One big side effect of losing more than 80 pounds is that I've lost my caboose!
I was kind of shocked when I caught a side view of myself lately. Apparently, my rear was made up of pizza and tacos and not much muscle, because when the weight came off, so did my back side.
So I knew that I'd have to work on building muscle and definition in that area, and what better way than to squat!
But squats can be tricky -- unless you have perfect form, you can end up aggravating your knees and your back. Since I don't have the best upper spine, I tend to lean over too much when I squat, and bad squats can be more tiring than good squats.
I was sent a SquatMaster for review purposes, and I love it. It's not a machine -- instead you do all the work but you do it in perfect alignment, which makes the squats less stressful (and you can do more of them).
From the photos, it may look like I'm sitting on something but I'm not. I'm performing a perfect squat.
This thing is great. All you do is stand on the SquatMaster, put your legs between the rollers, grab onto the handle and squat. Holding onto the handles lets you sink into the perfect squat while keeping everything in perfect alignment.
I'm all about the squat, but you can do a bunch more moves on the SquatMaster, including post-workout stretches and yoga poses. Here's a short video showing all the different exercises you can do,
We keep the SquatMaster in the corner of the living room where it's easy to hop on and bust out a bunch of squats while watching TV.
I've made the SquatMaster a part of my everyday strength training because you can never do enough squats.
Here's a little secret -- twice a week I've been working out with people my mom's age and loving it.
Maybe it's because I'm usually the youngest person in the pool, maybe it's because you can't get hot and sweaty in the pool, maybe it's because I get to wear all my new swimwear that I bought since I've lost more than 75 pounds.
Or maybe because aqua aerobics classes are a damn good workout and it's super fun.
Now that I have a Fitbit that I can safely wear in the pool, I noticed that each hourlong workout burns around 500 calories, which is not too shabby for feeling like you're playing with pool toys while Pitbull "dales!" in the background.
If you want to take the plunge (HA!) and try pool workouts, I have learned there are some things that are essential.
Don't workout barefoot
Aqua aerobics has a lot of jumping, shuffling, hopping and jogging, so it's important that there's a bit of a supportive layer under your feet. It'll just make things more comfortable and more enjoyable -- and it'll keep you from getting athlete's foot from the soggy locker room floor. There are some top-notch real-deal aqua workout shoes out there but I wanted to see if I could economize and get a happy medium between those and those drugstore cheap-o aqua socks. (Do they only sell stuff like that in Florida drugstores?) I found these slip-on water shoes and they seem to be holding up well -- unlike the water shoes of one woman in class whose shoes basically disintegrated in the pool last week. She was picking up chunks of rubber from the pool bottom at the end of the class. They drain really well, dry quickly and are relatively cute.
Wear a supportive swimsuit
There's a lot of jumping going on in the pool, something that on land would be considered really high impact. You need to hold those girls down so finding the right swimsuit is important. I have learned that floaty layered tops don't work (the layers just hang out in your armpit area) and flirty skirted suits don't stay where they're supposed to and you spend half the time yanking the skirted part down.
Tankinis are great as are sporty one-pieces. I got a cute purple paisley tankini at Swimsuits for All, but alas, I can't find it there anymore. I also got a sporty Reebok suit at Nordstrom Rack that's made for working out in. It's not there anymore either but here it is at Amazon.
Get a wet bag for that drippy swimsuit
Here's my tip for doing a "prewash" on your chlorine-saturated swimsuit -- take a shower at the gym in your swimsuit to wash off a majority of the pool water. Then instead of wrapping up your wet suit in your wet towel, creating a wet mess in your gym bag, get yourself a "wet bag" that'll tote your suit home and keep everything else dry. I got a set of two cute Alva Baby wet bags on Amazon, and what's great about them is that they have two compartments, because I found that one of my new swim tops bled a little on my board short bottoms. This way you can keep 'em separated.
Protect your hair
The first week, before I had my aqua goodies, my hair resembled shredded wheat, so I desperately googled how to protect your hair from chlorine because my mop isn't going to fit in a swim cap without looking ridiculous. The key here is to make sure your hair is already saturated with something good so your hair doesn't suck up the chlorinated water. Fresh water, hair conditioner, even coconut oil (greasy!) is supposed to work, but I found AquaGuard Pre-Swim Hair Defense, and it got enough good reviews that I decided to give it a try. First off, it smells fantastic and has a really nice texture. I put my hair in a ponytail, then squirt out a big handful of AquaGuard and coat the outside of my hair and all the ponytail area. It has made a huge difference in my hair's condition, and it also rinses out easily (unlike the coconut oil, I'm guessing).
