New Year’s Resolutions

Update, September 23, 2012: 

I had a slow start, but since March of this year I’ve gained and lost and gained and lost, for a total, so far, of almost 20 pounds and 1.5 pants sizes. (Depending on the clothing designers; the high-end pants tend to be cut bigger than department store clothes.) I “run” M-W-F each week and am up to 4 miles at a 12-minute pace. My husband nagged encouraged me to sign up for the Disney World half marathon coming up in mid-January. I haven’t officially started training for that yet, but you have to walk before you can run, right? I’ve also run two 5K races this year. In the first one, I came in first–there was one other woman in the race in my age bracket. In the second one, there were a lot of women my age (the run benefited a high school track star who had died), so I didn’t even come close to first, but my time was better. My 5K time (on the treadmill) is faster now that it was then, so I can see that my efforts are paying off.

How have I done it?

About eighty percent of health/weight loss is what you eat. I was using to track what I eat, which also tells me if I’m getting enough of essential nutrients. (I never seem to get enough potassium.) I still go back to it now and then to see how I’m doing, but I HATE tracking every morsel I put into my mouth. But if you’re eating without thought and you’re still the mayor of your couch, you’re not going to lose much, are you? So I wake up at 5:30-ish every day (which, yes, was very hard to do at first), even on days I don’t run, and then 3 days per week I get on the treadmill. I started out with the treadmill set on “2” and forced myself to do that for 30-45 minutes. I eventually eased the setting up to 3 and then 4 and now, on occasion, I sprint with it set on 5–without being sore the next day.

I think that’s one of the keys–don’t follow the “no pain, no gain” myth. It might take a little longer, but you’re less likely to have to take a month or two off to heal torn muscles, etc. Instead, throttle down the exercise so that you are in the fat-burning zone without hurting yourself. If that’s a casual walk around the block after dinner with the dogs, that’s still better that sitting in your “butt groove” on the couch, nursing a family-sized bag of pretzels! But don’t be afraid to challenge your body and your lungs by stepping it up a bit every other week or so. You won’t know for sure if you can do it if you don’t try. If you can’t do it this week, try again next week.

Give yourself a break!

Also, it’s important to give yourself a rest day. That’s why I only run every other day. Yesterday (Saturday), I rode my bike behind my husband as he went on his 13-mile “long run” for this week. (He’s training for a marathon.) Not only did my legs need a break from Friday’s run, but biking uses different muscles (or at least uses them differently). Plus the ground was wet and soft in some places and very rocky in others, making it harder to to pedal. AND I ran out of water! My husband actually PUSHED my bike in some places. My butt, arms, shoulders, and neck are sore, but legs seem OK today. The hardest part (besides pedaling!) was keeping the bike upright on the very bumpy, muddy ride–which is why my arms, shoulders, and neck are sore. Nope, a 2-hour mountain bike ride the day after a 4-mile run is not a good idea for my body. Not yet, anyway.

My 2012 New Year’s Resolution

Every year for the past 25-ish, my New Year’s Resolution has been to “get healthy.” Anyone who knows anything about making goals would say that “get healthy” is too broad of a goal. For you to have any chance at achieving a goal, it has to be broken down into smaller, manageable goals. So this year, my main goal/resolution is to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise every day. Which still is probably too broad. Maybe it should be, “Get out of bed every morning at 6 am, put on workout clothes and shoes, and get on the treadmill (in the winter, when it’s still dark at 6 am) or take the dogs for a walk.”

Why running?

My husband, Bill, started running 2 years ago. He weighed about 230 pounds. Now he weighs about 160. He did that by running. He used to track his diet. He discovered that he never eats enough because he’s always running! He’s run 3 marathons and 14 half marathons, so he’s always training for something. I often follow along on my bike, but 8 mph isn’t much of an aerobic workout. (The muscles of my legs and butt get a workout peddling up hills, though. If you don’t believe me, try it. Park your bike at the bottom of a steep hill, then peddle up the hill.) Obviously, running has worked out well for him. Not only has he lost fat, he also lowered his total cholesterol, raised his “good” cholesterol, lowered his triglycerides, lowered his blood pressure, and so on. In other words, he “got healthy.”

Meanwhile, I’ve been watching what I eat (mostly), cutting simple carbs, eating more fruits, vegetables, salads, etc., and trying to exercise enough to actually raise my heart rate and burn some fat. But that’s not enough. After a woman gets to “a certain age,” her metabolism slows down, especially if she took a 25-year break from exercise and got a desk job! To get the metabolism started up again, I need to run.

