Archive for July 2009

Water workouts

Water aerobics, pool fitness, aqua toning… whatever you call it, I always thought exercising in the pool was “easier.”  But in the daily pool classes here, I’ve discovered that training in the water can as strenuous – if not more – than training on land not because of what we do in the water, but how I do it.

Again, everyone goes at their own pace.  But I’ve started taking it up a notch during a moderate class, to make the workout higher-intensity – for more calorie burning, more dramatic gains in cardio-vascular capacity, and more dramatic improvements in muscle toning, strengthening, and sculpting.

What I’ve learned is I can bring my muscles to the point of fatigue in the pool.  One of the trainers is showing me how to pushing myself in the water.  And, I can get to my abs so much more effectively in the pool than on land.  It just took a good trainer to explain proper form and posture for really working those core muscles from my pelvis to my bust and 360 degrees around my trunk.  I actually feel myself working deep in those abs without any of the strain on my low back, neck or shoulders that I typically get when doing ab work in a gym.

I even did a personal pool training the other day with one of my favorite trainers, and he  k-i-c-k-e-d  my butt!  He had me challenging myself in ways I would never have thought of.

I also get an amazing upper-body strength workout in the pool, using weights, noodles, webbed gloves and other equipment.

The bottom line is I have a new-found respect for water workouts and I’ve learned new tricks for making my own pool workouts as intense as any on land.  I guess it’s like anything else: It’s not only what you do, but how you do it that counts.

Weightless when wet

Weightless.  That’s the way I feel when I’m lolling in the water. It’s such a wonderful feeling, especially because the pool here is kept at a comfortable 84 degrees all the time!  And today was especially awesome because after a great workout during pool class, I treated myself to a little float on an inflatable raft.  I rolled up a towel for under my head, put my hat and sunglasses on, and guess what… next thing I knew it was 5:30 and I was waking up! I had fallen asleep while floating in the middle of the pool on this raft!  I don’t think I’ve ever been more comfortable in my life.  Talk about weightless!  Talk about a luxury! Wait – forget all that. Talk about LUCKY that I didn’t roll off in my sleep and awaken falling into the water!

Tailoring my exercise

The exercise classes here are pretty varied.  I can get a good workout, there’s always enough variety to make things interesting and keep my body working efficiently, I’ve learned a lot of new things, and I’m definitely getting a good mix of cardio, strength, core, stretching, and mind-body/stress management practices.  But some classes are easier or harder than others, and I had a revelation: I am responsible for my own exertion.  In other words, how hard I work in that class is entirely up to me! If I need it harder, I can go for it with a little more intensity, bend lower, step wider, raise my arms higher, hop instead of stride, add heavier weights, etc.  If I need to take it a little easier, I can hang back and walk in place for a minute.
Sure, sometimes I feel a little like Ralph Kramden from the Honeymooners when he was learning the Mambo, flailing my arms, thrusting my body about, but who cares. This is for me.  Another thing I do that actually adds a little challenge if I want to ramp it up is I sing.  Yep, sing.  I find that the extra amount of energy and breath required makes the workout that much more challenging.  And it’s fun!  AND when I have sung, there hasn’t been a single time when I was the only person singing – or flailing my arms, or gyrating like Ralph Kramden, or sweating up a storm.

If I’m going to care too much about not looking funny in class, I’m not going to get the same benefit from the workout.  And if I’m going to simply follow my neighbor and not make the workout my own, it won’t be the workout that I need.
So I’m having fun while taking responsibility for my own exertion, and it’s a responsibility I’m happy to take.

Weigh-in 1

Well, I weighed myself for the first time today…. and 4 ½ pounds down!!! I’m so psyched! NOW, I know a lot must be “water,” especially because I haven’t used salt since the night I got here, but still 4 ½ pounds difference on the scale is exciting to see, and I’m giving myself plenty of credit for keeping to approximately 1,200 calories a day, exercising my tail off for two to three hours a day, and drinking water and tea constantly throughout the day.

I can only assume that every little bit helps, and although I have so much further to go, I have to believe that if I keep doing what I did this past week, I’ll like what I see on the scale a week from today.  For that matter, I’ll probably like what I see in the mirror better a week from today.

I have to remind myself to just stick with it.  Just keep doing the next right thing, and in time, I’ll get where I’m going.

Friends

There are two women I met who are also going to be here for a while.  I’m psyched about that.  It’s funny, making new friends is not one of the goals I had in mind when I came, but we’re starting to bond, giggling a lot, sharing frustrations, swapping favorite food stories, telling each other about our kids, etc, and it’s nice.  What a revelation! I know that must sound weird, but I can tend to be a little anti-social, so it really is a bit of a revelation for me.  And the really interesting thing for me is that feeling these friendly connections forming seems important to rediscovering myself, re-connecting to my own needs and wellbeing, starting to feel more human again.  It’s comforting to have someone to fall in with – whether for an instant between activities, over a meal, or a good laugh during class.  Just saying.  You know, I’ve actually read a couple things recently about the importance of friendship and social connections – even just being in the company of others – to a person’s health, quality of life, and even lifespan. Hmm.  That’s starting to resonate with me.  True?  Maybe.  One more thing that feels good?  For sure.

