Monthly Archives: August 2008

The Oiselle Fitness Bra Test

Oiselle bra front
I was a bit slow in getting my act together when MizFit asked for input to share with Sally at Oiselle. Sally really wanted to know what we loved and hated in fitness gear.  However, at Miz’s suggestion, I just emailed Sally with my opinions.  (it’s not like I don’t share!)

I visited the Oiselle website this evening and looked over your clothes.

Very pretty muscle tee.  Except that with a “falls lower hip” length and my short frame?  I’d be cutting the last 6-10″ off the shirt.  I don’t mind doing that for cheap shirts, but I won’t spend $40 to mutilate something.  I know the younger woman is looking for additional length, and this is my own complaint.

What in general do I dislike about today’s fitness clothing?  Note: I work out primarily in a gym.  I am NOT a runner or biker.  I do 20 minutes of hard cardio, followed by 20 minutes of pilates-style floor exercises and topped with 40 minutes of weight training.  What I want (and can’t find):

#1.  And it’s a huge one.  No regular pockets in the shorts or pants. Ideally a front pocket with a button or zipper so I could carry my cell phone and my workout notebook (a small moleskin book) and pen with me while going around the gym.  I hate feeling like I have to have a special purse in the gym because manufacturers have quit putting pockets in clothes.  And a key pocket.  Is it large enough for an IPod?  Just tell me.

#2.  Sports bras that never make the fit clear.  S, M, L, XL  I’m a 34B/C with a full-bust measure of 35.5″.  Your size chart would lead me to believe I should order your medium, yet my experience is that it might fit tight but OK the first time I wear it, yet as soon as I throw in into a washer of cold water and hang it out to dry, it will fit about 1″ smaller.  That is, it squeeze my ribcage and be tight over my shoulders.  I will suddenly develop the uniboob syndrome.  Yet if I buy and use a bra that fits a bit looser before I use it, can I take the chance that it will fit supportively yet snugly enough once it’s seen the wash and sunshine?  My experience says unless the bra has a significant amount of stretch material built into it, the answer is no.

Your bra, I read, at least admits that it’s designed for an A/B cup size, so I wouldn’t expect it to fit me.  But why is that fitness bras aren’t made for those of us with a bit more?

So, if I could take your running gear, take it apart, and make it perfect gymwear?

I’d take the shape your Roga shorts (love the shape) add 1 pocket along the waistband in front.  square.  About a 2.5″ opening  Large enough for a cell or an IPod, some antibacterial wipes in the winter, or my workout notebook.
I’d make the same shape in capris (for those who like that sort of thing) and long pants.
Barring that, I’d do the same thing for your Isabelle line.  One of the two should be made with pockets. I’d say the same thing only louder if I were a road runner.  There is no way I’d feel safe running without my cell phone in my pocket.

Fitness Tops.  A great fitness tank top with a built in bra.  NOT a shelf bra; they give no support at all.  A real, cup worthy, bounce resistance bra.  And some lycra stretch.

Tanks that do not have too high of an arm opening.  Look at your muscle tee.  See how it tickles the model’s armpit?  Not a comfortable thing when you’re working hard. If I were running, mightn’t that catch in my bra or chafe?  Give me a little wiggle room.  And please, don’t make the neck too high.  That neckline will be up around my throat during some moves.  Your raceday Tank looks perfect for working out in.

Sally is a sweet heart and a charming business woman.  She emailed me back that she appreciated my comments.  She also wanted to send me their new GoodForm Iris Sports Top because she felt it would fit me better than the original Iris bras.

I waited a few days longer than others to receive my top, and took even longer to give it a test drive.

news: this fitness bra is perfect!

Oiselle bra back

I slipped this soft, jersey knit top on this morning.  I felt supported without the “uniboob” tightness that occasionally happens with a supportive bra.  Better, I did not feel like I was wearing a bra at all.

On to the workout:  There was some slight bounce during my HIIT session, but not as much as with some other bras.  On to a weight-training session that emphasized my chest, back and shoulders.  AGAIN, the bra fit so well that I completely forgot I was wearing anything.  Comfortable, comfortable, comfortable.  Color me a happy shade of Iris.

But on to the final test.  Does this bra wash up and still fit?