Soak your suit
I bought a swimwear cleaner that's supposed to get the chlorine stink out, but so far it's not working as well as Woolite Delicate Care liquid and a splash of vinegar, so that's what I'm going to stick with. Just make sure to soak the suit for around 20 minutes, then rinse it well and hang it to dry without wringing it out, because that's bad for the fabric.
My gym has its own pool noodles and aqua dumbbells, so thankfully I didn't need to buy those or shlep them to the gym. But I did learn that even though the dumbbells are basically made from foam roller material it makes a difference what size you use. The bigger the dumbbell the more water resistance, so go big for a lot of "weight." But go thinner on the pool noodles because you want to be able to sink that noodle down under your foot to provide lower-body resistance, and unless you're King Kong, you're not going to be able to keep a full-size noodle under your foot.
(I learned that the hard and hilarious way on the first day!)
Hey there! I've been a bit busy the past few weeks, first getting the kid off to college and settled in his apartment (done!), then coming home and cleaning up the wreckage of said move (done!)
With those two big things done, we're officially empty nesters (aside from the dog). It's the perfect time to work on refining habits and that's what I'm doing this week.
First off, my lunchtime workouts were NOT happening, and wearing workout clothes all day doesn't count, so this week it's roll out of bed and into the gym. I downloaded Jamie Eason's LiveFit app on my phone, and this time I downloaded the right app. I tried it a year or so ago but I had downloaded the more elaborate BodySpace social fitness app, which made following her program too complicated. This time I downloaded only her program and it's a lot easier to follow.
Here's a video intro to the first week:
I had bought an intro package to some kickboxing classes, but to be completely honest, I'm just not ready for it yet. After a couple hourlong classes, I found that my shoulders were really hurting and various parts of my feet are not happy (I wasn't exactly kicking the bag properly).
But more importantly, the whole day after the class I was ravenously hungry, like bottomless pit hungry, so I switched to Jamie's program because I find that I'm not a hungry grizzly bear if I focus on weight training.
And I really missed the gym! Fortunately, the one we've been members of since 1999 recently went through a huge and much needed remodel, so I dropped my secondary membership to Planet Fitness. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Planet Fitness, but with the kid away at college, I'm not getting my value out of the Black Card membership, and we have a kid going to college, so I'm looking for ways to cut down on costs. (Our main gym has a crazy cheap yearly renewal.)
Food wise I'm still doing Weight Watchers and leaning on fruit and vegetables for the bulk of my meals and snacks. I used to plan my meals around the protein but now the vegetable is the centerpiece. By putting produce front and center I'm taking in more food for fewer Smartpoints.
Wait a minute, I'm burying the lede!
I had skipped last week's Weight Watchers meeting because I had a dental cleaning, but I had a feeling it was going to be good news today because:
I've been working out more
I've been going to sleep earlier, so ...
eating less late at night.
So I step on the scale Wednesday morning and BOOM! 5 pounds down, which is HUGE for me. I've also been replacing my evening snack with a bottle of kombucha. I've really grown to love the stuff and it's only 50 or so calories for the whole thing, plus I think it does good things for gut health. Whatever's on sale is what I buy. So far, I'm loving all the flavors from Humm, Kevita and Big Easy 'Bucha.
So what I call Operation #shittogether is coming together very nicely in my first week!
So what's in my gym bag?
First of all, I have a new gym bag! I covet gym bags the way some people love Pradas. I've got big ones, small ones, gray, purple, pink, blue -- a gym bag for every occasion. My newest bag is the Infinity bag from Go Dash Dot. The bag was designed with the input of more than 100 women to make sure every square inch of it is useful. It's large without being too bulky, has a load of zippered compartments decorated with cool tassels, a padded laptop area, a shoe compartment that doubles as a yoga mat holder, a very cool, stylish strap and a great smaller inner bag you can use as a cross-body bag, so your purse and gym bag fit into one neat duo. So not only is it a premium gym bag, it's also a work tote, a diaper bag, and a crossbody bag.Inside that bag is my Bandi belt. I have a few of them but recently I got a large size to comfortably stash my phone so I can follow my workout program. There are a load of similar belts on the market, and I've tried many, but I always come back to Bandi belts because they're cute and they have a latch so you don't have to crawl in and out of it.
In my Bandi, along with my phone, is a pair of Sol Republic Relays Sport wireless headphones. I had gotten them a few years ago on Kickstarter, then there were production problems with them and they stopped selling them. Now, it appears, they're selling them again, and they cost even less than they did on Kickstarter. I've had a few pairs of Bluetooth headphones and these are my favorites. They seem to keep a charge awhile, they're super lightweight, charge quickly and they sound great.
