Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Kickboxing No More

After getting all psyched about kickboxing, and planning to buy a whole mess of classes from the instructor, I've been thwarted. 

So I signed up for his email list several weeks ago so I could stay on top of what was going on at the gym and be aware of any specials he was running.  First of all, he sent out a couple of suspect emails about this nutrition/supplement program that he sells.  I mean, fine, if you find something you like, I guess that's okay, but this was a multi-level marketing scenario, and I'm not going to shell out a bunch of money for bars and shakes and pills, when I personally want to focus on eating whole foods, thanks.

Then we get an email out of the blue last week announcing that as of July 1, he's moving his gym.  Not only is the new gym about twice as far away from me, but he won't have storage for his big punching bags so no more kickboxing.  But he assured us he would still be putting on awesome boot camp classes.

Yeah, no.

I mean, I enjoyed the boot camp/Cross Fit aspect of his classes, but I also liked the 20-30 minutes in the second half of class when we focused on kickboxing.  Because it's just fun to hit and kick a big bag.  Also, it's the boot camp aspect of class that hurt my shins a lot.  Plyometrics are the bane of my existence.

So, I won't be traveling to his new gym.  I might be willing to, if the kickboxing was still going to be a part of it, because overall I did like him, but there's a few strikes against him, and his classes are pretty pricey for me to not get exactly what I want.

Sigh.  Now I need to find a new kickboxing class.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Is Obesity A Disease?

The AMA recently adopted a policy stating that obesity is a disease:
“Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue that affects approximately one in three Americans,” said AMA board member Patrice Harris, M.D. “The AMA is committed to improving health outcomes and is working to reduce the incidence of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, which are often linked to obesity.”
The internets have been all a flutter about this, if you happen to read health and fitness and diet blogs like I do.  While this policy decision has no binding authority, the opinions of the AMA are often influential in guiding government policy and insurer practices.  On the one hand, I'm kind of hopeful that maybe this means things like preventative care and gym memberships and delicate hormonal tests to show what is happening within an individual's body will receive more focus from providers and reimbursement from insurers.

On the other hand, I am really, really cynical.

First of all, there's this information from Dr. William Davis, who Tom Naughton cited on his blog:
Well, it’s hard to know how the internal discussions at the AMA went until we get a look at the transcripts. But let’s take a look at the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC). I believe it tells the whole story. 
The OAC Board of Directors is filled with bariatric surgeons, such as Drs. Titus Duncan and Lloyd Stegemann, people who make a living from procedures and surgeries like gastric bypass and lap-band. The largest contributors to the OAC? Eisai Pharmaceuticals, maker of BELVIQ, the new drug for weight loss; Ethicon EndoSurgery, makers of laparoscopic operating room supplies; Vivus, Inc., another obesity drug maker; the American Society for Bariatric Surgeons; and Orexigen, developer of the combination drug naltrexone-buproprion for weight loss, now in FDA application stage. (Recall that naltrexone is the opiate blocking drug taken by heroin addicts but now being proposed to gain approval for weight loss.)

In other words, while it is being cast as something being done for the public good, the motivation is more likely to be … money: Bariatric surgeons gain by expanding the market for their procedures to patients who previously did not have insurance coverage for this “non-disease”; operating room supply manufacturers will sell more equipment for the dramatically increased number of surgical procedures; obesity drug manufacturers will have the clout to pressure health insurers to cover the drugs for this new disease.
Second, my own personal gut reaction (Gut!  Ha!)  to all of this is that obesity isn't a disease, but a manifestation of other problems, like insulin resistance or other hormonal imbalances.  For example, excess amounts of cortisol (the so-called stress hormone) have been shown to increase belly fat.  Further, some people are more insulin-resistant than others and thus can tolerate fewer carbohydrates in their diets.  There's a whole mess of biochemical reactions going on in our bodies, influenced by diet, exercise, and other environmental factors, and one of the results can be obesity.
Another big glaring issue for me is, how are we defining "obese"?  Are we still using BMI to determine who is "obese"?  Because there are loads of articles and analyses out there about the flawed nature of the BMI.   For one, it doesn't take body composition into account, and so you get professional athletes who are "overweight" or "obese", per the BMI.  Not to mention recent reports that people who are fit but slightly overweight, per the BMI definition, actually have pretty good health markers, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and resting heart rate.  Or the research indicating that overweight and even slightly obese people might  have lower mortality rates than "normal"-weight people.  From the New York Times article:
The report, in The Journal of the American Medical Association, suggests that B.M.I., a ratio of height to weight, should not be the only indicator of healthy weight. “Body mass index is an imperfect measure of the risk of mortality,” and factors like blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar must be considered, said Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
I'm not saying this is perfect research, I'm just saying there are a lot of factors playing into what makes someone obese, and there are a lot of unknowns.  After trying to lose weight for a few years and only gaining, I am solidly in the "obese" category.  However, I don't want to pop a pill, with whatever side effects come along with that.  I want to figure out what's going on in my body and try to work within that knowledge.  Maybe making obesity a disease means that more investigation into the complex causes of it will get funded, but, to me, labeling obesity as a disease seems way too simplistic.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Challenge Part Deux

