Link love and a challenge update

For those following me at home.  This week’s goal was 2,500 steps/day.  How did I do?:
Feb 1: 7,194 (DH had a dentist appointment so I had to get DC1 which I did on foot)
Feb 2: 2,951 (Pacing while waiting for DH put me over the edge on this one)
Feb 3: 6,946 (I had the car so I had to walk from the parking lot, went for coffee at work, walked to the village store during DC1’s piano lesson to pick up a loaf of bread)
Feb 4: 9,769 (DH had the car so I walked to pick up both kids.  We got smoothies on the way home from DC2.)
Feb 5: 4,420 (Decided to pick up DC1 by foot for funsies because I was home because my laptop broke at work and I’ve been seriously procrastinating)

Go me.  One thing I notice is that I would rather exercise than work which means my work has been suffering a bit.  :/  DC1 chatters a lot more while walking home than zie does in the car (where zie generally reads a book).

And now for some links!

UN experts horrified by how American schools treat black children.

Marlon Brando on Hollywood’s diversity problem.

America Ferrera answers a stupid question.

What happened when Texas defunded Planned Parenthood, the answer may not surprise you.

The comments on every article about sexism illustrate the exact problem

For a laugh.

Read the comments and ponder how privilege is a many splendored thing

Michael Moore on the Flint tragedy

Dr. Cleveland was wrong about Hillary Clinton.

The only reason to attack Clinton on lack of progressivity is political.

Wandering scientist has a one hour productivity seminar

Budgetpalooza

Hypnotic

newborn horse sneezes

How many steps: February challenge update

I spent the week trying to do better about carrying my phone so I’d have a baseline step information.  This was complicated by two factors:

  1. Not all of my pants pockets are cell-phone compatible.
  2. At the end of the day I need to plug my phone in so it can eat yummy electricity (I usually do this as soon as I get home so I don’t forget).

Add to that that my DH and I did the exact same hike on Saturday but somehow he ended up walking considerably “longer” in miles according to his phone than I did in addition to taking “more” steps even though I’m much shorter (probably because his was in his pants pocket and mine varied between my jacket and a bag used to carry jackets), and I’m fairly sure that the actual number of steps is incorrect.

However, incorrect they may be, so long as they’re consistently incorrect that’s a reasonable baseline.

Here’s what we’ve got:

Jan 25: 1761
Jan 26: 2127
Jan 27: 1519 (incompatible pants day)
Jan 28: 2134
Jan 29: 2362
Jan 30: 10862
Jan 31: 6430

So that tells me that I can get 2000 steps per day pretty easily.  Here’s my plan for the month (minimums):

Week 1: 2500 steps/day
Week 2: 3000 steps/day
Week 3: 3500 steps/day
Week 4: 4000 steps/day

I know it seems pretty modest, but it did take a 2 hour hike plus grocery shopping and walking to the library to get that 10,862 step number and I have some deadlines this month so two hours+ of exercise each day just isn’t feasible.  Plus I don’t wear the phone all day, though I bet by week 4 I’ll be better about remembering it during the day even if I still plug it in when getting home at night.

I will allow myself to take a break if I am genuinely sick (not the irritating cold I’m nursing). If I break my leg or something I’ll find an alternative exercise.

Wish me luck and a lack of broken limbs!

February is Challenge Month

So I’ve been feeling awfully tired and out of shape recently.  That means this year’s February challenge should either be exercise or food related.  (Since I have PCOS, eating sugary/refined carb foods can have an especially detrimental effect on my health and moods.)

Last year I tried the 7 min workout and I hated it so very much.  I got stronger but I dreaded that part of each day.  So that didn’t last past February.

I’ve been debating two different things.

First, I could do a healthy-eating challenge to reset my diet.  Basically this means I eliminate sugar and refined carbs entirely for the month.  No pastries, no white bread, no white pasta, no white rice, no more TJ’s orange chicken.  I know this works out pretty well for me and I tend to feel more energetic and healthier and so on and so forth.  But it removes a lot of the minor joys in my life which seems especially hard when we’re temporarily living someplace with good bakeries.  So I’m trying to cut back on the lower quality stuff, but I don’t think I want to go straight-up cold turkey.  I at least want to be able to partake at work functions, even though I know we can do better at home.

Second, and what I’m going to go with, is an exercise challenge.  After some conversation with DH, I’ve decided I should do a step challenge, as in, walk at least X steps per day.  Now, the standard step challenge is to do 10,000 steps/day.  (Or to average that per week.)  There’s not really anything scientific about that number based on my quick internet search (if anything, the “scientific” number is 7-8K, but more doesn’t hurt).  I’m not sure how realistic 10K would be for me, so what I’m doing this week is actually carrying my phone around with me and using the iPhone health app to see what my regular step usage is according to the phone.  After doing that, I’ll see what a reasonable number to up it to would be.  (It’s not as good as a fit-bit, but if I use it as a baseline against itself hopefully that will be reasonable.)  I don’t normally carry around my phone, so it says silly things like I’ve done 20 steps/day on the weekends.  The most recent time that I was carrying around my phone was at a conference where all the hotels were far away from each other, and on those days I did average more than 10K, but I did what seems like a lot of walking on those days.

