(Be)Musings on the Road to Fitness

(Be)Musings on the Road to Fitness

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Week Sixteen: When Life Gives You Lemons, Maybe You'll Go Faster

Luckily, this was not a mirage!
(Thank You Kim, You have done it again!)

Week Sixteen had an overall aura of success, mixed in with a general "Well, maybe I can do this" feeling.

First, on the "Lose It" front, I lost another pound or two.  One thing, though: Remember last week when I said “The Barcode Don’t Lie”?  Well, that may have been a lie…  Apparently, the information is only as good as the Barcode Entering Guy’s efficiency.  So, Note to Self: There may be advanced math involved in this particular weight-loss regimen.  In addition to the occasional pesky math problem, though, there are “Badges,” which the program sends you when you reach certain goals.  I (virtually) received one for logging my food for two straight weeks.  (I know!  Stop the presses!)  I do find these badges oddly motivating.  Not enough to order a t-shirt extolling my badge-achieving virtues (which, of course, they offer to sell you), but motivating all the same. 

On to The Exercise Report:  On Sunday, my sister-in-law, Fit-Sis, and I decided to walk to a place called Hidden Valley, near where she lives.  It is purported to be a very strenuous, uphill walk, so I Gu’d up and headed over to her house.  When I got there, Fit Sis told me that her BFF was going to come too, but that there had been a small problem, causing us to be slightly delayed.  “No problem,” said I (always up for an exercise postponement), “What’s up?”  Apparently, the two of them had experienced a slight, but significant, miscommunication about the day’s activity.  It seems that one person, who shall remain nameless, didn’t have her glasses on during texting.  So, when the BFF arrived, she was dressed for a pleasant, ladies day at the mall (picture nice clothes and jewelry), while Fit-Sis was dressed for a walk (picture sweats, etc.).  After a few rounds of “Wait! What?” the BFF headed home to change.  When she came back, we were off to Hidden Valley, which was, indeed, a strenuous, but really fun, walk.  Good story-telling and laughing along the way were helpful, of course, and I was mostly able to enjoy these things, even as I huffed, puffed, and sweated my way up the hill.  And FYI, because I know you’re wondering: Yes, we were able to find our destination, hidden or not; and No, there was no salad dressing when we got there.  Good news/Bad news, I guess.
Later in the week, Walking Friend and I headed out for a walk (cuz we’re getting pretty good at it!).  Almost immediately, we ran into a man who, upon seeing us walking down the street, began clapping, along with his “hello.”  It was very cheery, but I got the impression it was like the kind of clapping you get when you are dead last in a race, and they want to encourage you to finish, rather than sitting down.  Sad to say, it brought back some deeply-buried memories for me! 
Anywho, after that, we started heading up a steep street that was about a mile long.  Halfway up, as we huffed and puffed along, we saw some little girls selling lemonade.  At first, I thought it was a mirage, but a mirage wouldn’t appear in lemonade-stand set-up mode, so we approached.  Originally, I did it just to help the girls selling it (really!), and I was thinking I might go a little way up the hill and throw it away (really, really!).  WF suggested that it might be refreshing, so we drank it (it didn’t take much to convince me!).  Moments later, she started pulling ahead, like a race horse.  I was like “What the hell, WF?”  Apparently, lemonade is some kind of magic potion for her!  I scurried along behind her for awhile, but it was tough going.  Finally, the lemonade kicked in for me, too, and not a moment too soon!  She was killing me!  We got to the top of that street, which was a dead end, went back down, and walked right back up the next one, with one or two more after that.  Forget, Gu, (Magic) Sport Beans, and the like.  I’ll Have Lemonade!

As we headed back down to Starbuck’s to get The Drink (a tradition which persists, lemonade or not), we encountered another man, walking with his family.  He yelled out “Hello! Nice to see you out here today!”  Again, with that encouraging tone.  Hmmm…  We must be looking pretty worn out these days…
On the weekend, as usual, I slept right through the time when my friends were hiking.  When I finally rolled out of bed, I met up with them for some coffee, and then headed out for a solo walk (because, as you know “I’m good company.”).  There were a number of Earth Day activities going on and I chose, as my walking destination/turnaround, a Toilet Party!

