My personal journey toward attaining health and fitness.
|Two and a half weeks ago I made the decision that is time, once and for all, to lose weight and get fit. Both of my parents have cardiovascular disease and I already have elevated cholesterol. It is time for me to re-set my body to where it needs to be. My goal is to be as fit and healthy as I can possibly be. To achieve this goal I began working with a personal trainer at my gym. This was not an easy decision, nor do I expect it to be an easy journey. I am not well-off, so the expense is a stretch for me, but I see it as an investment in myself that is long overdue. I expect to work hard, I expect to be sore, but the end result will be worth it. Please read on if you want to know more about my journey.|
|I had an extraordinary day. I achieved my current goal to run for twelve minutes, at five miles per hour - one mile - a goal I had serious doubts about just two days ago. But I'm getting a little ahead of myself...
I ran for eleven minutes last night. My knees hurt when I was done and I had a really tough time doing my time on the arc trainer, but I pushed through. It wasn't the most intense workout, but knowing that I was so close to my goal - just one more minute! - was an amazing feeling.
I felt good when I woke up this morning - my muscles were sore, but my joints weren't aching. I was actually looking forward to doing it tonight. Me...looking forward to running...never would have imagined that! But somewhere in the middle of the day, I began to feel incredibly anxious. I don't really understand it completely. I knew in my head that if I could run for eleven minutes that I could run for twelve. But those old doubts tried to creep back in. My heart was racing. I had to pee constantly. My intestines staged a revolt that sent me to the bathroom a few more times. I felt like crap.
The old me would have thrown in the towel at that point. She would have skipped the gym tonight and probably for quite a while after. The new me, the one who is learning to push through the tough stuff, the one who is learning to believe in herself, she sucked it up, put on her big girl panties and went to the gym.
After a pep talk from April and a little bit of stretching, I jumped on the treadmill. I covered the timer with a towel and kept my eye on the distance. Every tenth of a mile was a little victory, a step closer to that one mile, twelve minute goal. The last tenth of a mile was rough...I'm not going to lie. I was breathing hard, fighting for each step, fighting to keep my focus. It may not have been pretty to watch, but I ran one mile at five miles per hour. I couldn't take it in at first. I was simply happy that it was over. But towards the end of my workout it hit me. I did it. No more self-doubt. Whatever anxiety I felt, whatever negative energy I brought to the gym, I managed to use it to fuel that run.
Extraordinary. It's taken me a long time to get to this point of loving and believing in myself. A couple of years ago I was trapped in a web of my own negativity and pessimism. I did a lot of work on the inside to learn to take care of myself and to believe that I was worth taking care of. This journey into optimizing my health and fitness was the next step. It's hard to look back, but sometimes it's important. I love where I'm at right now. I love where I'm heading.
I'm letting go of more of that old crap that didn't work. The negative self-talk. The tendency to give up when things get tough. A few very old, very deeply ingrained 'beliefs' about who I am and what I can accomplish. It's like peeling an onion at times; this letting go definitely brings a lot of emotion to the surface, good and bad. It's definitely cathartic.
After two and a half months, it's time to clear out my closet. I need to say goodbye to some old favorites that just don't fit right any more, like the pair of jeans I can take off without unzipping them or the ones that used to strain every bit of lycra in the stretch denim that now gap at the waist or some of the shirts that suddenly display a bit more than I want. I need to pack them up and take them to Goodwill and I need to find some things that fit me now. It's another step that I need to take. It's good to let go of old things that no longer fit whether they are habits, beliefs or clothes.
It's also time for a new goal. I'm not sure what April and I will decide on this time, but I'll keep you posted next week. In the meantime, I'm going to celebrate this goal...I'm not sure how, but this one really needsa reward. (I actually owe myself quite a few at this point.) I'm also going to revel in my new status as a 'gym rat' since I spend so much time there - it's a vital part of my life and I really do like the positive energy and change that it represents. (OK, that may be a little weird, but I like weird and it's true, so...meh.)
I'm off to ice my knees which are aching at the moment. I am so proud of myself at this moment that I almost can't stand it!
|I had a tough weekend. Oh, not a bad weekend...I had some fun...went to see Harry Potter on IMAX (do it!)...relaxed a little. That part was good. My workouts fell a little flat. I was struggling with my current goal to run for twelve minutes. I don't particularly enjoy running...I am not at the point yet where I get that second wind that pushes me on. So it's always hard...especially when I know that I need to run farther and longer every time. A minute doesn't sound like much but when you're heart feels like it's about to burst out of your chest it can be endless.