A problem I’m not sure what to do about is the weather.  It has been unpredictable.  On days like today it’s easy to say, oh yeah, if I didn’t get enough walking in during the day I will totally go on a long walk after work.  But that’s a bit harder to commit to when it’s pouring rain.  Maybe I’ll have to look into youtube aerobics or something.  (Yech.)

The end goal is to feel more energetic.  If walking more doesn’t work, then I probably will have to do more than just vaguely try to eat healthier.

The plan going forward is to check how much I’ve been walking per day during a regular week, like this one, and then to set a goal for walking that is bigger than that number.  If it is embarrassingly low, I will put in an increase to a less embarrassing number each week goes on in February.

(What happened to biking or taking public transportation, you ask?  Winter + DH being willing to drive me! And deeply enjoying spending that time talking with DH instead of being on the bus by myself.  And one of the bus drivers being kind of a jerk.) (Thank goodness we’ve passed the solstice and it’s started to stay light after work.  Still probably gonna stay with the car.)

For those who haven’t been following us forever, why February?  Because February is the best month for challenges!  January may have that post-holiday guilt and new year optimism, but February has the bigger benefit of being shorter.

How do you exercise/stay healthy?

7 min challenge coda

Well, I did it, I got through the month.

I did spend two weeks with two separate but equally nasty colds and skipped one Saturday because I slept the entire day, but I made up for it with doing the workout on my break day the next week.

I am stronger now.  I can do 9 pushups in the first set and 6-8 in the second set.

But I hate it.  Every day I’d be like, well, I guess I should do the workout now.  And I would, but I never ever wanted to.  I never looked forward to it, even when watching the daily show during it.  I just do not want to be bothered.

So after Feb 28th I stopped.  And that’s that.

7 min is a long time

In which #1 chronicles week 1 of her 7 min challenge.  For, you know, posterity.

Day 1:  Jumping jacks are easy but tiring.  Wall sit, this seems easy oh but now my upper legs are burning.  Why are my leg muscles burning?  Woo, 3 push-ups, go me, I guess.  Cannot do another.  I cannot do a single abdominal crunch or sit-up.  Step up onto chair, another one I don’t understand.  Squats are easy… it’s like how I picked stuff up when I was pregnant.  Triceps dip onto chair, I have never done this and it kind of burns.  Plank… doesn’t happen.  First my toe slips on tax papers on the floor and then I am completely unable to do even one push-up.  I ran out of push-ups in step 3.  High knees running in place– no problem.  Lunge– why is this even an exercise?  The last two things don’t happen– no more push-ups left so no push up and roll and no side plank.  During this time, the kids keep coming in demanding attention, despite having declined to try the exercises with me.

Day 2:  It becomes clear why people online said the wall sit was a challenge.  My day starts with sore leg muscles that remind me they exist every time I walk.  My colleagues ask me if everything is ok and laugh when I tell them.  Two of my colleagues used to force their younger siblings to do the wall sit, they tell me.  Another one says, “oh, I tried the 7 min workout once,” and grimaces.  After dinner I force my tired self to do another set.  This time I get 3.5 push-ups and manage to at least start the plank.  Not the side plank (wait, my rear end is supposed to be off the ground?).  My 8 year old successfully completes the entire circuit and then runs off.

Day 3:  Still sore, but maybe not as much.  Or maybe I’m just used to it.  Back to only 3 push-ups, and forget any crunches.  And I’m pretty sure the side plank isn’t going to happen this month, but you never know.

Day 4:  Amazingly, no longer sore.  Still, took the day off from the work out because of teaching for 6 hours.

Day 5:  My sister asked how it was going.  I told her some exercises were more doable than others.  Not at all sore today.  I did four push-ups in the first set and one in the last (and was able to plank for a bit).  I feel great today and at first attribute it to my exercise regimen, but then realize that my nose is no longer dripping, my head is no longer muffled, and I’m no longer getting vertigo when I dip my head down.  Not being sick is AWESOME.

Day 6:  FIVE pushups in a row.  And 2 in the last set.  And I’ve discovered 7 min goes a lot faster if you’re watching the daily show during it on the other computer monitor.

Day 7:  Another 5 pushups in the first set and 3 in the last set.

