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Friday, September 21, 2012

Best Laid Plans...

So you know how it is, your day is scheduled and something unexpected comes up. That's life right; things don't always go as planned. Well, my day got mildly interrupted, someone else's life got turned upside down.

I got a phone call on Tuesday night from a friend saying that an internet pal of hers had been airlifted to the local hospital and been delivered of a son, who was born at only 25 weeks. He was only about a pound and a half at birth. She has another child, a daughter, just 10 months old. Someone needed to go and babysit this new and quite small big sister, so Mama could recover from her C-section, Daddy could get to visit his new small son, and they could meet with doctors and what not.

Here was this family, far from home, worried, lacking child care for their little daughter, probably scared. I volunteered to go over for 2 hours the next morning, during the time that I usually spend working out. So instead of my morning meeting with the ladies at Curves, I walked a sleeping and angelic little girl up and down in her pram around the hallways and grounds of the children's hospital. She napped with her blankie and bottle for about an hour while I walked her around.

I didn't dare use my cell phone to call anyone while I paced, fearful of waking her up. It gave me a lot of time to think and pace and consider. My older daughter spent 2 hours in the NICU when she was born and I was out of my mind with worry. I could only imagine what they were going through.

After about an hour my little charge woke up. I carried her around a bit and showed her the gardens and the play area, we even saw a visiting Nurse Minnie Mouse and got a picture with her. After a snack of Cheerios and milk and a quick diaper change, I returned the very happy little girl to her Daddy.

Afterwards I went to pick my little daughter from preschool and hugged her very hard and looked into her eyes and said, "I am so lucky to have you. I love you so much." I hope with all my heart that my friend of a friend has the same chance to say that to her 4 year old son someday.

Workout: 1 hour of walking and pondering the vagaries of fate

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2 Weeks of Workouts

I have been going faithfully to

Curves every day for 2 weeks; the only exception being Sunday because they are closed and yesterday (the 17th) because my 4 year old got sick and needed to go to the doctor and then my 9 year old had a previously scheduled check up the same afternoon. Both days I did a series of gentle stretching exercises in lieu of my strength/cardio training. I am trying to make exercise as automatic as brushing my teeth, so necessarily it must be a daily habit, just like brushing your teeth.

The Curves trainer recommends that you come in 3 times a week, on say a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule in order that your muscles have a chance to rest and recover. For daily attendees like me she recommends that you focus one day more on strength and the next day more on cardio. I haven't been doing that probably as well as I should, I find that I feel so energized by my workout that I tend to go all out everyday. Perhaps my enforced 2 days off due to my schedule will be a good thing.

I usually workout right after I drop my youngest off to preschool. She goes to school for 3 hours a day so I have just enough time to get home, get a shower and maybe write a blog post before I have to pick her up. This means I am working out mid-morning and most of the other exercisers at that time seem to be women of retirement age. I have heard that the afternoon/evening exercisers tend to be closer to my age; but that's okay, I love talking to older women. Today, when I cracked wise about when I was young, broke and single I would accept a date just to go to DINNER, one older lady laughed knowingly and said, "Oh honey, been there! Done that!" I got a huge kick out of her! One day everyone complimented my workout shoes, they are a sort of Mary Jane/sneaker hybrid that I bought so I could have some semi-cute running around shoes. Having all those women compliment my shoes delighted me to no end.

These are women who aren't fazed by much, they accept life as it comes and sort of just ready themselves for whatever comes next. Since I've been there I have heard talks about them attending memorial services for each other's spouses, parents, even children. Or they talk about a member who has been hospitalized recently, plans are made to sign cards, make dinners, carpool for visits, make phone calls. I mean, if you had a death in the family, do you think your entire gym would make it to the wake? There is clearly a social/support structure here as well as regular exercise; and as in any human activity if there is a chance to socialize there is a greater chance we will repeat the activity. Not to say that there aren't members that come in, work out and get on with their days, but most people tend to linger near the stretching ballet barre while they drink some water, stretch and chat before they go home.

