Tuesday, March 15, 2011
For the past couple of weeks I have been on a family visit "outside", as we in Alaska call the rest of the country beyond our state. Determined not to take a vacation from my healthy life, I made sure I exercised every single day. I tried to eat mindfully while enjoying reunions and celebrations, and the result was on the scale when I got home: three pounds lost in two weeks!
Some days I took my exercise in water aerobics classes at a local commercial gym, and the experience was an eye-opener. Only one of the 4 different instructors I experienced had formal training and certification for water exercise. The others seemed to be land aerobics instructors who were shown the pool and told to go lead a water class. The result was that class members seemed to tune out most of what the instructor was doing and use the time for a floating social hour. Some were actually displeased by one (yours truly) who splashed and caused turbulence by following the music and the instruction.
I now understand better the folks who think water aerobics isn't "real" exercise. It doesn't do much for you if you scarcely move or if your instructor doesn't have the knowledge or training to help you work the water without causing injury.
If this is your situation, urge your facility to seek certified water professionals or train their staff to help people use the water safely and well. If you love your water workouts, consider getting certified yourself. Even if you never get up in front of a class, you will make your own time in the water safer and more effective. Sparkmail me if you want names of organizations to contact, and keep on splashing!!!!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
Two years ago (has it been two years already?) when I joined this site, I lost 6 pounds and tracked my exercise. Then the weight loss plateaued and after a brief further effort, I concentrated on the exercise. I continued to eat pretty healthily, but got my kicks from piling up points and streaks and trophies from working out. My weight was incredibly stable, probably more so than any previous time in my life, fluctuating only about a pound up or down. But no more than that.
Then this past holiday season I began to realize that in order to get any further with the fitness, I really needed to get rid of the excess baggage. It would continue to compromise my joints and agility more and more over time. Reluctantly, I evaluated my eating habits and got acquainted with the food tracker. In previous weight loss attempts, the thing I hated the most was the food journal. I felt like there was a taxi meter on my mouth, and every calorie that went in made a little click. That's almost the only thing that was tracked--calories. But a little experience with the Spark tracker showed me what a better system could do. By counting not only calories, but fat, carbs, and protein, and by doing it live on line with a huge data base, you can check the balance of your meals, and see it as a day progresses or over a longer time. I'm still not one of the "every bite that goes in my mouth" trackers--not yet, anyway--but I have found that I don't mind using this form of food diary nearly so much, and I love being able to go to the data base and finding out the answers to questions like "which is a better protein-per-calorie bargain today--hummus or peanut butter?" That, and a resolve to eat less, mindfully, has resulted in a downward trend on the scale.
There's still a long way to go, and I'm sure there will be other plateaus on the way, but I feel like I have found a system that really works for me, one with infinite patience and massive information, and a supportive community. I am excited to find out where I can go with it.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Being a water exerciser in the far north gives a person some special experiences in the winter.
One of them is frozen hair, which I actually enjoy once in a while. When you come out of the pool building with wet hair into single-digit weather, the water in your hair freezes. When you shake your head it doesn't clink like icicles in cartoons, but it does kind of rattle. Don't worry--I don't walk or bike home in this condition! My hair "melts" right away when I get in the car.
Then there's riding around doing errands before you hit the pool. Your (dry) gym gear has been in the trunk of the car for a couple of hours, you take it inside, pull on your bathing suit and------WAHOOOO!!!!!------cheap thrill! I even know a lady who takes a hair dryer to her suit to warm it up before she puts it on.
Then there's the day you forget you've left your bag in the trunk of the car and you realize that you have a frozen balled-up swim suit to wear. You either have to resort to the hair dryer, or fill a sink with warm water, dip it in, melt it, and then slither into a cold, wet suit. Brrrrrrr!
One time, I laid my wet suit out flat in the trunk, and by the time I got home I had a stiff, frozen suitcicle that had to melt before I could hang it up to dry indoors. And on another occasion I forgot about the suit in the back for several days and by the time I got it out it had freeze-dried--stiff when I picked it up, but once I crushed it it was dry and ready to go!
How about it, fellow northerners, what happens to you in the winter? Is anybody a polar bear plunger that jumps into frozen lakes or seas for fun or charity?
Monday, January 10, 2011
It's a brand new year; I'm coming up for my second anniversary on the site in February. Time for a little reflection and re-dedication.
First, the positive. Through the Spark's system of points, streaks, and awards I have really ramped up my fitness efforts and I can feel the difference. I exercised before, and was a water aerobics teacher when I came here, but my workouts consisted almost entirely of teaching classes. The water is still my main exercise location (one has to follow one's bliss, after all!) but I now do other class and solo workouts in addition and find that I no longer have to accept as natural a lot of soreness the day after a workout. I have better endurance than I had before, better agility, more strength. And I think that this improvement has rebounded to improve my teaching. Pre-spark, I would have treated a coming 2 week family visit as a vacation and rest from exercise. Instead, I am furiously planning what I can do there if I can't get to a pool!
Next, the challenge. My BMI is way too high. Has been for a long time, still is, and it bugs me. I lost a few pounds and since then it has seemed like the scale was glued in place. I can eat a lot; I can eat a little, and the numbers budge up or down only a pound or so. In a way, I guess such stability is better than yo-yoing, but is not in my long term best interest. It takes a toll on my joints and my cardiovascular system, a toll that surely will eventually curtail my doing what I love--teaching water exercise. Currently I may demonstrate to my classes that you don't have to be skinny to be strong, but I would love to show them that you can achieve a healthy weight at any age.
To that end, I have been working on my diet since Christmas. Making some small and some large changes: measuring portions, trying to get in my 5-a-day, getting a healthy lunch on the days I teach a noon class, choosing healthy measured snacks. No change on the scale yet after two weeks, but I continue to be stubborn about it, convinced that a long enough streak will pay off. Like the Little Engine That Could that my grandson adores, I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Around this time of year, people's commitment to exercise often wanes to near non-existence. At one of the classes I teach we've developed a scheme to try to counteract this and to give a little extra incentive to folks to keep exercising, keep coming to class, maintain the level of fitness they've worked so long and hard to attain.
It's based on the principle that after 48 hours, the muscle tissue you have built through exercise starts to deteriorate and diminish. Keep exercising and you maintain or build muscle; lay off and muscle starts to go away. Hence the idea of a chain of fitness: each workout builds on the one before and is the basis for the next one.
We manifest this in tangible form by handing out a little plastic link to each participant at each class. As time passes, they hook their links together and have a physical reminder of their commitment to consistency. By Christmas time, many people have a chain long enough to decorate their bathing suits or wear as an (admittedly cheesy) necklace.
You don't have to come to my class to do this for yourself. You may have access to those colorful plastic toddler toy links. Or beads to put on a string. Or shells to line up on the window sill. Or marbles to put in a glass jar. Anything you can add to day by day, workout by workout to demonstrate to yourself how you are building your fitness no matter what holiday meals, cookies, or egg nog come your way.
And think how proud you'll feel in January when those other lazybones are kicking themselves and making resolutions and dragging themselves to the gym/pool/running trail. You're already there!
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