Monday, October 10, 2011

When I projectile vomit, it may draw some attention...

I didn't start running immediately.  In 2003, I remember running into a college friend of mine, Karen Oldham, at the YMCA downtown.  I was swimming to try and loose weight (for the 50th time in my life) before my wedding in late January 2004.  She was training for her first half marathon.  I remember thinking that was cool, but she was certifiably nuts.  Running is what "other people" did.  I'm not a runner, nor could I be.  That was for "super athletes", people really in shape.  I did loose about 25 lbs. swimming (I also put it back on and then some later).  The point is, I think most people think of running as a sport you have to be a super athlete to do, and it's really not.

Fast forward to December 2008.  I didn't even consider running.  Not even on the radar.  By this time in my weight loss journey, the weather had turned nasty and I wanted to join a gym to meet people to keep me motivated, check out classes and use their weights. After about a month of the elliptical machine, I was growing tired of it.  It was starting to become mundane and I wasn't looking forward to it.  Then, every day I would notice this guy running on the treadmill in the gym.  He looked like he was relaxed and it seemed effortless.  Later, I would learn his name is Brent Plummer and he worked with my husband at Toyota. Anyhow, I would watch Brent jog.  Not in a creepy stalker way, but I really admired how easy he made it look.  So, one day I spoke to him and asked how far he ran each day.

"4 miles or so," he grinned as he kept on trucking on the treadmill.

I'm sure my mouth hit the floor. Wow. He must really be in great shape I thought.  I climbed back on the elliptical and continued to watch.  He was sweating, burning calories....  why couldn't I do that?  I bet it would be neat to say I could run a mile.  The next thirty minutes on the boring elliptical were consumed thinking about the idea of being able to run a mile. I had lost about 30 pounds at this point... why couldn't I do it?  Yes, I would try.  Tomorrow I would try and run ....  let's try a quarter of a mile? Who knows how hard that could be?  I would just go to the treadmill in the corner and try to do that.  If I can't, well, I can't.. but I just want to see if I can.

The next day came and I was excited to try something new.  I got to the gym and spotted the treadmill towards the corner.  I didn't even know how to work this damn thing.  Great.  Already I feel dumb.  But, I stepped up onto the machine and looked around.  Nobody was looking at me.  Good.  A little weight was lifted.  There was a "Quick Start" button.  That sounded sensible, let's try that.  I pushed the Quick Start button and the machine roared to life.  It was a very slow shuffling pace.  There was an up button for speed.  I pressed it until I was doing what probably appeared like Kermit the Frog jogging. I saw a "distance" screen that displayed 0.01 on it. OK, I was moving.  Still no one was staring at me.  Good.  This isn't as bad as I thought.  I clipped along as a cat with tape on it's paws.... then, my chest began to swell with pain.  This was hard.  Could this fat girl have a heart attack?! That's all I could think was, yes, I'm going to have a heart attack... GOD IS PUNISHING ME for doing this!  I looked down and the distance read "0.15".  WHAT? No way! Now, my heart is beating in my ears, my arms look like I'm swatting gnats, I'm gasping for air in huge gulps and I'm sure at any time, even though nobody was paying attention to me, when I projectile vomit on to the next row of treadmills... it might draw a little attention. I slammed my hand down on the "stop" button and clenched the death machine.  The distance blinked up at me and displayed "0.20".  I couldn't run a quarter mile.  Here I am holding onto a machine that just tried to kill me, trying to get my respiratory system to distinguish snot from air, sweating like a pig and reaffirming I was not going to have a heart attack... over a pissy little quarter mile.  This was bull shit.  I may have even said that out loud.  Why in the world could a young woman in her 20's not run a quarter mile?  Unacceptable.  If I could loose 30 pounds, I could do this.

