Health, Yeah!: The First Week
When the going gets tough, the tough draw pictures of hipster goats in olde timey strongman outfits.
This week has been full of surprises: some good, some bad. Here’s what I’ve learned (and remembered) so far at GrassIron, and the new tools I’ve started using outside of the gym.
Exercise: Technique and Self-Guided Workouts
When I joined a fancy gym in 2007, my trainer — during our first and final session — walked me around the place, showing me the different exercise equipment. She stopped at one device and said, “This one is, like, really popular. It works your inner thigh muscles. ‘Cause, like, a lot of people want to get skinnier thighs.”
“I thought that working specific places doesn’t necessarily reduce the fat on that place,” I said. “Because the first place you gain weight is the last place you lose it. Right?”
She stared at me blankly for a second. Then she said, “So, um, like I was saying, this is a really popular one and it works your inner thighs.”
Don’t fall for that stuff, you guys. Yes, you can improve and develop specific muscle groups; but a glorified Thighmaster won’t make your legs slimmer. That’s not how your body works.
You know what does help your thighs? Squats. Lots of ‘em. And if they’re easy, you might not be doing them right. I, for one, found out on Monday that I wasn’t doing my squats quite right. The good news is that, when you do them correctly, they really work your legs — especially your inner thigh muscles. That became the bad news the next morning, when soreness ransacked my body. I woke up in so much pain, I honestly thought I was getting the flu.
But the pain of Squatsville reminded me of a few things:
- It’s really important to consult or work with a trainer when you’re recovering from an injury. Once you know (or remember) what you’re doing, you can probably manage a list of exercises on your own. But if you haven’t worked with a good trainer in a while, and if your body’s still healing from something, having a professional watch your stance and give you tips — at least initially — is the smartest way to work out. Knowledge is power.
- You’ll never be 100% safe from all potential injuries. Our bodies are weird. Especially as we get older. Sometimes, they react oddly to perfectly innocuous stuff. Mine did today, when I was doing shoulder presses during my self-guided workout and suddenly something went off in my left elbow. As I contracted my arm, I felt a pop-pop-pop that quickly went from unusual to uncomfortable. There’s no way anyone could’ve known about that. I doubt it could’ve been prevented. Sometimes, stuff just happens. But now that I do know about it, I’m going to ice it and try to prevent myself from aggravating it. Again, knowledge is power.
- If your schedule permits it at all, work out first thing in the morning. You get it out of the way. You speed up your metabolism for the rest of the day. You don’t spend time dreading it (well, not much time, depending on how early you get up). I don’t know about you, but if I put off an at-home workout, I end up not doing it at all. Today, I had to leave my self-guided workout early, but I promised to walk in the evening. Guess what didn’t happen. Know thyself. Hey, did I mention knowledge is power?
But, as I learned when David and I got Fitbits, you can have a lot of fun with power.
David is über competitive. To know him is to be aware of this. To be married to him is to avoid it as much as possible, unless I’m feeling masochistic.
But I want both of us to get healthy. So I resigned myself to a little friendly taunting (on both sides) when I asked him to buy a duo pack of Fitbits.
The first day, we didn’t walk that much. But we did march in place a lot, loudly declaring, “I’m going to win today!” “No, I’M going to win today!”
We lost steam after a couple of hours and were sitting on the couch when I said, “Hey, did you leave a light on upstairs?”
We looked at each other. Our eyes locked, then narrowed. Somewhere, an eagle cawed.
We both jumped up and scrambled up the stairs as fast as possible.
I won that day.
The next day, David got up and spent an hour without his Fitbit on before I got up and pointed it out to him. I won that day, too. In fact, I’ve won almost every day this week.
I really like the Fitbit.
My Fitness Pal
There’s not really a way for me to talk about My Fitness Pal without gushing. But I really do love it that much, because:
- It’s so easy to use, between the bar code scanner and the thorough database of foods.
- The UI, while very detailed, is professional looking and easy to navigate. There are ads, but they’re usually hard to notice — unlike many nutrition / diet websites.
- Again, it gives me knowledge, and knowledge is power. It breaks down food by calories, carbs, sugar, sodium — you name it. And seeing all that stuff in one centralized location gives me the information I need to make wiser food choices.
I’ve synced my Fitbit and the My Fitness Pal account, which is really great — until I accidentally deleted Tuesday’s Fitbit info from My Fitness Pal. It was the one day I walked more than any other day: almost 7,000 steps. And unsyncing / resyncing the Fitbit only loads today’s data. (Insert some cursing and gnashing of teeth here.) But that’s the only major drawback I’ve found so far.
I know a lot of people dig the Weight Watchers point system, but compared to My Fitness Pal, I find it pretty constricting. When I tried living by the points, all I could see was how my choices were limiting me rather than empowering me. It was like being chided by a passive-aggressive adult. “Sure, you can eat those three pizza slices! You just can’t eat anything else for the rest of the day. But if that’s what you want, go ahead!”
Granted, I haven’t been staying within my calorie limit (1320). But I try not too range too far above 200 or 300 calories over. Yes, there was that day I went out to dinner at Second Bar and Kitchen and was 900 calories over my limit. Yes, I was about 400 calories over on Tuesday, thanks to the double cheeseburger and Oreo shake (the shake was worth it; the burger wasn’t). And yes, I soothed my frustration and sadness over a non-weight-related problem yesterday by eating a ginormous cupcake, cream cheese frosting and all.
But overall, I’m making wiser choices. I’m looking at food labels more, and understanding their impact on my daily diet a little better. I’m making comparisons and drawing intriguing conclusions. (Example: a Lara Bar has almost as much sugar as 3 packets of Sugar in the Raw. I had no idea.) I’m looking at what I want to cut out (sugar and carbs…sigh), what I want to increase (protein!), and what I’m willing to wedge in somehow (some sugar).
It’s not perfect. But it’s a start. And after only a week, it’s already working.
Copyright 2013, Sarah Rodriguez Pratt. All rights reserved.