A for Effort…

Cade: “Mommy, pick up your weights!”

Me: “No, Mommy can’t use the weights for this one.”

Cade: “But they all have weights, Mommy.”

Me: “Mommy’s not quite strong enough yet, buddy.”

Little man loves to “help” me workout by pointing out whenever I’m not doing something exactly like “them”, but I don’t mind, it’s a fun way to engage while I get my workout completed. The above conversation, though, spurred a mini revelation about exercise in general.

So many times in life we are told we will be graded or evaluated on merit. Pretty much as soon as you enter the school system the idea of work for credit is ingrained into your brain. And I am all about fair evaluations and challenges to help us all grow and learn! But. I do remember a particular moment in middle school that changed my perspective on grades-and all subsequent evaluations-forever. In true ADHD fashion, I had painstakingly rendered by hand a picture of the Michigan flag for my state project. But since I was running out of time to complete the project when I finished the flag-and because pine trees are boring-I used pastels to hastily sketch the state tree. I accomplished everything else in the project to the letter, to the best of my little 6th grader brain ability.

I got a C on the project and a parent teacher conference. My teacher flat out said I cheated, since no-one who drew that flag would also draw that tree. I clearly had had blatant outside help. I was so confused. And devastated. I felt sick to my stomach. I had worked so hard to get that flag perfect. I internalized it as my own fault-not that I was a cheater, I was very hurt and upset by that accusation-but because clearly I had tried too hard. I should’ve halfway done both the tree and the flag, and then none of this would’ve happened.

“Work Smarter, Not Harder” is a slogan I’ve seen everywhere, and the hallmark of EMS. The job is hard enough, no need to make it any tougher. In our true culture of “easier, faster, better” skating through by doing things well but not appearing to put much effort into them is lauded as ideal.

Exercise is the opposite. If you skimp through your workout, you get no A for completion, you burn no extra calories, you win nothing. If you work your tail off and hit muscle failure halfway through-you reap far more. Exercise truly evaluates your EFFORT. I can skate through a lot of workout programs, I’m familiar with the moves, know ways to ease off certain muscle groups, can complete the bare minimum and still say I did it-but the only person that effects, is me. Maybe that’s one of the reasons I love to exercise. You get what you put in. You halfway do the workout you get half the results. You are sloppy and inattentive, you drastically increase your chance of injury. You remain focused and pour in your effort-you reap the rewards!

And there are always ways to improve. Recently I’ve really been paying attention to how I hold my abs in all of the exercises, how I draw them into my spine, remembering to engage them and not let them hang loose-this form protects my back AND works my muscles. When you do squats, you should give your backside a little extra squeeze at the top-not because you have to, but because that works the glutes just a little bit more. There are all kinds of ways to increase your effort in exercise, and I am never penalized for trying my hardest for the first half of the workout and then being barely able to complete the last ten minutes due to muscle fatigue. My effort is always duly rewarded and I take pleasure and satisfaction in that tiny little aspect.

SO go you, wherever you may be on your exercise adventure. Whether you are modifying everything or upping your weights every workout, your effort is paying off. There is no comparison here. One person does a pushup on her toes, another on her knees, both hit muscle failure by the end-BOTH earn an A for effort.

End of an Era…

Ok, ok, that’s a little melodramatic, I mean, it wasn’t an entire era before Leo won an Oscar-but for him I bet it sure felt like one at times!

ANYway, moving on. That’s exactly what I did yesterday-moved on. Hammer and Chisel officially ended on Sunday for me. I completed the 8 weeks of exercise, I put my weights in my closet today, and pulled out my yoga mat. I really loved Hammer and Chisel, I’ll be revisiting it again I’m sure, but for now I need a break from weights. I get bored easily (hey, ADHD) and the battle becomes not necessarily to push play on a workout, but to push play on ANOTHER ONE OF THESE WORKOUTS I HAVE ALREADY DONE AT LEAST TWICE, AHHHHHHH!!! I was going a bit crazy at the end, I felt like I mentally drug myself kicking and screaming through this last week. It was such a relief to fold up the calander, and so satisfying to have completed it from start to finish!

