Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ramped Up

I know I'm not the only one out there that looks at their workout sometimes (ok, most of the time) and thinks in their most whiny voice "I don't wanna do this!" I admit it. I did that last night. I didn't want to do my tabatas. They suck. Still, I put on some peppy music and pushed through anyway. By the time I was done, I was feeling pretty kick ass. I was all proud of myself, struting around my house, informing my cat that "Yeah, that's right. I did that. Did you see? I totally just did that hard thing and I kicked its butt!"

Yeah, that was me.

There's nothing wrong with being proud of your hard work either. I was mighty proud last night when I peeled my sweaty butt off the floor. I could take on anything at that point. In fact, I then went to my dance studio and signed up for a new belly dance class that was starting.

For those of you who aren't familiar with belly dance outside of the video I've shown you and bad 70's movies featuring scanitily clad women swaying in  lounges, allow me to dispel some myths. Belly dance LOOKS easy. It's supposed to. Heck, most people just think it means getting dressed in sparkly stuff and jiggling a lot. The first part about the sparkly stuff is true, the rest is bull hockey. Dance of any form is very hard and belly dance isn't just jiggling in place. It's the careful, precise isolation and movement of individual muscle groups. It's a very hard thing to do correctly.

To get a feel for what I was doing last night, try standing on your tip toes. No, no, higher than that. Ok, now bend your knees slightly, tuck your pelvis under, and suck in your tummy till all of your abs are clenched. Then lift your chest, place your arms out to the side with a slight bend at the elbows, lift your chin and don't forget to smile. Hold that for an hour and a half while rapidly shifting your weight from thigh to thigh. Then keep moving your hips, while standing on your toes, and dip your knees till you lower down a good foot and back up again.

Seriously, my calves are going to look like this at some point.

By the time I got to the end of the class, my thighs were shaking so hard I could barely walk and my calves were knots. I dragged myself home, cursing my stupidity for trying to combine my workout with a class, which mind you is 5 weeks long so I have 4 more of these sessions to look forward to. On the plus side, I told my husband about it and asked if perhaps I'd pushed too hard but he assured me that my lack of permanent injury means I'm pushing myself just enough. So, I suppose I'd better get used to it since it seems my work out has just taken a massive step up in its intensity.

I am convinced, however, that given 6 weeks of this kind of work out, I'll be able to crush walnuts with my butt cheeks. You know, cause that's useful as a skill. ;)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Healthy Doesn't Mean Cardboard

I don't know why people automatically assume that healthy is a synonym for tasteless.
Obviously this is all awful tasting...

I suppose it's because most "health food" companies also own junk food companies and guess which one is cheaper to make. A lot of the stuff that gets touted as healthy is made with little care as to how it tastes because trying to be healthy AND tasty would be costly. Companies are more than happy for you to hate health food so you can go back to eating the cheap garbage they put on the shelves.

Mmmm...tastes like heart-attacks.

Well, I'm here to tell you that healthy can be friggin delicious. If you're in doubt, I'll understand. I was there once. I shuddered at the thought of wheat bread. I gagged at the idea of drinking nothing but water. I imagined myself chewing endlessly on dry chicken breast that had lost all flavor. Fortunately, through MUCH patience, my husband dragged me kicking and screaming into eating better. Now I love it.

I mentioned earlier that I believe in the importance of brownies and I stand by that. I will never tell anyone to just cut out all sweets ever, that would be over dramatic and self sabatoging. but I think there's some middle ground between "EAT NO SUGAR!!!" and "EAT ALL OF THE THINGS!" Moderation, it works.

All that said, I'll be posting a few good healthy recipes here that I use. I hope you enjoy them.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Day...something or another.

I learned a very important lesson while working out today.

Do not ever workout to songs that include a number in them.


You WILL lose count of your repetitions. >__< 

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pride and Pain

No, it's not a new Jane Austin novel, it's my last two days of working out. Monday I did my usual weight lifting and I'm rather proud of myself for it if for no other reason than I did it with badly bruised knuckles. I'd had a lovely accident on Sunday and smashed my hand against a door. Trust me, it won that contest. The result of that was a great big bruise on my middle knuckle and enough swelling to make clenching my fist very difficult. I admittedly took joy in telling people I got the bruise from an MMA match. *cough*

Pictured: Not Me.

As fun as my imaginary fighting skills are, the real life bruising was a lot less pleasant. Still, I had a workout to do and I was NOT about to give up so I pressed on. Let me tell you how much push-ups, pull ups, and weight lifting suck when your hand is hurting.

