Monthly Archives: December 2008

The Scale Surprise

Sunday I tentatively stepped on my scale. 125.5# it read. Up about 5# from what I’ve stated is my desired average weight. And it’s the holidays.

I know I haven’t been eating the best, so I started to hit the panic button. Was I getting so off discipline that I would soon be back in “weight loss” mode?

Before I continued down a path of panic and destructive self-retribution, I reminded myself that my clothes were all still fitting fine.

I took the next step in assessing whether there was a problem: got out the body measurements I’d taken 6 weeks ago, grabbed a tape measure and did some math.

My upper arms have grown 1/2″ in size, my lower arms 1/8″. My chest is slightly larger, (but my bra cups are getting too large). My waist and hips have decreased, my thighs and calves have increased.

Guess what?

I’M BUILDING MUSCLE! Nothing to panic about here. Well, except that I’m shrinking out of my jeans again. But that just means that soon I’ll have to enrich Old Navy’s coffers for some size 2 jeans.

The old me would not have considered the possibility that increasing weight on the scale could be a good thing. It could only mean that I’m eating like a pig, all the wrong things, and once again failing myself. Becoming someone I can nag and abuse about my weaknesses. How many of us would have jumped at that conclusion and not checked further before beating ourselves up?

I’ve worked intensely the past 6 weeks, hitting the gym hard an average 4 times a week. I earned that weight gain, dammit! Now I’m going to celebrate with a delicious chocolate/caramel swirl protein drink. Because I earned it.

We Adapt, We Improve, We Overcome

It’s the Monday after Xmas – or for a twist the Monday before the New Year – and those of us who spend time most days in the gyms are noticing the change already. The Resolutionaries are showing up early this year.

We know these individuals: they sign up for the gym so they can “work out and get healthy” as their New Year’s Resolution. They come and take up space on the cardio machines and classes. They wander around the weight machines confused, sitting down to quickly do a set of 12 on one at the lowest weight then wipe their sweat and move on to looking confused again. Their form sucks, the gym etiquette is non-existant.

In a couple months they will tell themselves that they tried it, it’s too hard, they don’t get it, and they will melt back into their lazyboys and extra deep, over-stuffed sofas (guarenteed to encourage poor posture). We won’t see them again until next year.

Add to this the furloughed workers getting their gym time in earlier in the day -since they’re used to being out of the house at this time. AND those workers using up the last of their vacations. The gym is a very crowded place to be right now.

The challenge, now, is figuring out how to adapt to this situation. There are several possible steps to take:

  • cuss and grumble about the inconvenience;
  • change your gym time, hoping to find a less busy workout time;
  • improvise your workout plan. If you can’t find a bench or the right weights, figure out how to do your exercises differently. Or shake up the order that you work out a bit.
  • welcome some of the nubes and make them feel successful so they become new gym friends.

I’m choosing to do 3 of these 4 things (well, occasionally I’ll probably add the grumbling, too).

First choice: CHANGE.  Many days I’ll move my workout time to mid-afternoon.  Usually it’s as close to ghost-town as it get in my gym except for that middle of the night time.  (NO.  I am never choosing to workout at 2 am to have the place to myself.)  Friday, it was as busy as the mid-morning popular time.

Moved on to the second strategic step: IMPROVISE.  I will be writing my workout goals in very general terms for the next weeks: Chest Press, instead of Incline Bench Chess Press with 22.5# DBs. While the particular exercise and weight might be my ideal for the day, instead I’m going into the gym willing to get that workout any way I can.  Be it Smith Machine, Flat, Incline, or a stability bench.  Heck, last week, I did my bench press on the sitting row bench (it was the only one open).  Glad I’m short, as I barely fit.  But it meant I didn’t have far to go to do my rows later!

As there are limited leg machines, these will be the moves where I start using dumb bells, cables and bar bells to get the work in.  Flexibility will be a good thing for me.  (and my challenge for January is unstable workouts, so this should fit right in).

I will also take my rest moments to try to notice those nubes who seem particularly lost and maybe give them smile and little boost.  They deserve congratulations for even making it in.  Everything to encourage them to continue getting healthy is a step toward a healthier neighborhood and region.  We are one of the poorest and least healthy regions in the bay.  Small steps are all I can offer, but they should help.

I know occasionally the grumbling will come.  Remarkably, it won’t often come about a nube, I bet.  It will the guy who decides to hog the leg press machine my doing 8 reps, walking away for 2 minutes, adding 2 more plates, doing 8 reps.. and repeating that for a half hour inspite of the fact that he knows several people are waiting for the equipment.  The gym rat who works at his own pace and does not adapt to the circumstances.  The weight hog. But I grumble at them all the time.

What challenges will you be facing the next few weeks?  Can you adopt a “improvise, adapt, overcome” philosophy to make your workouts more successful?

