The Call of the Gym

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Not my bag, but I regularly haul one around that looks a lot like it!

Recently my boyfriend Julian and I were spending the day running some errands. We were having a nice day, but somewhere in the middle of Costco, I lost my good mood. I’m not really sure what happened. I’m not a huge fan of crowds. I don’t mind speaking in public in front of people, but large groups of people milling about can get under my skin, and Costco can be crazy. Or it might have just been a little “shopper’s fatigue.” In any case, I started feeling grumpy, and my good mood disappeared. (I do hope whoever found it, dusted it off and enjoyed a very pleasant rest of their day!)

Julian saw I wasn’t quite myself and asked me what was up. I said something I never thought I would say in my lifetime. “I need to go to the gym.” In that moment, I wanted to feel better and the only thing I could think of that would give me immediate results was working out. Fortunately I had signed up for a class later that day.

Before I started losing weight, I thought gyms were stupid. In my mind they were expensive, embarrassing, sweaty levels of hell that only the super athletic dared to tread. I have a friend who loves the fitness classes at her gym and would often talk about how great they were. Frankly, I thought she was nuts. About the only thing that sounded more hellish than working out in a gym… was working out with other people. Double yuck.

…and now for my birthday I bought myself an unlimited membership to a fitness studio, where all they offer is classes… and I love it.

I was thinking about this the other night. Just why do I love going to my studio so much? Here’s what I came up with:

  • Okay, the first and most obvious thing is that working out releases endorphins. Endorphins reduce feelings of pain and improve positive feelings. So basically, it changes your body chemistry. All I know is that when I am done, I am sweaty and happy. My voice lifts, my eyes are brighter and I’m tired but feeling great. But you know, I heard about all this happiness before I started working out and it in no way motivated to try it for myself. What I didn’t know was…
  • The atmosphere in the studio is great. I was always worried about people who were better than me judging me or just feeling stupid because I didn’t know what I was doing. What I have found is the opposite. If anyone judges me, I haven’t seen it. Instead, everyone I have met, from the instructors to my fellow classmates have been nothing but supportive, helpful, and fun to be around. Some of my instructors are tough, but they also take the time to come over and show me how to improve my technique. My classmates laugh with me and are great about offering a high five or a boxing glove fist bump after a particularly hard round. There are people at all levels, from the classic blonde who works out like a machine to the older guy who dutifully huffs and puffs his way through. All sizes, sexes, colors and fitness levels seem to be there. It’s great.
  • At the studio, I am responsible for no one but myself. In my day to day life, my job and my former volunteer work, I’m a manager of people. I am responsible for their happiness, their work, their problems, and so on. I enjoy being a leader, but it is also really nice to go somewhere where the only person I need to worry about is me.
  • The zen-like state of exercising is awesome. The classes I like the most are so hard that I don’t have time to think about anything but what I am doing at that exact moment in time. There is something really freeing in that.
  • I am feeling more self confident every time I go. The joy of being a beginner is that it doesn’t take much to see an improvement! 🙂 But seriously, every class is an opportunity to improve and I can feel that. Each time I leave, I feel a little stronger and a little better. It’s not just brawn – it is also brains. I love school and love learning, and this is a version of that.
  • I’m meeting some new people. Like most people over 20, my social circles are pretty developed. I don’t meet a lot of new folks. There are people at this studio that I already knew slightly and a lot more I haven’t met yet. We don’t have time for long conversations or anything, usually it’s no more than a few minutes between classes, but it’s nice. I have an amazing circle of friends, I am not looking to expand that, but getting these new acquaintances is fun.
  • I can work out regardless of the weather. I love biking, kayaking, hiking and walks, but last year I felt like my blog became a constant weather report because unless the weather was good, I couldn’t work out. Now it doesn’t matter. But I am frequently biking to the classes which is fun!
  • I don’t have to run. I still haven’t found the love for running. I do it, but I haven’t discovered the runner’s bliss that so many of my fellow bloggers have. That’s okay – I can get a great work out that I enjoy. I am determined to keep the weight off and get stronger, but I can only do it if I find things I enjoy. For me, this is it right now.
  • Working out keeps the thunderclouds at bay. Whether it is a short term case of grumpiness or helping with my depression and anxiety, exercise is a healthy way to keep all that to a more manageable level. I’ve mentioned before that one of the side effects of depression and anxiety is body aches. They also really undermine your motivation and make you feel tired. Recently I was under a big cloud and ended up canceling two of my classes. After actually making it to a third class, I realized that canceling the other two had been a mistake. I felt so much better afterwards, I wish I had done it sooner. That’s when I made a vow that it is okay to cancel if a special event comes up or if I am just plain out sore and exhausted, but if that soreness and tiredness is from mental stuff rather than physical, I have to get up and go to the gym. It’s just worth it to feel better.

