High Rollin' on Skates

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I've decided that today, a cross training day, will be dedicated to roller blades. The weather is finally shaping up and I have a pair of shiny new skates in the attic that have been waiting to come out of hiding. I bought them just as it was getting cold and snowy. So, I did a little research on roller blade workouts, because I don't want to sell my workout short. Here are some different moves that I've come across that I might try when no one's looking:

1. In N Out: While skating, get into squat position. From there, move legs out wide, bring them in and repeat.

2. One-legged In N Out: Same as In N Out, except move only one leg out to the side at a time during each rep.

3. Riding backwards: Basically the same as In N Out, just propelling yourself backwards.

4. Leg lifts: Grab a bench or tree for balance. Since the skates provide extra resistance, leg lifts to the side get an extra push.

5. Rear leg lift: Same as above; use skate for resistance and lift one leg behind you.

I found a whole lot more intricate moves as well that I am not even going to attempt. Even just braking is going to take some getting used to again. We'll work on the more coordinated dance steps some other time:)

Class and Poise

Friday, March 26, 2010

I have been thinking more and more lately about what demonstrating a little bit of class does for your image. I've quoted Vonnegut before, but one of the lines from Slaughterhouse-Five that struck me the most was, when you stop taking care of yourself you die.

While I think it's important not to judge a book by its cover, I also think that the way you appear has a lot to do with people's perception of you anyway. When I was a teenager, I thought I'd get more attention by walking around with a grimace on my face while wearing unexpected clothing. Cuz that's what teenagers do. I thought that if people were going to judge me by my outer appearance, then I didn't need to be their friend.

Well, that didn't work so much to my favor of course. It's taken years of observing and growing up to understand that radiant smiles, classy understated clothes, polite "thank yous," and clean fingernails work miracles for your image and identity. People that practice that are the ones who get the attention. All it takes is a little posture control, a little purpose in your step and an up-kept brow line to turn you from dowdy to wowwy, from a whisper to an exclamation. Well, maybe not that dramatic, but you get the picture.

When you take notice of this principle of class and poise, you start to see it in progress everywhere you look. You read about it, picture it and see it taking place in person. There are some examples that stick plainly in my mind. I remember visiting a church where the preacher talked about being advised to leave his hands out of his pockets because holding your hands in your pockets gives off an air of apathy and sloppiness. I remember my grandma telling me about my uncle's firm where they interview people over lunch and determine employability by the person's table manners. I remember reading a small biography of Jackie O where I came across a passage about how her family made up their own family tree despite working class roots and simply believed themselves into their stature.

It takes mere seconds for people to judge you just by your body language. And for some good reason. If you care enough about yourself to wear crisp clothes and keep your hands moisturized, you're probably a great job candidate who takes their job seriously. If you're dishevelled, this might reflect upon your desirability as a roommate. I think you start to lose a little bit of yourself when you stop taking care of your body.

Now, I'm not talking about being some high maintenance superficial diva, I'm just talking about a little bit of poise and daily grooming. If you want to be successful, you have to look and feel the part. Or at least fake it till you make it. You might feel like an impostor inside, but if you pull your shoulders back, you'll instantly feel a bit of heightened confidence and stature.

Breaking out the Bento

Thursday, March 25, 2010

So, I've read about Bento boxes at least twice in the last few weeks. I wonder if they could be making headway into mainstream American society if the momentum keeps building.

The concept makes a whole lot of sense. You have a lunchbox that is partitioned into several different compartments. You fill the compartments with your lunch. You have built-in portion control, you incorporate a variety of food groups/colors into your meals, and it's all in one spot--there's only one dish to pack/clean. Instead of trying to eyeball or remember how much of your plate should be full of veggies and protein and so on, you need only let the Bento do it for you. Not only that, but brown-bagging it is an environmentally- and wallet-friendly way to do lunch.

Me likey.

I was thinking that without having to go out and buy a new lunchbox, I could easily incorporate the principles of the Bento box into my own lunch-making. I could just grab my measuring cups and find out exactly how much food fits into my most-used Tupperware dishes. Then, I could determine what portions of fruits, veggies, carbs, protein, etc I need for lunch and plan accordingly. If I already know which dish holds the standard 1/2-cup of cottage cheese, I won't have to play any nutritional guessing games when I'm rushing around in the morning.

