Thursday, July 30, 2009

I shouldn't be training

After extolling the virtues of seeking professional advice at the gym last week, I figured it was time I took a dose of my own medicine. So I signed up for an assessment and dragged myself to the gym yesterday.

I don't know what I was hoping to achieve, other than find out my body fat percentage and maybe do a fitness test that would earn me a shinny gold star acknowledging my incredible cardio fitness *cough, cough*.

Well, we didn't get off to a great start when the trainer perused my goals and exclaimed 'you want to get down to that body fat. That's low. That's what I'm at'. Embarrassed silence ensued. My consternation only grew as I stepped on the little scale that analysed all my deepest, darkest bits and spat out the analytical truth about me. .

A few months back I'd played with a friend's bio electrical impedance scale so I had an idea of where I was at then and where I should be now. I was horrified to discover that the fat percentage had remained the same. Instantly I felt huge, like I'd just gained back about 5kg as the number flashed up in front of me. As soon as I got home I had to try on my measuring pants. They still fit, but that doubt that I am fat didn't.

When it was my turn to ask questions, I wanted to know about post workout nutrition. I hope he didn't notice my glazed over eyes as he went into a long analysis of the various protein powders.

Then we moved onto my strength goals and what I needed to do to achieve them. I mentioned that I'm not a fan of sitting in the gym lifting weights and would prefer body weight exercises. Coincidentally, my two strength goals are being able to do push ups and chin ups. 'Impossible' he told me. In fact, apparently if I am not willing to devote 2 half hour sessions a week to strength training at the gym then I may as well not train at all :-(

I haven't changed his words at all. I'm serious. I may as well not train at all. Now that's not very helpful. Hey, I'm willing to change, I've proven that to myself this year. What I am not prepared to do is blindly follow. If it's the last resort, I'll suck it up and go to the gym twice a week, but I still cling to the notion that strength training can be done in a way that I enjoy. In fact I will build a crazy gym in my yard with ropes and ladders and bars before I will do another program at the gym.

I drifted off from the conversation at the point where he suggested getting a personal trainer so I would have someone to push me hard enough. After that I think he spoke at length about his own experience as a body builder training for competition while I drifted off into my sad little world wondering how on earth I was going to achieve my goals.

Those feelings of being defeated have turned to defiance. I will prove at the next assessment - about 6 weeks - all that I can do. Now, I just need to do a little research to work out how I'm going to get there ;-)

Anyone had a similar discouraging experience with a trainer? Anyone else rely mostly on body weight exercises or know a good reference point?

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A private race

I picked up a copy of the latest Runner's World from the library the other day. It's not exactly that I need to add more to my reading pile, rather a glimmer of hope of resolving my love/hate feelings towards the sport. Running seems very charming on the surface, but dig a little deeper and I can see all the faults. Yet one flicker of a smile from Running and I keep coming back. Running has even made my best friend Walking seem slow and cumbersome, so while out Walking I can't help but think about Running.

Next week I am free of Running's schedule, so I am growing desperate to know if there will be another date or if our relationship is over. By sitting down for a moment with the running community I had hoped to find my answer I guess. What is it that Running had infected others with that they keep coming back?

I haven't found the answer in those pages, but instead I found another of Running's virtues. At the end of a few of the articles after the author's name was listed their personal best time. Apart from feeling shocked at how quickly 5K could be run (the women's world record is 14:11 held by Ethiopia's Tirunesh Dibba) I didn't think too much about it until the following day.

We were discussing what we thought of as success after finding out what some old high school buddies have been up to in the last 10 years. It's easy to say that success is dependent on the individual, but harder to not feel average in comparison to your peers when they have been recognised for their talents. And yet, not everyone has the same talents and interests that they can be recognised for and therefore measure up against their peers. I thought about my own current interests and I thought about running, about personal best times.

Sometimes I have felt embarrassed reporting with great enthusiasm that I've just run for 25 minutes. After all, some of you have done half or full marathons so what's 5K in comparison? Then I would remind myself that for me, it is a big deal because I have never been able to run that far. I am my own benchmark.

While in many aspects of life I strive to keep up with my peers or meet expectations, running and fitness in general is not one of them. What a relief it is to just run for my own enjoyment and watch my own improvements without measuring up against anyone else. Unless I'm out to win a race there is no reason to compete, because everyone has their own story of how they came to be where they are. And even in the feature stories in Runner's World few people talked about winning the marathon, instead focusing on accomplishing their own goal, whether to qualify for another marathon or aiming for a personal best. It's as though they were running alone on an empty road and all that mattered during their race was them and the pavement.

So I like that running is all about me, all about my body and my limits. I like pushing my own boundaries and seeing how far I can go to become fitter, stronger, faster and better looking. I like that I am finally in control and becoming who I want to be. While I won't exactly be posting my accomplishments on Facebook, I can still be proud of myself for my achievements.

