1,000-2,499 SparkPoints 2,435

Some thoughts while on the elliptical

Sunday, April 22, 2012

First off, the elliptical.

I remember the first time I set foot on one. I asked one of the gym employees to show me how to get started. I wasn't even sure if it was going to work for me because of knees and ankles, but figured I would give it a try as a means of not impacting my foot.

I did this at the end of an evening's workout, so I was already running low on energy. I lasted all of five minutes on a cardio program that did nothing more than up the resistance to get my heartrate to the right range. And man was it up to that 142 with just the slightest amount of resistance. Then it did a 3 minute cooldown that made me laugh inside because my heart would not drop below about 128.

(For reference: I am 43 so my max heart rate is 220-43=177. Target Heart Rate range of 65% to 85% comes to 115 to 150. I think most of the machines use 80% which is 141.6 or 142.)

I tried again a couple times that week and was sooo proud when I managed to keep going for a whole 12 minutes plus the 3 minutes cooldown, though I was still having trouble going easy and slow enough "cooling down" for it to not still be a workout.

Some bit back I'd swapped from the elliptical that is just one height to one that adjusts incline. Part of the reason for that was because of the way my feet would start going to sleep within 15 minutes on the "flat" version. I laced my shoes looser, move my feet more, and swapped to the machine with incline - and the combination helped.

This machine has various programs for varying the incline through the workout and does a 5 minute cooldown. I got into the habit of doing 15 minutes plus 5 minutes cooldown after my weight training, having done 30 minutes on the recumbent bike before.

In the last few weeks I've been pushing myself more on both the recumbent bike and the elliptical. I've gone as long as 50 or 55 minutes (including the cooldown) on the elliptical. I started bumping up the resistance from 1 to 3 then 4. I swapped from a hill program that was milder (went between 1 and 16 inclines) to one that has a "big" hill topping out at incline of 20. I've gone from 110 strides per minute to mostly holding 120 strides consistently to pushing for stretches of 130 strides per minute and/or doing some arm moves for added cardio work.

It's hard to believe stepping on today and doing a 10 minute warmup (did the lower hill program and skipped the cooldown), stretching my calves, then doing a 40 minute program of the big hill at resistance of 5, keeping at 130 strides per minute for at least 3/4 of that, then 5 minutes of cooldown during which my heart rate quickly got down to 112, how far I've come.

I don't do this to burn more calories, even if that is an effect. I don't do this so I can eat more. I don't do this so the pounds will melt off faster.

No, I do this because it shows me just how capable my body is. I do it because it makes my legs and glutes feel strong and able. I do it because I can set tiny goals for how to up the workout the next time and do it. I ~LOVE~ the mental high from exceeding my own past ability.


Now, a funny thing today happened while I was doing my elliptical time. Two girls came out from another area. One got on a treadmill and was sort of slowly increasing the walking speed. The other hung around a little then got on an elliptical but was going about as slow as one could go. At this point one of the personal trainers came out of where they'd been and made the one on the elliptical get on another treadmill.

Best I could tell, this was part of their session with him. He was trying to get them both to go a decent speed on the treadmill. (And I don't mean full out running. I mean that they were both walking well under 4 mph and from what he was saying, he wanted them running or jogging.)

At least one was complaining (even if in fun) and turning the speed back down every time he'd reach over to speed it up.

I had to really shake my head and laugh inside. Some people will pay serious money to have a trainer push them. (And, really? I've seen this guy with another group of four girls who work - he pushes just as hard as they need - varying it by their ability. But he does push.) If I was spending that money, I would NOT be complaining or saying I couldn't do something. I'd be at least putting my all into doing it and letting my body limit me rather than my mind.

Me? I won't pay a trainer because I'm regularly pushing myself. Not on my rest days like yesterday, but the rest of my days are about seeing if I can do more. I don't want to be pushed to the edge of my ability, but I'm not about to lighten up and take it easy on myself either. What I do want is to be always pushing to expand my comfort zone. If I'm comfortable, I'm not pushing myself enough.


