Archive for September, 2016

I’m always trying to push myself, little by little, to get out of my comfort zone and do things that make me freak out. Eventually with this process, I get to try new things, and become comfortable in more environments.

Joining the gym in the first place was out of my comfort zone.

Swimming at the gym was out of my comfort zone, even at night with few people around.

Swimming during the day with lots of people around but an empty lane was another step out of my comfort zone after I got comfortable with swimming at night.

Yesterday I went to the gym after work before the debate expecting to be too drunk after the presidential debate to go to the gym. I forgot how crowded they get during the day. The mall sized parking lot for the gym was packed. I almost turned around then, but the upside of driving 40 minutes to the gym is it makes me less inclined to turn around and head home without getting my workout in.

When I went in, the pool was packed. 4 out of 5 lanes were reserved for the next hour and half for “programs”. Leaving only 1 lane for anyone, like myself, who was just there to swim. When I got there, there were two men sharing that lane already. I was nervous about trying to be a third in the lane, it didn’t look like it would work well, especially with one dude swimming the butterfly stroke. I waited a bit and one of them left so I decided to go ahead and ask the remaining guy if I could share the lane. He said no problem. Shortly after another person joined, so we did end up with 3 people sharing the lane.

Super out of my comfort zone there, but I sucked it up and did it. And in the end, as always, it was not at all as scary as I make it out to be in my head.

I did end up changing my workout plan based on sharing the lane but I did 10 laps of front crawl and called it a day.

Ever since I’ve started making an effort to push myself out of my comfort zone, I’ve been doing more and having lots more fun. I definitely plan to keep with it and keep trying new things. It’s uncomfortable and even scary at first, but so far has been very worth it!

Swimming is Hard

Posted: September 26, 2016 in My workouts, Uncategorized
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I had no idea until I started swimming. I hear about open water swims that are 1-2 miles and I always thought “oh, short swim”. 1 mile is short walking or running. I had no idea how long a 1 mile swim is.

I was shocked to discover when I started swimming that to swim 1 mile I had to swim 33 laps at my gym pool. 33. Wow. I now have swam 1 mile in one go 3 times now. A mile has never seemed so far in my life until trying to swim it. And I swim in a pool, where I can kick off the wall ever 25 meters, and I do half of it backstroke which is far easier (and slower) than front crawl (freestyle). I can only do a few laps freestyle before I need a rest. Whole new respect for people who do long open water swims!

Of course breathing when swimming is the biggest struggle for me. Walking or running, it’s easy- you gasp desperately for air. The hardest part is if I start coughing from my asthma. But swimming? My body wants to pant for air but much of the time (freestyle swimming) my face is in the water and that would result in me drowning. This is the biggest reason I do half the swimming backstroke- it keeps my face out of the water and I can breathe easily.

Luckily my gym has a lifeguard if I ever should fail at the “don’t breathe in the water” step of swimming. Though less comforting when the lifeguard spends long periods talking to someone facing away from the pool I’m in or hours with their nose in their phone, so hopefully I don’t ever need saving.

On the topic of swimming, I’ve been reading The First 20 Minutes by Gretchen Reynolds and she mentions a study where they made rats swim in barrels for 3 hours. THREE HOURS! Those poor rats is all I can think 😦 If we want to understand the impact of swimming on bodies, can’t we use willing human volunteers?

My last mile swim was 1hr 20min 30sec with rests. And those poor rats had to swim 3 hours with no rests. I love swimming but ouch. Poor rats.

Fuck Flattering

Posted: September 22, 2016 in Uncategorized
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A drawing of my Uncle Joe

My Uncle Joe passed away last Friday night and his funeral was this week. I will miss him a lot. I use art often to help me deal with emotions, especially when I am upset. So I started a sketch of my uncle based on a photo of him. The sketch is above, it’s based on a photo of him from my younger cousin’s birthday party when he had a lei around his head.

My aunt who took the photo commented about it and how he told her not to delete it even though it wasn’t the most flattering photo of him.

I chose this photo as one to draw from though because I felt like it really captured who he was. His smile, it showed him looking very happy enjoying himself, and it shows his humor and how he could be very silly and playful (especially with kids).

This got me thinking about “unflattering” photos. We all worry about those, right? I know I have complained many, many, many times about photos I think I look bad in.

