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Okay, so I have a total blog crush on Charlotte Hilton Anderson from the Great Fitness Experiment (really should update that blogroll) and had her new book on my list of things to eventually order from overseas. But when I saw that it was available in kindle format, I was so excited. I have been using the kindle app on my iphone on the train on the way to work, so I snapped it up. Anyway, still reading it but really enjoying it.

Which is pretty impressive seeing as when I found Charlotte’s blog a while back, she was one of the few that have inspired me to go back and read all of their back catalogues archive wise, so many of the chapters in the book I had already read in an earlier admittedly less evolved way. And I just am taken in by so heartbreakingly vulnerable Charlotte is and willing to talk about stuff that people don’t talk about (particularly on a popular blog).

As an example, a totally true story which probably displays my weird brain. One of the chapters talks about women and their reluctance to be naked in front of other women, even in gym showers. This totally hit home with me (I don’t even enter the changing room of my gym), but one of the reasons Charlotte mentioned for her own reluctance was that she was self-conscious because as a member of the church of latter day saints (or mormons), she wears special underwear. This completely derailed my attention on the book itself (which probably wasn’t the point of including this in the story) as I had no idea that mormons had ritual/sacred/whatever clothing. So for the next week I would intermittently be thinking “must google mormon underwear” which is a phrase that should send some interesting search engine inquiries this way. But as trite as it sounds, if Charlotte hadn’t been as transparent and open in her writing as she is, I would have not learned something entirely new to me.

So go buy and read the book. It is funny. She seems like a nice person. And she talks (once so far) about wearing unconventional undergarments. What more can you ask?

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So the food adjustment has been a little interesting, particularly removing the white carbs. The results have been impressive though so I am sticking with it. I had kind of fallen into the habit of eating a carby bulk with every meal. So adjusting my eating to be basically meat and vegetables has been challenging at times. Part of it has been the fact that I like one bowl eating and typically have some rice or pasta to soak up the juices of the stir fry or curry or what have you. So as much as I am happy with the eating now that my proteins are largely fish and eggs, sometimes I feel like I am missing the texture of having a rice or pasta with my meat and veg.

And the answer seems to be cabbage. I have had so many variations on chow mein since starting this eating regime. Meat and vegies and then just stirfry down a bunch of cabbage. Texture wise it seems to mimic noodles or something so psychologically at least I am feeling like it is more filling. And it is so bloody easy. While I normally like toasting spices etc, for a quick meal after the gym or some HIIT, it is hard to go past a quick stirfry and some (good quality) curry powder thrown in. And cabbage (even a lot of it) is low calorie and high in vitamin C – particularly great if you are like me and hardly eat fruit ever.

So my basic recipe is this:

About an eighth of a head of cabbage (I tend to get the quarter head and use it for two meals).
Whatever meat you like – I use some lean mince, some chicken thighs or some tinned salmon
Other vegetables – typically onions, capsicums, carrots or whatever is to hand
Cook up the meat and other vegetables with a couple of teaspoons of curry powder, then add the cabbage as the last ingredient. When cabbage is just soft, serve it up. If you prefer, add a little water to make the curry powder more “saucy”

I am loving the gym at the moment. I don’t get there as often as I like, but I am loving the switch to strength training. My circuit takes around 50 minutes or so once I add in some cardio for warmup, and surprisingly enough I don’t feel as self-conscious as I thought I would spending all my time in the boys’ part of the gym. I am coming up to finishing the current card for my program and the normal routine would be to pony up for another fitness test and program. I think I might do that, and then if I am still enjoying things in another 3 months, I might look at adopting some of the programs I have seen around the place.

I find it odd that I would enjoy the environment of the gym with all the fluoro lights and mirrors and stuff. But I have even moved away from the over concealing baggy gym clothes as well. Because the thing about doing these exercises is that despite the ample padding, I can still see the muscles moving. When lifting weights, even my body with lots of work to do becomes strong and powerful and dynamic. And I might be fooling myself, but I feel like I can see the bits that will remain when the other currently more visible bits fall away.

