Try an exercise class they said…

I confess, I’m a cardio junky. I’m also sure that to those who’ve read my blog this is no surprise. As much as I try to get in strength training or mix my exercise up with activities other than running, running is my thing.

I know I don’t put enough into cross training and I also know I’d be a better runner if I did. So on the advise of friends, I signed up for a total body conditioning class this morning. What I really wanted was a yoga class, but those were only on the weekdays. Zumba was in the morning but felt like it just added to my cardio fixation. Besides, reading about the class tbc class, it seems similar to what I did at home.

About this Class

This total-body workout targets muscles from head to toe to build strength and endurance while improving flexibility. Light weights such as dumbbells or body bars are used to shape and tone while improving body alignment and posture.

Now, there was this little tickle in the back of my brain from trying out crossfit.  That single time left me barely able to walk or climb stairs for a week. The description was suitably vague enough that even Tom thought it could go either way – pilates or crossfit.

At 9:20a I walked up to the studio and waited patiently with the other class members as the Zumba class finished up. At 9:30a we all walked in and I glanced around to get a sense of what I was supposed to do. Turns out I had to get a mat, stepper and  dumbbells. I grabbed the 5 lbs after testing the 10 lbs.

The music gets going and things are getting started. Stepping in place, squats, traveling around the stepper, some running in place and jumping jacks. Yeah, this wasn’t so bad. And then…

It was stepping time. Up and down, cross wise, double tapping, arms swinging. It was like having to dance on the stairs! I could see myself in the mirror completely confused about the steps and barely able to keep my balance or the routine going. When we say white people can’t dance, or jump, well that really is me. I was pathetic. It was embarrassing at first and then I had to just contain myself as the rest of the class looked like an exercise video and I was about ready to burst out laughing at myself.

Then we took a quick break to pick up the dumbbells. And here is where the instructor turned into a drill sergeant. No wimpy 5 lb-ers for us. Oh-no, we had to start with at least 10 lbs. She was even showing (bragging) about her 12 lb-ers. She made us weaklings go back and pick those bad boys up and then hold them out to our sides. That was also only the beginning. All our moves now had arm movements with our stepping movements. It was a nightmare. Bad form and now I couldn’t even move my arms!

Anyway, this class was much more crossfit, HIIT and bootcamp mixed together. The saving grace was actually the last 5 minutes when we did ab work. Can you believe that this was the relaxing part? I’d downed almost all my water, was sweating at the back of my neck, and trying to hide from the instructor at the end.

60 minutes of total body conditioning is what I signed up for and 60 minutes of total body conditioning is what I got. I can’t say I enjoyed it. But, I can’t say I won’t go back. I will, next Saturday morning if only to stick to my goal of strength training and prove that I won’t be the weakling in the class forever. But, I have to say, I think I’ll still look ridiculous trying to doe the moves!

Update: Definitely feeling the tightness in my outer and inner thighs and triceps. But, hit the gym this morning for a 30 min run on the treadmill and 60 minutes of vinyasa yoga. Between the two, I feel much better. Here’s to Saturday and another TBC…

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Find My Healthy Living Motivation – Got a Puppy!

After two years of what I call ‘the program’, I’m in a new phase that seems to be harder than the first. First it was hit my goal. Then it was make it last a year. Now I need something to keep it going forever. Even after all this time, old habits creep in and that immediately adds to the waistline. So, I need another goal post.

Puppy!

Alright, so staying healthy by having a puppy sounds like a bad idea. Almost as bad as having a baby to save a relationship. But, hear me out.

I have two beautiful dogs now Sophie (husky) and Kia (eskimo) who are my white fluffy old ladies going on 14 and 15. They can no longer go on walks and spend their time lounging at my feet, begging for scratches and rubs, and hanging out in our yard together for some exercise. The days when I’d have to walk them separately or be pulled like I was the sled are way past. And, to be honest, I am terrified of the day when they are no longer with me.

A new puppy adds another dimension of getting up and going out in my day that has to be routine. I won’t just be active for me, a puppy is going to be demanding that I keep moving. My old ladies only have so much in them, and while I know they will be great grandmothers and help in training, they are not going to give that pup the exercise it needs. In fact, without me getting on the puppy move-it program, Sophie and Kia are going to get a little worn out. That is the other motivator.

