Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Accomplishments of the Past 6 Weeks

August 18 I set a goal to exercise 5 x/week, including ab exercises. I’m happy to report that since then, I have exercised 5x/week, 2x toning exercises and 3x cardio. Occasionally, they have been “low intensity” workouts, but most have been “moderate” to “high” intensity. That’s 30 workouts in 6 weeks! I’m proud of myself for accomplishing that goal. I definitely feel stronger and more toned. I can bike better (in higher gears), too.

But I didn’t do abs 5x/week. My abs are strong; I can do really difficult ab exercises, but they don’t have endurance. You know how you wake up with the flattest stomach of the day? Well, mine is hanging out by noon. The ulterior motive of my goal of exercising more often was to fit into my clothes better, and I fit into some a little better.

In the end, although I often had to think about how I was going to fit in a workout that day, I am happy to have accomplished my goal. I know I am a stronger, healthier person for doing it that often and I feel better overall. I also know it’s not over. I can’t just stop now; I have to continue exercising 5x/week. The goal was just to establish the habit. Now I have the habit, and I know it’s a good habit to have. . .

Next time, my goals for October. . .

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Working out with a friend

I saw my friend Lee at the gym the other morning. We used to work out together early in the mornings, but we stopped months ago. She said that nowadays, early morning is the only time she has to do it, so she’d be going to the gym in the mornings, lately. I jumped on the chance to go with her, encouraging me to get the workouts over with before the day started. For months I’d tried to workout first thing in the morning, and even in the early morning daylight of summer, I just couldn’t get myself up unless I had to. So why, now that it’s dark in the early mornings, was I suddenly so eager to go with Lee? Well, I think it’s the motivation of going WITH someone that got me excited. If I know I’m meeting someone, I can’t talk myself out of it, like I can do SO easily to myself.

This week, I have Personal Training clients four early mornings, so I will be at the gym, but not working out, myself. And yes, the motivation of meeting someone will get me there, along with coffee.

It was nice, back when, to shower and get my day going at the usual time, knowing I had already worked out before my family woke up. Nowadays, a little extra sleep always sounds better. But if I had someone to work out with, maybe I’d do it.

Body Fat Analysis

At the Harbor Bay Club, we got a new Tanita Body Fat Analyzing scale! My first impression of it, after receiving 9 different numbers about me, was that it was too much information! In addition to your weight and body fat %, it gives your total body water %, muscle mass (lb.), physique rating, BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), metabolic age, bone mass (lb.) and visceral fat. I spent some time playing with it and learning about all the information it gives and, more importantly, what it means.

Then I “analyzed” myself in two different modes: as a female adult and as a female athlete. Tanita defines an “athlete” as someone who exercises 10 hr/wk, which I do not, or someone with a lifetime of fitness, which sounds more like me. As an “athlete” I had higher total body water, muscle mass, BMR, and bone mass. I also had a lower body fat %, metabolic age and visceral fat than as an “adult.” So all the good things were higher, and all the bad things were lower in “athlete” mode. Hmm, that’s a good mode to measure in! What’s surprising, though, is that my metabolic age was 39 in “adult” mode, whereas it was 26 in “athlete” mode, 15 years younger than I am! I would think that compared to the average American adult, I might seem much younger, not only 2 years younger, while, compared to other athletes my age, I’m not much of an athlete, so I would seem closer to my actual age. Anyway, the fancy scale is a good diagnostic tool to use to see improvements over time.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuning It Up and Turning It Up

I shaved 3 minutes off my bike ride from HBC to WA Park to pick up Maya from preschool! How’d I do that?! Well, I will contribute some of it to Mother Nature and her lack of wind today. Otherwise, I contribute it to tuning it up and turning it up.

Last week we were at Alameda Bike, and I had a coupon for 15% off parts & accessories. I wasn’t planning on buying anything, but the coupon made me think about what I might need. I got a new seat, fitted for my “sit bones.” I bought new grips that are surprisingly comfortable, and I knew I needed a new bell (gotta have a bell on Shoreline Ave.)! They also oiled my chain a bit. My bike doesn’t squeak anymore and it rides more smoothly. All told, I spent $75 and shaved 3 minutes off my time! Aaah, the wonders of a tune up!

The other time improvement was due to intervals. In the Intro to Spin class I took, one exercise was to ride no-handed but still bent over the handlebars. So I tried it for just 10 pedal-spins. It took a lot of abs and put all the force in my legs. With more force in my legs, I ended up going much faster. So every now and then I’d do another 10 spins no-handed, which revved up my speed.

So a bike tune up and turning up the intensity in my riding cut 3 minutes off my ride. Let’s see how my abs feel tomorrow!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Balance Exercises

In my month of 5x/wk of exercise, I have come to realize I need to adjust my toning workouts to address my personal needs better. My core needs more toning, and my legs and shoulders need less bulk. I still need to keep them toned, but I’ll focus less on them and more on my core.