How about you. Do you work towards a personal best or winning the race? Do you like a bit of friendly competition to keep you motivated?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

If laughter is the best medicine...

...Then there are a whole lot of healthy people around after this weekend. After 2 months of weekly rehearsals where we delivered our lines and then scratched our heads wondering if anyone would actually be laughing, we finally had an audience. And we had them in stitches.

The evening consisted of four one act plays, three of which are locally written the other is "Dinner for One". Although they were supposed to be short plays two of them run for nearly 40 minutes, so being last we worried that everyone would be bored by the time they got to ours.

But no. After an hour and a half of humour, the audience particularly on Saturday night was well lubricated for our play. They didn't stop laughing almost the whole way through our play which made it difficult to deliver lines. Then again, can you go wrong with a play where the two male actors dress up as women mid way through?!

Friday with all it's wonderful opening night nerves was flawless. Seriously. Oh except when a cast member forget his line, but that was okay because he just started taking out his 'fake' breasts - socks - to buy some time. Ah yes, he was wearing a dress and my super high heels at the time!

I loved the experience so much that the only bad part of the performance was that it went so quickly. I was on such a high afterwards that I ate a huge piece of chocolate cake at the after cast party!

Saturday night was not so great. I spent all day so hyperactive in anticipation of being on stage again that by the evening I was totally worn out and all I wanted to do was snuggle up and watch a movie at home. Apparently I wasn't the only one, because it just wasn't a great night. Sure we got heaps of laughs, more than on Friday and I allegedly (because I didn't hear anything) got 'wohoo's' from the blokes when I appeared in my knee high boots, fishnets, leather jacket, mask, whip and itsy bitsy skirt (yeah, given the outfit that was really hard!) but the energy just wasn't the same as the previous evening.

Apparently more seasoned actors say this is normal and things will improve each night from now on. Sadly, that is only another two performances this coming weekend. It would seem that this is a week of endings, because it is the last days of the Couch to 5K programme also. Then what comes next? All I can say is that I hate endings.

Friday, July 24, 2009

It's show time

Tonight is opening night of the play. Yesterday I was bouncing off the walls, I couldn't keep still I was so excited. Today, not so much. The butterflies have arrived and the idea of an audience is making them flutter around in my belly. Ok, so what's the worst that could happen anyway? I could forget my lines or my entrance cue, but hey 'making stuff up as you go along' is a skill in itself right? I could accidentally hit one of the audience members with the tip of my whip when I crack it, but that's cool too because it would just make it more interactive for the audience which is fun. I doubt I will fall off stage - I worried about that before my uni graduation and that went by pretty uneventfully.

At least I won't be wearing my costume upside down tonight. After the dress rehearsal two nights ago the director approached me and in a whisper told me that I was wearing my corset the wrong way around. And all that time I couldn't work out why there were these pouch bits on my belly. Ahh, Le Booby holders! Oops.

The one thing I can't believe is that I haven't joined a theatre earlier. Even on the cold evenings we've been having lately, when all I wanted to do was stay home and snuggle up under the doona I've been coming home from rehearsals beaming from ear to ear, unable to fall asleep from excitement. Me thinks I love acting! Seems so silly now to have waited so long. But no regrets - the show must go on!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sweet temptation

Sweets. My ultimate weakness. Well that and staying snuggled up in bed each morning until I absolutely have to get up. But health wise it's cakes, cookies, desserts, chocolate - you name it and if it has sugar in it I want it. So when I set my goal for consistency, the number one dot point I wrote in my diary was to consistently eat less sweets. Seeing as I can count on a plentiful dessert on Sunday night each week I thought perhaps I could limit myself to just that.

So I patiently shared my goal with he who shares my house and gently suggested he do what he can to help me with my resolve. Nothing huge, no change in his routine just perhaps not planting the remains of last nights dessert in a prominent place in the kitchen and asking if I want some.

So within half an hour of our conversation, without saying a word, the creamy apple pie from the day before was on the bench, with one slice carefully plated up. As I got ready to go to rehearsal the entire pie remained on the bench, untouched while he sat right next to it surfing the web.

Upon returning home around 10pm, the plate with the slice had vanished but the rest of the pie still sat in the same spot on the bench. Now that seemed like in your face temptation to me. And yet, in a bizarre un-me like state, I wasn't tempted. Apparently I had made up my mind to stick to my goal in that special way, the one in which I can't be talked out of my decision even by the sweet siren call of creamy apple pie.

Now I can only explain my sweethearts behaviour as either; a) male complete absent mindedness or; b) he's worried soon I shall have more muscle definition than him. The most likely option is a however upon returning home yesterday he started doing chin ups and push ups. I'm sure that has nothing to do with me walking around the house proudly pointing out my biceps and gloating.