I am already looking ahead to my next type of workout, but my time at Curves isn't over until October 9th. I doubt I will find a MORE welcoming group of women though.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Curves Experience

So, my daughters are going to a new dance school which shares place with a Curves gym. In order to get into the dance studio you walk down a hallway where one door leads to the dance studio and the other to Curves. One day I saw that Curves had put out a flyer saying they were conducting a 30 Days free trial offer. I thought how convenient it would be to workout while my kids were otherwise occupied and decided to give it a try.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of Curves, it is basically a women only gym, with a circuit of resistance machines that work various muscle groups. Ideally you are working the machines at a brisk pace and getting a combination of a cardio workout as well as strength training. Between each machine is a "recovery station" basically a padded platform that you march in place on in-between sessions on the equipment. You jump in at any point in the circuit and workout on each machine or recovery station you've chosen for 30 seconds. You are to do two laps around the circuit for a standard workout, which takes 30 minutes.

Curves from the outset are very different than other gyms. For one thing they are usually quite a bit smaller than a traditional gyms. With the machines and recovery stations pulled into a small circle at the center of the room women can easily chat across the way to their neighbors or look at the motivational and instructional posters on the walls. The day I arrived the CD was blaring a dance mix of 4 Non-Blondes hit, "What's Up." and 3 other women were already happily chatting and workout out at various points. A recorded voice tells you to "Change Stations Now" at 30 second intervals and people move to the next machine.

I was greeted by Sue, the trainer on duty and she was assisting some new members in the finer points of the workout. I sat down to wait and I was pleasantly surprised by how kind and patient she was with these clients. They were both older ladies, one of whom had a cane and Sue was helping to adapt the already low impact workout to their mobility issues. She even helped them perform cool down stretches from a seated position. I had to compare and contrast to the 19 year old "trainer" I was assigned in my time at a large traditional gym. He basically laughed in my face when I told him I had a hard time with a certain move due to an ankle injury I had that never healed properly. "I know how much you can do!" he sniggered at me. I was not yet 30 and this little pissant was picking on the wrong Mama. I basically told him where he could put his weights, his protein smoothies and his bad attitude and I walked out, never to return. The thing is, a good trainer helps you get stronger, not push you until you reach a point of injury or re-injury.

Curves are different in other ways as well, there is no traditional "locker room" people tend to come and go in their workout clothes. There was a curtained changing room stocked with lotions, hand sanitizers, tissues and a mirror. There isn't a smoothie bar, but there was a refrigerator stocked with water bottles for $1 each. Small clean towels were rolled into a small basket near the storage cubbies. The table I was at had a card for a departing member where people had signed their best wishes for their friend inside.

When Sue had finished with her other clients she came over to me and I signed up for my 30 day trial. She took me through the new member procedure, basically filling out a short health history form, asking if I had any health issues that might impact how I workout and then being weighed, having your BMI established with a small electric device and measured with a tape at the waist, hips, bust, thigh and arm. I asked her if a new client who was uncomfortable with these measurements could opt out. She said "Of course they could, but we do suggest that they do the measurements so they can see concrete progress from their workouts." I myself do not care about my measurements, but of course some people could feel triggered or judged by this procedure, or dislike someone touching them to take the tape measure. So GOOD NEWS this is an optional step. Lastly Sue took me and another client through the circuit once, explaining each piece of equipment, demonstrating the technique and pace for operating the machine, and then watching and correcting our technique. Then we were out on the circuit ourselves, Sue circulates through the room encouraging the other women, correcting form, or assisting in any way she was needed.

The circuit itself is very easy to do, very intuitive. The machines are basically simplified versions of familiar gym equipment. The machines employ resistance bands instead of free weights so you don't need to do any changes or adjustments from one operator to another. The faster you use the machine the greater the resistance. I did adductor machines, arm curls, stepping, leg press, and other equipment. It was a good, low impact, energizing workout that would be well suited to someone looking to just get into formal exercise, someone rehabbing an injury, or a person with other issues that make a traditional weighted workout unsafe or uncomfortable.

Questions about the Workout:

Female friendly? -- Yes. This particular franchise location is women owned and operated, and of course only women are admitted. The windows at the front are screened to prevent passers by from looking in if that makes you uncomfortable.