Lastly, with my youngest only a couple years from leaving the next, that leaves one big empty space in our home. We will then be official empty nesters. What better way than to add a fur kid?

Tom and I had a drawn out conversation about the next dog. What we are looking for. What breeds would be best. When would be a good time. My checklist was a running/trail running companion, snuggler, and partner in crime (doing stuff with me – all legal of course). My husband was looking for a companion and hiking dog. We both wanted a good temper and when the grandkids come, a dog that would be safe around them.

We finally broke down at Thanksgiving after another one of my online puppy picture looking sessions led me to an adorable Aussie mix. Well, Tom knew I was ready and it turned out he was ready too. After several links of breeders found and numerous emails and phone calls, we finally had our girl, born only a week before.  Here is our 3 week old wigglebutt (Australian Shepherd). Can’t wait to welcome her home and into our brood.

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And, since I mentioned my old dames and of course we also have two kitties (Essie and Bri), I may as well introduce them too.

Goal Weight: One Year and Beyond!

I didn’t really think it was possible. Really. I may demonstrate resolve and confidence in my blogs, but as with most (all) social media you always put your best self forward. I have shown some of my personality warts: paranoia, fashionista-itis, maybe a little judgement. Hopefully not too much. What I mostly tried to do was tell you, and myself, that all was great and that staying positive and motivated is the key.

It has been some time since I checked in. My trip to Europe certainly threw me for a curve and I’m still in recovery mode. Having also gone back to Europe this fall for work wasn’t helping either. I love German-Austrian and Eastern European food way too much. Brings me back to childhood. And a beer at every corner and park bend to cool off in 90+ degree heat and those hikes in the Alps wasn’t helping either. The beer garden is a way of life there. The only saving grace was keeping up my running, walking 25K steps a day and 20 mile bike rides several times a week, swimming in a glacial lake, and hiking up castle hills and mountains. And I still gained four pounds.

Back in the real world, all that activity is behind me until my next vacation.My typical week looks like:

  • 4 days running
  • 2-3 days alternate activity (swim, hike, paddle, bike, elliptical)
  • 1 couch potato day (unintentional or just plain lazy)
  • 1500 – 1800 calories per day
  • 12K steps per day
  • Mostly healthy diet with 1-2 splurge meals for date and friend nights
  • Beer almost daily – a habit from abroad that I’m not giving up

What I accomplished in body image:

  • waist: 31 to 24
  • chest: 38 to 34
  • pants: 12 to 00
  • tops: large to extra small
  • dresses: 14 to 2
  • shoe size: 6 1/2 (sometimes 7) to 6
  • boots: no longer need wide calf
  • Still 4′ 11″ – didn’t get taller as weight couldn’t pull me down anymore, but at least I didn’t shrink!

I swing three pounds and there are days when I’m so bloated I could just scream in frustration. But, I’ll never get back to 108 unless I get back on the strict program and that’s okay. Tom wasn’t that thrilled with me there and likes a little more on my bones. But, I also think some of the increase is from muscle. My skin is much tighter now than when I was the same weight over a year ago. There is also more muscle definition. So, 110 – 113 is not a bad place to be. (Although I secretly wish I could be 108 again, its just too much work)

Overall, every day is still a mindful day. I have good ones and bad ones. There isn’t a final destination but rather a method to living healthy. The benefits have outweighed the work to get here and stay here. Never could I have had as much fun on our summer vacation, skied as much last winter, gotten reacquainted with the White Mountains, or rekindled my marriage without being healthy and fit.

Do I want to…

  • just lie on the couch all day
  • stuff myself with gelato
  • slam through a juicy burger
  • have that extra slice of pizza

Hell ya!

Then I remember, I’m 49 and can do the same things I did when I was 19, and do them better. It’s my own Benjamin Button story. That’s what keeps me going…

2016 on the left, 1 month before I started my journey.  2018 on the right, this summer.

Vacationing Abroad: 8 Tips to Myself On Maintenance

Maintenance is hard, even with  my extreme paranoia. I actually got up to 112 on the scale, gaining 5 pounds from my lowest point and 3 pounds more than I feel comfortable at. So, the past two weeks I’ve upped my activity and watched more closely what I was eating. I’m down to 109.7 today. Not bad, but still only a few ounces shy of my max desirable weight. Especially with what’s coming up. I need all the wiggle room I can get.

