Crafty Friends

Daily Prompt: Craft

When I look at who my friends are, I am often surprised. The women I spend the most time with are between the ages of 20 and 40. I am almost 69.  I never even noticed that my friends were so much younger than me, or at least that so many of them were, until recently. I’m not sure what changed, but I’m glad it did.

 

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Me, Lucy, Jasmine and Alisha hiking Grays Mountain

I am a personal trainer at a local gym and, well not to brag but it does make me darn proud, there aren’t many women my age who can keep up with me.  Even though I don’t seek out young women to work out with, we seem to find each other.

 

Working out together is in some ways an intimate experience. We help each other with our form, which means looking at each other’s physical strengths and weaknesses. We know what makes each other sweat, laugh, and cry. Forty year’s difference in age doesn’t seem like much; fitness is a great equalizer.

Last night I had three of my young workout partners over for dinner. I wasn’t paying much attention to their conversation as I was clearing the table, but I heard them talking about someone who had made such a positive difference in their lives, inspired them to go college, and was proof that obstacles were just challenges in disguise. “Who are ya’ll talking about?” They started laughing, almost hysterically. “What’s so funny?”

 

portabello

 

“We’re talking about you!”

“You guys are embarrassing me.”

That’s when I saw it clearly for the first time. I could be mother or grandmother to these women, but instead they are my best friends. When they started telling me the ways I had inspired them, it was my turn to laugh.

 

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Jasmine, Alisha and me working at Bucklin Park

Yes, I inspire them, but they do the same for me–and they motivate me. They keep me focused on giving my best in a workout, they are interested in my life and never me old—well not much!  They respect my education, my fitness, and what they call “wisdom.” I call it survival strategies. If I didn’t work in a gym, I can’t imagine how our lives would have ever crossed. I love my job, and like many of you, feel it is my craft. These young women have been my inspiration to refine my craft, continue to improve, and learn. Because of them, I am the top trainer in our club. They have helped me better at almost everything I do. Because of them, I really feel that I have turned my job into a craft and look forward to going to work everyday.

 

I can’t do squat!

 

Daily Prompt – Sidewalk

I can’t do squat! And I mean that literally. The older I get, the less cooperative my knees are and the lower I can squat. This is probably the biggest reason my backside is flat as a pancake. Well, maybe not literally but pretty close. And every year, especially now that I’m closer to 70 than 60, what little rear end I have droops lower and lower. It’s been years since anyone told me that I squat “ass to the grass.”

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Seriously, who needs a butt when they can do an extended plank like this!

 

When I ask a potential female client what her goals are, nine times out of ten, it involves her booty.  For many women, working out is all about the butt. Harder, firmer, higher, rounder, smaller, less jiggly, ad infinitum. And the squat, of which there are hundreds of variations, is the all-time glute day favorite.

There are some girls (and by that I mean women under 40) who do glute work every day. I call them the “Queens of Squat,” and they love it when I bestow the title upon them. When I see one of the queens working out, I can’t help it, my mind starts reciting my pet gym mantra, “we must, we must, we must improve our butt.”

While my caboose may not be high and tight, it’s not too flabby either. And I owe my somewhat fit, tiny hiney to an exercise I lovingly call the “side walk” or “penguin walk.” My clients call it the walk from hell. There are several variations. If you are suffering with knee pain, choose a style that doesn’t require you to bend your knees. Remember, if there’s pain, you must abstain.

I like using a resistance band, but the “side walk” can be just as effective with your body weight, sans equipment.  If you tightly squeeze your gluteus muscles during this exercise, you will feel the burn. When a client tells me she thought of me every time she went to the potty, I know I’m doing my best work.

Here are the basics.

  • Position your feel shoulder width apart. The band should be taunt but not stretched. You can place the band above your knees or closer to your ankles. If you have a resistance tube, step on the tube and hold the handles to create resistance.
  • Bend your knees slightly and move into a half-squat position to activate the gluteus muscles.
  • Keeping your feet in line with your shoulders, step sideways to the right keeping the band tensed. Without releasing the band’s tension, continuing side stepping for 10 reps.
  • Repeat to the left for ten reps.

Trust me, you’ll be thinking about me tomorrow.

The New and Improved “About Me”

Today’s “Fundamentals of Blogging” is to revise/re-write my blog’s “About.” According to the lesson plan, I needed less of a list and more of a story; more of what the blog is about and not so much about me; more of what I want to accomplish with this blog and not so much about what I’ve already accomplished. 

If you have time would you read my old “About” and let me know if you think I should change it to the new one? (Gotta say I’m pretty impressed with myself for being able to figure out how to create a link to my “about” page. This course is amazing.)

