Tag Archives: working out

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: ‘Tis the season…


And all the people said… “She’s lost her mind… or her calendar because we just finished all that nonsense.”

No, friends, I do not actually mean the holiday season. I mean the Oh-dear-lord-I-ate-everything-my-resolution-is-to-get-fit-by-swimsuit season. This is the time when former couch tubers, or even gym frequenters who let things get a little on the slidy side (yeah, I made it up)… during the holiday gatherings, parties, and all out gorge fests that started sometime around Halloween… start to head in droves, pushed by self-loathing for their slackness, the fear of cellulite, or New Year’s resolutions, to the temples of physical fitness. Yes, it is gym-crowding month.

I say “month,” but it can sometimes last all the way into March. It’s a well-known phenomenon. Several of my friends who go to the gym discuss the frustrations. It isn’t that any of us begrudge the people for wanting to make a positive change. However, while we applaud their desire, there is generally a lack of follow through, and in the meantime… we’re tripping over them. It just seems that the gym-crowders think that merely showing up is going to transform them overnight. It’s probably similar to my own feelings about skiing the first time.

I was excited to go. I had several friends that love to snow ski. So, off I went. I rented the skis and boots and all that. We went out and had a few trips down the “bunny” slope. I was told that I’m a natural… awesome. This will be fun. I rode up on the lift. Got off and was the only one who did not fall doing so. And… that’s pretty much the end of the fun. Going down the ”not-bunny” slope I was not a natural. I finally figured out that my best way of stopping was to just fall over. I got to the bottom. I was damp, cold, and had zero feeling in my toes because the boots cut off all circulation. While I knew that I couldn’t expect to become an Olympic skier in a day, I also figured out pretty quickly that the après-ski was probably more my thing that the actual ski.

In truth, there are a lot of people like that with the gym. They are excited to get started. They make the preparations (membership, shoes, yoga pants). They have every intention of making that change, going to the gym at least 3 times per week, becoming a healthier, happier, leaner self. And that is where it stops. They get there and figure out in a hurry that this sweating thing is not their thing. Or perhaps they realize that exercising in a public place isn’t their thing… or driving to a gym and fighting for the elliptical is not their thing. The list goes on and on, but for whatever reason, they start tapering off. One by one they go, until the gym population stabilizes usually sometime in the summer, with minor fluctuations for people panicking before trips to tropical places where clothing is more revealing. Eventually, the population starts declining again in autumn, but sometimes that’s hard to really judge in a college town due to student gym members adding to the “usual crowd.” By November, the decrease is more noticeable until the end of December brings a ghost-town-like feel to the place… and we’ve cycled back around. It is familiar. Those of us going through a few years of the cycle have come to expect it. New to the scene regulars have a momentary panic followed by intense frustration with the newbies wandering around aimlessly hoping for insight about how to use the contraptions.

This is really only my second year of observation. I was a newbie myself not that long ago. So, I feel for these folks who want to make good choices and live healthier lives (and look better in their clothing). I’ve been there. I’ve done this, and I watch with sad eyes, trying to pick out the folks who will have the stick-with-it to hold out past the first quarter.

What I have found, purely through my observations, is that there are common threads to the people who actually make the gym a new, healthy habit instead of a short lived fad in their lives.

Buddy System vs. Going Solo. There is a lot to be said for an “accountability partner.” A lot of people who start going to the gym to support someone else find themselves getting healthier, and there is a sense of, “I need to go to support John (or Sylvia or Bruce).” The problem with this? If that person stops going, that impetus of supporting them and going often stops, too. Accountability should be to oneself. There is nothing wrong with peer encouragement to get the ball rolling, but for true sustainability, internalize some of that encouragement to have it with you even when your friend can’t be. Another problem with what I will call the partner system is that sometimes one or the other partner outstrips the progress in the working out process. If that social part of the gym-going is all that is keeping it going, that will eventually be a problem because one will be holding the other back, or the other will feel left out and stop. In the meantime, may I say, that the social-goers and clique brigades also can cause some problems for the regular gym population by stopping in the middle and tying up machines just to have a conversation, sometimes in large clumps. There is nothing wrong with a little conversation and social support to make gym time a fun time, but when clusters of people block the flow in a crowded gym while spewing negative gossip (I’ve actually been subjected to this and heard well more about people than I ever wanted to know; headphones were not able to prevent their loud conversation from penetrating)… it can really detract from the experience for all.

