Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Hello Size Healthy!

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Dear Reader:

One’s closet should not be like a department store. But since the birth of my daughter twenty-one years ago, my wardrobe has been a reflection of my struggle to maintain a stable weight. I’ve never been obese or terribly overweight, but I’ve teetered on the edge and see-sawed up and down. So, my closet contained what I termed “fat clothes and skinny clothes.”

Today, I changed that! It was a wonderful feeling to recognize my progress and to support one of the charities closest to my heart. I donated four bags of clothing to my local SPCA  (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) Benefit Shop.

There are two reasons I was able to let go of a large pile of lovely clothes:

One…is the obvious: I’ve lost twelve pounds since I began working with my personal trainer seven months ago.

But, I think the second reason is just as important: I’ve made a lifestyle change. I know I won’t gain the weight back, because I know precisely how to keep it off. I’m addicted to exercise and I’ve got the recipe for eating healthy. I know how wonderful it feels to be fit and strong…there’s no going back. (Thank you Jonathan at Zone Fitness!)

I’ll never have multiple sizes in my closet again. And although my current clothes are smaller than they have been in many years, I won’t refer to them as “skinny” clothes. I don’t feel skinny; I feel light yet strong. I have muscle definition (wow…that’s a first)! My inner strength is manifested in my outer strength.

I feel great and I wish everyone could feel that. Here’s a sample of my formula for success:

I invite you to join me on my continuing journey!

Michele

Eat, Drink and Be Merry, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

If Donuts Are Wrong, I Don’t Want to Be Right!

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Enjoying my favorite, a maple bar, at San Luis Obispo Donut Company (SLODOCO)!

Dear Reader:

I’ve lost twelve pounds since I began my journey to strong seven months ago and people are starting to take notice. When asked for my “secrets,” I am happy to share the diet of my own creation. I call it the “Donut Deny Myself Anything Diet.” I’m not into deprivation; I’m an “eat drink and be merry” Italian with a passion for pasta, wine and donuts. And, I’ve found that I really can have it all…in moderation. Here’s my plan:

I employ the 80/20 or 90/10 (I’m not good with math) rule. In other words, most of the time, I eat clean.

  1. I refuse to give up alcohol, but I drink in moderation. I sip slowly.
  2. When I want a treat, I have a treat and it’s usually the real thing, not a faux, low-calorie knockoff. The idea is to feel truly satisfied.
  3. I am 100% committed to weight training and regular cardio.

This brings me back to donuts…

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Donuts are a destination! I do not keep them in my home; I travel South every couple of months and I always enjoy wine and a donut or two along the way!

As Michelle Pfeiffer put it:

“Eat well, exercise and get lots of sleep but make sure you indulge occasionally. At my age I think, what the hell, and eat a Krispy Kreme doughnut.”

My new approach to eating allows me to maintain a healthy weight without giving up two of the great joys in life: celebrating and eating. I’ll never be the woman who goes to a birthday party, but skips the cake. I’ll always ring in the new year with bubbly.  Pasta will always be on the menu in my home once a week. And, I’ll just ignore sexy Sue at the gym when she yells, “No Donuts!” before my trips to San Luis Obispo. That’s just how I roll.

Michele

P.S. Even Winnie loves a good donut!

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*A trip from Northern California to Southern California would be a real waste if it didn’t include wine tasting and other treats!

Family, Friends and Neighbors, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

The Future Has Red Finger Nails!

 

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Dear Reader:

Of course, I’m not younger than I was seven months ago when I began working with my personal trainer. But, I feel strong, light, energetic and confident…traits we associate with youth. I could almost forget how old I am, but hands do not lie. I am 58 years old and my daughter is twenty-one. And, this picture reflects the story of our life as mother and daughter.

Natalie is wearing a ring that belonged to my mother. My sister was given a jewelers bag filled with small treasures after mom’s death and passed this on to Natalie. I’m wearing a ring with my birthstone (aquamarine) that my husband purchased for me on a trip to Maui many years ago. There is both pain and joy reflected in the gifts of those rings.