Here’s my new “About”

I blamed my dislike for all things physical on gym suits.  They were baggy and disgustingly ugly. Did I say they were one piece? No one, not even the really pretty girls, looked good in them. I became a professional at devising ways not to “dress out” for PE.

Then I met a guy. He liked to run—all the time. So I started running. I don’t even remember his name. But after he was gone, I kept running. Then I wanted to run better so I started going to the gym and, well one thing lead to another, and I became a fitness junkie. I was obnoxious about it—all I wanted to do was workout, run, swim, bike, play racquetball o! r talk about doing something physical. Like I said obnoxious. Screenshot (22).png

I’ve done a lot of other things—got a Phd, run marathons, raised a remarkable son, had good jobs, lost good jobs, made some good decisions and some seriously bad ones. As a result I’ve  re-invented my life many times. My friends say that I’m an inspiration. I say, “Really?” But I’m still here, and that certainly says something.

That’s what this blog is about—re-inventing life, rising above circumstances and situations, becoming a better person. I’d like to think that what I write about can inspire you, or someone you know, to do things you never thought you could.

Today, at age 68, I’m a personal trainer. Can you believe it! And I’m good at it.  The girl who never went to PE now spends her entire day doing PE. Wow. Can it get any stranger than this?

Parts of my life are great, maybe even better than great. But then there are the other parts. There is always work to do, and I want inspiration. That’s why I need you.

Tell me (in 50 or words or less—just kidding) how did you do it? How did you transform yourself, turn things around, make lemonade—you know what I mean?

Drop me a line.

Lonely Girl

 

When I look at my day now as a personal trainer, there are times when I can’t believe it is me. I pretty much work out all day or help others workout. I am not a natural athlete, but somewhere along the way things changed.

I never liked to go outside and play. I had an awkward walk, was uncoordinated and had no balance. Recess was painful. I was usually the last one picked for any team sport.  I don’t think Charlie Brown existed when I was growing up, but he and I have a lot in common.

Other kids watched the clock waiting to hear the recess bell. They would be bouncing off their seats as the teacher said, “Wait. Put your books in your desk. Then you can go.” It was a stampede to see who could get out the door the fastest.

If the recess game was softball, I knew my name would not get called. The rules were the team captain picked one boy then one girl, and everyone had to play. When I was the only one left, the captain would sigh and wave me over and say, “Okay, we’ll take her.” Like he had a choice, but hearing those words. Well, it made it worse.

girl on playground
“Lonely Girl”

 

Three outs happened fast, and I usually didn’t have to go to bat. When I did walk to the plate, bat in hand I knew what to expect. Taunts from the team in the field: “Easy out! Easy out!”  My teammates would groan loudly. It couldn’t get much worse than this.

When the recess game was dodge ball, I thought I might actually have a chance to stay in the game. I mean dodge ball, come on. Just don’t get hit by the frigging ball. How hard is that! But I was like a fence post cemented in the dirt. A target. The person with the ball always went for me because I was, once again, an easy out.

The other kids made it look so easy. Running. Laughing. Weaving in and out around each other’s sweating bodies. I was dizzy watching all the activity. It was like I was the maypole, the flag pole and everyone and everything else whirled around me.

My brain was busier than my body. “Run right, run left!” I would start to move, or at least I thought I was starting to move, and then the blonde girl with the perky pony tail would run in front of me. Giggling, she was always giggling. The cute boy holding the red dimpled dodge ball aimed for her, fully intending to miss. The ball hit me instead. I didn’t groan or squeal or make any of the noises the other kids made when they were “out.” I just turned and walked out of the circle.

Usually, I didn’t have to go outside for recess. When I said I needed to finish my homework or was writing a story or reading a book and wanted to stay inside, I think the teachers felt sorry for me. It was such a relief to escape the horrors of the playground.

In the sixth grade I read the poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham. The words gave me hope. I don’t know why because I certainly wasn’t going to make my fellow dodge ball players think any more highly of me. But I read and re-read the poem, imagining myself in a more inclusive future.

“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.

But love and I had the wit to win:

We drew a circle and took him In!”

 

 

If it’s good enough for Einstein

Daily Prompt – Countless

“Twenty sit-ups,” I say enthusiastically and start counting, “One, two, three, four. . .”

Five minutes later, “Ten burpees. You can do bicycle absthis! One, two, three. . .”

Countless counting! I count reps all day long. I count to twenty countless times during a day. If I expand that time frame to a week, a month or a year using the word “countless” becomes an understatement.

