Saturday, January 30, 2010

Just once...

I'd like to get an "abnormal labs" call,
and instead of showing up at a nursing home
for an 80 year old who looks healthy enough
to beat me in a foot-race to the hospital...

I'd like to find this instead.

Just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The subconscious mind

Do you pay attention to what you tell yourself? Make it a point to listen to all of those thoughts, both the nagging and the fleeting, for just a few minutes. I think you'll be surprised at the things that run though your brain from one moment to the next.

Any of these sound familiar?
  • I can't. I just don't have time.
  • Ugh, I'm so fat.
  • Look at her running that 5k! I couldn't possibly accomplish that.
  • I just can't lose weight. I like food too much.
  • I hate cardio.
  • I hate running.
These are all things I've "told" myself at one point in time or another. Just automatic thoughts that pop up in my brain when I try to make a change for the better. It's like a sadistic version of Pop-Up Video running in a constant loop. Oddly, I have an easier time recognizing these defeating statements from others than I do from myself. I was talking to a friend at work who, in the space of a minute, listed a whole slew of reasons why she couldn't schedule regular workouts or plan meals ahead of time. No time before work to work out. No time after work. Impossible to eat right at work. No time to plan meals or cook ahead, I work too much. Nobody else in the house likes "healthy" food. You get the idea.

I've become aware of just how destructive statements like this are to one's workout mojo, general attitude and outlook on life. I've outlined the power of affirmations before, after reading the book Liberating Greatness. It's a great read if you're all neuroscience-nerdy and you want to get all up in your brain with a magnifying glass and explore all its various parts and their effect on your behavior.

However, if you want someone to explain - in terminology that everyone can grasp - the mind-body connection to successful fat loss, training and motivation, Tom Venuto is your guy. I approach Tom's stuff the same way I approach organized religion. I keep the stuff that aligns with my beliefs and values and discard the rest: Yes to "do unto others", no to "persecute homosexuals". Yes to "avoid processed foods", no to "do lunges until you die" (disclaimer: Tom never said that, it was purely my interpretation).

Basically, he explains it this way in Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle:
You have 2 sides of your mind: the conscious, and the subconcious. The conscious mind is rational, taking in information from sensory input and analyzes it, reaching logical conclusions. (We females are exempt from this for one week per month.) The subconscious mind, Tom likens to a computer. Its reasoning is deductive in nature and all "data" that is "programmed" into the subconscious is presumed to be true. I vividly remember the poster in my 9th grade computer class (you know, the class pre-schoolers take now) - in big letters - G.I.G.O. Garbage in, garbage out.

What does this mean?

It means, simply, every time you tell yourself
  • I can't.
  • I don't have time.
  • I hate this but it's necessary.
... your subconscious mind is accepting that all as the truth, and subtlely sabotaging your efforts. You know when you get 5 minutes into your cardio routine but you're just not feelin' it? You think to yourself, "You know, I've had a tough week and I deserve a little break. I should cut this short and catch up on my DVR library." There it is.

When your alarm goes off at the ass-crack of dawn, but you shut it off, telling yourself, "I just can't get up this early." Yep.

When you bring a turkey sandwich on whole wheat to work for lunch, but everyone orders pizza, and that little voice in your head says, "This is just too hard. It's too hard to eat healthfully in this environment.", and you throw your $5 into the pizza fund? Uh-huh.

So, how does one master one's subconscious mind and stop the sabotage? The answer is elegantly simple: positive self-talk. All statements or questions must be voiced in a positive light. An ounce of negativity will ruin the whole soup.

Some of the things I say to myself while I'm driving to the gym at 5am: (yes, out loud - who's gonna hear it?)
  • I kick ass!
  • I am doing this for me.
  • I am going to feel so great after this workout!
  • I love the muscle definition I am getting back.
  • How can I get closer to my goal today?
  • How many other people actually get their asses out of bed and kick ass like I do at 5am?
While I'm working out: (I repeat these in my head. I hope. Who the hell knows what sounds really come out of me when I have my music turned up so loud?)
  • I can get one more rep in before I hit the cardio.
  • I am stronger now than I was last week.
  • What can I add to my workout to keep myself in shape for work and prevent injuries?
  • I am leaner now than I was before this workout.
  • Wow, I feel strong/great/like I could go all day/badass
I admit, it sounds new-agey. Maybe even a little flaky. You know what? I don't care. It's been proven time and again to work. Professional sports teams now hire visualization coaches for their multi-million dollar players. Would they spend that kind of bank on crap that doesn't work?

