Category Archives: Exercise

Get moving

The Two Step Doesn’t Work

A few weeks ago, I was having a terrible week at work.  I mean the whole thing was just a waste of calendar space.  That Friday, my boss and I were getting coffee at the same time and he asked how my week had gone.  For about a nanosecond, I considered a bald-faced lie. Confession: lying makes me feel light-headed.  At that moment, I hadn’t even had my first cup o’ Joe yet; so, the risk of passing out or something equally as embarrassing was high.  I opted for the truth.  I admitted that had I been unconscious for the week, it might have been worse, but that was probably the only way I would have cratered more effectively.  To my surprise, he laughed.

Now, this is one of the reasons I have come to like and respect this man: after I told him what I had done to address the issue, he took this opportunity to encourage and instruct me.  He took a crappy situation and used it to make me a better agent and a better person.

Three_Is_A_Magic_Number_cHe pointed out that I had done the three things necessary to truly rectify the problem:

  1. identify and acknowledge it,
  2. develop a plan to correct it,
  3. implement the plan.

As a result, my professional life has improved dramatically.  By now you should know that I just cannot leave well enough alone and that my mind draws parallels between things – sometimes even unlikely things – in this case, between my current professional challenge and my personal weight loss one.

I had identified and acknowledged that I had gained weight – step one.  I had developed a plan to correct it – step two.  But, I had yet to fully implement that plan – misstep three.  Without implementation, the first two steps were nothing more than a mental exercise which is great, don’t get me wrong.  But I can do mental push-ups all day long, they ain’t gonna get me back into a size six, you know what I mean?

Step three renewed my zest for exercise which has lead me back into kickboxing.  I do love that and can already feel progress.  I had to lay out of class on Saturday to rest my fussy knee, but I’ll find the right balance there, I’m sure.  Since my son is home from college, I’m doing some weight lifting with him.  That helps me switch it up, keep it interesting, build muscle and respect the knee.  It’s just all around good stuff.

Bottom line: using just two steps doesn’t work.  As it turns out, Schoolhouse Rock was right – three really is a magic number.

Listen to Your Heart (You Knees, Your Spine…..)

knees 2Monday night at kickboxing, we did lots of squats and lunges, really giving my knee a workout.  It’s pushing back.  The discomfort is coming from the tissue around the joint more than from inside it; so, I don’t think I did any damage – I just irritated the thing.  But, just in case, I’ve worn my brace for three days and used modified techniques during Wednesday’s class. My knee is complaining and I’m listening to it.

When I talked about first going back to kickboxing class I gave this advice:

  1. talk to your doctor to make sure your body can handle it – seriously, a heart attack on the treadmill is just a buzzkill for everybody,
  2. consult a professional (a certified personal trainer, if possible) and ask for their help in developing a program that works for you,
  3. DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY! If you hate it or just tolerate it, you’ll never stick with it.

Let me add to that: 4. listen to your body.

Now, when I say that, I mean listen to REAL complaints, not those whiny ones we make up to avoid doing crunches when we’d rather be climbing into a bag of jalapeno potato chips.  (Potential TMI warning) When I set out for a long walk or run, I always empty my bladder first (never pass up an opportunity to use the restroom – life wisdom there at no extra charge).  Regardless, about five minutes into my adventure, my bladder sends out distress signals a la Titanic.  “Return to port! Return to port! Leak detected in the hold!”  Pssst!  Guess what.  My bladder is lying to me.

Often when I start a workout, I begin to feel very tired and I start to think that there’s no way I can finish it; so, I should just lie down right now.  Again, my body is lying to me.

I have to watch closely to discern truth from falsehood: to know when a muscle says, “I’m tired” and it’s really saying’ “I want to watch cartoons.”  Or when it’s really saying, “I’m about to pull, tear or otherwise jack up your world.”

I’m fairly new to all of this fitness stuff – just a couple of years old, really; so, I’m still learning to differentiate the signals. Given the spontaneous injuries professional athletes suffer, I’m not sure that anyone can ever completely do it.  However, to avoid injury and lose the ground we’ve gained, we’ve got to tune in and at least give it an honest try.

