Rough Night+Chocolate

Today’s Happy Note: Pandora.  Customizable music stations?  No CDs or MP3s or iPods?  I can listen to whatever I want when I’m studying?  Me likes.

Marathon Training: Yoga class today followed by an easy 4-miler, with 6×100 meter strides in the last mile. Yoga was slow but nice; I definitely felt my legs and hips opening and stretching.  The run was slooooowww.  This is a pattern, following speedwork or long runs, that I have just come to accept.  Meh.

Tonight was rough. Rough.  It started when I decided not to go to my last class.  Then I felt guilty.  Then the guilt was compounded by stress because my INR is too low.  Then there was a laundry fiasco.  Then I was so hangry I almost ate my ears off.  Then the printer wasn’t working properly.  And now my whole left forearm itches.

Blech blech blech.

I’m drowning my sorrows in hulu, some frozen yogurt, and, per my mom’s advice, maybe a bit of meditation.

There is school work to be done.  And it ain’t happenin’ tonight.

So I’m settling into my bed, with my crossword puzzle and some tea.

After blogging, of course. 🙂

Leftover stir-fry topped with avocado.  This stir-fry consisted of sweet potato, onion, broccoli, EVOO, salt and pepper, ginger, tofu, and peanut sauce.  This is one of my fave stir-fry combos ever.

Do you have any fave stir-fry combos?

I reappropriated my leftovers into dinner too!  I wanted to make something else but was too hungry to wait.  Do you ever feel to hungry to cook?  this time, I put the stir-fry into a cup of TJ’s carrot ginger soup with two big handfuls of spinach and ate it stew-style!  Also very successful.

Sometimes I get fro yo and then bring it home and add my own toppings.  Shhhh, don’t tell.  You can’t even see the yogurt under my mess of toppings!  It was half mango/half plain topped with dark chocolate, coconut, and TJ’s cat cookies.

Other food highlights of late:

Chocolate.

Chocolate.

More chocolate.

USB may or may not have given me not one but two boxes of chocolates last weekend.  Did I mention that he wrote me a poem tonight?

Um, yeah.

He’s a keeper, I’m pretty sure.

Goodnight friends! Hopefully when I see you tomorrow I’ll be less stressed!  And happy almost-end-the-week!

It’s All Mental (And Physical!)

Today’s Happy Note: Sunbutter.  I know that sunflower seed butter is made from a kind of a modified sunflower seed and has some added sugar and oils.  But I. Don’t. Care.  It is my new favorite nut butter and I am in love.  Nut butter heaven.  If that is a real place, I am so going there.

Marathon Training: Yesterday was a day off running.  I did about 15 minutes of yoga then lifted my beloved weights for 45 minutes. I really do love weight-lifting.  It’s oddly relaxing.  Anyone with me on this?

Today was a speed workout day.  It may officially have been the longest speed workout of my life:

2 mile warm-up

4 x (2 mile @ Tempo pace, 1/2 mile easy)

2 mile cool-down

It ended up being a whopping 14 miles! That’s longer than my long run on Sunday.  It was a really good workout — I felt strong and fast, but not too fast; I think I paced myself pretty well.  I definitely needed a succesful workout, mentally.  I was super anxious to get started and have been feeling a bit down about running lately.  This brought my spirits back up! I estimated the distance for the fast portions using the street numberings on lamp posts in CP (a well-kept but amazing secret — the first two numbers on any lamp post correspond to the street cumber you are at, and there are 20 blocks to a mile).

An awesome mid-week workout, although 14 miles is kind of a time-suck.

All-Around Health

I want to talk a little bit about the intersections between mental and physical health today.  I think that it’s easy to become too focused on the physical aspect of health: mainstream media frequently portrays a narrow, singular conception of health which is framed largely around the exclusion of non-physical elements.  For example, you see advertisements at drug stores with people working out at a gym and eating salads and taking supplements.  Or there are segments on news shows telling us “how to get healthy” by doing this new exercise or eating this new superfood. One of the reasons I think that Caitlin’s book, Operation Beautiful, is wonderful (and has been so successful) is because it addresses a legitimate need for emotional health information and empowerment, both amongst individuals who already consider themselves to be relatively healthy(e.g., bloggers) and amongst those who don’t know where to start, physically or emotionally. I try to deal with things holistically, although I am not always successful.  But the fun part is the journey, not perfection.