Learning to run again

No one who hasn’t run for 25 years is going to run a marathon. Or even a 5K. First you have to walk. And walk. And walk. That takes time and is usually quite boring, unless you live near a nice state park or a beach board walk, which I don’t. Getting motivated to walk for 30 minutes at 6 am when I’d rather sleep for 30 more minutes is difficult. To help with that, I bought Run Your Butt Off! a book from the editors of Runner’s World magazine. In Run Your Butt Off!, Sarah Lorge Butler, Leslie Bonci, and Budd Coates take you from not running at all to running 30 minutes over 12 “stages.” (Not 12 weeks, because each stage might take you more or less than a week.)

In the first stage, you just walk non-stop for 30 minutes. If you can do that 3 or 4 times in a week, you’re ready for the next stage, which is walking for 4 minutes, then running for 1 minute, and repeating that four more times. In each subsequent stage, you walk less and run more (2 minutes, then 3, and so on), until the final stage in which you run non-stop for 30 minutes. They offer helpful advice for both weight loss and running, and “coach” you through each stage. Just reading the first few chapters is motivating and puts you in the “get healthy” mindset.

Finding the time to run

In the first chapter of Run Your Butt Off! they discuss the number one reason people don’t exercise regularly—no time! The author writes, “You don’t blow off going to work every morning, nor should you skip your exercise appointment.” That’s true—but I won’t get fired if I don’t exercise. (However, studies show that healthy, attractive people tend to get and keep jobs more than unhealthy and unattractive people. Not fair, but true.) The running coach in the book, Budd, comments that it drives him crazy when the parents at his son’s gym practice complain about not having time. He runs while his son is practicing and says, “If you’ve been sitting here for an hour, you have time to run!” He has the same mentality as my husband—“my run is more important than watching my son practice.” I never enjoyed sitting out in a field watching my sons’ soccer practice, but I know they appreciated my being there. Most moms can relate to this excuse, and instead we try to fit exercise into our time (as if we have any!), not our family’s time. And if that means getting up an hour earlier, then that’s what we have to do.

In conclusion…

I’m struggling with whether I want to post “before” pics and measurements—I wouldn’t want to gross you out and scare you off! Over the next 12 weeks, check in here with my blog now and then to see how I’m doing (and “Like” or “+1” me to up my stats!). Maybe I’ll post pics and measurements. Maybe I’ll post some tips and tricks that I’ve learned along the way that might help you “get healthy,” too. Maybe in 2012 I’ll be running in the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon! (OK, maybe just the Family Fun Run.)


Creating an Hourly Reminder in Windows

Did you know that someone was actually paid to research and discover the fact that women blink twice as often as men! I don’t think any technical writers were in that study. As a technical writer, I sit at a desk all day, rarely having the occasion to move anything but my head, eyes, hands, and arms. When I’m really focusing on something, I even forget to blink! I have alternating “runny” and dry, tired, red eyes.

I decided I need a reminder to stop working, stand up, move around—and blink! Microsoft Outlook does not have a way to set hourly reminders, but you can click Snooze > 1 hour each time a reminder appears; however, I’m more likely to click Dismiss. I didn’t want to bring an egg timer to work and have a loud DING go off every hour (I work in a cubicle). And if I set my phone alarm to go off every hour, that would be just as annoying to those around me. (If I set the alarm on “vibrate only,” I would probably assume it was a text message and ignore it.)

After some Googling (and finding some unhelpful advice to install a free program—on my work computer), I discovered a sane and doable solution: Windows Task Scheduler!

Using Task Scheduler, I created a task to pop up a reminder message every hour. Task Scheduler allows me to define the text that appears in the message box, when to start the task, when to finish the task, and how often to pop up the reminder.

I’ve provided the instructions below (Windows 7) for my fellow zombie cubicle ranchers. You need the proper privileges on the computer, of course. (I recently updated my desktop at work to Windows 7 64-bit and the GUIs look slightly different. So if your experience doesn’t exactly match mine, don’t fret. Read the instructions in dialog boxes and figure it out–don’t give up!)

To create an hourly reminder in Windows Task Scheduler

  1. Click Start, then in the search box type Schedule Tasks. (It will probably appear just by typing Sch.)
  2. In the list of programs, click Schedule Tasks. The Task Scheduler appears.

  1. In the Actions (right) pane, click Create Basic TaskThe Create a Basic Task Wizard appears.

  1. Type a Name and Description for the task, then click Next. The Daily page of the wizard appears.

  1. Specify when the task it to Start and how frequently you want the task to Recur, then click Next. The Action page of the wizard appears.

  1. Click Display a message, then click Next. The Display a Message page of the wizard appears.

  1. Provide the Title and the Message that you want to appear on the message box, then click Next. The Summary page of the wizard appears. The Summary page displays the details of the task.

