Monthly Archives: July 2008

Goodbye Guido

Long time readers of my gym escapades know that I attribute a lot of my success to my relationship with my trainer, Guido.  He believed in me before I believed in myself and he was regularly astounded by success.  “The hardest working woman in the gym..” was how he’d describe me.

You may have noticed that this year I haven’t mentioned him much.  Personal problems have often kept him from the gym with the end result that he and 24 Hour have parted ways.

I was home with the flu last week when things finally ended, so I never got to say a final goodbye.  Part of me is heart broken by his leaving; part of me is worried about his ongoing well-being.  Along with all this, I know that I have the tools to continue my on my own.

Guido taught me well.

If I really have a question and need some help, I’m sure I can find it among you, beloved readers.

Open Letter to My Gym

Today I’m returning to you, gym, after I’ve missed almost two complete weeks. I am deconditioning as I write.

I had one light workout the week before BlogHer, but most of that week I was distracted and feeling stressed.  I worried that my lack of focus might inadvertently cause me to hurt myself, so I let caution be the better guide.  I stayed away from your steel weights, your medicine balls, your foam rollers, your cardio.

This past week I was working through a case of influenza.  The anxiety would pop back up, but I knew it was the exhaustion of the flu.  I rested a lot, took plenty of fluids, and tried to be good to myself.  So I stayed away.

It’s not that you are not good for me, a hard cardio workout would help me mentally deal with stress and anger but I was physically incapable of moving like I should.  I honestly knew I did not want to be inside a gym.

Now I’m getting scared.

Scared to go back to the gym.

It’s been long enough since a hard workout that I know I’m a bit deconditioned, so where do I set my limits? How far back should I go?  Start over or start where I was 6 weeks ago?  Let my muscles or my mind guide me?

I don’t know what to do, so I feel scared.  I haven’t been “unvoluntarily” out of the gym since my surgery in early ’07.  That’s almost 17 months.  Then I slowly worked my way back in: 15 minutes of cardio a day moving up to 30 as I healed.  Nothing else until I got the all clear from the surgeon.

By that time I’d spent so much time around the sweat and noise and steel that I was craving it.  It was “hold me back” before I push too far.  I wanted everything at once.  I think I could have workout to the point of total collapse that day, poured a protein drink down and started again.

Today I’m much more like the person who first walked through the doors.  Uncertain.

What should I expect from myself?

Ah.. the BIG question: what should be my realistic expectations for today?

I need someone to greet me at the door with a smile, tell me you’ve missed seeing me.  Someone to take me by the hand and simply guide me through a workout.  Pretend I’m a kindergartner. Tell me that it will be OK.  Talk softly and laugh a lot. Encourage me.

Can you remind me that I’ve been here before and that it will all come back to me like riding a bike.  (oh, I suck royally at riding bikes.  Can I show you the scars?).

Later, like maybe day three??, you can let me kick my butt.  I’m probably planning this in a secret corner of my head. A drop-weight death match that will be the talk of the free weight room for days later. (That woman was Killa!  Did you catch her super-set at the flat bench? My shoulders didn’t forgive me til today for just watching it!)

But right now?  I simply need the friendly accepting nature you sometimes show.  And maybe some apple slices and a protein shake when I’m done.

Just so you know…

I’m working on a hard post about body image.  Something I never thought I’d write about.  I want it to be good.  I want it be honest.  It’s taking time because I have so little energy at the moment and this post is an energy suck.

It’s coming.  I hope it’s worth the wait.

In the meantime, how have you reacted to the way your body looks and changes over the years?  What body image do you carry around in your head?  And have you always been able to reconcile that image with the truth of your body of the day?  When they didn’t reconcile, what did you do?

Now I hope you see why this post (combined with the energy suck of this flu) are taking all the life outta me.


Besides picking up the BlogHerbola virus this past weekend, I did manage to find one useful link that many of my readers might appreciate.

