Thursday, January 28, 2016

The matter of wimpiness

I got my baseline fitness taken at HCFit today. I had to do as many of this or that exercise in a minute. Pushups were good- I could do 28 pushups in a row! Then I had to pause a bit and then strain to do another 5, one at a time, before the minute was up. I felt really good about it. There were  a couple exercises I was not so pleased with myself over. During one, shoulder press maybe, I actually said, "Uhhg, so wimpy!" which the trainer Jake immediately refuted. 

I don't say I'm wimpy in this or that moment to be defeatist or self degrading. I don't say it to comment harshly on being weak. wimpy and weak are not the same. Wimpy is a useful word. I use it to note when I stop, or slow, or want to stop, due to willpower as opposed to physical ability. It's the difference between "I can't keep going" and "I don't want to keep going." 

Head game is a huge part of any physical activity, and building willpower is as important in strength training as building muscle. Lots of early attempts at physical fitness are thwarted due to people not getting past the deficit in willpower, which is usually more significant than deficits in physical ability. 

It's the reason why couch-to-5k was such a great program for me. It takes you by the hand and has you verrrry gradually build up running time. In my opinion, this is to help you grow how much you think you can run and how much running you can expect yourself to do faster than how much you can actually run. 

In my experience, once you build up a baseline of the headspace or of this kind of willpower, you can start really working physically, because this is when you can push yourself to your physical limits instead of your perceived limits.

Since I started last week, and since I'd been toying a bit with pushups the week or so before, I have a pretty well developed willpower when it comes to pushups. I really did go as far ad I could today, and it felt good. In a few other exercises I could feel that my lack of ability to make myself do more was hindering me even though my physical ability wasn't. That is wimpiness. And that is one of the things I'm training to work on. 

There's nothing wrong with me calling that out, noting where I'm weak mentally or physically to mark the achievement later when I find I'm stronger.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Back to the Blog: re-up

I haven't posted in... several years. In fact I just posted a couple times then never again. But my quest to become a physical badass hasn't lagged all that time.

Okay, it's lagged most of that time, but not the entire time.

So where are things now? Halfway through my May challenge. Last November I decided to give myself a challenge like the marathon was for me. A couple years ago I trained for six months and went from not being able to run 3 miles in a go  to running more than 26. Suddenly one of my life goals of being able to casually run for 40+ minutes is slam dunked (I mean, maintaining that is another story). But how did I achieve that much finally? There were a number of things, but I believe a clear deadline had a lot to do with it. And that's something I can give myself for my strength goals. So last November I decided to give myself 6 months, or until the end of the first week of May, to a) get ripped, and b) have established strength training as a permanent part of my lifestyle.

I know, it's not as well-defined a goal as "run 26.2 miles in one go" but it's something. Do I have specifics like being able to do 200 push-ups or finally being able to to pull-ups or anything? No. I just want to be ripped. I'm working toward being able to do pull-ups and lots of push-ups, but I think specifics may get in my way here. We'll see, I guess.

What have I done so far?

For one, I joined a bootcamp gym, which is centered on group HIT classes. The first week I went 3 days in a row, and 3 months later that's still my best streak. I'm supposed to go a minimum of 3-5 times a week, as in only 3 days as a regular thing is insufficient. If I want to utilize my membership [read: make it worth anything at all] I need to start working it into my weekly routine. Which means ultimately putting it into my actual work/school schedule. Tough. Tough scheduling-wise, and also tough physically. This place makes me feel like a wimpy noodle of whinyness. Also, making this really happen is going to require me to get an inhaler, but dealing with my health care is a whole other drama.

Another, though technically part of the first, is that the gym came with a nutrition program, which is basically the most intense diet I'll ever do. Just working myself up to approximate some of the features in this diet has been a process for me, and after 3 months I still haven't gotten into it enough to actually log my meals/calories reliably, nor actually contain my "break" meals to one day a week. But the changes in my diet and the way I approach preparing and consuming food have still been large, the largest waves in any part of my life since I began the May challenge.

So, I have done not really anything at all physical in the past month. At all. I didn't visit the gym once. My substantial dues totally un-utilized. I have been particularly angsting about this this past week, and sort of came back to myself.

And decided to re-up.

Your life is every day you live it. If you want something to be part of your life, a part of your daily lifestyle, you should be doing it today and tomorrow.

