Tuesday, May 04, 2010
Sometimes I get compliments on my posture. I do try to keep my spine in proper alignment, not only because it takes pressure off of my skeleton, but also because it makes me look thinner and more confident. Who doesn't want that?
So what is proper skeletal alignment? Glad you asked!
I have a little exercise for you- one that has come in handy and keeps me in check. And you can do it while you are sitting here reading my seldom-read blog. Ready? (This is so simple, it'll make you laugh!):
First of all, skooch forward a little, so that your back isn't in contact with the back of your chair anymore. Bend your elbows in front of your body, holding your arms at a 90-degree angle- like you are sitting in an arm chair. Now, turn your palms face up. Lastly, pull your thumbs back towards your body.
What did you do? Surprised? Yep! You sat right up strait, didn't you? THAT's proper spinal alignment, and the position you should be trying to achieve all the time.
It works equally well standing, also.
If you can do this little posture-check several times a day, sooner or later you will start to hold yourself in proper alignment naturally. Slouching will feel unnatural, and your body will thank you.
This, combined with conscientiously holding your stomach muscles in will help strengthen your core better than any ab exercise I can recommend.
This is also, coincidentally, the "proper alignment" and "neutral spine" people are talking about when they refer to exercising.
Let me know what you think!
Saturday, May 01, 2010
If you are overweight with no intention of reducing your calories and therefore losing weight, you are at an advantage for gaining muscle over those who are restricting their calories.
Yes, you read that right.
Let me rephrase: People who eat too many calories and lift weights have an easier time putting on muscle than those who are lifting and eating to lose weight.
You can't build a very big house on a wooded lot if you use only the wood from some of the existing trees on the property to build and ship the remaining wood to someone else. You can build a much BIGGER house by keeping your existing trees and bringing in additional lumber.
In the same manner, it's very hard for the body to build muscle while you are taking calories AWAY from it. So someone who is overeating and lifting weights is probably going to put on muscle at a faster rate than someone who is trying to gain muscle while reducing calories.
Doesn't sound quite fair, does it?
But here is the deal, you can build SOME muscle if you are losing weight, and the good news is that you will actually be able to SEE it as your weight comes down. While the overweight person who is lifting the same weight as the thinner person is more than likely putting on muscle quicker than the thinner person, they probably won't realize it since it's covered by fat.
Case in point:
I was lifting weights heavily when I was at my biggest, which was here:
And the fact is that I was in the process of using my excess calories I was overeating to build the muscle I eventually uncovered here:
Was I as healthy in the first photo? No! But at least I was doing something more with my calories from overeating than simply putting on a lot of fat.
And this explains why I was never in as big a clothing size as my weight said I should be: I was more solid under all that fat than even I realized.
Now, I still have a ways to go. My backside is NOT where I want it to be. My next goal is to build up those legs and glutes and make them something splendiferous. But in the meantime? In the meantime I'm very proud of the muscle I've worked so hard to build, and that I kept up the lifting, even when I felt like my body was almost past the point of improvement. I didn't know it then, but I was helping my future self out.
My point, of course, is that it's advantageous for even the obese to lift weights. The worst that will happen is that they'll put some of those excess calories to good use building something besides more fat. Never mind the other myriad of health benefits that come from lifting weights, to include improved balance and maneuverability, as well as stronger bones.
And the best that can happen is that one day they will gain the frame of mind to lose the weight, and what they uncover might surprise them.
It sure did me!
So if you are overweight and aren't lifting, START! As I like to say: Lift heavy, lift hard, and lift often. You never know how much you may appreciate your efforts in the future.
Thursday, April 29, 2010
How do I manage to keep up a 5-to-6-day-a-week exercise schedule? I make it a non-negotiable appointment with myself. If I didn't, I'd find every excuse in the book to not do it.
Exercise and self-care don't happen by accident. You have to be purposeful.
If necessary (and it probably is), write it down on the calendar, or your day-timer, or wherever you keep your appointments. And then make it non-negotiable. By this I mean that aside from an emergency (and by emergency, I mean an-ambulance-has-to-be-called-emergency), nothing is going to stop you from getting your workout.
There have been a few days when things happened and I couldn't get to the gym. For instance, one day this past winter we had a very unexpected snow storm here in Texas (THAT was weird!). Not only was the gym closed, but driving there was treacherous on untreated roads. So, I got up early before the family was awake, did step aerobics with a DVD in the living room, then lifted weights with my dumbbells in the bathroom. (In case that sounds weird, my workout equipment is in a closet in the master bath.) If I wouldn't have had dumbbells at home, I'd of made it work with body-weight exercises. But I sure wouldn't have done nothing!
The point is, I made it happen, anyway.
It's a difficult way to start thinking at first, but eventually it's a habit and something you can't imagine not doing. Your family gets used to it being important to you and eventually they adjust...... it all starts to fall into place.
But you have to take the first step: YOU have to schedule your exercise.
Sunday, April 25, 2010
I tried over and over again for years to lose this weight. I'd sometimes give up before I barely got started, and other times I'd lose some weight and either just hold there (got from 197 to 187 this way), or lose and then gain it back (went from 187 to about 174 and back I can't tell you how many times).
