Happy Anniversary To Me!!!! It’s a very big day here at Happy Exhaustion, folks. One year ago today, I reached my goal of losing 100 lbs. And today I can announce (with a sense of pride that is undoubtably visible from space) that I … Continue reading
Ok guys… Here we go. The holidays are officially upon us.
The holidays can make fitness hard, but don’t throw away what you work so hard for the rest of the year. Enjoy yourself, but keep your eyes on the prize. You can do it! Will of steel!
This might help:
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Need some motivation to reach your fitness goals? Goals like… say… not bulking up over the holidays like a bear preparing to hibernate?
Share your goal with everyone you know. Tell them your deadline, too. Post it on Facebook. Tweet it. Pin it. Encourage people to inquire about your progress.
Accountability in the form of avoiding public failure can be worth it’s weight in gold.
So – Here’s mine:
On December 6th, 2013 I will be celebrating my First Health-iversary. That date will mark a full year of maintaining 100 lbs of weight loss, one year since I started Happy Exhaustion.
I intend to mark my anniversary by proving that I really, truly have kept off every pound.
I will post a picture of myself standing on a scale – numbers and all.
*insert the abject horror of a girl with no photoshop skills here*
With any luck, I will be standing on a scale that says 142 lbs. That’s what it said when I wrote my first blog post on that day in 2012!
All that stands between me and that seriously triumphant picture is a little math…
16 days + 4 parties + 1 husband practicing his holiday baked goods (today involved homemade pies with homemade fruit compote… God, give me strength) + 1 Thanksgiving = Wait… I might not have properly thought this through…
Hold me to it, interwebs!
I’ll do it with your help!
Blog disclaimer: Always drink responsibly. Never drink and drive. Don’t drink more than you can handle. Know your limits. Know when to say when. Etc. Etc. Etc.
Ok – so: What’s your hooch of choice?
At the occasional leisurely brunch I enjoy a Bloody Mary. At a sporting event? Corona. Coors Light in a pinch. Classy evening soirée? A nice white wine. And my true love? A modest serving of top-shelf vodka. Cheap vodka hurts my head, but I do adore the good stuff.
All of us who like to unwind with a drink have our favorites. I’d wager you can probably list not only your own, but also your spouse’s, your college roommates and best friends’. And, while it is important to step away from the bar if you begin to develop a dependence, lots of us look forward to our drink of choice at the end of the day.
You can probably relate.
How do I know you can relate? Because you’ve sent me your emails, texts, and carrier pigeons, all asking the following: How can I lose weight without giving up my cocktails?
I have heard from dozens of people who feel frustrated because they’re ‘doing everything right’ and CANNOT shake the last 5-10 lbs. They work out at least 5 times a week! They eat clean, whole foods in limited quantities! They drink soooo much water! WTF?!
Wow – that’s tricky… Well, what about booze?
That’s when we usually get down to the real issue.
Those soothing glasses of yumminess are maddeningly jam-packed with calories. Yes, even if they have ‘skinny’ in their name.
If you simply weren’t factoring your alcoholic beverages into your daily calorie count, TA-DA! Simple fix. Mystery solved.
But for the majority of people who consult with me, when we get down to the brass tacks, the truth is that weight loss just doesn’t rank above their nightcaps. Lots of us want to drop a few pounds, but if we’re being honest, we know that we don’t crave a smaller number on the scale as much as we crave our cocktails.
That’s fine. Just stop beating yourself up over what’s not working! You know what’s not working, it’s just farther than you’re interested in going - at least for now.
I wish I had a magic solution, but…
If you’re going to keep drinking, I can help you figure out how to maintain your weight.
If you’re ready to put the bottle down, I can help you lose weight.
But, if you aren’t blessed with the metabolism of a humming-bird, I know of no way to allow you to kick back with a beer every night and lose weight at the same time.
Is it physically possible to lose weight without giving up alcohol? Sure. You just have to all but starve yourself throughout the rest of your waking hours.
Over the summer, I discovered the following: If I want to maintain my sweet spot of 140-145 lbs, I can’t drink. At all. I just don’t have the willpower to eat so little during the day! To make the math work with liquor added at the end of the balance sheet, I need to spend all day feeling hungry and cranky. It’s not worth it for me.
I can, however, enjoy a cocktail a few days a week if I’m ok with maintaining closer to 150 lbs. It’s just a question of priorities. When I want my personal best, I need to avoid alcohol altogether. When I’m feeling relaxed and groovy and don’t mind carrying an extra 5 lbs around, then a nice glass of wine is invited to the party.