Because I don't want to pay $3 for a snack at the gym if I find myself in need of something, I usually stash a non-melty protein bar in there. Quest bars have their moments, but often there's too much sweeteners in them and just taste overwhelming, but I was sent a variety of Mauer Sports Nutrition protein bars. Each bar is around 200 calories and around 20 grams of protein (dairy, pea and nut blend), so one and a coffee makes a quick on-the-go breakfast, and half a bar is a decent snack. There are no artificial sweeteners or flavors, they're not cloying at all, there's a great selection of flavors (I am partial to the chocolate chip cookie dough), and many of them are uncoated so they won't melt in the heat.
And bonus! If you use the code Gail20, you'll get a 20 percent discount on your order of bars.
And because I edit and write for the Fit Bottomed World of blogs, I have a ridiculous collection of athletic shoes. One of my jobs is to schedule social media on posts, so I read pretty much every post on every site, old and new. And because of that, I find myself playing "Target Lady" and dashing off to order things when I read reviews. One recent purchase was these Brooks Neuro shoes. Since the post is a year or so old and Brooks has already released a Neuro 2, I was able to score a great deal on them. They're super cool looking, and the cushioning on the soles is great.
(Yeah, I know I said "coming Monday" but my blog platform ate my post, so here it is on Wednesday!)
Hey, it's 2017! Happy New Year! Time to start anew and all that. I've had the same resolution since about the age of, oh, 10, and you can figure out what that is:
(Seriously, what is up with this "woman crouching on scale" stock photo pose? That is not how you weigh yourself, and if you can squat like that on a little scale, then honey, you don't need to worry about a number on the scale.)
Here's where I veer off and do something differently than I've been doing lo these many years.
I unloaded a huge pile of diet books, sticking some on Amazon for sale and donating the rest to the library's used-book sale.
Threw out all the pitches for big, corporate diet plans that came in the mail and the email.
Left various diet-related Facebook groups. Don't want to have too many different plans fighting each other in my head. It's an ongoing issue for me.
So what DID I do?
Bought a cool new fitness-themed planner. Michael's had a massive sale on them so I got this kit for around $14.
Made a doctor appointment with a new primary-care physician who seems -- at least on paper -- to be more focused on preventive care and weight loss.
Decided I was going to follow the advice of Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian who just released a new book called The Superfood Swap. It's NOT a diet; instead it's a non-crazymaking plan to eat dishes you like, only much healthier versions of them. There's no points, no calorie counting, no macro obsessing -- just good, healthy food.
And a big part of that good, healthy food is produce -- vegetables to be precise. I can eat fruit all day long, but it's vegetables that don't often find their way into certain meals, like breakfasts and snacks.
So I kicked off Tuesday with this:
Buried under all that spinach is a couple of eggs, which I plopped on top of a couple pieces of sprouted grain bread topped with avocado. That breakfast held me for hours.
I ended the day with this:
That's an open-faced arepa at a new place near us. It was hard to get all the veggies and chicken to stay on the arepa so I just mixed everything up like a big salad and put bits of it on the arepa.
I started and ended my day with a load of veggies. And my afternoon snack was one of Dawn's "produce and protein" combos -- 2 clementines and a 100-calorie pack of unsalted almonds.
How many calories were in this meal? My day? Don't know. Dawn says to be "calorie conscious" instead of running that calorie or macro calculator in your head all day. What I did when looking at my dinner was focus on the two things that would be the most calorically dense -- the arepa and the shredded chicken. Around 110 for each thing. The rest was vegetables and a little extra for the Latin cole slaw.
When I do calorie count I get hung up on how many I have left at the end of the day and end up trying to make up for any shortfalls at night, even if I'm not hungry. By not tallying up the day and instead being conscious of the relative total at each meal and snack, I'm far less inclined to eat what I am "allotted."
I did get on the scale New Year's Day and found that even with the little tweaks I made to my eating last week, a couple pounds came off pretty easily.
As for the gym, my IT band issue flared up last week, and I'm guessing it was from NON-use instead of overuse, so I've been focusing on core, glutes and legs to strengthen and stretch the area with a day of rest between each workout. I got the discomfort down to one little spot on my quad, so whatever I'm doing seems to be working.
So to sum it up, 2017 is:
Lots of vegetables, with "produce and protein" snacks.
More time at the gym.
Playing with stickers and pens at night in my planner instead of eating.
That's what I told myself last night around 10 p.m.
And it sorta worked.
I had a few honeydew chunks and then skedaddled out of the kitchen. Better than sitting on the sofa with a box of cereal or jar of nut butter, I figured. A lot better.
