Monday, January 31, 2011


After almost a year's absence, I returned to my Pilates class today and now I'm wondering why I stayed away.  I've had the time slot open since the first week of December but in typical fashion never got around to going.  I even had three classes left on my pre-paid five-class pass!  The studio is a block and a half away from my house.  I had no excuse.

My relationship with Pilates has been love-hate.  People who have been following this Blog will have read about how I put my back out in a Pilates class way back at the beginning when I had no abdominal strength.  Pilates is not necessarily for the beginner, or, if you are one you should always make the instructor aware that it is your first class.  I did that but that instructor was very young and less aware of what an older person is capable of.  Pilates and I broke up for a while after that and I couldn't return to it for months; until I had developed more strength, which only came through slow, gradual work with a trainer.

Now that I have lots more strength I can drop into a class any time and get through unscathed, though I still find some of the exercises challenging because they target specific muscle groups.  Pilates is a very intellectual approach to exercise.  It teaches you to focus on the muscles you want to engage in a particular movement an isolate them.  It develops core strength which in turn provides stability and balance as well as improving posture.

Turns out it was just what the doctor ordered.  I've become so tight and sore from the increased amount of running and strength training that I wanted to weep for joy at the amount of release this class gave me.
In today's class I felt my blood pulsing in my navel region after a set of abdominal exercises and a nice warm feeling radiating outward from there.  That told me those muscles had been engaged.  There were some stretches for the large leg muscles, the quadriceps and hamstrings that felt so good I asked the instructor to marry me!  She laughed at that.  She recognised me even from last Spring when I last showed up.  That's the sign of a good trainer.  She knows I am a runner and knew what exercises to give me.  Even now, a good 40 minutes later I am feeling warmth in my thighs and a pleasant sensation in my abs.  Such a great work-out!  Makes me wonder why I stayed away.  Never again!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Time Not Wasted

We talked about physical activity at Weight Watchers this week and as usual, the best ideas didn't come from me.  One of my members came up with the most inspiring outlook towards exercise.  She said "Any time spent exercising can never be considered time wasted."  How true is that?  How many times have I wasted time in my life?  Too many to count, but I have never come home from a fitness session thinking I could have spent my time some other, better way.

To that end I have increased the number of work-outs I am doing weekly.  All going according to plan I will now be doing two strength training sessions per week along with two one-hour runs and one Pilates class.  This is up from the three I used to do at boot camp and the two it has deteriorated to since then.  I need to see results and I won't get them with two work-outs.  So today, despite getting up at 5:00 a.m. for my two Saturday morning meetings I went to the club when I got home and spent an hour working out on my own.

It's fifteen minute walk to the club when Higgie's not around to drive me and somehow that always seems to make going on my own an insurmountable obstacle (!) but I would not give in to my sleepiness after lunch and off I went.  I wasn't happy to be there and the ten minute warm up I did on the treadmill felt unpleasant but once I got into the program Bruce has laid out for me it went fine.  I downloaded three new songs for my iPod before leaving home so having some new music to work out to was a nice change.  I noticed I had lost some strength in my arms from not being consistent enough with weight training but it will come back.  When doing an overhead triceps curl I also noticed there is no extra skin hanging off my arms any longer.

When I left the club the sun was shining brilliantly, reflecting off the lake like a gold.  I felt great, I listened to my tunes all the way home and realised it had been an afternoon extremely well-spent.

Tomorrow: running again.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Can Do This

Training again.  My weight is fluctuating and I need to be more consistent.  While I'm still at goal I really don't like being in that upper two pound margin.  So, today I worked on running for speed and increased the treadmill speed from 4.5 kph to 5.0 and 5.5 kph.  I ran for 62 minutes covering approximately five miles.  While I ran I concentrated on form, pulling in my stomach and having a more erect carriage to avoid tightness and pain in my lower back later.  Doing so I was reminded of how people often say "Suck it up!" when things get tough.  I think what they should really be saying is "Suck it in!" because when you do so you activate a whole realm of muscles which can give you an incredible burst of strength - a hidden reserve, as it were.

I'm finding spending that much time on the treadmill is no longer as taxing as it was a few weeks ago.  I'll be able to push past the one hour mark in the next few weeks, I'm thinking.  I can't help but reflect on how far I've come.  I think about this daily.  To go from being a person who couldn't climb stairs to someone who finds an intense one hour cardio work out 'not that taxing' is nothing short of a miracle.  And then it hits me: I'm 57 years old!  Ten years it would never have been possible.

I also find I'm managing to wean my self off my trainer habit.  I had become so attached to Bruce, and while I'm sorry my plans for winter training didn't work out the way I had hoped, I know I have the discipline to carry on by myself - with Higgie's help, of course!  I've come this far, so I know I can keep going.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Talking to Members about Getting Fit

This week I took on a new meeting in an At Work setting.  I always enjoy these meetings because they are a more intimate setting and there are few members.  Yesterday we were a group of 15 in a beautiful boardroom with a view of the lower part of downtown Toronto.  The members were excited and hopeful, which is a beautiful thing to see.  Meanwhile, enrollment in all my other meetings (I do a total of eight per week) is through the roof due to the interest the new program has engendered.  I am speaking to groups of 60 people in some situations and it is challenging, to say the least!  I have fun though and try to keep everyone laughing and light-hearted while they search in vain for somewhere to sit.

This week's topic for discussion was about moving more.  It's a subject that a lot of people are reluctant to discuss because in the past most of our members have never moved more than off the couch to the refrigerator, myself included!  I always thought I was active but looking back now I have to remind myself that the hiking I thought I did regularly was about four times a year.  I rode my bike once a month.  I skied maybe twice a year.  I walked a lot on the job, but not too swiftly.  My boss's horrible bratty daughter refused to walk with me because she said I was too slow.  I hated her for it, but there you are.

The concept of fitness was once foreign to me too, but now I have come to understand a whole lot more about it.  For example, I wonder why people think you can get fit and burn calories while sitting down?  My mother-in-law and her friends all go to Curves.  She's 80 years old and the biggest muscle she works there is in her jaw, chatting away with all her friends while she sits on funny little machines and wiggles her arms back and forth.  She calls that 'working out'.  At her age that's probably as good as it's going to get even if it could lead to repetitive stress injury.  When I have healthy, young women come up to me at meetings and say "But I work out too, I go to Curves," I just want to tell them "Get off your butt and get moving!"  I understand that Curves claims to offer an atmosphere conducive to women who don't feel good about themselves or comfortable in conventional gyms.  Believe me, NO ONE feels comfortable in a gym.  Everyone is sweating and uncomfortable.  I believe companies like Curves prey on the overweight and deconditioned and offer them very little in return.  You cannot get fit sitting still.  Fitness requires full body movement working several muscle groups at once, like walking, or dancing.  To target one muscle group at a time, as machines do, will only work that muscle.  It will not burn calories nor will it get your heart rate up significantly.

