Monthly Archives: May 2008

Staying Fit When Sick

It happens to everyone: you’re eating well, exercising and feeling great.  Until you aren’t.  A cold, flu, or other illness way-lays for a few days.  The question is: when do you know if it’s OK to exercise and when should you simply rest and recover?

If you’re working in a public gym or taking a group class, you probably already know that patrons are encouraged to wipe down equipment and disinfect surfaces  If there is a chance that your bug might be contagious, please stay home.  Sun salutations shouldn’t come with a side of shared sniffles.

But what if you work out at home or outside?  Or if your bug has moved past the infectious stage?

Many physicians and trainers suggest that you base your decision to exercise or not on the “neck” test. If your symptoms are below the neck -aching body, chest congestion, fever or fatigue- your body needs rest more than it needs the additional strain of exercise.

However, if your symptoms are all above the neck: sniffles, sore throat, watery eyes it’s probably alright to exercise.  Make sure you drink a bit more water than normal, as these symptoms tend to be dehydrating.  And give yourself permission to cut back on the intensity of your routine.  Your body is using precious energy to heal from the bug.  While you may be energized by a hard workout, you may be slowing your body’s ability to recover from both the flu and the exercise.  Instead of an hour spin class or kettle-bell bootcamp, choose a lower intensity routine or the healing effects of a yoga class.

While exercising, remember not to use your workout towel to wipe your nose or mouth, then wipe down equipment.  DO use a clean workout towel to wipe down equipment before you use it (just in case), lay the towel down on equipment while you’re using it, and wipe the equipment clean when you’re finished.  Also consider throwing a hand sanitizer in your gym bag.

Tale of the Scale: Losing Faith

I was working out yesterday – having another hard time – and I realized: I’ve lost faith in myself.

Months ago, I knew that parts of my workout were hard for me. There are things I don’t like to do (as there are in life, so there are in the gym).  I would do them anyway.  I’d put the things I like least at the top of my workout, and reward myself for doing them by doing something that I felt competent at.  Almost something fun.

Other parts of my workout would be challenging, but the reason to do them is for the challenge.

Somewhere, I’ve lost the fun.

Somewhere, I’ve lost the reward.

Somewhere, I’ve been beaten by the challenge.

With it, I’ve lost faith.

I still go to the gym and work hard.  But as soon as an obstacle presents itself, I get impatient and move on.  Someone using a machine I want?  Fine, I’ll do something else.  Can’t find the handle I want for a cable move?  Forget it.  Weight feels heavy?  I quit.

Then I hate myself for giving up.

I’ll get it back.  It will take time, but I’ll find my confidence again. Until then, I have to give myself a break.  I can’t quit and then hate myself for quitting; that only compounds the problem.  I have to accept that whatever I’m doing is more than I did 2 years ago, each day what I do is going to be enough.  Even if part of me thinks it sucks.

And any inspirational thoughts you have to help me over this hump are well and truly appreciated.

I also blog at: <a href=””>A Stitch In Time</a> throughout the week and <a href=””>BlogHer</a&gt; on Mondays and Saturdays.

I Am What I Eat.


Michael Pollan’s oft-quoted line from In Defense of Food is a good place to start. I try to:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

It wasn’t that long ago that I wouldn’t make this claim for myself. While I spurned “fast-food nation” except for the occasional visit to KFC, many of my meals were composed of food items made by someone else, at a place somewhere else, and at sometime in past. It wasn’t that easy to look at a dish and identify it’s pieces. I was all about throw-it-together quickly from the freezer.

Slowly over the past two years I’ve been moving back to the idea of eating the way I did when I was child. When you bought simple foods and ingredients from a grocery store: carrots, cabbage, apples, pork chops. When you then took these simple ingredients home and prepared them to be eaten. They were peeled, sliced, chopped, steamed, broiled, baked. In the summertime, they were grilled.

My food doesn’t come with a nutrition label. It typically has one ingredient and you can identify that for yourself: carrot, mango, lettuce, brown rice.

That what I’m moving to do now. Today I try to eat:

Vegetables. Fresh and whole when available, frozen for greater seasonal variety. The only canned item in this section would be diced tomatoes.

