Archive for the ‘exercise’ Category

Exercise and Weight Loss (or Not)

Fascinating (albeit somewhat depressing) article on the effects of exercise on weight loss.

Lots of science! And backs up my own experience of rapidly dropping weight after dropping the heavy duty calorie burns associated with spinning!

Favorite quote, which explains a lot:

In practical terms, the results are scientific proof that life is unfair. Female bodies, inspired almost certainly “by a biological need to maintain energy stores for reproduction,” Braun says, fight hard to hold on to every ounce of fat. Exercise for many women (and for some men) increases the desire to eat.

This isn’t the first article I’ve read that has caused me to rethink my attitude on exercise. For a less scientific, but perhaps more human perspective, check it out here!

Meanwhile, I’m off to do some yoga and get some sleep – two strategies that are (or at least still) consistently associated with shedding unwanted pounds.

Namaste and goodnight.


One Hundred Pushups

My colleague invited me to join her in her quest to do 100 consecutive push ups. Since I’m normally the extreme exerciser in the office – though not so much lately – I agreed to join her.

My initial test yielded 18 good push-ups; obviously I’ve lost quite a bit since my back to back P90X days!

Anyone care to join us? Come on, you can even get your very own iPhone app to keep you motivated. How much fun is that?

Regardless, I’ll keep you posted periodically as to my (our) progress!

Breaking Fast (and heading into the 21-day Sugar Detox)

Well, the limeade fast is officially over. I got up this morning, did some yoga, had some herbal tea, waited for Michael J to get up, then made the Biotics NutriClear and Rice Protein Shake. I blended in a couple of extra ice cubes to make sure it was chilled, then served it in goblets.

It was okay. But more to the point, it wasn’t limeade! Laugh!

I personally think it’s nothing a little cinnamon and vanilla bean wouldn’t fix (though MJ wants his cacao)! We decided to try it straight the first time and see how long we could last before we start the modifications. Though it’s breaking protocol, we figure anything that doesn’t contain sugar is fair game!

I realized how weak I’ve gotten doing yoga this morning. It was tough and it used to be something I could breeze through. I think I may add a couple of different exercise routines in during the day, keeping them short and sweet until I get my strength back.

I tell you sitting down to break-fast will never have the same meaning again!

A Simple Step

Or, rather, several.

Over the last month or so I started walking more.

I think it’s because the weather has been unseasonably nice where I live and it’s just nice to be outside when the sun is shining and it’s reasonably warm – especially in November.

I used to discount walking. It’s not hard enough. It’s not strenuous enough. It’s boring…. You name it, I had used it as an excuse not to do it. It wasn’t like I was one of those people who drive around 30 minutes in the gym parking lot to get a park near the door and then go sweat it out for an hour (or two) on a spinning bike, but it was close.

But walking, like any other exercise, burns calories. And, not like a lot of other exercises, it’s incredibly easy on your body!

I remember someone telling me once that joggers are simply walkers who don’t have a lot of time!

I’m beginning to see that.

I live on a dirt road with some steep and some rolling hills, interspersed with some rather scenic flats. In addition to just getting out in nature, on an hour and 15 minute walk, I can burn almost 500 calories. And sometimes my heart rate gets up as high as 147 beats per minute! Granted it doesn’t stay there, but it doesn’t really need to.

Heck, just walking over to the gym from my office (and back) I burned 120 calories! (Again, thank goodness for hills!) I was shocked – not to mention pleasantly surprised!

In fact, I was so pleased, that I’m going to start wearing my heart rate monitor when I park so that I will actually be motivated to park further away from my office. (Yes, I am a geek – it’s sad but true!)

And instead of complaining about “having to park in the North 40” I may purposefully park in the last spot on the very last row at the bottom of the hill!

Seriously, walking adds up and it’s easy on the body. I dropped my car off at the shop this morning and walked to work – 139 calories. I have to walk back – probably closer to 100 (given the direction of the hills). But still, in addition to the gym workout, I will have burned an extra 350 calories shuttling myself to and fro!

Think about it.

And stop looking for the closest parking spot – even if you are looking in the gym parking lot!

Sometimes showing up really is the hardest part!

I spent four hours yesterday trying to convince myself to go the gym. And failed.

I actually started over there a couple of times, but every time I did, something more important came up (like playing yet another game of the New Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook). I won’t provide a link, because I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s downfall!

When I realized that I was never going to knock my mother off the board (and having received not one, but two notices that I had played 20 games in a row), I decided that enough was enough. I was going to go to the gym. I got so far as picking up my bag when the justifications started.

“There are people with swine flu at the gym. If you go to the gym, you’re going to get swine flu!” (A stretch, I know, but it held me at bay for at least 20 more games, er, I mean minutes).

“But my leg feels so good after yoga this morning. Do I really want to mess it up by going to the gym?”

And then, on my way to the gym: “I forgot my heart rate monitor!”

