Saturday, April 28, 2012
A few weeks ago the doctor gave me 4 weeks of physical therapy (PT) to see if we could overcome the pain I've had in my back/hip for over three years. Since I started SP, I've done better and better with exercise. I got to the point I was doing 40-90 minutes of cardio 3 days/week and 8-12 strength training exercises another 3 days (with 20-30 minutes of cardio for a warmup). But in the last few months the back pain has limited me more and more. Even walking up our beautiful mountain with DH and the dogs had become excruciatingly painful. The doctor suggested we try PT before going to more extreme, and expensive, tests and procedures. What he didn't know was exactly what I'd been praying for. Our little town has a PT facility that everyone raves about and my massage therapist had said some months ago he wished I could go to because he felt they could really help. So with my little prayer-answered script in hand I went for an evaluation and scheduled my treatments.
I've been working for 3 weeks with 3 different therapists, all having different specialties. I love them all! The difference in my body is amazing! I have never been flexible (read- I've always struggled with my weight) and even at my "peak" of Spark-generated exercising, I knew I was probably not doing the exercises in the most efficient and healthy way. A personal trainer would be helpful, but not a choice in the area where I live. Since starting PT, I have gotten a whole new "vision" of my body. I'm feeling "alignment" for the first time in my life. I headed up the mountain with DH the other morning and discovered my whole way of walking has changed! (And I thought I mastered that skill at age 1.) The therapists have given me several exercises and stretches to do at home. I've been doing those every evening and they have been effective. I've been motivated by Spark to exercise every morning. Now I have to set a new goal of giving my back some TLC every evening before bed.
On Friday I met with my main therapist for probably the final time. At her request, I took her a copy of my current Spark ST exercises. She went through each one with me, watched me do them, and suggested better ways to work. We have been focusing on my very weak lower abdominals and I realize that has been what I've been feeling was "wrong" in many of my exercises. Oh, I have benefited from all those core exercises I've done on my upper abs, but my lower back has paid the price for not having the lower abs properly engaged. Now that she has pointed out what's wrong, I feel I'll benefit much more from my exercise program in the future. I'm finally finding my center and proper alignment. This great young lady actually took the time to write on each page of my exercises the adaptations of the workout which will give me more help.
My energy level is starting to go back up as the pain decreases. Am I "cured"? No, but I am doing better. Today we hit the plant stores, I bought a lot of things, and spent a couple of hours doing up some new container gardens for the deck. A lot of bending,heavy lifting, twisting. My back is protesting and saying, exercise, stretch, and get to bed. Tomorrow is my scheduled rest day and I intend to do just that.
How does Spark figure in all this? Well, I have learned to make no excuses for not exercising, even if it's less and adapted to my needs. I've learned that I am a unique individual- we all are. I can't judge myself based on what anyone else does. I have to celebrate each little step forward I make and love myself at every step back. My third Sparkiversary is just a few weeks away and every day I am so grateful that I found this site and met so many wonderful people who've helped me every step of the way. I do believe that if the whole world joined Spark, we would live in a much better place!
Saturday, January 21, 2012
When SparkPeople asked me to review Coach Nicole's "28 Day Bootcamp" dvd, I hesitated because I know that dvd workouts are not for me. As a retired teacher I understand that I am a very visual learner. I was always the one in college classes who was staring at the textbook and tuning out the instructor. (When those fluorescent highlighter pens first came out, my grades shot up!) When I've tried some of those famous "walking videos" by a very famous teacher, I fell all over myself (did I also mention I'm extremely uncoordinated?) , turned off the video, and went outside for a long hike over the mountain. So I wondered if they really wanted me to do a review for SP. But then I thought back to one of the highlights of my LIFE a couple of years back when I had the chance at the SP convention to workout with Coach Nicole in person (along with another hundred or so of sweating, tripping fellow Sparkers). And last year one of my main motivations for attending the Spark Rally in KY was when I found out that Coach Nicole would be at the after-party. I was thrilled to spend a few minutes talking with her one-on-one! The rest of you may be thinking of famous people, pro athletes, rock stars, or actors you've met, but, really, meeting Coach Nicole was just such a cool moment for me. So, being a silver-haired version of a Coach Nicole groupie, I decided, what the heck, I'll give it a try!
