Tag Archives: exercise

Physical Fit: New programs, pain, and horror monkeys

The first conversation of a morning not so long ago went something like this…

Co-worker: I feel like six shades of horror monkey turds.
Me: Oooookay… How many shades does it actually come in?
Co-worker: Eight.
Me: Ah. In that case, you aren’t completely dead yet. Carry on… (pauses before continuing) So…out of curiosity… what are the particular characteristics that make a simian “horror” instead of the usual run-of-the-mill variety…?
Co-worker: Severity of head pressure and the color of discharge from my nose.
Me: I see. So, sinus discharge is somehow related to differentiation of primate species occurring in horror vs naturally occurring ones… fascinating.

Why am I beginning this post with the above conversation? Well, I will tell you… I think I almost grasp horror monkey “turdness”. While no discharge has made evident the particular shade, I believe that today I might have fallen somewhere upon the color wheel of that excremental descriptive. Again… why? Oh, yeah, I’m a masochist.

My friend (Yes, Tess) will often remark that life is a series of experiments. We try various things, whether socially, physically, mentally, or emotionally and evaluate the outcomes for quality. Well, I’m paraphrasing… I think… hopefully not fouling up the actual premise, but you get the general idea. We do a lot of the experimenting when we are adolescents and trying to figure out who we are as independent persons. However, the experimental nature of humanity doesn’t end with adulthood. If so, we’d never have any new ideas from anyone outside their teens. And thus, it is good we continue to explore, create, and ponder the ponderings of new ideas. Where was I going with this… oh yeah: Horror monkeys.

As my experiments documented and shared with readers (all two or three of you, my undying gratitude for your loyalty) will attest, my explorations in the realm of fitness and diet have definitely had their ups and downs. Recently, I have embarked upon a new training program. I decided it was time to up my game. I needed to face my fears and make my first forays into the dreaded free weights area of the gym where the wildlife is more competitive (and spends a good deal of time looking in mirrors… yes, I know, form… but then there are the “swelfies.” That is apparently a thing, but I digress).

For those of you who possibly engage in weight lifting and fitness yourself this may seem like a ridiculous thing to fear. Am I right? You are thinking “Really? They’re just weights.” But y’all don’t understand the level of courage it takes for me to leave the safety of the cardio and mechanical advantage machines to make a complete ass of myself trying to replicate the movements with the weenie little dumbbells that were the only ones I seemed to be able to budge. It’s humiliating to have some cute little fitness model in her designer workout garb curling 50 pound weights with ease while I look like a busted can of biscuits in my free t-shirt from the local pizza place and nearly bursting a vessel trying to curl my 15 pounds. And so… I hide in the corner where I hope I will go unnoticed and not disturb the “professionals.” It also helps that I go super early most days which avoids much of the crowd. And off I went again… It’s Friday, what can I say, I’m a bit distracted.

So, the new plan is a 9-week thing. I’m on week … 2. Yes, 2. I’ve been at it for a sum total of 9 days. Last week was mostly me very awkwardly learning the various exercises from the videos on my tablet (very helpful, by the way). I still ended up aching from the new movements and different ways that the body uses free weights as opposed to the machines. I also found out that I can’t do chin ups. I used to… I did. I remember in school doing those phys-ed assessments. I could do chin ups all day. Now? Nope. My arms just said, “Aw… that’s cute.” So, again, humiliation. I have to use that assist thing that allows you to set it for counter weight so that you are only lifting a portion of your full body mass. Regardless, I was sore… everywhere. I thought for a while that I would either have to wear the same nasty clothing for a week while I recovered or I would require assistance with my activities of daily living. I’m not going to go into details, but aching leg muscles and trying to ease down for sitting upon ANY surface… think about it. It wasn’t pretty.

However, much as my more physically proficient friends predicted, my body started recovering and the soreness faded to a dull presence that was manageable. And yet… Week 2. It all starts over again. Shocking, right? One week of working out on the new plan is not going to make a miracle of my body. It is a 9-week program. If I want any results, I’ve got to give it the full trial. This is where those monkeys come in…

Leg day… makes me want to puke. I am not joking Quite literally today, in fact, the up-chucking occurred. I have some more than rudimentary knowledge of physical ailments and how the body’s chemistry works. I expect that several factors contributed. By the time I finished my workout, I could not have appeared more drenched if someone had stuck me fully clothed into a shower. So, electrolytes and temperature. No bueno. This is why people drink those nasty tasting beverages trying to replace the salts. Lifting and cardio can also draw blood flow away from the stomach adding to that not so lovely feeling. Additionally, lifting weights and training actually does create tiny tears in the muscle tissue which then heals and grows, and that’s totally oversimplifying, but the process does dump some chemicals into the system that might contribute to the world-spinning, full-blown, ralph attack. Now, why leg day gets the full brunt more so than arm, chest, back, or abs? Possibly due to the size of the muscle groups. In fact Dr. Joel Seedman confirms this:

“Basically, your gastrointestinal system isn’t getting adequate support when your body is moving blood to where it’s needed most. Some workouts are worse than others when it comes to commanding tons of blood flow—for example, leg day can leave you more prone to nausea. ‘This is due to the size of the muscles as well as the overall volume of work that the legs are capable of handling.'” (from Alexa Tucker in Self)

So… maybe three or four shades of horror monkey excrement today… At least not the full eight. I am careful enough to keep an eye on things like heart rate and such to be sure the nausea is not a symptom of something more dangerous. So far, just a symptom of me being a leg day weenie on this new program.

All of which is to say, I’ve started this new experiment. We’ll see how it goes. If the results are positive, I’ll be sure to share it. So, stay tuned. It will also help keep me honest and sticking with it even when arm day makes my pen soooooo heavy and typing somewhat difficult. Cheers!

Physical Fit: You’re doing it wrong…

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard this, read this, had it implied, or involuntarily had the thought pop in my head… Well, I could afford a personal trainer, a home gym, and maybe some plastic surgery just to take up a little of the extra dangle in my bangle, ya know.

It’s been a while since I talked about my Physical Fit. It’s been a somewhat arduous road with some potholes, detours, and unaccountable delays, but I’ve trudged on, making adjustments where I needed and getting feedback, support, and advice from a very wide variety of sources. I admit that I’ve occasionally felt discouraged about results (or lack thereof). I’ve been depressed on plateaus and concerned by feeling regressed. However, one of the things I have managed to figure out is that so long as I never actually quit, it was all just fine. That being said, I’m possibly one of the most stubborn individuals on the planet (I totally see you nodding). The one part of my own personality that have had to fight hard has been the tendency to “stub up” as my grandmother would say when someone gives me unsolicited instruction or direction.

It’s not that I am a completely ungrateful wretch, but apparently there is a stubborn passive-aggressive teenager lurking in my soul. Same thing used to happen to me when I would have a thought to do something nice like… oh, I don’t know, send a thank you card, or remember a birthday… then, my mother, before I had the chance to initiate that activity myself would say “Remember to send a thank you note.” And that was it. I was done. I wouldn’t have sent a thank you note if it kept me from dying by fire. I’ve never really known what that particularly unpleasant part of my personality serves, where it comes from, or why it is there, but it is true. My thunder has been stolen. The idea and impulse was no longer my own. I could take no pride in my own altruism because I was directed to the action by my mother!

So, as usual, I’ve strayed from the original point, but the whole unsolicited advice prompts a similar but not quite identical response. It’s completely involuntary and unconscious. Occasionally, the advice or instruction is actually good, and I have to forcefully shove that angry, bad-tempered 13 year old in my head back into her closet.

However… not all the advice or directions are good. To be completely honest, some of it is downright dangerous. Mostly, it is just insulting, though, especially considering some sources. For instance, it has been a somewhat regular occurrence for myself as well as other friends who also have their physical fits to be molested by self-appointed, untrained, and certainly not certified trainers. You know the sort I’m talking about. These are the fitness experts of the local gym striding about looking for hapless victims upon whom to pounce with their sage body-conscious wisdom. They walk over and ask if you need a spot. “Nah, man. It’s like 10 pounds, I’m good.” Or they might critique your stance, suggest a different type of exercise, or tell you that you will never get “swolled” doing it like that (assuming they actually know why you are working out and that your actual goal must be the same as theirs… to be “shredded, swolled, cut…” You get the idea). Without fail… you hear the “You’re doing it wrong” proclaimed as a blandishment for your obviously neophyte training regimen. Generally speaking, my greatest risk of injury usually comes at that point… spraining my ocular muscles with an inadvertent eye roll worthy of the aforementioned inner 13 year old.

For some of my friends, these overtures are less about form and results and more about how hot they look in their spandex. However, there are people who legitimately believe that the rest of the world truly requires their input. On that same train are riding the several thousands of various people, adverts, or click baits that are dying to tell you why your favorite food is making you fat. At this point, I’m not sure why anyone can actually keep track. For every theoretical diet or workout, there is some other guru who will absolutely tell you that it is soooooo wrong and will have the opposite results to what you are hoping to achieve.

