Hitting the Magic Number

I have been stalling for a week, deciding if I wanted to write out my “new” resolve or keep it private.  After all, if I fail and no one knows about it, did it ever really happen?  However, I have come to the conclusion that even if I am the only one who reads my own blog, and the only one who knows, writing it down makes it more serious, and, therefore, requires more determination.   That’s the hope anyway.

One week ago my scale registered at 190 lbs, the largest I have been since pregnancy.  YIKES…..  For some reason, 180 had not scared me as much, (clearly), and I continued to eat and drink without much thought or worry.  190 though; that is a wake-up call, at least for me.

So, what am I doing?  First:  Increased time on the spin bike, adding 5-10 minutes each week over the hour mark.  Second: Fruits and vegetables have become my acquaintances rather than my enemies. (Friends may never happen).  Thirdly, I am writing down a daily habit change and keeping track of exercise.  Lastly: I am trying to become a vegetarian (5th time is the charm).   All of these changes/fixes are doable, and my goal is to feel good about trying on clothes again, even with those hideous lights that are in most dressing rooms.  I am still having trouble running, but I hope the weight reduction will help with that too eventually.

Weekly Summary:  I do feel much better eating “cleaner” with few processed foods, no meat and added protein.  The workouts are going well, and I like the changes I have made. (Cutting out vodka at night was rough, proving that it needed to be done).  Not telling anyone about my plan because I want to do this all on my own.  Mom and husband know, and my daughter is trying to do her own weight loss at the same time.  I hope she sees me as an inspiration.

I will continue to write about my “journey” in case anyone reads this, and maybe some day to have a record to use to help others.  I might even try to self-publish a book.  One thing at a time.

Cheers-

Michelle

Music:  “Over and Over”  The Goo Goo Dolls

The Things We Do To Run

For the past few months I have been trying to run again.  There is just something about walking that just doesn’t quite cut it for me.  I can walk about two miles max with the intention of meditating, and that works very well.  But I feel the need to run again….VERY SLOWLY.  I have no idea why this need cannot be erased from my body and brain, but I have decided to quit fighting it and see where it takes me.  Enter a new book.

In today’s WSJ there is an article about running books, and one in particular caught my eye.  It is titled “Slow Running” and is written by a man who has been running for many years without injury, and he seems to come at exercise from a “chi” direction.  I have come to enjoy listening to my body to see what it is telling me, taking in the quiet of being outside in nature and drifting into a place of mindful consciousness.  I am curious to see if the book follows this same stream of thought.  My intent is to share it in this blog if it seems like something that would help others.

All for now, except to wish anyone reading this a good weekend and happy trails.

Peace-

Michelle

Music:  “Over and Over”  The Goo Goo Dolls

 

Fight the Good Fight Everybody (Apologies to Triumph)

So…depression.  Yikes.  Talked about it before, very likely will talk about it again.  Here’s the thing for me….It is so DAMN EASY to let it win in a battle for your emotional strength and well-being.  Truly, every single day is a fight.  Recently I read a book about mindfulness and depression, and it claimed that fighting depression was actually the exact wrong way to achieve peace.  So, I decided to adopt this new outlook to  see where it might take  me.  Not a pretty picture for the most part.  I had quite a few lovely pity parties for myself where food and alcohol were invited.  No friends, of course, because, for me, taking it easy on depression means shutting people out, staying in the house and sleeping.  Again, for ME, taking it easy on  depression is like feeding a drug habit, de-sensitizing  one’s mind and body and retreating further and further into   the recesses of the mind.  And, why not?  I HAVE DEPRESSION DAMMIT!! that is one of the biggest get out of jail free cards that there is, allowing for all sorts of poor behavior.