 

 

Photo credit: Dean Jarvey from flickr

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Side Effects and Society – A Light Bulb Moment

so distant by Andreia BohnerA few weeks ago my General Practitioner put me on a new medication. One of its potential side effects is drowsiness. I mentioned to her that I was concerned about that – I have enough problems with getting enough sleep and being tired/grouchy the next day, I didn’t need a medication that was going to add to that! She had a simple solution:

Take it at night.

In retrospect it seems incredibly obvious. If I take the medication at night, the drowsiness takes place at night giving me the added benefit of helping me get to sleep! By the time I get up in the morning, the side effect has passed. Brilliant! The thing is, I never would have never thought of taking it at night. I’ve somehow been trained that you take medication in the morning. You just do. Medications are kept in the medicine cabinet and you take them right before you brush your teeth in the morning along with your multivitamin. I don’t even know where that routine comes from, childhood, I guess.

It’s interesting to me because I have been doing a lot of thinking lately on societal conventions / family norms and how we just accept them as fact without necessarily thinking about whether they actually work for us – for our own lives. When to take medication seems like a small, silly example, but it speaks to a bigger theme I’m seeing in my life – that some of the things I’ve just accepted as “the way things are” don’t have to be that way. In fact, they were set up by someone with completely different goals and aspirations than me. So, I’m starting to think about that. I’m in my forties now. Life is pretty stable. It’s time to take stock and look at things – even little things – and make sure they fit how I want to live. If it isn’t how my mother or my aunts would have done it, so what! They have their own lives – and I have mine. Time to make it mine!

 

 

Photo credit: Andréia Bohner on flickr

We Are All Brave

My bike on the rail trail.

My bike on the rail trail.

Up by my cabin there is a long and wonderful rail trail. It is completely paved, more or less flat, and perfect for biking. I’m still a biking newbie so trails like these are great for me. Since I don’t yet know my limits, I would set an alarm on my armband for 30 minutes or so and head out to see what happened. I was testing questions like, “Can I ride for an hour?” (yes.) “How many miles can I ride in an hour?” (Eleven.) “Where are the ice cream shops?” (About 8 minutes from the cabin, near one of the trail heads.)

So, one afternoon I am riding along, enjoying the scenery, when I heard the unmistakeable sound of a gunshot. This really isn’t that uncommon. My cabin is located in a rural area where people do a lot of hunting, and naturally, they practice target shooting. I looked around, but surely no one would be firing at the trail, right?

And that’s when it hit me. I was out here on my own. If something went wrong, it was up to me to deal with it. Sure, I had a phone with me, but I am miles down some rural trail, how do I even tell someone where I am? By the old railroad mile markers? On top of that – who do I call? It was just me and the pooch up at the cabin that weekend, and I haven’t yet taught my dog to drive. This is when I started thinking about other blogs I’ve read of women cyclists. I read some awesome blogs with some badass gals who bike. I’ve noticed though that they have all mentioned fear at one time or another – whether it was with traffic, or riding alone or using a new bike. I always think they are so brave… and here I was, biking alone, in a new area, and guess what? I was being brave!

Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, but lately I haven’t been feeling very brave. I think my friends would say that I am, but that’s because I talk a good game. In truth, this depression and anxiety stuff has taken a real swing at my self confidence. It’s been hard. There are times when I feel like I am mired in a rut and don’t know how to find my way out. I’ve lost some of the faith I’ve always had in myself.

