Tag Archives: weight loss

Things I have learned from the gym

There are things in this world you aren’t likely to know until you start spending your time on some kind of aerobic machinery in front of a bank of 8-10 televisions, each one tuned to a different station.

For example:

1. It’s possible that the bearded dude from “Taxmasters” law firm does not have a movable spine. His eyes move as he speaks, but it’s a little like watching a marble carving of a person that’s been set into one side of a fireplace or the other, depending on which way he’s fixed on the camera in any given commercial. It’s strange, bearded and unnatural.

2.It is possible to work out regularly and feel good while paying more attention to the way your body is changing for the better than whether or not you are losing weight.

3. The appeal of Dr. Oz is obvious, even if you watch him without any sound. His headlines convince you that he has the answers to virtually any health and wellness question. Then, just as you think about turning away, you see him dancing in a segment called “New Year, New Rear” and you realize that when he’s not busy saving your life, he’s busy being kind of hot in more than his usual “I care about your emotional and physical health, even while I’m busy having this made-for-TV bone structure” way.

4. A large number of people who achieve their 15 minutes of fame on morning television do so simply by being absolutely, unapologetically spastic. It’s enough to make you think that this “Tressant Supreme” ad, featuring Kelly Ripa, really isn’t so far from the truth.

5. Somewhere out there, there is allegedly a “Soul Train Workout.” I have looked, and so far it eludes me, but just knowing that it could exist gives me a new faith in humanity. In the meantime, I’ll just have to practice the Soul Train line at home with headphones, because who wouldn’t want to do this?

Soul Train line – Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady”

6. Most of all, there is a point when you start going to the gym (or doing whatever exercise thing you do) religiously, and you bypass the crankiness and soreness it brings about and begin to feel good. Instead of stressing out about whether or not you have time for a workout, you realize that without that workout, stress will continue to leech your time and your self-esteem and your sleep.

Related Posts:

Thumbelina, Thumbelina, don’t dream about a cow*

I ran for 30 minutes straight for the first time yesterday in yucky pre-rain humidity.

I’ve discovered that once animals realize that you’re not running after them, they find runners fascinating. A pair of deer scared the bejeezus out of me the other day on the trail, but once they had scampered about 25 feet outside the path, they stood there and stared at me. I said “hey dudes” and waved and still they stared. When last I saw them, they were still staring at me. When I run in my urban neighborhood, the squirrels do the exact same thing – they jump into a nearby tree and gawk. They fill their mouths with giant nuts and jump onto a tree and gawk. If Columbus’ squirrels are among those who tweet, at least one of those “stares” was for me today.

I’m kind of amazed that I’ve been able to stick to this Couch to 5k program. I’m not reclaiming any former glory here, or even any former glorious body. I’ve never been remotely a jock – more of a sometimes walker, late-night dancer who attended a lot of summer day camps, one Outward Bound (repelling is fun!) and used to be able to put a basketball through a hoop without hitting the rim. When I was nine, I saw a coach about running on a regional team and he put me through my paces for a day, but the post-run rubdown positively creeped me out and I quit.

For Couch to 5K, I’ve followed the schedule to the letter. This is my approach to most things I try (as long as they seem reasonable to begin with) – I suspend disbelief and put my faith into the idea that all will work out as I’ve been told. Once I’ve done it for a while, or the intended duration, I make my own modifications. In this case, I have been amazed by how well I’ve been able to feel my progress every third run or so. This is my ninth and final week – three days of running for 30 minutes (or 5K). Who knew this was possible? Seriously!

I don’t have a ton of weight loss to show for my efforts, but there has been some and most importantly, I feel entirely different. Like my determination to eat less meat and more local food, it feels like I’m making changes that I have a better shot at sustaining. I just read that sticking with running this long officially makes me a runner, but that I ought to hang here for 2-3 months so my bones and connective tissues have a chance to catch up with my new, stronger muscles. That works for me. I’m not dying to win marathons. I just want to be healthy.

Yesterday I watched Obama’s speech to kids with my son. He was kind of excited that the president would talk to kids until he heard the president mention that he was there to talk to kids in Kindergarten through 12th grade. Having a year of preschool left, and several older friends and cousins makes you painfully aware that you aren’t in Kindergarten yet. As I listened, Declan sat on the floor and flew a plastic policeman through the solar system. Sadly, this policeman died and had to be buried under the letter P. He was later resurrected, so perhaps there is a cult forming around him in an alternate dimension.

By the end of the speech Dec was meowing like a kitty (if we’re connected on Facebook you may know this already). In fact, every time I have asked him what he thought of the speech since, he has meowed like a kitty. So, while I have found the accusation that Obama is trying to brainwash children into becoming liberal automatons utterly baseless, I now must face the possibility that he might be trying to turn them into cats.