So running and I had a little spat over the weekend. I ran on Friday - seven minutes and it wasn't horrible. I ran on Saturday, too, but somewhere in the middle I had the bright idea to check my heart rate only I couldn't get a reading so I hit what I thought was the scan button. Unfortunately, on the treadmill it's the cool down button. I completely lost focus, had no idea how long I had already run so...I quit. I got off, stretched a little and did twenty-five minutes on the arc trainer and some weights. The workout helped, but I still felt defeated.
I spent most of Sunday in a bit of a funk. I talked myself out of going to the gym in the morning and again in the afternoon. But after talking to my Mom over dinner, I reordered my current playlist, changed my clothes and went. It was better than the day before. I ran for eight minutes and did another twenty-five on the arc trainer. By the time I left I felt better both physically and emotionally but I was still feeling like this goal was too hard, that I wasn't going to make it.
Monday was my planned day off, but I spent the evening feeling guilty...feeling like I should have gone, even if I just ran. Maybe I should have but I also know that my body needs rest, too.
Tonight was one of my sessions with my trainer. I knew this morning that my head wasn't where it needed to be so I emailed April and told her what I was feeling. I was in self-defeating mode and I needed help to get out of it. I knew when I told her about my issues with running that she was going to make me run tonight. I guess that's why I did it. I was close to giving up on this goal and I really didn't want to do that. I needed to regain my focus and suck it up.
She made me run. Not for eight minutes, or nine. No...she pushed me to ten...by hiding the time (it makes me nuts!)...by telling me about her weekend...by commenting on what was happening on the news. My throat was dry, my heart was pounding but I did it. It was one of the toughest workouts I've had yet. At various times I was light-headed, had a splitting headache, my face turned beet red and burned and my legs started shaking uncontrolably. It wasn't pretty, but I feel so much better about everything. I know that I can run for ten minutes...so why not twelve? It's going to happen. I'm done running away. It's time for me to run towards my dreams.
It's also time to stop dwelling on what I don't like about running on the treadmill. I need to focus on how good it is for my heart, how many calories it burns, how much it boosts my metabolism and how empowered I feel when I am done. So, tomorrow night I'll pump up the volume on my iPod, put a towel over the annoying timer and knock out eleven minutes. As long as I believe that I can do it, then I will do it. I'll run with my mind fixed on where I want to be and what I want to achieve on this journey.
|I was feeling a little off today - kind of foggy-headed and off-balance - from some combination fo high humidity, summer allergies and a freakishly low barometric pressure. Going to the gym was tough, but I knew that I had to do it. I'm not quite ready to skip a planned workout just yet; I'm too afraid I'll fall back my old negative pattern of just giving up. I won't let that happen.
It was tough getting started, especially with my new forward lunge-squat-rear lunge routing. I had a difficutl time focusing on my core to find my balance, but it did happen. I'm not sure exactly when - midway through a set somewhere, but I was breathing hard, starting to sweat and I got a much-needed adrenaline boost. I felt like my new, healthier self again...I even found my smile and my sense of humor. I will say that this is one workout where I absolutely needed my trainer there, encouraging and pushing me, especially at the beginning.
We started talking about how my body is a machine. When I walked in the door tonight, I was in desperate need of a tune-up. I felt almost like a car who's engine won't turn over. It took some TLC and some hard work, but my engine fired up and I felt better. Two months ago, a day like today would have been the begining of the end. Today, it was yet another new beginning. I discovered (again) how healing exercise is. My engine was purring by the time I left and I felt one hundred percent better.
That doesn't mean that it was an easy workout. It was one of the toughest ones yet and I really had to keep digging deep to find what I needed to keep moving. I am so glad that I was able to do it.
My newest workout is completely new and very, very challenging. Many of the exercises are completely new (like Tai Bo Butt - yowza!) so I'm not quite comfortable with them yet, but I'll get there. I feel like I'm making progress already...and I'm more than halfway to my two week running goal of twelve minutes.
Speaking of goals...I need to start rewarding myself when I achieve them....to date, I've completed four goals. Now I need to figure out just what I want to treat myself to...a mani/pedi to start...maybe a facial (it's been years!)...a massage...things that make me feel good and the reinforce the self-care that I am working so hard on.