This last is some thoughts that went rambling through my head while working on the elliptical after those girls and another pair he worked with.

I am not the sort to be suicidal. At all. Something dreadful could happen to my children, all of my family and extended family, my best friend, even to me, and I would absorb it and find a way to live with it and survive for me.

At the same time, I am the sort who does not want to live to be 100 unless I'm able to live an active and independent life. Something I've heard about in primitive cultures was the elderly beyond a certain point choosing a time to walk away, to stop being a burden on their village / people. That has a strong appeal to me. When this body is almost done, I don't feel vitally driven to keep it going longer.

Where is this going? Well, the main windows of the gym I go to face this wide walkway between two main streets in downtown, a theater being directly opposite. There is a LOT of foot traffic through there. The University is only about 6 blocks over, a main park and the convention center are a few blocks in other directions. The primary transit lines and transfer points are on either side of this walkway. So I see many people in all sorts of levels of fitness and health.

One fellow I've seen a few times now is missing much of his forearms and hands or they're small up near the elbow. I'm not close enough to know for sure, but it looks more like something he was born with. He doesn't hide his arms. He manages to carry what he needs. He looks healthy and fit. I see him and think what life might have been like born that way. I do this with many people who go past.

Never once, I realized, did I think that it would be miserable to live like that. Instead I was imagining the challenges involved.

So that sent my thoughts on what some might consider a morbid turn.

One of my unmentioned goals to finally get done this year is a Will, a DNR (do not resuscitate) order, and so on. My kids already know the basics - any organ donation possible, cremate what's left, ash disposal up to them. (I'm not at all concerned about what happens to the body once I've moved on.) But formalizing it is always a good idea.

The DNR order is one of those trickier ones. At what point of body damage would I want efforts to keep me alive to cease? Because, yes, I have a strong will to live. I can see myself in a wheelchair, paraplegic, and fighting to keep doing as much "normally" in my life as I can. I can't see myself happy as a quadriplegic with little control of anything but my head, driving my wheelchair with a joystick I manipulate with my head or mouth. I feel a very real horror at the thought.


Activity. The ONLY activity I'd be capable of would be mental. I may love reading and learning, but the idea of being unable to do any more than drive around on a sunny day just makes me cringe.

I'm not athletic. I'm not interested in being a runner or a bodybuilder or a fitness trainer. But I am and always have been active. Even when I made myself essentially a shut-in for a few years, I still walked to and from work, walked to the grocery store, went for late night walks for any number of reasons, went hiking when I had my car.

I love physical activity. I love the body in motion. It's a perfect balance to the constant mental activity going on. I cannot imagine losing that. I read about those with mobility issues or injuries, and I'm immediately trying to think of ways to remain active in spite of those. There are numerous Sparkers whom I respect immensely for the amount of fight they put up to be active, whether it's against pain or injury or illness or other form of disability.

So, really, as long as I have a body willing to move, and a mind and body capable of moving it, I'm going to be active. I'm going to make the time. I'm going to create the space.

I'm going to move it, move it, shake it, shake it.
Madagascar version:

Original version:
Share This Post With Others
Member Comments About This Blog Post
    What a beautiful post! You are a true inspiration and am very proud on how far you've come along. As long as you keep moving forward and giving it your all each time, that's what matters. You don't need a trainer or hours in the gym for progress.
    2241 days ago
    Very nice post to read! I am my own trainer too, and a mean one at that. I see trainers at my gym; they don't seem to push their clients much. If they did, they might not have anyone left to train I guess. I can't believe how lazy the routines are week after week. At my gym most people read magazines or even ebooks (I would throw up or drop things because the machines shake so much when I am using them) and leaning on the handlebars is not uncommon. From my experience, I would advise them that it is better to do a shorter time in good form rather than plod along for 30 minutes or more while leaning. Just my opinion.
    2243 days ago
    I love your approach to the elliptical! I can relate to not wanting to pay a trainer to push you...I push myself too. I am fiercely competitive with myself. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, you inspire me!
    2245 days ago
  • SASSY5468
    You are amazing and I love reading about your challenges for yourself. It's such an inspiration!
    2246 days ago
    I am trying to do like you, and keep it MOVING!!!
    2246 days ago
    I am impressed with your ability to constantly challenge yourself. You've done so much and come so far, I have no doubt you will succeed in anything you set your mind to! I am not one who can do that with any level of consistency, and I recognize the need to do that. I tend to push myself when I have someone next to me. They don't have to say anything, or do anything. I will just automatically push myself at that point to go just a little bit further, a little bit faster. I do it with work, I do with exercise, with anything really.

    2246 days ago
  • LGAR519
    I woild fall flat on my face if I thought as much as you while exercising .LOL. Hubby and I have discussed our final wishes but have nothing in writing. My Mom is a DNR. She is 94 and has many health problems. She made the decision herself.
    2246 days ago
    First off: Congrats on how far you've come on the elliptical!! Inspiring! And I love hearing how you push yourself.

    Will - I totally agree on the diposal of my remains. I want to be cremated as well, but I really don't care where I end up. That pile of ashes wont' be me. I've told loved ones before that if I didn't get cremated, I'd want to be buried as 'naturally' as possible. This thought of burying bodies in a way that insects can't get to them, etc., seems silly to me. Give back, darn it! LOL

    DNR - my dad signed one when we all knew he was getting to the end of his life. I was there when the ambulance arrived after he'd taken his last breath (to this day, I swear he willed himself to die as we heard the ambulance in the distance- he swore he'd never go to the hospital or a doctor- he didn't). I gave the ambulance personnel the DNR and watched as they called the hospital and were given the okay to honor it. Just knowing those were my Dad's wishes made that decision easier and one that I have no regrets about. (He had liver damage, emphasyma, and pancreatic cancer).

    Great blog!
    2246 days ago
  • -SONIA-
    I'm just learning how to be connected with my body, and it's a nice feeling. It's strange to think of all the years I just ignored it altogether...

    You have a great, healthy focus and attitude! As always!! emoticon emoticon
    2246 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/23/2012 8:58:27 AM
  • PATIB13
    Good job on conquering the thing goes through my head...WOW I don't know if I do as much thinking as you do while exercising. I am impressed.... but good for you for thinking about what needs to be done and how you want it taken care of. I am nut sure how I feel about that for myself, some days a DNR sounds like the way to go, so that my family doesn't have to suffer through a long ordeal then other days I think what if that cuts down my chance to live. So many thoughts maybe I need to get on an elliptical and think on it :)
    2246 days ago
    Funny, I remember when 15 minutes on the elliptical was tough--and now an hour is the usual routine. I think I have both gotten stronger and my body has adjusted--which probably means it's time to change it up a bit.

    I see other people with trainers too (I don't have one) and most of the time you're right--I already push myself to that same degree. emoticon
    2246 days ago
    I do the elliptical as well. I had a trainer when I joined you got two free training days when you joined. Then you could add more. I signed up for one month for 2 times a week to get me motivated and set up with several programs. I don’t use one any more but he still checks in and sees how I am doing and encourages me when I come to work out.
    At my first visit he had me try the tread mill . I told him how i felt using the tread mill he agreed
    I was safer using the Elliptical. ( on the tread mill I felt like I would fly off the back of the tread mill.) The elliptical’s in the gym I go to can be set at different inclines and resistance settings. My goal is to do the Pikes Peak setting just because its some place I have visited. I picture my self riding in the car as we drove to the top of the mountain and walking around once we got to the top. emoticon I don’t think like you do as work out you really get into thinking as you workout. ME I make a I make a mental shopping list work on a to do list of things to get done after the work out. The gym I go use windows face a busy street so I will some time count how many red or what ever color I think will be fun to count. Thank you for the comments on my blog its always fun to hear from you and get your in put. Have a great Monday and keep Sparking.
    2246 days ago

    Comment edited on: 4/22/2012 11:06:24 PM
    You know, I've had invisible barriers that really classify as disabilities - depression, coeliac etc, but helping myself to get over those things I really do require my body to move it, move it!! What a difference that makes to my body!!!

