Wednesday, September 17, 2014

This is Not a Fitness Blog

I know what you're thinking: this obviously isn't a fitness blog.  But, in an effort to be a more fit, healthy example of a vegan being, I've been participating in an adventure of sorts.  I'm going to share the story; please indulge me.

This past spring I finally scheduled a foot surgery I'd been putting off since high school.  As the June date approached I had a lot of misgivings about the timing and specifics; so, after some last-minute advice and deliberation, I cancelled.  It was the right decision, but I told myself that instead of the surgery I was going to have to make extra good use of my unexpectedly mobile summer.  

By mid-August I was up for a challenge, though, and I decided to start the C25Kfree app I'd installed with the best of intentions…at least 2 years ago.

I am not a fit person by nature or nurture, but I am surrounded by people who not only exercise, but love it.  While I enjoy walks, swimming, and biking: all at a leisurely pace and in extreme moderation, my friends run the gamut from occasional runners to fitness class regulars to marathoners to triathletes.  I haven't read Finding Ultra but I can certainly understand the basic premise: feeling older than you thought possible and less fit than you ever expected.  So, C25K.  

I started deliberately with no intention of missing a day of the program.  When I found myself complying on my birthday weekend I barely recognized myself and knew I'd committed.  There were days when I felt like I couldn't believe I was able to do it and there were days when I was afraid I was in even worse shape than the targeted couch potato, but the weeks were going by and I never missed a day...never cheated.  Much like the inspirational (and sometimes 89-arugula supplier) Sheryl Yvette, I appreciate what my legs can accomplish.

I should mention that 89, as in all things, is my partner in this.  My friends had warned me not to over-exercise her, but seeing as she was pulling me through the brisk walks as well as the jogging portions of the program right along, I felt confident she was doing just fine.  If she slowed down- usually for a sniff, I'd say, "If I can do this, you can do this," and we'd continue.  While she certainly doesn't need the exercise as much as I do, she really enjoys the adventure of it all.  And so do I.


I've met so many more of my neighbors than I ever would have otherwise.  They wave, smile, chat (that's what the app's pause button is for), and just generally cheer us on from their porches, driveways, and cars.  Only a few weeks in two separate neighbors casually referred to me as a runner and I found myself embarrassed until my pal convinced me, "If you're running, you're a runner!" And not only are we runners, but we are visible members of our community.  The adult soccer team that practices near my house now knows to ignore 89's tremendous ruckus when we pass and when the nearby firemen want to get my attention they yell out, "Shoes!"  Bet you can't guess why.

89 and I have also met so many neighborhood dogs that it's been a huge boon to her species socialization.  She still barks ferociously at people on bicycles (sorry; I know it's startling and we're working on it) and parks her furry behind on the asphalt until strangers acknowledge her, but at least I think she's learning her left from her right as we turn corners.

I should also mention the part my fitbit plays in all this.  I purchased it in January and often struggled to steadily reach my minimum 10,000 steps at least 6 days/week since then, but this running has opened up a whole new world.  At least once a week I'm reminded of the old Nike commercials, "An object in motion tends to stay in motion.  An object at rest tends to stay at rest." (No offense, Isaac.)  I'm now in the running for a top spot (usually third) of all my fitbit friends on the regular.  Instead of hoping for a 7 day average of 70,000 steps I strive for 100,000.  I keep moving when normally I'd lean or sit.  People send me taunts instead of cheers.  And my fitbit congratulates me instead of telling me to "get moving": the true sign of success.

I also feel better.  My neck that has been uncomfortably stiff for years is not.  Joints that have cracked regularly no longer do so.  My posture is much improved and my lower back doesn't cramp anymore. As if all that isn't enough, I've even been led to believe that I'm being spruced up on a cellular level!


I have not lost any weight.  I'm not sure if that's why I started this, but it certainly hasn't happened yet.  But do you know what's more important?  I feel so much stronger…in so many ways.  Years ago I went with my boyfriend to learn self-defense from his karate instructor.  I left frustrated and defeated because neither of them had any idea what self-defense meant for a woman and I learned nothing.  Women are less likely to get punched in the face and have to fight back; we tend to get surprised from behind and have to react.  My new found strength- whether real or imagined, mental or physical, is one step in the direction of fighting back with confidence and having a chance to defend myself (or successfully run away) if necessary.

But back to more fun stuff: that sneakered pooch who truly makes this running business an adventure. As our pal Gone Pie would say, 89 "threw a shoe" one day mid-run and we had to retrace our steps uphill until we found it.  She also has the uncanny ability of relieving herself of number 2 when we're as far as humanly possible from a garbage can.  This is made all the more amusing by the fact that I bought a super-large pack of poop "bags" that, when you open them, are not sealed and so exist as nothing more than a square of plastic that I have to attempt to messily knot corner to corner. Let's just say there was one day when I coined the term "shit shirt" and leave it at that.  I still didn't quit!


