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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Girth SNAFU - A first time for everything

I was told I needed to be "happier" and so "go out to the stable".

So, for the second time in 2 days I mounted up.

Yeah yeah yeah. I know I used to ride consecutive days all the time.  *Never* happens any more.  And if it does, it's a sign I'm neglecting running and rider fitness. But had already ran today and since I have a ten mile race in 4 days, adding a second run to the day wasn't an option.  And I was having a really really bad day.  I won't go into the particulars....but it culminated in me deciding I would watch the Hobbit (which I've put off) - because what could possibly go wrong?  Drove to the movie theater only to find out the showing was sold out.

So.....after moping around the house I was ordered out of the house to see the pony.

Above......BEFORE ride.

 Above....After ride.

Difference? Maybe.

A nice 25 min 3.4 mile trotting ride. In the WIND.  At times I couldn't see because my eyes were tearing.  The type of day that I *did* carry my phone in the sweater pocket instead of the saddle because there was a higher chance than normal I could go *splat*.

At the end of the ride I noticed something odd.  Above is what my off billets looked like.

Mmm....A first time for everything.  Not sure how this happened, but I'm really glad there's redundancy in the english girthing system! (True of all the saddles I ride in BTW - civil war Mcllelen saddles, Aussie, English.  My personal preference).

Friday, December 27, 2013

Why yes I *AM* riding

Farley is getting a lot of love this holiday break.  My boyfriend has been riding her in the arena (so much fun to watch her put on her "soft face" and figure out what this non-Mel person is trying to get her to do) and I've been getting out regularly on the trails.

Of course today, when I try to take pictures, is the first day in recent memory that the sun wasn't out.  

Here's a pic of today's ride. 

 And just to prove I'm not wandering about on my own.

Another ride full of cantering and obedient ponies.  Impressive.

Last time I cantered for an hour my abs were so sore I couldn't turn over in bed for three days.  We went out a tad longer today, so if I'm minimally sore I'll consider this a rider conditioning success! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

I Do Wrong Things

Warning. If you do not have a sense of humor, this is not a post you should read.  Otherwise, carry on!

Having the "phone conversation" reminded me over the last day or two reminded me of why, in general, I avoid certain topics on the blog. Which is an odd revelation if you are a long time reader and know me well enough that I don't shy away from controversial or difficult subjects if they have to do with me personally in endurance and with horses.

Here's the problem with the "phone conversation" and others like it. If we all carried the gear that someone thought we absolutely shouldn't leave the barn without, none of us would ride. I guarantee it. 

Carrying a phone (or not) it falls into the category of things of emergency gear that some people think is absolutely necessary. And some people do not. 

 And here's why this (and related topics) is a problem topic: it's hard to argue with "it might save your life someday". It negates any explanation of why someone might not be doing it - because what could be more important than life? Please refer to paragraph 3. 

The phone for me falls into the category of gear  that depending on the type of ride (and who I'm doing it on or with) it may or may not be a necessity. If I had a way of carrying it that made it easier and more comfortable I would carry it more (but if I'm being realistic, still wouldn't carry it on every ride. )

What I thought would be fun is to list other ways that I am *surely* going to die, since I (and you) do all sorts of things on a daily basis that aren't "the safest" choice.  There are many reasons that we may not chose the "safest" choice and it all has to do with that little benefit/cost scale that constantly weighs out decisions in our heads.  If you would like to join in the fun by leaving a comment (anonymously if you would like....) on things you do wrong....I'd love to hear it. Justification not needed. These aren't confessions, rather admissions without repentance.

1. I don't wear a helmet every ride. Most rides but not every ride. 

2. I don't carry a phone on my body regularly, in fact I regularly leave the house without a phone. And while we are on the subject, I don't own a car phone charger and if the phone dies during the day or in the middle of my commute so be it. 

3. I speed. But I don't jaywalk and I always come to a full and complete stop at stop signs.

4. I don't wash my hands before eating most of the time. 

5. I eat raw eggs. Sometimes in cookie dough (before I couldn't have gluten), sometimes just raw in smoothies. Most of the time I barely cook my eggs. 

6. I eat my fruits and vegetables unwashed and sometimes I buy produce off the "dirty dozen" list. 

7. I don't drive with my hands hat 10 and 2. 

8. I give my own animal vaccines

9. I run long distances in barefoot shoes. Even on asphalt. 

10. I ride and run with ear buds in both ears. (depends on the specific ride etc - not an every day thing).

11. Two days a week I don't eat.  The rest of the time I eat lots of fat and protein and absolutely *no* fiber that is found in whole grains. Because I don't eat whole grains. I eat white rice.  And no bread. And potatoes that are "white" in color. 

12. I love raw fish.

13. I use an "e collar" or "shock collar" on my dog because she likes it better than a leash or a head collar or a harness or any other restraint invented by man. (OK - a little justification there for those of you that haven't read my post on this subject on my other blog.  Go to Tess's blog for more information). 

14. My animals are pets and part of the family, but not people. There is a price tag on their well being and it does not involve all my savings or maxing out my credit card (OK - these last two are less of ways I will die, and more of another reason to add to someone else's list of why I'm going to be a *horrible* vet - and we should stop now before I add another 100 things to *that* list).

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The not so annual holiday post!

The last couple of years I've managed to do a "what you should get the horsey person for Xmas" list. Sometimes it comes after Christmas and sometimes before.  This comes today!  Not in enough time to actually have it matter for any of your gift giving, but at least you don't have to read a Christmas post after Christmas right?

1.  Something from American Trail Gear.  Anything really.  I adore my biothane bracelets and have my eye on a collar for Tess (as soon as I can figure out whether the Blue with Yellow overlay or a Blue with an Orange overlay would be better? Or maybe a Orange with a blue overlay?). They have the hay bags I love - the ones where the horse eats out of the top, and if you were wondering where to get the stirrups with the colorful cages - yep, that's them.  I spent a lot of time researching what crupper to get for Farley last season and I settled on theirs and have not been dissapointed.

2. Remember these earrings? This year I have my heart set on this necklace.

3. A way to attach a cell phone to a helmet, that is NOT a helmet cam.  As many of you pointed out in a previous post I should have my cell phone ON ME instead of on my horse.  I know.  I really do.  But I haven't found a way to carry it that it doesn't pop off and fall to the ground or rub me, or bounce or run a real risk of breaking.  Now, there are those of you that would say that such minor annoyances are worth it *just in case* I fell off and needed to use it.  And depending on the when, where, what of my ride I decide whether the annoyance is worth carrying it (for example, going out on a night ride).  In an email explaining complaining to Aarene all the different failed ways I had tried carrying a cellphone on my body I had a revelation!  If there was a way to attach my cell phone to my helmet.....that would solve all my problems!!!!!!!  I'm thinking a neoprene sock thing that then has a strap that goes around my helmet like my head lamp.  I haven't been able to find anything like this on the internet....but there's got to be SOMETHING out there (couldn't come up with anything with extensive googling - also tried googling a helmet cover with a pocket, but no luck). This might be the perfect solution for equestrian in your life that hasn't found a cell phone solution yet.

