Monthly Archives: November 2009

Shakin It Up

Sunday I headed to the gym early and took a Turbo Kick Boxing class. My purpose was two-fold: get an hour of sweaty cardio in post-Thanksgiving and shake up my routine.

A Facebook friend goes to these classes all the time and I had mentioned to her that I’d attend. We’ve never met in person- but a class is a great way to meet some new people.

The class was great. I was sweaty and breathless within about 10 minutes. Completely lost at 20 minutes and frustrated enough that I had to walk out of the class at 30 minutes.

I’m not good at classes where you have learn a lot of new moves (all the punches) plus actually move back and forth and up and down. By the 1/2 way point I was frustrated, feeling really stupid and ready to quit.

So I left but only long enough to walk around a little and get my head in a better place. EVERYONE has a first class where they’re lost. The important thing isn’t to be the star of the class. It’s to be in the class.

It’s to be frustrated, notice what’s happening around me and try the best I can. I may never know when to do a “frog jump” – or even how to do one- but I can punch and step and watch those around me.

The class was a great workout -so completely outside my normal routine that I’m sitting here sore from the exertion.

And I’m happy I endured. Next steps on the shaking it up? A cardio Hip Hop class in Oakland on Saturday (I’m not necessarily saying THIS Saturday) and an attempt at the Non-Stop Banghra nights sometime.

Hop To It: Part One- Stronger Bones

This is part one of two posts on Hopping and Jumping to get stronger.  Today I look at these movements for building stronger bones.  Tomorrow-I go a little further and talk about using these movements to build balance and a stronger brain.

Many of you have probably already heard of the NYT article by Gretchen Reynolds or the JAMA report on bone health Reynolds discusses.  In both, a surprising conclusion was reached: the exercises we have been told will build bone health may not be working.

The timing of this article was perfect for me.  I have just had a bone density test which showed that inspite of all my weight training and taking the recommended calcium supplements, I have osteopenia in my lower spine.

Time to take further action to get more calcium on those vertebrae before things get really serious.

For those who haven’t read these articles, the conclusion was:

In the meantime, the current state-of-the-science message about exercise and bone building may be that, silly as it sounds, the best exercise is to simply jump up and down, for as long as the downstairs neighbor will tolerate. “Jumping is great, if your bones are strong enough to begin with,” Dr. Barry says. “You probably don’t need to do a lot either.” (If you have any history of fractures or a family history of osteoporosis, check with a physician before jumping.) In studies in Japan, having mice jump up and land 40 times during a week increased their bone density significantly after 24 weeks, a gain they maintained by hopping up and down only about 20 or 30 times each week after that.

So it looks hopping to it may be one of the steps I take to rebuilding some of that bone in my back. (additionally, I’ve increased my intake of vitamin D).

What ways can we go about adding hopping to our workouts?

Today I truly wish that the PUNK ROPE movement had a class in the bay area. I’ve written before about adding fun and play to workouts and I’ll admit that I got that inspiration by reading about PUNK ROPE and watching their videos:

Punk Rope Salutes March Madness 3-31-09 from Tim Haft on Vimeo.

The play ground meets the class workout- perfect idea and with rope jumping added to the mix, my spine would be a happy camper. Tim and I have chatted and emailed about a class in the bay area, but we haven’t been able to make it happen yet.  Here’s hoping someday soon.

Yes, I simply choose to start jumping rope in my workouts to keep my heart rate up- but that doesn’t sound nearly as much fun, does it?

So until Tim can get to San Francisco or I can meet him in NYC- how else can I add jumping or hopping to my workouts?

Plyometrics is the part of fitness that develops muscle power through movement.  For the moment, I will looking to add several plyometric exercises to my routine-mixing them in as part of a superset of exercises.

For example:

Instead of my stand-by lunges to a military press, I can substitute standing military press and jumping split squats.  I already do step ups – by stepping off on one foot and hitting the landing, I will add some additional force training to the mix.

There are plenty of plyo variations to keep me from getting bored.

As it turns out, these exercises do more than simply work on building moving power.  They challenge balance and may work to build stronger connections in the brain.

I’ll talk about that next.

Do you want Fitness with that?

Thursday morning, among the items in my inbox was a customer survey from my gym: 24 Hour Fitness. As I like my gym (for the most part), I clicked through to answer the corporate questions – anticipating that these would lead to an improved experience in the future.

I was so wrong.

After assertaining my gym location, I was asked 4 questions:

  1. Is my favorite piece of equipment working?
  2. Are the bathrooms clean?
  3. Did they check me in within 24 seconds?
  4. Did the desk attendant make eye contact and call me by name?

Note: they never asked WHAT my favorite piece of equipment was (it’s dumb bells – so they can’t really BE broken, can they?).  Nor they ask meaningful questions about my time in the facility.

This same survey may have been asked about a trip to McDonald’s or a visit to Wal-Mart.  Two things I NEVER do.  It reduced the corporate interest in my experience with their business to a mere simple retail interchange.

And it insulted me beyond belief.  If there were another option in my region for attending a gym (besides the local Y which I don’t like) -I would be leaving 24 Hour today and joining elsewhere.

This short-sighted dismissive attitude by the 24 Hour corporate management is the main reason I am dis-satisfied with the company.  And why- after hearing the story of my becoming a member and  then choosing to become a certified personal trainer- I still refuse to work for them.

They dismiss as unimportant the real connections made between the members and staff of their facilities.  They have made it nearly impossible for trainer/client relationships to develop is such a way that the clients will be successful.

24 Hour Fitness appears to believe that the speed which I’m checked in makes or breaks my satisfaction with the company.  I believe the ability to find dumb bells in an appropriate weight to do my workout, to get to the cable equipment without having to wait an half hour is important, having the locker room open so I can shower is important (they often close it during slow times for repairs – and I GO during slow times because it’s when I can get on equipment).

