Tag Archives: Exercise

An Unintentional 10 Miles

One of the many amazing things about living on the farm is that it is 2 miles away from the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area (SRA). That means that David and I have a lot of options for hiking, which is one of our favorite things. But this is not one of my hiking posts. I will do some more of that in the Summer (I totally just capitalized summer without thinking. Because in Minnesota summer is important and precious enough to be a proper noun!).

One of our favorite hikes is a 5-mile loop in the Louisville Swamp unit of the SRA. We had a rare no-plans day off on Saturday, so we headed out despite the balmy 23 degree weather. It’s not a very difficult hike, but I hadn’t done it since October, and my fitness level has plummeted over the winter (possibly the worst plummet in the history of my life, which is saying a lot because I’ve been pretty bad before), so I was damned tired by the end. At mile 4 there is a land bridge across the swamp. A land bridge that had been plowed through to allow for spring melt. What. The. Shit. Why was there nothing posted about this painful reality somewhere along the trail? There was no way around it.

Since we are somewhat experienced hikers who clearly feel that at some point we should be able to trust our instincts, we made the same mistake that we have made many times before. We thought that there must be a shorter way than walking back around on the same trail we had just traveled. Why choose the path of least resistance, right? No. Instead we added at least an additional 2 miles on new trails by trying to read the most non-helpful trail maps in the universe (if the “you are here” marker is so big it covers up the options for turning, that can create quite a problem), and eventually ended up back on the original trail anyway.

I had been in an obnoxiously chipper mood for the first four miles, while my husband had been a bit cranky (he wasn’t feeling the activity that day due to general winter malaise). As soon as we realized that crossing the swamp was not an option for getting back to our car, my mood quickly swung to “do not talk to me. Or look at me, for that matter.” The extra mileage didn’t improve matters. In other words: barely containing my rage. David has a history of choosing moments such as these to suddenly become wildly optimistic and Clark-Griswoldesque:

Source: brainguidance.com

Source: brainguidance.com

He literally says things, non-sarcastically, like “look at that! Are ya taking this all in?!,” while flinging out his arms as if to embrace the world. I can never tell in those moments whether he’s actually trying to cheer me up, or if he has a death wish.

Also, of course, the elastic waistband on my yoga pants chose to fail as we were on our trek back to the car, requiring me to tug upward on my pants and underwear every 15 feet or so. Because the tiredness, wind-burn, and Clark Griswold weren’t enough.

Needless to say, we did make it to the end mostly-intact. By the time we reached the parking lot, the dogs were looking at us reproachfully (that says a lot, since usually hiking is the best thing besides tennis balls and bacon), and we were very red-faced, hungry and dehydrated. A 10 mile hike is usually a fun thing when that’s what we plan on.

I suppose in the end it’s a lesson in being prepared and being able to be in the moment without getting all pissy when your plans take a turn. I seem to stumble into endless opportunities to learn that lesson…

Wind burn

Wind burn

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Working it Out: Gym Hatred and Other Exercise Dramas

I have reached my first little weight loss plateau already. It came sooner than I expected; but once again, I am not 23 anymore, and can’t expect my metabolism to be the same as it was then! I’m doing pretty well on the vegan diet now, so I think it is time pump up the exercise.

I have mentioned here before that I was not a very active child growing up. In fact, exercise was connected to some of my worst childhood traumas. Ah yes, the classic childhood trauma of being the last picked for teams! As you might imagine, being terribly shy, overweight, and not particularly interested in sports did not make me a popular choice in gym class. To make matters worse, my gym teacher throughout all of grade-school (age 5-12) literally bullied me. She would do things like make me stay after class and keep hitting the goddamned volley ball over the net after everyone else had gone to change. She was constantly yelling at me (really yelling – private school teachers were still allowed to be abusive to a certain extent), calling me out and humiliating me in front of classmates – as if I really needed any more humiliation than I already got. She was not being supportive or pushing me to achieve, she was just a straight up evil bitch; and hypocritical too, considering that she had to be well over 200 lbs herself. I recently saw her walking into a restaurant in Savage (yes, she still teaches at the catholic grade school there, and if I heard correctly, might be the principal now. That ASTOUNDS me). This might be kind of extreme, but I told Dave that we were going somewhere else, because, now that I have some balls, I couldn’t be responsible for what I would say to her. My heart was racing, and I could feel the rage waiting to come out. Something along the lines of “Thanks for the bulimia, bitch. It truly hurts my heart that you are still allowed to influence children.” Sometimes its amazing how much people from your childhood can haunt you, and when you see them, it feels like your negative association with that person just happened yesterday.

