Wednesday, April 18, 2018

When Every Day is a Bad Gray Hair Day

Background:  Thanks to a genetic double-whammy (both of my parents grayed very early), I started getting gray hair in my 20s, and was coloring it in my early 30s.  The few times I decided to let it go back to the natural gray mix, it never went well.  I'm not opposed to having gray hair, but my particular shade really makes me look washed out.

Several years ago after deciding to embrace the gray again, I thought I'd try adding a few black streaks to break it up, and was pleased with the result.  But like so many things, I was never able to duplicate it, so always ended up buying a box of whatever I could find on sale to cover it all up again.

I stopped coloring again mid-2017, and a month or so before leaving Ohio, decided to splurge and went to the local salon and had the stylist add some black foils for the salt 'n pepper look again.  I figured that would be enough that as my hair grew, gray roots wouldn't be as noticeable.  She did an ok job, but it wasn't as good as my own first attempt.  Still, I figured I could freshen it up every couple of months and it would be fine.

Wrong.  Black fades.  News flash - gray with brown 'highlights' looks ridiculous.

The back of my head (that doesn't get as much sun exposure) is still gray peppered with black, and isn't too bad.  The top and going down the sides is fading, so I have a (not-so-attractive) head of gray hair, with streaks of various shades of brown and black.  Yuck.

I've been spending time outside running and walking the dogs, and do wear a hat sometimes, but even if I kept my head covered while outside, basic shampooing will still cause it to lighten some.  It's a no-win situation, so - one more time - I give up.  Today I will again be joining the ranks of untold number of women who pour chemical-laden junk on their head, stinking up the house, and likely scattering little blotches of dye on the walls of the bathroom that would make Rorschach proud.

Where's my MOPP gear?  I'm going in.

~ Marie Anne


Friday, April 13, 2018

Running the Rails - Or Trotting the Trails

I mentioned in my earlier post that I wanted to check out another trail nearby that would allow for a bit longer runs.  There's a Rails to Trails location that starts about 2 miles from my house and goes all the way to base (Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune) that's about a 10-mile out-n-back. I headed out last Friday to check it out.  It's a nice trail, but I had a hard time figuring out where to park based on where they say the trail starts.

I started at the beginning of the trail and turned around as I approached the pedestrian walkway that goes over Hwy 24, logging 4 miles on that first trip.  It's a really nice trail, with just a few twists and turns and having to cross a couple of side streets, but flat and fully paved.

While I was out that day, I noticed a few other places I could park further along the trail, so I went out again Wednesday and started at a park (with bathrooms!), hoping to get closer to base on this trip.  Conditions were near perfect - approximately 55°, sun with a few clouds, little to no wind.  I was a little stiff so started off slow, wanting to just enjoy the trot and see where it took me.

I hadn't gone far when I saw the pedestrian walkway ahead of me.  It goes up and over, crossing 6 lanes of traffic.  Have I mentioned that I don't do heights?  As I went up the short incline to get onto the bridge, I spooked and almost turned around, but somehow managed to talk myself into it.  I took a few pictures, then literally tiptoed the span, shaking like a leaf all the way.  I'm pretty sure my heart rate was highest at that point of the run, even though I wasn't even walking at a normal speed, much less trotting.  The worst part was knowing that even if I managed to get over it without a full-on anxiety attack, I would still have to come back!

(The cars and street look closer and don't show the full height of the bridge. 
 I forgot that I still had a bit of zoom on from earlier photos.  It was definitely higher than I was comfortable with!).

But make it I did.  The rest of the trail was flat and straight and I continued on without issue.  I was just shy of the 2.5 mile point when I came upon a Marine holding a stopwatch, timing the turnaround of a PFT.  I paused and chatted with her for a bit before moving on, then thought to holler back and ask her how far to the main gate.  She said it was about a mile and a half, to which I replied 'NOPE, not today!', knowing that would have put me at 8 miles or so ... risking injury at my current weight. Not happening, GI.  I did an about face and headed for home.

The return trip was uneventful, and I stayed at an easy lope.  I was still a little apprehensive when I got to the bridge, but I did push myself over at a slightly slower than normal pace (but better than my earlier crawl), so hopefully it'll get easier each time I do it.  A glance at my watch told me that stopping at the park would put me at around 4.8 mi, so I trotted a short distance beyond, then around the park area to get a full 5 miles in.