I know that 24 Hour Fitness is working on “advisors” theories on how to improve their appeal before their IPO.  This offering has been talked about for over a year – and the moves that the company has made in that time may make their bottom line look better to some investors- but it has HURT thier relationship with their members.  In the long run -and not so long run- this damaged relationship will impact the appeal of their IPO more than customer satisfaction with the front desk help.

I regularly invest in companies I interact with: from the coffee I buy to the shoes I wear – if I like something, I become an investor when I’m able.

As a current member of 24 Hour Fitness, I already know that there is no way I will be interested in their IPO or ever consider investing in their stock.  This makes me very sad.

Thinking about Food…

I’ve been thinking a lot about food recently.  It’s odd- I have little interest in cooking most evenings, and almost no inspiration for making something for supper.  Yet, at the same time, I’m fascinated with finding healthier foods -and reading about healthier growing and production of foods.

Today I traveled down to the Berkeley to investigate a few new sources.  Hit a really nice organic market where I picked up a few things.  They had a much wider assortment of winter squashes than I’ve seen at grocery stores or Farmer’s Markets.  Probably 8-10 different kinds.  I picked up two.  One is called “confetti” is looks like a variation on the acorn squash.  The other is reddish-orange squash that looks Asian in origin.

Also picked up teeny little avocado – a whole one will be a serving for me -so no wondering what to do with the rest of the avocado.

Then we went to a butcher shop that sells organic and free range chickens and some grass-fed beef.  Didn’t pick up too much -OMG, it’s about 2-3x the price of the crappy stuff you get in Safeway.  Picked up a roasting chicken -some boneless chicken thighs on sale and a couple freshly made sausages.

This evening, a friend posted a message (on Facebook or Twitter – I can’t find the exact link) point me to a Huffington Post article by Nicolette Han Niman on Avoiding Factory Farm Foods: An Eater’s Guide. Exactly what I trying to do today.  Among the things Niman says:

To avoid the products of factory farms, I became something of a food detective. My groceries were the subjects of my investigations. Where were they coming from and how they were produced? I roamed grocery store aisles carefully reading product labels, but there was little to no information about the conditions in which the animals were raised. I wrote letters to food companies with questions about what they fed their animals, but the letters went unanswered. The food system’s lack of transparency was frustrating. Eventually, I mostly gave up on supermarkets and began exploring new ways to get at the good food I was seeking. Although the task was daunting, my goal was simple: I wanted all my food to come from places I would enjoy visiting.

I recommend reading it when you’ve got the time.

When I finished reading this article (and saving it my EverNote files) I looked over the other suggested articles and found another speaking to me: Darya Pino: Are You Eating In the Matrix?

I’ve learned to refer to Twinkies and food from McDonald’s as products and not foods because, when you think about it, they really aren’t foods. Sure you can eat them, but that just makes them a novelty-something akin to beating up your friends in Mortal Kombat.

“Do you believe that me being stronger or faster has anything to do with my muscles in this place?” -MorpheusReal food nourishes your body by providing essential building blocks for your cells and organs. The human body evolved alongside real food and is adapted to digest it.

Edible products on the other hand were specifically designed to fool your brain and sensory perception, but your body, cells and organs have no idea what to do with them.

Twinkies and McNuggets are engineered. They do not come from the earth and are not food. Twinkies were created in the Matrix.

Matrix edible products and food whose home I’d to visit. Two different ends of the spectrum on today’s food industry. And even more for me to think about.

What do you think about when eating your food?

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Adapting to Challenges

Ok. This is a little different than what might be my normal take with a title like adapting to challenges. Where you’d usually expect to read about changing up set and reps and planning your workouts for a future goal, today I’m talking about something more personal.

Equally challenging.
This thought started when @MizFitOnline spotted a gal working out her gym in her tight-fitting street-clothes styled jeans. Through the different tweets it wound to:

u get to gym & discover you’ve no clothes 2 workout in. lift in denim or skip w.o. Discuss. (wink)

Now this is rarely a problem for me. I head out the door wearing what I’ll be working out in most of the time. So getting to the gym and finding my clothes missing isn’t usually a problem.

However, IF I were in that situation, I’d likely continue to do some kind of workout in my street clothes. I’m sure I’d have to change something. Maybe not do some lifts; and if I was heading somewhere afterward DEFINITELY not do a lot of cardio or work where I get all sweaty.

This is the biggest challenge for me. See, while I’m prepared heading into the gym – I often forget one important piece of clothing for after I shower and I’m heading out of the gym. Sometimes a bra or panty, yesterday a clean shirt. Whatever I’m missing I have a perhaps harder choice:

After my workout and my shower (as big a part of the workout to me as the time upstairs on the floor) do I put on the sweaty, sopping wet, dirty piece of missing clothing to head out into the world? Or do I do without?

Honestly? If it’s underwear, I do without. Hate the idea of going commado or having my boobs not supported, but hate the idea of sopping wet undies under clean outerwear more. EEWWWW.

Outerwear, however, I will buck it up – at least until I get into my car. That walk up the stairs and through the gym wearing a sweaty shirt or pants or even shoes is -to say the least- unpleasant.

Yesterday I somehow forgot a clean t-shirt. I think I actually believed I had one packed and took out the clean shirt and left it at home. So I made that trek. As soon as I was safely in my car, I tore the sweaty disgusting item off and drove home in my bra.

All the while thinking: If I have an accident this will be very embarrassing. But worth it. So glad no semi drivers rolled up next to me on the freeway.

So I ask you: when you head to gym and find you are less than prepared in the clothing department (either for your workout or your life afterward), what choice do you make?

Do you continue on? Forgo the workout? How do you adapt? Or even better make sure you don’t have to?