Sunday, June 3, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #15

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I have been running for about 6 months.  I try to run slowly, but I am still always out of breath  (not so much that I need to stop--I can go 3-4 miles--but I feel like I'm panting like crazy compared to the super fit runners I see on the trails).  I always wear a heart monitor and my heart rate is also always VERY high.  I've talked to my MD about it and she said it's nothing to worry about.  However, I feel like my running fitness is not improving.  I am able to run farther distances, and sometimes it is easier than others, but overall I feel stuck.  Did you ever have this issue?  Did you notice that your average heart rate was lower as you continued to run and/or improved your running?

A. If your heart rate is always very high, it might not be the greatest indicator of whether your fitness is improving. It's good that you talked to your doctor about it, and that she said it's nothing to worry about. But do you notice that your breathing is a little labored and your muscles feel like they're really working when you run? If your heart rate is always high, you might want to judge your effort level by your breathing instead. When I do my long, easy runs, I can carry on a conversation pretty easily. It might be a little choppier than when I'm sitting and talking, but I can talk. When I'm racing for a PR, I can barely get out a word or two and I'm gasping for breath at the end. Those are the two opposite ends of the spectrum. 

I find that I improve the most when I run somewhere in-between for most of my runs--an effort level of about a 7 (on a scale of 1-10, 10 being the hardest effort). In the beginning, an effort of 7 would put me at a pace of about an 11:15 mile--and now, when I run at that effort level, I run about a 9:20 mile. I'm putting in the same effort, but going faster, so I know that my fitness level has improved. (But to answer your question, yes--my average heart rate lowered as I got fitter). I still have good runs and bad runs, though--some days an effort of 7 would put me at a 10:30 pace, just because it's hot outside, I'm hungover not feeling well, etc. 

Overall, I wouldn't worry too much about it. As long as you're pushing yourself (and not feeling so relaxed that you could take a nap!) your fitness will improve.



Q. When you were losing weight and had a binge, did you calculate/count all of the calories from the binge?

A. I went an entire year without a single binge, and when I did finally binge, I was so angry at myself! But yes, I added up the calories (the best that I could). I would estimate as honestly as possible how much I ate of each food item and tally up the calories. Most of the time, this would help me to realize that the damage wasn't actually as bad as I thought, and if I got right back on track, it would only set me back a pound or so. 


When I didn't write it down, I would imagine that I had eaten tens of thousands of calories and that I might as well give up. Writing it down is a reality check that could be good or bad, but definitely REAL. And it may help you!
Here's an actual binge from my food log



Q. When I run, my hands go numb. I also tend to make a fist while I'm running if I don't consciously think to keep my hands relaxed. Does this ever happen to you/what do you do to prevent it?

A. This used to happen to me when I was overweight. A lot of times, people who are overweight, and/or don't exercise, have poor circulation. This was the case with me, and it caused my hands to go numb--both while exercising and even while sleeping, knitting, or typing. As I lost weight, it happened less and less frequently, until it just never happened at all. 

When you say you make a fist, are you clenching your fist? It's okay to make a fist with your hands while you run, but you should keep them loose--not clenched. At first, it's hard to get used to keeping your upper body relaxed while you run, but you can waste a lot of effort by clenching your fists (or hunching your shoulders, like some people do). It's best to keep your upper body relaxed. (Here is an article on proper running form).



And now a question for all of you...
What do you do to de-stress? I feel SO stressed out lately, and I need some suggestions to help me get over it! I already exercise, which is supposedly the best way to relieve stress. Unfortunately, my favorite way to de-stress is to eat!



34 comments:

  1. My favorite way to de-stress is to go read a good book outside, preferably in the shade of a massive tree. Taking pictures is great too, sometimes I just go out to the lake and sit under a tree for a few hours, and photograph everything around me. Watching/photographing the sunset over the lake is perfection.

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  2. Great advice about the binge, I track my food on MFP and one day I ate an entire bag of pirates booty, it was a weekend and literally just kept going to the bag, and eating and before I knew it the entire bag was empty. I put the entire bag in MFP. It's embarrassing and my friends can read it but it's all about accountability and realizing what happens to me. So I basically cannot have a giant bag of pirates booty in my house (maybe I'll buy those small single bags) nor can I have pop corners either, they are so good I can eat an entire bag, which isn't that bad, about 680 calories, but still, I'm sure the carb/fat ratio is really high.

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  3. Honestly, I pray when I am really stressed. It helps me to realize that God is in control not me and that he has a Great plan for me. I also read, listen to music or talk to really suppotive friends.

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  4. Wow, great questions / answers! I also struggle with running and breathing - I can run 4-5 miles straight but there is no way I can carry on a conversation. I recently started the 5K to 10K program and the intervals seem to be helping. I also get puffy fingers / numb hands sometimes and really bad headaches after I run. I guess I am not in as good shape as I think I am - lol!
    My binge trigger is OJ - I can drink the entire 2 litres in one day (2000 + calories) ouch.

