Archive for February, 2012

I went back to the gym today – yay yay yay!

I knew we wouldn’t be starting where I left off – no big lifts, no big jumps, no big anything. But still..I was over the moon to be back, practically ran Stefan over as soon as I saw him.

He had devised a highly modified workout that wouldn’t put undue stress on my leg. But first, he made me do a weird zombie walk across the gym. Shoes off, eyes closed, walk ‘normally’ but very very very slowly back and forth, back and forth.

Or at least this is how I imagine zombies walk. To complete the spectral image, I sometimes raised my arms out in front of me, more Frankenstein than the living dead, just so I wouldn’t smash into the wall, not that Stefan would let me do that.

This action activates your feet, apparently, so they find the right stance and balance to support and guide you without visual aids. Stefan learned something from my monster promenade, said I was definitely stronger than when we last met. Ok.

As I began blindly walking, the song that came on the gym’s perpetual soundtrack was Time Warp, from Rocky Horror Picture Show – a big cult hit from my youth and later a perennial favourite in the many aerobic classes I attended in the 80s. Perfect!

Zombies, the right music, and a tune that to this day makes me want to leap and dance with joy! (Perhaps you had to be there for the Rocky Horror days – if you’ve never thrown toast at a movie screen, you haven’t lived).

Since I was happy as could be to be back moving, even lightly, I started to do a little Rocky dance number until Stefan suggested I may want to walk before I warp.

Fine. But since my dance fever was thwarted, I’ve provided a glimpse of what I *felt* like doing today through this flash mob for the undead:

Afterwards, I did some rows and presses on the Freemotion apparatus, not particularly heavy weights. I managed these ok – didn’t break much of a sweat though I certainly felt these were more difficult than they would have been a few weeks ago.

We finished up with some ab work, various contortions with a stability ball on the mat. When this started to feel worse than planks, we called it a day.

My leg felt mostly fine during this baby-lite workout; it wasn’t called into action much, with the focus on upper body and core. Stefan had me ice as soon as I got home, which helped.

After sitting in a car with good friends for a trip to the movies in another town, dinner out with family, and now sitting again, it’s sore but not like before, so I am hopeful!

I know I still have a way to go before I can get back into tough workout territory, but it felt wonderful to move again, and feel strong instead of injured.

It may seem like a strange time to track progress, since I’d missed at least 2 weeks out of this month’s workouts. But today was the 5-month mark in this journey, one that’s had a few detours and unplanned rest stops. Just like life.

So weigh-in and measure we did. I guess the first couple of weeks in January must have been effective:

4.2 lbs down.

2.75 inches down.

Did you know that February 11th, 2012, was World Happy Day? I didn’t until I read today’s newspaper. That was the day a documentary called Happy was screened in 600 locations in 60 countries – it’s getting rave reviews.

The film-maker traveled the world for 4 years researching what makes people happy – and as one might expect, he finds it’s not fame and fortune. Happiness may be one of those overused words thoroughly bleached of colour and meaning – yet it’s still the number one thing people say they want. And when they have it? They tend to pay it forward. Sounds good to me.

I would love to see this movie. In the meantime, I declare today as my personal Happy Day – the simple joy of movement, precious time with friends, joyful reunion with a family member back from a long trip. Thanking my lucky stars.



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Jonesing for the gym

I miss working out. (yeah, and you, too, Stefan)

I’m going faithfully to physio twice a week, not asking too much of my bum leg (not even dog walks – thankfully, daughter and others have more than made up for that, so my Cairn is happy).

My waiting dog, practising her guilt-inducing stare.

Yesterday, I thought I’d turned a major corner. Leg didn’t hurt very much at all – I could drive easily, move around, do stairs without effort. I’m cured, I’m cured! Yay!

So I decided to do the ‘at home’ workout – aka housecleaning. It was fun, I’m serious!

After what seems like eons of doing not much, a dusting and swiffering frenzy was just what the doctor ordered. And swabbing bathrooms – woo hoo!

