I Am That Girl Now

Friday, March 30, 2007


I hate my job at the moment, but that's not the point of this post, it just happened to come up because I'm at work. Anyway.

I'm squatting 90 lbs. for three sets of eight reps. NINETY. My Hub asked me how I felt after the first set last night, to which I replied, "Mean."

"Go take a walk, mean girl," he told me, and I did. While I was toodling around the track, which goes around the whole freeweight area, I beheld several trainers, one having a girl do squats with a 15-lb. weight in each hand, which made me go, "DUDE. I AM SQUATTING THREE TIMES THAT AMOUNT." I felt so proud. Another trainer was doing half the work for the guy that he had on the leg press machine, which baffled me. I went back and reported these things to my Hub, who was in the midst of deadlifts, and he told me, "Welcome to being smug."

Mmmm. Smugness tastes like cookies.

Apparently I'm ahead of the curve yet again among my friends; now they're asking my Hub for help setting up strength-training routines for them. It has occurred to me that I might have more influence than I thought I did, because every time I do something it ends up filtering through to everyone else. Weird, dude. I am so totally not a trend-setter. This feels like the blind leading the blind.

In other news, my food intake has sucked rocks this week and my meditation practice has likewise sucked the aforementioned rocks, both for the reason mentioned at the top of this post: I currently hate my job, because it is giving me vast amounts of stress. I took the day off yesterday for mental health, slept half the day, re-did my meditation (which went much, much better that time), and felt great. Came back to work today: instant reappearance of stress and desire to eat a vat of cookie dough. Goddamn job.

My church is doing a 5K run out at the lakeshore tomorrow morning, and in spite of the fact that neither my Hub nor I have trained for this one whit, we're strongly considering showing up just for the hell of it. Might as well. Why not? Money goes for a good cause, and if we need to walk, we walk. There are not words for how much I love having my Hub on the fitness bandwagon with me. Having to do this all by myself sucked in a number of ways; this is just lovely.

My shoulder still feels fine. Even better, I don't seem to get sore after workouts very much anymore; my muscles are tired, but are not on fire. Yay. I suspect that'll change when it's time to switch up exercises and I find new muscles to annoy.

My balance is improving. Seriously. I thought it was pretty good balance before, but apparently this is one of those things where I had no idea what I was missing before all my stabilizer muscles started getting stronger. Even just standing up is different; the little wobble I barely noticed is now gone. This is so wacky. I guess spending a lot of time having to keep a barbell balanced on my shoulders as I go up and down is, surprise surprise, making all my balancing muscles get their damn act together for a change. EXCELLENT.

Flexibility also improving; go figure. I do like this weight-lifting thing; it has all sorts of nifty benefits. And, yes, I like it much better now that it's no longer threatening to kill me.

I officially love the assisted pull-up/chin-up/dip machine. LOVE IT. Granted, part of this is because I harbor a delusion in my subconscious that I may someday be persued by ninjas or pirates (or vampires, or zombies, or lions, or pretty much anything; I have a lot of chase scenes in my dreams) and as such I will have to be able to pull myself over a fence or up into a tree. So doing assisted chin-ups and pull-ups makes me feel very happy about life.

Oh, and I must alert you all to the fact that sugar-free/fat-free pudding plus milk plus protein powder = VERY NIFTY MORNING SNACK. That is all.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

ow ow ow

Well, my legs are fine, probably because they're already adjusted to the concept of pushing heavy weights here and there (85 pounds on 3 work sets of 8 reps each; I feel like friggin' WONDER WOMAN), but the rest of my body hurts like crazy and I am very much not wanting to go back to the gym today.

To my sadness, I cannot manage the bar for the bench press. Woe is me! Which, my Hub says, is fine, because that means he doesn't have to spot me on those, because I'll be using dumbbells and won't be risking having something come down and crush my throat. ...Okay.

I did squats, bench press, rows, pull-downs, and a great deal of godforsaken ab work which involved some sort of inclined bench and then what my Hub told me was called a "captain's chair" (I think he may be full of shit). Squats were difficult, but I'm not sore. Everything else HURTS LIKE CRAZY. Like, every single ab muscle everywhere, and my back, and every arm muscle, and my pecs, and... really, it's like I'm wearing a shirt of sore. The good news is that my trick shoulder is still just fine. Hooray!

My form on squats has improved a LOT. First few times, I didn't pull my shoulderblades back enough, and thus didn't have enough of a "meat shelf" to hold the bar on, and so the first bumpy vertebra at the end of my neck ended up sore. The last few times, no soreness there. WOO. I'm starting to look like I know what I'm doing, too. So now I just have to do that with all the other exercises and joy will be mine.