But what part of "Don't EVEN" do I not understand?
Was I hungry? No. I really wasn't. I ate a big ol' grilled chicken salad with black beans and corn at Bokamper's, plus three french fries from my kid's plate.
But I was still following my old nighttime pattern, one I really want to break.
After a few weeks of avoiding the scale and surrounding myself with diet books, I came to the realization that it's not WHAT I eat, it's WHEN, and the big WHEN problem is after dinner.
When I found myself in the kitchen, staring into the refrigerator, I gave myself the choice: "Pick whatever produce you want," so I went for the fruit.
But not even starting should make things even easier. When I say "Nope -- done eating for the day," I won't have to make deals with myself.
I'm going to see whether simply not eating after dinner makes a difference on the scale.
(Spoiler alert: It will.)
Another thing that will help is me going to bed earlier, something that I have great trouble doing because I am a petulant baby. I WANNA WATCH THE TEEVEE!
Last night I went to bed at midnight, which is much better than I have been doing all summer. I plan on winding that back to around 11:30 tonight, and perhaps I'll keep going 'til I hit 11.
And exercise? Don't ask.
My left heel is a freaking mess. I've had a cranky achilles for awhile now, and lately it's been really bugging me so I saw the doc and got an X-ray. My left ankle/heel area is a garbage dump of inflammation, heel spurs, and thickened tendons, all converging in a big house of pain at the insertion point. It's called insertional achilles tendinitis, and the good news is I start physical therapy on Wednesday.
I'm now post-cataract surgery on both eyes (20/20 vision, y'all!) and able once again to workout and lift heavy things. We're also in the middle of a kitchen remodel, so getting to the gym can be tricky when people are coming in and out of the house every weekday.
Aside from sweeping and vacuuming mountains of plaster dust and whatnot from the other rooms of the house, I've been sneaking in some workouts when and where I can. This morning it was an upper-body routine with my awesome new db2 dumbbell, which I found on Amazon.
Here's the cool thing -- I found it because Amazon has it on sale right now for Mother's Day. Usually it's $26, but it's $14.99 for the moment, and I don't know how long that sale is going to be going on so GET THIS THING -- IT'S AWESOME.
It's like an inside-0ut dumbbell -- instead of the weight being on the ends, it's in the center, so it's like a hybrid of a dumbbell and a kettlebell.
This morning, while babysitting the dog, who is stuck in his crate so as not to annoy the workers, I grabbed the db2 and alternated bicep curls with overhead tricep curls. Then I did front arm raises and finally wood choppers. I'll probably throw in some Russian twists after I'm done with this and find some more exercises to do with the video below:
I bought the 8-pound db2 but it comes in a bunch of sizes -- it's just that the 8-pounder is on sale right now.
(I love that Amazon featured a hand weight for its Mother's Day sale.)
I was thinking about this song when I saw my friend Christine's Periscope chat on making small steps toward big changes. Of course, this is also the premise of Roni and Carla's book, What You Can When You Can: Healthy Living on Your Terms. So to make this song even more useful, I've not only posted the 1988 video, I've also posted two instructional videos so you can dance along!
Most of my FitBloggin' friends have been posting wonderful recaps of last week's conference in Denver, and I love reading them as well as seeing all the great photos. (If you're unfamiliar with FitBloggin' you can find out more about it HERE. Over the past six years, it morphed from a healthy living blogger conference into a social media lovefest with around 175 of your closest friends.)
I posted lotsa stuff on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, including this picture of some of my fellow Enell ambassadors showing off our Raspberry Zest sports bras.
But I'm doing something different. I'm going to toss out a little tough love (something we talked about at FitBloggin' 14) and toss out a call to action.
Three hundred and sixty-something days.
That's how long we have to make a real difference in our weight-loss/fitness/health goals before FitBloggin' 16.
I was watching the Today show yesterday morning and Penn and Teller were on, doing their magic schtick. Before the end of the segment, Penn Gillette talked very briefly about his 100-pound weight loss that he accomplished in the past year.
I thought to myself "Shoot, I don't have to lose 100 pounds -- maybe half of that. Why don't I do that this year?"
No, I never expected Penn Gillette to be my weight-loss inspiration, but there ya go.
I've been taking a different approach to eating this year -- finding out what foods work for me or against me, which foods make me feel great and which ones make me feel gross. I've become largely dairy, wheat, peanut and sugar free, and my gut has never felt better. (I say largely because I don't have any serious intolerances or allergies to those foods -- I just feel better with less of them.)