I never feel that way from doing cardio – even running (which I love). All I can see is the unfit person trying to pretend that they are up to this. But in the unforgiving lights and mirrors of the scary weights part of the gym – I can see the part of me that is for the moment hiding.

It’s pretty darn cool, I gotta admit.

Okay, so thanks for those that gave me some thoughts on this (even though Andrew seems to have to battle with my spam filter to get his point across. I got myself a new helmet (just cause the old one looked a bit dorky and a new one from kmart cost all of $15 on sale). Then I went a bit silly and got myself a bike tool and a little bag for under the seat and a whole bunch of gimmicky stuff that I will never use. Hub immediately sussed me and said “Well I guess that means you are a really serious cyclist now that you have that gear).

So I have been taking some opportunities to go for rides in the quiet back streets. Newsflash!! Riding a real bike is harder than riding an exercise bike. I still don’t really know how the gears work (except for the basic fact that one way makes it harder but faster and the other way makes it slower and easier). I never really had a bike with gears – most of my experience riding was tooling around on a pushie when I was a kid.

In my practice I feel like I am getting decently competent, but I still have a real weakness with stopping and starting. Kind of a problem as I don’t really see how to avoid those things in future. Hopefully having the bike will be useful to use as well because we only have one car and we spend at least a day a week living not in the same place and when that happens I am almost never the one with the vehicular transport. I am totally tempted to get a basket to put over the handlebars. Or a pannier. Or both.

It would be nice to have a bike at our home away from home, so I was thinking of checking out getting one from here. The one I have I am looking after for my sister while she is away in Japan. Of course, I haven’t mentioned that to her seeing as she has been back from Japan for several years and I never gave it back to her. I wonder what the statute of limitations is on that.

Ugh, what a crapola couple of days. Yesterday I woke up with a headache which got progressively worse during the course of the morning, incorporating light sensitivity, nausea and all those good things. I have never had a proper migraine, but as I was finding talking on the phone to be painful because of the sound of people’s voices in my ear, I headed off home to bed to sleep it off.

Which I duly did, sleeping for 5 hours straight, then after dinner back to bed and sleeping for a full night without interruption. I don’t know what it was, but it seemed better once I got into a darkened room – today I feel vaguely hungover though I didn’t take any drugs to speak of once the paracetamol in the morning didn’t do anything.

I do however gaze in disbelief at the wreckage of my clean eating this week as a result of this one bout of sickness. Admittedly I wasn’t up to cooking and was alone in the house so nobody could pamper me. But if I was going to splurge on a couple of dumplings for lunch followed by pizza and chips for dinner I would have preferred it to be at a time that I could actually appreciate it. Thankfully though the quality of the food was poor at least the quantity was more restrained than it could have been – most of it ended up in the bin.

And of course my second thought (after feeling guilty about the terrible food) was to feel guilty about missing a scheduled activity, namely the gym last night. I don’t know how I think I would have managed at the gym what with the light and sound sensitivity and so on, but there is no reasoning with this.

One thing that I did accomplish (admittedly the day before) was to pull out the bike from the garage, pump up the tyres and get it ready for the road. I did a quick spin around the back yard and promptly gave that up for fear of falling off. I thought that once you learn to ride a bike you kind of keep that skill for life? Anyway, I think I will need some practice on the back streets around our place before I brave the meaner streets. Maybe I should get some protective padding just in case.

Anyway, I know some of you cycle a bit, so I was wondering if any of you could answer a couple of questions that I had. I know that this sounds stupid, but I was wondering whether there was a use by date on bike helmets. The helmet I have is probably about 10 years old and I wonder whether that is okay or whether I should invest in a new one. As far as I know it has never been in any accidents or anything. Secondly, what if anything should a beginner cyclist take with her? Do I need tools? Is there a specific pressure that I should be pumping my tyres up to?