Ahem, moving on. In short, I didn’t have very good beginnings when it came to exercise. I thought that I sucked at everything physical, which fed into my vicious cycle of unhealthiness. I didn’t exercise because I wasn’t aware that just because I happened to suck at team sports didn’t mean that I sucked at all physical activity. As I got older, I slowly began to discover independent physical activities that I love: hiking, skating, biking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, dance,Yoga, etc. I am actually really good at a lot of those things. Right now the problem is that many of those things are outdoor activities, and it gets dark out before I get home from work each day. I’m just not as fearless (read: stupid) as I was in my younger years, and can’t bring myself to get out on the trails, alone, in the dark. It just isn’t safe. Perhaps with my dog and a can of bear mace…

If I’m not going to work out outdoors in the winter, I will obviously have to workout indoors. I’ve got Yoga, but I need some kind of cardio as well. In the past I have taken care of this requirement by going to gyms. I always start out as a good gym member – going at least 4 times per week. But then, my ambition slowly peters out. The main explanation for my flagging motivation is that I HATE gyms. Really, I do. They’re so boring to me! I don’t lift weights. I don’t do aerobics (I don’t like being confined to the class schedules). I’m a bad swimmer (10 years of lessons as a kid, and my skill level is still at “I won’t drown if you throw me in water”). That leaves the cardio machines. Treadmills don’t make sense to me – I could just take a walk during my lunch break. Stairclimbers hurt my knees (also, I work on the 9th floor of a skyscraper – I regularly take the stairs for free). I do like the stationary bike. But my favorite is the elliptical machine. I adore the elliptical. However, one, maybe two, machines does not a gym member make. Two machines doesn’t make the membership fee worthwhile, and they certainly don’t make showing up at the gym worthwhile! So, no. I will not be a gym member any longer.

Instead, I turn to the poor-man’s elliptical. Instead, I present to you, the GAZELLE!:

It essentially does the same job as the elliptical; it’s just a lot more rickety. So far, what I like most about it is that it gives me an excuse to watch TV guilt free (well, the shows that I watch are still worthy of guilt. But at least I’m not sitting on the couch!)! Apparently bad TV creates motivation where wasting money on a gym membership could not!

If you live in a cold climate, what do you do for exercise during the winter? Do you like the gym? Or do you find alternative methods?

Can Yoga Help Fix My Brain?

Many moons ago, one of my best friends and I attempted to take a Yoga class together. We were both 24 at the time, and we were both pretty hyperactive. Neither of us was able to gather up the focus needed to really get into it. We would goof off through the whole class, and then we’d both infallibly fall asleep during the closing meditation. Both of us decided after our 10 sessions that we were not the Yoga types. My friend and I both remain fairly high-energy, but have mellowed out quite a bit in our “old age.” Both of us have grown in our ability to focus. She practices T’ai Chi. I have tried that (my husband loves it, and has been in touch on and off with a master since he was 16), but it really wasn’t my cup of tea (that pun was intended – if you know how much tea is drank in conjunction with T’ai Chi!).

In recent years I have been feeling a pull again towards yoga. I’ve had little tastes of it when I’ve been in belly dance classes (my attempts to learn belly dance keep getting thwarted – first by my grad school class schedule, and then by breaking my ankle). It seemed like maybe I might like it now that I’m more of a grown-up. Two things sealed the deal on trying it again: 1. David has been doing it as part of his coursework for school, and has been encouraging me to take it up as something we could practice together, 2. Another dear friend of mine mentioned to me, while I was in the middle of a meltdown, that yoga has played a key role in helping her to love her body. She said that she loves it because it helps her to be more “in” her body, and builds the mind-body connection.