Rather than starting out in a gym setting a lot of people might feel more comfortable in a group training session doing something like yoga or pilates where you lift your own body weight or Zumba, which is fun and will raise your heart rate considerably.  It's hard to lose the feeling of being 'a hippo amongst the swans', but once we realise that no one is actually looking at us, or if they are it is with admiration at our dedication to getting fit we can then get on with why we're there.  We should all understand that no trainer is going to say "Go away, you're too fat for me to train."  They rely on people who need to learn the basics and a good trainer will be able to take a group through a program and modify it for people of all levels of fitness.

We are never too fat or unfit to get moving more.  We just gotta wanta.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Treadmills and How my Members Inspire Me

I do some of my best thinking on the treadmill.  I ran for an hour toady.  I registered us for two running events coming up in the Spring and I have to get used to long distance running again, not to mention that half-marathon at some point this year.  It had been a while since I ran for a full hour but after the 30 minute mark I didn't even notice the time.  I need to push it past that first hour, but that will come.

While running I was thinking about the events of the past week.  I had an embarrassing situation arise when I discovered that having Bruce come into the club as my guest to train me was in violation of the club rules.  By coincidence, the membership secretary of the club is one of my Weight Watchers members.  Before the meeti started I asked her if it was okay to sign my trainer as a guest in more than twice a month as is allowed.  She said it was not okay and that since I was paying him, he wasn't allowed, period.  I was shocked and more than a bit unhappy, especially since the conversation took place in front of other members as well.

The following day I had to tell Bruce we were not going to be able to train any longer unless he could find another space for us.  I can't get my money back but he said he would hold it in reserve for Boot Camp again in the Spring.  Well enough, but I was really looking forward to the extra training this winter.  I know I can go on training by myself; I have done it before, but I have become really dependant on a trainer.  I have a foolish and irrational fear that if I don't keep up with my training I will gain all my weight back, which is ridiculous, because first and foremost, I have a weight loss program which works, and I should know that better than anyone.

I spent the rest of the day feeling sorry for myself and fighting the temptation to eat.  I wasn't always successful.  I ate a lot of popcorn and had a few extra bevvies come evening.

The following day I said "Enough!" and forced myself out of bed early.  I went on a house-cleaning rampage and vacuumed, dusted and mopped, as well as cleaning both the bathrooms.  While doing so, I remembered a question from a member in one of last week's meetings.  She asked me when, if ever, she could expect to lose the knee-jerk reaction of wanting to eat chips every time things went wrong, like when she had a fight with her husband.  At the time I told her it would come with training, just like our reaction time becomes trained in fitness.  But I realised, as I cleaned, that we are all guilty of backsliding sometimes, depending on the level of emotional impact.  I need to make cleaning my knee-jerk reaction, not self-pity, whenever there's a kink in my plans.  Wonder what she'd say if I suggested she try cleaning instead of chips?  If it won't work for her it sure did for me.  I have often taken my anger or fear out on my house in the form of a massive cleaning spree.  It helps take my mind off things and I have  clean house as a result.  Sometimes I just fall out of the habit.

All of this came back to me as I ran this morning.  It's about breaking some habits (dependency on trainer) and rekindling some old ones (cleaning) which will get most of us through rough times. 

I can do this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

How I Became a Weight Watchers Leader

The obvious part of this story is that I got to my goal weight.  As I got closer to my goal weight I began thinking about becoming a leader once again as I had been thirty years before.  I remembered how much I had enjoyed doing it then and figured I would do so again.  The difference this time would be a much-improved and easier-to-follow program which would ensure I would remain at goal, together with my work-out routine which was now a well-established part of my life.  I had an excellent incentive: I hated my full-time job. I discussed it with Maureen, my leader, and she held my application in reserve for the day I became a lifetime member.  Soon thereafter I received a call from the Territory Manager for our region and we met for coffee.  It was an interesting interview.  I was asked a lot of unusual questions such as, had I ever inspired anyone to join Weight Watchers (the answer was yes, several people, including family members) and did I feel I had any insights I could pass on to others that might inspire them further.  I told her that thoughts and ideas regarding my whole weight loss experience never ceased to run through my head and I would love to share them with others.

I began Leader Training by  first training as a receptionist.  I was terrible!  I'm not a numbers person but I enjoyed the contact with the members.  When I finished the eight weeks of training my mentor presented me with a graduation gift: a bottle of white-out complete with a bow!  I have an enormous amount of respect for the people who work as receptionists at meetings.  It's a huge job.  Standing in front of people talking is a whole lot easier.  At the same time as I trained as a receptionist I attended a weekend-long seminar at a Weight Watchers Centre.  The trainer was a remarkable lady who had lost over 100 pounds and kept it off for 14 years, but it took her eight tries to 'get' the Weight Watchers message.  After I completed Leader Training I began doing summer fill-ins for leaders who were taking time off. 

At first I considered becoming a leader as a part-time interest.  I was still working full time and loathing my job more and more each day.  I had worked for the past 16 years in the legal profession as a law clerk and process server.  I worked in a small, family-owned business run by a highly dysfunctional family.  I truly believe the children were otherwise unemployable which is why their mother continued to re-hire them every time they walked off the job.  Meanwhile, I stayed there, year after year, listening to them scream abuse at one another.  We did all the 'leg work' for a number of high profile law firms in the city who always did everything last minute (it's a time-honoured legal tradition!) and always wanted it now.  Standing in line at the court house to file documents or running full tilt up the street to serve them on opposing counsel before the limitation ran out was highly stressful and the atmosphere in the office wasn't much better.  It wasn't until I realised the reason I developed a stomach every day beginning around 1:00 p.m. coincided with the time at which the boss-lady showed up that I began to understand I needed to get out of there. 

Yet still I stayed, until, after a routine mammogram I was told I needed a biopsy.  I thought I took it all in stride.  I told myself it was nothing.  But after the biopsy was done I freaked.  After a sleepless night I knew I couldn't go back to work.  I called my boss and said I needed to take the remaining two weeks of my holidays there and then and spend some time at home in my garden thinking good thoughts.  Immediately after that phone call I called my Weight Wathcers manager and told her about my decision.  I said I would do any meetings anywhere, any time just to stay busy and be in a positive, nurturing atmosphere.  She said she would do what she could to help.

After a week of relaxing at home I called my boss and told her I was feeling a lot calmer and was ready to come back.  She said she didn't want me back.  She said she was tired of all my 'meltdowns'.  How many of those had I had, exactly?  So there I was, jobless and awaiting biopsy results.

I did as many summer fill-ins for leaders on holidays as I could to keep busy and get me through until the Fall when new meetings were to begin.  I was offered an At Work meeting beginning in September as well as a meeting at a large grocery store a ten minute walk from my house.  I couldn't wait for them to begin!  I was on my way and I was well-pleased.