When I got home, I threw 2 days of workout clothes into the washer, running them through a regular cycle with cold water.  Then I hung them on the line to dry.

The results: this bra has the same fit, the same comfort, the same support.  These photos were taken after the workout, wash and dry.  The full sun probably explains the goofy facial expression.

I’ve found a new favorite workout bra.

Being Nice To Deb Day

I mentioned to someone last week that I needed to recognize all the work I do, and occasionally do something nice for myself.  NOT “eat a tub of ice cream” kind of nice (hmm.  I’ve got a dairy allergy, so no way would that really be nice for me…) or weekend in Vegas nice (though that’s happening sometime soon, too!)

Something truly nice and healing and GOOD for me. A proper reward.

Tuesday, I did it.

I got a massage.

I have a friend, Cindy, I haven’t seen much who’se been doing massages for almost 10 years now.  I ran into her this past spring, got her card and filed it away.  Last week, I called and scheduled a one hour session.  I had had a workout on Monday, had another scheduled for Wednesday.  The full rest day between seemed the perfect occasion to see if massage could help.

Why did I wait so long to do this?

Cindy has a unique approach.  She lets her hands and the client’s comments guide her to do the kind of massage the body really needs.  Some need deep tissue, others need accupressure, occasionally they need hot rocks.  Doesn’t matter what you need, you pay for your time and she gives it to you at one price.

What did I need? About 3 hours.

The hour itself was heavenly.  Cindy found spots I knew were sore and knots I didn’t know existed.She pointed out a spot on my butt where I should sit and work with a tennis ball or foam roller.

She explained the weird way my legs feel (smooth on the surface, but bumpy when you rubbed the skin…) as dehydrated fascia over my well-exercised leg muscles.  More stretching and and that foam roller after workouts.  (hmm. maybe just buy my own foam roller?)

She also said:

I should have warmed up my hot rocks.  You need them.

1 could spent an hour on your back alone.

And another on your legs.

And a third on your arms, shoulders, neck and face.

See?  I needed 3 hours with her!

Instead I booked an appointment in two weeks.

Reluctantly Embracing the Core

UPDATE: Yesterday during my sessions with my trainer, I hit a personal best!  On the Lat Pull-down I pulled 100# (five times!!).  For my unassisted pull-up I only need to pull 120#!

Testosterone Nation talks about “core” exercises, and includes videos to a number of exercises (most of which I will not be trying).

Now being a woman “of a certain age” I recognize that core strength is one of those preventative moves.  Strong core, less likely I’ll fall and break my hip or rupture a disc or something.  So while I find these things boring as all get out, I do build core exercises into my weekly workout plan.

I thought I’d share, cause today.. I got nothing else:

1. Plank held for up to 3 minutes.  Done in a super set with several of the moves below then repeated for 2-3 sets.

1a. Alternating weekly with: Reverse crunch on ball with drop to push up. Ten to fifteen in a set repeated 2-3 sets

2. Bridge on one foot with the other over moving from just above the knee to just below. This exercise is great for the legs, back and pelvic floor.  I swear if you do this several times a week, you’d never have to kegel again.  Your results may vary, though.

2a. Same bridge with stable foot on an unstable surface. I use a go fit core disc for this.  Eventually that unstable surface will be a medicine ball. (I actually did 5 of these on a medicine ball this week before my hammies threatened to report me to the World Court for torture!)

3. Incline planks.  Held for up to 3 minutes a side.

4. Pray poise on swiss ball.  My feet are braced against a wall, but with healthy toes, your weight is on your toes.  Your wrists are rested on a swiss ball like your in prayer, and you extend the ball out until you support your weight on the feet and the arms.  Hold as long you can.  1-3 minutes.

5. Hip flexor knee ups on a captains chair.  Up to three sets of 12-15 reps.

6. Ball Crunches. Except I do them differently (I originally said this guy does them wrong, but who am I to critique his form?).  Keep your shoulder squeezed together, and focus your eyes on a spot on the ceiling to isolate your abs without hurting your neck.

7. Medicine Ball Rotation Crunches.  Hold the med ball centered on chest with elbows out and shoulders squeezed tight.  Knees bent the body make a /\/ shape.  Now keeping shoulders firm, rotate to left and right.

