Category Archives: Exercise

Feeling The Benefits

There are so many benefits to losing weight.  You’re less likely to suffer diseases like cancer and diabetes, your joints feel better, you look better, and you have more energy.  When gaining weight slowly, I didn’t seem to notice the negative effects as they piled up.  When losing weight quickly, though, the benefits are soon evident.

I lost about 20 pounds my first month back on the UAMS weight loss program, and the way I feel has completely transformed.  I seek out opportunities to walk.  I take the stairs.  I’m actually tan from being outside so much.  I’ve been looking on CraigsList for a used weight bench  I got my FitBit out and charged it up for the first time in a year.

When you feel too tired to go out and walk, you might be too tired not to.

Where do you exercise?

Resuming this journey requires I resume exercise.  I’m doing it now the same way I did it the first time — by committing to walking at least 30 minutes per day.  When I started in 2011 I couldn’t make it across the Two Rivers Bridge without stopping to rest my ankles.  I felt a huge sense of accomplishment when I first crossed the Big Dam Bridge.  This was the gorgeous sunset I saw the other night as I crossed the Big Dam Bridge.

BDB Sunset

Where do you exercise?

I’m a Hornet? I’m a Hornet!

I’ve been a Dolphin, a Reddie, a Red Wolf, a Dolphin again, an Eagle, and now I’m a Hornet.  I’m not sure if I mentioned this on Facebook or in a previous post, but I was offered a position at a new school district teaching a course that I helped them develop.  How could I turn that down!?  Right?  So, I’m now a new teacher at a new school about to start a new year.  Life.  Is.  Hectic.



In addition to teaching students in grades 9-12 how to create mobile apps, I’ll also be teaching business management and accounting.  Although the students don’t return until August 19, I’ve already been busy (as a hornet?) readying my new classroom and developing lesson plans.  Tomorrow will be my official orientation to the district.  I’m so fortunate to have a swarm of very helpful colleagues who have already made life wonderful.  

Getting back into a routine is a very welcome thing.  Although I’ve had success maintaining my weight this summer, I haven’t really gotten back into the swing of things at the gym like I should have since my doctor pronounced me ready several weeks ago.  “I’ll start back on Monday.”  “I’ll start back when it’s cooler.”  “I’ll start back after weigh-in.”  I turned into one of “those” people.

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Fear not!  I’m back in a “good rut,” as you can see my gym activity.  July wasn’t a smashing success, but I’ve gotten things together in August.  In addition to gym exercises, I’ve also recommitted to working on those push-ups I wrote about a few months ago.

Too weak to do more than two or three “big boy” push-ups, I decided that I wanted to eventually be able to do 100 of them.  I downloaded a mobile app, set up an area just for push-ups, and then promptly avoided that app and that area… for months.

The approach that I’m using now, which I saw somewhere on YouTube (but I’m unable to find again), works with a series of levels.  You start out by doing 3 sets of 15 wall push-ups.  Once you can do all of those, you do as many knee push-ups as you can, filling out the rest of the set with wall push-ups.  Once you can do 3 sets of 15 knee push-ups, you start doing full push-ups.  Any push-ups that you can’t complete fully you supplement with knee push-ups, always doing 45 of “something.”  Between sets, I found myself getting bored, so I added 30 second wall sits.

To summarize this rambling mess, I’m teaching at a new school which presents a number of great opportunities and challenges.  I’ll figure them all out.  I already know I’m going to love it.  Being back on a regular schedule has also bolstered my dedication to physical fitness in terms of regular gym attendance and exercise at home.

Gotta go do some push-ups!


My Gym Misses Me. I Miss My Gym.

For 32 years of my life, I never set foot inside a gym other than the times that I was forced to for PE.  Even then, I was uncomfortable, felt unwelcome, and generally only went there because it was on my class schedule.  From other posts, you know that coaches and I never exactly saw eye to eye.  Here I sit, a month after surgery, still unable to return to the gym until cleared by my surgeon.  I miss exercise for so many reasons.  Apparently, my gym misses me, too!

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I got this email, which I’m sure is an automated form letter that gets kicked out to members who haven’t beeped their barcode in a set amount of time.  The point is, it has been long enough that my gym has felt it necessary to check in and remind me that I belong.  That’s lovely.  Imagine if everything in life was like that.  “This is your furnace filter.  You haven’t changed me in a couple of months.  Do you still love me?”