Being a leader was a lot harder than it looked.  Getting people to talk is not as simple as you would think.  It takes time and trust, two things you don't have when you're a fill-in and you may not be there next week.  However, a remarkable thing happened at the very first meeting I did.  A woman approached me after the meeting and asked if she could speak with me privately.  She said she had lost her motivation.  She was very near goal but she had just found out her brother was very ill and was finding it tough to stay on program.  Coincidentally, my own brother had just been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  To make matters worse, she had a very abusive boss.  ('Hmmmm', thought I. )  She was also a single mother with two young boys.  'Okay', I thought, 'That's way more stress than anyone needs'.  So I asked her what she thought she needed to do.  We talked about it for a while and we both agreed her children and her brother needed her to be healthy and strong and getting to her goal was a good way to ensure that.  I gave her a hug and she stopped weeping and went on her way.  I often wondered in the weeks to come how she had made out.   I came back to that same meeting to do another fill-in about two months later and she was just receiving Lifetime status that very day.  I was thrilled for her!  She didn't think I would remember her, but how could I forget?  She hadn't known it was my very first meeting when we spoke.  I will never forget that.  It's only one of many great experiences I have had.

There are so many times since then that I have heard people say the things I long to hear everyone say: how their lives are changed, how they know now this is it for life.  I wish I could hear it every day but I accept it for the gift it is whenever it happens.  Being a leader exhilarates me, inspires and and keeps me sane.  It's the best job I've ever had.

And that biopsy?  Negative, of course.


About Skiing Again and About Not Wanting to Do Stuff

We went cross-country skiing again today, though at first Higgie didn't want to.  It's very cold today; - 20C with the windchill which is eight below zero Fahrenheit so I could understand some of his reluctance, but it's brilliantly sunny and he knows as well as I do that when you get moving you get warm and you stay that way.  However, I know this is typical behaviour for him; he always takes some persuading to get out and go.  He wanted to just go up the street and ski in the local park.  He doesn't realise how much harder that would have been for a novice skier like himself because there is no 'fast track' to ski in.  A pre-made trail such as you find at ski resorts guides your skis along and makes for greater control and much easier going.  I should have agreed to the park for my own sake because I, at least, could have risen to the challenge but I doubted whether I would be able to get the requisite two hours' skiing in then, both due to the degree of difficulty and the not-overly-large size of the park.  I knew he would have an easier time of it if we went to a ski resort but didn't say it.  He even offered up the possibility of the car stalling in the cold while on the highway because it did it once this past week when we were driving downtown.  (It hasn't done it since, nor did it do it today.)

Despite all his protests, which I have gone through every Sunday in previous years as well, we made it out to the same ski park we went to last Sunday and skied for slightly less than two hours, only because I had great speed this time due to better conditions (it snowed again yesterday).    For the first ten minutes of skiing I was wondering about the wisdom of having insisted we come out on such a cold day.  The wind in my face was painful.  I still don't have decent ski socks and my wool running socks just weren't working.  They were wrinkling inside my boots and were not long enough to keep my shins warm under my all-weather pants.  (I don't really have proper ski clothes at all; I just throw on whatever is warm, light-weight, waterproof and comfortable.  I cobble together an ensemble from my fall hiking and running gear.)  My muscles were taking forever to warm up in the extreme cold and I couldn't get any speed going at first.  There were way more people at the park this week than last, despite the cold, and most of them were novice skiers. They were skiing on the wrong side of the trail, going too slowly and generally getting in my way.

Then it occurred to me that all of my inward griping was really the same negativity I feel in the first ten minutes of running, when every fiber of my being is saying 'You hate this.  Stop now!'  I recognised the evil voice in my head and decided to ignore it.  Once I warmed up, got a rhythm going and got sufficiently ahead of all the novices it was possible to just let my body do its thing and enjoy the pleasure of movement.

As I skied I thought a lot about why we don't want to do stuff, even when it's stuff we know is good for us and we actually enjoy.   I've come to the conclusion that there is an awful lot in life we won't allow ourselves to enjoy.  Maybe it seems like too much work, maybe we think it will be too difficult or we might get hurt, but chiefly I think it's because WE DON'T WANT TO. 

As a Weight Watchers leader I hear a lot of reasons why people can't lose weight or move more.  I hear about food allergies and knee problems and a vast array of problems that are actually caused by obesity and could really be fixed by losing weight and moving more if people would just get out of their own way and let themselves do what needs to be done.

I watched a few novice skiers struggling and offered a piece of advice here and there, like, 'bend your knees' and got the same thing each time - 'Can't.  Knee problems'.  Barring an actual injury, or difficulties resulting from knee surgery, few people seem to realise that the knee is just a hinge and bending is what it's supposed to do.  I was shocked when Yolanta, my first trainer told me that but she was right.  What was stopping my knees from working correctly was me - and weak quadriceps.  Once I developed some strength in my thigh muscles my knees could very easily do what they were designed to do because they only needed to bend while my thighs supported my upper body.  How do you get strong thighs?  Squats and lunges.  But doesn't that involve bending your knees?  Well, yes.... but it's okay.  They're designed to do that.

Higgie's sister is convinced there's something called 'Higgins' Knee'.  It's because her father has had two knee replacement surgeries.  He developed arthritis in both knees after years of standing on concrete floors managing a warehouse.  Her knee problems are because she is nearly 100 pounds overweight and her knees can't take the strain.  She's tried Weight Watchers but never stays with it very long.  I keep telling her if she could get some weight off she'd be amazed at what her knees could do.  But I think the biggest stumbling block for her is she doesn't want to.

It was so cold today the snow squeaked as I skied and the shadows were purple against the brilliant sun.  I couldn't imagine having passed up the opportunity to get out today.  Something else I thought about as I skied were the people I am encountering at meetings who are passing up the opportunity to embrace our new program.  I am meeting up with pockets of resistance at the various meetings I do and I don't get it.  Why wouldn't you want to try a program that is based on better science and is so much better than the old one?  Is it the dreaded I DON'T WANT TO syndrome again?  Does it feel like too much work to re-learn points values and re-think our eating once again?  I'm hearing people saying it's not working.  After one week, can you really assess that?  It would be like the people I saw today who appeared to be skiing for the first time deciding after one go that it's not for them.  And they didn't even try bending their knees! 

Why do we think we don't want to do things?  Sometimes there's a legitimate reason.  Higgie is watching football right now and I don't want to but I have no interest in football and never have.  Could I develop one?  I doubt it.  But will my life be any better if I did?  Doubt that too.  I can derive enjoyment from a vast array of other pastimes; watching football doesn't have to be one of them.  Likewise, the people who don't want to ski could find another form of activity but they have to WANT to. So what's stopping them?  What's stopping any of us?

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Me and Running

Why do I love running?  It's really hard to say.  I think it's because I can.  I first discovered running back in the '70's when the jogging craze began.  I got quite serious about it and was doing close to 5K three times a week, but I bought cheap shoes and  like most people at that time started to have foot problems, shin splints and tightness in my hips.  I had no idea what I was doing: how to stretch afterward, avoid pain, etc., and gave it up after about a year.  I remember thinking at the time though that there was no high that could equal the feeling it gave me.