In the last two years, I have had a physical health crisis and a mental health crisis.  My experiences with each were very different, but both were powerfully formative for my conception of myself — I learned so much about my unique strengths and talents from each.  I began to understand my way of seeing the world; where I fit into things.  I think these crises helped me to figure out love — how to love myself and others.  I am not saying that you need to have a crisis in order to take care of yourself though!  There are simple things that we can all do, everyday, to make our lives the best they can be.  After all, I think that’s what health is about: living our happiest, most vibrant lives.

If my years in college have taught me anything, thus far, it is that I need to take the time to be healthy.  Taking time for myself has saved my life.

Before talking about the spaces between emotional and bodily health, I want to share some research/articles on the matter.  Some of these are more scientific than others, but I think that they all involve a good overview on the relationship or specific facets of the relationship.

How Does Exercise Improve Mental Health?

Psychoendoneuroimmunology — relationship between stress and mental coping skills and somatic illness

Meditation Can Boost The Immune System

Exercise As an Antidepressant

Finding Thinner Peace II — eating right for our mind and body

Exercise, Mental Health, and Mental Ability

The Connection Between Mental and Physical Health — great roundup of articles

Improving Emotional Health — a more general but still useful overview of emotional wellbeing and its intersections with physical indicators

Surgeon General’s Report on Mental Health — this has almost nothing to do with bodily health, but is a comprehensive overview of mental health (including disorders)

Most of these articles focus on the relationship between mental health and exercise.  I think this is certainly important, but it would be shallow to consider it the only significant aspect of the way our emotional and bodily health intersect.

For me, physical health means a constellation of things: regular exercise/movement (running, yoga, and weights), a good diet full of lots of plants, protein, and healthy fats, regular communication with my doctors, management of my clotting problem and my hormonal/endocrine disorders, and generally taking care of my body — proper rest, attention to appearance, stretching, etc.

Mental health also means a variety of things, for me: managing my depression/anxiety/mood, actively seeking happiness and contentment, healthy social relationships and connections, a sense of calm/inner peace/spirituality, and a general awareness of my place in the world.

By no means do I think that people conceive of physical and mental health in the same ways.  Even a more generic inquiry into “health” would yield vastly different responses from similar individuals.  My point here is to notice and acknowledge what being physically and emotionally healthy means, for me, and to think about how these definitions relate and overlap and inform one another.

There is a certain calmness that washes over me on occasion.  It happens when I feel best about my body and content with my life.  It represents my ultimate healthy state. In it I feel alert, safe, and well.  I notice what my body is thinking and wanting and what my mind is thinking and wanting.  Sometimes these things are different, and that’s okay.  I accept myself for where I am at in that moment.  I am exquisitely attentive yet also tuned out from the rest of the world.  My body has moved sufficiently and been well-fed, and my intellect has been active and my emotions have been even-keeled.  This is, I suppose, my ideal intersection point.

Of course, this is not my everyday reality.  No one who knows me well would ever think to describe me as a calm or collected person.  I can be hysterical or just plain crazy.  On a regular basis.

My thought patterns have a huge effect on how I feel, physically.  When I notice that I am harshly judging myself and hating my body, I tense up — I can feel the pit of my stomach clenching and my shoulders hovering up by my ears.  Or, for another example, when I hear from my doctor that my INR is too low (for the third time in two weeks, as was the case today), I start panicking.  My thoughts race, I can’t do school work, I am suddenly unhappy.

I wish I had a graph or something scientific whereby I could chart the precise overlap of my mental and physical health over a given period of time.  For now, vague descriptions like this will have to do.  All I know, in conclusion, is that there is a connection between my body and mind beyond my spinal cord: yes, my spine runs into my brain stem which opens up into the cerebrum.  But something more is happening here.  I have a sudden change in mood after a quick, sweaty run.  I feel different sensations in my chest and lungs and stomach when I have more fulfilling interactions with those around me.

I think the conclusion is that I don’t know precisely what is going on.  Rather, I am attuned to the patterns and the existence of the connection.  And I think that the details of this connection are probably different for different people.

And that’s okay.

How do mental and physical health intersect for you?  Or you more appreciative of one over the other?  How do you balance the varied roles that they play in your life?  What would you change, if you could?

Long Run Eats

Today’s Happy Note: Fall weather.  I may have already said this.  But it’s that awesome that I get to say it again.  I love the colors, the temperatures, the wind, and the leaves.

