Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Dessert auditions

This year for one of the first times ever I have the time to try out (audition) recipes for Thanksgiving. Because my year has been so turbulent, I'm not hosting, but have been asked to bring a dessert and an appetizer.

This week I'm holding the dessert auditions. So yesterday I made this recipe for Pumpkin Blondies. I tried to make it first thing in the morning, and I should have known better than to trust the time estimate without checking. In my mind, a 9 x 13 pan of anything takes longer than 20 minutes at 350 degrees. But yesterday I just pulled the pan and went on with my day. So I came back to some semi-custardy brownies. They taste good, but next time I'd bake them longer for sure. Today I cut them into small squares and dusted them with powdered sugar, and am bringing them to a potluck tonight.

So then I went on a Pinterest search for some even better Pumpkin Blondies and I found this recipe (which is pictured above). Holy cannoli these look good, don't they? As I type, these are baking away and let me tell you, my house smells like Thanksgiving. I'm thinking that anything that has white chocolate, butterscotch, and pumpkin has got to be amazing, but I'll let you know once they are out and cooled. Oh, I used chopped walnuts instead of hazelnuts, partly because I had walnuts, and partly because I like the slightly bitter taste of walnuts with the very sweet chips.

But wait, there's more! Later today I'm making this recipe for Apple Cranberry Cheesecake Bars. Well, except there will be no apple. And no cranberry. The recipe calls for Apple Cranberry Pie Filling, but I couldn't find that at the store. So mine will probably be cherry and blueberry, because that just sounds really good to me.

Holy cow, the oven is smelling amazing!

Later this week, come back for pie auditions. I'll be back with the results tomorrow.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Writer's block

I'm having a terrible time getting words onto paper (screen?) these days. For one thing, I keep reading essays by truly gifted writers, and when I read yet another fantastic piece, I'll think, "I'm just going to write "what she said" and post a link." And the other reason is that I have so many unanswered questions, such as "should I stick with Blogger or learn WordPress" and "why am I even writing in the first place" and "who am I to think I have anything to say"? (I can also get really hung up about not using punctuation correctly.) Since inertia (if you don't know everything, then do nothing) is oh so familiar to me, these questions leave me doing nothing.

This essay is an attempt to break the silence. To reject the inertia. To live in "I don't have to know everything in order to do anything." So on to today's topic: Working in the beauty industry.

As a personal trainer, you might think that I work in the fitness industry. But I think of myself as working more in the beauty industry, and at times working in the life-coaching industry.

What motivated me to get certified in the first place was a desire to help women live better lives. I believe with all my heart that as women, we live better when we feel at home in our bodies. And to feel at home in our bodies, we need to move and sweat and stretch and test our limits. This feeling at home in our bodies is not something that only women can benefit from. But generally speaking, boys and men are encouraged to be physical way more than the opposite gender.

Fitness as beauty shows up in many ways. For one thing, when you're in shape you have more energy and confidence, and despite what the media tells us, what's really sexy? Energy and confidence. Also when your body is fit, buying clothes becomes less of a "have to" and more of a "get to!" I believe that sweating makes your skin better. And feeling strong and flexible does much to improve your confidence (yep, we're back to confidence again, having come full circle).

The life coaching element comes in because you get to know someone intimately when you see them one-on-one for an hour, several times per week. This time is completely focused on what the client wants and needs, and is a perfect time to consider a problem from different angles. I love when I can help by being an accountability partner to one of my girls, many times in areas having nothing to do with fitness directly, but having everything to do with having a better life.

As always, thanks for "listening."

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Measure something

All or nothing is my most natural sort of thinking. Years ago a counselor asked me "what's in between black and white?" I answered, "pukey grey, and I HATE grey!" She replied, "Actually if you're talking about light, every color in the rainbow exists between black and white." I was stunned, and it certainly changed my ideas about being somewhere in the middle.

What does this have to do with measuring something? Well, I've gone years without ever weighing myself (because I just didn't want to know) interspersed with periods of time where I obsessively weighed myself (like multiple times per day) and made myself crazy. Not surprisingly, there's a healthy balance that lies between these two extremes.

If you're not looking to change physically, then you can get away with never measuring. But for those looking to be in better shape, how will you know what direction you're going if you never check to see where you are?