On the very first day of the first boot camp I participated in with Bruce three years ago he announced that we would be starting with a one mile run.  I was fearful but I decided I would do what I could, go as far as I was able and stop when I wanted to.  I had brand new shoes and never having had quality running shoes before I was pleasantly surprised as I began running that I was literally springing off the sidewalk with every step.  I felt breathless about halfway through and developed a stitch in my side but I kept going, and to my amazement I finished.  My time was close to 12 minutes but it didn't matter; I had done it!  I kept at it, running the same route on our days off from boot camp, and by the end of the 12 weeks my time was closer to nine minutes.  I continued to run on a treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes at least twice a week from then on. 

The following year I decided to compete in my first organised run.  Harry's Spring Run-off is a 5K and 8K run held every year in early April to raise money for prostate cancer research.  My brother had just been diagnosed with it so I decided it was the right thing to do.  I trained with my husband, Mark (affectionately known, and occasionally hereinafter referred to as 'Higgie', which is his life-long nickname) for three to four weeks prior, him pacing me on his bike while I ran what I thought was the course (the map provided on line was a bit off) through a very hilly park.  I finished in about 38 minutes, which is pretty good time for a hilly course and not bad time for a 5K just generally speaking.  It was also a very cold day; around 2C or 36F.  Here's a picture of me near the finish line:

The next run I did was a few months later.  It's called 'The Underwear Affair' and benefits a major hospital here for research into all cancers which occur 'below the belt'.  Since my father died of colon cancer at the age of 50, and Higgie's sister at 42, I felt that, together with my brother's prostate cancer and my cousin's ovarian cancer (both of them are survivors) it was the right thing to do.  It was a fun run; people ran in their underwear and there were some bizarre ensembles.  I hope you like mine (see pic).  It was my first 10K and I was absolutlely exhausted by the time I crossed the finish line, which is where this picture was taken.  I couldn't run the whole way; I stopped about three times for water and one-minute walking breaks, as advised by Bruce.  My time was pretty good - just over an hour.

Last year I did Harry's Spring Run Off again, this time the 8K course which was extremely hilly so my time was slower but I still finished in under and hour.  Here's my favourite shot:

The funny part of this story is that I had just conquered what I thought was the only hill and would be crossing the finish line soon because the 5K course only had one hill in it.  It turned out this was the first of three hills and I was far from done at that point!

Later in the season, at the end of May Higgie was finally ready to join me and we ran in the Ottawa Race Weekend as seen in the 'after' picture on this blog (and here):

The starting gun goes off: do I look a bit stressed?

It was a great run and we will do it, together with Harry's again this year.  I'm not sure if I'll be ready for a half-marathon by the time the Ottawa Race Weekend comes up but we have to register soon so I guess I'll have to decide!

This morning I continued the training I began at the start of the year.  On Thursdays it's Higgie's turn to train with Bruce so I usually run instead.  I used the treadmill at the club, which serves a dual purpose: it keeps my back turned while Bruce puts Mark through his paces and he doesn't have to feel self-conscious about being observed while he suffers!  I ran 5K at a pace of 5 mph, which felt just a little fast, but I'll get used to it.

Over time I expect to increase the length of time I run and the frequency.  On Tuesdays I'll continue to train with Bruce.  We work towards increased strength and flexibility.  Pilates helps with that too, though I have yet to get to one class so far this year but maybe next week.  Weekly cross-country skiing will help improve my stamina.  When there's too much snow to run outside it's my only alternative.  I know there are people who run in snow but  in my opinion, they're nuts!

Running didn't come easily and it has definitely taken its toll on my body.  I ice after every run and stretch for several minutes every day.  It's not the only exercise in the world but it's the one I like best.  I don't always feel like it and sometimes it's hell.  The first ten minutes is awful.  After 30 minutes however, I feel like I could go on forever.  Sometimes, when everything is in sync and I'm really in the groove, I'm not even aware of my legs moving.  It just becomes a continuous movement that my body is doing while my mind is elsewhere.   Music helps too.  I'll list some of my favourite running tunes elsewhere.  Suffice to say, I think the IPod is the greatest invention of the 21st century, bar none!

"Tramps like us, Baby we were born to run...."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Pain, Stupid Knees and Dr. Wade

If I didn't post something about the number of injuries I've sustained in getting fit I wouldn't be keeping an honest account here.  When you're my age you are more prone to injury and have a harder time come back from it.  When you start out as deconditioned as I was you can bet there will be pain.

First, the back:  due to inherited bad posture and a great deal of belly fat I had serious Lordosis.  That is, I was sway-backed.  Until I developed any abdominal or 'core' strength, it was not possible for me to give my back the kid of support it needed.  It would get very tight and the muscles would occasionally spasm, sometimes just standing washing dishes at the sink or lifting nothing heavier than a grocery bag containing one small item.  Once I bent over to pick up a banker's box at work and it spasmed so badly I couldn't straighten up or walk and was off work for three days.

When I began to work out, doing any exercise that required abdominal strength, since I didn't have any, meant that I was relying to much on my already tight back muscles.  This was how my back spasmed within the first few weeks I was a member at Lation Fitness.  Toni, the owner of Lation, sent me to Wade, the chiropractor conveniently located across the street.  He diagnosed the back problem and it was at his insistence that I hired a trainer and began the long slow process of getting stronger and avoiding further injury.

Dr. Wade Whitten is a former OHL hockey star who suffered a tib-fib fracture and in the course of his recovery developed an interest in sports medicine which led him to his present practice.  He is young, with boyish good looks and has a kind and compassionate manner.  He is very gentle and very supportive of my quest for fitness, though he does warn me that if I persist in running he and I will go on seeing a lot of each other.  Can't say I mind, except for the expense.

Once he got my back in shape - and it took more than one treatment and more than one attempt, I developed a problem with my sciatic nerve being pinched by the 'puraformis', one of the big muscles in your butt.  Wade did deep tissue massage on it and wound up with pressure bruises all over my bum.  Try explaining that one in the locker room!  The pinched nerve was caused by running during my first boot camp.

I then began to develop knee problems from running.  I call these problems "Stupid Knee I, II, III, and IV".  Stupid Knee I was a problem with my IT band.  The ileo-tibular tendon connects the upper and lower leg and runs past the knee.  It can become irritated from hill training.  In my second boot camp we did a lot of that.  Wade 'stripped' the IT band with more deep tissue massage.  He broke up the adhesions that were causing the tendon to stick to my quadricep muscle and cause pain.  The massage itself was excruciatingly painful and left a deep line of bruising down my thigh.

Stupid Knee II was inflamation under the patella, also known as 'Runner's Knee'.  He gave it ultrasound treatments to remove the inflammation.  I became very used to having an ice pack tied to my knee with a tensor bandage as well.