Diets Diets Everywhere

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

It's kind of funny. Since I've climbed up the health hill, I'm much more apt to become annoyed when I hear people talk about diets. It seems almost silly, and I can tell when, like clockwork, they'll totally ditch the plan in favor of all their previous indulgences. It's really a tiresome process for everyone involved I think. I will be the first to applaud anyone's weight loss and health goals, but it frustrates me when the "diet" (fad) followed isn't sustainable, healthy, or taken very seriously.

Whenever a celeb or person we know loses weight, we all want to know what plan they followed. Then, we jump on the bandwagon only to fall off two weeks down the road. I think it helps to look at the big picture. Every infallible diet plan is based on some of the same basic diet principles. There's no wand-waving, no juice or pill that will make everything better. And what does make everything better takes a whole lot of work. And it must be practiced for an entire lifetime.

Perhaps that's what frustrates me most, when people think that they shouldn't have to do much to watch the weight fall off. Or when they use every excuse ever devised. Anyone who has lost a significant amount of weight the natural way and kept it off knows that it takes a damn lot of work! And when someone thinks it's supposed to be easy, it's rather insulting to the hours of planning and sweat we have worked through over the years. Us losers take pride in the accomplishments we have achieved and the raw effort it took to get here. And yes, some of us have kids, full-time jobs, hobbies, homes in need of attention, and so much more that we have to work against every day in order to be healthy.

Anyhow, enough ranting. I truly do wish everyone the best in their healthful endeavors. I just wish that we weren't so hardwired to get caught in all of the hype. I even fall victim to that every once in awhile.

Seinfeld Syndrome

Monday, March 22, 2010

Sometimes I wish I could implement the dynamics of the Seinfeld cast to my own friendships to create a wide open-door policy. I mean, Elaine, George and Kramer can show up unannounced and talk about anything (or nothing). And even their most detrimental idiosyncrasies do not demolish their friendships. They accept each others' ticks, make plans to hang out without any hassles, and feel completely comfortable in one another's company. This is sort of comparable to the Friends cast. Sure there are tiffs about stolen girlfriends and lost bets, but you only need to walk into the next room or across the hall to find one of the greatest sources of love: your friends.

I know, I know. It's just TV. But there is something to be said about that open-door policy. I feel a little ripped off when I can't visit a friend due to the state of her living room or a conflict of naptime schedules. And I feel a little lonely when I tell friends that my door is open and they never take me up on it. No really, my door is wide open. I thrive on unexpected visits.

Psychology to your Advantage

Friday, March 19, 2010

I just heard an interesting tidbit from a Social Psychology lecture I was listening to on a podcast (don't ask). There was a study that said that individuals put forth more effort when other people are around. Thinking about this from a fitness standpoint, it would be beneficial to work out in a gym or other public facility. You might just work a little harder. Or perhaps you might try running in public. It feels good to breeze past homes where you occasionally see people sitting in front of the TV, or sitting around in general. Or when you sneak a peek at a cute guy, you can't help but pick up your shoulders and your pace. Awww, c'mon, you know you do:) And you know people are watching you from their vehicles as they pass by, so you don't want to appear haggard, right? Taking part in group exercise classes, in front of a mirror to boot, makes you more apt to perfect your form, follow through, and eek out every last rep so you don't look like a schmuck. In the comfort of your own living room, you can get by with a little (or a lot) of slack.

The hugest boost I've ever had while running was when I was running in road races. I don't think I would've survived the half-marathon if it weren't for the supporters that cheered the entire length of the route. As silly as it may sound, it ticked me off, at the same time as it made me root for them, when these little kids or people much heavier than me would pass me up. That pushed me to run faster. And my mom even noticed that every time I saw my family at the mile markers, my pace seemed to pick up. So, there must be some truth in these psychological theories.