The resistance program that I am reading about has a hard and fast rule about having a protein shake immediately after a resistance workout, with the explanation that it means that your work out has a greater impact than it otherwise would have or some such. I don’t know whether this is true or not, but I thought I would get on board with the principle for a trial and see how we go.

I have never been a big fan in the past. Sure I see people with their shakes after the gym, but I didn’t really see the point. Plus I had unfit person’s cringe about doing something that was so obviously something that people who were really into it (TM) did. You know the cringe you get about getting a really flash garmin watch when you are only doing a beginner’s run program, or the one that makes you feel self conscious for doing the Martina Hingis grunts when lifting weights because you obviously are just a try hard.

Anyway, I had one of those cringes about taking shakes, which in true klutz form is destined to overly complicate the process of trialling them, because I will have to deal not only with actual practical considerations but also the imaginary barriers and difficulties that I dream up and which bear no resemblance to reality.

Which is exactly what happened on my first trial after my gym workout last week. I had the powder measured out in one of those mixing cups with the lid. To my eternal mortification, the only mixing cup I had was a Biggest Loser promotional one, but while vowing to tape over the logo for future sessions, I didn’t let it derail me. So I got to the end of my session having had a decent workout with achy bits in all the right places. All I had to do was get to the water fountain to fill up the cup to the 300ml mark. And there was one of the gym attendants (actually the one who did my fitness assessment) who had decided to park himself right next to the fountain. Well in my head I couldn’t possibly let gym guy see me big-noting myself with a Biggest Loser branded protein shake.

So I took an artful wander around the gym waiting for him to move (Don’t mind me, just checking the read out on the elliptical trainer – say, is that weight stack symmetrical?). Unfortunately he seemed not to care (did this guy not have work to do?). At this point if you are wondering why on earth I should think gym instructor guy cares about my protein shake or would even notice, then I will never be able to make you understand. Just accept that it is a sickness and move on.

In the end I had to do a stealth move when he was distracted by another alpha gym user chatting to him. I ducked in quick as a flash and promptly poured twice the amount of recommended water into my shake bottle. But whatever cause VICTORY. And now I only have to manage that at another 50 or so gym sessions and we shall see whether it has an effect.

My initial thoughts? Those shakes are actually pretty tasteless and watery when you get right down to it.

I was sweating by the time I got to the gym last night and was thankful of the air conditioning, which still wasn’t hardy enough to fully filter the heat and humidity out of the air, particularly when you cram in a crowd of sweaty bodies. My glasses fogged up, and not just because of some of the more astounding body shaping.

So my current program exercise-wise is pretty straight forward – resistance training and high intensity interval training. Interestingly enough, the element missing is the aspect of running. I really do like running generally, and will run if I want to or feel like it, but it is not a cornerstone of my program. I choose to run because I like it, and I won’t put too many rules around that. At the moment I am choosing not to run at all, because it is like a fracking sauna out there.

Our vet said the other day that it has been a terrible year for pets with heat rashes and skin irritations largely due to the wet heat. I am well aware of the effects, as Toby the dog shaped boy has always been prone to skin irritations. This summer has been a shocker for the little urchin, particularly when coupled with his more exciteable nature. Of course, when he gets itchy he scratches or chews at himself, more often than not introducing a skin infection which makes him break out in hives. He gets so antsy from the feeling of his skin that he *literally* bounces off furniture (used in the actual sense of the word, not the internet version) as he bolts around the house and garden at light speed trying to outpace the shifty little buggers biting at him.

Of course then we give him the magic vet pill shortly before bed time (just an anti-histamine actually but they are a life saver for the dog boy) and it’s like he is the wile e coyote who has just taken a hit of ACME CALM PILLS – he practically keels over on the spot. But seeing as he is dreadfully uncomfortable and when the dog who sleeps on your bed doesn’t sleep, then you don’t sleep, it would be nice to get past this terrible wet heat.

Plus, I need my glasses to be clear for to looking at teh gym peoples.

