super generic girl

the awesomely average life of a girl like all others


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A compendium of my fitness/health blogging pet peeves

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Do you ever find yourself practising the fine art of hate-reading? Sometimes, when you’re down? Sometime when you’re happy? Only all the time? Is reading this blog your ultimate hate-reading moment for the day?

Don’t tell me. I’d rather not know.

Anyway, sometimes I find myself doing the odd bit of hate-reading. It’s not even hate-reading at its finest – as in, I don’t actively go to a website or blog to get annoyed. But there are certain blogs on my reader that, whenever there’s a new post, I am always almost certain there’ll be something annoying about it. And yet, I still click through and read them. (Don’t worry, if you’re reading this, it’s not you. People who choose to read SGG are, according to statistics, pretty damn awesome).

I’m not sure why, whether there’s something cathartical in releasing bad energy on the internet like that instead of aiming it at the people around you. Maybe – and this is the most widely accepted theory – I’m just a little bit mean. But aren’t we all?

Anyway, I made good use of about 15 minutes of my day yesterday unsubscribing from a handful of blogs that I realised I had been hate-reading. Digital decluttering is kind of a big deal for mental sanity (plus, it beats actual decluttering since it requires zero physical effort). It was surprisingly liberating.

While I was going through this virtual clean-up (a great way to procrastinate on actually cleaning up), I noticed a certain pattern on the fitness/health blogs that I had been hate-reading. There is a short list of things that annoy me about these and, of course, for lack of something better to write, you get to read about those here. In no particular order, here are my 6+1 health/fitness blogging pet peeves (the +1 bit is because the last one is actually a general blogging one, not exclusive to fitness bloggers):

1. I’ve got no problem with your self-portraits where you look super pretty and your hair is all straight and your makeup is all in the right place. But if you have a really nice photo of yourself and then a caption that says something like “sorry about the bed hair!” or “I know it looks like every day is laundry day here!” and “ugh, I look so ugly!”, then we have an issue here. I mean, bitch please! We can tell you straightened the hell out of your hair before the photo and we recognise an expensive and impeccably ironed top when we see one (even if we don’t often find them in our closets ourselves). Don’t get me started on “post-workout photos” that include zero sweat, no red puffy faces and instead show straight hair and makeup that isn’t dribbling off their eyes.

2. Descriptions of every single one of your meals. This point kind of branches out into a range of directions. First, you have those people who will invariably take a photo of their breakfast every single day even though they have the exact same thing for breakfast every day of the week. We get it. You love peanut butter on toast. And you have no other plates in the house. No need for another photo. Just assume that we already know what’s for breakfast and what it looks like because you’ve posted the same thing for the last 300 days. Also, I don’t need to have meal reports of what you eat every single day. As shocking as this might be, I don’t really care. And then there are the snacks. Some health/fitness bloggers will show you a photo of themselves holding three peanuts and say that they just couldn’t control their cravings, or they’ll be holding a square of chocolate and caption the photo “couldn’t help myself – had to have some dessert!”. Love, sweetie, honey, darling, a square of chocolate is not dessert. Three peanuts do not constitute a “snack”.

3. Photos that include immaculate houses in the background and then say stuff like “excuse the mess”. Dah-ling, puh-lease. We know you polished the hell out of that table before taking that photo. And I know a cushion that’s been carefully placed on the couch to look like it was casually thrown on there when I see one.

4. Remember the popular girls in high school everyone wanted to hang out with and then they loved mentioning it to everyone else because hanging out with them made them super cool by osmosis? The health/fitness blogger version of that stuff is name-dropping brands. Sometimes in inappropriate and clearly artificial ways. You don’t need to tell me your headband’s brand 5 times in the same blog post. You love it and it’s snuggly and they sent it to you for free but it wouldn’t matter if it cost $500 you would still buy it and wear it because you love it so much and totally not just because they sent it to you for free. Whatever. Wearing Lululemon Athletica from head to toe does not make you a faster runner. It makes you a rich runner who overspends and it makes me a jealous hate-reader. Either way, it’s not a good look for any of us (well, except for you, because Lululemon does make some pretty cute things).