Stupid Knee III was more of the same, but in the other knee.  Stupid Knee IV, mu most recent, is my biggest concern.  It would appear I'm losing cartilage in my left knee thanks to an old injury.  Bruce is working on helping me strengthen it.

I haven;t been to see Wade in a few months, touch wood.  He keeps me going and at the first sign of pain I call him.  I've learned the hard way that at my age things don't get better on their own and I can't just ignore them.  Giving up is not an option.

What I've learned about being treated chiropractically is that they, like physiotherapists, go right to the heart of the matter and help reduce pain as well as teaching you the right way to stretch and strengthen in order to avoid future injuries.  In my opinion Doctors don't seem to know how to really treat sports-related injuries without drugs or surgeries.  I would recommend Chiropratic any day.  Especially from Wade.

Training With Bruce

I worked out with my trainer, Bruce this morning and we talked about my goal to run a half-marathon this year.  He agreed that weekly cross country skiing would be excellent training in getting me used to two hours plus of continued cardio exercise.  He said for every mile you plan to run you should consider one week of training, so for me that means 12 weeks.  I have more than enough time no matter which marathon I choose to do.

These days I eschew the cushy comforts of a gym and train at the Balmy Beach Club, a social club situated on the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto's famous Beaches where I live.  The Balmy has been around from many, many years which Mark and I joined last year.  It has a bare bones fitness room equipped with weights and a few cardio machines.  It's not fancy but it has everything you need.  We used the fitness room all last winter and will continue to do so this year as well.  We hired Bruce to come in as our guest and train us when he's not running his three-season boot camp.

I met Bruce at Lation Fitness when he ran the first 12-week boot camp I attended.  I loved Boot Camp and any other sort of training paled by comparison after that.  Though Lation stayed in business for another six months after I finished Boot Camp, no other work-out I did there ever made me feel as happy. 

When Lation closed it's doors (the business had been struggling for quite some time, mostly due to mismanagement) I was at a terrible loss as to where to train next.  I got a few trial memberships for a couple of different gyms, including the big chain ones like GoodLife, but the work-outs didn't feel safe to me and the locker rooms were often dingy or overcrowded.  The more I shopped around for a new gym the more depressed I became.  I wasn't confident I would go on working out by myself and I didn't have the room to do it at home.  I actually found myself fighting tears on the treadmill at GoodLife one morning, mourning for everything I had lost; the close proximity (right on my corner) the friendly, well-qualified staff and the incredible support they had given me.  Finally, it occurred to me to get in touch with Bruce.  I emailed him and he offered to get me into the Adelaide Club which he had once managed.

The Adelaide Club is a very posh fitness club where executives train.  It's located in the sub-basement of the head office of Canada's largest bank.  It's the sort of place where membership comes with the job.  Bruce called the membership people who are old friends of his and arranged a special deal for me.  They waived the initiation fee and gave me a good monthly rate.  I was only a member there for six months but I always felt out of place.  There were hundreds of machines I had no idea how to use and no one would show you unless you purchased personal training sessions.  At Lation they had used only free weights and believed in a full body approach to fitness so these things baffled me.  The exercise studio space was cramped and airless.  There were some very good trainers and I enjoyed working with them but one played only heavy metal in her cardio classes and at 6:00 a.m. I don't want to listen to AC/DC.  When I gave up my full-time job and no longer found myself going downtown I gave up my membership at this gym and wasn't sorry.

When April rolled around it was time for Boot Camp to start again and this year Bruce ran it on his own without any affiliation to a gym.  I hadn't seen him in 6 months and was delighted to be working with him again.  I just 'get' his style of fitness; could have something to do with the high regard for the military both of us have.

Bruce is not my first trainer.  I first trained with Yolanta at Lation Fitness.  After the disaster with my back I was given Yolanta as my trainer because she had been a physiotherapist for 25 years and had taken up personal training as a retirement job.  Yolanta was an Olympic gymnast, earning a Bronze medal for the Polish Women's team back in the '60's.  She was a tiny, energetic woman who looked nothing like her 65 years.  She would have easily passed for 40.  She completely rehabilitated me, concentrating on proper form and stance.  She was absolutely militant about it!  To this day I can still hear her saying "Pull belly eeeen!!!"  Eventually she got through to me, building core strength in me and helping my not to rely on back muscles.  I worked with her for 5 months until Boot Camp started.  Then I graduated to training with Bruce.

Bruce is a great guy, no nonsense and very laid back.  He doesn't scream or yell like TV trainers do but he does push - and boy! did he push me today.  What everyone should look for in a trainer is good qualifications and Bruce's don't come much better.  He has a degree in Physical Education and is a Master trainer.  He believes in a solid, no frills approach to fitness that suits me well.  These days I train with him for an hour once a week.  He gives me a written transcript of the program we do which changes every week - and gets harder, as it should.  I repeat this program on my own once or twice more during the week together with one day I devote completely to cardio; mostly running on the treadmill, but when the weather gets better I will be outside on the boardwalk.  I also try to fit in one Pilates class per week.  When he's not training me, Bruce has other clients, including my husband, but we are the only people he trains at the Balmy.  The rest of his clients have posh home gyms.  Lucky them!

I honestly believe that every dollar I spend on personal training is money well-spent.  I didn't know anything about physical fitness when I first met Bruce and what he has taught me has changed my life.  I would forgo any number of vacations, meals out or other treats just o be able to go on affording him.  Fortunately, my husband feels the same.  He loves bragging to the young men he works with about how hard he trains and how fit he has become.  I know the feeling.  It's a good one.

Stay tuned for more fitness stories.

Monday, January 10, 2011

How I Started Getting Fit

After attending Weight Watchers meetings for about six months I hit a plateau.  Weight Watchers advises that we use this term with caution because many times our perception of no weight loss is not accurate.  If we added up all the losses and gains over a four-week period and divided by four to find the average number it might show there was actually slow, gradual weight loss if the average number is .5 or higher.  In my case however, it was lower.  I will never know if it was simply a matter of me becoming complacent or lax, but I do know that once I took my hands away from my ears and stopped humming "la, la, la" every time my leader mentioned activity things began to change.

One Saturday, after a disappointing weigh-in, I heard my leader Muareen asking the group "What more can you do?  The answer was abundantly clear.  The following Monday I went on a tour of the neighbourhood to visit all the local gyms.  I went to Curves (looked too boring and everyone there was old and fat), the YMCA (not enough variety) and then I stopped at a gym on the corner which had been there for a few years.  It was next door to the Beer Store, so don't think I hadn't noticed it before!

Lation Fitness turned out to be the turning point for my weight loss.  (Note: the link takes you to a website dedicated to the former owner's new programs.  She is still in the personal training business.)  To this day I credit it and its' staff with helping me get to goal.  Sadly, it is no longer in business. (More about that later.)  At the time I walked in, what struck me was the excellent quality of its air conditioning, how clean and airy the space seemed and how friendly the staff.  Though I could barely afford it at the time because I was only partially employed, I did the ol' "Squeeza-on-the-VISA" thing and prayed that I would get it paid off in time.  And there I was, committed. 