4. And while I'm in a confession mood, I did a night ride without a helmet last week because it was cold.  Really cold.  Maybe if I had one of these I wouldn't have been tempted? 

5. I recently found a new way to reward myself - buying 99 cent songs from iTunes.  Prior to last month I had NEVER bought a song from iTunes. In fact, I can't recall the last time I purchased any sort of music.  I'm a musician, so it's hard for me to listen to music without analyzing it - it's a lot of work for my brain - and coupled with my hard of hearing, in general listening to music isn't enjoyable for me. I'd much rather listen to an audiobook or a podcast.

When I started sprinting, I found that music made a HUGE difference in my workouts.  Going back to school, I found I studied better if I had music going on in the background.  Voila!......I started to listening to Pandora while I studied and PodRunner when I ran. 

Note, I'm still not buying music.....

Studying for tests last semester I gave myself permission to "bribe myself" to sit in front of the computer and study.  I could eat ANYTHING I wanted in the house. Anything at all.  Whatever little snacky thing, finger food, or treat that would keep me in front of that computer reviewing my lecture notes.

I was almost to my goal weight at this point, and I had a revelation that there was NOTHING in the house that I wanted. It wasn't that I didn't have junk in the house - I have someone else in the house that is not dieting - but food as a reward had lost it's pull. Food was something to enjoy while I was hungry - not because I was bored, stressed, or needed a reward for good behavior.  WHOO HOO!!!!

I won't pretend this isn't a good thing....but I needed to find a new reward system that would keep me in front of that computer and focused.

I turned on Pandora and started studying.  And I like I've done over the last couple of years, when I hear a song I really like I switch tabs and I give it a "thumbs up".  Sometimes when I do this, it already has a thumbs up....because I liked it that much LAST time I heard it.

And I had a revelation.  I would play Pandora in the background while studying.  If I heard a song I liked I would go over to give it a thumbs up.  IF IT ALREADY HAD A THUMBS UP......I WOULD BUY IT.  For 99 cents in iTunes.  If it wasn't thumbs up....I would click it and then maybe next time I heard it I could buy it.


I spent maybe $5 for a couple hours of studying.

I'm adding new songs that have proved over time that I like to my ipod.

I'm creating PLAYLISTS that I'm using for my runs that are actually motivating. Before I would put my entire library on shuffle and then if the "wrong song" came on during my sprint I would spend time trying to skip etc......but now my songs are seperated into "high intensity" lists and "tempo" lists so I always get the right song for the run.

Now, the runner or rider in your life may have already long figured the joys of good music and playlists and would appreciate an iTunes gift card :). 
6. Have a barefoot runner in your life? Or maybe someone that just likes to be barefoot as much as possible during the day. It's tricky buying shoes for someone else....but let's say that person you are shopping for is YOU.  Maybe it's time to treat yourself. Here's some reviews on my barefoot shoes I've used this year. Over time Softstar Runamocs have proved my favorite, most comfortable shoes. The original Runamocs with the perferated leather isn't available anymore - they were my first pair and were a good all-purpose running/hiking moc.  This year I treated myself to a pair of runamoc 3's.  I have adored them from the first step.  A word of caution, especially if you are running in them or live on very rocky trails.  They are only available with the super thin 2mm soles which is really really thin.  I have pretty tough feet, but they feel pretty banged up and bruised after rocky runs, and now that I've worn the soles to about 1mm, I have to be careful if my feet are cold and I'm planning on doing speed over gravel. Wearing socks helps, but in general best for dirt or less rocky terrain.  I've thought about asking Softstar to make me a pair of customs with the thicker sole.

I recently bought a pair of these from Unshoes. I was hoping they could help me on rocky trails (see my comments from my runnamocs) but I'm not sure they will work for me for running. That being said, they are cheaper than the Softstars and if they can become my everyday shoes and make my softstars last longer I will consider them a victory!  They are very stylish and cute and now that I've given myself a week to get used to them, comfy to wear. As a bonus, the staff at Unshoes is VERY good to work with.  I ordered my pair 24 hours before the sandals went on holiday sale and when I emailed them, gave me the holiday price for them.  The best thing about these sandals was being able to get a custom fit for length and width of my foot. I'm actually a size 7, but usually have to wear a size 8 or 8 1/2 because of the width of my foot - which is the reason I'm having tripping issues on the trails.

And my most recent acquisition in the world of barefooted-ness is these: the Merrell Vapors. Now of COURSE the store I bought them from only had the black and pink color......isn't the green on Amazon snazzy?  My last pair of well worn Merrell's were these orange things - an excellent compromise between performance in the stirrup and performance on the ground, but they were more shoe like and I was having problems with my toes catching on rocks on the ground, and some blisters/rubbing on long runs and not so long runs. The zero drop and neutral mechanics of the shoe coupled with a nice sole that protects me from rocks has served me well over the last 14 months, but when it came to replace them, I knew it was time to move onto something else. The vapors are a much lighter, more flexible shoe.  They are darn close to moccasins and I was able to drop to a 7 1/2 because "soft" nature of the shoe so hopefully my toes catch less. The sole is thinner than my orange beauties so I can feel the rocks/gravel and I haven't tried out their prowness in the saddle yet.....


Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Mare Has Spoken

Either stay in your ^&%^$%## box is THE holy grail of horse training and when performed EXACTLY 23 times will result in MIRACLES after the 23rd session as evidenced during the next saddle session.......or Farley really really really really likes her new woolback pad.

Farley is a sensitive mare, but not a drama queen.  She's talking if you'll listen, but if you ignore her, she still does her job.  She'll give you a good effort because she's a good pony, but maybe not a spactacular one. It's one of the things that has made her a good 100 mile horse.  She doesn't hide stuff, but her reaction is in proportion to what is wrong,

A couple weeks ago I traded a pair of used rennies for a brand new saddle pad.

It wasn't because I *needed* another saddle pad - I've been doing quite nicely with my Haf pad during conditioning rides and my equipedic for competitions. But, I knew that both my pads were aging, I had the rennies and the pad was worth more to me than the rennies (and vice versa for the pad owner) and as a not-so-reformed-tack-hoarder I just couldn't pass it up.

The pad was appropriated by Tess for a while.

  But yesterday I finally managed to remember to take the pad to the stable and decided a ride was in order.  Farley and I haven't had a *real* ride since Gold Rush 3 weeks ago, where at 35 miles she was lame.  This meant that this ride was either going to be characterized by:

1. Farley being continually behind my leg all the way out, strong on the way in, but generally unenthusiastic about doing a ride where there are no ribbons (if there's no ribbons what's the POINT?).