I am 6 days away from our 15 day European vacation. Traveling on my own I can be more in control of my schedule, activities and eating. Traveling with Tom, that’s another story. There are so many things we want to do that fitting in my runs and eating healthy will be interesting. Add in the fact that Tom can eat anything and not gain a pound is just the opposite of what happens to me.

Last summer our RV road trip was a bit easier when I had my kitchen traveling with me. Every meal wasn’t at a restaurant. This year is different. Hotel breakfasts. Beer gardens. Restaurants. Ruin Bars. Rib sticking Austrian, Czech, Hungarian and Slovenian comfort foods. Oh yeah, and the wineries!

It’s been a while since I traveled and had a formal attack plan either to lose weight or stay on track. So, was going back through my blogs and diaries to see what might help me this time around. I think I have a plan:

  1. Come prepared to run: Every trip I pack my running clothes. For two weeks with little access to laundry, I need to be more prepared. So, my carry-on is going to be my running locker. Shoes, socks, shorts, shirts, bras, flip belt, and huge playlist.
  2. Have maps ready: I normally just go up to the reception desk or concierge, even in Europe, and ask for running routes. While I could do this, in the interest of no excuses and being prepared I’m printing maps out and highlighting the routes and mileage.
  3. Hike, hike, and more hiking: A key activity on our list is hiking through the Alps. On these days I’m not going to run (unless on the trail!). My hope is that I do enough that it makes up for and then some of the activity time my running would normally account for.
  4. Local markets: One of the things I love in Europe, the farmer markets. You can always find stalls of fruits and vegetables. Some will sell wine, cheese and breads. There isn’t any need to always eat at restaurants when you can pack a canvas bag with fresh produce and picnic on the Danube.
  5. Go vegan/vegetarian: I’m not at all vegan or vegetarian. I love my meat, eggs, cheese. But, keeping my waist in check means upping my veggies. The good thing is I’ve found there are plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes on restaurant menus in the European cities.
  6. Make Tom my tourist running buddy: Tom and I get out every other morning together to run some of our local trails. He is way faster than me. But, I run farther. This weekend he ran side by side with me for 4 miles (still short for me) rather than his typical 3 miles. And, he like it. Me too! So, I am taking some of the maps and looking at routes where we can do a fun run past local sites to scope out our surroundings.
  7. Bikes!: My mother went on a tour where the group got out in a couple cites where they picked up city bikes and cycled around. There are tons of bike trails in Vienna and city bikes available. I’m scoping out the kiosks/bike dispensers so we can go on our own bike tours.
  8. Just relax: I’m going to have a few bad days. There is going to be some amazing food. There will be lazy days. There will be our visits to the beer gardens and ruin bars that add empty drinking calories. But, that is what vacation is for. Tom is planning on gaining some pounds. I’m planning on holding the line. Ultimately, I don’t want to obsess but enjoy. Gluttony on a few days, just not everyday.

Finding Inspiration In Tucked Away Places

I posted the other day on tips to healthy living. A theme in the post was about finding your motivation. I was amazed by the number of people that liked the post. For a year I quietly posted on my blog as a way to stay motivated myself and if someone came and read it, great. If not, that was okay too.

To be fair, I’m a lurker. I quietly check out a few links, maybe I’ll comment, and there have been a couple followers that have commented back. But mostly, I just diary my days. It isn’t that I’m not interested. A better explanation is that I’m of the introvert type. Happy in my quiet space. Finding inspiration often in my quietest of times.

Thus, it was today that I was jumping through all your likes and inspired by your own journeys and POVs. In particular, there was one post I checked out from a visitor – Brett. In my notification of his like I saw a link and caught the words, “…winter on the prairie.” I clicked through to William Kurelek and Winter on the Prairie.

While I like art, I’m not a passionate follower of artists beyond my freshman year of college art history. So, I had no idea who William Kurelek was nor had I ever heard the name. But, sometimes that doesn’t matter. Art inspires, and his work inspired me.

Each painting, except one, showed a fun cheerful scene where instead of winter being an enemy, it was a friend and playground. Skating, sliding down snow embankments, skiing, and overall just having fun rolling in the snow put a smile on my face. It reinforced how getting through winter doesn’t have to be a hardship with the right mindset.

Thank you to Bret from our neighbor to the north, Oh Canada, where he shows winter is a way of life and not an interruption.