At this point, I know for certain that working out is one of the best gifts I can give myself. It's energizing, empowering and yes, healing. The gym is actually begining to feel like some kind of private sanctuary. There's an odd feeling of comfort there (strange for a place that often leaves me aching)...it kind of feels like home. Strange but true. Maybe it's because I associate it with so much personal success...maybe it's the faces that I see every night...no one talks much but they bring a positive energy (which I hope I add to). It may not always be easy to walk in the door, but I always leave feeling stronger and better than I did when I entered.
|The heat and humidity had me feeling a little worn out when I got to the gym tonight. It's Tuesday, one of my sessions with April and I know that I have to be ready for anything. I never know what she's going to throw at me (and hey, I actually like that about her!) so when I walked in the door I tried to throw off the tiredness and find some untapped energy source deep within.
Boy did I need it! I was hoping beyond hope that running wasn't on the menu...hoping that maybe, just this once...she would forget. She didn't forget (darn her!) so I sucked it up and ran...despite a bladder that started screaming at me at about three minutes...despite the oppressive heat and the dripping sweat. And I did it. Six minutes. Halfway to goal. Sweet!
The rest of the session was more of the same. New exercises that hit places that I didn't know existed. Things that require greater focus and intensity. Things that make me dig deep and make me determined to see them through.
I'm not an intense person by nature so this is new territory for me. It's fascinating to learn just how much is possible just by finding the strength inside myself. I kind of like this new intense side of myself. I like working hard and earning each drop (or occasional bucket) of sweat. I like trying something that feels difficult, even impossible and pushing through it. I did forty regular push-ups and twenty push-ups with close hands. I ran for six minutes and I'm halfway to my goal. I fought through the slight dizziness and headache that the humidity brought. I felt horrible a few times while I was working out, but when I was done, I felt amazing. I really did find some untapped energy source.
I'm starting to enjoy a little intensity. It helps keep me focused on my goals. It helps me stay on track when the scale doesn't cooperate. (Note - I'm seriously considering banishing the scale and only weighing myself once a month.) It helps me to say - yes it's hard, and yes it feels like crap, and yes, my entire body is shaking, but I CAN do it.
There is so much more to this journey than those numbers on the scale. I am finding so much inside myself and I'm learning to trust and believe in it. I've been on this journey before, many times. I was even successful once. But this time it feels different. I feel absolutely certain that I can lose the weight and gain the fitness that I want. So no matter what April throws at me, I'm going to try my hardest, dig deep and push myself. (And I'll try not to roll my eyes the next time she says 'pushups next' while I'm running five miles per hour on the treadmill.)
|I am in the process of adding running to my fitness program. I started out with just two minutes. It was hard and when it was over I felt pretty crappy physically (but satisfied that I had done it). I am working towards running for twelve minutes (which should end up being about one mile) so I am increasing my time by thirty to sixty seconds every time I run.
On Saturday morning, I ran for four minutes. (Hey, I just realized, that's 1/3 of the way...I'm very fond of dividing things into thirds!) The thing is, the four minutes didn't suck. I felt like I was breathing better (more deeply, maybe, I'm not sure) but I actuallly felt good when I was done. Oh - don't get me wrong - I was very happy that I had run for four minutes and even happier that it was over. But I LOVE the fact that I didn't feel like crap when I was done. That feels like definite progress!
Tonight I'm going to try for four and a half to five minutes.
I will say that I don't really like running on the treadmill. It feels very strange and I'm always half-expecting to lose my footing and shoot off the end into a heap. I'm curious to see if running outside might feel better for me. I have a nice one mile walk in my neighborhood...I may try running at least part of that to see how it feels. It will certainly be more interesting than watching the numbers on the display. Food for thought.
I had a very busy and interesting weekend. It was the first time since I started that I had to change up my workout schedule. I have been working out six nights a week and taking Mondays off, but I had so much going on yesterday (cleaning up after a sick kitty and helping out at my niece's birthday party) that I decided to switch my day off. I don't like the gym on Mondays - it's the most crowded night but I am only doing cardio, so it should be fine. It may actually be a good thing to switch the day off from time to time. My body seems to respond well to changing things up.
Random musings - when I started losing weight, I was at a point where my belly stuck out about the same distance as my chest. I caught a side-view of myself in the full-length mirror and I noticed that that isn't the case any longer. Yippee!!
|I have always enjoyed learning new things. When I was a kid I was known to read encyclopedias, dictionaries and almanacs for fun and I considered myself (proudly!) a nerd in high school. I think that is one of the reasons that I am enjoying my new and ever-evolving exercise program so much. There are so many new and different ways to move and challenge my body that the learning opportunities are almost endless.