Tomima Edmark was at my table during the Health and Fitness Bird of a Feather session. She owns the women’s lingerie site: Her Room. While chatting about one thing or another, Tomima mentioned that her site hosts the video Bounce Tests for sports bras.

Now imagine shopping online for bras, and getting to see a video of not only how they fit some ideal model, but also how a sports bra stands up to the rigors of actual running!  How bouncy are the boobs??

Now I’ve worn a Champion Double-Dry Seamless Sports Bra for all my cardio and weight training, and it won the Best Sports Bra in average figure. (though I think I used the 6242), but holy-schmoly look at the BOUNCE while running in this thing! I wouldn’t want my girls bouncing around like that if I ever actually did some running.

The Natori looked like over-kill but again.. bouncy bouncy in my view.

If these are the winners, do the women really care about bounce while wearing them? Or am I missing something?

Hey, take a minute to visit the site.  You might find a sports bra you really like!

Healthy Eating at a Conference. Possible?

I have returned my annual 4 day love-fest that was BlogHer 08 with the same souvenir I brought home last year. A cold. I’m proclaiming an allergy to too much conditioned air; good think I don’t like in a region where even in my own home I’d have to have conditioned air most of the time. (why I will never move to Texas).

Most of my thoughts and reactions about the weekend will be posted on my personal blog. But there is one important point that fits better here.

As I have been teaching myself to eat healthier, I have changed the way I eat in ways that make “conference catered” food completely unsatisfying to me. I thought I was prepared for some of the challenge. I wasn’t.

I eat a diet made up about 40% protein, 40% carbs, and 20% fat. The carbs can be broked down even more into about 20% veggies, 10% fruit and 10% whole grains. Rarely do I eat processed grains. My fats are olive oil, nuts and fish. BTW, a dairy allergy precludes eating the cream cheese that represented both the source of fat and calcium at the conference.

So my body was not prepared for a breakfast of pastries and fruit. A literal smorgasbord of white flour products and quickly absorbed sugars with little fiber. I dashed up to my room and kept a bag of almonds with me, nibbling on 7 or 8 every few hours to try and keep the blood sugar even.

Lunches were similar. Salads had small portions of protein (thank goodness), bits of salad and then pasta with some kind of sauce. And of course desserts. Snack times were cookies and milk. Cocktail parties offered hors dvours with protein but aside from salads, veggies were in short supply.

Yet, because the event is socializing, the temptation is to stay with the venue and talk and nibble and pay for it all later.

Oddly, I didn’t gain weight on the 4 day carbo-palooza. By Sunday, however, I was melting down from exhaustion and dehydration. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t speak, there were times that I simple broke into tears.

Yes, there was a lot of stimulation at the conference. Yes, Saturday night I got less than 7 hours sleep. But logical or not, I’m going to blame my poor choice of sticking with the conference food instead of seeking out better food on my own as the major culprit.

I know when I was 35 and first tried to eat healthier, I cut back on proteins and added more grains to our diet. My weight, instead of going down went up. I became addicted to TUMS to deal with a constant heart burn. I was easily dehydrated and could pour gallons of water down with little effect.

I’ve been doing the same these last few days.

OK. So my gut doesn’t like wheat or wheat flour. I can take it smallish doses once in a while. I cannot take it every day, every meal.

Next year, I will have to plan ahead. Bring some Bob’s RedMill Muesli and pick up some soymilk. Soak them overnight for my breakfast in the morning. Carry more nuts and protein powder. Accept that 2 meals a day will have to be acquired somewhere outside the venue.

Act like an adult and do what I must do to keep myself healthy.

But boy, does this play into the discussions we’ve had recently about how eating healthy can feel like “disordered eating.” More on that later this week.

