Thursday, August 29, 2013

Doing It the Right Way

Maybe you've been able to tell over the past few months...maybe not. But since March 4th, I have lost 31 pounds! And I am pretty damn proud of myself for it! (And I'm not done, by the way...not by a long shot.) It hasn't been easy, but then again, it hasn't been all that hard, either. And the best part of all? I'm doing it the right way! No gimmicks, no fads, no pills, no programs, no boot camp, no DVDs with barking mad instructors - I'm just eating modest portions of wholesome, clean foods and riding my bicycle. That's it!

You know, when I bought my bike back in March, I never imagined that five months later I would be as completely and utterly hooked (addicted, really) to bicycling as I am. A 10-mile mix of trail and road after work for an hour (54:08, actually...and getting faster!) is a piece of cake. A 25-mile ride on the weekends or in the morning at the beach? Easy-breezy. I got a CamelBak, new grips, new gloves, a spare tube, and tire levers for my birthday. I buy Lara bars. I leave the office wearing a bandana on my head a few times per week (and people SEE ME looking like this). I've decided to train for a 100-mile bike ride next year. I rented a bicycle on a business trip earlier this month because I hadn't ridden a bike in a week and just felt the need to ride.


Who am I? I'm someone doing it the right way! I happened upon something - a form of exercise, a means of physical activity - that doesn't feel like work. I have, in the last five months, never not wanted to ride my bike. When I belonged to a gym, there were days when I didn't want to go. When I'd find an excuse not to go. Any day that my bike is on my car, that's a day I'm going to ride. 

When I'm on my bike, I'm free. I don't think about work. I don't think about home. I don't think about upcoming conferences or travel. I don't think about the grocery shopping, or the laundry, or the start of football season, or anything other than not wrecking. And there are a lot of times I don't even think about that! I just go. I pedal, pedal, pedal...and then I pedal some more. I fly down the hills and grind my way back up them. And I love every, single minute of it! Just Tuesday, I was rewarded by a bald eagle flying overhead and landing in a tree above me. Pure. Majesty.

But I don't want this entire post to be about bicycling. Because there's another piece that's been pretty key to my success and that's "eating clean." By that, I mean I eat largely whole foods. I still buy some packaged foods, but even those are whole foods - rice, oatmeal, beans, tuna. I generally eschew packaged foods with more than five ingredients, unless I can pronounce them all and the ingredients themselves are clean (Lara bars are a good example).

I just about gave up soda 18 months ago...and I say "just about" because when Chris and I go to the movies and split a pretzel bites combo (no cheese!), we share a soda. But it's pretty vile and I drink just enough to wet my whistle. (I really should just start smuggling in a bottle of water, because $4 for a bottle of Dasani is ridiculous.) I'm pretty much on a water and tea regimen now - hot tea in the morning, water all day long at work, seltzer water with dinner, and the occasional herbal tea in the evening. If I eat out, I may have an unsweetened iced tea with my meal. Artificial sweeteners? Gone. Added sugar? Gone. The occasional teaspoon of honey? Maybe. If I can get some local stuff to help with my allergies. Yes, I still enjoy an adult beverage (or two) from time to time...mainly when I travel. I'm not that strict.

And that's the point. I'm not strict. It's all about moderation. I had cake and ice cream at work yesterday to celebrate a co-worker's 40th birthday (er, I'm sorry...1st anniversary of her 39th!). I enjoyed it...until I didn't. (It didn't sit right.) But the point is, I don't deny myself anything. It's never a philosophy of "I can't have _____" but rather one of "I choose to have _____ or not have _____." Two weeks ago when Chris and I hiked and biked at Parker Dam State Park, we capped our afternoon off with an ice cream cone. A small one. Which we'd both felt like we'd earned. I didn't feel bad about "cheating" because it wasn't cheating. I chose to bust my ass on a strenuous bike ride and hike around the park and then I chose to have an ice cream cone. It's that simple. 

It really is that simple. Seriously. It's not rocket science. It's not brain surgery. It's eating good food and moving my ass. Which is smaller these days, thankyouverymuch!

Wanna hear something else pretty spectacular? I had blood work done on Tuesday. It's been just under six months since I started "this whole thing" and since I'd last had it all checked. I was curious to see what progress I've made during this period of time. How about 28 points shaved off my cholesterol?!? From 203 to 175! And how about 55 points off my triglycerides?!? From 219 to 164. That's without drugs, folks. That's simply diet and exercise that achieved those results in less than six months. Pretty damn amazing, eh? 

And proof that it can be done. Medication doesn't have to be the answer; it shouldn't. There are no magic pills. Yet there are magic foods. But they don't come in a box in aisle 15A. They're berries and spinach and oats and beans and lean meats and eggs (yup, I said eggs) and fish and tomatoes and on and on! And ice cream can be magical, too, if it's enjoyed occasionally if for no other reason than to cap off a kick-ass day of outdoor activity!  

Folks have asked me "how are you doing it?" or "what have you done?" and I answer, "I eat clean and ride my bike." But now you know just a little bit more. A few people have told me that I'm an inspiration, which is amazingly flattering and completely embarrassing all at once. I've only found one person to inspire me and she stares right back at me each morning in the mirror. 

Every day that I cinch up a belt one notch tighter, every day that I notice my face looks a little slimmer, every day that I pull up next to my car on my bike after a great after-work ride and catch a glimpse of myself in my helmet dripping in sweat...those are the days I inspire myself. It sounds so incredibly selfish and self-centered, but I realize now that all of the other times and attempts I've made at losing weight and/or getting healthy, I've done it for other people or reasons that weren't my own. 

