Need Inspiration?

Yesterday I talked a bit about getting fit when you’re starting without much of a fitness base?

You gotta check out this Stumptuous Fitness Model!

No, it ain’t a bikini contest.  This contest was about people who chose health and fitness, but aren’t looking to be figure competitors or even skinny.  It’s quite awesome.  This fitness model is fifty, doesn’t look like the Bowflex grandma, and is miles cooler.


I exercise seven days a week and I go reasonably hard compared to what I used to do ten years ago (the occasional walk).

Actually I exercise a lot compared to what I did five years ago, too.  It didn’t automagically make me skinny, but by golly I am more fit!

The thing is, that article?  Buddy, I stand by it.  It is honest, no kidding, a great way to get started.  Little, incremental goals have an enormous positive effect over time.

The Japanese use this concept in the workplace (they call it kaizen, which is usually translated loosely into English as “continual improvement”).  The thing is, these are not great, dramatic leaps of improvement, but daily, incremental tiny little things.

To give you an idea:

When I started swimming in July ’06, I was swimming 400 yards in 20 minutes, and that was my cardio.  Walking?  Bite me!  That made my feet hurt and my calves cramp up.  (Yes, I was walking every day in Oct ’03.  I stopped working out for about a year.  Not making that mistake again.  I lose fitness fast, dammit).

Now, I swim a mile in ~45 minutes.  Ideally I’d like to be able to swim a mile in half an hour.  That’s gonna be awhile, I think.

When I started lifting in July ’06, I was squatting 30lbs.

I’m squatting 85lbs now, and have gotten a lot more serious about lifting.  I’ve got my eye on squatting 100lbs as my next mid-range goal.  I’m years away from the ultimate goal of squatting my bodyweight.  That’s okay.  I like to keep my eyes on the little goals.

Thing is, I have little goals for every single workout.  In the weight room, I’m either increasing a rep each workout, or I’m increasing weight.   In the pool, I’ll either try to swim for a longer distance, or a shorter time.

So where does this end?

It doesn’t.  It’s an open-ended system.  These tiny little goals are enough to keep me interested, and they’ll change and refine over time.  I’m 39.  There’s certainly a limit to where I can go physically.  But I don’t really look ahead to find that.  In five years (barring accident or debilitating illness) I’ll probably look back on what I’m doing now with a lot of pride in how far I’ve come.

But right now, I’m looking at the next rep and the next five pounds, or the next 100 yards.  It keeps things small an immediate.

That means that adding a minute to a walk when you’ve gone from ten minutes to eleven minutes is really good.  If you consistently challenge yourself with little goals — just that next step, or that next small habit change, they add up.  If you can walk a block before your calf cramps up, looking at my workouts might be discouraging.  Thing is, that was me, no kidding.  And I got here by small, incremental goals.

Walking and Treadmills

I couldn’t face another lap in the pool today, so I took a walk instead.

I almost blew off any working out today. Slept in quite late again today after getting my son off to school. I decided to go ahead and get some exercise because it’s gray and nasty. Being tired is okay. Gray and nasty means that depressed might follow, and I liked the nap alternative a lot better than the probability of depressed.

I pushed myself enough that I was sweaty with only a sweatshirt in 36F and rain, so I went reasonably hard. I’m lucky I have decent places to walk. I actually considered going to the gym and using the treadmill, but that’s just too weird for me when it’s over freezing and I have a place outside. And you’re not looking at the world’s biggest fan of the outdoors, either, I like outdoors well enough, but I’m beginning to think I’m a city girl at heart and like “nature” for vacations and stuff. Mom used to call me a houseplant.

But even so, to walk? I’ve got a perfectly good sidewalk in front of my house and I can walk for miles on it. I could see a treadmill in really horrible weather, but weather that’s so bad I’d want to use a treadmill would be weather I’d want a treadmill at home and not a gym because I won’t want to be driving.

I’m actually considering throwing in a half hour walk every morning on top of my other workouts now that the weather has gotten nicer. When I was working at Hogwarts, I probably did walk about a half hour to forty-five minutes throughout the day, what with taking the bus and stuff like that. And that was on top of weights three to four times a week and swimming at least three times a week.

Couldn’t hurt, I suppose. I’ve heard the “magic number” for getting quite fit and easy weight control is five hours of exercise a week. That would be about right if I started throwing in the walks. God knows it would mean exercise variety, which is never a bad thing. Also, I am concerned that I’m not getting much weight bearing work besides the lifting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of swimming, but I’m also concerned about keeping my knee muscles strong. ACL surgery was no damn joke, and I want to protect the rather painful investment by making sure I’m keeping the supporting muscles strong.

"Eat Real Food"

I read an interesting article called Unhappy Meals recently.

Do you eat real food? When is the last time you chopped up a bunch of veggies on a bed of dark greens and sliced some tasty protein source over that (eggs, beans fish, meat)? Little olive oil, some garlic, OM NOM NOM NOM NOM…

Breakfast? Did you eat it? It’s a good time to get some whole grains in.

Now, I eat five small meals a day. It’s what works for me, but I’m not saying everyone has to do this for optimum health. (In fact, I’m quite a fan of the sensibleness of the No S Diet).

So, this is a fairly normal day for me:

Breakfast: Cottage cheese pancakes (1/2 c. cottage cheese, 1 egg, 1/2 c. raw oatmeal. Whizz it in a blender, cook it like a pancake). It’s a good pre-workout meal. Some people mash a banana on it. I could see doing that if you like bananas. I don’t. I actually salt them, rather than add something sweet.