Taking a deep breath I forgave myself for being a baby and accepted that fact that I really didn’t want to go to the gym – or so I thought.

The reason why I am telling you this story is twofold. The first is simply to get those of my friends who think I am a total exercise junkie off my back! 😉 The second, is to let you know that when you really don’t want to do something, it’s okay not to do it.

Okay, maybe it’s threefold, because I realized – once I was miles away from the gym – that I had hit an internal wall of resistance. And with temporal and spatial hindsight, I realized that everything I had tried to accomplish yesterday was stymied.

Does anyone ever really need to play 60 straight games of Bejeweled Blitz? No, not ever. Did I? Oh, yes. And maybe then some. And did I at least knock my mother off the board? Not even close.

So what was going on?

I had a lot of emotional anxiety about a couple of things going on in my life and, like I used to do more often than I do now, I dealt with it (or not) in my choices about food and exercise. As it turned out, I didn’t exercise at home either; I simply ate Chocolate Velvet So Delicious straight out of the carton just minutes after telling MJ to leave me alone for an hour because I “wanted to exercise.” Ironically, I did want to exercise; I just couldn’t make myself do it.

My subconscious mind was definitely in control yesterday and it drove all of my good intentions and so-called will power right off the cliff!

Last night before bed, I went up early and did a little 15 minute meditation program to promote clarity, before crashing into troubled, integrating dreams.

This morning, without giving it too much thought, I rolled out of bed and hit the yoga mat. Then, without changing clothes, I packed my gym bag full of work clothes and drove straight to the gym.

I had a great workout. It was fabulous. It reminded me why I like going to the gym.

Morals of the story:

1) If you just can’t do it, forgive yourself and let it go. Don’t beat yourself up, which will inevitably invite you to overeat or eat something that takes you further away from your health related goals.

2) When you’re having an off day (before it turns into an off week or even an off month) ask yourself what’s really going on. Is there something going on in your life that you’re using as an excuse to not show up? If so, is it something you can change or is it just something you need to let go? Or were you really just tired and didn’t want to go to the gym?

3) Get a good night sleep and do whatever it takes to get up and show up.

In my case, there was no way that I was going to sit in my office all day in my sweaty yoga clothes and even though I could have just taken a shower at the gym and gone to work, that really would have been ridiculous. Even more ridiculous than playing 60+ games of Bejewled Blitz!

Cardio, How Do I Love Thee? Let Me Count the Ways

Up until about a month ago, I was a self-proclaimed cardio queen. Spinning, NordicTrack, StairMill, Elliptical, you name it. If it moved, and got me to move faster, I was all over it.

Somewhere along the line – somehow – I gave up on cardio and became a yoga junkie. Now, I had been trying to get into yoga for years, but I didn’t realize that to do so would undermine my first and (so I’d always thought) my truest love, that is, cardio.

So early on in this blog, I said that the reason that I started blogging was to “remind myself of what I know to be true.” Today I am going to remind myself (and maybe you as well) of why I love cardio (and maybe why you do too).

And I am going to do this so that when I forget, as I have forgotten in the recent weeks while I have been focused on making micro adjustments and opening up my chest, I can go back and remember. Hopefully, just the act of of writing this down will get these reasons back into my consciousness and, given that I am such an abysmal typist, into my body!

This morning, after much negotiating, I decided to hit the NordicTrack and just go for it. I put on my favorite music and hit it for about an hour. This is what I noticed:

  1. It really feels good to move my body.
  2. I like the way it feels when I’m sweating the toxins of the day (or in this case, the week) out of my body.
  3. I love knowing that I am training my heart to be more efficient.
  4. Now that I know that it’s cardio exercise that allows your body to absorb calcium into the bones, thus preventing osteoporosis, I enjoy imagining actually feeling my bones getting stronger.
  5. I love how my body feels when I stop.
  6. I really enjoy the slight fatigue I feel in my limbs after a good cardio workout, even though my mind feels alert and refreshed.
  7. I’ve noticed that I often get my best ideas in the morning while I’m doing cardio – no doubt due to the increased oxygen flow to the brain.
  8. I get to feel superior when I write -500 (or whatever it happens to be) into my daily calorie/food journal.  (Today it was -754 since I followed up my cardio with 30 minutes of resistance training.)
  9. I get an amazing sense of satisfaction from knowing that by strengthening my heart (see #3), I’m making it easy for every part of my body to get the blood and the oxygen it needs.
  10. I love contrasting where I am now with the unhealthy (but nonetheless intelligent, creative, and determined) teenager that I once was who couldn’t make it up a half flight of stairs without panting.

As I sit here compiling this list, I realize that I could go on for a really long time.  There are many, many reasons why I love cardio.  But the main reason I love cardio is because I love myself.  And engaging in cardiovascular exercise is a great way to take care of my most valuable resources – my body, my health, my mood, and my emotions. 