Me? Yeah, I’m physical…

If you had asked me two years ago, I would have told you that I’ve never been a very active person.  I’ve enjoyed walking for years and that’s about it. But as I started exercising, I started telling stories:

  • how I used to go white-water rafting every year.  At least once a year.
  • how I played tennis.  And how I played 3 hours of tennis the day after I broke a knuckle that dislocated every time I served.
  • how I always wanted to hike the Grand Canyon.
  • how I played ball with my brothers, father and grandfather when I was five, and hit more pitched balls than my brother did.
  • how I was the best tree-climber on my block.
  • how I used to play co-ed touch football on fall Sunday afternoons.
  • how I loved pushing weights at community fitness centers.

I realized that I used to be a physically active person.  I am a kinesthic person who processed stresses and emotions through motion.

However, I wasn’t a person who liked PE in school.  I wasn’t a person who liked most team sports (though I loved doubles tennis).  I never could run or swim or bike well and I still don’t particularly like cardio exercise, though I do it 3-4 times a week.

I guess, in short, I didn’t like the activities that many think of as “girl” activities when I was a kid.  We were still always sent out the house after breakfast, due home for lunch then sent out again.  The kids on our block just lived outside when we weren’t in school.  It never struck me that that meant I was active.

During my college years and through my twenties, when I was living on my own, is when I did many of the above activities.  I was young, healthy and didn’t think about any of it as “exercise.”  Heck, it was just having fun with my friends.

After I married, life slowed down a bit and aches and pains cut short first my spouse’s activity level and later mine.

I’m finding, though, that the always-in-motion self is returning.  At the end of a two-day rest period, the evening before I head back to the gym, I’m antsy and prowling the house looking for little ways to get some work in. I occasionally eye a tree for it’s climbing potential (though I suspect I would never climb a tree without some kind of back up nearby now).

Originally, I’d planned on a short white-water trip this summer.  For a number of reasons, that’s been pushed back to probably next year.  And I wasn’t near a phone to try to make reservations for my “dream-vacation” hike of the Grand Canyon (combining the hike with spring training), so that, too, will have to be postponed.  Still, I’m just postponing, not cancelling.

Because active is what I’m all about…

When it comes to dieting, don’t go it alone.

Science Daily reported on a University of Missouri study comparing Weight Watchers to gym membership weight loss programs. While the WW participants lost about 5% body weight, this was mostly comprised of lean muscle mass. The gym participants, in contrast, did not lose much weight, but did lose significant amounts of intra-abdominal fat. While this makes the gym program sound more successful, they researchers also found that without support, the gym participants quit, while the support of meetings from WW kept it’s participants in the program.

“These results imply that overweight, sedentary women joining a fitness center with the intent of weight loss or body fat change will likely fail without support and without altering their diets,” Ball said. “Nearly 50 percent of people who start an exercise program will quit within six months.”

“This study attempted to discover what takes place in the real world when overweight women attempt to lose weight.” Ball said. “I think the outcome of the study speaks volumes about the necessity for a multi-pronged approach in order to lose weight, body fat and gain health benefits. I hope that this will be the first in a series of studies investigating commercial weight-loss programs.”

I undertook my weight loss and fitness program on my own. Quickly, however, I accepted the partnership of working with my trainer as a key component in my success. If a multi-pronged approach is necessary, I’m wondering if the gym’s offering “weight loss” programs (hello 24-Hours Fitness’s Biggest Loser program!!) should try to build a social/team-building component into their gym offerings? It seemed to work for the tv show (where they have teams competing). Or suggest that people combine gym memberships with a social program like WW?

I’ll admit I found the food part of the weight-loss program at 24-Hour totally worthless; though I know other people benefitted by it.  They made me do a whole “I will eat these foods/ I will not eat these food” inventory, and asked a whole lot questions.  I told them I am allergic to cow’s milk. Their “food plans”?  Had milk at each of the 6 meals/day.  And a note: “You mentioned you had a food allergy.  Please make adjustments to this to accomodate your allergy.”

So after saying: I will not eat milk, cheese, cottage cheese.  I am allergic to milk, cheese, cottage cheese.  What did they do?  Told me to eat them and “make changes as I see fit.”  Great plan, guys!