The opposite effect is true when you're working out with other people or participating in a group effort. You're actually more likely to work less hard. You start to rely on the strength and speed of others, such as in the case of something like a tug-of-war.

So, use these little tidbits to your advantage to push your workout to new heights!

Sweatin' to the Oldies

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Thank goodness the days of Richard Simmons and endless grapevines are gone. You can get fit, without sweating to the oldies, with the likes of Jillian, Ellen Barrett, Chalene Johnson, Sara Ivanhoe, and other modern-day fitness mavens. As technology progresses and trainers find new ways to sweat, we are blessed with more efficient and more enjoyable workouts.

I think when the background music, background decor, workout outfits are more tasteful and modern, the more favorably I look upon the video. It's much easier to get into the groove of it when it doesn't feel like I'm traveling back to the days of thong leotards and neon biker shorts. I don't know exactly what it is.

Thank goodness for on-demand fitness television, online workout videos, online fitness information about anything you can think of, easier access to foreign forms of exercise, accessible exercise equipment and widespread chain fitness clubs in every city. This modern stuff is all very much to my benefit, for sure. I get bored very easily.

Witnessing a Success Story

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Every once in awhile, you get to be a witness to a wicked transformation right before your eyes. A few months ago, a homely-looking couple at work began a weight loss program. Now, they're both miniature replicas of their previous selves. Or should I say, better-dressed, taller-standing miniature versions of themselves. Suddenly, with their new haircuts and much brighter and closer-fitting clothing, they've become our stylish idols of change here at work. The swagger in both of their steps and the brighter smiles on their faces are highly motivating. It's as though one positive change begins a snowball effect after with which confidence, style, poise and grace follow.

It's just like when a girl gets a good haircut and style and thinks of all the places she needs to go that day just to get the most out of the great hair day and have it noticed by the most possible people. She suddenly injects a little swagger into her stride and perhaps stops off at the store to grab a bottle of potion to make her face look brighter within three days and a pair of sunglasses that perfectly frame her face. The effects of one positive change can be far-reaching.

These complete stunning changes only happen every once in a long while, so you just can't help but stare.

A Self-Conscious Narcissist

Monday, March 15, 2010

I just read a quote from someone that stirred my thoughts a little bit. It's from a website called "Grace & Poise. The line was: "The most unhappy people are those that only think of themselves."

Now, I used to be excruciatingly self-conscious. I still have moments when my self esteem wanes, but it was truly detrimental especially in my college years. I would walk into a restaurant and hear revelers laughing and somehow always thought that they were laughing at me. My eyes would rove about a room wondering what people were thinking about me and I would conclude that every whisper or sneer was directed at me. I was once referred to as a b---h by a friend of a friend. I was too shy to talk at a small gathering, but I came across as conceited for not engaging in conversation. I read a passage in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance to this same effect. The main character came off as detached and disinterested simply because he was quiet. Believe it or not, I had an epiphany when I read that.

Anyhow, the deal with self-consciousness is that it is, paradoxically, narcissistic. Even though you're thinking rather lowly of yourself, the fact that your thoughts revolve around yourself makes you self-absorbed. So, by thinking only of myself, I was very unhappy as the quote above estimates. To be happy, all I had to do was turn my attention outward and the effects were staggering.

Volunteering, striking conversations with strangers, asking questions, developing relationships, and having my own family have all helped me overcome the agonizing effects of self-consciousness.

Coddling the Inner Princess

Friday, March 12, 2010

Why do we deny ourselves the simple everyday luxuries that make us feel special, unique, perhaps hinting at regal. I am currently reading the book Wear More Cashmere which provides 151 ways a woman can treat herself to luxuriant indulgences for very little cost. And why not?

Why do we save so little for ourselves? We save the best hand towels for special occasions and guests, we save the last penny for some elusive crumb, and we tend to the mundane yet noble tasks that our various roles require.

But those cumbersome roles can hold us back if we let them. We tend to forget the magnitude of our own existences. We pull the weeds in place of tending new relationships. In the overwhelming responsibilities that we take upon ourselves, we forget the true happiness that comes from choosing a new bottle of perfume. I do not condone frivolity, but I do promote a small measure of luxury every once in awhile to soothe the soul, especially when it’s been buried beneath the weight of selflessness.