My mind-body connection is broken. Well, maybe not broken in the sense that it doesn’t exist, but it is sick in a way that has to be hurting my attempts to get healthier. I have mentioned a couple of times on this blog that I have been through treatment for eating disorders. Part of what causes eating disorders is body dysmorphia. This means that when you look in the mirror, you don’t see what is really there. You see yourself as being distorted somehow – too fat, too ugly, etc. Here’s the description from MayoClinic.com:

Body dysmorphic disorder is a type of chronic mental illness in which you can’t stop thinking about a flaw with your appearance — a flaw either that is minor or that you imagine. But to you, your appearance seems so shameful and distressing that you don’t want to be seen by anyone. Body dysmorphic disorder has sometimes been called “imagined ugliness.”

For info on causes, go here.

As stated above, body dysmorphic is a chronic disorder. The behaviors surrounding it can be cured, but the disorder itself is ongoing (though it can go into remission!). Therefore, one needs to learn good self-care and coping mechanisms. Some doctors want to try to treat this with meds. I disagree with that approach, particularly because there aren’t any medications that are approved for specifically treating this disorder. What you’re actually treating is the related depression, anxiety, etc. I’m not necessarily depressed or anxious in a clinical sense, so I think that behavioral therapy is the way to go. Obviously I learned how to stop starvation and purge behaviors. I’m still working on the binge part; but that is getting progressively better. Otherwise, I am doing a pretty good job on the physically self-destructive behaviors front.

The more internal symptoms are the hard part. Especially since I actually am on the heavier side at the moment. Here is a list of symptoms, hand-picked from MayoClinic.com, that I struggle with:

  • Preoccupation with your physical appearance
  • Strong belief that you have an abnormality or defect in your appearance that makes you ugly
  • Frequently examining yourself in the mirror or, conversely, avoiding mirrors altogether (I avoid)
  • Believing that others take special notice of your appearance in a negative way
  • Feeling extremely self-conscious
  • Refusing to appear in pictures (I don’t mind this if I am not overweight. If I am, I will still do it, but it makes me feel miserable)
  • Comparing your appearance with that of others (the funny part about this is that though I am very hard on myself, most other people look lovely to me. Therefore, inside my brain, almost everyone is better looking than I am)
  • Avoiding social situations (only when I’m heavy. If I am, I will try to avoid situations where we are going “out,” or where there are a lot of people I don’t know).
  • Wearing excessive makeup or clothing to camouflage perceived flaws (I have relaxed on this front. I will now go some places without makeup on, but for a long time, even though I don’t wear a lot of makeup, I wouldn’t leave the house without the minimal amount I do wear).

These symptoms all appear as minor behaviors that other people may or may not notice.  The bigger part is inside my head. I know rationally that all of these things are extremely self-centered and/or untrue. However, the whole reason that it is a disorder is because it is irrational. These symptoms, at certain times, will keep me from doing things that I love to do.

When my friend mentioned yoga to me as a form of body-love, I was crying because I didn’t want to go out dancing. I didn’t want to go because I was embarrassed of my body. Usually I can hide the real reason that I don’t want to go, but she had kept pressing me about it until I had to be honest. I LOVE to dance. But at the moment it is hard for me to do it. Obviously I am getting more and more comfortable with being honest about what’s going on in my head. I attribute this to being less and less lazy about self-care.  Meditation  helps a lot to re-program my thinking-keeps out the automatic negative thoughts (ANTS). Exercise helps a lot with endorphins and just getting rid of energy that I might use against myself. Massage helps dissolve issues with being seen.

On Monday night I finally started a yoga class. I have practiced it every day this week, and I already know that I love it. I am looking into doing another weekly class. It is so good; it is so good because it is something that I feel good doing right now. Not when I am thinner or in better shape. I don’t feel self conscious or judged in the studio, which I think must have something to do with the spiritual aspect of yoga. I don’t think when I’m doing it, I just feel. It is the first thing that I have done that feels like it is addressing all of my broken pieces at once.

Anyhow, if you are a person that has body image issues, and aren’t already doing yoga, I highly recommend starting!