A couple days ago I tore out the pages of a calendar and taped Jan-May to the sliding mirror-door of my closet. A brilliant stroke, if I may say. It is at eye-level or above, is impossible to ignore, and visually lays bare how many days I've spent and how many I have left. As of yesterday, I had exactly 15 weeks, or 106 days. Next Tuesday is the 100 day mark. yikes

These past few days while angsting about all this I did not go to the gym, or go running, or even do my Batman abs workout. But today I did start the onehundredpushups program, complete with updating their log. I also started lunges and squats. Not only were all three doable, they were practically easy, which is great. On Monday I'll do Day 2 of those programs, perhaps while I'm hanging around CSUN.

ALSO, today I looked up door frame pull-up bars and decided that tomorrow I'm going to go around to a few sporting goods stores to buy one and also some resistance bands to stand on. Even if I can't go to the gym, I can still work towards pull-ups, and I can't believe it's taken me this long to realize I should just get that infrastructure to be able to do it easily at home. Being able to do pull-ups has been one of the major goals since the beginning.

To sum up: I started a 6-month strength-training challenge 3 months ago, petered out immediately, and then just now have gotten a fresh wave of motivation and enthusiasm. I joined a gym I'm not currently going to at all, a diet I'm only partially following, and have pretty much not done anything else. But starting a couple days ago, or today really, I'm getting myself back in gear. Let's hope I keep it up.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some Background

This blog is ultimately intended to be a place to post my present progress, discoveries, and musings. To get things started, however, I will be posting retrospectives on myself, my goals, my past fitness attempts, etc.  My present stage in my journey means more to me because it is within the context of less successful  stages, so it only makes sense to share some of that context here.

First: Who am I?

I am a 23 year old female. I’m 5’4” and presently 155 lbs. I am neither a jock nor a couch potato.  I want to change my practices and habits and improve my health in various arenas. I have no serious injuries or physical problems to hold me back in physical activity. I like all kinds of physical activity and am very open to trying different things. I never eat mammal or poultry, but I do eat fish, eggs, and dairy. People call me vegetarian, which I don’t mind, but those that do mind are usually the ones who don’t eat fish and call people like me pescatarians. You can call me Mal.

If you took my height and weight to a bmi chart, you’d see that I’m right in the middle of the “overweight” column with about 15 lbs between me and having an either obese or normal weight. I have been overweight since I was about 16. That being said, I think I generally look great, and so do enough friends to make me think I’m not delusional. My issue is not with how I look (unlike many other women, sadly). My issue is with my health.  I want to make sure I have a healthy cardiovascular system, low cholesterol, healthy blood pressure, and a healthy body percentage fat.  Beyond that I want to be strong and fit with certain physical abilities. I’m pretty sure that going after these things will also ultimately lower my weight and get my bmi into the normal range.  Thus, my goal isn’t to change the number on the scale.  That number will change as I reach my goals. So will how I feel, and improving how I feel is far higher on what’s important to me than what I say if someone asks my weight.  

I am not at all embarrassed about my physical state, my weight, or my level of activity or inactivity. I have a healthy self-esteem and self-respect when it comes to my body. I do feel subconscious about the padding around my middle, but that’s about it, and I hide it well.  I even wear a sexy bikini once in a while, exposing my midriff in all its discreetly-chubby glory. I said I don't have in issue with how I look, and it's true, but I'm pretty sure that getting fit will make me look even better. I'm pretty sure the lean and toned look suits most people.

 I have an “apple” body type- I carry most of my weight around my middle. In my particular case it means I don’t look as heavy as I am and my weight gives me that curvy hourglass figure when my waist isn’t too padded.  It also means I’m more likely to have heart disease and other similar problems than people with the “pear” body type.

I don’t mind questions. We as a culture these days are pretty sensitive about weight, when it’s just another health metric. People are afraid to ask others about their weight or their physical fitness for fear of bringing up a sensitive or personal subject. With me the subject is not sensitive, and I invite questions.  

I can touch my toes, but I want much more for myself in terms of flexibility. For me, working on my health breaks down into stamina (cardiovascular), strength, flexibility, and diet while most people only include the other three.  For me stretching isn’t just something I do after a workout to prevent shin splints, it’s its own arena of fitness. 

For me the fitness plan isn't to get somewhere then be done. My purpose isn't to lose 30 lbs and then smile in relief and pack it in. It is to develop lifelong habits and practices to maintain my health and fitness, with plenty of concrete goals to use as targets and benchmarks along the way.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Pushups and Pullups

In the two days since I started this blog I've received some lovely encouragement and some great tips. A few of these tips from my friend Kendra have inspired further research and ultimately led me to decide to add a zilch-to-100 pushups program and a zilch-to-any pullups program to my immediate future plans.

