The Hot Yoga Report:

Cats and Cows I can do... after that things get a lot trickier.

Cats and Cows I can do… after that, things get a lot dicier. (Since none of these people look drenched, this is obviously not a hot yoga class.) 

I think I am in a rare group – I am completely ambivalent about hot yoga. It seems like there are two camps – those that love it, and those that think it is one of the levels of hell in Dante’s Inferno, (the level for those especially bendy.)

I don’t mind the heat as much as I thought I would. It’s over 95 degrees in there and they really work you. (This is not the soft-voice-pose-and-hold yoga that I took 10 years ago.) The sweat pours off you in buckets making the matt so slick it’s hard to even hold a downward facing dog without ending up on your face. When we are done, we all look like we just got out of the pool – our hair is soaked, our yoga clothes are dripping and beads of sweat cover our arms. It sounds fairly gross, but it isn’t. Everyone is in the same damp, drippy, humid boat.

Yoga is hard for me. I am definitely not bendy. For forty years I lived completely in my head, it’s only in the last year I have even attempted anything physical. I don’t know my body. What I do know is that I am stiff. I can hold a plank like anyone’s business, but when it comes to tying up in a pretzel knot, my limbs resist. The heat helps with that, of course, but there is only so much it can do. (Seriously, I struggle with siting flat on the floor with my legs straight out in front of me. As for being able to touch my toes… not happening.)

There is, however, a release in being really bad at something. The fact that my triangle looks more like an octagon doesn’t bother me. There is no competition, and if there was, I know where I’d rank. I am totally okay with that. That doesn’t mean I don’t try, I try really hard. But the beauty of being at the bottom is that there is so much room for improvement. If I can get “my sit bones a little higher” or “turn my heart in” a bit more, I’m happy.

What I love about yoga is being with my sister. We crack jokes beforehand and afterwards when she gives me a ride home. (I walk there, but there is no way Ms. Drippy Mc Dripperson is going to walk her sweaty butt home.) We text about it during the week. We’ve had 3 classes so far, and we were both sad when we realized our Groupon only had 2 more classes left on it. (We’ve already talked about finding another studio offering a beginner’s special – this place is too expensive for regular practice.)

If my sister wasn’t going with me, or I didn’t have a good deal through Groupon – would I go? Probably not. I like learning the yoga, but there are a lot of other options, even right in my neighborhood, that are more in my price range. The heat doesn’t bother me, but I’m not in love with it either. So, we’ll finish up these two next classes over the next two weeks and then see what other fitness adventure we can explore!

 

Photo credit: GoToVan on flickr

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Lightening My Load

Luggage by robef

A darn good depiction of what my life has felt like lately.

I haven’t dropped off the face of the planet. The last three weeks have been crazy. It took until now to be able to start carving out a little extra time to write.

It started with my birthday at the end of September. Then came my annual garage sale and then, without time to even breathe, I had an out of state work trip. All three of these things had things in common: lots of calories, lots of booze, a lack of exercise and some amount of stress. My birthday was the least amount of stress, and the most amount of exercise. I am happy to be forty, and I went for a run and a bike ride on my birthday, just because I could. The stress came from planning the night of. It ended up being wonderful, (dinner at a great little tapas restaurant with some of my favorite ladies,) but there were a few bumps along the way. Of course the evening itself resulted in plenty of extra calories and booze. It was great though – I’m not complaining! I dove in with both feet, even snagging the last bites of the shared dessert for myself.

The following week was the sale. The garage sale is a big deal – huge. It took two days of prep just to get the house in order. This summer I was up to my eyeballs with two jobs, so the yard work and housework have been a bit neglected. You know that all had to be done before neighbors came traipsing up my drive. That’s all even before the actual sale preparations – there are also garages to be cleaned and swept out (yes, plural garages), tables to be set up, signs to make and much more. I get help, of course, but I am also fairly stubborn about getting my own work done before people come over, (even my friends.) Then, there is the sale itself: two full days, twelve hours long, of selling our junk to strangers. If that sounds easy, you’ve never had a garage sale. I was on my feet most of the time. Usually the sale is also a fun time to hang out with some of my best friends. We start drinking mimosas around 8 AM, switch to beer in the afternoon, and back to champagne or wine in the evening. We chat, we gossip and have a grand old time. This time, however, our sale was hopping from the minute we opened to when we shut it down at night. There were no relaxing afternoon lolls to sit and chat. There was also no time to eat, so I just treated it like a vacation, grabbed food on the fly when I could (regardless of calories,) and kept going. It wasn’t easy. While the sale was a success, the best we had ever had financially, it was also the most stressful. I was feeling mighty crunchy and blown out by the end.

This place had such very, very good pie. You can just tell, can't you?

This place had such very, very good pie. You can just tell, can’t you?

We wrapped it up late Saturday night. On Sunday I got some much needed rest and a little quality time with Julian, and then on Monday, I hopped a flight to Georgia. My plan was to try and rest up while on the road. I packed plenty of healthy snacks and was determined to eat, and rest, as well as I could while away. Sadly, things didn’t quite work out. What I wasn’t expecting was the moderately terrible hotel, the amount of time I would be eating (and drinking) with clients in less than ideal food situations, and the deliciousness of southern pie. I ate too much, slept too little, and didn’t get nearly enough exercise.

I flew back on Thursday and on the plane on the way back, I made a couple of decisions. It occurred to me that, as exhausting as the garage sale had been, it really got me fired up to clean up. I felt like I needed to take that energy and keep going – keep cleaning up the house, the yard, and even myself. I feel like my body was a lot like my house had been – a little cluttered and a little unorganized. It is time to take that back.