So, what to do?  The number one answerthat works for me is to get outside alone and walk while meditating.  No music, no watch, no dogs, just lace up the tennies and go.  Simple as that.  Easy, no, but simple, yes.  Make yourself do it.  Feel God’s presence, let go of your ego, and most importantly, be grateful.  Smile, breathe and see all that nature has to offer that we so frequently take for granted.  Get out of your own head and pay attention to your footsteps and your breath, and, if you are lucky, you will achieve a peacefulness that can sometimes surpass understanding.  It is rare, but it can happen.  Try not to reach for it, but let it come to you like a baby rabbit taking some grass from your hand.  The more you make walking a habit, the more likely you are to find that your depression lessens and you actually feel more empowered than you ever thought possible.

Until next time, (hopefully sooner than 3 months)!!-

Peace-

Michelle

 

Qi Gong; A Wonderful Discovery

Last week I started spin class with absolutely no energy.  Zero, zip nada.  This was the third time in a row that I felt this way, so clearly my body was trying to tell me something.  I came home disheartened and thinking depression was the answer, but, as I thought more about it, I realized it was simply exhaustion; I had been working too hard for too long, and my body was on the verge of collapse.  So, I decided to take a minimum of a week off from spin, do very low intensity cardio but keep up with my weight routine.  I felt much better, but I have still been tired.  A friend has slowly and kindly hinted that I needed to slow down and learn to relax, and finally I was prepared to listen.  Enter Qi Gong.

For those of you who read my blog on Tai Chi, you will remember that I was not that taken with the practice, and I think I understand part of the reason why after starting Qi Gong.  Qi Gong seems to me to be a combination of body flow and movement combined with the energy source that flows through all of us.  ( Hence “chi”)  After two sessions, one night and one morning, I could feel a marked difference in energy and connection to my body.  I have a DVD that I have started also, and I look forward to continuing to learn.  Sometimes I feel as if I am truly marching to my own drummer, and then I remember that Qi Gong is a way of living that has been practiced by the Eastern culture for centuries.  We in the West could certainly learn something!!!

So, here’s to slowing down, evaluating and starting something totally new.  It definitely doesn’t hurt that Spring is here and it’s a gorgeous day in the Northwest.

Peace-

Michelle

Music:  “We Believe”  David Cook

Accepting Change With Gratitude

I turned 53 two weeks ago, and in some ways it was not the very best of days.  However, I was reminded of the friends I hold dear, some near and some far, as well as the brevity of life itself…not exactly a novel concept to focus on as another year comes and goes. Some people don’t like celebrating their birthdays, and, I admit, I was a bit over the top in the past.  (Birthday month, anyone)?  As I have gotten older and experienced more, my attitude has changed a bit in regard to my birthday.  I find that my overwhelming feeling is one of gratitude for each day that I am healthy and able to accomplish what I need and want to do without pain or worry.  So many people go through daily living trying to deal with horrendous obstacles, either physically or emotionally or both, and to take my health for granted would be disregarding all that my body is able to do on a given day.  Part of the gratitude also means fighting my competitive urge to challenge my body, and knowing when to ease off even when that is contrary to what my brain is telling me to do EVERY day.

It is quite humorous for me to think of the many, many times I have had to repeat a process in order to re-learn what I should have known after a single experience.  In the past I have been inordinately angry at myself for these “wasted times”, but that evaluation has also changed over time.  Now I just laugh good-naturedly at my human frailty and try to see why I needed to go over an experience again.  In regard to exercise, I know a few of the demons I must face, and they rear their heads often:  the urge to run again, (marathons, of course), attempt a triathlon or other race, to lose weight and to push my limits daily.  All four of these issues are part of my history and make-up, so I will probably need to fight with them, accept them, and eventually move on.  However, changing my attitude has helped me acknowledge my complicated relationship with exercise and helped me learn to become more balanced, I hope!