Fruit. Fresh, whole and in season. Frozen berries to supplement since their season is so short. Canned applesauce occasionally.

Whole Grains. Brown rice, red quinoa, bulgur wheat, polenta, steel-cut oats. Grains that come in small bags or boxes. Grains that you cook with water. You can look at a small pile of these on a plate and know what kind of grain it is. Occasionally I eat a processed grain (a flour product) such as a whole grain slice of bread, tortilla, or pasta. Maybe some cereal. But these products make up about 1 serving/day.

Legumes and nuts. Cooked dried beans (since we are a small household, I do usually go for the canned varieties), dry roasted nuts or nuts in the shell. The beans give me a lot of my protein and the nuts provide quality types of fat.

Fats. Olive oil and canola oil are my fats of choice.  A little butter every once in a while, but I try to limit my consumption of saturated and animal based fats.

Meat/Fish/Poultry. About 3-4 days a week I might eat one serving of animal protein.  Fish, turkey, chicken and occasionally beef. I try to be strict about only eating this on days I push heavy weights.

Protein powder supplements. I tried for a while simply eating more lean proteins. I found that I was returning to my old way of cooking and eating and was gaining back several of the pounds I’d fought hard to lose. I also could not control my fat intake the way I wanted. My “toning way” wasn’t leaning anymore, though I seem to be building muscles.  For a temporary period of time (I’m not sure how long), I will supplement my whole, pure foods with a powder to get the protein I need.

I have a deal with myself. I have permission to eat what I want when I want without guilt. So I can choose to stop at KFC and eat a 3 piece snack box and order an extra biscuit with fake butter and honey. I can choose to have cake or pie or cookies if I want them. Nine times out of ten, when I ask myself if I want these items, the answer is “No.” So I leave them for another day.

I am not giving up eating good tasting food. If you ever tasted my grilled veggies with balsamic vinegar, you’d know that I eat for taste.

I am not giving up anything.

I am eating differently than most of my friends and most of the United States. Some might say I am depriving myself of something. But what?

Workout: The BOB

I usually do this workout late in the week, when I know I’ll have a full two days to recover.  It’s not one I’ve seen written up anywhere, and it really needs a companion workout The FOB.  The BOB is a workout that targets the entire Back of the Body.  It’s best if you can do it in a push/pull manner, but when the gym is busy, I take the moves however the equipment allows.

First: Assisted Dips.  Find a assist weight that challenges you but let’s you do reps of 15/12/8. For a stable/unstable workout pair with foot pushes, or another balance move.

Second: Back Extensions.  15/15/15.  Any variation you favor.  Going unstable?  Stretchy-band tricep pushups on one foot.  10 each foot.

Third: Leg Extensions: 15/15/15  Do not go too heavy here.  Concentrate on finishing the move.

Back on our feet for the Fourth: One Footed/ One Armed Cable Rows. 15/15/15 each side.  Alternate paired sides (r arm/r leg) and opposite sides (r arm/l left).  Going more unstable? Pair with one footed tricep pull downs.

Fifth: Leg Press.  I’m still doing one leg here to get the strength up, but choose your own poison.  Going unstable? Pair with a balance move.

Sixth: Lat Pull Down.  Because of the arthritis in my one shoulder, I tend to do these in drop-weight fashion.  Heavy for 5-8; drop weight, increase reps.  At 20#, it’s until I hit functional fairure.

Remember to stretch during rest periods and treat yourself to a good stretch (or foam roll) afterwards.  Then hit the showers.  We’ve earned it.

Tale of the Scale: 5/8 Comfortable

Guido and I repeated an old talk today. We haven’t played this game in a while; I rather missed it but welcomed it’s absence at the time. It was another round of “Do What I Say, Not What I Do..”

Remember the two of us are very much alike; we know how the other thinks and exactly how to push some key buttons. There has to be a lot of respect in this kind of relationship as it’s way too easy to twist the knife. Fortunately, we know that.

We each tend to watch out for the other one a little more than we do ourself, especially when it comes to work and rest. We know the drive (competitiveness? stubbornness?) that motivates us both and we both feel a small need to be the voice of reason for the other.