Bad usually defined as looking further from social standards of beauty than I might at other times or other angles.

I don’t think I’ve ever complained about a “bad” photo where I meant that I looked bad in the sense that it made me look like a mean, thoughtless, uncaring person. No, bad means I look very large, I have a double chin, my eyes are too small looking, my cheeks too big and puffy, I have too much acne, or my face looks too red, and so on.

But at the end of the day, what does any of that matter?

At the end of our lives no one is going to look back on photos and judge how closely we aligned with social standards of beauty. No, they will look at them to remember the times we spent together, the way we made them feel, and remember all the amazing characteristics about who we are as people that they loved about us. And likely none of that will be related to what we looked like.

This doesn’t just apply after death either, for the most part, friends and family don’t care how “flattering” photos of us are, they want photos of us to capture the memories, emotions, and aspects of who we are that they love.

So I am writing this as a reminder to myself and hopefully inspiration to others as well to let go of caring about if photos are “flattering” or not. Doesn’t matter if that photo with family captured you from a bad angle that highlights some flaw you dislike in your appearance, that really isn’t important. Let the photo capture the moment, the memory, and your personality. But stop worrying about “flattering”

Broken Foot

Posted: September 12, 2016 in About Me, Uncategorized
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So followed up with my doctor about heel pain today and was told there was no need for me to avoid exercise due to it any longer.

 

YES!

 

Oh, but also I broke my foot on Sept 2nd and so I do need to stay off it until that heals.

 

Dammit.

 

-_-

 

Lesson learned, next time just let the skunk spray you instead of trying to run away and falling over and spraining both ankles and breaking your foot. *sigh*

So I was reading something online that mentioned a book Beat the Gym by Tom Holland. I bought this book but was very unimpressed with it myself, though I can see how some of it might be useful to people who are brand new to fitness and gyms.

 

He begins early in the book talking about how gyms make their money primarily on people who sign up and pay but do not use, or rarely use, the gym. He gives some tips to be the kind of person who uses the gym all the time instead. I disagree with some of his points though and in writing a review of the book I thought I would write my own, very non-professional, list of ways to get the most out of your gym membership.

 

  1. Know Yourself, know what you want, know what you will do

One piece of advice he gives that doesn’t hold true to me is that you don’t need to love your gym just like it well enough and the most important factor is distance. Well, this really is not true for me. I joined the gym I did because it has a pool with very flexible hours (only closed 2hrs/day for cleaning). He actually writes off pools as rather unimportant features of gyms that get too much attention. Well… that depends on if you will use it or not. If you know you aren’t going to swim or go in the pool much, who cares if your gym has a pool? But if that’s important to you, then obviously it is an important feature! Swimming is what keeps me coming back to the gym. I joined for swimming and from going in for swimming almost every day I’ve started utilizing other things the gym offers, like weights and stationary bikes. I would not have joined just for those though.

 

  1. Do something and go somewhere you ENJOY

If I took his advice to go based on location only, I would have joined the planet fitness right by my house. And I probably wouldn’t ever go to it. Instead I drive past the planet fitness and 20 minutes out of my way, and 20 minutes back, to go to the gym I do. But it doesn’t feel like too much of a hassle because I enjoy my time there so much. Despite being further away I go almost daily, because going to the gym is something I look forward to. The same could be said of the place I go for Krav Maga.

 

I’m not telling you to join my gym, to take up swimming, or take up Krav Maga. But doing something you ENJOY, I think, is going to make a bigger difference in your consistency than convenience. If it’s close and convenient to get to, but the workout itself still feels like a chore, it’s going to be harder to be consistent than if it’s something you enjoy and want to fit into your schedule. Though certainly knowing your schedule (see #1 for knowing yourself) and if it works is also important. Despite loving Krav Maga even before I was on my medical restriction from it I was not doing it very often simply because very often my work and school schedule prevented me from making the class times. It doesn’t matter how much I enjoy it, work and school are requirements that I can’t forgo in favor of taking a krav maga class.