8. I’d do these incline crunches, but not recline lower than even with the horizon and crunch up higher that this guy does.  Me hates this.

9. Jack knife crunches at the edge of a bench.

10. That oblique move where you lie on the floor, then raise opposite elbow and knee together.

To challenge my balance and stability, I’ll often do about 1/2 my weight training standing on one leg or using a stability ball to add that extra balance and core work to my regime.  Usually it’s a move on the second part of a super set. (one footed: tricep pull-downs, bicep bar curls, standing rows.  Stability ball bench press, military press, etc.).  I do this during a stability/endurance phases of training.

Now unless it seems like I’m a core/crunch maniac, believe me I’m not.  I do most these moves only one time a week.. about 3 each time I work out.  And probably only 2 sets a piece because I bore really easily.  (Count the time for the plank/bridges.  One repeat will get you through 15 minutes!)

I’d definitely LOVE to do some those explosion-like throwing workouts, but how to those in an crowded gym without hurting someone? I’ll save me the lawsuit and pass.

I’m making a list (as much for myself as anyone) of the different upper body and lower body exercises I do.  I may share those, too, sometime when I’ve got nothing and I’m a bit bored.


Kelly at Grounded Fitness offered a homework assignment for over this past weekend: explain how you keep yourself motivated to workout when you’re working on your own.

When I took 3 months last month to workout on my own (leaving the safety net of a trainer for the first time), one of the key items I wanted to test was how I would keep myself motivated.  It was only 3 months, but I think it set a pattern I can use for a long time.

I am a planner. I plan each week ahead (leaving lots of wiggle room), making sure that my calendar shows appointments and scheduled activities for the week.  And because of a neat little calendar program I’ve downloaded to my computer, these appointments and activities show up on my desktop for about 3 days ahead.

Part of this plan is to think about my workouts that week.  When working on my own, I usually do a 3 or 4 workout week.  I ALWAYS go to gym on Sundays.  If it’s a 3-day week (the easiest to plan), I’m there on S, T, Th.  A 4-day week will usually be S, M, W, Th; sometime other plans in my life turn that into S,M,Th,F though).  I really like to know I’ll get that 2 day rest period each week.

Often the number of trips to the gym is determined by how busy the rest of my week is, where I’ll be (near the gym or a different direction), and my mood. I use exercise as the primary control mechanism for both anxiety and depression. If I’m having a tough patch mentally I allow myself to head into the gym as much as I need to help.

After I schedule my week, I sit down with a small notebook and plan each workout.  I note my plans for cardio, for “floor” exercises (core and balance), and whatever weight training I will do that day.  Is it a full-body workout?  Upper body only?  Core and stability only?

With my workouts on my calendar and a plan of action when I walk into the gym, getting motivated to workout is simply a matter of checking my calendar.  Truthfully, most mornings I wake up thinking: thank goodness this is a gym day and alternately thank gaia today’s a rest day!

Where I Meet Mr. Smith (machine)

My new trainer, Adam, is definitely shaking things up a bit for me with my workouts.  (yes, this a very good thing!) Last week, I threw a mini temper tantrum because all we were doing was working with this cable system, stability ball and floor work and I was fiercely missing time spent in the free weight section.

I guess I made an impression.

Thursday, Adam decided to introduce me to Mr. Smith.. aka the Smith Machine. Now I know that Stumptuous thinks the Smith machine is completely useless, and that a number of people do not like them.  However, I don’t have a workout buddy and there are lots of moves that one simply should not do without a spotter.  The smith machine steps in to take the place of a spotter for some of these moves.

I did incline bench press, pushing about 70#.  Not earth shattering or particularly note-worthy, but I prefer to go a little light, learn and perfect my form with something new, then challenge myself with more weight later.

And while this particular move wasn’t all that challenging, later in the workout – during weighted lunges with bicep curls – I got to the point where my arms quit completely.  Never did finish that last curl.

I still wasn’t done.  We went on to do a few ab moves, then push ups!  Push ups!  Stopped at the push just before failure.  Thank goodness.. I wasn’t looking forward to a face plant in the gym!

Last night, I sat and watched some TV and played on my laptop a little.  I was going to finish painting my bathroom.. but the idea of an hour with arms over my head was not going to happen.