I wish I could say it was all champagne-and-roses success from there on but that would be the furthest thing from the truth.  I had no conception of how 'deconditioned', as they so nicely put it, I was.  My fitness assessment was a lesson in humiliation.  I couldn't squat, catch a ball, keep my balance or do a simple push-up.  I was convinced I was doomed.  Still, I persevered.  Here are some journal excerpts from the following few weeks:

On taking my first Pilates class:  The trainer is a tiny young woman of about 26 whose background is solidly in Pilates, but when I took her Pilates class on Saturday it nearly killed me.  Her push-ups wreaked havoc on my bunion. They are done from a kneeling position with your toes curled under.  You balance on your bent toes and lift your knees off the floor.  My toes won't bend back that far because of my bunion. (She said "What's a bunion?") and my foot throbbed all weekend.  The sit-ups, done curled over an exercise ball, wrecked my lower back.  This does not bode well.  I am going to have a serious talk with her.  There has to be a way to do these exercises without hurting myself.

I should have foreseen disaster when they assigned me this same young woman for the three complimentary personal training sessions which came with my membership.  Here's what happened (again, from my journal):

Damn, Hell, Poo.
I was right in the middle of my training session when my lower back spasmed.  I felt like the weights she had given me to use were a bit heavy and when I put them down after the exercise I couldn't straighten up.  I don't blame the trainer; this just happens to me sometimes.  The last time was back in the winter when I lifted a box file at work.

The owner of the gym drove me home and she won't let me come back until I see a chiropractor.  She made an appointment for me with some guy across the street.  More money!  But it'll be worth it to work out this back problem for once and for all.  I go at 4 this afternoon.  Mark's insurance covers it, so I'm not too worried but I am so disappointed that I couldn't complete my training session today.

I just took a muscle relaxer and I'm going to lie down with an ice pack.  Not the way I had planned to spend today but at least I've got lots to read.

And so began a lengthy sojourn at the chiropractor's office where I probably made him a wealthy man.  It's okay, he's worth it.  My chiro, Wade still keeps me ticking.  More about him some other time.

Once I was cleared to go back to the gym I was given another trainer (thank goodness) and I worked with her for another five months before I ever actually acquired any real strength.  I continued to have back spasms because it took forever to develop any core strength.  Here's another incident:

I was in denial yesterday so did not journal this, but the sad truth is, I have messed up my back again and I think I did it at my Pilate's class on Saturday.  I did a whole bunch of ab crunches and told the instructor it was the first time I really felt them in my abdominals and not in my back.  She said I must be getting stronger.  Guess again.

I bent over to pick up some dirty clothes off the bedroom floor yesterday morning and - wham!  Instant pain.  So instead of sitting with an ice pack and a book all day, I went about my usual chores; laundry, shopping and cooking.  Last night I put an ice pack on it while we watched TV and I took a muscle relaxer when I went to bed.  Today?  Not good.  We wanted to go on a long bike ride.  Not sure about that.  Looks like it might rain anyway.

But all was not in vain.  There were gradual improvements in my strength.  Such as:

I came upstairs to go to bed, noticed how much my bathroom needed a cleaning and decided to tackle it.  For years now I've used this battery-powered scrub brush from Black and Decker called the 'Scum Buster'.  The truth is, the thing doesn't have much torque and when the battery died tonight I ripped the velcro cleaning pad off it and in my frustration began scrubbing the tiles and tub on my own.  To my amazement I discovered a) I can scrub a lot harder than the Scum Buster does, and b) it does not leave me out of breath to do so or aching in my shoulders and wanting to lie down to rest after completing the job (I think those were supposed to be c) and d).)

So what does this tell us?  A) I am in better shape than I had realised and B) Mark doesn't have to do all the cleaning anymore.  Too bad about B) but I always did a better job than he did anyway.

While working out did get the weight loss rolling again it wasn't always consistent.  I got pretty frustrated and disgusted sometimes.  Fortunately, my Weight Watchers leader was able to direct me towards other ways to measure progress, like inches lost.

Back from Weight Watchers and for the second week in a row I haven't lost any weight; in fact, I gained .4 of a pound.  I have stepped up my work-outs to 5 times a week too.  Don't give me that 'muscle weighs more than fat' thing.  A pound is a pound.  Muscle tissue takes up less space but is more dense than fat.  I took my measurements when I went to the gym afterwards and found I have lost a total of 8 inches since June when I first joined, so I don't feel too bad.  I'm glad I was focusing on what I can now do that I couldn't do before or I would be feeling pretty discouraged right now.  I'm going to sit down this afternoon and take in all my pants a good few inches.

I also learned a lot about the right way to exercise while I was a member at Lation.  The trainers helped to bust a number of myths and misconceptions I had about exercise.  Here's what they had to say about using the elliptical,, which I loved, and other cardio machines for lengthy periods of time:

I asked my trainer last night about my addiction to the elliptical machine and she said the longer I spend on it the more endurance I will develop, which is not a bad thing to have for half-day bicycle trips and all-day hikes, but to use it for ten minutes, going full-out is actually a more efficient way.  She recommended using it in a circuit training situation, interspersed with weights, pulleys and exercises; going back on it for ten minutes at a time, as hard as I can, two or three times.  She said I'll burn just as many calories this way and give my body a better work-out.  hmmmm.... sounds like more work but I'm sure she's right.

I continued working out at Lation Fitness for about 18 months.  Eventually I was strong enough to participate in all their classes as well as do my first Boot Camp (more about that later!) and eventually I got to my weight loss goal.  I sent an email to the owner of the gym with whom I occasionally trained to let her know when that big day happened.  The very next day she called me.  I thought it was to congratulate me.  Guess again.  She was calling to say the gym was closing!  I was devastated.

What followed next was a difficult time.  Trying to find a new gym and trainers was a tough and seemingly insurmountable task.

About That 'After' Photo (and why I started this blog)

The 'After' photo showing me in a running shirt with bib number was taken last May at the Ottawa Race Weekend .  This is Canada's national marathon, held every year at the end of May.  The smiling guy in the matching shirt behind me is my husband.  We both ran 10K.

The reason for starting this blog is because last year my husband declared that this would be the year (2011) we run a half marathon.  I still haven't committed as to where and when yet: could be Ottawa, could be the Marine Corps Run in Washington D.C. at the end of October or even here at the Toronto Marathon in October.  Wherever I decide, this blog will be a witness to it.

My husband didn't accompany me to Weight Watchers those four long years ago after the skiing incident but he ate what I ate and has lost something close to 20 pounds.  He was fine with the idea of eating healthier and smaller portions as long as we could still have beer!  And we do!   I appreciated his support - he never complained about any of his favourite foods been banned from the house and never brought any banned substances home.  He did complain once that the amount of cheese I was planning to put on a pizza was not enough but now I use even less and he doesn't even notice.