For 32 years, I didn’t need the gym.  I didn’t want the gym.  I loathed the gym.  Now, every day that goes by, I feel like I’m decaying a little bit inside not being able to lift something, push something, or ellipticize.  Is that strange?  I am not looking forward to how difficult getting back on the ball is going to be.  I know that I won’t be able to work as long or as hard as I used to be able to.  Fear or not, I’m ready.  Let’s just hope I get cleared by the doctor sooner rather than later.



An Hour with Dorothy

I spent an hour on a plane with Dorothy, a self-described “senior,” who has lost 25 pounds.  She and I have one thing in common — we struggle with our midsections.

Dorothy and I started talking when I saw her cup of yogurt.  I asked her if she had ever tried making her own yogurt at home. She had not.  I walked her through the process I use, and she said she’d try it.  She was curious why I knew how to make yogurt, so I explained that it was part of my lifestyle change.  We discussed diet, exercise, and our midsections.

My midsection solution, surgery, is generally only necessary for folks who have lost a dramatic amount of weight in a relatively short period of time.  Dorothy has lost her weight more slowly.  Her solution involves, in her words, “a ton of ab workouts.”

In addition to exercise and recipes, Dorothy listened intently as I shared the basic high points of my story.  I told her about being obese in elementary school, losing weight in college, gaining weight after my mother’s death, and ignoring warning sign after warning sign until that day a couple of summers ago when I was too large to fit behind the steering wheel of a full size van.  Dorothy said, “You should write a book.  People need to hear your story for inspiration.”  I gave Dorothy the address of my blog.  If you’re out there reading Dorothy, let me know if you’ve tried that yogurt recipe.  I hope your mother’s condition has improved.

My visit with Dorothy was so pleasant that we were putting our seat backs and tray tables up and preparing for landing before I even took out my iPod and untangled my headphones.  It was so comforting to find a person on a parallel path and spend time with them.

Who have you met on your journey?

North Carolina: The Exercise

My trip to North Carolina was booked.  My hotel advertised all the amenities I needed, and I couldn’t wait to get there after a day full of sitting — on airplanes, in airport terminals, and in the rental car — I was ready for some exercise.  My room was nearest the pool and the fitness center.  Between me and a good workout lay only a change of clothes and the ice machine.

Baymont Fitness Center

As this photo from the property’s website shows, the fitness center includes a television, a treadmill, a weight machine, an exercise bike, and some sort of climbing apparatus.  The center’s proximity to the pool can be seen through the reflection of the window.  Also in the room was a rack of fresh towels and a hamper.

I typically start my workout on the elliptical machine at home, so I investigated the climber.  It’s essentially 2 steps on pivots with their movement restricted by hydraulic cylinders — like the ones that keep your office chair aloft.  The digital display was very faint, but functional.  It would count steps and time in both directions, but there was no way of adjusting the resistance level.  I’m accustomed to running the elliptical machine at a pretty high setting.

I climbed the stairs to nowhere until I ran the little bit of battery power the unit had in it out, and I went to the exercise bike.  I got on and started pedaling, but there was absolutely no resistance.  I pressed several buttons on the control pad, but nothing happened.  Walking around to the other side, I easily saw why.  There was a Medusa-style wad of wires protruding from the back of the control pad.  It was as if someone had grabbed all of the cables and yanked as hard as they could.  It wasn’t something I could repair.

The treadmill was plugged in and ready to go.  I got it up to 4 mph pretty quickly, and was “mall walking” at a brisk pace.  I tried jogging, but I thought the bang-bang-banging might break the unit or arouse suspicion from others within earshot.  Back to brisk walking speed, I tried to increase the incline.  While there was a button for that, and the numbers on the panel changed when it was depressed, no actual change in incline was achieved.  If I wanted to walk up hill, I’d have to actually go find a hill.

My last hope was the weight machine.  While I had used a variety of weight machines at my gym, I had never seen an all-in-one unit like this.  Hanging on the wall nearby was a set of suggested exercises.  I did some wide grip pulldowns, some shoulder presses, and some leg curls.  I spent the better part of 5 minutes trying to figure out how to do a leg extension with the thing until I finally went back to my room and called it a day.

So much for a hotel with a fitness center.  It was like the island of misfit exercise equipment.  The next day I tried the 7 minute workout which I had read about on Life Hacker.

7 Minute Workout

For the most part, this exercise was actually superior to my efforts to make the fitness equipment function.  I enjoyed doing the step-up on to the luggage table.  I found doing the plank somewhat gross in a hotel room, so I laid out towels so I wouldn’t have to get any closer to the carpet than necessary.  The wall sit was actually quite a workout on the quads — much more so than I had imagined, although I was able to hold the position the entire time without losing my footing.

