Thursday, April 26, 2012
That's what my arms feel like today - after an hour of almost non-stop exercise yesterday - with much of it focusing on my triceps and pectorals. It has been a very long time since I worked out with a personal trainer. 9 years in fact. I was younger then, I didn't have a serious injury to deal with, I weighed a good 12 lbs less. And important - it was a different trainer - very good - just different.
What has stayed the same is how much I really love both weight training and working with a personal trainer. I absolutely love how hard I will try when there's a coach urging me on. There's a mental meld that happens when someone is as focused on me - if only for an hour - as I am on myself. And I am just egotistical enough to absolutely love it!
It's no surprise that our upper body is the weakest part of our anatomy. Most of us walk to get around so our legs get some sort of workout just living. Arms, chest, back, shoulders ... well... not so much. I do a weekly story hour for about 20 toddlers and at the end I swoop each child up in the air. "Who wants a swoop?" I ask and even the hefty 4-year-olds line up. The have to help by jumping if they want to go high, but any child 5 and under will get a swoop on Wednesday morning. I laughingly call it my upper body work out and it's true - at the end of it I'm breathing hard.
All that swooping has helped me strengthen the inner tricep muscles ... but all the rest of my upper body is functioning below par. Or, rather, all the rest of my upper body is telling me how sore it feels today. Happily not in pain - just sore. Because yesterday the PT made me do things I would not have thought I could. Bench presses, flys, chest presses starting with 2 10 lb dumbbells ... mind you - I ALWAYS start with 3 pounders. It would never have occurred to me to try 2 10 lb weights. We scaled back with each exercise but wow! What a surprise.
I even did some punching and kicking - as stretch out exercises with a little bit of cardio thrown in.
I was so tired at the end of that hour all I wanted to do was go home and go to sleep - something that was not going to happen - it was story hour day - and public hearing night on the county budget. I was in town till 8:30! And how hungry I was! I had eaten a good protein rich breakfast and I had a banana after the workout - and drank nearly 3 quarts of water during the day - but it wasn't till I had a big watery salad full of ice berg lettuce and topped with big chunks of protein rich chicken that I started to wake up. The rest of the day I was turbo-charged but next week I'm going to have another wet juicy protein meal ready for me as soon as I leave the gym.
I remember the last time I was doing regular strength training and how powerful and energized I was. You'd wonder why I'd ever quit - and with some justification I can blame it on a serious injury that was not treated properly. It has taken me a long long time to be ready for this. I can't tell you how grateful I am to be ready again - because this feeling is so wonderful.
Cooked spaghetti? Bring it on!
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Early yesterday morning I indulged in one of my ultimate luxuries. I did a 1 hour session with the personal trainer at the gym. I actually approached him last February about doing 'a little something with my core' and he generously gave me 2 free sessions with some very good exercises that targeted both balance and core muscles. When I insisted I pay him for the second session he brushed it off with "Naa. You're a regular here. I know you're serious about fitness. When you're ready for 10 sessions in a row, then you can pay me."
For the next 2 months I did those core and balance exercises 3 or 4 times a week. The true pay-off came over the weekend when I had to change the light bulb in the kitchen. I can reach it from the top of the little (wobbly) step stool - or I can go out and get the big clumsy step ladder - which I usually do because I do not want to come crashing down onto the floor. Saturday I just hopped up on top of the (not-so wobbly) step stool and stood in complete confidence while I fiddled with the lights. WOW. I was the wobbly one - not the stool. What a shocker. And talk about a non-scale victory!
This just fueled my excitement for Wed. morning because last week I had gone in and plunked down the $ for 10 sessions with the Wayne, the Personal Trainer starting on the 18th. I was already excited about this and Tuesday night I woke several times, thinking about the fun I was going to have in only a few hours. I was up and out of bed, raring to go at 6. We'd scheduled the sessions for 8:30 on Wednesdays which gives me the added benefit of being able to come home early that day. Normally I go to the gym after work, when everyone else is there too. Machines are crowded, you have to watch crummy shows on the TV's if other people got there before you. (No - I love exercise but I do not want to watch ESPN) At 8:30 the gym floor and most of the weight benches are empty - yea!
I have been doing regular, 4-6 times a week, aerobic workouts all winter, swapping out the elliptical machine (favorite) with long outdoor hikes (second favorite) and stationary bikes (ugh, least favorite but I do it because I can tell I need it). I was thinking that I wouldn't need much more lower body exercise. I was way wrong. Yesterday the entire concentration was on lower body and I can feel it today. Not pain, mind you, but I can feel muscles that I've not worked in a long time - especially the muscles that stretch down the outside of my hips .. I'm guessing the gluteus medius, based on what I feel compared to what I see on the charts....
I did some exercises that were new to me. I did some I had not thought I'd like - and found out I loved. I was also reminded of a personal motivational quirk about myself - something I think I can use to great advantage as I start out in this new direction. I like to be praised. My mother realized when I was still a pre-schooler - that I responded to praise. Mama could use that trick to get me to do just about anything - including practice the violin 5 hours a day when I was just a little kid. My constant response to praise was "If you think that's good, just wait till next week!". All criticism has to be couched in words of explanation and encouragement. If a teacher, parent ... and probably a coach ... says "you can't do that" I probably won't bother to try. I really need a coach - a teacher - both encouraging me and pushing me. A success addict, I like someone to say "have you thought about trying this?" or "I bet you'll be able to do more if you try that."