Hello friends!  Happy Sunday evening!  I should be reading for school.  Confession: I have not done one single ounce of schoolwork all weekend.  Nada.  I only have yoga and one “real” class tomorrow, but it’s in the evening, so I have all afternoon to study, right?  Right? 😉

I just finished watching a very moving video of HLS session on the impact of reading food/fitness blogs, led by Caitlin (of Healthy Tipping Point) and Gena (of Choosing Raw).  You can watch it here. I highly recommend it.  It made me think about what I get out of blogging and reading blogs and existing in this little sphere we call the healthy living blogging community.  It sort of cemented some thoughts that have already been floating around in my head:

  • The way that I eat and the way that I move is something unique to me.  I cannot compare myself to other bloggers (or celebrities or friends or whoever) in this regard because eating and exercising are endeavors that will be the same for no two people.  I will not be ashamed if I eat more than another blogger (or less).  If I eat more protein or more carbs.  If I eat more scones and muffins (I’m pretty sure I could trump almost any blogger on this one).  I will not be ashamed if I practice yoga less.  I will not be ashamed that I have struggled with depression for many years, or that I go to therapy.  In fact, I freely admit that I really enjoy therapy.  Basically, I will not be ashamed for being me in the only way I know how.
  • I have decided that I really enjoy having a “smaller” blog.  Less pressure, more fun and games and friends.
  • I have always been a little bit unsure of my blog’s content.  Sometimes I share stories/memories or other forms of writing.  Sometimes recipes.  Sometimes food pictures or running tales.  And sometimes I talk about a moment in which I really struggled with my mental health — in which my anxiety or depression or sadness took over.  This happened just last night, in fact.  I almost allowed the loneliness to take over, but I stopped it in its tracks by going for a run.  My point is, I have a lot of content.  I understand that the point of a blog is supposed to be focused, but I think that, in its own way, my blog is very focused.  I have come to realize that when I talk about my social life or share thoughts on therapy or describe what is working in my diet — all of this is related.  All of this comes together to form the bigger picture of “Caronae’s Health.”

Onto today’s long run!

It was twelve miles and took me a little over two hours.  It was decent, certainly better than the runs of weeks past.  I am still having the nagging pain in my back left hip, which is slightly worrisome.  It actually feels worse when I try to stretch it out?  I definitely had stretches in the run where I was able to speed up to a 9:00 mile pace or so, which was nice.  I did not feel nearly as dead as usual.  Overall, a success.

I signed up for a half-marathon next weekend on a whim a few days ago.  It’s called Grete’s Great Gallop and is entirely in Central Park.  That was a nice way of saying the course is going to be really boring, and hilly too.  My long runs are normally on Sundays, and next weekend was supposed to be 18 miles, so I’ll have to add in a few miles before or after.  But on the whole, I think it will be nice to have a “race” in this training cycle.  I say “race” because I will not be going all out.  My goal is actually going to be to maintain just under Marathon Goal Pace (which means that I would like to run the race at a 9:30-10:00 mile pace).

Enough running talk!  Onto food.  This is everything I have had thus far today, minus about two unpictured spoonfuls of crunchy PB.  I am doing this not for anyone else to compare but because it’s useful for me to keep track of what I have had on a long run day and see if it is enough and see if there are things that aren’t working. 🙂

Bad picture, but it’s a banana smothered in PB, eaten pre-run.

This was one of the best post-long run brunches I have ever had, because it was exactly what I wanted.  A glass of icy pear cider (amazing!!!!), pile of green grapes, and a warm chocolate chip scone with more PB.  Can you tell that PB and I are friends?

Gabriela and I went to Levain in the late afternoon.  We had delicious cookies and a lovely chat session!  We both agreed that these were the softest, thickest, most satisfying cookies we had ever eaten.  I bought one for USB for later.  It’s a surprise! 🙂

Thank you for the lovely afternoon Gabriela!

Dinner was a tasty sir-fry of onion, sweet potato, broccoli, tofu, salt and pepper, ginger, and TJ’s spicy peanut vinaigrette.  This was a really good combo!  I had some carrot ginger soup with a dollop of plain 2% greek yogurt on the side.  I have decided that I officially like stir-fries more than salads, fyi.

Might have some dark chocolate or cocoa or tea or an apple later on.  We shall see. 🙂

I actually don’t tend to eat a massive amount on long run days just because I often don’t have an appetite or don’t have the time.  I’ll probably eat more tomorrow, I suspect.

Fun blog announcement: I bought the domain name caronae.com yesterday!  You won’t find much of anything there just yet, but I am anticipating a switch-over to my own domain soon!  I’ll still be wordpress-hosted (it’s very convenient), but will have an easier URL.  I was rpetty excited that I could get my first name as my site.  How many other people can say that?  Hehe.

Goodnight friends!  I hope you all have a most wonderful week!

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