This week is the last week of the June Challenge (since, you know, it's the last week of June).  I did okay last week, but not great.  I wound up never doing the 4th weekly workout because I ran out of time.  Technically, I could have done it yesterday, but it was hot and we have no air conditioning on the 1st floor of our house and I just couldn't work up the enthusiasm for 5 rounds of burpees and a bunch of other things that make me tired and sweaty.

Starting yesterday, though, I'm taking part in another challenge.  A blogger I read got a Fitbit a little while ago and walked a lot and lost some weight and now she's decided to have a challenge where we all focus on walking a lot and maybe win some prizes.  The goal is to walk 10,000 steps per day, which is hard when most of my day is spent sitting on my bum in front of the computer.

I still plan to swim, and if the June Challenge lady decides to do a July Challenge, I'm going to do that too, but my daily goal from yesterday until August 3rd is to walk 10,000 steps per day.

We had to send before photos and our measurements and weight.  Given my lack of success with weight loss lately (read: over the last 2-3 years), I honestly don't know if I'll lose weight or see any improvement in my measurements.  But, like with the June Challenge, I like having a challenge to make me really focus on a particular fitness goal.

So, last night, when it finally cooled down a little, I went for a walk as the sun was setting.  I forgot that's also the buggy time of the day, so I have a few new mosquito bites, and I might have swallowed a couple of gnats, BUT I got 12,000 steps.

This morning, Rebecca and I swam and I think the fact that we only swam 1600 meters proves that we talk too much and that we need to get back in the habit of walking together because when we walk, we can talk.  We can't even social kick (kick and talk) at the crowded Brown pool.  Now that I'm trying to get 10,000 steps per day, I'm going to have to rope her into going on some walks with me.

After work, I'm going to go to the gym and walk on the treadmill for awhile, since it's freaking hot again today.  To be more precise, it's 92 with a 97 heat index.  For this girl who grew up in Tucson, that means I step outside and immediately start sweating.  Pretty!

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Little Worn Out - But Strong

This morning I'm feeling a little worn out.  Yesterday I swam 2200 meters (in a long course pool!  Plus, meters are longer than yards so you should be impressed!), then last night I did 2 of  the June Challenge workouts (because I can't do one tonight and I'm running out of time this week), plus the weekly plank challenge, plus the weekly Tabata squat challenge.

I think my main issue is that I need to stop doing these workouts after dinner.  Usually by the time I get home, I'm hungry and I want to make dinner, or I've picked up dinner, and I want to eat.  Then I let my food settle, and THEN I tackle the workouts.  I did this both Wednesday night and last night.  I didn't finish until 9:20 PM last night, and then I was all full of energy and endorphins and didn't feel even a little tired until after 11, which isn't ideal when I want to get up at 6 to go swim.

So both yesterday morning and this morning I was dragging because I didn't get to sleep until late.  Today's workout was very fin heavy, to compensate, but I'm ok with that.

Have I mentioned my legs muscles are really starting to pop?  At least they are to me.  During the St. John race, Jason took a picture of me running into the surf to start my swim.  Although I'm not thrilled with the picture generally (belly rolls and overall bigness, ugh!), I did notice a line down the side of my thigh - the outline of my muscle!  There are strong muscles under this cellulite just waiting to come out.  I'm doing my best to uncover them!

Also, Rebecca and I got to feel a little superior today because the two guys she shared a lane with were absolutely dying.  I have a feeling they are training for a triathlon and this was one of their first times trying to knock out a swim.  Afterwards, I commented to her that I can't really talk since I can't run worth anything.  She said, yeah, but she doesn't think people realize how taxing swimming is, cardiovascularly.  It's true.  I may be heavy, but my resting heart rate is obscenely low.

So strong heart and strong muscles - I suppose I'll take those over being skinny.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

June Challenge Week 2: 2nd Place!

The Week 2 results came out yesterday and I'm still in 2nd place with a total of 29 points!  Deborah has shot ahead in 1st place with 32 points.  3rd place is only one point behind me so I need to be diligent this week.

