May 28, 2014

The Gospel According to Mom

I just read an article in which Admiral William McRaven, a 36 year Navy Seal, addressed the graduating class at UT Austin and shared life lessons he learned while in the Seals. They were all very good, all sound advice. But I couldn't help but think he missed some vital information. I couldn't fault him since he didn't grow up in the same house as I did, but I want to take a moment to correct the mistake. I'd like to round out his lesson plan with those learned at the feet of my mom.

1.  Never leave home without clean underwear on--you never know when you'll be in a car accident.  While I never quite understood the basis for this, I suspect it has something to do with the fear of not being at your best when faced with a cute doctor (well, in addition to being bloodied and broken from the accident). Personally, I'd amend this to just "never leave home without underwear". I think that would cover it.

2.  Eating raw cookie dough will give you worms.  I'm sure there is a minuscule but real possibility of this
occurring, but I can tell you that I've eaten raw dough for over 30 years and I've never had that dreaded case of worms. I do think there is validity in this rule, however, because if allowed to eat the dough freely as opposed to just sneaking it when mom's head was turned, there wouldn't have been any dough left to actually make cookies with.

3.  Dinner must consist of a meat, a starch, and a vegetable.  Growing up, there was always a meat (such as chicken, steak, or pork), a side (potatoes, noodles, or rice) and some type of vegetable (corn, green beans, or--barf--broccoli). On occasion mom would shake it up a bit with spaghetti or some type of casserole, but even then I'm sure she had all the food groups covered. While I sometimes let my family have a "Fireman's Dinner" where dessert is served first, I still feel like dinner is being done wrong if it doesn't have the essential three. Speaking of...

4.  Three is a magical number.  In addition to our dinner line up, three is also the number of daughters in my family (no boys)--3 girls with boy trouble, 3 girls with PMS, 3 girls to marry off. If you were in trouble, you had to the count of 3 to comply or your backside would get a little too personal with a wooden spoon. Even if you thought dinner was disgusting, you weren't allowed to leave the table until you ate 3 bites. The number 3 just seems to have a power all its own.

5.  Sometimes you just need to let your body breathe.  I always hated this one growing up. This is the one that would come up just after getting out of the bath when mom would tell us we could sleep without underwear because we needed to "breathe". What that means is, it's good for your girl bits to get a wayward breeze now and then. To this day I still don't feel right without underwear on (probably because she also drilled in Lesson #1.) But then one day, after Sassy's bath, I realized she didn't have any clean underwear. Before I realized it, mom's words had come out my mouth and she went to bed commando. That's when I got it; she didn't need to breathe so much as I needed an excuse to not rush in and do a load of laundry.

Mom had many lessons over the years that were just as valid, such as always shave your toes (hairy toes on girls are just gross), use meat tenderizer on bee stings, never returned borrowed dishes empty, if you pick at it it'll only get worse, and eat a banana when you've got a cramp. Some of these lessons may not apply to everyone (although men--if your feet resemble a Hobbit's, feel free to shave), but there is one lesson I learned that should be shared with every student, every graduate--whether from high school or college. She taught me that if I was willing to work hard, there was nothing that I couldn't be, nothing I couldn't accomplish, no goal I couldn't reach. So from my mama's house to all of you, always remember that the only thing that could every limit your possibilities is you.

May 20, 2014

Master of Its Domain

Yes, it's another fitness-inspired post. I figure, even if I don't manage to work myself into some kind of buff mama with freakishly strong calves and arms void of chicken wings, at least I will be able to pass on any hard won wisdom to my readers. And today I would like to offer one particularly important piece of advice: avoid the Stair Master. The Stair Master looks like a bite-sized portion of an escalator, but in reality, it's a torture device assembled by the devil's minions for the sole purpose of giving him yet another reason (along with GPS, ISS, and doorways) to laugh at my expense.

With my trainer so far, I've worked on my back, my arms, my core, and done some cardio. I warm-up and cool down with 15 minutes on the treadmill. Trainer is fond of increasing my speed and/or incline every couple of days just to "push me" when really all it does is make me want to push him...down a flight of stairs. (On a side note, it hit me the other day that I'm actually paying someone to yell at me, push me beyond anything I think I can handle, wear myself out physically and mentally, and then to do it all over again when I come back after refusing to give up. Paying?? My kids have been doing this for free for years!)

After getting through my workout on Thursday, Trainer decided to have me cool down on the Stair Master. As this didn't require me to use arm muscles that were the consistency of vanilla pudding at that point, I was relieved. He climbed up, set it all up for me, and then told me "10 minutes". 10 instead of 15? Yes!

Actually, no. It turns out 10 minutes on the Stair Master is way harder than 15 on the treadmill. And it takes longer, too...well, for me anyway. But it did give me time for a bit of self-reflection and meditation. Because I am a transparent soul, I'm sharing the insight I gained while perched high atop those Masters of Stairs.

