I know it is up to me to live a healthier life. I need to do certain things to make the most of the time I have here on Earth. I need to first and foremost, eat a healthy diet. This is probably the hardest part for me and for everyone else on the planet. Our food sources are crap. The most chemical shitstorm foods are the ones that are routinely on sale. Sugar is being added to everything, even food that doesn’t need it. Our grocery stores are filled with “food products” instead of food and we are fighting a losing battle against people who trade our collective health for a profit.

I do the best I can and stay mostly out of the cereal and cookie aisles. I mostly stay away from boxes or bags of chemicals disguised as “convenience food” because while they are, in fact, convenient, they aren’t really food.

There is a maxim in the fitness world about drinking water. This is not based on any science at all. Neither the WHO nor the CDC have recommendations for how much anyone should drink because if you eat real food (fruits, vegetables, meats) they all contain varying amounts of water. So if you eat a bunch of watermelon, you really don’t need to drink as much water. Water is the second most necessary item (after air) keeping you alive. To believe that there isn’t a natural mechanism to help you maintain homeostasis on this front is ludicrous. If you are thirsty, drink. If you aren’t, it’s okay.

The next thing I need to do is get adequate sleep. This used to be no problem. And then menopause began and I haven’t slept right in over a decade. I can fall asleep easily but I can’t stay asleep. I’m unsure how to fix this. If you over hydrated and have a specific gravity for your urine of 0.0000001 you will be up all night peeing. This is not a good idea since sleeping undisturbed is important to overall health.

Another key aspect is exercise. I’ve got this covered adequately. I do CrossFit four to five times a week and back in February I began doing yoga. At first, it was once a week, then it was twice a week, and now it is six or seven times a week. And herein lies the problem.

When is the best time to do yoga? I have to CrossFit first thing in the morning because if I don’t I make up excuses and find myself not showing up. So, I’m there early before my brain kicks in. I also don’t want to take two showers in a day, and if I waited until early evening, then the whole when to shower thing becomes a problem. All in all, first thing in the morning really works for me.

But when to yoga? I have been doing yin yoga, which is pretty good just before bedtime as it leaves you relaxed and ready to fall asleep. But, and this is a big but, I have to remember to get started earlier than I have been because I don’t really have enough time to get in an hour yoga and get to bed and then wake up early enough to get to CrossFit. Another issue is that even a vinyasa class leaves me a bit too jazzed to fall asleep immediately.

Doing a flow class, at least for now, is not anything I’m interested in. I do CrossFit for exercise and I do yoga for my stretching/releasing tension and my soul. Flow is about exercise on a yoga mat. I prefer to exercise with a barbell.

I could do yoga in the afternoon and get in a vinyasa yoga time and it could be longer, but then I’m back to the whole shower thing again.

I can make as many excuses about exercising as I can about eating non-nutritional food. But my real question is, when is the best time to yoga? I know there are whole sun salutation things, greeting the day with a yoga practice. But I’m in the gym without a mat and squatting with a barbell at that time. I don’t think I ever salute the sun, but I’m already busy.

There are so many choices in life. I hope I’m making at least some that are beneficial.

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Strong is the new skinny.

This is a sports meme and someone took offense to it lately and I’m trying to figure out how I feel about it. I apparently read it differently than the person who was complaining because they were somehow offended and I am not.

I read it with the logic going from what was perceived as desirable then was “skinny” regardless of health consequences. What is desirable now is “strong” and the packaging isn’t important. I don’t remember where the outrage came from in the post I read, but it was there and I find nothing outrageous in the line.

I’ve been working toward “strong” for a while now. I’ve leaned out and actually recaptured some muscle definition. I’m not looking like I did when I was in my thirties and playing racquetball for ten hours a week. I’m not working out ten hours a week. And I’m thirty years older now. But where I once had flab, I’m getting actual muscles.

I want to be able to lift heavier. I want to be able to run farther, too, but there are times when I think my heart rate is just going to be too problematic to allow that to happen. I’m getting stronger in such tiny increments that it is often impossible to see from a day to day perspective. I have to think back to when this started and remember what it was like then compare that state to what I’m doing now.

When I began, I was overweight or at least weighing more than I wanted to weigh and it was one of the prime motivators. What I was doing wasn’t working and I wanted my clothes to fit better. Well, they certainly don’t fit better now. They are all way too big. I worked hard to accomplish the things listed in each WOD and as I grew, I shrank. I also learned I wasn’t eating as clean as I imagined and that much of my diet wasn’t really all that good for me. It wasn’t helping me build muscle and I needed more muscle to lift heavier. The size became unimportant eventually and I’m now worrying about getting too small as I continue to improve.

