Archive for the ‘strength’ Category

I’m Back On The Run

I went running this morning. It was a great run. The weather was perfect, my legs felt great, my breathing was controlled and consistent and when I finished my 3-mile run, I knew I still had my running mojo.

I say “still had it” because I have this weird phenomenon that happens to me after a race or even after a few days off from running. And I had a few days off  this week, five to be exact. After my race on Sunday, I didn’t get any exercise at all for the rest of the week. My schedule was just nuts last week.

I knew had to get back out there no later than today. After races, because they are tougher, and a few days away from running, I start to develop this irrational fear that I won’t be able to do it again. Somehow, after a few days off, the fitness level I’ve worked so hard to achieve will just disappear. Does this happen to anyone else?

The longer I wait, the more apprehensive I get. So today when I got up, got dressed and got ready to head out the door, I was armed with my arsenal of choices. I could go for a longer run (3.2 miles), a shorter run (2.5 miles) or I could walk. I can always walk.

I procrastinated a bit this morning. I tried to set RunKeeper on my iPhone but that just didn’t seem to want to work, so I walked back home and left it there. Now I was going to just run for running’s sake.

I set back out, starting with my walking warmup and a funny thing happened. Maybe it was the crisp morning air, or even just the week’s rest, but I almost felt like my legs were saying, “Now? Can we go now?”

When I started running, it felt like I’d been doing it all of my life. No nagging knees and I felt like I had more push than I’d had even before the race. I opted for the 3.2-mile loop because it would have been a shame to waste feeling that good on a shorter run. Maybe rest periods aren’t so bad after all.

Today’s was possibly the best run I’ve ever had. Maybe it was the chill in the air. Today though, I felt strong the whole way and I was reminded that I really do like this running thing. And I’m not even training for a race right now, although I do plan to tackle a 5K or two before the weather turns too cold.

On a side note, thanks to Jill from Finishing Is Winning for putting me in the spotlight on her blog as this week’s Props Wednesday! I was so honored.

Lifting The Limits – Why I Started Losing Weight

When I see people I haven’t seen in a long time, I am usually met with surprise at the changes I’ve made. After the “You look great!” comments, which of course I love, the questions start. “How’d you do this?” “What motivated you?”

Answering the how is easy: Eating healthier and exercise.

Answering the why is a lot harder. What was my motivation? Why did it work this time when it hadn’t in the past? That’s the $6 million dollar question.

I’ve always told people that I was turning 50 and I didn’t want to feel old. And that’s what I told myself too. But I knew that wasn’t the whole reason. I just couldn’t put my finger on it. After all, the age factor didn’t help when I was turning 30 or even 40.

I’ve thought about this often during the journey. Why, this time, is it easier to control what I eat? What makes me get out of bed at 5:45 and go swim or run or get on a bike? Why am I going to the gym this week to pay them more money so I can start Pilates and Yoga classes? What makes me believe that this is the time these changes will stick?

The answer came to me when I was writing yesterday’s post about swimming in the ocean after a long time away.

I had gotten to a point where I was allowing my weight and my fitness level to impose limits on what I could and couldn’t do.

Of course, we all have limits. I’ll never be an olympic gymnast, for example, and I can’t play golf to save my life.  I wouldn’t have aspired to those sports when I was 14 either. But I used to love swimming in the ocean. And I had stopped because I was out of shape and afraid that I couldn’t do that anymore.

At 48, I tore two rotator cuff tendons, a bicep tendon, and developed bursitis and arthritis in my left shoulder. Don’t ask me how. I’m not really sure. But it hurt to move my arm so I didn’t. And my shoulder froze and for four painful months, I couldn’t move my arm. Physical therapy and time helped me get my range of motion back. I didn’t need surgery, thank goodness. But I will never be completely pain-free in that shoulder. Had I been in better physical condition, maybe I wouldn’t have damaged my shoulder. Or even if I had, maybe my recovery would have been easier.

I’m getting older. There is no stopping the clock. And I’m ok with that. As long as I don’t let my age get in the way of the things I want to do in my life.  I realized as I approached 50 that it wasn’t my age so much as my fitness level that was limiting me. Getting winded going up stairs, being uncomfortable in a plane seat or walking on a beach, worrying that I was going to break a horse I was riding on vacation when I was only 20 pounds below the weight limit (that’s a whole different story!).