I think my favorites are still the things that you click on that tell you that the reason you are not getting the slender sexy body that you want is because you are starving yourself and working out too hard. According to these miracle workers, you need to work out for 45 seconds and eat donuts… ok, might have exaggerated slightly. When the unsuspecting, desperate individual who sees a beach trip looming on the horizon clicks for help, there is literally half an hour of ridiculous snake oil poured out that ends with “And the secret can be yours for $199.99… PLUS, you get my own very special, delish, and fool proof recipes guaranteed to shoe horn your fat ass into that bikini in 10 days… or your money back!” Sheesh.

You know why there are so many plans out there and gimmicks and diets and workouts? Because people are looking for something that works that isn’t… wait for it… TIME and ENERGY and SELF-CONTROL. I understand. I really do. It is the appeal of wanting something that is as easy to make that healthy change as it was to slap on the extra pounds from over indulging and not moving enough. People don’t like being told that they may have to eliminate or at least cut back on their favorite sugary, fat-packet snacks. They don’t want to change their lifestyle and behaviors. They just want to change their life.

Our world has become very sedentary. Most of the jobs today involve a lot of sitting. Food comes fast and with a lot of calories to give it that “comfort” appeal. Deciding to make changes for better health actually requires some effort. Frequently that makes it unattractive in the beginning. That is why people look for easier ways. Eventually, those healthier changes start feeling good, but in the beginning, there is the strangeness and the resistance to change the status quo that provides the inertia going against the new motivation.

That is the other part of this whole “you’re doing it wrong” thing that frustrates and angers me. For many people (myself included), there is some embarrassment in starting down a new path. There is some inhibition of showing ignorance and self-consciousness for letting ourselves go from the physical and health perspective. While some unsolicited advisers are genuinely attempting to help, for many, that criticism is just enough to make those of us fighting the uphill battle of self-discipline run away and hide from the people who point out how “wrong” we’re doing it.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret… if you are making the effort to move and change, you are doing something right. Unless you are doing something terribly outrageous and trying to imitate a double-jointed contortionist from the sideshow which could actually damage your body (incorrect posture, failure to keep your knees over your toes on squats, or putting too much torque on your joints when doing weight training), it isn’t wrong. There is nothing wrong with asking how to do certain types of exercises safely to avoid hurting yourself. There is nothing wrong with asking how to use equipment to make sure that you are getting the benefit for which it was designed. Not every plan or diet or supplement or nutrition program works for every person on the planet.

Everyone is different, and each few years someone else comes out with a new theory to revolutionize fitness, weight loss, fat-burning, muscle-building world. Low carb, no carb, all carb, low fat, healthy fat… weight training, aerobics, cardio, cross fit, high intensity interval, low impact… you name it, the list goes on and on, and every new messiah of fitness will tell you that their predecessors had it all wrong and that their plan is what you need to follow to be come the Adonis or Venus of your dreams.  They will provide testimonials and “evidence” to prove that their way is what works. I’m not saying they are wrong or have fabricated anything (I’m sure some have, but we’ll assume for the moment we are not actually talking about those). I’m suggesting that on the whole, they are providing a very small subject size. With few exceptions, the results and outcomes for these programs are usually not given with long term results (meaning they show “Lost 53 pounds in 8 weeks!” rather than “Kept off 53 pounds after 5 years!”). Again, small subject sizes. They are giving you results with a handful of people. They don’t tell you about the 40 people who followed this compared to 40 similarly profiled people with similar demographics that did not follow the same plan or possibly followed a different plan. They only tell you about the success stories.

Now, what you can do is check out reviews. With the advent of the internet came the ability to check out what people say about different programs, products, etc. While positive reviews are nice and show the best results, I personally always look for the negative reviews. I look to see 1) how many there are, and 2) what they say about the program that made them give the negative review. Physical trainers and fitness professionals are all well and good, but they are ultimately trying to sell their services, their programs, their products, and their books. Some produce results, and that is great, but again, it is small subject size and with very controlled circumstances. I truly believe that if you are under the guidance and coaching of one of these folks, you will show some results. It may not be precisely the same as they display with their own bodies or even their other clientele, but if you meet with a trainer that knows what they are doing, you are going to have some results, and they will likely be positive results. How positive generally depends on how much effort that YOU put into it. Long term lasting results depend on making changes in lifestyle that continue past the goal achievement.

For me, I tend to stick with medical journals and other academic or scholarly publications. Why? Because I’m a nerd. That’s probably the first thing you thought. I also have access to said journals because of my academic credentials. Most of them are available out there via subscriptions and such, but not everyone wants to pay for that or plow through a bunch of sciency-speak academia to see what types of programs seem to give the best results and for how long. Most of the true scholarly journal articles are to be found in libraries where they can be accessed for dissertation and thesis research. This is where I generally get hold of mine. Unless you belong to a professional organization, you are not likely to have subscriptions to these laying around on the coffee table. However, to drag my train of thought back to the track from its wanderings, the reason I like these is because they are less biased than your average self-help piece. They have larger subject sizes, examine a lot of different approaches, and give all the results, not just the positive ones.

