Monthly Archives: October 2008

Rebuilding Strength

I thought the time I took off to heal my shoulder, then the time I’ve cut back because of a medical issue, wouldn’t have any great effect upon my strength.  (silly me!).

I thought that when it felt like working hard, even though I had cut back on my weight, it was just me being careful.

The strength was still there waiting.  I just wasn’t using it.

Silly me.

I can’t take 6 weeks off from strength training and keep the same level of strength.  Nobody can.

It became apparent to me Wednesday when I was on the exercise ball doing reverse-crunch-to-pushups.  Before my shoulder started hurting, I would try 3 sets of 15.  The first 10 were easy and I had to work through the last 5 pushups (and not always succeed).  The third set was a little harder than the first.  However, I could do it.  This time, I struggled to do 8 reps, and struggled to do a second set at all.

That’s when it struck me: I’ve lost strength.  When it feels like hard work at weight levels that below what I was doing 6 weeks ago, IT’S BECAUSE IT’S HARD WORK.  I’m working near my potential at the moment.  (well, duh!)  When I said I’d take 6-8 weeks to build back to to where I was working before, it was because I’m going to need 6-8 weeks to rebuild the strength.

I’m slow like that sometimes.

I was working with trainer Adam a bit (he’s making sure I know how to use that monster robo-cable machine and do the exercises correctly.  Hello core-stability work).  He gave me some tips to help, like do push-ups supersetted with tricep pull-downs to shock the muscles and speed up the strength building.  He, too, reminded me that it’s going to take 6-8 weeks to recover.  Hmm.. looking at the calendar.. just in time for the New Year.

On a (foam) roll

I have a bit of tightness in my right ITB.  It mainly hurts when I kneel (and hit that bit of excess fluid), but I find it annoying.  I’ve had it off and and for years and everyone has always recommended stretching to treat it.  I have trouble stretching this band which frustrated me no-end.  The best way I’ve found is to lie on the island counter in my kitchen facing toward the center of island.  Then I drop the top leg backward off the edge of counter and let gravity pull the leg down a bit.  This stretches the band a bit, but not enough to help much.  And, seriously, lying on my kitchen counter means I’m likely to get some kind of stain all over me.

Recently I read a suggestion to use a foam roller to roll out the tight band.  The technique is known as self myofascial release. Fascia are connective tissue (like ligaments and tendons) that surrounds muscles, giving some support and protection.

Sport Fitness Advisor explains:

According to many therapists, trigger points in the fascia can restrict or alter the motion about a joint resulting in a change of normal neural feedback to the central nervous system. Eventually, the neuromuscular system becomes less efficient, leading to premature fatigue, chronic pain and injury and less efficient motor skill performance. An athlete’s worst nightmare!

The theory of SMR is that sore spots (trigger points) can exist in the fascia before injury occurs in the muscle.  Treat these trigger points to heal/prevent the muscle injury associated with it. To do so, you use a foam roller, a massage stick, or a tennis ball (at home, I use a rolling pin!) and gently roll through the muscle.  When you find a sore spot, you stop and hold the spot until the pain decreases.  Check out the cute demonstration of the massage technique.

So last week, I gave it shot.  Let me just say.. when they say “this may be PAINFUL FOR MANY”.. they are not kidding!  About half of each leg nearly screams as I slowly roll my way up and down the sides of my legs.  It’s a strange kind of torture.  But my legs are feeling better and the extra fluid around the knee seems to be decreasing.

Seems like something I can add to my routine under the “be good to myself” heading.

Missing, but not missing, the Gym

Wow, I wrote this post yesterday.  It completely got lost somewhere.

I went to the gym last Wednesday and did a nice full-body strength workout.  Felt fabulous when I was done; felt fried when I got home.  Hadn’t made it to the gym since til this morning.  That’s five days.

I didn’t miss it.

I had the bag packed and ready to carry out.  I had my workout clothes ready -Friday I even put them on.  I had my workout planned and written on my workout sheet.  Each day, however, I thought about going and chose to do something else instead.

I didn’t miss it.

Normally when I take a 2 day rest, the evening of the second day I’m bouncing around the house looking for a little something to do.  Ten push ups can settle me down.  Add some stretchy band routines (rows or military press) and I’m golden until morning.  Friday, Saturday, Sunday?  Didn’t even think about it.

