Learning Acrylic Painting

September 21, 2012 - 11:25 am No Comments

After learning some watercolor painting techniques I did some reading about different painting mediums and techniques. I was attracted to acrylic for it’s versatility and similarity to watercolor. The Wiki page about acrylic paint was a fun read. I didn’t realize it has only used by artists since about 1963. The different painting mediums; watercolor, tempera, acrylic and oil, are similar in the pigment chemicals they use, but differ in the “solvent” they use to transfer the paint to the canvas. Acrylic paint contains pigments suspended in a acrylic polymer emulsion. It can be diluted with water to look like watercolors but it drys quickly and becomes water-resistant when dry. It can also resemble oil paint but can be used with other mediums like charcoal and pastels. Like me, artists were attracted to it’s versatility. I also could use my same paint brushes and paper to learn new acrylic techniques.

For the paint, I already had some craft paints I’d picked up at a craft store that I hadn’t even realized were acrylics. They are the Folk Art brand and are pretty easily available at craft stores or even big box stores (the big blue W comes to mind). They are pretty inexpensive (about $1 for a 2oz bottle) and are a good consistency. I’m sure there are much better paints out there, but I was on a budget and wanted to just practice for awhile before investing in expensive paints.

My brushes are from a variety of sources. I like having a good selection of natural and synthetic brushes of different shapes. Natural fibers are thicker and give a more textured brush stroke. Synthetic brushes are very soft and really versatile. Back when I first started painting with watercolors I picked up a few really nice brushes from my local craft store. I also picked up a cheap selection of small brushes in a big packet from a big box store. The different brush shapes make them usable for painting different textures and shapes.  My nice brushes work really well for the majority of the work I do, but the cheap brushes are still really useful and disposable if I forget to rinse them out. On that note, acrylic paints dry really fast and brushes should be rinsed out quickly and not allowed to dry with paint on them. I just use hand soap and water to clean mine out and that works just fine.

For a palette I just picked up an inexpensive plastic palette for mixing paints. I only do small paintings for now so this works just fine. I know more professional artists use bowls and cups to mix paints and that’s probably better for larger projects. Since acrylics are next to impossible to wash off once they’re dry, the paint is starting to build up as a nice collage of color on my palette. Makes me feel like a real artist!

For paper I just used what I had from watercolor painting. I found this paper at a craft store and it’s also available online (as are most painting supplies, fyi). It’s nice and textured and was really fun to experiment with for watercolors. It’s thick and doesn’t wrinkle when using water washes. It works perfectly fine for acrylics, as well and I did a few of the paintings below on this paper. I experimented with canvas, though and really like it, too. I just bought inexpensive canvas that was preconditioned at a craft store. I’m not sure how one would hang it up on a wall if you wanted to; that will take some fiddling.

Anyway, below are some of first attempts at acrylic painting and a few techniques I learned. Enjoy! and Go paint!


September 11, 2012 - 11:23 am 2 Comments

A couple of years ago I decided to learn to paint. Can I just say – learning new things is a blast! I started out with watercolor painting. I picked up some supplies on my own and then took a community class for beginners. It was a lot of fun. I really enjoyed learning basic techniques.

Anyway, I’ve decided to share some of my pictures. I have no illusions that I’m any good, but I have really enjoyed exploring my creative side. It’s so relaxing and invigorating.

This picture is the first one we did in class. One of my weaknesses in art is definitely composition. Just coming up with an idea of what to paint and where to put it on the page is a big step. In the class I took, she had us try a few stock pictures just to get comfortable with painting. Watercolors are a tricky medium to work with in my opinion. It’s hard to get used to how much or little water to use and how to blend the colors. In this painting I used a wet-on-wet technique for the sky. It’s where you get the paper wet first with a few brush strokes of water, and then with a wet brush you start adding color to the sky. I don’t think I did a very good job of blending the sky colors, but I did learn a lot about how colors look next to each other. For a sunset picture, putting the yellow, then the red or pink and then the blue (in that order) leads to a more realistic color scheme. Going straight from blue to yellow can lead to green when the colors mix on the paper. And green is definitely not a realistic sky color!