To Sleep…

I’m not sure if I’ve shared this info here, though I know I’ve shared it other places we might frequent together (twitter, facebook, etc.). I have not slept without the aid of sleeping pills (atavan) in just over 2 years (12/15/06). In a way, I’m luckier than others who suffer insomnia: my body actually responds like I’m sleeping and much of my brain seems to follow this pattern too. I just have one part that does monkey gymnastics for hours, taking me down paths of dark imagination. It hooks on strange ideas – sometimes almost like dreaming – and works and reworks the idea nonstop.

So, while I say I do not sleep, it’s not a completely accurate picture. Most of me sleeps, I’m simply aware that time is dragging around the clock for the 6 or 7 hours that I’m laying in bed.

About 5 weeks ago I saw a neurologist about my problems with the atavan, and my inability to sleep without it. He prescribed an anti-depressant -I suspected this move would come – and suggested that as it works into my system, it might get my brain back to a place where I sleep naturally.

It was a small piece of hope.

I have always had trouble with sleep. As a child, it would take an hour or longer to fall asleep. I’ve had those sleepless nights fairly regularly. And I’ve had several bouts of this long chronic inability to sleep. The last one (30 years ago), was cured with an anti-depressant.

Drugs have changed and so have I. What worked back then had disasterous side effects when we tried this year. But I hopeful that a new drug might work.

Last night I slept without taking a pill. Not through the night – I woke up 3 times. Not as long as usual – I was awake at 5:45 am and not falling asleep again. But when I woke up, I wasn’t awake more than an hour and I fell back to sleep.

This just might be the beginning of something wonderful. I’m hoping that with natural sleep I get some more of creative (writing, photographing, concentrating) mojo back and return to the me I remember.

Workout: 12/22/08

After 2 days recovery (lots of back/chest work on Friday), today was a stability and light leg day.  This month is also a unilateral month: whenever possible, I’m doing exercises one side at a time.

Cardio: 30 minutes on the crosstrax machine, average heart rate: 145 BPM.  About 250 calories.

First SuperSet: Core.  Two sets.

  • Plank: 1.5 minutes
  • Bridge, one support leg, one moving leg: 20 reps each side
  • Side Plank: 1 min/side
  • PushUps: 15

5 Jumping Jacks to a Burpee between sets to get the heart rate back up, 10 reps.

Second SuperSet: Stretch Bands, two sets:

  • Shoulder raise/side step: 12
  • Standing One Arm Row: 15/side
  • Shoulder Rotations: out 15
  • Shoulder Rotations: in 15

Mountain Climbers between sets to get the heart rate back up, 10 reps.

Third Set: Unilateral Legs on Machines

  • Leg Extensions, 60#, 15 reps/side
  • Leg Curls, 60#, 15 reps/side
  • Leg Press, 125#, 15 reps/side
  • Triange Push Ups between Leg Press sets: 10.

Last Set: Abs On Incline Ab Bench.  2 Sets

  • Hanging Crunches 15
  • Hanging Reverse Crunches 15

After that my shower should did feel good!

Use Your Words for Good Today

MizFit is donating a dime for every comment left on her blogpost today.  She gets LOTS of comments, and I expect today they will be even more plentiful.

In the spirit of the season, I will be matching your donation with mine going to my local food bank. I’m sure everyone has heard how hard the foodbanks have been hit this year: donations cut in half; clients doubled.  They need help now.  I have stalling on writing a check because I can’t choose the number.  Fate has intervened to take that choice outta my hands.

So go forth and comment wildly.

My knee became a little hinky after the great plyo box jumping experience on Tuesday. One spot is a bit swollen (that soft spot outside the leg just below the knee cap), and the knee doesn’t like steps now. Normally that spot is sore because of a tight IT band, so this isn’t unusual and the good news is: it’s getting better every day. Think there was just a little bruising going on there.

I had today pencilled in as a hard cardio day with lots of stability and leg work and had to admit that there was no hard cardio that wouldn’t irritate the situation. So slow-long it was.

The stability stuff was fine: lots of plank and bridge variations, some balance stuff, and stretchy band play. Except holding SB shoulder presses and walking sideways with the band stretched between my feet is not really my idea of play. I did some leg curls and extensions, but avoided the press or squat and finished with some ab work.

Now I’m feeling all tight and firm and happy that I did it. Was the perfect workout today. Just texted Adam about our workout tomorrow: knee is hinky. Wonder what he’ll dream up for me in the way of an upper body workout? I’m thinking tomorrow this time, my lats and triceps are going to be hating me.

Mental Limits


This week I started doing some plyo work at the gym.  It’s completely new to me and real stretch.  The idea is to jump up -pulling my heels up to my butt- and land on a box.  It’s not a truly difficult thing to do physically; for me, the hard thing was believing that I could.

All my life I have known that I am uncoordinated.  My family and friends would agree with me about this.  I trip, I slip, I fall.  It took me 3 years to learn to ride a bike.  (yet, at the same time, I could climb a tree better than anyone else!)

When Adam explained what I would be doing, my first step was to tell him which locker they could find my stuff in the locker room (so they could get my medical card).  He thought I was joking; I’m not sure I was.

