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.

Stage One Goal Completed – Weights and Lifting

My personal "gym".

My personal “gym”, also known as “The Library”

I’ve been working through The New Rules of Lifting for Women (NRLW) for awhile now. I am proud to say that I have completed Stage 1 and hit some personal records!

NRLW has 8 stages that you work through. Each Stage has different workouts. Stage 1 has two, cleverly named A and B. Each workout is a series of exercises with specified number of sets and reps. I had been working on Stage 1 last fall, but didn’t complete. I was almost at the end, but moving my weight bench and workout equipment for the holidays threw everything off. This spring I started again, right back at the beginning. I did take a couple of weeks off for work related travel, but otherwise I kept at it. Now I move on to Stage 2, which is much shorter. The whole plan is roughly supposed to take six months.

Today, I did a personal best – I dead lifted 85 pounds for 3 sets of 8. In other words, I lifted the barbell 24 times! Yay! Compared to actual weightlifters, this is tiny potatoes (even smaller than plain old “small potatoes”), but for me it is huge! My goal is eventually to lift my own weight. I’m already well over half, I know I can do it!

I’m a little nervous about the next stage – I had this one completely figured out and knew exactly how to do it. I don’t know how long Stage 2 will take in the morning or even how to do the exercises. I’ll figure them out though – that’s what the book is for, after all. I did notice that Stage 2 called for some cardio interval training, which is great. I’ve been wanting to get back to running too, and this might be just the motivation I need!

 

 

I’ll Take All The Help I Can Get

I think we have a work out to do.

Why are you blogging? I think we have a work out to do.

I mentioned that I am trying to learn to do a perfect squat. I’ve got a long way to go – literally, there are a whole lot of inches before I can get my tush where it needs to be. I’m not naturally flexible, so this is a process. And can I just say that I hate instructions that say things like, “sit like you are going to sit in a chair and then just go all the way down.” Oh, really?!? No mention of “…and if your legs simply won’t bend that way because you haven’t taken a yoga class in 10 years and you are stiff as a board, try this instead…” Nope. Just go all the way down.  Sigh….

But, I am determined. So, along with doing squats while working out, I am trying to find every day ways to practice my squat.

Fortunately, I have a dog.

Times to practice getting knees to bend and my butt towards the floor:

  • Picking up and replacing food and water bowls
  • Hooking on, and removing, the outdoor tie out
  • Hooking on, and removing, the leash for walks and trips outside
  • The cleaning up of dog poo on said walks and trips outside
  • While toweling down and drying Hermes from walks in the rain
  • While mopping up the floor when he shakes in the kitchen before I can towel him down from the walk in the rain
  • While performing manditory “I love you!” scratches and pets
  • The daily chore of picking up throw pillows and blankets that Hermes has decided do not belong on the couch and would look better on the floor

Really, he does it all for me. He’s my little furry workout buddy.

The Art of the Squat

bootcamp-squats

Hmmm… I’m pretty good at the first position.

So… I kind of suck at squats. Being able to do good, clean, low squats is one of the challenges I have set myself, and I am working on it… but I have a long ways to go. The problem is the back of my legs. I’ve always walked on tiptoe, even as a little kid. My parents used to tease me about it when I first started to learn to walk, but even today, if I don’t have shoes on, I am likely to walk on my toes. It’s just one of those things. So, naturally as an adult, I love high heeled shoes. Over time I have tightened the back of my legs so much that flat shoes aren’t really comfortable to me. Thus, keeping my feet flat during a squat is a serious challenge. (I can squat like a son of a gun with heels up!)

Right now I am using the book The New Rules of Lifting for Women for weight training, and sure enough, there are squats involved. I’m working on them though. I’ve used chairs to help get myself in the right position, worked on one legged partial squats which don’t require me to go as low, but are still a good workout, and lately I’ve been doing them with weights. Having weights in my hands really does help. I’ll get there eventually – I’m determined. In the meantime, if I look a little like a cross between a duck and a weeble-wooble, I’m okay with that. After all:

"only the fools end up being cool" by we wander & wonder

“only the fools end up being cool” by we wander & wonder

This Month, I Turn 40…

Health Today

There are no promises, of course. We’ve all heard about the young, super healthy runner who had a heart attack mid-run, or the fitness instructor who had a stroke. Nature, red in tooth and claw* does what it will. A good fitness regime or an eating plan is no guarantee of longevity. Sometimes even the opposite is true. A dear friend of mine passed recently. He was known for his ever present cigarette. He never drank water, instead preferred Guinness or whiskey. The last time I saw him, we drank red wine out of Styrofoam cups in his hospital room. He was 80 years old.

So, while I hope eating well and working out improves my long term health, I know its a craps shoot. But what I do know is this – since losing weight and starting running, kayaking and lifting weights, I am happier, less stressed and have a lot more energy. I am in the best shape I have been in, in my entire life – and it just keeps getting better.

