Apr 282015

It’s been awhile since I did an “Ask Me Anything” Post. I get a lot of emails, usually with similar questions. I’ve answered some of the usual ones before. Here are some of the old posts:

Ask Me Anything

Busting that Plateau

Email Q and A

Challenge Your Mind

How to Count Calories

Now on to more reader questions!

I’m 17 and I weigh 205 pounds. I’m a female. When you were on your journey to losing weight, did you have a good support system? You give me hope.

To answer your question, I did have a lot of support from family and most of my friends. There were definitely people in my life that were NOT supportive and even tried to sabotage my efforts to lose weight. Those people didn’t stay in my life very long. I don’t think it’s worth it to keep people in your life that aren’t going to bring something GOOD to your world. The emotional vampires, the self-centered people that are just your friend when they need something from, the person that breaks you down instead of building you up…who needs that in your life? Life is short and that time should be spent with positive people that enrich your existence.

I think what helped me when it was time to lose weight was that I’d been overweight for so long that my family and close friends were concerned for my health and they were happy to see that I was making a legitimate effort to lose the weight. Once the weight started to come off, I got even more support. It definitely helped keep me motivated when things got hard. Having positive re-enforcement from people around me helped me make better choices.

Don’t give up. Trust me when I tell you it is so much easier to lose the weight when you’re younger than when you are older!


I’m a new listener to Half Size Me (loving it!) and I recently listened to Lisa’s episode, which was so motivating and interesting.  In it, Lisa mentioned that she has read a lot of weight loss memoirs and that got me wondering—can you share what some of the best weight loss memoirs are that you’ve read?

Here are a few of my favorites:
The Amazing Adventures of Diet Girl” by Shauna Reid

Passing for Thin” by Frances Kuffel
Half-Assed” by Jennette Fulda
The Fat Girl’s Guide to Life” by Wendy Shanker

When you swim, how often do you breathe and do you only breathe on one side?

When I swim at the gym I get a lot of comments and questions from people when I’m done. Sometimes it’s when I’m relaxing in the hot tub, but usually it’s in the steam room when I finish up my workout. The most common question I get is how far I swim and how do I keep track of laps? I usually swim a 1.25 miles, sometimes 1.5 miles. I’ve gotten pretty good at counting the laps as I swim. I can do it without even thinking about it. Sometimes if I do space out and forget my laps, it’s no big deal because I generally swim 45-50 minutes at a time and so I can guesstimate how far I’ve swum because of the time.

When I swim I usually breathe 2-4 times in one length of the pool. That might not seem like much, but keep in mind that I’ve had to work for that. When I first started swimming I had to breathe a LOT more often in order to make it to the other side of the pool. As I got more fit, lost weight and became an efficient swimmer I didn’t need to breathe as often and I can often hold my breathe for the entire length of the pool.

If you are just starting out with a swimming workout don’t put too much pressure on yourself about the breathing. Breathe as often as you need to and honestly, you should probably take a breathe BEFORE you think you need it. Until you get good at it. The better you get at swimming, the less you will have to breathe while you do it. Also, if you hold your breathe for too long, that will actually wear you out quicker and your muscles will fatigue and make it seem a lot harder to swim than it really is. So build up to it slowly. Listen to your body and you’ll get there.

As for the breathing. When I learned to swim as a kid they did not teach bilateral breathing. After I learned how to swim the new “thing” was to teach breathing on both sides but it was too late for me. It felt unnatural and no matter how much I try to do it (even now I still sometimes try to retrain myself to breathe on both sides) I can’t do it. My neck and back muscles just don’t work that way when I’m in the pool and I end up floundering and sputtering and will probably drown. :)


When or how do you go from wtf am I doing to gee, I enjoy the gym?

Good question! When I first decided to lose weight I started swimming a few times a week. For one month (I hadn’t started counting my calories yet, and I hadn’t weighed myself either) I went swimming about 3 days a week. It was really, really hard. I was fat, out of shape, slow, and could barely swim to the other end of the pool. Once I got to the other end of the pool I had to rest for a bit before swimming back. I’d say this was the case for a few months. Once I was swimming consistently 3-4 days a week (probably around 30 minutes each time), the less I had to rest before swimming back the length. It just took some time. The better I got, the easier it was to breathe while swimming and the less I had to rest. Once I got to the point where I could swim the length of the pool and not have to rest before swimming back I LOVED it. I felt proud and excited that I was seeing obvious progress. I think seeing progress and being able to tell I was GETTING BETTER made it fun and easier to stick to it.

I made goals for myself. Things like, “I want to swim 5 laps without having to rest.” Then it was, “I want to swim half a mile without having to stop.” Each landmark I reached made it easier to push myself further. That first time I swam 1 mile without having to stop to rest I felt like I’d won the lottery. I was SO HAPPY!

So to answer your question, in my experience I enjoyed the gym once the activity I was doing got easier. Short answer: I’d say about 2 months.

I kept at it, I practiced everything and set goals for myself. Reaching the goals made me proud and I enjoyed going to the gym. Not only that, the endorphins from exercising improved my moods and I started to get addicted to that “high” from exercising. To this day, I know that the exercise high is a big part of what keeps me going to the gym. I notice the significant difference between my moods on exercise days versus rest days. This is a natural stress-reliever and anti-depressant for me, so I stick with it!