As I rode my bike though, I felt great, and as the miles passed, I started to think of other incidences when I’d been brave:

  • Getting married
  • And then getting divorced
  • Buying an old house
  • Choosing to live in that house, despite a lot of reasons not to
  • Deciding to get fit
  • Joining my boxing studio
  • and so on….

Even things that I am a little embarrassed about, like getting divorced, changed completely when I looked at them in this new light. It stopped being a failure. I made the brave and bold choice to marry someone and try to make a life with them, and when I knew it wouldn’t work out, I made the brave and bold choice to end it. I have a tendency to look at decisions where things went wrong (or didn’t turn out as I expected) as a failure on my part. I didn’t plan enough, I didn’t prepare enough, I ignored the little warning signals, this is my fault. Instead I started to turn them around to think of those choices as bravery – being brave means stepping out of your comfort zone, and sometimes ignoring your own warning signals and doing something anyway.

We are all brave. Each of us had made leaps of faith. Even if they didn’t turn out as we wanted, we had the guts to take that step. That’s something to be proud of.

How to Take a New Fitness Class (Being 40 Helps.)

Pilates class

Do not make any mistake, this is hard.

Last Wednesday I took a Pilates class. (…yeah, I know. I don’t know when I became this gal either!) Since Hermes is still on crate rest and we can’t go on our long walks, I’m doing all sorts of things to keep active. I had a free hour that night, but I thought it was going to rain, so all my regular activities (biking, running, hiking) went out the window. I’ve decided to purchase a three month unlimited membership to the studio where I take my boxing classes, so I checked the website for classes. My options that night were something called “Inferno” and Pilates.

Inferno (whatever that is) seemed a little intense, so I went with the Pilates class. I knew almost nothing about Pilates when I walked in. Here was the sum of my knowledge:

  • It consists of isometric and body weight exercises
  • It was super popular about 10 years ago
  • It uses props – like balls and things
  • When I met with the head trainer at the studio and told her I was looking to increase my strength, it was the first class she recommended

When I got to the class, the first thing I did was walk up to the instructor and say, “Hi! I’m LongView Hill. I’m new!” (Note: so far as I can tell, instructors love new people.) She smiled, introduced herself and asked if I was just new to this class or Pilates in general.

“Nope! Never taken a class! I know nothing!” I quipped. (This included not knowing that Pilates, like yoga is done on a mat. I didn’t have one with me. Fortunately the studio has some that I could borrow.) She handed me a ball and told me to have fun and do what I could do.

There were about 7 other gals in the room with me. I put my mat in the center of the room saying something like, “Since I’m NEW, I’ll just put my mat here in the center so I can watch all of you, okay?” There was a chorus of nervous titters.

I couldn’t actually be in the middle though, there were eight of us, but only two of them arranged their mats towards the front of the room, everyone else was in the back. I chose the best spot I could, front center with a good view of the instructor. Like everyone else, I set my mat up yoga style – short end facing the instructor.

After the first 30 seconds or so, I realized that wasn’t going to work. We were moving into Bridge positions and with my head at the back of the mat I couldn’t see what the instructor was doing. (Pilates reminds me of yoga, but with more movement.)  I needed to see what was going on, so I stopped, grabbed my mat and flipped it sideways, so I was now parallel to the instructor. Then I could mimic her movements much easier – and see simply by turning my head.

I was glad I told her that I was new, throughout the class she checked in on me, and offered a few modifications for moves I couldn’t quite do. It went really well. The class was only 45 minutes, which was good because Pilates is hard – really hard.

Anyway, after we were done and packing up, one of the younger gals from the back of the room pops up and says this was her first class. Then another one did, and another, and another… it turns out there were six brand new students in the class! No wonder they giggled nervously when I said I would watch them!

I remember being in my 20s and being unable to admit I was new at something, or that didn’t know what I was doing. I remember being in college and thinking it was weird how the older adult returning students always sat at the front of the room – and how they always asked questions (too many, in my young opinion.) Now, I am that student. And you know what? It is great! I love having the confidence to say, “I’m new, but I’m ready to learn!” It makes classes a lot more fun.

 

Photo credit: Robert Bejil on flickr

 

 

Making it Work – Roof Rack Love

Guess who bought herself a new present?roof rack

This is my new roof rack. It can hold a bike and a kayak! I can’t tell you how excited I am!