40? Bring it on!

 

* Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

Do’s and Don’ts

I ran across this somewhere on the web and tucked it away as a good reminder:Dos_and_Donts

What I love about it is that it has some good points without being focused on one particular fitness path. For example, while there are several points about eating, the phrase Eat Clean doesn’t appear. (I wrote about why that phrase gets makes me clench my teeth awhile back.) I have heard some conflicting advice about drinking that much water, but considering it is August and high summer in the U.S., if you’re going to be working out outside, it seems like a good plan to me.

I really like the don’s side – especially #1) don’t skip rest days and #4) don’t forget to reward yourself. I think those get forgotten a lot. Since I try to alternate weight training and running, it is really easy for me to skip rest days. (That’s why I don’t get too down on myself when I have a busy week. I just figure they are unplanned rest days.) As for rewards, so far, the results have been their own reward. Then again, taking the time to sit for a while by the river after a long run is an awfully good reward.

Sitting at the river's edge after my run.

Sitting at the river’s edge after my run.

Just a Quick Update

EVEN IF ALL YOUR TROUBLES SEEMED SO FAR AWAYYY

I needed this today. (From wewanderandwonder.com)

I still feel like I am still recovering from my week with the sick pooch (plus a few other random stresses,) so I am not completely on my game. I am still here though, and I love reading all your blog posts! You guys make my day.

Even though I’ve been indulging in some emotional eating, things are still going pretty okay. It’s been hard not being able to walk Hermes like I am used to, though. He is able to get around okay but is still on rest for the next week – until the staples from his surgery come out. We’ve been doing some short (sloooow) walks. They let him do what he needs to do, but don’t do much for me. Normally, I love our walks because they let me work off stress, get some “walking meditation” time in, and burn some calories all at the same time. These little 20 minute jaunts down the block just don’t have the same effect.

Fortunately, the strength training is still going well. I’m loving The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and I’ve kept to my every other day routine. I finally admitted to myself that the Swiss Ball I bought was defective and returned it for a new one. That one inflated beautifully. While I was at the store I also picked up a few more weight plates, and I am ever slowly working my way towards a home gym.

Hermes' "Welcome Home" present from his girlfriends. He doesn't normally get cheese, but when he does, he's a happy pup!

Hermes’ “Welcome Home” present from his girlfriends. He doesn’t normally get cheese, but when he does, he’s a happy pup!

After a pretty decent week of running, I am on a bit of a hiatus. I was going to go yesterday morning, but: 1) I had a small blister on the back of my foot from my work heels. Nothing major, but the equivalent of a paper cut, small but ridiculously painful., 2) it was raining, 3) my raincoat has lost much of its waterproofness and needs a respray, 4) I was super low on sleep on account of Julian and I having not seen each other much lately and spending the previous evening talking. It was much needed time together, but I was really bleary eyed in the morning. Any one or two of these things wouldn’t have kept me from going out, but when I piled them all up… yeah. I threw some Neosporin on my blister, put a good bandaid on it, and crawled back into bed. There is a line between excuses and darn good reasons, and this time it felt like staying home was the smart move.

I’ve got a busy couple of weeks ahead. It’s the last of my summer freelance work and I’ll be wrapping things up. So, I’ll be laboring away on Labor Day, but I am still hoping to get a few runs or maybe some good, strong walks in anyway. It’s too bad Hermes can’t join me, but hopefully he’ll be back at it in full strength in a week or two. Now it is time to shake off this post-stress malaise and get back to looking ahead!

 

Hermes Update and Dealing with Stress

On a walk in the rain

Can’t wait to see this face.

First, good news! I finally got some good news about my little guy. It has been a long, rough week! As I mentioned, his initial surgery to remove the tumor went well, but it was followed up with complications. Hermes spent two nights in the Emergency Animal Hospital and another night at the vet’s getting blood transfusions and IVs. However, I got the call this morning that he is looking great, has finally eaten some food on his own (his last real meal was Monday morning before all this went haywire,) and is sitting up and bright-eyed. The doc is weaning him off his IVs and if all goes well, I’ll have my little guy back home again by the end of the day.

I can’t wait… the house is far too quiet without him.

Here’s an interesting thing – I’ve been handling the stress differently than I ever have before, and it has a lot to do with the changes I have made over the last year.

I actually hold up fairly well under extreme stress. The day-to-day stuff can really get under my skin, but when things go absolutely sideways, I tend to be pretty solid. I think I get this from my dad who was the same way. (Perhaps a good inheritance for once, eh Andra?) He had some, well, let’s call them “anger management issues” on the day-to-day, but when things went really, really bad, he was always calm, cool and collected. I’ve worked hard not to have the anger problems he had, but I’ve nurtured the calm. I tend to be practical, (sometimes to the extreme,) and while I have my teary moments like everyone else, my goal is always to hold it together until I get through to the other side.