How many times did I work out during my week in North Carolina?  I’d round up and say 4.  In addition to my ill-fated trip to the fitness center and my 7 minute workout, I also did a solid hour of “mall walking” in and around the mall in Hickory.  I say “round up” because I also count the trek between terminals at ATL, which I do without the assistance of the trains when time permits, as a bit of a workout.  Okay.  I’ll settle for 3.

I tried to include exercise in my travel plans, but it just didn’t happen.  It’s not completely the fault of the equipment, but I can blame it on that, right?

On the Importance of Breathing

I’m a systems thinker, or so I’m told by the folks at work who value the way I look at often-confusing things and quickly identify patterns. I see the body as a bunch of systems, just like we were taught in middle school. The cardiovascular system moves blood. The respiratory system moves oxygen and carbon dioxide. Together, they make sure your cells “work.” When you’re out of breath, it’s because your cells either need more oxygen or have produced too much carbon dioxide, which your body is trying to get out. Usually, both.

gym face sweating

When I’m on the elliptical machine going full-tilt, I try to pay attention to my heart rate so it stays within a zone that’s optimal for burning calories. Too slow, and nothing of much benefit happens. Too fast, and the body goes into panic mode. Within the zone of 65-85 percent of your maximum heart rate is the goal.

I’ve found that I can lower my heart rate by as many as 10-15 beats per minute by focusing on breathing more regularly and deeply. This works by helping the lungs more effectively transfer oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. The more regular and deep your breaths, the less your heart has to work to get its job done.

Just keep breathing.

Push-Up Goal (an Ongoing Struggle)

I’m not sure how many of you noticed, but I set a personal goal of being able to do 100 push-ups.  You know how much I like arbitrary, numeric goals.  I had no idea at the time what a chore I was committing to, but I stand by my word.  I could take the easy way out and say, “I did 100 push-ups…  this year.  Two each week.”  That would be disingenuous, though.

Poolee Pushups
Creative Commons License Nick Royer via Compfight

This post isn’t about how amazing I am at doing push-ups.  It’s not about some fancy tool I bought (or want to buy) to help me do push-ups, and it isn’t about the amazing health benefits of doing push-ups (are there any?).  This post is a confession of sorts that this goal is one that I’m struggling with.

I write a lot about setting goals, taking baby steps toward those goals, and taking time each day to reflect on your work toward those goals.  I know how do to this stuff very well.  I’ve shown through weight loss, balancing my books, and in my education that I am more than capable of setting and reaching goals.  Why, then, am I failing at this one?

Play with food
Marco Bernardini via Compfight

Could it be because I have no “carrot” on the end of my “stick”?  No “game” to “win” or “lose”?  I know that by working on push-ups I’ll have stronger triceps, development of a variety of muscles in my chest, and I’ll be able to “drop and give twenty” at a moment’s notice.  I know that this is an exercise that has lasting benefits in working off my “bat wings,” too.  As an added bonus, the more lean muscle I have in my arms, the more calories I burn at rest.  I know these facts.  There are plenty of “carrots.”

Could it be because there are few consequences for not taking action?  I know that if I don’t do my regular gym workouts that I’ll burn fewer calories and have poorer performance at the weight loss clinic on weigh-in days.  I know that if I don’t stick to my meal plans, I’ll not eat the right proportions of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and calories, and I’ll also have poorer performance on weigh-in days.  If I don’t do my push-ups, what’s my disincentive?  Batwings?  I’m already there.

Could it be because I don’t have the resources to learn how to do push-ups?  I have the Internet.  Could it be because I don’t have the resources necessary to do push-ups?  I have arms and a floor.  Could it be because I don’t have a suitable workout plan?  There are plenty of push-up training schedules available online, and I’ve even purchased an iPhone app that can be used to track progress.  The resources are in place.

What’s missing here?  Time?  One of the websites I consulted recommended doing as many push-ups as possible, resting two minutes, and repeating this five times.  That’s an investment of at most 15 minutes.

What’s missing here?  Why can’t (or won’t) I follow-up by taking action on this goal?  I’ve set reminders for myself by moving my dumbbells into the hallway to remind me of my goal.  I step over them at least twice a day, usually much more than that.

I know what I have to do to reach my goal.  I have the resources necessary to reach my goal.  I am the only thing stopping me from reaching my goal.

What’s wrong with me?

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