Last winter when I was stuck in the house a lot and my workout routine was getting pretty stale, I did the on-line 28-day Bootcamp and found it very helpful. This was even better! I love the format of the dvd. Even for someone like me who has trouble following directions while moving, this dvd is very doable. Have I looked like a klutz while doing it? Well, all I can say is, my DH has earned my everlasting devotion because as he's seen me doing it, he's managed to keep a straight face! I've also discovered that age has given me a lot more of a balance problem than I was aware of before these workouts. (Have added some balance exercises back into my routine as a result.)
But Coach Nicole is an A+ instructor! As a former teacher of teachers, I feel very qualified to judge her teaching methods. She gives directions clearly and well in advance of changing the movement. The video is very professionally done and one of the things I really appreciated is that it took me a few times doing it before I really tuned in to the music- it's there, but it doesn't blare out and overwhelm the spoken track. I also love the choice of the two "back-up" gals. They look like real people, much thinner and fitter (oh, heck, younger) than me! One of only two criticisms I had of the dvd comes in here. Being such a visual person, I wish they had put different color tops (which are gorgeous, btw) on Lindsey and Jewel. Because both of these young ladies bear some physical resemblance to each other, it was hard at first for me to "see" which one to follow. (If you haven't seen the dvd yet, Lindsey does the "advanced" moves while Jewel- my gal!- does the "beginner ones.) But that's just an idiosyncrasy of mine, the look they have is wonderful!
However, this is Coach Nicole's workout and like everything else I've seen from her on SP, this workout is awesome. Her directions are clear, her manner is gentle, and I think she's tops because she always makes me feel that if I'm doing the best I can at my level, that's fine with her. Each workout has those advanced moves for those more physically fit, but I'm finding myself "upping" my level as I become more familiar with the moves and gain strength.
That's another thing. I thought I had improved my strength a lot in the last two years on SP, but after my first couple of workouts I was "finding" muscles and feeling soreness in areas I thought were just fine. The first time I did a routine with weights I had to stop and go get lighter weights to use because these exercises were much more challenging than the exercises I was doing from the SP database. The other very important point for me with this dvd is its flexibility. The menu has a 28-day plan to follow or you can just do the segments on your own. I guarantee you that even if you are pretty fit, doing the entire 84 minutes on the dvd would give you a challenge! But if you are just starting on your exercise program, or have some physical limitations, you will still find these workouts appropriate for you. Sometimes my heart rate goes a little wacky, but I can hear Coach Nicole's gentle voice tell me it's okay, just march in place a few moments until I can resume the exercises.
Another thing that's really helped me stay with this has been the use of a timer on the screen. When I think I just can't move any more, I see there's only 4 or 2 minutes left and I know I can do it! I have not used this dvd as my sole workout routine. I was doing 40-60 minutes of cardio and/or ST a day already, so I've tried to just use these workouts to put some variety in my routine. The format of the dvd makes this very easy. As many of my SP buddies know, I live in a very rural area of the mountains and have to drive long periods of time to get myself or DH out for doctor appointments, shopping, etc. There are some days we have to leave the house very early and don't get home until very late and I was struggling to get my exercise schedule to fit. With this dvd I can pick a workout from the menu that fits into my schedule and I can at least do something before I leave for the day.
That brings me to my only other criticism of the dvd- the lack of a written menu (there's the need for a visual again!). There's a nice brochure that comes with the dvd that's chock full of recipes from the SP Cookbook. Delightful, but it would have been nice to have the 28-day plan chart in writing. I have it bookmarked on my computer and it is on the dvd menu screen, but I'd like a "paper" version I could glance at quickly when I'm trying to hurry and get some exercise in before leaving the house. It also occurred to me that if someone bought this dvd that didn't know anything about Spark People and it's formats, some more information about the exercise program on the package would have been helpful.