This past week has introduced a lot of new exercises. My trainer, April, likes to change things up fairly often and I really love that. I've had no chance to get stuck in a rut because we try something new almost every time. I'm on my third program so far! I love that - it keeps it fresh, interesting and challenging. Although many of the exercises target the same muscle groups, they do it in different ways. I like the process of learning the new exercise - I often have to think about it the first few times (quite hard!). I'm discovering new muscles all the time or hitting the same muscles in completely different ways. My body is almost always 'sore' (the hurts-so-good kind) but I love that too.
I also had the chance to work with a different trainer yesterday. April has been mentoring a new trainer for the past two weeks and she's been observing my sessions. She trained me yesterday with a program that she designed, so again, new, different, challenging. I LOVE having so much in my arsenal. I do strength on my own over the weekend and I do Abs every time I work out, so having a lot of options helps me challenge myself. I'm not tied to the same old monotonous routine.
Besides having the chance to learn so much about fitness, I learn something new about myself everyday. I believe that I knew myself pretty well when I started, but I still discover more about who I truly am all the time. I've learned that I (used to) underestimate myself. I've given up some old beliefs about myself and my capabilities so I am stretching farther than I have in a very long time.
What else have I learned? I've learned that the scale is not the greatest indicator of progress for me. I've learned that I can eat a lot of food if it is the right food and that a treat once in a while is okay. I've learned that there are some foods that I really have to avoid completely because once I start I have a hard time stopping (sweets, especially candy, for example). I've learned that I am fairly sensitive to sodium and really need to watch my intake or I get bloated. (Blech! - I was high yesterday and I am paying the price today.) I've learned that working out (exercise, like diet feels too negative for me) makes me feel really amazing; it can calm me, inspire me, energize me, help me sleep and even cure PMS and cramps. I've learned that working out later in the day is typically better for me and that nothing feels quite as nice as some long, slow stretches at the end of a workout. I've learned that, for me, having someone to be accountable to is extremely important in staying focused.
That's a lot of learning in two months and that's really just a fraction of it. I'm so happy to enjoy the journey and to embrace the learning that each step brings.
I had the best night at the gym! The results of my fitness assessment are exciting and inspiring. My body fat is down by two percent and my muscle mass is up by one - definitely moving in the right direction! I've improved dramatically in flexibility, muscle strength and muscle endurance. But the most amazing results were on my three minute cardio test. When I began my program my heart rate was 144 after three minutes of steps, classified as very poor by my trainer's criteria and definitely worrying for a woman with a strong history of heart disease in her family. That number is probably the one that made me the most determined to follow-through with this commitment. Today's number? 114. I almost cried when I heard it. In two months, my cardiovascular health has improved from very poor to average. It's startling and, at the moment, a little hard to wrap my brain around.
If I wanted or needed confirmation that I am on the right track, I have it now. I am so happy!
I started on another new program tonight. Time was a little short because of the assessment, but I definitely still worked! I like this one a lot; it's challenging and very different from what I have done in the past. I love mixing it up and I love having three different workout routines that I can pull out and use. It keeps things fresh and interesting.
And I almost forgot to mention - my current goal of twenty push-ups? Done. I had no idea that was going to happen tonight. I was aiming for fifteen, but once I got going, it felt...not easy, but achievable. I like achievable. I'm re-learning what exactly that means for me and I'm still learning not to underestimate myself.
My cardio routine will be amping up too. Going from 45 minutes on level 5/6 to 20 to 30 minutes on level 10. Am I scared? Maybe a little, but I know how to push myself now - it's just a matter of pushing past that tough spot. I believe that I can and will do it.
New goal (starting on Thursday) - treadmill, 12 minutes, 5mph. That's right, I'm becoming a runner!
|I'm excited and a little nervous about my session with my trainer tonight. It has been two months since my initial fitness assessment so we are going to check my progress. I know that what I am doing is working - I see the numbers on the scale and the measuring tape going down, little by little. I feel my muscles getting stronger. I feel my stamina improving. But I'm still just a little nervous about making it 'official'. The tests will be a step test for cardio, a strength test, crunches and flexibility. And of course, the high tech scale that somehow figures out my body fat. (I'm actually most curious to see what that one says.) When I started some of the numbers were a little scary, especially my heart rate after the step test. I am hoping to see an improvement, especially considering how much cardio I have been doing.