Running causes me pain, and that will not change.  I do not have the type of body that can bounce back from long runs, and I pay for each time running with injuries that may take several days or a week to heal.  Spinning at an anaerobic heart rate has also caused me to need to take off more days than I would like, as has numerous consecutive spin days.  So, I now keep my heart rate in a “working” or endurance zone for most of a class, and this is still a very challenging workout. My weight-lifting has increased in duration, but not in regard to adding additional pounds to lift.  In regard to weight loss, I try to focus on eating well, but I find that I become obsessed if I make weight loss a priority.  (Shocking…).  I have a given body type that would take huge efforts to change, and would be very difficult to maintain.  To what end?  I now work out to feel good, to enjoy my friends and respect my body for what it can do, not what I WISH it would do.  This is right for me at this time and it feels great, but I accept the fact that I will always struggle with these issues, and that is ok.  Some things may never truly be resolved, and I think we need to accept our frailties and set-backs and just laugh…I have no doubt that God finds us hilarious!!!

Have a great week.

Michelle

Music:  “Beautiful”  by Jim Brickman  (Thank you Patti)

 

Making it All Work (At Least for Now).

Today was spin class perfection; perhaps for the first time ever. Bike fit, heart rate monitor, the class itself, the extra time…all of it flowed, and I was very aware of the rarity of the occasion.  What was different?  A feeling of complete gratitude for the entire 80 minutes.  Those times when you are “in the zone” and everything seems ideal are so rare, but instead of wishing for more days like this, I found myself completely happy in the time I had.  I am sure it had something to do with a renewed sense of life’s briefness, brought on by the death of Alan Rickman, who I admired, but I think it was more likely a result of another practice I have begun; keeping a Gratitude Journal.  I hadn’t planned on taking up “journaling”, really, but I started on Jan. 1st with low expectations of continuing.  Now I   find that if I keep it simple and short, there is no pressure.  I’m not planning to publish it, I don’t think anyone will read it, and I am not trying to write to the best of my ability.  I have come to look forward to writing, and the sense that the days have value and purpose as I record them.  This feeling of success seems to have flowed into my weight loss regimen as well…the more weight I lose and the better I look, the more I keep at it.  A righteous rather than vicious circle.

In regard to the weight loss, I am down seven pounds in 7 weeks, which is about par for the course.  I don’t do anything drastic:  I have increased my weight lifting days to four  a week, and decreased my spin/cardio days to three with 20 min extra spin each class.  I have been consistently wearing my heart rate monitor, which allows me to stay in a zone of endurance rather than aerobic threshold which has thrashed my legs for the next day in the past.  The weight-lifting has helped my back and increased my sprint speed in cycle class.  I can feel new muscles being recruited and the ache in my quads is decreasing. The New York Marathon Entry/Lottery has passed, and I did not enter for a spot.  The purpose for me  at this time is simply to take my body to a reasonable place that feels comfortable and that I am happy with. Simple as that.  I eat many more veggies and fruits in the 2 smoothies I have each day, and I continue to have one glass of red wine each night.  In another 10 days or so, the eating and exercise regimen will have been in place for 21 days, which researchers say is the amount of time you need to create a habit that will stick.  I am content with my pace and my decisions, and that feels wonderful .  I am overwhelmingly grateful.

For now, good night-

Michelle

Music:  “Peace”  by O.A.R.

 

Alan Sidney Patrick Rickman Feb 22,1946-Jan 14,2016

I don’t remember the exact moment that I “discovered” Alan Rickman and took him into my heart as the best actor I had ever seen, but I know the regard I have had for him has never been in doubt.  The sonorous and languid voice, the piercing eyes and manner made every word he spoke memorable.  My daughter  had a shirt made for me this year which says, “Turn to page 394” which is from the Harry Potter films.  I didn’t even remember that line until she showed me the YouTube video, and with four little words Snape ruled that scene.  Incredible.  Can anyone who loved the Harry Potter books and movies ever forget the moment when we all learn of Severus Snape’s magnificent heart?  It was not just chance that JK Rowling chose Mr Rickman for that part.  No one else would have been so perfectly matched to that role.

For those of you who read my posts, I have referred to Mr. Rickman several times with quotes at the end of my pieces.  Each quote is indicative of the power and depth of his talent.  I was so fortunate to see him in New York on stage, and to have the chance to see him after the show.  Never have I been so star-struck, and I am positive that I never will be again.  The look on his face was absolutely Alan when all I could find was a yellow folder, not the playbill. He looked me in the eyes, assessed whether I had actually seen the play, and then wrote his signature on the folder.  Priceless.  My only regret is that I was shaking so much that I couldn’t get any pictures.  I know, complete idiot.  (Took a bit of ribbing and some time to stop being sad about THAT ).