The 7-min February Challenge

My sister convinced me to do this one.  It’s 7 min, she said.  There’s an app for it that you can download to your iPad, she said.

Of course, I actually looked up the 7 min workout and it isn’t really 7 min– you’re supposed to do 3 or 4 repetitions of it, which brings you to 21 or 28 min, really (not counting resting).

But 7 min of intense exercise is 7 min more than I am currently doing, and I’m fairly sure it will be challenging enough for me that I’ll be getting some health benefit, at least initially.  I am willing to bet it will push me beyond my normal endurance.  We’ll see.  (You’ll see.)

So what is this 7 min workout?  It’s this thing that the NYTimes popularized in this article.  You do a whole bunch of stuff very intensely for a short amount of time.  It is unpleasant, but relatively brief.   You can download the app here.  (Yes, I know it has plenty of detractors with valid reasons for detracting.  And no, I won’t push myself beyond mildly unpleasant because no, I don’t want to hurt myself.  Also I will allow myself a day off each week if I think I need to heal.)

Why am I doing it?  Because it’s winter and I’m a lump because the pool is closed and it’s cold outside.  This seems like as good a challenge as any.  And I can take 7 min out of my day (most likely after work) to torture myself for 28 days straight.  We’ll see if that leads to anything else in the future.

For those who haven’t been following us forever, why February?  Because February is the best month for challenges!  January may have that post-holiday guilt and new year optimism, but February has the bigger benefit of being shorter.

Note from #2:  My partner did the 7-minute circuit one time and it’s a doozy of hellish awfulness.  Feel free to modify to your own ability level!  Definitely start with only one 7-minute cycle.  I can’t even make it through one of them.  I am a wuss.  I am ok with that.  But 7 minutes is not very long to put up with things for a long-term gain! [EDIT: he says he actually did it 5 times before I saw him in his state of exhaustion.  So it’s not *that* bad.]

Anyone else doing February challenges?

March Mortgage Update: And a challenge update

Last month (February):
Balance: $63,643.06
Years left:4.916666667
P =$954.07, I = $260.34, Escrow = 613.58

This month (March):
Balance: $61,508.58
Years left:4.75
P =$962.48, I =$251.92, Escrow = 613.58

One month’s prepayment savings: $4.64

So how did we do with the challenge month?  As predicted, it’s more fun to do a saving money challenge when you don’t have to than when you sorta do have to.  Especially when you can “cheat” by going out for lunch a few times (or dinner when there’s a speaker or job candidate!)

The first week our grocery bill was crazy low (for us), something like $70.  But then the second week it was more like $200 (which is average/high for us since DC2 started us with hir no wheat thing).  Third week, $90.65.  Fourth week we went into the city and that doesn’t count.  :)  So eating nothing but cheap meals does seem to have an impact on our bottom line.

Other than the arepas and the fresh spring rolls, most of what we made was stuff we ate a lot in graduate school– and most of that was stuff my parents taught me how to make as a kid.  If we had to permanently lower our food budget, I think I’d get bored of mostly the same American/Mexican fare.  For a month, it’s comfy-cozy, but after that I’d need to do a better job with our quick and easy ethnic cookbooks.  There’s a lot of cheap quick healthy ethnic food out there, it just needs to get worked into our repertoire.

I was also reminded how important it is to know what’s in season and to have flexibility at the grocery store when you’re eating on a budget if you want fresh veggies.  I didn’t exercise this option because we’re pressed for time more than we’re pressed for money, but I would be much more careful about the kinds of soups and stirfries and so on that I do make.

And, of course, it’s seriously difficult to eat cheap food when you’re trying to balance not eating refined carbs (because of the PCOS) with trying to avoid gluten (because of the diaper rash).  Mostly we’ve been going the refined carbs route (as you’ve seen), but as DC2 weans (and my metabolism returns to sucking), we’ll probably go the other extreme.  Fruits and veggies, of course, are always good, and it’s nice to be price insensitive to them.

[Update:  On Saturday we hit a sushi place and dropped $73 for comfortably full with no leftovers.  I am reminded that even when we eat out on the cheap, ~$30, the price of one meal is generally about the price of 4 meals from scratch from the grocery store.  I’m still not used to having enough money to drop $73 on a meal out with the kids, but we do have enough and it was really good!  I don’t think we’ll be making sushi-from-the-good-sushi-place a weekly thing though.]

Most of all, I’m reminded that it’s nice to not spend time thinking about the price of things, and focusing on what looks fun, interesting, and quick and easy to make.  Being semi-mindful cuts our grocery budget a third to a half, but we’re willing to spend more to just not have to think about the monetary aspects of our eating, and to occasionally splurge without guilt.  (Plus, free reign at the grocery store may cut down on our restaurant expenditures!)

How do you balance money and time with food?

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