Second Breakfast: Apple, 1T natural peanut butter.

Luncheon: Dark lettuce leaf salad with red peppers, mushrooms, carrots, celery, 1T chopped bacon, 1T olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing and 2 boiled eggs.

Tea: A dip made from 1c cottage cheese mixed with 1/4 c. chopped olives and some soy sauce. 1 whole sliced red pepper as dipping veggie. (Could be anything, but it’s what I had on hand that sounded good. It’d be tasty with almost any veggies).

Dinner: 2c. Homemade chicken soup (chicken carcass soup. Leftover chicken carcass cooked all day with water in a crock pot, take the meat off, toss the bones, then add some carrots, celery, garlic, fresh ginger, and salt) and a small sweet potato with a pat of butter. I could have added some brown rice to the soup, but was craving the sweet potato.

(A large male should probably add “Supper” and eat like a real hobbit. I’m just five two, so five meals is plenty for me).

Yesterday was heavy on the eggs and cottage cheese. Some days it’s tuna — depending on my mood. But the point is that it’s “real” food. Obviously, I don’t exactly believe in going hungry and because I lift, I try to get some protein with every meal. The apple and peanut butter weren’t ideal, but not bad, either. I was having a sweet craving.

My basic nutrition plan is to make sure I eat five small meals a day and have some protein and really complex carbs with either veggies or fruit for each meal. (Breakfast was a fail for this day). My complex carbs tend to be things like oatmeal or brown rice or sweet potatoes. (Nothing wrong with white potatoes in moderation. I just happen to like baked sweet potatoes a lot). <grin> It’s a reasonably easy way to get your “five a day”, if that’s what you’re shooting for nutrition-wise. I also, you notice, do not do as many weight lifters do and use MRP (Meal Replacement products) very often. Oh, sure, I’ll chug a protein drink on days I teach just because it’s not practical to stop the class to sit down to a salad at Second Breakfast. But, I consider that sub-optimum.

I think real food is best. I think it satisfies better than the plethora of low-fat, low-carb “products” out there. I also think starving yourself is unhealthy. I think shopping the outside aisles of the grocery store is a good habit. Obviously I hadda go down the cereal aisle for the oatmeal. But I think that trying to make sure that most of what you eat is stuff that grows, rather than has been processed all to hell is a good idea.

When you want a treat (I have one about once a week), have something “real” again. Go ahead and buy a freshly made doughnut. Have a serving (1/2 c. by the way!) of Ben and Jerry’s. Have the really good chocolate truffle. I had a wonderful cannoli on Sunday as my treat, as well as a glass of wine with dinner and it was delightful! Life’s too short to eat crap food.

Swimming, Motivation and Mood

God, the pool was busy today. Hadda circle swim, which I don’t much like. Even so, it’s better than not working out, so…

Swam an 1100 today. Not much, but I’ve decided to work back up to the mile a little more slowly. I didn’t feel like death warmed over in the pool today, but did feel kind of weak.

It amuses me a little. Last year when I was rehabbing my knee, I can recall trying to make myself feel better about swimming a 700, then consoling myself that it was okay because at least it was better than where I started.

I’m still very glad to be moving again. I hate how I feel when I can’t work out. It’s not that I’m that hard core or anything. Those Crossfit people make me look like a complete wuss. But going to it daily, getting my heart rate up, moving, lifting some heavy stuff just makes me feel better in general — body and mind.

I have a little over a mile to go on my Virtual Swim. That means I’ll have swum 18 miles since the beginning of the year. Not too bad. I need to pick a new distance motivator, I suppose. I know it sounds dorky, but it’s one more thing in my toolbox to ensure that I do get my butt in the pool regularly. Getting demotivated is way too easy for me, so any little challenge, thought, mental trick or whatever that it takes to get me to work out that day is a Good Thing.

Back in the Weight Room

Today’s Workout

Calf raises 85 3 8
Stiff-legged deadlifts 85 3 8
Squats 85 3 8
Bench Press 65 3 8
Lat Pulldown 80 3 8
Seated Row 70 3 10
Inverted Situps body 3 10

Nothing too exciting or impressive, but even so, it may have been too much. I felt like I was going to throw up after the squats. I don’t care about the macho bullshit about “Visiting Mr. Bucket” when working out. That’s just taking it too far for general fitness.

The gym was nice today, though. Everyone was serious. A trainer was teaching one of his clients to do free squats. She was eyeing the leg press and he gently guided her away from it. I was surprised. *I* got taken to the Smith machine (HAWK! PTOOI!) at my intro lesson!

Moodwise, I feel so much better it’s hard to describe.  Oh, I’m tired and even have a bit of a headache.  I just think lifting heavy stuff makes me feel calmer, more confident, happier and more relaxed.  I’m sure there’s a physiological reason for it.  I’m glad it happens, too!

I’m looking at my workout and wondering how long it’s going to take before I’m working out with 100lbs on the squats.  That’s an interim goal for me right now.  If I had a spotter, I’d try for a 1RM and see if I can squat 100 (which I probably can), just to say I can do it.

Actually, I’m looking forward to the time when I’m benching 100 regularly, but I’m a good 6-8 months away from that at the moment.

I’m also looking at my workout and thinking I need to add a couple of upper body and a couple of lower body exercises next week.  I’d like to this week, but if I feel like throwing up after squats, then I need to build back up slowly.