HAES friendly? -- (HAES is Health At Every Size which basically means ending the stigma of size, realizing that everyone at every weight deserves to improve the quality of your day-to-day life, finding sustainable ways to take care of yourself, and accepting the size that your body is when you are taking care of yourself as your unique healthy weight.) I would say YES with the caveat that the location I am attending seems very HAES friendly, there are women of various body shapes and sizes with and without disability. I cannot make that guarantee that all locations would be the same. The weigh in was optional here as were measurements of any kind. There was not a lot of "weight loss" talk or size talk, but there was a lot of "getting in shape", "being healthy" talk. The best thing was a wall of success that did not have "Before" and "After" pictures but simply a wall of members names on colorful cards underneath the number of workouts they had completed. Everything from 100 workouts up to 2000 workouts was being celebrated. The gym was also throwing a tea party for members had maintained an average of 18 workouts over the 6 weeks of summer when most people are on vacation. It seems like the emphasis here was just on coming back.

Nutrition or Food Program? -- None that I saw, which I like actually. I am a grown woman who is fully capable of choosing, preparing and eating her own food. If you like a strict nutrition regimen you could probably implement one along with the workout.

I will continue this workout for the next 30 days and let you know what I like and don't like about the program, what works for me, what doesn't. But for now... I'

ve worked out 2 days in a row, so there's that!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Breakfast Freezer Smoothie

Inspired by my cleaning out the kitchen and garage freezers at my MIL's house I have created a smoothie out of whatever I found lurking in their cold, icy depths.

1 whole frozen banana
1/4 C frozen blueberries
1/4 C frozen strawberry puree (or whole berries)
1/2 C of orange juice
1/4 C of yogurt (I used plain Greek yogurt)
1 TB of hemp seed (you could use flax seed or oat bran here too)

Blend and drink. It was pretty yummy but dod not hit my stomach like a ton of bricks after my workout. Later I had a small hamburger for lunch and I've been doing great on drinking my water.

First workout!

I will write more in depth tonight, but for now dear reader, I went to a popular gym chain today because they were running a 30 Days Free no obligation trial and because they are right next door to my daughter's dance class. So while my little ballerinas are moving and grooving I can be next door doing the same. Win/win.

Tonight I will write about which gym I attended, the sign up procedure, the workout and how I felt afterwards. Right now I am drinking a breakfast smoothie and then I have to run go pick up the baby from preschool!

Later taters!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Announcing... at long last... with much FANFARE

My newest year long project.

This is the year, where I do what it takes, to get healthy.

Which is pretty scary... and here's why.

When I was a kid I was fond of doing all the other things kids do, running around, swimming, climbing trees, hiking, camping, floating inner tube-less down an icy river; however I was never fond of exercise as such. I lived in dread of PE classes taught by our Vietnam Vet ex-Marine "Coach" who screamed at us as we tried to pull up on the bar, or as we panted around the asphalt track, baking AND steaming in the Florida sun. I was great at the Presidential Physical Fitness Flexibility meter, remember the sit and reach? MAN could I sit... and reach! I was like Gumby back then!

I also shunned organized sports. Jocks and nerds in my school... well, never the twain shall meet there, eh? And I was such a nerd, a book reading, Shakespeare quoting, pencil-nibbling nerd. Any time I displayed any type of physical prowess (for instance sinking shot after shot in a game of horse) it all came tumbling down the moment anyone MENTIONED it.

Coach: (calling out over the court) "Hey, that's a pretty great shot! Maybe you should come out for... (air ball) Nevermind."

Content Note: Discussion of disordered eating patterns

And then I wasn't a kid anymore. I was a young woman, trying to make my way in the world and more specifically Los Angeles in the early 2000s. Being a size "something", brunette in a size "nothing" blonde world took a toll on me. I came back to Florida thinner than I had ever been in my life, but maniacally chasing another phantom 30 pounds to lose. It wasn't an eating disorder, per say, but I was exhibiting disordered eating.