Right now I’m listening to some contemporary folk music that is raising my hair with its effect. Wrapping me up like high thread count sheets. Sometimes I forget how well music treats me. Shortly after enlarging our family, I had to buy a Vogue magazine. I’m normally not a Vogue kind of person. The style is far above anything I could afford or understand. But I just needed to completely submerge myself in something absolutely indulgent. It symbolized to me something that overcame the bounds of motherhood that seemed to tighten quickly around me. It offered a little sense of relief.

I have denied myself many things in the name of practicality and it’s taking a lot of work to come back around to me.

Disc Golf

Thursday, March 11, 2010

So, I'm thinking about adding this sport to my summer workout/entertainment repertoire. I've never played the game, but it seems quite enjoyable and of course, cheap. Something the whole family can participate in while enjoying the outdoors. And apparently there are several courses within only a few miles of my home. Who knew?

I've been exploring several other obscure activities this year. My husband and I took in a roller derby game a few months ago. I never even knew that game existed until I had a friend who joined a team. I don't think I'll be joining a team myself anytime soon though. I'm not sure I'm ready for those "interesting" uniforms.

I'm also considering letterboxing or geocaching. I probably would have fallen in love with these ventures as a kid, so I think it would be neat to treat my son to an adventure.

Have you ever tried disc golf, and what did you think? Are there any other "out there" fitness activities you've tried or considered?

Notebook Obsession

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Hello, my name is Jessica, and I am a notebook addict. Spiral-bound, perfect-bound, lined, unlined, hidden folder pockets, glossy untouched covers, journals, portfolios, executive-style leather folios...Oh, I'm drooling. The back-to-school sections of stores and even office-supply stores themselves draw me in with magnetic force. I don't really know what it is. Perhaps it's the boundless potential all those crisp white pages hold. The novels, the brilliant ideas, the lists, and oh the limitless capacities those wide-ruled lines promise make them completely irresistible to me. Add a shimmering pen and a whimsical cover design and I'm completely sold!

I even wrote a poem about this that I submitted to a tanka poetry publication (the rejection letter was actually very promising):

The note he left
was stacks of collected
white paper
he never could

This reflects my (ahem, I mean some guy's) notebook obsession combined with the utter listlessness I feel sometimes when it comes to actually writing something of substance. I have a deep passion for writing but a debilitating apathy for actually doing it some days. So, when I die, I wonder if my only contribution to the world will be stacks of empty paper or if I really will be able to penetrate them with my creativity.

Running Alternatives

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

There's nothing like a great run to make me feel truly delicious. But sometimes, one gets burned out doing the same exercise every other day. So, once in awhile, I trade in my running kicks for bare feet and chlorine. But I am very picky about running alternatives. There are only a select few workouts that have a comparable intensity to me or leave me with that lung-expanded feeling like running does. If I don't feel like a workout is as much of a challenge as running, I can't justify substituting it for my passion (and hard-earned endurance level). My alternates to running include:

1. Kickboxing. Not the sissy stuff, the hardcore punching and kicking that leaves me winded.

2. Boot Camp: I found a great video at a rummage sale that kicks my butt every time. Try out The Method: Cardio Bootcamp.

3. Step aerobics: Take a trip back to the 80s. I once had a step instructor at the Y that changed the routines every single class and offered a fully modern workout that didn’t bring back memories of hot pink striped biking shorts. But Kathy Smith will do in times of need.

4. Swimming: something about the water, the buoyancy, the use of every muscle fiber to propel the body forward makes me feel like a million bucks and really does work the lungs to capacity.

5. Jump rope workouts: if you've tried one, you know what I mean.

6. Jillian Michael’s 30-Day Shred: even as a hardcore exerciser, this one still brings me to my knees every time.

Red Red Wine, Stay Close to Me

Monday, March 8, 2010

Well, speaking of red wine a few post's ago, I just read about another study touting the benefits of my favorite poison. Not only did the Realage site mention that drinking 4-oz of wine with a meal increases HDL (good) cholesterol, a Reuters article suggests that there's a strong correlation between women who drink red wine and a slimmer waistline.