Yesterday I did 50 pull-ups (half with even less band assist than I have been used to using) and did so in just a few minutes. When I began this nonsense, I could manage a few ring rows at a time and it would have taken me far longer (if it was even possible) to do those than it took me to do 50 actual (band assisted) pull-ups yesterday. And I would have been totally spent and done for the day.

After the 50 pull-ups was 100 wallballs. And I did them. All. Using the RX weight for an old fart. When I started, I was using the kid 4# ball and couldn’t have managed to eke out 100 even with that. My legs would have given up the ghost and I would have simply been in a puddle on the floor disgusted with myself. And that would have been without anything else on the menu.

I want to be strong. I want to be stronger. The only way to get from where I am now to the land of stronger is to keep moving, keep trying, keep being disappointed and yet coming back for more, keep growing. I think it is an admirable goal.

If we held out “strong” as a goal for teenagers rather than “skinny” would it help with body image? Some of the strongest women at my box are not svelte, lean, muscle machines. They have rounder bodies which accomplish many wonderful things that I can only dream of.

We probably should hold out no goal for anybody else. Goals should be internally driven and match the person’s own mindset. But society is good at imposing ideals. Photoshopping is ubiquitous and so to help with this nonsense, “everyone is beautiful” is a meme even though it is patently untrue and you would have to be a moron to buy into it. Besides, beautiful is a superlative and if everyone were beautiful, it would be the average and you have just negated the definition of the word.

It is my belief that goals work better if they are internal things rather than external things. The appearance of the package isn’t nearly as important as what one finds inside. The goal of strong or smart or kind or moral or helpful … any of these seems preferable to skinny or beautiful which is shallow and unimportant.

And so, strong is one of the things I’m striving toward. I want to be better at it than I am now. I may have waited too long and may never be able to recover from the inertia. However, if there are younger people out there who need to choose a goal, let me propose you choose strong. It gives much more satisfaction than skinny. AND it is far more useful. You can open your own jars when you are strong.

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Yesterday we went to Hilton Head and saw the completed Conviction Training Facility and got to play a little there. They began their own health and wellness challenge yesterday and thirty people have made a commitment toward healthier living for the next six weeks.

After everyone was finished with their pre-challenge measurements, Craig and I worked on my pull-ups. I didn’t mean for that to happen, but when I asked him what I could do to get my pull-ups conquered before the end of the year, he wanted to know where I was currently and we did several different things. He gave me homework. I’m pitiful, is pretty much what we decided, but I’m also determined and willing to work toward a goal.

I’m working on various portions of banded pull-ups that will translated into real pull-ups and I’m working on negative pull-ups to get the muscle mass built. Both are challenging but I’m smarter today than I was yesterday and I know where and how to work. I will get this.

I looked at the WOD last night which wasn’t easy since the cable blipped again, but I finally could see it and I just giggled.

Got up in the middle of the cold night and headed to the box. Cindy and Todd were both back but Ricky was MIA. Carma was back, too. Two other women were there so Todd was completely outnumbered.

Warm-up was a 800 meter run and I did 400 meters and my knee mostly held out. I wanted to quit halfway through and pushed myself for the next 100 meters and then figured there was only 100 more and I could run it in – it wasn’t my legs giving out; it was my head. So I ran the whole way. I am not a runner. We did other stuff and I still can’t lunge with my right knee all the way to the mat and holding a squat is painful. We did stretches and then went to the WOD.

Today’s WOD as written:
5,4,3,2,1 Front squats
Quarter gone bad
5 RFT
15 sec of work 45 sec of rest with
135/95# thrusters
50/35# pull ups
burpees

I haven’t done front squats in a while and my weight on squats has been low. My knee seems to be nearly healed and as soon as it squawks, I’ve been quitting. But I opted to at least start, which was more than I did a couple weeks ago. I began with 43# and did five reps, went to 53# for the 4 reps, 63# for the 3 reps, 68# for the 2 reps and that was hurting a smidgeon so I stayed with that for one more rep. No sense reinjuring myself.

Last night I was trying to figure out how a timed on/off work load would be Rounds For Time, but I gave up trying to make any sense of it and figured it was written wrong and they were rounds for total reps, which is what happened.