Since I have never liked competitive sports (I was the girl who wished the whole gym class was nothing but calisthenics) I seldom had a coach edging me on. I don't care if you can throw more baskets than I. I'm only really interested in myself when I'm out there on the gym floor. (ha! some might say all the time but I'm sure that's not true.) But having somebody show me movements, watch my form, say "good, good," and "great form" and even "no, try it this way" really makes me feel great. It makes exercising - something I already enjoy - into something special - something I crave - something totally indulgent.
So. Next week I want to really show that W the PT how much I've improved. Like my 5 year old self, I want a chance to demonstrate my progress. I can't wait to lift my leg higher, lunge that knee lower, kick those pads longer. I want someone who knows to tell me "Wow - great!" And I love it that I've made a shift from "oh. I guess I really ought to go to the gym" to "Man, I can't wait till 5 o'clock so I get to go to the gym".
Just so I remember - here are the exercises I want to get in this week. My own names for them.
kicks up'n'over, toe taps, flat foots, side steps, knees, leg lifts
Wednesday, April 11, 2012
Sort of sounds like 7 with one blow, doesn't it. But I have lost .5 lbs a week for 5 weeks in a row and boy am I pleased. That's 2 sticks of butter each week. That's half a 5 lb bag of flour in just over one month. That's half way to a new dress size.
But as thrilling as the weight loss is, the number of weeks I've gone steadily down is more so. When I decided to get serious about returning to my goal weight, just a year ago, I had a lot of success dropping the first 7 or 8 lbs and according to my doctor I've 'maintained it well.' But since July I've dithered and frittered and danced around the same 2 or 3 pounds going up a week and down 2, up 2 weeks and down 1. Hmmm. The doctor's right. I've maintained. It's just that ... I've maintained a weight I don't really want to keep.
I rededicated myself in January to tracking, to drinking enough water, to exercise, but more than anything else, I've committed to Not Quitting. Good thing too, because the results are starting to show up on the scale and in the mirror. Over the past week or so I've caught glimpses of myself out of the corner of my eye - little hints of physical changes - a flatter tummy, a longer looking neck, the shadow of a cheekbone - and I like them.
So today I'm doing the happy dance because today I begin week 6. Hear that music? Come join me.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Even though I am only now officially "adding regular exercise" to my list of 12 in 12 I began going to the gym steadily early in January. I was pumped and proud that I'd made it through the Thanksgiving to New Year season with a small weight loss. I wanted to build on that. I had already selected exercise/fitness as one of my 12 and one of the starting-gate rules for this 12 in 12 project was that I could start doing any of them any time I wanted to. It's just that each habit would get one solid month of concentrated effort. So back to the gym I went, that first week in January.
A bit of back story is appropriate here. In 2005 I took a terrible fall and did some permanent injury to my neck and spine and the nerves that flow into arms and legs. Exercise has been on and off for me ever since. I would realize how flabby and weak I'd become, begin a routine, stress the neck or spine, suffer pain, have to quit, get flabby and begin again. I also have a central nervous system issue that was once triggered by too much exercise on an empty stomach - so even though I know how to foil it, there is a psychological issue - fear - that lurks in the background, taunting me with images of me blacking out in public. With the full understanding that even now this cycle can repeat itself, I decided to go back to my beloved elliptical machine and try this time, to go slow. No. To go S L O W.
At first, of course, I had to get back into the habit of going at all. Leaving the office in the dark, maybe a little stressed, tired, longing to settle into my PJs on the couch with a good book, fire crackling, dogs at my feet .... it was very tempting to brush off going to the gym. When I leave the library I turn right to go home or turn left to go into town ... and to the gym. If I can just make that left turn I'll go to the gym and 100% of the time, if I just go inside the gym - I walk out feeling super. Great. Proud. Energized. It's that left turn that is so important.
I have the world's best staff - fun, creative, reliable - and all of them different too, so each brings special gifts to the table. In January one of them, hearing me whine about "should I go to the gym? Should I go home?" answered with the perfect inspirational comment. "If you have to ask yourself, you should go to the gym" - and that's been my mantra all winter.
I get to the gym at least 3 times a week but aim for 4. M, T, W, and Th are the days that I'm in town and get off work before the gym closes. On the weekends I like to get in other activities that I can do at home and with family members. About 6 weeks ago I decided my core, stomach and back, were just not getting what they needed and I booked a session with the trainer at the gym, giving him the full background of my health issues. He gave me a series of core and balance exercises along with ways to use tools to support my neck and I began doing them 2 or 3 times a week. Last week I knew I was ready for more and have booked a series of 10 sessions with him beginning next week. It will mean leaving way early for work one day a week but it will be worth it.
So there has been a steady improvement all winter in strength, stamina, energy, even weight loss. I'm pleased and I'm proud. (notice ... I've used the word 'proud' three times now ... this is worth a blog post all by itself)
But yesterday there was a stamina breakthrough that caught me by surprise. One of my regular routines is a 30 minute elliptical workout that's programmed into the machine: warm up, speed up, concentrate on pushing, then pulling the arm posts, slow down, go backwards, repeat. I've worked hard keeping good form, not hunching over or slumping, and I've gradually upped the resistance too. Last night, as I came to the end of my programmed routine, I realized I wanted to watch the end of the television show that was beaming in front of me - so I started all over again with a 15 minute version of what I'd just done - and what do you know - I just breezed right through it. Zip. No extra effort required - just a little extra time. Wow! now that is a non-scale victory.
I've always thought that getting in a hour of cardio at a time would really be beyond me but I think I might just lengthen my gym stay from now on.
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