Finally, I think it’s VERY important to pick an activity that you like and will stick with. If you hate running, don’t start running. If you have knee issues, maybe cycling is a better option. Hate the gym? Try taking your workout outside and go hiking or play tennis. Basically find something that give you joy and you’ll stick with it!

Do you have any questions I can answer? Ask away!

May 062014

I got a great comment from a reader, Beth, who had a few questions. I started typing out a response and realized that I was going to be very long winded so why not just make a whole post about it?

“I’m having trouble fitting in everything I want to do – maybe I need a schedule like yours. My primary training is biking, since I’ve got Reach the Beach in 2 weeks and Cycle Oregon in September, but I do want to squeeze learning to run in somewhere too.”


I had the SAME problem. I still have that problem. My currently workout schedule is working okay but I am struggling to find time to fit in a run three times a week like the Couch to 5k app says to do.

Last year when I was struggling with my knee injuries, I decided that I needed to give yoga a REAL shot. Like going consistently and not just once in awhile and expecting to see results. I decided that I had to drop one of my swim days. I was swimming twice a week but I was struggling to fit in all the things I wanted to do.

Weight lifting was my priority for the last two years. It was both to help tone and get rid of some of the body fat that has plagued me since I lost 100 pounds but to also heal my injury. I had imbalances in my body and that was resulting in my knee pain. The weight lifting (and the kettle bell gym) did wonders! It was so beneficial and I attribute my current injury-free state entirely to weight lifting. More so than physical therapy ever did for me.

Recently Suzanne wrote a post for me called Why Recover? In it she said: “When you add something, you have to take something away.” Seeing that in print was a big lightbulb moment. Duh! There isn’t enough time in anyone’s day to do EVERYTHING. So what is the priority?

For me the priority is strength training at least twice a week and yoga once a week for injury prevention and then running because I’m training for my 5k. But what about my swimming?

Swimming is something close to my heart. I love it, it’s meditative for me, it’s relaxing, it’s a must. I will always include that in my schedule. So maybe that means I have to cut back on something else. Maybe it’s something I do every other week instead of every week so that I can include other things I like.

My fitness schedule changes with the season. It’s really easy for me to lift weights and swim and do yoga in the winter. When summer comes, some of those things fall back and the priority becomes doing stuff like biking to work and going for hikes with Michael and the dog. While I am frustrated that I can’t always fit in 3 training runs a week, I’m okay with the 6 week program taking 12 weeks. It’s okay to repeat a few weeks in a row because I didn’t get to that third run. I’m trying not to put pressure on myself by saying I HAVE TO RUN!!!!

Long Distance Runner
The next question is more about injury. She asked:

“Is it normal for my legs to BURN from the knees down when running? They’re okay when walking and when not running… I can’t tell if I’m out of shape or if I have bad shoes or something. Any thoughts?”

When I signed up for Couch To 5k I had many months (like 6 months) to train. I wanted to give myself enough time to SLOWLY get back into running. History has proven that I need to take it easy and not increase mileage too quickly.

I’m not a doctor or physical therapist obviously, but I do have an extensive injury history. My first thought is that maybe it’s the wrong kind of shoes. OR it’s time for new shoes. Read this post about shopping for running shoes: Is it Time for New Shoes? I really think all runners should get fitted for shoes according to their stride. It’s so important in injury prevention!

If it’s a nagging ache it could just be that it’s a new activity. Running is Hard and it uses muscles we may not have used doing other activities. Take it slow, follow a running program, don’t push it too far too fast. Learning how to pace yourself while running is also crucial. It’s really easy to go FAST out the gate and then burn out before you’re done running.

If it’s pain in the shins, it could be shin splits. That can happen to new runners who aren’t conditioned yet for running. It could also be OLD or BAD shoes. If it’s the wrong fit, they could be hurting you. It could also be that running on the street is too much for you. Try a treadmill or a track to see if the softer cushion helps.

If it’s knee pain, try to figure out where the pain is. If it’s on the outside of the knee it’s most likely the IT Band. If it’s on the inside of the knees it is most likely runner’s knee. Read: R is for Runner’s Knee and So…About that Runner’s Knee….

When it comes to injury, I’ve had a few and I’ve written many posts about the subject. Here is a little list of some old posts:

Coping With An Injury

How (Not) to Train for a Half Marathon

8 Mistakes I Made While Injured

Yoga & Runners

Tip for New Runners: Foam Roller

I’ve had a lot of aches and pains with running and wondered, Uh oh, am I injured? But I will tell you this: YOU WILL KNOW IF YOU’RE INJURED. Trust me. The REAL injury pain is obvious. There aren’t any doubts. When I first got overuse of IT Band I diagnosed myself while I was out running on the track. I knew it. I just had a gut feeling that said “this pain is different.” And it stuck around and when I saw a doctor I was right.

It’s so important to listen to your body and if it’s telling you something, take note. Don’t try to push through an injury. It will just make it worse and longer to heal. Also, you can get Runner’s Knee from other activities–not just running! Just like getting fitted for good running shoes, go get fitted for your bike! It makes a world of difference. Read: Professional Bike Fit & New Doctor.

I hope I answered your questions. I’m not an expert in running by any means but hopefully some of my experience can help other new runners in their journey.