Leaving it all on the mat

Well, I was probably past due for a breakdown, so it’s not surprising that I found myself in tears during shavasana in yoga class today. The class was tough– not because the poses were challenging, but because my body feels beat up and I am so, so tired. Every day this week has just been non-stop both at work and at home; yesterday after I got home from work I hit the ground running and was doing stuff until bedtime– then this morning I got up at 5 and started again. I still have a lot of crap to accomplish, at home and at work, and I don’t know what’s going to get dropped.

I’m trying to draw some consolation from the fact that I have all of next week off, but I keep getting focused on the 10 hour driving trip and how stressful spending time with my wacky family is going to be and how many last-minute odds and ends I need to wrap up before then. (So tempted to just say "fuck it, everyone is getting gift cards!!" and be done.)

Crying in yoga class is just one of those things. I’m sure instructors see it all the time; our bodies store up emotions and sometimes yoga lets them go. So when it happens, I try to just let it, you know? Besides, it’s better to cry in the gym than in my cubicle…

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Setting effective goals

Hamster wheel today (or elliptical, as normal people call it) to warm up all my sore parts. I spent 45 minutes on it with a stupid fashion magazine and a stupid real estate show on HGTV with my brain 100% in neutral. I hardly even noticed the time pass, but I felt much better afterwards and even more so after a good stretch.

The crowds at the gym are starting to ramp up again, as people start their pre-holiday panicking and sign up for their new year’s membership. The mood at the gym gets a lot more negative this time of year– the people who go year-round, go because they enjoy it or they’re habituated to it, but the new and irregular visitors engage in so much negative self-talk as motivation. In response, I’m relentlessly positive about exercise– probably to the point of driving people nuts with my chipper responses and permissiveness.

Let’s be real, my goals and methodology around exercise are not typical. Most people start going to the gym expecting to work out regularly, eat well, and lose weight as a result. However, many people don’t have the dramatic body changes they were hoping for and, after a period of time, they get discouraged and stop. Some folks repeat this cycle repeatedly, and each year they beat themselves up again as they fail to achieve their goals.

To paraphrase Einstein, the definition of insanity is doing something repeatedly and expecting different results. We fail to achieve the goals and blame our bodies, but it’s the goals that need adjusting, our bodies are just doing their thing! Since weight loss is profoundly difficult and largely out of our control, it’s much more effective to focus on goals that are achievable and controllable.

Think about what really motivates you– do you want to have better endurance? be stronger? more flexible? and set small increments of success. Run for 10 minutes longer. Lift 15 pounds more. Get your nose closer to your knee. And then build on your success and see where you go!

On the journey towards our goals, our bodies may or may not change. But chances are they’ll feel better– and fitter. And putting the positive reinforcement, from both the physical benefits, and from the achievement of the small goals, around an exercise practice is an excellent way to make it stick and keep you going back to the gym– with a smile.

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Secret Wonder Woman?

Nothing special in today’s lifting, really. Squats/bench/row are holding steady at 170/115/85. The good news is that my rows are finally seeing some progress; I still hate doing them, but they feel a little easier. Whatever muscles I’m using seem to fatigue quickly, though; the first couple reps feel easy, but the last one is really, really tough. I could use some work on range of motion in my shoulders and back, too. (Need more yoga?)

One of the interesting parts of lifting is seeing how your body reacts when it’s in a really critical place, and how much more effort you can pull off when you need to. I did 4 of the sets of bench press without a spot or safety bars today, and the last rep of the 4th set was really dicey– the bar just wasn’t going up. But I found some emergency extra strength by recruiting random muscles in other parts of my body (ignoring a hamstring cramp, too) and I finally lifted the dang thing back to the rack (and immediately went to fetch J for a spot for the 5th set).

Every time I have an experience like this, I wonder how much untapped strength is in there. Maybe I really am Wonder Woman and I don’t know it, just because I’ve never tried. It’s a strange feeling too, being totally present in my body in a single-minded, non-conscious way. Of course, straining at a lift is a good way to get hurt! It’s not something I should do often.

I was really productive yesterday; not only did I work for 13+ hours, I made dinner, did all my laundry, and got 2 of my 3 recipes of Christmas cookie dough made up. (Pfeffernusse and soft molasses cookies, in case you’re wondering. Today I need to get dough for the hazelnut cardamom thumbprints with homemade fig-cranberry jam done, and bake everything. I am entirely too ambitious.) But I feel like I’ve burned out my motivation for the week, which I really can’t afford. I still have a lot to do.

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Stressing out

It’s cold and I’m bleedy and crampy and my feet still hurt from spending Saturday night in heels. Yoga time. Maybe it’ll settle my brain down.

This is my last week at work before I travel to my parents’ house for the Christmas holiday. And there are approximately a gazillion things I need to accomplish before we hit the road, at work, at home, some things I have to do, some things I chose to do (note to self: say no next time). I really hate it when things are looming.

