Tag Archives: Fitness

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.

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.

Move It

Black Labrador
Our Lab Trey

If you have a fat dog, you’re not getting enough exercise.

Doctors always tell you that to lose weight you have to change your diet AND exercise.  Now, let me let you in on something here: I hate to break a sweat.  Seriously.  Hate. It.  I don’t mind so much once I’m sweaty, but crossing that barrier just grosses me out something awful.  Plus, I would really rather just sit on the couch.  The sitting on the couch routine was killing me; so, it was time to adjust.

The truth is, my Labrador was a little chunky.   So, my exercise started with walking my dogs three times a week.  I started walking for 30 minutes at a moderate pace.  As the days passed, I added distance.  Then I added speed until the pups and I were walking 5 miles in 70 minutes.  The Lab and I were dragging at the end of that.  The Soup Hound was grateful for the warm up.  Nobody likes it when one of the party is that perky after such a workout.

I bought some yoga discs that I did at home once or twice a week.   I started slipping more accidental exercise – parking further from the door, taking my shopping cart all the way back in the store, that sort of thing – nothing particularly strenuous. Before I hurt my knee, I ran one day a week – 2.5 miles on the last time, I went to kickboxing three times a week, I used yard work as exercise one day a week and I went to the batting cages and driving range one day a week.  That day was a light exercise day; but, movement is movement.  It counted and it was fun.

As I told you, after I hurt my  knee, I went sedentary again.  However, I’ve joined one of those 24 gym places now and had my first workout with a trainer.  I couldn’t move afterwards.  It was discouraging.  BUT – I know that as I keep going and keep working, I will see results.

Walking, cycling and using the elliptical machines increase endurance.  Sit-ups, push-ups, and planks strengthen core and upper body.  Squats strengthen legs and rear.  These things will work.  I know they do – they did before.

The biggest challenge then – and now – is making myself go.  I can find a million reasons why I should do something other than exercise.  To be honest, I’m still struggling with that right now as I am more mobile.

What do you use to motivate yourself?