I never ate breakfast, would eat a single baked potato with butter from Wendy's, and then go energetically swing dancing 6 nights a week. I was a tiny little stick, but not a very happy one.

And then I met my husband... my sweet, adorable, non-dancing husband. We went out to dinner a lot. My weight went back up, but not in any alarming way, I barely noticed. We had a kid after we'd been married a couple of years. I remember being just a few weeks post-partum and the insurance at my husband's office had changed. A new insurance agent came out to the house and weighed us. I was told I was going to be charged extra premiums because of my weight. I was flabbergasted. I had a less than one month old child! It was the first time I had thought of myself as "fat" in a long time.

I worked out some, ate my usual diet, the weight came off, or at least as much weight as I wanted to. My exercise patterns became increasingly erratic. I would exercise wildly, record everything I ate, weigh myself obsessively. Then I'd get scared, I'd feel the seductive pull of food limiting start to rear up. I'd go too long without eating and get dizzy and nauseated from my hypoglycemia. And then I would stop cold turkey, "Excerise? Me? Oh sweetie, I only run when chased, and not even always then!" Big laughs.

It eventually seemed like I couldn't exercise safely at all. I'd play with the kids, go on a walk and chat with a friend, go swimming on vacation or at a friend's house, but if I started to think of it as "exercise" I would freeze, and that would be the end of that for awhile.

I have two kids now, ages 4 and 9, and I love to watch them move. They are so gloriously unselfconscious about it! They take ballet, tap, gymnastics, baton twirling (not all at the same time!) and they move with such grace! Even dancing to Lady Gaga songs in their bedroom they are so free and easy. I really envy that, I remember, vividly, feeling that way and I don't want them to ever grow out of that experience.

So here's where I am going to do. I need to set a good example for my daughters of being a fully adult woman who makes time for herself to move and move well. I need to make sure that I am exercising and stretching and caring for this body. It is the only one I have after all. I need to be proactive about my health, realizing frailty, injury and disease can happen to anyone and for any reason, but maximizing what I have been given and luxuriating in it while I have it.

Here is what I am NOT going to do, weigh myself. You may have noticed that I have related this entire story about getting healthier and never mentioned a weight that I was or a weight that I want to be. That is intentional, for me and weight loss, let's just say once I start down that road it is an ever changing goal-post. There are always "another 30 pounds" for me to lose. I don't know how I got stuck on that number, but there ya go, its been the same since High School. I don't think the number on the scale has as much to do with my health as the number on the treadmill telling me how long I've run, or the amount of weight I can lift or how smoothly I can dance. I want a whole new metric of fitness because mere weight is not my goal.

I am also not going to restrict my eating IN ANY WAY. I know! GASP! But, but, but doesn't that mean I will pig out on junk food and eat candy bars at breakfast, lunch and dinner? Um no. Because if I did that I'd feel pretty sick and I want to feel the opposite, remember? I want to feel healthy. I mean, eating any ONE food or food group to the exclusion of all others is an inherently unhealthy way to live. Imagine eating only kale 3 times a day. My colon just shuddered, thinking about it, I swear.

So here's how it is going to go. I am going to try a number of different workouts, styles of exercise, apparatus, gyms, trainers and of course RECIPES and let you all know how it goes. I promise to move my body in an intentional and loving way EVERY DAY, for an entire year. We can work out through the holidays together and see how it feels NOT to make a New Year's Resolution to "get in shape". So join me, mock me, cheer me along, I've my yoga* pants on and I am ready to go.

*May not result in actual yoga.

Healthy movement for the day : Deep cleaning and reorganizing 2 freezers, 1 refrigerator and a pantry. Taking a walk behind the kids as they headed to a friend's house on the other side of the neighborhood and back again.

Tonight's healthy* dinner: Grilled cheese on whole wheat bread, side of homemade guacamole, LOTS of water.

*Disclaimer: What is healthy for me, may not be healthy for you. I am merely sharing in order to give fuller insight into my process. Check with your doctor or nutritionist for your specific needs. Offer not valid in Ohio. Void where prohibited. Supplies are limited. Many will enter, few will win. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Please stand clear of the doors.