So, I flunked swimming lessons. That was over fifty years ago before the evolution of the positive parenting style. I couldn’t imagine that happening today….oh, I hope not. It probably would have been best if my mom had re-enrolled me after my initial failure. But, she never did and so I really can not say that I know how to swim.
But, nowadays I’m game for just about any activity my daughter suggests that will help us meet our fitness goals. And, so it was that I came to find myself enrolled in a water aerobics class taught by Mike, a twenty-something personal trainer, at the Cal Poly University campus swimming pool.
It really isn’t necessary to know how to swim to get a good work-out in the water. We used kick-boards and aquatic dumbbells and the wonderful resistance provided by the water. It was a tough work-out, but different from my regular cardio in one interesting way. I was often out of breath; I’m quite familiar with that sensation nowadays. But, I wasn’t hot and I wasn’t dripping sweat as I usually am. It felt as though my mind kept checking in with my body to try to figure out what was going on. Seems I’ve gotten used to sweating!
Today was so much fun, though, that I just might find the courage to re-enroll in swimming lessons. I didn’t know that I could enjoy a pool without a cabana boy and fruity cocktails as much as I did!
It’s not what you think…that was the setting for my morning spin class! It was fun! I’m visiting my daughter in her college town down south and this is a class she enjoys. The only thing better than making a commitment to strength and fitness is doing it with the support of the most important people in my life. We sat there, side by side, sweating it out for 45 minutes.
The instructor was a fabulously fit mature woman who yelled throughout, “Isn’t this a great way to start the day? Ready? Well, ready? If not now …when? We’re taking a ride through the hills. Increase tension! Are you uncomfortable yet?! Get uncomfortable!”
When I began working out, I also began reading about working out. One of my favorite quotes came from Jillian Michaels: “You’ve got to get comfortable being uncomfortable.” It’s a phrase that’s become my mantra. I turn it over in my mind all the time and it keeps me moving. So, it was great to hear her singing the same tune as me!
My trainer, Jonathan, is a bit less vocal than this woman. He generally tells me the exercises in the set and the count and leaves me to it, unless I need a correction to my form. (I do not need that very often, as I am fastidious about form!) He will occasionally throw in a “PUSH” or “PULL” and that usually elicits a slightly nasty look from me and sometimes a response: “I AM pushing or pulling!” He’ll sometimes say “looking good,” which is nice to hear. But, what I really love to hear is “You’re getting stronger!” I absolutely beam…I know it…when I hear those words!
As we descended the “last hill” in our morning ride and class came to an end, we were left with the following thoughts: “Feel proud of yourself. You chose to begin the day in a healthy way. And…NOW, DON’T GO OUT AND GRAB A SNICKER’S BAR!!!”
I hadn’t planned on a candy bar, but I will enjoy a glass of local wine with my dinner tonight. Cheers to health, well-being and my daughter, of course!
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 lightly clad, 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 my daughter out in the car to look for me. I heard 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 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!
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!
OMG, I knew so little the day I walked through the door at Zone Fitness! During my first meeting with my personal trainer, Jonathan, we discussed the importance of both cardio (fitness slang for cardiovascular activity) and weight training. I told him that I was intimidated by weights.
“But, I like cardio,” I offered. “In fact, I exercise four days a week and count my steps!”
I learned very quickly, though, that my idea of cardio was not the same as Jonathan’s. I discovered that I fell far short of meeting the recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association and by extension my doctor. Intensity matters! It only counts as cardio when you elevate your heart rate into an aerobic zone, which is 55 to 85 percent of your maximum. Any movement is good, but I was really short-changing myself. I was not working or sweating enough to achieve my weight loss goals or maintain my health.
Real cardio is hard. The machine I’m sitting on in the picture above is a Cybex arc. I’d never given one a go and, let’s just say, the first time was an experience. I felt like I was going to die after 5 minutes, but I needed to make friends with that machine because it’s designed to be easier on the joints than an elliptical and burn 16% more calories than a treadmill.
I’m proud to say that I can now burn 400 calories in a 35 minute workout on the arc. Getting there required me to trust my trainer. I’d constantly joke that I hoped picking me up after my heart attack was included in my dues. But, honestly, I was scared. I had to learn that I couldn’t/shouldn’t jump off the machine when my inner monologue changed from…you can do this, Michele to …this feels horrible, Tom will kill me if I die in the gym, I don’t know if I can continue, I hate this blanking machine!
Jonathan identified this highly unpleasant feeling: metabolic pain. (I’ll let you google that for the scientific explanation.) I only needed to know that it wasn’t a sign that I was going to die, but instead a sign that I was getting a good work out. We monitored my heart rate and Jonathan checked in frequently to ensure that I was expending the correct amount of energy.
“How are you doing?” he’d ask me. In those moments, I wasn’t sure I liked him. My inner monologue went something like this…Can’t you tell by the look on my face?, Didn’t you notice that drop of sweat that just fell to the floor by your foot? Can’t you think of a better question? I later learned that Jonathan was administering the “talk test.” (You should be working so hard that you can’t carry on a conversation, but easy enough that you can contribute short sentences.)
After the first week of cardio training, it did get easier for me to keep pushing. I know what to expect. I can sense what my heart rate is before I check my reading. In short, I know my body better. Cardio has become a three-day a week activity, but I’m not saying it’s easy. Just when I’ve got my workout nailed, my trainer tweaks the settings! That brings me to my third bit of newly acquired wisdom on My Journey to Strong:
You only improve your fitness when you challenge your body.