Soprano Funeral Dirge

angelAs I told you when I started blogging, my health was the motivation for me to change my lifestyle. I had this moment of clarity at a regular check-up when my blood pressure was high enough that I was not allowed to leave until it came down. At that moment, it really hit me that either I changed my lifestyle or I might not be around to meet my grandchildren. It crystallized for me that this was my do-over and that it might be my last one. That sounds like a little hyperbole, but it’s not as outlandish as it first appears.  I’m in my mid-40s – five years younger than the (as of yesterday) late James Gandolfini.

The actor carried a great deal of fat around his middle, the most dangerous fat distribution.    As we discussed before, abdominal fat is linked to higher rates of cardiovascular disease.  Reports are that Gandolfini died of either a heart attack or a stroke.  Now, I realize that I’m making some assumptions here when I don’t have all of the facts.  I do not have any kind of insider information.  I’m going with the cause of death reported in the media (dangerous to trust anything in the media, I know). And I’m making a connection between that and his appearance.  My conclusion is reasonable.

The man was only 51 years old. How old am I? How old are you? How long before my beloved ice cream gives me a stroke? How long before that heart-attack-in-a-sack goes off in your chest?  Will we survive the wake up call or will it serve to wake someone else?

Why risk it? We have to make the changes we need to make today.  Eat more vegetables. Eat less refined sugar. Eat less flour. Eat cleaner, more natural foods. Increase your activity.  Walk more. Sit less.  Move.

I never had HBO and never watched The Sopranos; but, I’d seen Gandolfini in other projects.  I appreciated his talent and am saddened that he’s dead.  The real weight on my mind right now, though, is the wife he leaves behind and his children – a teen-aged son and an infant daughter who will never know her father.  It is for them that my heart breaks.

Push ‘Em Back, Push ‘Em Back, Swayback!

swayback-postureBabies are adorable walking around in their little diapers, rear ends poking way out.  Fast forward 20 years and the rear end poking way out like that isn’t so cute anymore.  It’s also not comfortable or healthy, either. I’ve held myself that way for years.

Swayback. Lordosis. Got a big, ole butt.  Whatever you call it, it’s poor posture and it’s bad for your skeleton and for your look!

If my rear end was stuck out, my abdomen was, too (as a counter-weight).  The result was that my already large belly appeared even larger.  My hips and butt also appeared larger, but the connection wasn’t so obvious to me.  Try this: stand up and give yourself a sway back.  Poke your butt out one direction and your abdomen the other.  Feel what happens with your hips?  They roll out.

The ball and socket of the hip joint are not designed to fit snuggly when your back is swayed like that; so, the ball rolls out of the joint a little bit, widening the hips and rear.

Now, tuck your pelvis.  Try to push your rear end through to the front.  Feel what happens, then?  Your hip sockets fit together.

Look five pounds thinner instantly!

If you do those little demonstrations in front a mirror, you can actually watch as your hips flare.  Tuck your pelvis and you can see how much thinner they look.

I’ve been walking and standing sway backed for so long, my hips were seriously out of line.  It has taken conscious effort to tuck my pelvis when standing, walking, running, and even sitting.  When I’m standing where no one will see me and think I’ve dropped off the deep end, I do a very simple exercise tucking my pelvis and tightening all of the muscles, pretending they area belt pulling my hip joints back together.  Particularly right at first, I could almost feel the joints pop back into place.  I don’t feel as much movement now; but, I still do the exercises to keep the muscles strong and as a reminder, as much as anything else.

Strengthening my core muscles helps with this a great deal, as well.  Rather than tucking my pelvis by pushing it forward, those strong abs help pull it forward and hold everything in place.

Since I’ve concentrated on getting rid of this swayed back, my lower back rarely hurts anymore.  By moving the weight bearing back onto my hips and legs where it was always supposed to be, I’ve reduced the strain on the lower back muscles and bones that were functioning as they were never intended.  In addition, my hips feel better.  Again, they are functioning as they are designed to – amazing how that works!

We are all told to hold our shoulders back, stand erect.  No slumping. It is just as important to remind ourselves and our children to keep our pelvises in line.