  1. Select the Open the Properties check box, then click Finish.
  2. Click the Triggers tab.

  1. In the Start boxes, set the date (if different from today) and the time. I set mine at 9 am.
  2. In the Advanced settings area, select the Repeat task every check box and set it to 1 hour.
  3. Click OK.
  4. Click OK again to complete the task. The new task appears in the list of tasks in the center pane of the Task Scheduler.

After you’ve created the task, you can make changes to it, test it, disable it, or delete it.

To edit, disable or delete the task

  1. Open the Task Scheduler.
  2. In the Active Tasks area, double click the task. A list of active tasks appears.
  3. Right-click the task, then click the action that you want to perform:
    • Run—Allows you to run the task to ensure that it is working the way you want it (instead of waiting for the clock to run out).
    • End—This stops a task that is in progress. Won’t need it for timed tasks like this one.
    • Disable—Prevents the task from running until you enable it. (If you right-click a disabled task, this option changes to Enable.
    • Export—Allows you to save the task to a file, and then you can import it into another computer.
    • Properties—Opens a Properties dialog in which you can edit the task.
    • Delete—Permanently removes the task from the Scheduler.

And there you have it—an hourly reminder! Every hour on the hour a message pops up to remind me to get up and move!

NOTE: I have not found a way to make the message pop to the front. If you are speedily typing and clicking away on the mouse, you might miss the message popping up. However, it will appear in your task bar and blink, like an IM will do. I have 2 monitors at work, and I’ve put the task bar vertically on the right, between the two monitors. I’m more likely to notice this message appear, as well as IMs, emails, error messages, etc.

How do you stay on an elliptical machine for more than 30 minutes?

Update: This post was first posted on on Feb 17, 2009. Still don’t like that elliptical machine and we’ve since bought a treadmill–and updated my playlist.

I don’t call it a “dreadmill” because I actually like it; however, when I’m on it, I keep thinking of all the more important things I ought to be doing. I just have to convince myself that being healthy is as (or more) important than mopping up the mud that the dogs brought in.


Because my cholesterol count seems to have a direct relationship with my weight, and because I am, embarrassingly enough, SIXTY pounds heavier than I ought to be, I’ve started exercising again.

I had a treadmill that I used sporadically for the past 7 years (?), and it was very easy to jump on for ½ an hour while I watched TV or listened to the iPod. Then Bill messed up his knee and decided that he needed a more low-impact machine. He bought a Precor elliptical—and moved my treadmill out of the living room. (He claims I never used it anyway. BAH!)

I really tried to love the elliptical as much as my treadmill, but at first I could barely do 5 minutes before I was ready to pass out! Eventually, I figured out to change the settings (he had it on max resistance and max incline!) so that I can now last a bit longer, depending on my mood. And my mood is greatly improved if I listen to dance music while I exercise.

I downloaded some songs in iTunes and made a new playlist. I managed to get on the elliptical every day this week, so far (Sun-Tues). The first 20 minutes about kill me, and then I have a semi-slow song to catch my breath. I found it’s easier if I close my eyes (with both hands hanging on!) and pretend I’m dancing. I went for 30 minutes today, which, for me, is great. Below are the songs I listen to while I exercise, which I chose for the tempo/beat, and for the words.

  • Lose Yourself, Eminem: (Slow start, to get warmed up) “You better lose yourself in the music, the moment, You own it, you better never let it go, You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow, This opportunity comes once in a lifetime” (You only get one life, apparently.)
  • Sexy Back, Justin Timberlake: (It has slow and fast parts to get the burn going) “Get your sexy on, go ahead be gone with it.”
  • Jerk it Out, Ceasars: (fast beat) “Wind me up Put me down Start me off and watch me go I’ll be running circles around you sooner than you know”
  • Work That, Mary J Blige: (good steady beat–I’m warmed up now) “There’s so many of you girls, I hear you been runnin’ from the beautiful queen that you could be coming…I just wanna be myself, don’t sweat girl, be yourself. …Work your thing out…work what you got.” (Sorry, Mary, but I’m sweatin’ now!)
  • Womanizer, Circus, Brittany Spears
  • Disturbia, Rhianna (slightly faster beat–can’t sing along as easily) “What’s wrong with me now? Why do I feel like this? I’m going crazy now.”
  • Don’t Stop the Music: Rhianna: (I have to close my eyes and imagine I’m dancing. I might pass out if I look at my heart rate.) “Please don’t stop the music, I gotta get my body movin’ shake the stress away, and now we’re rockin’ on the dance floor acting naughty”
  • Harder to Breathe, Maroon 5: (Time to slow it down–it really is harder to breathe) “You drain me dry and make me wonder why I’m even there anyone out there, ’cause it’s getting harder and harder to breathe”
  • Apologize, Timbaland: (Slower, time to cool down)

Many others that I never stay on long enough to get to unless I skip songs!!