Category Archives: Fitness

Shatter the Plateau

Standard

I want to achieve stability, but not total flatness.  Call me mesa, though, ‘cause I’ve hit a weight loss plateau.  That’s frustrating in itself, but I wonder if it means everything else is stalling, too.  Have I flatlined on toning up?  Is my cholesterol level staying the same instead of dropping?  How do I break the plateau?

I did a little research, and it seems like there are 3 major causes for plateaus:

1.  Not eating enough.  Yeah, I was surprised, too.  However, if you’re not taking in enough calories, then your body may go into starvation mode and try to store everything rather than burn it off.  So those carrots could go straight to your waist if you’re not eating anything else or not eating a balanced diet.

2.  Eating mindlessly.  If you’re dining in front of the television or computer, you may not realize what you’re putting in your mouth, or how much.  A handful of almonds may be a healthy snack, but you may be eating five handfuls if your hand’s in the bag and your eyes are on the TV.

3.  Workout ruts.  If we’re working out on a regular basis, we feel great about ourselves–and we should.  However, the same workout–every day, week to week–makes a more efficient body, meaning you burn fewer calories.  In other words, your body is used to the workout and needs a change.  Mix it up to burn more calories.

So it looks like mindfully eating a balanced diet and mixing up workouts will help break fitness plateaus.  Have you ever hit a plateau?  What did you do to break it?

What’s Your Inspiration?

Standard

A lot of times it takes hitting rock bottom or experiencing a major shake-up before we make substantial changes in our lives.  A lot of us need inspiration to make those changes stick.

I never thought I’d say it, but my parents are my inspiration for a healthy lifestyle.  I’ve told you about how my childhood was sedentary, and we didn’t eat the healthiest foods.  We only drank Coca-Cola, the pantry was stocked with pre-packaged junk food, and our weekends were full of big, greasy bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches.  My parents‘ lifestyle didn’t change much after they became empty nesters.

Until a couple of years ago.  My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and, just a few months later, my dad was rushed to the hospital for emergency surgery because his arteries were almost completely blocked and he was a millimeter away from a massive heart attack.  As you can imagine, we were all shaken up.  We knew my mom’s cancer was probably based on a host of causes–heredity, hormones, and lifestyle–but there was no getting around the fact that my dad’s heart problems were clearly a result of his lifestyle.

My parents immediately made big changes.  They tossed out the junk food and nearly eliminated sodium from their diet.  They joined a gym, and they go there every day.  They swim, jog, and occasionally use weight machines.  They were both enormously proud of themselves when they were each able to run a mile on the treadmill, and rightfully so.  When they’re away from home, they go for long walks.  In fact, my dad bought an iPod so he’s entertained on walks when my mom’s not around.  Within just a few months, they each dropped over 20 pounds.  Although my mom’s weight loss has since stalled, my dad continued to drop pounds until he reached a healthy weight for his height and age.

More importantly, they are each doing very well now.  My mom’s margins are clear and she remains in remission.  My dad still has some blockage, but his cardiologist assures him it’s nothing to be overly concerned about, and my dad gets checked out every few months.

I am proud of them for taking control of their health and for supporting each other in their new healthy lifestyle.  I am inspired to take control of my own health, and not wait until my life is threatened to make big changes.

What inspires you?

Going Blog Wild

Standard

There’s a “pay it forward” movement among the blogging world.  A lot of bloggers who write about similar interests feel a real kinship with one another, and we try to support each other.  In that vein, I’d like to share some of my blogging friends with you:

  • homemadeadventure:  A young woman balances medical school with travel, running, and healthy eating in the Boston area.
  • A Curvy Girl Running:  She had an idea to run a 5K, and now she’s training for half-marathons.
  • Love Eat Run:  This Baltimore girl loves to run, cook healthy, run (yeah, that much), and cheer on the Ravens.
  • A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That:  Boot camp, hot yoga, intense gym sessions–there’s nothing this Toronto woman can’t do.
  • IT’S SCANDELICIOUS:  Her dad’s weight-related health issues inspired her to make major changes in her life and join Overeaters Anonymous.
  • What Would Cathy Eat?:  Major health issues forced Cathy to change her diet habits, but she does it with flavor.

I hope you visit and enjoy their sites.  There are a lot of great bloggers out there, and I hope to share more of them with you in the future.  And I hope you pass the love forward!

Gym Dandy

Standard

Yesterday was my second day at the gym, and my second time on the treadmill in more than a year.  Last year, I ran maybe a 15:00 minute mile.  Maybe.  For the past couple of months, I’ve been jogging on streets, trails, and tracks, and usually I don’t keep track of how far or how fast I run.  It was just a few weeks ago that I got excited because I ran three laps around the track–and they weren’t even consecutive.

Imagine my surprise at the gym yesterday when I ran a mile in 13:40.  I know that’s not impressive to many (most?  all?) of you, but I was pleasantly surprised.  I only did 1.5 miles on the treadmill before I called it a day.

