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Carrots, Not Spurs: the Importance of Mini Goals and Rewards

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

I posted yesterday about struggling to balance my life (school, family, friends, domestic responsibilities) with a regular, MWF work out routine, and stressing when I couldn't get them to mesh. I even posted on one of the message boards asking how essential it was to work out consistently--is it the dire if I miss a day or push the routine back a day or something, or just a minor set back?

This morning, I read a spark article about the importance of rewards as motivators. The article talked about how a lot of us motivate ourselves in negative ways--by criticizing ourselves if we mess up, or feeling guilty if we skip a work out day or go over our calorie limit. The article said that this is not a good long term solution because we'll just end up frustrated and discouraged; instead we should focus on what we DO accomplish, and reward ourselves for the mini-mile stones. If we reward ourselves for our small victories, we'll be more likely to make the big ones. And, as I wrote earlier, small victories are important.

And I realized that I had been focusing on the negative--stressing out because I wasn't able to focus on the rigid MWF schedule and discouraged because, realistically, life isn't always going to cooperate with my routine. And I realized that what I need to do is focus on the positive. So what if I'm not able to work out this Friday (or at least am not willing to get by on 3 hours of sleep and wake up at 3 am to do so). I mean, yes it would be better if I could make it work (AND get sleep) but that's not going to happen. Instead I need to focus on getting back on the wagon on Monday, and reward myself when I do things right.

So now I need to brainstorm so mini-goals and rewards to go with them.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SAASHA17 4/29/2009 1:08PM

    I did just that!! i didnt workout monday and tuesday..i was frustrated but it made it worse so i pulled myself together and went to workout today and i feel better...gud going!!i am glad u did that!!
Take care

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Help! Balancing Fitness with Life

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I'm having a hard time balancing the Sparks exercise program with the rest of my life. Actually, it's not really sparks' fault--I have been struggling with this issue since I stepped up my exercise regimen back in February, when I went from my more informal--and much more flexible--program of trying to get a little exercise every week to trying a more formal program.

I did a lot of research (my way of approaching any problem) and then tried to design a program that was both effective and balanced. It also includes not only warm ups, strengthening exercises, aerobics of some kind, and stretches, but also my physical therapy exercises. I'm told that consistency is important and that you should allow a day between anaerobic exercises to give your muscles time to recover. So once I had a plan in place I've tried hard to implement it every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and if I worked out between those dates I tended to chose aerobics and stretches. Sounds good, right?

The problem is time--realistically, it eats at least 2 and a half hours out of my day if you include everything, and sometimes it feels like a lot more than that. And while some days that's doable, some days it's really, really hard to find that time. Some days it feels like instead of exercising so that I can better enjoy my life, it has become my life. How do I balance that?

The problem is aggravated by the fact that I'm about to start moving and so routine is pretty much thrown out the window. Take Friday, for example. I'm supposed to get both aerobic and anaerobic exercise on Friday. But Friday morning I need to leave here no later than 8 am in order to make the meeting to sign our new lease, and once that's done we're going to paint all day. Once the painting is done, we're meeting with a friend to go to a book signing. I will have things I need to arrange before I get up that morning to leave, so even without exercise I'll have to be up at least by 6 am if not earlier, and I'm not going to stop moving until probably 11 pm. Dedication is all well and good but I draw the line at getting up at 3:30 in the morning so that I can work out. Nor can I just push my work out onto Saturday, as I've been known to do in the past, because the entire weekend is absolutely booked already. To be honest, I'm not sure I'll even manage to get any exercise tomorrow, either, or at least not anaerobic. I can at least go for a walk or something, even though we don't live in a very pedestrian friendly area, but there's very little space at the moment because of all the boxes. There's barely room to walk at the moment.

