Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Oh, yeah, that

I love lists.  Things to cross off!  A visual record that I didn’t spend all day sitting around eating pizza, unless that is what was on the list for the day, which hasn’t happened so far!

The only problem is that things on the list, unlike sitting around eating pizza, suddenly take on the aspect of work.  I have plenty of actual work things on my list for the week, but I also have cardio on my list every day.  Cardio, in my world, means riding my bike, going swimming, listening to loud music, and generally feeling good.  In other words, it is fun and good for me.  It makes me happier and clears my head.

I was talking to a friend yesterday and she said she just needs to remember that once she is out there doing, it is fun.

Fun!  That’s what it is all about.

What are we going to do for fun today?

Monday, June 29, 2015

I need a miracle every day...

Last night I went to see the Grateful Dead.  Despite the five hours I spent in my car yesterday, I managed to surpass my step goal for the day by hiking from my parking spot in roughly San Mateo County to the stadium at Levi’s and then dancing like a happy fool.  There is a reason that one of the smells that makes up the composite “Deadhead” is sweat (and I like it better than the parts that are incense and spilled beer and dust).  The crowd definitely dances like no one is watching.  I got my exercise.

My step count is not the official marker of whether I have Done Enough, however.  I can get my steps pretty easily on the days when I catch up on laundry, carrying baskets up and down the stairs.  I don’t break a sweat.

We like to think that we have active lifestyles.  Maybe we do.  But maybe we are overestimating, just a little, how much we are doing.  If we were so active strolling through the street festival and getting our 10,000 steps, why aren’t we sore the next day?  Did we ever have to interrupt our conversation while doing the yard work because we had to focus on breathing for a minute?

I needed to do some work on my studio floor on Saturday.  A bunch of the weights had to be moved, some sections of floor needed to come up and get replaced, and everything had to be returned to its rightful place on the new flooring and mats.  I got in plenty of steps, but since I am still letting my hand/wrist/arm stuff heal, it was Brent who actually got the ambient workout shifting weight plates and dumbbells.

I am not trying to say that taking the stairs or schlepping the groceries doesn’t help contribute to our health and wellbeing, just that it doesn’t get us out of doing some crazy dancing or heavy lifting from time to time.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Even the air is thin...

I was reading an article yesterday about mountain climbing as a sport that requires extreme fitness.  (The article is in the current issue of this magazine.)  What I found fascinating in the sample week of workouts was the determined inclusion of yoga.

While yoga has obvious fitness benefits in building a lean, strong, and flexible body, one of the points of its inclusion in the workout plan was its development of mental focus.  Mountaineering is not just a whole body sport; it is a whole person sport, requiring as much from the brain as the muscles and bones.

Taking the time to meditate, to tune in, to move purposefully and mindfully builds our fitness.  We need those qualities of mind as well as body in our daily lives.

Tree pose, anyone?

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Sting Like Bee

I’m a girl.  (This just in…)  Culturally, this means that I do not include in my definition of superawesomefitnessness the ability to win a physical fight.  I have never watched a pay-per-view MMA match or boxing match.  I have, however, seen most of the Rocky movies and When We Were Kings.  I admire, in a casual way, Muhammad Ali, in part because of his poetic way of speaking and in part because I adopt his beat-Foreman philosophy (take whatever he dishes out until he’s exhausted; then punch him out) in my life.

My son loves boxing.  He joined a boxing gym a while back and he comes home drenched in sweat and exhausted and happy.  Which made me want to try it.  And not just because I like to try new things.  Yesterday he took me with him.

It was incredibly humbling and fun.  I jumped rope and found out I’ve been doing it wrong.  It’s also much harder than it was in the “Not last night but the night before” days.  The speed bag may be possessed and my exorcism ability needs some work.  The big gloves thwack into the padded thingie (did not learn the technical term for the big bar covered in red and black duct tape on the wall) with such a pleasing sound.  The only part where I felt competent was when I finally got to do the circuit:  crunches, pushups, squats, mountain climbers, no problem.

I came home two hours later both wiped out and energized.  I may do it again.  But I draw the line at the soggy gray sweatpants and the raw eggs for breakfast.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Look at the weights

Some days go better than others.  We go to bed full of excellent plans for the morning and we wake up feeling like Wile E. Coyote under the piano, cliff chunk, safe, and obligatory pink umbrella.  We may not have cartoon-like ability to reinflate our bodies after that kind of flattening, but we can pick ourselves up and make the best of it.  Occasionally, very occasionally, that means going back to bed until we feel better.  The rest of the time, we just have to start small.

A wise woman I spoke with once told me about her favorite advice from a trainer, ever.  He told her, on those less-cheerful days, just to go look at the weights in the gym.  Go look at them.  Then go home.

There’s a trick in there.  Once we make it to the gym and look at the weights, we are up, dressed, moving.  Lifting them doesn’t seem so bad anymore.  We find ourselves starting the workout and feeling maybe a little better.  Maybe not, but at least we are doing something.

Go look at the weights.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Now if I can only remember where I left them...

I have progressive lenses in my glasses, which means, for those blessed with better vision than I, that my glasses are like bifocals but without the obvious line between the distance and the close vision sections.  They work great.  I do not notice the shift from one focus to the other.

No, this is not just gratuitous sharing of more information than anyone wants to know about my eyeballs.  It’s a metaphor, of course.  My glasses allow me to focus on what is immediately in front of me and on what is off in the distance, much like we all need to do when we consider fitness (See!  I made the connection!).