This time, I'm doing it for me. And only me. And I think that's the ultimate "right way."

Monday, August 19, 2013

Our Own Ride to the Rides

For the past few years, one of the members of ST.N has planned a springtime motorcycle "Ride to the Rides" that originates near Downingtown, PA and takes a nice, circuitous route to Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA. That didn't happen this spring. Boo. 

Since this "Ride to the Rides" didn't happen, Chris and I have been talking about doing our own ride over to Knoebels for a few months now. I took a long weekend this past weekend (vacation days on Friday and Monday) and with a beautiful day forecasted for Friday, we decided to make our trek east for a day of rides.

Oh, the traffic in Centre County!

It was an absolutely gorgeous day for a motorcycle ride!

Oh boy...we're almost there!


YAY! We've made it!!!

We arrived just before 1 PM and after changing out of our riding gear, we headed to Cesari's Pizza for a traditional Knoebels lunch.

Chris picked up a hitchhiker on the way from the house to Knoebels.

We passed the Blacksmith Shop on our way to lunch.

He makes a variety of hooks and hangers.

Tough gig, huh? Blacksmith at an amusement resort? Seems like it'd be pretty fun!

Yay! Lunchtime!!!

One of us is happy it's lunchtime; one of us is annoyed we have to wait in line.
(Check out my Penguins hat and Chris' OR hat.) 

K-nothing's more fun than Knoebels!

After lunch, we made our way to the rides! We started with the log flume.

We put our hats on backwards so they didn't fly off on the downhills.

We were in the back of the boat. In the front was a father/daughter pairing.

Next we rode the Black Diamond Coal Mine, which was basically a haunted mansion-style ride with a few hills and thrills. The ride had major potential, but fell short of my expectations (for a $2.25 ride). But Chris and I agreed that we liked it better than the actual haunted house. Following the BDCM, we rode the Phoenix. Chris snapped some pictures on the ride.

Chris opted to wear his hat backwards, whereas I chose to hold my hat and sunglasses.

After the Phoenix, we walked past the Flying Turns ride which has been under construction for several years. We were SHOCKED to see cars actually moving on the tracks. Could it be that the ride will open before the season ends?!? 

We made our way to the Flyer ride, which is one that I've successfully avoided the past few years. I don't generally enjoy (or tolerate) rides that go around in circles. But this year, I decided to give them a try. And, I lived!!!

Looks like Chris flew this one into the trees!

Waiting in line to FLY!

Do not whip the sails.
(I whipped my sail.)

After the Flyer, we walked over to the Twister, Knoebels' other roller coaster.

Waiting in line for the front seat!

Again, Chris opted to wear his OR hat backwards while I held my Penguins hat and sunglasses in my hand.

And then this happened...

Guess who lost his hat on the Twister?!?!?
And guess who was nice enough to lend him her hat?!?

After Chris lost his hat...I mean, after we rode the Twister (where Chris lost his hat), we headed over to the Carousel. (I should note here that that hat was the second one that I've bought him that he's lost...but that's over 20 one hat per 10 years...I guess that's not so bad.) Anyway, we made it to the Carousel, but we edged out of outer-ring seats (where you can collect rings), so we got interior up&down horses.

The Grand Carousel celebrated its 100th birthday over FOJ Weekend this summer.

After the Grand Carousel, we were off to the Giant Wheel.

Chris relaxes in our PINK Giant Wheel "car."

Now hat-less for your viewing pleasure.

A view of the park.

The Log "Skloosh," which is different from the Flume that we rode.
It's just up one hill and down the other...with a giant splash!

A view of the parking lot.

There's the Sky View ride...we'll head there next!

There's the giant splash!

There's our C14 (with a cruiser parked right next to it).

We decided to ride the Scenic Skyride. It wound up being our final ride of the day. We got in line for the Motorboats, but it was a slow moving line for a slow loading ride, so we bailed. Turns out that the Skyride was a great final ride - 14 minutes of peace, quiet, and park scenery.

Heading up on the Skyride.

Up, up, and away!

We were on car #1 of 71.

Around the big wheel at the top of the line.

Heading back down.

It's quite a ways down!

The ride down provides great views of the entire park!

There's another shot of our C14...and the giant DO NOT ENTER sign we blow right past to get to the m/c parking lot every year! (There's no other way to get into the lot!)

We left Knoebels around 5:45 and decided to eschew a traditional dinner in favor of a stop at the Lewisburg Freez for an ice cream treat to cap off our day of fun!

Crossing the Susquehanna River.

Taking a picture of my shadow self.

Our shadow.

Crossing the West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

The Lewisburg Hotel - the destination of our first ever two-up ride on the C14.

Chris is happy with his small hot fudge sundae. Yes, that's a SMALL!

My small (yup, small) Raspberry Dole Whip sorbet.
We left the Lewisburg Freez and headed west on PA 192 past R.B. Winter State Park to Centre Hall. We scooted down PA 144 to PA 45 and made a beeline for home on US 322/I-99 to get home to Oscar.

Passing the beach/lake at R.B. Winter State Park.

There was hardly any traffic on PA 45 on the way home.

The sunsets over US 322 on our way home.

We got home at 8:21 PM, just about 10 hours after we left the house, with 214 miles logged for the day. We had a fantastic day together! We talked about how much fun it was to do Knoebels "just the two of us." But we also agreed how much fun it's been to visit the park with our friends when there have been "Ride to the Rides" events. I guess the common factor in both scenarios is the park itself. Free admission, free parking, pay-as-you-ride or all-you-can-ride options, good food, clean, family-friendly...Knoebels is awesome!!!