And you know what? Every time I lost without success, it was a valuable learning experience that began to put my head in the right place to lose for real. I learned what did work for me (Weight watchers, eating clean, having a ton of variety in my diet, varying my calories from day to day), and what did not (pre-packaged food diet plans, limited food choices, the same calorie level every day). And without all those false starts I'm almost certain I'd have weighed more than I did when I finally decided to get serious and make the real changes to improve my health permanently.
Plus, each time I took a few pounds off I gave my heart a break for a bit.
They say that most smokers who finally stop successfully have tried and failed multiple times. I'm thinking that making a permanent and healthy change in one's diet could very well be the same- Maybe that's just the necessary process of stopping any bad habit or addiction.
So if you have tried and quit multiple times to lose weight, or tried and lost weight and then gained it all back, don't count it as wasted time. Count it as a valuable lesson learned. Think about it, glean what you can from it, then get back to trying again! You never know when this try is the one that finally gets your head where it belongs to make it "for real" this time.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I'd first heard the concept of having a "WHY" from David Greenwalt, a fitness expert who has helped many with his program "The Leanness Lifestyle". He emphatically stresses that until you have good, solid, concrete reasons for taking superb care of yourself (he calls these reasons your "WHY") it's going to be a struggle to find the motivation to stick with it.
David Greenwalt and I butted heads (we are both very strong personalities), but he was right about a lot of stuff. This was one of them.
Until I finally found my true motivation last November I went through the motions, and that was good. Without going through the motions I'd weigh easily 100 pounds more than I do now and have cholesterol through the roof. More than likely I'd be a diabetic headed strait for heart disease. But if I was going to be successful at this over a lifetime, I knew I was going to have to find my true WHY.
In the course of mulling this all over (which, by the way, took about 5 years since first hearing the concept of a WHY) I did some counseling about weight-related issues and the counselor observed something that was revealing to me: I am more motivated by running FROM something than TOWARDS something.
I just had to find something that scared me bad enough to run from it for the rest of my life.
Then, something shifted: I started to acknowledge my family history of heart disease and diabetes. The reality that these things were more than likely eventually going to kill me sunk in. And when it sank in, it scared the devil out of me! I started doing whatever was necessary to keep these things at bay and maybe even avoid them all together:
-I upped my game and got more organized and methodical about how I lifted weight
-I started incorporating more aerobic activity into my workout regime
-I cut back drastically on white flour, sugar, and diet sodas (I'm not convinced enough research has been done on diet sodas to have a steady stream of them pouring through my body.)
-I stopped drinking alcohol
-I started eating less processed foods
-Probably most importantly, I joined Weight Watchers and began the process of losing weight.
I had finally found something truly worth running from.
I'd heard the term "Lifestyle", and phrases like "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle", countless times. But it wasn't until my first trainer, Ross, said that he wanted to work with me because he could tell I have a passion for this lifestyle that it finally clicked for me. I really HAD made it a lifestyle- he saw it, and now I see it. I have found my core reasons for taking care of myself. Not something I do just because I should, but something I do because I want to. Now, it's a part of me.
And finally, after 5 years of contemplation, last November I was able to write out my true WHY. I revisit and re-read it from time to time, but it's pretty much engraved in my memory now, since it's pretty concise. I wasn't going to share it, but enough people are interested in it that here it is. Maybe this will help to give you an idea and get you started:
1. I have an unshakable desire to do everything I can to at the least delay, and if at all possible completely avoid, my family history of heart disease and diabetes. I donít want to deal with it, and even more so I donít want my family to deal with me dealing with it.
2. I fully acknowledge my responsibly to my Creator to take the best care possible of this body He has entrusted me with.
3. I want to be an active, attractive, and vivacious grandma for my future grandchildren, able to enjoy them fully in every way while at the same time setting an example of how proper diet and an active lifestyle can benefit for a lifetime.
4. I feel a responsibility to be maximally healthy and therefore fully able to care for my adult handicapped son for the rest of his life.
5. I want to rock a bikini in midlife and beyond. :-D
This wasn't my first WHY. My first one was a couple of pages long, in paragraph form, and more wordy. That's Okay. This is just the one was concise enough to finally hit the nail on the head- this is my TRUE Why. And it will evolve as time goes on. Over time I am sure I'll tweak it, and more points may be added or some taken away.
The point is, there is no right and wrong way to do your own WHY. It belongs to YOU. It is simply very clearly stating your motivating reasons for wanting to be your healthiest you. Like I said, there is nothing wrong with going through the motions of taking excellent care of yourself, if you can't pinpoint your WHY. It will come eventually, and any effort you make is not wasted efort. Having a solid WHY is a very powerful tool in your aresenal of weight loss weapons, but not a good enough excuse to not try if you don't have one.
I realize that me sharing this is not going to help anyone to immediately figure out their WHY, but it may be the seed that starts the process growing within you. People tend to want quick solutions, and for me there was nothing quick about arriving at my WHY. I'm relieved I've finally found my WHY, but by the same token I'm grateful for the process it took to get me here.
This lifestyle is who I am. It will be until the day I die. I'm sure of it now. I want you to be sure of it, too.
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