It was also a plan that relied heavily on their own products (not that that’s a surprise) and convenience foods that I was eliminating (instant white rice?).  It did not emphasize clean, simple foods.  While this was probably because they were aiming their service at people for whom these were still going to be big changes, it was the most frustrating part of the program for me.

However, when I belonged to WW several years ago, I did not find that program any more helpful.

I’m just saying, that eating healthy has been a long, slow, painful journey for me.  I’m still not “perfect”, but I’m getting better.  And perfection is really a road to self-destruction, so I’m not taking that detour either.

So I appear to be among the lucky rarity: that person who joined a gym to lose weight and get fit, who kept it up and became a success.

Guess I can say it: Yay for me!

Tale of the Scale: Question and Answer

Reading Marste’s blog Take Up Your Bed and Walk, I was all ready to answer her latest question with a full affirmative reply.

Then I took a breathe and felt into the corners of my heart and the edges of my ego.  I had to stop and take several hard breathes.  Then I had come here and blog.

If you don’t read her (and thank you MizFit for pointing her out), Marste writes a lot about dieting and emotional health.  In her Dieting, Health and the $64,000 question post, she posited:

What if you did all the “right” things, got the “right” amount of exercise, had perfect blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, never ate anything but unprocessed, organic food, could run 5-10 miles easily and without getting out of breath and every doctor you saw said you were the healthiest person they’d ever seen?  Pretty great, right?  Now imagine that you wake up tomorrow and all those things are true, BUT YOUR BODY IS STILL EXACTLY THE SAME.

Are you happy with yourself?  Or do you hate yourself just as much?

See, the thing is, since I’ve been exercising and changing to a healthier way of eating, my blood pressure is good; my cholesterol has never been better; I will never run but I give myself a kick-ass cardio workout; my doctor thinks I’m the healthiest person of my age.. and healthier than many people 10-15 years younger. I mostly eat simple healthy food. And I’m proud of my accomplishments.

Exactly what I wanted when I started this journey 20 months ago.

Except. I still have about 4 pounds of fat around my middle that I can’t shed. And I hate it. I hate my middle.  I’ve hated it for years and the hate continues.

Except. When my spouse goes out of town for several days, the first two days I normally eat fairly poorly. No one to hold my standards to but myself, and I intentionally eat things that I don’t really want, things that go against what I know I should eat, and what I normally eat.

It’s nothing severe, nothing drastic except that it’s secret, it’s wrong and it’s self-destructive.  I’m sure the message is “how do I derail my own progress now?”

I’d love to say that when I burn through these last couple pounds I will be at a place where I can be happy with me.  But, really, I can never find that place in an external accomplishment.

I need to find that place first.

I need to be happy with the me I am today no matter who I am.

There is still a lot to work on my journey.  And it looks like some of it will have to be done right where I am right now.  No gym, no track, no adrenaline high mean anything until I find acceptance for myself in myself.

I feel sorry for the men…

Yesterday was my normal Sunday easy whole body workout. Well, except that it wasn’t all easy.

This year, Guido has done away with the bench press that made me so very happy last year, and instead is advocating a variation on the chest press.

(why? because he believes that the bench press causes many people to have their shoulders round forward, where this variation develops strong chest and back muscles without the shoulder rounding. And my shoulders naturally round forward enough, TYVM.)

All well and good in theory. I find the technique not quite intuitive; and I still have to monitor my form while I’m doing it; but, I am finally getting a bit comfortable with the technique and not hating every time I do it. I almost enjoy it on the flat bench and that is where last week I managed to complete my sets with 20# dumb bells.

The problem comes in when I go to the incline bench. I swear I am dropping weight in order to maintain form and do this exercise. Still, it doesn’t feel right and I struggle. Yes, it’s normal to have to lower the weight one step or two when moving from flat bench to incline bench, but I’ve had to decrease the weight even more since I started.

Yesterday I was fighting to complete sets using 10# and 12# weights. Fighting for all it’s worth. Frustrated that it’s so hard at these lower weights now when I was managing to do it at 15# a few months ago. When I can crank out the sets at 20# on a flat surface.