My mother missed the opportunity to know her only grandchild who now wears her ring. She was a deeply troubled woman and I have no regrets about my decision to exclude her from my life or that of my daughter. But, she gave me life and I am grateful for that gift.

The life my husband and I built with my daughter gave me purpose. Today I revel in both the wisdom of my years and the strength of my body and spirit. My life is so much better now than it was 20 or 30 years ago, and one of my greatest joys as I age is watching my daughter mature, too.

Michele

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Who Am I to Be Fit, Strong and Confident?

 

 

Girl, Woman, Goddess
Who am I NOT to be fit, strong and confident?!

Dear Reader:

I had a moment today when suddenly, all at once, I could hear every negative (or at least not positive) comment that has been made about My Journey to Strong.

  1. “Why would anyone want to spend 50 minutes burning 700 calories in the gym?”
  2. “Aren’t you getting a bit carried away with this fitness thing?”
  3. “Are you going to start wearing those ridiculously tiny bra tops and shorts?
  4. “Aren’t you afraid you’re going to pack on too much muscle?”
  5. “It’s hard to imagine you’re going to want to do this forever!”

When people make major, positive changes, it seems a natural consequence for some of those in their world to question the transformation. I do understand that simple psychology. The response, I think, is a mix of curiosity and envy. I’ve been there.

We ask ourselves how? How did she do it…get fit, write a book, learn to paint, start a business? But, we know the answer. She just made up her mind to do it and then she showed up….over and over and over again! How wonderful! That means that we all have the potential to do anything we set our minds to!

I am reminded of the brilliance of Marianne Williamson in her best-selling book, A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of “A Course in Miracles”:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

My trainer, pictured with me above, encourages me and challenges me, in addition to educating me about all things related to health and fitness. My daughter, who refers to me as a “beast,” reminds me regularly that she is very proud of me. And, my husband is very supportive of me. But, in the end, it is just as it was in the beginning; my desire, my commitment and my continued hard work are the key to my success.

Should you be curious, here are my answers to the five queries above:

  1. Why not?
  2. My trainer ensures that I’m not doing too much or too little. I have the time and I love it!
  3. Maybe…and, when I do, I’ll send you a photo!
  4. No. Once again there’s my trainer. Plus, let me just say, Michelle Obama’s arms are a thing of beauty. I can’t wait to be that muscular.
  5. It’s okay; I can imagine it!

So, when all I can hear are the voices of skeptics, I remind myself that I am fit, strong and confident. One might even suggest that I am a goddess and I would fight my natural impulse to demure and just own it! I am a goddess.

Are you letting your light shine, dear reader? I’d love to hear about your success in the gym, studio, kitchen, office, garden….

Michele

 

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 5

 

My Journey to Strong

Chapter 5: Six Months In and I’m Not Going Back!

Dear Reader:

Who’d have thought that there was an athlete inside of me?! Not me! But, I can’t imagine going back now. How do I love strength training and cardio workouts? Let me count the ways:

  1. I feel good.
  2. I look good.
  3. I haven’t fallen in six months.
  4. I can confidently scale stone walls in search of my Winnie.
  5. I feel strong, accomplished and proud.
  6. I’m having fun!

I can not think of anything else I could do that would yield those kind of results. And, I can not think of one thing I don’t like about it. Truly. I’ve become addicted to doing the right thing for my body!

It seems that training has brought out the best parts of my nature. I’m extremely competitive and intense and strength training gives me the opportunity to constantly work to best myself. It’s easy to measure my progress in time, pounds and reps.

On my first day, I could barely last five minutes at level 1 on the arc; today I’m burning more than 600 calories in 50 minutes on level 5. In the beginning, my knee was sore and my ankle swollen and I couldn’t imagine ever getting beyond the movements I was doing on the psychical therapy table. Soon, I graduated to resistance bands and weight benches. I impressed myself a couple of weeks ago when I sat down at the leg press and pushed through twelve reps of 245 pounds (noisy knees and all)!