Off days, I am theoretically doing yoga. I say "theoretically" because I hurt too much to do so on my off days right now. I did it Friday, and then Saturday we went to the gym and I've been going "ow ow ow" ever since. Thing is, this is basically what I've wanted to have happening for my fitness routine, so I'm pretty happy to have it finally going.

Meditation is good stuff. I'm not sure what it's doing for my brain yet, but I've had a few real good sessions, and I've been trying to incorporate it into a life in little bits. Mostly I'm still hashing out how to get enough sleep, once again, since I have to get up at 5 AM in order to have enough time for this stuff (since exercise is in the evening now). Ah, well.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Bless us, every one

Holy crow, folks, my shoulder is-- I hesitate to say this-- feeling okay. I got the shot and started taking the horse pills last Tuesday, was feeling a lot better by last Friday, and a week later it... it feels like a shoulder. There's still a bit of what my doctor called "crunchy" noises, a bit of the click & pop when I rotate my arm, but no pain. WOO!

I'm still planning on being cautious, but dammit, I want to do something. My Hub is working out a lifting plan that will make it so that I get used to how things work re: the upper-body stuff, but lift light (and ice before and after), only going heavy for squats and possibly deadlifts. I'm planning on taking another look at the assisted pull-up machine, because I want very much to be able to do proper pull-ups and push-ups by the end of the year.

Speaking of squats, I was up to 85 pounds for my work sets this last time. My Hub asked me if I wanted to take it back down after the first set, to which I replied, "No, I'm planning on kicking this thing's ass, don't mess with my plan." And I did. Ha! That said, I'm pretty sure that's still going to be my max for this next workout. Alas. I yearn to be able to put one of those big-girl weights on each side of the bar, and the 25 pounders are the first ones that look like big-girl weights.

Speaking of girls, there's almost always one or more other females in the freeweight area at our gym. Even better for my poor self-esteem, all of us look like regular gals, not like shiny perfect gym-rats. As winter ends, the skimpier gym-wear is coming out, and I find myself fleeing the areas where all the skinny, shiny, blond-y people congregate.

I am slowly becoming infatuated with the freeweight area. It's starting to feel like a familiar, comforting dive, like the skanky neighborhood bar where you know everyone, or the table at the edge of your high-school lunchroom where all the freaks & geeks would hang out. The skinny pretty people are regarded with scorn in this area. And, like every other freaks-and-geeks congregating area, there are endless varieties of snobbery in the freeweight room, so everyone can feel superior to everybody else no matter what they're doing. I am currently operating on the "I'm doing compound exercises, which are superior to the doofy little single-muscle bicep curls that this other chick is doing" superiority complex, along with the "I am using freeweights, which are superior to using those damn machines" superiority complex. More common is the "I can bench more than you!" superiority complex, along with the "I look better than you do" superiority complex, but you also get the "my sets have more reps than your sets" superiority complex, the "supersets beat simple sets" superiority complex, the "my workout has more obscure and cool-looking exercises than yours" superiority complex, and of course the occasional guy who seems to feel that there is a contest occurring on who can grunt the loudest when lifting. Everyone gets to exist in their own little bubble of superiority. It's glorious. Then everyone rolls their eyes at the occasional Barbie-doll impersonator wandering in from step class to find the water fountain, and we are all joined in feeling superior to THOSE people. Ahhhhh.

Also: it has giant fans. No other area in the gym has giant fans, apparently because cardio must be as sweaty as possible.

I told my dad all about my adventures in lifting heavy weights, and it seems to have scared the daylights out of him to hear about his baby girl doing such a thing. "Don't get hurt," he pleaded, several times over the conversation. "Be careful. Don't get hurt." Poor Dad. I feel bad about freaking him out, but... dude, it is completely awesome to lift heavy things. It makes me feel so damn POWERFUL.

Bonus: of all the damn things, this is actually increasing my flexibility. For years I've avoided squats, or done wacky versions, because the tendon behind my ankle is so inflexible. I nearly cried from fear when I got into the power cage for the first time, but my Hub got out a 2x6 board and had me prop my heels on it while I squatted, and it worked. This last time, my fourth squatting session, he had me try a set without the board, and while I couldn't go as low as I wanted to, it was still significantly lower than I could before. Hooray! This builds strength, balance, and flexibility; what more could a girl ask for?

