Weekly Rundown….

…..kinda

I haven’t been putting out my weekly posts, and not only because I have been busy with my husband’s health issues. I also changed my work schedule  and, of course, the first week of the new schedule was the week after my husband’s heart attack, so getting used to that during stress was, um, fun.

I am more used to it now, and have less stress. I was offered four ten-hour days with Fridays off, so of course I took it! The beauty is I get three days off in a row…..the downside is that I work 6:15 to 4:45, which means it is hard to get in a decent amount of time before or after work for exercise.

Also, I have been doing pretty much the same thing for the last few weeks, which makes it hard to think of new ways to write about it.  Basically treadmill running interspersed with yoga. I haven’t even been doing weights as I have been cleaning the horse barnyard every other night as each layer of ice lets go of muck. I  figure the heavy wet mess is a good substitute for weights, plus my shoulders and arms hurt enough. Good for my core too, as I have to stabilize before slinging the pitchfork load onto the manure pile.

I did start running the three days in a row, which was pretty exciting that I could do that weekly without my knee giving out. It has been six weeks so far, and I even added a short run before work once a week for the last two weeks. The first run on Friday always seems hard, but by Sunday I am loving it.

The weather has been slowly turning (after three snow laden Nor’Easters in three weeks), and it feels fresh and almost warm out there.  I am really excited to start running outside now. If only Mother Nature will cooperate! The good thing is that it is light until after 7pm now, so once I can get outside I can do a quick 2 mile run after work once or twice a week.

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An Oasis of Calm

So people who don’t exercise always look at me and say “why?!”

There are a ton of reasons. I like pizza, and yet I still like to fit in my clothes the next day. Being healthy (not withstanding the pizza) is important to me. I think exercise is important in one’s life, and while I certainly won’t look down on someone who doesn’t exerise, I will always encourage someone to try a new activity and see if it speaks to them.

But the biggest reason I exercise is that it keeps me sane.

Three weeks ago my husband had a heart attack. He’s only 43, but had smoked for 24 years. This is my PSA to say, please don’t smoke. He had one artery–the one that delivers 70% of your body’s blood–blocked at 100%. And another artery blocked at 90%.  His job is quite active, and he eats fairly well, so again, a PSA for not smoking.

My second PSA is to say, if you think you might need to go to the ER, go! We spent quite a bit of Thursday night discussing what might be wrong, before we decided  he’d be fine. No one wanted to be the one to say “we ought to go!”  The next morning he went to work, then decided to come to the ER because of shoulder pain–he thought he might have torn his rotator cuff. Come to find out he was having a serious heart attack. Clearly, we weren’t smart enough to make the decision to go to the ER.

Fortunately for me, from the time they decided to move him from the hospital where I work to the hospital an hour south where  the cardiac specialists are, to when I went home, fed the horses, let the dogs out, met the person driving me south and actually arrived at the hospital, they had already put his first stent in. I didn’t know just how bad it was until they had started to fix it. Thank goodness. He spent the next four days in the hospital, having his second stent put in on Monday and coming home on Tuesday.

I traveled back and forth for the five days. I was fortunate enough to  have drivers over the weekend, and then drove myself on Monday and Tuesday. Since we have the animals, it wasn’t practical to go down and stay.

Not that our neighbors weren’t willing to help. I came home on Saturday to find out that someone had plowed our driveway, clearing the four inches of snow received overnight. Other offers were pouring to help, for which I will be forever grateful. But I don’t trust the horses around people who just aren’t used to horses. Sometimes the beasts move unexpectedly, although not maliciously, and they are a bit heavier than the dogs when they step on you. And so I traveled.

And each morning before I went down I got on the treadmill. That little bit of normalcy gave me the opportunity to run out my anxiety and worry and stress.  For those thirty minutes, my legs pumped, my breath was a struggle to get even and full and my brain was focused on running smoothly. When I got off and showered, I was calm and ready to face the day.

I have always felt better after exercising, for a lot of reasons. There is the “hey, I did it, even when I really didn’t want to.” And the “geez, my body is getting strong, I can’t believe I finished that workout” feeling.  My mood improves (those endorphins are wonderful things), and I can deal with problems better after even a 15 minute walk. I have always realized that nature and exercise make me happy, so of course it was my go-to during such a difficult time.

And I sincerely believe it made it easier to bear. So if anyone is looking for a reason to start an exercise program, I think that is a pretty good one!

