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.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
This morning, when I stepped on the scale and realized that I've lost a total of forty pounds, I was elated. Forty pounds is a lot to lose, yet somehow, here I am. I posted a status update on Facebook along with before and after photos and I am totally overwhelmed by the supportive responses I've received from friends, family, colleagues and acquaintances. My hope is that maybe I can inspire another person to start their personal journey.
I've spent many times on this blog reflecting on the things I did to get here, i.e. diet and exercise strategies. However the biggest challenge has been mental. Staying positive, forgiving myself for minor slip ups and major screwups, and most of all, being patient with the process. We all know what we're supposed to be doing. That little voice inside our minds tells us. But to be successful, we have to quash that harsh inner critic. The one that plays those tape loops filled with negativity, like "you'll never succeed at losing weight," or "you were meant to be a fat person." Who says that our self-talk is always truthful? Why do we believe the bullsh!t that it feeds us? Why, because it gives us an excuse NOT to change and keeps us in our comfort zone.
How was this time different? I shredded my tapes of negative self-talk one food choice and one workout at a time. Suddenly, the evidence that I COULD be thinner and healthier silenced my inner critic and I started to believe. After that, it was a matter of being consistent, working my plan and planning my work.
Like the absolutely inspiring Nike commercial that premiered during the Olympics (a must see--the link is below), it's a matter of finding your greatness.
Onward and downward.
Monday, July 30, 2012
In August, I'm finally going to take the plunge and invest in a few sessions with a personal trainer. I've been exercising consistently since January and although I try to mix it up on my own, I am not sure if my workouts are as efficient as they could be. I put together my current exercise regimen using an assortment of books and magazine articles. Although it's been okay so far, I know that I will need to kick it up a notch to avoid another plateau. Since I work for a non-profit organization, investing in a personal trainer is a huge commitment because I am on a tight budget. Although I can't afford a trainer 3x a week, I can afford twice a month for about 90 days, so I'm going with that.
I have a total of 28 pounds to lose before I hit my goal weight. I believe that investing in a personal trainer will help me stay motivated to see this through. Today, I met with them to fill out forms, discuss my medical history and my training/weight loss goals. I've never worked with a trainer before so I'm looking forward to the experience.
Onward and downward.
Sunday, July 29, 2012
I have written ad nauseum about how hard it is for me to stay motivated for the long haul. I am constantly tweaking my routine to keep it fresh. Still, for me, it's a daily struggle. Some days I just don't "feel" like doing much of anything. One day, it occurred to me that it makes no sense to wait until I "feel" like eating healthier foods or exercising. Do I skip brushing my teeth because I don't "feel" like it? Once I realized that dropping weight is about routine habits and not some magical mystery tour, I just settled into doing what I'm supposed to do.
Today, I just want to stay on the couch, watch the Olympics and not do anything. Rather than beat myself up about it, I asked myself, 'what CAN you do today to get closer to your goal?' I decided to try a new recipe and prepare the food I need to eat for next week. When it's 105 degrees outside, you don't want to do much cooking, so I settled on a recipe that didn't require turning on the oven.
One recipe I tried was a black bean, corn and quinoa salad, which was really delicious. I also bought fresh fruit, cut it up and stored in the freezer for my morning smoothies. In the midst of preparing my foods, I found my motivation picking up a bit. True, I didn't get a workout in today, but I did go to a one-hour zumba class yesterday and worked out most days last week.
One other thing I did to stay motivated was to take more pictures. I compared my new photos to a few I took in May, and there's a clear difference. I'm just smaller all over. The most noticeable change is that my face is thinner and the ring of fat around my neck is almost gone. I've even got collar bones again.
The important lesson I've learned? There is always, something--SOMETHING out there that I can focus on to stay on track. It might not get me back to the rah-rah motivation I felt when I started out in January, but it helps me feel good about what I'm doing.
Onward and Downward.
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