, I just wanted to send you all a little update and thank you for the Follows!  I absolutely love sharing my interests and passion with others, and by reading my blog, you are helping me do that!

Happy Reading!

INSANE Observations & Rewards

Week 1 of INSANITY is done!  And I made it!  So here are my observations about it so far:

1) It makes you question your level of fitness.  Okay, I know I’m in shape.  I know what not being in shape is like (i.e. The Paula of yesteryear who almost passed out from running a mile) and I know what in shape is (i.e. The Paula who worked out multiple times a week, once with a trainer who told her she was more fit than 99% of her clients).  INSANITY probably isn’t for you if you’ve never worked out before, just saying.  And I’m not saying it isn’t doable for a fitness newbie, but the moves are fast and put a lot of stress on your body.  You must have proper form, or you risk injury, so this is why I’m hesitant to recommend it to you are just starting a fitness regime.  Major modifications should be made if you aren’t already somewhat in shape, or maybe another Beachbody program is more appropriate!

2) Knees, knees, knees!  Protect your knees!  Land softly and with knees bent.

3) Legal Highs.  Best endorphin high of my life.  More than you get when running.  Let’s just say that after “Pure Cardio” I may have blasted Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” danced around the room, and sang at the top of my lungs.  This was after having an absolutely horrible day where I had to push myself to not take a nap after work and get my workout in.  I then went into the kitchen, saw my housemate and told him how much I LOVE INSANITY.

4) Shaun T. is really hot, positive and understanding.  He’s hot because he’s Shaun T. and he has a great smile!   He’s positive because he tells you to keep going and says he is “right there with you”.  He’s understanding because he makes sure you “know your limits” and to take breaks if you need them.  I actually have some not so nice opinions of DVD workout instructors, but I’m a big fan of Shaun T.  (especially when he takes his shirt off!)

5) Holy Abs!  So I’m not sure how to feel about the fact that my abs are actually becoming firm, muscular and more defined because as this happens, I’m seeing them grow outwards.  Let’s note that I’ve always been pretty skinny (thanks for the good genes!) but I’ve never actually had serious abdominal muscles.  I do my exercises right and always pull my belly button inward, but still see my stomach actually getting bigger where muscle is growing.  It doesn’t look bad, but I’m just not 100% used to it.

In other news, I bought some protein shakes that were on sale at Target.  I always feel like I should refuel after a workout, but never know what exactly to drink/eat/etc.  They basically taste like flavored milk, yum I guess?

I’m also training for the Monument Avenue 10K in Richmond, VA, on April 13th.  Last year, I ran it in 58:10 and would like to PR again this year!  I’m running in the seeded 58 minute wave, which is huge for me because four years ago I couldn’t run two miles without stopping!  To be in a seeded wave is really exciting for me – it means I’m an actual runner! But I’m trying to keep up with the INSANITY workouts and run too and it’s pretty stressful on my knees.  I’m wondering, does anyone have any recommendations to fit running in with INSANITY?  If you do, feel free to share!

As for now, I’m starting Week 2!  I only really want to upload progress photos every two weeks, but here’s me at the week mark!

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Sweaty in Pink!

Also, because people like to see pictures on these blog things, I’m leaving you with the reason I work out – FOOD.

I love food and use it to reward myself!  I try and eat healthy, but I don’t think it’s wrong to indulge every now and then, especially if your workouts make you want to weep on the floor like a small child when you are done.

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Spread of tapas I had all to myself in Barcelona

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Vietnamese Coffee Cupcakes (made from scratch)

Happy Sweating!