I’ve recently had my Personal Training clients do a balance exercise every session because as we age, falling can result in more serious injuries. As they balance, I tell them to keep their knees soft to absorb and adjust to the wobbly surface they are standing on and keep their abs tight to keep their bodies upright.

So I decided to do balance exercises myself. I’ve cut out leg-focused exercises and instead balance every time I do upper body exercises, engaging my legs and core while working my upper body. I’ve also cut out shoulder-specific exercises, and I do exercises where my shoulders are used as secondary muscles instead. I do lots of abs, using balance and focusing on all the different ab muscles, and then stretching to keep my muscles long and lean. The next day, I could feel it in my legs and upper body! The day after that, I could feel it in my abs!

Meanwhile, Nick noticed the amount of balance that could be used on BART. He calls it “BART surfing.” If you stand without holding on, you use a lot of balance to keep from falling over! It’s a great challenge and keeps you awake! But stand near something in case you need to hold on!

Biking to Preschool

So my latest cardio plan is to bike, instead of drive, to pick up my kids from preschool and daycare. Originally, I thought I’d bike them in the morning, but c’mon, seriously, how unrealistic is that!? I can hardly get them there on time, in a car, even if I do as much as possible to prep the night before! (set out clothes, make lunches, set out breakfast, program the coffeemaker, etc.)

Wednesday was the first day of my plan. I have a Personal Training client at the Harbor Bay Club (HBC) until 11:30 and preschool ends at noon at Washington Park. That’s enough time to bike between the two, dragging a trailer. But I was slow out of the gates due to paperwork, saying “hi” to familiar faces, receiving phones calls, etc. By then, I only had 17 minutes to bike to preschool, but it took me 22 minutes to do it! Fortunately, I saw all the other parents and kids leaving, so, although I was the last parent to pick up her kid, it was only by a minute. Altogether, I rode from HBC to WA park, to Zoe’s daycare on 5th St., and home to Krusi Park, about 7-8 miles. Not far, but I was pulling a trailer weighing 35 lb. empty and 100 lbs. full! Total time: ~1 hr.

Note to self: leave immediately after Personal Training session ends to pick up Maya on time!

With time, I’ll get stronger and faster, and then it’ll get cold and rainy, and I’ll get back in the car instead! LOL!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Exercise Alone or With the Kids?

After dropping off Zoe at daycare and Maya at her first day of preschool, I spent some time, alone, thinking about what I want to do during those 3 hours 2x/week of alone-time. I listed all the things I do, divided into groups of things I can do with the kids vs. alone.

I’d always thought I needed to exercise alone, yet I felt I was wasting my alone-time doing it then. Confusing contradiction there. Once I broke down “exercise” into specifics, it became clear that I could do it with my kids around. For example, I can bike with the girls in the bike trailer. I can do toning exercises at home while the girls and I watch a 30-minute video. Maya gets a kick out of watching me exercise and enjoys trying to “help” me by sitting on me or pushing me up from underneath while I do a plank. My other option with the kids is to put them in the HBC daycare while I work out, which costs much less than their babysitters do. Really, the only exercise that I need to do alone is running.

So now I have fewer excuses not to exercise, and I realize I can do it with my kids, saving my precious alone-time for things I really need to do alone.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mission Accomplished!

My one-month goal, set August 18, was to exercise 5 days/week, which I’m happy to say I have done for the past 4 weeks! Lately, I’ve been doing double workouts, so it’s better to say that I want to do 2 toning workouts/week and at least 3 cardio workouts/week, rather than counting the “days” I work out.

The results of my workout efforts are many: Some shirts fit better in the belly, which was a big goal. I can see that I’m getting more of a waist and less of a log-shaped torso. That’s really important because, besides it being unhealthy to carry excess fat in the abdomen, I think a round belly makes me look older.

Unfortunately, though, my shoulders have gotten too big for some of my shirts, and my jeans are tight in the lower thighs, which means my shoulders and legs are getting too muscular. I need to cut down on the shoulder & quad exercises and keep stretching a lot to keep them toned but lean.

My goal date is Sept. 18, but I might just draw this one out through the end of the month and start fresh next month. That would allow me to tweak my workouts to focus less on shoulders and quads and continue focusing on abs and cardio. I’d like to slim down, stay toned but lose bulk, which means eating less. Unfortunately, that’s really hard for me, so it’s easier for me to add cardio instead.

In the next couple weeks I’ll think of the next one-month goal.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Double Workouts

Funny that I should happen to do a double workout last Sunday because I’ve been doing that this week too! It’s just worked out that I’ve had lots of time to work out on Tuesday and Thursday, but not on Monday and Wednesday.

Tuesday I did toning exercises in the middle of the day, and then biked to pick up my girls from daycare late that afternoon. The problem was that I was stinky and sweaty all afternoon between workouts. Why shower if I knew I was just going to get sweaty again a few hours later?