The rest of the pictures are just a collection of some of the paintings I’ve tried with watercolor and some things I learned while doing them.  You can click on the pictures and scroll through to see descriptions.  I hope this post encourages people to go out and try new things!  Art is so much fun! Go paint!!

Running and keeping hydrated

August 4, 2012 - 9:23 pm 1 Comment

When I decided to write up a post about running and keeping hydrated I thought it would be pretty straight forward, drink lots of water, but searching for articles online I found the research on sports and hydration is not that clear cut. I chose to link to some good articles and summarize what I thought was relevant for distance runners.

This first article is from the British Medical Journal. They took six different health claims made by sports drinks manufacturers and even health websites and evaluated the evidence behind those claims. I believe what they did is called a meta analysis. This means looking at many different studies done and analyzing the combined results to see what conclusions can be accurately be drawn.

Mythbusting sports and exercise products

BMJ 2012; 345 doi: 10.1136/bmj.e4848 (Published 19 July 2012)


The first of the claims assessed actually surprised me. It has to do with the idea of using your urine color as a measure of your hydration level. I myself have heard or read this quite a few places and as a runner tried to drink enough to keep my urine a specific color. First of all, it seems the quality of the studies done on urine color aren’t really up to par.

The article states:

“We found eight low quality studies published with no systematic reviews. As there is no objective measure of hydration, all of these studies compared urine colour to surrogate markers: none directly investigated the correlation between urine colour and performance or the correlation between urine colour and thirst.”

Further, three of the studies recommended color of urine, but only as an estimation, three studies concluded that urine color is not accurate enough to use and the remaining two only recommended using the first bladder void of the morning as a hydration indicator or using urine along with other hydration markers. Basically, more studies are really needed before using urine color can be recommended. The article even goes far enough to warn against the potential risks of drinking to get a pale colored urine can lead to over hydration or hyponatraemia (too low sodium levels in blood).

That last line actually led quite well into the next claim the investigated: drink before your thirsty. This advice comes directly from the sports drink manufacturers. (yea, because there’s no conflict of interest there!)

According to the article, Gatorade’s website states that “(your brain) doesn’t know when your body is thirsty. You need to drink during exercise before you feel thirsty in order to get enough fluids in your body to maintain your performance level”  I had trouble finding this on their site, but I know I’ve followed similar advice myself, drinking lots of water the day before a big run. I’m not sure where Gatorade is getting this idea, that your body doesn’t know when it’s thirsty. The article states the exact mechanism by which your brain knows it’s thirsty. “Osmoreceptors in the hypothalamus detect dehydration and signal other parts of the brain to stimulate the sensation of thirst.”

I think the most important part of this article that directly relates to me and all you other runners out there is this next quote:

“Although we could not find a report in the medical literature of dehydration being a direct cause of death in marathon runners, we did find overhydration was responsible for several deaths.24 25 By following advice to “drink before thirst,” many athletes are drinking too much, which does not help performance and puts them at risk. A recent study of 88 participants in the London marathon found that 11 (12.5%) developed asymptomatic hyponatraemia.26″

The rest of the article covered some interesting topics and I highly recommend reading it. (the bolded title above is a direct link). What I got from this article was drink according to thirst. For me, that means having water with me on long runs and any runs in hot weather. I found a running water bottle I love! (here’s a link to it on Amazon) It’s got a nice pocket for my keys, gel packs and blister band-aids. I much prefer to run holding my bottle in my hand rather than carrying bottles on my waist or a camelbak. I know this is highly individual and there are tons of styles to choose from.


This second article I found from the wikipedia article on marathons.  It comes from the Association of International Marathons and Distance Races.  Although they present the information simply and don’t quote direct sources, the advice confirms some of what the other article I linked to stated.  It’s called Guidelines for fluid replacement for runners and walkers.  I highly recommend checking it out since this post is already super long so I won’t summarize it in too much detail here.  Simply speaking, drink a sports drink with carbs and electrolytes for long workouts (30+ minutes by their standards) and drink to thirst to help avoid over hydrating.  They have more specific guidelines for fluid replacement for marathon runners based on time/pace and also give instructions for using body weight to determine more individualized fluid replacement strategies.