All in all I was pleased with the run. I'm still slower than I'd like to be, but I'm also older, just getting back into it, and carrying more weight than I was when doing 3-6 miles fairly consistently several times a week two years ago.  I want it all ... today ... but after previous debilitating injuries, I know I have to pace myself.

I felt great on this trip, even logged negative splits for the first time, which was a nice bonus. I hit my max heart rate too, so will need to watch that.  It might take a while, but my goal is to do the full 8 mile or so distance from the park to base and back.  Maybe next time I'll park at the main gate and start at the other end.

Next stop?  Onslow Beach!

~ Marie Anne

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Goodbye Ohio, Hello NC and a New MA!

So ... in a less than 60-day period, I listed my house in Ohio for sale, sold it, packed and moved to NC, found a house, moved in, and closed.  What a whirlwind!  

During the months preceding all this, my fitness and activity level bottomed out.  I wasn't eating right, often bingeing on carb-laden junk food, got very little dedicated exercise in, and just overall wasn't taking care of myself.  It definitely showed on the scale and directly affected how I was feeling.  After the first week in NC, I was once again at my highest weight.  Nooooo!!!!!

The move is now behind me, and while I'm not completely settled in the house yet, things are coming together.  More importantly, much baggage was left behind in Ohio (and I don't mean the kind you pack), and I feel a great weight lifted.  With that weight gone, it's time to work on the numbers on the scale, fit into some summer clothes, and start feeling better.

This last week has been a good one as far as food choices and exercise.  There's a short paved trail just a block from my house, and I did a mile or two the first few times out so I could see where it went.  The last three times, I trotted around a couple of the cul de sacs in the neighborhood before/after hitting the trail and stretched it to a full 5K (3.1 mi), then hitched up the dogs for a short walk to cool off.  It's not a scenic route by any stretch, but it still works out well for me since I can get a run in right here at the house without having to drive anywhere!  I'm told there are longer trails a short distance away and I want to work up to 10K (6.2 mi) again, so will be checking those out also.

I lost about 1.5 lbs the first few days, but the scale hasn't moved since, but that's ok.  I feel good, and the rest will happen all in good time. I'm a little tired from the added activity, but it's a good tired, not a sluggish, too-fat-and-don't-even-want-to-roll-off-the-couch tired.

It took me 11 years to make it happen, but I'm over-the-moon excited to be back in NC once again.   This is where the road ends, yet welcomes new beginnings.

~ Marie Anne

P.S.  Did I mention I can drive to the beach for a run (or just look for shark's teeth) any time I want?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Review of Leslie Sansone 5 Really Big Miles DVD

I'm fortunate that my local library has several Leslie Sansone workout videos, either at my local branch or elsewhere in Ohio where I can take advantage of an inter-library loan.  The second video that I borrowed in her Walk at Home series was Walk Slim: 5 Really Big Miles.

This DVD proved to be a little more challenging for me than the first one I reviewed the other day.  None of the movements are difficult, but after the five minute warmup period, it picks up the pace with the first mile, and each of the four subsequent miles.  Leslie adds a toning band into the routine to work the arms in mile two (included with the original video), but I just did the arm movements without the band and it was fine; my arms did get a workout.

Those of you who are in good shape already will probably really enjoy this workout session.  I am old and overweight, and trying to move my feet fast enough to keep up with this routine puts me at risk for tripping over myself, so I didn't even try after the first few minutes.  The first mile after the warmup is said to be a 4 mph pace (15 minute mile) and while I can manage that and more in a forward motion on the road or treadmill, adding footwork into the mix was too much for me as she got into faster routines.  Mile 3 steps it up to a 12 minute mile pace (5 mph) and I did keep moving through all of it, but it was not as much fun since I couldn't follow the beat, and I obviously didn't get the workout that this session intended.

Leslie includes a nice cool down period after the five miles, with a couple of minutes of stretching to end the workout session.

One thing I've noticed in all of her videos is that Ms Sansone uses real people as her 'walkers'.  Men and women, young and old, slender and the more voluptuous perform the routines with her, showing that it doesn't matter where you are on your walk towards fitness, you can do it, even if you have to slow down or go with a modified movement.