Here is what I have managed to gather from all of it:

I’m not doing it wrong.

I’m doing what works for me to feel good, and occasionally it actually produces outcomes that are what I was after in the first place. Being healthy isn’t about looking a particular way. It is about feeling better. To be in better physical shape, you need both strength/resistance and cardio. You also need fuel. Starving yourself or following extreme diets of any kind generally does more harm than good, and very few of the diets that decrease caloric intake severely have long term success in keeping off the weight. And here’s a hint… if you find a program that avoids all the things that you hate about working out and getting fit, it is probably too good to be true and won’t actually have the impact you are wanting. If a program does not have a prescribed time limit with a sustainable maintenance cycle that you can actually live with for the long haul, it probably ain’t gonna cut it. Just because something works for your friend at the office doesn’t mean that the same exact thing will work in the exact same way for you.

I’ve found out when all is said and done, we aren’t doing it wrong when we are trying to find the pattern that works for us. So, keep at it. Ask questions (from actually knowledgeable people). Do research. Read reviews. The only wrong is when we stop trying.

Physical Fit: It doesn’t have to start with a marathon

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Unless you are that famed persona of the film, I really can’t imagine that anyone starts off running marathons. I mean, you can start with a goal of wanting to run in a marathon. It’s not really my cup of tea, but most humans don’t go from tuber-hood to marathon-runner immediately.

That’s the thing that people keep saying to me. For those of you following along in my struggles, rants, embarrassments, and victories, you know I never saw myself running anywhere (unless something really nasty was chasing me). Several friends have expressed the desire to get into some sort of fitness routine. When I talk about my running habit, they say things like “I wish I could do that,” or “I could never run,” or “Wow! I don’t think I could ever do that!” Honestly, it’s spectacular for my ego, but it is absolute hogwash.

As of now, I’ve managed to get to a point where I’m running (elliptical, remember the knees) 40 minutes almost every day. On the elliptical, that usually averages close to 5 miles. On the beach, it is considerably less… mainly due to sand and such making it slightly more of an effort, but regardless of distance, the effort is still there. I’m still sweaty and generally feeling it in my legs and backside. That’s really more of the point, no matter what anyone thinks. The effort in the exercise is really what matters. I’m happy that I’ve improved my time and can actually get good distance in those 40 minutes, but I’m not in a race against anyone but myself. What my friends with their comments don’t seem to recall is that I did not start there, and I certainly did not get here very quickly. I had my physical fit over a year ago, and I’m still struggling.

When I first decided to join the gym, I half expected that I would let that lapse like I had before. I would have spent my money and find every excuse on the planet not to go. I’m as surprised as anyone that I’m still going… and regularly. I was also fairly certain that I did not have enough coordination to be on one of those machines without causing myself (and likely anyone in the near vicinity) bodily harm.
What was absolutely zero surprise was that my first efforts were laughable. Quite literally. Grace is not my middle name. However, once I mastered the not-falling-off-and-killing-myself part, the next big hurdle was to actually keep up movement for 10 minutes… in a row. I mean, really? Ten minutes does not sound like a huge amount of time, but when you are trying to coordinate your arms and legs and looking at a timer that is viciously sneering at you… it might as well be a marathon. It was sad. By the time the digits went up to the 10 minute mark, I just stopped. I was out of breath, struggling, muscles weak and hamstrings screaming “What the hell are you doing to us?!?” I had been talked into this by a friend who said, “You need to do the ‘cooldown’ minutes, now.” I won’t repeat my response to that.

From there, I really only had a goal of being able to finish the 10 minutes without dying. I wanted to see if I could get to a point where 10 minutes didn’t seem like an Olympic event. And you know, it actually happened. I got to a point where I could do the 10 minutes and the3 minute cooldown. Not bad. Then, I happened to notice that I was close to a mile at the 10 minute mark. I made it my mission to break my 10-minute-mile.

And I did.

Little by little, I found myself decreasing the amount of time it took me to get to that mile. From there, I had to increase the distance to get in more time. I pushed and before I realized what I was doing, I was at 15 minutes, then 20. I was almost in shock when I looked one day to realize that I had been running for 25 minutes and had 3 miles registered on the machine. That’s where I settled for a while, actually. It was enough, I thought. However, I started throwing in a little cooldown period after my resistance training. So, another 5 minutes or so after weights? Now, I was up to 30.