The last thing I wanted to mention relates to exercising for weight loss.  My one concern with taking sports drinks during long workouts is the added calories.  A big reason I really like long weekend runs is they burn a ton of calories, especially fat.  I was thinking since my long runs right now are not for performance, but for weight loss I might compromise a bit.  I always bring water on my long runs but if they go over an hour, I’ll bring a sports gel with me.  (the ones I use have the requisite carbs and electrolytes and I eat them with water.)  Plus, as long as I keep track of how many calories I consume in a sports drink and use that in my weight loss calculations, weight loss should still be achievable while staying properly hydrated.

Level 2 Week, Rest

August 4, 2012 - 7:36 pm No Comments

I got up Friday morning and realized I wasn’t going to get my tempo run in this week. My legs were sore and tight and needed a rest. That’s something I’ve learned about training. My 4 week plan is as much about ramping up the effort put in as the distance and speed. Since this is only my level 2 week I didn’t want to over train. I spent Friday resting as much as possible. Saturday was a couple hours of walking around at a local art festival, enough to stretch my legs but not enough to tire me out. It’s really important to get a good nights rest the night before my long run. Training for long distances requires more preparation. I make sure to eat healthy and get to bed early. I’m going to attempt 7 miles tomorrow. And thus begins Level 3 week!

Level 2 Week Thursday

August 4, 2012 - 5:08 pm No Comments

Sorry I’m a bit behind, but Thursday’s run was a bit unusual. My legs were pretty beat, but a friend and I wanted to try a new trail near the mountains. We ended up run/walk/hiking about 4 miles. The incline was steeper than we anticipated and the road was gravelly. It was actually really fun to try something new! Hill runs are supposed to be great for training, but I so rarely get to do them. It was mostly fun to explore a new trail and just enjoy running for the sake of running. If I didn’t have these kinds of runs once in awhile, training could get tiresome. Running is such an amazing way to interact with your environment! And running with a friend is a great way to socialize. I love running! And I hope lots more people give it a chance!


Level 2 week, Wednesday

August 1, 2012 - 9:10 pm No Comments

Today’s work out was a sprinting workout. I did a 6x200m set on a track. That means I sprinted 200 meters and then walked for 100 meters alternating. Whew! Sprinting is not my thing, but it’s a great cardio workout and high intensity interval training has a multitude of benefits.

These short, intense workouts provide improved athletic capacity and condition, improved glucose metabolism, and improved fat burning. -Wikipedia

Plus, it’s a great way to maximize a workout when I only have 20 or 30 minutes.

Level 2 Week, Monday and Tuesday

July 31, 2012 - 9:54 pm 2 Comments

Since Sunday is my long distance day, Monday is my recovery run day. Long runs push my legs and that sometimes even leads to delayed onset muscle soreness. Wiki had a pretty good article about it. I’ve found a nice slow run or walk if I’m really sore helps a ton. No more than 20 or 30 minutes is needed. The run helps stretch my legs out and get blood pumping to them. This short slow run still burns enough calories to be good for losing weight.

Now for Tuesday. It’s my weight training day, but this Sunday’s run left my calves still sore so I modified my routine. I did squats and lunges and as many arm and ab workouts as I could. Weight training is an important facet of weight loss. Muscle burns more calories than fat so the more lean muscle you carry around the higher your basal metabolic rate is. Stronger muscles are also important for injury prevention and bone health. Studies have shown that weight training increases bone density.

*I want to make an important note here. I should be calling it strength training, since most of what I do simply involves my own body weight. ie. pushups, situps and squats. It’s important to do strength training no matter your age or gender. Women needn’t be afraid of weights or “bulking” up. Those men who become body builders train hard and long and under very special circumstances. Plus, women lack the testosterone to bulk up even close to what men can do. Being strong is essential in any physical activity. It by no means lessen femininity.*

Now that I’m off my soap box… This level 2 week only has one day of weight training planned, so next week I may bump it up to two. I also might add more in as I get stronger. Squats and lunges still leave me pretty sore, so I can’t do them to often, yet. But hey, no pain no gain, right?