    Really I think the very worst possible disability to me is to be living in an unresponsive shell, but having an active brain ticking away, unable to communicate. That gives me shivers.

    I have to keep it together and get healthy for one simple reason: I'm a carer (and a mother) and I have 6 other people relying on me for everything, and if I wasn't here - OMG - who would look after them? I don't trust the government, I can't trust my in-laws (we are in fact estranged from them) and my parents are getting past their use-by-date with their growing health issues and old age. I am the youngest of 7 children and my parents are about 15 years older than my peers. They aren't physically capable. So I have to get fit/healthy just to make sure I'm there for them - and that keeps me motivated like nothing else.

    Thanks for sharing - I understand you wanting a DNR order. I hope we don't find ourselves in that situation!
    2246 days ago
    I'm very impressed with how far you have come. You have that elliptical whipped into shape! Great attitude and I like how you push yourself competing only with yourself. I also try and do that and need to work on challenging myself more. Thanks for sharing and Spark on!
    2246 days ago
  • MICHELLE_391
    Lovely show of respect to the human body! You sure DO get a lot of thinking done while working out. Does this mean you don't listen to music? I think that would be a huge step for me - working out without audible stimulation.

    You've made tremendous progress and I'm glad to see that you are actually proud of yourself! You've done a lot of work and set the stage to do a lot more and love the journey.

    To you I say, CONGRATULATIONS!

    emoticon emoticon
    2246 days ago
    I am working on a five wishes for myself right now. I am considering doing it since if something happens to me I need to know that someone else will do what I want done even if it's hard.
    2246 days ago
  • KARL1266
    As always, another thought-provoking blog. I feel inspired to get a bit more active. I don't go to a gym because I'm cheap. But I do work out at home. Something you said struck me--"if I'm comfortable, I'm not pushing myself enough".

    I'm comfortable. Guess I need to step it up a bit.

    Thanks for writing that.
    2246 days ago
    Wonderful blog! Some very interesting thoughts and all worth talking about. I, too, think it's ridiculous when people who pay trainers don't put in all their effort during the sessions. Seems like they are just wasting their money to me.
    2246 days ago
    I agree with you there; why pay a trainer and then complain and not even try. I believe God wants us to take care of our bodies. I admire you for pushing yourself the way you do. Never been to a gym in my life. i do mine with weights and resistance bands and workouts at home. I have a living will i got from a company laying around the house i have to fill out. I decided to pay for a funeral trust instead of life insurance; so I won't be taxed or no one can take money out of it. As for quality of life; it all depends on the person and what they believe. I know of someone who is in a wheel chair and can only move her head. She has been like that since she was 17; and dived into shallow water. She is a Christian, perhaps you heard of her, Joni Erickson Tada. She draws using her mouth. She had a regular radio program and she helps other people in different countries get wheel chairs; plus other stuff. She hasn't given up as long as god can use to impact others. As for me I think i will call it quits if I have to be on a feeding tube or they have to use a machine to keep me alive.
    2246 days ago
    Congrats on conquering the eliptical. It looks like the most fun of all of those machines at the gym.

    I feel the same way you do about what happens to my body after I die. It doesn't matter to me. But a DNR.... I'm not so sure about.

    I'm also not sure about how I would take the challenge of being disabled in some way. I really respect people who handle it well.

    Good for you for staying active. I can not say the same.

    You sure get a lot of thinking done while you're exercising.
    2246 days ago
  • Add Your Comment to the Blog Post

    Log in to post a comment

    Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.