Some of my progress is quantifiable with hard numbers, but I’m just as excited about the progress that I’ve made in areas of my life that are not easily measured. I just feel more comfortable in my own body. I’ve worked to strengthen my legs and my knees are now better supported. I have less pain, despite the arthritis. All of this makes me feel more confident when I’m presented with stairs or hills. Would it be an exaggeration to say I feel younger? NO!

I know that I’m not younger, dear reader. But, I also know that I am stronger. And, I’ll tell you, I feel empowered. There’s another benefit of my time in the gym. I have the energy and confidence to take on other challenges in the future. It’s not over until it’s over!

Tonight, I’m congratulating myself on six months of hard work. I’m also happily anticipating a strenuous workout tomorrow morning and a return to my regular four days a week in the gym. (There’s been a break in my schedule due to the holiday and the birth of my trainer’s son. Congratulations Jonathan and Britney!) 

Next up for me: deadlifts! I’ll let you know how that goes.

What’s your exercise regime? I’d love to hear from you.

Michele

Dogs, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Memorial Day Cardio Workout

Winnie the innocent
What Mom?!

Dear Reader:

On any other Monday morning, I’d be killing it on the Cybex arc burning in excess of 600 calories in 50 minutes. But, Zone Fitness was closed for Memorial Day, so I took to the streets in my slippers and p.j.’s, blanket wrapped round my shoulders for modesty’s sake.

To be sure, this was an unplanned session of cardio. It lasted only 30 minutes, but it was more brutal and intense than anything I’ve ever done in the gym. It began just after I’d poured my second cup of coffee.

“Where’s Winnie?” was the rallying cry! When you live with three dachshunds always under foot, you develop a sixth sense that warns you when one of them is in trouble (of their own making)! We called for her and searched the yard, but it quickly became clear that she was gone!

My husband and I ran to the driveway to begin our rescue mission while our daughter, home from school for the weekend, changed from p.j.’s to street clothing.  Tom headed left. I went right and flagged down a car just as he rounded our corner. I didn’t know him, but he knew enough about me that I didn’t have to tell him the breed of my dogs!

“Oh, I’ve seen your doxies,” or did he say “heard your doxies”? It’s all a blur. “I have a dog; I understand,” he continued.

He offered to drive, slowly, around the loop that is our street and search for my girl. My belief in the kindness of strangers is so often validated.

I continued down the street, alternately yelling “Winnie” and explaining to any passers-by that my dog was loose, and very tiny. About 20 frantic minutes after the realization that she was gone, I felt the first tear slip down my cheek. I began knocking on doors. People can be very sweet when presented with a strangely dressed, very sad neighbor at their door. No one had seen her, but everyone would watch out for her. A few even joined me in the street.

It would be about another 10 minutes before my husband found our pup and sent our daughter out in the car to look for me. I learned he gave her simple instructions.

“Don’t come back without your mother!”

Back in our family room where our day had quietly begun, my husband described what he’d learned about Winnie’s great escape and brief adventure. I must describe the geography of our home for you to fully appreciate her great feat.

Our house is below street level, so our garden is terraced. Stone walls divide each level. Our little one had jumped four 18 inch walls (we knew she could do that) and a 2 foot metal fence (we didn’t know she could do that) and then tunneled under the bottom of the fence to arrive in our neighbor’s back yard. She didn’t stop there, though. She tunneled further to pop up in the next neighbors yard and had just left and crossed the street when the man who offered to help me spotted her from his car and called out to my husband.

My husband called out to Winnie, who obviously knew she’d been a bad girl. She turned and ran away from him, but thankfully back the way she’d come. She arrived in our yard to my husband’s great pleasure (or displeasure)?!

Dachshunds were bred to burrow and they are known to be trouble-makers. Our Winnie is an overachiever in both areas! Thankfully, this is a story with a happy ending, but I also think it’s a cautionary tale to anyone thinking about acquiring a dog:

There are dogs and then there are dachshunds…beware!

