Friday, July 24, 2015

"I got transported through a worm hole..."

“I broke my leg,” is a good reason to skip a workout.  “I’d rather watch all nine seasons of Star Trek Next Generation,” is, well, less good (although T.R. seems to be surviving a summer of doing just that).  “I’d rather floss my teeth,” at least involves a healthy behavior, but it’s not very plausible, it probably won’t happen, and it doesn’t take long enough to justify missing an entire workout.  And that is assuming it isn’t being said in the sense of “I’d rather poke my eyes out with flaming spoons.”

We all have days when we don’t feel like working out.  We can make up excellent and creative excuses for ourselves.  Our Inner Sloth will happily loll around on the lounge chair with a fruity drink.  Or our Inner Puritan will insist that we have important work to do instead.  Or our Inner Brat will just have a tantrum and demand a toy.  (It’s getting crowded In There!)

But we can ask ourselves a key question or two to sort out the good reasons from the bad.  Maybe “Do I feel up to going out with friends?”  (This is a little bit like when Mom would tell us if we were too sick to go to school, we were too sick to ride our bikes.)  Or “Which will make me feel better, getting this spreadsheet done now or working out?”  Or “Would I brag about what I did instead?”  Find the questions that work.  We might skip fewer workouts.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Shiny, Captain!

It is renovation season in the neighborhood.  Houses sport new colors, yards display new drought-resistant flowers, roofs fly off and return stronger than before.  Even I pulled weeds and trimmed up the back yard.

On an even more local level, we can do some renovations.  Maybe it’s time to clean our body houses.  I am not a believer in “detox” programs; we have livers for that.  However, we all can do the equivalent of cleaning out the fridge, waxing the floors (does anybody do that anymore?), washing the curtains, and decluttering the closets.

Maybe it is time to turn that idea that we can’t do some particular thing into mulch.  Or time to recycle our outdated body image.  Or even stop reading about new fitness techniques long enough to try some.

What will make us feel new and shiny?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Heavier than all my weights put together

One of the reasons I exercise is that I have depression.  While I don’t keep my depression a secret, I don’t talk about it a lot either because it isn’t all that relevant in most circumstances.  Also, it’s challenging to explain.  I don’t walk around looking at my shoes and crying all the time.  It’s more like I have the worst teacher/parent/coach you can imagine living in my head telling me I suck all the time.  On a good day, I can ignore it.  On a bad day, I may not make it out of bed.

On the day after a bad day, I exercise.  As soon as I can gather enough gumption to get up, I figure out when and how I can get sweaty and breathless.  It works like a high-powered vacuum on my head.

I am one of the lucky depressives.  Medication mostly works for me.  I have a list of things to try whenever I start to fall under the sway of the monster, up to and including massive doses of Julie Andrews.  But always, one of the very best choices I can make is to move my body.

If you have a similar problem, I am ready to be here for you, whenever.  Call/text/email/smoke signal/telegraph me in an emergency, or just because.  And please, consider going outside and moving.  It helps.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Musical chairs, or get up and dance

Last week I had to sit for hours, in a car, in a classroom, and in a car again.  It was more exhausting than the longest bike ride ever, with hills.  The next day I was wiped out. 

I am lucky in that I no longer have a sedentary job.  I would not be able to stand it.  In retrospect, even when I had one, I would find reasons to get up and move around—conferring with my coworkers, running work errands, standing to make copies.

We need to make sure we move.  There are many articles out there on ways to do it at work, including standing desks, walking meetings, even hydrating so that bathroom breaks are necessary.  Let’s figure out what we can do to keep out of our chairs as much as possible.  We will feel better!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

No, there are not too many patterns; why do you ask?

In general, I prefer to keep things simple.  I do not buy the Best Ever Fitness Gadget of the Month, even if they make a red one.

That said, sometimes I need to get fitness things to make the experience better.  There are two kinds of purchases:  good for the body and good for the psyche.

In the former category, I have bought, at different times, weight lifting gloves, better pedals for my spin bike, and actual workout clothes that don’t end up weighing a thousand pounds and lying there all wet on my back.

That last item also fits into the latter category.  Having workout clothes that fit, feel comfortable, function well, and look cute enough to distract from the sweat factor can make the difference between feeling up to a workout and not so much.  New headphones, new music, a sassy helmet (always wear a helmet when being sassy, just in case!), all good for the soul.

What small thing can make the difference today?  Get it and go play!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Or you could just blow a raspberry...

Why do we want to exercise?  Each of us has a different answer, or complex of answers; knowing why can help us stay focused.

The hard part, sometimes, is being honest about the reasons.  It is totally socially acceptable to say we exercise to be healthy.  Secretly, it may be all about showing that particular person just how awesome we look and neemeeneemeeneemee.  Perhaps we love doing hard things, but don’t love admitting it lest people think we are too weird.  Perhaps we are afraid of having to wear muumuus later in life, even while playing Santa.

Digging into the why helps us choose the kind of reminders we need to get out of bed or off the couch or out of the office to move.  Personally, I need to remind myself how much better I feel after exercising.  I need to remember that I like to defeat those weights.  I need to remember that I like to flex my muscles in the bathroom mirror (embarrassing, yes, but true.).

Knowledge is power (well, actually, power is energy consumed over unit of time, but the point stands.).  Be powerful!

Monday, July 13, 2015

From idea to action

I get all excited reading fitness magazines and books.  I mark exercises to try, workout strategies, yoga routines, recipes, and even pictures I particularly like.  There I am, all inspired! 

Oh, right, you have to DO something to get the benefit.  I knew there was a snag.