Because I didn’t really like being sweaty all day, I changed my plan on Thursday. I met a friend for a fast walk, and then did toning exercises afterward. The toning exercises were really tough, and a few times I felt light-headed when I stood up. What was up with that? Was it the double workout that left me listless?

Then I remembered that I’d eaten a small breakfast 5 hours earlier and I’d only eaten a power bar for dinner at work the night before! Well, no wonder I had no energy! It wasn’t the double workout that made me so tired; it was trying to workout while running on fumes! Yes, the power of food: it gives you energy!

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Accounting of Exercise

Sunday, my family went on a lovely bike ride around Alameda. Nick was pulling the bike trailer with Maya & Zoe in it (~100 lb. total), which means it was a slow, leisurely ride. So my questions is whether a “low intensity” bike ride for 70min. followed by “low intensity” toning exercises are considered exercise? And, can I count them as 2 workouts (to meet my goal of 5x/wk)?

I used my fancy heart rate monitor which tracks all my info. and made it clear that the intensity was, indeed, low. My HR was mostly 50-60% of maximum, sometimes lower, which is definitely low intensity. We rode for 10 ½ miles at a speed of 5-12 mph, averaging 8.8 mph, which is quite slow. It says I burned 568 calories, which I find very hard to believe. When we returned, I did some toning exercises, but I was also distracted, so I took a few minutes’ break between each exercise.

So this is the accounting of exercise: adjusting the numbers and justifying them to make them sound good. Yes, well isn’t low intensity also called “fat burning?” Don’t I burn more “fat calories” by keeping my heart rate low? And if the computer says I burned 568 calories, it must be true, right? And if I did a cardio workout (biking) AND strength training, isn’t that like 2 workouts?

The most important thing I learned is to just work out during the week so that I don’t have to worry about it on the weekends. But I’m still going to count it as 2 workouts!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Initial Improvements!

Yea! I’m starting to notice some progress after 2 ½ weeks of commitment to exercising 5x/week! (Of course, it always takes 2 weeks or so before starting to see improvements in a health/fitness program.)

I’ve been biking, rather than driving, when possible, and I’ve noticed my legs are getting stronger. I’m downshifting less and upshifting more.

Also, I’ve been swimming laps once a week and have noticed I’ve improved my cardio. I can swim 10 laps non-stop more easily than before.

Most importantly, my girth is decreasing! A couple of my tops that used to be too snug, now, fit in the belly!

That’s my real goal: for all my clothes to fit me comfortably again. Even so, I hop on the scale now and then and have gained 2 lb. since starting this venture. Nine months ago the scale read 7 lb. less than now, but if all my clothes fit, I don’t care what the scale says.

This weekend, I’ve got to make up for the 2 days this week that I skipped exercising. Now that I’m starting to see progress, I need to be sure to keep it up!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I'm trying to accomplish more, so I'd planned out the day in detail, especially what I'd do, alone, during the 4 hr. I'd have a babysitter. But my babysitter didn't show up. I called after 15 min., to no avail. This was the stumble, the question was: Was I going to recover or fall to pieces? Could I go through with my plans for the day with kids in tow? Uh . . . I guess so. That's the "recovery." It's psychological: I had my plan, which included 4 hr of "alone time." Without the babysitter, then what? It's the same when someone gets sick: Do you throw all plans out the window or "recover," modify plans as needed, and continue with the day?

The same is true of living the SWEET Life: If you stumble, you need to recover, not fall. If I miss Sleep too many days, I need to decide to either take a nap or drink some caffeine to wake up, rather than slogging through the day unproductively. If I Eat junk food for lunch one day, I need to eat a healthy dinner, rather than thinking my eating plan is ruined and continuing to eat crap the rest of the day. If I don't Exercise, I need to plan ahead to exercise the next day, rather than dwelling on what I didn't do. In short, I need to "recover," not give up, and not fall to pieces.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Santa Cruz & "Weight Management"

Today is Labor Day, so we went to Santa Cruz for the day. It was a beautiful day to spend at the beach, but you can imagine how well we ate: chips, corndogs, sodas. On the way home this evening, we picked up fast food Chinese, supposedly healthier than other fast food chains? And I was starving, so I ate too much, too fast. Ugh! My stomach feels like a beach ball right now.

And so much for exercising every weekday; I didn't exercise today. That means I'll have to make up for today, next weekend. I've decided not to try to exercise first thing in the morning. I just can't do it anymore, and I've been trying with little success for the past nine months! I'm going to give in to the fact that it's just not for me and plan to exercise later in the day. I've planned my times each day this week; now I just have to follow through . . .

My sister-in-law Linda was in Santa Cruz with us, studying Weight Management on the beach. She's a Registered Dietitian. "Weight Management" is a buzz word these days; it seems to be the polite way to say "obese." Interesting juxtaposition: swimsuit-clad people, many of whom need "weight management" next to lithe Linda, a dietitian, reading about weight management. It was interesting to learn from her about how overeating leads to so many health problems and how some medications cause weight gain. All the while, Nick and I were munching on chips an soda!