What's a Toilet Party?  Thanks for asking!  The water department was having a “Toilet Exchange” at the park, where you could turn in your old one for a newer, more efficient model.  Full Disclosure, they weren't really calling it a Toilet Party, but if they had, I think it would have been an even more hugely successful event than it already was.  Anyway, I wasn’t in the market, but it was fun to see everyone at the Toilet Party, milling about and gathering up new toilets, like really large party favors.  Unfortunately, by the time I got home, walking at high noon on a hot day pretty much left my energy level In the Toilet.  (Pun intended.  It’s okay...  I’ll own it.) 
So, my week of exercise ended with a nap.  And really, the way I see it, it’s all about getting back to the couch, anyway, so I will call the week a whopping success!

The discontented man finds no easy chair.
~~Benjamin Franklin

Coming Very Soon:  The Walk of Fame

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Week Fifteen: Loser. Party of One

Someone around here is starting to get picky...
(Awesome Art by Kim-Com)

I think. I’m Starting To. Lose It!  Weight, that is.  I think I’m starting to lose weight.  Wahooooo!  (It’s about dang time…)  It’s only five pounds, and it’s literally the same five I’ve been losing and gaining since January One, but this time there’s a certain, intangible, finality to it.  I’ve finally found something that may work for me, and I feel like I’m back in control.  But more on that later.
Our sweet little adopted-from-the-shelter kitty has apparently found his own groove in the food department as well.  Since we’ve had him, it’s become obvious that he prefers one of the canned cat-food styles over another.  He prefers the “shreds.”  Until recently, maybe he didn’t like the others as much, but being the grateful guy that he is, he would eat what you gave him.  But I usually always bought his favorite.  Because I love him.  Last week, by accident, I not only picked up the wrong kind, but opened it before I realized it was the wrong kind.  So, I thought I’d just give it to him, rather than be wasteful.  And you know what that little nut did??  First, as I opened the can he jumped all around, joyfully, as always.  Then, when I set it in front of him, he walked away.  He walked away!  This cat, who spent his first year in a shelter (albeit the best one imaginable), walked away from the food bowl.  Hahahaha!!  I guess our little guy is feeling at home now.  I’m secretly quite proud.  Well, not so secretly now, since I’ve just broadcast my happiness across the Interwebs.
Now, remember when I wrote about my food problems a couple of weeks ago?  Well, soon after that, something happened.  Easter.  Easter Happened.  And I can tell you, it wasn’t pretty…  I ate a lot that day.  And apparently, I felt that the days preceding it were Necessary Eating Days as well.  So, I came out of Easter and all its accompanying day-pals, weighing a half-pound less than I did on January 1.  Discouraging?  Yes, I think you could say that. (I said a few other words too, but this is a Family Blog, so let’s just leave it at “Discouraging,” shall we?)
Right after I posted about my need for a Drastic Eating Plan, Walking Friend said that she had a suggestion for me.  She told me that she was doing the Lose It* program.  It’s not unlike Weight Watchers, in that it gives you a budget and you have to stick to it, with extra credit for exercise.  But the big difference is that it uses actual calories, instead of the “what exactly am I eating” method of “points.”  Not that points aren’t great – the Weight Watchers program is one of the very best out there -   I just think I abused used the program for so long that I made a complete break with reality, and there was no turning back.  By the end, if I couldn’t figure out the points immediately (i.e., clairvoyantly), I just ate whatever I wanted.  Clearly, that system, my “who-the-heck-knows” system, was not working.  This of course, speaks to my general laziness.  You have to work at that program, just a wee bit, which is Too Much Work for me.
And you know what? Calories In/Calories Out – the tried and true method, used for centuries, is working for me!  The Lose It program is free and, in addition, while there is a website, “There’s An App For That” too!  If you know me, you know that I do so love an app.  At this point, it’s like playing FarmVille, or whatnot, only you win (lose) pounds!  It even has a very easy-to-use bar code scanner, so you can just wave your phone in the general direction of a food and BAM, it enters the calories into the program.  Last week, it even scanned a banana I was eating at Starbucks.  Mind you, it coded it as a “small” banana, when it was clearly a large one, but I've decided “The Bar Code Don’t Lie.”   I’m sure the novelty of the program, like all others for me, will wear off at some point, but the ease-of-use factor should kick in at that juncture, and keep things rolling right along.  This one just seems sensible.
But, before I try too hard to impress, I should tell you that I got a rocky start.  Day One, a few days after Easter, was an unqualified disaster.  My entire person rebelled at the idea of a “diet.”  It turns out that, previously, I was eating a LOT of food daily.  A LOT.  All “good stuff” (or so I claimed) but still, portions that only an elephant could sustain.  When I discovered what I should be eating, it was quite the rude awakening.  I’m fairly surprised that things weren’t worse than they were, over the last three months. Also, I jumped in without a plan.  Part of the beauty of this program is that you really don’t need a “plan,” but you can’t just go into it all willy-nilly either, which is how my first day shaped up.  So, by dinnertime, I was completely freaked out and ate 3 slices of bread and butter for dinner.  Sure, it was sprouted grain bread, and yogurt-spread “butter,” but it was also about 600 calories – approximately half of a day’s worth of food.  What I may have previously considered a “snack,” since it was food that was good for you, was actually a half-day's worth of sustenance.  All things in moderation…
Day Two went much more smoothly.  I pulled myself together and, although I suffered a bit, I started making the adjustment.  Since then, things have slowly started to improve.  I can’t say that I’m perfect, by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m making progress.  Slow, but steady.  As they used to say in Weight Watchers, “If you’re not going backward, you’re going forward.”  Or something like that.  I can’t say I listened 100% of the time…  If I had, we wouldn’t all be gathered here today…  Stay Tuned!
*FYI, I am not getting any kind of a kickback from the Lose It people.  I’m just a happy “loser” sharing my progress with my friends… 
Okay - Perhaps we exaggerate ever-so-slightly... It really hasn't come to this. Yet.
(Thanks, Kim.  "You Rock" doesn't begin to say it...)