I’ve lost quite a bit of fluff, added a nice amount of muscle (especially my legs. Man, I love them, they are totally “beast-y” as Sagi would say) and feel substantially stronger. My body shape has changed, not so much pant size as how the pants fit, lol. I’m quite a bit looser around the waist and hips, but my newly strengthened quads and calves make skinny jeans a bit problematic, haha. I love it! Maybe I should finally look into leggings. 😉 My favorite part about this strength training is the added strength to my joints. You guys, my joints suck. The number of times I’ve sprained an ankle is easily in the 20s. My hips are a mess (pregnancy and childbirth didn’t help). My wrists are weak, my one elbow is wonky from being fractured and dislocated (it still randomly “goes to sleep” on me when I’m laying down at night), my back is pretty much genetically disposed to fall apart vertebrae by vertebrae until a surgeon adds enough hardware to tack it upright again-the only joint I’ve never really struggled with are, oddly enough, my knees. I mean, sure, they’ve hurt a bunch from running, but I’ve never badly injured them.

Weightlifting requires good form to do safely. And for the past two months I have worked hard on perfecting that form. Maybe I could’ve upped the weights sooner for some exercises, but I knew how crappy my joints were and I didn’t want to screw up and get injured for the sake of my ego. Two weekends ago I took a false step while double carrying both boys in wedge shoes. I rolled my ankle. I caught my stumble with a beautiful side lunge and instantly righted myself with neither a boy dropped or barely even jostled. My thought was, “Crap. I just sprained an ankle.” Reality? It was a bit sore to walk on for a day. End story. I have sprained my ankle in combat boots tripping over my own feet, but rolling an ankle while awkwardly carrying an extra 60lbs of weight wearing 4inch high wedges and I barely get a strain? I was (am!) dumbfounded. My back no longer hurts picking up, putting back down, and carrying the boys. In fact, I haven’t had any back pain (lower or upper) for the past month!

The crowning achievement? I can sleep on my side without my hips screaming bloody murder. Even with a support pillow I’ve had to shift position frequently and often wake up sore since being pregnant with Cade (who will be three in a few months). I had resigned myself to this uncomfortableness as just a symptom of “getting older”. But now it’s gone! Now if only I could get the boys to sleep past 6am…

I am so proud of myself for sticking with this program. I struggle with finishing projects I start (just take a look at my “craft closet”….no, on second thought, don’t.) and two months seems like an eternity for me-but I did it! Not just the workouts (which get boring enough with repetition) but the meal plan!

What now? I’m doing a hybrid of some of my favorite workouts-mostly PiYo and p90x3, though after a week or two I’ll pull out some of my favorite Hammer workouts- while really focusing on adding some miles. I’m keeping one rest day on Thursday, but on Sunday I’m going to take it-not easier exactly, but calmer, and do some p90x3 yoga or isometric balance poses. Yesterday was PiYo, today was a 2 mile run pushing the stroller-maybe I’ll do some yoga tonight, too. We’ll see.

Onwards!

“It’s Not Just WHAT You Say…

…It’s how you say it.” I don’t know how many times my mom said this to me as I tried to navigate my mood swings and emotional outbursts as a child. I’d be pulled aside for a scolding for hurtful words and I’d respond hotly, “but it’s the TRUTH!” And it was-sometimes anyway. The point wasn’t in the truth of my statement, however, it was in the delivery. You can say “true” things in sarcasm, bitterness, anger, and spite. Or you can say those same true things gently, in love, with kindness and tact. <—Do I need to point out which one is the correct response?

Well, as I started this nutrition journey, I sorta reverted back to my six year old self. “but it’s HEALTHY!” as I ate three chicken breasts, an enormous salad drenched in dressing, and later had an apple slathered in peanut butter (the natural “just peanut butter and salt” peanut butter, thank you very much). Yes, bravo, I was technically eating “clean”, my snack choices were “healthy”, I even bought more things organic when I could find them. So how come the ten pounds of baby weight wasn’t budging? How come my energy levels still fluctuated wildly throughout the day? How come I’d go from comatose full to starving in 30 minutes? I was exercising! And gosh darn it, I was eating HEALTHY.

Well. It’s not just WHAT you eat, it’s HOW you eat it. Namely, how much, and how frequently, and how consistently. I’ve got two days left of Hammer and Chisel, we are coming down the home stretch, and the biggest accomplishment for me is that I stuck to the meal plan. First time ever I have taken a hard look at my diet from a nutritional standpoint. You wanna know what it looked like? Carbs. Mostly carbs. And some fruit (which is full of simple sugars-also carbs). LOTS of “healthy fats” (aka cheese and nuts). And maybe two servings of protein a day-usually slathered in oil, ha. I’d eat carb heavy in the morning and be ravenous by lunch where I’d eat a huge meal while the boys napped, then nothing til dinner, and then usually a second dinner after the boys went down. Do you want to know what it looks like now? FOUR servings of protein (I had to DOUBLE my protein intake), three servings of vegetables, two servings of fruit, two servings of carbs, one serving of healthy fat, one serving of seeds/dressing, and two tiny teaspoons of oil/peanut butter. A serving of vegetables is almost double “size wise” a serving of protein. A serving of healthy fats is small, a serving of salad dressing is tiny. I eat around every two hours. I have followed this plant consistently for 8 weeks.