So, Friday I spent the day cleaning out a closet that has needed it (for years), and doing yard work. I also went on a liquid diet. Nothing fancy, I just drank tea, water, and protein shakes. The idea was not to starve myself or do anything crazy, it was just to hit the “reset” button a bit. I just wanted to flush some of the extra sugar, alcohol, caffeine, and whatever else toxins out of my system. It really wasn’t that hard to do, and I did feel better afterwords. I would definitely do it again when the need arises. Saturday I kept cleaning and added in fruits, veggies and nuts to my diet, and then on Sunday I added in a bit of dairy and some fish. I’m not changing my diet forever, I just wanted to eat simply for a few days and let my body recover from some of the things I’ve been putting it through lately.

You know what? I am feeling much, much better. I also spent time this weekend reading, taking naps, writing and taking care of myself. It has been awhile since I have been able to do that.

It feels good.

 

Photo credit: Luggage by robef on flickr

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)

When was the Last Time You Did Something for the First Time?

last time first timeNot long ago, Julian and I were in a cool little shop up North and I spotted this quote on a pillow. I don’t need another pillow, but I loved the quote.

One of the great things about heading down this whole fitness path is that I’m doing new things all the time. And they aren’t just new, they are things I would have considered completely impossible just a year ago. I’ve opened a lot of new doors in a very short period of time.

Taking a couple risks led to my feeling like I could take a couple more. Then some of those risks started paying off, and that meant even more confidence, which led to being even more open about trying new things. It’s not just fitness, (although honestly, those are the things that blow my mind sometimes,) but other things as well. It’s a strange correlation, but learning to lift weights has helped me to speak my mind in situations where I would have normally held my tongue. It’s not because I am tougher, it’s because I am starting to see that I can do, and be, a lot more than I ever thought.

It’s exciting because I am rapidly approaching 40 and there are certain things that I’ve always wanted to do that I thought I would have to put behind me. You know, the whole, “It’s too late for that now.” I love reading stories about people in their nineties writing books or breaking weightlifting records, and yet, there are a number of things I had resigned myself to being “too old” for. Sometimes it isn’t just age – there are things that have sounded interesting that I have discarded just becuase they don’t seem like they fit my life. Well, I’ve proven to myself that I don’t even know what that means anymore. My life really can be just about anything.

 

Future Plans

Goal Setting by lululemon athleticaSo, I have a confession to make. I am freaked out by the idea of weight loss maintenance. In theory it should be easy – just keep doing what I have been doing, but maybe eat a little more. Easy right? In actuality, it makes me quake in my boots.

I’m quite happy with where I am. I like the way I look, and I feel great. My instinct is to slow down a bit and settle in, but the problem is, I don’t know how. My friend Cee called me out on it the other day when I told her I had to tackle my maintenance plan. Truth is, I didn’t even think about it when I wrote it, but she pointed out that “tackle” might be a bit strong. I think it is just a sign of how I feel about it. I’m a planner, so for every goal, there must be a plan.

While I was out walking the dog last night I started thinking about why this bothers me so much. I mean really, there doesn’t need to be a new plan – I can just keep tracking, eating well, and exercising. I just need to weigh every day and make adjustments accordingly, right? So, why does it make my chest feel tight when I think about it?

I think there are two things going on here. The first is simply the fear of failure. I didn’t have this while losing weight because if I wasn’t able to do it, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I wasn’t under doctor’s orders or anything like that. I simply made a choice to give it a try. If it hadn’t worked the only people who would have known would have been my sister, my boyfriend, Cee and you, blog reader. But us? We have an understanding you and I, I’m not afraid of failing in front of you. Now that I have lost 30 pounds, however, people can see it on me. It is going to be a lot more obvious if I gain the weight back – and let’s face it, we all know people who have been very successful in the losing category, but didn’t make it in the maintenance department. The dieter who loses weight, then gains it all back (and then some) is so common it is almost a cliché – and for good reason, it’s hard work. People with far more willpower, and far more resources, than I have lost this battle.

The other is: time. I want to keep this weight off forever and ever, amen. Well, I am turning 40 this year, so if I live until I am 80, that means setting a goal for another 40 years. That is the length of my current lifespan… I can’t even wrap my brain around trying to set a 40 year goal! The numbers are just too large and life is just too variable.

While thinking about that span of time, a solution came to me. Instead of trying to set goals “for the rest of my life,” I am just going to set a year-long goal. I started losing on January 15 of this year – so, my goal is simply: Keep the 30 pounds off through Jan. 15, 2014. Once I thought of that, it was like a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I immediately felt better. On May 15th, (just to keep things nice and tidy,) I am going to change the settings on My Fitness Pal. Then I am simply going to focus on my little seven month goal. Maintaining for seven months seems so much easier than maintaining for the rest of my life. (bum bum BUM…..)

It’s possible, of course, that I will lose more – who knows? I will probably bounce around a bit. I am not going to try to keep my weight on an exact number. I’m still figuring things out and still learning to run, which will, undoubtably, cause some changes. All I am going to do is work hard at keeping what I have lost off until my anniversary in January. Once I do that, I can set a goal for the next year – whatever it may be. It feels completely doable – and yet, there are still enough challenges in there (holidays, anyone?), to keep things interesting.

Here’s the other benefit that I thought of as I was writing this – keeping focus is hard. Keeping focus for forty years, or even five years is hard. Keeping focus for seven months is not quite so bad. I think by shortening my goal, I’m making it easier to keep it in mind. That should help make it a little easier too.

So, that’s the plan. I got it off, now I’m going to keep it off, by gum!

Photo credit: lululemon athletica