This morning at the gym, I think I cracked the reason.  (really important for me, because it’s strange to completely stop like that.)  I am weaning myself off a medication I’m taking; while the process is not that uncomfortable, I’m not feeling 100% myself.  Probably why my workout last week so competely kicked my butt.  Today I realized that as much as I PLANNED on doing a full-body strength workout, I just wasn’t physically in a place to do.

I cut back to 2 sets, lowered my weights to about 60% of max. and still found it challenging in a way.  NOT that the muscles were going to failure; more that my body was just getting tired.  I chose to listen to body instead of trying to muscle through.

So I’ll be heading in more often than I have lately (4-5 times a week instead of 3), breaking up the upper and lower body workouts, and working at a lower intensity.

Listening and adapting.

Being kind to myself.

I’m sure when the medical thing is over (soon, but never soon enough) I can begin to increase volume, adding more sets first and increasing the weight as I know I’m able to deal.  Feeling my way back to where I was.  Being mature about my health and fitness.

So what are your plans for your own fitness in the near future?  Fall and winter are coming, bringing with them colds and flu.  Will we remember to be kind to our bodies when these things challenge us?

Oatin’ it up

I’ll admit that I’m a habitual eater.  I find something that seems to work for breakfast, lunch, or a snack and may stick with it forever.  Or until I find something that works better.  When I read about making steel-cut oatmeal overnight, I knew I’d found a technique – and a breakfast – I could stick with for long time.

When I get up in the morning, I am not going to spend 30 minutes slow-cooking a traditional oatmeal; however, it strikes me that quick cook oatmeal won’t stick with me as long.  The processing done to the grain to “make it” cook quickly would also make it digest quickly and maybe make it a higher glycemic food than the the slow cook varieties.

Directions on the Irish Oatmeal box suggested bringing the water to a boil, adding salt and oats, turning off the heat and letting the whole mess cook overnight.  Makes a batch of oatmeal that lasts me 4 days without having to think about cooking much in the morning.

I scoop about 2/3rds of a cup of cooked oatmeal in my bowl each morning and warm it in the microwave for about 2 minutes.  Sprinkle with ground flaxseed, then add about 1/3rd a cup of liquid egg whites.  Stir until the eggwhites cook.  (sometimes I have to return it to the microwave for about 30 seconds).  Then add some cinnamon, nutmeg and cardemom.  Maybe throw some berries in (yum), or have a piece of fruit on the side.

When summer heat strikes and I can’t stomach the thought of a hot breakfast (a rare occasion), I still get my oats – and prepare my breakfast overnight.  I will pick up a package of Bob’s Red Mill Muesli – a nice mix of grains, nuts and dried fruit.  In the evening, I put 1/4C of this dry mix in a bowl with a 1/2 cup of soymilk.  Stir and refrigerate overnight.  By the morning the grains have soaked up some of the liquid and become soft and delicious.  A cold delightful way to start the morning.

And a great habit served.

For you Kettlebell Belles…

The idea of doing this workout with even the smallest kettlebell makes me rather weak in the knees. And yet, that stupid side of me says: yeah, but wouldn’t it be fun?

Reminds self of limited load on shoulder requirements.

I think the true value of Twitter is that we learn about individuals from all sides. This video was sent to me by Hugh MacLeod. Always knew him as that “drawing on the back of business cards, really creative, marketing guy.” Who would have guessed have that he’s a kettlebell guy except that he mentioned it on Twitter?

And also shared this:

Working Out with Instability

Since I got the OK to begin adding load to my shoulders, I designed two workouts to use which I can alternate throughout the week.  One is simply a strength workout – nothing particularly interesting there, I think – that I’ve been doing for the past few weeks.  Only difference will be adding some sitting rows, bicep curls and tricep dips.  Starting this week, I’m doing the workout “unstable”.. much of it using one arm or one leg or one arm standing on one leg.

Fun times!

The second workout will be shorter and again emphasize stability/balance while combining moves to get upper and lower body in one move:

Lunges (10 forward/10 backward) where I pause at the bottom of the lunge and do a bicep curl with 8# dumb bells.  I am supposed to use light weights still for the upper body work.  Keeping my form and balance in the lunge while curling these light weights will make it an interesting move.

Squats with a cable row at the bottom.  Again, it’s that balancing at the bottom that is going to be the challenge in this.

Step-ups, then lean over and do tricep kickbacks.  I usually do a miliary press on this move, so the change in the direction and whole new move is going to make this interesting again.