The result? I am eating the same or MORE calories than when I was existing off of mainly carbs and I have lost 8lbs, gained substantial definition and muscle, my energy levels have normalized, I’m sleeping like a rock at night (when the boys let me sleep), and I just overall physically feel fantastic. I’ve discovered that if I eat veggies and protein for breakfast I don’t hit a mid morning crash/snack attack, the best time for me to eat carbs is lunch and bedtime snack, a serving of dressing is actually plenty of dressing for a serving of vegetables-I’ve even stretched it to two servings of vegetables. I actually like kale.

Eating clean definitely helps with being healthy, but at some point you’ll probably have to sit down and examine your diet for not just WHAT you eat-but how you eat it. We sling around “eat a balanced diet” a lot, but truly being balanced doesn’t mean throwing in the occasionally vegetable and patting ourselves on the head. It means daily eating a variety of foods appropriately portioned and evenly spaced. You’re going to have to put some serious effort in at first, but it gets easier. I don’t even have to make meal cards any more, I just keep track on my white board.

When Hammer and Chisel ends on Sunday I’ll probably celebrate a little on Monday (= have as much peanut butter as I want) but I won’t go crazy off my routine because I love how eating to fuel my body (as opposed to just indulging my senses) feels and what it does for me. Following a meal plan, finally balancing my diet-this was a game changer for me. I don’t want to go back. In a few weeks I might even try upping my plan to see if I can’t gain some muscle. 😉 The power of good food!

Second Christmas

So this week gearing up for Hammer and Chisel has been busy and nervewracking. You know, that antsy, fidgety, anticipatory energy like right before giving a speech on something you’re passionate about or running a race or anything you are kindof dreading and excited about all at the same time? That’s how I feel. It’s almost like being a kid at Christmas and being so excited your stomach starts hurting and you begin to imagine all sorts of disasters that might happen to ruin Christmas and by the time Christmas morning arrives- screw presents, you’re utterly exhausted with relief that the cat didn’t become demon possesed and eat Santa Claus.

Tomorrow is my second Christmas morning.

In preparation this week I have created an instagram account to track my progress on here. Come follow me! I have pinterest recipe scoured, meal planned, grocery shopped, food prepped, ToDo list checked, and weekly scheduled in anticipation of the next 60 days.

One thing I thought was important was having some way of tracking progress. Before and After photos are typical- and I took them.

image

Personally, I’m looking for a little more toe gap. How ever will I fit into sandals come summer?!

On top of that, I did a mini “strength test” because for me, honestly, the joy of exercise is not in my appearance but in my capability. So I did a plank, and just barely managed to hold it for 2 minutes. And a wall sit-also struggled to hit that 2 minute mark. And then I attempted pullups (you can see the video on my instagram account… *hint hint* FOLLOW ME ON INSTAGRAM). I managed two and a quarter pull ups. All together, guys, that’s pretty lame. I mean, much better than a few months ago where I couldn’t even do ONE pull up, but still a far cry from where I want to be.

I’m gonna be a beast at the end of this, able to “fly” my 2.5 year old like an airplane for hours, muscle my squirming 15mo old down for a diaper change (a complete body workout) without fail, and double carry the boys 60lbs combined wiggly weight the quarter mile to and from the park without breaking a sweat. I’ll be able to pry them off of the playground one handed, play “ribbet frog” down the hallway until THEY call it quits, and still have enough energy to run and catch them when I say it’s nap time.

It’s going to be epic.

It isn’t to late (it is never too late) to join in the fun! Whether it’s a weight program like H&C, a nutrition plan, yoga, just trying to quit soda-everybody has to start somewhere with living healthier. And now is a GREAT time to start-New Year and all that. Don’t struggle by yourself, come over to the health nut dark side! We have communities of likeminded weirdos in various stages of learning to live healthy, it’s totally cool! Seriously though, let me know what I can do to help you meet your goals, I can’t emphasize enough how important support is for success. 🙂

I’VE GOT TO GO TO BED IT’S H&C EVE! 😀

Slump

“And when you’re in a slump, you’re not in for much fun

Un-slumping yourself is not easily done…” -Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go.

