Monthly Archives: October 2013

Bad Decisions & Oxymorons

Superman has kryptonite, I have margaritas.
Superman has kryptonite, I have margaritas.

The night before I started Week 8, some friends invited Don and I to dinner at probably the best Mexican restaurant in all of Germany (I’ve been to three over here, this one is great, one other was fine, and the third served me a microwaved tortilla crumpled into a ball with Cheez-Whiz squirted on top and called it cheese enchiladas).  I am a big fan of Mexican food, so I was over the moon when we secured a reservation.

I am generally not a big drinker, but I lose control when I have the option to drink margaritas. I love margaritas! All sense of moderation abandons me and before I know it, I am waking up on a Sunday morning intending to hit the gym, but feeling like death warmed over. That is exactly what happened this past Sunday; I woke up to my alarm and instantly regretted all but the first of the previous night’s margaritas.

“How could I have been so careless? Why did I need to overindulge when just plain indulging would have been enough? Why me, why NOW?” were the questions I posed to myself as I slid into my gym pants (at least they have an elastic waistband!) and filled my water bottle only to guzzle it immediately and refill. I briefly toyed with the idea of letting myself off the hook and taking a second rest day, but quickly decided that rewarding myself for making bad decisions was not a good precedent to set.

When I opened up my notebook detailing the day’s workout, I was filled with even more dread. I had forgotten that Day One is the lengthiest workout in all of Week 8. I had also forgotten about the oxymoron Jamie Eason had presented us with.

Sunday's workout
Sunday’s workout

This week, in her check-in video, Jamie explains that she is stepping things up to prepare us for Phase Three by incorporating what are called (oxymoronically) active rests. Active rests????!!!! WTF is an ACTIVE rest? The resting I do in between sets involves a lot of lying flat on my back on an exercise bench conducting an in-depth examination of the water stains on the gym ceiling. The essence of a rest is inactivity. I felt as if I had been hit with a double-whammy of bad karma; a hangover and not being allowed to curl into fetal position intermittently during my workout. I’m not sure who I failed to open a door for or stiffed on a tip, but I have been appropriately punished.

The way Jamie explains it, we are now supposed to be doing some low-impact cardio instead of resting on our laurels in between exercises. She lists a few options, and the one I have chosen is jumping rope. I chose this not because I had any predilection for the sport of jump rope, but because it seemed pretty portable and since I often don’t have a lot of time to flit to and fro while at the gym, it will be more convenient to have my resting activity close at hand.

The last time I jumped rope was most likely when I was in elementary school and we did a yearly fundraiser for the American Heart Association called Jump Rope for Heart! (I just looked it up, and Jump Rope For Heart! is still a thing), and by the time I finished my second ‘rest’ all the bouncing around and jarring my brain had given me a headache.

My heart was pumping and I was drenched in sweat before I was even half way through the prescribed workout, but despite the headache and overall feeling of being close to death, I managed to put in pretty good efforts. Somehow, the exercise and sweating became almost cleansing. Thankfully the gym is not very busy on a Sunday morning, because as I sweated out Saturday night’s margaritas, I started to stink. Try to remember how that still drunk frat boy smelled during your 8:30 am philosophy class after he’d used up all of his excused absences  and you will have a very good sense of the stink that was rolling off me on Sunday.

Somehow I came out on the other side of the workout unscathed and I rewarded myself (and everyone around me) with an extra long shower. I have continued to jump rope for my rests, but if I need to sit down, and have a long drink of water, I do so. Logic tells me that passing out from dehydration and not finishing my workout will be more detrimental than sitting on my duff and taking an inactive rest occasionally. In all seriousness, it is essential that we are adequately hydrating during these workouts; I am sweating more than I thought humanly possible, and you will too when you get to Week 8 (if you haven’t already). If you are also in the middle of Week 8, and experiencing the unique pain of this self-inflicted torture, then I raise my water bottle to you. Cheers, friend!

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I’m baaaaaaack…

…and really no worse for the wear. My projected five day absence from the gym (two travel days to cross the ocean twice, three days enjoying the wedding festivities) accidentally turned into six days of absenteeism because of a miscommunication with my beloved husband, Don, about when our beloved mutt, Jackson, could be dropped off at his kennel.