Keeping my fingers crossed. I will check back in when I have the results
|I love to write. It's exhilarating to take a tiny little spark and nurture it into something with the potential to touch someone else. Inspiration can strike at any time. Sometimes an idea just hits me and tempts me to chase it to see what happens. At other times, I see or hear or experience something and begin wondering 'what if...' Two years ago I had the pleasure and privilege of hearing John Irving, Stephen King and J K Rowling speak at Radio City Music Hall. It was fascinating to hear how differently each if them follows through on those sparks of inspiration. Irving is a meticulous planner - he needs to know what will happen before he begins writing. Jo (who is my personal hero) is also a meticulous planner but at times she allows the story to change and develop while remaining commited to the ending which she planned from the earliest days of writing Harry's story. King likened his writing process to finding a piece of string and following it to see where it leads. As someone who loves to write but has never taken a real writing course, I loved learning that the process can and should be different for each writer but that, at the end of the day, it's about taking that piece of string and seeing what it might become.
My writing process is somewhere between King and Rowling. I need to know a lot about my characters before I commit them to the page (or screen) - history, personality, motivations - but when I write I find that they often behave in unexpected ways. They take me into their world and show me their story and they often inspire other ideas along the way.
So what does all of this have to do with fitness and a healthy lifestyle? Quite a bit, actually. When I exercise, I take inspiration from my trainer, from the people working out around me, sometimes even from what I'm seeing on the TV's while I'm on the Arc Trainer. (Superhero movies are GREAT motivators, FYI, even if you can't hear what they are saying!) More importantly, I take inspiration from my own successes. Each small win inspires the next goal and the next, like bricks in the foundation of my new and improved body. I love that idea! (LOL - now I am quoting my trainer!)
What I hadn't really thought about was the idea that I might be an inspiration to someone else.
Apparently, I am. My success is becoming known around the gym. It's kind of exciting to know that my determination, my hard work and my newfound ability to push beyond the tough stuff is helping other people to dig deep and find that within themselves. I kind of like being April's poster child. It helps motivate me to keep pushing, to keep working hard, to keep trying new things. And each time I have a great workout or feel that 'runner's high' or leave the gym feeling strong and empowered, I am inspired to take that next step.
What's interesting, is that the inspiration that I receive at the gym often presents me with unexpected gifts. An increase in energy means more time and enhanced creativity. It's an amazing benefit and a testimony to the incredible power of achieving balance. When I feel inspired and creative in one area, it seeps into all of the others. I wasn't expecting that but I am delighted to embrace it.
|As I was warming up for my workout, I realized that new lifestyle is altering more than my waistline and the number on the scale. In fact, one of the biggest changes is in my attitudes and beliefs about what I am capable of doing and it is way more than I ever gave myself credit for. When I began this journey, I never imagined that I could do forty-five minutes of cardio without feeling like my heart is about to leap out of my chest and that I would actually learn to love (yes, I said it) it. Amazing, since only six weeks ago I struggled to do ten minutes. When April told me to increase from thirty to forty-five minutes, my first thought was 'no effing way' (okay, maybe I thought 'has she gone completely nuts?' too). But by that point, I knew that she would ask me to do it if I wasn't capable of doing it. So I went to the gym the next night, did my forty-five minutes and felt absolutely fabulous. I did it. It was challenging but I pushed past the tough part and the last fifteen minutes (the extra ones) were sublime. How the hell did that happen?
It seems like every workout I gain some new insights into just what I am truly capable of. It all comes down to what I believe and expect of myself. I'm so used to putting myself down, of trying to melt into the background that I haven't pushed my boundaries for a very long time. For a long time, I lost the belief that I could be fit and healthy so I stopped trying. Working with my trainer, I am learning that I am capable of so much more. Because she pushes me and challenges me, I'm slowly learning how to do that for myself.
Last week I conquered my goal to hold plank for two minutes. When it was time to set a new one, I asked to work on push-ups. It addresses an area where I know that I need to build strength and confidence. I know going in that it will be challenging but I want to go there. The first night (at the end of a very intense workout) I did three. (I would have said only three, but the fact is that I did three perfect push-ups when I was at the point of exhaustion- that's good!) Over the weekend, I did six. Tonight I did nine. I've tripled the number I can do in about five days. That's progress. I did nine push-ups because I believed that I could. And I believe that I can and will do twenty in the next week and a half.
This new lifestyle isn't always easy, but it is proving to be about a lot more than just the physical. I'm gaining a sassy new attitude to go with my stonger and leaner new body. I'm learning that I can do so much more than I ever really believed. I'm learning to challenge myself to try things that at first glance may feel impossible. Living this new, healthy lifestyle is as much of a challenge mentally as it is physically.
I finally believe that I am up to the challenge. I can and will succeed.