Monday, February 28, 2011

I'll Take That Genie Now, Thanks

This shit is hard.

Sgt. Ken is on vacation, so we are in the capable and cruel hands of Amber this week. I say capable because she is every bit as tough and demanding as Sgt. Ken; I say cruel because it's true.

I kid, of course. If I wanted an easy workout, I'd take a water aerobics class. What doesn't kill me makes me stronger. Of course, what kills me makes me dead, so there's a delicate balance thing going on here.

I was happy this morning to see some new recruits, but I was even happier to see many familiar faces returning after their two week trial. There's a real team dynamic shaping up in the class, and that's one of the things I really like about it. It's motivating in the morning to know that if I stay in bed instead of going to work out, I'll have people asking me next time where I was. That means I'll have to fess up and admit that I was lazy. I don't want to have to do that.

As for today's class, it was, as usual, balls-to-the-wall from start to finish. My brain plays cruel tricks on me during workouts like this morning. When the cardio starts to feel like I can't possibly do another second, and Amber instructs us to start something different, like push-ups, I'll think "Awesome, a cardio break will feel good!" Then once my triceps start peeling off the bone and my pectorals start to revolt, I think "Why on earth did I think this would be any better?" That thought pattern continues pretty much throughout the whole hour. I'm going to wind up in a padded room.

Now for a quick subject change; I'm getting this regular exercise thing under control, so now it's time to think about my nutrition. I don't eat enough fruits and vegetables. I know this; so I'm going to try to start working on it. I'm actually very knowledgeable about nutrition, I just don't put what I know into practice.

I'm going to try to start having a good salad for lunch most days. It will need to be filling, have plenty of veggies, include a protein of some sort, and most important, it's going to have to taste good. If it doesn't taste good, I won't eat it. Greens, chicken, and some kind of dressing isn't going to cut it for me for very long. So please give me your favorite salad combinations in the comments. I'll start off with a few that I like:

Spinach with grilled chicken, sliced strawberries, blue cheese crumbles, and dressing made with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and greek seasoning.

Spring greens with grilled chicken, chopped apples, feta cheese crumbles, and dressing made with rice vinegar, canola oil, and a pinch of mild herb seasoning (Penzey's Fox Point is good)

Spinach with chopped boiled egg, one crumbled slice of bacon, and dressing made from yellow mustard, honey, and a small splash of olive oil.

You may see a pattern there; I like to use strong cheeses like blue and feta, because it takes only a very small amount to give a lot of flavor. Same with the bacon; it only takes a little to really give a lot of bacony goodness. I also am not a fan of store-bought dressings. I prefer to make my own; that way, I know what's in them. If you have a favorite ready-made dressing, though, feel free to share.

Thanks in advance for any ideas! I'm hoping to bring all you lurkers out of the woodwork. :)

Saturday, February 26, 2011

My Baby Girl and Her Band

Meet The Resistance. My daughter is the bass player.

They sounded so much better than this live; my Droid doesn't record audio worth a flying shitcake.

Three Miles Forward, One Mile Back...

My new friend from Boot Camp, Jimmy Olander (What? Me, name drop? Noooo...) invited me to run today with his running group, Team Rio. They are training for the Country Music Marathon and raising money for Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Middle Tennessee. They were doing 8 (half-marathoners) and 14 (full-marathoners) miles, but since I'm not doing any distance training right now, Jimmy offered to put out a turn-around marker for me for whatever distance I wanted to go. I said I thought I could do four miles, so a two-mile turn-around marker was set.

Ted came with me, and it's a good thing, because I was just at the right speed that I would have been totally alone after about mile one. I'm faster than the walkers, but slower than the runners. Ted and I adjust pretty well to each other's abilities, so we stuck together. He is much stronger for the first mile and a half or so, and I tend to struggle in the beginning and get my second wind later in the run. I was having some pain in my right calf, but it was tolerable and felt like something that could be taken care of with ice and rest, so I pushed through it for a while.