If work is slow today, which I hope it is, I'm going to spend a quality amount of time learning from the great Krista over at Stumptuous. If you haven't read Krista's stuff, DO IT NOW.

My Hub has started to feel vague yearnings toward running a 5K. Since his last flirtation with running occurred right before the cold weather set in, it occurs to me that running is a seasonal thing, a yearning that strikes us when the amazing Chicago spring starts up. Spring in Chicago is... oh, man, it's wonderful. Our winters start out mildly cold and then kick our ass for all they're worth in January and February-- snow and ice and temperatures that make you want very much to curl up in a cup of hot chocolate-- and then at some point, every March, it just stops. Bam, one morning you wake up and it's fifty degrees out, and birds are singing and rabbits are chasing each other across the courtyard, and that's the morning we just say "wow, we totally need to go for a very, very long walk."

In other news, mindfulness meditation continues. I have got my ass out of bed at 5 AM every morning this week, spread out our thickest yoga mat on the floor, popped on my headphones, made sure my Hub wasn't going to interrupt me with thrashing around on our squeaky bed or stomping out of the room to go pee, and flopped out on my back to close my eyes and ponder my body parts one by one for forty-five minutes. This is harder than I thought. I had several times this week where I was missing the whole lower-back/upper-back/tummy/chest/neck/head/whole body section, because my brain apparently went into outer space somewhere after pondering my pelvis. I'd suddenly hear the ending parts of the meditation and think "fuck! have I been asleep?" and then realize that I couldn't remember anything for the past twenty minutes. Whoops. I've managed to stay more or less aware for three out of five days, though, so, yay.

I'm not very good at this. I am, however, dedicated to making it through the first eight weeks, because the point (as they say so many times in the book) is to just do the damn thing, whether or not you think you're doing well, whether or not you think you're getting magical benefits out of it. I know that I need to work on my concentration and my ability to let things go, and this is the first mental exercise I've ever had that has led me to connect those two problems and think that maybe, just maybe, I could fix both those things at once.

So, week one is almost over. I do the body-scan meditation every morning in week two, and then in week three I get to move up to some yoga. I think it's week five when I try sitting meditation. Whee! I'm scheduled to start whittling down my Zoloft at the beginning of May. Lots of light, good weather, and I'll have been working on mindfulness meditation for eight weeks; just gotta make sure I'm back off caffeine by then (some Cherry Coke Zero snuck in there; why don't they make a caffeine-free version of THAT?) and I should have the best chance I possibly can of getting through the transition without having my brains fall out.

Sugar has also snuck back into my diet. (Shh, don't tell my Hub.) This has had the predictable result of making me more anxious and putting a few pounds back on my ass. I'm going back to the anti-sugar hypnosis mp3. Might as well; worked the first time.

I read a lot of blogs, most of them by womenfolk and many of them feminist, and as link led onto link yesterday I ran into an oldie but a goodie: Hugo Schwyzer's post about "pleasure, feminism, food, and sex". Worth reading. I'm still mulling this one over in my head, since the concept of "pleasure = penalty" is one that I've taken for granted for much of my life.

Another link I'm mulling over: one of Krista's "rant(s) of the week", this one by guest Gus Sonnenberg on his "daddy fitness" workout, designed to keep him able to do the things he really wants to be able to do. What do I really want to be able to do, physically? Walk all over the damn place. Tote groceries up stairs. Put boxes on shelves. Lift heavy objects off the floor without hurting myself. Give my nieces and nephew piggy-back rides. Paddle a kayak. I'm sure I'll think of more... it's something to think about, definitely.

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Friday, March 16, 2007

A bold new whatever

Oh, my, it's been a while. Sorry about that, folks!

First, we got sick. My Hub got a miserable cold, and after four days of taking care of him I came down with the same damn thing. Between the two of us, things were screwed up for well over a week. It's amazing the bad food choices that one can make when it's impossible to taste anything.

Then, when I was finally getting back up and about, work went insane. Like, seriously insane. We underwent a database conversion that was supposed to propel us into the space age, only to find that it bombed us back to the stone age, instead, and I have been forced to metaphorically chip tools out of flint in order to get anything done, which takes a lot more work than one would think. This caused me to careen very close to losing my damn mind, because I didn't have the basic idea in my head that it is hard to achieve my original goals when I'm busy re-inventing the wheel, here. It felt like I was going crazy, because no matter what I did, things broke, and everything I did just dug us deeper into the hole. I was so, so, so stressed out; my back hurt, my stomach was full of acid, my head ached, I just felt drained and angry and awful.