I was frustrated enough that while I re-racked my weights, I was near tears and mumbling: it shouldn’t be this hard! It just frakking shouldn’t be this hard! (brownie points for identifying the origin of frakkin’).

The guys all around me had watched me fighting with weights. They stared as I mumbled and refused to cry in frustration. Their faces said it all: I’ve been there, girl, and I know what you feel. There was a sadness and empathy that I rarely see on the gym floor.

Was it because I’m a woman, and expressed what they have felt? Because they saw me struggling (even with puny weights) and trying to not give up? Because they wanted to offer encouragement but didn’t know how?

I don’t know.

But the looks on their faces made me feel more sorry for the men than I did for myself.

Happy Healthy Girl, I am!

When I was 34 my father underwent quadruple bypass surgery.  He was 61 (or 5 years older than I am today).  He’d had some vague symptoms for several years before unstable angina forced the surgery.  Those symptoms were always attributed to something else.  He never had a screening blood test that might show his high cholesterol; nor did he have a stress test.  (My how things have changed in 20 years!)

My reaction to this event was to see my own physician, get a screening blood test and see where I stood.  Turns out, I was not in good condition.  While I looked like a healthy woman in her prime, my lipid profile more resembled an old man.  Total cholesterol: 268, HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind that at time was supposed to be over 35).. 18. Had I not gotten tested and acted when I did, there is a very good chance that I would not be alive to be writing with you today.

I’d be dead of heart disease.

Now when I tell my doctor my HDL was 18 he’s convinced I remember that number incorrectly because he’s never seen a number that low.  But I remember that switching from red meat to chicken only and increasing my daily walk to 5 miles a day only raised that number to 19.  And this is the one that doctors everywhere say can be raised to a healthy level with diet and exercise.

Not for me.  Not for most people whose cholesterol is a genetic factor.

Anyway.  I’ve been on the lowest dose of a cholesterol lowering drug ever since.  For the past 8 years I take Lipitor (or the generic equivalant) at the 10 mg. level.  These drugs work so well for me (and demonstrate that my ancestors in Eastern Europe were among the tribes of people who got these drugs naturally in their milk and cheese), that within 6 weeks I dropped into the healthy range. From 3x risk of heart disease death to 1/2 risk.  (note; they don’t use these risk numbers on tests anymore).

I’ve stayed there ever since.

Now some of you might remember that my last blood test was in January.  A stupid time to get bloodwork, being just after the holidays with thier challenges to diet.  A time when stress can effect your body (and blood chemstry) too.  At that time, I had 4 readings at or out of range: total cholesterol was 200; triglicerides were 151; my liver enzyme was 36; my fasting glucose was 100.

Given the really hard work I’d been doing, the careful diet, and the weight loss having four numbers sitting at “too high/out of range/something to watch” made me a very grumpy gal.  I was doing all this work to get healthy and the test indicated that I was failing.My doctor told me I was still one of the healthiest patients in his office.  I had just kicked-butt in my stress test.  I looked great.  He wasn’t going to worry until my test 6 months later.

For my birthday last week, I went and got my semi-annual bloodwork done. (the only down side of taking a statin).  The numbers this time were a happy reward for my hard work:

Total Cholesterol: 162 (the goal for genetic risk is keep it under 170)

Trigycerides: 53 (goal under 153)

LDL Cholesterol: 80 (goal for 1 risk factor is under 130)

HDL Cholesterol: 71 (goal now is over 45)

Liver Enzyme: in range at 28

Fasting Glucose: 96 (normal is 65-99).

Happy girl I am now.  All the tests are saying Healthy Girl I am now, too.

We women are quick to nag other women to get mammograms.  We occasionally even throw in PAP smears and the +50 bone density test.  Let me remind you all that at the same time you are getting your annual exams, it really doesn’t take much extra work to get a lipid profile.  And it could save your life.

So what are you numbers?