5. Lists like “the top 10 races in the world” or the “top 10 parks to run in” that only mention races and parks in the US (where most fitness bloggers I read are based). Are you familiar with this strange little concept called “rest of the world”? It’s pretty big. The same goes for giveaways online that don’t specify the rules as far as location of the entrants goes as if it should be obvious that it’s only for US residents. It’s not obvious and you’re alienating a part of your readers by omitting that. Bottom line: you suck and I miss out on giveaways. Uncool.

6. Playing it down. I understand you’re trying to push yourself and self-motivate but, if it’s only about yourself, consider a private journal. Don’t make people who read you feel like losers when they see stuff “super easy 20 miles today, barely worked up a sweat!” or “I was going to do a real workout today but then got lazy and just ran 15 super easy miles instead”. In my case, this has a demotivating effect. Why bother if I sweat my butt off after 3 miles? I’m clearly no good at this.

+1. Captchas. I was just going to say congrats on your latest race. Don’t give me all this extra work to prove that I’m human. I’m human and humans don’t have patience for proving they’re not robots.

(I also thought about mentioning sites that automatically play music but since it’s not 1995, I’m going to go ahead and assume no one’s doing that shit anymore.)

Now it’s your turn. What really annoys you on the internet? Bloggers who write entire posts about hate-reading other bloggers? Bloggers who ask you questions at the end of their posts? Let it all out. Rant away.


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Some like it hot (the yoga, that is)

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The 26 poses of Bikram yoga

(image source: a bunch of different people on pinterest)

I signed up for a 24/7 gym two years ago so I could go to the gym at really late hours when there’s almost no one there. I loathe group gym classes. Actually, loathe is not a strong enough word. Group gym classes bring out my murderous side. I’m one uncoordinated monkey crashing an otherwise perfectly synchronized choreography. It’s not pretty. So my return to Bikram Yoga today, after over a year of absence, was as inexplicable as it was sweaty.

I went through a period of regularly going to Bikram sessions a couple of years ago (go figure) but then the whole exercising in a pool of my own sweat while inhaling other people’s BO thing kind of got a bit old and so I swapped it for the gym instead (where I exercise in a smaller pool of my own sweat but still smell other people’s BO. But no, really, working out is great. Really really).

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My yoga routine in the last year or so

My last Bikram session was back in November 2011, according to the nice lady behind the studio counter today (was that a judgmental look on her face when she said the date? I think it was). That last time was after my second half marathon. It felt good at the time but summer was just starting and the whole hot room thing wasn’t so attractive anymore. I thought I’d return to Bikram in winter, as a complement to my running, but then winter came around and I chose running as a complement to running. It’s really not hard to talk oneself out of spending 90 minutes working out inside a 40 degree room.

However, my muscles have been kind of stiff lately and I’ve noticed I’m not as flexible anymore so I thought this was a good excuse to go back and see if it really is true that yoga fixes the bad things running does to you. Regular yoga bores me senseless, unfortunately, so it was back to the Bikram studio for me today.

Most of the poses did feel a bit like the description in the top image but I’m convinced that’s because of the amount of time that’s gone by since my last session and also because my muscles are still recovering from last weekend’s long run.

Most of all, it felt like one massive stretching session. And it hurt really damn good, the way stretching after a long run does. Some of those who preach the benefits of bikram for runners also mention that it helps increase stamina and lung capacity. If that’s true, see you at the next available slot for another bikram session. Controlling my breathing is still one of my main problems when running so if there’s a fairly easy way to fix that then Namaste.

I’m by no means a yogi. There’s nothing zen about it for me and I’ve never been able to get “in the zone” during yoga (that’s something I can only do while running). I was mentally making my shopping list at one point during class. But it’s hard work. Really freaking hard work, for a considerable amount of time. You can’t convince me that’s not a good thing.


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On a smoothie kick

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I’m glad blenders don’t have feelings or workers’ rights otherwise mine would be going on strike soon. Poor little thing must be tired from getting used every day but I’ve been on a real smoothie kick lately.

I haven’t really taken advantage of this craving to make anything even remotely healthy but then we all know that was never going to happen anyway. I save my spinach for soup and my kale for nothing because kale is kind of yuck and I’m not entirely sure why the entire blogosphere seems to be obsessed with it these days. But I’m going through my ripe bananas like it’s nobody’s business and I suppose freezing them for smoothies is a bit healthier than mashing them for cake.