Gassing Up

When I was the interim manager of a travel agency in Starkville, MS, a coworker joked about going over to Columbus to this Mexican restaurant to “gas up.”  The food was really good, but his assessment was right on the money; so, out of respect for each other, we scheduled those trips on Fridays.

My three kickboxing classes have reminded me about gassing up correctly.  For Saturday morning’s class, I remembered to get up in time to prepare the only breakfast that gives me enough energy to make it through that workout – a bowl of old fashioned or steel cut oatmeal with chia seeds, milled flax seeds, cinnamon and a mashed banana.  I’ve tried cold cereal.  Nope. Eggs, bacon and toast. Nope. Pancakes. Nope.  For me, this is the only breakfast that fuels me properly.  It’s my best way to gas up.  I have to eat it at least 60 minutes before class, but no more than 90.  Fewer than 60 may have me nauseated, but more than 90 and I run out of gas before the third mitt drill.  For my son, it’s different.  He needs to eat two hours prior and he needs a meal heavier in protein.

Speaking of protein, I have been hit this week with some pretty strong cravings…..for chicken and eggs. I know, right?  We’ve talked about cravings before and I truly do believe that they are often direct communication from our bodies addressing a specific deficiency.  When I think of food cravings, sugary foods usually come to mind.  My body is usually feeling tired and is demanding something for quick, ready energy; so, it creates visions of chocolate donuts dancing in my head.  Right now, my body doesn’t need the extra energy – it needs those amino acid chains. Right now, my body is telling me that it needs protein.

Working and building muscles – with push-ups, ab sprawls, squats, etc – actually damages them with tiny tears.  Protein repairs that damage, making the muscles stronger than before.    After hours of aerobic and isometric exercises, my aren’t ultimately feeling tired – they’re feeling damaged; so, my body is giving me A Chorus Line with barnyard fowl. (Take a moment and envision Bob Fosse choreographing for chickens. That’s priceless.)

Chicken Barn Dance by Matthew Finger
Chicken Barn Dance by Matthew Finger

Preparing for exercise, exercise itself and feeding your body afterwards are all crucial and, I believe, all very individual.  Walking is less effective for me than for many I know.  Lifting weights is good for everyone – but different weights and in different manners.  My body craves meat. You may be fine as a vegan. It’s all about YOU – your body, your metabolism, your heredity, your lifestyle.  Because it’s so personal, I think it’s important to educate yourself and to consult a professional.

In my profession, I hear it regularly: people have read this book, watched that show or listened to something else.  More than many, I can appreciate the value of self-education; however, I still go see my doctor for annual check-ups, you know what I mean? So, as you change your fuel and activity, talk with a doctor, a nutritionist, or a personal trainer.  When you see your doctor, your healthier stats are reported to your insurance carrier (which can have great effects on your rates, depending on what coverage you have.)  As for nutritionists and personal trainers,  health and fitness are ALL they do.  They’ve read more than you and I have time to.  They are educated on the subject – sometimes for years – and they know their professions.

You can make significant headway on your own, sure; however, this is what these people do. They are too valuable a resource to waste.

Higher Degrees

I’m REALLY late visiting with you today and lemme tell you why …. I’m tired.

Baron Fork

As threatened, I went kickboxing Saturday morning, in spite of the fact that my calves felt tight enough to pop.  After class, they felt better, but my upper body was beginning to tighten up.  Over the course of the rest of the weekend, I mowed my yard using a push-mover, shampooed carpets and spent a day kayaking/floating down the Collins River.  By Sunday, my upper body was in some serious fatigue and discomfort.  The thing is: I am SO EXCITED ABOUT IT!

Every muscle twinge tells me that I broke that tissue down a little during working out.  Lean protein consumption helps my body rebuild that tissue, making it stronger, leaner and more efficient.  I can already tell a difference in how some of my clothes fit which is incredibly thrilling.

The soreness reminds me:

  1. to do only those things that really matter,
  2. that I am alive, and
  3. that I am getting stronger.

Class is at 8 tonight.  I still will not be able to do many push-ups or ab sprawls; but, I can guarantee you that I will be able to do more of them tonight than I could on Saturday.  Progress, baby!

