How Time Flies and a Mental Note

July went by in the quickest of flashes.  I started my new job the first week and I don’t think I have slowed down since.  I am planning to get everything caught up, including telling you all about my PR at Sunday’s 5k.

This post is really just a mental note to myself.  If I tell you also, I will probably be more likely to remember it…

I should have learned this lesson already, considering how very unhappy I was for so long because of my job.  This week has been kind of a rough one for many reasons and I expected my run today to really take care of my mental state.  What I forgot about is that you have to be focused on the run in order for it to do that.  The worst runs are the ones where I can’t let go of the outside world and just focus on what my body needs to do.  I don’t breathe right, don’t pace myself properly, etc. That was tonight. I was tired before mile one was even done and I only did two today.

Running gives me so much and really doesn’t ask much in return.  Focus and determination are small efforts for a big payoff.  Tomorrow I am hoping to work on this focus and determination in the gym.

I can’t believe it’s almost August.

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Review: New Mood

I have written a few different times about my experiences with Onnit products.  I have had really great results with both Alpha Brain and ShroomTech Sport.

As a little update on the ShroomTech… In my original review, I said that I thought it was possible I was naturally increasing my endurance and so maybe it was more of a placebo effect.  While I believe I am increasing my endurance and ability just from keeping up on work outs, I have learned that I can absolutely tell a difference between when I work out with ShroomTech and when I don’t.  Runs are an especially different experience.  I think I have more energy, perform better, and recover faster on the ShroomTech than without it.  I didn’t re-order more for a long time and not taking it as much, if at all, and that’s when I noticed the difference.  My pace was getting better, but not like it was when I was on using the supplements.  I know that it gets advertised for really hard exercise like jiu jitsu, kickboxing, etc, but I definitely think it is worth it even for a run lasting longer than a couple of miles.  You’ll definitely feel the difference after activity, if not during.

Onto the next one..

New Mood

New Mood was the obvious next try in the list of Onnit products.  I was really interested in the idea of this since it promotes relaxation, better sleep, and serotonin production. If you are curious about the benefits of serotonin you can read up or just know that it plays a big part in your mood, appetite, sleep, etc.  Anti-depressants are often classified as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), helping your brain to better use this oh-so-important neurotransmitter to overcome depression, anxiety, etc.  I have used SSRIs myself in the past both for anxiety and depression, so I was especially interested to see what effect New Mood might have on me.

As per usual, Onnit talks about the science behind the product.  The product page tells you all kinds of things about the ingredients and what they’re for, so I won’t go crazy with all the details.  Basic things though: L-tryptophan (that stuff that puts you to sleep after Thanksgiving dinner) and 5-HTP (often recommended as a sleeping aid and for mood)  are big components.  It also has vitamins B6 and D3, magnesium, niacin, as well as things like chamomile. Upon first look at the ingredients, I was feeling pretty good.  I like post-turkey dinner naps and anything that boosts my mood and helps calm my anxiety.  The formula seemed full of that stuff.

As I usually do, I started out with the taking just one pill. I didn’t see much of anything from that so then I upped it the next day to two, which is the recommended dose.  I remember waking up after taking New Mood the night before and feeling a little more refreshed, I’d say.  I didn’t feel as dragged down.  It was probably the second or third day that I started to have the problem: headaches. Every morning, I was waking up with a headache.  I do get a lot of headaches, so I didn’t think too much about it until it started to become a real trend. I stopped taking the New Mood after I realized that it could be the one causing the problem and things seemed to return to normal.

I can’t tell you 100% that the New Mood is what was giving me headaches.  I contacted Onnit and asked them if they had gotten any other responses related to migraines or if I had neglected to notice a migraine/headache trigger in the list of ingredients.  I had a little trouble getting a hold of someone, but once I did, I was told that they had not been getting negative feedback on this issue.  They also mentioned the niacin could cause problems, but my own basic searches haven’t brought up much related to niacin causing headaches.  The nice customer service person did recommend that I could try a combination of 5-HTP and and B6 on my own to try and get a similar effect to the New Mood. This I haven’t tried yet.