2. Farley being very forward and attempting to take liberties one by one, culminating in her either throwing a couple bucks, or deciding the white dog needs a good biting.

I was further guarenteeing one of these 2 ride types by riding her in the middle of the day (instead of late afternoon) which she considers her napping time, AND by riding her the day after we had a very cold wind advisory and it was still a bit breezy.

Of course, there is a third theory that could join 1. ground work miracle exercise, or 2. woolback pad lover.

Theory #3. Farley, being telepathic and a mare, had somehow overheard a conversation earlier in the day that I am *seriously* considering buying a rushcreek gelding in the next year.  And as usual when thoughts of retiring Farley or getting a second horse are seriously contemplated, Farley puts her best hoof forward.

The woolback fit PERFECTLY under the Solstice, with just a little extra behind the flap that will protect her skin from the bootbags I usually have there during rides.  I don't usually wear a breast collar on these rides but I quickly found out that if I wanted to bring my phone along (with the GPS) I had NO where to velcro my little Griffith's bag without the breast collar.

This woolback doesn't have keepers, which I was a little concerned about, since my Solstice is a slick leather bottom.....but the shape is right and the price was right so who am I to complain?

This isn't the first woolback I've owned, but it's the first new one. There was an old-as-dirt-wears-like-iron dressage shaped woolpack that was one of my first endurance pads - that I still own.  Here's a pic of Farley wearing it some of her early rides:

 Above: Death Valley 2008 (season 2009). Photo Credit Carolyn Faubel

Above: Livermore 2008. Photo credit Bill Gore (BTW - this was Farley's very first ride, just after the lunch check :). Believe it or not, we won. Totally by accident.
And then there was another woolback that didn't see much use that I later cut up to make a seat cover - it was for a 16" english saddle and my saddles were always too big. I think I used it a couple of times, but the saddle was always so close to the edge of the pad I was afraid it would create a pressure point.

Since these pics there's been a variety of other pads - skito, Haf, Equipedic and others. I switched out from the woolback because the fleece under my leg made her barrel too wide with the Duett saddle that already had a really wide twist.  When I sold the Duett I never switched back to using the woolbacks regularly. 

The point is that this is not the first woolback that Farley has ever worn.  

I don't know if the equipedic pad is getting a bit old, stiff and grungy.  Or if the Haf pad - synthetic is ok for conditioning but not for rides - is trying her patience.  Or if the dressage shaped woolback really is reaching the end of it's lifespan....... but I have NEVER gotten the kind of performance out of Farley that I got yesterday on a conditioning ride, in that new woolback. 


The mare of has spoken and she says: Woolback please

Farley is a trotter, not a canterer.  She doesn't canter unless everything is perfect - my position, my balance, saddle fit......Especially not on the way out from the stable.  And if we do canter and the footing gets iffy or there's a down hill, she trots.

We cantered EVERYTHING yesterday. 

A balanced, perfectly behaved canter. I should clarify at this point that Farley does not have an easy rocking horse canter.  It's a POWERFUL ground covering canter that is very forward, and very BIG. (as a side note - if I'm bareback and asking for a canter she will give me something that is closer to that rocking horse canter that is easier to ride).

She started offering to canter after our walking warm up AWAY from the barn. Usually this is a sure sign of naughtiness to come. 

There wasn't a single buck.

Not a single moment of unbalance on her or my part.

We cantered downhill. I can't recall if we've ever cantered down hill.

When she would slow to stretch and snort she would trot for a couple of yards, and then ask - ever so politely - if she could canter again.  And then she would give me the prettiest, balanced canter transitions I've ever had.

She navigated single track and branches and clumps of star thistle - normally stuff that might make her start to cross canter.

We cantered/galloped for FORTY FIVE MINUTES. Near the end I was so exhausted and noodle-like I missed the turn to make this particular route an even 10 mile course.

This is what a brittany looks like after running along at race horse speed for just under an hour:
Tess quickly realized the agenda for today and instead of crashing through the brush and making figure eights around me and Farley, she ran straight as an arrow ahead of us on the trail.

On the last little stretch towards home Farley will either walk or trot in.  This time, she turned the corner in a perfect balanced counter canter, and cantered all the way to the gate. Then stood quietly as I melted off her back to check her pulse.

Under 60.

This is the first time I've ever wished I could freeze time - keep Farley just as she is now, 14/15 years old, sensibly moving down the trail powerfully, fit and sound.  I want this impossible thing so bad it makes tears come to my eyes as I write this. I could have done ANYTHING on that horse yesterday without fear.

If there was one thing that would make me become an equine vet, it would be the promise that I could keep horses like Farley sound and happy for as long as possible and make a real difference in their length of "employment" and the quality of their "retirement".

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How do I start running?

So many posts to draft and so little time!!!  I'm churning these out just as fast as I can now that I'm on winter break!!!!

I was recently asked this question, and even though it has nothing to do with horses, I've been asked it enough times that I've decided to put into writing the advice I usually give.

"How do I start running?"

It doesn't get much more broad then that, folks.  I'm going to share what's worked for me over the years and how I would start if I had it over to do again. But course at first there's a bunch of caveats. I'm not a trainer, a doctor, a therapist, or had any formal training in running (junior high track doesn't count). At least on horse subjects I've paid lots of money for instruction both in and out of school....but on the subject of running I can't give you anything more than the perspective of a recreational, rather slow runner who still loves it over a decade later. 

Prior to finding Jeff Galloway's book on running (more on that later), my experience with running was in public school PE. Twice a year during the mile test the instructor said RUN and you took off.  You had to finish 4 laps around the track within certain parameters and you were judged for your efforts according to the time charts.  Walking got you nasty looks and perhaps you got yelled at.  There was no coaching or training or instruction on how to pace yourself around the track.  Basically, you ran as fast as you could until you *had* to walk.  And then you attempted to run again at some point but it was a futile effort.

As you might imagine I quickly figured out that: Running = being uncomfortable, out of breath with a burning sensation in your chest.  I may have dutifully answered "aerobic" for what type of exercise was running on tests....but I certainly hadn't experienced that aspect of it....

You might (not) be surprised to learn that no one's times ever improved in the mile.  Certainly not mine. 

A life long love for running was certainly not born on the packed dirt of my high school track.

It wasn't until I went to high school on half time as an upperclassman (I took classes at the community college for the remainder of my credit hours) and started running on my own around town and on the trails (with the goal of being thin of course) near where I lived where I discovered that if you ran at a pace BELOW your maximum it was actually possible to run for whole MINUTES at a time....and it was even kind of fun.  I gradually increased my time slowly until I was doing 20-25 minutes at a 10 min/mile pace. 