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  5. I shop and overspend which then causes more stress after I add up the receipts, oops. I'm not the best person to take de-stress advice from, but I hope you find something that works for you...

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  6. My dog helps to calm me. Just having her sit in my lap and feeling her soft fur and her easy relaxed breathing helps me. I also de-stress by watching a funny movie, or if the weather is nice, I get comfy in a lounge chair out in my yard...again with my dog in my lap. : )

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  7. I look forward to the day that I can carry on a conversation while running lol

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  8. My favorite way to destress is to run away, literally! If I cannot go for a run for one reason or another, I go for a walk. If exercise doesn't help, I talk to a friend, drink tea or read a book...

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  9. I take a long, hot shower and don't come out till I feel better (or the water gets cold) :)

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  10. I go junking.......usually alone for some reason I love a good bargain and gives me a high that helps with making me fill like I did something so big....even though it maybe something I turn around and sale or gift it... I get caught in the hunt and releaves the stress for awhile.

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  11. One of my favorite destressing activities is to take a shower or bath. I like the feeling of washing away whatever is worrying me. It's also one of my binge preventing activities - by the time I get in the tub, relax a bit, take a shower to wash off the bubbles (of course it's a bubble bath!), dry off, and get dressed, I'm no longer thinking about the binge (and if I had to go out and get it, I don't want to walk/ride my bike there anymore because I'm all relaxed, so I just get some comfy clothes on and read, watch a movie, take a nap, etc.)

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  12. Not sure how helpful this will be...I run when I'm stressed:) Always makes me feel like a million bucks!

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  13. Yoga helps me when I am stressed. It is also great to stretch muscles that are sore after I go for a long run. There are lots of free yoga videos free on YouTube and Hulu, so all you really need is a mat! :)

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  14. Thank you so much for the article on form! I have been wondering if mine was correct and had forgotten to look it up! When I need to de-stress, I run a hot bath and soak and/or read a book. If the book is good enough, I get so involved in what's going on that I don't really think about my issues anymore.

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  15. When I'm stressed to the max and just can't take another minute, I close the bedroom door (and lock it!) and snuggle into bed with a book. Thankfully I have an amazing husband who doesn't mind me abandoning him with 2 kids when I need to. After an hour, I usually feel much better and am ready to face life again.

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  16. Thank you for answering my running question! Your answer was very helpful.

    I frequently feel stressed out. The thing that helps me the most is yoga. When I'm anxious/stressed I can't do things like take a bubble bath b/c that just gives me more time to think about what I'm stressed out about. But when I'm doing yoga I have to concentrate on what my body's doing, so it takes my mind off whatever I'm worried about. I always feel better when I'm done. It took me a while to get into it (kind of like running!), but I'm glad I stuck it out. Also, chocolate :)

    Kelly W.

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  17. Two things... if I stressed (and I look horrible!) I stay inside and search Pinterest. It's so fun to post recipes, and quotes and Interior Design ideas. And, I can do it in my comfy bed. If I'm dressed and have my hair done I throw on some lipgloss and go shopping. But, here's the trick (you have to have SOME self discipline) I buy whatever I want or think I might want. It's especially fun if I go to good will or discount stores. Then I bring the stuff home with my receipts and decide what I really will keep and return the rest a few days later. That way I'm walking around the store (exercise, right?) and I'm not at home eating. And, even if I return most everything, I usually end up finding a shirt or a skirt for $10 or $15 that ends up being my favorite clothing piece I wear for years. Not a bad way to cheer up and relax a little.

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  18. UGH! I feel you about being stressed lately. Normally, I can exercise to feel less stressed, but that's been a challenge lately. I have a three year old, a one year old, a ton of bills, and a lot of stress, but I've also had a few stupid injuries that have kept me from working out. Stupid setbacks, really, but the stress was mounting. So lately, I've started reading again. My spring classes ended, and I have a little time before my summer class, so I've been reading young adult fiction. I know, that sounds silly, but I don't feel like reading anything that involves thought. I think enough on any given day. I've read "midnight circus", "the aviary", "miss peregrine's home for peculiar children", and now I'm reading some rick riordan books. I seriously don't want to read anything sad or read about anyone else's drama. I like getting lost in another world for a bit. Also, it helps since I read mostly in my bed, and I don't allow myself to eat up there, I snack less at night.

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  19. I close the bathroom door, lock it, pour a bubble bath, dim the lights, and put on the relaxation music channel on Pandora, and soak/meditate in the tub.

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  20. Lately I have been feeling stressed for no reason! Usually only at night when I lay down. I think to myself, "ok think of Dan and I on vacation...on a beach.. ugh there's effing sand everywhere, ok, we're getting massages in a fancy hotel. Where are we? Can we afford this?!" haha! I need to learn to simplify! Honestly, when I'm tired after a long day of work, I love to come home, get in comfy clothes, sit on the couch and be on my laptop. It's boring and not very glam, but it's comfy and relaxing!