I wiped down the machine and continued with my weight lifting for the day.  I had another project.  I was going to run a mile.  Damn that machine, this - THIS - was not over.  As a matter of fact, it just began.  I would come in here tomorrow, get on that same machine and attempt to run that same quarter mile.  To hell with that machine, to hell with letting myself go to this point and... if anyone wanted to give me crap about trying to run this quarter mile.. to hell with them too!  Tomorrow, this was happening!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Pick Up The Weight

I am not a doctor or personal trainer.  These are my observations I have learned through trial and error, research and other input I've gathered from fellow enthusiasts and professionals.
So, why even bother with weights? Well, let me tell you... it's your body's secret weapon.  How so?  Well, as you are working and doing your cardio, you are burning calories.  And, it feels pretty great as you are doing so.  But, wouldn't it be fantastic if your muscles continued to work and burn calories after you've stopped?  Kind of like "freebies"?  Well, lifting weights can make this happen.

Here's how I understand it:  Your body uses calories to build muscle mass.  When you lift weights, you make tiny little tears in your muscles.  Well, to repair those tears, your body must burn calories.  And, in doing so creates more muscle mass.  When you add more lean muscle mass, your metabolism goes up because your body requires more calories to maintain it.

Another great advantage to weight lifting is reducing the risk of injury.  What I mean by this is you strengthen not only your muscles, but your tendons and ligaments as well.  They connect your muscles and tissues and the stronger they become, the more stability and balance they offer. So, it makes sense that you would want them performing at their best so that YOU can perform at your best.

Of course, as the lean muscle begins to develop, the landscape of your body will change as well.  I have to tell you, I love seeing my arms become leaner and more sculpted as well as my shoulders becoming rounded and defined.  It's easy to do.  From what I've learned, the weight of what you are lifting isn't necessarily as important as the form in how you do it. If you can't or don't want to talk to a trainer, get on ye ole interweb and look up some of the correct ways to lift.

Keep these tidbits in mind as you contemplate weight lifting.  When you weave this into your normal cardio routine, you'll notice in a big way!

Friday, August 26, 2011

It's like walking into a room with a wedgie....

The only gym I had ever joined previous to this was the YMCA.  I enjoyed it.  But, I stuck to myself and did my best to stay hidden.  I only went on my lunch hour to swim.  I wouldn't make eye contact with anyone, let alone speak to them.  When you are uncomfortable with your body and have no self esteem, you immediately feel inferior.. No, it's not just you.  It's every woman that is even slightly over weight and entered a gym.  It's like being the new kid in class walking into a room with a wedgie - It's uncomfortable and you swear everyone is staring.

With a little bit of know how, you can navigate the gym and all of it's weird equipment just fine without looking like too much of a novice. Below, you'll my top 7 suggestions on picking out a good gym and getting started:

1. Not all gyms are created equal.
    That's right, they aren't. Find a gym that is convenient to your home and/or work.  And, make sure it's priced right.  You have to want to go to the gym.  If you have to talk yourself into it, who are you kidding? You won't go.  Don't set yourself up to fail.

2. Browse the menu.
    Make sure the gym you have offers the services you want. For instance, my husband works nights so it was important to us that the gym be open 24 hours.  I needed child care, so a daycare was important.  Make sure the gym you choose has all the options you need.  Plenty of treadmills if you enjoy running or walking (no body wants to wait on a machine).  Maybe a gym that offers great yoga, zumba, spinning, or even water aerobics. The options are endless.

3.  You've got a friend in me...
    This sounds silly, but, make sure the staff is friendly.  For starters, no body like a grouch.  Secondly, if you need help with something, you need to feel comfortable.  Even if it's just for a towel.  You are going to be spending some time in this place and you need to feel like you belong.