I felt like I was plateauing again. I was looking for results and not really seeing them. A friend and one of my fitness support group started talking about changing my routine and said something about increasing my run to 40 minutes. What the actual…? Is he insane? I can’t run 40 minutes. I’ll die. And out loud I said, “Do I have to do all 40 minutes in a row?” He said that I did not, but that I needed to keep moving and do my resistance training, weights, whatever in between if I was going to break it up. Ok… I’d give that a try. So, I did. I started with 25 minutes before, did my resistance/strength stuff, and then 15 minutes before heading home. Not too bad, actually. It hurt a lot less than I thought it would. After doing that for a while, I decided to increase the before time to 30 and do 10 minutes afterward. One day, I just decided to do both in a row, and voila! I was doing 40 minutes consecutively. No break. Just straight through. I didn’t die. Crazy, huh?

Psychologically, that 40 minutes looked just sooooo unachievable, but somehow I managed to get through it. I managed to fool myself into seeing it in smaller chunks and it wasn’t so insurmountable. My body appears to be much more willing to accommodate the activity than my brain. I’m pretty sure that I’m not going to be running any marathons in the near (or even possibly distant) future. I don’t think that every trick I know to fool my brain and body could accommodate 26 miles, but who knows? I didn’t think I could run a mile when I started. I still occasionally feel a sense of shock that I run at all. So, it doesn’t have to start with a marathon. It starts with a step.

Physical Fit: Um… Can Someone Please show me the Plateau Exit?

Well, it was bound to happen. I’m no stranger to the weight loss/fitness battle, and plateaus are just part of every journey towards better health. Since I experienced my inaugural physical fit, I have experienced pretty consistent progress… until just in the past couple of weeks. Whether it is the autumnal allergies that seem to be depriving me of oxygen (with the elephant that has taken up residence on my chest) or the apparent lack of coordination resulting in a couple of embarrassing injuries (twisted ankle from falling off my shoe and a strained boob… yes, strained boob! Go ahead and laugh),  I found myself slowing down quite literally, with an inability to perform to the same levels as I had achieved, and I just plain hurt. And though weight loss was not the entire goal of my fitness journey, it was part of the original plan. That stopped as well; came to a screeching halt.  So, it seems that I find myself on this butte, hoping that I can find my way out of the sluggish lack of progress.

As usual, with this type of situation, there is no lack of helpful and and sometimes less than helpful advice available. Aside from the widely conflicting explanations available on the internet itself, there are friends and family members with a plethora of contributions to the mix. I have heard them all at this point.

You are eating too much.

You aren’t eating enough.

You need to do more strength training.

You need to do more cardio.

Drink lemon water.

Fast for a day.

Are you stressed?

You name it, I’ve read it or heard it. There are so many offered options for “LOSING WEIGHT FAST!!!” and “Meal Plans for Fat Burning,” the mind boggles. Often these little gems involve a price tag. The truth is that I have been desperately seeking any and all information that might provide an alternative to my own sinking suspicion that I am fighting a losing battle against an aging metabolism (not to mention reaping the benefits of fighting rollercoaster weight issues my whole life). Well-meaning friends have tried to be supportive and helpful, offering their variety of experiences and winning solutions that have worked for them. I am grateful. Truly, I am. However, my recent influx of contradictory advisement has created a maelstrom of info-overload that threatens to breach the boundaries of my cranium. The bad part is that the frustration was starting to work its evil magic upon my mind and whisper the sweet nothings that say “See, it didn’t work. You should just give up. Here, have some chocolate.”

That is where the true negativity of plateaus get us. We are human. We like to be rewarded for our efforts and see that our hard work has achieved what we intended. When that doesn’t happen, it is very tempting to give up. The common sense philosophy would be, just power through it, and you should get right back on track. BUT… how long do you power through? What happens if nothing seems to jump start the process again?

My research and introspection have turned up the most likely culprits in my own situation:

1. Age – Whether I like it or not, I have reached an age where metabolism is not my friend.

2. Gender – Along with the age demographic, I’m female. Hearing me roar is all well and good, but as women, our bodies like to hold on to adipose tissue and our male counterparts on average have less resistance to offloading pounds.

3. Eating habits – Yes, I watch my caloric intake, but for increasing metabolism, I need to eat small meals more frequently. Therein is my problem. My work schedule sometimes results in forgetting to eat until it is time to go home in the evening. Not good. I’m starving my body and putting it into “starvation mode.” Not to mention that I am just starving and hangry and end up eating more than I should.

4. Stress – There has been a lot said about stress hormones, like cortisol. It is true, cortisol is increased when we are stressed. Cortisol is really helpful in stressful situations, allowing the body to break down glucose and activate it for use (fight or flight, you know). The problem is that when we maintain high levels of stress (and high levels of cortisol) over time, the hormone works against us and can break down muscle tissue and result in fat deposits (especially in the mid-section). We also end up craving a lot of simple carbohydrates and sugars. Bottom line? I’m stressed… for a number of different reasons, and it isn’t helping my little plateau issue.

