Monthly Archives: November 2013

Approaching the Finish Line!

this was a bowl of pumpkin soup
this was a bowl of pumpkin soup

Eleven weeks down, one to go! Although this week’s workouts were much more relaxed than the previous weeks’, it was a bit of a struggle to get through them because I managed to become infected with some sort of plague. In an effort to not infect everyone else at the gym and to not prolong my hacking and spewing, I added an extra mid-week rest day and I limited the amount of cardio I did. I am feeling much better now, and am looking forward to finishing out the LiveFit Trainer with a bang! Week Twelve is coinciding with the kick-off of the big Holiday season, in other words, the big Eating season.

This season is a hard one for people who are trying to watch their caloric intake; not only are there seasonal treats that you can’t find at other times of the year, but everywhere you turn, people are stuffing handmade-homebaked-family recipe whathaveyous into your mouth. After seeing some of the great successes other people who have completed the LiveFit Trainer and adhered closely to the diet have had (if you haven’t already, check out Alesha Hayley’s blog, WOW!), I have been reevaluating my own diet.

I suppose it is through some sort of comedic fate that I find myself doing this at the most difficult time of year for dieters, but, in a spirit similar to the one that was the catalyst for this journey in the first place, ‘if not now, when?’ If I can resist the temptation to overindulge in holiday goodies, then perhaps I will have more success at resisting the everyday goodies. This is a pretty big ‘IF’. Many people have a sweet tooth, but I have a full set of sweet teeth. I have yet to find a candy, chocolate, sweet cocktail or baked good that I dislike. This makes following any sort of diet pretty hard.

There were a few things that made me wary of the eating plans Jamie Eason outlined in the LiveFit trainer. One of the biggest problems was the lack of variety. I get very bored eating the same thing over and over again; I once tried to go on an all salad diet, where I thought I would eat salads for every meal and raw vegetables and fruits for all snacks, but after awhile I ended up with a fridge full of rotting lettuce and a car full of empty potato chip bags and candy wrappers. Jamie does a pretty good job of adding variety where she can and she provides many tasty recipes, but it is not enough for me so I am trying to apply some of her concepts to a diet that will work for a vegetarian* who has 28 sweet teeth and abhors leftovers.

egg "muffins" from Jamie Eason's recipe
egg “muffins” from Jamie Eason’s recipe

What I have taken away from Jamie’s meal plans is this:

1. It is important to eat enough protein to satisfy hunger and rebuild muscle

2. Snacking frequently (on the right foods) is good for your metabolism

3. I STILL eat too much sugar

I am working on trying to reform my sugar and carbohydrate loving ways even more than I did at the beginning of the program, the holidays are a really hard time for this because, more so than at any other time of year, people want you to taste the things that they have made themselves. Nobody wants to be the Scrooge who refuses a taste of sugar cookie, but in the same vein, it is hard to decline taking home the entire tray of sugar cookies without hurting the baker’s feelings. I KNOW why you want to send the tray home with me, it is for the same reason I do NOT want to take it home; if the cookies are in my house, I will devour them and you won’t have to. So, if you see a little of yourself in the ‘food-pusher master baker’, please realize that if someone declines taking home a tray of your famous fudge or wants only a small taste of your secret family recipe pie it is not because they don’t appreciate your efforts and skill (believe me, I have spent more than enough time appreciating people’s cooking skills) but because they are trying not to lose sight of their own personal goals in the midst of all this holiday feasting madness. I will update you all when I have formulated a master plan to get through the holidays. Wish me luck, and if you have any advice to offer, I’m all ears!

A cheesecake my coworker persuaded me to have a slice of. Afterward, she confessed that she hadn't made it, but had bought it. I don't even like cheesecake.
A cheesecake my coworker persuaded me to have a slice of. Afterward, she confessed that she hadn’t made it, but had bought it. Shame on her, I don’t even like cheesecake.

*I should say that I am not a vegetarian for any moral purposes (I believe you can eat meat in a humane and healthy way if you seek it from the best sources) but because I can not stand the taste of beef, pork, fish, lamb and poultry. I do not like it. This makes a lot of vegetarian protein substitutes unpalatable to me because many of them try imitate meat flavorings. I’m looking at you, Hard Rock Cafe Munich veggie burger…

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Workout Decorum

Week Eleven! I am thinking of sending Jamie Eason a thank-you note. After the grueling, 2+ hour workouts featured in Weeks Nine & Ten, this week is looking to be almost relaxing. Today, I ran through the leg circuit four times and I was finished in about an hour.