The waiting is the hardest part.* Whenever situations like this come up, especially ones dealing with medical issues, there is always waiting involved. My tried and true method of getting through it is books. Preferably something interesting, but fairly light. My favorite are older, formulaic murder mysteries like the Nero Wolfe books by Rex Stout. I can’t tell you how many books I flew through back when my mother was in the hospital, waiting on some kind of news.

My other tried and true method is emotional eating. I’m not proud – when the shit is hitting the fan, I’m not going to take the time to count calories. Besides, I love food – and I really love great food, so having something decadent really does make me feel better for a bit. This week, I have been doing both of these things. I’ve been burying my head in books  and coating my throat with wine.

But… that isn’t all I have been doing. I’ve also been running, weight lifting and walking. Now, I need to make this clear – I am not trying to balance out the scale here. There is no way one of my runs will burn up the quantity of dark chocolate almond bark and glasses of wine I’ve had. It’s more that I have added another tool for coping. The night Hermes went in for emergency surgery, I knew it was going to be a couple of hours to before I heard how it went. As I headed towards the kitchen, I heard a voice in my head say, “Is emotional eating really going to help right now???

The rest of me said “*&^$!”

… and then went and put on my running shoes. I had that antsy, nervy energy – the kind that makes you want to pace, or punch something. Going for a run, even a bad run, totally let me escape the situation and work off the twitchiness. And man, were my runs bad. My times were terrible, I had equipment failures, I was distracted and unfocused… and yet, I ran. I found, incidentally, that 2 min run / 1 min walk intervals are perfect for this. I didn’t have the willpower, or the mental capacity, to run much more than this, and “just doing whatever” was actually more stressful because it involved making choices – something I had already been doing way too much of this week. Intervals gave me a structure, a purpose, and a framework, plus I could run full-out for 2 minutes if I wanted knowing I had a break coming. Though by every metric my runs were terrible, for me, they were great.

I also worked on my strength training. I mentioned that I am starting to go through The New Rules of Lifting for Women. Even though without Hermes in the house I could have slept in, instead I got up, got out my weights and went to work. I’ve been walking too. One day this week while I was waiting on a call from the vet, I headed out for an hour-long lunch hour walk. Another morning, before weight training, I went for an early morning power walk.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

Sunrise. I took this on an early morning walk this week.

This is all really new to me, and believe me, I understand why it wouldn’t be appealing. One of my coworkers is going through a rough time too. He said, “I am having to do enough stuff that I don’t want to do right now, I am not going to make myself run as well.” I get that! And even though it briefly occurred to me to take the rest of my chocolate into the office and put it on the “free food” table in the break room, I haven’t – there is a still the long road of recovery ahead.

Here’s the point – I think everyone deals with stress a little differently. I am not going to judge anyone for how they handle it. For myself, I am surprised that exercise has become something I’ve started turning to. I’ve heard for years that exercise is good for stress, but it always seemed like a lot of blue mud. How could sweating, and panting and working hard feel good? Yet here I am, workout clothes hanging in the laundry, running shoes ready to go.

 

 

* Did I just get Tom Petty stuck in your head? Please tell me I did.

Running, Weight Lifting and Chasing Dreams

heavy weights by apfelfredLast week I ran at some unusual times for me: once at 6:30AM and once at 9:30PM. Why the strange schedules when I’ve been a fairly consistent “right after work” running gal? Well, because I am adding in something new and I wanted to check out some different options for run times. I’m adding in strength training.

Yes, I know I’ve been writing about strength training for awhile, and I’ve actually been doing it for several months now, but it’s been on my own in a somewhat haphazard fashion. Back in April, after checking it out from the library, I bought The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises. The book is great in some regards, and if you want an encyclopedia of weight training exercises, this is a solid choice. There are hundreds of exercises to chose from with all sorts of variations, depending on skill set, equipment and so on. It also has some additional information and training plans, but those are not the main point of the book. The focus is on different kinds of exercises. That was exactly why I bought it. I used it to put together some weight training plans based on what I had, and what I thought I could do.

The problem is that I am really too new at this. I have no idea what I am doing. I used their training plans as a start, but modified them at will. The book makes it really, really easy to do that. Too easy, if you want to know the truth. I felt like I was getting stronger and doing some good work, but it felt really unfocused. I knew that I just didn’t know enough.

Then I read some glowing reviews for Mark Riptoe’s Starting Strength, so I picked that up. And it’s good, it really is, but it almost goes too far in the other direction. It is so technical, I find myself struggling to get through it. I think it is just too advanced for where I am right now. I’m a reader, someone who loves to learn through study, but I had to set it aside for a bit.