And it was more than that. When I bought my car in 2007, the seat was a little too small to be really comfortable. My knees hurt always and I couldn’t crouch down. Going up and down stairs to do laundry…ugh. I would get so winded. Walking anywhere carrying stuff would hurt my back. Activities I always enjoyed, I avoided.

I could have just continued to contribute my limitations to getting older. I know people who do that. But I also knew that wasn’t really the case. When I started Weight Watchers in July of 2008, I knew I had to do something. Did I think Weight Watchers was the thing? Not really. I figured I’d start and stop the way I always had before. And then something wonderful happened. I lost a few pounds and started walking again. And I felt better. And there was more energy. And I felt younger again and the whole thing just clicked.

I think then, even though I may not have consciously realized it until Saturday, subconsciously, I knew that my age wasn’t setting the limits. My fitness level was. From there, I’ve gone on to lose 60 pounds and participate in triathlons. And I’m planning to run a half marathon next year too. Why? Because I can. Because I’m redefining my limits.

I’m realistic as to how long it may take to reach these goals, but I’m not going to let my weight and fitness level stop me anymore from trying. Enough limits are placed on us from forces we can’t necessarily control. But I’m done limiting myself with unhealthy habits and a body that I’d forgotten had so much strength.

What’s limiting you and what can you do to change it?

What I’ve Learned After A Year At Weight Watchers

I’ve been a Weight Watcher for a year as of this week (tomorrow officially). I weighed in this morning and I was down .4 for a total of 59.4 pounds lost this past year. After last week’s 3.6 pound loss, I was very happy with .4 lbs.

I was thinking this morning on my way home from weigh in about all the changes I’ve made this past year. Not only do I eat sooo much healthier 95% of the time, I finally understand all the hype about regular exercise. It’s still tough to get going some days, but the feeling during and after are well worth getting off my butt for!

They say it takes 21 days to break a bad habit and create a new one. If you are on a getting fit journey, you’ll know that it can take 21 seconds and a piece of chocolate cake to undo that new habit.

I’ve been at this for a year, and I know that to continue to my goal weight and maintain my new healthier body, I will be at it for a lifetime. It may take 21 days to create a new habit, but the reason for the habit is always lurking in the background, ready to undo all the hard work at a moment’s notice.

I’ve learned so much this year and I can even go as far as to say I am grateful that last July  I weighed 230 pounds. If I wasn’t so overweight where it was starting to affect my health and ability to do the things I like to do, I would never have started on the journey in earnest. I know that because I’d stopped and started so many times before.

Before I started Weight Watchers last  July, I wasn’t suffering from body image issues. I didn’t hate my body or the way I looked at 230 pounds. I’d come to terms with that many years ago. I didn’t feel inadequate because I was carrying extra weight. I had a lot to offer and I concentrated on those things.

I’ve learned more about myself in this past year than I thought imaginable at 50 years old. I’ve pushed my body well beyond it’s limits and it has done very well. I’ve really looked inside to try to understand how I got to this point in the first place and have surprised myself with the answers.

I started on this journey because I didn’t want to turn 50 feeling unhealthy and limited. What surprised me is how much I was missing because I was heavy. More than the smaller clothing sizes and compliments, I’m thrilled with my fitness progress. I don’t get winded going up stairs. I can run. I’m swimming again. I have energy. I sleep better. I have better concentration most days. I get outside every chance I get. Racing is fun. I’m happier. I feel balanced.

I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience these changes if I hadn’t been 230 lbs. last July or found my way to this point. And for that I’m grateful.

The Key to Lasting Weight Loss

Let’s face it. If we are overweight, obese or even morbidly obese (I was, even though my family would cringe when I said it), we know what we need to do to lose weight. We need to eat less and move more. Period. Less calories in, more calories out. Anybody disagree?

And then as our bodies become smaller and more efficient, we need to eat even less and move even more, which is kind of unfair. But as we get healthier, our bodies get more efficient and come to expect us to keep treating them right. And just think of all the cool things you can do with a lean, healthy body. Not to mention you look hot and get to buy new clothes.