After I got back from Denver, I met with my dietitian to go over the results of a really detailed blood test I took back in last May. Instead of the garden-variety blood test that checks the stuff your doctor wants to know (cholesterol, thyroid function, etc.), this test checks your blood for antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and even things like mitochondrial function and toxic exposure.
To my surprise (because I eat healthy and pound down supplements LIKE A BOSS), I discovered I was low in B vitamins and REALLY low in vitamin D. What am I full of? Vitamin C, zinc and plastic residue. But I'm heavy metal free! (It pays to be paranoid about tuna.) So I'm fixing the deficiencies with some vitamin D drops, better vitamins and more, more, MORE plants.
With these results in hand, I really feel like I know what I should be eating more of. What should I be eating less of? To keep things simple, basically things that are not plants.
So, getting back to the call to action: I, you, we ALL have plenty of time to either get to a happy weight or make great strides to get closer to one.
How will I personally accomplish this? I will make it my JOB to get to my happy weight, whatever that may be. Right now I weigh approximately the same as Miami Marlins slugger Giancarlo Stanton. But he's 6-foot-6 and I'm 5-foot-5. What I'm getting at is while 240 pounds is perfectly fine for a jacked home-run producer, it's too much for a middle-aged mom.
While I was flying to and from Denver, I decided to finally start reading State of Slim, which I bought last year, before I was willing to really make the tough choices and really clean up my eating. Now that I discovered that I won't wither and die from just setting aside some foods for a certain period of time, I feel ready to embrace the book. In a nutshell, State of Slim looks at why Coloradoans are so darned fit and healthy. It's written by weight-loss experts Dr. James Hill and Dr. Holly Wyatt, who are associated with the Anschutz Center for Health and Wellness at the University of Colorado (which we passed many times in the car while we were in Denver; I made sure to genuflect in their direction). They studied thousands of people who have successfully lost weight and kept it off, and the book outlines what people need to do to repair their metabolisms that have been "broken" from years of dieting.
So, that's what I'm doing. Nothing faddish, no miracles.
OK, here comes the tough love.
Like I have said COUNTLESS times, I've been at this since age 10. While at FitBloggin' this year, I saw a lot of people getting emotional over weight and body image issues. I don't get emotional about weight any more, probably because I had that talked out of me from a few years of therapy. Instead I still get frustrated and, frankly, amused at how difficult losing weight can be.
Let's stop crying about it and do something about it.
I'm pretty sure by now we know what to do. Let's apply all that knowledge and GET THERE.
This is a promotional post for Vionic Shoes' #SoleStory campaign. I was provided a pair of Vionic sandals.
This is my post-aerobic life for the time being:
I'm coming off a month of physical therapy for IT band inflammation and patellar tendinitis so I'm trying to ease back into aerobic activity (I kept doing the strength training the whole time because that didn't bother me). But me being me, I tend to push myself probably a mile too far, so I've been doing the post-walk "ice and stim" that I got every time at PT. Under that towel are the electrodes to my mini electrical stimulation device and my thigh and knee area zapping away.
As I ended my walk last week, there was a box waiting for me at the front door from Vionic, which contained the lovely Floriana flip-flop sandals. I immediately put them on, because SHOES!
(You really don't need to see any more of my goofy feet.) Just take a look at these in all their bejeweled glory. The toe post is fabric, so they're super comfortable, and the teal goes great with my uniform of jeans, jeans, and more jeans.
Sure, they may look like flip flops but they're much more. Vionic shoes are podiatrist-designed for orthotic support, so your feet are realigned in a natural position. I have super flat feet, so I need extra help in the arch department. I have a pair of custom orthotics, but I'm a flip-flop girl and orthotics just don't work with sandals. That's why I love Vionics. I have a couple other pair and they're great for post workout, or really anytime.
My sports med doctor (and I'm guessing all orthopedists) are not fans of super-flat flip flops because of the lack of support. But I LOVE being barefoot or darn near it, so I really appreciate Vionic for the added support.
So that's my #SoleStory -- making exercise an important part of my life and making sure to take care of myself before, during and after.
Just quickly popping in to say that the highlight of my day was making a doctor's appointment. My IT band (at least I think it is) has been acting up the past month, so I'm FINALLY going to the sports med ortho about it. When I'm at the gym, everything is just dandy -- I'm pushing 110 pounds on the leg press, doing the hammy machine, riding the bike like a champ.
Then I get home and the rest of the day is ow-ow-ow. I had been working out Monday through Friday but this ache has had me taking Tuesdays and Thursdays (my all-cardio days) off, which I don't like because the weather here has been divine and I'm stuck on my butt with ice packs.
Hopefully I'll get some physical therapy sessions so I can figure out what I might be doing wrong with my workouts and how to fix it.