Monday, August 25, 2008

Is Fitness a Luxury?

Moppet 1 recently read the Zion Covenant series for the first time - at 14, she is finally old enough. I have re-read a few so that we could discuss them, and every time I read them they are more frightening to me, and more humbling. In case you are not familiar these books, they are set in Europe as Hitler begins his march across Europe. Taking Austria, Czechoslovakia and then Poland, he then begins his Final Solution to the Jewish Problem by arresting, incarcerating, torturing and killing not only Jews, but Christians and anyone else who opposes him. The books are frightening because my absolute worst fear is to live in a totalitarian State, but what I want to talk about is why they are humbling.

First of all, they are humbling because the older I get, I'm not so certain that I would have enough courage to do the dangerous and heartbreaking things people do to protect themselves and others in such times. I realize that we receive the strength to do such things when that strength is needed, and that I can't know what I would do...but when I was younger I would have been more sure that I would be one of the unsung heroes.

Secondly (and this is where fitness comes in at least tangentially), it is humbling to admit that no matter how many times I remind myself, I am never able to hang on to the gratitude I should have for living in a time and place where I have the luxury to think about keeping myself fit for reasons of health and beauty. I can spend money and time on making sure I feel and look as good as possible, so that I can simply enjoy my peaceful life more. When you are thinking about whether the Gestapo is going to break down your door, the only concern you might have about fitness is whether you are strong enough to jump across rooftops if you need to escape out the attic window.

So, I would say that fitness IS a luxury in the great scheme of things, just like it is a luxury for we Americans to think about whether we are personally fulfilled, satisfied in our relationships or (insert overfed middle class desire, stress or neuroses here). I'm sure those things seem unimportant when you are faced with famine or warfare or are just not living in a wealthy society and have to work very hard to meet day-to-day needs. I need to remember that as I look through my scores of workout DVDs while wishing I also had some other one I haven't been able to purchase yet. I think ingratitude and lack of contentment will be something I struggle with all my life...I wrote about it in my zines three years ago and it's still rearing its ugly head.

But taken from the perspective that we have been blessed to live here and now, when most of us have leisure time and some disposable income, as well as a long life expectancy - is fitness a luxury for us if we want to spend all our years in productive activity? Of course, I have not quite reached 40, so I can't YET speak personally about what being fit has done for me in my later years, but there are lots of sites that speak to this issue. I know that we live in a world filled with physical degeneration, disease and death, and that no matter how fit we may become, we're gonna wind up in the grave. Until then, though, there is oodles of evidence that fitness improves quality of life for all ages. So, while it may be a luxury in one sense, it's a necessity in another.

Speaking of age...I am going to be 40 in a little more than 90 days, and I am going to spend that 90 days doing P90x - with the goal being to be in the best shape possible FOR ME by that milestone birthday! My only worry about that is whether I will be able to do the same 12 DVDs for 90 days, without any of my favorites!

And now for last week's workouts:

M - Leslie Sansone Walk and Kick, using my kettlebell instead of doing the kickbox intervals
T - Jari Love Ripped and Chiseled and walk outside
W - Debbie Siebers Cool It Off, which is an hour long stretch (I REALLY needed that!), plus walk
Th - Leslie Sansone Deluxe Walkaerobics plus Kettlebell and floorwork, and walk outside
F - A new DVD called One on One Training With Jackie (tough, but fun!) plus walk
Sat - walk

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Week in Fitness

Last week I said I wanted to try some new DVDs, and I did! I tried a few from the library and a few that I recently purchased.

M - 2 miles of the 3 Mile Walk Away the Pounds for Abs; it was so boring I couldn't get past 2 miles. I don't know why some Leslies speed by and others feel like you are walking through a dreary eternity, but this one fits into the latter category. Later in the evening I did Yoga Booty Ballet which I always said I'd never try, but which I bought and had a lot of fun doing!

T - Leslie 3 Fast Miles, and I made it through the whole 3 miles in this one! I also did 20 kettlebell swings every 5 minutes, Then I did Pure Barre later in the evening, and THEN I went for a walk with Moppet 4.

W - I was busy that day, so I just walked in the evening.

Th - I had my booty totally kicked by a new DVD called Power Body by Rob Glick. It was fun, with a lot of interesting exercises, but it wiped me out, so much that I did NOTHING on Friday, and in fact could hardly sit down until Saturday night because my muscles hurt so much.

Sat - Leslie 4 Fast Miles, alternating the rebounder and the 8 inch step to up the intensity. Plus walk outside.

It was a cardio heavy week!