I distinctly remember coming home after a run when I was 16 or 17 years old after running a whole 3 miles...and deciding I would run a marathon.  I knew I wasn't fast - all those people lapping me during the PE mile test proved that to me. I had also discovered during my runs that at the 10 or 12 min mark running became EASIER. I didn't know until MANY years later it was because I have mild exercise induced asthma, but at the time I just assumed that me needing such a long warm up just proved that I was a slow and steady runner, further proving my "turtle status" - BUT having just finished a run that was longer than any run any I had known had ever done (I don't come from a family of runners), I was pretty sure that for my 18th birthday I would do a marathon. 

After realizing that a marathon was 26.2 miles, I knew I needed help so bought Galloway's Marathon running book. 

And I think it was at that point I became a runner. 

Galloway was only the first in a long line of running books and articles I've devoured over the years.  Nothing is more frustrating for me than a person that does a ton of research and education in a subject.....and then stops any continuing education, convinced that they now know it all and gives advice to other people (I see this more in the horse world.....) based on *current* knowledge that is now 20 or more years old.

When I look back at what I thought were *facts* about running and how to train for running endurance ten years ago, it's interesting what has remained the same and what has changed.  This article would look vastly different if I had written it even 5 years ago.  I would have been very specific in my shoe advice (you must go to a specialty running store and buy shoes that are correct for your biomechanics), espoused the dangers of the beginning or recreational runner doing too much speed work (injury risk!), recommended ice baths and "vitamin I" as follow ups to long runs (I'm sure my family still remembers my screams as I lowered myself into post run ice baths), and recommended a book that outlines the proper stretches to do prior to running (even though I never did them with any regularity).

When I started to draft this post I hadn't intended to tell my running story - just sort of happened.  But I hope what you realize if you are someone who has come hoping to recieve a blue print for the best way to get started in running, is that this post will only reflect my current understanding *right now*. Give it another 5 years and this post might look really different. Do your own research, listen to your body, and make the program yours. 

(this should be a flow chart, but I'm lazy and do you have any idea how many wretched posts I have in my draft folder?  Time to press the accelerator on this one!!!!)

Phase 1

1. PS PE got one thing right. Go out and run a mile.  On a track. Time yourself.  Or don't.  But it's sort of nice to have a baseline and you will repeat this mile test any time you want to see what kind of progress you've made - and it's motivating to see your times drop like a rock, which is practically guaranteed in the beginning. I've read that doing the 1 mile test is the best test of fitness and predictor of future quality of life etc. so if I was you, I'd do it :). If you don't have a track available, stalk schools and universities until you happen to find one without a locked gate and fence.  But don't wait to start your run program until you can find one - go ahead and go to step 2 - just keep an eye out for a suitable track so you can get that 1 mile test in ASAP.

You probably feel wretched from that 1 mile test. I'm guessing it was mostly anaerobic? Let's call that "red" on the scale of green, yellow, red. Let's stay out of that red zone for now.  From now on, you want to be in the green - a pace that is easy, perhaps you can even hum or talk/yell at your dog. From experience I can tell you that as a beginning runner it was hard for me to find my green pace - it was a foreign concept that I should run slow enough that it should be "comfortable". Near the end of the run if you want to kick it up a bit, you can go a bit closer to yellow.  Yellow is strong but not anaerobic.  Another way to get an assessment of pace is to watch your breathing in conjunction with your steps.  A green pace can have varying breaths with the steps - perhaps a 3 steps inhale 2 steps exhale, but sometimes it might be 4/3 or 3/3.  A yellow pace is going to be closer to 2 footfalls inhale, 1 footfall exhale.

Depending on your current level of fitness, chose either 1, 2, or 3 min run intervals. A 2 or 3 min run interval has worked for me the best. At the end of the run interval (that should be in the green level, especially for the first half of the workout) walk for 1 min.  By the end of the 1 min walking you should be totally recovered and ready to start running again.  That means if you are light headed and still puffing at the end of that minute you need to reduce your pace and/or running time.  However, if you are on the other end of the spectrum and you feel totally fine at the end of your run interval DO NOT SKIP YOUR WALK INTERVALS. It is especially important to take your walk intervals at the beginning when you don't feel like you need them.  This is what is going to train your body to be able to go further and faster.  If at the end of your planned run you want to skip the last couple walk intervals, fine - but don't do it at the beginning of your run.

Some people like to increase their time by adding more intervals - for example, you might start up with 3 reps of 3 min run/1 min walk.  Then increase it by 2 for a total of 5. My preference was to run based on time. For example, I would run for 20 min - at the end of 10 min I would turn around and whether it took me 10 or 8 min to get back home, it still counted as a 20 min run, no matter how fast I did it :).  This has the added benefit of creating a "negative split" where you run the last half of your run faster than the first half, which is desirable. If I knew I had to get in a certain number of intervals regardless, I would have been less motivated to go home faster.

My recommendation would be to start with a 10 min run, working gradually up to 30 min. 

How often? 3x a week is a good goal and leaves time for you to try incorporate other things that are good for the body and mind - a hike, a bike ride, a horse ride, snowboarding, etc.

Once you can run for 30 min using a 2/1 or 3/1 interval and stay within the green zone, with perhaps some yellow near the end, you are ready to start adding some intervals. Now would be a good time to repeat that 1 mile test.

Phase 2

I used to believe that speed work was only for advance runners looking to improve their PR's and that it inherently carried such a high risk of injury that it would be foolish for a recreational runner to do any serious intense speed work.  I've changed my mind.  High intensity interval training (HIIT) is the number one thing I wish I knew about 10 years ago.  Done right (take appropriate rest days, listen to your body) it can reduce the overall mileage and time needed to achieve a certain level of fitness. I won't expound on what HIIT has done with me, except to point out that if Galloway and his run/walk intervals were the first life altering revelation I had about running, HIIT was the second.......13 years later.

The goal is to work up to 8-12 intervals.  An interval is composed on 60 seconds of running *as close to your max* as you can, and then 75 seconds of recovery. You can walk, jog, skip or do whatever you want during that recovery interval.  Let me take a moment to explain what *as close to your max* means.  It is the red light on our scale. It is you pushing with every step telling yourself FASTER.  It's as fast as you can possibly force your legs to go without any regard to the fact you will have to repeat this feat 75 seconds later, 8 more times.  To get the benefit of HIIT, you HAVE to run your intervals *hard*.  In training, we have a tendancy to settle into a "medium speed" - our slow/easy runs end up a bit too fast and our hard/fast runs end up a tad too slow.  Constantly remind yourself of this fact fly down that road with your fists and knees pumping without any regard to people stopping to stare at the trail of snot coming out of your nose and the unconcious grunts escaping your gritted teeth. 

I managed 5 intervals my first time out. And I had to walk my recoveries.

I can guarantee you this: 1.  it will suck. 2.  it will get you results. 3.  it is THE most efficient way to get the most "bang for your buck" during a workout.