So today I have been crying, grieving for someone who I never knew and yet feeling the loss deeply.  Alan Rickman added to this world in a beautiful and inimitable way that will not be seen again.  I am glad to have been on Earth at the same time that he was, and I will miss him.  Wherever you are Mr. Rickman, thank you, and be at peace.

In Thanks-

Michelle

“I’m Already There”   Lonestar

2016: Belief in Resolutions

As 2015 was heading to a close, a few of my friends asked me if I was going to make any New Year’s Resolutions.  When I replied in the affirmative, they would shake their heads and say something to the effect: “Why bother?  They never work anyway, what’s the point?” Actually, I think that making resolutions is not only important, but it makes a statement that one believes in the hope and true possibility of change.  Isn’t that why we exercise and attempt to lose weight, because we believe in our power to effect change in our bodies? Making a resolution is exactly the same thing.  So, why the disconnect?  I have a few thoughts on that which have helped me, and maybe they can help you as you decide what your goals are for the New Year.  (Does naming them “goals” rather than “resolutions” help)?

My previous post reflected on my attempts to quit drinking.  Initially, I did not have anything to drink for a week, thinking that the “cold turkey” approach was the best for me since I  seem to have a personality type that I thought succeeded best with an “all or nothing approach.”  (Trust me, I AM going somewhere with this, just be a little patient).  After my “sober week”, I felt as if I wanted to drink more than ever, and for two days I struggled with that desire, fighting tooth and nail to maintain my “resolution”.  I couldn’t fail!!!Not acceptable!!  If I had even one drink, that was it, the end, finished, right back to the start.  Then another part of me said, “Wait a second.  Why do you always have to get so dramatic?  Why is it all or nothing with you? How about a little flexibility?”  WHAT A CONCEPT:  The ability to change and not see  said change as a failure.  And thus, I have found a compromise; I have one single glass of red wine every other night or so, and a drink (one) when I go out with friends.  This concept can work in all areas of life, and still be seen as a success.

In terms of losing weight and exercise, flexibility is key, and I am most certainly not talking about yoga. (Something I should most definitely do, but still dislike with a passion).  We make our weight loss and exercise goals with the determination that “THIS YEAR IT WILL BE DIFFERENT; I WILL NOT GIVE UP”!!!  As anyone who goes to a gym frequently sees, January and February are full every year with new “recruits” determined to lose large amounts of weight as fast as possible.  The problems begin when the results aren’t fast enough and the requirements are too difficult to maintain.  So, instead of the flexibility to re-examine goals, the go-to response is to quit.  Why is that?  What has really changed since the original resolution?  NOTHING!!  Each day is a new chance to start over with new resolve.  Bad day?  Didn’t make it to the gym?  Ate too much?  So what?!  Figure out what happened and make adjustments.  Don’t give up, just make the changes and realize how far your desire to change can take you.  Be kind to yourself and just keep going.  Be willing to change.

Peace-

 

Michelle

Music:  “You Gonna Fly.”  Keith Urban

 

 

Third Time Is The Charm (Hopefully)

I enjoy drinking.  There it is; straight up. (Pun intended).  I enjoy the ritual, the relaxation and the feeling it brings.  Unfortunately, I also have a few family members who are alcoholics, and I feel like I could become a part of that entourage without much of a push.  Lately I knew I should be cutting back, as three drinks in an evening was becoming the norm.  Then I read a piece in the New York Times showing the destructive nature of having more than one drink each night.  Brain function is seriously compromised and a later form of “alcohol induced Alzheimer’s ” is becoming more and more common as one drinks past middle age of 50 or so.  (This is even more troublesome for  the  late teens and twenties).