PS – it was Saturday afternoon before I got around to asking if they had checked out his shoulder. There was nothing wrong with it, the pain was due his shoulder and arm being starved of blood. Also, he hasn’t had a cigarette since he walked into the emergency room 🙂

 

Weekly Rundown x 2

I didn’t do a Rundown post last week, not because I didn’t have time, but because it seemed like the same thing over and over again.

Am I in an exercise rut?

 Nah, I just wasn’t sure I had anything new to say about the same exercises. I still love my exercise and have no desire to change it, although I am always willing to try something new.

My weeks seem to be a combination of treadmill running (three or four times), weights (once) and yoga (once). I have to work hard each day to make the time to fit my exercise in, but that isn’t that new either.Although it does seem worse recently.  There are always errands to do that get in the way. Which is why I also seem to be taking two days off during the week rather than one.

I was excited that not only did  I manage to run longer than I thought I could on the treadmill  Saturday, I followed it up by a 30 minute run on Sunday. I have been  trying to run every other day to give my leg a break, unless I was doing just a mile or so before yoga or weights. It was nice to see that my leg was strong enough to do two long (comparatively) runs in a row. (It was a bit sore for the next run, but it just needs to suck it up and strengthen, already)

And I added Burpees back into rotation. They really made a difference to my shape and strength when I did the Burpee challenge in June, so I thought I should do them a couple of times a week. That hasn’t happened, as I am only doing weights once a week at the moment and that’s where I added the Burpees. I am doing 5 Burpees in-between my arm sets. I do three sets, so I am currently doing  15 Burpees, and definitely need to increase them each week.  I ought to work in my weights more than once a week too, but it’s just more fun to run or have a yoga session.

I did have a fun excursion planned for this previous Sunday, but Mother Nature, once more, stepped in to change that.

We had received more  snow than normal at this time of year, which is great for snowmobiling. Not a lot of trails around here, so we had planned a trip a few hours north on Sunday.

My husband had bought a new–to him–sled in December and he was aching to get on it. Since he had a new sled, I got his. My sled was a similar model several years older than his, and since it currently goes into reverse and won’t come out of it, I was happy with the change. We had gotten to play around our back field, but were really looking forward to a long day out.

Then it rained for 18 hours. All that snow melted, and flooded.

And I do mean flood. We live near the Kennebec river, and the fact that we no longer had anything to snowmobile on was not the worst thing to happen in the area:

Image result for hallowell flooded cars   Image result for hallowell flooded cars Cars parked along the river behind local businesses. Many of the businesses flooded too.

We did get some more snow this week (big surprise!), so my husband is headed up North this weekend for snowmobiling. Not sure those cars are out yet. Or will be anytime soon.

 

 

Happy Surprises

I love it when I realize I am  in better shape than I thought!

I’ve been playing around with the pre-set workouts on  my treadmill, and today I decided to try the forty minute intensity session. I haven’t run for more than thirty minutes since I started running on the treadmill. And my last runs on the road weren’t that long either, since I was running out of time and daylight. So I really didn’t think I was going to finish the forty minutes.

I’d done four of the six workouts, but I hadn’t done the final two, which are each forty minutes. Mostly that was a lack of time. Most of my workouts are done after work, and I am limited by both my energy and all the other things I need to get done at night (feeding the horses, feeding the husband, laundry, errands, etc).

I’m happy when I get any exercise in, and thirty minutes seems to be the most I can devote to my workouts at night recently.  The holidays are over and life should return to normal, but my new normal seems to be sitting down between 6:30 and 7:00 at night–and I get out of work at 2:45!

But I had nothing going on today.  Since we were supposed to have an ice event today (it didn’t show, but absolutely no complaints), we got all our errands tucked away yesterday and today I planned on laundry, napping and movies.

Eventually this afternoon I convinced myself I really should get on the treadmill. I was dithering whether I would walk, run or do a preset. I decided to do the forty minute #6 preset workout, but I convinced myself I didn’t have to do all of it. Of course, once I hit twenty-five minutes, I figured I could finish it.

That carrot trick works every time. I’m so easy to fool.

The workout starts with two minutes of walking at 3.4 MPH, then hops to 5.3 MPH and alternates that with 6.5 MPH, then alternates 5.3 MPH intervals with 6.8 MPH intervals. I think the intervals are a minute each, but I try not to pay too much attention to time because if I watch the clock, then it feels like the workout is taking forever. I do know that there were three of the 6.5 intervals and thirteen of the 6.8. The final three minutes are walking as well, at 3.1 MPH.