In case you're wondering, in the process 89's shoes have protected her from unavoidable glass shards, stepped-upon bees, and other animal's puke- although they did nothing when she discovered a snake in the road; I had to rely on my own lightning quick leash reflexes for that.  Her groomer was also impressed that her pads and nails weren't showing any wear and tear from the exercise.  When I told her about the sneaks she recommended only some corn starch sprinkled inside and gave us the green light to keep on keeping on.


While I'm yammering on I do want to say that while I'm sorry that I haven't been able to participate in Vegan MoFo this year, I have been keeping busy- with this exercise business, for one thing.  I also started a new job over the summer and I've known for a while that some of my coworkers were planning to participate in a charity 5k scheduled for right around the end of the 6th week of my 9-week couch to 5k program.  In addition to never actually planning to run one (I've speed-walked a few in the past), I knew all along I wouldn't be ready even if I wanted to do it.  But in week 5 a coworker specifically asked me to participate.  It was probably out of pity, as she is way fitter than me and certainly didn't need the running companionship equivalent of a walrus that I would provide, but her offer was made in genuine friendship so I took a few days to deliberate.  "You regret the things you don't do more than the things you do" went through my mind more than once, but so did the thought of what I might look like panting and sweating around relatively new colleagues I hoped to eventually impress, not frighten.  While I was discussing the decision with a friend, he brought up the endurance aspect of running, which I'd actually never thought of before.  The more I contemplated the more I realized: I'm great at non-physical long-term sports like grudge holding, so I just need to consider the act of running in a different light that plays to my own personal strengths!


In these past few weeks I have also used running to quell some of my weaknesses.  I've learned along the way that the less of a big deal I've made of it- the less of a big deal it's been.  Yes, I have to come home from my long commute to quickly change and get (6) sneakers on in order to squeeze in at least an hour before it gets dark out (boo).  Yes, it involves more laundry and more hair washing.  But, big deal!  I don't think about it; I just do it.  And for those of you that think it requires money at the outset: I don't have fancy gear at all.  I did buy one pair of running pants but I found sneaks in my closet and usually wear my vegan tees.  I don't have a phone band so I hold it.  I don't have sport-sunglasses, so I squint.  Maybe I'll remedy some of this, but so far it has all worked out just fine, so perhaps I should stop over-complicating other parts of my life (like the salad-spinner).


And then, mid-week 6 after I'd already enumerated all of the reasons why it didn't make sense to participate in an actual 5k just yet, I had a great run at home.  Don't get me wrong; I don't love running.  I don't even think I like it.  While I'm doing it, I'm thinking how horrible it is.  What keeps me going are two things: 1) I'm not a quitter and 2) while I'm not physically doing it, I am really glad to know that I have and will again- if only to perpetuate the self-satisfaction…if that makes any sense.  

But there are a few reasons this particular run was great.  For one, 89 met a deer while we were warming up.  

Then, I ran two 10-minute stretches without dying (always the fear) and only minor audible grunting.  In the middle of that, there was an adventure.  An adventure within an adventure, if you will.  89 & I were just beginning our second, continuous mile when I saw a young woman jogging towards me about 3 blocks away.  Of course I immediately thought, "Thank goodness I'm on a running portion;" there's nothing worse than passing someone running while you're walking and you want to yell that you're just in between!  Then I noticed she was wearing an adorable dress and I thought of what a sweaty muck I must look like* in comparison.  At this point my ridiculous thought process was interrupted by a sparkling, bright-eyed, unleashed jack russell that shot out of a yard I'd never noticed as having a dog before.  Obviously 89 wasted no time mauling the pooch with kisses whilst simultaneously tangling her leash with my earbud wire in such a way that made it impossible to quickly or gracefully disentangle.  As soon as I managed to do so I picked 89 up to allow for an assessment of the safety of the situation, and it finally occurred to me that this dog does not live in this house after all.  Also, people do not generally run in dresses.  It clicked and, as any self-respecting dog-mom would do, I managed to hold 89 under one arm while nonchalantly petting the Jack until I could slide my other arm around him and pick him up on my opposite side.  Thankfully, he was amenable.  It all happened so fast and before I knew it, there was the young woman right in front of me- on the verge of tears, thanking me profusely for "catching" her loose dog that she'd chased for blocks in and out of the road. Needless to say, I felt pretty good.  We were certainly in the right place at the right time.  And why?  Because: running.  I'm no Hope for Paws, but it was pretty thrilling.

And that's ultimately why I committed to running the 5K when it was 2 days away- even though I was 3 1/2 weeks away from completing the app.  My adrenaline was pumping on the way there and I was really excited that 89 could participate with me.  I truly expected to do great- which, in my mind, would have been to be able to jog the whole course.  But, as it turned out…not so much.  Not even close, in fact.  The people I ran "with" were rock stars and I waved them ahead early on when it was already obvious I couldn't keep up the pace.  When I got to the sign that said "mile 1" I was beat already- and a little demoralized.  I walked about half of mile 2 and possibly a bit more of mile 3- not even close to the good showing my practice days had been at home the previous week.  To her credit, 89 the sneakered dog was raring to go the entire time; I really held her back and that made me feel quite a bit worse.  So too did the loops where I could see the majority of folks ahead of me who were already looping back.  At one point about halfway through, the course ran past the start where I could see all of the people who had already finished; ouch.