Last summer a friend gave me a bike, and while I loved riding it, it was difficult to take places without a rack. I could put it in my hatchback and leave the back open, but that just didn’t seem very safe. On top of that, there are some great riding trails up by my cabin, but if I took my bike, I couldn’t take my dog. (I am not going to attempt to transport my dog in a car with an open hatch. He’d probably be fine, but I am not taking that risk.)

Likewise, I have a kayak at my cabin. However, it’s 10 feet long – it definitely won’t fit inside my car. And while I enjoy paddling around the lake by my cabin, I’ve been itching to take it elsewhere – even just down the road a half a mile to a pretty woodland inland lake.

So, I had a bike at the house I wanted to bring to the cabin and a kayak at the cabin I wanted to bring home occasionally, and this week, I made it all possible! Hooray!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my fitness goals. I’m doing a lot of things that at first glance seem pretty different: yoga, strength training, boxing, walking, running, biking, kayaking… and so on. Really, anything that catches my eye is fair game. So, what am I trying to do?

1) I’m looking to find fitness that is fun for me. I was at boxing class the other night and chatting with an older fella that always seems to be there. When I asked him how he was doing, he said, “Oh, you know… I’m unmotivated. I always feel that way before class. But, (siiiighhhhh,) I make myself get out and do it…” He was the Eeyore of boxing. I thought, “What the heck? Someone actually dreads this class? This class is awesome!” Of course I realize it isn’t for everyone, but then why come? Why not do something else?

If I am going to stay active for the next 40 – 50 years, I am going to do it by finding things that are fun for me. Even running, (which is probably my least favorite of all the stuff I do,) has benefits I love. I make it even better by running in parks and beautiful places. It may not be my forte’, but I never dread it.

2) I want to be a superhero. That is the best way I have of describing it. I want a whole bag of tricks at my disposal. I want to be strong, but also able to run. I want to be able to throw a punch, and also twirl a hoop. Actually, Steve at Nerd Fitness wrote a great post that totally fits in with how I feel: Becoming AntiFragile: How to Prepare Yourself for Chaos.

3) I’m still figuring stuff out. Up until one year ago, I would have laughed if you had told me that I’d be running or working out at fitness studio. I’m still figuring out what this new life is all about. The more things I try and say “Yes” to, the more I learn about myself. It’s a good place to be.

How to Get Better at Boxing

boxingI mentioned that I am ambivalent about hot yoga, I am not ambivalent about boxing. I love my boxing class.

This last class I had an interesting experience. It is a circuit class – they have 10 heavy bags and a maximum of 20 students. The students pair up and one takes the bag while the other does floor work. The first two times I paired up with women. The first class the instructor asked a kind woman to help me out. She would give me tips as we passed back and forth. The second time a little older gal asked if I needed a partner and I was glad to accept. I don’t think she was new, but she may have had health problems, since she did a lot of modifications on the floor work.

This time I paired up with a guy. He was fit. In fact, he looked like my idea of a boxer – powerful. He picked a much heavier bag than the ladies, which I ended up loving. A bag that doesn’t swing as easily is a lot more fun to hit. He was also a workhorse on the floor work. There were no mini breaks for this guy. Now, except for the bag choice, it shouldn’t matter who you pair up with. Even though you are “partnered” you spend the whole class with your backs to each other. One is at the bags on one side of the room, the other is on the floor facing the mirrors on the opposite side. The only time you see each other is between rounds. I say it shouldn’t matter – but it did.

When I partnered with the gal doing modifications, I took more breaks. I felt less able to complete each set. Yet, when I left that night, I knew I still had energy in the tank. I hadn’t given it my all, and isn’t that why I am there? Of course, it make sense to take breaks or do modifications if that’s what you need to do. But if I walk out of there knowing I took shortcuts when I didn’t need to, I’m just cheating myself.

When I partnered with the guy, it was different. While I couldn’t see him exactly, I could hear him pounding away at the bag. When we switched, I could sense that he kept moving through the whole round on the floor work. There were no breaks. It made me work a lot harder myself. And when we passed and he fist bumped my glove and said “way to go” I felt like a million bucks! That night when I left the studio, I was a puddle. I had given it my all – and maybe a little more.