However, things are back to normal, more or less. I talked to my boss and was assured that none of us are doing what we wanted to get done at this point in the year, and that some days I was the only thing keeping the department above water (awww!). My Hub is all better, except that for some reason he cannot stop farting (in the loudest, stinkiest way he can, and accompanied by a lot of good cheer on his part). I'm mostly better, although there's still a lot of snot lodged in odd crevices in my head.

Good news: I finally saw the specialist for my shoulder pain. I have an official diagnosis of rotator cuff tendinitis; no bone spurs, no tears. I was shot up with cortisone and given a bunch of horse pills of the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory variety. If I'm still not well in another six weeks (ANOTHER SIX WEEKS?!?!?!?!?) I am to call the doctor again. In the meantime, still no yoga or upper-body weight lifting. Phooey.

[Side note: Why is it that every time I end up going to a specialist of any kind, they're the most annoying kind of jokey doctor imaginable? The oral surgeon that removed my wisdom teeth couldn't stop making horrible puns and jokes; this guy, on the other hand, seemed to think that he was a lost Marx Brother and so there was a lot of fast patter and occasional slapstick.]

That said, my Hub has started training me in the gym on squats. It seems that squats, along with deadlifts and bench presses, are some kind of holy trinity of the weight-lifting variety. I'm getting most of my information from my Hub, before I get my hands on his books; it's okay nonetheless because one of his great gifts is the ability to break anything down into plain, coloquial English. These days, he is becoming insanely well-read on the subject, and can rattle off the names of various muscles and explain what they do, and what exercises hit them, and he can also talk at length about body chemistry. (Six months ago he knew none of this. I'm so proud... stunned, agog, but still so proud.) As a result, this dominates our conversations these days, and as a result of THAT, I'm picking up even more knowledge than I had before.

As far as I can tell, the reason that squats, deadlifts, and bench presses are so beloved is because each of them works a bajillion muscles in the body, instead of just one or two, so you don't have to spend two hours working all these muscles individually (and yes, I'm exaggerating a wee bit, as I am wont to do). They're also more practical exercises: lifting things up off the floor, for example, will always be a useful thing to be able to do.

Also, they are Hardcore and Cool, or something like that. According to my Hub you get more cred at the gym for using freeweights vs. machines, and much more cred for doing squats and deadlifts vs. bicep curls. Which is why, when he got me started doing squats, there was no fucking around with dumbbells or exercise balls; I was put directly into the cage and we started me off with the 45-pound bar.

First of all, I hadn't known I could squat 45 pounds, so this was a surprise. I was even more surprised that I could squat 70 pounds, which is what I ended up with for my working set. Hooray! Last night, after a week off from sickness, I did squats again, and am now up to 75 pounds for my working set. I'm pretty sure that this is a negligable amount in the grand scheme of things, but before this my experience was limited to our dumbbell set, which goes up to maybe 25 lbs per dumbbell, and I'd never maxed that out, so I'm downright giddy with power now. I AM MIGHTY. RAAAAWR!

We'll see how my shoulder shapes up. I want very much to get back to yoga (for more than one reason; more on that momentarily) and to start doing proper weightlifting; I want muscle, dammit, and the strength and nifty body shapes and better metabolism that go with it.

Here's the other big topic: the stress thing. Those of you keeping score may recall that I'm supposed to be starting to taper off my Zoloft use soon, and so I was even less pleased than normal to have something near to a nervous breakdown on Wednesday. Seriously, I just fell apart and was convinced that my life was going to collapse, that I should never have kids, because I'm clearly never going to have a good career and can't manage anything and will never make enough money and am clearly a LUNATIC on top of everything else and so on and so forth. In short, that was a bad moment, the worst I've had for quite some time, and it happened while I was on medication. Not good.

So: new tactic. The other week I heard something on NPR about treating pain and stress with "mindfulness" meditation, and I've been reading about it here and there ever since. After Wednesday's nastiness, I've ordered Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness and the Guided Mindfulness Meditation audiobook that works with it. I'm prone to high stress and anxiety, I know that, and I'm also aware that many of my biggest food-related stupid moments occur in times of high stress. (Which is just what I do to myself; what I dish out onto other people is even less excusable.) I want to fix this before kids come into the picture. More to the point, I want to fix this for myself, because I don't like being tense and stressed-out. So: I'm going into training, essentially, for my brain. I may wait until after I've done this for eight weeks.

The book and CDs come today, so I start tonight. Yeowza.

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