Wednesday, August 08, 2012
I work out at a community center in a suburb of Kansas City. While I'm there, I enjoy people watching because the membership is so diverse. The indoor track overlooks the gymnasium and goes around the pool, weight and cardio machine areas, making it easy to observe what other people are doing. Randomly listed below are a few of the more interesting scenarios I've observed during my workouts.
1. An Asian couple teaching their young child to play badminton.
2. A woman in full hajib attire going down the slipper slide in the swimming pool.
3. A dozen high school aged black boys shooting hoops while their girlfriends look on.
4. An attendant walking on the indoor track alongside a young man who appeared to have suffered from a stroke.
5. A group of 10 year old boys dunking a basketball into a lowered rim on one side of the court.
6. A slender, fit, woman appearing to be in her late 70s and wearing a turban, sprinting down the track and, later on, lifting weights.
7. A blond man built like an Adonis working out with dumbells and unintentionally distracting half the women in the gym.
8. An old man in street clothes on a leg extension machine.
9. A 225 pound teenager chewing gum, talking on her cell phone (yech) and pedaling slowly on a recumbent bike.
10. A slender man sprinting like a deer around the track.
11. An east Indian couple opting to walk indoors in their street clothes because it's 107 degrees outside. She is wearing traditional attire and has a long, black ponytail.
12. A slender 16 year old girl working out with her 400 pound mother.
13. A 30 something man with a large hairy chest, big huge biceps and skinny chicken legs doing hammer curls.
14. A 4'6" elderly Asian woman walking around the track with a towel wrapped around her neck.
15. A group of Latino children playing under the wading pool's "waterfall".
16. A middle aged Caucasian man wandering through the weight area carrying on a conversation via bluetooth, except I couldn't see the bluetooth.
17. A 5'10" 120 pound Caucasian "woman" with a prominent nose, Adam's apple (?), and glasses working out with weights alongside a personal trainer.
18. A 5'7" 100 pound anorexic-looking Caucasian woman pedaling furiously in a spinning class.
19. A Somali woman wearing a hajib standing alongside her 12 year old daughter while she works out on an abdominal machine.
20. A young, special needs woman with cute blond pigtails and a big belly, repeatedly doing a basic step on a bench. Her t-shirt is tucked into a pair of black sweatpants that are hiked clear up to her chest. When people walk past her, she smiles and says "hi."
21. A man in a wheel chair using a handpedal stationary cycle to get his workout in.
Seeing the folks from all ages, races, ethnicities and walks of life keeps the gym scene interesting.
Tuesday, August 07, 2012
This morning when I got dressed, I pulled a pair of size 14 pants out of the closet and put them on. I was surprised to discover that they are starting to get baggy!
These pants are supposed to be part of my "thinner" wardrobe. When I restarted SP in January, most of my clothes were size 16W, 18, 1x or 2x. I relegated my size 14s and 16s to the back of the closet. Then, around April or May, I had to put my 16W's and 18s away and wear my 14s and 16s. Then my 16s got baggy and I had to go shopping.
Now, the size 14 pants that have been a part of my wardrobe for at least 5 years are starting to sag. Oh, I can still wear them but the only thing keeping me in them is my waist. Once the waist band sags to my hipbone, they'll have to go.
I have not weighed less than what I weigh now in more than seven years. Still, I'm 11 pounds heavier than what I weighed at my high school reunion 9 years ago. Soooo.... here we go.
Onward and downward.
Monday, August 06, 2012
Tomorrow, I am visiting my doctor's office to get my fasting blood sugar and my A1C level tested. For the uninitiated, these are the tests doctors use to diagnose diabetes or monitor pre-diabetes. In January, I learned I was pre-diabetic. My fasting blood glucose was 100 and my A1C measured 6.1. Doctors diagnose diabetics when the A1C measures 6.5. In April, after being back on SP for three months, I got my A1C retested. It had risen from 6.1 to 6.2.
Not coincidentally, April was when I started to get serious about exercise. Before April, my exercise regimen consisted of pedaling on my stationary cycle for 10-15 minutes three or four times a week. I would also take a half hour walk once or twice a week. Not bad for someone who had been inactive, but apparently it was not enough to decrease my A1C level.
I incorporated strength training into my exercise regimen. I started lifting weights twice a week. I increased my cardio to 30-45 minutes 4-5x a week. This is the workout I did 95% of the time between April and July. I also started making smoothies in the morning, which increased my fruit, vegetable and Omega 3 intake. Hopefully, these changes have been enough to decrease my A1C level.
Still, I won't know until later in the week how my body has responded to the improved diet and increase in exercise. I am hopeful that since I've dropped more than 20 pounds since April that my levels have decreased. Right now, I am not on any prescription medication for pre-diabetes, but if my A1C level hasn't changed with diet and exercise, I'll probably end up on some sort of medication. Yech.
Regardless of the results, I know that I have to continue improving my diet and to exercise at least 150 minutes a week.
Onward and downward.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
I have never been particularly athletic, although I wanted to be as a child. I was never the fastest runner, the best kickball player or the best softball player. I never played organized basketball because dribbling while running for me was the equivalent of patting my head and rubbing my stomach. Tennis, soccer, golf, volleyball, track, flag football, whiffle ball, dodge ball, swimming--I tried my hand at lots of different activities growing up and never found one that ignited my passion. Instead these activities made me feel slow, clumsy and uncoordinated. I am also not a particularly good dancer--just ask my family. I dance like Bill Cosby, lol. I'm sure it's all related.