Something kind of cool happened afterward though. On Monday, I looked like I had several cotton balls stuffed under my skin from the swelling. Today, you can't even tell I bruised it. It looks like working out helped move around the blood that had leaked under the skin and that meant the swelling went down. Kinda cool really. I'm also kind of proud of myself for going ahead with my workout despite the bruising. My head was held a little higher yesterday just for knowing that I had done it.

Then I got home last night and did my Tabatas.


Ok, so they suck. I DID learn something important though so I'll share it here in case anyone decides to try this insanity too.

Do NOT look at the timer.

No really. Just don't. It's not worth it. Last night I just put my head down and didn't bother looking at the timer because I didn't want to see how many rounds I had left. You know what? It was actually BETTER than the last time. When I look at the number of rounds I have left, I get discouraged, my body starts trying to tell me "You can't keep going. Look how many you have LEFT." By just tuning it out and only focusing on getting through the tabata round I was in just at that moment, I got less frustrated and the rounds seemed to go by faster. I was still hurting by the end but at least it wasn't as painful as it's been before. 

Also, I think a lot of things are about perspective. I like to think I'm in pretty good shape but I'm certainly not a walking bulge of muscle or anything. I still look at push-ups with a disapproving frown but then I feel that way about anything that makes my head feel like it's going to burst.

This is me doing pushups.

I had been pretty unhappy with myself because on the first round of tabatas, I could pop out a good 7 push ups, and that made me feel good about myself, but by the time I was getting to rounds 3-7, I was barely managing 4 push ups. Yeah, I know, some of you are rolling your eyes and thinking "oh you poor thing" but getting to those numbers has taken a lot of work for me. I was starting to feel bad because I could only do 4 of that exercise during each round.

Then I stopped and realized that yeah, I was only doing 4 push ups, but I was doing that EVERY 15 SECONDS. That's no little feat. I had been spending so much time chastising myself for not doing enough each round that I hadn't sat back and realized how much I'd been doing in so short a time.

This does just apply to me either, if you can only do 1 push up, don't beat yourself up for it. You know what? You did one push up! That's awesome! There are people not managing that much so pat yourself on the back. No matter what exercise you're doing, just be proud that you're doing it. Next thing you know, you'll be doing more than 4 push ups, more than 6, more than 10. Working out isn't an instant fix, it's a slow climb to get to the top of a ladder.

The view at the top is pretty damn awesome though.

Monday, July 16, 2012

OMG, Brownies.

So I have a weakness.


Guh, I love them. Any baked good with chocolate in it really but brownies in particular are a favorite treat. I can happily stuff them into my face till I pass out in a diabetic coma. Imagine my surprise then when I came home and found a box of these on my doorstep.


I was pretty sure I'd died and gone to heaven. What wonderful person would do this? I lovingly ripped the box apart to get to the goodies inside and found a lovely card in there too. Turns out the director of the non-profit I work with had felt I deserved a pat on the back for my efforts so she sent me this wonderful and thoughtful gift. Isn't that awesome of her?

I ate one that night and oh, I can't even describe how amazing they are. Rich, chocolately, moist. In short, LOVE in chocolate form. Most people who are trying to lose weight or get in shape would have taken one look at those brownies and hissed at them as if they were the devil themselves. "How can you eat those?!" I can almost hear people shriek, "You'll undo all the hard work you've put in!"

Wrong. Here's the thing that so many people who are dieting just aren't hearing from society as a whole: Don't stop eating food you like, just eat in moderation. I'm not going to take a brownie with me to work every single day, that would indeed cause me to put on more weight than I want, but denying myself ALL brownies ALL the time is also just as detrimental to my efforts.

Let me explain. You see, if I allow myself a brownie here and there as a treat but limit it to just ONE of them and only once every other day or so, then I have something I can look forward to and I won't feel deprived. If I tell myself "no" and then toss the brownies out, not only will God kill kittens (because he totally does that when you waste awesome brownies), I will also set myself up for failure. I'll start to resent my diet or my working out. I'll hate the effort I'm putting in because it's keeping me from enjoying life.

This is what it looks like. It's pathtic.

Put up with that resentment toward my working out and being all healthy for long enough and eventually I'd snap. Next thing you know, I'm laying in my livingroom floor with a stomach full of Hagen Daas and a soul full of guilt. Lots of people go through this. It's an ugly cycle. It's also one you can stop.