Counting is important in my business because it is one way to measure a person’s improvement. I’m good at my job, but I’m a terrible counter. I start out well enough then my attention turns to form or I want to explain how the muscles work in a particular exercise. My counting starts to sound like that of a two-year-old.  “One, two, three, four, five—drop your back knee—three, four…”

If my client has been training with me for a while, they quickly point out, “that’s six.”

“Right, six. We’re doing twenty. You know I can’t count. You count,” I’ll say and continue the explanation.

This whole counting thing goes back to my multi-tasking abilities—or I should say lack of multi-tasking skills. I don’t multi-task.  I don’t think there is any shame in not being an accomplished multiAlbert_Einstein_by_ken_chen.jpgtasker; I’m just not good at it.

Actually, I used to multi-task, but Mom said I was scatterbrained and teachers said I couldn’t stay on task. So I developed strategies to overcome my multi-tasking shortcomings.

I write everything down. I am an avid note-taker. I am renowned for my outlining, highlighting, labeling and organizing skills.

These strategies have created other problems, however. My obsessive outlining and note-taking has diminished my memorization abilities which in turn makes writing down everything even more important.

My spreadsheets of client workouts are extensive. I record the exercise, repetitions, sets and countless other data. Some of my co-workers consider this record-keeping a sign of professionalism, others as an idiosyncrasy. I always thought of it as a crutch.

Then I read Einstein’s words, “Never memorize something that you can look up.”

Saying the words, “wait a sec while I look it up,” used to embarrass me. I felt that as an intelligent person I should have this information on the tip of my tongue. Well, those days are over!

I am in the company of geniuses. If it is good enough for Einstein, it is good enough for me!

 

 

 

There are now 4 of us!

Week 2, Day 1 of our 12-week workout program

If today’s workout is any indication, our 12-week program is going to be amazingly insane. It started this morning at 6:00am when Tonette showed up for spin class. Honestly, that woman never stops. “I’m doing two workout a day, starting this week,” she said.

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Sheila and JB

At 6:50 am Sheila showed up. Sheila is also Tonette’s mother. This is the best part of living in a small town! Seriously, it is just like in the movies—everyone does know everyone!

 

Sheila and I like quiet for our yoga, so we booted Tonette out—not an easy task. I basically had to push Tonette off her bike. The day was just getting started.

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JB pushing Tonette off her bike! (LOL)

 

Workout time for “The Three of Us” was 1:30 pm. When I arrived at the gym, Tonette was busily revising our workout and told me that Alisha’s sister, Jazmyn, was joining us. “Now we are four,” she said. Tonette is madly scratching through her planned workout, reorganizing and restructuring. She enters in pencil every exercise, reps, sets and weight in a small notebook she carries from station to station in the gym.

“Let’s just go,” I said. “We’ll figure it out.”

Tonette loves to be in charge, and I love to let her take over planning our workouts. As a personal trainer, I am so ready to not be in charge of a workout. But even by my standards, and I tend to be a little obsessive about planning workouts, Tonnette is over the top.

JB Tonette Alisha Jaz_3
Jazmyn, Alisha (photographer), JB, Tonette

We decided to partner up. Jazmyn and I would be together; Tonette and Alisha would pair up.

 

We love our gym, but it is small and has limited equipment. This usually isn’t a problem, even when the gym is crowded. But today it was. We all wanted the same weights, the same bench, the same everything! Tonette changed the order of the exercises and moved us around, and we still argued. It was laughable.

At one point, after Tonette had told me three different things to do, I balked. “I’m doing cross cable flies,” I said.

“That’s not the fly we’re doing,” she replied.

“It’s the fly I’m doing,” I said and set up the cables for the exercise. Smiling, I looked over at her and said, “Bitch.”

“You’re the bitch,” she smiled back pointing her finger.

Like I said, amazingly insane. Workout time tomorrow, 2:30 pm.

 

“The Three of Us”

We are three amazing women who like to be fit. We met and work out at Snap Fitness in El Centro, CA.  If you saw us, you probably wouldn’t match us up as workout buddies, but we make a great team. The Three of Us

Our ages are 33, 51, and 67 and we have differing levels of strength, flexibility, and endurance. One thing we have in common is our stubbornness. Things can get very interesting! Our goal is to keep each other motivated and committed to at least four workouts a week.

Each of us has one or two little body issues—hip replacement, arthritis, exercise-onset-migraines, bone spurs, sciatica—you get the idea. We modify the exercises to accommodate our bodies.

Last week we started a twelve-week workout program. Here’s our workout for the first three weeks. We do three sets of 12 reps for everything except abs, where we do 20 reps.