Sprinting is AWESOME strength training.  Strength training is about recruiting more muscle fibers to do the job.  Sprinting is the most specific strength training for running that you can do - which is why once I starting sprinting on the flats, I started being able to run up hills even though I can't regularly train on hills. 

Repeat 3x a week. To be perfectly honest, I usually manage 2 of these a week with my other 1-2 workouts being a long run or someother variation.

One reason is because I'm a STICKLER for not doing an interval run unless I feel almost 100%. No twinges, no feeling like I might be getting sick, no soreness from something else.

Total HIIT workout should be 30 min or less. Warm up by slowly jogging 5 or 10 minutes. Stretch (I like to do dynamic stretching). Then take off. 1 min as hard as you can. 75 seconds recovery. Repeat. Keep track of how many you were able to do. Repeat 2-3 a week - as long as you aren't sore.  If you are sore, take an extra day to recover!!!! 

Phase 3 (sorta at the same time as Phase 2, but separate because I consider HIIT a higher priority than these runs)

About 3-4 x a month I like to throw in a tempo run.  A continuous tempo run is a run that is in the yellow/orange range. Sometime that is slightly faster than your comfort zone, but isn't in the red zone like an interval.  A good goal is to see if you can spend 20-30 min in a yellow/orange range.

1-2x a month I do a long run.  I define a long run as one that lasts over 60 min.  Go back to your "roots" of run walk and your green zone and start experiment with doing that pace over longer periods of time.  Start with 60 min and increase your runs by 30 min or so each time you go out for a long run.  Once your runs exceed 90 min, start carrying some sort of "fuel" (food) and start eating 250-300 calories for every hour.

Sometimes I'm not in the mood for a super structured run, (or more likely, I've forgotten my watch). In that case, substitute a "Farlek" run for a interval run.  Pick in object in the distance and run towards it (red zone style!).  When you reach it (telephone, tree, bench, rock) recover at whatever pace and until another object calls to you. :)

Whenever I can, I try to fit in some trail runs. The trails near my house are flat flat flat.  So, if I happen to be visiting in an area with *real* trails with *real* hills, I make sure I pack my running gear and squeeze in a 30-60 min run. It's always exciting to see my progress from one trail run to the next.  I used to not be able to run up any kind of incline, and even without doing any sort of regular hill work, unles the hill is REALLY steep I can charge up it like it ain't no thang now :).

Of course, I adjust my HIIT run schedule from phase 2 if I do one of these runs - If I'm sore from a trail run I take a couple of extra days for recovery, or I have a long run planned for the weekend maybe I'll skip my second HIIT run that is right before it. It's all about being flexible, keeping it fun, and listening to your body about when you need an extra couple days.

As you move through phases 2 and 3, remember that once you've completed/conquered a workout you need to re-adapt it. Change SOMETHING about it for the next time. Increase the number of intervals on the HIIT, increase the time on the long run, push yourself a little faster or a little longer on the tempo run.   Remember the tendency towards the middle and keep yourself from falling into the same routine for every run.

Phase 4

Let's say you are at the following stage:
- You can do a couple hours at an easy pace +/- walk runs
- You can do HIIT runs as described above consisting of 10-12 intervals
- 30 min tempo run in the orange zone is very doable
- You have to work pretty hard to put yourself in that anaerobic zone. 

What now?

Now's the fun part. 

Now you have the base to whatever you want with it. 

There are "types" of training and depending on what you want to do, you will adjust where you are on that continum.

- Volume - increasing mileage or number of workouts
- Intensity - increasing intensity.

Depending on your time, availability, resources, LIFE it may be easier to ramp up one or the other. Stay flexible and adapt. I used to do more volume.  Now I do more intensity because I have less time.

Whichever direction you decide to go, make sure you continue to listen to your body and take appropriate rest days.

By this time running is a habit instead of "motivation" so I don't worry if I need to take days off - I usually can't wait to get back on the trail.

Continue to incorporate HIIT and a mix of the runs described in phase 3. Remember to change the stressors of each run. I like to keep a log of pace/time/distance/terrain and then I give it a difficulty rating.  I like to see runs that stay in the 4-5 star range.  Too many 2 or 3 star runs means that I'm slipping into that comfortable "middle" ground. It's fine to have some comfortable steady state runs - they are my "candy" when I'm having a bad day etc. But it shouldn't make up the bulk of my running.  Examples of "stressors" that I could change once a run has slipped from a 4-5 to a 3 or so are:
- altitude/elevation
- speed
- time
- distance
- heat/time of day
- terrain (hills)
- decrease rest interval
- increase sprint interval
- increase number of intervals
- etc.

I find that keeping a simple record of my runs becomes more important in this phase so that I can find the next logical step. Here's a practical example of how this might work, based on my running log.

I want to do a HIIT run tomorrow. Here's a summary of my last month of HIIT workouts.
Date - Distance - Duration - Pace - Difficulty - # intervals
11/7 - 3.00 - 27:40 - 9.22 - 4/5 - 8
11/18 - 3.15 - 30:00 - 9.52 - 4/5 - 9
11/23 - 3.80 - 36:00 - 9.47 - 3/5 - 11
11/25 - 3.14 - 27:48 - 8.85 - 4/5 - 10
11/28 - 3.41 - 30:34 - 8.96 - 5/5 - 9
12/6 - 3.22 - 30:39 - 9.52 - 3/5 - 9 (miserable weather)

The distance/pace/duration numbers include warm up and cool down which isn't identical between workouts, but in general you can see that I either run further or faster or increase the interval numbers etc.  Based on this history, what should tomorrow's HIIT set up be?
- I could increase my intervals to 12
- I could shorten my recovery interval from 75 seconds to 60 seconds and run the 3.41 mile course with the same 9 intervals, like my 11/28 workout (that course is my favorite home loop).

Because it is unlikely I could fit in more intervals to my 3.41 mile course and keep it within the 30 min widow, option 2 seems reasonable.

I tend to run more by feel when I get to phase 4, and less by what my watch tells me to do. My HIIT runs stay very structured, but I use my green-yellow-orange-red light "feel" to make sure my other runs are where I want them. I still take walk breaks during my long runs - but it's when I want to take a pretty picture or just because. Instead of hitting certain paces during races, I run them by feel - which is fun because it's so flexible and fluid.  
As a side note, I've finally accepted that starting over after a break is a perfectly normal thing in running for a recreational runner.  :).  Life gets in the way and sometimes running has to take a back seat.  Whenever more than a few months has gone by since my last run, I start at phase 1 and work myself back through the phases. Sometimes I only spend 1 run in phase 1. Sometimes I hang out there for a couple of weeks.
General comments - in a FAQ style :), with some fun links to read :). They aren't linked to the original source - but you should be able to easily get the original studies from these links. 