We need to know that we have that marathon or bikini or weight lifting triumph or reunion wowing coming, but we also need to focus in on what we have to do today to get there.  Maybe that means patiently doing our physical therapy exercises, or pushing for the extra ten minutes of swimming, or passing up the pie.  The now and the later give meaning to each other.

Pick your focus today!

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mirror, mirror...

I have some mirrors in my studio, but not all over the place.  In some positions, it is not possible to catch a glimpse of a reflection.  What that means is that when we exercise in those spots, we have to rely on other senses for feedback.

I will ask clients where they feel a particular movement.  Or I will ask them to imagine, say, that their legs are set in concrete to locate movement in the upper body.

We all rely on our eyes, but sometimes that reliance doesn’t serve us.  For example, when trying to balance on an unstable surface, we do better when we look out in front of us rather than down at our feet.  The movements we make to see what our knees or wrists or toes are doing can distort our entire body position; we need to feel where we are in space.

Besides, when we feel where we are, we don’t get distracted by our brilliant new workout clothes in the mirror.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I'll be over here, eating my seeds and liking it...

One of the things I like about doing massive physical activity is the eating.  If I ride more than 65 miles in a day, I darn well deserve a candy bar.  And skiing?  Hand over the cheeseburger at lunchtime and no one gets hurt.  But.

As I’ve become more fit, as I’ve weeded out the less healthful parts of my diet, my taste has changed.  My body objects to the cheeseburger.  That candy bar, in all its deliciousness, is no longer worth the grumpy feeling the sugar leaves behind the next day.  (Not that I am perfect in any way; give me a bad enough day and I’ll dive into a pint of ice cream tongue first.)

At first, I found this whole shift kind of annoying.  Having done enough work that extra calories would be good, suddenly I was all about the lean protein and the vegetables.  Ultimately, however, I have to feel glad that my body responds positively to me giving it the right things.

So I am going to keep listening to my body.  How about you?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Don't crack up!

I’ve written before about how Thursday is the Official Day of Getting Nothing Done.  I finally figured out why.  It’s because I don’t take time to rest on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  By Thursday, I am wiped out.  My body and my mind tell me I can forget whatever I have planned; it’s not going to happen.

What this means, from both a life and a fitness perspective, is that pacing makes the difference.  We don’t finish a marathon or a triathlon or a century ride by going at top speed from the beginning; we choose a pace that can be maintained over the long haul.

Fitness does not occur in a single day (more’s the pity…).  Weight does not come off immediately.  Trying to do it all in one fell swoop leads to Thursday-ness.  Let’s be smart about things and take our time.  Or at least stop expecting things to happen on Thursday.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Gumballs have nothing to do with this post

Some people love to do cardio.  They will run or zumba or bike all day.  They like the music or the sweat or the wonderful feeling of being done.  Other people love weights.  Power!  Moving heavy objects!  Shove over, Wonder Woman, I’ve got this!

The first group needs to tolerate weight lifting and the second group needs to put up with cardio.  Both are necessary for good health and fitness.

Cardio(pulmonary) activity, as the name suggests, works the heart and lungs.  We need our hearts and lungs to work so we can go on living for a long time.  Cardio burns calories, elevates mood, improves brain function, and sometimes even feels good.  It enables us to run around with children and dogs, be the last kid out of the bounce house, and scoff at elevators.

Weight training also burns calories, both directly and indirectly.  We all feel the calories sweating right out of our bodies when we lift, but we are also secretly building up our metabolisms.  Muscle tissue burns more calories than fatty tissue; the more of the former you have, the higher your metabolism (within reason.  We all need some body fat for optimal functioning.).  Weight training also strengthens bones.  We do not want to be that fragile old codger bent in the middle and so delicate that a breath can cause a fracture.  And, obviously, when we are stronger we can dare the folks at the supermarket to pack our bags heavier, we can move our own furniture, and we can amaze our friends with our ability to open the stickiest of jars.

So:  even if we like one kind of exercise better than the other, we have to suck it up and do the other one, too.  As Deion Sanders said in a commercial a long time ago, “Both, Coach.”

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

This one goes to 11

We like round numbers.  Ten reps?  Great.  But there is nothing magical about ten.  I know; I’ve tried to do magic with it and nothing happens.  In fact, when we constantly do ten reps of a particular exercise, we are training ourselves to do… ten reps, no more, no fewer.

The body responds to change.  That is where the growth happens.  Just for fun, try sets of eleven reps.  Every once in a while, do as many reps as you possibly can.  Maybe even increase the weight so that seven reps is the maximum, or three, or even one.  The body likes it.

The brain does, too.  We can all count to ten on autopilot.  Let’s wake up our minds as well!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Good news: It is June

Let’s pretend, just for a second, that it is September.  We have newly sharpened number 2 pencils and clean white pages in our spiffy Spiderman/Powerpuff/Kitten/Aaron Rodgers notebooks.  And the teacher says, “Write about what you did on summer vacation.”

What we choose to do over the next weeks will be the content of our imaginary essay.  We can hit Labor Day feeling invigorated, lighter, stronger, or… not.  I want to be able to write about my improved cardio, my greater mastery of some challenging Pilates exercises, my many bike rides, and my increased knowledge.

And I wouldn’t mind going swimming.  What’s on your list?