I think it's very exciting that this dvd is available at Target. I can tell friends and family to look for it there. And for my SP friends, I will be sure to tell them that they can get 250 SP points when they buy it. (There's also a $3 off Target coupon you can get at www.sparkpeople.com/28daybootcamp.) All in all, a great deal! (And the next time DH and I make the hour-long drive to the nearest Target I'm going to make him stop and let me go in so I can find the 28 Day Bootcamp dvds on display and I can stop and just give a few little momma love pats to Nicole's beautiful face on the covers!)
PS- Uncle Sam wants me to tell you:
I received this dvd for free from SparkPeople and did not receive any form
of payment for my review. (Govt regs...sigh... but that's another blog!)
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
I've said this before, but must say it again. "Hello. My name is Carol and I'm a sugar addict."
Since starting my Spark journey, I have learned so much about how to deal with that addiction. Instead of total abstinence, I've learned how to use moderation and really evaluating my desire if I do decide to eat a (former) no-no. DH has been very supportive by occasionally buying something sweet (he's one of "those" whose metabolism burns all the calories he consumes- never gains weight!) and then shares it with me. Usually one or two bites will satisfy my cravings and I can go again for a long time without a fix.
But each year at this time, as addicts must, I have totally avoided one of my former passions- making goodies for the holidays. I used to give little packages of homemade cookies and candy to casual friends/acquaintances. I was "famous" for those little masterpieces. I used to host a Christmas open house where I prepared 40-50 appetizers and desserts for large numbers of family and friends. Since we retired and moved to the mountains, that tradition has quietly faded away.
This year I wanted to revive that tradition somewhat by having two other couples over for "dessert" this weekend and having some small packages of treats to give to fellow volunteers at the library. So I used some of the great tools Spark has given me and made a plan of how I can do this without jeopardizing my health plan.
First of all, absolutely, positively, under no circumstances can I taste or sample anything while I'm creating! Oops, dropped a raisin/nut/candy/marshmallow- no, it either goes in the garbage or back in the bowl (depending on where it lands).
Once the goodies come out of the oven, no tasting to see if I did it right. I'm only making recipes that I've done for the last 40 years and if I didn't get it right by now, oh, well.
As I finish a goodie, I thoroughly clean the kitchen (burn those calories!) and put everything away- out of sight, out of mind.
I am sticking to my 6 days a week of exercising (plus all the cleaning and decorating to get ready for company!). All the baking is tiring, but it doesn't excuse me from doing my routine exercise program. After all these years, I'm finally learning that 40 minutes on the treadmill or hiking up our very steep mountain GIVES me energy, doesn't take it away.
As for eating, I haven't had a "pig-out" meal yet (nope, Thanksgiving was just another day) and don't intend to. When my DD comes on Dec 23, she and my DH are taking me out to dinner at Carrabas, but the "rule" still applies- eat half the meal and bring the rest home. Carrabas sent me a coupon for a free dessert on my birthday. Great! I'll use it and ask for 3 forks. DH will gladly finish it after DD and I take a bite or two (she has her dad's metabolism- ugh!).
So that's my plan and I'm sticking to it! I am looking forward to this Christmas more than I have in a long time (well, since cancer 4 years ago and starting Spark 3 years back). I am so grateful that I found Spark and have used it to totally change how I look at food, my body, my health, and life. Thank you Spark friends! Your love and support means so much to me. I wish you a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year!