Ignorance vs. Instruction. Literally, I mean ignorance. I don’t mean it as a derogatory term. I mean that people have no knowledge of fitness, physical exercise, or more importantly how that thingie works. So, when they fumble around and misuse equipment (misuse their own bodies), occasionally, there is injury. That puts a kibosh on the whole gym-tendance (I made that up, too).

Embarrassment vs. Intimidation. This relates to the topic above and then bleeds over to other areas. I am lucky enough to belong to Planet Fitness. I say lucky because of a topic I will address in a moment. However, one of the great things about the organization is their “no gymtimidation” thing. They mean it. There are still going to be some people who see people working out at varying degrees of expertise and, in a panic, run for the door, but for the most part, that atmosphere of the beefcake club is not present at my gym. People seem genuinely welcoming. Most people will leave you the hell alone (I said most). There is less of the designer workout gear and perfectly toned physiques displayed. People tend to wear comfortable, sometimes ratty athletic wear and they sweat and look sometimes pretty flaming atrocious (at least I usually do). The people there look like they are there to work out and not judge. So, it is a comfortable environment for people who are new to gym membership and may be a little more self-conscious about their appearance during exercise. Embarrassment and discomfort are a major reasons for drop-out.

Not-asking-for-help (see Ignorance). Playing into the embarrassment factor is the not-asking-for-help thing. All those contraptions! Most people are familiar with the stationery bikes and the treadmills. Additionally, anyone with a television has probably seen ellipticals in varying forms (I can actually attest that using one is not intuitive… it takes a minute to get the hang of it, and there is coordination involved… it nearly did me in the first time). However, there are a lot of machines that people have never seen, certainly never used, and moreover are disinclined to go find someone and ask. So, they pay for gym membership, go a few times, can’t figure out how to work the thingie-with-the-whatnot-that-does-something, and eventually stop going because it is “Just a waste of time and money. I can do most of that stuff at home” or they get hurt because of not using the machine… or their body correctly. The point being, that there is usually someone working at the gym that would be more than pleased to help anyone learn how to properly use the equipment. Often there is a trainer there who not only will help a member learn how to use the thingie-with-the-whatnot-that-does-something, but they will actually help design a specific program to achieve the goals desired. There should be no embarrassment in letting the people do their job.

Proximity. This is a big one, bigger than you realize. Everyone gets excited after making their New Year’s promises to themselves and heading out to purchase a gym membership. However, if you have to drive more than 20 minutes, it is unlikely that you will continue that pattern of behavior. In fact, I can say with a fair amount of certainty that there is a negative correlation between distance of the gym from your home and the amount of time you go (meaning that you are less likely to continue going to the gym the further away it is from your house). For my experience, I will admit that the reason I am in my second year of post-holiday-pocalypse-gym-invasion is because I am literally 5 minutes away. This is the lucky thing that I was talking about earlier. My home Planet Fitness location is nice, clean, and 5 minutes from my house. It’s perfect for me. Seriously. When I travel, now, I have a membership which will allow me to go to other locations for the franchise (bless that black card membership). Occasionally, I have driven as far as 20 minutes to get to the closest gym. However, I know good and well that I would not have done this had my routine and gym habits not already been established. If my gym home was further away or I had to drive well out of my way to go, chances are that work, home, fatigue, and general lassitude would have intervened eventually, and I would have dropped out and gone back to my tuber-like ways. Choosing a facility that is convenient is so important to the longevity of the gym-going. If your workplace has a gym, excellent! Use it. You will be more likely to continue because it is right there. If your apartment complex, condo, home owners association neighborhood has a central recreation center with a workout facility, awesome! If none of these scenarios are available, and if you work outside the home, try to find a gym that is on your route. If you have to pass by it on the way to work or the way home from work, you have a better chance of actually going. If you have the dollars and space to dedicate to a home gym… it’s better than driving over 20 minutes, but you may be less inclined to stick with a workout routine because “I can do that later… or sometime… or *zzzzzz*.” So, with the proximity, there is also the idea that if you go with a purpose and schedule the time to actually go, you may be more likely to make it a continual thing.

Where was I going with all of this? I think I started in one direction and ended up meandering all over and winding up somewhere else entirely. And that’s just fine, because even if my gym feels a little crowded at the moment, and I may growl a bit when I’m having my personal space bubble decreased, I do truly want people to make healthier choices for themselves. So… Merry Gym-Crowding!