4.  The lay of the land
    Most gyms are set up with the aerobic equipment such as treadmills, elipitcals, etc. in one area and the weights and resistance training in another.  Usually one over looks the other as well.  If you have the opportunity, set yourself up on a treadmill and set it to a comfortable walking pace.  Try and choose the machine closest to the front.  After you get situated, take that time to look around the space.  Do you recognize the equipment? What are other things in the room that you haven't noticed?  Why do I suggest this tip?  Because you are moving and burning calories.  And, you aren't standing in the front of the gym looking around feeling like a goon while other people are staring at you wondering what you are up to.  You are now "part of the group".  No one is staring at you - it's like being inside enemy lines in disguise. You can take your time and not feel like you should hurry to take it in. Do you see another machine you can utilize while doing your recon work?  Jump on over to it and continue looking and learning.  Do this the first few days.  After that, you'll start to feel right at home.

5.  Freebies please?
     A lot of gyms offer introductory specials such as a free hour with a personal trainer.  This is the best way to get to know the gyms equipment.  Take advantage of this if it's offered.  Also, some my offer a discount.  It is perfectly acceptable and EASY to learn the machines on your own, but, if you have a few extra bucks, hire a trainer for an hour and pick their brain.  Also, most gyms offer a trial week before joining!  You try on shoes before you wear them, why not try this out too?  This way, you get a real feeling of what things are going to be like, how crowded it is at the time you like to go and if they staff and clients are friendly.  Always ask for this before joining any gym!  Any gym worth their salt offers a trial.
6.  Avoid the Barbies!
    You know who they are... the women that come in the gym in full make-up, jingly jewelry and bathed in Bath and Body Works' latest body spritz.  Stay away from them.  They are there for the social interaction.  And, they do nothing for anyone there to work except choke you on the fumes of their perfume.  You are there to work.

7.  Start with what you know
  Don't get caught up in the details.  Stick to the basics.  Get your heart rate up.  You won't burn calories any differently indoors than you would at your house running with a stroller.  Start with cardio and get that sweat rolling!  Later, you can add resistance training to further your cause.
Next blog, continues with how to learn the basics of weights and why they are important to your lifestyle.  And, yes, how anyone can use them without seeming like a weenie.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Upping the Ante and Reasons to Detest Barbies

November 2008, about 20-23 pounds lighter (198 or so).
By the time the beginning of November rolled around, I had lost 20 pounds. I couldn't believe it.  All from changing what I ate and exercising.  And, not conventional exercise, but essientally playing with my kid and using things I found around the house like chairs, balls, huge cans of soup, etc.  Walking was a large part of my life.  Well, walking and pushing a stroller, or pulling a wagon with 22 pounds worth of kid in it.  Everything I did, I wondered if I could break a sweat when I did it.  I was feeling fantastic.  It really was this easy!  The biggest tip I can give anyone who is taking on this task is this - it's a job. Not having time, being tired... let's be real, it's an excuse.  Because, like anything you want in life, you make time. You figure it out.  Every time.  If you want it - go get it.

The reason I revisit this is because about the 20 pound mark, you hit a wall.  Or, at least I did and several other people I've spoken with.  It's easy to get discouraged because when you hit a stride and weight starts falling off, you wonder if you can keep it up.  Of course you can.  You need to relight your fire.  You need to recommit yourself to your goal.  It has to be your job.  You have to think it, feel it, believe that you can do it.  I compare the need for this to nationally syndicated radio host, Dave Ramsey.  He talks about "Gazelle Intensity" when confronting your finances because gazelles need quick bursts of food and energy for results.  Well, weight loss is the same way.  You need to see results to make it real, and you need to see'em fast.  If not, it's so discouraging, it's incredibly easy to get dejected.  Trust me when I say if you confront this with intense focus, you'll kick through the wall.

Upon recommitting myself to this goal, I found I needed to up the ante to my fitness goal. At this point, the weather was getting colder and getting Schotz out in the stroller was getting harder to do with good weather, so, I joined a gym.  Talk about intimidating.  Why?  I detest Barbies.  Not the doll who has proportions that are so outta whack, she couldn't walk on 2 feet, but instead crawl.  Actually, studies have shown she would be 5'9" tall, have a 39" bust, an 18" waist, 33" hips and a size 3 shoe and not menstruate. At any rate, I'm not referring to her.  I'm referring to the woman at the gym who is in full-on make up, all the large jewelry she can handle, more than likely prancing and she did her hair.  Ignore the Barbie.  You are there to sweat......

