Thursday, March 14, 2013
Back when I first started getting serious about losing weight, I had the same anxiety many people on Spark do: I didn't want to exercise in public. I was simply too self conscious about my weight and how I looked. I needed to find something I could do in my living room. Workout videos were the obvious option, but I thought I needed something that didn't feel like exercise (because I didn't love exercise yet). I took an unconventional route: I combined exercise and a video game. I bought "Dance, Dance Revolution" for my Playstation 2.
My first sessions were a disaster as I was uncoordinated and out of breath. I enjoyed it, though, so I kept doing it. An acquaintance who was a gym rat scoffed at my 'fitness' routine. "You can't get in shape with DDR - you have to go to a gym if you're serious." I had already lost 10 lbs, increased my playtime from 10 minutes to 45 minutes, and improved my coordination and balance, though. I *was* getting in shape.
One day when I put on my size 12 shorts, they literally fell off my hips and onto the floor. I did not just lose a pant size; I lost two! My size 10s were also too large. I rounded up my size 12s and 10s and took them to the charity shop. I never wanted to see them again. (And I haven't.)
Encouraged by this development, I was ready to move onto a bigger challenge. I bought a bike. I rode it one hour after work every day. It was marvelous exercise that surprisingly strengthened me from head to toe. I eventually did get a gym membership, and employed personal trainers at various intervals.
Biking was my preferred exercise of choice up until we moved to Georgia. Bike paths are not plentiful or safe where I am, the summer heat is a recipe for heat stroke, and swarms of biting bugs are not enjoyable. Our apartment had a small onsite gym, so that was my main method of exercise up until recently. I worked out on the elliptical, treadmill, and cycling machines.
Since we moved into the house, I admit that I miss the convenience of the onsite gym. However, a gym is not the only place to get in shape. My grandparents never stepped in a gym - it's a 1980's+ phenomena. My grandfather and grandmother were both in the Army. Their annual physicals required making sure they were both under a certain weight. The modern US Army rejecting recruits due to inability to pass boot camp is double the rate of my grandparents' generation. The main difference is my grandparents grew up with hard physical labor on farms. The modern day 18 year old grew up with a soft couch and probably didn't walk to school.
There is a difference in the quality of exercise you get with a gym machine versus 'taking it to the street'. If you're seemingly an Olympic athlete running on a treadmill, you might have been surprised when running outside seemed harder. I noticed the same riding a real bike versus an indoor bike. The indoor cycling machines only work out my lower body. A real bike works my entire body. Balancing on a bike builds core muscles. An indoor bike is stabilized - not much different than sitting in an uncomfortable chair. Riding outside produces subtle resistances against the wind and undetectable variations in pavement. You have to turn a bike, which shifts the load on core muscles. Standard indoor bikes do not turn or lean. There is supposedly a new 'dynamic' indoor bike that simulates turning and leaning, but I've never tried it.
My gardening project created soreness in my hamstrings, triceps, and back lats - muscle groups that are usually difficult for me to improve. This has been an unexpected illustration that our modern lifestyle is causing our more natural movements to atrophy. Imbalances with muscle strength can lead to injury. Our muscles groups are designed to work in tandem. You might have seen men who overwork their bicep and pectoral muscles to the exclusion of everything else. They eventually hunch over like an ape because they neglected their back muscles which hold them upright. Another facepalm I saw with the gym over-exercisers were the guys with big, huge upper bodies, and tiny, scrawny legs. Not a good look, guys.
If you are a treadmill runner, make sure to get outside and tackle the real thing. This is true for cycling, also. Indoor cycling is good cardio, but I don't get the muscle improvement the same way as outdoor biking. I can feel soreness in my arm and core muscle groups after a real bike ride, but almost never on an indoor bike. A standard indoor bike is lower body and cardio only. A real bike is a full body workout. Take a look a professional cyclers - they have lean, proportioned muscles from top to bottom.
