Monday, January 26, 2009

Hello, Old Friend. Now Get Out.

One of the things I love about fitness are the endless possibilities. Don't feel like running? Get on the elliptical. Elliptical too boring? Try bike intervals. Don't like the bike? Grab a jumprope. Incline walk. Run laps around the building. If you really want to get and stay active, excuses don't stand a chance.

I was introduced to some new possibilities last week when Capt. Awesome broke out his shiny new toys - sliding pads for lunges, ankle bands, and a new balance board. We had a great time testing everything out and laughing over how ridiculous we looked marching around the room with giant rubber bands around our ankles. But, it was a break from the routine and my lower body definitely felt it for a few days.

I stumbled upon some new possibilities again later in the week, but these weren't as much fun. I received a harsh reminder that, like exercise, nutrition is also constantly in flux. And, I discovered some new ways to screw up my diet and wreak havoc on my metabolism, sleep quality, and general well-being. Yep, you guessed it - sugar.

You might remember a blog post last year about banishing sugar from my diet, and I'm happy to report that I was successful at showing my fair-weathered friend the door. Since then, I've felt amazing, had much more energy, increased my stamina in the gym, and turned a corner in my body composition and training.

But the past month or so has been stressful, and I realized this past weekend that sugar had weaseled its way back into my good graces. Sleepless nights, jittery nerves, an irritable attitude, sluggish energy, probing questions from my husband about whether or not I was mad at him, and a constant nagging at my conscience told me that something was not right in my nutrition. It didn't take a genius to figure out why I was suddenly bitch supreme. Even organic all-natural sugar is still sugar. Call it fruit-sweetened, call it honey, call it stevia or whatever new kind of sugar-that's-not-really-bad-for-you-sugar-but-is-made-from-sugar is on the market. It's still sugar.

I was pissed! How could I have let this sneak in so...sneakily? Did I really get so comfortable and confident that I let my guard down that far? A quick glance at my food journal told me in black and white - while there are endless possibilities for getting and staying active, there are also endless possibilities for screwing it up.

Whatever. It's not the first time I've caught myself mid-backslide, and it won't be the last. Now that I've spotted the little tramp, I can easily toss her out the door and lock it behind me. She can pound her little fists and throw a fit, but I don't care. I can't stand that girl.

Optimum health is a journey, we all know that by now. There are no absolutes, no guarantees, no sure-fire silver bullets. But there is a rear-view mirror, and if we're lucky we'll be smart enough to glance in it once in a while and remember where we've been. I've been down the road with bad nutrition before, and I never want to go back. Shame on sugar for trying to trick me!

This is usually the part of my blog where I have some snappy little conclusion thought, something profound and contemplative, like when Doogie Howzer used to sum up at the end of each episode. But I don't really have that today, so I'll just end with this: health is full of endless possibilities for success and failure. Luckily, we can choose which ones we let in.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Good Old-Fashioned Upper Body

Last Thursday, when I arrived at the gym and announced to Capt. Awesome that I wanted to do some "good old-fashioned upper body," I was looking for a distraction from my usual break-neck obstacle course of leaping roaring tigers, balancing over hot coals, running through pelting sand, and the other sadistic stuff he has me do each morning. Not that I'm complaining; I love it. I was just a little nostalgic for some plain old bicep curls. Maybe an overhead press. Perhaps something as mundane as a tricep dip.

"Old-fashioned?" he asked. "Okay."

He plunked two weight plates on the floor and instructed me to get into a push-up position with my feet in each plate and walk myself across the room with my hands, dragging the rest of me behind. I was confused. On what planet does "good old-fashioned upper body," translate to "medieval torture"? But I'm game for anything so I gave it a shot. I made one lap and hung the weights back up. "Uh-uh, you've got two more." Crap.

Two sets later I asked what was next. Flipping tires? You want me to go outside and scale a building?

Instead, we headed to the cable machine for some chest work (I call them "tree huggers"), fancy bicep curls that made me look like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and some lat pulls, made all the more imposing by being about 18 inches away from my Tuesday/Thursday training partners, who were doing normal stuff like chest flyes and bench presses and making cute comments about my workout. I tried to flick some sweat on them but they were too quick.

Then it was time for my requisite 300 reps with the jump rope, where I was reminded by my reflection in the mirror that I really need to get some better sports bras if I am going to do that much jumping in the presence of other people.

My work done for the day, I got in my car and wondered how Awesome has come to know me so well in such a short period of time. He knew I didn't really want a back-to-basics workout, just a change. And while there is comfort in going to the gym and doing the basics, I know that those workouts are behind me. I'm ready to challenge myself beyond how much I can lift (which, despite all of my trash talk, isn't that much in comparison to some other serious fitness types) and more with what I can do. I still wouldn't call myself an athlete but I am becoming a lot more athletic, and that is fun.