After spending large amounts of time at the gym recently, I have noticed people doing some things that range from slightly strange to downright rude and I need to vent about them. The following is a list of things I suggest not to do when you are in a shared gym space.

1. Talk on your cell phone. There are a couple of things that are distracting for other people when you talk on your phone while at the gym; the most important being that it is hard to concentrate on what you are doing when you are worriedly watching someone else for fear they will lose focus and fall on the treadmill as they try to multi task with a phone (I’m not making this up, there is a person who regularly has a gossip-fest while on the treadmill at my gym!). There are so many other things wrong with being on your cell phone while working out, for instance, if you have enough breath to carry on a conversation, you probably aren’t working hard enough. And, seriously, if you can’t stay away from your cell phone for the amount of time it takes to work out, maybe the gym is not the place for you at that moment.

2. Hoard equipment. We’ve all been there: in the middle of a superset, you need ten lb weights for one exercise and twenty lbs for the other when suddenly the twenties become to heavy and you race over to grab the fifteens to finish your sets, and, before you realize what is happening, the ground at your feet is littered with dumbbells and you look over to see some poor girl trying to hammer curl with sixty lbs because that is the lightest weight left on the rack. These things happen and can easily be remedied with an apology and by trying to keep an eye out for someone staring wistfully at the weights you are not using and offering them to that person. Intentionally hoarding equipment, however, is inexcusable. If you are the person who walks into the gym, claims a weight bench, grabs three sets of dumbbells and the only EZ grip barbell, plunks them next the the bench and then goes off to do thirty minutes of cardio, please stop. Equipment hoarding is number one on my list of gym indiscretions. If you are going to use the weights, use them, if not, leave them be until you are ready for them. You may have to lift a little lighter than you wanted or do your workout in a different order than you had planned, but life is about compromises, and if you can’t handle that, then you should buy your own weights.

3. Reveal your boobs. Sports bras are full coverage for a reason. Please do not alter your sports bra by cutting a ‘V’ in the front of it to accentuate your cleavage. You are (presumably) here to workout, not star in a Ke$ha music video. All jokes aside, respect yourselves ladies and keep your mind focused on becoming fit and healthy; that will attract the attention of the cute guy on the stationary bike next to you in a better way than your cleavage will.

4. Make excessive noise. You are lifting weights, not giving birth. Guys, you are the biggest offenders here. I get it, you are super strong and lifting twice my body weight; grunting, huffing, and puffing are fine, but primal animal screams? Please refrain.

5. Pollute the air. Perfume and Axe body spray should be left for after the gym. It’s ok to smell like sweat while working out, actually, I think thats the goal most of us have. Breathing in chemical scents is hard on your respiratory system, even harder if you are already taxing your airways by running. There are many people who have allergies to perfumes/colognes, and when you are in a closed, warm space, smells are hard to get away from.

6. Not pick up after yourself. Is someone using the Smith Machine or not? I’m not sure, there is 100 lbs of weight on each side, but it has been vacant for the last fifteen minutes… Nobody wants to be the jerk that takes off all your weight plates and ‘steals’ your machine while you are at the water fountain, just as nobody wants to waste time trying to figure out if a machine is open or still in use. An easy solution to that would be to put your plates away when you are finished with the machine. Not only is it a clear ‘I’m free and ready to go’ sign to everyone else who might want to use that equipment, but then the person who only wants to squat thirty lbs doesn’t have to spend all day taking off the 300 lbs you were using.

I hope this list doesn’t sound persnickety and preachy, and I realize it might. My point is merely that the gym is a shared space and not a person’s private venue for doing whatever he/she wants. We have to remember that while we are maybe running late and trying to fit in a workout before going to work, chances are we are not the only ones. It is important to be thoughtful about the needs of others; yes, maybe you got to the leg press machine first, but why not let someone else jump in and do a set while you are resting? Sharing is important, and, who knows, you may make a new friend?

BATTLING THE BLAHS or NEW SNEAKERS DO NOT MAKE YOU INVINCIBLE

This week has been an extremely unremarkable one. While it is always nice when nothing particularly ‘bad’ happens, I hate it when I can’t think back and pick out even one shining moment. It hasn’t helped that every day has been bleak and dreary; the only variety in the weather lately has been how much it rains each day.

a grey day
another grey day

Every morning when my alarm goes off, I listen to hear if rain is pinging off the metal shutters that roll down over the bedroom window, and then I give myself a pep talk extolling the virtues of getting out of bed. The pep talk is usually ineffective and I have to resort to threatening myself with the possibility of having to cut Jack’s walk short and having him be bored all day.