More than all of that kind of support though, is the fact that he has become my fitness partner.  I find that an enormous help.  We are very competitive and race each other as well as seeing who can do more sit-ups or push-ups, etc.  I bought him an Ipod to take to our fitness sessions and filled it with his favourite 70's classic rock.  Every so often I slip in something more current from ITunes though.  I think he might be all the way up to 1998 now.

So, when I suggested he begin joining me in the competitive running I was doing he agreed to try.  I had previously done a 5k, an 8K and a 10K, all for cancer research.  I figured I was good for one more 10K, and besides which, my best friend lives in Ottawa.  (She took the picture.) It was a huge gathering of people; nearly 10,000 in all, and a close tight bunch to run with.  There were flying elbows all over the place and it was hard to break free of the pack.  The whole city had turned out for the gorgeous Spring evening to watch us run and the route itself was wonderful.  It began in downtown Ottawa and followed the Rideau canal out to Dowse Lake and back.  The spectators cheered us on at every turn and when I made my final move out of the pack and up toward the finish line hundreds of complete strangers wen nuts cheering me.  What was most exciting about that run was not my time, which was unspectacular just under an hour), but the fact that I placed 28th out 158 women in my age group.  I had to remind myself that four years ago it would have been impossible.  Never sell yourself short or assume you know what you are capable of, because you really never know.

Coming up in another post: how I began running.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

About That 'Before' Photo

The picture of me in the lovely chartreuse dress (which I thought was slimming at the time) has a story behind it.  It was taken the night of my brother's retirement from 44 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces.  I had been asked to speak about what it had been like growing up with a military-obsessed older brother.  I had written what I thought was a fairly amusing speech about how, during the 100th anniversary of the American Civil War he had memorised a chronology of events and battles based on his own research (he was 14 at the time).  He would come down to breakfast every morning and recite for us what had taken place on that day 100 years before.  Like we cared. 

When he was 16  my brother joined what was then called 'the student militia' of the 48th Highlanders of Canada.  They are one of Canada's most famous reserve regiments.  They served in both World Wars and in Korea.  He drilled with them every Friday night and spent every second weekend in battlefield training.  Needless to say his schoolwork suffered.  He would start cleaning his kit on Sunday night to be ready for Friday.  His bedroom reeked of Blanco, a substance for whitening his web belt, and Brasso, used to polish the brass buttons on his tunic.  He took the wallpaper off the bathroom walls running the shower on hot while he steamed his 'feather bonnet', the traditional head dress of all highland regiments.  My mother found black streaks all over the ironing board cover and my father, ex-RCAF had to step in and tell him, "Son, when the Drill Sergeant said he wanted to see you all with kit so smart you had ironed your bootlaces, he didn't really mean it."

All of this I was gleefully happy to remind my brother of and had practised my speech long and hard before the day.  I knew there would be alcohol at the retirement party so I chose to leave the car at home and took local transit out to Dennison Armories at CFB Downsview where he served his last few years, and where the party was to take place, in the Officers' Mess.  It's located in the north-western sector of our city and is easily reached by subway.  What I didn't take into account was the 40C heat (110F) of mid-July and the fact that the escalators in the subway were out of service when we got to our stop.  Anyone who rides our transit system will tell you this is an everyday occurrence.  Anyone who weighs what I did at the time  will tell you that climbing three flights of stairs in that heat in order to get to street level is an almost impossible task.  I got to the top furious, sweating, chafed and miserable.  My knees were on fire, my back was threatening to go into a spasm ( a chronic problem) and my acid reflux had flared, thanks to the stair-climbing motion causing pressure to the abdomen and forcing acid from my stomach up into my esophagus - a most painful experience. 

None of the above-described experience exactly put me in the right frame of mind for standing in front of a roomful of army brass and talking about how wonderful I think my brother is.  When I think back on it now I can still feel all the pain of the chafed skin, the embarrassment caused by having huge wet patches under my arms and my hair wet and sticking to my neck.  It took a good few cold bevvies to make me feel human again - and then it got worse!

As night fell, the floor-to-ceiling windows in the Officer's mess where the part was held became something equivalent to the 360 degree mirror on What Not to Wear .  All I could see was sticking-out butt and bulging gut.  It was humiliation after humiliation, all the while there were people congratulating my brother and coming up to me saying how proud I must be.  And I was!  (Still am - he presently commands the army cadet corps and is sharing his one true passion with a future generation.)  Then, when I got home I had to look at the pictures my husband had dutifully taken.  I have no idea why I didn't delete this photo along with all the other photos I got rid of because I hated the way I looked, but I'm glad this one survived.  It's the one I show to my Weight Watchers members nowadays and I also tell them this story.

Oh, and about those stairs?  I often think about them when I do my three-season boot camp training (more about that in a post yet to come).  Part of our training requires us to run three flights of stairs, just like in that subway station.  Whnenever I remember the person who could barely drag herself up those stairs I remind myself that she is the same one now running them and I smile and shake my head in wonder and amazement.

Cross Country Skiing - or - Why I Joined Weight Watchers

'Norse am I when the first snow flies...'

That's a line from a silly, sentimental poem we learned as kids in school.  It's about how much we, as Canadians, supposedly love the winter.  In my case it happens to be true.  I grew up on skis.  My mother was from Northern Quebec;  part of a 3% English-speaking population, regrettably, so I'm not bilingual, but I do know how to ski.  When I was a kid we skied every weekend all winter.  We had inexpensive wooden touring skis and we would head out to any nearby park, conservation area or golf course.  Resorts with groomed trails did not exist in those days.

Here is a picture of me with my Dad taken when I was eight.

Later on, in high school I took up downhill skiing for a while, but it never had the same appeal.  For me, skiing isn't about the 30-second thrill of a downhill run, but the constant swish-swish of your skis as you glide over top of fresh powder, winding your way through tree-lined valleys and following frozen brooks.

 I went cross country skiing this morning for the first time this season.  We had six inches of dry powder overnight and it was too good an opportunity to pass up, so we headed out to a little resort a 45 minute drive from our house.  I would still prefer to hit the local parks but my husband is a rookie skier so he prefers groomed trails.  We skied for two hours.  When we ski we don't ski-and-chat, or take breaks.  It's non-stop cardio activity.  However, I was forced to stop a time or two because skiing with Mark, my husband, is a bit like that bad old joke about the two guys who went golfing and one had a heart attack and died right after teeing off - " and it was , hit the ball, drag George..."  Skiing with Mark it can sometimes be 'Ski 500 meters, go back and find Mark', but he's getting better all the time and can almost keep pace with me now.  He only began a few years ago at my insistence.  He's a life-long jock though and he does enjoy it.