The food

So, the food.  Yes, the food.  The food here is really good.  I can’t believe how good food cooked without salt, fat and sugar can taste. I am truly enjoying it all. But because I am choosing to keep to approximately 1200 calories a day, the portion sizes are much smaller than I’m used to.  Don’t get me wrong.  These are normal portion sizes, the kind nutritionists tell you to eat – for example 4 ounces of protein, in some cases 6.  I’m just used to plowing through more than half a rotisserie chicken by myself! Going back for seconds on practically everything.  Ordering – and eating – a 12 or even 16-ounce steak.

So when my dad asked me last night on the phone if I’m hungry here, I said the only time I feel hungry is when the plate first arrives and I see just how little is on it…compared to what I’m used to.  The truth is I am not hungry.  When I finish a meal, my stomach feels full.  It’s just that in many cases I’d like to keep eating because what I just ate was so good, I want more of it.  But that is entertainment, not nutrition.  So am I wildly entertained, the way I am when I feast beyond fullness on Italian food, or Thai food, or ribs, or a burger and fries? Not wildly entertained. But I am starting to feel a little less bloated and a little more optimistic about learning to eat like a healthy human being.

So I deal with the momentary feeling of disappointment that there’s no more to eat.  I drink a little more water, or make myself a cup of tea.  I have a little more conversation, and before I know it, the feeling has passed.  I am fine.  No, better than fine.  I feel good. Not having seconds or more than my serving didn’t kill me.  The pangs were only momentary. And I am headed in a good direction.  Cool.

Hiking

I went hiking today.  It was a little hilly in parts but not difficult.  It just felt good to be out in the woods, walking a trail, breathing the air, surrounded by the lush, cool green of the mountains.

I have always loved hiking for its meditative and metaphorical qualities.  I love the act of doing nothing other than putting one foot in front of the other – again, and again, and again… It’s very easy for me to suspend all other thought when I’m focusing only on whether there’s a branch on the ground that I need to avoid or a rock that looks like it might be unsteady under foot.  I love the muffled way things sound in the woods and I always think about the trail as a metaphor for life itself.  Sometimes it goes uphill, sometimes down, sometimes there’s an obstacle in your path, or slippery ground, or something kind of scary or surprising nearby (our guide, Janet, who’s also a naturalist, assured us that that snake was NON-poisonous).

The point is sometimes hiking, like life, is easier, sometimes it’s harder, sometimes I feel unsure of my footing, sometimes I’m not comfortable with or even afraid of something I encounter.  Sometimes I become a bit bored or impatient to get to the end, or go faster than the group, but as in a meditation where you simply observe your own breathing in and breathing out, I note the responses I’m having then let them pass.  No judgment.  Just observation.  And in the end, keep moving forward.

The scale

I weighed myself this morning – for the first time in over a year. I didn’t like what I saw, though I wasn’t entirely surprised at the number, and anyway, I needed to see it – face it, embrace it.  It’s only a starting point, nothing else.  I’m trying not to beat myself up about it.  Tell myself that number, that starting point doesn’t define me.  It’s just part of my motivation and resolve to do better now, one day at a time.  Glad I’m here to do it.

Big sigh

I took Yoga tonight for the first time in years – a gentle, pre-bedtime Yoga class.  I felt overwhelmed with emotion as I bent, stretched, and relaxed my body in a purposeful way, tuned out everything else racing through my head and zeroed in on my breath.  And as I listened to the soothing tones of instructor, Laurie’s voice, I found myself overwhelmed by emotion and I couldn’t fight back my tears.  What was I crying about?
In that moment, it occurred to me how relieved I felt to be doing something good for myself – not just by doing Yoga, but in coming here to Deerfield altogether and deciding to use the trip to improve my life.  I also felt sad – sad about having treated myself so poorly for so long before coming here, sad about short-changing my children by not being the best person and best mom I could be, and by setting such a poor example for them.  And finally, I felt a small glimmer of hope that I might finally be able to change my life, head in a constructive direction, and take life’s usual challenges in stride.  After a moment, my tears gave way to calm.  I naturally slowed down my breathing, filled my lungs with air, and finished the class with a feeling of peace, completely buying into the wonderful affirmation Laurie shared with us.  This is what it said:

I am gentle to all beings
I easily forgive myself and others
I am free of fear and anger
I move away from judging to loving
I embrace all, trusting the Divine flow
My heart is pure

BeautyNewsNYC.com features confessions of a Deerfield esthetician

Wow, check out the great article by Deerfield Spa esthetician Dawn Butler in the new issue of beautynewsnyc.com  The link is http://www.beautynewsnyc.com/spa/confessions-of-an-esthetician/#more-15310  Way to go, Dawn! We love you. (We also love your Deerfield Signature Facial with microcurrent and LED light, but we love you more!)