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


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: And on the 8th day she rested… or was it the 3rd day… maybe the 6th?

Lately, I have been investigating the various opinions and versions of the “rest day” or “skip day”. I shall endeavor to summarize and synthesize what I have gathered… and maybe by the end of it, I’ll have some clue about it myself.

I recently experienced a plateau that set me back and made me reconsider the wisdom of my fit of mad fitness. I started feeling fatigue and felt myself slowing down. That wasn’t supposed to happen. I should have been noticing changes and improvements and things getting easier. Instead, I saw the numbers on the scale not moving or changing in any way, and I felt that somehow things that were previously getting less arduous were starting to require more effort.

It was disheartening, to say the least. This prompted a good many conversations with people I considered more knowledgeable, especially with regards to the gym and fitness routine, than myself. Many, many helpful tips were given. Several plan suggestions were outlined. And one rather vehement admonishment was presented. This last bit, I will say, was the most difficult for me to actually appreciate or believe. It came upon the headwinds of an Autumn cold, and it went something like this:

Friend: You need to take it easy.

Me: I’m ok.

Friend: You want to stay that way… You need to take a break. You push too hard, and you are going to compromise your immune system.

Me: I’ll be fine. I just don’t want to lose my momentum…

Friend: Um… yeah, you will lose more ground if you make yourself sick.

Me: Ok, I’ll take it easy.

Friend: I don’t believe you…

Whereupon, I proceeded to ignore the sage advice (I didn’t want to lose my positive inertia). It wasn’t really that I discounted the advice as untrue or ill founded. It was that I had gotten myself into a panic that if I slowed down, even slightly, I would lose valuable ground… or worse, I would backslide into furniture-tuberness (yes, I made that up). I knew my own weaknesses and my tendency to come up with excuses to avoid the gym. I strongly suspected that given any opportunity, the devil on my shoulder would dig in and convince me to give up this whole silly idea of getting healthy and persuade me to embrace some old, bad habits. The point being is that my brain could not really grasp the idea that taking a break could, in any way, be beneficial towards improving my training.

And then, the elephant seal took up residence in my chest. How do I know it was an elephant seal? It barked… sometimes all night. I coughed, I hacked, and I certainly did not sleep. My immune system said “You didn’t listen? Fine, now see what we can do.” I suspect I was very lucky that it wasn’t worse. A few years ago, a compromised immune system resulted in a bout of the shingles that rivaled close communion with a blowtorch and made a burn unit look like a resort spa. At any rate, on this occasion I was forced to slow down by mere fact that I couldn’t expend much effort without being immobilized by a coughing fit that made complete strangers want to leave town and call the CDC.

So, I took it easier. I stopped looking to set any new speed records for myself. I focused on just staying active, but I tried not to push very hard. About this same time, the other aspects of my life decided that the health crisis intervention was just not doing the trick and decided to hit me in some other particularly unpleasant ways. The upshot of it all was an unexpected, unplanned, and entirely unwanted break from what had become my rather comfortable routine and a trip out of town in order to put some things back in order. It was not a mere decrease in intensity of activity. It was a complete absence of any of my usual cardiovascular or strength training or even flexibility exercises. This is not the way I would suggest that any of you who are currently reading this be introduced to rest or skip days.

When I was finally given opportunity of getting back to the gym, I dreaded how my body would respond after the forced decrease in activity. True to form, the first day back, my mind started concocting all manner of excuses and reasons to postpone my return to the gym. However, I am happy to say I countered the internal arguments and pushed myself back through the doors to face what I was sure would be “starting over.” Much to my surprise, the first thing I did was break my own record to run 3.37 miles in 25 minutes, and I did it without keeling over. This was astonishing. I was genuinely dumbfounded that being away from my workout for several days had not completely undone all the good work of the previous months and set me back firmly in the realm of inactivity. And… so… I started considering (and reading about) the importance of rest, routine, and muscle confusion in any plan to improve health and well-being.

