Spring weekend

Spring is finally here!  Saturday was gorgeous.  After stopping by the Bone-a-fide Dog Ranch (to have the dogs approved in case we can’t find dogsitters at some point down the road) and grabbing some tacos, we took the dogs to Magnuson Park for a family walk through the park and then a romp through the off-leash area.  On a sunny day, you can’t beat a walk by the lake.

As we drove up the hill, I made Matt pull over so I could take another picture.  I just love this view from the aptly named View Ridge neighborhood.  We used to live right next to Magnuson Park and I loved taking walks up the hill just to look out at Lake Washington and the Cascades.

On the way home we stopped at Top Pot doughnuts.  That hit the spot.

On Sunday, I took the dogs over to our friend Aly’s house for a play date.  The dogs got along really well and everyone had fun.  Aly is very knowledgeable and passionate about dog behavior and training (check out her blog!), and whenever we get together I’m inspired to renew my own training efforts.  Sometimes I’m lazy in that department, but I really do enjoy the challenge and rewards of teaching my dogs behaviors.  It’s fun and practical.  I think Matt was skeptical about clicker training up until he saw the amazing things Aly’s dog Ioda can do and how much fun it is for both dog and trainer.  Maybe Aly will send me a picture of the four dogs together, hint hint?  And to boot, they fed me more doughnuts plus Aly’s sister baked chocolate Guinness cupcakes which was - no exaggeration - the best cupcake I’ve ever had. 

And as if I hadn’t spent the entire weekend obsessing about my dogs (and apparently eating more sugar than I realized - I failed to mention Friday night’s beer tasting party hosted by our friends Lauren & BJ, who always make crazy good food and desserts), the whole family spent Sunday evening snuggled on the couch.  Imagine inserting yourself between these two, and it is even more snugglicious than you expect.

It was a fabulous weekend, and our activities were all virtually cost-free.  My favorite!


My plan to train myself to run again… and enjoy it

When I was in high school, I was a distance runner.  I ran 6 days/week, 48 weeks/year, x4 years.  I could run pretty fast for a long time.  Then I got burned out.  I had been planning to run in college, but by that summer I knew I couldn’t do it anymore.  In the 12 years since (whoa, am I really that old!?), I have only run the occasional mile or two here and there.  Throughout that time, I’ve always worked out at the gym at least a couple times a week and I’ve maintained a decent level of fitness.  From time to time, I’ve thought about starting to run again, but whenever I make an attempt I feel slow and out of shape.  This is in sharp contrast to my fond memories of running fast, endorphins flowing, surrounded by fantastic coaches and teammates/friends constantly providing encouragement and motivation.  Going it alone is tough.

Three weeks ago I decided to step on the scale at the gym, as I’d noticed that lately some of my favorite and best fitting pants were no long fitting quite so well.  Even so, I was shocked when the needle landed a good 5 lbs higher than the number I’ve been used to seeing for the past few years, which in turn is 5 more than what I’d consider ideal for me.  So I ramped up the intensity of my gym workouts and set a goal of 4 days/week.  Last week I ducked into the locker room in the building where I work to see if there was a scale (I don’t have one at home) to check my progress.  No scale, but I did find a stack of back issues of Runner’s World left by one of my coworkers.  I started reading, got inspired, and decided that running should be part of my plan.  But how to overcome that blah feeling and keep going until I get in good enough shape that it’s actually fun again?

My answer: operant conditioning with a focus on positive reinforcement.  I’ve been learning about it for the last couple years because I’m fascinated by dog behavior and training.  I plan to use clicker training with any dog we get in the future.  You can use the same principles to train any animal, person, or even yourself!  The basic idea behind positive reinforcement is that by rewarding a behavior, preferably while the subject is doing the behavior or immediately afterward, the frequency of the behavior will be increased.  An added benefit is that the subject will often enjoy doing the behavior more, too.  Being healthier, losing weight, etc. are not good rewards because they can’t be delivered on time.  I decided that listening to my favorite podcasts - This American Life and Radio Lab - while I run (and not at any other time) would be a good reinforcer for me.  I also thought it would be helpful to eliminate any inadvertent positive punishment (discomfort, iPod falling out of my waist band) so I got myself a shiny new pair of Asics and a sporty pouch for carrying small items.  I also dug out my digital watch and improvised a sport band for it out of a nylon bracelet and a piece of a sock (because the nylon edges are scratchy).  It looks super classy.  Maybe someone will get me a velcro watch band (this one please - in wave blue) for my upcoming birthday.  Asking for a present via blog entry, that is classy too.

Yesterday, I warmed up and then ran for 30 minutes with a few bursts of speed mixed in, while listening to TAL #406.  It felt good.  I’m on my way!