Jack, having a sniff
Jack, having a sniff

I was kind of worked-up about this change in plans, but although missing one day feels like a big deal when I’m trying to train myself to stick with a consistent schedule, it really is not a big deal when I was already planning on missing five. There really is no substitute for a Jamie Eason workout, but I tried to make up for the lack of workout by taking Jack for an extra long walk before his kennel check-in time.* We embarked on one of our favorite walking routes (an approximately 4 mile, 35 floor hike to the big church on top of the hill overlooking Amberg) in the late fall drizzle and had quite a nice time.

a foggy view of Amberg
a foggy view of Amberg

That was the last bit of physical activity I participated in until I returned to the gym yesterday. Activities I did participate in include: drinking fancy pants cocktails, eating fancy schmancy foods, ooh-ing and aah-ing over the bride’s hair, make-up, veil, and dress (she looked beautiful), busting a gut with old friends from college and new friends made through the bride and groom, exploring New Orleans’ French Quarter (will be returning for a lengthier visit when possible), shaking my tail feather on the dance floor (ok, that is a physical activity), and a lot of sitting in airport terminals, on airplanes, and on trains. In all, the trip was fantastic and I am pretty sad that it is over.

All good things must come to an end, or so they say. At the very least, I have the comfort of Jamie’s ball-busting workouts to help guide me back into my routine. Unlike when my family visited, I opted to pick back up where I left off in the middle of Week 7. I decided this was the best route because I was not about to enter a new phase (in September, I had been about to go from phase one to phase two), and I was interrupted for less than a week when earlier, I had been interrupted for more than two. I still took it easy both yesterday and today, making sure to lift a little lighter and take a few more breaks to be sure that I wasn’t over doing it, and things feel pretty good.

I’m not shaky in my workouts or more sore than normal afterward. The cardio is still manageable, and things are settling back to normal. I’m pleased with this, because even after I make it through the 12 weeks of the LiveFit Trainer, I want to be able to continue working out to stay fit and feeling good, and I will be waaaaay less likely to stick with it if I feel like a limp noodle after every vacation. A girl needs her down time, you know?

I am glad to be back in the gym and back here with you, and I hope you have been able to stick with your fitness programs, and, if not, that you are having an easy time re-assimilating back into the world of the gym.

*Please don’t feel badly for Jack or think that we are bad dog parents; he loves his kennel and what self-respecting dog wouldn’t? New butts to sniff, new grass to pee on, new friends to chase, and the kennel lady treats him like a little prince. Sometimes it is actually hard to get him to come back home with us.

Weeks 5 & 6

Before I got all worked up about the addition of cardio to the workouts, I probably should have read more thoroughly through the daily weightlifting programs. Jaime really stepped up the exercises… I think she might be trying to kill us.

Jokes aside, the intensity of the workouts caught me a little off guard and I actually looked forward to the cardio at the end because it meant that I had made it through another workout! I mean seriously, seventy push-ups in one day!!!??? I could have cried; I might actually have been, but it was hard to tell with the sweat dripping in my eyes.

The good part is that it all got easier in week 6. I will confess that about half way through the pushups during week 5, I had to give a little and finish them on my knees instead of toes, but I managed to struggle through the next week. I am still enjoying the variety of the prescribed workouts and the fact that I do not have to come up with my own ideas. I’m also really digging the changes I am seeing and feeling in my body.

The changes are subtle, I don’t look like Gisele Bundchen or even the 24 year-old version of myself for that matter, but I am looking a little less doughy and feeling about a million times better: more energetic and more comfortable in my own body. Crotch biscuits aside, I am looking pretty good in my leggings!

I did step on the scale at the end of week 4 and was pretty disappointed to not see much change, but I cheered up when I reminded myself that my clothes were fitting more loosely. Maybe I should think of this less of a weight loss situation and more of a weight exchange situation where I trade useless flabby weight for useful muscle.

I glanced ahead at the upcoming week and it gets more intense; I cringe to think what Phase 3 might look like, but let’s save those worries for later. I have another (super-fun) interruption coming up at the end of the week. I am headed to New Orleans for the wedding of a dear college friend, and while I will have a fantastic time, as you know, weddings can be dangerous for those who are counting their calories. My friend has great taste, so I know the food will be irresistible, and it will be a whirlwind four days involving two flights across the Atlantic, so I also know I will not have time to use the hotel gym, but I’m not going to sweat it because Jamie Eason will be ready to work my little legs off when I return. So, friends, I will enjoy myself and eat a beignet or two, have some beers with old pals and work extra hard the following week.