So when the personal trainer challenged me to push myself more in my workouts it brought back all these childhood memories of athletic mediocrity or failure. It seems as though one of the reasons why I haven't consistently exercised is that i never found a sport that I was any good at. I envy the athletes who have devoted their lives pursuing excellence in a sport they are passionate about.
My experience on my track team in middle school sums it up. I joined, because at 5'7" and 135 pounds, I considered myself overweight and my family agreed. At age 14, I was expected to weigh about 118 to 121. Most of my friends were 5'3" and weighed 115. Next to them, I felt like a horse. Since I was not a fast runner, I worked out with the team but did not compete as a runner at city meets. I only had three events, the standing long jump, the running long jump and the shot put, since I was such a big girl.
I distinctly remember two meets. At one, I took 3rd place in the standing long jump competition. That was my proudest moment. At another, I competed in shot put and realized when my competitors showed up, that maybe I wasn't as big as I thought. These girls were 5'10 and weighed over 200 pounds. My shot put career started and ended in one day.
In the meantime, my friends were running 220's and 440's. I could barely sprint 100 yards. Compared to their activities, I might as well have been standing still. Despite my experience at the track meet, I felt totally inadequate and like I didn't belong on the team. When I graduated middle school and started high school, I did not sign up for any sports. That was when I started to gain weight.
Now, in my 40s, I'm confronted with this image I have of myself as a non-athlete. The personal trainer seemed to believe that I'm capable of much more than I'm doing. I have my gym rat routine, but I'm wondering what would happen if I revisited some of the sports I abandoned in my youth? Like if I signed up to play volleyball in a league or joined a softball team for middle aged farts like me? Maybe it won't matter anymore that I'm not a particularly good athlete. With that expectation lifted, maybe I'll discover a sport that I enjoy.
Onward and downward.
Saturday, August 04, 2012
Right now, as I type I am tired and my muscles ache but I'm not in pain. It's a good kind of tired, really. The kind you feel after hard, manual labor. Except for me, its because this morning I worked out with a personal trainer. Because I'm on a budget, I can only afford four sessions, which I've decided to do every other week. Since I pre-paid these sessions at my gym, any future sessions I purchase I can get at a discount.
When I met my trainer, I liked her immediately. She appeared fit and had a calm, pleasant yet professional demeanor. For the first 20 minutes she assessed my fitness level, weighed me, took my measurements with a tape measure and calculated my BMI and body fat level with some sort of small, portable device that scanned my body as I gripped it. As part of the fitness test, I had to sit down, stretch my legs on the floor in front of me and put the soles of my feet against a box with a slide rule contraption on top. Then, I had to lean in and push the bar on top of the ruler as far forward as I could manage. The results would reveal how far I can stretch. If it's possible to fail such a test, I did. She advised me to stretch more after working out.
For the cardiovascular assessment, I had to do a basic step on a step aerobics bench with two sets of risers underneath for three minutes. Once I finished, she took my pulse and then retook it after 30 seconds. Then, I had to do as many women's push ups as I could muster. I made it to 21 before I collapsed. I also had to do as many crunches as possible in one minute.
Following these assessments, she summarized my results. In a nutshell, my cardiovascular conditioning is excellent compared to other women in my age group. I also have excellent upper body strength. I need much more work on my stretching and my abdominal muscles are weak. I am "slightly overweight" with a BMI over 25 but under 30 and my body fat level is 36.6% which is above average for a woman my age. My goal to lose another 20 pounds is appropriate.
Next, we stepped into the free weights area. She handed me a 12 pound bar and made me "step up" with my left foot onto a step aerobics bench with two risers underneath and balance my body by putting my right toe against the back of the bench. After I balanced, I had to do a reverse tricep curl with the bar and then military press it overhead before lowering it. After I lowered the bar, then I could step off of the bench. This was a difficult exercise to do, because I had problems staying balanced with only one foot on the bench.
I had to do three sets of 10 steps switching between my left foot and my right foot. In between sets, I had to do 30 second intervals of ski-jumps. After we finished all of that, I did squats while leaning against a stability ball placed against a wall.
She also tweaked my gym rat workout. Instead of doing full-body work with weights twice a week, I will now train with weights on the same days I do my cardio, but focus on specific body parts. She also cut my cardio from 45 minutes to 30, suggesting I increase the intensity with intervals on the treadmill, elliptical and on the indoor track. In a nutshell, I need to alternate jogging with running like I stole something. By adjusting my regimen, I should be able to get everything done in 45 minutes to an hour. If I can get to the gym 4x a week, plus a workout or two outdoors, I will be working out at the level I will need to avoid plateauing.
Overall, I was pleased with the appointment and I learned more about how I need to be spending my time during my workouts. I also liked her demeanor. She did not have a drill sargent personality, but she still pushed me. If I was not using proper form, she was quick to point out adjustments I needed to make. She also was not touchy-feely. I don't like strangers touching me and I was concerned about that before the appointment.
I am going to break out some paper and a pen and makeover my workout regimen using the information she gave me. I am glad I invested the money. I've learned quite a bit today and I still have three more appointments.
Onward and downward.
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