7 Tips To Healthy Living “I did it!”

Does it ever feel like getting healthy is more about cutting things from life rather than gaining? In the beginning of your healthy journey it is one of the biggest hurdles. It’s not fun to avoid those cookies and ice cream. Fitting in exercise means cutting back on what you have to do and what you would rather do – even if that is to just sit and watch your favorite show. It’s really about finding your motivation to get you into better habits and maintain your results.

My motivation was being able to do all the outdoor activities I did before and not have my body hold me back. By doing those activities I would be able to spend more quality time with husband where we could share experiences and not just count time we’d been together.

The result is that this year we did a big hikes through the White Mountains, day long bike rides, paddling on rivers, marshes and lakes, 5Ks, and best of all, hitting the bumps on the ski slopes. Yes, you heard me. At 48 I was bounding through the moguls all day yesterday and I’m both alive and my body, and knees aren’t  complaining today. That’s me on Angel Street on Loon Mtn. Don’t be fooled by the picture, those bumps were 1-2 feet high on an ungroomed black diamond trail.

There are lots of advise lists on how to get to your goals. I’m going to share what has worked for me that isn’t what you may always read. Maybe it gives you some added inspiration as you start your journey, hit a plateau, or are getting discouraged that this might be too hard:

  1. Do something fun. The secret to getting yourself to be active is just getting active. Find things to do that you want to do and require you aren’t sitting. Just wandering through a museum adds steps to your day. Do a little gardening and mulch your own beds. Play in the snow with your kids or take a walk like you did as a kid after the fresh snow. The point of doing this isn’t to lose weight, it is to have fun.
  2. Celebrate progress. No, this doesn’t mean having that extra bowl of ice cream. It means that you give back to yourself. Figure out what progress means to you. Is it weight lost? An activity you can now do? Or a personal best in your favorite activity. Get a mani/pedi. Get a massage, Get a memory bracelet and add a charm or bead for every 10 pounds you lose or inch off your waist.
  3. Move until you can’t stop smiling. Runners know this; it’s the runners high. But it happens for any exercise. After awhile, you just feel good and you will find there is this big goofy smile on your face. You might even start to giggle. That was me yesterday in my last mogul runs. I got that way when paddling. I end my 5Ks that way. No matter how hard the exercise is, even if your are gritting, there is the high that comes and brings a sense of joy and accomplishment. It keeps you going and gets you to do it again.
  4. Have a sweet everyday.  I don’t advocate big sugary deserts. However, for those of us that use food as a reward, or comfort, that is a habit that is just hard to break. What I found, I could swap out that cookie, brownie or sundae for a touch of sweet. I have hard candies, jelly beans, chocolate squares, gummi bears, and frozen fruit and chocolate bars. I allow myself something bit sized (less than 50 calories). Or, I plan in being able to eat a sweet under 100 calories. I never felt deprived.
  5. Challenge yourself. There are tons of challenges in your fitness apps. You can compare yourself and your progress to others through those apps to. Or, you can set goals for the day, week or month. Tell yourself, “I wish I could [fill in the blank].” Make it reasonable and small like you will add 1000 steps to your day. Or, take a look at your exercise progress and compare that to a training plan for a race to see if you can do a 5K, 10K, or even a half marathon. Tie the activity to a good cause and it helps you and someone else. What ever you choose, give yourself something to move toward other than a drop in pant size or weight lost.
  6. Brag. Notice what I did to start this blog? I bragged about my skiing progress. I did something that is hard and maybe even a little crazy to some. Use your accomplishments as a way to celebrate yourself and maybe it also inspires others. This isn’t to say you become obnoxious – strength is quiet. But your healthy journey will begin to show not only in how you look but also by what you share about the new things you can and are doing.
  7. Help others. When you start to make significant progress, it will show. People will start asking you what you are doing. Embrace it. Tell them. It’s not about the 10 point plan to healthy living, but boil it down to your own simple principles. Invite those that are interested in your progress to do something with you – take a walk at lunch, help them run a mile, get together and cook healthy meals, or invite them on an outdoor adventure. If they are serious about making changes, sharing your simples or inviting them in will make you feel good too.

Ten Tips To Stay the Exercise Course in Winter

By now you’re a month into your weight loss resolution, working on getting through your first winter of maintenance mode, or you’re a seasoned healthy liver and the winter doldrums are kicking in. I hear your pain. I’m right there with you. A little honesty, I’m sitting in my hotel room killing time before heading to my meeting and didn’t follow through on my plans for an outdoor run (or any run) this morning.