I think it's best to measure two types of things: a performance measure and a body composition measure. Performance measures are fun, like "Do 20 pushups" or "Run a mile in under 9 minutes." I really think these types of goals help to keep our youthful "I can do that!" spark alive. Choose a goal that pulls you forward out of your comfort zone, but not one that you think you can never meet. My performance goal right now is 100,000 steps per week, as tracked by my Fitbit. It's a gentle sort of goal, because right now I need to be gentle with myself. In the past I've done "Run 1000 miles in a year." That's a fun one (assuming you like to run). It works out to about 20 miles per week, with 2 weeks off. What's hard about this goal is that you can't let yourself get behind. I did that one the year I was 37 and the year I was 47. I also did a 1,000 lunge walks a day one year, and lasted 3 months. (I think I wrote about that --- gotta check the blog archives.)

On to body composition measures. Weight is an easy one to measure but it's kinda bullshit, because it's heavily influenced by how much water you're holding, and says nothing about the source of the weight (fat vs. muscle). Also lots of people have scale freak-outs, with magic numbers of what they should weigh that they've pulled out of their asses. (My perfect weight? 123 pounds. Isn't that a nice number? Of course, right now I weigh 141, and I'm thinking I'd look rather drawn and in need of a sandwich with almost 20 pounds gone from my medium sized athletic frame.) If you're going to track weight, I'd suggest weighing once a week, first thing in the morning, and finding a place to write it down so you can see trends.

Good lord this is a lot of words! Congratulations to anyone who is still reading. The good stuff is up next, so your time will not have been wasted.

For a while I measured my waist to see how I was doing. Again, it's easy to measure, and it provides input on if you're moving closer to or further away from what you want. I've also used a pair of pants. In fact, for one solid year my goal was to fit into size 4 Ann Taylor pants. So I would go into the store about once a month, try on a pair to see if I was getting closer, and buy nothing. Yes, I did finally fit into their size 4 and it was super satisfying to buy a pair when I did. But it would be easier to use a pair of pants you already own. :)

The measurement I like the best these days is called InBody. It's a scale with food pads and hand handles (is that redundant?) that use biometric impedance to measure % body fat. Measurements are complete after about 45 seconds of standing on the scale, and you get a printout that has more info than you could possibly want (I mean that in a good way) about your body. Downside? The machine is about $5000 (I checked!). But for local Rocklin/Roseville people, here's some good news: Tru Fitness, a gym in West Roseville, will do an InBody assessment on you for $19. Any time you want one. And (drum roll, please!) if you want to try out Tru Fitness (I love this gym!) for 6 weeks, and get the InBody scan at the start and the end of that time, you can do that right now for $49. They're doing a holiday fitness challenge that starts November 15 and ends December 27. A portion of all participants entry fees are used for prizes, and in order to win a prize, you just have to not gain weight during that time period. The more you lose, the bigger the prize!

Lest this reads like an advert for Tru Fitness, I'm in no way affiliated with them, except as a member who loves the Les Mills classes.

And lest this read like an advert for the Lift habit tracking app, Lift is a great way to track your progress on performance goals. :)

Now get out there and measure something!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Paying attention

I was thinking about health and fitness advice. There are a million books (I own most of them) and a zillion magazines (I own them all) with instructions on how to get and stay in shape. Diet advice. Exercise advice. Nutrient timing advice. And they can't all be wrong, can they? And they can't all be right, right?

So here's the best fitness advice I can give you: pay attention. To what? To your own body.

When we're young we think we're going to feel great forever. One of my teen friends has told me that she's never worried about being hit while walking in a parking lot, because if she does get hit, she'll get a lot of money. As a 50-something with lots of issues cropping up, I beg her to reconsider. Here's the analogy that works best for me:

Your body is like a car. So let's say you get a new car. Cool, right? Here's the catch: it's the only car you're ever going to be able to have. Ever. So what you do to this car over the course of your lifetime matters, because you can't trade it in for a new one.

So given that we have this one body, it makes sense to pay attention to it. And treat it with care. There have been entire decades when they only thing I noticed about my body was the number it gave when I was on the scale and whether my skinny jeans fit. Now that I'm older I'm getting better at really paying attention. So I now know what works for me and what doesn't work for me. (Well, I know a little about that.) This is why there are so many diet and exercise books, people. Because one size does not fit all.