Then I read another blogger who was going through The New Rules of Lifting for Women, and so I took a look at that. And like Goldilocks, I feel like I found something that is just right. It has a lot about weight lifting in general, and some interesting information on nutrition (and I have changed how I eat based on it,) but what I love is their step by step guide. It’s a long term strength training plan, which was exactly what I was looking for. Like Women’s Health book, it has exercises with variations (especially helpful for those going to gyms versus those working out at home,) and like Mark Riptoe’s book it has technical information, but fortunately, it is at my level. Best of all is the seven stage multi-week training plan.

I’ve just started on it this week. The author warns that this is an intense program, but I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure I believed him. I mean, when I read through it, it looked really reasonable and, even dare I say, in the beginning stages a bit easy. Wrong! As soon as I got through the first day, I saw that this is going to be a challenge. Which is good! That’s what I’m looking for.

My goal is to strength train at least two, but pushing towards three, times a week. I also want to keep running. In a perfect world I’d run three times a week and lift three times, on alternating days, and take one day as a rest day. I’d prefer to do the strength training in the morning, using my morning dog walk as a warm up, and the run in the evening after work, with the evening dog walk to cool down. Which makes it all so pretty and logical, doesn’t it? However, life doesn’t always let us do what we want. Sometimes I am busy in the evenings, sometimes I haven’t had enough sleep to get up early. Life just is messy. I’ve already been running into this with my current workouts, and I really want to be dedicated to this, so I thought I should try running at different times. Also, I know that as much as I would like to alternate days, there are going to be weeks where I have to do both on the same day, that means being able to be flexible.

I’ve tried a couple of runs at night to see how that goes. One night this week I wanted to go running, but I had an extremely crazy, busy, frantic day. I said to myself that if I could wrap everything up by 9:15PM, I’d head out anyway. I was done by 9:08PM, so I threw on my running clothes and was heading down the road by 9:20PM. Then I had a day where I knew I was going to need time in the evening to work on a few projects. So, I got up early and, after walking the dog, went for a run in the morning. (It was so early that when I turned on the bedroom light, my usual Let’s go out! dog sighed and rolled over and went back to sleep!) So far, I like running both in the morning and at night. I did find out I have to eat something in the morning before I go though, rather than after. I could tell I didn’t have enough fuel in me, so I took it easy. In the future I will have to plan that a bit better, but other than that, I can easily see myself doing either, and you know what that means, right? No excuses.

Wait, you are running AND lifting weights?!? Don’t you know that’s CRAZY!

There seems to be a bit of war between these two worlds right now. The best I can tell from the interwebs is that it centers around marathoners versus body builders, and I see why. You don’t want to have a lot of bulky muscle to carry around if you are running marathons, and if you’re running all your body mass off, it doesn’t make sense to lift. However, the way it comes off to those of us that are new to all this is that there are two camps, one saying “Look you idiot – don’t eat protein! Stay super lean!” while the other is saying, “Hey fool – you don’t need to run! Get rid of cardio! Here – have a protein shake!”

Here’s the thing, I want both of what these worlds offer, and I want nothing.

Why can't I have both? Power and stamina?

Look at her, I mean, WOW. So, why can’t I have both? Power and stamina?

You  know what I want? I want to be a badass superhero librarian who can run, leap, climb, lift, row, ski, hula hoop and throw a mean punch – all while wearing heels, if I want. (No, I am not a librarian at present, but we are talking about what I want, not what it is.) I am not aiming to run marathons. In fact, at this point, I’m not running to be in any races, of any length. I might some day – some of them look like a heck of a lot of fun – but that isn’t my goal. At this point, I run roughly 30-40 minutes at a time. That feels about right for me.

Nor is my goal to be a body builder or enter body competitions. I want: strength, endurance, power, stamina, and to feel great in my body. I want all the gains I have already won against my asthma with running, and also I want to see how much I can lift. This is all about me, not about competing against others, in any forum. So yes, I am running and lifting weights – and getting better at both all the time.

 

Heavy Weight photo credit: apfelfred on flickr

When Your Work Out Equipment Requires a Work Out to Set Up

Swiss BallI picked up a Swiss Ball for an exercise in my new strength training routine. It appears to have come with the worst pump ever! This is how it looks after an whole hour of me slaving away, pumping air into the dang thing. See that white ribbon? That’s the tape measure you are supposed to inflate to. Sigh… I finally gave up and did my crunches on a tall footstool.

I suspect there is something wrong with the pump that came with it. Over an hour is just silly. (Though I did get to watch a couple of episodes of “The Big Bang Theory” while doing it which was fun.) One of my coworkers said she has a great pump for exercise balls, so she promised to bring it in for me next week. I will give that a try before I return this.

I guess the good news is, my arms certainly got a workout last night… it just wasn’t what I was counting on!