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

 

 

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What Do You Do When Your Trainer is Sick?

Hermes in his crate

This sucks.

This is my little buddy. He’s having some problems with his back and his vet has ordered him on crate rest for a few weeks: no walks, no playing, no stairs.

As you can see, he has a pretty cushy recovery pad. I’ve put a soft blanket in the bottom and another favorite blanket over the top to help him rest. He has company, his favorite stuffed rabbit is in there with him, and he even has a treat. It doesn’t matter though – he hates it. Even in this photo when he is too drugged up on pain killers to really care, he hates it.

I don’t blame him, I hate it too.

If you’ve followed my blog for awhile you know this is far from the first health problem my little guy has had.  In fact, considering some of his other issues, this is pretty minor. I’ll pamper him for awhile, give him some meds to help with pain, and we’ll get through this. But what Hermes and I love the most is to walk, and he can’t until the doc gives the okay.

I spend so much time walking Hermes that it feels wrong not to walk him. I mean, I know that this is just temporary and it has the goal of helping him heal, but walking is our way of being healthy. It’s as though someone told you the best solution for your broken leg was to eat a bunch of chocolate. In this case I know it is the right thing to do, it just feels strange.

During the week, I typically walk Hermes for roughly an hour a day. On the weekends we usually greet the morning with an hour walk and take another half hour one at night. In other words, we cover a lot of miles. Now I am going to have to do it without him. And that is the question…

Am I going to get the same amount of exercise without my pooch? I didn’t walk him this morning, since I could tell he was hurting. Instead, I did some weight lifting and worked in the garden while waiting for it to be time to go to the vet. This afternoon I walked for an hour on my lunch hour. I feel like I have today covered. But what about next week? It feels strange to think that I don’t have to get up at 6:30AM to walk. I honestly don’t know right now if I will try walking solo, take a morning bike ride, sign up for some morning classes, or just sleep in. It could be a strange couple of weeks.

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.

Thoughts on Therapy

I saw a little guy like this in my garden the other day. It is sheer joy to watch them.

I saw a little guy like this in my garden the other day. It is sheer joy to watch them.

Therapy… I want to write about it, but I am not sure what to say. Let’s start with some basics. It took me a few calls and a fair amount of time on my insurance company’s website to find someone. I’m delighted that my insurance covered it. The last time I saw a therapist, (during my divorce,) they didn’t, and I had to pay out of pocket. It’s pretty pricey that way, worth it, but pricey.

That first time I saw a therapist, the center was in an old converted Victorian home. The waiting room was the former dining room and it still had the chandelier and an oak dining table. My therapist’s office was in the den. It had bookshelves, a fireplace, heavy, thick furniture and hunting pictures on the walls. Her big wooden desk was in a bay window that overlooked a cherry tree. In short, it was exactly what movies lead you to think a therapist’s office should look like.

This time it’s a little different. This facility feels much more like a doctor’s office, and for good reason – they offer a lot more than counseling. They do occupational and physical therapy, sleep studies, neurological testing… all sorts of things. So, their waiting room is just like any doctor’s office waiting room. Perhaps it is a little more modern, but it’s your basic “chairs and magazines” set up.

My therapist is a woman. I like her well enough. We’ve met twice now. The first time, her office was in a doctor’s exam room, except that instead of a table she had chairs. The second time she had moved offices. Now she has a suite with a big window, actual art on the walls and comfortable seating. It turns out that the first office was temporary while the other was undergoing renovations.

Does it matter? To me, yes. I’ve mentioned many times that I do freelance work. That work is in theatre. And to me, set decoration, props… they all matter. If I am seeing a therapist, I want it to feel like I am seeing a therapist, not like I am getting a physical! (I was effusive in complimenting her on her new location.)

I feel like we have gotten a good start. We talked about what I’ve been feeling and she asked some good questions. She’s given me some techniques to try when I’m feeling anxious and some things to think about.

What I am dealing with is – I feel walled in. Normally, I’m a fiercely independent and confident woman, but I feel like circumstances have got me in a rut. I think that is what is causing anxiety. The hard part is that I know the steps to take to get out of the rut, (or at least some of them) but I can’t seem to find it in myself to take them. I’m hoping she’ll help me figure out what’s holding me back.