We were doing really great up until about the beginning of mile four (that's my estimate, didn't have my Garmin on), when my right calf started to really hurt; by this time, it was starting to feel more like a something-is-wrong hurt rather than a push-through-it-you're-just-tired hurt. So we walked (I alternated between walking and limping) the rest of the way back.

What really sucks about it is that everything else on my body felt great; my lungs felt good, my legs weren't heavy, I felt like I could have run a lot of that last mile, if not for that damn right calf. I was wearing my fivies, and I hate to say it, but I'm afraid they are the culprit. I may not be able to wear them for running at all.

So, ice tonight, rest tomorrow, and hopefully I'll be able to make it through boot camp Monday.

Oh, one more thing. When we got back from the run, Ted and I used The Stick on each other to roll the lactic acid out so we won't be so sore tomorrow. I swear, I'm going to have an audio recorder on in the room next time we do that. I'm not sure whether it will sound like a sex tape or a murder scene, but either way, it should be very entertaining.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Two Weeks

Today was the end of week two. I’m going to combine my two week wrap-up with my daily workout report, so this will be quite a bit longer and probably more disjointed than my previous posts.

I have just completed two of the most physically challenging weeks of my life. I haven’t lost an insane amount of weight; I haven’t dropped four dress sizes; I can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound. And that’s okay; because all three of those expectations are about equally unreasonable. This is not a miracle cure. This is not a hyped-up gimmick. This is real.

So, what are the things I have done? I have increased my muscular and cardiovascular endurance; I’ve lost a couple of pounds of fat (and a pound a week is just fine with me); I’ve even toned up enough that when Ted hugged me the other evening he said that he thought I’d already started to firm up. I’m down to 188 pounds today. That puts me only eight pounds to my first reward.

How do I feel? I feel proud. I feel excited about weeks to come. I feel nervous about weeks to come. I feel fatigued and a bit like I’ve been on that machine that they hooked Westley up to in The Princess Bride. I don’t have the intense muscle soreness that I had during week one; I have more of a muscle tiredness. My right quadriceps (Yes, the singular of that word ends in s; I didn’t know that until just now.) has a little tick in it at the knee that does a little jerk every now and then. My left knee is a bit inflamed and sore. My right shoulder is a little tender at the joint (I’m guessing that is a result of bad form on my push-ups at the end of class when I’m tired; I need to pay attention to that). My lungs are a little tight at the top when I take a deep breath in. I’ve worked my body hard, and it’s giving me cues as to what needs work and what needs TLC. It’s all part of the process of redefining my body.

That’s enough on the two week wrap-up; now for the daily report. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, Wednesday felt like one of my strongest, best endurance days. Today felt like the worst. I know that I probably did more than I was doing last week; but it felt like I just could not complete anything satisfactorily today. I couldn’t get into a good low squat on my shuffles; I couldn’t lift my body more than twice without resting on the up/downs; there was nothing correct about my inchworms; my knee started bothering me during the abdominal bicycles; and my push-up form deteriorated into oblivion as the class went on. It felt like a complete failure.

To make matters worse, Sgt. Ken made me squad leader for my group. My group consisted of Candace, Trey, and me. I’ll give you one guess who in that group is the weakest link (hint: it’s me). How was I supposed to be squad leader and motivate my group when I was the first to have to take a rest? How can I give advice to someone about their form when mine is nowhere near correct? How can I tell two strong, lean, athletic people to push harder when I’m standing there with forty-three more pounds to lose? How can I take charge and be a leader when I haven’t earned it yet?

Sgt. Ken told me that it didn’t matter that my fitness level wasn’t up to theirs yet; that it was my job to motivate the group to each individual’s best. Yes, that made sense. But I am not a natural leader. That is not me being modest or self deprecating; that is me being honest about my personality. Squad leader was a very difficult role for me today. I really think that as I get stronger and improve, that I will grow more comfortable with the idea of that responsibility. But right now, it’s terrifying.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bonus Post

I'd like to introduce you all to a couple of people who have recently sparked a big change in my life.

