Category Archives: Running

Directlife

Ziggy opening up his stride

I am entering a drawing for DirectLife activity monitor giveaway…! So this post has a bit of a (selfish, commercial) bent to it, though I hope you can gain some insight into my writing life as well…

My friend Foodie McBody has been blogging about her weight loss and fitness over the past year or two. Foodie and I have been friends a long time, ever since I took a workshop from her, long before any of my fiction had been published (in fact, it was she who convinced me to send a story out to ZYZZYVA, which voila, got accepted a week later). Our commonality was writing.

Over the years, she and I also became workout buddies, seeing each other through some grueling workouts with a personal trainer, sweat, and at times, tears, streaming down our faces. Or in my case, puke streaming OUT of my face (until I was diagnosed with a PFO and my PFO was closed, it was often the case that I would puke several times during a vigorous aerobic workout).

We each had different motivations for getting fit. Hers reached a pinpoint focus when she was diagnosed with diabetes; she wanted to get healthier. Mine was the more nebulous motivation “to get fit.”

Now that my PFO is closed, I have a newfound ability to run without puking and getting a migraine afterwards. Getting fit is no longer torturous. Annnd….I am nearing 40. I want to be in better shape, and to be better looking, than I was at 30. I want to live to a ripe old age in good health.

Add to the above that running has helped my novel writing; the two, in my mind and body, are inextricably linked. I am not sure if this is because I release my stress thru running and thus am better prepared to write…or if the running is changing my brain chemistry and helping with endurance and thus helping me with my novel…but either way, the more often I run, the better my writing progress.

But what about accountability?

I write best when I have a writing partner/buddy to whom I email my wordcount each week (and occasionally, an excerpt or the entirety of what I wrote that week). I write best when I have a goal and incremental milestones.

As for fitness/weight loss…? I weigh myself each day even though I know that this is a no-no to many experts. This accountability works for me. When I wake up 3 pounds heavier, I know it is because I did not eat well the day before; perhaps I had processed foods that contained too much salt, or maybe the bagel and rice dishes have made me bloated. Either way, it is a way for me to check-in with myself.

But checking in with my weight is a lot like checking in on number of pages written on a novel. It is merely product…without process. I could be losing muscle and not fat. I could just be dehydrated. Weight loss is NOT the only way I want to measure my progress, because there is more to fitness than weight loss. Just as in novel writing, there is more than just pages written; there is quality of work and revision and all the process between idea and pages completed.

And that is why I want to win a DirectLife monitor from Foodie. I want to understand my process. I want to get FIT, not just lose weight.

There are big changes ahead for me in 2010. My lifestyle will change due to these changes; I’d like to keep abreast of my fitness through the shift and accelerate my fitness. (And it’s not without coincidence that starting in January, my plan is to make revising my novel a priority until September). I know, I know…it’s still a secret as to what’s happening come January…but soon! I will share that soon.

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Eliminating Noise

the coast

I am continuing my quest to be good.

Step 1: the elimination of noise.

By noise, I don’t mean all sound, but a particular kind of sound that keeps me from focusing on what I need and want in my life. And by sound, I don’t even mean literal sound, but information that is unnecessary and welcome.

Like FB or twitter: It’s so exhausting–it’s like trying to keep up with a conversation in which I’m not a major player. Do I really need to take part? When I walk away, it’s not like I’m missed; that conversation keeps moving, whether I’m contributing or not.

So I stepped away. I’m managing to step almost entirely away from Facebook and finding myself…happier, lighter, as a result. (But drats that Farm Town–is there a gum I can chew to wean myself off that addiction? I’m not even sure WHY it is I’m so addicted to Farm Town).

Within the realm of FB, I still trimmed down. I pressed “hide” on Facebook at least 50 times. The first time I hit “hide” I felt cruel, then the next few times I hit “hide” I felt crueller, then I felt guilty, and then I felt…relief.

I am beginning to hear my own thoughts again. And that’s important to me as a writer.

And when I logged off, I began to roam the world.

A friend came to town; and with her visit came a new romance with the city in which I live. She had missed San Francisco and Berkeley and I got caught up in a love affair.

We went to 3 museums in 1 day.

First, the Asian Art Museum, where we observed hundreds of Buddhas. This one, titled “Buddha as an Ascetic,” was most different, and therefore to me, most beautiful:
Buddha as an ascetic

He looks like a man, not a deity. I could have a chat with this Buddha. This Buddha looks like he could totally rip a loud fart and then laugh his ass off. I’m on board with that.