I'll probably start the pushups program, based exclusive on the site linked above, in the next few days, as soon as I've done some more reading, considered and planned the regular days I'd do it (for me to do something 3 and only 3 days a week regularly, I either need to do it with someone else or have it be the same days of the week throughout, or I'm not likely to keep it up), and solidified my resolve. The last thing I want to do is declare a big bold plan geared for epic results and then fade out. Probably what I'll do is decide to begin the program with a 2-week trial period in the beginning, and if I make it through that and still like my chances of seeing it through I'll commit. I don't know if I need to do 100 pushups, of if I'll be able to reach 100 after only 6 weeks, but it would be nice to actively up my pushup game and get my ambitions of inverted pushups on the road. 

The zilch-to-any pullups program is a deal further from getting off the ground. It would be a composite program I assembled from what looks like about 5 different sources. I'd want to go through each source, draw up a reasonable-seeming program with regular progressions and projected time frames like the other zilch-to-whatever programs I've seen (I've done some of the couch-to-5k program, and now I'm familiar with the onehundredpushups plan). Only after all that would I get to figuring out where and how I'd do the pullup stuff, as it either requires a gym or a horizontal bar of the likes I don't yet have at home. Then I'd need to figure out which days of the week would be the days I'd commit to doing the program, and then solidify resolve and begin a trial period. So I'm thinking I'll perhaps start in the next few weeks. 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Middle

I have had personal physical fitness and health goals for as long as I can remember, and have done various things to help myself get there- with varying success.

Now, I believe I'm finally on the right track. I intend to use this space to record my progress, my discoveries, my musings. 

At some point I will describe where I have been on this journey up to now, but for now I am starting with the present, which is in the middle of my journey to fitness.

Right now I go to the gym hopefully twice a week, I go jogging a few times a week, and I do strength training with and without weights at home irregularly. My current near-future goal is to continue going to the gym as much as twice a week, going jogging every day I do not make it to the gym, and doing a regular (if not daily) home strength training program when it doesn't conflict with gym activity. Current long-term goals include being able to do pull-ups, being very lean (low body percentage fat), being highly flexible, having good enough cardio stamina to run a marathon, and being reasonably strong. When I say reasonably strong, I mean having a rock-hard core all around, a strong-enough upper body to do pull-ups three different ways, do inverted push-ups and plenty of normal push-ups, and lift heavy things easily. In the ideal, I'd love to be able to pick up a 100-140lb friend princess style and carry her as long as I please. Then again, in the ideal I'd have the body and the ability of a cirque du soleil performer.

So far I've been addressing physical fitness, but of course health is also highly influenced by diet. Right now I do not consume mammals, poultry, cephalopods, or most shellfish. I rarely consume soda, fast food, or most junk food. I occasionally consume ice cream, sweets, hot cocoa, other deserts, and obviously unhealthy food like sweet sauce Chinese take-out. I regularly eat sugar-heavy and carb-heavy foods like frosted mini-wheats in vanilla almond milk and bagels with cream cheese. I also regularly eat fruits, vegetables, fish, whole grains, and egg.

My goals to do with my diet are less concrete than for fitness (in which there are so many benchmarking possibilities). I generally intend to gradually, and permanently, shift my diet to one high in lean protein, abundant fresh fruits and vegetables, and wholesome grains and legumes. This shift will also gradually reduce the frequency at which I consume the obviously unhealthy stuff like ice cream, animal fries, or ruby shrimp. It will also reduce the frequency of consuming dairy products (which I believe I should avoid). I don't intend to ever completely remove any of these things from my diet, but I don't want them to be featured once a week or even once a month. I want my normal, steady eating habits to not include them.

I have a long way to go but I'm already well on my way. I feel I'm on a steady incline of steps forward with no signs of taking any steps back. Just getting this far is an accomplishment, especially since I've had experience trying to "start getting better" and not getting anywhere. I've said I'll go running every morning and six weeks later not run at all. I've said I'll stop eating trash-foods as much and then had in-n-out 4 times in 3 weeks. I've said I'll go to the gym a ton and do sets of push-ups and crunches daily, and I've failed to get these ambitions off the ground. Now, though, instead of a big drastic plan, or even a gradual but poorly-planned or uncommitted plan, I have gradual, flexible, well thought out plans backed by the commitment that comes with momentum from the progress I've already made on my present program- which I started in mid-September. I'm only going onward and upward from here.