What about gardening or housework for exercise? I've seen people scoff at this the way my acquaintance did with DDR. If you work to soreness, then muscles are improving, period. But whatever activity you do, eventually your muscles will only grow to the size necessary to complete these tasks on a regular basis. If you're new to gardening or housekeeping, then you'll probably gain muscle soreness. If you've been doing it a long time, then you've already adapted to the necessary level. In a previous blog, I showed that a full day of average housework can burn the same or more calories as my half hour elliptical sessions. Once you've adapted to an activity, it will be enough to maintain where you are currently. If you want to continue improving, you have to move on to something new, like my DDR to bike transition.
Experts agree that full body exercise is the fastest, best way to improve strength and lose fat. I didn't know it then, but it was instrumental to my original weight loss goals when I started out. Gym exercise is a good supplement, but it reveals weaknesses when applied to real world activities. An hour on a stairmaster is tough, but still no match for carrying boxes up or down three flights of stairs when moving house.
What is your experience with gym versus real world activity? Do you notice a difference?
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
I'm embarking on a brand new-to me project: backyard gardening!
I've experimented with patio gardening on my apartment balconies and had decent results, but water management is so touchy in containers, especially in the Georgia mid to late summer heat. Even watering twice a day wasn't enough to keep my plants alive. We had a handful of fresh tomatoes early in the season, which was wonderful when it lasted.
Now that we have a house, I'm trying to move my gardening to a slightly larger container - a raised bed planter! Over the weekend, my husband and I bought planks from Lowe's and built the frame.
The frame concept came from a landscaping book. The PVC piping for the hoops came from the plumbing section at the hardware store. I had to put bird netting over the top because I discovered squirrels digging in my pots! I don't know what they were foraging for, but they were definitely doing exploratory searching. I put my containers safely inside. I'll trim the net to be more neatly fitted after I've finished filling with soil.
The cost ended up not being much different than buying the raised planter kits at the hardware stores, but my box is almost twice as large. The kit was 48"x48"x6" (8 cubic ft) and mine is 60"x36"x12" (15 cubic feet). The deeper depth means I have the option of trying to grow root veggies like carrots, which need a minimum depth of 8" (depending on variety). [Edit: I found a mini variety that only needs 4"! I'll start with this one as a test run to see how it works in actual practice.]
These are all the plants that are going in it:
I call it a 'salsa salad garden' because my plants are all components for salsa or a salad! Bell pepper, jalapeno, 3 different types of tomatoes, lettuce and assorted herbs: cilantro, basil, rosemary, thyme, and sage. Lettuce season is short in Georgia - I will only be able to grow it until about late April/early May. We'll enjoy it while it lasts!
Oh, and there is catnip for the cats!
The taller plants will go in the middle where the largest arch is. Smaller plants will go along the side walls. I'm intrigued by the idea of adding irrigation, but I probably won't do it this year. I want to see how this goes, and how best to implement it.
I bought landscaping fabric to line the bottom of the box. It should allow drainage and keep weeds from growing into it. Yesterday it rained, so it was too wet to attach it to the box. I'll see if it's dry enough today. If I can install the bottom today, then I'll start filling it with soil.
I'm definitely getting exercise with the garden box and yard work. Yesterday I weeded the front and back yard. I've spent my fair share of time in gyms with personal trainers, and I tell you what, I am as sore as any gym workout! Last night I built up a nice appetite, and slept very well. A gym isn't the only place to get fit. Our grandparents were fit, and they never stepped in a gym! If you work your muscles to soreness, then it was good exercise.
Do any of you have raised bed veggie gardens? Any of you garden pros have tips?
Monday, March 11, 2013
Today is one of those days when I look forward to tomorrow for a do-over.
It started off with making a quick breakfast, then heading downtown to pay our car registration. The woman handed me the tag, and as I walked away, I noticed it was for a Chevy with a disabled person classification. My Toyota isn't a Chevy, and I'm not disabled. I took it back for correction.
Over the weekend, my husband and I built a frame for a raised bed garden. I was planning on going to Lowe's to pick up a few items and spend my day prepping the box. We're not quite ready to plant anything in the ground, but it's getting close.
I was stopped at a stoplight less than a mile from my house. There was big *thump* and I gasped in disbelief. I was rear ended. There was absolutely nothing I could have done to avoid it - there was a truck in front of me on a two lane overpass. Fortunately, he didn't hit me too hard. There was minor damage to my bumper...on my brand new car (not a Chevy) that just rolled over 4100 miles today.
