The tale is that if you toss a frog into boiling water he’ll jump out but if he’s in a pot which slowly heats up he won’t and will die. It is disgusting to be sure. We used to use it to describe people’s circumstances of living in violent relationships… But I digress.
Lately I have been thinking about motivation. Looking at some of the fitness literature and web information I read I see that the great success stories are often the people who had never touched a weight and then discover weight lifting and proper diet and of course dramatic changes ensue. I think for more of us it’s harder because we are not suddenly discovering a new way of living which we can attack with religious zeal.
Like the frog in the slowly heating water I’ve been lifting weights and doing some type of aerobic exercise for about 35 years. Also I need to shed 10 to 15 pounds of fat. I remember reading somewhere in an article about building muscle how really modest the gains a person who has been training over time can expect to make in a year. So how do I stay motivated to keep doing enough of the right activities? And how do I stay motivated to eat in a way that supports the exercise enough to keep making positive changes?
For me having a variety of activities I can pursue helps some. My preferred forms of exercise are walking in a hilly local park, using the elliptical machine in the new fitness room at my job, lifting weights in my basement and taking the occasional hot yoga class at a local studio. I recently discovered http://www.lauramustloseweight.com which is cool both because of Laura’s personality, and for me, because she is about my height. It’s a good graphic portrayal of both the truth and the possibilities. I guess images and stories help because it’s hard to move from abstraction to action. It would be nice to be motivated more by the positive, e.g. move towards what Rachel Cosgrove calls being a “fit female” than by the negative, e.g. ominous health worries or the image of myself as some sort of lonely Jabba the Hutt. In any case, if I figure out the secret to motivation I promise to share it.
It’s been 16 weeks since I began a new job and boy did I let things to go pot. About a month and a half into the job I was assigned a large and difficult project that I had to tackle pretty much alone and with no one available to take on existing duties that I had to ignore/defer. I am a department of one and 1/3 or so at my job so if I am pulled off a project it pretty much comes to a halt. Because there were several things on my plate at the time that required my attention, the situation really stressed me out. And as I so often do, I let the stress make me less diligent about working out. What a waste. Even at times when I could not bring myself to work, I preferred to stew in my own juices than to work out.
I am now working on another big project, and still giving the short shrift to another looming one, but I am taking a new approach to it mentally. It’s not my decision how I am used, I will do my best in the time I have and the outcome will be what it will be. I am recommitting to working out OFTEN so that the stress doesn’t take a greater toll than it needs to.
I’ve taken two Power yoga classes in the last week which are always great at making me feel de-stressed. I also began taking advantage of a workout room at work. The world is full of disappointing situations and things one can’t control, so I am recommitting to not abandoning those things I can control like taking care of my mind, body and spirit.
M27, The Dumbbell Nebula (Photo credit: lightclad)
As I’ve noted before, I started New Rules of Lifting for Women in 2010 and then blew out my arm not by working out. So this is actually as far as I have ever progressed on this series of workouts.
After changing jobs a little over a month ago I am finally getting back into a groove with respect to working out. For me three times per week is great for making progress but it’s hard to fit in around work and civic pursuits. Two times per week is sufficient to progress at a more moderate clip. Once per week is just not enough and I get very sore after lifting. I’ve been doing pretty well lately with workout frequency.
Today’s workout: Stage 4 Workout B
Wide-grip deadlift from box 3 sets 8 reps 87.75 lbs
Bulgarian split squat 3 sets 8 reps 18+lbs
Underhand grip lat pulldown 3 sets 8 reps 55 lbs
Reverse lunge from box 3 sets 8 reps 10 x 2 lbs
Dumbbell prone Cuban Snatch 3 sets 8 reps; 1 set 2 x 5 lbs; 2 sets 2 x 8 lbs
Swiss ball crunch Bodyweight 2 sets x 8 reps
Reverse crunch Bodyweight 2 sets x 8 reps
Oblique twist (my modification) Bodyweight 2 sets 8 reps
Prone cobra 1 set 40 seconds
I need to kick it up a notch with the Prone Cobra and the Plank. The durations expected and what I can do right now are pretty far apart. It’s totally normal to shy away from what comes with difficulty and that’s the case here.
There’s a business aphorism that our strengths if overused become weaknesses. For me an overused strength is my plucky determination to take on the system. How this played out over the years is that I have found myself at odds with constraints imposed by the various systems which govern my life, the main one being the constraint to work during typical business hours and the corollary requirement of going to bed at a reasonable hour that that implies. How I manned the barricades in this struggle is by going to bed late at night. To be fair, I don’t think I am one of those people who must sleep 8 hours a night. I was one of the children who would read under the covers with my Girl Scout
Girl Scout Flashlight
flashlight after being put to bed. I’ve worked a “regular” job for at least twenty-five years for which I have had to arise at typical hours to undertake a morning commute. During those years I have often had commutes of ten to twenty-five to forty miles. But somehow during that time I’ve also been a regular viewer of ye old Late Night with David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and Charlie Rose (at midnight) and TLC’s midnight silent movie on Sunday nights. If I went to bed before midnight I really felt like I might be missing something. I could never (and still can’t) understand friends that say they’re in bed by 9:30 at night. I mean, where’s your life, people?