The stress really gets to me. I don’t sleep well, so I don’t have energy during the day. My skin gets red, irritated and flaky, and I get painful canker sores in my mouth (this is new! and not fun at all!) Not to mention the general feeling of impending doom in the pit of my stomach. Anyone got any helpful hints? Or is the best way just to gut it out until it’s time to leave, then sleep for a week once I get where I’m going?

Saturday’s fancy party was a good time; I’m glad I went even if it completely ate my weekend. I like my partner’s coworkers, and they’re lots of fun to hang out with. I drank too much Champagne, mostly because I was tickled that I could have all the Champagne I wanted all night. That’s a bad motivation for drinking, but the fact that I drank just Champagne probably saved me from a nasty hangover…

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AAAAAHH it’s Friday

There’s this Violent Femmes song that I think of at times like this, it has a sitar featured and they do the song and the the singer is like "We got to the end of the song and we didn’t get a chance to JAM!" and then they jam. Today is kind of like that. I’m glad it’s the end of the day, but where did it go?

I managed another 30 minute recovery run this morning. It went better than Tuesday’s run– only one tired-legs walking break, so we’ll call that a win. I’m pretty darn sore, but I crashed into bed at 9:30 last night and got a solid night’s sleep, and I think that helped a lot. Sleep is important! Who knew!

This week I have another fancy party lined up, at a hotel downtown, and we’re staying there overnight because it’s going to be that kind of party. I don’t make it downtown too often anymore, and I have a laundry list of things I want to do, like taking my partner to an opulent Scotch bar and visiting the holiday market to buy a gift for my mom. So naturally I want to head into town early, but I also want to sleep in. And, complicating things, we’ll need to schlep all our fancypants around until we can check in. I get the feeling I’ll be heading downtown on my own another day.

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Yoga, lift, rant

Thursday twofer today. I had a lovely, gentle yoga class, then stomped all over it by going to lift. I think half the reason I enjoy this yoga class is that I know things from it so it’s not new, and I can show off a little tiny bit. The other part is that I get plenty of correction– little things like shifting my hips forward or back, rotating my knee out more to the side, all that stuff I can never tell on my own.

And then, once I was finished with yoga class and feeling good, I loaded up the squat bar. My warmup reps with just the bar were amazing– my hips and ankles were all warmed up and so flexible! Initially I loaded the bar up with 165lb; I wasn’t sure if it was ready for 5lb more. But whatever, what’s the worst thing that could happen! In a fit of self-confidence I upped it to 170lb. And it sucked but I made it through. So today was squats/OHP/DL, 170/75/185. Having my back and shoulders warmed up changed my OHPs a lot; I had a lot more connection in the lower back and glutes and it felt interesting.

Small rant time: I use the "tampon bar" (or pad, for those who don’t speak asshole lifting bro) for squats now that I’m lifting a lot more. I have proper low bar placement across my traps, but I do not have enough trap there to support these higher weights. No matter how much I bring my shoulder blades together, the bar smooshes through the tissue and rests uncomfortably on my spine. I don’t like how the pad makes the bar slippier on my back, and I’ve cussed at it when it shifted and blew a rep. For a set or two I could handle it, but by the end of 5 sets, even with the pad, my upper back is DONE with having a bar sitting on it. And frankly, I’m not going to stop squatting because my back muscles are too small. Just like you wouldn’t stop deadlifting if you lose your grip; you use straps, keep working DL, and train your grip. So anyway, tampon bar haters to the left.

My sets go like this:
1 – Yeah! Woo! I am lifting a weight!
2 – What the hell am I even doing. This is only the second set. This is horrible.
3 – I hate my life.
4 – There’s light at the end of the tunnel. Provided I don’t die first. I will probably die first though.
5 – OH GOD ALMOST DONE OK I DID IT I AM A BADASS CHECK ME OUT

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Some runs are worse than others

Perhaps the smart move would be to give up recovery runs after lifting, now that squats are getting heavy enough to really tax my quads and leave them tired the day after. But I hate to give them up! So I keep suffering through these miserable short, slow recovery runs, hoping that one day my legs will be okay. (Alas, they never will since I keep adding 5lb…)

Anyway, today I dialed in 30 minutes and covered 2.4 miles on the treadmill. It was not very fun; my legs are really tired. I tried to focus on good form, and for a while it would seem like making sure to keep it short-stride, high-turnover would help a lot, but in the end my legs are still just tired.

I was going through my saved email folder looking for something when I stumbled upon some emails from a professor of mine who died several years ago. I was fond of him and greatly admired his work, and it’s so strange to look back at these very workaday messages and remember him in a more casual way. I guess I think of formal, written correspondence as more permanent… but digital correspondence is easier to keep and to sort through…

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