Archive for March, 2010

The one hundred push-ups and two hundred sit-ups challenge

I’m always up for challenges! And I found a new one, or actually: two!

Lately, I’ve become very interested in fitness without complicated machines and equipment. Of course, running is already a low-equipment activity (because essentially, you only need running shoes), but in my additional training I did use the fitness equipment at my local gym. But it turns out that training your muscles by just using you body weight is much better for both you muscles and you body orientation. And of course it is a big upside that you can do no-equipment exercises wherever and whenever you want.

I’m going to start with the basics: push-ups and sit-ups.

A few days ago, I came across this website, and decided to accept the challenge of one hundred push-ups, and two hundred sit-ups. After doing an initial test, you can look up the ideal training schedule for your current ability, which consist of a 10-20 minute workout of 5-7 sets of push-ups/sit-ups. This was exactly what I needed.

Training schedules can be annoying, because they can create a sense of obligation. But the one thing I love about them is that they give you the confidence that if you stick to the schedule, next week you will be stronger/faster/better than you are right now. Looking at the exercises in week 3, I gasp. But I know that because the number of push-ups are gradually increased, in 3 weeks I’ll probably be able to do as many as 28 consecutive push-ups.

There is one ‘but’: I’ll stop once my arms get too big. I like muscled arms, but I do not want to look like the hulk! I’m still a girl who wants to wear cute summer dresses. I have no limits for the sit-ups, I won’t complain if my belly will become ‘too toned’ (:


The ‘I’m too busy to run so I’ll just keep working’ non-run

Instead of plain run (b)logging, just for the fun of it, I will try to develop a typology of runs, as I encounter them. Today (or as a matter of fact, every day this past week), I did not run. I fell into the I’m too busy to run-trap. I kept working, and now I regret not running.

I guess every runner knows those days where you stress out, skip your run, and then become more stressed out because you did not go for a run. It is really quite stupid and frustrating. I have told myself so many times, that no matter what, I should just go out for a quick run. And still, somehow I don’t. It’s not even an excuse, I really did want to go for a run. But every time I thought about it I liked at my still unfinished thesis chapter and I kept working.

Ok, now let’s rationalize this run where you did not run until it has some bright sides:

1. You can count it as your rest day/week.

I’ll go for a run tomorrow and my legs will feel great, because they have had some time off. Last week I ran 17km, so I’m not really behind on schedule.

2. Less laundry!

Ok, I only had one bright side…

The run in which you run a lot longer than you thought you would.

Instead of plain run (b)logging, just for the fun of it, I will try to develop a typology of runs, as I encounter them. My sunday afternoon run was typical for the category ‘a lot longer that you thought you would’.

I had wanted to do a quick run on saturday, but in the afternoon I was really focussed on my thesis and didn’t want to think about anything else. By the time I started to think about whether I would go for a run, it was already dark (and very cold!). So today I tried again. It was a very sunny day here in Amsterdam, but at the same time it was very cold, so I decided to still put my winter gear on. I wasn’t sure it would be a good run, because I have had a week of not enough sleep and probably one or two glasses of wine too many (for a couple of days on end).

To my surprise, the run went really well! The streets and the park where I ran were very crowded with families spending the first sunny sunday of the year together outside. There were also ridiculous amounts of runners out! I took off thinking I would run 13 kilometres, but ended up running 17, only 4 km short of a half marathon! Given that I still have a full month of training ahead of me, that feels quite good.

I love these ‘a lot longer than you thought you would’-runs, because a run of this kind means that:

(1) you had a good run.

Otherwise you probably wouldn’t have gone further than planned!

(2) you can run further than you thought you could.

Ok, this probably only counts if the run is your weekly long run. My longest run so far this year was 13k, so I didn’t think I was yet capable of running 17k comfortably. But I was, and that feels nice

(3) you gain confidence in reaching your training goal.

Even though I’ve run a half marathon before, 21.1 kilometres is a pretty long distance to me. In order to run a personal best in april, I should really focus on running long distances more than I did in my earlier trainings. I don’t think I’ve ever ran as far as 17 kilometres with 1 month to go, so this probably increases the chances of actually running a PB on april 6th!

Moleskine Passions Book Journal – My Review

Since yesterday, I am the proud owner of a Moleskine Passions Book Journal, and I love it! All my life I have tried to keep a record of my reading, but all my initiatives to keep a book journal ultimately failed. I’ll still have to see whether I’ll keep up with this journal, but I think the beauty of the journal will help me (as will my 30 books a year challenge). I thought I’d give a little review of the Book Journal!