I had that awesome happy moment of feel good when I realized I’d trimmed some inches off last week, and I started p90x3 charged up and raring to go. But, honestly, I’m now in a slump. I almost didn’t work out at all today, feeling grumpy and tired and just icky. There is so much to be done to get ready for this move, the house is so chaotic, the boys are alternately clingy cuddle monsters and hyper misbehaving fools because that’s how they deal with stress-and it is so obvious to me that they are stressed which makes me feel like I’m a terrible mom because not only am I not able to spend as much time playing/reading/engaging with them as normal, they need more time then usual since I should really be helping them adjust better to this huge upheaval of their little lives. I’m worn out. And irritated. And trying really hard not to think about how much I’m going to miss my neighbor and her twins. I’m a mess, you guys.

I managed to work out, but it wasn’t pretty. For the sake of honesty; I stopped a bunch, I modified some, I skipped the cool down and did my own. Then I found Brian and griped to him about the workout before showering. Although I like Tony’s coaching style better then I like Chalene’s, when I finished a PiYo I was SORE. When I finish a p90x3 I typically am sweaty, breathing hard, and my joints are achy-but no muscle soreness. I clearly don’t have the muscle strength to do half of the exercises correctly, and he moves at such a quick pace to cram everything into 30 minutes that I don’t ever have time to get the hang of an exercise (or a direction IN the exercise) before he’s changed it up-which just leaves me feeling frustrated. I’m scrambling around like a demented bug, hopping, crawling, spinning, flailing-it’s ridiculous. And for what?

You know what would motivate me in these workout videos? Someone WITHOUT a six pack and bulgy muscles hopping, crawling, spinning, flailing-and collapsing-just like me. Someone who isn’t in sync, can’t bounce around all speedy and hardcore, who flubs a landing, who stops in the middle of an exercise, who doesn’t have it all together. And then maybe at the end they could do an “after” picture of that person after they had completed all 90 days of the program. Show me people LIKE ME who are getting results. Show me that my struggling and sweating and tripping over my own feet will give me progress. Put someone ordinary in the workout videos, so I can cheer them on in my head while we both stumble through the moves.

So I grumbled my way over to my neighbor (who is two weeks ahead of me in this program) and she reminded me of the progress she’s noticed in her strength and weight redistribution and now I feel a little better. Which just makes me feel worse because WHO AM I GOING TO GRUMBLE TO WHEN I MOVE?!

Well. That would be you guys. Do you ever hit workout slumps? What do you do to help overcome them? Anybody have progress to report? I know in my head that exercise is worth it, but right now I’m just not feeling it.

Moment of Truth

Last night was the moment of truth. We were going to Brian’s Aviation Ball- I had to get dressed. I’ve been cleaning up my diet since February, started and stopped running for a few months before finally being consistent in July-August. Switched from running to PiYo in September, started p90x3 on Monday, and I’ve been drinking ShakeO for a little over a month. Now, I had to fit into a dress I hadn’t worn since college. A form fitting, sleek and satiny affair. Simple-which meant no frills, ruffles, shirring, tucks, or pleats to hide behind.

It zipped!

I would be lying if I said it fit me just the same-I’ve had two kids and my body shape has changed because of that-but it zipped! It was snugger then I would’ve liked, but it fit.

I was told so many times before having the boys that “kids will destroy your body” and “you’ll never be that skinny again” and I am firmly sticking my tongue out and saying, “PHHHHTTTTTTTTT” to all that negative, confidence destroying BS. Your body absolutely changes when you have children-and some of those changes don’t change back-but they don’t wreck your body. Soda does. Fast food does. A sedentary lifestyle does. An unbalanced diet does… And you can fix it. Don’t blame your kids, our bodies are designed for pregnancy and childbirth, which means they were designed to recover from pregnancy and childbirth. Stretch marks may be forever, but pregnancy weight doesn’t have to be.

Yes, I Would Like Some Cheese

I’m done with one month of PiYo. I did the calander, start to finish. I did all the workouts. I’m supposed to tell you now how amazing and life changing it was, how fantastic I feel, how I’m never going back to eating 4 oz of goat cheese and an entire box of triscuits on the couch while heckling American Ninja Warrior in my pajama pants.

Well.

Truth is, I don’t feel great. Let me do a quick run down of how my month went.

1st Week: Ok, I can do this, not too hard. Feels good to workout a bit, definitely feel it in my arms. Her “modifier” lady could probably bench me I am so out of shape.

