Friday, November 02, 2007

Friday fitness 1: Back in the saddle

You know how people say that when you want to lose weight, you should eat better and exercise more? Well, what if you already do that?

My exercise habit became pretty much ingrained at the age of 3, when I started ballet classes. I was one of the few people for whom ballet came easily and naturally, and ended up being put en pointe (that means I got to wear toe shoes) at age 11, significantly younger than usual. I took ballet classes several times a week for my entire childhood, punctuated by about a year or so where I didn't take ballet after I burnt out a bit. I started right back up again and was taking classes 4 days a week all through high school, usually 90 minutes at a time of great aerobic workout and a lot of stretching. At night, I'd do 100 crunches and 100 leg lifts before bed. Summers I spent on the town's swim team, sprinting my way through freestyle and breast stroke races at swim meets and spending hours in the pool every day. After the Great Hip Debacle of 1996, I quit ballet in college and started looking for other ways to move my body. Walking around campus, while good exercise, just wasn't enough for me. I swam and used the campus rec center a few days a week. I took a taekwondo class my senior year. Anything to keep my body moving, keep the blood flowing, get that exercise high that I'd had regularly for my entire life within memory.

I'd never liked running much before, but after I'd had a few years away from the ballet that had permanently changed my hip sockets, I decided to try again. I started running once in a while at a dirt track near campus, way up a hill. As with swimming, my style was definitely sprinting rather than long distances, but eventually I figured out how to run a whole mile, and then two, and then I was running almost every day after work at the Berkeley High School track. I even trained for a 5K and ran the Race For the Cure through Golden Gate Park in something like 22 minutes. I didn't have much body fat anymore, but I wasn't paying attention to that because the running seemed to keep me feeling good. I met Dan in 2001 while I was still running all the time, and I switched jobs in January of 2002 - I didn't have time to do much running anymore because of my commute, but I did join a posh gym through work for pretty cheap and went almost every day. Then every day. Then sometimes twice a day. I was in the best shape of my life, taking Pilates and lifting weights and running on treadmills.

Throughout my life, whenever I've had a gap in physical exercise, I start to feel cranky and sluggish, and then I have bad mood swings, and then my clothes stop fitting. When I moved to Colorado in January of 2003, I didn't have any means of regular outdoor exercise (it was too cold!) and I started going stir crazy so I invested in some Pilates videos and did them a few times a week. Then we started marathon training later that year, so I was running all the time (and also gaining weight, but that was from a prescription gone bad). After the marathon, I needed a break from running so eventually I joined the gym where I've been going ever since.

I took a few classes at first, tried their cardio salsa and a pilates class or two. The classes I was really interested in trying were taught by people I didn't like, so I gave up on classes and spent a couple of years doing a regular weight circuit, increasing weight and reps as my routine got easier, and using the same treadmill, elliptical, and recumbent bike in various combinations. Even working out 4 or 5 days a week, I still did more maintain fitness than lose weight unless I really restricted calories. A couple of months ago, despite my regular routine, hiking nearly every weekend, and eating healthily and seasonally all summer, I started noticing tight clothes again.

This is a scary thing for me. I don't like gaining weight. My body image is fragile as is, and I've got a wedding coming up where people will be looking at me in a fitted dress all day (and there will also be photos, lots of photos). I don't know if I can severely restrict calories through another snowy Colorado winter, and I don't know if I can handle working out two hours a day rather than one or one and a half. The time is about to change and I'm about to pretty much never see the sun; I've got to do something to stave off seasonal depression and also to ensure my dress still fits when I get to visit it in December.

So what could I do? I decided to take a new look at the class list offered by my gym, and noticed there were a lot of things that hadn't been offered before. New people were teaching classes. I'd have to start scheduling my gym time during peak hours (when all the classes are), but it's a small price to pay to help me break out of the fitness rut I'm in. So far, in the last month I've taken a few different yoga classes, something called Power Pump, and Qi Gong. A couple of weeks ago, I took my fisrt ever spinning class, and it made my butt sore for several days, but for the most part I was able to keep up with the class, and I even liked it. Yesterday I took my first Pilates class in three years, and you know something? Today I'm sore in spots, but I didn't lose much flexibility and the soreness feels good. The one difficulty I'm having with Pilates and yoga is my shoulder that got messed up in the car accident I had last summer (it's still not all the way better) so I just have to modify sometimes when there's a lot of downward dog. But it was a great class, and I intend to go back in two weeks when I'll be back in the office and not out of town during class.

My intention is to try a new class every week this month, and start regularly attending the ones I like. I like the Thursday afternoon spin instructor, and I like the Power Pump. I like this Pilates class I took yesterday. I bet there are more good classes to be taken, and in the meantime I'll continue with the cardio and weights, with walking/hiking on the weekends that the weather is good. Dan and I are both committed to health and fitness this winter, so I need to get some waterproof boots so we can go snowshoeing when it starts to be really snowy. I've heard that's good exercise, and I'm looking forward to it. Fridays this month I'll write about my progress in clothes-fitting-better and write a review of the new class I took.
Next week is my last travel week, so the only day I'll be able to take a new class is Wednesday. Here's the schedule (warning: pdf). Any suggestions? (and any classes offered before 8 AM, I won't be attending. I like sleep too much.)


Kari said...

Happy NaBloPoMo. I found you on the blogroll. Hope you have a great month. I hope you find what you are looking for in the classes you are taking at your gym.

debra said...

Hi! Found you on the NaBloPoMo blogroll.

I have a friend in Colorado who, besides being a busy SAHM of a toddler, is also a fitness instructor/trainer. She also has a web site dedicated to fitness:

You may enjoy checking it out and talking to her. She has been extremely helpful to many people.

Either way, good luck to you and happy blogging! :)

hello, my name is danny. said...

hi! i'm another one who found you through nablopomo. checked your blog out since you hold the first link on the list.

anyway, i have just recently gotten back into a regular gym routine with the machines. but i too have been checking out the different classes being offered.

cardio salsa is fun. i like to dance even if i'm not good at it. and yoga is my new love. it feels so good to stretch everything out after working the weights and running on the treadmill. i'm still ambivalent about the ab sculpting class i've taken twice so far. each time has been taught by a different instructor and that has thrown me off. i like some consistency in my routine. anyway, i dread the thought of the after effects of spinning, but my best friend is seriously trying to get me to go. i am almost convinced to go. yikes!

-qir said...


my dear, get a thyroid check at your next dr appt,. or sooner if possible. Every SINGLE friend of mine with a healthy lifestyle and inexplicable weight gain has eventually discovered an abnormality with the thyroid.


aunty qir

MLE said...

Dear aunty QIR,

My mom told me the same thing yesterday. The weight isn't really noticeable (except to me) but there's no reason my metabolism should be this slow with the amount of muscle I have. As soon as I'm done traveling so much, I'll go in and see a doctor.

Hi danny,

Thanks for stopping by. I was a little afraid of spinning class as well, but it turned out to be a really good class. You should try it!