The August Edition of Feet on the Street is Lori from Fake Food Free! I found Lori’s blog because she commented on mine and we’ve been talking ever since. I love her blog because she writes very creative posts on all kinds of topics that range from recipes to her adventures in Brazil. Oh yeah. her and her husband are currently expats in Brazil right now living the life! That is a huge draw for me to her blog because I love reading about the cultural differences and learning how to work with what you’ve got. A few months back we did a small exchange where I sent her some bars (Larabars, Clifs for example) because she cannot get those things in Brazil and in exchange she sent me some local treats. Including Brazilian coffee. I know I just totally made you jealous. Sadly I’m out of the coffee now!
I wanted to talk with her about running and especially about her experience running in Brazil! Because working out and living as healthy as possible in an unfamiliar country would provide challenges that most of us don’t really think about. Let’s get this party started!
When did you start running and what influenced you to get out there and hit the street?
Oh, how I loathed running. I did it because I played soccer in high school and I’ve been into fitness as long as I can remember, but I always pulled up the tail end of the group when running. I’d completed 5Ks before and run in a 10K, but it took me forever to train and then after the race I’d stop and have to start all over again. Each time I’d start over I could literally run no more than a minute at a time.
Running has never been easy for me. I’m not saying that people who like running don’t work hard, but I do feel it comes easier for some. Just like lifting weights or choreographed group exercise classes come easier for me. I also think our body type can make running easier or more difficult. My husband has always been a good runner and he recently got serious about running again to train for a 105K relay race around an island here in Brazil. So for my New Year’s resolution this year, I decided it was time to conquer running. I’m 30 and I figured it is now or never.
My goal was maintain a training level where I could do a 5K whenever one would pop up without much notice. I started with an incredibly easy program and followed it precisely even though at times I felt like I could run more. However, I knew I’d get burned out as always if I gave into the temptation. It was hard because January and February are summer here and it is HOT with no AC relief when you get done. The inside of our apartment hit 93 F many days. Not a pleasant atmosphere to return to after a hot run.
After about 14 weeks, though, I was up to running a solid 30 minutes. Now a 5K is my regular distance at somewhere between a 10:30 and 11:00 min/mile pace. While I’m still struggling to increase my distance I have run a 10K and continue to stay between 5K and 10K for my longer runs. I only run 3 days per week and try to skip a day in between. This is the healthiest choice for me. I haven’t completely fallen in love with running yet, but I like how the sense of accomplishment makes me feel and how it helps me control my weight. Now my goal is to run a ½ marathon next spring.
Oh, and did I mention that the park I run at here is overrun with monkeys? That makes each workout rather eventful.
Let’s talk shoes! What shoes do you wear for running? Be specific, the brand, model, and if they are neutral shoes, stability shoes, etc.
I started with a pair of Asics Gel Phoenix and these worked great for the first few months. Then I realized I needed to get something for stability. I was in the U.S. in May and my husband was looking at getting a new pair of shoes. We headed to a local running store and he found a pair, I just snooped around. I tried on some that I loved which were specifically for stability – Asics GT2140, but I wasn’t prepared to fork over the dough. When another business trip took my husband back to the U.S. in July I gave in and had him buy them for me. (Did I mention name brand tennis shoes cost about two to three times the price here in Brazil? These shoes would have easily cost R$500 or more which is over 250 USD. Anytime a local friend or coworker goes to the U.S. they always bring back tennis shoes. )
Where did you purchase your shoes? Did you go to a running store, did you research online?
I originally found the shoes at a local running store in Lexington, but my husband ended up buying my pair at Dick’s Sporting Goods because they were the same price and the location was convenient. This process involved a Saturday afternoon of me sitting at my computer in Brazil while he was at the mall in Lexington. He took pictures of each color with his Blackberry and sent them to me so I could pick. Not your typical running shoe shopping experience!
Talk to me about your experiences running and exercising while living abroad.