Now this is a weight loss plan I wouldn't mind trying. Cheers!

Backyard Adventures

Peanut and I took a nice long walk on Saturday, and you know what they say about having kids? The old cliche about how you see the world in a different way again? It's a common miracle many of us get to experience every day. As Peanut and I walked a simple stretch of about four blocks, we found entire worlds in between.

First, there was the choo-choo. We watched that and listened to its sound until it was out of sight, walking backwards at times. A little further down the road, we gawked at a burned-down house. Peanut was probably just wondering why that house looked so goofy. I wondered about our own home and all the tiny little belongings that we take for granted and where the inhabitants of that home found themselves that morning and what had to have been racing through their minds.

As we continued, the little ramps that slope from the sidewalk to the street were like mini hills for Peanut. Each time we approached one, we ran down it really fast and he giggled like it was the most comical thing. I suppose those little ramps are big hills for those tiny little legs.

Then, we went on a squirrel-watching hunt. There were two comical characters in a tree near the still-frozen lake, chasing each other. We sat watching those guys for a good five minutes until the crows called. We tried to imitate their sounds and follow their flight paths until we came across the playground.

After plenty of swinging, sliding, climbing, hiding, peeking, running across unstable bridges, and "driving" the fake truck, I finally had to tear Peanut away so we could head back home.

There's just something about a quiet Sunday morning with very little traffic, light beams bending across the road, very little sound except for the birds, a tiny hand in your hand, the little bits of dirt decorating his knees, and those baby blues taking it all in. There's nothing more sublime.

I am 26, but feel like I'm 20.3

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Take the RealAge(r) test at the Realage website to see how old your body is in terms of how you take care of it, how healthy you are, and other contributing factors. I am happy to say, I am feeling 6 years younger today.

After you take the test, you can find out what's making you younger and older. There are Health, Habits, Relationships, Diet and Fitness recommendations you can follow to help improve your score. It's amazing what flossing, drinking red wine with dinner, and owning a dog can do for your body! But it also told me to buy that silver SUV we've been looking at (larger vehicles provide more protection and apparently silver vehicles are 50% less likely to be involved in serious accidents. Who knew?) I don't know if we can swing that since unemployment checks don't fly as income.

Here's something else I had a sneaky suspicion about. The quiz results say I work out TOO MUCH. It says, "In fact, your workout is at the level of an athlete" and then offers strategies to slow down a little bit. I've programmed myself to find exercise opportunities in all those extra daily minutes, like one segment of the 10-minute Solution DVD before work, then walk to work, walk briskly with a friend at lunch, walk home, and fit in a more intense workout and strength sessions MWF, and then sneak in a few more walks and workouts on the weekend. I loathe sitting around, what can I say?

But it seemed like after I had my baby, breastfed, and walked slowly with him, weight fell off my body faster than it ever did before. Perhaps less is more.

It's kind of funny, because after a health assessment at work one time, the nurse insisted that I get more exercise. I repeated how much I worked out several times and she kept saying I needed to do more. I just rolled my eyes. I always knew it was the food holding me back, not the exercise.

I also learned from the quiz that my target heart rate for working out is about 194 (220-age). I think I'll try to keep track of this tomorrow and request a heart rate monitor for Christmas:)

Married to a Potato

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Well, I used to be a potato too, a couch potato that is. I never really had a very active upbringing aside from dreaded gym classes and recreational volleyball and softball. So, I completely understand the “Potato Mentality.” I picked up a fitness habit around 2001 and have stuck with it ever since. I later added the healthy eating part of the equation, and still work on this part to this day.

The trouble is, my husband is a true couch potato. There are noticeable markings on the area of the couch where he always sits indicating that he spends a lot of time there. This can be very discouraging. It’s also difficult, when you understand the high value of healthy habits, watching your partner not take care of themselves. It’s difficult when you don’t have the same goals and you feel as if you’re missing out on having the perfect workout buddy.