Michele

P.S. On a positive note, I did get in some cardio…and my husband will be getting his workout after he returns from Home Depot with cement and lumber to build a bigger, better fence!

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Wonder Woman and Superman Spotted in Monterey, California!

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Dear Reader:

In a rare photo-op today at Zone Fitness in Monterey, California, Wonder Woman and Superman appeared together. It seems Wonder Woman was under the impression that she, and only she, would be the focus of the shoot. But, Superman had other ideas.

“Wow, he just photo bombed her,” one young fan exclaimed!

“I’d expect that from the Flash,” said another.

Wonder Woman, however, was unperturbed and warmly introduced the Man of Steel as her “favorite Justice League colleague.”

“Ladies,” she said, “I am a singular wonder, but I’m also a good team player!”

The event included an impressive demonstration of crunches, curls and squats followed by the inspiring story of Wonder Woman’s pursuit of strength. Premier Protein shakes in banana (WW’s favorite) were served following the Q & A portion of the show.

Batman, upon hearing of Superman’s surprise appearance, reportedly announced he may be in the neighborhood the next time his female cohort appears. Stay tuned to this site for further updates.

Michele

P.S. If you’d like to feel like a superhero (or just dress like one),  you can buy a WW t-shirt at Target!

Grief and Loss, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

I Am a Prozac Queen

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Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions

Dear Reader:

I feel anger and contentment, sorrow and joy, anxiety and enthusiasm, along with fear and courage… sometimes all in the same day! And, yet, I am a “Fluoxetine Queen” as defined by the Urban Dictionary.

Fluoxetine Queen

An enthusiastic and outgoing advocate of the drug Fluoxetine, more commonly known as Prozac, especially one who has used the drug and experienced its benefits or one who is dependant on it to function normally.

There are some who will be surprised to hear that, despite pharmacological intervention, I feel every spoke in the Wheel of Emotions. Indeed I once consulted an orthopedic surgeon regarding my ankle.

He perused my paperwork and inquired, “I see you’re on Prozac…so you’re happy all the time, huh?”

He was an older doctor and I believe he needed to retire or take a continuing education course. I never saw him again and I never had the surgery he recommended. Maybe you can tell by my tone that his question miraculously caused me to feel something other than happiness. I was irritated, annoyed and downright angry.

Early in my blogging career, I wrote a post entitled In Praise of Prozac. I’m not ashamed to say that I’ve been depressed and that I was brave enough to get treatment. I want to be part of the movement that seeks to destigmatize issues relating to mental health. And, I’d like to reach out and offer compassion and hope to anyone who is suffering.

I decided to re-visit the topic after reading the New York Times front page story  Many People Taking Antidepressants Discover They Cannot Quit. I had an immediate reaction to the story. (I’m not the only one; less than two weeks after its publication there are over 2,000 reader responses.) You see, I am one of the “many…who cannot quit.”

When I filled my first prescription for 20mg of Prozac, I was a stay-at-home mom with a four-year-old daughter. My 35-year-old brother had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the month before. My husband’s job was demanding and my support system consisted of only a few close friends.

Matt and I had been very close and it wasn’t surprising that I felt overwhelmed and heartbroken. But, it was clear that I was not simply sad. I struggled to get out of bed and into the shower every morning. I was irritable. Each day seemed to bring physical aches and pains, despite the fact that I was not sick or injured. I remember most clearly a feeling of heaviness, exhaustion and emptiness.

I might have continued to suffer had it not been for my beautiful daughter. After I had a panic attack while at the bookstore with her, I knew I needed to do something. I had to take care of myself so I could take care of my child. I set up an appointment with a counselor and saw my general practitioner.

The only question I remember asking my doctor, “How does one stop taking antidepressants?!”

I do not remember his answer.