During a routine doctor visit I was once asked if I am tired during the day. I didn’t really understand the question. I mean, that’s what coffee’s for, right? I am pretty sure that I have a baseline standard of how awake I want to feel and that I have varied my consumption of coffee to bring about this result.
Somehow the process of hitting the half-century mark has helped me get a clue about a few things under the general heading of Getting Out of my Own Way. I am aware as that the brain is subject to decline related to age and figure that the least I can do for myself is to keep my cognition at its peak in part by not being a sleep deprived person. The payoff for this is feeling better in the morning. It’s nice being able to get up and shut the alarm off before it goes off and just to wake up feeling fairly well rested. Right now I still average six hours of sleep a night which is an improvement for me believe it or not. I plan to keep fine tuning this protocol until I am actually getting enough sleep but Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I was raised in a culture that judged women largely on their appearance. Some people fare better in the genetic lottery than
Maneless male lion via Wikipedia
others with respect to looks but over and above that there are myriad things we’re expected to do in the grooming arena with hair, skin, nails and body hair to live up to social norms.
I started college in the late 1970’s and the question of whether women should shave their legs and underarms was squarely in the realm of political discourse. For my part I did not like having my habits dictated either way. That is, I was no more accepting of people telling me that I must not shave as that I must shave. Reacting to the stricture that women must look a certain way by telling them they can’t look a certain way still leaves one stuck in the same paradigm.
I am not proud of this but I did feel a certain smug satisfaction when it became apparent in recent years that men are now subjected to even more unrealistic images and expectations than women. I mean they still control the culture, I figured, so whose fault is that? Bombarded by media images of men with the body-beautiful men are actually being expected to conform to norms even more extreme than those applied to women, for example, according to some fashion arbiters men aren’t allowed to appear hairy any more. I shudder to think of the implications on men’s self esteem and the lengths to which they would need to go to present themselves in a way so at odds in some cases with what nature intended. It also makes me wonder who are the arbiters of what we are allowed to look like or what’s supposed to be considered alluring or attractive. My hope would be for a world in which we don’t all feel we have to look a certain way and when it’s OK to be hairy or smooth or shaven or unshaven, inked or not inked, black or white etc. That we can accept how we ourselves appear and enjoy and celebrate the variety in those around us.
Common Sense Like The Hope Diamond is Very Rare
A number of years ago I sought help from a chiropractor for an acute muscle spasm. During the visit I chanced to say that I had no common sense. I will never forget his reply which was: “You have common sense. You just don’t use common sense.” Few truer words have been spoken about me.
It’s clear that I am not alone in not using common sense. I mean, have you ever driven a car? It’s not really that all other people are idiots as it may seem, it’s just that they aren’t using their common sense either. I am very fond of my life and fond of my car so I do use common sense behind the wheel. For one thing I don’t use a cell phone when I am driving. I figure it’s best it I have my wits about me as so many others can be counted on not to.
I am trying to diligently apply common sense to the schedule associated with my new job in that the job requires a longer commute coupled with an earlier start time. I am going to bed at a more reasonable hour so that I can wake up feeling like a person rather than a disinterred corpse. This seems to be working so far though I need more time to have truly made a habit of it. This going to bed scenario also requires making myriad tasks part of my evening routine rather than deferring them to morning. Again, looks good so far but need more time.
With job transitioning having had dominion over the last month of my life, I haven’t evolved a new workout schedule to complement my earlier sleep time. That will take some effort but I am optimistic. Now that common sense has been unleashed there’s no telling what can happen.
No I Cannot Do the Peacock Pose
Last spring I signed up for a series of yoga classes at a studio that teaches yoga in the Baptiste tradition. I did this because I was feeling hamstrung so to speak over my inability to lift heavy weights as I recovered from an arm injury and wanted something that would help me continue to build muscle strength without further injuring myself.
I first took yoga at college. I remember my teacher well. She was a delightful, down to earth woman from Texas. She told us she was one of few people we’d ever hear say “cow” as a word with three syllables and she was right. Yoga really stuck with me. Over the years some movements or poses just became a normal part of my stretching routines. When I started back at it recently I had not taken yoga in a formal setting in 30 years.
One of my disappointments about middle age is how hard I must fight to retain flexibility. I’ve always been reasonably flexible. Now desk jobs plus age have me suddenly concerned with flexibility in the hips. This is more than an idle concern as the tension in this area can impinge on nerves and cause some fairly uncomfortable sensations which take time and hard work to alleviate once they get started.
The class I’ve taken most is Power Yoga Basics which is really a good full body workout. Some of the poses like the pigeon really seem to help with hip inflexibility. For me the key to making progress in yoga practice are: take a place near the front of the room so I am as little distracted as possible by other people and how flexible and awesome they are and use a foam block to modify poses when needed so that I am doing as close to what I am supposed to be as possible while respecting my own limitations. My favorite place to practice is in the hot studio. It makes my muscles feel more limber. Also it’s just nice being warm at this time of year without being bundled up.
Recently the New York Times magazine had an article on the dangers of yoga. I think the main message I drew from it is that there is no physical activity that if done to extremes or excess does not carry risk and of course the same is true of yoga. That said, I plan to continue to be mindful of my limits and continue to practice. And having completed my series of classes I plan to sign up for more.