Overall, I don’t feel like I can say much more other than I did feel well rested and good the next day, but unfortunately in pain.  Onnit was great about it, of course, and held up to their money-back guarantee.  I really appreciate that they took the time to get back to me about my concerns and try to right the problem.  I have heard good things about New Mood from other places, so I recommend giving it a try if you’re interested.  I still think that anything Onnit makes is probably worth a test drive since I’ve had such good experiences with most of it.

Something New: Yoga

So like I said the other day: I am going to try one new thing a month.  This month’s new thing happened to be yoga.

I was asked by a friend of mine to attend a free yoga class yesterday, but my work schedule didn’t allow for it.  The idea sounded good though, so I opted to sign up for one of the free yoga classes at my gym.  This is actually the first class that I’ve ever taken (and they offer several free ones) after being at this gym for a year now.  The person who signed me up for it said, “Way to go, trying something new in the new year!”

So tonight was my first yoga class.  I was very nervous going into it since I didn’t know what to expect.  I haven’t really done a lot of yoga.  I know a couple of poses simply because of their benefits to different areas of the body that I’ve had trouble with. I’ve read a little bit on different running websites about poses that are supposed to help runners as well.  I’ve never really tried many poses though, so I was going in pretty blind.

I arrived for the class about 15 minutes early and introduced myself to the instructor and told her that I was new and had never really done yoga before.  She advised me not to sit at the front of the class (where I was incidentally placing my mat at that very moment) and also told me a few other things like how she uses a lot of contemporary music, that it’s pretty cardiovascular, that I would want a towel, etc.  The most important thing she said to me though was that she wanted me to focus on my breath, despite whether I could keep up with the class.  That little lesson didn’t really kick in until about halfway through.

After talking to the instructor, I laid out my mat at the back of the class and followed suit with others who were taking off their shoes, stretching, etc.  I got a towel, drank some water, and waited anxiously.  Once everyone was settled, it was right into the poses.  We started with a sun salutation (much like you can see here).  I realized quickly that it was going to be a lot harder than I expected.  Things moved a lot faster and I found myself pretty distracted with trying to keep up and not focusing on what I was actually doing.  The other distraction was the sweat. Ha! I had not expected to sweat so very badly. My feet and hands felt like they were going to slip off the mat, especially when the instructor came by and tried to move my legs into a better form. Again, something I had not anticipated.  Isn’t yoga about relaxing and stretching or something like that?

As things progressed, I recognized more poses and got more comfortable with making modifications so that I could do some of them.  SO MANY DOWNWARD DOGS! I also started to get focused on my breath at some point and started to actually understand what the instructor had been getting at and how I could do it without getting so distracted with keeping up.  By the time that we were winding down, I was feeling pretty awesome and almost like I was getting the hang of some of it.

The class ended in corpse pose, the lights turned out, and the instructor coming around to each of us with a lavendar lotion that she massaged into the backs of our neck, shoulders and then did some crazy thing around our eyes and head.  I have no idea if that’s a normal practice in yoga classes, but it was probably one of my favorite parts.

(Another favorite part?  The music.  She wasn’t kidding about contemporary. I wasn’t always paying a lot of attention, but when I did there was some Florence + and the Machine, Fleetwood Mac, etc.  So good!)

After the class, I felt awesome.  I talked again to the instructor who asked how I liked it.  I said I would definitely be back.  She advised that I do some work at home and definitely get down the sun salutation.  Good advice, as I think if I could get into it and focused by doing things I knew, I would be in the right mindset from the start and not so worried most of the way through.

So, my first attempt at something new was decidedly awesome.  I think yoga is going to become a regular thing if it has me feeling this good afterwards. I am already planning to sign up for next week’s class and I’ve invested in some handy yoga socks so maybe I won’t feel like I’m going to slip and fall off the mat when I start to sweat next time.  If you have any other handy yoga tips or advice, I would love to hear them, especially about how best to incorporate it into an already pretty full exercise routine.

Post Yoga.

Post Yoga Deep-Breathe-a-Thon.

2011 and beyond.