Now, moving is not a normal situation--I haven't moved for years and I don't plan to move for at least a few more years. So maybe it's no big deal if my routine falls apart and I miss some days in the next month as we work on the new place, box everything up, move it, and then unpack. But my life is pretty chaotic even on a normal basis, and it's not that uncommon that I just don't have time or space to work out. When is it okay to make exceptions? When do exceptions become the norm? How do I balance this?

I know that one common bit of advice is that you incorporate exercise into your life--taking stairs, for example. But I've done that for years. Back before I damaged my hip, that was enough; I didn't think about thinks like weight training or getting in at least 20 minutes of aerobics. I was also younger then, and more fit. But now that doesn't seem to be helping by itself, which is why I started more serious, formal exercises in the first place. But while I know it's important to find time, I also don't want it to take over my life, overwhelming everything else.

Maybe it will be easier at the new place. It's a great place to walk, ride your bike, or roller blade, and there are tennis courts (yay!) and swimming pools nearby. There's also a small fitness center near by--it's not very big but it has the basics, which is all I need for now. All of this is very conveniently located, which hopefully will make it over all much easier to get into and stay in shape.

But in the meantime, I'm really struggling at balancing exercise with everything else--time with friends and family, my school work, housework, and so forth. How vital is consistency? Will I eventually learn how to strike a balance between the two? I'm just starting to feel like I'm making some progress; I don't want to lose that as we start moving. But I also don't want my life to take a back seat to working out.


Small Victory

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today I met a mini-goal of mine, one that isn't officially recorded anywhere on this website. I've been working out with the Wii Fit since February (another one of my doctor's suggestions, heh), and while I know for example that the calories burned per hour are lower than sparks estimates that I should be burning (150 for a half hour, not the 217 I'm supposed to be burning) it's quite a workout for me. I know I'm badly out of shape, which is made worse by the fact that I have exercise induced asthma.

So one of the goals I've had in my head is to be able to run the whole island lap--without an asthma attack (which is what happened the first time I tried to run it, about a month ago).

Today I had worked through a variation on my normal aerobic workout and was feeling pretty good, so I decided to give the island run a try. I had already done about 20 minutes of aerobic exercises, so I wasn't exactly fresh, but I completed it--and while my pace wasn't particularly fast, it was at least steady. I scored 202%!

And no asthma!


It's a small victory, but in some ways the small ones are the most important kind.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

RUBYSNANA 4/27/2009 6:17PM

    Good for you! emoticon emoticon

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Bad hip

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Seven years ago this fall, I screwed my hip up. I had gone to a 2 week camping event where I had done a lot of walking in a very hilly area, usually carrying a heavy basket or other items. Then I went on my honeymoon, where we continued to do a lot of walking, also in a very hilly region.

Unfortunately, all that walking injured my hip. The university I go to has a large campus, so once the semester started I was still doing a fair amount of walking, and it started to really bother me. So I went to the doctor and after getting it checked out, I was told that I had bursitis. He was really surprised actually that I got it from walking; he said usually he saw bursitis in the hip in football players, especially early in the season, if they don't warm up properly. I certainly wasn't playing football. I had just done a lot of walking up and down steep hills. I was given an anti-inflammatory and told that I needed to let the joint rest and to use ice.

I took the medication and I used the ice, but it's really hard to rest your hip joint--especially when you are going to a university where you have to walk a minimum of 15 minutes to get from where you parked to where ever you wanted to go. I cut back as best I could--no more recreational walking, dancing, etc. The hip got a little better--it still hurt to move but at least I could move it again--but it didn't heal entirely.

After awhile I went back to the doctor and was given another anti-inflammatory, told again to use ice, and was told that I needed to start using the joint to get it back into shape. He suggested walking until it hurt--which wasn't horribly helpful since it always hurt, even if I was just sitting on the couch, so he said walk as long as I could. He also suggested swimming because it's a good way to exercise without putting weight on the bad joint.