When I finally am able to crawl out from under the warmth of the covers and sixty-seven pounds of combined cat and dog bodies, my reward is to suit up in layers of down and waterproof nylon, a reflective belt and a headlamp to start my walk with Jack. He is also usually cranky about leaving his warm bed to be dragged out into the elements, but he perks up along the way. I try to as well, but it is hard to get pumped-up about another bleak, sunless day full of errands, work, and responsibilities!

As you can imagine, my lethargic lack of motivation has followed me into the gym this week. I usually pull into the parking lot with a hint of excited anticipation, but recently I have felt only dread, and I don’t think I am alone in this feeling. There are a few faces I regularly see who have been absent and the twice weekly Body Pump class has dwindled to just a handful of dedicated attendees. Week Ten follows the same intense schedule as Week Nine, and I started off excited about my new sneakers and ready to go. The sneakers were, actually, part of my problem. You see, on Monday, the first day that I ran on the treadmill with my new kicks, I went a little crazy.

My feet felt GREAT and I had downloaded a new running playlist to my iPod, and one thing led to another and before I knew it, my run was over and I had gone farther and faster than ever before. I was soaked in sweat, but I felt like I had just won an Olympic gold medal; imagine, me enjoying RUNNING??!! Despite my post-workout stretching, the next day I felt as opposite from winning a gold medal as a gal can feel. I was stiff. I was achy. My ankle hurt. I thought I would maybe loosen up as I ran again, but to no avail.

For the rest of the week, I used the elliptical as my cardio in an effort to give my ankle a break, and I’m hoping tomorrow’s rest day will also help. Although I felt bogged down by the grey skies and the consequences of my over-enthusiasm, I did have a few small accomplishments: I completed all thirty of the required burpees and all of the long jumps that I had opted out of last week. Small victories, but “go me!” anyway.  Also, I got some comliments on my bright pink sneaks, and (I can’t believe I almost forgot about this one, this actually was the biggest shining moment of the week!), in the locker room yesterday, a woman asked me if I was “also doing CrossFit at the ‘other’ gym” (we have two gyms available to us, one shiny, new and equipped with a CrossFit area, and the other well-worn and equipped with a retro raquetball court).

Needless to say, I was very flattered that she thought I Iooked like someone who did CrossFit, but alas, it is not really my thing. I did let her know about Jamie’s LiveFit trainer and gave her the website, so I think it was a win for us both. Now that I remember the compliment, I must retract my earlier statement that nothing monumentous happened this week. Being mistaken as someone who looks like they do CrossFit is a great testament to the wonders of the LiveFit program; at this time last year, I could have been confused with someone who maybe won a pie eating contest, but not someone who is at the top of the Fitness Freak foodchain.

It was that compliment that cheered me a little and put into perspective that not being able to run until my heart explodes on the treadmill is not the end of the world. I am looking forward to the coming weeks (the final countdoo-o-o-wwwwn!) and the change of pace that is in store. Something I have learned from this experience is that variety is not only the spice of life in dating (my Granny told me that long ago!), but also in exercising. I hope you have been avoiding the early winter ‘blahs’, they are contagious, watch out!

Sometimes, Ignorance is Bliss

I now know what a burpee is.

It is not, as I previously thought, a cutesy way to describe a belch (“Oh, excuse me! I just burpeed!). It is, in fact, a particularly puzzling exercise that can only have been thought up by a Fitness Freak (who am I kidding?  All exercises were thought up by Fitness Freaks!). There are a couple of things that are puzzling about this maneuver; one being who can execute this exercise without worrying their arms are going to give out and, in one instant, years of orthodontic work will be undone as their face smashes into the floor? That was a big concern for me when I attempted to burpee (can burpee be a verb?), but what is most puzzling is how in the world does anyone do a burpee well?

I am not a very coordinated person, and this probably is easier if you are coordinated, but this exercise seems to defy physics. If you do not have the misfortune of knowing what a burpee is,  it is a combination of a pushup and a jump. I know what you are thinking, you are thinking that there is no WAY a pushup and a jump can be combined, and you are thinking this because you are a rational human being who understands the physical limitations of the human body. Unfortunately, someone, maybe as a joke or a dare, decided to fall from a standing position onto their hands, kick out their legs behind them, do a pushup, and pop back up into standing position again. It’s pretty hard to do when you have gravity and your level of tiredness working against you.