Welcome to 2012.  I have decided that last year was the year of overcoming challenges.  This year is going to be the year of bettering myself based on what I learned last year.

A quick look at 2011…

January: I started working with a trainer at my gym.  I set goals of 300lbs on the deadlift and squat.
March: I herniated my L5 S1 disc.  I have been in physical therapy for that bad boy ever since.
August: I started this blog! Because the injury was caused while lifting a lot of weight and continuing to lift a lot of weight seemed like bad idea, I started running.  The goals I had set for myself were no longer ones that I could safely go after, so I set a new goal: run a 5k.
September: I had a gallstone attack
October: …which lead to my gallbladder removal.
November: Awkward Creature began. I continued to try to heal up from surgery.  I turned 30 and registered for that 5k. I also talked about some important things not related to running and goals here and here.
December: I didn’t update much with the whirlwind of work and holidays, but I continued to progress with running and goals.

End of Year Totals:
Longest run: 2.62 on 12/22
Fastest run: 14:20 on 11/10
Total miles (once I started tracking): 86.22
Heaviest weight: 105lb deadlift 03/28 – disc day
Number of creatures: 4

 

So what is 2012 going to hold?  Well, I don’t like resolutions very much.  Resolutions seem so easily broken and cliche.  I have found that I really like goals.  So here is my new, improved, and updated list of goals for 2012 (if you care to check in on past goals/updates, go here).

Goal: Run a 5k! And then run in at least the Cap City and Nationwide races as well.
Status: As of today, I am running below a 15/min mile and up to 28min straight.  That equals out to about 2 miles of running steady. That is so far ahead of where I started, I feel ridiculous.  Almost to that 5k! I’m considering the quarter marathon for Cap City and the half for the Columbus Marathon.  If training allows! Ha!

Goal: Strength train 3x a week.
Status:  My physical therapist and I decided that I could hit the gym a bit more aggressively as long as I checked in every other week.  We also decided that I am pretty much retired from the barbell.  The idea of 105 lbs resting on my shoulders for a squat and compressing my back where it was injured is just an awful idea to me.  So I’m doing squats and deadlifts with dumbbells and various other lifting.  Just no barbell.

Goal: Regularly donate to charity and start volunteering.
Status: I gave little bits of money here and there during 2011 to places like NPR and Planned Parenthood.  My end-of-the-year giving went to the Polaris Project and Water.org. (I actually joined up for TEAM Water.org as a way of combining running and charity in a commitment to match race entry fees with donations.) It wasn’t a lot of money to any one place, believe me, but I figure a little is better than nothing.  I just want to do that little bit more regularly.  I am also looking to get involved with Habitat for Humanity as well as possibly the Columbus AIDS Task Force. The volunteering aspect is still sort of floating around in my head, so we’ll see where that lands.

Goal: Write every day.
Status: Starting soon, I’m going to attempt the idea of waking up early to write a little before the day starts.

Goal: Read at least one book a month.
Status: A little updated from my general “read more” goal that I’ve had going on. I have been slogging along with books lately, so if I at least say one a month, I have something to gauge my progress by.  That’s not limiting to one.  That’s just at least one. Currently I’m still reading two books at once. Follow progress here: the K experiment @ Goodreads.

Goal: Save money/budget reboot!
Status: The ongoing budget/money struggle. Ugh.  I am actually pretty pumped about it right now.  I started fresh today with a brand new YNAB budget. I have spent far too much time watching videos on how best to use YNAB for budgeting goals. A lot of the videos there could be used by anyone for whatever budgeting method you use.  Now that I’ve set some things up better, I think I’m going to get a good handle on it.  I still have my emergency fund and car savings going.  I realized recently that I used to live on a lot less money.  I’d like to be able to live on a lot less and save/give/do a lot more.  So that’s really the goal: live better on less. I’d like to start into 401ks and such this year.  30 seems a little late to that game, but better late than never!  That will take a lot more research though.

Goal: Try something new once a month.
Status: This month, I’m trying yoga. My gym offers free classes and I signed up for this Thursday. Next month, I think I’m going to try my hand at smoothie making. Please give me your recipes.