It’s a Question of Degrees

ow, Ow, oW, OW! OWW!!!

I am actually as sore as I had predicted. Muscles I had forgotten about are SCREAMING at me today. My calves are so tight that I question every step. “Okay, so I have to use the restroom; but, do I have to use it badly enough?”

The only one who can tell you, "You can't" is you...and you don't have to listen.Instead of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, today we have Her Dotyness’s hierarchy of whines. It’s all about degrees of need or desire for me today.  Am I hungry enough to brave the walk to the kitchen? Just how badly do I want that next cup of coffee? While my internal conversation is pretty comical today, I think that the question of degrees applies more frequently than just when my calves are sore.  I say I want something, but how badly do I really want it?

I’ve been lamenting my poor choices and execution.  If say I want to lose these pounds, then I have to prove it.  I have to want it badly enough to make better choices and to keep my exercise appointments.  If I don’t do those things, then I must not want that weight loss badly enough.

This week, my choices have been better – I had the fruit cup instead of the muffin, the grande latte instead of the venti.  I started kickboxing again. My head trash level is lower. I feel like my clothes fit a little better.  Maybe they do, maybe I just think they do.  If perception is reality in terms of customer service, then I say it should be reality in terms of self conversation, as well. Whatever the case, it’s a positive week loaded with positive energy and progress.

So, even now, as I categorize the threat level of my bladder alarm, I know that come tomorrow morning, calves screaming or not, I will be in class, sweating, talking myself through just one more push up. Because, in terms of degrees, I want it badly enough.

Kicking My Fanny Into Gear…Literally

I’m actually typing this blog with my nose. It is the only part of my body I can control to any degree right now. It is Wednesday night and I am writing my Thursday blog now because I’m fairly certain I won’t be able to do it tomorrow.

For the first time in about 10.5 months, I attended a kickboxing class tonight.  Before my knee surgery, I attended class with Karin’s Kicking Fitness three times a week.  I. LOVED. IT.  The class is hard, hard work if you really get into it.  You can take it easy on yourself if you like and hardly break a sweat, but I don’t.  I work hard and smell like a goat when I leave.  Here’s the thing: if I’m going to take it easy on myself, I’m going to be on the couch and some beer drinking and hockey watching are going to be involved. If I’m going to pay to attend an exercise class, then, by golly, I’m exercising.

left hand and heavy bagMy first class was on Valentine’s Day 2012.  I attended three times a week until late July when I hurt my knee (not in class, by the way).  During those six months, I missed no more than three classes and became a beast!  I was in the best shape of my life, hands down. My core was strong.  I could do push ups on my toes and first two knuckles. Squats, lunges, planks, mountain climbers, boot strappers, burpies – bring ’em on!  While the classes got easier, they were never easy.  Again, I. LOVED. IT.  And I have missed it terribly.

Fast forward now through those lazy 10.5 months of The Great Regain and we get to tonight. I was so excited to be able to go to class.  I had my knee in a brace and, because Karin is a physical therapist assistant who had worked with me during recovery, I was confident that she would watch me to make certain that I didn’t do anything to hurt myself. My confidence was well placed.  She watched me and suggested some adjustments that would give me a good workout, but that would protect that knee.  The workout was hard – harder than I remember.  There were a couple of times when I was afraid I might have to excuse myself to go “call some dinosaurs.”  I managed to hang on, though, and made it through with my dignity mostly intact.

As you decide to exercise, my advice is:

  1. talk to your doctor to make sure your body can handle it – seriously, a heart attack on the treadmill is just a buzzkill for everybody,
  2. consult a professional (a certified personal trainer, if possible) and ask for their help in developing a program that works for you,
  3. DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY! If you hate it or just tolerate it, you’ll never stick with it.

Tonight, I drove home with my knees, can’t lift my arms and had to pretty much fall out of the car when I arrived at the house.  The four-inch step to the stoop required a Herculean effort.  Thursday, I may have to pay someone to apply my make-up, brush my teeth and do my hair.  Friday, I’ll likely start crying the moment I wake.  Saturday, class is at 8 AM and I’ll be there because, yep, I. LOVE. IT.