5. Sleep – This goes with the stress issue. A recent discussion with a friend reminded me of some of the important functions of proper sleep. It isn’t just a matter of rest vs. fatigue. Sleep, or rather the deeper levels of said sleep, allow our brains and bodies to dump the excess cortisol and “reset” in order to start all over again for the next waking cycle. Lack of sufficient sleep or unhealthy sleep habits that disrupt the normal sleep cycle prevents the cortisol dump and we start out the next day at a higher cortisol level. Sleep is not my greatest skill either. I generally do not get enough of it (per recommended standards) and wake up several times per night.

So, those are my big five: The most likely reasons that I’m hitting the plateau, but I also wanted input from someone I consider very knowledgeable about fitness, because my plateau has not been solely about the scales. It has also been something I’m experiencing in my performance with cardiovascular training and strength training. My friend had some incredibly helpful ideas to contribute. First, he confirmed that not all beings are created equal, and that what works for some do not work for all… Thus, I need to pay attention to my own body. However, he did indicate that habit and getting into a regular pattern with our workouts is the enemy. He talked primarily about “muscle confusion” as the weapon to use on this enemy.

Our bodies are incredible machines. They adapt and learn. The human body is going for the most efficient use of the resources available. Engaging the same activities over and over provides just the opportunity for our body to adjust to save calories. So, we need to confuse the muscles. How do we do this? Change up the work out and don’t get into a rut of the same routine day after day. Using different types of activities helps, but focusing on different muscle systems on different days will keep the body guessing and prevent it from shutting down the metabolic systems for efficiency or developing a muscle memory that will limit the benefits of resistance/strength training.

So… thanks to helpful friends, review of high school biology, and a perusal of YouTube workout videos; I have my new strategy and game plan. I am going to check in with the fitness trainer at my gym to work on updating my initial plan. I am going to focus on muscle confusion by focusing on different muscle systems. I will be more consistent about my meditation practice and have at least 20 minutes per day, and I will attempt to get more consistent sleep (that may be the most difficult task). We’ll see how well it works and how faithfully I follow the plan. If any of you are feeling the plateau blues or experiencing lack of motivation for starting (or restarting) healthier habits, realize that we are not alone, and we can find the exit to get us off the plateau and back on track!

Physical Fit: The Saga Continues…

Contrary to the expectations of the majority populace… and mainly myself… I did make it to the gym. As readers will recall, I had my momentary maniacal fit resulting in a gym membership and went so far as to purchase suitable attire and footwear. So far, so good. I half expected my determination to completely fail at that point. Good intentions count, right?

WRONG! My friend. I shall stand upon the gospel of good health and tell you that intention is only part of the formula! Can I get an ‘amen’? I tell you, my brother and sister couch tubers, we must also walk, run, and lift our less than firm physiques from the comfort of our chosen seating and move. Ye-eahsss!

So, against all my natural indolent tendencies, I did in fact go to the gym. I felt about as natural and graceful as a frog trying to dance Swan Lake. Thankfully, I had the moral support of a good friend who was able to show me the delicate technological procedures involved with using an elliptical machine. I am grateful for his patience as I stared at him like a monkey doing a math problem and nearly amputated an extremity as coordination was completely absent from my skillset that day (or any day really). I managed to get through 10 minutes of elliptical at the blistering pace of 4 miles per hour, all the while feeling not only the burn but pretty much like someone had lit my lower extremity completely on fire. However, as I said, I managed to complete the full 10 minutes (we won’t discuss the 3 minute cool down). Achievement unlocked! On to the circuit training.

For those unfamiliar with the lingo of the Dungeon of Torture, circuit training is a collection of weight machines and cardiovascular stations interspersed together and programmed to give you some resistance training for building muscle but also keeping the heart rate in the “target zone” to continue burning calories. Believe it or not (and I will assume you are believing as I am breathing and still in control of my physical movements enough to be able to type this), I finished this 30 minute ordeal as well. After a 5 minute cool down on a treadmill, during which I kept imagining myself tripping and being shot out towards the back wall, I made it home to collapse on the couch.

And like a complete moron, I went back the next day to do it all again. Yes, I did. That was five weeks ago. I decided it was time to unlock my next achievement. I scheduled an appointment with the personal fitness trainer. I am lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of intellect, and I recognize and read and research, but I still felt that consulting the expert would be the best way for me to gain the results I was hoping to achieve. She flattered me by saying that I was doing exactly what I should and only needed a few additions and tweaks to address my desired goals… And she assisted me in designing my own tailor-made system of torture designed to reverse time and gravity and turn my decrepit body into a temple worthy of worship… Ok, even I cannot keep a straight face for this, but hopefully, if I am very good and attend to my designed regimen, I will at least not have to purchase a whole new wardrobe to avoid indecent exposure charges.