First, meet Amber Hunter. She is Senior Instructor at START Fitness and an awesome one at that. She is inspiring, motivating, and incredibly dedicated and hard-working. Amber has some great blogs herself; they are here and here and here.

Next, meet Sgt. Ken. He is the fitness genius behind the program. It goes without saying that he is a great motivator, unbelieveably dedicated, and a BEAST of an instructor.

He's really only about half as scary as he looks.


Code Amber

This morning, Sgt. Ken turned the recruits over to his Senior Instructor, Amber. I think she led the entire class time, but I can't be sure because I blacked out just a few minutes after the warm up.

(Normally I would just assume that all readers would know I'm kidding about that and move on, but since I've been told that some prospective recruits are reading this blog, I'll go ahead and clarify; I didn't really black out. I'm trying to be funny. Laughter dulls the pain.)

We did what Amber called "Accumulators" (I think that's what she called them; it's honestly a bit fuzzy, and that's actually not a joke...), which were patterns of exercises that built on each other (do set 1; do set 1 & set 2; do set 1, set 2, & set 3; etc. to 10 sets. Repeat). It was honestly tough from the very beginning, and it did not let up at all until the cool down. Every day up to today has been very tough; but I honestly think today was the most difficult so far, even though I was able to complete more of the workout than any previous days. My body very nearly stopped functioning near the end; but it actually felt really good. I felt like I accomplished an extraordinary workout; I felt like I honestly, no-fooling-myself pushed my body to its limits; I felt like it was worth it.

Why is it worth it? Why is it worth being pushed to tears one day, then pushed to puke a little the next?

Because after your body survives those two days, it responds to a killer workout like this morning with more strength and endurance than you've ever had before. And you feel REALLY DAMN GOOD.

If being pushed to tears and/or puke sounds like a bad thing to you, then you don't want the same thing I want. And that's okay; I only very recently started wanting it. Take a Jazzercise class. Start taking a 30 minute walk in the evenings. Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work. There are lots of things you can do that will improve your health, and they are all better than nothing.

I don't want better than nothing. I want the best, most efficient way to improve my health, my strength, and my body. And that's what I'm getting.

(Yesterday I forgot to post my daily reason; so today I'll post two.)

Reason #6:
I love the feeling I get when I go to the doctor, they take my blood pressure, and immediately say, "You must be a runner!"

Reason #7:
If you're in good enough shape, you are never too old for tank tops, strapless cocktail dresses, or bikinis.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Get in My Head

Today's post is going to take a bit of a different approach; I'm going to take you through the workout with me, and share a little of what's in my head. Those who know me know that there will be profanity; those who don't, well, there's your warning.

(The times are guesses; I didn't have a watch on.)

4:30 AM: Alarm goes off. Damnit. That dream was just getting good... (None of your business)

5:00 AM: In car. This is too hard. Is it worth it? Seriously, I can't imagine having to do this for the rest of my life to just not be fat. 5:30 in the fucking morning? Seriously? This is what I have to do to just look like a normal human being? Other people don't have to work this hard to not be fat. It's not fair. Whaaah...

5:30 AM: Warm-up. Okay. Feeling better. I can do this today.

5:35 AM: Group jog to first checkpoint. Hey, I'm alright. This is awesome. Candace is very cool...I like this group.

5:40 AM: Look up and see the first hill. Shit. (To be clear, this is what I thought, not what I did...)

5:41 AM: Struggle up the hill. I'm going to die. I'm going to die. Everybody is encouraging me and they are awesome but they know that I'm having trouble because I'm so fat and they feel bad for me and I don't want people to feel sorry for me I can do this OKAY GET OVER YOURSELF NENA these people are on your side they want you to succeed we're all here for the same reason I'm going to die I'm going to die hey I'm at the top of the hill...