Which brings up a few questions.  How do people run, like, 5 miles without passing out or sweating to death?  Is it more important to focus on how your body is feeling, or whether you reach a certain distance or speed?  How do you ignore the darn numbers on the treadmill?  (‘Cause when I see it approaching a certain “mile”stone, my mind wants to reach it, then give up for the day.)  How do you fight treadmill tedium?

Slim Gym

Standard

I’ve been thinking about joining a gym for about two months now, but I tried to wait until I was further into my new lifestyle and further into the colder weather.  Today was just one rainy, cloudy, cool day too many.  I caved and joined the gym.  I chose Average Joe’s which is the cheapest, most basic option closest to my home.

I hopped onto the treadmill first thing.  It had been a while since I really jogged on one.  For the first time, it felt really easy to run on a treadmill.  I warmed up a bit, then ran almost a full mile before going into cool-down mode.  I didn’t want to overdo it at the gym on the first day, and I still wanted to hit the weight machines.  I kept it easy on the weight machines, too, only doing about 10 reps per machine and only up to 30 pounds.  Nevertheless, my left arm felt a little sore before I left–hopefully I’ll be able to lift it tomorrow!

Do you belong to a gym?  What do you like most about it?

Nine Weeks Way-In

Standard

I don’t know if I’m sensitive to weight issues these days or what, but this past week I got several comments that left me scratching my head.

To start, remember the server who assumed I was going to eat a giant cheeseburger?  Well, I had lunch at that restaurant again, and she made a point of saying hello and introducing herself to me–even though she was neither my waiter nor my server for the day.  Oops, maybe she overheard me try to joke about her fatty assumptions last time, and maybe she felt bad about it.  Maybe it was just coincidence.

By the weekend, I was feeling pretty good about myself.  I hit the two month mark of my new lifestyle, hit (and maintained) a total 15-pound weight loss, and discovered I needed to shop for smaller clothes!  Hubby and I hit the mall.  I’m short (5’2”) and need a short inseam on pants, so I try to shop the petite sections when possible.  I was excited that I’m no longer a size 14/16 (14 on a good day!) and am cruising into 12/14 territory, which means the petite section of a lot of stores is now available to me.  While looking at the suit pants in the petite section of Ann Taylor, the saleswoman sternly reminded me I was in the petite section, as if I’d waddled over there by mistake.  I encountered something similar at Brooks Brothers.  (However, the folks at Banana Republic were friendlier.  I tried on a pair of size 12 jeans there and nearly wet them when they fit!  I even dragged Hubby into the dressing room to see my success.  Okay, I could stand to lose a couple more pounds until they fit perfectly but, d*mnit, I bought them, anyway–I deserved it!)

That night, Hubby and I tried a new hibachi restaurant.  We were seated next to another couple about my age.  The thin wife looked at me after our super-skinny waitress left and said, “I want to eat what she eats–she’s so skinny!”  I polished off the shrimp and veggies on my plate, but only had a few bites each of the rice and noodles.  The wife looked at me again and said, “Wow, you have self-restraint.  I ate everything!”  I didn’t know if this woman was just a chatty Cathy, or if she saw me as something other than a fat slob (which was how I was feeling at Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers) and more as a kindred spirit who tries to live a healthy lifestyle.  Which would be awesome.

Despite the mixed comments, I’m feeling jazzed about my healthy lifestyle.  Yes, fitting into a pair of size 12 jeans helped, but I’m excited that I’ve hit the two month mark and I’m still going strong.  In fact, on Sunday I jogged around the neighborhood and just.  Felt.  Great.  The sky was bright blue and cloudless, there was a slight breeze, the neighbors were all out and smiling, and I discovered an alley still packed with fragrant flowers despite the cool weather.  I wasn’t straining to breathe as I jogged, and I probably jogged at least a mile, upwards to 1.5 mile.  (Not consecutively, but I jogged most of the 2 miles of my neighborhood trek).

For the first time, I felt powerful in my body.  Ann Taylor and Brooks Brothers?  They can’t take that feeling away from me.

The Wonderful Wizard of Dr. Oz

Standard

The September 12, 2011, issue of Time magazine has a cover story devoted to nutrition.  The featured article is by Dr. Mehmet Oz (yeah, Oprah’s guy).  I recommend you read the article.  It’s a quick, interesting read, and Oz even throws in a few one-liners.  There’s a photo of Dr. Oz’s average daily menu, and I couldn’t help but be a little excited that I eat over half of the same things Oz eats.  Follow the yellow squash road, indeed.

Oz ultimately focuses on the magic word:  balance.  “No one pretends that achieving and maintaining an ideal weight is an easy thing to do, but the list of rules to get you there is nonetheless simple:  Eat in moderation; choose foods that look like they did when they came out of the ground (remember, there are no marshmallow trees); be an omnivore (there are multiple food groups for a reason); and get some exercise.  Human beings are the only species in the world that has figured out how to be in complete control of its own food supply.  The challenge now is to make sure the food doesn’t take control of us.”