Well so far I have remained consistent, but what if my resolve falters at some point? How can I encourage more helpful behaviour from others? Does it actually make any difference or should simple resolve be enough? Have you gotten others to help you with your goals and how?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Time for new goals

Egg yolk creation
Thanks very much for the suggestions for egg yolk recipes. It occurred to me yesterday that there is a thing called google with tons of recipes when faced with a recipe dilemma. Actually, it reminded me of my mom who always asks us to find the information she wants for her - a google phobia perhaps? Anyway, I will probably keep referring back to the answers regularly, because I constantly end up with an oversupply of either egg yolks or whites.

After "borrowing" my sisters latest Vogue Entertaining + Travel and drooling, I mean looking at the pages I came across a brilliant recipe for a creamy apple pie that required egg yolks. Yet again I was asked to make dessert on Sunday so I tried the recipe. It was the most wonderful dessert I think I have ever tasted. And you know that equation fat sugar fat, well this one had a slight variation of fat sugar apples sugar fat. It was probably the most unhealthy thing I have ever made but holy crap it tasted good. Oh look is that a flying saucer at the window.

Shaking things up
Despite the cold overnight temperatures, I found myself back in a singlet this weekend as I painted door frames. Yes, this is my idea of winter - clear skies, sunshine and warm days! I figured that my fears over the approaching summer are not entirely unfounded seeing as soon the evenings will be warm again and it will be time to hit the beach. Now that I feel like I'm being honest about where I want to get in the next 6 months I've decided it's time to set some new goals.

My aim to begin with was to lose about 10% of my body weight in 6 months which I did. Then I started running and I am now nearing the end of the Couch to 5K being at week 8 (out of 9). If this was all simply about the way I felt I would be perfectly happy not to do anything more and just maintain, but it's been my dream to one day be in my best body. I have never in my life been anything approximating lean so the definition of 'best' is yet to be seen as well as being proportional to the amount of effort I am willing to put in.

The first 6 months were rather laid back - after all 6 months to lose about 7kg or 15lbs is a long time. But for the first time ever, it actually worked because I never had to be perfect. I could happily take 2 steps forward 1 back and learn along the way. The last few weeks with all the sweets made me realise that my approach was really successful for me in part because I didn't gain any weight which I take as I sign that I've learnt to balance out what I eat intuitively. No, I realise it's not healthy when I substitute calories from healthy food for sugar.

Now though, I'm getting bored with being constantly in 'I'm trying to lose weight' mode. It's time to shake up my relaxed approach a little and finish what I started. Each time I think about that I freak out and wonder if I should be following some kind of nutrition plan or start counting calories or go Primal. I am really scared of not being able to move past the point that I'm at now.

Still, I've come this far on the principle that I figure out what is best for me at a given time, so I am not ready to hand over the reins and follow just yet. And besides I'm fairly confident I know what I need to do to reach my goal. MizFit talked about it last week on Jen's blog - consistency. That is something that I am not. Over a long time frame that wasn't too much of an issue, but in the shorter term consistency is crucial to achieve a deficit.

The Goal
So from today for a period of 6 weeks my goal is to be consistent with regular strength training and eating in a way to achieve a calorie deficit. Seeing as I don't like keeping a food journal, I'm going to steal Cammy's idea of writing down splurges. Hopefully that will be a whole lot less work! And so far today, nothing to report.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A bowl of lonely egg yolks

Since the end of June, life has been very unsettled. Seeing there was nothing I could do to console their grief, I turned to the only thing I could remember that helps at times like these - food. I started doing an inventory in my head of everything I have cooked and especially all the sweets that I've made in the last two and a half weeks. Quite apart from the hospital visits and funeral arrangements, we've had three birthdays in the family and one of a good friend. I could write a whole essay about how important food is in nourishing the body as well as bringing comfort, but most importantly I think in the last few weeks it's brought people together and it has given me a purpose. Anyway here is an inventory of the sweets.

It all started on the last Sunday in June when my sister gave us the leftovers of a pound cake, a puff pastry chocolate slice and cheesecake she had made. The following day, pound cake and the puff pastry chocolate slice just seemed like a good idea at 2am on return from the hospital. Sleep deprived the next morning and armed with a packet of traditional German gingerbread cookies for all and sundry, the sweets slowly started to vanish from the fridge.

The following day was cheesecake (leftover from Sunday) for my birthday along with tiny caramel mud cake muffins that we gave away to my brother in-law the following day for his birthday. That night we had mandarin parfaits.

On Saturday the third course was stewed pears with rhubarb and cream. For our usual Sunday night dinner my Mom made custard with fresh strawberries. The following night was Viennetta at my mother in-laws and on Tuesday was a friends birthday. Her partner had forgotten completely so again I tried to heal with food - this time I opted for low fat chocolate cake and passionfruit melting moments.