Above is the vanilla and coffee smoothie I had today. Don’t you just love when the name of something is also its entire recipe? I do! Vanilla + coffee = smoothie. Simplicity is underrated. You can add cinnamon or whipped cream or whatever else you want but, really, there’s only two basic ingredients for this. Two ingredient recipes are the best kind of recipes, even if they’re barely a recipe.

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Banana + mixed berries + berry yoghurt + skim milk

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Frozen banana + peanut butter + vanilla essence + skim milk

There are a bunch of other things you can add to each of these, of course. A lot of people add protein powder to their smoothies but that requires the extra step of acquiring protein powder.

Other combinations I’ve been making include blueberry + banana + vanilla yoghurt, strawberries + banana + berries yoghurt, and pineapple + banana + vanilla ice cream. So yeah, I’ve been obsessing a bit. I mean, what’s not to like? It’s a meal and a drink! A mealdrink! Or something. Either way, it’s perfect for the hot weather we’ve been having here down under.

Blender, please don’t break. I have a lot more combinations to try before summer is over.

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On non-smoothie related news, I’ve got something pretty exciting to share. I told the Pro Compression peeps about the giveaway winner and they decided you all deserved a little something just for being awesome. Head over to the Pro Compression website, buy yourself some marathon socks and use the code FIT2013 to get 40% off! Yep, a whole 40%! Plus, if you live in the US, the code also gives you free shipping! Who’s awesome? Pro Compression! And smoothies. Smoothies are awesome too. Those are the two main messages to take from all this.


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One down, twelve to go

I crossed a goal off the list and got a t-shirt to prove it. I also got a hat and wore it but hats don't suit me so I went with the headless look for this photo instead, for your benefit. You're welcome.

I crossed a goal off the list and got a t-shirt to prove it. I also got a hat and wore it but hats don’t suit me so I went with the headless look for this photo instead, for your benefit. You’re welcome.

When the alarm started going off at 5:30AM and I moved in bed to reach for it and shut it up, the pain on my legs reminded me I had just run 32km the day before. Naturally, I questioned what the flying heck was I doing getting up at stupid o’clock again but then I remembered that, later in the day, I’d have an item ticked out of my list of goals for this year so that helped. This is why I disagree with people saying new year’s resolutions are useless. Call them resolutions, call them goals, call them Harry, call them whatever you want. If they motivate you to get out of bed (even though it’s early and you’re in pain), they’re a good thing.

I had the chance to volunteer as a marshall on the run course of the Ironman 70.3 in Auckland and, with that, I knocked down one of my goals for this year.

Standing around for that many hours wasn’t the ideal recovery strategy  post-long run but seeing all those amazing people getting off the water and onto their bikes, cycling 90km and then running a half marathon like it was no big deal really did help put my pain into perspective. I recognised a few of the faces along the course and collected a bunch of cool little memories, like 76-year old Garth Barfoot looking strong and thanking me for telling him he did or the couple of guys that raised their hands for high fives and they went past me towards the finish line. And I’m not even ashamed to admit that the little kid shouting “daddy! Daddy! You’re an ironman!” as his dad ran past him brought tears to my eyes. It was amazing, those people are amazing. My lack of better adjectives is less than amazing.

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You mean machines. You make me want to go out for a run right now but my legs are all “uh, nope”.

So I’ll stop here. The point is that I’m pretty stoked to cross this one off the list. Running about a dozen of events a year, it’s about time I start giving back to all those people that come along to help out with those. I’m looking for other events to volunteer for but it’s hard because, whenever I find one, I want to run it rather than help out (that didn’t make me sound very nice but there you have it). In any case, I’ve submitted my interest in volunteering for the Auckland marathon this year so I’m not putting this goal behind me completely. Either way, CHECK!


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Pro Compression giveaway winner

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My 10 days of reading about the awesome stuff that happened in your days are over (unless you want to keep telling me what is brightening your day, which I’m totally ok with).

I combined the comments with the Facebook likes (in the order they happened) and then used a random number generator to pick a winner because, if I had to choose, I’d probably guilt-trip myself into going bankrupt by buying compression socks for everyone who commented and, also, I don’t really have the energy to go through all comments and pick a winner.

Congratulations Leon Klijmeij, one of your comments made you the winner of this giveaway. Please head over to the Pro Compression website and choose the pair of marathon socks you would like to have, then email supergenericgirl at gmail dot com with the socks you want, your size and your postal address so I can give the good guys at Pro Compression all the details.