I used just the 33# for the thrusters, the 2″ band for the pull-ups. But I did them Craig style. I did not cross my feet and that took some thinking. I pushed off from the top of the bar. No kipping allowed and no chin pointing up. It was arms that got me up there and good luck with all that nonsense. Then burpees. I firmly believe the two weeks of constant burpees is what did my knee it. In large numbers I have to walk them in and out and that torques my knee. We had something like 300 burpees in the WODs over a two week period and my right leg died. I was frightened by these today. But I did real burpees instead of walking them at all and it was only 15 seconds at a time. I gave myself permission to quit any of this as soon as my knee hurt.

Thrusters – 33# Pull-ups – 2″ band Burpees

Total per round

5

8

4

17

5

7

4

16

5

8

4

17

5

8

4

17

5

7

5

17

I was pretty dang consistent with this. I was beeping like crazy at the end of each 15 second push and would barely get back to 150-155 range before it was time to start up again.

I got done without dying and got my heart rate back down to about 130 before I started on my homework. I did 3 sets of 2 negative pull-ups and I can hold for just a fraction of a second at the top and drop like not-quite-a-stone-but-pretty-fast which isn’t anywhere at all like the 3 seconds I’m shooting for. I’m to do this twice a week until I can get a controlled slow drop and then go to 3 sets of 3.

After everyone was gone, Ryan and I talked about my diet. I’m not getting enough protein. I really know that. I’m good with salads and with fruits and veggies. But my protein intake isn’t high enough to give my body the building blocks it needs to increase muscle mass and if I want to crank my fat ass up to a pull-up, I’m going to need some muscles. I’m going to have to work on my diet some more. Damn. I also have been not eating quite as clean and I have gained 2.5 pounds since the end of the WLC, which isn’t too bad because I’m not yet back to my top permissible weight. But it is easier to lose 2.5 pounds than it is to lose 5 pounds. However, if I’m trying to gain muscle mass, that is going to screw up my weight numbers. I have no idea how to manage this. I could do some research and figure it out. Great, more work.

This living healthy is really hard. There are so many parts to it. But I want to rage against the dark and not go quietly into that good night. So, I have work to do. And, my knee still doesn’t hurt.

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What I learned in 2013

1. I learned if I keep at something, even when I’m really bad at it, I improve. There were so many times I wanted to quit the whole CrossFit experience. I couldn’t do anything. I was impossible. I was old and weak and just couldn’t do this. It was a young person’s game. I wasn’t a young person. I should quit. I can’t quit. Old people CAN do CrossFit. It is all scalable. There is a way. Practice makes perfect. Just keep on keeping on.

The highs and lows of pushing myself was a tremendous learning experience. Usually, I either excel at something or quit. I hate failing. I hate being the worst at anything. It has taken everything I have to keep going back. Coach Mike saved me one day when I was in tears. He told me, “You are always the best in your age group. Do you realize how impressive it is that you come back here day after day while most people, not even most people your age, but most people are still home in bed?” He gave me permission to frame my failings as successes. Pretty good for a 23-year-old kid.

2. I learned that traveling is really, really fun but that it also throws curveballs your way. I loved the river cruise we took. I hated hearing time and again, “You should have been here last year” since the year before it wasn’t snowing in March and April. I learned that wearing socks on your hands for mittens beats having frozen fingers but they aren’t really that good as mittens.

I learned that Roman construction is so durable that it still stands all this time later. I learned that the history of the US is puny and insignificant when compared to the history of Europe. Both places were inhabited for nearly the same amount of time, but writing keeps the stories alive. As a writer of history, this is both gratifying and scary. How many stories have we lost forever and what is the cost of that loss?

3. I learned that technology is both my friend and my enemy. When my computer died, I had to replace it. I have been using the Windows GUI interface since 1995. I liked my desktop and my start button. I still miss the start button and still hate my Windows 8 computer. I still don’t know how to find the things I used to know how to get to with a simple click. I have no idea why they did this, but because I need a computer, I have had to deal with it.

I am online now via this horrible computer, my smart phone which has its own idiosyncratic behavior, and my Kindle Fire which is even crankier. I really need a tablet in here to round out my technological frustration level.

4. I learned that even nurses who worked in the field for decades can learn new things about health. I also learned that many people recite health myths because they have heard them preached before and they aren’t based in any medical fact. It is sometimes difficult to differentiate between the myths and the facts and being an informed consumer is essential. Also, knowing where to look for reliable information is mandatory.

I don’t know who started some of the myths or why they have had such a long life. I do know that just because “everyone” says something doesn’t make it right or true and it usually isn’t even everyone but a bunch of loud mouths.

