A few months ago my health insurance company reached out to me to ask if I’d like to take advantage of Wellness Coaching. Well actually it began a step before that. My health insurance company offers subscribers financial incentives to get healthy. The first one was taking on on-line health assessment for which they gave me a $25 gift certificate. There are activities one can complete for another $75 and the actual periodic chats with a wellness coach will get you another $75. I have a very nice general practitioner who has expressed to me a weight goal for me. Does it go without saying that I don’t see much of my general practitioner? As of this winter that goal had receded to being 15 pounds away and it dawned on me that I needed to reverse that trend pretty darned quick before it receded any further.
So when my health insurer made this offer I agreed to work with a coach. My coach calls me once every few weeks. We set particular goals and then discuss how I am doing to meet them. These have mainly included getting my amount of exercise up and drinking more water. Since I started working on this program I have lost 6 pounds and and inch and a half off my waist. The program has lots of on-line motivational tools and exercises with cute little tracker bars to tell you how you’re doing on them.
I’m not doing everything the program would like to see me do. The main thing I am not doing is tracking all my food daily. I probably should. I have a few excuses for not doing so including that I mainly eat the same set of things day in and day out. I think my plan is to keep that arrow in my quiver so that if I stop making progress I can start tracking and be able to keep going.
For me there was a fair amount of low hanging fruit with respect to my habits. So first off measuring certain foods was a place to begin. Cutting back on splurge meals and evening snacking was another place. Drinking more water was another. Actually I am not really pushing hard enough on that. It sure would help if it weren’t so darned cold out this spring.
One of the main benefits of coaching for me is accountability. While I am plenty smart and know a lot about health and fitness, I do tend to b.s. myself and make excuses about why I don’t do things. (Um, like it’s too cold out this spring to drink enough water…) To make changes I have to be more honest with myself. And yes, while I don’t believe in low-calorie dieting and I do lift weights, it is also true that I have been over-fat for a long time and that only changes in my behavior will change that. Period. And they are changes that I will have to stick with by and large for a long, long time.
Recently I’ve found myself plagued by “golfer’s elbow.” This is like tennis elbow but on the inside of the arm instead of the outside. If you’ve ever had either you know what a pain it is. Being me of course I am self-treating it with trigger point therapy.
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, Amber Davies and David G. Simon is amazing for finding out the cause of what ails you and treating it. The basic concept is that there are little bundles of muscle tissue become contracted into tiny hypersensitive areas that may not hurt themselves but can send pain to other places. They map that all out for you with helpful pictures. I’ve had this problem before with referred pain. To me it makes complete sense that the place that’s hurting may be a symptom and not the cause. I’ve experienced this with for example leg pain that actually emanates from a “crunchy” place in my lower back. I am still grateful to the first person that figured out that one for me, a massage therapist. To treat these crunchy places I use a combination of tools.
One of my favorites is a little orange ball with nubs on it called the Stress Buster Massage Ball. If you are looking for one know that it has to be fairly firm to actually make a difference. A tennis ball also works some but I really like the nubbiness for getting to those little knots. You can roll the ball on your back against a wall and get a pretty nice massage on tense areas. For my arm that I am working on lately I use the kitchen counter.
The book makes the point that most health professionals don’t think of pain in this way. The ones who do are typically people who understand the body and won’t suggest you medicate away the symptom but rather figure out its source and start working on it. Masssage therapists that practice myofascial release will understand this. What’s best about the book is that it is written with the goal of self treatment in mind. How many of us really have both the time and the money to get a series of massages when something hurts? I know I don’t.
Franco Columbu (courtesy Wikipedia)
I’ve done my first six workouts using Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 as a guide and it’s beginning to make sense. The basic framework is workouts built around four lifts: squat, deadlift, shoulder press and bench press with a different exercise as the main focus of each workout. The framework includes doing 3 sets of 5 reps of that exercise plus a PR set each workout in stage 1. Stage 2 is 3 sets of 3 reps plus the PR set. The workouts also include a warm up and assistance exercises. According to the author, one should be able to be in and out of the weight room in 30 to 35 minutes. The workout can be structured for 2, 3 or 4 days per week. The basic set is followed by one PR set where you go for as many reps as you can. Following this are assistance exercises. I’ve been adding three different exercises for three sets but I suspect that I should be doing about 5 of these exercises. Also this plan calls for maintaining some level of aerobic fitness outside of the weight room. Both the New Rules of Lifting for Women and the Female Body Breakthrough were more designed to use the resistance exercise as Interval Training and counseled against maintaining an aerobic regime in addition to the lifting.
I will need someone to spot my bench presses eventually which makes this less convenient for me as someone who typically works out alone or I will have to modify the routines to incorporate some other kind of chest workout. And while I like the freedom to do the assistance exercises I feel like doing in a particular workout I am also concerned that it may not force me outside of my comfort zone. In New Rules of Lifting there were some exercises I really didn’t like. Of course typically I don’t like an exercise because I don’t do it very well which is because I need to work harder at it. So my challenge with 5/3/1 will be choosing assistance exercises other than my favorites.
A Trabant 601 Limousine. Trabants were manufactured in East Germany between 1957 and 1991, and exported throughout the Eastern Bloc (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One thing the field of sports is good at is taking perfectly good English words and giving them new, obscure meanings. When I started considering following Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 strength training program I jumped on Wikipedia to see what “periodization” meant. It’s defined as: “the attempt to categorize Universal History or divide time into named blocks.” So in this context it means giving names to time periods such as the “Late Middle Ages.” Thank goodness there was also definition on Wikipedia for “Sports Periodization” which is “an organized approach to training that involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period.”
This monograph by Frederick Claro tells us that periodized sports training was developed in the 1960’s by the Eastern bloc countries. “Periodization of training,” says Claro “had much to do with the superiority of eastern athletes over their western counterparts for more than two and half decades and in numerous sport activities.” (sic) It sounds pretty good to me.
It seems to me that the workout programs I’ve been doing for the past couple of years—New Rules of Lifting for Women with workout by Alwyn Cosgrove and Female Body Breakthrough by Rachel Cosgrove—take this concept into consideration in their design but don’t trouble the reader with thinking about it very much. My 5/3/1 book arrived just two days ago and I have only scratched the surface. I like the idea that pursuing the goal of getting stronger in the four major lifts and the work that it takes to do that will address the ancillary objectives I have for my health and appearance. It’s nice to have something simple, though of course not easy, to work on.
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.