Why shouldn't I run when I'm sore? 
 Ultra DOMS article

Another DOMS article

Don't want to run but you aren't sick, sore, and you are afraid you are just starting to make excuses not to go running? 
- Go out for one mile.  If you still don't want to be out there, turn around and come home.  Trick I still use that I learned way back on day 1 from Galloway.

Hills aren't necessarily easier on your body than speed.
- I did hill training a long time ago because it was presented as a good way to increase the intensity of the work out without the danger of speed.  I have chronic, ongoing injuries from both uphill (achilles) and downhill (IT band) training. It wasn't until I starting doing a lot of flat land HIIT training that I've been able to run hills without tweaking something.

Trails can be easier
- I've avoided trails in the past for "serious" runs because I had been told that they are harder - lots of balancing and core, hills, softer footing etc.  That's all true, but I find I'm much less sore and tired and achy after a trail run than one of a similar speed and distance on roads. I don't know if it's because every step is different on the trail so it distributes force more evenly and not in the same place in my body?  I'm still wrapping my head around how I can be faster and less sore over terrain and I'm not sure.  It worth a try and seeing how your body responds - don't just assume trails are too hard for you.  One thing that is definitely harder about trails - it's very easy to fall.  I've NEVER fallen on the road.  I've had some spectacular falls on the trails multiple times in the last 6 months, and I've seen other runners take some *awesome* spills, and almost everyone has a story of how they've biffed it.  

Do NOT run through soreness. Do NOT take NSAIDs prophylaxically before a run, or for DOMS after a run without indication of injury or pathology. Do NOT take excessive quantities of antioxidants.  DO take rest days.
- If you are sore after a run, congratulations - your muscles are adapting to the training you just put into them.  You'll come out of that soreness stronger and ready to go.  It is normal to be sorer 48 hours post workout than 24 hours.  Really really really REALLY sore after a work out - like thanking the Lord that public restrooms have handicap bars in the toilets and thinking of installing them in your own bathroom?  You over did it.  If you don't have an injury, stick it out.  Take extra rest days, get plenty of sleep and don't do another hard workout until you aren't sore again.  You really stressed your muscles and luckily didn't get injuried and your muscles will heal and get stronger, but in the mean time you might be more vulnerable to injury so take care of yourself?
- NSAIDs will reduce the amount of adaptation your muscles do - not all inflammation is bad and inflammation is helping to signal to the muscles the adaptions they need for the *next* time.  You've put in that hard work out - now don't reduce the effectiveness by taking something that reduces the benefit you are recieving!!!  Additional reason not to take it - it doesn't actually lessen the duration or pain of DOMS (neither does massage or ice baths or going out for another run.....). So unless you have an injury that is creating pathologic inflammation, put down the vitamin I
- Mega doses of antioxidants will actually downregulate your innate antioxidant producing pathways.   
From the NY times

Science of running

Another Science of running

Shouldn't I be stretching?
-Maybe maybe not.  

NY time article

Another NY times article - this one that describes some of the dynamic stretching I like. 

Science of Running

Will running make me thin?
- Probably not.  I used to run to be thin. I ran all my marathons slightly heavier than I am now - approximately the weight I started training at. There's many reasons to exercise beyond weight - the health benefits beyond weight are significant and profound.  I find that running helps me crave the right foods and in moderate amounts regulates appetite. However I find that long distance running (or any prolonged cardio) (and the research I've seen supports this) stimulates a ravenous appetitite that will force you replace the calories burned (and possibly more).

Yet another NY times article
And another - I know there are a lot of NY times articles here - but the nice thing is that they (and Science of Running) link to the original research so you can read it yourself.

What about shoes?  Don't I need fancy shoes?
 - Maybe maybe not.  I'm totally on the fence now.  I run barefoot now and have less problems than I have ever have. I've run in the wrong shoes for my biomechanics and blamed them for an injury. I ran in the right shoes but the heel height was different from a previous pair and I blamed them for another injury. I've had a couple of shoes that I was really happy with, but always had little nagging issues that have totally resolved since going barefoot. Do your own research, maybe see a podiatrist, and try to figure out what is going to work for you.  I've seen research saying that the biomechanics and the "right" shoe is a concept that doesn't work. I've seen that running in the wrong shoes will ruin you.  I've seen that barefoot running is either a miracle or will be the death of us all.

Yet another Science of Running article (there's others out there to, but I'm running out of time I can devote to this post...)

Do I need to strength train?

Here's an article
And here's another that repeats (uses the same interview by Gretchen) info from the previous one, but has some tidbits.

(My current goal is to be able to do a full one legged pistol squat.  Wouldn't that be cool?  I'm good at squats, so I like them. I also do some pushups. I've ditched planks and ab stuff because I hates them.  Hates them I say.  And it's amazing how much more motivated I am to do some weight training now that I've given myself permission to not to do ab stuff).

Groundwork session - stay in your *&^^%$$%#$#@ box

Yesterday I didn't feel like riding or doing anything in the arena, but I didn't feel like actually exerting myself on a run either.  So instead I took the pony on a trail lead line walk. 

"A walk?????"  (you might say).  "How freakin' boring is taking your dead broke 15 year old horse on a WALK, and why is this a post???"

Tsk tsk tsk. 

Trust me when I say that you can ALWAYS find a way to work a horse's brain, no matter how little actual physical effort you feel like putting into it.  It's one of the advantages of working with an animal that is the brain slighlty smaller than my (relatively small) fist. 

(note I don't say walnut.  I've actually SEEN a horse's brain and walnut I think sells them short.  Apple? Orange? mmmm....)

Today's "groundwork" post is very simple (to make up for my last groundwork post that *may* have been a wee bit complicated). So simple that it's probably a lesson you have done a thousand times when you've started a new horse, or if you are working with a problem horse.  

It's called "stay in your ^&^&%^#$#@$#@$%$ box. 

You know - that box that exists at and slightly behind your shoulder that theoretically their nose should be in at all times during *normal circumstances.

*abnormal circumstances include tailing up hills where she is in front of me or going down steep single track where I prefer she's further back off my heels. 

Maybe you have a horse like mine. 

- She rarely/never invades your personal space.
- If you encountered an obstacle on the trail that you had to dismount lead over, and she LEAPED over it, she would NOT invade your space under any circumstances.
- If you were moving along a single track and a REALLY SCARY THING happened behind her, she would throw herself off the cliff before running you down. 
- She never yanks you to a stop to eat and then stand there chowing while you tug and cuss.

Even so..... very occasionally, mostly at RIDES, coming into a vet check she won't stay behind my shoulder.  She'll crowd me and bump me.  She'll try and get her shoulder past mine. 

It would be easy to say that she was just "excited", or point out that when it counts she stays out of my space, or lament the fact that I can't practice "training" this at home since she's always such a DEADHEAD at home. 

And then, there's the unspectacular trot outs where I'm trying to keep from bumping her with the lead rope as I pull her along (makes the horse look lame) and she's trying to figure out the minimum effort that will be acceptable in the trot out exercise. 

