posts tagged with 'fitness'
So I was at the gym yesterday PUMPING IRON... okay so not really. Really I was lifting 20lb weights over and over again to make my biceps look like they can lift heavy things, which in reality they can't, as Dan knows from my lame-ass attempts the other day to help him move two big pieces of plywood to the stage he was building (Dan: "Can you hold this up while I get the ladder?" Me: "Nooooo!"). And when I wasn't lifting those vanity bells I was doing crunches on the decline bench with a 10lb weight, also a non-transferable skill unless the skill I'm trying to build is professional loathing of my mid-section. So I wasn't really "pumping iron" which sounds hard and productive, it was more like I was airing out my personal vanity while treating it to a spray tan.
Anyway, while I was so engaged I eavesdropped on a personal trainer describing her regimin for an upcoming fitness competition. The best way to display well-developed muscles is to cut all the fat around them, so now that it's getting close to competition time she has to work out harder without eating hardly anything.
"People ask me why I haven't made pro yet," she said, "and I just say it's really hard. You have to be PERFECT. Like, you can tell I work out, but the judges are looking for a certain size of shoulder cap."
OMG, I thought, there's a perfect size of shoulder cap? Why has nobody told me this before? Here are people who've transformed judging the female body into an exact science, and I've been doing it amateur all my life? Where can I download a copy of the spreadsheet?
The trainer stopped to say hi to me as she crossed to the other side of the gym. "How are the babies?" she asked, "I see you running out on Hartwell Road."
"Yeah, I'm out there a lot," I said, and then added guiltily, "When I'm not here lifting weights."
"Your legs look great!" she called as she walked away.
Wow. My legs, huh? Coming from someone who scrutinizes bodies for a living, that feels like a loaded statement. Of course my legs look fine if I'm running 20 miles a week. Aesthetically speaking I'm more concerned about everything ABOVE them.
What is the point of making fitness goals? Are they anything more than vanity? Sometimes I find myself thinking odd things as I look at myself in the mirror doing crunches. "The God of thinness will never be pacified," I tell myself during lower body lifts (which, admittedly, I hate.) The other day I was doing a particularly hard-core twisting exercise with a medicine ball, and just as I was thinking how badass I looked the thought crossed my mind, "You won't be able to do this forever. This body will eventually decay and die."
Which, while true, is not really a motivating mid-workout sentiment.
Running, unlike weight training, is rewarding to me in itself. But I also have running goals, or rather I think about having goals. I say: Maybe this fall I can run 20 miles in one shot. Maybe next spring I can do a marathon.
The problem with those goals is what do you do once you meet them? Will running 20 miles really make me feel so much better than running 15? Will the finish line of a marathon feel like an accomplishment? Or will it be just another place I nurse a baby?
There are distances beyond a marathon, if we get into this game of making up goals. 50K and then 50 miles. Will running THEM change me into a person I magically like better? The day after I conquer a new distance, will I be fundamentally changed? Probably not. Probably I will wake up and still need to decide between a shake and an egg for breakfast, and whether I'm "doing sugar" today, and the choices will be terrifying.
What does the body building trainer do when she finally earns her professional status? Does she take a day off? Eat some food that isn't chicken breast? No, she'll need to compete with all the other professional body builders to win endorsement deals for green-tea supplements. She never gets to an ending point, a place where she can say: There. Now I can rest.
The ending point for all of us, though it's lame to admit it, is age. Or injury. Or terminal disgust at our own failure.
I wonder if something different is possible, if I could make enthusiastic fitness goals with an air of detached humility. It's not so much a cultural trope, non-attachment, not in the spirit of the Nike swooshes I wear on my singlets. It's doesn't sound right to say, "I'm planning an ultramarathon next summer, God willing and the crick don't rise." But it sounds a teensy bit less vain.
Prior to Harvey I had one hobby. Exercise. And boy did I exercise. I was a self-proclaimed gym rat. The kind of person who waxes eloquent about aerobic training zones and VO2max. The kind of person who feels just a bit "off" if she doesn't get in five good hours of spin class a week. The kind of person who won't eat ice cream on Friday night because she doesn't want to spoil her "long run" on Saturday.
Yeah. I was "that" girl.
I lifted weights.
I ran a marathon.
And (although I wouldn't condone this sort of thing for anyone trying to follow Jesus) I did yoga. a LOT yoga.
Then came Harvey. And now on Saturday mornings instead of going to the gym I find myself doing a different set of calisthenics in the nursery. I lift the baby, I put the baby down. I try to keep the baby from falling on his face while I assemble a laundry load of pocket-style diapers.