Need one more fitness-related reason to avoid the Devil Drink? Drinking tends to make you feel ever-so-slightly less strongly about your sober goals. The girl who drunk-dials her ex after one too many glasses of wine is the same girl who says ‘eff it – let’s order pizza!’
Not that I would ever be inspired to blog about the Devil Drink by a minor hangover mixed with humiliatingly tragic, blurry-around-the-edges memories of mindless late-night consumption of handfuls of stale candy corn…
I hate when I’m talking fitness with the resident trainer and he gets that “I hate to have to break it to you…” look in his eyes. That look always means I’m about to be disillusioned, and it’s never pretty.
I recently got a dose of this particular brand of fitness reality when I showed him a post-workout picture of the screen on my favorite cardio machine. (I always snap a picture when I’m done, it helps me to keep track of my progress.)
Here’s the pic:
“Look!” I proudly exclaimed. “If I can only kick it up a half a notch, I’ll burn ONE THOUSAND calories in the 65 minutes that the machine allows! That would be so rad!”
That’s when he got ’The Look.’
The Look did not say ’You’re 100% right! Good for you! Get it, girl!’
The Look was kind. It was filled with sympathy. My darling man does not like to bring me down. But, he knows I need truth. So – he broke it to me.
Cardio machines are big, fat liars.
It’s not enough that they make you run, ride, and climb to nowhere. Nooooo…. they also have to sabotage you! Stupid jerk machines.
See – the stupid jerk machines spit out numbers based on an algorithm that was not tailored for you. They were tailored to be in the right ballpark when considering the population as a whole. Depending on your height, weight, and fitness level, the algorithm might be assuming you’re heavier, lighter, stronger, weaker, taller, or shorter than you actually are.
If you’re petite and putting in time on the stair climber or elliptical, you’re working harder than I am, because I’m tall. If you’re 250 lbs, you’re burning a lot more calories than I am when we’re going the same speed. But when we program the machines for the same level of resistance and go the same speed, they tell us we’re burning the same amount of calories.
Pants. On. Fire.
I feel so betrayed.
So, what to do?
First – do your best to keep your workouts in the neighborhood of your target heart rate. If you’re not sure what your target is, subtract your age from 220 and shoot for 60-85% of the resulting number.
Here’s a handy-dandy chart to help:
Once you reach your target, you can safely assume that you’re burning approximately 10 calories per minute, or 100 calories per mile.
So, when I did 7 miles in 65 minutes, I should assume a calorie burn of 650-700. Not 940.
But, if you’re like me and the hardest part of losing weight (or maintaining your weight) is the calorie control, then you probably want to be able to enjoy as many bites and sips as you can. If you’re assuming that you burned 300 (or however many) calories more than you probably did, and this assumption leads you to feel safe eating 300 more calories every day, then your rate of loss will be a lot slower than you want it to be. You’ll suffer through one of those dreaded “WHY ISN’T IT WORKING?!” episodes.
So, if you are doing everything right and beginning to wonder if maybe you need to get your metabolism tested because the damn scale refuses to budge? Could be the fault of the Lies of the Machines.
And with that, I’m off for a run in the sunshine. I can’t bear to look at a stupid jerk machine.
I’m not sure I could have been a stay-at-home mom in the days before social media.
My Facebook network provides a vital dose of adult interaction when adventures in potty training and spelling homework have me climbing the walls.
I love to share in my network’s joys, and I appreciate the ability to reach out and offer support in times of struggle.
I may not know all 400+ friends on Facebook well enough to get a call when someone in their life passes away, but I read about it on social media. People post the most beautifully touching things in times of loss.
The news of friends of friends lost too soon was an integral part of my tipping point when I decided to get healthy. It’s one thing to hear abstract statistics about the dangers of sedintary lives, it’s quite another to console a friend whose cousin died of a heart attack at 38 years old.
Fear of mortality fuels my journey.
This week, another social media brush with tragedy caused me to look at the fragility of life from another angle. I was reminded that health & strength are not only important for prevention, they can also make all the difference when the things that we are trying to avoid go ahead and happen anyway.
No matter how hard I work at being the strongest and healthiest me I can be, I do not pretend that my efforts mean the things I fear will never happen.
Whether it’s a thrown clot or a major car accident, horrifying health issues have a terribly consistent habit of arriving whether we’re expecting them or not.
Have you ever met anyone who has had a major coronary and says they woke up that morning thinking ‘today is the day’?
I’ve devoted mountains of energy and rivers of sweat to the pursuit of prevention. What just dawned on me is how much better equipped my strengthened body is to handle the worst when and if it happens anyway.