Here’s the thing about therapy – it doesn’t “fix” you. How I think about it is this: Anxiety feels like a giant pile of rocks sitting on my chest. Therapy does not remove any of those rocks, but it does loosen them a little. And a huge pile of slightly loose rocks is a lot more manageable than a giant pile of rocks cemented together. If even one rock loosens, it feels like there is hope. There is a solution somewhere. As long as the cement holds though, it’s almost impossible to imagine change. I don’t expect my therapist to have all the answers. What I hope is that she’ll poke at a few of the “absolutes” and turn the impossibles into merely “really difficult.” Really difficult I can handle.

 

Photo credit: Kevin Cole via flickr

Intro To Boxing – Round 2

boxing glovesOn Sunday I took Intro to Boxing. Last week I accidentally took the standard Boxing class, thinking it was the Intro course. Because it was a very small class TI (the instructor) let me go ahead, but he strongly suggested I go back and take the Intro class. I enjoyed the standard class, but it seriously kicked my butt. This week I took the class I was supposed to take first.

It was great. We spent time on the jab, upper cut and hook, and of course, all the footwork. Half the class was air punching and working in front of the mirror to learn technique, the other half was at the bags. I loved every minute of it – even the ones where I had no idea what I was doing! In fact, I enjoyed it so much, I wish they taught Boxing in a traditional class format, where you build each week on what you’ve learned, rather than one Intro class and then dive into the regular classes. I also really liked some of the gals that took it with me. I hope I run into them again, we had a good time swearing and sweating and trying to remember to keep our shoulders loose.

My favorite part? TI taught us a combination and then put on mitts so we could actually strike his hands instead of the bag. It was a blast!

(I’ve already signed up for my next class!)

I can’t say why Boxing appeals to me so much. I don’t want it for self defense, and there are plenty of other fitness / martial arts classes out there. There is something about Boxing, though. Every time I think about it, I feel happy. …which is why I am thinking about it a lot. I had an appointment with my doctor about my depression/anxiety. She went through some questions to rule out different causes (like thyroid) that can effect people in similar ways. We talked about a variety of options, she is willing to try medication, but I said I would like to try therapy first. So, we’ll see how that goes. Until then, she gave me a thumbs up on my coping mechanisms – time with friends, time in the gardening and Boxing.

 

Photo credit: Generation Bass on flickr

How’s Your Head?

RiverA coworker walked up to me today and in a bright, chipper voice said, “How are YOU doing today?”

I glanced up from the computer, suspicious of his perky tone. “ahhhhhh… I’m fine?” His eyebrows went up. “I mean,” I said cautiously, “I’m not actually in a bad mood.”

“Oh. In that case I’ll leave you alone. I don’t want to spoil your mood.” and he walked off.

I have no idea what that was about.

So, how am I doing? I’ve been writing about boxing, which is both a lot of fun – and blissfully distracting – so I haven’t talked about the mental health aspect. I was supposed to have my appointment with my primary care physician today, but it was moved to next Monday. The fact that I have a meeting with a trainer at the gym on Thursday to discuss my personal fitness goals and another Boxing class on Sunday is doing a wonderful job at keeping me from thinking about how I’m actually doing.

Mostly, I am hanging in there. The weekend was wonderful. It was so peaceful and perfect. The weather was gorgeous, and I managed to get so much done. On Saturday my best gal Cee came over and helped me with some yard projects. You know those projects that are so large you don’t even know where to start? Cee came over and in a little under 2 hours we made huge dents in several of them – big enough that I could actually see the end point and was able to finish up on my own. I worked in the garden, I took a nap, I grilled up a delicious dinner, I played with my dog in the yard. It was great. Sunday was the class, and that too was great.

Being back at work though, that’s a different story. It’s not that my job is so bad, it’s fine, but there is a lot of down time. Time to think. When I am busy, the day goes quick, but when it slows down, other thoughts start to bubble up. See, a great weekend or a new class doesn’t change the underlying problem. They are welcome (and much needed) additions to my life, but they don’t “fix” me. (It does give me empathy for people who are constantly switching form one thing to the next, though.) Not that I expect anything to actually fix me. I am who I am. If I can get a little assistance over the rough patches, that would be very nice.