Next blog - learning the gym ropes (machines, free weights and other things).

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pulling Charlotte's Weight

The first few days seemed to pass easily.  I had a fire under me and like most things, when you are that motivated, even large challenges seem to fall easily.  I was working exercise into my every day like a pro.  My daughter and I took daily walks and I even managed to get a fairly decent weight lifting routine in.  Thanks to my daughter, Charlotte, who was about 11-15 pounds or so by this point, I had a variable weight who loved to assist me.  I would lay her on the floor on her blanket and lean over her in a modified push-up.  I would then lower my nose to her nose and raise back up.  She laughed.  I laughed and I was getting a fabulous work out.  The same thing applied to sit ups. I would lie on my back with my knees bent, feet flat on the floor.  I would prop Charlotte's back on my thighs.  Then, I would raise my chest up towards her.  Doing so, I would say "Peek a boo!" or make a funny lip-smacking sound.  It took my mind off the work and it gave Charlotte interaction.

To work my inner thighs, I would hold Charlotte and squat down with her making funny noises or saying "uuuup!"  "doooown!".  Or, we would count.  It was educational and again, accomplished my goals while spending time with Charlotte.  I did bicep curls by holding her under the arms and lifting her up and down from, bending the arm at the hip. Other times, I would go the avenue alone while she was sleeping.  One of the best, yet most challenging, arm exercises I did where chair dips.  Using a kitchen chair, I would place the heels of my hand on the rim of the seat of the chair and lower myself slowly down and back up.  The chair was also utilized doing one-legged squats I had seen on a fitness program.  I placed one foot on the edge of a chair and hopped forward on the other foot so that my leg was stretched out slightly.  Then, I would lower and lift myself with my hands on my hips.

So, where my routine wasn't one of a fitness expert, I'm sure, it did get me started.  And, I figured something was better than nothing.  What I knew was I was able to do these moves at home with normal household objects and I was feeling good.  In the meantime, I was still writing down everything I ate.  And, after a few weeks, I began to notice a trend in how I was feeling in comparison to what I was eating.  It was so simple.  Why didn't I do this earlier?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Giving Your Body an Expectation

As I started this new journey, it was like looking through a brand new pair of glasses.  Everything I did was examined. If I was pushing the stroller, could I push faster?  If I had a doctor's appointment, I took the stairs instead of the elevator. When I was grocery shopping, I parked several spots farther back in the parking lot.  Remember: standing is better than sitting. Walking is better than standing.  And so on and so forth.

How could I get exercise into my everyday life?  It became my mission - to figure out a way to work up a sweat for 20 minutes a day, 4x a week, and I would go from there. That seemed like a reasonable goal.

Now... food. I love food.  I love the way it smells. The way it tastes. The way it crunches. I love the way it grows and the art of cooking it perfectly.  I love most everything about it.  ....Except ketchup.... but that's another story.   This was going to be tough.  But, there has to be a way to eat the things I love without, er - the proof I love it. 

What did I eat really?  Well, I decided to start writing it down.  Every little morsel I put into my mouth.  Every drink I took, every bite I chomped.  At the end of the day, I reviewed it.  Was I happy about what I ate that day?  How could I improve the nutrition of it while still enjoying it?  One thing I was determined about was I had to like it.  No stinkin' rice cakes (unless they were yummy) for this girl - hell no.  After all, this is a lifestyle change.  If I couldn't have some ice cream, chocolate, earthy steak, aged whiskey or wonderfully seductive, creamy cheesecake - then no dice.  You are supposed to live.  And, if I couldn't have some things once in a while, then this wasn't for me.  And, truthfully people, the answer is simple.  And we just stated it:  once in a while.  What I've learned is your body reacts to what you do to it in the every day, not in the every once in a while.  Don't believe me?  How many of you have made it from November 1 - January 15 with out gaining an ounce?  But, you still ate your Grandma's German potato balls smothered in gravy? You still tried every piece of pie on the Thanksgiving spread?  Then, you tempted fate and ask Santa Claus for some of those luscious Hersey's Kisses with the caramel inside to be nestled in your stocking?  Yes! It can be done.