I did very well adding fruits and veggies to my diet. I had a slush made with at least 2 kinds of fruit at least 5 days, and ate a good amount of vegetables every day except one. I read The Eat Clean Diet by Tosca Reno, which I got from the library. I don't follow that completely - I don't eat lowfat dairy, for example, and will add some sugar to things like smoothies, and will eat something white or a sweet baked good a few times a week - but I saw that I do follow it to a large extent. Maybe that's why I have been losing weight steadily without being "on a diet". I eat very few processed foods, few sweets with the exception of 85% dark chocolate, not an excess of fatty foods (although I use real butter, real cream in my coffee, etc) and mostly whole grains and mostly lean proteins. For my physical makeup, this kind of eating coupled with some cardio and lots of strength training with heavier weights seems to be the key.

I have been saving my money, and on Friday I am going to order P90X used on Amazon. This is a 13 DVD intense strength training program, something that I never thought I would be able to do when I started learning about at home fitness a year ago. But now I know that I will be able to do it - maybe not at the most intense possible level with triple digit weights - but I can do it from where I am and build up from there. Working out has helped me accept that it's all right to be where I am, and to just go from there, and not compare myself to what other people can do. I have always known this mentally, but it is starting to sink in at the gut level in many areas of my life.

I know there will always be someone who is smarter, more beautiful, more talented, better organized, more patient, a better cook etc. than I am, and that's fine. I can improve on the things that are important to me, and accept that I have weaknesses and lack of talent in various areas. That's part of what it means to be a finite and fallen person in a finite and fallen world, but I have spent most of my almost 40 years trying to ignore that fact. Who would have thought that something like physical exercise would help me to finally grasp it?

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Proverbial Last Ten Pounds, Plus Last Week's Workouts

I know I don't weigh myself, so it really could be the last 9 lbs or the last 11 lbs...but I can tell that I am getting close to the end of the fat loss stage of the Fitness Journey. What amazes me is how much FAT there was on my body - even though when I was heavier I was just a bit into the "overweight" classification in the BMI scale - not anywhere near obese. I am sure I have lost at least 30 lbs of pure blubber, and if I lose another 10, it will be 40! I know you can add 30 plus 10, but that number just astounds me. I never would have thought I had 40 lbs to lose...I mean, that's almost half of 100! When I think of how much space 40 lbs of butter would take up on my kitchen counter, I can't belive that much flab was hanging on my body.

I actually determine how much weight I think I have yet to lose by comparing my fat deposits to the size of butter sticks - that probably sounds really odd, but since I don't use scales it's a good alternative, heheheheheh! (Where the last of those blubber deposits reside will remain a mystery.) In the next few days I will dig out and scan a picture of myself at my fattest, and contrast that with a picture of me now.

It has also surprised me that losing this much weight has not been as difficult as I imagined it would be. It HAS taken time, but I have not had to live with constant hunger or cravings or anything like that. I'm not sure if that's because I exercise so much I can eat quite a bit, or because I am still nursing and so can eat quite a bit, or because my body just loses easily when I don't eat a lot of junky food. Either way, I am thankful that it has been easier than I expected, and if I had known it wouldn't be torturous, I would have started sooner. I only hope that maintaining will be as easy!

I am going to try to eat healthier in the next few months to see if that breaks me through any plateau I might be on. In the past few weeks I have been eating things like goldfish crackers and other processed yuckies - not enough to make me gain weight, but they don't make me feel good and can make me bloat so I LOOK like I've gained weight. I also have not been guzzling the water like I should be - a gallon a day really helps me take off the fat. I also want to include more fruits and veggies into my diet...I really don't eat enough. I don't even like that many, but I am determined to eat those I do like on a regular basis. A smoothie made with a few kinds of frozen fruit, and a salad or two should be easy to eat daily.

Regarding exercise, this week I really feel like I need a break, so I am going to spend the week doing videos and DVDs that I have never done before (and I have quite a few!)...since they are not familiar to me, I won't work as hard because I'll have to be paying attention to what they're doing on the screen, and (in certain cases) trying not to trip!

My goal is to lose as much of this fat as I can by the time I turn 40 on November 30, while not depriving myself of good food or working out until I feel beaten down.

Last Week's Workouts:

M- Go by Kari Anderson plus walk outside
T - Strong Body, Ageless Body by Erin O'Brien plus walk outside
W - Leslie Sansone Walk Away Your Waistline 3 Miles, plus the buns/abs floorwork from one of her very early videos plus walk outside
Th - Core Pilates with Jules Benson, walk outside
Fr - Leslie 3 Mile Express, upping intensity by doing kettlebell swings every 5 minutes, plus the push up, buns and waist chapters from Squeeze, plus walk outside
Sat - Walk Outside
Sun - Walk Outside

Today I drove my walk route, so I know it is 2.1 miles. I would love to do this every night plus 2 3 mile Leslies per week for a total of 20 miles, but we will see. If Moppet 4 does not fall asleep in the stroller, he won;t always sit well for such a long walk and I cut it short.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Finally Getting to Those Psychological Issues

I don't know if it's because I am basically neurotic, but even something good and healthy like exercise brings up psychological issues and anxieties for me!