Can’t say that I worked up a gym-like sweat, but it felt great. And then I decided to wash all the bedding and towels in the house which meant lugging a rather massive laundry basket down a couple of flights of stairs.

Clearly my leg does not buy into the Martha Stewart brand of housework therapy. I didn’t collapse in a heap of linens, but I sure did get screeched at by unhappy tendons. Limping again. Boo.

One scrub over the line, it seems.

I can learn one of two things from this experience:

1) No good comes from letting domestic tendencies get out of hand or

2) My leg is healing but it’s not ‘there’ yet and I need to not go crazy the instant it starts to feel a little better.

Since my house would become a giant hairball if we didn’t occasionally run a vacuum, and because I do find that housework is a great antidote to deskwork stress, I will go with door number 2.

Seems this soft tissue injury deal is a rather big deal. Everyone keeps telling me this. Hmmm.

I did learn about another ‘at home’ workout, thanks to the Globe & Mail (citing a Daily Mail article).

Ready for it? It’s Dumbbell Cutlery!

Lift weights while stuffing self – well, I’m honestly speechless. Take a look.

As the Mail article says, “The handmade cutlery has been dubbed by online seller Firebox as the perfect aid for ‘gluttons in need of a work out’.”

I have not sunk to this yet.

Also, they are very expensive!

So, injuries and dumbbells aside, I am going to the gym on Monday, Family Day in Ontario (and 2 other provinces, I think) which means, for some of us anyway, not going to work.

This is also the day for 5 month results – weigh-in and measurements.

I’m doing it anyway, even though I suspect that mopping floors will not have had the same effect as dead-lifts. So be it. I’m also hoping for a light workout with Stefan, even if I sit for a lot of it.

I’m going. I am! I just want to see how it goes. If this turns out to be completely moronic, well, that won’t be the first time.

And I’ll order the heavy forks and spoons to seal the deal.

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Still sitting around, strapping ice bags to my leg (I now own fancy store-bought ones – filled, likely, with noxious goo…but I’m tired of leaky plastic bags and ruining the frozen peas).

Haven’t been to work very much, mostly because driving the distance there causes my leg to squawk. And then it doesn’t seem to want to press down on the brake. Not confidence-inspiring. I didn’t feel like camping in my office overnight.

I’ve not been to the gym or walked the dog in 900 years.

Time, time, oceans of time – or so it seems relative to ‘life before leg injury’. Yet this is not like vacation freedom or  even taking advantage of extra time to tackle the ever-lengthening to do list of life. Not hardly.

This is more like house arrest.

And have I therefore used the time to do more contemplative activities like catching up on the newspapers I throw on the coffee table waiting for the weekend? Or read the classics? Or worked on the Navier-Stokes existence and smoothness math problem for which there is a $1 million dollar award for the smart solver? (Of course, I tried this one for a while, but alas, came up empty).

Well, no. But I have kept it together better than I thought. I’m not conniptioning around worrying that I will lose everything built to date in the gym. Or not be able to walk the Camino because my leg never heals.

I’ve held the peace through this experience, with just a few ‘hurry up and wait’ moments thrown in when I simply feel I must move with vigour and sweat – now! Then I go back to hobbling around and summoning patience.

Things that have helped immensely:

  • My adored daughter and her partner continuing to pick up the slack around the house. And pick my spirits up – with lovely positive energy.
  • Constant pick-me-up notes from wonderful people with whom I’m privileged to work.
  • Family checking in, always kind, never saying ‘maybe you should reconsider all this.’
  • Stefan texting every other day, not pushing at all, just supporting.
  • Friends. Always friends.

For instance, my Beth – friend from teenage days, always there, (even though she lives far away) sent me a birthday present which I opened early, on the day after leg got so much worse. The package came, and I figured the birthday gods meant for me to get it early. Here’s a picture of what was inside:

Cushion hand-made with love. Perfect, yes?

I am awash in blessings. I am doing an ‘exercise’ right now, not a dead-lift or a row or a run, much as I miss those.

This is a different kind of heart-strengthening move, a suggestion from a former Harvard academic, Shawn Achor, who now does Ted talks on the power of happiness. His book is called The Happiness Advantage.

It involves simply naming 3 different things every day for which you are grateful – for 21 straight days. In old words, count your blessings. Say them out loud. This is one way to reformat the interior hard drive, lay down new tracks.

So I’m changing my brain – as I wait to go back to changing my body. It feels good.

Shawn’s observations give new muscle to the ‘don’t worry be happy’ mantra that cynics love to mock. (In my callow youth, I think I may have been one such cynic).

He speaks convincingly about the transformative power of optimism and that ‘success’, whatever that means to you, is not predicted by the external world or concrete events but almost entirely by your perceptions of them. Filtering those perceptions through a lens of deliberate optimism – (not fake cheeriness) – changes everything.

This isn’t news to many of you. I just find these days I’m pondering this whole ‘positive energy’ school of thought (for lack of more 50 dollar words to describe it) more and more.

I am giving it a go – for real – and not dismissing it out of hand as unreal or shallow or without proof. I remind myself  no one has scientifically proven what ‘love’ is and I accept and welcome its power without question.

And this I know for sure. I have a lot to be optimistic about – what an energy boost that turns out to be!

Thank you, everyone. From the heart.

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So, let me just get this out first:

@!&*%#!*&#!^&@&!%#X#&^!&*#%! (AIR….TURNING…..BLUE), etc.

I feel better now.

So this leg problem I’ve had took a sharp turn for the worse last night during my workout. Hadn’t felt great since last week’s rehab massage which involved a lot of painful deep tissue stuff, though in the past, this rolfing-like treatment really helped.

Not so much this time.

Please excuse the continuing profanity. I'm over it now.

I likely should have listened harder to the backtalk I was getting, (our bodies are really quite intelligent…my conscious brain, not so much sometimes).

In my defense, the Stefan workouts have been the oases where my leg really felt good again – much worse when I just sat around.

But then I crossed the line during an exercise that involved a light side-step.

I’m not entirely sure what I did, but instead of supporting me, my bunged-up  leg sort of gave way, and something actually snapped (no bones or major tendons, so not really sure what happened). But pain? Oh yeah…lots.

Stefan checked it out, then sent me packing with ice strapped around my leg, a fashion accessory I’ve been wearing pretty much ever since, replacing ice as required.

I had resisted going to the doctor before. Stefan insisted more adamantly this time. When I woke up today and could barely walk, couldn’t put weight on the leg to any degree, went down the stairs on my butt, and couldn’t apply pressure to brakes – well, it was time.

Diagnosis: Still not 100% sure – the hamstring and other soft tissue appear to be very ‘angry’, and I’m quoting the doc. So I’m off to physio tomorrow for assessment, I have prescription painkillers which are making me feel stupid, (and truthfully aren’t doing much about the pain), and we’ll see how it goes from there.

Also, ice, ice, and more ice.

When I was doing the marathon training, and we were putting in the 20+ kilometre distances regularly, we were repeatedly told to take ice baths – not cold water, I’m talking several bags of cubes into the already icy water.

Now, *that* was exquisite pain – *and* exquisite relief. So I am an ice lover. Good thing. I see a fair bit of it in my future.

When I’m not icing, physio-ing, or swearing, I will be focusing.

On not seeing this development as a road block, a show stopper, a reason for fear. I know I’ve had a few 3 steps forward, 2.5 back moments in this process – or so one could think.

I want a different lens – not rose-coloured, exactly, just a new perspective. I will try not to resist what is, waste energy wishing it weren’t so, ignore it, or cry about it. (I had a small pity party this morning, and may have even spilled a tear or two – but while that was mildly satisfying, it changed nothing).

Time to deal. And of course I get -and must remind myself – that it’s not an enormous challenge, not really. In fact, I need to be grateful that I have so much, I’m more or less intact, I will be back at it. I realize, though, that I really don’t like getting stopped in my tracks. I want to do what I want to do. Now.

Obstinate soul. Patience is a virtue or so my grandmother told me a thousand times.

Modified workouts may come back into play for a bit – I promise to enjoy them. And work it out. All sweat counts. I also know the Camino is not a foot race, so I don’t have to be in Olympic-sprint shape to walk, even a long long way.

Here was inspiration for the week that came to me before all this happened. Thank you, Jazzy.




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Today was 5th workout of this new phase in the workout plan – increase endurance through new moves, lighter weights, more reps.

The first 4 were all about balls – tangoing between stability and bosu balls in a quick, highly sweat-inducing dance of balance, lifting, and throwing. I’m guessing that since the last one was, if not easy, quite do-able, it was time for a change.

Yep. Saturday morning, beautiful sun pouring into the gym, I’m a little woozy having eaten good but heavy gluten-free pizza the night before and stayed up too late.

And the first thing I’m told we’re doing after warmup is TRX Gorilla Squats. Stefan said if it would help, I could make ‘gorilla noises’ while doing these. A) I don’t know what gorillas sound like. B) I was able to wheeze, and that’s about it.

You go into as low a squat position as you can get (see pic) and you’re supposed to do this such that if the TRX straps were cut, you wouldn’t fall over and hit your head, but sometimes I let them help me a little.

So once you’re squatting, you move your body forward over your feet, then do two ‘stomps’ like a gorilla (or maybe a cartoon gorilla), stand up, and repeat many times.

This was the ‘easiest’ of the moves in this new program. And I probably only lifted my legs a centimetre off the ground for my stomp.

The others, most new to me, were:

60 lb cable deadlift row:  a combination move…so I’ve done deadlifts and I’ve done rows, and so today I did them together on the multi-purpose Freemotion apparatus – 15 reps.

1-arm 20lb cable press with lunge: another combination, also on Freemotion, with 3-4 different moves integrated into one exercise. Felt like learning dance steps or walking and chewing gum at the same time – awkward at best.

Sometimes I zigged when I was supposed to zag and let’s just say I was not the poster child for grace in motion. Finally got the hang of it, though.

Side stepping swing with 6lb medicine ball: Yeah, so definitely another ‘dance’ move, waving the ball in a big arc over my head, side to side, while side-stepping over a step (later this will involve stepping on bosu ball and praying I stay upright). Again, while I managed all the steps and arcs, I felt as if I were flailing and tripping – Stefan urged me not to break an ankle. And I did not.

TRX Plank, 10 seconds x 3: I told Stefan this is the hardest move I’ve done in all the workouts to date. He said “so you thought I was just going to make it easier and easier?” Point taken.

Honestly, this looks SO easy. Honestly, it’s not. I think I did make gorilla noises during this one if whimpering counts.

Stefan also, I will admit, had to hold me up some for these ‘mere’ 10-second intervals, but geez Louise, they were hard!! He did remind me that for this one I was doing the ‘I can’t’ thing when in fact I can, before I even started.

Last, back extensions x 15. So I have done this one before, and I like it, though by this point, asking more of my abs was asking a lot. That pizza was starting to have gut-wrenching associations. Quick, drink a lot of water…ok, not too bad.

This new series of moves is taking everything up a notch, many notches, again – all aimed at toughening up that renowned ‘core’ and ‘teaching’ the body through unusual motions and actions so as to prevent one from getting too patterned or at ease.

This way lies growth. Change is good. I may have looked like a gorilla trying to learn ballet, but I loved it – endorphins are so addictive! (in a good way).

Since we’re on the topic of gorillas, thought I’d share this gone-viral YouTube video about these splendid wild gorillas, including a silverback, checking out a man in a Ugandan national park. I think the careful, watchful, gorgeous silverback did make one breathy, rumbly noise…so now I know.


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