5:46 AM: Step behind parked vehicle and puke a little. ugh

5:47 AM: Run to park; do shallow lunges while everyone else does step drills on the bench. I HATE MY KNEES I HATE MY KNEES I HATE THEM WHY WON'T THEY WORK RIGHT ANYMORE DAMN IT ALL TO HELL I HATE MY KNEES

5:50 AM: Running drills up and down field. This is great...this sucks...this is great...this sucks...this REALLY sucks...this is great...

6:10 AM: Formation jog to cadence back to studio. Sgt. Ken is tough and mean...make you reach for your canteen...high-step, sprinting, mountain climb...push-ups 'till the end of time...

6:30 AM: Back at studio. I am so glad I did that. Holy heart rate is already back down! Woo-hoo, this shit WORKS...

Monday, February 21, 2011

In Case You Thought it Got Easier

No. No, it doesn't get easier.

Today was even harder than last Monday. The warm-up and cardio was about the same, but the upper body strength exercises were very near unbearable. I was unable to do any of them absolutely correctly, with the exception of a couple of resistance band exercises (and only a few reps of those). We did different variations on the push-up, and I can barely even begin to do most of them from my knees. My upper body is so weak. It is very disheartening. I actually had tears fall several times during the workout this morning, both from the pain and strain on my body, and from how discouraged and inferior I was feeling. I know that the only way to improve it is to just keep going, and do the exercises the best I can, and work to my limits and try to push past them further and further as my strength increases; but it just feels like I'll always be weak. It feels like I'll never be able to lower myself all the way down on a push-up; never be able to do the lateral raises for more than five seconds without a break; never be able to do a real chin-up (we don't use a chin-up bar in class, but that's one of my personal goals).

On a positive note, I have a stronger core than I had previously thought. Sure, I have to rest during the core/ab drills, but not really much more than the average student in the class, and often it's my lower back that becomes too tired; not my abs (well, on the side-planks, it's definitely my lats that give out; they're my weakest core muscles for sure). Aside from side-planks, though, I feel really strong during core drills.

My cardio is improving at a mind-blowing speed, too. I'm able to push through the warm up now with pretty good stamina. I don't move as fast or lift my knees quite as high as some of the others, but I see improvement from my previous performance. That's the only way I can judge myself without going crazy. If I try to compare myself to others in the class, I'm going to get discouraged and quit. This is about me becoming the best me; not about me becoming as good as anyone else.

As for the weekend, on Friday I took an intentional rest day to allow my muscles and joints to recover and rebuild a bit. Saturday wound up being an unintentional rest day, because I stayed busy all day long and into the night with other things, and didn't make it to the gym to do spin like I had intended. My left knee was really giving me trouble; very inflamed, tender, and really painful with use. I iced it and took some ibuprofen before bed, and slept with a knee brace to keep it straight during the night, and it had improved enough by morning for me to do a gentle two mile run with Ted on Sunday afternoon. I wore my fivies, and I'm feeling that knot in my calf again, but it's not as bad as before, so I'm going to try to keep wearing them. Other than the issue with my right calf, they are great shoes for me.

Oh, one other thing of note: after the run, since my calves were tight, I had Ted use The Stick on my calves. Wow, talk about painful. It really rolls the lactic acid out of the muscles, and you can feel every bit of it. I had to warn him before starting that I was going to be in pain, and he would want to stop because he didn't want to hurt me, but he should keep going because it was just how it worked. The noises I made could have been used as the sound for a torture movie. But once that stuff is all rolled out, it's amazing how much better the muscles feel. So it's worth it. Ted said that since it was so painful for me, it was only fair that I do his calves, too. He realized quickly that I wasn't exaggerating about how much it hurt...

Cardio tomorrow. Let's hope my right calf allows me to complete it.

Reason #5:

Sexy butt.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Friday on Thursday

So I had this feeling all day today of "Yay! It's Friday!" even though it's really Thursday, but in a way it's like Friday because I made it through all four days of Sgt. Ken's Boot Camp and tomorrow I get to rest!