2nd Week: YEAH MAN. I’M A BEAST! WOOOOO!!! THAT’S RIGHT, CHALENE, WE ARE AWESOME!

3rd Week: I’m still doing this! Look at me! Sticking with a program for longer than 2 weeks! Don’t really feel like I’m ever going to be as ripped as bald guy there, but hey, it could happen, I’ve still got a week left.

4th Week: I am so tired of these workouts. Say that smarmy thing one more time and I will KARATE CHOP YOUR FACE.

Tonight, final workout: Yeah, you’ve all got your six packs and half of you have had children or are over 40 or a Nobel Prize winner or WHATEVER, OK, I GET IT. I GET IT. It’s 9 o’clock my house has passed disaster and moved right into “need archaeological dig to find kitchen floor” I feel so flippin’ bloated (thanks PMS) and it’s RAINY and has BEEN RAINY so the boys are nuts and I’M GRUMPY and I don’t want to hear you tell me how great I feel because I DON’T FEEL GREAT. STUPID PIYO!

PiYoEnd

Yes. I would like some cheese with my whine.

That said, I lost 3.25 inches total spread out over waist, hips, and thighs. So it wasn’t a total bust.

Honestly, working out and eating well can’t be JUST about end goals, although those are really important to keep you motivated. You’ve got to examine your priorities and place your health near the top. You have to understand that everyone needs to exercise regularly. Not just the obese, not just athletes. Everyone.

That’s the only thing that keeps me going on days like today, where everything is a disaster and I feel like I will never make any progress. Even if I never lose one more pound or one more inch, my body needs exercise. My immune system, my skeletal system, my digestive system, my cardiac system, my nervous system…no matter if I DO get a nice 6 pack and killer thighs-I will STILL need regular exercise.

So I did it. I’m not feeling on top of the world, but I am glad I finished.

Tomorrow starts p90x3.

It’s More Then Weight Loss – An Update

I have this wary relationship with scales and measuring tapes. Growing up with a mom who was (among the many hats she wears) an eating disorder specialist made me keenly aware of issues like self image, the media’s portrayal of normal, photoshop, food relationships and assumptions, etc., etc., etc. And for that awareness I am truly thankful. I have a little voice in the back of my head that checks my “healthy binges” to remind me not to overexercise, to cherish the body I’ve been given (its lack of curves a source of much angst in high school), and to wear what makes ME feel pretty-societies fashion opinions be darned. But it also makes me leery of scales and measuring tapes.

So. With a mild sense of concern I “taped”  and weighed myself within the first week of starting PiYo and recorded the measurements. I’m in the middle of the last week of the first month (how’s that for precise, ha) and I’ve been sporadically weighing myself throughout. Anyone who weighs themselves consistently knows that your weight fluctuates from day to day- your “water weight”. And you are also heavier or lighter at different parts of the day so you should weigh yourself at the same time and the same place to get consistent results. I didn’t do any of that, I weighed myself whenever I both remembered and there were no kids present. It came as no surprise that at one point I had lost three pounds from my starting weight or that recently I had gained a pound, but even though it isn’t a surprise-it’s still frustrating. You workout daily, you want to see results gosh darn it!

Tonight I casually took a few measurements just to see if that made any difference (even though my weight “loss” was only a few ounces according to the scale) and I was VERY surprised, and gratified, to discover I’d lost an inch around my natural waist, and half an inch around my legs. Progress! Measurable progress! I LOVE progress!! It’s not so much that I have a lot to lose (5-10lbs max), more that I want to redistribute the weight-get me some muscle, lose me some fluff. 😉 I’m actually really glad I taped.

I don’t have target numbers-maybe I should, but I don’t. But I did take a “Before” picture. I want to be fit and toned, I want my body to be sound, my immune system strong, my energy levels high, I want to physically be in excellent health. And thanks to my mom, I know that doesn’t mean just numbers on a scale or on a measuring tape. Tonight, however, that measuring tape was a nice concrete reminder of progress in my “weight redistribution effort”.

I s’pose measuring isn’t so evil after all.

P.S. It also holds me accountable. Maybe one of the reasons I shied away from “Before” pictures or measuring in the past was then I couldn’t rely on the, “Well my jeans feel a bit looser I must be doing ok” as a measuring stick. That’s a pretty subjective measuring stick and one that didn’t really hold me to my efforts. If I really want this, I need to admit I want it, ESPECIALLY to myself. Pics and measurements are a good place to start.