If you wish to grow thinner, diminish your dinner.
~~Henry Sambrooke Leigh

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Week Fourteen: Keeping it Real

I can never get away with anything...
(Thanks, Kim - You Rock!)
So, the week was varied, and pleasant. Over the weekend Bike Guy , Fit-Sis, CAF Chap (my brother-in-law, who is a wheelchair racer with the Challenged Athlete's Foundation), and I went to Carlsbad for the Carlsbad 5000, a 5K (3.1 miles) run.  A long, long time ago, I decided I wanted to do a 5K, and BG and I went down to Carlsbad.  To this day, I can’t remember why I chose one so far away, but I’m glad I did, because it's so pretty there.  All I know for sure is that I was a lot younger then.  The race seems to be set up so that older you are, the earlier your race time is.    The first time, my race was somewhere around 11:00.  Now, at 50, my race is usually sometime before 8:00. Nothing like a 5K start time to point out how much you’ve aged!  
That first time, I was SO pumped about doing my first race.  Then, as we drove toward Carlsbad, it got darker and darker, and there was hail on the road.  But, at the beginning of the race, it seemed clear enough.  As I started running, though, it started to, you guessed it -  HAIL!  Oh jeez…  Luckily, I didn’t wear glasses at that time, and was wearing a baseball cap, but it was still pretty miserable.  I had to stop three times to tie my shoe, which kept, quite weirdly, coming untied.  Other than that I didn’t stop at all until, at some point, I became so tired I stopped to walk just a bit.  Not so bad, right?  That’s when I realized we were turning the final corner, and the rest of the race to the finish line was very short, and completely downhill.  So I got on it, and ran my heart out, to the finish.  The. Best. Day. Ever!
After that stellar beginning, we started going down to Carlsbad every year.  We started spending the night, as we got older, and my times got earlier.  At some point, BG started running in the race too, just for fun.  Then, Fit-Sis and CAF Chap started coming along, and CAF Chap entered in the Wheelchair Invitational.  It became a great event for all of us.  Somewhere along the way, I lost my focus and stopped running altogether, and started doing just the 5K walk.  Still in the game, though!  Fast Forward to this year, when I walked again.  But mostly to watch CAF Chap and the Elite Runners do their thing.  But that was about it.  No organized race for me this year.  Not sure what exactly happened there… 
But, never fear!  All was not lost in Exercise Land.  Later that day we ended up going on a 10-mile bike ride down the coast.  The ride consisted of BG, Fit-Sis and me.  Fit-Sis has a way-cool beach cruiser, which has 3 speeds.  I thought this might give me a fighting chance, since my bike is a bit lighter, and has 24 speeds.  Originally, I was encouraging her to get a bike like mine, but now I am thinking better of it!  We decided to go 5 miles, and then turn back.  Lucky that we chose to do it that way because, while the ride down was Way Fun, with a few hills, I kept having that sinking feeling that it was too good to be true.  It took us 30 minutes to get there, and 45 to get back.  The ride back was, well Way Not Fun.  The wind was not with us At All.  Riding right into the wind can be quite a bummer.  Funny, it’s like one of those evil secrets that no one will talk about.  Hills are not really the biggest trouble you have on a bike.  Wind.  Now that is a situation to be reckoned with.