Ergo, I’m done.  Alcohol is being removed from the house, and I start day six of non-drinking.  (Am I an alcoholic?  Does the label really matter)?  For me, it has to be cold turkey or I will start all over again. This behavior is good when it is used for good, like exercise and staying on other tasks, not so great with negative aspects of my character.

Why am I including this post in a blog about exercise and weight loss?  Two reasons:  it is nearly impossible to lose weight when you drink more than one drink a night.  Trust me, I have been trying.  Secondly, overall health deteriorates when drinking, making the efforts you make dieting and exercising a moot point.  Why do any of it if you are undermining all the hard work.  Not exactly rocket science, but man did that take me awhile to be willing to see and accept the truth.

Already I can feel the difference in terms of memory and mood change for the better, after only six days.  I wanted to write about it here as a reminder of where I have been and where I want to go. Reading and piano playing has taken up the time that used to be used for drinking, and that is obviously to the good.  I am losing weight, slowly, by eating more fruit and watching portion sizes, and I feel more in control of my life.  All good things.

I hope this post resonates with even one person, because that is why I write.  There really isn’t anything positive about drinking, so quit while your brain is still in good working order.  I visit an Alzheimer’s unit every week, and, trust me, if you could ask them, they would gladly trade anything for one hour of clear thought.  Don’t waste the brain that you were given…you only get one.

Good Luck!!

Michelle

Music:  “Square One”  Tom Petty

 

 

 

The Holidays 2015

Good evening all-

It’s that most wonderful time of the year.  Or so the  song goes. Yes, I am mostly a Grinch around Christmas, but I do try to give gifts  to the people in my life , add to the Salvation Army bucket when I see one, and generally try to turn my frown upside down, in an effort to stop irritating friends and family with my curmudgeonly  attitude.  Of course, one of the best ways to change a negative attitude, for me, is to make exercise a priority every day, even if it is just a walk with my dogs around the block, and ,sometimes, that is all I can do in terms of other commitments, and that’s from someone who doesn’t even celebrate Christmas!  So what do you do to try and keep some semblance of sanity in your life during the holidays?

First, make exercise part of your daily routine by starting small and working your way up.  It has been shown in various studies that getting your heart rate up for even 15 minutes has beneficial effects on mood and cardiac function.  Once that amount  of time becomes routine, try adding 5 minutes of increased pace either by going from walking to running or cycling faster, whatever it is that you LIKE.  You need to enjoy yourself to keep going.  Bring your college kids with you and introduce them to your fellow “mates” at the gym. Include your spouse, if that helps you work out.  If not, make the time yours alone, a space when you get to work on your physical well-being, making yourself more capable of dealing with the extra holiday stress.

Be kind to yourself.  Miss a day?  Two?  That’s ok. Each day is a “do-over” as the sun rises and gives all of us a new start.  New habits take about 21 days to become part of a solid routine, and it is tough to stay on task for that time.  I truly never understood the rationale behind giving up after a few days or more of “relapse”.   Get back on the horse, and try again. Or create your own cliche. Each day.  Every day.  Forgive yourself, don’t give in to feelings of negativity, and just keep going.  Things will come up, schedules need to change, and, if you acknowledge that, it will be easier to be flexible and accept life’s daily upheavals.  Reward yourself with a massage or a nail treatment, whatever pampering  you prefer.   Try to avoid using food as the reward as that pretty much defeats the purpose of exercise.

As for eating, there are tons of advice columns out there that give instruction on how to specifically deal with all the extra food, sugar and general calories.  For me, it’s too much info.  I have a simple plan: everything in moderation.  If I deny myself bread or sugar, wine, anything “bad” then I crave it to the point of near-madness.  Why do that to yourself?  Eat some fruit and veggies to keep basically healthy, and eat SMALL portions of the naughty.  Don’t keep it out where it is easily accessible, and eat until you are just full , not more than that.  I know nutritionists will hate this advice because it is so basic, but to me, eating right is not rocket science.

So, enjoy the season, safely and in moderation, and HAVE FUN!!

Night All

Michelle