So what does a passion for skiing have to do with Weight Watchers?  Four years ago, while out skiing one Sunday I fell and couldn't get back up because I couldn't get back up, using my poles in the proper manner.  I did not have sufficient strength in my arms to lift myself at the weight that I was at that time.  I had to remove my skis and stumble to my feet red-faced with shame and exertion, ignoring all the passing skiers with their kind offers of help.  At that moment I thought maybe it was time I considered giving up skiing.  What was I thinking?  How can you consider giving up something that has always been a part of your life?  But I honestly thought that maybe I was too old to go on skiing.

Fortunately, more rational thinking prevailed  and I came to my senses when I reminded myself that my mother, also a lifelong skier, continued skiing into her late seventies and only gave it up after her third fracture resuting from a fall.  Her doctor told her osteoporosis was just too severe.  I don't have osteoporosis, nor am I a likely candidate for it, having inherited my father's body type.  My problem was weight, pure and simple. 

When I forced myself to be brutally honest I began to realise that most of the activities I enjoyed were becoming harder and harder to do.  I'm a real outdoors kind of person but day-long hikes had turned into half-day hikes and four-hour bike rides were now two.  My husband helped me more and more with the garden and even housework had become next to impossible.  I couldn't carry the vacuum cleaner up the stairs anymore without becoming utterly exhausted.  Somehow I knew none of this really had anything to do with the fact that I was in my 50's.

So, a few weeks later after the skiing incident, I followed a friend to a Weight Watchers meeting held in the basement of a local church.  As mentioned in a previous post, I didn't exactly embrace the concept at first.

Today, however, as I swished my way across new snow in brilliant sunshine, I give thanks for that wake up call and what returning to Weight Watchers has enabled me to go on enjoying in my life.  There's a deep connection to family and country for me when I ski.  I remember who I am and why I love where I live.  How could I bear to almost lose sight of that?  Never again!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Diary of a Loser

I found these excerpts from a journal I kept of my weight loss.  I found some of them most revealing.  I remember those two years fondly; it felt very special to be working towards something concrete.  Here are some thoughts from my first few weeks:

Week One:  "Lost five pounds.  Mostly water weight, I suppose, but still....  not bad for the first week.  I think I like this.  I can do this."

Week two:  "Life is taking me by the ears and giving me a good shake these days. 
Lost another 5.8 pounds this week.  Unbelievable."

A few weeks later: " Inch by inch, step by step, slowly I turned...Niagara Falls?!? "  Remember that old vaudeville routine?  No one's old enough to remember the real thing but Lucille Ball did it on one of the "I Love Lucy" shows.  It was supposed to be a gag about a guy who goes nuts when he hears anyone say 'Niagara Falls' because it was where he found his wife cheating on him.

For me it's the step by step, inch by inch thing that is proving so relevant right now because I am losing weight so slowly.  After last week I should be grateful not to have gained anything.  I lost .8 of a pound, which in reality means .2 since I gained .6 last week.  I've really been careful this week too, so I guess I dodged that bullet."

On Weight loss slowing down: "I treated myself to a very small bunch of flowers this morning after our meeting to celebrate a very small weight loss.  Better than nothing, I figured.  I googled the flower species when I got home because I didn't know what they were.  I googled 'small pink flower' and what came up among other things, was a song lyric that said "Small flowers crack concrete".  How appropriate!  Guess I'll crack this weight thing eventually."

On self-discovery and self-knowledge:   I lost another .2 pounds but after all the beers I've tossed back this week thanks to the bad bad bad bad day I count myself very lucky indeed.  Here's what I've learned (like I didn't know already!) about medicating with alcohol.  It makes me maudlin and weepy and then I can't sleep.  Not quite the way to feel better.  I'm just so glad I didn't gain any weight. 

On changes noticed:  Here's what else I've noticed.  When I bent over to pick up a paper clip off the floor this week at work the blood didn't rush to my head, and when I squatted down to put something away in a low-to-the-ground cubby I could actually squat.  Yesterday I was able to put on and wear the amethyst ring Higgie bought me for our first wedding anniversary.

I went out for dinner last night with my cousin who is visiting from England.  I ordered a salad to start, not thinking about how it would be dressed and it was covered in it.  I ate half of it.  Likewise the pasta, which was overcooked anyway.  I had mainly ordered it for the seafood on top which I did eat.  I had one glass of wine.  The old me would have eaten every scrap of that meal and wiped the bowl clean of the cream sauce (which I thought was too heavy, although I used to love it) with a slice of heavily buttered bread and washed the whole thing down with three glasses of wine.

I think I've made a lot of positive changes even if the scales aren't reflecting it.  Who cares about a number anyway?

On patterns of weight loss and plateaux:  I'm starting to see a pattern here: I lose a bunch, then gain a bit, hold still, lose a tiny bit for a few weeks and then Bam! it comes off again.  No need to be discouraged; it will happen when it happens. "

Welcome to 'Step by Step'

Hi.  Welcome to my blog.  I decided to start this blog as a record of the steps I have taken that have led me, a 57 year old, formerly overweight woman to a new and exciting life.  On a recent television show I heard a doctor say that when a person loses a considerable amount of weight life just 'cracks open'.  This struck me as a pretty powerful metaphor and it has certainly been the case for me.

In 2007 I decided to return to Weight Watchers to lose some weight.  I had been a lifetime member since 1978 when I first lost 25 pounds on their program.  I became a leader at that time too.  I like to tell people that I was 12 at the time but in reality I was 23.  I've struggled with my weight and self image all my life.  Unfortunately I was unable to maintain my weight loss and they fired me!  In my desperation to keep my weight down I developed an eating disorder.  Needless to say, I had a number of reservations about returning to Weight Watchers because of all the negative connotations it brought to mind even years later, but I had friends who had been successful and I decided it was worth checking out again.  This time I had even more weight to lose; somewhere in the vicinity of 50 pounds, I figured.

Upon meeting the leader of the meeting for the first time I was convinced that her 25 pound weight loss was insignificant.  I remember thinking "Yeah, right, Lady.  That's like equivalent to my right thigh!"  People in the meeting were talking about heating frozen entrees for their meals and baking things from mixes.  I had been a pastry chef at one time and considered Julia Child to be my personal cooking mentor long before The "Julie & Julia" blog/book/film ever came out.  I also found myself thinking "What's wrong with these people?  Don't they know how to cook?  No wonder they're overweight!"  I was cynical and nasty and did not want to be there.  I felt for sure it would never work.

Despite all the cynicism and misgivings (I felt a lot better after I found out you could still drink alcohol) I went home vowing to give it a fair shot.  I lost five pounds the first week, five more the second, three the week after that - and then I had an unexplained gain, which was nearly enough to make me want to pack it in there and then.  But I didn't.  I forced myself to stay for the meeting and stick with it and the weight came off the following week.

It would be nice to say that it all went smoothly and that the weight came off easily and quickly.  But that would not be true.  I remember thinking, at that first meeting when I looked at my suggested weight on the BMI chart, that to reach the suggested goal weight for my height it would take two years.  Guess what?  It did.

I kept a journal of this two year long sojourn and in the next few posts I will share some excerpts.

Next up:  Getting fit.