And crazy though it may sound to anyone who knew me in my previous life, I'm thinking about quitting the gym. What have I become? Someone who values thrift over thrust? wallet over weight set? vet bills over treadmills?
The rational part of my brains says: It's fifty bucks a month. I get there about once a week. Otherwise, I managed to lose fifty pounds off of breast-feeding and walking the dog.
So I ask, is it worth half a c-note for 30 minutes on the rowing machine once a week? Or the peace of mind that I HAVE somewhere to go when it's raining outside and the baby is screaming inside? Is that worth $600 a year? Does that fall into the "cheaper than a divorce" category? Or the "stop being so selfish and pay off your loans" category?
I'll think about it while I'm making diapers.
Out walking the dog this morning I wave at a neighbor who is stepping out for the morning paper.
"You're looking thin!" She calls out.
I have heard that in some arab cultures instead of "Hello" the customary greeting is something like "Praise be to God" or a saying to that effect. I think, however, that the world would benefit from an institutionalized greeting custom whereby the first words out of everyone's mouth are "You're looking thin!"
Really, I think we could achieve world peace that way.
But yes it's true. This morning I notice that my Eddie Bauer mom jeans were fitting a little looser than normal. Then I noticed that Eddie Bauer had conveniently placed a button on either hip with which to tighten the waste-band. Thanks Eddie Bower! All that prep scaling mountains has really helped you figure out your way around a woman's assular region.
Anyway, it appears that I have finally dropped the last few pounds of the fifty I put on during a certain person's gestational period (I won't name names...) I'd been within spitting distance since November, which is code for not-trying-anymore distance. or let-me-just-consume-the-remainder-of-this-baby-food distance, or I-never-leave-the-house-so-who-cares-anyway distance. But then in January we ran out of money, and I cancelled my credit card, and then frappachinos suddenly stopped appearing on my desk next to my keyboard. And really, that was it. No great act of will on my part to lose the last few pounds. I just started obsessively worrying about money all the time, and the pounds just melted away!
So despite the telltale dirt-stains of poverty on my clothes, I've been feeling pretty good about myself as I walk around the ole neighborhood. And it must show, because on the way back from the walk the NStar workman fixing the pole outside my house tipped his head and touched the brim of his hard-hat in a fashion I haven't seen since before I got impregnated. Indeed, perhaps nobody has seen since 1954. I mean really, who tips their hard-hat anymore? Outside of porn?
Oh Power Man, you're making me blush. I'm a married woman!
Our neighbors have apparently purchased a wii fit and installed it in their upstairs rec-room. Either that, or they've leased the space to the US Government as part of a test program for enhanced interrogation techniques.
Being awake with a baby at 5am while you stare listlessly out the window can be an isolating experience. It should make me feel better to know that someone else is up at this hour, practicing kickboxing. For some reason, let's call it former-athlete-turned-mommy-guilt, it doesn't make me feel better.
It's been a very long week for us here. Harvey's cold got a little scary, escalating into medical devises and chest x-rays and the kind of amphetamines that a high school kid would LOVE to get his hands on. There were a couple of days there where I didn't sleep for longer than a half hour at a stretch, and my brain turned all survival mode and my eyes had a glint of a wild animal. But it seems like we've turned the corner now (or the overly-interventionist pediatricians have gone into a waning moon, one or the other) and Harvey's getting back to his normal self again. He's still all snot and phlegm of course, but at least he can breath confidently now and he's regaining that sunny disposition we expect from him.
In the midst of the stress and sickness of the past seven days I managed to lose another four pounds. That brings the grand total to 47 pounds lost, three pounds away form my pre-pregnancy weight. I can't say the same for my pre-pregnancy shape however, that may be lost forever. I now understand why mom jeans are so high. And why Eddie Bauer sells puffy vests so successfully. And why one-piece bathing suits exist.
On the plus side, I don't same to have the same, um, concern for my physical appearance as I did before motherhood. I just want my kid to be healthy, even if that means skipping spin class for a week to stay home in sweat pants covered in vomit. They're so roomy that you don't feel the wet touch your skin. My top coult use some added protection, though. Maybe a puffy vest...
So, you may not know it from my constant complaining vis a vis my fatness situation, but I used to be an aerobics instructor and dancer and even briefly a cheerleader. So lets just say that I've logged a couple of billion hours of my life in the studio of one gym or another. And here's some thing that really bugs me.
Last night I was at a dance class (Les Mills Body Jam to be exact, offered over at Summit Health and Fitness) and the instructor shoots off a little factoid discovered by the Les Mills crack team of marketers. You see this one time? they brought all these really fit cyclists in to take this dance class, and they measured their heart rates. And wouldn't you know it their heart rates were actually higher in the dance class than they were on the bike! The take away, obviously, is that dancing is better exercise than biking. Now don't you feel better about going to dance class?