 

  1. Don’t Worry About Other People

I think the best advice he gives in the book is that most people are focused on themselves at the gym and not to worry about people paying attention to or judging you. Though he bugged me when he then goes on to give fashion advice including saying spandex is a “privilege not a right” and then cautioning against outlandish 80’s workout clothes. I say fuck his fashion advice. If spandex is comfortable or makes you feel good working out, rock your spandex. If you feel good in your 80’s fitness fashions, rock those. If you want to wear garishly bright Lisa Frank leggings (and really, who wouldn’t want to?) then do it! And don’t worry about what other people might think of what you are wearing. You’re there for you, let them worry about their own fashions.

 

  1. Pamper Yourself/Do Things That Make You Feel Good

This is similar to #2 except whereas 2 was about doing exercise you enjoy, this is about other factors. This is something I’ve been thinking about mentioning, which is how much I’m enjoying amenities I didn’t care about when I signed up. Not only do I enjoy swimming, but after swimming I relax in the hot tub, and I also have been making use of the steam room at the gym I go to. Does sitting in a hot tub or steam room do much for my fitness? Not really (though I do stretch in the hot tub). But I find it relaxing and I look forward to it. And it’s certainly good for my health because it helps me destress.

 

I’ve actually started a bit of a pampering ritual for myself after workouts. So far I end every workout with swimming (either I just swim, or I do some strength training and then swim). After swimming I stretch and then relax in the hot tub. After a bit of that I go back to the locker room and grab my little baggie with my shampoo and so on in it, which also has a charcoal face mask/scrub in it. I take a quick shower to cool down and use the face mask/scrub. Then I go relax or meditate in the steam room. After that I take a full shower, get dressed, and head home.

 

In addition the gym I go to has a spa in it, which I didn’t care about when I joined but I am definitely making use of it now, planning to get massages as regularly as I can afford to. The spa services cost money, not included in the gym membership, but still it’s something in the gym that isn’t a workout but still has benefits for me and I enjoy. Make going to the gym something you enjoy- both the exercise and anything else about it. You deserve it!

 

  1. Be Comfortable in Your Own Skin and Don’t Shame Others For Being Comfortable in Theirs

I’ve been thinking in my head how I know I’m getting old now because it doesn’t bother me to strip down naked in the locker room. When I was younger I never understood how adults could be comfortable changing in such a public place. Even when I joined the gym last month I wasn’t very comfortable with it. Part of my comfort comes not just from age but also because working out makes me feel more comfortable in my own skin.

And so here is another point where I disagree with Tom Holland. He complains about too much nudity in the locker rooms.

Me- I think feeling comfortable enough in your own skin to be naked is a wonderful thing! The more you feel that the better. And when other people are comfortable with their bodies be happy for them being comfortable in them. If you don’t want to see someone naked, then just don’t look. Even if you do want to see someone naked, you still should keep your eyes to yourself and not be creepy.

But most importantly, don’t shame other folks for daring to be naked in a place designed for nakedness. Focus on yourself.

 

This isn’t all necessary of course, just my own little anecdotes turned advice about enjoying going to the gym.

I’d been meaning for a while to write about my experiences with motivational interviewing, and specifically the aspect of non-judgment in it, at my job but I guess I haven’t done that yet.

I was reminded of this recently though when I had some personal training sessions at my new gym. Which left me thinking that boy, personal training certifications should also come with motivational interviewing training!

Of course, I always think everyone in the world would benefit from a little social work training, so I’m a bit bias of course.

Let me back up first though and talk a bit about my experiences with this at work. Motivational interviewing is a method of brief intervention that is meant to help motivate people to change, but it does so in ways that are not pushy and never judgmental. Many of the underlying principles of motivational interviewing come out of person centered therapy as developed by Carl Rogers. I, myself, am a huge Rogers fan. His theory for psychotherapy is that change for people comes through unconditional acceptance and positive relationships, and so that is the primary purpose of a psychotherapist- to provide that unconditional positive regard and warm relationship.

Motivational interviewing comes primarily from the substance abuse field. It is a method of working with someone who maybe is starting to see the problems with their substance use but often are not ready to make changes yet. We call this the contemplation stage. And the idea is first off, that you go with what they say and accept it without judgment. There is not judgment about their use, their reasons for use, or their reasons for not wanting to become sober. Of course the motivational interviewing part comes in with emphasizes the change statements they themselves make in order to help them move toward wanting to make changes. But it is NEVER directive. A therapist using motivational interviewing will never direct a client that they need to abstain from substances, or tell them that they are wrong for their reasons for using or the things they like about it or why they don’t see it as a problem. (ie “I don’t want to stop using because I will lose my friends”, “well those people aren’t really your friends then”- this is not motivational interviewing. Motivational interviewing would explore what this means for the client and accept without judgment that they fear losing meaningful relationships to them if they quit using).