5. I have learned that my family is made up of individuals who cannot be controlled by my wishes. We love each other and yet, we each have to live our own lives and make our own choices. No one is checking in with me to see if I approve which works out pretty well since I check in with no one else and ask their approval for my choices.

The best I can do in any of these familial situations is deal with myself and hope for the best. I love my family members to the moon and back and their choices are their choices. I can only hope they return the affection and permission and that we can all learn to live together in peace and harmony or at least without acrimony and accusations.

6. I have learned that I’m braver than I thought I could be while being frightened by nearly everything. I have learned that there is much more to learn and I will never know it all but can always know more than I did yesterday. I have learned to take a deep breath, regroup, and try again. I have learned that laughter makes even the most wretched of times more bearable. I have learned that love truly does make the world go round.

And now, as I face the next moment, day, week, month, year – I’m ready to learn some more stuff. Bring it on, world, I’m as ready as I can be.

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I’m on Facebook and get to see the insides of way too many people’s minds. Sometimes the filtering system is slightly askew and I see way more than I see daily in my real life. We tend to not filter when speaking to a wider audience of the hundreds of friends on Facebook but when speaking to one or a small group, there is some internal dialog that keeps us from sharing too much information – sometimes.

Today, on my News Feed was a bunch of stuff about body image, body shape, fatness, fat shaming, and the like. It is the holiday season and so there were also links to various and sundry tasty dishes made especially for the holiday or for parties. What a disconnect.

Some of the recipes that appear on my feed are not all that bad. I have liked some Paleo sites and they put up recipes made from whole foods and lacking in sugars and starches.

Many of us claim to want the perfect body. I have no idea what that would look like but I know I’m too old to have one since when I picture it, there aren’t a bunch of wrinkles and … well I don’t want to get into TMI, but I am sixty.

That body, whatever it looks like, is not for sale. It isn’t for sale no matter what your age or gender. That sculpted look comes from sculpting. You don’t buy it in a box of Oreos, you get it at a gym. And slender or slim is not the same as skinny and while not necessarily dooming, skinny isn’t always healthy. Although, as a teenager I was skinny AND healthy (just a high metabolism and active life), it isn’t a guarantee.

And that’s the thing. We stress the LOOK of a weight or body type or shape or whatever. What we need to concentrate on is the health aspect. Being healthy isn’t a given. Like anything else worthwhile, it is earned. It comes from doing the right things.

If you eat fast food daily, you aren’t going to be as healthy as you could manage. Eating healthy means more fruits and veggies and less bread around them. Processed foods aren’t healthy no matter how they taste or what the label says. And that is our problem. We base our food choices, far too often, on taste alone. Or maybe the advertising. It is harder to have healthy food around. It takes more effort to peel an orange than to open a bag of chips. It’s easy to pick up a pizza and cooking parsnips takes a long time.

To add insult to injury, even foods that could be purchased off the shelf are made unhealthy by our food suppliers. We are having ever more difficult times trying to get food as Mother Nature made instead of Monsanto and the GMO crowd. Yes, it is nice that Round Up can kill the weeds and not the plants, but I’m not all that crazy about the entire population of the US being used for long term studies on how these modifications will affect lifespan and health.

The hardest thing I’ve done in years has been going BACK to the gym four times a week. It is daunting and lots of work each time I go. It is difficult and at times humiliating. The only way to get back to the body I knew was hiding here was to work for it. I was tired of being old and fat, old and tired, old and out of shape, old and winded, old and creaky. Now I’m just old and there isn’t much I can do about that. I don’t think I’ve been humiliated for a while, but I am still often chagrined. I am much younger and more able inside my head than outside it and I make attempts at things that old farts, or at least this old fart, can’t manage – yet.

But the thing is, with cleaner eating and more exercise, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in for the last couple decades. That’s what I’m really saying. I’m better now than I was at 40 (maybe, I can’t remember exactly how old I was when I stopped playing racquetball, but around that age). I’m stronger than I have ever been, for sure. I know there was never a time in my previous life when I could back squat with close to 100 pounds resting on my shoulders.

It didn’t come free and it sure wasn’t easy. It is difficult to get out of a nice warm bed on a cold winter morning and hit the gym. Eating better isn’t all that easy, either. Not only because of the work or price of healthier foods, but because of habit. It is ridiculously easy to grab a granola bar of any variety, but when you read the ingredient label and understand what it says, it is scary. And nauseating.

When I was born, Americans ate 0 pounds of high fructose corn syrup per year. It wasn’t around yet. Today, Americans average over 50 pounds of that shit per person per year. I eat some because I’m not a purist, but I don’t get my 50 pounds in – someone else is getting that for me.