What my friend said is true. Over-exercising can negatively impact the immune system resulting in illness, and overworking certain muscle groups and body parts can result in fatigue and injury. However, fatiguing the muscles is part of the strength training process, and how is this related to rest days or staying on track with the formation of healthy habits? Well, I’ll tell you what I’ve found…

  • According to most sources it takes about three weeks for a behavior to become a habit. So, try to still with a consistent (no rest/skip days or weeks) routine for at least a 21-day cycle when starting.
  • Most health journals and online medical information sites indicate that exercise promotes good health, prevents illness, and wards off disease and depression.
  • Overtaxing the system, even with health-promoting fitness regimen, can impact the immune system in a negative way and overstrain muscles and connective tissues resulting in injury. Incorporation or recovery time is important to the overall efficacy of physical activity.
  • Most physical fitness recommendations are to engage in some sort of exercise at least three times per week, but it is also recommended that for good health, people should have some sort of physical activity (even just taking a walk) each day.
  • Many fitness programs recommend one or more day of rest per week… Not necessarily zero activity, but less intense activity.
  • Some training plans advocate for a rest week (again, not quality time with your couch cushions… but instead taking a break from your regular workout intensity or type). The recommended frequency depends on your routine and chosen focus, but no more than every other month.
  • Often a break now and then from the usual workout routine will give a kick start to training goals and can help get past a plateau.

The point to all of it is that pounding away at workouts non-stop is not always the best approach to a healthier lifestyle or to reaching physical goals. Additionally, taking a break (planned or not) doesn’t mean that you are slacking, that you have failed at physical fitness, or that you will lose hard-earned ground in the pursuit of better physique or better health. In fact, inserting a rest day or two into the workout plan can boost the efficacy of training. If nothing else, it is important to remember that a day or two away from the gym doesn’t have to result in a derailment of healthy lifestyle. Now that I have experienced it for myself, I can say with sincerity that my body responds better and benefits more when occasionally I remember to take time out to rest.

Physical Fit: Oh! There IS a reason for that thingy…


So, my workout journey continues. I’ve experienced my various slips and backslides and general lack of motivation, but on the whole, things have gone pretty well.

I have spoken previously about necessary equipment for the ritual of working out. For the most part, I would say that you can get away with very little in the way of purchases when starting down the road to a more active lifestyle. Provided you have appropriate footwear to provide support (though obviously footwear is not necessary for all forms of exercise), workout apparel that is comfortable (unless of course you belong to a nudist organization and are content with the effects of gravity upon pendulous parts), and… well, honestly that pretty much covers it. You really need nothing else. It is entirely possible to have physical activity for the purpose of health and well-being without a lot of props.

That said, most people have some form of headphones with appropriate technology to provide background noise of some kind. I am lucky enough to belong to a gym that provides television screens and headphone jacks so that I need not even have my own device. I usually do, though. I’m as attached to my phone as anyone else… and so begins my tale of woe. Well, maybe not so much woe as oh my did anyone see that?!?

Anyone who has jumped on the physical fitness wagon will find themselves bombarded by a variety of “must haves” and “needs” from athletic merchandizers. There are health monitors, gadgets, breathing apparatuses, self-filtering water bottles, attachments for measuring all manner of vital statistics, and of course the clothing and shoe fashions. It is a constant pull of the commercial industries to get your money, and I personally was taking a firm stance to not give into this flagrant display of capitalistic whoredom. I am made of stauncher stuff. I would not be moved (just don’t advertise the stuff on late night television because my will is weak in the wee hours).

One of the silliest devices, in my opinion, was these little holster-like objects that fasten around one’s arm or other appendage and would hold sound production devices or mobile phone. They are frequently made of some neoprene like substance that reminded me, for all the world, of my SCUBA wetsuit. While I didn’t completely dismiss them out of hand, I mostly considered them a vanity for the high fashion conscious workout set. You know the type, the ones with matching outfits made of coordinated spandex and triple digit footwear. I was most decidedly not one of those people, and so, I saw no need to invest in the cute little arm/phone belt that comes in a variety of colors. In fact, I strongly suspected that a lot of people wore them for the sole purpose of showing off their biceps. This was clearly a douch-nozzle or spandex nazi object unworthy of my serious pursuit of better health. I could do very well with my handy phone holster that attaches to my waistband. I certainly did not need to spend my hard-earned wages to be fashionably equipped with my phone holder.

Miscalculation number one: Phones these days, though technology is getting more miniature and compact, are heavy. They respond to gravity much like little talkative paperweights.

Miscalculation number two: Not all workout pants, shorts, or leggings come equipped with drawstrings.

Miscalculation number three: Cardiovascular activity generally involves some bouncing and jarring of the body and all attached items.

And my fourth and final miscalculation: Pants stretch.