I was aiming for 7 days of on-track eating this week, but Starbucks foiled my plans this morning.  I've started going straight to work from the gym, which makes cooking eggs for breakfast kind of tough.  So I've opted for Starbucks Greek yogurt.  I toss their granola and mix in my own blend of a variety of sunflower seeds, chia seeds, craisins and unsweetened coconut.  It's not ideal, but it gets me some protein and isn't too high on the carbs.

This morning they were out of Greek yogurt.  So my options were the regular high-sugar yogurt with berries; sausage, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich; or a pastry of some sort.  The sandwich seemed like the best option, since at least I would get some protein.  I'm fully expecting a carb crash in an hour or so.

The challenge organizer sent an email yesterday asking if anyone is interested in a July challenge and if anyone has suggestions.

While I used to be the sit back and let other people make suggestions and nod in agreement type of person, I've noticed lately that I'm all about giving suggestions.  For instance, my firm is redoing its website and has hired fancy designers and I'm pretty sure that they are very sick of my suggested tweaks.  They don't necessarily take my suggestions, but I always have 3 or 4 to make.

Anyway, my point is, of course I had suggestions!

First of all, I suggested adding a steps element to the challenge - 1 point for every day we get over 10,000 steps.  This is a self-serving suggestion since I'm also  thinking about joining a Fitbit step challenge next week that runs through July, so I could knock out the requirements for 2 separate challenges by walking 10,000 steps per day.

Second, I suggested that instead of a mandatory mile run every week, we be able to do comparable activity in another sport.  For instance, I could swim a 450 for time, with a goal of improving that time every week.  This isn't just about the fact that I don't like to run, although that's part of it.  But honestly a big reason why I don't like to run is because I hurt myself every single time.  I ran/walked my mile on Saturday, and then Sunday I did a bunch of jumping jacks for one of the workouts, and here it is Thursday and I'm still limping around.  My shins hurt.  They were just starting to feel better before the run last Saturday, and as soon as I started running (not walking.  Walking is fine.), the pain shot through my legs with every step.

Yesterday, not even kidding, I almost fell down the stairs because my left leg wanted to give out.  I had to grab the railing and steady myself.

So, yeah, I know I've whined about this on here many times before, but I'm just going to say it again: I'm not built to be a runner.

I told the organizer that I would be willing to forego any chance at a point for the best time for the mile run for the first week (since it's obvious I'm not winning that point anyway!) if I can swim instead of run.  We'll see what she decides to do.

Friday, June 14, 2013

And Now I Need A Nap

I knew that today would be a non-Challenge-compliant food day because I had to catch the early train to Boston for a meeting, and I like to get a scone at the train station cafe because eggs are smelly and not very train friendly.

Today I got an almond croissant, but you get my point.

Then on my way back from Boston I got an Auntie Anne's pretzel at South Station because they're amazing and buttery and I hardly ever have access to delicious giant pretzels in my life anymore.

(When I was in college, I used to get a giant soft pretzel at least 2 days a week with 3 of my fellow English-geek buddies after our Victorian lit class and we would sit in the Tucson sun on the University of Arizona mall and get nice and tan before our next class.  I miss days like that when it's rainy and freaking 60 degrees in the middle of June, Providence!)

Anyway, as I could have predicted, now, an hour and a half later, I feel a little headachey and I really want to curl up in the corner of my office and go to sleep.  But, no, I have a good 5 more hours of work to put in before I can respectably leave on a Friday afternoon.

Sigh.  Might have to go whole hog with this non-compliant day and pop open a Diet Coke.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

June Challenge: Tied for Second Place!

For a couple of hours this morning, I thought I was tied for first place in the June Challenge, but then my friend Deborah (the one who roped me into the challenge) re-sent her scores in because they got lost somehow and she leaped to the front of the pack.

Still, though, second!  Pretty pleased with that.  I'm on a good course for this week to get at least the same number of points as last week.  I've done two of the workouts, a couple of the challenges, and met my run/walk goal by swimming 3 miles already.  I'm planning to swim Saturday and do mile run #2 (bleh).  I've been taking it easy on my shins and they're feeling a lot better, so here's hoping the run doesn't kill them again.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pool Etiquette

There are signs all over the entrance to the Brown pool and at the end of each lane proclaiming, "Please Circle Swim.  6-10 Swimmers Per Lane."  The lanes are divided into 3 fast lanes, 2 medium lanes, 2 slow lanes, and 1 water walking lane.  Each lane is 50 meters long, and, seriously, at least 1 1/2 times wider than the lanes at the Y.  There is LOTS of space.

