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..

 

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A Vision of Me

My life today is not the one I envisioned 20, 30 or 40 years ago. I’m not standing in judgment of what I’ve done or where I’ve been so much as a taking a look at the paths I’ve chosen or the ones that have chosen me. Kurt Cobain wrote,

I never envisioned getting old. How the heck did this happen! It seems like the phrase “don’t trust anyone over 30” just rolled off my tongue yesterday not 37 years ago. What did I think was going to happen every year when I blew the candles out on the cake! There was always so much to do and so many places to go. “Tomorrow” tomorrow seemed like a galaxy far away.

inside every old person

New Year’s Day has always been my favorite holiday. I would put on the black-eyed peas, get a cup of coffee, find my favorite journal and pen and begin the sweet adventure of envisioning myself at the end of the year. I was usually thinner, healthier, and smarter. Sometimes I actualized some of my New Year’s resolutions and other times not. In reality, achieving the goals was not as important to me as planning them. I loved having the vision of a better me.

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Today I am a woman in search of a vision. How do I want to spend the last 30+ years of my life? What do I want to accomplish? What goals do I want to set? I always loved what I call the “big” goals. Thirty-five years ago I reached my goal of running a marathon.  Twenty-three years ago I received my doctorate. I have to remind myself that my goals don’t have to be “can you top this” type of goal.

Almost ten years ago, as a result of one of life’s curveballs, I left academia and the business world with serious questions about my ability to do work that required mental, psychological and intellectual prowess. Becoming a personal trainer was never a life-long dream. It was a desperate act to find rewarding work that would not cause another mental or psychological downward spiral. It was all about physicality.

When I began thinking about getting certified as a personal trainer, I was very concerned that my brain wouldn’t function well enough to pass the requisite exams. But here I am at age 67, a certified personal trainer with nearly ten years of experience.

A central theme of my life vision today is to help other people, especially those over 50, live healthier and fitter lives. As much as I appreciate the joy my hours with clients in the gym give me, I still feel that I haven’t quite identified my true vision. I think there is something more out there for me. Perhaps I worry that I may not be physically able to be a personal trainer forever. When those thoughts come, I remind myself to stay in the moment and experience gratitude for what I can do.

For now, I am on a vision quest—living each day with my spirit open to whatever insight comes.

 

 

 

 

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

 

Change Up Your Workout Routine

You’re on a roll! You’ve been working out for a couple of months and are actually seeing some results. But, well let’s admit it, the workouts can be boring, especially if you do the same routines over and over. It happens to all of us.

Yesterday I did some of the same exercises I’ve done many times before, I just used a stability ball as a way to make the exercise more interesting.  This is a leg raise–really attacks the lower abs–and when you pass a stability ball from your hands to feet without allowing your feet to touch the floor, there’s definitely an added level of difficulty.

 

 

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Making small changes can keep your workouts fun and keep you working out!

  1. It will keep you from hitting a plateau. Adding variety to your workouts will keep your exercises from becoming ineffective.
  2. It will give your body a chance to repair itself. If you do the same workout each day, you won’t be giving certain muscle groups enough time to heal between each workout, and you increase your chances of being injured.
  3. It will prevent boredom and burnout. If you keep doing the same workout routine each day and your results start dropping, you’re more likely to get bored and give up on your fitness goals.

Continue reading “Change Up Your Workout Routine”