Here’s my plan:  sneak a little bit of new into the old.  Maybe I’m not going to do a whole yoga progression, but I can decide that my waiting-around stance is going to be tree this week.  I have to do some kind of weight work, so I can try one new workout.

Steal this plan.  It’ll be fun.  Trust me.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

My treat...

Treats are a wonderful thing, no doubt.  Even my disobedient dogs will sit if there is bacon involved—until they get the bacon, and then all bets are off.  Still, they got so happy that it was fun for me to give them treats.  Until we visited the vet, who suggested that the girls were no longer at their ideal weights.

We are human, which means that we have thumbs that can work can openers and other methods of controlling when and what we eat.  We also like treats.  Lest we have the same kind of conversation I had with the vet with our doctors, we need to pay attention to those treats.

Treats are not everyday food.  We don’t get a treat just because we are tired and whiny.  We don’t have to have a treat just because that guy two cubicles down has a birthday, or a new pie recipe, or an always-full candy jar.

The good news is that treats don’t have to be food-based.  We can get our toes painted a different color, spend half an hour swinging on the swings at the park (assuming no small people got there first), read comic books, go swimming, dance in the backyard.  Even napping can be a treat.

Whatever we choose for our treats, let’s make sure we really enjoy them.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"...itty bitty living space"

A lot of people wish they had time to exercise.  Today, I have genie powers:  we all have time to exercise!  Exercise does not have to take a long time and it doesn’t all have to happen at once.

Interval training is our best friend when it comes to saving time.  A half hour of intervals, in which we alternate segments of going as fast and hard as we can and segments of relative rest and recovery, not only burns more calories than an hour of steady state exercise, but it also pumps up our metabolisms for the next 24 hours.  Mix in some weights and we are good to go!

Sometimes finding an entire half hour is too much.  Let’s find three 10-minute slots.  The workout will be just as effective. 

Then there are the sneaky ways to exercise.  We can do calf raises while we brush our teeth, improving both oral hygiene and balance.  Stuck in line?  Let’s do some squats; worst case, we entertain the rest of the line.  Stuck in traffic?  Remember the trusty myofascial release duck and arrive with a much more relaxed set of traps.  Commercials during our favorite (non-pre-recorded shows?  Time for sit ups and push ups!  (And no, the sprint to the tortilla chips doesn’t count.)

We can do it.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

I cannot tell a lie...

Let’s tell the truth.  Not that any of us are liars, exactly.  We just give ourselves, often, a little fudge factor.  Like when we underestimate the calories in that piece of fudge, for example.  Or maybe when the account of our swimming workout starts to include escaping from a giant fish at high speed instead of the actual 25 laps we struggled to complete.

The truth can be uncomfortable, but so can tight jeans.  When we consistently underestimate the quantity of food we consume and overestimate the amount and quality of our exercise, we may be surprised that the jeans remain tight.  A little more accuracy in our reporting might reveal that the problem does not lie with the dryer, after all.

What have we got to lose?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Also, never underestimate the power of a well-timed grape

My friend O is 11 and newly in possession of a spiffy road bike.  Pedaling is old hat—she has been riding tandem with her dad for a long time over long distances.  It is, however, different, when one is in charge of one’s own bike.  It takes some time to learn about steering and pacing and braking and the always-crucial timing of calling out to pedestrians and bikes before passing.  She practiced all of those things when we rode (almost 15 miles, with some small hills) yesterday and did a fabulous job.

This morning, off I went to spin class.  I have my own batch of things I am learning and I figured one of them out today.  More accurately, my body found the way to execute what my mind couldn’t properly explain to it.  I grinned like a kid at recess.

Sometimes learning takes a while, but it is always worth it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Watermelon, on the other hand...

So, hypothetically, maybe, someone happened to find a pint of ice cream in the freezer.  Maybe that person happened to be having a rough day and kind of ate the entire thing at one go.  What, hypothetically, should that person do about it over the next days?

First, there are a few things that person should NOT do.  Like get depressed about it and do it over again.  That person should not decide that she or he is hopeless and doomed and will never be fit or healthy so why even bother at all.  This may be challenging because, odds are, the ice cream did not exactly agree with that person and he or she may be feeling cranky, tired, bloated, or otherwise out of sorts.

Noticing that icky feeling in the body is one of the things the unfortunate person should do.  She or he ate the ice cream in an attempt to feel good, and it didn’t work.  Paying attention to this may be useful in avoiding a repeat occurrence.

The sufferer should definitely get some exercise, but what he or she would normally do, not the most intense workout ever to eradicate all thousand calories at once.  This will not make her or him feel better.  It will not magically return the body to its pre-Fall state.

In short, the plan remains the same in spite of the deviation.  Just get back to work, eating and working out in ways that produce health and wellbeing.  All of this applies to anyone who is considering a full slab of ribs or extra apple pie or a vat of someone’s famous potato salad over the holiday weekend.  Just in case someone, hypothetically, might have this occur…

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Said the Spider...

Lao Tse, currently spelled Laozi, according to Wikipedia, said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

What he didn’t say is that that single step can set off profound changes.  Imagine kicking a pebble with that first step and starting a rock slide.  Not that all change is bad.  (Except on my computer; software update has crashed it twice today.)  Sometimes that first step seems to be into an elevator heading for the sky.

Fitness can be a profound change.  We may not recognize ourselves.  We may find that the strength we have gained in our bodies has changed our power in the world.  Other people may treat us differently, in both good and less good ways.

We can react to that with fear, ice cream, and blankets, or we can gird up for adventure.  I vote for adventure.