Week 1 workoutWe determine the order of our exercises based on the location of equipment in the gym and how crowded it is. We do super-sets rotating through three exercises, unless I can convince my partners to include an interval component—fat chance, but I keep trying.

I like circuit training and abs. Tonette hates circuit training and abs. I like body weight exercises. Both Tonette and Alisha like to lift heavy weights. We compromise.

Share the upcoming three months with us! We’re planning on having some fun. We’ll share our workout and nutrition tips and look forward to hearing about yours.

Pull Up, Don’t Give Up

Daily Prompt – Underestimate 

There are people who think their achievements are a result of luck, good timing or some other external source. There are others who see their achievements as a result of hard work, discipline and planning—something they themselves are responsible for.

We give others more credit for their success (their personalities or motives) and often see our own successes as a result of outside influences (environment or something outside our control). I fall somewhere in the middle of these two camps depending on how much energy I can muster at the moment.

My parents grew up surrounded by the aftermath of the depression and World War II . They were determined to create a better life for themselves and their children. The philosophy they preached to me and my two sisters was that if we wanted something and worked hard enough, we could achieve it. Neither of my parents were successful by today’s standards, but their lives were better than their background might have predicted. Both of them worked hard, my dad as a salesman and my mom as a waitress. They went to work every day and instilled in me the belief that I could live a life of my choosing.

There are times when I over-estimated my abilities, and I failed. But that didn’t discourage me. It fueled me to get a better education, develop a healthier lifestyle, and not let set-backs keep me from moving forward. Some of those set-backs did hold me back for periods of time—weeks, months or in some cases years.  But even when I was in despair and disbelief that I could overcome obstacles, the fighting spirit of my parents llay just under the surface waiting for me to wake up and get back to work again.

At age 67, even though I am very fit, I often underestimate what my body can do with proper training. It took me months, but I can do two pull-ups. I will do more.

 

When I have moments when I want to quit, I remember what my dissertation advisor told me when I wanted to drop out of graduate school. “If it were easy, everyone would have a PhD.” Then I take some time to analyze the situation, determine the next indicated steps, and get back to work..

 

We’re All Getting Older

Some of my favorite clients from ages  20-73

A couple of weeks ago I decided to publish a blog. I wanted it to be about exercise, health, and fitness. I wanted this blog to be a reflection of who I am. Well, I’m a perfectionist. I always get A’s. When I went to college, I graduated with a PhD. When I became a personal trainer, I obtained eight certifications. That’s who I am—an over-achiever.

My initial vision was to write a blog that would contain photographs, links to pertinent web sites, videos, recipes and anything else I could find to have a perfect blog. Maybe I would sell products, develop my own vitamin line, and get sponsors. I wrote, I researched, I found exercises, found photographs and videos and began the process of compiling and designing my blog. It was not easy and it definitely wasn’t fun.

Then I had an epiphany. The reason I want to write a blog is talk to you—my friends, my clients, members of Snap, women over 60, women under 60, men who aren’t body builders, men and women who are competitors. What I have to say is probably not earth shatteringly new or even earth shattering, but it will be about what it’s like to be healthy when it’s easy to do that and when it isn’t so easy.

For the last few years I’ve used the excuse that my age is why it’s harder to stay fit and healthy. I’m over 65-years-old and what I did last year or the year before isn’t working any more. I thought that made me unique. I thought it was all about getting older. What I didn’t think of the time is that we are all getting older. The 21-year-old woman I train who just had a baby is appalled because she is doing exactly what she did before she got pregnant and she can’t get her muscles back in shape and she has belly fat.

The 30-year-old woman I train is on top of the world because she realizes for the first time that has the physical potential to run a marathon! Two years ago she couldn’t do a decent sit-up.

The 16-year-old boy I train is amazed because even though he has always been a skinny, nerdy kid, he can do 40 push-ups and deadlift more than his body weight.

The 40-year-old woman I train is depressed because menopause is changing her body in ways she never expected, and not all of them good.

The 78-year-old man is encouraged because that after surgery to fuse 4 cervical vertebrae, he can turn his head side-to-side and do push-ups.

I was right. It is about getting older. We’re all getting older. And at some point we reach an age—and it isn’t the same for all of us—when our bodies fail us. If it’s not our age, it may be our job, our children, our aging parents, or something else—it doesn’t matter. It is a rationalization anyway.  Whether we are in our twenties or seventies or anywhere in between, whether we’re housewives, students or professionals, whether we’re parents or caring for parents, we use it as a sign from God that we shouldn’t be eating vegetables or working out anyway. So we stop. If we thought it was bad before, it is abominable now. And now we can add the guilt of not doing what we know we should be doing.