Crotch Biscuits: a brief sermon on body image

Body image has become sort of a catch phrase in our current culture (just type it into Google and you get about 1,360,000,000 results) , and it has started to take on a negative tone but what it simply is, is what we believe our bodies look like. We talk about a body image being warped when it makes five-year-old little girls suck in their stomachs so they look like ‘Barbie’ or when people starve themselves until they are skeletally thin, or, conversely, when a person who is really a size 12 insists on buying clothes in a size 2. An ever-growing industry that ranges from fashion to medicine is built on our dissatisfaction with our body image.

It is really exhausting to try and make it through a day being unhappy with yourself, so why does it seem like everybody, at least in America, is struggling to stop hating their bodies and wishing they looked more like the person sitting next to them?

We could blame the fashion industry for flaunting their willowy models (and perfectly chisled, body-hair-free male models), or we could blame Hollywood for its reluctance to cast female actors over age forty (with the exception of Meryl Streep) as anything other than a mother or aging spinster, and maybe we could blame reality television for casting breast-implanted, collagen-lipped mannequins on shows with titles like ‘The Real Housewives of…’, but they are only part of the problem. We are part of the problem too. Without us as consumers, the fashion industry and Hollywood would crumble into dust, so the things that they market to us are the things that we are telling them we want to see.

A few years ago, Glamour magazine, after getting feedback from its readers, started to include more plus-size models in its fashion spreads. This is a bittersweet thing;  it is a step in the right direction for the fashion industry to finally show us what their clothes would look like on OUR bodies and not the body of someone who makes a living exercising and watching what they eat, buuuuuuut the average size of an American woman is 12-14 and the average size of a plus-size model is a 6. So we are getting closer to a realistic representation, but its up to us to push for more and not only for our own sakes, but for that of future generations.

I recently stumbled across a book while shelving in the children’s non-fiction section at the library where I work titled ‘Kid Confidential: An insider’s guide to grown-ups’ written by Monte Montgomery and I paged through it out of curiosity. With dismay, I read a bit of the chapter about why adults are always talking about their bodies (the book lists the main reasons being that adults are very insecure and they also have frequent health problems). It is pathetic that we are so anxious about what we look like that our insecurities are addressed in a book for kids. This is how insecurities about body image are cultivated! We’ve got to chill out about this.

I’ve decided that I will not longer call myself fat, not even in my head. I will stop speaking about myself (even in my internal monologue) in a way that is negative and demeaning. It is not an easy habit to break especially since the ability to self-deprecate has become a lauded quality, almost a way of bonding with others, but try this: when you start to think to yourself, “ugh, I’m such a fatso,” stop and consider whether or not you want your daughter/favorite niece/best friend’s child/student to view themselves that way. We have to lead by example. If we can get these thoughts in check in our own minds, we will become more comfortable with who we are and be able to demonstrate that what matters isn’t being the skinniest twig in a pair of low-cut jeans but is, instead, being a healthy, happy, well-rested person.

This is not to say that we will just wake up tomorrow and suddenly love everything about our bodies (wouldn’t that be nice?), but that we need to put a positive spin on the things we feel not-so-great about. Wouldn’t you rather hear “I’ve gotta work on these love handles” than “Ugh, my hips are so fat”? This isn’t self-deprecating; it is empowering. It is ok to have things you want to improve about yourself, and giving those things a name other than Fatso makes them less intimidating. I’ve got some work to do on my crotch biscuits (a term I learned from Tina Fey’s memoir ‘Bossypants’) and my spare tire. Maybe you would like to tame your thunder thighs or trim down your cankles?

Whatever it is that you’d like to change, realize that it is possible to have a positive body image and still see room for improvement. We are, after all, only human, and I’m not suggesting we put on blinders to the things we don’t like about our bodies. I am suggesting that we stop punishing ourselves for not looking like Heidi Klum in a swimsuit and that we are careful not to view the things we are dissatisfied with as faults but rather as works in progress.

I’m getting off my soapbox now, thanks for listening.