Thank you so much to everyone who entered. In an ideal world, you’d all get socks (and not just the ones distant relatives give you for Christmas) but I’m not Oprah so there’s nothing under your chairs. I know, it disappoints me too.


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10 things about my 20 miles

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I took about ten photos along the run but they were all as grainy as useless as this one. I need a better phone for photos along my runs. And a hundred photography courses. Also, it was a road run, don’t let the photo fool you. There were only a few hundred meters like this.

Six hours of sleep, two pieces of toast and a chocolate croissant (don’t take nutrition advice from me) and we were on the road, bright and early this morning. We had water in our hydration bladders, some trail mix in our packs and a vague idea of the route we were going to take.

Thirty-two entire kilometers later (20 miles for you non-metric system adopters), we were at the dairy back near the start, getting a cold coke and celebrating our longest road run to date. Neither of us had run more than 21km since that epic day last May and neither of us had ever done more than 21km on the road.

It wasn’t the easiest of starts. I didn’t feel like getting out of bed when the phone started going off at 6AM. I wanted to close my eyes and ignore all sounds (actually, I wanted to throw the phone against the wall but I showed enormous self-control and just got up instead). I didn’t want to do it. At all. I wanted to get up at 10AM and slowly make breakfast and watch the Come Dine with Me omnibus. Instead, I have no idea who won Come Dine with Me this week (!!!) but I ran 32km before lunch instead. As hard as it is to get out of bed, I don’t think that was a bad trade off. Also, I learned a few things this morning and I bet you’re dying to know what they were (just nod in agreement, it’s fine).

1. I can (prolly maybe) run a marathon. If it goes anything like today, it’ll be really enjoyable for about 20km, fairly enjoyable for another 5km. Then my feet are going to start burning and it’s going to suck really bad, getting progressively worse as my legs decide to join the feet’s pity party. I don’t know how the remaining 10km will go, since we stopped at 32, but I’m fairly sure it’ll be shit. But hey, it’ll be done! (BRB, going to look for some wood to knock on!)

2. The trails are a lot nicer on the soles of our feet (and I suspect the body in general) than the road. I know we’re supposed to do road work for a road marathon but I really started missing the trails towards the end, with every painful step on the solid road.

3. Baz Luhmann says everybody’s free to wear sunscreen. I wish I remembered this more often. Sunscreen and vaseline are a runner’s best friends in summer. It doesn’t matter how well adjusted the backpack straps are, those little bitches always ends up rubbing on my neck and making it hurt on a long run.

4. Breaking the distance down in my head remains the best strategy for any long run. I may have run 32km but, in my head, I actually ran a half marathon and then, after that, a 10km run. It might all add up to the same but, in terms of my attitude, it makes all the difference.

5. 1L of water is most definitely not enough water for a run this long.

6. Maybe my legs wouldn’t have felt so heavy if I had remembered that I had a Gu in my backpack. I didn’t. The final couple of kilometers were a bit of a metaphor of Dante’s Inferno.

7. I’m perfectly happy not having any music out on the trails but I definitely can’t run very far without music on road. I’m not even sure this is weird. I guess the sound of traffic doesn’t have the same soothing zen-like effect that the sound of nature does.

8. Just because you can run for 25km without pain, don’t make the mistake of assuming that maybe, just maybe, that’s how the entire run will go. Pretty soon after that smug thought, everything will start hurting. Everything.

9. Despite being our longest road run to date, there wasn’t much fuss about it beforehand. We decided to do it just earlier in the week and there was no massive preparation or stress around it. We just went and did it. It’s not the first time I am led to believe that the whole “just do it” stuff from Nike is more than just marketing. Those smart cookies might have a point.

10. Sweat between your toes making them rub against each other and burn. This happened. It wasn’t pleasant. I just wanted to leave you with that mental image.

Despite the pain, it was an awesome run. I got home feeling all badass and stuff but was called back to reality when I couldn’t open the bottle of olive oil on my own. Apparently, I’m still a little bit of a loser. But this loser ran a really long way today. So there’s that.


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“I don’t have time” and other bullshit we tell ourselves

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(know that meme)

A couple of years ago, when I was all “yay, I have a Kindle! I want to download all the eBooks on the internet!”, a friend recommended a book called How to Live on 24 hours a Day. The title sounded a little silly but I downloaded it anyway for three main reasons: 1) it was free (and I’m a sucker for a bargain), 2) it was short, 3) it got me one book closer to that “all the eBooks on the internet” goal mentioned above. I started reading it with the often misguided low expectations I have of some free stuff  but it turned out to be one of the most enlightening books I’ve read in a while.