You are probably already getting the idea. I think I heard a few snickers back there in the back. One bright and sunny day in the not very distant past, I betook myself to ye ol’ proving grounds for my daily workout. That day, I happened to be sporting one of my purchases that you may recall from an earlier article. This particular pair of leggings was of the cropped variety and was without the drawstring option. They fit well enough when I changed into them. Sadly, the sadists who designed said apparel also decided that a firm elastic waistband was also unnecessary. I believe that this garment was meant to be held up by hopes and magic. Nevertheless, I had attached my trusty holster, put in my earbuds, and mounted my favorite elliptical machine.

I started at a good pace and set the timer for a nice cardio session. About halfway into my run on the elliptical, I noticed that something was happening at around waist level… or rather what should have been waist level and was now slowly creeping towards my groin area.

Now, for those unfamiliar with the equipment known as an elliptical machine, I will tell you that it is a marvelous device for those of us with fragile knees. However, it is also designed to require some attention to technique and has the potential of mayhem if not attending to the poetry of motion associated with the ski-pole like handle movement and pedal like running steps. In other words, taking my hands off to adjust my waistband against the forces of gravity was some high risk behavior. Needs must when the devil drives, and so, I quickly removed one hand from the grips to jerk my waistband back up to its appropriate location and continued in my progress.

I listen to books when I run typically. I must have gotten to an absolutely riveting portion of the narrative because the next sensation to draw my attention was the feeling that my backside was receiving a good deal more breeze than is normal for my appropriate clad posterior, and to my horror I found that I had, in fact, been pants’d by my phone. Yes, ladies and gentleman, the moon (well at least my chunnies) was shining for all the world to see… or at least the poor souls that occupied the elliptical and treadmill rows behind me. Oh the humanity!

And that is how I came to own my very own arm holster… I think it shows off my bicep quite nicely, don’t you?


Physical Fit: Battling the Summer Vacation Doldrums

Summertime when I was younger was a time when I could get up early and enjoy long days of sunshine, swimming, climbing, running, playing, and generally expending an enormous amount of caloric energy while the adults around me chased me around trying to get me to sit still long enough to replenish said calories with something resembling nutrition. Yes, I was one of those kids that felt that eating was primarily just a waste of my time that could be better spent on other adventures or completing my chores in order to have more time to spend on other adventures.

I miss those days. Now, summertime is a time when I can sleep late (if I am on vacation… not that it ever happens, but it technically could happen), enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee while I sit on my rather sizable back side and check the internet and social media to see what outside looks like from friends posting pictures, and eating goodies and treats not always available to my wallet or local eateries.

What the heck happened? When did I stop enjoying physical activity? When did lethargy and inactivity enter my unwilling spirit? Well, as you know, I have been making the effort to change my outlook, health, and general wellbeing through the deliberate expenditure of energy in what might be considered in a generous heart as physical exercise. Those of you who have been following my progress since my maniacal fit of madness will know that I am probably the most surprised by my perseverance. I am completely astounded that I have not argued away my own ardor for the gym and instruments of torture.

Does that mean that I have become a paragon of physical virtue and health? Um, I think the technical answer to that might be… Hell, no! There are absolutely days when I look at my workout bag and think to myself, “Oh my goddess, I do not want to do this today.” However, that particular epithet has presented itself less frequently than I might have expected. More than that, I am currently finding myself on vacation. This was possibly the greatest challenge to my new healthier habits. My general habit on vacation is to wake up naturally (meaning without an alarm) and lounge around drinking my favorite caffeinated beverage until I feel compelled to consume some food. Eventually I will wander down to the ocean to sit and read all day until the afternoon thunderstorm and/or sundown drives me back into shelter for refreshing beverages and more food. You see a theme here, right? The point being that I stood a significant chance of losing any possible advances I had made on healthy habits.

Recently, I had achieved a goal I never expected. I broke the 10 minute mile that I could barely even finish when I started. I not only broke it, I shattered it into pieces and went so far as to run my mile in 8 minutes and 43 seconds. What?!? Me? The woman who always said, “If you see me running, try to keep up because whatever is chasing us is bound to be bad”? Yep, that woman. I recklessly set a goal for myself for vacation. I wanted to run a mile on the beach.

I know this does not seem like much of a goal, but to someone who resembles some sort of vegetation during vacation, this is a pretty steep hill to climb. I packed a pair of running shoes and clothes that would be appropriate for a morning run. I still was not entirely certain that my inner slug would not surface with the usual excuses and rationalizations to remain on my generous posterior instead of getting up and moving about.