The root of both problems is the same.  THE HORSE IS TRYING TO GO SLOWER OR FASTER THAN THE BOX

The fix for both is the same.  Reinforce where the box is.  Just because the horse is calm and not in your space DOES NOT MAKE IT ACCEPTABLE THAT THEY ARE BUMPING THE END OF THE LEADROPE BEHIND YOU, just as it is not acceptable for the horse to rush ahead of the box. 

A horse that bumps the end of the lead rope behind you (common complaint is the the horse won't trot at your speed when you go for a lead line run, or trot outs that lack "impulsion") is a horse that has not learned the task of staying in the box - just like the horse that is running ahead. 

As always during these posts, a couple of reminders.
1. I am not training a baby
2. I am not teaching a behavior
3. I am reinforcing a behavior that has already been taught in the past

First off, decide where your box is. I have a box that extends quite a bit side to side - ie I can hold the end of the lead rope (12 feet) and she can be on the other side of the trail.  That way, we can both walk or run in a jeep track and have good footing. The box is narrow front to back.  Her ears can't go in front of my shoulder, and the box extends behind me about 2-3 horse head lengths. Deciding where the box exists is important because you will want to be very consistent when you show your horse where the borders of the box are (over and over and over....). This exercise is one of subtle correction and low stress (we will touch on the *other* variations later).

I grabbed my dressage whip (longer than a crop), my walking shoes and my dog and commenced to go for a WALK.  I picked a brisk pace for walking - a pace that isn't good for her to trot (obviously, since I'm WALKING), but slightly faster than her I'm-not-at-a-ride-therefore-I-amble-slowly walk.  She would have to pay attention to stay in the box.

Farley, predictably bored ("where's the ribbons....if there's not ribbons, what is the point?") lagged behind and when there was a bit of pressure on the leadrope, did NOT immediately jog up to my box.

So, WITHOUT LOOKING AT HER OR SAYING ANYTHING, I reached as far back as I could with my left hand with the dressage whip, while continuing to walk forward, and gave her a whack.  It landed somewhere on her barrel, where my leg would be if I was mounted. 

I repeated as many times as necessary.  If she over-corrected and trotted in front of the box, I used the dressage whip in a "windshield wiper" fashion in the space in front of her until she was back in position.  Another option that I never had to do because my pony at home is LAZY and motivated to do LESS work so was NOT badly rushing past me....was to use the whip on her chest to reinforce her not moving past me, and aggressively back her back into position (since rushing past me is a safety issue.) However, each time she responded to the "wiper blade", responding to pressure by applying the brakes and falling in beside/behind me. 

Only use the amount of pressure needed to move the horse back into the box - the horse should not be over correcting and rushing way past or falling way back in response to the corrections . The goal of this exercise isn't to make sure they *never* do it again - the point is to firmly and consistently tell the horse where the box is and then reinforce it in a calm, low stress way. Some training exercises are about being intensely focused for a short amount of time.  This exercise is about going out for a 1 hour long trail walk and getting the desired behavior consistently over time.

During this exercise, I didn't look at her or talk to her to cue her.  She had to figure out/remember that there was a box, and then explore limits of the box -  I supported her by either increasing or removing pressure. In real life, I don't want to have to tell my horse "easy" every time it wants to rush past me, or "come on!" when it falls behind.  The point of the exercise is to have a horse that stays in that box whether you are looking at your GPS, talking on the phone, or just walking and enjoying your dog bounding down the trail in front of you. Staying in that box is her JOB and I don't want to micro manage it - ie I don't want to have to telegraph with my body and voice that she is suppose to stay in the %$%$#$#@^%& box.

Farley would have likely been better in the arena, since the arena is a "place of obedience" - that's where most of our groundwork and dressage takes place - and she sort of sighs and takes it in a stride. Arena exercises tend to be shorter since the sessions tend to be more focused and mentally draining AND there's no pretty scenery to look at. :). 

By going on the trail, we were entering territory where Farley knew she gets more of a say "because there are certain aspects of trail riding that are her JOB that I don't micromanage".  The session would be longer and less "intense" because while she was being good I could just walk along and enjoy the scenery and my dog.  And Farley would have more opportunities to get distracted and forget the principles of our basic lesson. 

Not to mention some miles and some sunshine are good for everyone's health, especially in December.

Sometimes just being creative and finding a way to change the setting is a enough to make an old basic lesson relevant again, and to turn a day that was threatening to be a non-run, non-pony day into something good.
Let's review some important details so far.

1. I used just enough pressure with my dressage whip to get a response (low stress, relaxation, calmness is the goal).  
2. I was nitpicky and small infractions were corrected. (being inconsistent can create "stubbornness" and confusion).
3. I kept my body language completely neutral - I was just walking forward at *my* pace and expecting her to adjust. 
4. I took the lesson out on the trail


The advantage of low stress sessions is that it allows animals to think through the lesson. Staying in the box becomes a "trick, not a "reaction".

There are some lessons that I do teach through stress, because I do want them to be an ingrained reaction.  This includes other variations of the box exercise, where you take a more active role in teaching the box. 

- When they get too close on your heels, you respond like an exploded cat hissing and growling, startling them backwards out of your space.
- When you ask them to trot your jogging speed and when they hang back on the lead rope..... immediately start lunging them in a trot circle around you and aggressively yielding hindquarters. 

I take advantage of stress "imprinting" the mind - early on I use the "exploded" cat variation described above to teach my horses that no transgression is worse than running me down from behind.  So, even when they are in a real life stressful situation and are faced with the easy way out (run me over) or the hard way (crash through the brush around me), they are likely to chose the hard way because *something* in that little brain remembers that it did not turn out well last time they tried to run me over.

However, especially for a horse that is "mostly good" and isn't regularly invading my space -  the low key, minimal pressure variation described in this post provides stability and predictability during a session that allows the horse to learn and reinforce the concept of the box in a meaningful way.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

I did it!!!!! 10%!!!!

I thought long and hard how I wanted to celebrate reaching this goal. I didn't feel like celebrating with food - I've managed to work in treats that I really want in my new lifestyle so there's nothing I'm particularly craving. A special outing or self-gift didn't seem right either.  It feels false to celebrate something I hope is a culmination of sustainable lifestyle changes with an event or thing that is material and trivial. 

What I realized most is that I wanted to share this moment with my friends - with you, My Dear Reader. I've mentioned briefly here on the blog about losing weight, and being excited about my progress, but I've always tried to keep it in the context of endurance, or riding, or me learning some big life lesson and NOT make this blog about something as trivial as my weight or body image issues or human fitness.  But just for once, I wanted to talk about me losing weight and accomplishing my weight loss goal in a shallow, braggy, no-lessons-to-be-learned way.  I wanted to name specific numbers and not pretend they don't matter to me.  I want to talk animatedly and wave my hands about and laugh and absolutely glow, so that YOU, my friends, can be happy for me and share in my excitement.  We will return to our regularly scheduled programming where this part of me is NOT the center topic of the blog, but today, I am going to spend an entire blog post bragging and showing off my accopmlishment :) Thanks for being here, thanks for sharing in this moment.