How to Live on 24 hours a Day sounds a little like “How to Inhale and Exhale Repeatedly to Avoid Death”. I thought to myself “I’m living. My days have 24 hours. So yeah, I think I’ve got it covered”. Some people (me) need the really obvious stuff spelled out to them. Some people (me) need a book from the early 1900s to tell them to get off Facebook and start making better use of their free time. To live rather than exist, as I think the author puts it at some point.

So, basically, I had a dude from last century schooling me on how to deal with my busy working life as a young adult in the 21st century.

Awesome.

Turns out this book, which is now 113 years old (!) is one of the earliest self-help books ever written. I read a self-help book. But it’s ok. I actually learned stuff. Plus, it’s philosophical in a way that I’m not sure other self-help books are. I haven’t read any others. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

But anyway, where was I? 24 hour days. Right. We’ve got lots of those. They come around every day. For the longest time, I got used to dismissing the entire five days of the work week as time when I couldn’t fit anything else in because I was working all day long.

The word you’re looking for is “bullshit”.

Let’s do some math (there’s something you won’t catch me saying very often): I work 8 hours a day. Add an hour for the commute. That’s nine hours. The day has 24. Nine and 24 aren’t even close together, there’s a whole bunch of other numbers in between. Sure, I sleep about 6 or 7 hours every night (on a good night), but that’s only a total of 15 or 16 hours dedicated to working and sleeping (I’m really kicking ass at these calculations, I wish my 7th grade Math teacher was reading this). Anyway, 15 or 16 hours a day for work + sleep. This leaves a whole other third of the day for other stuff. Stuff I didn’t feel like I had time to do. I know it sounds incredibly obvious now but I wanted to smack myself in the face when I read that book. What a load of bullshit I had been telling myself with that “I work all day” crap. I work a third of the day. It might be the best third – when the sun is out – but, mathematically speaking, it’s still only a third. The rest of the time is mine. And I had been wasting it on nothing.

What I’m trying to say is that, more than Runner’s World, online training plans or books by famous marathoners and ultrarunners, it was a time management book over 100 years old that helped me with all the running I’ve been doing.

So, just in case you suffer from the same problem as me, I thought I’d tell you that, like me, you’re just full of crap. You’ve got plenty of time. Safely remove that USB, it’s ok. You’re not in that big a rush. And the stuff you wish you could do during the week when you’re not working? Look at all that time you’ve got to actually do it! If the time you spent at work today felt like it was very long, it’s because it was. The good news is that you have another good few hours ahead of you to get stuff done. So wait for that You Tube video to fully load. Watch Jodie Foster’s Golden Globe speech in its entirety. Go nuts and read those terms and conditions (just kidding, ain’t nobody got time for that).

Every time I hear someone tell me they would love to get into running too but they just don’t have the time, I have to wait a few seconds to let my brain go from the instinctive “are you trying to say you’re busier than me? Because I’ll have you know I’m pretty god damn busy!” to something a little more grownup (but also patronising as hell) like “as a matter of fact, you do have time for that, if you really want to do it. You might just not be managing your time right.”

I still have a massive time management problem but I’m much more aware of it now. There are a bunch of things I wish I “had time” to do. I wish I was a morning person (or, alternatively, I wish I could show up for work at 11ish) so I could sit down for breakfast or properly dry my hair instead of the 30 second blow dry that leaves it just slightly-less-wet-but-definitely-nowhere-near-dry. I wish I had time every evening to prepare my lunch for the next day instead of resorting to the atrocious service and stupidly high prices of the cafe at work. But I guess what it boils down to is that I don’t really care enough about these things. Otherwise I’d find the time. If I don’t really want to do something, I’ll find an excuse not to do it. If I really want to do something, I’ll find the time.

Whoa. Enlightenment.

So, the bottom line is, I don’t have time for running because I’m any less busy than anyone else. I’ve got time for running because I really freaking love doing it and, so, I make time for it.

Bennett wrote in this book (that, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m highly recommending here): “We never shall have any more time. We have, and we have always had, all the time there is.”

So, if you want to run, get off your ass and run.

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