Seems plausible but wait a minute...
Assuming the bikers aren't dance experts, they would have to work harder with a new form of movement to get their muscles to move in the right way. This in turn raises their heart rate more than a move they're already efficient at, like biking. Similarly, if you took the dancers and threw them into a spin room, they would have a higher heart rate biking than while dancing because they're muscles are accustomed to dance. (also? they might throw up. Spin is wicked hard.) So basically, you work harder doing something you're not already good at. And when you're good at something you work less hard. That's the basics of exercise.
I get sooooooo pissed at yoga people who I overhear saying "This runner came into my class and he couldn't even stand in a basic warrior pose." Like duh, why should he be able to? Who does that like in the middle of the street? When would that be a useful life skill?
The good news is that the more retarded you look at doing some form of exercise, the harder your heart is working, so good on you if you're going for aerobic fitness. On the other hand, if your goal is to be better at running, then you better run some more. That cross training is only going to help you not go completely insane between runs. And if you want to lose weight, you could talk about exercise until you're blue in the face but you'd better start eating less or nothing will happen.
In that vein, let's return to my original complaint, which is not that gym rats can be annoying but that I'M STILL FAT! There have been some recent milestones on the weightloss path that deserve celebration: over the weekend I squeeeeeeezed into a size 8 dress for the rehearsal dinner, and I also managed to put on my wedding ring for the first time without cutting off the circulation in my finger. I'd congratulate myself a little more, but there's this little matter of still weighing ten pound more than I did before the whole knocking up incident, and ten pounds is sort of a lot if you ask me. It's the difference between fitting into my old jeans and wearing maternity sweatpants every day.
The challenge for me is the whole eating less piece. Or more precisely, less pieces. Of pie. Because let's face it; I work from home where there's APPLE PIE IN THE FRIDGE! And that's some damn good pie. Oy, back to the gym!
So, part of this no-longer-being-pregnant thing (something that still takes some getting used to... how come everyone stopped giving me their reverence and undivided attention?) is that I'm trying to lose a hefty twenty pounds. At almost two months out, the bloom is rather off the already-lost-thirty-pounds rose. I went from a nice series of four-lb-per weeks, to a string of 2-lb weeks, and now I'm leveling off at one pound per week, a velocity that doesn't make me excited about prospects for my fall wardrobe. Sure, now I can get by in the same flow-y dresses I wore all through my pregnancy, but if I get to october and I'm still wearing maternity jeans I'm going to be sorely disappointed. I OWN jeans. They're down in the basement. They're around a size 8. I miss them.
I know that breast feeding only burns 500 extra calories a day. Indeed, people share this fact with me at an alarming rate. Oh really? Only 500? Then let me take out this lard IV then. Thank you kind stranger at the gym! Anyway, that's why I've enlisted the help of weight watchers online, as well as my tried and true method of exercising my ass off. Dan has been so kind as to give me an hour and a half every day of the week to spend at the gym (including transit time) and I've availed myself of one weight-lifting class a week flanked by daily cardio all days but Sunday. When there's nothing that interests me in a spin class, I head out around the neighborhood for a run, and the 2-mile loop around the local digs makes me feel like my old self again, if only because I can pretend like it's one of my "off days" in marathon training. In reality, 2 miles is about all I can travel these days, and that's being generous... the loop is realy about 1.8. And also? I gotta get my ipod plugged in and back in rotation... It's a bit of a disconnect to picture yourself a hard-core runner when you're hopping along humming "Old McDonald" to yourself for 25 minutes.
So why the slow weight loss, you ask, despite the athletic streak? Well, for one thing, as a nursing mother weight watchers gives me 32 points a day, which is a decadent ice-cream-sunday mania for a regular dieter. Nursing mothers are apparently SUPPOSED to lose weight slower, according to medical guidelines, which I think is just doctors' way of saying "Hey, we don't get to see you every week anymore, but we'd still like to screw with you and freak you out from afar!" And yet, who am I to question guidelines that allow me a midnight snack of cookies and a beer? I mean, medicine has done a lot for the human condition.
At the current rate I'll be back in fighting trim just in time to stuff myself silly over Christmas. I had hoped to accelerate the process a bit in order to fit into SOMETHING I ALREADY OWN for Harvey's baptism, because between the maternity wear and the nursing bras, I've already spent enough money outfitting myself for parenthood. As long as I always carry the baby in front of me, I'll be fine.