 

First Boxing Class!

gloves

These beauties are all mine.

“So, where are your gloves?” Bob, the friendly older gent sitting next to me on the concrete step asked. “Are they in your purse?”

“Noooooooo….” I said cautiously, “I thought this was the beginner’s class. Online it said you could borrow gloves for the first class.”

Bob and Carmen looked at each other. The three of us were sitting outside the gym waiting for the instructor. Bob slowly shook his head, and this is how I found out I had made a mistake. I thought Beginning Boxing was taught every Sunday. Nope. It is taught every other Sunday; this was a regular class. Bob looked me over, “You look like you are pretty fit. I am sure you will be fine.” Carmen looked like she had her doubts.

Then Joe walked up. I actually know Joe – he was on a freelance job I worked last summer. We reintroduced ourselves. As he shook hands with the others, I looked him over. Joe has huge shoulders and is built like a policeman, or a firefighter. I suddenly had the feeling that this was not going to be an easy class.

Then Joe and Carmen started talking about the instructor. (Hereafter known as: TI) “Hey,” she said, “you didn’t come out for his fight.” Joe shrugged and said something about getting busy and losing track of time. “He won,” she said, “but I think TI took it easy on the guy. They had a practice bout last week and he broke the guy’s nose. I think he felt bad.” Before I had a chance to think about that, TI appeared. He was a fairly normal fit looking guy. (I later found out he is a machine.) He waved and ushered us in.

I quickly went over and explained the situation. “Have you taken boxing before?” I shook my head. He explained that I really should take the Intro class first, so if I wanted to come back… I felt panicky. I have been looking forward to this for weeks. Maybe he saw something in my eyes, “Or you can give this a try and do what you can. It’s a small enough class that it would be okay. Normally this class is packed, but since it is Father’s Day, we’re pretty light.” I agreed, and he handed me a package of wrist wraps and some gloves. The wraps I would have to buy, the gloves I could borrow. TI quickly wrapped my wrists, explaining what he was doing while the rest of the class got ready.

The class was a mix of men and women. They were a motley group, some looked like they worked out a lot, others not as much. I had somehow gotten the impression that this type of boxing would be mostly women, probably because the two people I knew took it were women and from some disparaging comments made by a MMA fighter I talked to last fall. I like coed groups – they don’t trigger high school flashbacks like all-women groups do. Some in this group looked really tough, and I liked that too. I’d like to look like that myself someday.

Then we went and got the jump ropes… Let me just say right now, this class was far, far harder than I had imagined. We did circuits – one minute of floor work followed by one minute at the bag. The boxing portions were okay. I mainly focused on how to hold my body, how to do each move and remembering the sequences. I didn’t worry about how hard I hit or how fast. (A guy next to me was fairly slow but he hit the bag with a staggering amount of power. I did my best to ignore him.) The floor work though… Lord, the floor work.

Carmen ended up being my partner. While she was at the bag, I was on the floor and then we’d switch. In between she’d give me little bits of advice whenever she could, but before long we were both just panting and nodding to each other as we passed. TI would do a sequence at the bag and then hop down on the floor to show us what to do there. Each time I felt my face move into an expression of “You want me to do what??” A couple times Carmen caught it and laughed. But when it was my turn I gamely got on the floor with a big determined grin on my face and did my best.

I have to say, TI was awesome. He checked in on me regularly and helped me with everything. “Doing okay?” “Hanging in there?” He asked early on how I had heard about the place and I had told him a friend sent me. At one point he got down on the floor to help me with something and he quipped, “Still like your friend?”

I laughed, “Mostly!”

There was only one point, maybe midway in, when I thought “I am not going to make it.” I felt hot and sweaty and a little weak in the knees. Fortunately a moment later TI called break and I had a chance to catch my breath. After that, I was good to go. By “good to go” I do not in any way mean I was able to complete each set. I did what I could do, and by the end, I’ll admit, I rested more than I moved, but I gave it everything I had and then some. I haven’t tried that hard at anything in a long time. Even though there was a lot I couldn’t do, I still felt pretty good, and when TI came over and fist bumped my glove, I almost teared up a little in pride.