1.  I have no coordination. If you've seen me bump into walls (or the aforementioned doorways), or have been subject to my I-will-run-you-off-the-sidewalk way of walking with friends, you've probably already figured this one out. I only realized how bad it was when I started Muay Thai class and I found myself in constant danger of tipping over after kicking my target. I've also observed that the side rails on the treadmill are the only thing that keep me on the track. If not for them, I'd probably jog myself right off the darn thing. Oh, but the Stair Master...that machine is a whole new level of coordination strain. Not only do I have to keep myself in a somewhat straight line while walking, but I have to walk up steps while doing it--steps that increase and decrease in speed while I'm climbing! Seriously, who invented this thing? I imagine they come equipped with hidden cameras and the inventors are sitting somewhere watching the video feeds while cackling and patting themselves on the back over how deviously they've managed to get a whole population of balance-challenged people to struggle to hold on to their dignity AND the railing while watching their feet very carefully to make sure they hit the next step.

2.  I can make 10 minutes last foreeeeeever. After a workout, my muscles go into self-preservation mode--they curl up in a fetal position and refuse to surface for fear they will again be yelled at to "push through the pain!" I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of a cool down exercise is seeing as how I always end up even hotter and sweatier, but it usually serves as the icing on my I-hope-I-don't-have-to-use-my-now-useless-muscles-for-anything-today cake. It turns out that the Stair Master is a lot of icing. I climbed those stupid stairs at different speeds like I was told, but it seems that my Jell-O legs can't hold up to the climb very well after a regular workout because I don't think I ever made it longer than 45 seconds at a time before I had to hit "pause", catch my breath, and wait until the shaking in my muscles let up a bit. Most of the time it was closer to 30. Yeah, that's right. I can climb for 30 seconds before I'm ready to cry Uncle. Climb. Stop. *pant, pant, pant* Grit my teeth, start again. That was repeated every 30 seconds until I had climbed for 10 minutes. You see, when the Stair Master stopped, so did my timer. It was a very long 10 minutes.

3.  I don't want a support group.  Because I was taking an exceptionally long time to get through my climb, a line had started to form of people waiting to get on the Stair Master. The first woman in line was older than me and she kept trying to encourage me. While she was smiling and saying, "you can do it", I was eyeing her fashionable workout clothes and her fit muscles (and the fact that she was OLDER than me) and all I could think was, "I'll bet she can make it at least a minute at a time." Having Fitness Barbie watch me struggle to climb my escalator from hell didn't make it any easier. The best part? When I finally finished and gave a half-hearted attempt at a cheer, "I'm done. *pant, pant* I did it!", she responded with, "Good! You should try it again tomorrow." As I walked away, I'm pretty sure I heard her cackling and patting herself on the back. 

May 14, 2014

Superhero Training, Week 2

Yes, I'm calling it Superhero Training. I've started working out with a trainer, I'm taking Muay Thai classes, I've cut out white flour and starches, I'm down to half a Dr. Pepper and up to 5 bottles of water a day, my lunch staple of Chik Fil A has been replaced with grilled chicken salad, and, most impressive of all, I'm EMBRACING the change. If that's not the road to Superhero-dom than I don't know what is.

But the Training continues; today was gym day.

One of the biggest challenges in trying to get fit and healthy isn't walking by Auntie Anne's Pretzels and having to pass on their Buy One, Get One Free deals. It's not having to control yourself when you buy a bag of Ghirardelli chocolate and caramel squares for a party and most of them come back home with you. Heck, it's not even having to go to work after your muscles are so tired that tying your shoes becomes an epic feat on par with scaling Mt. Everest. My biggest obstacle on my road to the New & Improved Me is OK, more specifically the Girls. You know, my chest, my tatas, my chest-bound boulders that are forever causing pain during vigorous movement. It's really difficult to keep those puppies in place.

Only those who have likewise been mammarily blessed will understand the singular, frustrating, uncomfortable, and often downright painful sensation of jogging without proper support. But even our support isn't all that supportive. For the most part we have 2 options:
1.)  Find a cute sports bra that works to some extent, buy 2, and then layer 'em up using the combined power of double lycra and double spandex to hold those suckers in place.
2.)  Spend close to $100 for a sports bra that will force the Girls up and in until they have been so squashed together they are known among the female crowd as "unaboob". Unaboob occurs when a sports bra flattens, redistributes, and molds your breasts until they no longer resemble 2 separate boobs, but one giant lump...positioned right in the middle of your chest. Trust me, it's not pretty.

Last night I was lucky enough to find a sports bra that bridged the gap between functional and fashionable, and I wore it with pride when I went to the gym today. My usual routine is to start out with a warm-up--15 minutes on the treadmill, walking 1 minute then running one minute. Everything was going great until around minute 5, when suddenly I heard a snap and something felt a little too loose. It was the right strap of my sports bra. I immediately downshifted to walking mode and tried to assess the situation. I was hoping the strap had just come loose from it's hook--an easily fixed problem. I discreetly checked down my shirt and caught a glimpse of the frayed strap. No such luck, that sucker was busted. I guess I should've checked to see if there was a weight limit before squeezing myself into it.