So with that said, I’ll just leave you with my Top Ten.

Hopefully when I get up tomorrow, I will remember my list and I won’t have to argue with myself, I’ll just do it.  Because as is the case with most things that are good for me, showing up with 75% of the problem.  Once I get going, I’m golden.

What’s your compelling reason that gets you out of bed and into your exercise shoes in the morning (or to the gym after work)?  I’d love to hear it!

p.s. Hopefully I’ll figure out a way to love both cardio and yoga, as one is the perfect complement to the other!

Comprehensive warm up and cool down guide from Jillian Michaels

Everyone knows that they’re supposed to warm up and cool down before any strenuous exercise.

The problem is that most people haven’t been kept up with the move from static stretching (holding a stretch in place) to dynamic stretching (stretching while in movement).

Or, like I used to, they simply ignore stretching all together because it takes too long, they’ve only got 50 minutes to work out, or they want to get on to the business of burning calories.

Warming up and cooling down have innumerable benefits, but for the purposes of this post, I’ll just give you the top three: they get your body ready to (and recovered from) strenuous activity, they help prevent soreness (which promotes continued activity), and they prevent injury! See more here.

In case you’re like I used to be, check out this very nice warm up/cool down guide from Jillian Michaels. She also has a related article on the dos and don’ts of stretching! Check it out here!

Enjoy! And if you aren’t warming up and cooling down, try it. You might be surprised how much more you enjoy your workout!

The many smells of fat and exercise

This is more of an observation, a question, and, potentially, a request.

Have you ever noticed that fat really has a repulsive smell?

I’m not talking about frying bacon or sauteing onions in olive oil, but fat?

I remember jogging around the loop at Vanderbilt in the summer (well, it was more like the shuffle of a wounded animal to tell you the truth) and coming around Peabody Campus and hitting the wall of grease that surrounded the Kentucky Fried Chicken.

You could literally feel the grease that hung in the air; it coated your skin and the smell and even the taste filled your nose and lungs.

It’s been years, but I can still remember that smell – the cloying nature of it, held in place as it were by the pollution and humidity (shudder).

So, you might be wondering what this has to do with anything related to losing the last ten pounds. Well, here it comes: there’s been a lot of chatter lately about whether working out in one’s “fat burning zone” is just a lot of hooey.

The critics say that it’s better to work out at a higher heart rate because you burn more calories and if you burn more calories (even if a smaller percentage of them is fat) you will eventually burn the same number of fat calories, which seems to make sense. The proponents of the “fat burning zone” argue that your body burns fat more efficiently at this level and that when you work out at the higher level, you burn sugar and eventually muscle (which also makes sense).

Here’s the observation, as well as the question and, if you’re game, the request:

Observation: I’ve noticed that when I work out at the high end of my cardio zone (or above), which I used to do in spinning (HR 147-157), I would sweat a lot, but I didn’t necessarily smell afterward. However, when I work out for the same amount of time at the low end of my cardio zone (HR 130-142), I reek! I mean, seriously, it’s disgusting! My personal (non-scientific) theory is that the disgusting nasty smell (again, I’m being 100% honest here), which is disturbingly similar to the smell of KFC in the summer in the south, is the smell of my body burning fat, whereas the clean, almost sweet smell post spinning is the smell of my body burning sugar.

Question: Has anyone else experienced this?

Request: Would anyone else be willing to try this and let me know if they experience the same? Or, if you have any suggestions on what this might be about, I’d love to hear them!

As is probably evident by this post, I am perplexed yet, to tell you the truth, fascinated in a repulsed sort of way.

Dusting off old friends

As you might imagine, I have a ton of workout DVDs. Heck, I even have some old VHS tapes (including Billy Blanks’ original Tae-Bo program and Susan Powter’s “Lean, Strong, and Healthy“). It’s too bad I don’t have a VHS player anymore, because those were the best!

So, while I didn’t go all the way to 1993, I did go back to my workout routine from a couple of years ago: P90X, which is available from Beachbody.

Since I was just mixing it in, I pulled out KenpoX. KenpoX, which is the sixth of the twelve DVD set, is – for want of a better description – Tony Horton’s version of kickboxing.

Making sure I had my heart rate monitor securely fastened, I strapped on my 2lb weighted gloves and my 5lb ankle weights and, to use a derivative of Horton’s catch phrase, “Brought it!”

One reason why it’s a good idea to go back and do old workouts that you haven’t done in a long time is that it mixes things up. Another is that it provides a nice marker of where you are now in relation to where you were. Not surprisingly, since it’s been over a year since I went through P90X, there were things that were definitely harder than they used to be. My balance, for instance, is not as good as it was when I was in the thick of it. On the other hand, my horse stance was much deeper and much stronger than it ever was; I’m assuming that has to do with all of the curtsy lunges I’ve been doing in K-bells and as part of my own floor program that I designed from some of the my favorite routines (more on that later). During the vertical punching sequence, I could also see that my abs are much more defined than they used to be and I have definition throughout my core (especially in my sides). This was a particularly nice bonus, as I’m vain enough to think that that kind of thing is pretty darned cool!