Wednesday at the in-laws was carrot cake followed by two days of reprieve. The remaining melting moments may or may not have been eaten during this time. Realising the fact that the sweets were going to continue to be made I started to opt for healthier options especially after Tuesdays chocolate cake success. Saturday, dinner with the in-laws and a low fat walnut, chocolate and date pudding. Again on Sunday my parents came around and this time I tried Mark's Primal Custard.

Tuesday and again dinner with the in-laws. This time I made low fat lime cheesecake. Finally yesterday; my husband's birthday and a whole plate of chocolate orange cupcakes with maple frosting all for him (and me). I don't know if I hopped that writing this down would help dull my cravings for more sugar. If that was the intent, it has certainly worked, but now I have another pressing issue.

The problem with the low fat desserts has been the leftover egg yolks. I can think of two things to do with them - hollandaise sauce or custard. Have you got any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The guilty truth

I didn't quit. I did the full run because even though I told myself that I could stop when it got too much, I didn't. I couldn't. Once I was there doing it, I pushed on to the end because I really wanted to finish this programme flawlessly. And as if to add an extra incentive the universe conspired to put a $20 bill across my path in the last 10 seconds of my run. There was no one else around. If I had quit I wouldn't have even gone down that path.

I've found a strength training programme that I really like. It's the 'Get an Action Hero Body' from Valerie Waters. Despite the seemingly easy, low weight exercises, I sweat more doing one set of each circuit than when running.

I started doing it in the first place because of a lingering fear - summer, bikini season. It was 10 degrees Celsius inside the house this morning and I'm scared of a bikini. That seems so stupid to me, as does the nagging doubt that I might fail and that this summer might end up being no different than every other. And yet, I've been twisted up inside for months now about my vanity - it shouldn't matter what I look like; it's about being healthy; don't hold yourself simply to how you look in a bikini.

These fears sit so uncomfortably next to the idea that I can accept my body the way it is. Honestly the less there is of it the more I like it and I still wish that it could be firmer, slimmer, stronger, better. So I love my body, but......Unconditional self love? I don't think so. It feels so wrong to admit the truth that a big part of what I really want is to look better.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Having my ass kicked

My husband has a shirt from New Balance that reads:

Enjoy sitting on your butt.
Because I'm gonna
kick it in a few hours.

Mostly I really love this shirt but these last few days, not so much. It was the first 25 minute run last week and my butt officially considered itself whipped. Now it's a whole new week of all 25 minute runs. I'm terrified.

Last week was awful. The wind was strong and I felt incredibly weak - I barely made it. Now I'm trying to put off the runs for later in the week. Actually I feel like quitting. I feel like it's all too much for me, that maybe I was delusional in thinking that I could ever run.

I was mesmerised by one of the frequently asked questions on the Couch to 5k website - why do people drop out during the C25K? Now I have the answer.

Still, it's better to be challenged and push through it, then give up the minute the going gets tough. That's not the new me....I hope.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Half way

In the middle of a bridge in Morocco

Last week was the middle of the year. It was the middle of my running program. My birthday. I wanted to do an update, a wrap up of the first half of the year. A look towards new goals. A new blog design. Life intervened. It does that sometimes.

I've been thinking a lot about health the last week. Spending time in a hospital does that. I realise there are no guarantees in life.

We talk a lot about health here, creating lasting change. Are we talking about a better life? Does health in the way we speak of it do this for us? Looking back at the last 6 months, I answer with a resounding yes.

These months have changed me not just my body. I live the way I do because it feels great. I've improved my quality of life. My fears of what I would need to become to be healthy were unfounded. But I don't do this for health, I do it because I love it.

Fear does not bind me to health. I don't try to control the way I live because I fear that my actions will make me sick or fat. Sometimes a date with a cake makes me happy. I forgive and that is health. This is a peaceful place, this is bliss.

The last week has made me realise that I wouldn't change anything. How about you?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Just keep running

A relative is very sick in hospital. Our lives are paused, watching, waiting at his ups and his downs. Monday already. A week since the phone call. Witnessing the pain and grief, so many thoughts and unanswered questions about life, health, the soul, even love float through my thoughts.

I wake before dawn each morning. Just keep running, I remind myself. Today before the hospital, the day after from the hospital. Do what needs to be done, then run. Mark the passing days by when you last ran.

A burst of endorphin filled joy at the first 20 minute run. Quelled. Too much pain in the faces of those close to me. A small success that seems suddenly insignificant. More questions about hopes, goals and failure.

Food. A shared meal and a laugh. No one should be alone. Do something to help. You can't take away their pain, at least feed their body. Walk, run, take them outside to bathe in the last rays of the sun. A glowing red sunset - a reminder of life as we witness the quiet embrace of death.

Just keep running, today and the day after.

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