Still, you run into people who are very concerned about not having enough space.  Rebecca told me the first time she and Tad asked a girl in a lane if they could circle swim, she totally gave them attitude.  Then, last Saturday morning Rebecca and I had our own run-in.

A very buff older gentleman was not happy about sharing lanes.  Initially we stood outside the pool at the end of the lane, waiting for him to pause, which he never did.  And it wasn't like we could just start swimming because he was very definitely swimming up and back on one side of the lane.  So finally we got IN the lane and made him stop so we could ask if we could circle.

His response: "Well, we can try.  Until I have to do butterfly."

Okay, sir, this lane is very wide. I think we can avoid your massive wingspan. (NOTE: his wingspan was not massive.)

Then, after I swam a bit, I paused to put on fins.  I scooted waaaay over to one side of the lane.  Mr. Wingspan decided to do his flipturn RIGHT next to me, and after he flipped, he took the time to pop his head up and say, "ExCUSE me" in a very snarky way.

Now, at the Y, no one LIKED circle swimming.  But we all recognized that it has to happen from time to time, and reactions from people when you asked if you could circle swim varied from indifferent to extremely accepting.  Now that I've swam at the Brown pool a few times, I've determined that circle swimming is just a way of life there because a lot of people use the Brown pool.

So I was seething a little bit, but I decided to not let it bother me too much (though it kind of did.)  The next time he and I paused at the same time, he made some remark about swimming IMs and how tough his workout was.  Despite being braggy, it was verging on cordial.

By the end of the swim, Mr. Wingspan had decided that I was okay, I guess, because he got downright chatty.  We talked about how nice the pool is and I told him how I was swimming at the Y until recently.  He told me he used to swim at the old Providence Y when he was 13 in 1963.  (Mr Wingspan, I have to give you credit.  You are pretty darn fit for a 63 year-old!  Heck, let's be honest.  You're pretty darn fit for a 23 year-old!)

I attribute his attitude shift to (A) Rebecca and I totally holding our own with him in the lane, and (B) my sparkling personality.  Mostly A, though.  I have a theory that since I don't look like someone's idea of a competent swimmer, the more type A swimmer might worry that I'll just get in his/her way.  However, when I prove myself, there's a noticeable attitude shift.  This is not the first time something similar has happened.

Still, there's no excuse for rudeness at the pool, Mr. Wingspan.

Monday, June 10, 2013

June Challenge: Week 1 Complete!

I came into work this morning to find that our network is down.  We still have internet, but I can't actually do any work, so might as well post about Week 1 of the June Challenge.

By way of an update, I did confirm with the organizer that it would be okay to modify some of the workouts to accommodate my puny shins. They already feel better and I'm hopeful that by the end of the week I'll be up to doing my mile run for Week 2.  If there's not a good way to modify the leaping and bouncing and other high-impact exercises, I've been substituting in squats, since I'm still working my legs that way.  So what I'm saying is, my legs are sore.

I'm pleased with my progress last week.  Not only did I swim 3 times, for a total of 4 miles, but I did all of the weekly workouts.  We had 4 Cross Fit-esque workouts, plus challenges of a mile run, 5 rounds of Tabata squats, AMRAP push ups for a minute, and hold plank as long as possible.  I also ate on the food plan 5 out of 7 days.

So Week 1 is in the bag!  On to Week 2.  I swam this morning, so I'm off to a good start!

Friday, June 07, 2013


I think I may need to modify some of the workouts for this June Challenge if I'm going to get through running a mile every week and still be able to walk when I'm not working out.  I did Workout #2 last night, which included 5 rounds of 20 knee highs and 10 tuck jumps (among other things).  First of all, tuck jumps.  Check out this guy.

Yeah, I'm not that bouncy.

But that wasn't even the main problem.  As soon as I started that first round of knee highs, my shins started hurting.  I did a few tuck jumps and realized that my legs were not up to this.  So instead of tuck jumps, I added a bunch more air squats to the 5 rounds of those we were supposed to do.  I did do all of the knee highs because I figured those had a little less impact, but now I'm not so sure.  I limped around all last night and today my shins hurt pretty bad.

I'm going to write the organizer and let her know that I'm just going to modify things a bit.  When there's something high-impact, I'm going to switch it to something lower-impact, but still difficult.  Hopefully she'll still count my points.

Maybe eventually I'll be able to do the more high-impact stuff, but I figure I need to let my shins heal first, right?