Later in the week, just after getting last week’s post out (the one that discussed food), BG and I went to the grocery store.  As we were heading up the street, I mentioned that I needed to get in touch with Trainer David, to get my strength-training regimen started.  We then went in to Fresh and Easy, and I went through the aisles, picking up, among other things, fruit, broccoli, spinach, and sprouted grain bread (no kidding).  I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  Then we rounded a corner, and I saw some organic chocolate chip cookies.  BG and I were looking at them and who should walk past but Trainer David.  We said hello, and I introduced him to BG.  That’s when I realized I was still holding the box of cookies.  I was, quite literally, caught with my hand in the cookie jar.  Sure, it was an organic cookie jar, but still…   I tried saying “These aren’t my cookies.  Honest.”  Yeah.  I’m guessing he wasn’t buying that…
On Thursday, Walking Friend and I had a nice walk, and then on Saturday, I did a 5k.  Even though I passed on participation at Carlsbad, I’d been wanting to run a 5K for some time, knowing full well that my time would Stink on Ice.  (Are the kids still saying that these days??)  So, the Santa Anita Derby Day 5K came around, 5-minute commute and all, and it seemed like a great opportunity.  It's really a beautiful course.  I wanted to run as much of it as I could as a baseline, and then do it again next year, to see if I get better at it.  Good plan, huh?  Well, I forgot just how miserable running can be, if you are not a runner!  First, my Gu failed me.  Or rather, I failed my Gu.  I took it  just before the race began and, worried that 3.1 miles might be a long time without a bathroom break, I skipped the water.  Turns out that it really doesn’t work if you don’t follow the directions (imagine that!), which recommend 8 oz. of water.  Instead, it sits in the bottom of your stomach, like a (in this case) mandarin-orange-flavored brick. 
So, the bugle went off, and off we trotted, across the parking lot of the Arcadia mall.  My plan was to run from the start line (in the mall parking lot) to the place where the race crosses Baldwin.  Well, between the fact that the start line had moved back (away from Baldwin) since last time I did the race, and the presence of a mandarin-orange brick in my stomach, I knew I wasn’t going to make it that far.  So, Plan B involved running until I saw other people starting to walk.  I did make it that far, and for that I am proud!  So, for the next 3 miles or so, I ran, then walked, then ran again.  And so forth…  Naturally, my walking muscle problem reared its ugly head for a time, since the race is very flat, but the running helped that a lot. 
There was one moment, at about the halfway mark, where I was running (for lack of a better term) through the Arboretum.  As I ran across a bridge, the weather seemed perfect, I felt warmed up (and pain-free), and I’m sure I heard a bird chirping somewhere in the background.  Sadly, that moment lasted a maximum of 30 seconds.  BUT, I consider it a minor victory that the moment occurred at all.  My theory is that as I keep at it, I can stretch the moment out, until I’m having more fun.  More than 30 seconds worth, at least.  Victory #2 was that I didn’t throw up.  And really, what more can you ask for? 
The race finished on the Santa Anita race track (so cool!), where you get to “run like a racehorse.”  (That's what it says on the shirts they give you, and someone who saw my shirt thought it said “pee like a racehorse.”  I know it would be wildly inappropriate, but I’ll bet they’d get an even bigger turnout if they put that on the shirts.)  After the race, as we were funneled through the freebies-and-bananas line, I ran into my friend Game Girl (who is always game to try new activities).  She was excited, because she had just completed her very first 5K.  Her enthusiasm was infectious, and I am planning to do another race at the end of May.  Now, I just need to stretch that one, fun moment out for longer.  I’d settle for two minutes this time around.  And the not-throwing-up part.  I’d like to keep that going too.
Lessons learned this week include the following:  1) Perseverance is important; and 2) If you try to sneak cookies into your grocery cart, you will get caught.