You know how they tell you not to go shopping when you are hungry because you will make bad decisions and just buy everything you feel like eating? Well I feel like that sometimes about exercise. I, like everyone, have a couple of opposing considerations which have to be weighed up in juggling my exercise. So first, I am reconciled to the fact that I will not consistently get up early to exercise. S’cool. It is what it is. So I need to work around that.

So during the week I need to exercise in the evening after work. So typically I arrive home from work during the week from about 7pm. It is variable and it can be later, plus later again if I have to stop for shopping or whatever. So from whenever I arrive home from work, I have to juggle some exercise, dinner while trying not to eat too late and whatever pure recreation I might allow myself before hopefully retiring to bed at a reasonable hour to get enough sleep. These are all reasonable goals with their own importance to my health and well-being.

The problem comes with the fact that the me that Just Home From Work Deege is a totally different person to Sensible and Balanced Deege. JHFWD plays dirty and is not at all afraid of shamelessly leveraging the various health benefits of early eating, sensible recreation and getting early to bed to justify not having to haul her butt off the couch just when she was looking forward to watching some Battlestar Galactica. And then SABD cracks it the next day when she emerges and there is a stony silence throughout my consciousness and all is not well with the world.

So after several months of this simmering battle, SABD set down some rules, which JHFWD has to follow. First, when SABD is in charge she schedules exercise in the diary – just for that reinforcement that when JHFWD arrives, she is not deciding whether to exercise or not, at best she is trying to wheedle out of it. Secondly, every evening I arrive home before 8pm, I have to exercise.

So far it seems to be working reasonably well, but improved since I introduced a regular part of my routine (more on that later) which is a very intense but relatively short session at home. It is an absolute killer of a session but I promptly forget how brutal it is as soon as I finish. So when JHFWD is moaning at dragging her feet to the gym (all of 200m down the road), she jumps at the chance to do an “easy” short session in the comfort of home. Then she gets the total arse-kicking she so richly deserves.

This month am trying to get used to some new particular eating adjustments that I haven’t really done before. I have always been a fan of just a general clean eating approach and tended to find most low carb diets that people talk about packed with red meat and animal fats – something I don’t really get along with and can’t really see as particularly healthy.

But in trying to maximise the impact of my weight training particularly, I am loosely trying on a new program of both eating and exercise with a few simple rules, including some that I have never done particularly well in the past. So, the things that are particularly new are

  • trying to avoid white carbs including pasta, bread and white rice
  • trying to eat one protein and one fruit or vegetable per meal/snack
  • trying to make sure to have a decent morning and afternoon snack to keep the metabolism kicking

Well those are the main differences from my normal healthy eating regime. I am too guilty of skipping meals and never having snacks, leading to my evening meal being more likely to be a splurgey mcsplurgefest, which is particularly evil given that my routine has me often eating dinner quite late.

The program I am reading about basically describes this as the general good eating stage, and suggests that you should stick to the rules for 90% of the time. So it is not a scheduled night or day off, but more that you can break those rules a 3 or 4 meals a week if it is a small departure or maybe one meal a week if you are going to splurge. At the moment it seems to be a sustainable plan. I am not being completely strict on it either to start with, just trying to introduce some better habits. Since implementing some little changes the results have been pretty promising so I will taste test and adjust as necessary.

So far I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it is to get the required protein through fish, chicken or eggs so that I don’t feel compelled to eat red meat (which I sometimes love, but only in small doses). And I for one that actually loves vegetables, I am so far finding that I am eating more vegetables in greater variety than I did before.

If a blogger exercises in the forest but doesn’t blog about it, does it contribute to improving fitness?

Surprisingly the gym after Christmas has been really quiet – I don’t know where the New Year’s Resolutionists are. I was off the gym as away between Christmas and the 5th of January – surely, the resolutionists aren’t finished up already?

It is inevitable though, a few trips to the gym and I’m lumbering along like Lurch with sore legs, arms and abs after the Christmas break (and the non Christmas related slackness break in November).