So, if you’re stuck in a rut with your current exercise routine, whether it’s a DVD or a class or just a favored activity like running outdoors, swimming, or biking, trot out an old routine to mix it up. You can always try something new, but when you try something old – something you haven’t done in months, if not years – you actually get a much better picture of where you’ve been, where you are now (relatively speaking), and, if you’ve lost ground, the direction in which you need to go in order to catch back up and, hopefully, get ahead.

For me, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing in terms of legs and core, but I will definitely start incorporating more balance postures and exercises back into my workout! Revisiting KenpoX thus not only put me through my paces in terms of just being a kick-ass workout, but it also provided me with a reality check on my overall fitness and some insight on where I need to focus my attention in the future.

So if you’ve got an old box of workout DVDs or a bike that hasn’t seen the light of day in six months or more, dust them off and take them for a spin; you might be surprised! I know that I, for one, will be slipping KenpoX back into the routine. Who knows? There may be yet a fourth round of P90X in my future. It could happen.

15 Minute Results: Yoga (Day Three)

In my last post, I mentioned that I was looking for an easy and reliable way into yoga. Well, I may have found it! Rodney Yee & Marial Hemmingway’s 15 Minute Results:Yoga is great!


It’s short. It’s easy to follow. It’s totally invigorating. And it’s not “precious.” Instead, it’s two people doing yoga, who are obviously passionate about their craft and really enjoy each other. Some reviews have suggested it’s too chatty and that they prefer the Yee productions that are more scenic and have been voiced over. Personally, as a non-yoga adherent (at least not yet), it’s perfect. It’s like being at the gym with friends.

Additionally, if you are new to yoga, there is a lot of overlap between the total body, upper body, and lower body. Some reviewers have said there is too much overlap, but, again, as someone who is relatively new to yoga, I find the repetition useful.

It is pretty fast paced, but I don’t feel like I’m struggling all that much to keep up. Whenever I do lose my place, I just figure there’s room for improvement. Why invest in something if you can already do it perfectly right out of the box?

Overall, glad I got it and am looking forward to section four! When’s the last time anyone’s heard me say that about anything related to yoga?

Oh, and the other thing? It’s only 15 minutes! So if I feel my energy start to lag throughout the day or if I get stiff from sitting at the computer, I can always just do it again! I may even buy another copy for the office!

Still looking for an easy and reliable pathway into yoga

I went to Borders today and bought 15 Minute Results: Yoga with Rodney Yee and Mariel Hemingway. It looks pretty good. Fairly straightforward. There are supposedly four different routines, one for total body, upper body, lower body, and abdominal strengthening, but (to tell you the truth) the first three look remarkably similar! Though, given my skill at yoga, similarity is good. At least two of them include a little bit of rebounding, which is great not only for circulating lymph but also for elevating mood.

Regardless, surely I can do anything for fifteen minutes! Besides, I am determined to love it!

I’ll let you know how it works out for me!

UPDATE: I did the total body segment and at 15 minutes it was over, seemingly, before it even started! It’s actually not bad. Very, very doable! Will move onto upper body in the morning! Can’t wait! 😉

New Thought Experiment

For one week, I am not going to engage in any negative self-talk, most of which I am sad to say tends to be centered on my body and or my appearance!

Why? When you focus on the negative (regarding anything) you oftentimes end up manifesting the very thing that you’re trying to avoid! Sounds messed up, doesn’t it? But it’s true! Similarly, when you beat yourself up over your body or a food choice that you’ve made, you are, essentially, inviting feelings of sadness, disgust, or guilt – all of which invite more feelings of sadness, disgust, or guilt, which, in turn, invite eating even more crap and other forms of self-sabotage!

All that aside, I don’t like like it when other people are mean to me or judge me negatively for my choices or my appearance, so then why should I do it to myself? Simple answer: I shouldn’t! In this case it’s the Golden Rule turned inside out: treat yourself as you would treat others! Because, trust me, I’m much nicer and more accepting when it comes to my friends than I am when it comes to myself, which is totally messed up! This is not to say that I should be any less nice or accepting of them mind you, but I should at least give myself the same courtesy and respect!

Further, there has been so much written about the laws of attraction – about how what you focus your energy on comes true (or rather, you draw it to you at an unconscious level) that there must be something to it! Wouldn’t it suck to be creating – even at the subconscious level – the very thing that you want to avoid? So, I am only going to focus on the positive and, in the process, I am going to create the body I want – both consciously and subconsciously, live the healthy life that I want, and love myself unconditionally (always a plus)!