~~ Energy and persistence conquer all things.
Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Week Thirteen: Putting Food Into the Equation

(Oh, Kim-Com, you slay me...) :)

Hello from Week Thirteen!  Three months and one week of thrice-weekly exercise.  (Thrice.  Such a good, efficient word.  Why don’t we use it more often??)  Week Thirteen included three great walks with my Walking Friend who has, I am relieved to report, returned from her vacation.  Yep, we walked thrice.
Since January 1st, I have seen quite a few small, but positive, changes.  For instance, my hair, according to the Salon Maven who is in charge of its care, appears to be thicker these days.  Isn’t that a cool “side-effect”?  Also, during walks and bike rides, I am able to go a lot farther with less effort.  Especially on the days when I am properly hydrated.  Although water continues to be a struggle, things are definitely better in that department as well.  All this is having an effect on my skin, which seems to be less problematic lately.  I seem to be spending less money, in general, as my previous way to unwind after work might have included a leisurely (and ultimately expensive) mosey through Target, rather than heading home for a walk or bike ride.  I feel less stressed, overall, and my headaches seem to have decreased.  Additionally, although I didn’t measure myself at Week One, my clothes are reporting a little less stress on their seams here lately, which is nice.  In the end, there are definitely upsides. 
But, to finally get to the heart of the matter, even though I am pleased about all the little changes, it appears that I’m going to have to make a fairly significant change in my eating habits if I want to lose weight.  Bottom Line: If you want health, you can’t be lugging around what equates to several sacks of potatoes.  (Plus, I’m sure my knees will thank me, as my exercise time/intensity increases…)
Since exercise has become a priority, I have noticed that my eating has changed somewhat.  I subscribe to the whole Food is Fuel theory, and I feel pretty strongly that a burger and fries are not only Bad Fuel, but they will negate whatever hard work I have put into any succeeding exercise, so I’ve, fairly effortlessly, cut waaaay back on bad food.  Apparently, though, my body is trying to hang onto those pounds, perhaps in the event of a famine.  Well, we are not a caveman, Body, and food is more than plentiful in these parts, so let it go!!
In addition to cutting back on Bad Foods, I’ve tried mightily to increase my intake of Good Foods, e.g., fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.  I have read more than 1,000 Helpful Articles, with titles such as “Five Diet Foods That are Making You Fat.”  The most recent one tells me that whole grains are out, and sprouted grains are in.  So, I’ve made that change too.  Over the years, I’ve participated in many of the diets out there, such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig, and they do work.  But, my big problem with these diets is that I tend to be “on them” or “off them,” with no in-between state.  What I really need is a consistent lifestyle.  I don’t want to lose it fast.  I just want to lose it. 
Bike Guy, who will henceforth be referred to as Broccoli Boy (at least on food-related matters), is a World Class eater of many and varied fruits and vegetables.  He definitely thinks of these things as a lifestyle, rather than something to just get through (which, I’ll admit, was my previous mindset), and he’s consistent about it.  He makes a point of introducing some combo of them, especially broccoli, spinach and apples, into most every meal.  I, on the other hand, could exist quite happily without vegetables.  (Although I imagine the gangrene, or scurvy, or whatever, would eventually become a problem.)  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made what I consider to be an interesting dinner, turned around, and found a pile of broccoli on his and/or my plate.  Not a bad thing, really.  Just a little weird sometimes.  Sushi!  (and Broccoli)  Burritos!  (and Broccoli)  Really, the examples are endless, but you get the picture.  (Full disclosure: I very rarely make dinner.  Broccoli Boy usually cooks for us, and he cleans it up, too.  Yet, I somehow find things to whine about.  I’m industrious that way…)