Different plans work for different people, but those are the basics, and anyone trying to lose weight or get fit, whether on low-fat, low-carb, diet pills, a healthy balanced eating plan and exercise (i choose this one), will still need to take in less calories than they expend to reach their goals.

There is a great article by @BodyForWife (I just love Twitter and all the cool people and information I can find there) busting metabolism myths. bodyforwife.com/metabolismmyths.html The article is designed for men, but so much of this information is about metabolism and weight loss in general, it works for women too. And it just makes sense. Common sense. Go figure.

Bottom line is it’s impossible to lose 20 pounds a month, month after month, and be healthy. Oh and those nasty little plateaus? We can thank our own efforts for that. Those are our bodies’ way of rewarding us for working hard for them. To get to the next level, we just have to work a little harder. And be patient. But if we want it, we can do it. I’m off to the gym!

The Privilege of Being Fit

West Meadow Beach, Long Island Sound

West Meadow Beach, Long Island Sound

Not too far from my house is a beach – West Meadow. It’s a small town beach on the Long Island Sound, which offers rocky shores and calm waters. There’s a great playground and when my children were small, it was the perfect way to spend a summer day.

The cool thing about this area though was not so much the town beach as the mile and a half stretch of road just past it. That was dotted with about 20 beach cottages positioned right on the beach. They didn’t even have running water. As a young girl, my aunt’s parents owned one of these cottages and I was fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks living on the beach, sleeping on a screen porch and fetching fresh water from the well up the road a piece. Salt water ran through the pipes.

Two years ago, the town took the land back and razed the cottages amidst outcries from the owners and those of us who while we didn’t live there, loved the step back in time that little stretch of road offered. I know as an adult, whenever I was having a bad day or just needed a break, I’d take a drive down the little road to the end where there was a jetty and a glorious little inlet and tiny island in the sound. When the county took over the land, it promised that there would be no building there (we were all worried about condominiums) and it would be turned into a nature preserve. So far they have kept their word.

For me though, this created a dilemma. The road was closed. I couldn’t get to my favorite spot anymore. I wasn’t in any shape to walk the mile and a half and then back again, on the beach or on the road. I’d attempted it a couple of times, but could never make it the whole way.

Since the beginning of summer, since I’m now in good enough shape where this would be no problem, I’ve been wanting to walk/run on the beach and on the road to this little spot. The weather has not cooperated in the Northeast. At least, not until today.

This morning, I had planned to swim, but I got up a little late. It’s a perfect day here on Long Island: sunny, not too humid, low 70s. I decided to drive up to the beach, walk to the end and jog back. As of this morning, I didn’t know how far that would be. Some kind soul on roller blades let me know that the stretch was about a mile and a half. Cake.

I walked along the beach, past the piping plover nesting sanctuaries, watching the boats in the sound and just listening to the lapping waves and the birds. When I found a path, about a mile in, I scooted up to the road. I didn’t bring my iPod today, which allowed me to just embrace the sounds and smells of this now peaceful nature preserve. I made it to the end of the road, and I was greeted by the gorgeous inlet, soft breeze and incredible views that I remembered from three years ago. I felt like I was on vacation and could have stayed there all day. I stayed for a bit, sat on the jetty and considered how fortunate I am to have the strength and fitness level to get there.

I jogged back. By then, lots of people were walking, biking and rollerblading on the path.

It was the perfect way to start the day. I am so grateful that I’ve finally embraced a healthy, fit lifestyle and that I’ve been able to come as far as I have. I will keep that with me when I don’t feel like exercising in the future.  Think of what I was missing before.

Headed up to the Path

Headed up to the Path

My Commitment to This Healthy Lifestyle

June 30th is a crappy day for me and has been for a lot of years. It is the anniversary of my father’s death (14 years ago)… and my grandmother’s and two of my uncles. Weird, I know. I often think if something bad is going to happen to me, it’s going to be on this day. After all, it’s kind of proven itself.

But this year, June 30th hasn’t made me as sad as it once did. I’m more reflective. Because I’ve lost so many people that I care about on this day, it makes me realize just how fragile this life is.  I’ve often looked at June 30th the same way I look at New Year’s Day or my birthday. It’s a time for new beginnings. After all when one chapter closes, another opens, doesn’t it?