Add some ab work, and I’ve got about a 45 minute workout here, I think.  With lots of balance challenges to distract me from the fact that I’m not in the gym doing the benchpresses, push ups and pull-ups that I was enjoying just a month ago.  (and will be doing again in a couple weeks.)

The shoulder is feeling much better now.  But I’ve got to remind myself that I am an older woman, and arthritis can flair up and cause some problems.  Having workouts like this one that I can pull out at those times is going to be nice.

A Look Back Two Years To the Beginning

You all know me.  You’ve seen me doing chin-ups, read about me doing push-ups.  You know about my love of upper body routines and boredom with abs and lower body work.  I think you know I’ve lost over 40# of fat in the past 2 years, and built some remarkable muscle during that time.

But maybe you don’t really know the story.  Just in case… today is the 2nd anniversary of my first workout.  It was 25 minutes long.  In blog posts, I detailed my weight and measurements and described the pure torture I went through that day.

My original plan was to video myself doing these exercises as I did them them (I even contemplated wrapping myself in cotton batting to simulate the extra girth), then show how I’ve progressed in these years to doing more advanced versions of these moves.  When I hurt my shoulder, that plan has gone on the back burner.  (If ya’d still like to see it, hit me up in comments and I’ll make it later…).

Instead, I share the blog posts that I wrote that day:

Today is the start of new phase. Last week I signed up for 24Hour Fitness’s Six week program. Today will be my first workout with Guido who aims to help me strengthen and stabilize my core muscles, and in doing so strengthen the whole me. A stronger me should be a fitter, thinner me. I figure if 60 is the new 40, then I’m 36. And this body isn’t.

So along with the exercises and my daily walking (which hasn’t been working enough), I’m back to watching what I eat and keeping track of that too. (I use FitDay to record this stuff). The bottom of the posts will show previous day’s steps (still), calories, and the good or bad choices I made that day.

And the ugly starting numbers:
Weight: 158#
Neck: 15.5″
Bicep: 12.5
Forearm: 11
Bust: 42.5 (I really would love to get back to my 36B size. A major hope.)
Waist: 36
Hips: 40
Thigh: 22.5
Calf: 14.5

GOOD DECISION/BAD DECISION? Good decision: starting.

Later I described the actual half hour:

Unfortunately, I arrived a bit late for my first workout. An accident completely discombobulated the traffic near my house. Still, I arrived and got to work.

Now I thought for a moment that the long walk to the back of the club, down the stairs and through the locker room so I could pee would be enough warm up, but no… ten minutes on the treadmill started things off. Walking slowly at about 2.5 MPH and a slight incline. Walking on a treadmill is different than walking the sidewalks. Not better, worse or harder. Just different.

Then we played with stability exercises.

We started with what I thought was the yoga pose: Plank.  Started on the floor, face down, balancing on my toes and lower arms, with the trunk suspended above the ground. Extend one leg, then tap the knee down to the floor. Do 20 reps, keeping the back straight. Rest for 5-10 seconds, then repeat with the other leg. Rest, and simply hold that pose for 20 seconds. Sounds easy. Ain’t.

Then I flipped over onto my back. A bridge pose variation (not so arched) and a similar kind of leg movement thing. This time, I extended one leg straight out, then tap the toe back down. Again 20 reps, rest and other side. And again, then the pose held for 20 seconds. Again, it ain’t as easy as it sounds.

We went on to balance work. Have I told you that I have poor balance? I do. Guido doesn’t care. If I touch my “free” foot down, the movement does not count and I have to do it again. Damn.

So we did a simple balance move: stand on one foot and raise and extend the other leg. Again 20 times (without falling down). Again rest and repeat. Fortunately he didn’t make me just stand there on each foot. (oops.. I bet he adds some variation of that in the future). Someday I may actually be able to do Tree Pose!!

We worked with a stability ball next. Rolling down from a standing position to a sitting position with the ball to help stabilize me. Here’s where having a trainer helps. I’ve always followed the directions you can find on websites and such, and my knees kill me. I get tension and pressure running across the knees under the cap. Guido adjusted my stance, and suddenly I wasn’t in pain. I could complete the set as designed.