It didn’t happen. I actually ran a mile on the beach. Granted, I did not set in land speed records (running on sand is very different). My body protested and whined the whole time, but I did it. I ran on the beach. I ran a mile on the beach. I did it for two days in a row. Like I said, I am as surprised as you are. So, what was the difference? What changed my habit?

I blame it on the fit of madness. I blame it on a stubbornness that did not want to lose ground from what I had accomplished. I blame it on something that feels like… dare I say it? Pride. I actually am proud of myself for not giving up. Not that I have been transformed bodily into a picture of middle age sexiness… That definitely has not happened, but I do feel healthier and stronger. That is what is important (so, I’ve been told).

For those of you who may also be struggling with new healthy habits, I will make a few suggestions:

Keep a log of your journey – This can be something on paper or typing a journal (include pictures when possible to remind yourself of the before, the after, and the journey), but there are also a number of applications available out there that help (I like LoseIt and Runtastic, but there are a lot of others out there, too).

Reward yourself – It is ok to have a treat now and again. All things in moderation, but it is actually ok to reward yourself with things that you enjoy. In fact, restricting yourself from things that you love is one thing that can derail a plan faster than anything. Your new healthy living should be enjoyable, not a punishment. So, you really need to keep some of the things in your life that you enjoy (while adding new things you enjoy).

Share your progress with your support network – What? Support network? Yeah, those people who like and love you, who want you to be healthy and happy, who make you laugh and keep your spirits up, and who cheer you on. Tell them about your successes. Heck, tell them when you trip and stumble. The point is that they will help you celebrate the wins, they will hold you accountable, and they will remind you that you can try again tomorrow when you fall. Everyone needs a cheering squad.

Anyhow, this entry is a bit different than my usual tone for these pieces, but I know I’m not the only person who struggles to stay positive and making good choices all the time. If anyone else reads this, consider me part of your support network. I’ll tell you that I have definitely been there, and no one can be gung ho all the time. Every day I overcome the doldrums is a win. Now, to reward myself with a tasty beverage and the beach.

Physical Fit: Instruments of Torture


While the title of this particular episode along my path of self-imposed physical virtue would lead one to think that the apparatus described would be the mechanical destroyers of sinew and will, drawing from the tired and overtaxed muscles of my physique the sweat, like blood, that fuels their sadistic pleasure… Um, yeah, not so much. I shall speak of something much, much worse. Something so hideous that it could only be imagined by a sociopathic sadist that revels in the tears of all women. Yes, my friends, I speak of that heinous device… the SPORTS BRA!

For those of you who do not know me, I will only say that the majority of my life, even after traditional puberty, has been free from the need or desire from the architectural marvels to defy gravity’s effect upon the secondary sex characteristics of the female form. I was, to quote that old phrase, flat as a board. While this particular trait was the source of my despair in my adolescence as my friends were getting their first training and more substantial foundation garments, my natural athleticism quite soon convinced me that my lot in life was not so bad.

I witnessed more well endowed friends in tears after basketball, volleyball, and softball practices and games. I watched as my aquatic sisters strapped themselves down like Julie Andrews in Victor/Victoria to “reduce drag” for a swim meet. I listened to the complaints of friend and foe in the dressing room and dugout about the uncomfortable tightness of uniforms and lack of support in their underwires while girding themselves with enough metal, fake whalebone, elastic, and lycra to divert satellite signals from space.

However… karma, they say, is a bitch. Apparently, my gift of middle age and premenopausal life was a second puberty, graced by a hormonal surge that gifted me with the feminine curves that I had never before possessed. I have often joked that I finally figured out what Victoria’s secret was… she had my tits held hostage for 44 years and apparently decided to give them back when gravity could overpower my body’s natural elasticity. Crafty bitch! For a tidy sum, she will also let me have the technology (satin covered and fashion conscious) to combat said gravity… but I digress.

Thus begins my tale of woe… What my male readers probably do not understand (or you might… I won’t judge) is that the process of improving physical fitness and “getting into trim” has a curious effect as we grow older. Age decreases the collagen and natural elasticity of our skin. That’s right, folks! We lose inches in adipose tissue (fat) and firm up our muscles… and we are left with some flabby epidermal and dermal material that hangs on us a bit like an ill fitting suit. In the younger individual, the skin will tighten up incrementally, but the older we are (or the more weight we lose), that outer layer of ourselves may not ever quite catch up. Like a pair of old, stretched-out tubesocks, gravity sings the siren song, and so the folds of extra flesh fall to the floor. I could, at this point, go off on a tangent of my own with the medical concerns and other issues that come from this, but I am only prolonging the agony and procrastinating my shame.