To be fair, I did go to the fitness center after I checked in to the hotel last night. I even kicked my husband off the phone because talking to him was starting to give me an excuse not to go for my treadmill run. He’d already talked me out of an early evening run through NYC mid-town even though there are a ton of people out and about, perfectly safe, but not to him.

When I get stuck, in a rut, negative, or defeated, I turn to my internal motivation list. Thinking you could use the encouragement too, I’ll share my tips that help me move on and start moving on these short cold winter days.

  1. Create a habit: I have two habits that keep me running. When working from home or at the office, I go to the gym and hit the treadmill before I eat lunch. When I’m traveling, I check-in to the hotel, drop my bags in my room and throw on my running clothes and hit the gym. These habits are working as I can get in 3 of my 5 running days without too much thinking during the week.
  2. Set the right bar: Let’s face it, running outside can be more interesting as you can take in the scenery, especially if you trail run. I can easily run an hour. But, the treadmill is much harder for me as I can only stare at the wall with my music going or watch a TV show. It’s just not enough. So, I reset the amount of time I spend running to a minimum of 30 minutes. I may do more, but I won’t do less. I run slower on days I’m sore or tired and I push hard when my energy is front and center. I listen to my body and mind.
  3. Rest days are okay: In the warm weather I was exercising in one way or another every day. Sometimes I was running in the morning and paddling in the afternoon. Very active.  Winter, completely different. I have a 5 day rule and work at not losing it on my two rest days. It’s hard, but using machines just seems to cause me more aches and pains than outdoor runs and activities. Maybe it’s the cross training. Whatever it is, my two days off works to get my body back and make it easy to keep up my workouts without the excuse that I hurt.
  4. Clean those closets out: I have an enormous walk-in closet. I have years of clothes in all sizes and styles. My bathroom closets and linen closets are full. My storage closets and rooms are piled with old toys, books, furniture and things I never knew I had or wanted. I have spent hours cleaning house on the hoarding. All that walking back and forth, bending, climbing and lifting gives me activity/move minutes. It’s as good as walking to get my steps in and I am getting more organized by the day.
  5. Eat right: If you are slowing down activity wise, the worst thing you can do is increase what you eat or eat more unhealthy food and meals. If during the warmer months I had an especially large meal (my guilty pleasure is the Chinese buffet with dumplings) then I could always go for a trail run or bike ride and feel like I was burning off my gluttony. Keep up your healthy eating program so you don’t sabotage yourself during the slow activity period.
  6. Find a new activity: Never a fan of exercise classes, I did see a couple that looked like fun. No, I haven’t done it yet. But, I am considering hauling my butt to the gym for one of those HIIT workouts. Even if I don’t, I’m still thinking about mixing it up to hold back exercise boredom.
  7. Make a friend pact: I haven’t liked it in the past when Tom would get on me about exercise and eating right. But, that was when I was chubby and in denial. These days, with both of us on the healthy living program, its easier to prod each other if we see slacking. Tom’s even said to get on him. I am ambivalent, but we agreed how he could tell me without me getting annoyed. If it’s not your SO, get your besty or sibling. Healthy peer pressure is good for the heart.
  8. Get outside: I know, its cold. There is ice. While I’m not interested in running outside below 40 degrees, I do love to ski, snow shoe and ice skate. The difference with these activities is that I dress appropriately and don’t get cold because I’m moving. I won’t do this everyday or even every week, but it does break my sulky winter mood when I can get fresh air and a little winter sun on my face.
  9. Research races: Sometimes I just need something to work toward. My inbox started filling with announcements of races in the spring. It got me looking at what would be my first race. It also got me thinking if I could run a 10K or even a half marathon. I don’t want to “train” in the literal sense. But, as I looked at how I exercise and compare that to the training programs I could see how ready I was for these races. Turns out, that 10K isn’t going to be a big deal. That half? I just may be able to check that box this year.
  10. Talk the talk, walk the walk: The more I relate to other runners or tell my story to friends and acquaintances the more it drives my accountability to keep it up. It would be more than horrifying to have done all this work to only turn back into the chubby pumpkin by the spring.  Talking and sharing makes me more accountable.