So, I learned my lesson. When I get to class, I’m going to move to the back of the room (where the heavier bags are.) Then I am going to look for someone in better shape than I am to partner with. The harder they work, the harder I work.

I Signed Up For What?!?

Fitness classes.st Michael's

I’ve never thought of myself as a fitness class kind of gal. Art classes? Love them. College courses? You bet. Online courses in Archival Study and Genealogy? Been there, done that. But those kinds of classes are all in your head. You might be learning with others, but it’s basically a solitary experience. (As you might guess, the idea of “group work” makes my teeth curl. In my real world, hoity-toity job, we work solo, not in groups.)

I have several friends who love classes, but I’m a DIY loner kind of gal. That’s why I like the exercise I like – biking, kayaking, weight lifting, walking, and running. Sure you can do them with other people, but you don’t have to. (And I don’t.) When I think of fitness classes I think of activities I don’t enjoy, namely: sports. I know that isn’t true, I took yoga for a little while some odd years ago. While we were all in the same room together, we didn’t work together, and yet, I still equate fitness with high school gym classes. And I equate high school gym classes with hell.

Yet, here I am – signed up for a whole bunch of classes. Well, maybe a “whole bunch” is an exaggeration… I am signed up for 4. Four whole classes. (Which feels like a whole bunch to me!)

One of those classes is Intro to Boxing, of course. I met with a trainer at that gym yesterday. They have a deal for new customers where they will sit down with you and “help you figure out your fitness goals.” I knew what my goals were, so it turned out to be more of an informational session on the different classes: what they are, and which ones might fit my needs. It was helpful, she suggested one or two I wouldn’t have thought of taking. I am still mostly interested in their boxing classes, but I might try out some of the others too. We’ll see. Those aren’t the other classes I am signed up for though –

The other three are the fault of my sister. She wants to go to Hot Yoga. The idea of getting all hot and sweaty in a room packed with other people while trying to pull off yoga poses… it sounds terrible.

Then I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She said, “To take Hot Yoga classes with you.” I laughed. I got her makeup instead.

I asked her what my brother-in-law wanted for his birthday. She said, “For you to take a Hot Yoga class with me.” I threw something at her.

I mentioned that her anniversary was coming up. She said, “You know what would be great? Hot Yoga passes for you and I.” grrrrr…..

Then two days later there was a Groupon for Hot Yoga at the place everyone in town raves about, which is also conveniently located right by my house. And the deal? It was a really good one. $30 for 5 classes, which is a savings of $70. I sent her the email and said, “Let’s do it.”

Why did I say yes? Well, most importantly because my sister wants to hang out with me. I love her so much, but we are both busy women and I don’t get to see her as much as I would like. I look forward to any opportunity to spend time with her, even if it means sweating my butt off while doing it. And that’s the other thing – when I was heavier I hated sweating. I hated anything that made me sweat – exercise, summer, warm rooms – anything like that. It made me feel gross. Now that I am exercising, and running on hot summer days, the sweat doesn’t bother me quite as much. I also like heat more than I used to. A couple of years ago I would get out of work and climb into my black car and immediately roll all the windows down while swearing like a sailor. Now, I leave them up and think, “Actually, that feels kind of nice.” Nowadays I am chilled in air conditioning, so heat actually feels… good. That’s something I thought I would never say.

So, we poured through our schedules and class offerings and picked 3 different classes at wildly different times. Her suggestion was that we try a little of everything and see what we like, then we can pick the next two classes.

Hot Yoga. I still can’t believe I said yes.

…I’ll let you know how it goes.

 

Photo credit: Charlie Dave on flickr

Giving it a Try

By Lara CoresI am taking my own words to heart from my post yesterday and celebrating what I can do now:

My first boxing class is Sunday!

Sunday!

Obviously, I am a little excited about it. I’m a little nervous too – first day of school and all. I’m really hoping I like it as much as I think I will.

If not, there are other options. I just saw a local Crossfit gym running a special for a free month of unlimited classes, and it looks pretty interesting. There is a rock climbing gym that has caught my eye, and I would love to take some more hooping classes too.

…when did I become this girl?