First, you have to change how you think about working out. Dieting and working out are often seen or used as a punishment against ourselves. Why else would it hurt? We yell at ourselves, tell ourselves we're fat, treat ourselves like garbage and deny ourselves food. We would never let someone else do that to us, why are we doing it to ourselves? Stop it.

Working out is about doing something GOOD for yourself. It's about being kind to you by trying to treat your body like the amazing machine it is. You don't scream at your car and deny it gas when the tire goes flat, do you? Why would you do that to your body? Working out is just taking your body in for a tune up. It's a lot of work, it can hurt, sure, I'll even concede it sucks. Do it long enough though and you'll start seeing some major benefits. You'll have more energy, you'll get sick less, you'll breathe easier and ache less.

In short, working out is something you do because you LIKE yourself, or at least that's why you should do it, and if you like yourself, then why would you be so mean to you? Don't NOT eat brownies at all, just eat them intelligently. Have one here and there, not more than one a day, and try to use them as treats for yourself. Save them like the special moments they are. You'll find that they suddenly mean more and you enjoy them more. They will taste all the better because you don't have them every single day.

All that said, I've been keeping up with my regular work outs (weights on Mondays and Thursdays, Tabatas on Tuesdays and Fridays, with lots of bellydance and jogs thrown in) and I'm feeling pretty proud of myself. Tonight, I have my weight lifting again. I think when it's over, I'll go take a long shower, relax back with a good book, and have myself a brownie. :)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"Don't Go In The Pain Cave" And Other Important Lessons

"Your Totem Animal won’t be in there to help you. You’ll be on your own. The Pain Cave is for cowards."

These are the words that greeted me when I went to do my Mobility Workout of the Day last night. You can understand my confusion, I'm sure, but the point Kstar is making is a good one and I think I'll be taking it to heart. "The Pain Cave" is a euphemism for that moment of stubborn enthusiasm some athletes get where, in their determination not to look or feel weak, they push themselves well past the limits their body can handle and they ignore the pain signals their muscles are tapping out in panicked Morse code.

The Pain Cave is Dumb. Don't be dumb. If it hurts, then stop!!!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

It's the Little Things

I'm just gonna come right out and say it.

I didn't want to work out last night.

There. It's said and it's honest. I got home from work and spent the night running around making dinner, grocery shopping, and attending a phone meeting so by the time that was all said and done, it was 9pm and I was tired. I didn't want to work out. I wanted to sit down and veg for a while. I wanted to turn on the tv or open my computer and play around on Tumblr.

Why are you even looking for a source??? Guess!

Instead, I did the hard thing, I did my weight lifting. As I've said before, my Mondays and Thursdays consist of 5 rounds where I do 1 pull up, 5 pushups with a 20lb weight vest, 5 squats with 50 lbs, shoulder presses of 15lbs, and bicep curls with 15lbs. I get 3 minutes of rest between each. I decided to try to reward myself for working out by spending those 3 minute breaks clicking around on Tumblr anyway and that honestly helped. It felt like I was getting both things I wanted. Ok, it was only one thing I really wanted and one thing I needed to do, but you get the point. 

When it was over, I was sore, even MORE tired, and dragging around the house. 

But you know what? 

There was also a tiny bubble of triumph. I didn't want to do the workout but I did anyway and there's something to be proud of in that. A lot of my friends think I just work out and that it's either easy or that it's something I look forward to. On some level, I guess I do look forward to it but not because I enjoy working out, I just enjoy the results. I'm just like most people out there, I don't WANT to hurt, I don't want to ache, I don't want to sweat and grunt while hefting around weight. I just want to relax and enjoy my day but I triumph over those parts of me and have to work hard to get the motivation to keep going sometimes. Any time I do is a victory. 

Go me. :)  


Monday, July 9, 2012

Stretching is supposed to feel good

So for the last week I haven't been able to work out because I've been sick. This also had the effect of driving me nuts since I'd just started this whole workout thing and then found I couldn't actually DO any of it.

I made the rather understandable mistake of mentioning this to my husband. As a Marine and consumate badass, little things like illness (or loss of surface skin, for that matter) don't really slow him down much and he sympathized with my plight more than I think I'd intended. This whole not working out thing was a problem that had to be solved. He'd been the one to say "don't work out this week" since I'd been sick but I had underestimated the true depth of his knowledge in all things designed to suck when it comes to exercise.