Better yet, when I mentioned the really tight spot on my back (yeah, it hurts frequently), we started stretching the hamstring. You can stretch a muscle a whole lot more when someone else is stabilizing your knee and pushing the muscle through the stretch. All I had to do is say: push it a bit more… and stop right there. And breathe. Definately a good thing.

We did 2 sets of these in the time we had. And let me tell you, I felt it. I was weak and bit shaky at the end (and these were only 1/2 hour sessions.. not the normal 1 hour training sessions), like I had no blood sugar circulating. Hopefully this means my body was deciding to metabolize some of my extra fat cells.

Home to get some housework done. After eating lunch, the dogs and I took the Crest Walk, but shortened it a bit to the 2 mile variation. Still 2 hills… at 3.25 MPH. I’m feeling a bit sore… a good start.

STEPS Monday? 10,026.
CALORIES Monday? 1394 eaten/2436 burned/1043 extra burned (according to FitDay).
GOOD/BAD DECISION Monday? Pay attention to the whole picture.

I was sore for 2 days after this workout.



Yet I came back, got over the day I almost/would’ve/nearly quit and ended up persevering.


An Open Letter To My Bestest Friends In the World

Dear Best Friends I’ve Had In the World (and you know who you are).

There are lots of things that I love about you gals.  I love the way you know one member can’t digest nuts, so bake batches of cookies both with and without nuts in them.

I love that you know some gals are allergic to shrimp or shellfish, so you only make paella when they are not in town.

I love that you except that one member FREAKS OUT BIG TIME at the smell of tumeric or the word “curry” so you try to keep both away when she’s around.

I love that we know one girl grew up with too many beans begin forced down her gullet, so we don’t bring those to dinners and watch her skwerm (though that skwerm is funny!)

I love that on trips we occasionallly stop at a restaurant because one member approves of the tea they serve (black, plain, brewed, not mixed with the coffee brewing system).

BUT when do I finally get equal treatment?

It’s been over 20 years that I’ve known I have an allergy to cow’s milk.  While it’s true, if I’m healthy and the dosage is small, all that will happen is a slight cough. No trip to the ER or anything.  Greater exposure and I’m hit with allergic bronchitis which can be treated by Mucinex and allergy pills.  During the winter months, or if I’ve already gotten a cold? the dairy will require me to take these meds for 4-6 weeks.  Twice a day.  Just because I’ve eaten some cow milk.

This one isn’t new – to me or you – yet you never seem to remember that OH YEAH, DEB IS ALLERGIC TO COW’S MILK, SO LET’S PLAN SOME FOODS THAT DON’T HAVE IT IN.  A couple of you actually sound offended when I questioned last week why so many of the foods we had at a party contained cow’s milk.  We will travel to a retreat together, go out for a tea or celebration – plan what sounds – to me – like a safe menu and then you change it to challenge what I can eat. And you complain when I express my frustration.

Worse is when you ask me to “just eat a salad”.  Like I don’t deserve warm/hot food like everyone else because I’m being “difficult” with my food choices.  Because my allergy only means difficulty breathing not an epi pen episode.  Because it’s easy for you to cook with milk and cow’s milk cheese and you don’t want to change.  Ya know, they make some might fine cheeses from goat and sheep milk, and you can even find them at Trader Joe’s!

While we’re talking, I’ve discovered something important these past 2 years.  For years I lived on TUMS to fight heart burn.  TUMS all day (even if I said I was using it because I don’t consume cow’s milk and need the calcium).. TUMS for the heart burn.

I’ve discovered that if I limit – or eliminate – wheat from my diet, I don’t need to take the TUMS.  Hmm.  Wheat = heart burn.  It’s a recent discovery.  I haven’t shared it with you all because you look at me like a 2-headed freak for not using cow’s milk; if I start talking wheat, too, I figure it’s all over.  Although you accommodate a lot of other strange food requirements, these two may land me in “never invite anywhere, she’s too whacky” list.

There are many fine grains grown in the world: oats and rice are common, spelt, quinoa (yuck), ya want to list a couple dozen more?

So do think it might be possible once in a while to plan meals we share together – or consider restaurantswe visit- to accomodate the person who is trying to avoid wheat and cow’s milk.  That isn’t that difficult: choose an Asian restaurant and I’m probably golden.   Most Asian diets do not use cow’s milk and much prefer rice to wheat.   They tend to be fairly safe on the bean issue (except perhaps for edamame) and  I’m sure they can brew tea by the pot any way the drinker prefers.