I don’t know why, but somehow I had expected a pocket-size Moleskine, so I was very pleased that the journal turned out to be the size of a normal Moleskine.The pages are thinner than in a normal Moleskine, so instead of 192 pages, the book journal has 240 (which are numbered! Jay! No numbering by hand!). The first three pages can be used for planning.The format for books starts at page 5, and is organized alphabetically.

There are 6 pages for ever letter of the alphabet, followed by 60 pages you can categorize yourself, using the stickers you can find in the back pocket. I used these stickers: My favourites, Wish List, Lent, Borrowed, Holiday Reading and Present list. I’ll finally have a central place to record the books I lent and the books I borrowed, which I always forget. I don’t know how many books I’ve lent out and never got back, and there are at least 10 books in my library that I cannot remembering buying or receiving as a gift (This is why I always write my name and phone number in any book I lent out, but of course that’s not a guarantee you’ll get it back either).

I like the tab for Holiday Reading, because for me planning my holiday reading is almost as much fun as planning the rest of my travels. Moreover, careful planning is absolutely necessary as I’ll need a book for every mood, varying in heaviness (both physically and content-wise!).

Finally, I love giving books as a present, but sometimes it can be so hard to find the perfect book for someone (especially when you have only 10 minutes left before the bookstore closes and you panick and decide to buy a best-seller they already have). It is such a good habit to write down which book to buy for whom at the moment you come across a book that screams your friend’s/mom’s/dad’s name.

At the end of the Journal there are 15 blank pages, which can be used for drawing or collages or whatever you’d like. These could also be useful to record information on favourite authors, or to make year-lists of books read.

On the Moleskinerie weblog I have read several comments by people who did not like the new passions journals and say they are unneccessary  because it would reduce people’s creativity now they did not have to make their own journal (from a plain Moleskine). Some claim that Moleskine’s uniqueness is being lost (which was on the website), and that it’s becoming too much of a ‘brand’. I disagree.

To me, these people sound just like those who complain that the small town band ‘they discovered’ is getting too ‘commercial’. They like to think of themselves as unique and pride themselves in having found a quality notebook (or a good band). Then they claim the Moleskine brand (or band they ‘discovered’) has changed because so many people like it. But in fact, they miss being (or feeling) unique, and therefore start looking for something else. But the the Moleskine Passions line does not change the fact that there are still good-old plain Moleskines, waiting to be turned into something creative (or less creative, in my case ;)). I love  the simple blank or lined Moleskine Notebooks, but I also like the Book Journal and I think it will actually enhance my creativity and really make me think about my reading more.

Well, I’d better start reading.

Why I hate running on a treadmill

Although I love running, I hate running indoors. I have tried to run on a treadmill on snowy or extremely rainy days, but I guess it’s just not for me. This is why:

1. It makes me feel like a rat.

Whenever I run on a treadmill, I cannot get the image of a racing rat like this out of my head. I feel trapped and stupid. Also, I never seem to be able to find the right pace. I either feel like I am constantly catching up or like I am jogging like a bag of potatoes.

2. It makes me sweat (too much).

Don’t get me wrong, I do not think sweating is icky and unnecessary: a workout with no sweat is no workout! But running on the treadmill makes me sweat excessively and gives me one of those charming bright red faces. It basically makes me feel like I’m dying even when I can tell by the pace that I’m running I shouldn’t feel like that. I miss a very important part of running: wind. Apparently I need outside air to cool me off. (I’m thinking about placing giant wind blowers in front of the treadmills. Tthat would be a cool solution!

3. It makes me terrified I’ll fall off.

Other people can run on a treadmill all steady and serene. I’m not one of those people blessed with the ability to run in a straight line over a longer period in time. I swagger when I run (especially when I’m all red and sweaty). On the road this is easy to correct but on a treadmill I feel like I’ll have to keep my eyes on the red STOP button, ready to slam it as soon as I lose control.

4. It makes me want to stop running

First of all, I think running on a treadmill is boring, because there is nothing to see. Ok, there is TV without sound and I have my mp3 player, but apparently I need more than that. But mostly I miss the external cues that motivate me to push just that little bit harder! Outside I convince myself that I can stop running at the next building or that sprinting to the next building will not be that hard. Also, I know I will have to return to my house, no matter what. When I decide to go for my 15k track, I will have to run that 15k. I can walk home, but that will take longer, so I’ll run. I only realised how much I used these external cues for motivation until I ran on a treadmill, and the realisation that I could stop anytime nested in my overheated, bored and afraid-to-fall-off brain and made me want to stop running.

Some research online revealed that running outside also burns more calories and boost your mood more that running inside. Bonus!