Thank goodness for the volunteers that made each person running past feel like an Olympic athlete; that was probably what kept me from leaving the course for the ice cream that I knew was only a short distance away (closer than the finish line).  In the last .1 it occurred to me that running obviously isn't my thing and I was wondering if I should even bother finishing the app and what I should try next instead.


And then the finish was in sight and the coworker who had invited me- along with her friends, were waiting for me with cheers and a bottle of water: not at all mad that they'd had to wait over fifteen minutes, but rather in solidarity of our collective completion; it felt good.

I don't know why I had such a poor showing; maybe I started out at the pace of a crowd that was much too fast for me (my personal pace is not very fast at all) and lost my mojo too early.  Maybe I truly wasn't ready.  And, of course, it's possible that I just didn't try hard enough.  Ultimately I did jog more than half, so I'm learning not to focus on my laments since my friends have all been kind, generous, and quick with compliments for the finish regardless of my place (not good I tell you).

I'm not sure what the future holds as far as 5ks are concerned, but I can tell you that by the evening of the race I was already mapping out my running days for the following week per usual- proving that I hadn't completely given up.

While I didn't experience any soreness that day or the next, the first running day after the race proved painful around the ankles, so perhaps I didn't punk out as much as I'd thought.  As for the app, I haven't missed a day but I have fallen behind as far as what is expected in terms of consecutive running minutes.  However, what I can tell you for certain is that I'm getting better each time.  What more can I hope for?  Perhaps to parlay that into other aspects of my life that could use some practice.


*it's important to note that if you're jogging in public, people will look at you.  Whether boredom, judgement, or curiosity; they.  will.  look.  Get over it!  Just remind yourself that YOU are out there getting it done; all they're doing is gawking.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Cookman Creamery: MORE Vegan in Asbury Park

With all my jabbering on about Goldie's, you might be wondering if I am aware that there is a vegan-friendly ice cream store in Asbury Park.  To that imagined slight, I say, "What do you take me for- some kind of novice?"  I'll have you know that I've already been to Cookman Creamery a number of times.

Indeed, just a few blocks away from Goldie's is this mother/daughter-owned shop; I'd say the offerings are evenly split between vegan and non-vegan.

In essence, if you want it, they probably have a vegan version.


Every time I've visited there have been at least six hard-packed ice cream flavors: many of them satisfyingly kitschy (example: churro!).

They've also always had 2 soft-serve flavors on offer; my favorite so far: classic (and creamy) chocolate/vanilla.

But, let's be realistic; the cone above belongs to my friend.  This happened to be my first visit so I went for the whole shebang: the largest sundae available: made with cookie butter (speculoos/biscoff) hardpack and chocolate/vanilla twist soft-serve with peanut butter sauce, rainbow sprinkles, whipped cream, and a cherry.  The PB sauce is not made in house, but the whipped cream is.

Don't let this sad-face fool you; she tried some vanilla.

I will admit that the sundae unexpectedly defeated me and I'm not sure why.  It is the only time in recent memory that I haven't been able to finish a dessert and you know I'm not shy.  So, on my next visit I ordered a more normal size small cup which was brimming with chocolate and vanilla soft serve with peanut butter sauce (sadly, they were out of whipped cream).

I'm not sure if this is something that they do all the time, but this particular cup had peanut butter sauce on the bottom of the cup in addition to the top- which is genius.

for me?

 If this is a thing, please keep doing it!

For the record, the friend who was with me on this visit ordered apple pie ice cream which so horrified me (I hate apples) that I neglected to take a photo.

Cookman Creamery also offers most, if not all, of their novelties in vegan versions: flying saucers, chocolate-covered bananas...

They even have a pop that is reminiscent of "cherry-dip;" I believe they said it was a raspberry sorbet coating.  Non-chocolate desserts aren't really my thing, but I have a friend that's been dying for a vegan version of this so I'll let you know if she tries it anytime soon.

On another visit 89 had a sample of the raspberry soft-serve, which was paired with peanut butter (peanut butter & jelly; get it?).  Needless to say, she was a fan.

And the time after that she got a taste of the pumpkin/vanilla soft-serve swirl from my friend and fellow blogger, Vegan in the Big Apple.

Not too shabby.

If you haven't been to Asbury Park recently, I highly recommend a visit to see what's new.  Besides great grub and desserts, you can walk to the boardwalk, take a ride on pedal-boats nearby, and visit the shops, galleries, and theaters within walking distance.

Did I mention Cookman Creamery also does cakes?  They do.  I've yet to try to test their travel-ability, but I'm sure as the weather gets cooler I'll be more likely to give it a go.

On a final note, Cookman (and Goldie's) are so pooch-friendly that 89 took it upon herself to break into this closed shop a few doors down.

Luckily no charges were filed.

Head on down to Asbury to see what's (vegan) to be seen!