Yes, things are becoming clear…

I had a cupcake for breakfast today.

Last night I had my traditional Monday night get-together; there were cupcakes.  I usually plan my week so that my “cheat” will be the dessert on Monday nights (unless it’s ice cream), so I wasn’t bothered.  However, they packed one extra cupcake into a baggie (like an illicit drug.  Cupcakes, pillls, grass all are passed from one to another in the innocent baggie.) and sent it home with me.

I could have split it in half and given it to the dogs but I didn’t

I ate it for breakfast.

That’s giving you some idea how tracking my food this week is going.  Both Sunday and Monday while simply recording what I ate (not judging, just noting) I was really high in fat consumption, only hit about 1/2 my carbs and was low on protein too.

And I started today off with a cupcake.

I was within my calorie count for both days.  (I first wrote The Good News Is:  but since I’m trying not be judgemental about this, I can’t.  If that’s good news, then the rest is bad news.)

Had a great workout yesterday.  I did 35 minutes on the treadmill before my session with hot new trainer, Adam.  Adam made me hit the gravaton for sets of both assisted chins and dips. The hardest part of the workout? The fat grips on the chin bar; I do not have the hand strength for lots of pulling up on those thicker bars.

A variety of shoulder/tricep/abs/legs moves using cable systems and free weights followed.  My glutes are talking to me today, and I am SO HAPPY that it’s a full rest day.  (although I’m taking one dog for a long walk this afternoon).

One remarkable thing happened while on the treadmill.  For some reason I cannot explain at all I set the speed up to 5.6 MPH and ran for 5 minutes.  Me, who swore I would never run.  Five minutes was my time limit and I got there without my lungs swearing they were about to explode, without my heart pounding out of my chest, and without my bladder promising to quit at any second.

My stride wasn’t as long as I remembered it should be;  it wasn’t that fluid beautiful stride I envy.  But I kept the pace up and didn’t trip over my feet.

I am not promising that this event will ever be repeated.

So, how’s your week going so far?

Accountable Eating For A Week

When I hit my goal weight back in January (well, maybe my goal weight.  I’ve rethinking this…), one of my promises to myself was to continue to monitor my success by returning to FitDay once a month and write down what I eat for a whole week.

It’s something I’ve done off and on for about 6 years now. Granted, I’m out of the habit and still find it frustrating sometime (does anyone know the nutritional value of a dish of Thai eggplant?  Yeah, neither do I!)  I’ve started to journal my food almost weekly now; I get as far as the middle of the first afternoon and then slip.

So Ali Hale’s post on Dumb Little Man (5 Reason to Write Down Everything You Eat for a Week) is one that was written for me.  The spousal unit is out of town all this week, so it should be an easy case of simply monitoring what I stuff in my mouth.

Someone suggested a website (I have not found it in either of my bookmarks) that can analyze a number of commercially sold foods.  Was that Kalorie King?  Something else?  Anyone have a suggestion for me there?

I’m doing it this week.

FYI: my nutritional goals are to eat approximately 1500 calories (up to 1800 calories on workout days), with a general nutritional breakdown of: 40% carbs (veggies, fruit and small servings of whole grain), 40% protein (fish, chicken, lean beef, soy and protein powders) and 20% fat(fish, olive oil and nuts).  This is NOT a breakdown I’d recommend for someone trying to lose weight.  I am trying to build more muscle and in doing so, burn off some my stubborn abdominal fat.

Well now, that’s interesting!  My first day of recording what I eat and I discover that I’m way way up on the fat for the day.  And way way down on the protein and carbs.  And I thought I was eating well!  This might explain a lot.

Anyone want to play along?

Friday Training

Thursday workouts with my new trainer seemed cursed.  Last week, I was sick and had to cancel; this week my car was in the shop.  I had to cancel.  We made up for yesterday with a killer workout today.

At our first workout, Adam asked me what I needed to work on.  Stability and core work, I said foolishly.  And I want to do an unassisted pull up on 10/16.  He actually listened.  Our workouts deal a lot with this compound cable machine thing, plus fun additions with stability ball and the weekly journey over to the graviton machine.