Here are some of my favorite posts on the speech subject, by the way:

The Bad Astronomer hilariously points out how crazy is being mainstreamed.

Corporate Babysitter reminds us how many marketers have unfettered access to our children.

Charlotte-Anne Lucas posted a Wordle of the top 50 words used in the speech.

Lenore Skenazy of Free-Range Kids quells our paranoia once again, with humor.

And Emily wrote the president a note.

Peace out, kitties!

* Declan modified the lyrics Danny Kaye sang in the movie Hans Christian Anderson (which his dad was watching) because he had one of his recurring dreams in which he tries to get out of bed, but some bloviating bovine blows him back. It was a better post title than anything I could come up with, so there it is.

Related Posts:

Little run run run runaway

I bought myself a pair of mid-line running shoes for Mother’s Day. My knees were getting whooped whenever I tried to do the 30-day shred, so I wasn’t getting very far. The more I looked into it, the more I began to realize that my cheap shoes were probably the culprit. And for some reason, the parts of the video where I ran in place hurt me less than all the squats and jumping jacks and things, so I started eyeballing the Couch to 5K program that some of the Shredheads and local folks are doing.

I broke in my shoes by walking some for the last three months, until I finally decided to break out the Robert Ullrey podcasts and start the program a week ago. My right knee tends to be a little tricky, so I’ve worried that I may be choosing a painful exercise path, but so far, so good. My knee actually seems to be feeling stronger, and strangely, a couple of my usual aches seem to be subsiding. (Incidentally, everyone I talk to who has been a long-time runner pretty much offers “Just make sure you have good shoes” as advice.)

I don’t have a public 5k run in mind at the end of this, but maybe, if I make it through a month okay, I’ll start thinking about one. I don’t know if I want my motivation to go toward an event, though – my goal is to be healthier and to enjoy exercising. I want a sustainable, long-term relationship with fitness, not a run. And I am way Pollyannaish about competition – I like the potential of the personal bests because the thought of competing head-to-head with other people makes me queasy.

Yesterday was my first day of week two. Like the very first day, I stood around and said little more than “duh” for about an hour afterward, and I still feel a little bit tender, but not nearly as rough as I expected. I think I may add short gentle yoga sessions on the off days (the program is three days a week), mainly because I think it will help with the soreness and keep me from losing my flexibility.

Keeping my fingers crossed that I can keep this up.

Related Posts:

Practicing “less meatatarianism”

I had the world’s greatest dinner arrangement when I was in college. I lived with six other people in an on-campus apartment, where we stuck to a vegetarian food supply and participated in a food co-op that kept our groceries on the cheap. Each of us took responsibility for all of the cooking and all of the cleaning exactly one night a week, which meant we could come home to a fully cooked meal on the other six.

Some of my housemates were vegetarians with conviction, some of us, like me, were vegetarians for the sake of convenience and frugality. I respected my friends’ wishes to not use our pots and pans to cook meat, and if I did eat it, it was outside of the house. Looking back, I think this was one of the healthiest periods for me and food, who have had a rocky relationship.

This year, I made Mark Bittman’s Food Matters: A Guide to Conscious Eating one of my first reads. Without the least bit of preaching, he puts forth a history of U.S. food and FDA politics that made me reconsider why I think certain things are nutritious that may not be, and what a healthier diet might look like. He gives a lot of sensible advice about how to shift towards better choices in a reasonable and sustainable kind of way.

Among the layers of facts that he puts out about the over-consumption that developed nations indulge in are these: over fifty percent of American crops are devoted to growing soy and corn to feed the massive amount of livestock we consume every year. If those fields were used to grow crops suitable for human consumption, they would produce enough to feed the world several times over. That says nothing of the massive amount of land and resources we devote to raising and slaughtering livestock. Bittman does a good job of laying out the environmental impact of that industry without moralizing. He convinced me that the mere act of eating more plant-based foods and fewer refined grains, sugars and animal products is both good for my body and the future of the planet. And he made unintimidating suggestions about ways to do that.

For the past few months I’ve been moving towards eating little meat or dairy during the day (except half and half for my coffee), loading up on snackable produce and generally attacking the vegetables on my plate first when I have dinner, so that if I have meat, I have much less of it than I might have before. If I end up somewhere for lunch with minimal choices (or a meat choice that I really want to try), I try and make dinner my vegetarian meal. I’m experimenting with grains like bulgur and quinoa more often and using olive oil in lieu of butter.