What I did last Thursday was not what I expected, but I guess I have to admit that it was both good and old-fashioned. What I wonder now is whether Awesome realizes the irony of our "old-fashioned" workout being the path to a new phase of my MGP goal.

Nah, he's probably out looking for a car for me to flip tomorrow morning.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Your Gym Stalker, Reporting for Duty

Hey, guess who is 1.5% away from her body composition goal? Um, that would be ME. I can't tell you how happy I am to see my hard work pay off, and after reading this article about the growing levels of obesity in our country, I have never been so happy to be below average. I've still got work to do, but it has been nice the past few days to give myself a pat on the back for a job well done. Not only did I survive the holidays without a net gain, I exceeded my goal and increased my average loss per month. Yeah, I'm pretty stoked.

It's also an exciting time of year because it is January, and for most of us that means a new leaf, a fresh slate, and fighting New Years Resolutioners for treadmill time. You might see knowing smiles or hear some grumblings from the die-hard gym rats when all of the Resolutioners show up, especially from those of us in the "wee-hours-of-the-morning" crowd who like to lord it over everyone else about how hard-core we are. New Years Resolutioners, until they have proven themselves by continuing to show up at workouts for longer than three weeks, are unfortunately given a bad rap for clogging up the gym in January and then falling off the face of the earth soon thereafter. You'll usually see them looking puzzled while fiddling with the buttons on the elliptical and timidly jockeying for space near anything that looks like it might work their abs. And unfortunately, something usually happens - a hectic morning routine, unsupportive spouse, or just plain demotivation due to a failure to immediately look like pre-K-Fed Britney after a week in the gym - and they start finding it easier to hit snooze until they miss so many days that they just never come back.

I love these people.

Every time I meet a new fresh-faced Resolutioner, with their brand-new shoes and iPod arm bands, I am filled with hope. I immediately want to take them under my wing and help them develop habits that will yield lifelong rewards. I peer at them from behind weight machines, encourage them to lift harder and heavier, cheer them on when they're pulling out that last quarter mile, and yeah, I heckle them when they slack off. I want to call them, text them, email them, and be their healthy food cheerleader when they go to lunch with their work friends. I want to send them books and magazines and links to online articles where they can further obsess about their resolution. I guess you could say I have a slight problem with personal boundaries.

What can I say, I want everyone to live a healthier lifestyle through exercise and nutrition to the point where they have to take me aside and confide that I am kind of freaking them out. Well I'm sorry, but that is just a sacrifice I am willing to make.

So if I am talking to you, please be patient. Indulge me. And if your cell phone starts buzzing in the middle of the night, it's only me, texting you to see if you're working out in the morning.

So.....are you?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Perfect Balance

Last week, on January 2, I told Captain Awesome that I wanted 2009 to be a year when we move beyond working out and get more into conditioning. I want to jump higher, run faster, and lift heavier. And, I want to do a better job of getting enough rest. It's going to be a year of finding balance.

It's also going to be a year of transition, flexibility, and adaptation. I hear Awesome talk about new opportunities that are milling around him, and I know he won't be around long. I'm going to have to suck as much out of him as I can before he moves on, and then have the flexibility to adapt to someone else, or take the reins myself. I don't know how much time we have, but I don't need much.

I only need 10 weeks, to be exact. After learning that the July 2009 competition I had originally chosen was held in Las Vegas, I looked for something closer to home. That landed me in March, a mere two months away. I wavered back and forth between panic and excitement. On one hand, I didn't think that gave me enough time. On the other hand, I knew this event was a benchmarking opportunity for future training, not some final destination. And, I liked that rather than a formal competition, this event was a training camp with a competition at the end. It's the perfect opportunity for me to gauge my skills and make adjustments for anything I want to do in the future.

So yesterday, on January 5th, I told Captain Awesome that I decided to do an earlier event and that we needed to amp it up. That apparently inspired him to break out his torture equipment and I spent the next 30 minutes jumping rope, doing crazy one-legged squats, and doing box jumps.

And this morning, I skipped the gym. I hadn't gotten any sleep and knew I needed to get some shut-eye before work. And, I knew I would finally be able to get some lunchtime cardio done. But to lie there in bed and know that I was missing my workout was, well, I felt like a huge slacker. I am going to have to find a way to have balance and get enough rest without feeling like I am slacking off.

So I am back to wavering between panic and excitement. On one hand, I like being obsessive and neurotic and intense about my goals. That's who I am, and I like myself. On the other hand, I know some of my obesessive, neurotic, and intense habits aren't the healthiest, and ultimately I want to achieve all-around good health.

I like to say that we are either moving towards our goals or away from them, and that there isn't much in between. And somehow, skipping my workout this morning is going to move me towards my MGP.

At least it better. :)