I am going to stop focusing on the negative and reduce the guilt and self-loathing that focusing on the negative brings! I am going to stop beating myself up, because doing so only makes me feel bad about myself, which is also no fun! Instead, I am going to focus on how wonderful my body is – how amazing it is – because no matter what I’ve done to it in the past, it gets me through the day, houses my spirit, allows me to communicate with friends and family, allows me to enjoy the world at a sensory level, etc. I know it sounds silly, but everything I am I owe to my body! Shouldn’t I be a little nicer to it? Shouldn’t I love it a little more than I have been in the past?

So, what does this mean exactly? Quite simply, it just means that whenever I start to have a negative thought about myself (particularly about my body), I am going to stop it and replace it with a positive thought.

It’s pretty simple – at least in theory! I figure it’s going to be a lot like meditation.

I used to think that meditation was about imagining yourself in a white room while being in a total state of transcendence – whatever that means! Once I started meditating, I realized that it’s really about clearing your head of thoughts and focusing on your breath. Whenever a thought comes in, you immediately let it go and go back to your breath. You may find yourself going down some thought road, but the minute you realize what you’re doing, you let it go and follow your breath. As you get better at meditation, your forays down thought roads become shorter and shorter and you periods where you are able to clear your mind and focus on your breathing get longer and longer. I imagine that this is going to be the same thing.

I imagine that some negative thoughts will creep in and when they do, as soon as I am aware of them, I will stop them in their tracks and replace them with something positive. It’s going to take practice, but eventually, it will become a habit, just like following your breath becomes the habit for those who regularly meditate. I think it’s all going to boil down to really tuning into my self-talk, recognizing the negative stuff as the garbage it is, remembering to stop it instead of just internalizing it (which, again, is the last thing you want), and replacing it with something new.

My goal is to try this for a week and then for another week and another week until it comes habit.

And it really shouldn’t be that hard now that I am aware of it, because my body is amazing! It’s amazing now and it was amazing when I weighed 232 pounds at age 16!

I mean think about it. Think about what it does for you every single day, every single minute of every single day! Think about all of the crap that you put into it and all of the things that you do to it – and it’s still there for you!

Think about that for a change and acknowledge what a good friend it’s been to you! Even if there have been times where you’ve felt betrayed by your body or you developed a condition or disease that you wish you hadn’t or that is somehow embarrassing to you. I mean cut your body some slack, because, truth be told, how many times have you betrayed your body? I, personally, can think of at least a couple of times (cough!) that I have treated my body like crap, most of them – but not all – involving a toilet and the expulsion of copious amounts of alcohol. The point being is that my body hasn’t abandoned me over that, so I really don’t feel that I have that much room to complain!

Regardless of the challenges you’ve faced in your relationship with your body in the past or the ones that you’re still facing, your body is an amazing machine…an amazing friend. Try treating it as you would any cherished friend that you’ve had since birth. Try treating it with the respect and admiration that it and that you deserve and see what happens.

Feel free to join me in this and let me know how it works for you! I’d love to hear about it!

The Perfect Workout

I just had the most awesome workout! Everything about it was good. The exercise, the music, the post workout stretch – even the foam rolling (which is always a drag). And even the post-workout lunch!

Why was it so good? Not sure. It may be that I had taken yesterday off and was therefore more rested. Maybe it was because I’d engaged in some pre-workout creativity, so I had something to think about and mull over. I actually have a lot of writing to do after this and all of the extra oxygen flowing to the brain really helped to solidify some of the ideas that I had been grappling with. I remember a friend of mine used to carry a voice recorder with him when he ran, because he got all of best ideas while exercising. I believe it.

Anyway, I did a little stretching warm up and then jumped on the Nordic Track Classic Pro Skier. I may have mentioned this before, but one of the things that I like about the Nordic Track is that it doesn’t give you anything. It’s no help whatsoever. Unlike a spinning bike or a treadmill (or an an elliptical) that pulls you along at least for a couple of seconds, the Nordic Track is all you. The minute – the second – that you stop moving, you literally stop. I used to hate that about it, but now I find it quite motivating. Because like many things in life, if you don’t do it, it’s not going to get done.

On the stereo was Linkin Park. I started with their first album, Hybrid Theory and let it bleed into the first three songs of their Live EP at the Soho Apple Store, which is available exclusively at itunes ending with the acoustic version of My December.

I then did a set of “Ladder Downs,” which are essentially 10 jumping jacks, 10 plank jacks, 9, jumping jacks, 9 plank jacks, 8 jumping jacks, 8 plank jacks, and so on until you get to 1 jumping jack and 1 plank jack – without rest. That’s a lot of jumping and plank-jacks! I got this idea from a video blog post that I ended up on when I clicked on an banner ad with the headline: Bikini Bootcamp! Now, I have never had on a bikini, but I never said that I didn’t believe in miracles. These ladies, whose company is called “Keep it Tight Fitness,” have a number of free exercise videos that you can check out. The chair squats look nasty. If anyone tries them, let me know!