I can’t re-write my family history of stroke, but I can use every healthy day I’ve got to work on strengthening my mind-body connection. That way, if I ever have to re-learn how to walk, I’ll be standing on legs that are used to being pushed beyond their comfort zone.
I may not be able to prevent a heart attack from ever occurring, but I can be sure that if it happens, my heart will be in fighting form. Before I flipped the script and got myself fit, I never asked anything from my heart beyond basic function. I don’t even want to think about what a heart attack would have done to my heart then.
Today, I know that my heart is strong. My cardiologist tells me so.
Not inspired yet? Listen to this:
One of my husband’s long-standing clients was recently diagnosed with cancer. Today, he works out with him while a chemotherapy pump actively drips into his veins. Can you imagine how difficult that must be? To go through so much struggle and still choose to push and sweat towards improved physical strength? That man is a walking lesson in the vital importance of Healthy & Strong. He’s not just hoping the doctors will cure him, he’s actively fighting for survival.
You never know when you’ll find yourself thrown in the ring, so teach your body to fight. I’m sure you won’t regret it.
I need to write this quickly. In a few hours I’ll be too sore to type.
But I just had to tell you – I am currently fighting my way through the hardest fitness challenge I’ve taken on since my first round of Insanity.
Over the summer, fearing that I was growing complacent about my fitness, I developed an itch for a new adventure. The resident trainer recommended that I try a TRX class. Are you familiar with the mayhem that is TRX suspension training? If not, check this out: TRX
First, I took a class that taught the basics of suspension training. It was hard! I was sore after every class, but I was able to rock it out.
So, when I completed the intro class, I decided to kick it up to the next level.
Oh. My. Dear. God.
There are no words for how hard this class is. Things like planks with reverse crunches with feet in suspension straps make it hard for me not to curse out loud.
Today was my third class, and it’s easily the hardest thing I do all week. Hands down.
After the first class felt like hell on wheels, I didn’t want to go back ever again. The second week rolled around and I begged my husband to give me an excuse not to go. No dice.
So, despite knowing that I was about to get my ass handed to me – I went back. And this week I went back again.
When I got home today, I was so drenched in sweat, my man asked if I had spilled my water down my shirt. I found this question (from a personal trainer! Who makes people sweat for a living!) so amusing, I thought a selfie was in order:
As I drove home from my weekly torture session, despite having had every ounce of effort wrung out of me, I felt effing GLORIOUS. I was so glad I didn’t cop out! It was so hard. It was so, so, so hard. But I did it. I knew it was going to push me to my outer limits, and I went anyway.
Here’s why I think this is blog-worthy: Doing the damn thing with my body is the greatest gift I can give my mind. And I don’t know about you, but I’ll take physical struggle over emotional struggle every. single. time.
For the last 2 Fridays, I’ve pulled back from following through. I’ve seriously considered letting myself off the hook. I’ve bathed in the seduction of spending that hour doing something – ANYTHING – else.
But, I put on my big girl panties instead. I did the damn thing. I made myself proud.
I spent a lot of years pinned under disappointment. I was so disappointed in myself for my persistent laziness, I became paralyzed by self-loathing.
I know if I don’t go to this drop-dead difficult class, I invite the darkness of disappointment back in. But, if I know it’s going to be hard and I grunt and sweat my way through it anyway? Then I feel proud.
The struggle of major physical exertion can buy confidence. So challenge yourself and DO NOT QUIT! You deserve the rush of success.
Know what doesn’t rock? Even at all? Pain.
Most exercise-related injuries occur when people push themselves harder than their bodies are ready to be pushed. When we’re ready to do the hard work, we often decide to dive in and give it 100%. That’s fantastic. But it’s smart to pay attention to the space between what we want from our bodies and what our bodies are actually able to give us.
When I decided to run a 5k, I trained for months to get myself ready. It was hard work, but little by little I got stronger and faster.
Well, after accomplishing my 5k goal, I dropped running like a hot potato. Some workouts make me happy to be alive. Running does not.
But one Saturday last month, I wasn’t in the mood to go to the gym and my dear husband was filling our home with the delicious smells of fresh baked goods. Running away seemed like a good idea. So, despite not having run a single mile in months, I decided to hit the mile track.
I aimed to run 5k in under 30 minutes, just like I did when I reached my goal months before.
Y’all – I almost died.
Ok, not really. But I almost gave myself heat stroke. For real.
First of all, I had NEVER tried running in the summer. I did all of my training in the cool air of spring. My lungs would occasionally burn from the cold, but my body temperature was always fine once I got going.