Is it a fun video?  Yes!  Just too much for me at this stage of my life after having been lax for so long.  I won't be buying this one, but if you want a brisk workout that increases in speed and intensity, this could be just the thing for you.

You can find Leslie Sansone's 5 Really Big Miles on both and eBay.

~ Marie Anne

Monday, August 7, 2017

I Passed the First Test!

I was up and out of bed shortly after 5am this morning, and went about my regular routine - morning ablutions, cup of tea and quick breakfast while I caught up on online stuff, wrote another blog post and published it, mailed a package from an eBay sale over the weekend. Pretty normal morning around here.

I hadn't done any dedicated stepping yet, but as I walked back from the mailbox at 10:30am, I was curious to see what my step count was so far today, so reached down to check my Fitbit One - only to realize that it wasn't on the bottom of my shorts where I was sure that I'd clipped it.

Uh oh ... apparently I had taken off the wrist band when I washed my face and hands this morning, then left it on the bathroom vanity.  MA has only 211 steps right now, when I normally have at least a couple thousand by this time of day.  Oops.

© Marie Anne St. Jean

So what was this test that I passed?  I didn't freak out or say bad words when I found that my morning steps were 'wasted' - go me!  I just clipped my tracker in place and went about my business (and then of course came here to brag about it).  Read this to see why this is such a huge deal for me!

There's hope for this ol' gal yet.

~ Marie Anne

Review of Leslie Sansone Video: Mix & Match Walk Blasters

© Marie Anne St. Jean
As mentioned in a previous post, I've decided to add some video workouts to my routine instead of just running.  Since Leslie Sansone is the queen of walking videos and she has loads of them to choose from, I figured that would be a good place to start.  I picked up two of her DVDS last week, one being Just Walk: Mix & Match Walk Blasters, which I'll share my opinion of here.

Mix & Match Walk Blasters was released in 2014 and is a series of 10 different mini walks, starting off with a very slow and simple routine, with a slight increase in pace or type of movement in the subsequent sessions.  Since I'm just starting out and old, overweight, and not nearly as coordinated as I was in decades past, I was concerned that I would be able to keep up, but my fears were unfounded.  Breaking this down into 10 sessions allows you to fit in a short workout during most any part of your day.

The first 10 minute session - Light Walk - was the perfect routine to be used as a warmup before any workout, and was just basic walking movements that anyone should be able to follow without getting winded.  Brisk & Steady followed that, and while the pace was increased slightly, I didn't have any trouble keeping up.  All of the 10 sessions were comprised of the same basic steps, with slight variations in speed and/or intensity, with some adding arm movements or a little trunk-twisting to work more than just your legs in an aerobic activity.  There is no equipment necessary to do this workout from beginning to end, just a decent pair of shoes, comfortable clothes, and a small area in front of your TV.

The Mix & Match Mini Walks are broken down into these 10 minute sessions:

Light Walk
Brisk & Steady
Interval Walk
Short & Sweaty
Walk, Kick & Jab
Dance Walk
Tummy Trimmer
Lower Body Blast
Upper Body Blast
Flexibility Walk

Don't let the names of the sessions intimidate you!  Leslie's choreography is easy to follow since she uses the same basic steps throughout, yet she changes from one step movement to another often enough to not be boring.  She might start off with a single side step, then move to the double, further transitioning to a grape vine.  If you find that you can't do a particular step, it's easy to step in place or perform another movement until you get in sync with her again. Getting back on track is easy since you already know the steps, and I never found myself getting frustrated or feeling lost, even though this was the first exercise video I'd tried in decades.

I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to get through this whole video with little trouble, changing to a walk only a few times when certain areas of my body were slightly overtaxed and needed to be stretched in a different direction for a bit.  It wasn't that the exercises were hard, but I'm overweight and have certain muscles that haven't been used in a long time.  Each time I did some of those movements, it became easier, and I'm confident that the next time I do this video, I'll match her step for step.

I found Ms Sansone's voice to be pleasant, and both her verbal and physical instructions easy to follow.  She's not pushy, but more like a friend coaxing you along, but not obnoxious at all - no military drill instructors here!