At this same time, I had noticed a very large, brightly-colored poster plastered conspicuously in the gym that said that if I was a member of a certain health insurance that they would pay me to work out. Wait! What? I am a member of that health insurance. I actually work for the health insurance company as well. So, I can get money for this, too? I decided to check on this, though I suspected that my plan would not qualify based on the requirements indicated on the poster. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. So I called the toll-free number provided.

According to “Crystal *squeek*” who is the very perky representative of my insurance company’s Healthy Incentives Program, our employer is not eligible for that reward, but “We do have an impressive list of gym discounts to offer, can I walk you through our website?!?” (I swear I could see pigtails and pom-poms.)

Um… no, Crystal. so, what you are saying is that I work for the company and have our insurance coverage myself but am not eligible for a reward for trying to be healthier and a better example to our members?

“Um *squeek* ACME Insurance, Inc. [pseudonym, obviously] is, like, a really BIG company with lots of workers, and, like, ACME is only offering that for small companies.”

So, um Crystal? It was Crystal, right? [as opposed to Buffy, Muffy, or Elle] Does my gym have a discount on the list you mentioned earlier?

“Um… like, NO. Because your gym has such…low…rates… they really don’t have discounts.”

So, what I’m hearing is that I could get a discount from one of the expensive gyms, but the discount (if I’m reading you correctly) would still have my membership at a much higher rate than my current member ship of $10 per month… AND I would have to put up with douchebag muscleheads and spandex nazis?

“Um…wha…?” *cricket noise*

Nevermind, sweetie. You’ve been very helpful. Toddle off now and have a wonderful afternoon.

While this interchange might read to most as a frustrating display of unfair practice and a terribly rendered Valley Girl performance and evidence that the universe works against any financial breaks for the hard-working gal, I actually was just highly amused. Crystal really could not see why I didn’t want to take advantage of the gym discounts they offer. Apparently math was not her best subject. Rewards of a monetary nature might be nice, but ultimately were not the rewards I was expecting when I had my fit of madness and decided to become a denizen of the workout world.

As to those rewards, I am sad to report that I did not transform overnight into a supermodel. However, I can say that I am noticing other things, like the fact I can run a mile and a half without dying. (Always helpful in the event of zombie apocalypse and killer bird/bee/nature situations.) I still occasionally (as I integrate my individually designed plan into my workout each day) feel as if someone has substituted concrete into what was previously sinew, muscle, and bone, but overall, I’m feeling pretty good about this new thing. I have actually started having withdrawal if I have to change my routine and workout on different days than my usual schedule, and I actually found myself anxious and desperate to get to the gym on Monday after work as I was stopped by staff for a quick question. Hmmmm… something very odd here. I actually want to go to the gym. I suppose stranger things have happened, but I’m positive there are a few snowflakes in hell, now.

Physical Fit: The consequences of a momentary madness

So, madness overtook me in a screaming fit of angst Saturday before Mother’s Day. Yes, indeed. It was something akin to full on psychopathic mania or possibly demonic possession, because I know that had I been in my correct cognitive state, I would never have been compelled to do what I did.

I joined a gym. Good heavens! What was I thinking?!? How could I have possibly been influenced? Yes, friends are consistently talking about going to the gym. Swimsuit season is upon us. The pool in the backyard is nearly ready for occupation by other than algae and other debris. However, I am still going to blame demons… or possibly aliens. They are always a good scapegoat. After a rather enjoyable dinner with friends from work, all of whom talked about various physical activity, and at least one works out regularly (and is the visual aid promoting said practices, I will say), I felt my jeans to be tighter than I would like. The constant reminder that gravity has impacted my physique in ways not pleasant to me, and the fact that diet alone does not appear to have any sort of impact at all these days has resulted in a desperation that could lead to pacts with evil entities… and that never works out well.

I have been asked multiple times by friends to join them in their workout routines. I have also been the recipient of workout propaganda that would have already been more efficacious than waterboarding except for one small thing… very small: My bank balance. Many people would say, spend the money for a monthly membership, and you will go because it would be a waste of your money to not go. That never worked on me. I hated going into the gym. I could always talk myself out of it, and before I knew it, months of membership fees had passed and along with it, many, many dollars. And, so, I told all my so very caring companions that it would be throwing good money after bad for me to even consider joining anything. I would just be wasting money I did not have. At one point in my life, I considered myself rather fit, and despite the continued learned commentary of several of my acquaintances on what I need to do to improve my physique and health, only one thing has ever worked for me: Aerobics. Sadly, and with shame, I admit I was one of the lycra clad women bouncing around to music with and without props (weights, bands, steps, etc.). I never was one that could lose myself in continued reps with free weights or a nice long jog on treadmill or elliptical. There was a time when I could ride miles on an actual bicycle, but to sit on a stationary bike pedaling away while watching inane talk shows or anything else was something that made me want to stab my own eyes out. Therefore, I would continue to do my progressive squats, crunches, push-ups, and such in the privacy of my own home where I would not feel shame comparing my own over-40 body to the myriad of spandex wrapped hard-bodies blithely climbing their invisible mountains on stair step and elliptical machines.

