Monthly Archives: June 2008

When I stopped working in a mall (decades ago), I promised myself that it would take an emergency for me to voluntarily head to any shopping mall on a Saturday.  I’ve managed to honor that vow since then.

So when I drove to my gym today, I admitted that the poor air quality from the California Wildfires IS a personal emergency.  Because my gym is at the mall.  (Yes, I belong to one of those 24 Hour Fitness centers that took over the cinema spaces that closed in malls everywhere about 8-10 years ago.)

This morning I awoke to another day of thick smokey air which canceled any idea of taking the dogs for a nice long walk (or any walk at all). I finally broke down and took a Mucinex to help clear the gunk in my lungs.  However, I had had a very abbreviated workout on Thursday, so my last workout was Tuesday. This has felt like a rest week.

I needed some kick-ass cardio.

I needed to push a hella stack of weights.

Saturday at the mall be damned, I needed to hit the gym.

Happy to say, that 30 minutes of HIIT and a concentrated upper body workout and I’m feeling right on track. My shoulders completely disagree with me and are Googling the definition of torture.

Tomorrow begins another week with my traditional Sunday afternoon trip to the gym. I suspect my legs will be hiring my shoulders as their legal consult.   The abs (they both agree) are on their own.

Cardio. Ugh.. I have sweat?

I really don’t like doing cardio at the gym.  The idea of driving 4 miles to walk into a building, move my body on an artifical surface just to make myself sweat is undignified and a bit distasteful.

Yes, I could use the great outdoors to get my cardio except:

  • At the moment, there is so much smoke in the air it’s unhealthy.
  • In the winter in rains.  I depend on glasses.  They haven’t designed wipers for glasses yet that work.
  • Even though I live on top of a hill (440′ incline in 1.3 miles.  I can’t do the math), I have gotten to the fitness point where this doesn’t get my heart rate high enough all the time walking.
  • I don’t run.
  • I walk with 2 dogs.  Think sniffs and calls from nature.
  • On workout days, I’d still have to drive the gym and “get sweaty” or my trainer will put me on the stairmaster.

There is a couple important good reasons for me to do the cardio (besides the general “it’s good for you” line).

  • After my surgery last year, when all i could do was small bits of cardio, I discovered that I really crave exercise.  (It shocked me).
  • I discovered that that cardio gave me clear thought and the ability to concentrate for several hours after.  Guess what, that’s one of the known benefits of exercise!
  • They have discovered that cardio (and weight training) help build new connections in the brain, making it stronger and fighting the threat of Alzheimer’s disease at the same time as heart disease.  With my genetic history, one of these two is gonna kill me.  This is a tool.

Now the really point: when I started at the gym 20 months ago, I primarily worked on the treadmill.  A nice pace of 3.3 MPH and a slight incline of about 5-8% would get me up in cardio zone.  After my last stress test, where the prescribed 140 BPM was like a cakewalk, I pushed further trying to find my true maximum heart rate.  This is exertion point where you can go for a minute.. but 3 minutes will have you crumbled in a heap on the floor.  And my Max Out point is somewhere about 170 BPM.

Folks, I’m going to be 56 next week.  Check the math.  That’s the range for someone about 40.  Now I don’t go pushing that number when I work out, but I’m often lingering in the 140s and lower 150s at some point in my cardio training.

And, unless I push myself to start running, I just can’t get there on the treadmill anymore.  And I DON’T RUN.

I did for a while in my 20s.  I’d meet some girlfriends at our old college gym and we’d move around the track for a while.  They’d jog.  I’d usually walk at a fast pace (and pass them.. yet they told me I couldn’t be working as hard as they were!)  Anyway, I agreed to try jogging and hated it.  But one night a guy moved in front of me who was running – running – at a pace that my soul responded to.  I kicked up my speed and stuck right behind him (cute butt, too, to not hard).  I could run a mile or two when he was there to set my pace.  Being a reticent soul, I spoke to him.  It may have been nicer to arrange to meet him for workouts and learn my own pace.  But that wasn’t what I would let myself think at the time.