The first one I needed to deal with was just the exercise manifestation of something that permeates my whole life - perfectionism and an all-or-nothing mentality. I mentioned in an earlier post that this tendency did not derail my commitment to exercise, but it did keep cropping up in my psyche up until recently. I would worry that I was not doing the exercise thing "right", that I wouldn't get good "results" if I wasn't doing it "right" - which for a few months led to working out too much, trying to "fit it all in". I was really helped through this by reading someone's signature at Video Fitness, which reads "The Best Workout Is the One You Will Do". This really is true - unless the only workout you will do is opening the refrigerator (although that probably does work your bicep and the back of your shoulder). I was also able to leave this one behind when I saw that "results" come from exercise consistency in general, rather than from finding the perfect program or rotation.

The other one is more serious, and I don't know if I will ever get over it completely - I have realized that getting in shape does not get rid of all the emotional baggage that I carry around regarding my appearance. The reasons I have this baggage are many and varied, and while it seems a bit lighter now that I am older, I am still schlepping it around. I have to accept that even if I were able to transform my figure into the likeness of some alluring young celebrity (which is highly unlikely), I would still have to deal with the nagging feeling that in the beauty and desirability department, I fall short. Now, this is not something I deal with excessively like I did when I was a teenager and young adult. I am actually pretty content with my appearance most of the time, as long as I don't think about it too much. We are not supposed to be overly concerned with outward appearances anyway - I know that. But this issue still does crop up for me, especially as I see my youth passing away - even though my beauty has never been staggering, losing that blush of youth is very sobering. People call me ma'am and mean it.

It's not helped by the strange fact that as I lose weight and gain muscle, sometimes my figure looks worse before it looks better. This seems to be a very real phenomenon for a lot of people on the Fitness Journey; I've seen it discussed on my fitness forums - you look better, and better, until one day you look at yourself and YOU LOOK TERRIBLE. Definitely more flabby and even though you might be thinner, your figure just does not look good. This lasts for a few weeks and then you look better again. It's really weird. So I have had to learn not to look at myself too often, because day by day is not a good indicator of what progress is actually being made. Every week or even two weeks is better.

That was a tangent, I guess. The truth is that I thought that actually looking better would wash away all insecurities, but it doesn't. That's just a drag.

But while I do know that I can't be more beautiful or younger than I actually am, being as fit as I can be and looking as good as it is possible for ME to look is not something determined by my DNA, but just depends on how much I put into it. It was really empowering to realize, also, that the fitness INDUSTRY is not synonymous with the beauty INDUSTRY - so while I could never be a supermodel, I could be a personal trainer. Not all, in fact not even most of the instructors on my fitness DVDs are beauties.

I guess you can tell I'm a glass-half-full kind of person since this is ending on a positive note, even though the post started with negative thought processes. It is also ending abruptly, since even somewhat fit people get tired.

Monday, August 4, 2008

What I Did Last Week and Something I Am Considering

This is what I did last week:

M- Leslie Sansone 2 Mile Express/1 mile of it on the rebounder, plus Slim and 6 Pack with Debbie Siebers. Walk Outside.

T - All the Right Moves with Grace Lazenby and outside walk. I really like All the Right Moves, but for some reason rarely use it. It is a great combination of Lotte Berk type moves, Pilates and yoga. Instead of using a barre or piece of furniture, Grace uses a dowel that you hold onto for balance, and it is a different kind of challenge. I couldn't find my shoes that day, and instead of getting overly annoyed, I just decided to do this one which is best done barefoot. Walk Outside.

W - Gilad Interval Training, once again with Husband and Moppet 2

Th- 1 Mile Leslie Express and Lotte Berk High Round Assets ( wearing 3 lb ankle weights) I have found that this type of exercise actually gets MORE difficult as you get better at doing it, since form is so important. When you master the form more and more, you get more out of the work. Walk Outside.

Fr - Walk Outside

Sat -Firm 3 in 1 Bootcamp - I REALLY ached after doing this one, even though it's only 42 minutes! I did too many bicep curls with 15lb dumbbells.

This week I have actually decided to study to be a personal trainer. After you regain consciousness, I will share my thoughts about that ;-) In the past, I would have said I would be more likely to vote socialist than get involved in the "fitness industry", but life is always full of surprises. I'm still not sure exactly what my being a trainer will look like in practice; I would really like to work with women like me, who are at home with children and don't have the time or inclination to go to a gym several times during the week. I'd love to just help them get started and turn them on to fitness DVDs. I think I'd like to get extra certifications for working with pregnant/postpartum and menopausal women. This is not something I am thinking of starting next year, but I am going to study for the certification and take the exam whenever I am finished with the course, while simultaneously working to get more fit personally. Husband and I are going to join a gym, not because I am suddenly into gyms, but because I don't think I could be a personal trainer without being familiar with how weight machines work. And I will probably have a few sessions with a trainer myself, to see what trainers do and to get my fitness evaluated by a "pro".

There is more to say on this subject, but it has already taken me on and off all day to finish this, and Moppet 4 is grumpy.