I'm not saying I'm a fucking ray of sunshine because at 4:15am when that alarm goes off, I don't spring up out of bed with a big goofy grin and cartwheel into my gym clothes. I hit snooze twice, and whine, and trudge toward the coffee maker with a scowl on my face that would send Chuck Norris running the other way with his tail tucked between his legs. Hell, just the other day I was standing there in my underwear in front of the mirror, grabbing my love handles and yelling at them: "GO away!!!!" Alas, they are still there, so, like the subconscious, love handles do not respond well to negative talk directed their way.

Perhaps I should have worded it, "I am MAKING YOU go away!" There is always room for improvement.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Cast of characters

I'm a people-watcher.

I have this tendency to create my own names, identities and backstories for people who I run across in everyday life, but whom I don't know from a can of paint. Lately, I keep seeing the same faces at the gym and I amuse myself during those cardio sessions when the closed-captioning on the tvs is pissing me off and I can't watch any more.

A few of the regulars:

Daddy: He is the first person I noticed and named at the gym. Older guy, probably in his 50s, tall with an athletic build. He obviously dyes his hair jet black; it's sort of naturally poufy and he seems pretty proud of it. I'm still trying to figure out Daddy's entire story. From what I can ascertain so far, he uses the gym as his personal employment pool for his bevy of 20 year old strippers (or escorts, haven't totally figured it out yet.) He looks intensely (not intently, intensely) at the youngest girls with the bounciest asses and boobs. He'll position himself on a cardio machine behind one and just bore through them with his eyes. He saunters around like it's a job fair for the world's oldest profession and he's the CEO.

PlasticGirl: A 20-something girl most often seen talking to Daddy, or with Daddy keeping an intent eye on her from across the gym, looking like if the wrong guy talks to her without seeing him first, there will be hell to pay. I am reasonably sure Daddy is not her... well... daddy. If he is, and he looks at her like that, well... *shudder* He watches over her like a possession, and truth be told, she looks like one. Sculpted to proportions that don't seem earthly or real unless you were raised in a Mattel factory, I think she is the face (and body) of Daddy's business - whatever that may be - and probably does a good bit of the recruiting. Rarely seen at the gym without Daddy.

The Poolboy: Dark, olive-skinned, brown-eyed, brooding boy who looks to be in his 20s. Long black hair, tied carefully back into a ponytail, with waves that set a cougar's heart all a-pitter-patter - but just makes me want to ask him what types of hair product he uses. I hate guys with nicer hair than me. And guys that are more sensitive than me. He looks like he would do a half-assed job cleaning your pool, then sit beside you on a deck chair, massage tanning oil onto the small of your back, read you poetry that brings a tear to his soulful eyes - then run off with your secretly gay husband.

Steven Segal With a Tic: Ok, this guy doesn't resemble SS except that he is very large (like 8 feet tall!) and muscular, you know, the kind of guy that still wears those crazy colored Hulk Hogan type baggy workout pants, and he wears his black hair in a pony tail. I didn't really feel the need to name him until I saw him doing cardio the other day, walking fast on a treadmill, every few seconds contorting his face into all sorts of interesting grimaces. I had seen him before in the weight area and had never seen the tic before, so either cardio gives him apoplectic fits of boredom (I feel ya, brother!) or he's really getting down to his playlist.

The BrokeBack Grunts:  A pair of thick-necked guys who work out together, each trying to out-manly-grunt each other while lifting free weights. They live in a fabulously decorated loft and after workouts they eat ice cream right out of the carton, watch Sex And The City, then spoon together.

Last, but not least...

Special Ops: Every gym has a Special Ops. He's in his 40s. He wears camo, every day. His hair is long and stringy, and in a pony tail. Presumably this is because he was dropped into the jungle and had to survive by eating grubs and drinking his own pee and breaking the necks of any guerilla soldiers whose job it is to his disrupt his mission - and he couldn't find a barber in the jungle. Oddly, he never breaks a sweat at the gym. Because sweat is for us civilian pussies.

I wonder what they call me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I don't want to jinx myself, but...


... I've gotten back into my gym schedule.

I have made it to the gym 5 days Monday through Friday, which means I've hit my attendance goal. I'm not half-assing it either, people. I made a commitment to myself that I'd kick the cardio up to an hour per session. I need to do that until this weight comes off. Yes, I'm in great shape and I am seeing muscle definition I haven't seen in years, but these lbs and love handles aren't going to go away just because I asked nicely. Glaring at them isn't helping either, in case you were thinking of trying that.