I'm still pretty sore, but a lot of the deep, sharp soreness has eased up and now it's more like a regular I-had-a-good-workout sore. I'm so glad I pushed through and didn't skip any days. Today was partner-assisted exercise, and it was tough and intense. No big surprise there, huh? That's what I've come to expect. But it was good; working with a partner was a new dynamic, and I really enjoyed it.

My partner was Jackie, a young, lean, tiny thing. I learned something from her today. I told her after a set of push-ups, "That was great! One of my goals is to get lean and look more like you!"

She looked at me and said, "What are you talking about? You're way stronger than me!"

What I learned from that is that everyone sees in other people things they want for themselves. I want to be smaller and leaner; Jackie wants to be stronger. It made me feel good that at least one person in that class saw something positive when she looked at me. She saw a strong woman. That was an awesome boost for me.

Tomorrow I rest. After work, I am going to go home and geek out and play D&D with some friends. Then I'm going to bed. On Saturday, I plan to go to the gym and do a 45 minute spin bike routine, and on Sunday I'm going to go for a gentle run with Ted. I don't want to rest for three days in a row, because I don't want next week to be as tough as this week was. Monday starts my second week of boot camp, and I plan to start it strong.


Reason #4:

When I was little, my older brother Greg told me that a woman could never get as strong as a man. I want to be able to beat my brother Greg at an arm-wrestling challenge.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tripping the Circuit

I still hurt.

Today was a circuit drill, and boy was it intense. I was dragging ass by the end, but I was determined not to stop.

At 4:30 this morning, I began to question whether this is worth it. I have to get up thirty minutes earlier than I would if I were going straight to work, and I arrive at work an hour later than I used to (which means I have to stay an hour later in the evening). It's hard to get up in the morning; it's a painful, exhausting workout that words can't even describe; the pain doesn't stop when the workout ends; my body doesn't recover enough yet for me to have that "extra energy" you're supposed to have all day when you start with exercise, so I'm fatigued all day; I'm getting blisters on my feet; the strain is finally getting to my knees and they are very tender and a little inflamed; and I just hurt all over, every move, every breath. It's really, really hard.

Right now, the only answer I have for "Is it worth it?" is, "I sure hope so."

I want it to be worth it. I really, really do. The only way I'll find out whether it's worth it is to stick with it and see.

I didn't mean for tonight's post to be a downer. The class today was full of energy, it was motivating, it was fun, it was fast, and it was great. There are so many things that I love about it, and I do know that every minute I spend in there is a minute that is improving my body and my health. I also know that with every painful step I take, my muscles are healing and building new tissue, and the pain isn't going to last forever. I already know I'm getting the health benefits; when I went to the doctor yesterday, my blood pressure was 112/72. That's pretty damn good. I just hope to get some of the vanity benefits too. I haven't been comfortable in my body in many years. I'd like to feel that again.

Reason #3:

My father died at the age of 48 of a heart attack. I do not intend to let that happen to me.

Here's a little clip of today's workout. I'm in the back, doing abs.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Running Hot

Well, I was right. I hurt today. A lot. All over. It's not injury hurt; it's definitely muscle hurt. My muscles are torn to shreds and struggling to rebuild. In other news, my knees feel surprisingly good and don't seem to be inflamed at all.

Despite the soreness and the fact that I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to do it, I went back to boot camp this morning. Today was running and leg drills outside. The temperature was good for me; it was around 35 F, and I do better in cold weather. The heat of summer smothers me. So I had that going for me.

Something cool that happened today was that people actually started introducing themselves and talking to each other. It was very encouraging to hear some of the others saying the same things I was, like the fact that the warm-up yesterday was as hard as some whole workouts we've done.

We divided into three squads today for running: beginner, intermediate, and advanced. A group of ladies I was talking to convinced me to run in the intermediate group with them, and I'm glad they did. It pushed my limits, but I was able to keep up pretty well, though at the end of the run I was in the back with the girls who were recovering from injuries. Still, the encouragement among our squad was awesome and I loved it. Today was tough, and I'm definitely walking gingerly, but I can feel myself getting tougher already. I'm looking forward to circuit training tomorrow.