He suggested I stretch.

Photo from

"Ok," I thought, "sure! I can do that! It'll be relaxing! I'll just do some fun yoga or something and that will be my exercise." So yesterday, I told my hubby I was going to take his suggestion on stretching. That's when he sent me the link to this site. It's a mobility workout of the day site by a guy called KStar. He's actually a well respected athlete who looked at his fellow muscleheads and said "Wow, we are all in a lot of pain." He decided that people knew too little about how their own bodies work and he set out to fix that. His site is a series of mobility workouts, one per day, that are designed to stretch you out in ways that might otherwise go overlooked.

Sounds great, right?

I clicked the play button on video number one and found that my first daily stretch was just sitting in a squat for 10 minutes. Well THAT'S not hard, right? It's just a squat. In fact, peoples around the world who don't have a ton of European luxuries actually sit that way normally all the time. Scientists even tell us that this is a NORMAL position for people and that we aren't really designed to sit squarely on our rumps. This can lead to lots of back pain.

Photo from

Ok, this whole squatting thing is natural and perfectly normal so sitting like this for 10 minutes should be cake. I plop down into a squat and congradulate myself on having managed something this easy. Then I take a closer look at how Kstar is sitting. Ok, so my heels aren't on the floor. I correct this...and promptly fall over. What the hell? Turns out that it's not as easy to sit like this as you might think. Also, it hurts like holy hell. It's not because it's not natural, it's because since I was a child, I've been taught to sit in a chair so this seemingly normal squat becomes somewhat problematic. All the muscles that SHOULD be stretched to do this, namely the hips, back of the thighs, and butt, are all shortened from lack of stretching over the course of years and now I'm trying to tug them into a position they no longer deal with well.

I spend the next five minutes trying to convince my heels to stay flat, my knees to stay apart, my butt to stay off the ground, and my back to stay straight. That last part is important. PAY ATTENTION TO IT. Seriously, it hurt when I found myself curling over to try and balance better. Instead, I just caused some serious lower back pain so don't do that. To help with my balance, I wound up clinging to the leg of a table like some cracked out lemur while I tried not to topple over, all while counting down the minutes with a desperation I hadn't realized one could get just from stretching.

The whimpering sounds of my agony eventually drew my husband back out of his office and he gently informed me that the 10 minutes didn't have to be consecutive. I could build up to this sort of thing. After which, he helped ease me down to the floor and kept me from hyperventilating as my screaming muscles finally relaxed again. Now at least I know not to try to do these exercises all in one go. They are not for the faint of heart and much like fighting a dragon, if you go in unprepared, it will eat your butt alive.

Thus ends my lesson in how stretching isn't always relaxing and how I am apparently tense in muscles I didn't even know I had. Tonight, I'm back to my workout so, seeing as my butt is reminding me of what I did to it yesterday, doing weighted squats tonight should be fun. >__>

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Wouldn't ya know it?

So you may, or may not, have asked yourself "What happened? Why did this blog start only to go all quiet after a few days? Has she given up already?"

The short answer?

No. I didn't give up. Instead, right after getting into this whole working out thing, I got sick instead. Yay.

The hubby is well versed in not just working out but is also a trained medical technician so he put a strict kabosh on my exercise this week. Booo! So yeah, my workout got put on hold till this weekend.

I admit it, I've been bad though. I've gone out and gone for short jogs where I could because quite frankly they are a source of stress release for me and I was going a little stir crazy. On the up side, I can go back to working out starting on Monday and I am actually looking forward to it. One way or the other, I am determined to get into shape enough to pull off this race in April.

For now, I'm gonna go chug water and stare at my calendar...

Monday, July 2, 2012

Aren't Weekends Supposed To Be Relaxing?

Sorry for my lack of updates over the weekend. I had originally intended this to be a daily blog but sometimes life just gets in the way. It's not always a bad thing as I got to spend some time with good friends yesterday!

There were legos involved. It was awesome.

Aside from being on-call for work and hanging out with friends, I had originally intended to do some long jogs to get ready for distance running. That did not happen. Why? Because of this.

Those numbers were in the triple digits this weekend. I am NOT jogging in 100 degree heat. That's just asking for some kind of stroke. They'd find me in a sticky puddle of my own sweat out in the middle of the road. I'll pass, thanks. Tonight it's back to weight lifting though and I'll be making one of my favorite breakfast recipes. I'll share it with you tomorrow!

Have a good day!