Thirty burpees was the assigned amount to do on Day 59, Chest & Shoulders day. I got through ten of the them before I felt I was in serious danger of losing my front teeth, and then I finished the last two sets as plain ‘ole pushups. The best thing about the burpee is that it makes pushups feel comforting and almost easy by comparison. If I had to rank them, burpee would now come in as my least favorite exercise and pushups my second least favorite.

What is my all-time favorite exercise? I’m so glad you asked! The hands-down BEST exercise is a yoga position that I call ‘Starfish out of Water.’ For this exercise, you simply lie flat on your back with your legs and arms flung about you and your chest heaves up and down as you gasp for breath. I composed this exercise myself and I demonstrate it daily (usually when I’ve had enough of the active rests) in hopes that it will catch on as the newest craze.

Week Nine is super-intense, and I am very proud of myself for making it through. I had to step out of my comfort zone quite a bit this week, most notably on the day I could not fit a morning workout in and had to go to the gym after work. This unfortunate circumstance happened on Day 2 of Week Nine which was the looooongest workout of the week and the first workout that required running on the treadmill.

Not only is it difficult to find ANY motivation at 6:30pm when it is dark outside and I should be home eating dinner, but the gym is quite busy at that time. I was overwhelmed when I walked into the fitness center and felt the burst of hot, sweaty air. It seems that 6:30 at night is prime time for the muscle-bound 18-22 year olds to hit the gym. And I mean MUSCLE BOUND- guys with rock-hard C-cups and tendons that looked like Rebar bulging out of their necks. At one point, I had to ask a guy to return my barbell because he snatched it while my back was turned assuming nobody was using it because there wasn’t any weight on it. These dudes were serious about their weightlifting and that helped motivate me quite a bit; maybe I couldn’t add any weight to my barbell, but I gave 100% effort in every single one of my sets and I rocked those active rests. In hindsight, my Monday night workout was the best of the week. The biggest upside to being at the gym with the entire cast of WWF wrestling is that I was the daintiest person on the treadmill. I looked like a graceful little goat prancing along in a sea of bulldogs.

After the high-impact routines featured in Week Nine, I was thankful for my rest day yesterday, and I used my time away from the gym to invest in the coming weeks by treating myself to a pair of new sneakers! Today I began Week 10 and my feet were feeling fantastic in my shoes. Make sure you are rewarding yourself for all of the good work you are doing, whether it be a new pair of workout pants (most likely in a smaller size!), a sweet treat, or even just five minutes of ‘Starfish out of Water’ on the gym floor.

My new sneaks!
Life is good in my new sneaks!

PHASE THREE or The Time I went into Cardiac Arrest at the Gym

If you have watched The Mindy Project (and I seriously hope you have), you maybe remember an episode from season one titled The One That Got Away in which Seth Rogan guest stars as Mindy’s childhood sweetheart, Sam. In this episode, Mindy and Sam unexpectedly reconnect while Sam is home on leave from his Army deployment, hijinks ensue, and at some point Mindy is on all fours asking for a critique of her push-ups and Sam exclaims “That is just an up! You have to actually go down and come back up for it to be called a push-up!” I feel ya’, Mindy, I really do.

Today I began Phase Three of the LiveFit Trainer, and I can’t think of a time when I have worked harder at the gym. The day began cold, damp and grey, and my ambition was low as I headed into the gym despite the fact that I got there just as it opened, so for a long while, I was sharing the entire gym with just one other person. Usually an uncrowded gym motivates me, but today it only made me think “everyone who is NOT here has the right idea.” This is no way to start a workout, much less a new, more difficult phase of workout, but c’est la vie.

The upside is that there are now only four more weeks left of this self-inflicted torture! Not to say that I won’t still go to the gym, but I might give myself two days off a week instead of just one. Today, however; I had to continue to progress toward my twelve(ish) week goal, and progress was hard-won.

Before I had completed my first two (of thirteen) exercises, my quads were burning, my heart was thudding, and I wanted to lie down on a yoga mat and have a nap. A sense of doom settled over me as I struggled to find some grit and determination within myself. Just an ounce of grit? An iota of determination? There must be some around here somewhere… my mood did not improve as the gym started to fill up with people.