Exercising abroad has been a HUGE challenge for me. I’ve been exercising since I was about 13 years old and I started working in gyms when I was 18. I’ve always enjoyed indoor and outdoor exercise equally, but I love state-of-the-art machines and classes based on the latest exercise trends. That being said I’ve broken down why I find exercise so challenging here into three reasons. Since the perception many people have about Brazil is that the people here are very focused on appearance and beauty (from my personal experience, this is true) I thought the gyms would be outstanding. Wrong! Okay, so the equipment is sufficient, but not modern and in some cases not even safe. We are living in a town of about 300K, which compared to a city like Sao Paulo is small, so I’m not sure if this is a small town problem or a Brazil problem. There is actually a large population of runners here and it always picks up when there is a race coming up. The park will be packed at night. This is good because I always feel safety in numbers around here. During these times I’m able to go to the park at dusk when it is cooler and feel safe. Also, the police will circle the area in the evenings to ward off people hanging out and causing trouble. (The inside of this park was closed due to crime, but the outside track is still open.) Other than that I’m restricted to either morning after it gets light or 6:00 pm (depending on the time of the year) due to the heat and the number of people there. It is deserted during the day even if it is cool and it makes one feel rather unsafe. This timing may not be a problem for some, but I’ve always enjoyed being really flexible with my exercise times. It keeps me motivated. In addition, I lived in a college town so the varying schedules meant there were always people out at all times of the day exercising given pleasant weather.
In our first four months here I began with all this free time to workout. I walked at the park, lifted weights, took indoor cycling and then I started establishing myself as a freelance writer. Working from home makes exercise so much more of a challenge than it ever was when I worked in an office. It is crazy how difficult it is to tear myself away from the computer and actually leave the apartment. Back home I used to always squeeze in a workout at lunch or mid-afternoon if I had a meeting near the gym or park. Now it just feels like so much work.
Finally, I have learned that I despise attention! It sounds ridiculous, but I honestly had no idea how much this would get to me. I have blond hair and while there are a few blonds around this area, saying I stand out is a huge understatement. People stare at me all the time. And I mean STARE. It really isn’t a cultural no-no here. Sometimes people won’t take their eyes off me until I stare back at them. And don’t even get me started about the men. This goes for any woman in general especially those with long hair. Seventy percent of men you pass will stare at you the entire time you walk buy them (usually at the chest region) and watch your backside as you walk away. I know many people can handle this much better than I, but I get so sick of the attention. I prefer to blend in. At the park the staring can be bad when I’m running (especially with my bright pink leg sleeves), but it doesn’t bother me as much as the attention I got at the gym. There, it isn’t so much that I’m being stared at, but I’m always the center of attention for one reason or another. Either I don’t understand what someone says to me and have to tell them I only speak a little Portuguese or I bring my own mat to mind/body class, and because those are rare here, people constantly comment about it. I just get worn out with being the center of attention.
Because of all this (and exposure to a bunch of new foods I can’t stop eating) I’m carrying about 10 extra pounds that I had managed to keep off at home. I do miss the gym because I love the elliptical. When I was home over the holidays last year I joined one again for a month and quickly took off 7 pounds. I’m just big on cardio machines for calorie burning and the lack of them has made weight control difficult. At the same time though, I’ve been forced to become a runner and I now understand why running is such a popular activity for ex-pats. In many cases it is the only reliable thing we have when it comes to vigorous exercise.
Now for some fun stuff! What are some of your favorite workout gear and/or gadgets?
I love my Zensah leg sleeves! As much as I hate to say it, I inherited varicose veins from my Dad and about four years ago they got a lot worse in my left leg. After running (and travel) my calves would swell up and get numb. The sleeves help with circulation and the swelling is virtually gone. I can’t really judge yet if they help performance although they do support my ankle. However, due to help with circulation they are the best running gear investment I’ve made.
What’s your favorite color and do you try to get gear in that color?
I am guided more by what’s on the sales rack than by color. I am a true bargain girl which is why it was so hard to finally commit to the Asics! However, I tend to like pink in its various shades.
If you listen to music while you run, what are some of your favorite tunes to get you moving?
Oddly enough, I hardly ever listen to my iPod when running. I like to concentrate on what is around me. My husband couldn’t believe I ran 10K without any music! However, I recently bought some new songs so my past couple runs I’ve taken it to mix things up. I don’t want to become reliant on it though. I want to be able to run without music to push me. That is just a personal goal for me. I do like Green Day, Ivete Sanaglo (a Brazilian artist), and Katy Perry to get me moving, and Jason Mraz to cool down.
Did we not love this one guys?! Totally interesting! Lori thank you so much for letting me interview you for Feet on the Street! Guys please check out Lori’s blog, Fake Food Free and give her a follow on Twitter!