And then, it happened. I honestly cannot say what did it. Was it the conversation with my very fit friend? Was it the over tight feeling in the waistband of my jeans? Was it the unwelcome reflection in the mirror reminding me of time’s passage, or was it (most likely) my resistance failing in the face of too much peer pressure that resulted in my fingers, as if by their own accord typing in the pattern of key strokes that would make me a “joiner?” Before I realized what had happened, I had my very own gym membership. Hell hath frozen over.

Faced with Armageddon, there was only one thing left to do. I printed out the emailed version of my contract and took it down to the temple of fitness to get my “key” and free t-shirt. On a side note, I truly believe that we can take over planets with free t-shirts. Anyhow, the deed was done. I have been assimilated (Someone please tell me that I will soon have the physique of Jeri Ryan, Seven of Nine). Thus ends the tale, right?… not quite. You would think that purchase of membership and having the courage to walk in would be sufficient to insure the end of days, but no.

Working out is not exactly a simple matter of physical activity. There is apparel to be considered. No, I am not so vain as to require designer gear to be a physically fit clothes horse. However, appropriate clothing and footwear is necessary, because this facility is not in a nudist colony, and I don’t want shin splints. Once I had established my susceptibility to peer pressure, it dawned on me that I had no shoes that would actually protect my feet and joints from damage. I had a representative pair of tennis shoes that appeared to come from an archeological dig. I also (to my abject mortification) have a pair of platform sneakers advertised some years ago as able to firm your backside merely by having them on the feet and walking around. Needless to say, attempting to wear these for a regular workout will not only look ridiculous, it will also result in an injury to my lower extremities and/or me plummeting to my death… from humiliation. So, at the very least, a new pair of sneakers were in order.

Have any of you tried to purchase athletic footwear these days? I think I’ve bought a set of tires that cost less. I have been truly amazed at the prices on these things. At first, I thought it must be a matter of fashion again, noting the bright colors and brand names. Given the size of my feet, I tried the men’s section instead, naively hoping that the less fair sex might warrant less dear prices. Boy, was wrong! Men’s athletic shoe prices make the women’s shoes look like a yard sale find. Granted, the reason for the increased expenditure is that allegedly the construction of these beastly shoes provides the support and cushion that prevents injuries, like shin splints and compression fractures. That being said, I truly resent being charged triple digits for shoes, especially shoes that look like alien technology in neon colors. Thankfully, I was able to find clearance racks that provided a more reasonably priced alternative.

With my feet taken care of, my mind turned to the rest of my body. As a friend said, just wear a t-shirt and a pair of old sweatpants or shorts. A very reasonable and logical idea. Have I mentioned that working out in any public venue has not been part of my life for more than ten years? It isn’t an issue of being fashionable. I sincerely could not care less whether I match or have the latest thing on my body. However, my old clothing fall into three categories: Inappropriate, uncomfortable, or damn near pornographic due to strategically placed ventilation (not part of the original design). I felt it was necessary, therefore, to supplement my wardrobe with a few pieces to have at least three or four decent outfits that could be rotated through laundry, dresser, and wearing.

It is a testament to the amount of time it has been since I last purchased so much as a pair of sweatpants. I was again gob smacked by the sheer digits involved on the price tags attached to tiny pieces of stretchy cotton or spandex. Thank goodness again for the clearance bin without which I would not be able to afford so much as a tube sock. Three bins and six clearance racks later, I was sweating and exhausted, but I was able to find sufficient covering for my bottom half without depleting my checking account… well, at least not more than I already had. Making my way to the checkout, I saw other women already clad in color coordinated leggings and fashionably layered sports bras with tank tops. I clutched my meager purchases and timidly went through the check out. I made my way through the outer doors to my waiting vehicle and drove the rest of the way home.

Walking through the door, I found that my physical and emotional limits of the day had been reached. I sank down on the couch with my hard-won purchases resting on the floor at my side. Well… my journey of physical fitness has begun. I am sweaty, exhausted, and completely emotionally spent… and I didn’t even have to get dressed out. Let’s hope that my next outing is a bit more productive physically and less draining financially.