Look at what you eat every day.  Then over the course of a week.  Then a month.  This is the plan your body expects.  When you change the plan, your body expects different things, and it reacts differently.  For instance, my body expects that I do not eat a large amount of grease.

When I do.....  let's just say I hear loud and clear from my body that it does not like that choice.  If I don't have a green salad in two days, if not every day, I crave it. 

Look at your favorite foods and meals.  How can you make it healthier for yourself?  More on that later.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Getting Real

Monday was a new day. It sounds weird, but I woke up different; with a greater purpose. Brushing my teeth that morning, I looked at my face that was all swollen and blotchy from crying so much the night before. I had not one clue how to tackle this huge problem.

Let's start at the beginning, I thought.  For starters, I didn't know how much I truly weighed.  I mean, I knew I was overweight. I was probably around 200 pounds or so. I didn't own a scale.  I always said "it wasn't important to me." Looking back now, I was kidding myself and I should've had one.  Everyone should. It keeps you honest and helps keep you on track. As luck would have it, Charlotte had her one year check up that day.

After the nurse weighed Charlotte and took her height, I asked if I could weigh myself.  A doctor's office was a perfect place to weigh for an accurate starting weight. As the nurse escorted Charlotte to the room, I jumped on the scale and slid the weights.  I couldn't believe my eyes.  There, as plain as day: 220 pounds.
Charlotte was came away with being deemed a healthy, thriving one-year old.  I held it together until I got into the car.  Then, I cried, but only for a minute. After all, I knew this wasn't going to be easy. I just had a little farther to go than I previously thought.

Now I knew what I was working with. Now, what to do about it? We arrived home and I thought to myself, I've got to get moving. What can I do? I don't run, I don't have any weights....  Then, I thought I'd taking Charlotte for a walk in the stroller. After all, standing is better than sitting. Walking is better than standing. I loaded her in and off we went. We strolled along and I thought, well, no day like the present. I began to walk as fast as my little legs would carry me. Charlotte squealed with delight, she loved the  fast pace! I could feel my heart pumping and the beads of sweat forming on my neck. When I started to get tired, I pushed harder. This was not going to be easy. Don't wimp out in the first 12 hours. Up the hill.  Faster. Don't stop....

Before I knew it, 20 painful minutes had elapsed. We stopped in front of our house and Charlotte was clapping and laughing. I had sweat rolling down my back and pooled on my chest. As I gasped, trying to catch my breath, I realized: I feel fantastic. Not to mention Charlotte had a blast.

We went inside to the comfort of air conditioning and water.  I set Charlotte up with a snack in the highchair.  What else could I do? I didn't have weights, but I knew how important weight training was.  Then, I had an idea.  Next to the Cheerios were two family-sized can of Cream of Chicken soup. I picked up each.  A good start I thought...  so, as Charlotte ate her cereal, I stood behind her with a can of soup in each hand and slowly and methodically raised my arms up to 180 degrees, then above my head, than back to 180 and down.  I did several sets of these.  After a while, my shoulders and arms felt tired.

As far as eating went, I focused on two things: low fat and limiting my carbohydrates. I already knew the dangers of eating too many carbs from a bout of gestational diabetes. I began reading labels and most importantly, I wrote everything that I put in my mouth down on paper.  Why? It keeps it real. You can't lie to yourself. It sits there and stares you in the face.
And, after a week, you can see what worked for you if you lost weight.  Or, if you didn't, what didn't work.

Not a bad start, I thought. The first whole day ended on a high note; I needed that.  This was going to be a long road.  Deep breath. One foot in front of the other....

[note: there is a great website out now that I WISH I had at the time.  Check out]