I then finished off the workout (heart rate up) with K-Bells: Total Body Blast. It felt great.

I burned 725 calories and then did about 15 minutes of foam rolling.

Then another 16 ounces of water and lunch: a hummus and veggie pita pocket and a large spinach salad with roasted beets. Love it!

What’s your best workout sequence? And equally important, what do you listen to and how do you refuel afterward?

Getting my groove back

Usually my summers are the time that I reconnect with my body, the last two years through doing P90X with my favorite workout partner and really getting serious about food.

Not this summer.

This summer has been about travel and disruption. It’s been about illness (my 19 year old cat had a stroke two months ago). It’s been about tubing and fluids and shots. In all fairness, it’s also been about vacations, wine tours and the forsaking of valued identities (that is, spinning instructor) for the sake of overall balance in my body.

In some ways, this summer has felt like more of a struggle than the spring, even though I was overwhelmed with work in the months of March, April, and June in ways that I am simply not at the moment. There’s still a lot of work to do, more than I have time for in fact, but the deadlines aren’t as frenetic. The penalties for not getting it done seem less severe.

I made three trips to California (from the east coast) in the last two months; two with Michael and one alone. On these trips, I learned how to pack food and exercise gear for travel. I learned how to use my new iPhone to broadcast via Twitter (KJLively), though I couldn’t quite manage to blog remotely, hence the long gaps on occasion. I also learned how to use the mapping function to find grocery stores and how to make salads in hotel rooms with cutlery borrowed from in-house restaurants or once, when I was desperate, lifted off of someone’s room service tray that had been left in the hall. I washed the knife with shampoo and dried it with a washcloth. I learned to travel with a blender and, when necessary, how to pack soy milk for shakes in airtight containers in my checked baggage. I made peanut butter sandwiches ahead of time and sealed them in baggies before placing them in hard plastic containers for safe keeping.

I lost track of calories at weddings and conferences, mostly through my consumption of alcohol. However, I also learned the finer points of most cardio machines in most hotel fitness rooms. I can get my heart rate up and keep it there on a treadmill going 3.6 miles an hour (a brisk walk) on an incline of 6. The recumbent bike – somewhat surprisingly – is harder than it looks. And the StairMaster – somewhat ironically – is less so.

Now that I am home, I am attempting to revisit my old routines. The nordic track, followed by K-Bells (either Cardio Balanced or Total Body Blast) or Jillian Michaels (either the 30 or No More Trouble Zones). I am also using my foam roller once or twice a day to smooth out the knots in my abductors and tennis balls to dissolve the rocks in my calves.

Throughout all this, my body is changing and not always in ways that I would chose.

I keep trying to skirt around negative words like “losing ground”, “getting old” and “betrayed” and use more positive words such as “journey”, “process”, “maturing,” and “natural”, instead. I know it’s all in the framing! Luckily I have good friends around to remind me when I slip up and return to old patterns, only to engage in the familiar ritual of self-recrimination.

Needless to say, I am not going for perfection at the moment, but I am trying to take my victories where I can find them.

Tonight, I bent at the waist and – keeping my legs straight – touched the floor. I didn’t scrape the floor with the tips of my fingers, mind you. Instead, I put my whole palms on the floor. I’ve never been able to do that. I went downstairs and immediately showed Michael. His response: It will be worth trying that again in the morning!

You know what? It’s progress and I’ll take it.

Surprise Workout CD of the Week!

Like most people I know, I love working out to music. When I was teaching spinning (more on that in a later post) I would spend days putting together the perfect play lists.

Sometimes, however, I’ll stumble across a perfect album – that is, one that’s just made for working out.

The first one I found (not a week ago mind you, as suggested by the title of this post, but rather a couple of months ago), was Stop Making Sense, by the Talking Heads. There are actually two versions of this album, which, technically, is a soundtrack. I prefer the first release, which (it’s only fault) is only 50 minutes.

The general gist of the film is that then lead vocalist David Byrne comes out solo with only a boom box and is joined by another member of the band with each song. Thus, the music gets more intense, more driving, with each successive phase. This is a great workout CD precisely because it was such a great dance album! In fact, Stop Making Sense was often considered in the ’80s as the dance album. It starts slow, builds to a crescendo and brings you back down again.

Because I usually do an hour of cardio (which includes a warm up and a cool down) I actually loop the album to start again. Because the first song, Psycho Killer, makes as good of a cool down as it did a warm up!

But my find this week is even weirder than that. Get ready: Disc 1 of the Grateful Dead’s Nightfall of Diamonds. Unlike the preceding mention, this puppy is 64 minutes with a convenient tuning break 42 minutes in which gives you plenty of opportunity to catch your breath and hydrate! Unlike Stop Making Sense which is a soundtrack of a concert, Nightfall of Diamonds is actually a live album. I’m beginning to appreciate live music as a way to work out, because if the recording is good (that is, there are no artificial pauses between the songs put it in my helpful music industry suits who seem to have no appreciation for the music itself) there is an energy that is inherent to live performance that can pull you along in terms of your workout.