Update: Forgot to put my daily reason for sticking with boot camp.

Reason #2: I am going to be a MIGHTY BEAST at Warrior Dash in May.

Monday, February 14, 2011

♪♫ Fat Girl in a Little Class ♫♪

If you don't know why my title cracks me up, you need to watch this.

Today was day 1 of START Fitness: Sgt. Ken's Boot Camp. It was intense. It was insane. It was painful.

It was awesome.

My first impression upon walking into the studio was "Oh shit. I'm the only fat person here." Everyone else in the class looked fit; not necessarily contenders for the cover of Muscle Magazine, but way leaner and more solid than I am. I was sure that I was going to be the only one in the class who had to take breaks; who had to stop for a drink of water; who had to gasp for air. Everyone would feel sorry for the poor fat lady who couldn't keep up.

Then I got over myself and decided that I am going to rock this workout the best I can.

So, I'm not going to write a play-by-play of the workout session; if you want to know what we do in class, come do the free two day trial Sgt. Ken offers on the website. What I'm going to write is about my personal experience in the class.

Once we got started, I knew that this was going to be different. Even the warm-up was tough. But I have to say, there was an energy in the room right from the beginning that inspired me to push hard. Sgt. Ken yelled and barked orders at us, but it was not in a negative or demeaning way like you see drill sergeants in movies; it was in a motivational and challenging way. Okay, there were some threats ("If anyone lowers their arms, I'll start ALL OVER"). They worked, too. He demanded that we work as a team; the stronger recruits were to encourage and motivate the less advanced. No one left behind.

I did not complete the workout flawlessly today. There were some exercises that I could not do with proper form because I am too weak; there was one exercise that I could not do at all because of my knees (I'm hoping that as I get stronger, the knee pain will improve); there were some times that I just had to take a break, get some water, and recover for a moment. There were almost tears at one point. Then I realized OH MY GOD WHAT AM I DOING PEOPLE WILL SEE ME AND FEEL SORRY FOR THE FAT GIRL WHO STARTED CRYING so I sucked it up and continued doing push-ups. Shame is a great motivator.

But I did push hard. And one day I'll be able to finish the whole hour strong, with no breaks and with good form. I know I will.

The realization that is a little terrifying is that this is never going to get easier. When it starts to get easier, that's when it's time to push harder. I used to daydream that if I had a genie in a bottle, my first wish would be for a perfect body. Well you know what? Screw that. I don't need a stupid genie for that. I can do that myself.

I'm already starting to feel sore. It will be full-on pain in the morning. So now I'm going to go take a couple of pre-emptive ibuprofen tablets and collapse into bed. I'm going to close each of these blog posts with a reason I'm going to stick with Sgt. Ken's boot camp.

Reason #1:

Because I will look awesome as Wonder Woman at Dragon*Con in September.

Update: I almost forgot to post the photos Sgt. Ken sent me. :)

Friday, February 11, 2011


Okay, first off, I did the Nashville Zoo Run Run 5K a few weeks ago, and finished in 37:00. Not bad!

Now, the yikes part. I recently started a new job, and we work very closely with the Army National Guard. The Tactical Director and Founder of the Strategic Army Training Program, Sgt. Ken, works there too. When I was introduced to Sgt. Ken, I made the mistake of telling him that I was working on getting back into shape.

Never tell the US Military's #1 fitness guy that you are working on getting back into shape.

He has a civilian boot camp starting up Monday. He sent me a link and said I should think about doing it. I had to tell him that I didn't have the budget to do it right now, but I'd see if I could swing it next session.

He offered to let me go for two weeks on him.

How can I pass that up? So now I'm committed to it. It starts Monday at 5:30 AM. Four days a week, Monday-Thursday, for two weeks. It's not your regular joe-blow boot camp, either. This is the same stuff they put military people through to get them into fighting shape. I am going to hurt.

I'll try to post regular updates. This should be amusing.