All in all, these changes actually aren’t that radical for me – they are just more conscious decisions than they used to be. I also don’t make myself crazy over them. I worry more about buying local and learning to cook with in-season foods than I do about buying organic (although I do try and make as much of the dairy and meat I buy — especially to feed to my kid — organic and hormone-free as I can). I really can’t afford to shop at Whole Foods and, as Bittman points out, while organic food is a sound choice, elevating the consumption of plant-based foods is no small stride toward a healthier body and planet.

These choices aren’t frying the fat off of my body. And frankly, I’m not coupling them with enough exercise or even avoiding cake during a period that is rife with family birthdays. I feel better, though. My skin is healthier. I feel more energetic and active. A couple of pounds have gone AWOL and I’m enjoying food more. It’s summer in Ohio and the choices from the vine are glorious.

Related Posts:

Falling down, getting back up

I started this month with the best of intentions to post here daily, and, despite a late start, keep up with the Shredheads. I did seven straight days with Jillian Michaels and I felt stronger, leaner, more energetic and awake. Then my knees started buckling. I sputtered in and out of the workout, missing days, then stopped completely for three or four because going down the steps was beginning to hurt. A lot.

But not exercising made me cranky and unpleasant to live with. So, I’m back at it after doing some research about how to avoid knee injuries, strengthening my knees with other small exercises throughout the day, making sure I drink plenty of water just before and after the shred, getting back on glucosomine supplements and deciding that if I repeat butt kicks in lieu of jumping rope (which is one of the things that really hurts) I’m still getting my cardio. I’ve also yanked out several other lower-impact yoga videos I own to do if my knees need a break for a day. (I’ve found that gentle 20-minute yoga in the morning still gives me extra energy.) I’m going to stick with level one for a couple more days, so I can just watch level two and think ahead if about any additional modifications I may need to make. (Reading the other Shredheads‘ reports definitely has me worried.)

One thing is certain, though. My mind has been permanently changed when it comes to the direct benefits of higher intensity exercise and my ability to get it without a gym membership or a bunch of expensive equipment (Granted, I still long for my own elliptical trainer and a Wii, especially since I found out that Jillian Michaels has a Wii program). I drink more water, eat healthier food and sleep better on the days I do the workout. I don’t sit down as much. I walk more. I just feel better.

Related Posts:

Aspiration: Shredding, shedding

Most of my eating habits are pretty good. I never ate much fried food, and I gave it up completely (along with most sweetened beverages) in the last year or so, hoping that through modest diet and lifestyle changes I would shed some of my post-baby weight, which is about to become four years post-baby weight. I eat oatmeal for breakfast. I snack on carrots, cauliflower and cucumber slices. I’m usually good about drinking water. I don’t make a major effort to get the closest parking space, and I don’t eat much refined sugar (admittedly, I can get a bit weak in the face of ice cream and cinnamon rolls, though). Still, I’m the heaviest I’ve been in my life, frustrated by my body’s refusal to budge and I’ve managed to get sick three times over the winter.

I decided to have aspirations instead of resolutions this year, because I want my life changes to be slow and enduring, not rash and readily discarded. Besides reading more (which I’m doing), I’ve been trying to be more consistently physically active. Like finding space to read and write, that can be harder than it looks. I’ve been quasi-faithful to yoga practice for several years, but since I don’t do it in hot rooms or jump from posture to posture, it hasn’t been much help with weight loss.

There’s been a lot of talk on Twitter for months about Jillian Michaels‘ 30-day shred video, I think because it promises results if you let her slay your body for a highly manageable 20 minutes a day. This month, Kristen Chase of Motherhood Uncensored formed an online sisterhood of shredders to support each other. Up until this point, I’ve just been reading, not sharing, because I didn’t want to announce to the world that I was going to do this until I found out that I really could do it. And so far I am.

Today was day four for me. I was miserably sore on day two. I’ve felt better one place or another, but I’m kind of startled by how much nicer exercise pain is than the aches I get when my life gets too sedentary. That extra energy everyone promises that exercise will yield is kicking in and while I doubt the scale has budged, I feel heaps better. I don’t expect that this is going to take me exactly where I want to go, but like the decision to join NaBloPoMo for March, this feels motivating – like it’s the groundwork for a revitalized approach .

Related Posts:

Guerrilla commentary

I did some work at a coffee shop the other day, and this marked-up newspaper ad was laid on a counter directly across from the station where you pick up your order, clearly meant to catch the attention of passers-by:
Click either image to make it larger if you can’t read the handwriting.I sense a little Guerrilla Girl action in the capital city.

What images in your local landscape would you like to rearrange?

Related Posts:

Dammit gym, I’m a person, not a calculator

“So, how many pounds do you wanna lose?”