I started walking--at first I could only walk about 15 minutes before I had to stop--and going to the pool 3 times a week during the summer. I was terribly out of shape. I had never been athletic, but I had been pretty active before my hip problems prevented me from doing a lot of the things I used to do, and I had lost a lot of muscle. At first I could barely swim at all, so I would swim as much as I could and then just walk the pool from end to end. By the end of the summer, I could at least swim and walk farther, even though it continued to hurt. I continued to walk regularly and swim when I could (I only have access to a pool about 3 months out of the year) and progress was painfully slow but after several years I could walk a pretty good distance before my hip acted up. Last spring a friend of mine and I went on a fairly long hike. I definitely overdid it and was badly limping by the end, but a few years before I wouldn't have been able to do a tenth of that. But my hip still hurt pretty much all the time, even with medication and ice.

So I went back to the doctor again and was given more medications, told to ice the joint, and was given some stretches and exercises that are supposed to help it. Apparently, if your hamstrings and the rest of the muscles in the back of your legs and butt are tight, so that you can't touch your toes, this causes strain on the hip and can result in hip problems. I've never been able to touch my toes, even as a small child, although I've always been reasonably flexible in other areas, so it never occurred to me that this was a problem. Since then, I have been trying to regularly do both the stretches and the exercises. I haven't seen much improvement so far, but it has only been a couple of months. Hopefully if I can keep it up eventually my hip will get better--and stay that way.


Water and Other Musings

Monday, April 20, 2009

Everyone has been really friendly since I logged on here! Thank you. I'm not sure how to respond to comments or what the protocol is here, but it's great that people have been so friendly.

I had to reset my goals because I messed up when I first registered and the only way to fix it was to reset them. I think as a result it shows me registering from some groups and things twice--sorry about that.

I read through a discussion on drinking 8 glasses of water on Saturday, which was interesting. I knew that most Americans don't drink enough water. I knew that people can lose weight just by drinking the recommended amount of water (though I'm not exactly sure why; something to do with water retention?) and that the body needs water for basic functions, including removing toxins and waste products from the body. When the body doesn't have enough water, it rations it, which keeps the body functioning but not as efficiently. I also knew that it was possible to drink too much water, and I was glad to see that people were cautioning others not to drink too much--it can cause kidney damage, and even death.

I tried to figure out a few years ago how much was "enough" versus "too much" and there's not really an easy way to determine that. Certainly spark's 8 glasses a day is within the recommended guidelines, so that's a good starting point. Beyond that, though, it depends on a number of factors, such as how big you are, how active you are, how hot it is, etc. I found personally that I am more likely to dehydrate in the winter. In the summer, I feel hot and so am pretty good about remembering to drink fluids--especially caffeine-free beverages such as juice or water--but in the winter I don't think about it. While the winter is pretty cold (at least here in Michigan!) the air is very dry, so you lose a lot of water just by breathing. So I guess I should drink at least 8 cups a day, and if I work out, or it's really hot out, or whatever, drink more, and be aware of how my body feels.

I wish I liked water better. I really don't like the way it tastes, so even though I know I should I don't drink enough of it. I don't like the taste of bottled water (and it's very expensive!), but tap water with chlorine and minerals like iron and magnesium tastes even worse. About two years ago, we got a Brita filter and that really helped a lot. Last year, I started adding a bit of POM pomegranate juice to the water--just a splash, really, to give it flavor, and that helped a lot as well. A friend of mine introduced me to the concept of chopping a whole lemon into a pitcher of water, which is especially refreshing in the summer. This summer, I also want to try ice tea--I never used to like it because it was too bitter or too sweet (though I do like hot tea) but I have found that green and herbal teas that make a non-bitter, unsweetened ice tea. I don't know if that counts as drinking water, though, especially since green tea does have some caffeine.

It would be lovely if tea--hot or iced--could count toward your water intake, especially since I drink a lot of caffeinated soft drinks and need to get the caffeine somehow (I know cutting caffeine would be better for my health, but this is not a good point to do so). I can't drink coffee and I can't stand diet soft drinks, but I love tea--black tea, herbal teas, green tea....


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