The guy was apologetic, but not exactly remorseful. He was trying to make jokes, and I wasn't exactly in the mood. He tried to persuade me to go outside the insurance company - he said he would pay if I got an estimate. I took pictures of our car damage. My bumper was scraped with a small puncture. Much of his bumper was shattered, most likely due to prior damage. That was why my bumper was punctured from a sharp edge. He admitted as much that this has happened before.
Maybe it is just minor bumper damage, but this is a brand new car - I wasn't going to NOT get it fixed. If his insurance rate goes up, it's not my problem. If we went outside the insurance companies, I'd be putting myself at risk of holding the bill. In addition, if I let him pay under the table, I wouldn't have a rental car while repairs were being made. So I called the insurance companies.
By the time of my appointment for the damage inspection, the other driver's insurance company accepted responsibility. I left my car with them to be repaired, and got a rental car.
That was all settled by 4pm - not exactly how I planned to spend my afternoon. I went to fill the gas tank in the rental car and found that the fuel tank cover release button was broken. Good grief. Did I walk under a ladder on a full moon with black cats recently? I figured out how to work around it, but I was exasperated!
When I finally got to Lowe's, I got yelled at by one of the workers who told me that the section was closed off, except there were not any signs indicating that. Thoroughly fed up and at the end of my rope, I told her "I don't care. What I need is right there." I walked up and grabbed it.
I went to the grocery store on the way home and bought a quart of milk and steaks for dinner. When I got home, I discovered that the seal had been broken and there was milk all over the shopping bags.
I'm not drinking milk with a broken seal, so I'll be taking it back tomorrow.
I'm in bed, seriously hoping that I don't get sucked into a black hole or abducted by aliens with the way my day has gone.
Friday, March 08, 2013
Here's the summary of my 'zero waste march' goal. It's not really zero, but I'm finding making a conscious effort to reduce waste to be eye opening.
What we consumed:
- 1lb of brussel sprouts
- 3 heads of romaine lettuce
- 1lb tomatoes
- 1/2 lb carrots
- 1/2 lb celery
- 6 mini cucumbers
- 3 large onions
- 1 head cabbage
- 1 lb steak
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 whole chicken (5lbs)
- 1 lb pork butt
- 1/2 dozen eggs
- 1/2 lb red potatoes
Taking inventory of my fridge, it looks like I'm buying too many vegetables.
Here's what we have left:
1/2 lb tomatoes
6 mini cukes
2 lbs snap peas
1 lb brussel sprouts
6 whole onions
1/2 lb carrots
1/2 lb celery
I don't have a cellar, unfortunately, so the onions will only be good for another week. The remaining cucumbers were turned into pickles. The remaining sprouts will get eaten this weekend most likely.
The immediate concern is I have to do something with the snap peas fast. They have a fairly high sugar content, and won't last much longer. I'll either have to blanch them for freezing, or pickle them. I might do a combo of both.
I'm pleased that we didn't throw away any meat this week. No, wait. There was one little chicken wing that got pushed to the back of the fridge and sat too long. I thought I had this in the bag, so I was mortified when I found it this morning. Darn you, chicken wing.
We had excess meat we purchased, but we sealed and froze what we didn't use.
What we threw out:
- 1 rotten onion (bruised during shipping)
- 1 chicken wing
We also threw out some refuse from removing cabbage or lettuce leaves, but that was expected. I'll feel better about it once we get a composter. Hubs and I are in a slight disagreement over it. He's concerned about bugs and decay, and wants an enclosed system; I want something more open and natural. My main objection to the enclosed system is they are ugly. I don't want a garbage can in my garden. So we're still working on the details. If we had a composter, I would have happily thrown my rotten onion in there, knowing it would be recycled in my garden rather than dying in a landfill over mounds of plastic Coke bottles and Huggies diapers.
Oh there's no guilt like treehugger guilt.
This weekend I'll be busy making plans for the excess veggies. Now that I have a rough inventory of what we use versus what we buy, I'll scale down slightly what we buy for next week.
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