Think about it.  Afterall I thought I was one of your very bestest friends in the world, too.


Once I started reading about how to plan my own workouts, I was regularly reminded that I should keep to the same workout for a month for each body part.  It lets the body get used to the work, adapt, learn, get something out of it.  THEN you change the workout up a bit to challenge the muscles and keep things fresh.

Yeah.  Did anyone ever mention some ADD (let us say “bored doing the the same thing”) or the fact that I am Kelly’s classic Independant Exerciser. I always seem to be “mixing up” my workout every time in the gym.

BAD.  Especially bad when I’m limited to lower body work for a couple weeks.  NOT THAT BAD that I’m asking for additional injury or anything, but not very efficient.

So when this latest round of rest/injury forced me to watch what I do, I wrote 2 alternate lower body workouts and simply rotated from one to the other.  One workout focused on strength – lots of leg and ab machines.  The second focuses on stability: lots of body weight moves and balance.  So while the first would have me doing the squat sled, leg press, leg extension and leg curl, the second would have me doing squats/wall squats, lunges, step ups, etc.

There was enough difference from one workout to the next that I wasn’t getting bored, yet there was enough consistency that I could see where I was slacking and needed to step it up.

Monday, a strength day, I set a personal record on the leg press (185#) and tied the best for the squat sled (90#).  I might have gone up a plate on the sled, but I feared being able to push myself up without any help and I couldn’t find a willing spotter to help me push.  As my shoulder got screwed (I believe) because I pushed just beyond that point where I needed a spotter, I wasn’t going there with my legs too.

I do eventually learn my lessons.

Wednesday I am allowed to begin putting some load on the upper body again, but not really loading the shoulder too much.  So I’ll take my next workout (the stability) one and add moves:

Lunges will have light bicep curls at the bottom.  Lord watch me balance and stay firm through this.

Squats will join with a stretchy band or cable row or at the bottom. My glutes will be very happy!

Step ups, rather than doing my typical military press, will be combined with tricep kickbacks.  This is a completely new move for me.  Should be fun!

How to all of you deal with either being too consistent (same workout every time) or too scattered (do what I did the last time?  Boring!)?

Takin the Positive Road

We talk a lot on the fitness blogs about the mental part of being fit and healthy.  Focusing our attention on the positive; being supportive.  For me, it’s often a conscious choice to put on a smile and make eye contact with people all day.  You can’t imagine what a boost in the butt this is for everyone.


Friday night I was not in that happy place.  Some things happened during the evening that left me feeling stressed and unhappy.  I actually twittered that I wanted to run away from home.  Like a kid.  Instead I waited until the spouser went to bed (9 pm), grabbed his computer and started some social networking.  I’d remembered a couple people I wanted to email about things.. one thing led to another.

I found a craft co-op in Oakland that is offering Saturday workshops on silk screening.  I have wanted to take such a class for AGES.  Literally.  AGES.  Without thinking beyond it, I signed up for the first class.  It’s a “here is how we use our equipment here” class.  There is no chance to make my own designs, just get the technique down.  Still.  Something I’ve wanted and the universe plopped it in my lap.

I found myself suddenly happy and feeling less stressed.

How many times do we see a glimpse like that: I’d like to do XYZ.. and the universe shines a tiny light on the way to choose?  How many times do we fight, because it’s not quite what we imagined?  We have the whole picture filled in with color, lights and music and when we get a glimpse of a skeleton plan not fully-fleshed, we dismiss it as “not what I had in mind.”?

I’m learning to jump at those skeletons.  To flesh them out the way I want them and to see what dance they do.  Take a few more risks.  Trust in the future.

Think positive.

Then I spend some time searching around the co-ops website and getting to know the organization a bit better.  On web, it looks like a place that I would enjoy hanging out a bit. Imagine a fun gym with all the equipment you love and people who want you to participate.  This co-op sounds like that kind of gym.   A place that I’d like to go visit and talk to folks about and maybe get involved.  Maybe hang a couple days a week like I do at the gym.

I found myself hopeful about the future.

And inspite of the fact that all of this so far exists just in the interwebs, I am choosing to be active and participatory.  But since I’m having friends over the day that the 2nd class would be held (where I actually get to make my own stuff.. including this neat skull design I’ve worked on?) I will also have to be patient.  But somewhere in the future, expect some killer skull t-shirts to start appearing on these pages.