We have been friends for a long time. I tend to bond with women who buck tradition. Two lone wolves together:

Reflection of the Shanghai Exhibit and us

At the Academy of Sciences, where we ooh’d and ahhh’d over myriad sea creatures and where I needed a shower after walking through the Rain Forest exhibition, we observed male crotch on display. Awesome, kind of:

in this display: a male crotch

That clam in the picture is there by coincidence. Brilliant coincidence.

And then last but not least, the SFMOMA. Does Michael Jackson have 3 arms, or is that the monkey’s foot?

Michael Jackson has 3 arms

Over a weekend, the hubby and I took a mini roadtrip, during which we encountered this sign at a Taco Bell. Remember, NEVER go through that door late at night because “YOUR LIFE COULD DEPEND ON IT!!”:
awesome sign at Taco Bell

That sign is so melodramatic, I love it. It appeals to the melodramatic Korean in me. Oh, btw, I’m 100% Korean. Thus, 100% melodramatic.

Also, part of me wants to open that door after night. Does it open up to a world of bad gremlins?

There was snow en route to Tahoe:
snow Memorial Day weekend

OMG, SNOW ON MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND?!  Yes.

Isn’t Lake Tahoe beautiful? This is by Cave Rock:

Cave Rock and Lake Tahoe

I wish we’d brought some sort of picnic lunch with us. I could have gazed at this vista for quite some time, with a lobster roll or sandwich or cold fried chicken and a drink in hand. Talk about the elimination of noise, right?  Just looking at this picture eliminates all noise in my brain.

That’s not to say I’ve achieved the elimination of noise; I still have a lot to go until I reach an optimal level.

The elimination of noise does not mean going on a diet. Thus, we ate yum food. A chard and mushroom frittata:
Monday brunch: swiss chard and mushroom frittata

And blueberry pancakes; using fresh blueberries:
Monday brunch: blueberry pancakes

In search of more vistas and sights and experiences, a friend and I headed up for a special visit and tour of Skywalker Ranch. I saw the real lightsabers of Luke Skywalker, and Darth Vader, there. And did you know that there are two different lightsabers for Obi-Wan Kenobi? Now you do. Oh, and I saw Indiana Jones’s hat and whip.

visitor day pass for skywalker ranch

It’s locked down like a fortress; photography limited. All I can say is that it is set in the picturesque Marin landscape, where again, the noise leaves my head because of surroundings like this:
skywalker ranch

Does this mean I’m a country girl and not so much a City girl?

You don’t have to very far to see something cute and funny. This is one of the Wiener Dogs, sleeping on his back, hind paws crossed. Weird.
Scarlet and Ziggy: whose crossed paws?

Meanwhile, the vegetable garden is well underway, albeit delayed by the past cold winter, for the season. That big thing up top left is my french garden sorrel. You know the weird thing about my growing sorrel? I only eat it like, once a year. I really need to eat more sorrel. Its lemony tartness is good. I need to eat more of this sorrel, not only into soup, but this tart.

vegetable garden, mid June 2010

I can’t wait to eat the peas and eggplant and odoriko tomatoes and the triamble squash. We’re devouring the radishes. And using the herbs. I love going out into the garden to gather my dinner. It makes me want a much bigger garden.

Peas in progress. Like embryos.
peapod embryo

Their leaves irritate my skin a little, but I really love pulling radishes out of the ground:
radishes pulled from the garden

And remember that crawfish stock I made? My friend and I used it for a paella this week. I love cooking with friends; I’m the kind of person who, when I play hooky, I spend the day cooking with a friend.

paella

And most importantly, after two months off from exercising (with no reason good enough to serve as a proper excuse), I’m back on the treadmill. It feels good. Why oh why did I stop running regularly?  There are very few things that eliminate noise from my head like running can; every step smashes distraction from my brain.

So–that’s just a few of the things I’ve been doing to be good to myself, to rejuvenate, to eliminate noise.

There are quite a few things I still need to do, but I’m on my way.

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This is a really long story about my relationship with my body

finger puppets

I have had a really bad relationship with my body. A *really* bad relationship with my body. At the horrible risk of offending the quadriplegic community, I will say that for most of my life, I have been a psychological quadriplegic; my psyche was disconnected from my body. I did not include my body in my decisions, life, goals, etc. My body had let me down so often, that my entire life was in my head; my life was invested in academics, in reading, in writing, in conversation.

Everything, I thought, was mind over matter. Exercise was painful. Mind over matter. Backpacking, one of my favorite hobbies, was still painful. Mind over matter. My body brought me no joy. Pushing my body through the journey was a means to an end, dictated by my mind. Get to the top of the mountain and digest the view! F*ck the vomiting and the pain. Get through it. My body brought me no joy.