Interestingly enough, I did not grow up listening to Talking Heads or Grateful Dead. I grew up on Duran Duran. And, just in case there’s any question, my current workout iPod contains, given my age, an embarrassingly large collection of P!nk, Britney Spears, the Black Eyed Peas, Flo Rida, Linkin Park, etc. However, no one would be that surprised if I showed people what is on my standard workout play lists, because lot of people work out to that stuff.

But I thought it was worth sharing the stuff that doesn’t necessarily seem that intuitively obvious. And to encourage you to approach your record collection (or in my case, someone else’s record collection) with new ears, as well as for new motivation.

Regardless, I’d love to hear what you’re working out to these days. There’s nothing worse than getting bored with your music. So send it on! I’ll be happy to check it out!

The best laid plans of mice and men

Well, my intentions were good.

I’m writing this, really, as penance and to simply put it out there that I have off days (weeks) just like everyone else!

I missed exercise for two days. The first day was just insanely busy and then yesterday I stupidly let myself be talked into going to conferences and meeting people. You know what? I would have been much happier working out and I am pretty darned sure that my eating would have been better as well!

I suppose that when one is at a professional conference, you should take the opportunity for professional development and for social and professional networking. And it is true that I made a lot of contacts with publishers and got some great ideas for future projects while I was not at the gym. In that sense, I shouldn’t be so hard on myself. But not going to the gym seemed to invite over eating (and, in some cases, over drinking).

Prior to this conference, I hadn’t had more than two glasses of wine in a month, but it seems like I’ve developed a three glass minimum these days ;( Alcohol is a slippery slope when it comes to diet. Why?

One, alcohol is full of empty calories!

Two, alcohol lowers your inhibitions when it comes to food!

Three, alcohol lowers your blood sugar, which causes you to store fat (always a plus – not)!

Four, alcohol is highly acidic and once you start creating an acidic environ in your body, your body craves additional acid! In other words, you crave things like white bread, sugar, alcohol, etc. Essentially, once you get started, it’s hard to stop.

I haven’t managed to stop entirely, but I have managed to put on the breaks.

After a pretty indulgent day on Sunday, yesterday, I had my normal shake breakfast (even though hotel ice blends much quicker than ice cubes from a tray, the people next door hate me!), a bagel (highly acidic, but decidedly yummy), a beet salad with avocado and feta cheese, some cashews, a Lara Bar, a salad, some whole wheat bread sticks, and a plate of fabulous veggies (sauteed spinach, baby carrots, and grilled asparagus. (And , uhm, a third of a bottle of pinot noir – nobody’s perfect and we are, after all, in California).

I’ve been drinking my highly alkaline green stuff daily (sometimes three times a day!) but I feel like I’m losing the battle.

This morning, I decided no more excuses. Instead of procrastinating (or networking) I immediately rolled out of bed and went to the gym. All of the machines that I liked were full, but I hopped on the StairMaster anyway. An hour and close to 600 calories later, I realized that for the first time in two days, I felt like myself! I’m not saying that those 600 calories are going to change anything when it comes time to step on the scale when I get back home, but the psychological benefits were definitely real!

I literally danced my way back to my room, still plugged into my iPod shuffle! And even though tomorrow is our last day in a hotel with a gym, I am re-committed to move my body even if it means – poor me – a long walk on the beach!

(Notice, I said nothing about reducing the wine)!

Revisiting K-Bells (Re-Review!)

A few months ago I wrote that Michelle Khai’s Slim & Tone Program, available online, was fun, but that it wasn’t really that much of a workout.

But I liked it and I wanted to make it work for me, so I decided to cardio beforehand.

I also moved from the 4lb bell to the 8lb bell – that made a difference! Though I didn’t report it, I started rotating between Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred (using 5lb barbells) and KB Total Body Blast and really began noticing some changes in my body, especially in my arms and shoulders.

A few weeks ago, I decided to go back through my K-Bells set, which came with 9 different workout of varying lengths. I found one that I either did once with the 3lb bell and decided that it was too easy and moved on or I just missed it while I was running through the rest of the program.

Cardio Balanced, touted as “a powerful 40-minute fat burner that takes your kBell workout to the next level. Michelle’s expert coaching guides you through new K-Bell moves that supercharge your metabolism, combining cardio and resistance training for serious toning and weight loss.”

They’re not kidding. I really don’t know how I missed this one!

This thing is literally kicking my butt and I did P90X three times, so I’m no light weight! With the 8lb bell, Cardio Balance is my new best friend. It’s also whipping me into shape without a lot of jumping around and no high impact moves that hurt my knees.

Watch out Michelle Obama…

…I’m about to catch you on those arms!