There is something really aggravating about being tired, hot, and sweaty and seeing fresh faces, ponytails still silky and un-matted by sweat, saunter into the gym, just as there is nothing more joyous than hanging up your jump rope and dragging out a mat for some post-workout stretching. I’m not sure why I had such a bee in my bonnet today; it may be because, after looking ahead at this week’s workouts (they are looooooong), I realize that some of my gym time will have to happen AFTER work this week (going to the gym at dinner time? Yuck.), and it could be that I am actually dreading the end of this self-inflicted torture a little bit. It may be tough to keep up with Jamie Eason, but at least I have a reliable schedule holding me accountable, all I have to do is show up. Whatever my problem was, it thankfully didn’t deter me from making it through most of my workout.

I say most of my workout because I substituted some ab-work for the long jumps I was supposed to do. When the long jump portion of today’s workout rolled-around, I just couldn’t make it happen. The gym had gotten too busy to find a space suitable and, honestly, my legs were all jumped-out. Since I have been prescribed more back and core-strengthening ab exercises by my Physical Therapist (side note: its kind of embarrassing to be prescribed ab exercises!), I thought it was a fair trade. Maybe not exactly what Jamie had in mind, but it was what I could manage today.

How have your workouts been going? Are you finding it hard to motivate now that the days are shorter, colder, and darker? What helps you motivate when you’d rather get a latte and do some online holiday shopping than lace up your sneaks and get your sweat-on? Maybe I’ll try dangling a cupcake on a stick just out of reach in front of me…

Cupcake

Getting a Move-on

Humans evolved to move around most of the day as we foraged and hunted for food, and I was reminded of this fact during a recent visit to my Physical Therapist for help with a serious crick in my neck. He advised me to make sure to get up and move about a little bit every forty-five minutes when I am at work and confined to a desk. Luckily for me, working in a Library involves more moving around (shelving materials, helping patrons hunt for specific books, organizing, chasing small children who have run amok) than many so-called desk jobs. Even so, there are some busy days when I look up at the clock and cannot believe that I have been confined to my chair for hours.

It is critical for our well-being to try to stay as active as possible both when we are at work and on those lazy weekend days when it is tempting to become fused to the couch from breakfast until bedtime. After the reminder from my Physical Therapist that people were not designed to slump in a chair for hours on end, I have been trying to do more stretching at work and checking to be sure I am maintaining good posture both while sitting and standing (my Granny should be proud!).

Sometimes I forget that even the simplest of activities (like cleaning my apartment) count as exercise; you may not work up a sweat washing dishes, but you burn more calories than you would sitting in front of the TV! Comparing these seemingly non-physical activities with complete inertia help me not get discouraged on days when I don’t do any “real” exercise. I can console myself with the fact that I had to do seventeen laps around the grocery store in search of molasses (can we all just agree that it should go with the baking supplies?) or that I spent an hour reorganizing the Juvenile 567.9’s (dinosaurs get a lot of play at our library!) when I am feeling crappy because I didn’t have time to go to the gym. It’s not much, but it is better than nothing. On days when I do not have to go to work, it is obviously much easier to keep moving.

Today is All Saints Day and most businesses in Germany are closed (including my Library), so I had plenty of time for fun. I started my morning with a nice ride…

Morning ride
Morning ride

Then I made my way to the gym for my Jamie Eason prescribed workout and my Physical Therapist prescribed stretches, and after the gym I did some grocery shopping. Then I cleaned my apartment to the sounds of iTunes radio….

chasing the dust bunnies away
chasing the dust bunnies away

Once the apartment was sparkling and smelling fresh (as fresh as an apartment with a litter box and a dog who likes to roll on animal carcasses CAN smell), Jack and I went on a very chilly walk…

Ready for action
Ready for action

Upon returning home, I made some pizza dough to rise for dinner, took a much needed shower, and now I am trying to decide between watching an episode of The Mindy Project (super funny and relatable humor) or BBC’s Sherlock (quirky British humor with a little mystery).

I had a pretty fun day and managed to do quite a bit of moving and grooving, just ask my FitBit!

photo 4

If ever you are feeling down on yourself because you missed your gym date or couldn’t drag yourself out of bed for that early morning run, cut yourself some slack and think about all of the walking and moving that you DID do; how many times did you walk back and forth to the copier? How far did you have to trudge from your car to the grocery store? And how many trips did it take to and from the car before you made it into the grocery store with your wallet, list, coupons, and eco-friendly cloth bags (for me, it would be four trips)? Sometimes it’s all about the little things.