Turns out – summer running is a whole other thing.
I ran the first two miles without too much trouble, but I couldn’t understand why my pace was so much slower than I wanted it to be. I work out every day! I should be able to do this!
I was pushing as hard as I could, and it wasn’t working. Also, my knees were PISSED. They were not at all excited about the pounding.
Midway through the third mile, I had to stop. I *never* quit on a workout. Even if I can’t keep up with the people in my workout video, the people in my class, or the people beside me on the cardio machines, I never give up.
That day, I gave up. I had to. I was dizzy, losing vision, and feeling weak.
I was not in running condition. I was especially not in summer running condition. I had to sit in my car for a little while before I felt safe to drive. It was crazy.
When the heat issues passed, I realized how much my knees hurt. They continued to bother me for days to follow. No major injuries, but I had asked too much of them.
The Resident Trainer says he sees this kind of thing with clients all the time. Especially if the clients have a super-studly athletic past. Men who used to be Navy SEALs know what their bodies are ultimately capable of. They expect their bodies to be able to perform at high levels. But if they take a few years off and come back to the gym expecting to bang out SEAL workouts, they might hurt themselves. Badly.
If you’re just getting started, be mindful of easing yourself into your new lifestyle.
But if you’re like me and you are fit enough to expect a lot from yourself, don’t forget that you still have limitations.
Can I run a sub-30 5k again? Sure I can! Even in the summer! But can I do it now? As it turns out, I can’t.
Drive your body with your brain. But if your body throws up a Check Engine light, remember that there’s no shame in tapping the brakes.
When I was considering posts for my ‘Debunktion Junction‘ series, I roughly drafted one about the (pretty uniquely feminine) fear that working out will cause you to bulk up.
Almost every woman who trains with my husband begins by stating that while she wants to get stronger, she does not want to get ‘big.’ She doesn’t want to get ripped, she just want to ‘tone up’.
This amusingly predictable hand-wringing causes a lot of eye-rolling in the personal trainer community.
Generally speaking, you won’t bulk up in the gym if that’s not your goal. Especially if you’re a woman. We’re just not programmed that way.
Trainers spend a lot of time talking women off the ledge. “Don’t worry, just because I’m going to have you working with weights doesn’t mean you’re going to Hulk Out.”
I was going to blog a request that women stop worrying about something that won’t happen unintentionally. But I pushed the pause button, because I don’t like to blog about things I haven’t personally experienced. I had never really worked with weights. I had no first-hand knowledge of what would happen.
Then I started working in the Boy Zone of the gym (see: Stranger In A Strange Land). I lifted weights every day. I was just improvising, using lifts I learned from Jillian Michaels in No More Trouble Zones. I was unsupervised, with no trainer on hand to recommend weights/reps.
Then, on the 4th of July I posted this picture on Facebook:
I wasn’t expecting it, but I got a lot of positive feedback about the visible muscles in my arms. And you know me, I’m a sucker for compliments! Flattery will get you everywhere.
When I went out for lunch with my brother shortly thereafter, he said I have Michelle Obama arms. *swoon!*
Good thing I’ve been working so hard in the Boy Zone, huh? Rad.
So, I kept at it. I got my heart rate up higher lifting weights than I do spending an hour on my favorite cardio machine. I was building muscle left and right.
Well… then my husband took this picture:
Those arms are bigger than I wanted them to be. I mean… I look like I could kick someone’s ass! And, as I’ve said before – I’m in the girly-girl business. My ideal adjectives include “slender, willowy, sleek.”
“Holy crap, that chick has guns” is not my personal ideal.
I’m so glad that I didn’t post that you don’t get bigger than you want to!
My brain may have been saying “I don’t want to get any bigger” but my actions in the gym were the actions of a woman trying to build muscle. I had incorporated weight lifting into my daily routine.
What happens when you lift weights 6 days a week? Arm muscles. Kinda big ones.
I discussed the situation with the resident trainer. He reminded me that the more you lift, the bigger you get.
Mental note: No hand weights heavier than the 5 lbs I’m using now.
My man says if I don’t want as much muscle mass, I should try backing off a bit and only working out my arms a few times a week.
Less working out in pursuit of a personal ideal? A-W-E-S-O-M-E!
While it’s interesting to know what I look like when I have guns, I don’t really want to keep them. Don’t get me wrong – I love having strong arms, but the stay-at-home-mom game doesn’t really require lots of heavy lifting. My ability to do my job won’t be harmed if I surrender a bit of arm strength.
Can’t say I’ll be sad to see these biceps go. #GunControl