Perseverance in Weight Loss:Keeping your eye on the prize (as opposed to your gut)

Over the last three or four days, I have really gotten my head around why cultivating perseverance in weight release (more commonly known as weight loss) or any other long term goal really matters.

Essentially, if you have a strong sense of perseverance, you will meet your goals because you’ll be able to 1) face challenging social scenes and still make choices that support you; 2) automatically create solutions when faced with difficult environment (i.e.. packing in a ton of fruit and bringing your own blender to a two day conference!); and 3) maintain your self-confidence, self-respect and self-esteem.

When you haven’t cultivated a strong sense of perseverance, you won’t meet your goals because you’ll be more likely to 1) abandon your plans in the face of difficult challenges or upset; 2) fail to see or to create opportunities to succeed; and 3) undermine not only your self-confidence, but also your self-respect and self-esteem. And once you’ve undermined those three puppies, all bets are off!

So what does it actually mean to persevere? Without resorting to, perseverance, to me, means to soldier on in the face of adversity and unwelcome surprises. Remember when you were a kid and your mother made you clean your room? Not just put away the mess, but to really do some massive reorganization and to clean out the gunk and garbage that may have accumulated since last summer? It’s typically the case that it gets a lot worse before it gets better. Same thing with growing out a short hair cut. You can give up during the truly hideous stage or you can persevere until you get the long luxurious mane that you’d been coveting for months.

A few blog posts ago, I told the story of the hapless veterinarian, who essentially asked when I was expecting my first bundle of joy! Needless to say, I was a bit floored. Because not only am I not pregnant, I am actually smaller than I’ve been in my entire life. I weigh less. My waist is smaller. My clothes are smaller. No matter how you slice it, there is less of me to love. Yet, here I am being asked if I’m pregnant! Wtf?!

You may recall that over the last couple of months, I have moved away from my predominantly cardio based exercise regime. Instead, I have introduced a mix of weight training DVDs, including Michelle Khai’s Kettlenetics Slim & Tone Program, as well as Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred and No More Trouble Zones. What this has done, essentially, has caused me to lay on a lot of muscle in my waist and in my upper and middle back, effectively pushing my pudge front and center!

The result, ironically, is that my core is stronger but my stomach looks bigger—bigger, that is, relative to the rest of me! And to make things worse (or better, depending on your perspective) my hips and thighs have also gotten smaller. Not a flattering combination! So, although I was completely thrown by the vet’s question about my impending life changes, it was (unfortunately) completely understandable.

I think it goes without saying that looking three months pregnant was not a goal when I started my weight loss (that is, my weight release) program. It would be very easy for me to justify not persevering and convince myself that it’s better to be a size 10 who doesn’t look preggers than a size six who does. But to do so would not only undermine my health and fitness goals, it would eventually undermine all of the self-confidence, the self-respect, and the self-esteem that I have gleaned from this process so far. It would also cost me a heck of a lot of money since I have sold all of my old clothes!

So my only other choice is to persevere.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m still getting rid of the shirt! However, what I really need to go is keep my eye on the prize and not my waist line.

Singularly unmotivated

It is July 1st and 66 degrees outside. We’re being pelted with rain and it’s unlikely we’ll see the sun.

So far I have bargained with and cajoled myself to get up and do anything — Nordic Track, Yoga, K-Bells, Thirty Day Shred….anything to get my body moving. Heck, stretching would be an improvement and I know — at least in my head — that I’d feel better for the expended effort!

But, alas, so far three loads of laundry, putting away clothes, putting away dishes, and making a salad are my only accomplishments.

Vacations are hard for the workaholic. I do much better (food- and exercise-wise) with an externally imposed schedule. But, then again, who doesn’t?

If any one has any words of motivation or suggestions in general, I’d love to hear them.

On the road again (well, sort of….)

My 6:18 p.m. flight to Chicago O’Hare was delayed to the point of missing connections yesterday, due to the weather. According to the woman behind the desk, this happens 90% of the time. So, really, why bother?

Regardless, at least they let me stay home another night with my parents instead of shelling out a hundred bucks for a hotel in Chicago. My new flight leaves at 10:30 a,m., and goes through Chicago, then Dulles, before finally getting me home at 6:38 p.m. Yuck. My other option was to be sitting at Chicago for ten hours! No thanks.

Of course, my biggest concern is not about the number of transfers, but about the food. Eight hours and two meal slots later. Lovely.

Plan: two veggie wraps, a bag of carrots, and (if we have time to run by the store) three or four apples. I’ll also be packing protien bars as well, but hopefully only as a last resort.

I should probably (notice how much possibility of failure is wrapped up in that little phrase) go for a walk, since my parents are still asleep and I have the time. It would undoubtedly make the entire day go smoother — it always does.

Okay, scratch that. I am going for a walk, since my parents are still asleep, I have the time, and it will make the day go much smoother.

I’m off.