Anyway, I don’t know my natural pace.  I’ve never been able to find a place in my head where the time and movement felt as natural as it did then.  So I don’t run.  And without running, I will probably have to reserve my use of the treadmill for those occasional low-slow burn cardio days.

Goodbye, good friend.

Tale of the Scale: Week of 6/22

The weather here in NoCal has been a challenge to outside activities.  First several days with highs over 100 and still dry air.  Then dry lightening sparked wildfires.  There are over 800 fires being fought in Califronia.  The ash being pumped into the air is making it unhealthy.

The hot weather made me really lazy in eating habits.  Food with too much salt and probably too many simple carbs (quick and thoughtless) means that by Thursday I had gained 3# in a week.  I’m sure it was simply too much salt and the pounds are off now. Unfortunately, it was a “weight and measure” day and the numbers showed that my body fat had risen a bit.  Again, it was probably a temporary thing, and I’m not too concerned.

We’re working hard on strengthening my abs and dealing with a long time related back problem.  I’ll be honest.  I hate ab work.  I hate it enough that I have to push myself to do any work on my own.  And at the moment the crunch work I do with Guido is really hard for me.

Luckily, the guy knows what I do like: upper body work.  So whenever possible, he sandwiches the ab work between some upper body work so I know to just get through the hard stuff and I get my reward.  I will have to remember that point when I’m working out on my own.

What tricks do you use to make yourself do whatever part of your workout your hate?

Push-ups, Pull-ups and Then What?

Reading through the fitness blogs, especially those written by women, there is a lot of goal setting aimed at push-ups and pull-ups.

I’ll admit I’ve bought into the goal-setting, even if I’m not participating in the 100 pushups training challenge.  I like the idea of being able to do a number of push ups and the website says it quite well:

Push ups are one of the basic and most common exercises for the human body. Push ups are not only great for your chest, but do a tremendous job of defining your abs, triceps, shoulders and torso.

My PPG (personal pushup goal) is to equal my age in pushups 3 days a week or more.  I can take the entire day to accomplish the task if I wish, and I often do.

I’ve also stolen a tip from one of the female trainers at the gym: all the time I spend on my laptop mean my wrists often sufferi the most during the pushup because of the bend and pressure.  To relieve that stress, I now use a set of 8# handweights with hex shaped heads as my base.  Grasping the weights, my wrists remain in a neutral position throughout the exercise.  If you have any wrist concerns, try this technique for yourself.

I also freely admit I’m working toward doing an unassissted pull-up.  Last week, I managed one pull-down at my weight, but a couple days later could not come close to replicating it as pull-up with the lightest weight on the graviton.  I’m kind of close, but still in training.  The end is not necessarily in sight.


These challenges, tests and goals I realized all focus on upper-body strength.  Now I have always had more upper-body strength than lower (and god forbid anyone look to me for an example of a strong core!), which is probably why I am embracing these goals.  For me, these are challenging but not inconceivable.  They just take time.

What will the next challenges be that people are buzzing about in the blogosphere?  Is there a possibility that it will be something that takes the normal woman’s physiology into consideration and uses that as the bench-mark for the challenge? Or at least has us trying on a level playing field?

Maybe we need 100 yard walking lunge challenge. Balance, legs, back and hips.  Like this, without the barbell.  It would torture me, but it would be so good for me.  For me, for you, for men and women alike.   I do walking lunges now, coming upright between each step and balancing on what was the lead leg.  They kill me in a good way.

Imagine us descending on football fields around the US (soccer fans.. I understand this may be a harder challenge for you.  Are soccer fields longer than 30 m?).  Start by walking lunges from one end-zone to the 10 yard line.  Progressing slowly until we hit the middle of the field.  By then, we’d have the form down, our muscles would be toned, our cores strong and flexible.  I bet the second part of the training wouldn’t take as long.  Eventually, we’d “score our personal touchdown”  with a friend, or 20, standing by yelling: She Could Go All The Way! (Alternately,  I’d love the equivilant of a soccer announcer’s loud and long SSSCCCCCCCOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRRREEE!!)

Would this be has challenging as I imagine?  Maybe not.  Still the cheering would so make it worthwhile!