He is the voice in my head when I’m carrying 50# bags of manure the day after a major upper body workout: “So, Deb, what exactly do you think the term ‘rest day’ means? Cause it sure doesn’t mean this!”

And when he walks with a little hitch in his giddy-up (I am so showing my age when I use that phrase, but isn’t it a perfect way to describe a sore hammie??), I’m the one asking: how many hours did you play basketball yesterday? And you’re playing today again, too? Do you think your youth is a substitute for rest?

The first time we went this circle was over a year ago. It took us about 2 weeks to realize that we were arguing the same point from both sides. I’d argue that he needed to let an injury heal, but I was fine working hard just weeks after surgery. Well you can imagine his stand. Yes, we are also focused in our arguments. I mean 2 weeks to notice that similarity?

We’ve come to recognize the pattern a lot quicker (duh, we learn!). A few sentences exchanged and we’re laughing and joking about it.

Well, except for the time that I so frustrated him he wanted me to bean him with a 12# hand weight just to put him out of his misery. But I really, really wanted a workout with him and didn’t care that I threw out my right shoulder and pulled my left quad a little. If I could ignore those things, why couldn’t he?

Head. Weight. It might have been a good idea.

I also blog at: A Stitch In Time throughout the week and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Finding Balance

Erin over at Lose the Buddha asked about finding balance in our workout obsessions. She’s working with a trainer, learning to love pushing weights, but wondering not that the weather is getting nice how she can balance her weight training and her running. Without losing either one.

She also doesn’t seem to have comments enabled, so I can’t have a conversation with her over there.

Pah. She’ll just have to come here to continue the conversation.

How do I find balance in my workout routine? I am not a runner, in fact almost all of my fitness activities occur within the confines of the gym. At the moment, I am hitting the gym 3-4 days a week and trying to keep each visit to an hour, hour and half max. So there is competition for my workout time:

Cardio needs to be done 20-30 minutes on each of those trips.
Stability work needs to be practiced. These are usually floor exercises using a swiss ball, medicine ball, stretch bands and maybe some light weights. This should be about 25% of the work I do a week.
Weight training.

A full body weight training routine takes me about an hour. I try to get this done 3 time a week, but sometimes it works out that a 4x upper/lower body split works better.

It all depends on rest days. I hate having 3 rest days in a row, and sometimes I my real life schedule dictates that I work out 4 times or bow to that third rest day. I usually take the workout.

Balance in the workout is something I’m still learning about, but it’s interesting. How do you find balance?

I also blog at: A Stitch In Time throughout the week and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.

Bout Damn Time!


Trainer Guido and I did the regular “weights and measures” thing today; I usually dread this because whatever success I’ve had on the weight loss side, I have never been able to get lean. The frustration and disappointment in Guido’s voice has always made me dislike the whole exercise. Still it’s valuable information for me to know. Important keys to what’s going on with me.

Remember, even though I have been at my goal weight for 4 months now, these measurements have always shown that I was still not at a healthy lean body mass. We lost all my old records when I changed memberships at the gym (sigh.. I forgot to ask to get them printed out before they disappeared). When I started, though, I was at 160# and about52% body fat. That means I had about 83# of fat.

My current history only goes back to 1/31/08. At which time I weighed 124# with 31% body fat that works out to 38.3# of fat. That’s when Guido switched by diet completely around emphasizing a lot more protein, fewer carbs and a bit more fat (most of it mono-unsaturated).

In the last few weeks everyone has mentioning to me that I’m looking better. Women mention it in the locker room; the few guy friends I know mention it while we’re pushing weights. I’ve shrunk out my bras again. So I was actually looking forward to today.

And the results are in:

I’ve lost 2.8# of fat and built 3.3# of lean muscle while losing a total of 6″ in body measurements.

And I’m finally down to 28.5% body fat. I’m in the healthy range for the first time in decades!

I’m aiming for something more like 24% so there’s still work to be done, but I seem to be on the right path for this part of the journey.

Bout Damn Time!

To show how much I’ve changed in the past 18 months, I’m rewarding myself not with KFC or donuts but with a nice tall protein shake! And maybe a Guinness this evening.

I also blog at: A Stitch In Time throughout the week and BlogHer on Mondays and Saturdays.