There’s a difference though between acquiring your partner’s participation and acquiring his support. My husband has always supported my fitness habits. True, there was a time when he offered me an unhealthy serving of cake right after I worked out, but for the most part, he’s very supportive. Just two days ago, I was on the treadmill for maybe 10 minutes when I turned if off and said “I just can’t do this tonight.” He encouraged me, well...nearly demanded, that I get back on. It worked! I stayed on for a full 35 minutes and felt much better afterwards. So, the support is very important. You need only ask.

By being a role model, perhaps one day you will inspire your significant other to begin their own healthy habits. You can offer little nudges, perhaps by showing them interesting articles you’ve read or relaying other tidbits. My husband has an injured back, so when I come across articles about how exercising decreases back pain, I like to gently remind him of how he could "cure" himself or at least feel better, which he is understandably highly receptive to. Also, hearing it from a source other than me improves the likelihood that it will get through, but that's a whole different story. Just please promise you won’t nag! This will make health-ifying that much more of a chore for your partner. And it’s a very private, personal choice that a person has to make for themselves.

Aside from being encouraging, maybe you are able to control the weekly menu to help your partner at least in the diet arena. Find a healthy cookbook that remakes some of your partner’s favorites. You need not mention what you’ve done lest they refuse the food on principle. Some secrets really are healthy!

The good news is, my husband has agreed to run a 5k with me in April. Well ok, maybe he’ll walk it with me, but that's a wonderful change either way. It seems he has been finding more and more excuses to walk and fit in extra exercise. So, I signed the registration, sent in the money, and smiled at the thought of crossing the finish line with my new fitness buddy.

Will Eat for Free!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I’ve identified more dangerous triggers that cause me to eat when I don’t need to. It all comes down to the value of the dollar.

The first trigger is free food. When I see a spread of fruit, dips, and other indulgences, I see something I could never afford to have all at once at home. I see dollar signs in the drink mixes and shiny gold glazing on the meat slabs and it’s hard to resist the temptation when posed against the lackluster frozen meals at our house. Along the same vein is the value of my time. The free homemade cake offered at work, that I don’t have to slave over, is doubly tempting. (And I will NEVER pass up a slice of cake!) I figure as long as it’s only one indulgence every other week or so, maybe I throw a few bites away, and I only take a partial serving, I should just enjoy the frosting, guilt-free. And there can’t be much harm in filling my plate with mostly fruits and vegetables first.

The second downfall is the incredulous idea of wasted food. Knowing how much our weekly grocery budget has grown makes me want to sip, soak up, suck on, swallow, and chew every last penny’s worth that I can. The downfall of this is that those extra bites end up taking up residence in my fat cells, which is worse than living in the garbage can. I guess the easy solution to this is to buy less calorie-laden foods and serve smaller portions. Also limiting the indulgences would help, so that when I eat every last bite, it’s more likely to be broccoli and brown rice than greasy prepackaged burritos.

My third downfall is when food is offered that I wasn’t prepared for. Identifying the cost and amount of time and love spent by mommy making a double batch of cookies makes it impossible to refuse. The gooey heaven is laden with guilt from many different angles. Next time, I’ll ask for my treat to-go, fully enjoy just a few bites, and get rid of the rest or share the bounty with others. Mommy will never know.

The fourth downfall is how going out to eat has become a “treat.” My husband and I are at odds over this. My family of 5 used to go out to eat on $20 total, a rare treat. We’d share meals; scour flyers, newspapers and circulars for coupons; skip extras like drinks (only water), dessert, sides and appetizers; and memorize where the deals were. (We once had lunch at a furniture store because they were giving out free hot dogs). My husband’s family set no limits on food or cost and ate out as a convenience, versus a rare splurge. So as we combine our families, we have a habit of going out for a “rare treat” sometimes twice a week or more. Not good. I’ve bought a few quick healthy recipe books that will hopefully deflate this ballooning eating-out budget. We are in need of some variety and much more enjoyable bites at home so we don’t crave going out. After all, I’d much rather save for memorable vacations than watch money drain away on food, with nothing left to show for it.

Who knew money was so inextricably linked to diet?