Goal: Keep a fucking good attitude.
Status: I have a struggle with this. I’m trying to get better.  I’m trying to turn bad things around to good things and face challenges with better attitudes. I think all the above goals will really help this one.

 

So. Lots of goals.  Lots of plans.  We’ll see how this goes.  I’m hoping that all the physical and other struggles of 2011 are behind me and I can get everything going in the right direction. 2012 is going to be a good one.  Even if the world ends. 😉

Review: ShroomTech Sport

A few months ago, I talked about my experience with Alpha Brain from Onnit.  So a little update on that before I get started talking about ShroomTech… I began taking it in September, had to stop for my surgery in October, but have been taking it pretty steadily.  I can tell you that it definitely does something for my mood.  I’m less grouchy overall. I still feel like my brain is just firing better most days.  The cloudiness from the nerve medicine I was on for my back has gone away.  I am also experiencing the crazy dreams that people mention having while they’re taking it.  You can read more about Alpha Brain and dreaming here. The short of it is that Alpha Brain encourages more REM sleep, which is why dreams become more vivid and just plain crazier.  The other day I had a dream that I had body guards and got married naked.  It was a crazy ride.

The dreaming for me, though, is not the main attraction or the main benefit.  The fact that my brain just feels like it’s working better is the winning part and what keeps me using it.  If I start to feel a little out of it mid-day, I will pop an extra one on occasion and it seems to help. If I have had a couple of drinks and wake up groggy and out of it the next day, Alpha Brain has helped clear that away.  The website has updated side effects and dosing, as well as a lot of other great info.  I can’t speak highly enough about it. Go check it out.

ShroomTech Sport

Because of how much I liked the Alpha Brain, I ordered some of their new sport performance formula ShroomTech Sport around the time that it first came out.  I wanted to see if it would help with running and/or weightlifting. I was skeptical about it, but gave it a few tries. It’s been a couple of months since I started using it on and off.

I started using one pill a day, as I prefer to use the least amount of something necessary.  At first, it didn’t seem to do much.  I began to notice that recovery seemed a little smoother, though. I upped my dose to two pills randomly one day and ended up with my fastest pace to date (and since) on a run. I haven’t sat down and logged what work-outs I’ve used it on and what ones I haven’t so I can’t give a good baseline.  When I’m paying attention, I feel the most difference with recovery and end up still feeling pretty energized after my cooldown and stretching.  I believe that my longest run time was also done while using ShroomTech, which speaks to it’s help towards energy and endurance.

It could easily be said that I’m just improving my fitness and pace naturally, so I can’t attribute performance to ShroomTech yet.  That would be a fair statement to make and I definitely recognize that.  I also know the power of the placebo effect and there are some days when I specifically tell myself, “I’m taking this to get better results.”  Sometimes that works and sometimes not.  I don’t think that ShroomTech can totally take over and make your work-out amazing if you didn’t get proper rest or nutrition, etc.  I think that just like the Alpha Brain, it’s just going to give you a little edge.  I will take that.  I’ll also take all the great B12 in it. Ha! The website lists all the ingredients and will explain all about the cordyceps sinensis, the mushroom behind the “shroom” part.

While I don’t recommend ShroomTech Sport with the same confidence that I do Alpha Brain, I definitely say it’s worth a shot if you want to just get a little bit more out of whatever your work-out may be.

The next thing I plan to try is their New Mood formula. It’s got 5-HTP among other things to help balance your mood and also things to help you relax and get better rest.  It should be arriving in the next day or so and with holiday stress upon us all, I’m really interested to see if it helps me out.

 

EDITED 03.30.12: New Mood review is here.

A Runner by Any Other Name

“I often hear someone say I’m not a real runner. We are all runners, some just run faster than others. I never met a fake runner.” — Bart Yasso

I successfully did a pace of 12:00/mile for all of about a minute the other day.  This would be the fastest that I have ever run. Ever.  Yesterday, I did 2.03 miles, which is my longest distance.  I’m averaging a pace of about 13:57 through my runs.  Not shabby, but not fast.  The longest time that I have run consecutively so far is five minutes.  And I could only do that once during the entire first day of Week 4 on Couch-to-5k. It asks you to do two runs of five minutes.  I broke up the second run into two different parts.