Then something happens—we realize we have to change—and we actually begin an exercise and nutritional program to improve our health. Yes! Some of us keep going day after day, year after year and stick to our plan. Our discipline is unwavering. But there are others of us who hang with the plan for a while and then fall of the wagon, so to speak.

That’s why I want to write this blog. I’ve been all those people. I started as a physical klutz, I’ve worked out and achieved some athletic prowess, I’ve gained weight, I’ve lost weight, I’ve re-invented my life numerous times, I’ve stuck with exercise and nutritional plans for decades and I’ve also had years when I did not exercise or eat healthy.

The one thing I know for sure is that if I want a healthy mind and a healthy body, I have to work for it. It sucks. It’s just a fact that I like lemon meringue pie better than tossed green salad. I prefer watching “House” re-runs more than going to the gym. But I also know that everything in my life is better if I eat salad and go to the gym.

So that’s what this blog is about—how to be healthy when you feel like it and when you don’t. Share your thoughts and ideas. It’s a work in progress. I want all of us “to live our life not our age.”

 

Lose Fat Not Pounds

In grad school I gained over 30 pounds, which on my small boned 5’5” frame is substantial. I was 38 years old when I started back to college and a single mom. It took 2 years to finish my BA, having completed my first two years when I was 18. It took me another 1 ½ years for my MA. So far so good. I managed to keep running, even fitting in two marathons.

I was now 41-years-old and off to the University of Washington for my PhD. Not only did my metabolism come to a screeching halt like it does for many of us at age 40, but I was running out of money and needed to finish my doctorate in less than 4 years. At the University of Washington that breakneck speed is not encouraged nor supported. I was on a fast track with the goal to graduate before my son finished high school and I ran out of money. Between the research and taking an unbelievable number of classes each quarter, I made it. But there was a price to pay.

That price was 30 pounds of fat. I did nothing but research, read, study and write. And this was before the internet, so I spent hours in the library. You guessed it—no exercise, no running, no gym time and no time to cook healthy meals. Sadly, Starbucks was taking off in Seattle and a daily latte and muffin were what I used to jumpstart my day. As proud as I am of my doctorate, I don’t enjoy looking at my photographs—my face was round and I had cankles. The only redeeming feature of those pictures was the shapeless purple velvet gown and silly cap we wore that covered up the round belly and non-existent waist.

JB Seattle Marathon (422x800)

 

“No problem,” I thought. “I’ll run a marathon and lose the weight and get back to pre-grad school shape.” Dream on!

Graduation was in May and the Seattle marathon was the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Six months—ideal time to train. It took about a month to re-acquaint myself with the discipline running required, but then the endorphins kicked in. Thanksgiving arrived, and when I took my place at the starting line I weighed only ten pounds less than on graduation day. When I looked around at the other runners, I knew that to look and feel like I wanted, cardio exercise was not enough.

Working out at a gym has never been my favorite fitness activity, but I knew it was necessary. I had to stop the naturally occurring loss of muscle mass that starts around age 35 known as sarcopenia. and build sufficient muscle mass to help me look like I wanted to look. Every 10 years after age 35 we lose an average of 5 percent of our muscle mass unless we do something about it.

When not training for a running event, I ran between 30-45 minutes per day. I decided to add 20-30 minutes of strength training to my workout and within weeks noticed a change in my body.

JB Potato Chip Rock (600x800)

In addition to strength training, I increased my intake protein which is what our bodies need to build muscle. Most of us over 35 do not eat a sufficient amount of protein to continue to build enough muscle to compensate for sarcopenia.

An easy way to determine how much protein you need is eat your weight in grams. My weight stays around 125 which means I need approximately 125 grams of protein per day—not easy.

Three ounces of chicken breast contains 25 grams of protein. I try to keep my caloric intake at less than 1500. One ounce of protein equals 4 calories, so 125 grams of protein accounts for 1/3 of my daily calories. Most protein powers added to a smoothie contain around 30 grams of protein. Now I’m at half my protein requirements.

It helps to keep in mind that all calories are not equal. A gram of protein is actually used by our bodies to build muscle. Whereas whatever carbohydrates (also 4 calories per gram) are not used to provide energy turn to fat, usually around our midsection. Protein burns fat; fat doesn’t burn fat, it just sits there.

Women especially worry about bulking up if they strength train and eat more protein. Don’t! It isn’t going to happen. We don’t have enough testosterone.

If you want to look toned, lose weight and feel strong add strength training and protein to your daily fitness program. Check out other blog posts for protein suggestions and strength exercises and workouts.

Body Fat versus Body Weight