Level 2 Week, Sunday

July 30, 2012 - 12:19 pm No Comments

( just a reminder that level 1 week will be a rest week after level 4 week so I’m starting off on level 2 week)

  • Distance Run
  • Today starts the first day of level 2 week. Sunday’s are my distance run days. Pushing yourself distance-wise is important for a variety of reasons. Long runs push the limit of your cardiovascular system. Keeping your heart rate up and breathing heavy for a nice long time does wonders for your performance and for your health! Distance runs should be done at a nice comfortable pace with walk breaks thrown in if needed. My basic distance run is 5 miles because it gives me a good hour of running even on my slowest days. For this level 2 week I bumped it up to 6 miles. I really enjoy distance running and my other workouts mostly help me be a better distance runner, but even sprinters benefit from a nice long run. You build good leg and core endurance and like I said before, push your cardiovascular system’s endurance limits.

    Another great benefit of distance run is calorie burning and fat burning. Distance running is really hard to beat when it comes to the number calories burned. And because it’s a slower, longer workout, you can burn more fat during the run. I usually run first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. When your body burns through the available glucose in your blood stream it starts to break down fat for energy. On shorter runs you most likely don’t burn through enough of you blood glucose to start burning fat. *Special note, if the calories you consume is still less than the calories you burn, you’ll lose weight, but your body will be burning muscle along with fat for energy. Muscle building workouts and these long cardio workouts will help your body burn more fat*

    For me, another great benefit of nice long runs is quiet time to myself. I often do these runs without headphones. I really love running and meditating. It’s a soothing, stress relieving exercise.

    Not just a runner, but a good one

    July 30, 2012 - 9:14 am No Comments

    I recently got into running and like so many wonderful people, decided I’d like to blog about it. I wanted to describe my journey toward being not just a runner, but a good one ( hence the title of the page). I ran my first half marathon in October 2011 at age 26. It was an amazing experience! One of those things in life you get a thrill just from completing. But, I’m young, healthy and have plenty of opportunity to improve. So that’s what I’m going to do! I’ll get faster, stronger and be able to run longer. And I’ll chronicle it all here. I welcome any advice or ideas or questions. Now begins the quest!


    New running program

    July 3, 2012 - 2:09 pm No Comments

    The first thing I want to discuss about running is weight control. I first started running as a way to lose weight, but now I want to continue my weight loss as a way to become a better runner! It makes sense, really. The less fat I carry around, the more efficient my poor little legs can be!

    The first step to losing weight is to determine how much I want to weigh. I’m 5’6″ and in my late 20s. Looking back at college pictures I’ve decided that 135lbs is a good target. I think it requires me to drop some fat while still giving me the feminine figure I like. I may end up dropping more in a few years when I attempt a marathon, but for now this works for me.

    Now, to lose the weight! I weigh 145 now, so I’ve got a good 10 pounds to go. I haven’t signed up for any races so I’m going to design my workout program for weight loss rather than performance, although I’ll still be improving that as well.

    Before I start discussing my workout program, I want to talk about diet. Weight loss is a two prong attack. Calorie control and exercise. For the calorie control I use Livestrong.com’s calorie tracker. It’s a great tool and really easy to use! It can walk you through deciding how quickly you want to lose the weight and how many calories a day you need to accomplish it. It also allows you to input your workouts to account for the calories you burn (which I recommend). Simply put, eat less than you expend and you’ll lose weight. The trick is being consistent and accurate with calorie control. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy!

    Now, to my workout program. After reading lots about running training programs and trying a few, I’ve decided to develop a 4 week rotating program. It will involve 3 increasingly difficult weeks with one rest week. I’ll post daily as I haven’t figured out exactly which days to do what workouts. I do know I want to incorporate a long distance run, a recovery run, a tempo run, interval training and weight training. I’ll cover what those mean as I go. I’ll start with week level 2 since that’s where I’m at this week. Now, let’s go!