When I finished the forty minutes, I decided to do a cool down of walking at 2.5 MPH for ten minutes. Followed by eleven more minutes of yoga stretches. So, in all, sixty-one minutes of exercise!

And I didn’t die. I felt awesome 🙂

A New Year of Exercise

A lot of exercise resolutions are being made this month. And, sadly, many will be broken next month. So here is my little bit of advice to keep you going on those resolutions.

First, make sure your resolution is what you want, not just because everyone around you is making their resolutions and you think you should as well.

Then, figure out what works for YOU.

I did a lot of aerobics in the ’90s as they were the “in” thing. Here’s what I learned–I hate aerobics. I would start an exercise program, then quit in a month. Then I felt bad, so I  would start again and then quit again,  and  keep going through that cycle. Not surprisingly, I neither got in shape nor lost weight.

When Billy Blanks started his Kickboxing revolution, I tried that too. I found I liked kickboxing, but more as the sport itself than speeding up the moves to make an aerobic  (there’s that word again) exercise as Billy did. I did get myself a freestanding punching bag with a book and kept up the kickboxing, with the emphasis  on form rather than speed. Hmmm, maybe I need to add that back into rotation….

The first time I actually enjoyed exercise was when I got my Springer pup and I had to walk her energy off several times a week. Then I decided walking took too long (I am basically an impatient person), so I began running. Ah, that fit!!

Once you decide what works for you, there are still more pieces to nail down. When you have the time to exercise is a big one. Be flexible.

I used to exercise in the afternoon, because I was not a morning person. But I have changed over the years, and I found it nice to get it done before heading off for my day. Then I started working at 6:30 in the morning and I shifted back to the afternoon sessions. I miss my morning workouts, but not enough to get up at 3:30!

I do try to plan out my week–I’m kinda OCD that way. I figure out what exercise I am going to do each day, and what day I plan to take off. But I let my week dictate what I can do and if I really don’t want to run a certain day, then I weight-lift instead and run on the weight day. If something major comes up, I switch my day off and workout on my planned day off.

Be open to new forms of exercise, you never know what might surprise you. My friend  recently took up kayaking. That is not terribly surprising, except that she can’t swim and has avoided water-based activities for a long time. But she loves it! Whatever it is your friends talk you into may not be your go-to exercise, but you could enjoy it and add in occasionally. If not, then you know not to try it again!

You might have noticed that I use the word flexible quite a bit. Nothing should be written in stone except your intention to exercise in some form and in some consistent fashion.

Just keep in mind that you shouldn’t dread your chosen exercise, and there are  certainly enough out there to try a new one if you find yourself skipping workouts.

I love running, yoga and riding my horses. I tolerate the weight-lifting because I know I need it to do my loves to the best of my ability. I know not everyone will love, or like, running. Or yoga. You might even hate them. So go find your love.

 

A month of Burpees

I had been toying with the idea of creating/doing a Burpee challenge for a while now. So last month I did.

I gathered a few friends too, but some dropped out due to injury (not from the Burpees!) while others popped in and out. I felt that doing a lot one day to catch up wasn’t the goal of the challenge, the goal was to do them every day–which was harder than just “catching up.” I didn’t say anything though, I was just happy they tried. I did have one coworker who made it through the whole month with me 🙂

I started May 31 with 5 Burpees, then added one each day during the month of June. I was supposed to end with 35, but somewhere between 10 and 14 I miscounted and realized I was doing 15 on the day I should be doing 14. But I kept the extra, and ended on June 30th with 36.

I did some research while coming up with the challenge, and here’s what I learned:

1. Burpees are named after their creator–Royal H. Burpee, who was an employee at the Bronx YMCA in the 1930s.  He used the exercise in his doctoral thesis for Columbia University in the subject of applied physiology in 1940, while the Bronx YMCA introduced it to their members.

2. I hate Burpees

3. Burpees are used in Spartan races if a racer can’t complete an obstacle as a time penalty, 30 for an elite athlete and 10 for those running in the general population. Burpees are also often used in CrossFit classes as a penalty if a participant is late.