All in all, I liked this Mix & Match DVD enough that it's going on my short list to purchase as soon as I return this one to my library.

~ Marie Anne

NOTE:  While this video should be able to be completed by even those who are out of shape, always consult with your health care professional before starting any exercise program.

You can find Just Walk: Mix & Match Walk Blasters on both eBay and

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Diet and Fitness Craze ... or Just Plain Crazy?

Anyone who has known me for any length of time knows that I am an all-or-nothing kinda gal.  I will latch on to a new idea or behavior and go full steam ahead with it, until I ultimately lose interest entirely, or burn out.  Be it diet, fitness, writing, crocheting, quilting, a business venture such as my eBay business ... I tend to be very focused on that one thing to the exclusion of just about everything else in my life, and we all how how well that works out.  It doesn't.

I've tried various low-carb and other sensible eating programs (including Whole30) over the years.  They worked, and I lost a lot of weight, with almost no effort.  But I'm a diagnosed carb addict (yes, it's a real thing), and once you let any amount of carbs back in, whamo - the weight comes back, along with the cravings, because the addiction is always there.

I started running again a couple of years ago, (really just a walking pace for most of you, but a running gait), and once I got going, I was up to running a minimum of 3-6 miles a day, almost every day.  I even had aspirations to work up to a half marathon, as slow as I might be.  Nothing wrong with that, right?  Well there is if you're competing with yourself and become obsessed with time, distance, splits, etc.  I would neglect taking the dogs out for any exercise, or when I did, I would rush to adjust the apps when I got home to reflect how fast/far we actually went, because all their sniffing and taking care of business would cause my Garmin watch to stop and start, resulting in inaccurate data.  Again with the obsession.  Who cares about all that?  No one sees it but me!

It wasn't a lot of fun. And I'm now 60 years old, have osteoporosis with high risk of fracture, crazy high cholesterol, and overweight.  Not a good combination to be doing any distance running, especially since I usually go alone in remote areas.  I'm also pre-diabetic, but my blood pressure is good, and my heart is healthy, but I don't think I have to run miles a day to keep it that way.

I had to stop running early this year because of severe sleep deprivation, and it's taken until last month to decide it was time to get back into it.  I had gained all my weight back, and was eating way too much, and all the wrong things, even binging on occasion.  I started to run again a couple of weeks ago - not very far, but wanted to work back up to getting those 10k distances in.  I also decided to try some Leslie Sansone walking/workout DVDs that I borrowed from the library, just to break things up a little.  Well in typical MA fashion, I went out for a short run the next morning, then proceeded to do several 20-30 minute workouts from the DVDs throughout the rest of the day, then repeated the behavior the next day.   Do you see where this was going?  I was obsessing again!

My Three Amigos - Molly, Jethro, Phoebe
© Marie Anne St. Jean
I had a good talk with myself and said no more.  To prove I could do it, I took each of the three dogs out for a walk twice the last few days, allowing them to set the pace and do what dogs do, and just be dogs.  And I liked it.   It didn’t seem like a chore, or that they were holding me back from something I wanted to do.  I love these critters to pieces, but I hadn’t been being fair to them while I was focusing on what MA wanted to do.

So, my new goal is to not really have a goal.  I’ll be practicing moderation, or at least trying to.  I’ve done well the last week or so on a nutritional level, little to no junk food and NO binging,  but not counting carbs either. I plan on running a mile or two several times a week, if I feel like it.  I’ll also still be doing the other workout videos because I did enjoy them, and I’ll be finding others and reviewing them here on this blog also. But no more marathons with several sessions a day, especially on a day I've already run.

Will I pledge to never allow a cookie or potato chip to pass my lips again?  Nope.  And if I’m feeling froggy, I might hit the road for a 5K or 10K on occasion, but those distances will be the exception rather than the rule.  And of course if a friend wants to hit the trail for a gab session, I’m all for it.  Give me two minutes to grab my shoes and I’m there!

I do need to lose weight.  I do need to make better food choices.  I do need fresh air and exercise.  But while I need all three of those things to maintain a healthy mind and body, obsessing about any of it is not healthy.

And that's the end goal, right?

~ Marie Anne