In my particular case, my primary issues with extra dangle in my bangle happens to be in my chest… Hey! I’m just as surprised as anyone! This is something that I have never… EVER… had to deal with… the extra bounce in my jog. Plus, it hurt! Actual pain accompanied gravity, running, and my boobs. No bueno. This should be an easy fix. I mean, I have foundation garments, right? But no, these are nice bras. These are pieces of lovely feminine construction that I do not wish to sweat through… and they weren’t cheap. Additionally, laundering said garments are not precisely the wash and wear instruction.

This presented a predicament. I recalled that I did actually own what was formerly known as a “jog bra” in my former life. This sort of garment is made of lycra and sweatsuit material; thus, washable and providing necessary support. I put on my pith helmet and got out my shovel… and found it! Clutching my holy grail in victory, I placed it in my gym bag with the rest of my workout gear and toddled off to work.

Fast forward to the end of business. All of my staff have gone home. I shut down my work space, grab my bag, and betake myself to the restroom to change into my workout gear. I almost chuckle to myself. The dreaded cardio would face a worthier opponent today as I faced it bravely, and upright, without having to clutch my saggy, sore bosom in response to repeated gravity-impacted jolts. I had my secret weapon. My “JOG BRA”! Muahahahahaha!

Two miscalculations:

1. Remember my “second puberty”?

2. I’m not so flexible as I used to be.

Before I continue, let me say a bit more about the construction of a “jog bra”. As I said, this is a construction of lycra and cotton designed to be washable, supportive, and wick away the perspiration. Additionally, these bastions of the athletic female form are designed to hold everything still… and tight… and … dear heavens! I have seen male impersonators that put less effort into flattening their own chests! Really?!?

First thing I noticed? I must have been half asleep as I packed the tiny… and I do mean tiny piece of elasticized fabric in with my running shoes and other workout gear. Either that, or my euphoria upon actually locating the damned thing overrode any other sense… (take that as you may). Why? Because, I am pretty certain that I couldn’t have comfortably fit into this thing before I passed my first puberty, flat-chested or not!

Second thing I noticed? I had ill-advisedly chosen as my external workout apparel a shirt that required some… nay, any undergarment or else I would be arrested for indecent exposure and put away forever as a psychological harm to others.

I am nothing if not stubborn. I had laid my wardrobe, and I would wear it. This thing has elastic, it must stretch. Poor, foolish woman!

I am pretty sure that the military has not yet developed the technology to resist physical effort in the way this small piece of elasticized cotton can. I managed to get my arms, and head levered into it when it failed to accommodate any further efforts I made. There I stood: Arms pinned to my ears and blind (imagine Mr. Bean with a turkey on his head… and, there ya go). Strain as I would, this beast would not be moved. Near to losing consciousness from hypoxia, I leaned back against a wall and must have relaxed in just the right way so that I was able to ease one shoulder and my head through the appropriate holes. The other arm was pinned resolutely to my latisimus dorsi for all I could tell, but this was progress! My hope was renewed that I would not be trapped in the bathroom until my staff let me out the next day half naked and suffocated from my efforts. After much grunting and wiggling (that was much less enjoyable than one might imagine from that highly descriptive language), I was able to push through my other shoulder. This must be something like entering the world through the birth canal! Another brief respite resting on the only available seat… use your imagination… and I disentangled the lower elastic band from somewhere behind my left ear and pulled it sharply into place below my breasts…

And they were immediately relocated to my underarms and shoulderblades. Really?!? This is more comfortable than just letting gravity do its thing?!? After forcing the air forced out by pain back into my lungs, I managed to rearrange myself (do you guys do this with jockstraps all the time? If so, I have new sympathy) into something that was less painful that being crushed under boulders… something more along the lines of having steel bands wrapped tightly around your ribcage suppressing normal respiration.

Sagging against the wall for support, I found that I was sweating profusely, exhausted, panting with physical exertion, and exhibiting all the symptoms of a hernia and pulled muscle somewhere in my neck and shoulder… Hang on girls! I’m going to work out now!