What other challenges might we look for in the future?  These must be demanding but achievable, provide the participant with some kind of “bragging rights” and demonstrate a certain level of fitness.

I throw it out to you…

Eating My Way Healthy

Mid-morning salad snack

It’s 10:30 am and I’m digging into my mid-morning snack as I type this. Curious? It’s a small plate of mixed baby greens, with 5 sliced strawberries and 3 ozs of Oscar Mayer 98% fat free shaved turkey breast. The whole thing is topped with .5 Tbs of extra virgin olive oil and 1 Tbs. of balsamic vinegar. (Calories: 156. Fat:9 g. Carbs:8g. Protein 14g) Not quite in my target range (25%/ 30%/ 45%) but close enough for government work. I’ll drink atleast 12 ozs of water with this.

This followed a breakfast 3 hours ago of Red Mill Muesli which had soaked overnight in Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk. I stirred in a scoop of protein powder before eating it. (Fat 7g, Carbs 30g. Protein 39) and, of course had coffee with a little more soymilk with it.

My meals balance out to be right on target for my goals.

If you are just starting out on a healthy eating plan, hoping to lose more than 10# and just beginning to exercise again, your dietary goals will be different than mine. You should probably be eating 20% fat (good fats, though), 50% carbs, and 30% protein.

Thursday was a light upper body training day, so I’m heading to the gym for a light lower body workout this afternoon.  Tomorrow I’ll take the dogs for a nice 4 mile walk at Pt. Pinole as part of my rest day.  The pace will vary, but should average about 3.25-3.5 MPH.  A nice long and low burn.

How are you doing so far today at sticking with your plan?  What is your plan?

Why I Exercise

Come As You Are
If exercising makes a woman look this relaxed and happy, why wouldn’t she do it?

I’ve already documented how I started working out this time, and the amazing benefits I’ve found in exercise. But Charlotte (and indirectly MizFit) asked why I exercise; I’m taking this to mean why do I exercise now.

I started explaining why I exercise by writing about how other people react to my still exercising. After all, I have reached my goal weight. I have not reached my goal body composition.. yet they seem to think…Oh wait.. how others react is a completely different post for another day. Let me get back on track.

Why do I exercise?

1. Concentration and focus. After my foot surgery last year, I discovered that cardio exercise clears my head, and lets me focus (anesthesia brain sucks as badly as menopause brain. They are banished with the exercise for me). I can concentrate better and get more work done on the 3-5 hours after a workout than any other time in most days.

2. Mood Control. I suffer from anxiety, depression and insomnia. The chemical changes that occur in my brain when working out, and especially when I’m working hard, temper these moods to the point that I’m not running to the doctor for the next great medication. I take one (atavan or I don’t sleep); and I’m hoping that someday this too can be decreased or banished from my medicine drawer.

3. Heart and Brain Health. The only two blood relatives of mine who didn’t die of heart disease died of Alzheimer Disease. This is my daily nightmare. Yet most of the recent research shows that the same mechanisms cause both diseases (the individual body becomes more susceptible to one system or the other being attacked). One of the major ways of combating both diseases with a combination of cardio and weight training. Weight training can physically build a strong cardiovascular system and rebuild brain.

I say now that I’m working on my 40 year plan. I make choices daily based on whether they will help me live another 40 years. Exercise is one of the smartest and easiest parts of that decision process.

4. Self-Esteem. I have a crappy self-esteem. Abuse, both emotional and physical, has taken its toll on me. Standing up tall, arms strong and back, and knowing that I don’t look like the “typical 55 year old post-menopausal American woman” gives me something I can hang some pride on. And even if I’m not feeling very esteemed.. I damn well LOOK like I do!

5. Something just for myself. When I head to the gym, I’m not going there to please anyone but myself. We ALL need activities that are purely selfish in nature. Things that we do because they center us. I don’t care if we’re male, female, busy mothers, factory workers or most of these rolled up in one. Exercising for me is “me time.” I walk into the gym and close the door on the world.