Guideline #8: Don’t Let the Scales Unbalance You

Standard

I know, I know.  It seems like I’m the last person to talk about the bathroom scale, given my love/hate relationship with it.  (And the fact that I have, once or twice, flipped it the bird as I kicked it across the room.)  But I try to live by my guidelines, and Guideline #8 is:  Don’t let the scales unbalance you.

Leann Rimes

It is too easy to believe that our weight determines our worth.  As a woman, I am constantly bombarded with images of ridiculously skinny women (particularly celebrities) and articles about weight loss.  Lately I’ve been looking at the health and fitness magazines on store racks, and I’m very disappointed to see that a lot of these “fitness” magazines are merely advertising get-skinny-fast articles.  I believe fitness is a lot more than “losing 5 pounds in a week” or having a “beach ready body.”  Fitness isn’t just what your body lookslike, but also what you feel like.  You may be as skinny as Leann Rimes, but what is that worth if you’re miserable with yourself?  Fitness is also a lasting, lifelong condition.  Are you truly fit if you suddenly and drastically drop 20 pounds?  Or put half of that back on?

So, I try to achieve balance.  I still weigh myself because, for better or for worse, it is still an indicator of my fitness and health, but I constantly remind myself that it’s not the only indicator.  I balance my weight with my diet, exercise, and–most importantly–my emotions.  If I’m eating well, getting regular exercise, and feel even-keeled emotionally, then I know I’m doing well or, at least, doing the best I can.  As long as I stay balanced and keep trying, I will reach a healthy weight (not a skinny weight!) and I’ll be okay–even if my bathroom scale gets a little dented along the way.

What’s That You Say?

Standard

When Pigs Run

Standard

I am not a runner.  Not exactly.  I’ve never really been able to run.  In the past, during brief spurts of fitness, I was able to stick to a routine on a treadmill.  For one brief shining moment (it lasted all of a day), I actually ran a mile on the treadmill.  And.  Never.  Did.  It.  Again.

Time has passed, the weight has returned, and my muscles have all but disappeared.  As part of my new healthy lifestyle, I decided to give jogging a try again.  This time, I don’t have a treadmill, so I’ve been huffing & puffing on streets, trails, and tracks.  Jeez louise, roads are much harder than the treadmill.  At first, I was just walking.  I added about, oh, 20 seconds of jogging to each day’s workout.  Gradually, I increased my time.  I haven’t really been keeping track of how long or how fast I jog.  I don’t even know how long the trails are at the parks.  I was just glad I could jog at all.

Thanks to the recent crappy weather and local flooding, I’ve been spending more time at the track and I can’t help but keep track (sorry, pun intended) of my mileage.  Four laps around the track equals 1 mile.  Two weeks ago, I couldn’t even jog halfway around the track.  Once.  Halfway.  That’s 1/8 of a mile.  For some people, that’s the length of their driveway.  I felt discouraged, thinking I would never be able to get my fat a** all the way around the track and never be able to run a mile.  When pigs fly, I thought–or run.

And run they did.  On Wednesday, I ran a whole lap around the track.  I know that’s not a whole lot, but it was a lot to me!  For the first time, I felt like I could actually do it, and I didn’t feel like death warmed over.  I wasn’t able to repeat my performance on Wednesday, but I was happy I did it at all.  I didn’t get my hopes up that I’d be able to repeat it.

But I did!  This evening, I jogged three laps around the track!  Okay, okay, so they weren’t in a row, but it’s a start!  Here’s what I did:

     Lap 1:  brisk walk
     Lap 2:  jog
     Lap 3:  brisk walk
     Lap 4:  jog
     Lap 5:  brisk walk
     Lap 6:  jog
     Lap 7:  cool-down stroll

That last jogged lap was a challenge.  As I rounded the final curve, I was pumping my fists–as if boxing the air would make my legs keep going.  I guess it worked, because I did it!  It didn’t even bother me that a man twice my age passed me–more than once.

I’m hoping that in my next “run,” I’ll be able to jog four laps for a whole mile.  Okay, so it won’t be all in a row, but it still counts, right?

Guideline #7: Get Your A** Off The Sofa

Standard

Wouldn’t it be great if you could lose weight, lower your cholesterol, and increase your muscle tone by laying on the sofa all day?  Sure it would, but it ain’t gonna happen.  You’ve heard it before and I’m saying it again:  You can only get healthy by eating healthy and getting your a** off the sofa.

The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) and the Mayo Clinic recommend that adults engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense aerobic activity every week, plus some muscle-strengthening activity on 2 or more days of the week.  We’re not talking about running a marathon–more like brisk walking, riding a bike on flat terrain, or mowing the lawn (yes, that counts!).  And we’re not talking about working out several hours a day–150 minutes per week breaks down to less than 22 minutes per day!  Even a couch potato like me can handle huffing and puffing less than 22 minutes a day.

What does it take to get you off the sofa?  What kind of activity piqued your interest in exercise after a long absence?