My boyfriend and I recently had a discussion on how losing weight has opened up new worlds for me. Not that long ago, I would have politely declined any invitation that had to do with the word “gym.” Now I am bookmarking local gym websites and trying to decide if trying two new places at once is all that bad of an idea. (I decided it was.) In truth, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do these things before, it was that I wouldn’t. My way of accepting my body previously was to be very, “this is who I am.” I don’t exercise, I don’t own a scale, I don’t go out in the sun, I don’t play sports, I don’t dance… and so on. And all of those things were true. However, as I changed my body, I started trying new things. What if I try running? What if I take a hoop dance fitness class? What if I try lifting weights? It isn’t that I am changing who I am, it is that I am opening up more doors and seeing what’s behind them.

I’ve thrown out a lot of the “don’ts” and replaced them with, “I’ll give it a try!”

 Photo credit: Lara Cores on flickr

 

You Are Not Alone

SunriseIt’s interesting what happens when you talk about your problems. It doesn’t take long before you find out you aren’t alone. I talked to a friend about my anxiety and setting up an appointment with my physician to get some help, and wouldn’t you know – they are going through almost the exact same thing. The reasons are different, but the feelings are very similar. The same thing happened when I went through a rough patch following my divorce a few years back. I made the decision to be open about how I was struggling with the whole thing – financially and emotionally. I was amazed at the outpouring of support and the number of people who came to talk to me privately and to say, “I’m going through something similar…”

Truthfully, I already feel a tinsie bit better. Just making the appointment helped. Talking to my friend also really helped. Plus Julian and I took a vacation day recently and actually relaxed. (So often I use my vacation time for things other than vacationing.) We spent time in our state’s beautiful parks, we grilled food, we looked at the water, we even took naps. It was perfect. And I did something else that makes me happy:

I signed up for a boxing class!

I’ve been wanting to learn how to box for awhile. I have some of the equipment and a lovely heavy bag, but I’ve wanted some actual training. I found out recently that a local fitness center has a boxing classes and heard two glowing reviews about the place, (one from one of my friends who does not mince words when she doesn’t like something!) The Center had a Groupon for 50% off drop-in classes recently so I can check it out with a minimum of risk. You have to take their basic boxing training class before you can go to the regular classes, so I signed up for one on the 15th!

I also have a friend who is teaching some hooping classes. I would love to figure out how to get to those as well. I just need to figure out if I can make the times work.

I’m hoping some of the changes I am choosing to make will help. I feel like part of my life is in a rut and I don’t know how to get out. Actually, take that back – I know exactly how to get out, I just don’t have the energy, motivation or confidence I need right now. Hopefully, however, I am on the right track of getting it all back.

 

 

Asking for Help

Iblue stars really liked this article on GoKaleo about weight loss and self compassion: Self-compassion: an Excuse to be Fat? No. It fits in with some things I’ve been thinking about myself. I’ve mentioned a few times over the past couple of months that I’ve been under some stress. After a gentle nudge from my boyfriend, I think it is time to do something about it. I set up an appointment with my doctor. I am hoping to get a referral to a therapist so I can work some of this stuff out.

I’m a pretty introspective gal. I’m not afraid of the long look inward, but sometimes it is good to have a guide. I was in therapy once before and it was incredibly helpful. I am good at asking myself tough questions, but the beauty of a great therapist is that they ask the questions you never think to ask. They challenge your beliefs, sometimes in ways that seem so obvious (in retrospect) that it is annoying, but usually really helpful.

I’m feeling a bit stuck in my life, like certain parts are in a rut. I know what I have to do to change those parts… and yet I don’t do them. Something is holding me back. I feel weighted down, and this weight is keeping me from moving forward. (Or moving forward at a glacial pace.) It’s causing anxiety and frustration.

I’ve been trying to get back to my healthy eating and exercising, and that does really help. As I type this, I am munching on a simple salad made from organic lettuce and greens plucked straight from my garden. I spritzed on some lemon juice and it takes like summer. These simple pleasures feed my heart, belly and soul. Lifting weights (hit a new personal record last week!) gives me added confidence and assurance. I’m not running off the rails, I just need a hand with my map.

I’ll let you know how it goes.