Satan Invented Sweats, Yoga Pants and Stretch Denim

..and in related news: Tennessee woman buried in clothing avalanche, sizes 6 to 20.

We all know better.  We know that it is physique awareness suicide to wear stretchy pants more than three days running.  After that, you might as well wrap yourself in an elastic muumuu and call it a day.  It is over. So, during my unemployment/knee recovery/eat-a-thon, I stayed away from the sweats and the yoga pants like I should.  I kept on slipping into my blue jeans, thinking that they were an accurate gauge of size during the time which shall be known henceforth as The Great Regain.  Pah!  More the fool me, right?! (Say “yes.”) My trusty denims weren’t denims at all, but were STRETCH denim.  (Gasp in horror.)

messy-closetI’ve heard Oprah say that she has every size in her closet from eight to elastic.  Mine was the same, making my room look more and more like an episode of Hoarders.  That kind of clutter has a deleterious effect on my mood; so, this weekend, I tackled it.  I had a box for clothes to give away, one for winter clothes to go into storage, and one for adorable summer clothes from last year that are a little bit too small.  Actually, I had two of those and some of those clothes are a lot too small.

I tried most everything on until I started berating myself for gaining weight back. The head trash wasn’t doing me any good; so, I adjusted to keep from generating any more of it by not trying on any more, just guesstimating the rest.  I divided the clothes that didn’t fit into two piles – the ten pound pile and the twenty pound pile.  Some things should fit me nicely in ten pounds, others will have to wait twenty.  Regardless, they are all going to have to wait and, in the meantime, I have to be able to breathe; so, they cannot be hanging in my closet looking at me accusingly day after day.  pile of clothesNobody needs that kind of attitude, not even from natural fibers.

The bad news is that I do have clothes that don’t fit.  The good news is that I conquered head trash generation while sorting them and I’m working on getting back into them in a calculated and orderly way:

  1. I have committed to walk 25 miles each week from now until 8.31.13 for the 501st Support Battalion 300 mile challenge.
  2. I have only good, nutrient-rich food in my refrigerator and a menu planned out for the week.
  3. I have a support system in person, on Facebook and here to keep me honest and on track.

Exercise, diet and support – the three keys and they’re all right there.  By the end of June, I’ll be into the clothes in the Ten Pound Box and by the end of July, I’ll be in the Twenty Pound Box.  I just have to keep my eye on the prize, my head in the game, and my rear out of Satan’s fabrics.

First World Exercise

“Kentucky Fried Movie,” “The Meaning of Life,” “The Gods Must Be Crazy” – I can’t remember which movie has a scene showing a person driving down a short driveway solely to get their mail.  Absurd!  Preposterous!  Who would do such a silly thing?!

Friday, I got home earlier than usual and was walking to my car in preparation to drive to the gym to walk on a treadmill.  During the day. When the sun was shining. When the cool temperature held no humidity.  Huh.  I’m a big fan of the absurd – even when the absurd is me.

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Ultimately, I opted to go for a walk in the real world.  It was a trade-off, really.

Treadmill: I would have caught up on some inane television show.

Sidewalk: I was able to review and order my thoughts after a chaotic week. Plus, I saw a bunny!

Treadmill: I would have smelled a whole bunch of sweaty people (including myself).

Sidewalk: I enjoyed the perfume of honeysuckle and privet. The breeze ensured that someone else smelled the invisible goatherder that was apparently walking with me.

Treadmill: I could have stopped anytime I wanted.

Sidewalk: I was forced to cowboy up since there was no one to carry me home.

Treadmill: I would have been listening to my playlist.

Sidewalk: I connected with my world.

Since my bias is so cleverly hidden, I’ll just tell you that the sidewalk was the better route.  I got to enjoy the sunshine, feel the breeze, see where the Walgreens kitty really lives, hear the birds chirping and the leaves tapping together in the wind. I ended up walking 6.2 miles (thank goodness for the Cardio Trainer app on the phone) and I enjoyed all of the 93 minutes…..well, except those last five.