She snaps her gum . Her gaze seems to be darting everywhere in the room as she talks, landing on me about as long as a fly would.

“Well, uh, I don’t know, exactly. I want some of my pre-mommy clothes to fit, I want to feel better. But I don’t really want to watch the scale,” I tell her.

“We weigh you you and take your measurements every week until you reach your goal weight,” she says. “We will weigh and measure you today. How many pounds do you think you want to lose? Just guess.”

Gum snap. She fidgets with the paper she’s holding. Gum snap. She mouths something to a co-worker. Gum snap. Her eyes are everywhere in the room, except on mine.

“I don’t know, twenty? Maybe thirty?” I am looking at her, thinking, you didn’t hear me at all. “Whatever it takes for me to feel better, healthier.”

She looks beyond me again, and says something to the girl at the front desk.

“I’m going to have Gina give you a tour, then you can do fifteen to twenty minutes of cardio and then we’ll do your workout,” she says to me, still looking at the front desk.

The place is nice enough, and the girl who takes me through it is also nice enough. There is a lot of space dedicated to only women, which is also nice. I’m having a hard time figuring out why a place that seems to be taking the Curves approach to marketing has no child care available, and when I make a comment to that effect, it draws a blank stare.

The nice girl stashes me at the elliptical trainers, makes sure I punch the right button to start it and leaves me alone. I didn’t think to come equipped with water and the hotter I get as I step, step, step, the more tantalizing the coolers in the front become. I sweat my way through 18 or 19 minutes and stumble to the front where I buy a bottle a bit breathlessly.

“How much longer do you have on cardio?”Gum snap asks. I don’t understand the question.

“I…. I did 18 minutes or something,” I answer.

“Oh!” She says. “Oh, then let’s do your workout. Ready?”

When we reach the weight machines, she tells me what to do at chipmunk speed at each one, saying “do two sets of 15 for me” faster each time and ordering me to spray and wipe the thing down afterwards. I feel like I’m in a hurry, so I push through the sets quickly, and by the third machine, I begin to feel nauseous. It’s mid-afternoon, and I’ve had a bowl of cereal for breakfast, a salad for lunch – I begin to realize that there wasn’t enough protein in my day.

I sit on the floor and a couple of minutes later, after talking to several other people in the room, she realizes where I am.

“I didn’t see where you went, are you okay?”

I insist that I am, but that I’m nauseous, so she gets me some sample power bar to eat. I feel better, but three machines later I’m nauseous again, so I take a real break in the bathroom, wash my face and finally come back out for the last two machines.

Now my free day pass is complete and it’s time for me to be sold. I hate that gyms refuse to tell you anything about their cost without coming in, and this place at least has signs for $15 a month stuck in the ground every ten feet between my house and the freeway. I could have sworn they also said something about no membership fees, but she gives me three possible equations for membership, all involving paying several hundred dollars that day, with alleged incentives for better deals after I’ve joined for one year.

She might as well have been saying “you’re on a an orange train 763 miles away from town, traveling 64 miles per hour with a load of 754 clown shoes that retail for $3.79 a pair. Your membership cost will be the square root of the number of minutes it takes you to get to town, multiplied by the overall value of the clown shoes two years ago, which have since been reduced in price by 37 percent…”

By the time she spins all three membership packages, I’m completely confused about which one is the best deal, but I’m told that I’ll be giving up the one she says is best if I walk out the door without getting it today. Then she changes my deadline to closing time that night, but says she’s not allowed to give me the paper that explains the cost of a membership to help me think it over.

Because I’m too tired, demoralized by how sick the workout made me feel and confounded by the need to do 9th grade algebra to make a decision, I make the only one I feel comfortable with. I skip it. She asks me why and as I’m telling her that it’s more than I expected, that I think I should talk to my husband about it first, her eyes are back up on the front desk, the Biggest Loser sign dangling from the ceiling, the butt of a passing man.

I think I could have said, “I can’t buy a membership because I’m made of plutonium and oatmeal cookies. Please let me eat your barrettes. My tonsils are periwinkle. Neep norp, neep norp, neep norp,” and she still wouldn’t have heard a word.

Thankfully, she spared me the indignity of weighing and measuring me, probably accidentally, because I’m sure the results would have become part of her pitch. I didn’t need to subject my body image to a person who couldn’t stay with me through the end of a sentence.

The next gym experience, which I’ll write about later, wasn’t much more human, but at least it was also free (for now). Affordable gym with reasonable math run by compassionate humans, if you are out there, I will find you!

I’m submitting this post to the Group Writing Project at Mamablogga. Visit the link if you’d like to join. The subject for January is “Me time.”

Related Posts: