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.

1 comment:

  1. I found this to be one of the most inspiring posts I have ever read in regard to getting fit. Thanks for posting this!