Thursday, July 28, 2011
In January I wrote a blog about Sparking a very nice lady I was talking to in Wal-Mart. Last year in July I mentioned in a blog that I thought we should all let restaurants with healthy menu options know that we appreciated them. I told about sending an e-mail to the corporate office of Mimi's Cafe (a chain) and getting a note back from the PR lady saying she was so excited because restaurants hardly ever get POSITIVE feedback. (I had written that I was so impressed that they offered low-calorie and small portion options.) I encouraged everyone to follow my example and send positive comments to restaurants (especially chains) that make that effort.
On Tuesday when we took my aunt and her friend to the Greenville airport, I suggested we go to Mimi's for lunch before their flight because they had a great variety on their menu. (Her friend eats nothing but meat and potatoes- only veggies he eats are raw carrots and celery- but that's another whole blog about coping with someone like that during a visit!) As we finished our lunch, I was thinking about that note from the PR lady and decided I should take action again. I asked to see the manager (after assuring our waiter that it was nothing but good about him!) and told him about the letter I'd sent to corporate about his restaurant. He was so tickled! He said he'd lost 100 pounds himself in the last couple of years and he liked the fact that he could eat from their menu, too. Of course I just had to whip out one of my SparkPeople business cards and told him to check out the website- it would help him with his fitness and maintenance. (He was young and I would never have guessed he'd weighed so much more- he looked mah-vel-ous!) He thanked me for telling him about the letter and Spark, saying I had made his day.
So, again, I encourage anyone reading this to do the same. Just imagine if the 10 million of us Sparkers sent letters to restaurant chains telling them what they do RIGHT! I'll bet we wouldn't need talk of the government food police if we all took responsibility of letting our wallets, and voices, tell restaurants what types of food they should be serving!
Wednesday, July 13, 2011
There seems to be a lot of anger in our world these days. Today I got a good lesson in how great anger can be when you refocus that anger into a positive. DH and I started up the mountain and Harley (our dog for those who don't know) obviously didn't want to go. His allergies have been acting up big time and he obviously was feeling under the weather. I came back inside and got his leash because we knew he had to at least walk a little. Well, DH said something that really made me mad and it took a few minutes before we got the pack underway and walking. But once we got going we were able to make it to the top of the mountain and headed on back down so our normal 50 minutes became just 30. When we got back I brought Harley in the house and got him watered and settled, but realized I still had a lot of anger and hurt feelings stirring inside me. So I headed back out and decided to walk it off.
Now we live on a road that goes up 200 feet in less than a quarter of a mile (15% incline) and I took off at a pretty good pace. By the time I reached the top (with one 20 sec. rest) I was breathing pretty hard. The land "flattens" some at the top but I kept up the good pace. Then I thought, "What the heck, I keep thinking I want to run, so let's do it" I set myself a short goal (thanks SparkPeople!) and started to reach for that tenth of a mile. Well, by the time I reached the end of our road (1.25 miles) I had run all of it except for some areas with sharp downhill curves (didn't want to repeat my fall in KY in May- Rally participants who saw me after it will second that motion!). When I got to the end of the road I did some stretching (until the bugs found me and started feasting) and headed for home, still walking at a good pace.
There were some great bugs out on the road this morning. One little bird flew along with me in the trees for a few feet. A squirrel who was doing a "clown swing" up in a tree got distracted when I started making squirrel chirps at him. I found some wild blackberries that were huge (which we passed earlier and didn't see). I found my first owl pellet on the mountain (I've been looking for one over the years because I hear an owl on top of the mountain from time to time.). Oh, do you get the idea yet? What happened to all that anger? Where did all those hurt feelings go?
Wouldn't it be great if all the politicians and talking heads on TV just took off and went for a run? Dr. Drew on HLN has been asking people to change their focus from anger at the verdict in the Casey Anthony trial to doing something positive for children. He is so right! What could we do in our world if we just re-focused our anger? And how does that apply to our journey on Spark People? So many of us are emotional eaters. I've known all along that the exercise part of my Spark program, and the consistency I've maintained with it, has been an important part of my weight loss. But I've gotten frustrated recently on my long plateau and now I know how I can bust it! Re-focus that anger!
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