So, like others, my exercise has little to do with body image issues. (well, except that I want people to admire my arms. Loudly. Publicly. Often.) There are body images involved in this whole thing some of which I hit upon when reading Zandria post about disordered eating. But once again, that’s a post for another day.

So I’ll pass the question along. Why do you exercise??

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


Wishing I’d Taken Advantage

I was doing an upper body workout yesterday.  Nothing too remarkable.  I’d done a poor job on my incline-bench chest presses, but gone on to do accomplish my goals for the other exercises in my routine.  At the end, I thought:

What the hell.  Why not go back to the free-weights.  If  there is an open flat bench, I will do my chest presses again.  And nail them.

As luck would have it, there was an open bench.  I laid out my towel, and being a chicken grabbed the 10# weights.  I had sucked big time earlier, so thought I’d be easy on myself.  One push told me I really had to go up to the 15#s. I found and grabbed the only set of 15# dumb bells on the floor.

That’s when this nice guy approached me and asked how long I’d be working with the 15?

Three sets of chest presses.  But I dont’ take long rests.

“Can I jump in?  Can we work together on this?”  Oh my, a friendly weight trainer!


He stood ready to spot me when I failed (my left tricep gives out way before anything else) and simply helped me check my form.  While I rested, he did shoulder raises.  He’d start the move in his toes (I know this technique) and squeeze hard.

“Think of those pretty shoulders you’re building…” I’d say when he was starting to falter.

“Someday…” he’d grunt back.

Me?  I finished my 3 sets of 15 reps without ever needing his help.  Too bad.  I so seldom have the chance to work with a spotter, that I didn’t take advantage of the situation when it arose.

I SO should have made myself go find and push the 17.5# weights.  And my friendly spotter guy would have been thrilled to help work them!

These are the unexpected nuances of working out that I need to be more aware of so I can take advantage of them in the future.

Goal Setting: The Pull Up

I’ve set a new goal for myself. This is one Zandria has expressed, too, but I am putting my goal on a clock:

By October 16th, I will do an unassisted pull-up.

Krista @ Stumptuous says in Mistressing the Pull-Up:

Pullups are a cool exercise. They look tuff, they feel butch, they’re low-tech, and they are one of the best exercises for all-round upper body strength. Not only are your back, biceps, forearms, and shoulders involved, but you may also feel them in your abs. (Gawd, my abs were sore for a week after my first attempt at pullups… felt like I’d pulled my ribcage out through my nostrils)

Guido thinks I already can do one. Part of me is egging myself: when we work out together next to ask him to help me see if this is true. Part of me wants to hold back.

Today I was able to “practice” for this with a normal lat pull-down (there was a LINE at the assisted dip/pullup machine). I managed 3 sets at 60#, so I’m half-way there. And a 1x rep instead of a set? Maybe Guido is right.

Shoot. I want to aim for a hard goal that I accomplish on October 16th. OK, I’ll solicit any suggestions from my peanut gallery. (<a href=””>MizFit</a&gt;.. I am talking to you!)

What’s so special about that date? This will be the second anniversary of my first workoutthis time around. My first session with Guido. My first step to where I am today. It’s a big day for me. Last year I marked it privately and quietly. This year, I want to celebrate it.

Question is HOW?

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.

Just Add Friends

Found at least one secret to having fun in a workout again: add a friend.

My friend Maria has wanted me to join her at her cool, fun workout facility for some time. I don’t know why it hasn’t happened before, but today was my first time.

We had a nice session with her great trainer, Jessica, doing squats and push ups and tricep works and balance stuff. Some of it was hard; some of it was easy. The interesting thing: what was hard for me was easy for Maria. What was easy for me was hard for Maria. So we each acted like a mental incentive for the other to do more.

(No, I’m not saying we’re competitive individuals. Well, yes I am!)

Maria set her personal record for push ups. And she did her age in pushups! I set my personal record for pushups in a row (20), and I did her age in pushups. I’m lucky Jennifer didn’t make me do MY age in pushups. It would have been harder.

For the record, Maria rocks the BOSU, and is so much better now than those pictures from January!

Happy birthday, Maria. Now are you willing to come to my gym for MY birthday? (especially if I get the fabulous Guido to train us both??)

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