4. I hate Burpees.

5. Burpees were used by the US Armed Forces as a measurement of fitness for applicants during WWII. The exerise let them assess the strength, coordination and agility. Twenty-seven burpees in one minute was considered poor physical form, while forty-one was considered excellent. I believe that would be the original Burpee, not  with a push-up. (I haven’t tried, not sure I really want to know)

6. I hate Burpees.

7. There are dozens of variations. Royal’s original was a 4 beat:  squat with hands on floor, kick feet back to a push-up position, jump back to squat position, jump up. A newer version (the one I did) has a push-up and a higher jump added. Do a search, however, and you will find Burpees with weights, jumps onto steps, jumps over obstacles and many more additions to make a Burpee more difficult. Like it needs help!  Check out Lifting Revolution’s blog to see some variations.

8. I hate Burpees. And push-ups, I definitely hate push-ups.

9. “On May 17, 2014, in Greenwood, South Carolina,  a gentleman by the name of Cameron Dorn broke two burpee world records. He performed 5,657 within a 12-hour period. He also completed the most burpees in a 24-hour period, finishing with a whopping 10,105. Another world record was achieved on October 21, 2013, in Portland, Oregon, by Lloyd Weema. He broke the burpee world record for the most chest to ground burpees performed in 72 hours with 9,480.”*  Yeah, I am not trying that.

10. I am in much better shape after my month of Burpees. They helped my core and arms tremendously. Although I have avoided push-ups since grade school, I can do them now–and they aren’t scary anymore.

I will keep Burpees in my rotation from now on, as I definitely don’t want to lose the fitness I gained.  Straight up push ups will also be thrown in. My core is solid after all the push ups, and my knee bends more after all those squats, as well as bending the leg while jumping in and out of the push-up position. I am glad….glad that I did it, and glad that it is over!

Added up, I did 628 Burpees over the course of the month, which was both a surprise and made me feel incredibly good! And I just saw an email from Shape with a Burpee challenge, so apparently I am right on trend. Who knew?

Shape got creative with the variations, giving you 7 different types of Burpees. The challenge is to do 10 reps of 1 variation each day of the week, with an increase of reps by 10 each week. So, 700 Burpees over the four-week period. Wanna try? Here’s the link: Shape Mag

*Dr. Axe

Thursday Thoughts

Shake it up.

Whatever your routine is, do something different. Why?

I have a neighbor who walks down Blinn Hill every day. It is a mile down from his house (plus his long driveway) and, thus, a mile back up. Sounds like a workout, right?

Not if you do it every day. 

It was hard at first, I’m sure. But now he is not even breathing heavy when he gets to the top. His body has adjusted to the work of climbing that hill. If he went down the other side, which is not as steep until the last 300 yards, it would work his legs differently. If he did something crazy, like getting on a bike, well, that would really shake his body up.

So try something different. You might find a new love. And your muscles will let you know you shook them up.

Water Therapy

I’ve had two water therapies  now.  And I enjoy it immensely.

The pool itself is rather small–if  Michael Phelps  did a flip and push-off at one end he would probably  hit his head on the other before he could start swimming. And if he dove off one side going across, he would probably land on the other side of the pool!

Of course I don’t need an olympic size pool, as I am not all that big. The pool isn’t too deep, but if one is as short as I am, one can’t do a proper squat in it. As soon as my knees bend, my chin sinks into the water. Generally I have to stand on the steps to do the knee bending during our sessions.

The water is lovely and warm–rather like walking into a bath. The exercises seem so easy while I am in the pool. But my leg definitely feels it afterwards. I didn’t get any increase in bending this week– 😦 — but my leg is stronger, so I guess we have to go with that.

And I am so hungry afterwards! The first time I considered it  a fluke. The second time I was tearing my car apart looking for food. The next time I will bring a healthy snack, knowing I will by dying for it!

 

 

The hard part about exercise is figuring out how to track it. Shall we be old fashioned and keep a journal? Or get a snazzy new gadget? I suppose we all have our favorites. Some of us put in our blog, keeping ourselves honest!

I still need to track it so I know what I did, when, and for how long; so I can write about it.  I definitely don’t remember for more than a day. I have two methods: I have an app on my phone that tracks each session, and I do keep an old-fashioned  journal too.

But how does one decide? My journal is great because not only does it show in a weekly format what I did, but gives me a place to write down how I felt about it and whether I tried anything new in the session. My app is wonderful because I get a digital readout of how long and what I did.  It also sends me a monthly reckoning of calories burned, minutes exercised and miles run–if its not what I wanted to achieve, I can always strive harder the next month.