Special Cameo by Spencer, the World's Most Odor-Tolerant Cat
Now, I may have exaggerated, ever so slightly, to make my point.  BB is really not the eating zealot I paint him to be.  He can push to the front of stand in the dessert line as well as the rest of us.  Living his daily life as Bike Guy / Broccoli Boy affords him a certain freedom to let down his nutritional hair, if you will, now and again.  Also, although I’m quite willing to eat these healthy foods, my approach to eating them has the same level of enthusiasm as, say, a trip to the tax man.  I’m no expert, but I think an attitude adjustment may be in order, in my case.
I have already made a couple of minor changes, kitchen-wise, to help me to be more successful.  I bought a rice cooker awhile back, that has a steamer basket on the top.  This makes it really easy for me to make some veggies with my dinner.  Also, since cooking meat grosses me out, I’ve started making turkey and chicken burgers that are made at the local meat/produce market.  They seem a little less gross-out-inducing than the usual package of chicken or beef you find in the stores.  Plus, they are easy to cook.  EASY is the key word here.  Because, the thing is, since most carb-loaded foods are easy, I’m not sure if I actually prefer carbs (as I've always thoughts), or if I’m just lazy.  There it is again.  “Lazy.”  Darn L-Word.  It haunts my very existence…
Another thing I did, and I’m very excited about this, was buy a new crock pot!  My old one was waaaaay too big for the two of us, and its largeness caused it to be left in the top cupboard on days it might have been out, enjoying the sunshine of the kitchen while prepping a yummy meal for us. The new one also has a great timer on it, which makes it easier to use on work days.  {“Easy” I guess, would be the E-Word.  E-Word (easy) negates L-Word (Lazy).  Who knew that this health and fitness project of mine would be so incredibly mathematical?!}  AND, the best part is that I’ve already removed the new crock pot from the box and even used it!  Once.  I’ve had it for two months, though, so I guess the record is not all that impressive. 
The final equation is really simple.  Calories in vs. Calories out.  However, if it was really that simple, we wouldn’t all talk about it so much.  So, although I’m half-a-century old, I continue to keep trying.  I want to be healthy.  I need to be healthy.  I love cupcakes.  I am so-so on eating broccoli.  That about sums it up!  So, I think I will default to a motto I heard once, that I consider to be Words to Live By:  “Don’t give up what you want most, for what you want now.”  It’s a good start-line, on the road to a new, healthy-eating lifestyle.

"He that takes medicine and neglects diet, wastes the skill of the physician."
~ Chinese Proverb