My body was the cause of psychic pain: in grade school, a very ungifted child at any form of athletics (except hula-hooping, and I’ll get to that later), I was always picked last. When you get picked last time after time, you learn to divorce yourself from the source of that pain, and that pain was my body. There are students who fail in school, and after awhile, they remove any self esteem from academic success.

I learned, strategically, to position myself as the CAPTAIN of teams in grade school. Guess what: I was a wizard at strategizing so that I picked the strongest teams. The “Dangerous Dandelions” won every single soccer game during lunch hour. I positioned myself as a fullback and prayed the ball would never come my way. It never did. Everyone on my team knew better than to let the ball get to me. I was proud of them for being so wise.

I was good at hula-hooping. But that was because my dad thought that hula hooping would chisel away at my belly fat. I could hula-hoop for an hour straight. I was a wizard at hula-hooping. Still, it had been a painful road; I had to hula-hoop in front of my dad who made me hula-hoop for an hour on end.

When I told a friend in my mid-20s that I didn’t work out because it was so painful and difficult, he gave me a response that was straightforward and true. He said, “Christine, if it were easy to be fit, everyone would be fit.” Oh. I realized that it wasn’t supposed to be easy. But–still, why was it so difficult for me? Why did I pass out during workouts? Why did running leave me dizzy and gasping for air, and often, throwing up by the side of a road or by the side of a treadmill?

My body was a source of pain in so many ways; I wasn’t allowed to date in high school. I was taught to cover my body up. I was told my body looked horrible in a bikini, not because it looked horrible, but because, in hindsight, I realize it was a way to prevent me from wearing a bikini. But the message came through, all the same.

When I got to college, and experienced the first amorous pair of male hands on my body, I stiffened. I divorced myself from my body in a way that I’d divorced my body before hundreds of times. My body was no longer there. And because I went numb, I let the boy go too far; I’d never been kissed before, but there I was, being kissed. His tongue was cold and probing and I wasn’t there. So I didn’t stop him. It wasn’t until my roommate walked in, saying, “Oops!” that I was able to snap out of my stupor and tell the guy, “I just want to go to sleep.” He was confused. And he was angry later, when I told a mutual friend that his advances were unwanted.

Future amorous encounters were just as uncomfortable. Had I been abused? No. I just couldn’t STAND my body. The next time a boy touched me, it tickled. It.tickled. I couldn’t stop laughing. It.tickled!!! I couldn’t get comfortable. I couldn’t get relaxed. I had to drink to be touched. My friends heard me recount my dependence on alcohol to be touched and they became concerned. But it was what I had to do to divorce myself from my shame around my body.

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Running and writing for endurance

new running shoes

One of my mentors, in the years before he won his Pulitzer and before he’d finished writing his first novel, said that writing a novel changes your brain chemistry. If he were not fastidiously groomed as usual that day, I would have imagined a grizzled beard and weary eyes based on the tone of his battle weary but proud voice in saying so.

I have, in the years since, anticipated and welcomed the change in my brain as I wrote my novel’s first draft. And I *could* feel my brain changing–I wasn’t sure if it was because of the years of work involved and the course of life wending its way alongside the writing, or if it was the writing itself; regardless, I knew the time spent on my novel was changing me. For the better–and for that fact alone, I would still be happy in the completion of my draft, even if it were not published, even if it were not read by anyone else in the world.

At times, the writing was slow going, and my brain felt rusty and resistant to change even if I wanted it; what could I do to help my brain accommodate the novel writing? In the world of athletics, athletes stretch to warm up, they consume foods that optimize their physical performance…what could I do to help my writing?

After reading Murakami’s book on running (the pleasant What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) , I learned that there is a way to prepare your brain for the landscape of endurance and long distance. According to Haruki Murakami, running is the best training for writing a novel.

It makes sense–a writer sits at a desk, every day in singleminded determination and focus to write words down until she assembles tens of thousands of words, if not hundreds of thousands of words that comprise a novel. It is a grueling feat of mental and physical endurance, one that, according to Murakami is “an act of manual labor,” one that requires “far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine.”

And so, inspired by Murakami’s statement that “most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running everyday,” I set out to run, first at an intermittent trot/walk of one mile distance, then working my way up to five kilometers and then beyond.

I have never been a runner. Running has had me gasping in pain my whole life, but I wanted to really try. For some people, exercise comes from a motivation to fit into a dress, others are motivated out of a drive to improve health–and I, I discovered, was motivated by a desire to improve my writing, no matter how far-fetched the connection. Plus, I had a hole in my heart that was only recently closed, and I was eager to try out my new heart on my new regimen that would change my brain and my writing.

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