That works for me. What will work for you? There are literally thousands of apps, and many gadgets that hook up to a computer program to track your health; not only your exercise but sleep and eating patterns.

I admit, I lucked out with my app. I use Endomondo, which I love because  A) it’s simplicity and B) the amount of exercises it lists. It actually has riding  (a horse) in it. It has all my exercises, plus many more. All I could find that it is missing is that it has no gardening activity (yes, trust me, cleaning out leaves is a workout).  It has a lot of training programs and challenges too, and makes a great way to connect with others.

And the Bands! I do have a simple pedometer/watch that the hospital gives all its employees, and it connects to a website where I can track o’ so much, and connect with other hospital employees. I have become addicted to counting my steps and seeing how many I can get in a day. But does not even compare to a Fitbit, or Apple Watch or Jawbone, or one of the many more. For a great comparison of wearable trackers, check out this Self article. Your head will spin with all the choices out there.

But there is one important thing to keep in mind with an app, journal, or band: you must utilize it. Getting the coolest tech with the neatest website doesn’t mean you will get up and use it. There are four prime things to look for when you are picking out a band:
1. The wearer must have the desire and motivation to want the wearable and able to afford it.
2. The wearer must be able to wear it and recharge it easily.
3. The device must be accurate at tracking the data it’s targeting.
4. Data needs to be presented in a meaningful, user-friendly way that also motivates further action.*

What do those mean? Well, you probably need to plug it in every night when you plug your phone in.  Pick out a reasonable band, taking into account not only the up-front cost but also whether there is a monthly cost to have it connected. Same thing with an app, my Endomondo is free. However, there is a $5 monthly upgrade, but I decided that I didn’t use enough of those features to make it worth it. I did try it, which I suggest everyone try. But don’t be afraid to get rid of it if you are not utilizing all the features.

You also need to be able to understand what it says and how to set it up. Small buttons and tiny readouts are not for everyone.  Plus what it tells you must be usable to you. I don’t track food, so I could care less about calories burned. But to some people that would be a must.  I do care about time and distance, so it is important that my tracker have accurate clock and GPS.

In the end, take your time and  think about what is important to you when you exercise. Think about what kind of information you want to track–time, sleep, weight–and pick out a program/band that will do that for you. And then USE it 😛

 

 

 

*Self

 

 

Quarterly Check In

So it’s the end of March and we all know my resolutions have been derailed. But how are you guys doing? Did you make a lot of New Year Resolutions? Are you sticking to them or have they already gone by the wayside?  I ran down some tips on keeping your momentum–or rebuilding it  🙂

Focus only improving performance, strength, speed and consistency this year. Take the emphasis off the aesthetic results, and put it in becoming the best athlete you can become.* Once you concentrate on how you feel instead of how you look, you may recognize improvements much quicker.  And that will help you keep going.

Do what you love! If you’re not a runner or a cyclist, don’t force yourself. If you feel unstoppable on the dance floor, dance! If you feel like a kid when you’re in the pool, swim more! The exercise that burns the most calories is the workout that you can see yourself doing daily.*  Many fitness experts will tell you that the key to getting fit is finding exercises that you like and find enjoyable. Thankfully, there are so many ways to exercise that you are bound to find ones that you like.** I believe I have mention this before, so I will let those quotes stand alone.

Resolutions, like goals, should be SMART (specific, measureable, attainable, realistic/relevant, time-bound). Secondly, and equally as important, is to make sure you actually care about the fitness resolutions you are setting. Don’t set them simply because someone else is setting it. Create goals that mean something to you.*  One helpful way to stick with it could be not overdoing or wearing yourself out. Pick manageable times and workout schedules that you can stick to without getting overwhelmed.** Scheduling your workouts is very important. If you miss more than a few, you will feel like you might as well quit. So finding a time to do them when you can actually do them is important. Start small and work up–one to two times a week in the beginning. Soon you will be looking forward to those times of working on yourself and you will want to do them more often.

“Healthy” can mean different things to different people, but generally, feeling good, looking good and taking care of yourself fits the bill.** Trying to focus on these things can make one’s life much happier.  There are ways to work around stress as well: visualization to deep breathing, to simply zoning out to calming tunes. Being prepared with an effective stress relief tool in your mental toolkit can be very useful when you need a breather.**  Once you integrate stress control and exercise into your life, you will be amazed at how much happier you will be. I know I was.

 

*Self