So jumping up onto a medium sized box was an exercise more of my mind than my body.  The first time I did it, I didn’t think I simply jumped.  Successfully.

The second time I went to do it, every time I started to move doubt froze me.  Every time I went to move, my mind blanked in doubt and I could not move.  Try as I might, I could not convince my body that I could repeat my earlier success.

Adam moved me down to the small box; it’s only about 10″ off the ground.  Less threatening, I could do it. I’m still bothered by the whole thing though.  A lifetime of believing my physical incompetance limits me.

Do you believe things about yourself that stop you?  Do you let other people believe things about themselves that limit them?  Or do you reach further and encourage others to follow?

Braggin’ Be Good

(three posts in a week? I’d like to take this as a sign that my new meds are starting to work. All together now, YAY!)

This is starting as just a little brag, but I’m hoping that as I get the words on the page it grows to something more than just a self-indulgent tale.

Tuesday I was working with trainer Adam, who has dedicated himself to getting me to

  • do 15 pullups and
  • really become aware of my core strength/posture.

He gives me HARD workouts with seldom more than 30 seconds rest, and has me doing things I don’t do on my own. I remember the intensity;  I’ve become more creative in my own routines;  and I concentrate on the core now no matter what exercise I’m doing.

Anyway, I was working hard, sweaty as hell, and running through a set of reverse crunches to push-ups on the swiss ball (yes, MizFit I WILL get this on a video. Promise.). Another trainer, James, walked by and commented:

Wow, half my male clients can’t do that!

Adam, being a great trainer, first made James repeat it so I could hear it, then turned to James and said:

Yeah, and she can do 7 unassisted pull-ups too!

Now I was proud that I could something that a lot of the people in the gym can’t do, but what realy made me feel good was my trainer bragging about me!  I think at that moment he could have told me anything and I would have given it a shot!

Maybe that’s the point.  The positive statement was great: it made me proud of what I’ve accomplished.  However, the pride that Adam takes in my accomplishments (and he emphasizes that it’s all me) boosts my confidence even more.  He knows me and he’s still proud of me!

Is that one of the reasons that people seek out workout buddies/accountability partners?  To have someone they know is on their side?  Someone who challenges them when they want to stop and will brag a little about their successes?

I’ve never really known that kind of relationship until I started working with my guys, so I’m not sure.  (and yes, it’s sad that I’ve lived 55 years without that kind of support.  but great that I’ve had 2 talented trainers to show me). It gives me an insight, though, in how to act with all my relationships going forward: push a little when someone needs pushing, but remember to brag on them little and make sure they know it!

My challenge to myself and to you is to do this with someone almost every day for a while.  Practice showing my pride in others.  Making sure others know.

How about you?  Who do you want to brag about just a little?

With the holiday season upon us, many of us are going to be running out of town to do a workout. We’re going to run short of time whether it’s because of travelling to visit distance family or friends,  working longer hours, or stuck home nursing sick family members.  When this happens, it’s always good to have a few simple exercises that we can do almost anywhere.

My Top Anywhere Moves:

1. Plank. Far and away one of the best overall exercises you can do. It will give you a rock solid core.

2. Lunges. I do not particularly LIKE doing lunges, but they are one of the best lower body exercises. They work the quads, hamstrings, inner thigh, glutes, and core. They are great for stability and balance. In short, like ’em or not, we must embrace the lunge. You can do these stepping forward, stepping backward, walking across a surface, with weights or medicine ball in your hands, with a twist. JUST DO ‘EM.

3. Squats. Hamstrings, quads and glutes get the attention here. For a simple safe squat, keep your back against a wall, move your feet out, sliding your back down the wall until you are in a sitting position. Your legs should be at right angles, feet pointing straight out, shoulders back.

4. Pushups. Either regular pushups or knee push ups if that’s all you can do. For the regular pushup, remember to push back through your heels to keep the back and hips strong.

5. Tricep dips.

6. Crunches. Regular crunches, ball crunches, bicycle crunches.  You name it, you do it.

7. Take a Walk. Got a spare 10-15 minutes?  Take a walk.  Unless the temperatures are terribly cold, head outside and get some fresh air.

There ya go. Some easy ways to get our exercise in even when we’re short of time. Are there any favorite moves you have that you’d do instead?

Stop the Slip!

I read a great tip a couple weeks ago – lordy I wish I remembered where!  I have the proverbial duck feet; toes that need a wide toe-box but heels so narrow they are always slipping out of my shoes.

Did you know that with a simple change in how you lace up your athletic shoes you can stop these shoes from slipping?  Seriously!  I’ve been testing the technique and it works.

Lace your shoes the same way until you get to the top hole on your shoes.  Instead of crossing over your arch, run the lace straight up to hole above the 2nd last hole.  Insert the lace from above to below.  Do it on both sides.  Leave the lace a bit loose between these 2 holes.

Now cross the lace over and slip it under that loop.  Bring both ties to the center of the shoe, tighten things up to your comfort level and tie.

Check it out.  No more heel slip!