You deserve health which means you have to take care of the place you live. This means that some of your snack food needs to be rethought. It means working at a better diet and working at working out or at least getting off your ass. It means taking care of your heart and soul as well. Being kind and generous does wonders for your health. Intellectually stimulating your precious brain does great things for your overall worthiness. Doing something that matters with your days gives not only structure but meaning to your life.

It isn’t easy – this health crap. It takes effort and planning – lots of planning. You must buy healthy food, set your alarm, make the time to do the things on your personal To Do list, and care for yourself. Nope. Not easy at all. But so very worth it.

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A little over a year ago, I was an old woman.

I started playing racquetball when I was 27 and became an accomplished player over the next 14 years. I was able to win most of the time when I played against other women and a fair amount of the time when I played against men. I had a wicked ricochet shot and a great rollout for a sure point. I could play hard and got hurt fairly often. Usually that did not entail a trip to the ER, but sometimes it did. Regardless, I lived and loved playing.

Then we moved and I stopped being athletic and that was the beginning of my spiral into oldness. At first, it wasn’t as noticeable, but the more years that passed and the less I did, the less I could even manage.

I tried Curves and it was ridiculous. I walked and biked in the neighborhood without seeing any real results. I bought a pair of rollerblades and nearly killed myself. Mostly, I got older and older.

My son started weightlifting in high school. He continued with weightlifting and tried various programs and methods. He found CrossFit. He started CrossFit Hilton Head back in 2009, I think. He took me to his first box and it didn’t look like any gym I had ever seen. I tried a few things and managed to not hurt myself only because he protected me. It sounded like fun. I heard things like “scaling” and “ten areas of fitness” and it was just all so intriguing. But there was no CrossFit near me at the time.

I kept watching. His partner was bought out and his box moved and time went on and he kept doing more and more really neat things. I got to see him participate in a Garage Game in Charleston and it was really intense and interesting and I still didn’t know of anywhere close to play. I helped at the first I CAN games, a Garage Game put on by CrossFit Hilton Head. That looked like even more fun. I wished aloud that I could play at his box.

He said there was a CrossFit near me and I found it on the way home from Hilton Head. I was there after work on Monday to see what I needed to do. I was at the free demo class on Saturday and saw I could do absolutely zero things. I can remember Ryan asking me what I wanted.

I wanted to be able to open my own jars. I wanted to lose about 15 pounds. I wanted to stop being so old.

I signed up for the three classes I needed to take to understand some of the mechanics and then I started appearing at the box three times a week, religiously. I would eventually change my routine and start going four days a week. For the remainder of 2012 I could still do nothing except keep coming back. The only thing I had was determination and the will to keep trying. I know that Yoda says to do or do not and there is no try, but it was all I had because I wasn’t not doing, I simply wasn’t achieving anything – much.

It’s been 15 months since I first started. I’m older, but I’m much younger today than I was when I started. I can do stuff. I can squat ass to grass. I can deadlift my body weight. I can clean and jerk. I can jump on a box, do wall balls and kettlebell swings and even fucking slam balls, and I can be proud of what I achieved in a year. I still can’t really snatch with weight, but it’s getting closer.

It has been incredible. I feel so much healthier. My heart rate still goes too high, but not as quickly and it drops faster. I don’t feel as intimidated by anything physical. I can climb steps easily and walk faster for longer distances. But even more than that, I’m simply more sure of what I can do everywhere. I’m confident of who I am.

I open my own jars all the time. I lost twenty pounds and the ones that are left are the same muscled masses they were thirty years ago. My hair is still gray and my skin is still wrinkled, but I have a body that any twenty year old would be happy to have.

I have a day-after-leg-day-gait that any gym rat can identify. I have a mark on my shin from missing a box jump. I have calluses on my hands from lifting weights and pull-ups. I have new clothes and shoes to wear to the box. I have lots and lots of things. But the most impressive thing I have is my health and my newly minted, no-longer-old-lady confidence.

I have prattled on about this so much and I assume many of my friends are tired of hearing about it. The part that is the most difficult is not talking even more. I would love all the people my age to get into a health and fitness program. Not because I think the gyms need money, but because you have no idea how great it feels to be able to turn back the hands of time, regain your lost youth. It didn’t really get lost, you ignored it and it just went into hiding.

There is no fountain of youth. There is only healthy living. Eating clean, working out, being awesome, getting back into the way your body is supposed to feel. It is amazing. I wish all my friends could join me.

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