Five minutes is the longest run I’ve done in my whole life.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t easy. Of course, I also felt that way about running three minutes at a time, but that seems like nothing compared to the five! Watching the other people around me running for tens of minutes at a pace much higher than mine could be discouraging.  Sometimes it is.

The title “runner” seems like an achievement. When do you get it?  After your first race?  When you can successfully run for more than five minutes? When your pace reaches a certain level? Or does it start with intention?  The most recent example of this I can think of is Kevin Smith.  He has repeatedly said that he started out as a filmmaker by acting like one first.  So maybe that’s how you become a runner.  You get up every day, you put on your shoes, and you go.  Whether you feel like a runner or not every time, no matter the pace, if you’re behaving as a runner… It’s the old “if it walks like a duck and talks like duck bit,” right? And of course this can apply across the board in your life: to get that promotion, you act like the job you want.  To do anything that requires practice to become, you practice and then you are that thing.  Maybe it sneaks up on you in the middle of the night.

So the quote above has become kind of important.  I’m not fast. I’m not going very far. But I’m going.  Almost every day. That seems like something, maybe even something a runner might do.

Mental Dominance.

Alpha Brain

Say hello to my friend, AlphaBrain.  AlphaBrain is a nootropic, or smart drug/brain enhancer.   I first heard about it courtesy of the Joe Rogan podcast ( this one with Aubrey Marcus is especially informative). It has a lot of stuff in it that I will let the website inform you about rather than try to put all the technicalities into my own words.  The basic idea: it makes your brain work better.  You’re supposed to dream better, focus better, think better.  Sign me up!

Since I started physical therapy, I have been on a medicine called Neurontin. It was supposed to help manage the problems I was having with my herniated disc hitting a nerve. I think it did that job pretty well, though it’s hard to tell what was helping, when and how between the PT and the medicine.  As one of it’s main purposes is helping people with epilepsy, it seems like a pretty serious drug and I was interested to come off of it as soon as I could. My intention was to come off of that and start taking AlphaBrain to try and clear my head.

The problem with the Neurontin was that I felt foggy. I felt like my brain wasn’t right. I felt like I was becoming more scatter-brained and forgetful. I also had a period of time where I was really irrationally angry and then I started to lose a lot of focus, especially with conversations. If you were talking to me, I might not have been able to focus very well on what you were saying.  I often had to piece together the conversation or just plain fake it to get by (sorry, friends). Overall, while I think that it helped my nerve/disc problem, it wasn’t helping my brain problem.

After about a week of no Neurontin, I ordered the AlphaBrain. It arrived a week ago today and I started taking it almost right away. The directions say 1-3 pills in the morning and then you may take more in the afternoon to up the lucid dreaming possibilities. I have stuck with 1 in the morning. I take it with my breakfast and other vitamins/supplements.  At first, I noticed increased memory of my dreams. I wouldn’t say they’re lucid or that they’re crazy or anything, but I remember them much more clearly for longer than I used to. I was kind of disappointed over the next couple of days. I had heard about all of these people who had gotten immediate, crazy effects from it. That’s what I wanted! It took me having a conversation about it the other day to really realize how it has been working…

My brain is much quicker to problem solve.  I received an email that really kind of discouraged me. Instead of staying in that mind frame, I started to figure out how to fix the problem.  I have also been in a really great mood for almost the entire week of taking it. Despite getting angry or discouraged during that time, I haven’t gotten stuck being down about it. That part has been quite the relief from my perpetually bad mood not that long ago.

I’m still waiting in hopes that it helps my focus. I do feel that it’s gotten better than it was, but I am still not where I would like to be. The same goes for memory. Small improvements are better than no improvements, but I could use a lot more!  I imagine that with continued use, the effects will settle in more.  I hope so. If nothing else, I’ll take what I’m getting and keep going with it.