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  21. To de-stress, I like to go get a manicure/pedicure. They will do little mini-massages and it really feels amazing. I'm quite poor sadly, but I looked and found a little place in a local mall where a manicure is only $12, so it is a cheap way to relieve stress, I think of it as, $12 for a manicure is better than $30 for binge food.

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  22. It's definitely hard not to turn to food when I'm stressed, happy, sad, angry, bored, lonely... I read a lot, fiddle with the computer, watch some mind-numbing tv, usually Bravo...

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  23. Play computer games, make something crafty :) Being crafty is best because hands are too busy to be eating! BUT food has been a go to for so many years, it unfortunately seems natural now urgh!

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  24. When I am stressed I clean. Sounds crazy I know but I workout 6 days a week and run 4 of those days so I'm with you, exercise isn't always an answer for me. I also like to turn off all noise, open windows, lay down, close my eyes and do some breathing exercises while listening to the wind in the trees. Does that sound cheesy? I just love it and it's only for 15-20 minutes and I feel less on edge and ready to get on with the day. I saw someone posted about praying and I do that as well. Good luck! Sounds like you will have some great options to try out!

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  25. I never thought I'd get into it, but I started taking a yoga class offered at my work once a week, and I love it! I've been going for a year now, and really look forward to it every Tuesday! It's a great workout, I've gotten quite a bit stronger, and I always feel relaxed and stretched out afterwards. I've noticed it's really helped lessen my anxiety - even in the first month of classes. I've got a couple yoga videos at home that are okay, but I really prefer the class because our instructor is awesome, and keeps things mixed up and interesting!

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  26. Favorite ways to de-stress: (had to get create b/c I have an anxiety disorder - stress is part of me, it seems) a bubble bath is nice, watching a show on TV, read blogs, go Good-willing, talk with a safe friend, go to Starbucks and order a decaf drink and just people-watch (promise I'm not a stalker - it just feels good to get out), take a relaxing walk.

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  27. My favorite de-stressor is knitting. Lace patterns with charts force me to pay attention to my knitting and keep my mind focused on something other than whatever is stressing me out.

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  28. I loved reading everyone's stress relievers...I've been wondering what to do with myself to avoid binge eating, and make a list. I had some already (clean, go on a walk, go for a drive, play with my little girl, etc) but from your readers' comments, I added taking a bubble bath followed by a shower and reading a book outside to that list! I think reading outside will be something I do this evening on such a beautiful day.

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  29. I've struggled with this lately as well. I've made it a point to spend time IRL with friends, even if we just take a walk, a few times a week. Fresh air, relaxed walking, and catching up with friends has done wonders for my mood.

    This might sound strange, but visiting the library helps, too. It's quiet, clean, and you never know what you'll find!

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  30. De-stress. I light candles, drink tea, and play relaxing music. I also turn off the tv. I go for a walk with my pupper dawg and in my head number off 100 things I'm grateful for... (I know all of that is hard to do if you are busy and stressed!)

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  31. Yeah, I deal with this too, especially the past few months, and like you, I am really happy that I exercise so much now...God knows what would happen if I didn't! Unfortunately, I tend to go for food, too. (Again, thank God for all the exercise!) But some of the OTHER things that I do are: 1)Write in my journal. 2)Meditate...I used to do this regularly and keep meaning to get back to it. 3)Listen to relaxing music 4)If I am REALLY a nervous wreck, clean 5)Ask myself if whatever it is is making something horrible happen right now (usually the answer is no!) and then try to stay in the moment. Hope that helps!

    Dede

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  32. I like to read a "light" book, browse my favorite places on the internet,or vent to a friend on the phone.

    A proactive measure I take is meeting my best friend once a week for a light dinner. This is probably the MOST helpful thing I do. We have a "standing date" and 85% of the time we are able to make it happen.

    Having the tv off in the house helps a lot too. I also like to destress with ice cream. :) Recently I have been meeting that need with Edy's frozen coconut bars since they are portion controlled.

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  33. Is this where I leave a question? I hope you can answer quickly as I'm in the middle of training. I just started a few weeks ago. I regularly go to the gym and do classes like Zumba and I jogged like once a month for the past 7 months but now I'm doing the couch to 5k program to get ready for a race. My only issue is my cramps! I could run longer if my cramps in my stomach didn't hurt so bad! They never hurt when I take Zumba classes and things like that it's just when I run. I try to take extra breaths but nothing works. What can I do to make it go away? Thank you -Melissa J

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  34. Good advice on the binge. It is rarely as bad as you think and it is important to look at it straight on rather than hide in shame or despair.

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I'd love to hear from you! I read all of my comments, and if you have a question, I do my best to respond; sometimes, however, I get busy and forget to go back to reply, so if it's important, just email me! :)