But, I didn’t re-visit that question for nearly a year because Prozac improved the quality of my life and relationships. It did not deaden my emotions; it made them manageable again. I continued to feel sad, but that emotion did not paralyze me. I often felt tired, but I did not feel utterly depleted. I no longer felt like a detached viewer of my own life. I felt  present again. The random, unexplainable aches and pains disappeared and with them several other prescriptions. And the fear was gone; I could leave the house without worrying that I’d experience another panic attack. I felt equipped to handle the responsibilities of motherhood.

I was not successful the first time I tried to taper down my antidepressant, nor the second time…nor the third. Seventeen years after my first dosage, Prozac still makes it possible for me to live my best life. Why does a strong, content, fulfilled woman need an antidepressant? I don’t know and neither does my doctor.

If you’ve done your research, as I have, you’ve probably seen depression defined as a “chemical imbalance” or a “serotonin deficiency.” But, that’s an oversimplification. Experts really don’t know what causes depression or how it affects the brain, nor do they understand exactly how antidepressants improve the symptoms.

But, this is what I know:

  1. Prozac and counseling helped me face a huge loss.
  2. Prozac continues to help me.
  3. I have no regrets.

Antidepressants will continue to grab headlines and much of the press will continue to be alarming. That’s just the way it works. You are not likely to see Antidepressants Save Millions of Lives Every Year printed across the front page of any newspaper. And yet, I personally believe that is the bigger story.

Prozac hit the market a mere 12 years before I needed it. So, in a very real way, I am a guinea pig. I can live with that. After all, I am a Fluoxetine Queen!

Michele 

Grief and Loss, Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

Beauty in the Ordinary

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Dear Reader:

There are so many ways to feel happy. Sometimes, a moment can bring on a smile that lasts for days.

I showed up at the gym for cardio today, as usual. I was feeling exhilarated and energized at the 35 minute mark on the arc when a young man climbed on the machine next to me. I had met him the week before. It was impossible for me to forget his name.

I removed my ear buds and said hello. I was feeling so good that I couldn’t resist teasing him.

“Oh, Matthew, that was just a talk test,” I said.

The look of terror in his eyes was amusing, but he was too sweet to torture. I’m into humor, not cruelty, so I quickly assured him that I was fine. I imagined him imagining me collapsing near his feet and requiring immediate emergency care!

Five minutes later my workout was done and he peaked at the numbers displayed on the screen of my machine.

“Wow, you just did 40 minutes on that thing,” he exclaimed.

Not long ago, I felt self-conscious when I found myself sweating next to a young, fit person. But, today I was impressed …with myself. I knew his praise was genuine. That was a gift, but it wasn’t the only one he presented to me, without knowing it.

If you know me or have read my posts, you are aware that I lost someone very special to me in 2001. He was 36 at the time; I was 40. I will live the rest of my life looking for him… and finding him.  My brother, Matthew, seems to appear in the face of any young man who is kind to me…and also happens to call himself Matthew.

Look for the beautiful, in the ordinary, and you’ll find it!

Michele

Physical Fitness, Mental Health and Growing Older

My Journey to Strong: Chapter 4

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Chapter 4: Balance is Important

Dear Reader:

You could say that I was “unbalanced” before I started working out. I’m not talking about the fact that walking, quite regularly, led to falling! I’m referring to “life balance”.

In the words of the incredibly bodacious Jennifer Lopez, “Beauty is only skin deep. I think what’s really important is finding a balance of mind, body and spirit.”

I’m a natural-born student. I love to learn and I love a challenge; my mind has always been a priority for me. I’m blessed to have a loving husband, an amazing daughter and generous friends. My outlook on life is positive and my faith is deep. Before I began training, I had two of Jennifer’s bases covered.

Since November, I’ve integrated the “body” component into my life. I’ve got a routine: Tuesday/Thursday for strength training, Monday/Wednesday/Saturday for cardio.  I have a more balanced life and it feels good. My newly acquired bit of wisdom …well, you’ve heard it before, but, here it is again:

 Exercise brings confidence and energy to your life!

Thanks to all of you who have supported and encouraged me. I hear you: I’m sticking with it!

Michele