The good news is, Workouts 3 and 4 for the week look to be pretty low impact and focused more on arms and abs.  No problem.  Well, not no problem - the workouts will still be tough.  But I'm not so concerned about injury with those.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

Challenge Progress

I'm right in the thick of a working out extravaganza, and it feels pretty darn good.  Monday morning I swam.  Last night I did my timed 1-mile run for the June Challenge and did the first workout (burpees, planks, sit ups, etc.).  This morning I swam and at lunch I went for a walk up the big hill to Brown campus to run some errands.

First, about that run.  I should really say "run".  It was more a walk with spurts of jogging.  I am SO not a runner.  When I told Rebecca (aka, swim buddy and fellow Quahog) about it at the pool this morning she suggested that running a mile isn't necessarily indicative of fitness, or at least my fitness.  Maybe it should be some sort of challenge related to your particular sport, with the goal to show improvement over the course of the month.  We're not being ranked or given points based on how fast we run the mile, only on our percentage of improvement over the next 4 weeks.

So I've been thinking about that.  For instance, if a quarter mile of swimming equals a mile of running in this Challenge, then I should be able to time myself swimming a quarter mile (let's call that a 450), with the goal of improving that time over the 4 weeks.  I can still report a percentage of improvement, it will just be for swimming, rather than running.  I have flat feet, weak ankles, and a family history of terrible knees and arthritis.  I injure myself every time I try Couch to 5K.  I don't think running is in my cards.

Maybe if the Challenge organizer decides to do something similar for July, I'll make that suggestion.  But for now, I run.  Or walk.  Whatever. 

After the "run", I came home and did Challenge Workout 1, which was tough!  Kudos to the organizer for finding us some hard workouts. 

This morning's swim was a fun workout using ALL the toys.  Basically, we swam 2600 yards total, with 2100 of those yards using fins.  That on top of yesterday's run means my legs and glutes are yelling at me. And then I walked up (and down) a big hill at lunch.  My legs are tired, is what I'm saying.

I have 3 more workouts to do this week for the Challenge, plus some push-up, squat and plank challenges. This Challenge is definitely getting me to think about when to schedule in my workouts and I feel so focused.  Love it!

Monday, June 03, 2013

June Challenge

A friend of mine emailed me yesterday to see if I wanted to get in on a challenge for the month of June that a friend of hers put together.  A challenge?  With points?  Of course!

So that's what I'm doing this month.  Basically for the weeks of June there are 4 workouts to do at some point during the week, which get progressively harder as the weeks progress.  The workouts are similar to the Cross Fit idea - 5 rounds of 10 push-ups, 10 burpees, 15 squats, 3 varieties of plank for 30 seconds each, etc.

Also, there are a few other fitness challenges to get through each week for points. 

ALSO, there's a food component that basically consists of removing the heavily-processed "white" foods - sugar, white flour, white rice.   I'll do you one better, Challenge, and not even eat the whole wheat flour or the brown rice!

One thing I really like is that there's a walking/running component each week, which the organizer translated into non-walking/running activities.  So I can swim 1/4 mile and it counts as a mile of running/walking.  This week the total is 5 miles, which means I'm already finished, since I swam 1 1/4 miles this morning.  Next week it's 12 miles, so that will take a bit more effort in the pool.

One thing I do NOT like: required running.  Each week we're supposed to do a timed mile run.  Yeah, I can pretty much guarantee I won't be getting any points with that, since mine will probably be a 15 minute run/jog/walk mile.

Regardless, I love a challenge, especially when someone has already done all the hard work and organized everything and just tells me what to do.

I have a work meeting tonight, but I'll do my first weekly workout tomorrow!

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Active Vacation

Well we're back home and, frankly, kind of depressed about it.  Oh well.  I guess real life has to go on.  The good news is, we're so used to hot and muggy weather that this mild heat wave Rhode Island is having feels like no big deal.

Trips like this last week really make me think that I should have thought long and hard about becoming a lawyer and being chained to a desk for most of my day. We swam and snorkeled a lot and without even trying I lost 3/4 inch off my waist and almost the same amount off my hips, not to mention decreases in my thighs and calves.  I unofficially measured myself just to see if there was any change, and sure enough.

And it's not like I was watching my diet.  There were many, many smoothies and fruity drinks this past week and brownies and big ole burgers.

It's just so easy when the weather is beautiful and there's an ocean beckoning.  On Friday we hung out at the beach and I went for a half hour swim, just because.  A half hour swim at the Y feels good, but is also kind of a chore.  A half hour swim in the ocean is no biggie, just a nice way to kill some time.

Now it's back to real life and making a point of being healthy again.  I've joined a June challenge that a friend of mine is also doing, and I'm going to swim laps tomorrow morning.  Just not in the ocean.  Sadly.