 18 months ago I started trying to lose weight.

My weight has always gone up and down cyclically in a 5-7 pound range over the course of a year, but the last couple of years, the "downs" haven't quite made up for the "ups".

Instead of having 5 pounds that would be nice if they magically went was 10 pounds.

10 pounds on a 5'1" frame is a pant size. We aren't talking a success story that is going to be plastered across the websites as "selfie" pictures show pounds magically melting away. It's doesn't even justify a new wardrobe. It's doubtful that anyone but me can even see the weight. But, it was a enough weight that I didn't feel strong and fit.

138 pounds is the most I've ever weighed - several times throughout my life. It seems to be the "top" of what is normal for me. If I eat all I want, don't exercise, and succomb to the "object at rest stays at rest", 138 is where I find myself.

132 is the bottom of my "normal" range, and if I'm working towards a running goal, or trying to stay fit for my horse and putting forth that extra effort, 128 isn't unusual.

At 128 I feel strong and fit and beautiful and capable.

With the above in mind, when I set out to lose weight, I usually choose 125 as my goal.  It gives me a nice buffer zone to stay under 130, it's doable, even though it's usually brief before I go back up to 128 and stay there, and (most importantly) it's this nice beautiful number who has a personality that doesn't have any loose ends.  Maybe it's the fact it's divisible by 5? And contains the square of 5? And 125/5 = 25?  It's enough to make me squeal in delight.

So, in June 2012 I set out to lose 13 pounds.  A couple months into it, I realized that the magic number of 10% was only a few pounds under my initial goal ==> 14 pounds.

10% seems to be a really big deal. Followers of weight watchers talk about a mental shift that occurs when they reach that number and there's some anecdotal stories that people that achieve this 10% are more likely to take steps to keep the weight off. 124 isn't a number I've seen on the scale very often and never consistently.  If I was able to reach this number and keep it, I would know that I had actually made a change - not just a variation in my statisically predictable cyclic weight pattern.

So, in June 2012 I started counting and recording calories.  That was the first small change. I didn't realize that I would be making a lot of small changes over more than a year in order to achieve my goal. I decided that the important thing was not staying within a particular calorie goal - long term deprivation and feeling hungry or that I can't eat something I really want because of stupid numbers doesn't work for me. The important thing was LOGGING and RECORDING.  For good or bad.  With the recording would come awareness and with awareness would come the ability to make informed choices.  And those choices would become habits and THAT was the way to sustainably lose weight and keep it off - not obsessively staying within a narrow calorie range.

In the fall of 2012 I got within a couple pounds of my 10% goal. In fact I met my initial goal of 125 pounds briefly....but I started immediately gaining almost every pound back.  Spring of 2013 I was faced with the numbers 1-3-8 on the scale, once again.

And I continued to make more little changes that turned into habits, convinced that the only way to see success was to make sustainable changes that would add up to results over the long haul. 

It's a lifestyle change. 

In the end, it was less about the numbers on the scale, and more about using the numbers on the scale to honestly evaluate whether *my* lifestyle was meeting my expectations.

When I started all of this, I didn't know that making one small change at a time (and not making another until the first is a habit) was a bonafide philosophy of how to change your life.

In the past, most of my "I need a change!" moments came with a self-designed program that implemented lots of big changes at once. I always felt like the "bootcamp" approach was the best, most effective way! No pain no gain!

I think over time as life came with more and more commitments, I ran out of energy and time. When June of 2012 rolled around, I still wanted change but with work and school and a dog and a boyfriend....just couldn't devote anything anything beyond one little change.  And voila, that was the moment real change occurred in my life.

I'm going to share the little things that made this post today possible. Maybe some of these will work for you, maybe they won't.  The list may seem daunting, but realize that these were implemented over almost TWO years. One at a time.

(thank goodness I started writing down these small choices/changes at some point, because some of these are so ingrained as habits, it was hard to remember I hadn't always had a particular habit!)

1. I started counting and recording calories. More important than the actual number was the fact that they were being recorded. (I used myfittnesspal)

2. I addressed causes of stress in my life: I threw out my to do lists, stopped Christmas shopping (people now get random "birthday presents" throughout the year, and sometimes I forget to do things, but guess what? The world doesn't end).

3. I made a resolution to sit less.  Note this isn't a resolution to DO anything, it's a resolution to do LESS of something.  For some reason this was mentally important to me.

4. I started interval training.  About the same time, I stopped running through pain, soreness, or if I was particularly tired or stressed and didn't feel like it. I haven't gotten an over training injury since (and yes, I've gotten faster at the same time :)

5. I made a goal to walk 10K steps a day.  After getting into the habit of parking where it's free (total extra walking per day: 30 min) and walking during lunch (extra 40-45 min of walking a day) I ditched the pedometer.  It was a tool that served it's purpose and once I had the habit, I didn't need a pedometer on my hip to tell me it was time to walk.

6. I cut out wheat for good. And when oats started causing me even more GI discomfort, I ditched them too. I'm "Primal", but I'm "Melinda's Primal", meaning I make that diet/food lifestyle work for ME.  I stopped putting cheese on everything, make an effort to include a veggie at every meal.  I try to eat real food. I don't get hung up in the philosophy of whether I should give up my popcorn and corn tortillas just because they are grains - in my mind they are real food and don't bother my I eat them at least for now. Call it part of my 80/20 philosophy.

7. I started seriously intermittent fasting in a sustainable manner - 2 days a week I eat 500 calories.  The rest of the week I eat according to hunger. And surprise! - my calorie counts on a weekly basis stabilized and I stopped having hypoglycemic issues.

8. I started incorporating sets of squats or pushups though out daily activities - like during my walks or my post-run shower.

And today I lost that 10%.

The changes are here to stay - they are habits, a part of me.

I've decided that part of my reward for reaching that 10% is to to stop recording calories on my non fasting days.  That was a tool, just like the pedometer, that had a purpose, and once it's purpose of establishing a habit is fulfilled, can be put aside.  I do have a "threshold" weight that if I see on the scale I will add this tool back in until I'm back on track. I also might reduce my fasting days to 1x week instead of 2x - but this has been so valuable for stabilizing my blood sugar I'll have to see how it goes.

I'm excited :). I have a bunch of new habits that I love. I don't necessarily have a list of things I'm waiting to implement - usually something comes along at the right time when I'm looking for another little change.  I wrote this post on 11/21/13, when I was within a pound of my goal - so close I could FEEL the success. And this post has been waiting in my drafts for the day I reached my goal, so that I could hit publish. Thank you everyone.