Right now I am working in integrated healthcare. So I work with folks with physical health, mental health, and/or substance abuse disorders. A lot of what I do with this is actually applying the concepts of motivational interviewing to physical health disorders. A big one I work with is diabetes. And boy, have I noticed what a huge difference it makes in folks that they are not being judged! If I talk to someone with diabetes that is not well controlled about their diet, often they first thing they say is “I know, I know, I need to stop eating/drinking X” or something like that. They know. They have gotten the lecture many times from doctors and nurses. And those lectures don’t work. The tone completely changes though when I don’t respond by telling them what they have to do, or warning them of all the dangers of not doing what I tell them (the most common approach taken by doctors). From there, they often start talking about their own ideas for how they can make changes that make sense for them.

“I know, I shouldn’t put sugar in my coffee because of my blood sugar. I just can’t stand black coffee and I can’t get going in the morning without my coffee.”

“That makes sense, you need that boost of energy from coffee in the morning but you don’t like the taste of black coffee. And that would be a huge change to go from that much sugar to just black coffee.”

“Yeah, exactly. Though I think I could maybe cut down on the sugar a little bit”

“Yeah, cutting down a little bit would help and it would probably be less harsh of a difference than just trying to drink coffee black when you aren’t used to that.”

And then we explore more about how they feel about this and what their thoughts and plans are. They are used to being told though that they just shouldn’t put sugar in their coffee and that’s not a change that they are ready or willing to make. So they sit through the lectures and don’t do anything differently after.

 

I was reminded of this when I went through personal training at the gym because the trainer I worked with was very directive. And that did not work with me either. I like working out, but personal training made me feel like I was taking a class, with directions I had to follow whether they were what I wanted or not, and with homework and scolding if I didn’t follow directions or didn’t do the homework. (ok, so “scolding” might be a drastic way of phrasing it, but still, it was that feeling of having to do what you are told and if not you are “in trouble” in some sense.)

There were of course a few specific issues I had too. I told her early one what my goal in joining the gym was- about my current limitations, but how I want to regain the former activity and strength I had.

She accepted my comment that I was not trying to focus on weight loss, only to turn around and tell me how I needed to focus on fat loss. As though rephrasing it that way made it different.

Even though my focus was activity she also made nutrition the focus, telling me how I had to stop intermittent fasting. She also claimed this was both the reason I am fatigued all the time (not my illnesses!) and also why I’m fat. I do not react well to people who do not have the same health issues trying to explain to me the right way to deal with fatigue or the magic cure for it. Even someone who also struggles with chronic illness and fatigue, doesn’t mean their experiences are the same as mine.

The thing is, these topics probably could have been covered a lot better using a more motivational interviewing method. First off, motivational interviewing, if I say I am focused on activity more than nutrition we would focus there, not try to keep redirecting me back to nutrition. Advice would never be directive or one size fits all. She could have asked me how to I feel about intermittent fasting, how it works for me, if I want to change it (the answers would be that I feel better eating this way and no I do not want to change that). She could have asked if there were things I wanted to change, what they were, what my barriers to change are, how things might be different without those barriers, how to address those barriers, whatever. I’m not saying my diet is perfect all the time or that I couldn’t eat in a way that is healthier for me sometimes, including eating in ways that help me manage my illness better. I’ve written here before about the struggles of my illness making eating well more difficult, and yet when I don’t it can make my illness worse. It’s a bit of a catch 22 at times, because if I don’t have the spoons to cook, I don’t have the soons to cook. That’s how spoons work.

 

And I don’t mean to sound that mean toward her or anything because I could go through a lot of things I think she also did well working with me! And the reason I didn’t continue with the personal training was mostly financial (and in a related sense spiritual). My point was more so that being on the receiving end of that really had me thinking how much better (in my opinion) things like personal training could be if they utilized more motivational interviewing skills.