So here was my dilemma--after another 10 minutes of treadmilling it I was supposed to meet with the trainer
so he could turn my arms and legs into jelly and my lungs into something that sounded like Darth Vadar. It was going to be much more difficult to execute any exercises with one Girl packed in and the other one hanging free and loose. For the first time, I had no extra clothes since I had planned on showering and getting ready back at home when I was done, so no back up bra. I had my old one at home but by the time I got there and back to the gym, it would be time for me to turn around and head back home. After missing out on Monday's workout due to an MIA trainer, I didn't want to go back home. Given that the gym is located smack in the middle of shopping central, I figured my best bet was to go buy a new one. I popped in to the trainer's office and let him know that due to a wardrobe malfunction, we were going to have to start our session a bit later and then I hightailed it to the sports store.

My walk into and around the store was an exercise in muscle control. I was trying to hold my keys and my wallet (no purse) while keeping my right arm tucked in close to my body to help support my wayward Girl, but also looking around and digging through rack upon rack of sports bras. I found a few candidates and then went to the dressing room. I tried them all on, doing the jump-up-and-down-in-front-of-the-mirror move to test their control factor. While not completely satisfied (the Girls were contained but there was still too much "wiggle" room), I managed to find one that would work, paid for it, and rushed back to the gym where I got in my workout.

I had to go through all that just so I could voluntarily sweat buckets and push my muscles to the point of begging for mercy. This Superhero stuff is hard! But at least I've learned one lesson. When it comes to my Superhero costume, I'll leave the fitting to the professionals. 

May 5, 2014

Let's Get Physical

Some years ago, while we were still living in WA, I was walking on a regular basis with my mom in an attempt to get in shape. At the time, I felt so motivated to keep it up that I set a goal--I would be able to run a marathon before I turned 40. Obviously I'm closer to 40 than I was before, but I'll be honest--a marathon does not factor into my future plans at this moment.

However, it's hit me that I AM closer to 40 (I refuse to discuss how much closer lest reality causes me to curl up in a fetal position and ugly cry), but I'm not any closer to getting in shape. If I never shared my secret dream with you before, let me share it with you now. My dream is that I will be a fit, cut, hard bodied chick who can kick some tail and battle with the best of them. If I could snap my fingers or wiggle my nose, I would turn myself into a female Navy Seal, without the enlistment. My girl crush is Kate Beckinsale, not for her romantic movies but for her roles in the Underworld series. I dream of being the next Lara Croft, Black Widow, or Sydney Bristow--able to take out the enemy with a swift hit to the throat or kick to the head, all while looking good in spandex and heels. (Well, maybe not the spandex.)

But then reality intrudes. I am a middle-aged mother of 3 who gets winded as soon as I actually pick my feet up off the ground. So maybe superhero-dom isn't in my future, but that doesn't mean I can't get in shape, right?

I've already started with Muay Thai (kickboxing) classes, and today I had my first session with a personal trainer. I stared with a warm-up on the treadmill (pretty easy) and then we moved over to the weight machines. He started me in on pulling and pushing weights (3 reps of 15 on each machine) until I was soaked in sweat and didn't think I could do anymore. He took it easy on me and after my 2nd rep on one of the machines he told me to take a water break. I got a drink, caught my breath, and was feeling proud of myself for managing 2 reps when he said, "OK, now finish it." Are you kidding me?! "You've got to push yourself." Hey, I ran on the treadmill, didn't I? But somehow I managed to finish. He did this to me repeatedly until my arms felt like Jell-O and I started to wonder if I'll be able to do any typing at work.

I had to do the water break/recovery thing on another machine that had me pulling down on a bar that was over my head and bringing it down to my lap while lifting 45lbs. A guy jumped on while I was watering up and moved it to 150lbs. After he got his reps in, he moved on. But not before smirking at me! I'm not kidding! Was I supposed to be impressed? Dude, I've given birth to 3 babies. Come back to me when you've accomplished that. I wasn't the least bit intimidated, I just told the trainer to move it back to my baby weight and "let's go".

Thankfully, it was time for the cool down after that. Apparently, Trainer didn't think I'd been breathing hard enough with the warm-up so he bumped up my speed on the treadmill. You want me to sweat? Mission accomplished.

After showering off all the sweat, I managed to drag my clothes on. My arms wouldn't cooperate enough to tie my shoes, apply makeup, or even put in earrings (despite the fact that I feel naked without makeup or earrings).

On the way out, I said to Trainer, "I'll see you Wednesday."
Trainer: "Great, then we'll get to work on your arms!"
What?! I can't even move my arms at the moment and he wants to work on them again? In just 2 days? What happened to mixing up the routine? I might just hit him...if only I could lift my arm.
Me: "But we just did my arms!"
Trainer: "Today we worked your back. See you Wednesday!"

Now if only I could find a nuclear power plant or a radioactive spider before then...