My father would be proud of me today. The last time he saw me, I weighed 90 pounds more than I do now. I’ve lost 55 pounds this time around, but there were other weight loss stops and starts along the way where I managed to keep off a few of the pounds each time. More than that, I’m the healthiest I’ve been in a very long time. I still have weight I can lose, but I’m fit. I exercise, I eat healthy (most of the time), I get enough sleep. My father, his two brothers that died on this day and his two other brothers all died of heart disease. They were all athletes, all in relatively good shape. Three of them didn’t even reach 50. The youngest brother was 41 and made of “blue twisted steel” or so he told us. My father was 63 when he succumbed to a stroke, from the same disease he shared with his brothers – atherosclerosis.

Being fat is a serious health risk in my family. It’s taken me a really long time to own that. But I finally have. And I am committed now to getting and staying as healthy as I can be. If I’m going to drop dead of something some June 30th in the very distant future, it’s not going to be because I didn’t take care of myself or heed the warning signs. My blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and all the other signs of a healthy 50-year-old are there for me now. They weren’t two years ago.

This will be the last time I work this hard to lose 80 pounds. Because I’m not gaining it back this time. I like how I feel in my now healthy body. I like that I can run and that I don’t suffer from reflux anymore. I like that I’ve been able to reduce the one medication that I’m on from three times to once a day. I like that I can see and feel the muscles in my legs and arms. I like having a visible collar bone.

I’m committed to this way of life now…forever. And from now on, June 30th is going to be my commitment day. I will still remember the people I’ve loved and lost on this day. But I will honor them  by being proud of what I’ve accomplished; that I’ve made changes that positively affect my health, my life and the people around me.

I can’t avoid it if I happen to get hit by a bus some future June 30th, but I can certainly do everything in my power to stay strong and healthy.

Resistance Training

If you were expecting a post on strength training, this isn’t it. My thoughts today are more about “resistance” in general and why we resist the things that are good for us and don’t resist those things that we should. Are we hardwired to sabotage ourselves at every turn?

After a week of groaning and turning back over to go to sleep instead of going to the gym last week, I finally got back on track on Saturday. I could give a million excuses…I had a cold, allergies, it was raining…but mostly I just wanted to sleep. And the “feel good” exercise aftermath wasn’t enough to get me moving at 5:30 am.

But Saturday, even though it was still raining—even the weather is resisting here on Long Island—I got out of bed, threw on my workout clothes and went to the gym to go running…on the treadmill. Maybe that’s what got me out of bed? In the rain, I get to run on the treadmill. And unlike other runners who love the road, I love the treadmill, because I feel like I’m actually accomplishing something. Running on the road is still really hard for me, although little by little, I’m making progress. Maybe someday, I won’t like the treadmill anymore either, but I digress…

I had a really good 3.5-mile interval run on Saturday. Sunday, a beautiful but windy day, I went for a 3-mile walk. This morning, I went for a swim, which is my favorite exercise. I noticed though, in the beginning of each of these workouts, even though I’m motivated again, my body resists, my muscles groan and I contemplate just stopping and going home. Today, I thought the first six laps of my swim would kill me. My body felt like lead in the water and my arms felt like creaky wheels. Once warmed up, I swam my usual 800 meters, and I swam some of it good and hard and I was pumped when I got out of the pool.

But I wonder why the beginning of the workout is always so tough, because I’ve noticed that with everything that I do. The first minutes of a run, the first miles of a bike ride, the first set of any strength training exercise. Why do our bodies resist something that is so good for us?

And why when we are so resistant, physically and mentally sometimes, do the bad things in life have the opposite effect? I can’t, for example, resist a piece of chocolate cake. And that’s only going to make me feel like crap later on.

I guess the key is to keep my focus on the aftermath. When I get to the gym or hit the road and get my exercise in, my entire day goes better. And even though I resist getting out of bed and grumble through the beginning of my workouts, I know it will be worth it in the end. When I give in to the resistance, I usually regret it later.

On the other hand, that piece of chocolate cake is going to make me feel guilty and bloated, and even though I really, really want it, I need to resist that.

Embrace the good stuff. Resist the bad. Doesn’t sound too complicated. Then why is it so damned difficult?