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.

This is actually something I would like advice on.

I feel out of place and like I’m doing something, or everything, wrong when I’m at the gym. And I’m so caught up in that I’ve never really thought about ways to encourage other people there.

Let me explain what brought this up:

Today I went in to swim around 1am. There was a man getting in the pool right about the same time as me. I followed him in down the steps- I prefer to walk in down the steps and then get in lane.

He asked if I wanted the first lane and I told him I was fine taking the second lane, it’s just easier to come down the steps and then duck under the buoys.

After that he struck up some conversation with me asking me how many laps I was going to do. I said I wasn’t sure, probably not many since the pool closes at 2. I ask how many he was doing and he said he doesn’t know, he just does what he can. A lot of stop and go. I said the same for me (I have to rest at least every 100m, if not more often).

We both then started off and I outpaced him for sure as I was swimming the laps and he was doing a bit of swimming and a bit of walking (they do say that if you want to walk laps, to use the leisure pool, but I am guessing late at night when there are only 1 to 2 lanes in use period they aren’t super strict in enforcing that.)

Later I was resting at the same time he was taking a bit of breather, and he told me good job or that I was doing good or something like that. I laughed and said thanks. Told him the same. He says, oh no, not me, I’m just moving around. I said, hey, you are moving, that is something!

Then another time I took a break floating during my rest time, he asked how I did that. I told him I really don’t know [I really don’t actually] I seem to just be naturally buoyant [maybe it’s all the fat lol]. But if i just relax in the water, I will float it seems.

He said something else about my swimming being good, and the backstroke being hard. I said that I just started swimming again and am trying to remember what I learned way back in high school. He said he never learned to swim and is just trying to teach himself. I told him that he’s doing well teaching himself. Then we both went back to our laps.

 

Afterwards I started thinking and wondering if he feels as self-conscious and out of place as I do there. I hope he sticks with the swimming. And it has me wondering what is it i could say or do in those situations to try to make someone else feel more comfortable and confident at the gym (if they aren’t. I might be projecting.)

 

What do you think?

 

I skipped swimming  last night due to a migraine. But I was back tonight!

Was similarly quite tonight. There was a guy standing in the lap pool but no one else swimming. Several folks in and out of the leisure pool and hot tub though.

I feel like being able to go swimming like this is the best thing in my life right now!

Love or temporary infatuation? I guess only time will tell 🙂

That said, I am not great at swimming at all! I tried 5 laps of breast stroke tonight and it was absolutely awful. I was more just flailing around than actually doing a breast stroke. My front crawl/freestyle is only marginally better really.

I love not having to share a lane though, especially tonight as I had difficulty swimming straight and was zig zagging back and forth across the lane!

Day 1 New Gym Membership

Posted: August 16, 2016 in My workouts
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So I found a gym near me that has a pool, and it’s open 22 hrs/day. Membership is quite a bit more expensive than the YMCA would be, but the hours are much better compared to limited lap swim hours in the morning at the Y.

I sent a request online for price information and they got me to come in after work to tour the facility and I decided to go ahead and sign up right away.

Then I went  back at midnight for my first time swimming.

I was very happy that at midnight there was only one person in the lap pool who was getting out just as I got there, so no worries about having to share a lane and getting in anybody’s way.

I took a swim class my senior year of high school  (as required at my school) and then swam laps once in college at the pool there (which had limited hours and was always filled).

So needless to say I haven’t done much swimming in awhile.

And I forgot how much of a workout it is! I always think of swimming as relaxing, but a lap in and I was breathing so heavily. I spent a lot of time resting between laps, both to catch my breath and because I was having trouble getting my goggles fitted well.

Also my swimsuit is obviously not great for lap swimming because I had to keep stopping to pull the bottom piece back up over my ass (uh-oh!). Getting a new one soon so hopefully that ends up being better.

At one point while I was catching my breath and adjusting my goggles a guy walked by and said “slow down, speedy! you’re going to get a speeding ticket!” Obviously I wasn’t actually swimming fast. But I laughed. I’m not really sure what the intent of the comment was?

After about 15 minutes of laps (and resting) I decided to call it quits for the night as I was feeling a bit sick. I headed over to relax and stretch in the “spa” (hot tub). In there was I think the same guy as before and another man. One of them greeted me with “how you doing, speedy?” then the other made the same joke that “you’re going to get a speeding ticket, speeding up and down those lanes like that!”.

I laughed and mentioned that I’ve barely down any swimming before today since high school.

 

All in all though, I am very happy! I have missed exercise, I love swimming even if I’m awful at it, and I have really, really, really missed the endorphins that come with exercise! After the swim I felt like my brain was just being showered in happy chemicals!

Hopefully my experiences remain as positive.

I haven’t been posting here much recently but it’s hard to have much to say on a fitness blog when I’m not able to do much in the way of exercise!

I finished up my PT this week.

The good:

I seem to have recovered a fair bit of strength in my left leg (at the start I had apparently lost a lot of strength in my left leg due to favoring my pain free right leg).

Primarily from the rest my pain did go down from around a 7/10 to about a 5/10 (averages). I hardly ever limp anymore, but there is still pain when walking.

The bad:

I am still not cleared for any exercise that involves putting weight on my foot. No walking more than necessary, no running, no krav maga, no heavy lifting.

According to the physical therapist I saw last (I saw 3 different therapists over the time I went), it just takes awhile to heal and I have to wait for it to heal and can’t start doing any of these things until I’m fully pain free.

 

Which is really frustrating. I’m getting very frustrated at the lack of exercise.

I should be able to bike or swim though since that puts no pressure on my heal, so now I need to investigate a way to afford membership somewhere I can swim and/or a bicycle. Looking on amazon it might actually be cheaper to get an indoor exercise bike before buying a new bicycle.

Until then though… more rest!