Monday’s workout left me feeling it; and presented me with a charming case of DOMS the next day.  Silly me, I thanked me for that!  And I’m sure I will be thanking him again tomorrow for my sore legs and stable core.

The thing is, I miss my freeweights and it doesn’t feel like they’ll be part of the program.  I come in 1-2 days a week to workout on my own.  I’ll be taking care of the free weight part on my own, I guess.

Today I also did 20 minutes of HIIT in my own fashion.  I use a xtrack machine that is similar to the elliptical but no arm handles.  It has variable resistance and goes up to 20% incline.  I start at 6 for 2 minutes, doing an easy 130-140 rpm.  At the 2:45 mark, I crank it up 20%.  At the 3 minutes mark I crank my rpms up as fast as I can move and keep that going for 1 minutes.  Then I slow down and lower the incline.  Two minutes of recovery and I repeat the whole thing again.

While I’m working at a lower rate, my heart rate doesn’t seem to be recovering very quickly.  By the time the 2 minutes are up, it’s maybe dropping 20-30 points.  The cardio monitor screams that I’m over my cardiac threshhold (and I have set for a 42 year old!  not my real age).

Those HIIT workouts where they want to alternating what you do for 8 seconds or 20 seconds or something?  means way too much time paying attention to the clock for me.  But I sure wish I knew if I’m doing things right.  It seems that my max heart rate has gotten higher since I started doing this.  My resting heart rate has dropped a bit.

Anyone got some good advice for doing HIIT?  MizFit?  Is that column coming anytime soon?

Beating the Odds

Statistics say that when a fairly sedentary individual begins exercising, there is a 50% chance that they will quit within the first year.  The highest drop out rate is the first 3-6 months, before exercising can show great rewards or become a habit.

I beat those odds, but I’ll admit that I came very close to quitting at least once early in the process.  As calm as I sound in this linked post, I can now admit that I was ready that day to walk out of the gym, quit my membership, and never return.  I’d have felt confident that “I tried working out and it didn’t work for me.”

Jeez, I’d been working out 2 months at that point. Not like putting much pressure on myself.

The difference, that time, between quitting and sticking was a trainer who believed in me more than I believed in myself.  I have a couple friends right now who are beginning to workout at the gym.  They have each other and some drive, not a whole lot of knowledge, though.  For at least a while they will push each other to perform.  At some point, they will need to have a session or two with a trainer or move to group classes because one can logically only go so far without educating one’s self about the process.

If, even with a support system in place, people are likely to quit within the first 6 months, what else can be done to increase the odds for success?

Still Ill – NOT

I have been sick since I left BlogHer on July 19th.  I definitely got influenza which can kick your butt for a long, long time.  For me, it’s a kind of weakness and some nagging chest congestion that’s slowing me down.  A different medical problem this past week really had me knocked down (drug reactions?  NO FUN!)

I kind of fooled you all by finding draft posts that I thought I had published.  Made it look like I was feeling better and back to my old self. Well, it was my old self though I was not back.   Now I’ve run out of those posts.  (note to self: when healthy, rebuild that draft bank.) Oh, darn!  I have to start writing again.

I got to the gym (finally) for 3 days last week – Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Then that remnant bit of the flu combined with nasty new drug side-effects had me knocked on my butt.  I could barely leave the house; I could not drive; there is no way I could go to the gym.


I missed my gym.  The stupid cardio, the boring floor exercises, the frustrating balance stuff, and delicious weights.  Missed it all!  It doesn’t matter that I was physically unable to be there; that I would be dangerous in there.

I missed my gym.

Things began to turn around Saturday evening.  I kept grabbing my small hand weights and playing around with them.  Not doing anything very serious, but working on concentrating on a muscle group and working it.  Feeling the squeeze.

Sunday I finally got back!

Since I still feel like I’m getting my fitness back, I took things fairly easy.  A simple 20 minutes of cardio at a fairly low pace.  A set for the hip flexors.  Chest press with easy 15# hand weights; bicep curls with a 20# bar.  Some sitting rows.  Squat sled – I hate thee, but I worked thee! – and leg press.  Just under an hour of work.

My mind cleared completely while I was in there working.  My mood improved… and there was peace, love and happiness everywhere around.

OK.  that might be going too far.

But I am back to my calm, easy-going mood.

So how was your weekend?