At the end of class Bob walked over. “Well, you didn’t puke, and you didn’t pass out. I think you should come back!” He chuckled a little and then said, “Although, by those rules I don’t know why they let me back.”

I will definitely be back. In fact, I went ahead and bought my first set of gloves.

 

A Different Point of View

Strong by Scott SwigartIt took me a little while to understand why the post: 10+ Reasons I Love My Ugly Body hit me so hard. I hadn’t read her blog before, I found it on a link from Fit, Feminist and (almost) Fifty on Friday. I’m pretty happy with the way my body looks, overall. So, it wasn’t that I felt particularly close to the author or that I completely identified with her, although like most women, I certainly have things about myself I wish I could change.

I think the reason her post put giant tears in my eyes and made me catch my breath was that it directly addressed something I have been dealing with myself. I’ve mentioned that I gained some weight back in January. I’ve been trying to ditch it, but I haven’t had much success. It’s been really upsetting to me, and I think I am starting to connect the dots as to why. It’s not really about the weight exactly – sure, I wish some of my clothes fit a little better and I liked the way I looked last summer, but a few extra pounds do not look bad on me. I’m upset not about the weight… I’m upset because it is effecting my confidence. I feel like I should be able to just do what I did before and it should come off. But it hasn’t.

This probably wouldn’t be a big deal, except that I have gone through several confidence busting incidents in the last few months. When you start to feel like you can’t even control your own body the way you did before, it eats at your faith in yourself. My weight loss and fitness was something I have been rather proud of, and lately, it’s been slipping. It’s hard when other things in my life are in the same boat. There is a lot of “what is wrong with me??” kind of thoughts going on.

But Andrea turns it around, she celebrates all the things that her body can do that it couldn’t do before. And seriously, look at some of the amazing things she can do! She is a badass!!I mentioned I just achieved a personal record in weight lifting the other day, and honestly, I feel like I have a lot more in me. What if I relax a little and instead of beating myself up, give myself a little credit for all that I can do now – and for all the goals I have in the future? How would that feel?

I think I’ll give that a try.

 

Photo credit: Scott Swigart via flickr

New Starts

bird on a branchI’ve been a little trepidatious about starting Stage 2 of my New Rules of Lifting for Women plan. There are two things making me nervous: 1) I’m not familiar with some of the exercises and 2) I’m not sure how long the routine is going to take, so I am not sure how to plan my morning. So, I did a “practice run”! I chose the lightest weights possible (an empty bar, for example,) and just ran through the motions. I did the full sets so I could see how long it took. I gave myself a half hour and I ran out of time. I’m sure I will be faster once I have done it a time or two, but that is all good to know. I’m always such a Nervous Nelly, but it is better that than not being able to lift because I pulled a muscle doing something stupid!

My doctor’s appointment is a week away. I’m hanging in there, but I am really looking forward to getting this process going. I am just so sensitive to everything. Someone asked me a question the other day – a perfectly innocent question with no negative connotations meant – but it spurred a long crying jag. I’m so tired of feeling this way.

….AGH! While in the middle of typing this, my doctor’s office called. They wanted to reschedule my appointment out to July 15th! Apparently my doctor is going to be gone next week. (I’ve decide to believe that she has an emergency trip to some disaster stricken location to provide aid to people in desperate need, because if she is rescheduling for a vacation I’ll scream. Doctors should know their schedules in advance.) I pretty much lost it on the phone with the receptionist, who fortunately, understood. She talked to the doc and managed to squeeze me in the following Monday at 7:45AM. She apologized for it being early – heck, I don’t care if it was 3:00AM if it meant I could start getting some help.

Okay, time for some chamomile tea…

Over the last week I have been doing an online health coaching dealie-do that my insurance company offers. It’s surprisingly useful, but some of the suggestions about eating habits and exercise make me grin. Things like “Try just going around the block once a day,” make me I giggle. I know it is really helpful for many people, but it is definitely a suggestion from a computer. C’mon website dealie-do – don’t you remember 5 screens ago when I filled in that I walk an hour a day 7 days a week? …and this is why computers will never replace human therapists.

 

 

 

 

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.