I have been struck every day by the irony that the more sleep I have to sacrifice to accomplish this, the more energy I seem to have. I don't have the gym scheduled for weekends. That eliminates the dilemma of what to do when I'm on daylights and have to work Saturday and Sunday, 8a-8p, the exact hours the gym is open. Last weekend, by 2pm, I sat down in a chair at work and felt like I slipped into a coma. More like, swan dived with a half gainer, into a coma. For 45 minutes, it was all I could do to even keep my eyes open. This... during a weekend where I was "catching up on my sleep", getting a whopping 7 hours each night.

These days I grudgingly haul my ass out of bed at 4:15am (after whining, hitting snooze twice, and finally getting woken up by the dog, who has my schedule down cold and always comes in to give me just a single cold-nosed poke on my cheek). The difference in my energy levels is palpable. And the brain fog - on those days I put in some sweat equity, my brain actually works! I have visions of a little bristle-eared janitor guy inside my brain, his ass crack hanging out of his loose green Dickies work pants, busily sucking cobwebs out of the far crevices of my brain with an industrial-strength Shop Vac. I'm thinking he does this during cardio because I have my music blaring and he doesn't want to disturb me with the Shop Vac - nice of him.

With all of this knowledge, you'd think I'd be lying there at 4am, trying to Jedi mind-trick my alarm to go off so I can get my endorphin hit. Well, if you think that, sorry, you're smoking crack mistaken. I still have to talk myself into it. Get my gym clothes on the moment I get up. Turn on all the lights in the living room and wake my brain up; after all, those brain-spiders had a few hours to rebuild their cobwebs. I give myself a deadline to leave the house, otherwise I will sit and drink coffee and watch the news until it's time to get ready for work. I remind myself repeatedly how much better the commute to work is from the gym than from home. There's an elaborate mind game that goes on, every day. That's not to say it's not becoming a habit, because I feel like it is. However, I've been practicing the other habit for years now. A few months of doing something that's slightly inconvenient and kind of physically hard is no match for half a lifetime of lazy and gluttonous.

It's a fight every day, and not even close to a fair fight. However, this week, I won.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


That's what I get for taking a couple weeks month(ish) off of my 5 day a week workout schedule. My chicken cutlets - as they call them on What Not To Wear (the area between your underarm and boobs) - and my pecs are positively throbbing with pain - I swear my upper pecs are even a little swollen. (I do not desire or need more swelling in this area.) Reaching over my head produces an involuntary groan each and every time. It must be quite amusing to the 20-somethings I work with.

I resorted to NSAIDs last night, which means it's nearly unbearable, but today is arms/back day. The tricep dips are going to be horribly painful fun.

There's always the whirlpool to look forward to afterward, right?

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to it

The holidays have, thankfully, come and gone. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy them. What I don't enjoy is the onslaught that begins earlier and earlier every year. I remember nearly having a fit of apoplexy in Kohl's when I saw Christmas displays up in mid-October. I remember mumbling psychotically to myself and shaking my head. I may have twitched once or twice. Hey, it keeps the pesky salespeople away.

*mental note* try this next time I'm browsing on a car lot

But... I digress.

There has definitely been a shift in my attitude during this time of year. No longer is it the full-on orgy of food, drink, food, and food. And cookies. Nope. We had our Thanksgiving dinner, and our pumpkin (mini) pies. We had our leftovers. We had our Christmas ham. However, something was missing. What was it?


Oh, yeah. The pressure. The pressure to have x-dozen of x-variety of cookies made and given out. The pressure to consume anything and everything in the name of "It's the holidays!" The pressure to visit here, there, everywhere and please everyone.

Is it wrong to savor the memories of Christmas day, me in my new Christmas pajamas and earrings, switching between A Christmas Story and my dvr selections, dozing on the floor curled up with my dog, ignoring the phone calls from the tipsy neighbors, who felt terrible that I had to work Christmas night and trying to invite me to their family dinners so I "wouldn't be alone" on Christmas? If that's wrong, I don't wanna be right. It was sheer bliss, except for the fact of having to show up at work that night, but even that wasn't too terribly bad.

I do regret the lapse in the 5-day-per-week workout schedule that I had established in the fall. The holidays weren't its downfall, however. It was my house. Now that that is no longer an issue, and there is no out of town trip looming, the schedule is back in effect. A lapse, pure and simple, is all that it was.

Other than the regret of the temporary slowdown of my gym visits - and even on the days I skipped the gym the dog and I were often taking snowy walks together - I have come out of this holiday season feeling great. I don't have the January hangover and pounds and bloat and fatigue hanging over me. I don't have the dread of some impossible and ridiculous unsustainable diet/exercise plan that I "have to" start come January 1. I have my routine to get back to, and dare I say I am so looking forward to it.

Here's to 2010!