So in sorting through all the conflicting information out there, it's best to look at the least common denominator, because chances are health advice that appears virtually everywhere is probably good information. From what I've read, these things are universally true:

  • Eating lots of vegetables is good.
  • Cooking your own food is good.
  • Wearing sunscreen is good.
  • Moving your body enough to break a sweat and breathe hard is good.
I know there's a study somewhere that refutes my claims. But generally speaking you'll live better if you follow these rules. Actually, I'd rather call them "guidelines" as that's a gentler way to see them.

Because I've paid attention, there are some other things that seem to work for me:
  • Eating lots of protein and fat makes my waist smaller.
  • So do avoiding gluten.
  • Caffeine helps me to pay attention.
  • Taking an anti-depressant daily helps stabilize my mood and keep me from free-falling into the depression abyss.
These are not true for everyone, but they work for this girl. So I'm gonna keep doing them. And if they stop working, I'll know sooner rather than later, because I'm paying attention.

What's tricky about this is if you feel overweight and out of shape. The times I've felt like this, I was also way out of touch with my body, because I didn't want to look. And I'm not suggesting eating while naked in front of a mirror (there was a diet that actually promoted this!), but really checking in with the reality of what's going on with your body. Because that's a great place to start -- with what is.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Words matter

Yesterday in yoga the teacher told us to flirt with our edge, this while we were in a difficult part of the flow. And I was thinking about the word flirt. It's a playful word. And I loved its unexpected appearance when talking about difficult fitness work.

I've always loved words. I'm told I was reading when I was three years old, but I think that's just parental love talking. I do know that I was a voracious reader and had to be sternly told "you will go outside and play!" as an elementary school bookworm kid. Before our kids were born we decided we would talk to them like reasonable people, no matter how small they were. This may have something to do with their excellent vocabularies today. And I find satisfaction with coming up with the perfect word, whether in conversation or in writing. (But now I'm all worried that these words I'm typing need improvement. The peril of a word nerd.)

So back to the topic at hand. I believe words matter, and I'm a huge fan of choosing playful lighthearted words. Some examples:

  • I often say Tim is my boyfriend rather than calling him my husband. Boyfriend just has such a playful flirty kind of feel. I'm a fan of long-term marriage (we're a week away from 24 years!) and think one of the keys to success is infusing fun into the mix any way you can.
  • I've already written about this in a previous post but writing "beauty juice" on a pitcher filled with water was the magical key to getting me to drink more water. I was a huge Diet Pepsi fan and hated the taste of water. But "beauty juice" trumps soda any day!
  • The actual word play can make such a difference regarding exercise. Fartlek (which sounds like "fart lick" and makes me laugh) is a Swedish word meaning "speed play." Using that idea, sometimes I do park play. Or hill play (so much better than hill repeats, right?). 
  • Borrowing from school lingo, any new experience is a field trip to me. I've gone on field trips by myself to new yoga studios. My kids and I took their guinea pig on a field trip to Starbucks, cage and all. The word adventure would also work, but as the daughter of two teachers, field trip is my choice.
If you have special words you use to add more fun, I'd love to hear them.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Doctor says...

... tears in gluteal tendons on both sides. At least that's her best guess. Because these tendons are always active that's why I can't seem to get any relief, except when I'm lying down. Next step is MRI and if she sees what she thinks she'll see, the solution is PRP (platelet rich plasma) injections, where they take your blood, separate out the platelets and inject them into the area.

I have a teeny tiny spark of hope that I could be pain free and maybe even running again by the end of the year.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I think I know, but I don't

My doctor says I have arthritis in my hands, and that's why it hurts to push down (think pushups or downward facing dog). Arthritis doesn't really jive with my picture of me (active, healthy, energetic) but with the stresses of almost five years of trying to take care of my parents, it's not surprising. 

Five years ago I was training for my first marathon. My high goal (which I told very few people about) was BQin, but just to be running a marathon was amazing, as a "last picked for everything" girl. I can't stop smiling as I think of that day:
  • Tim driving me to the starting line
  • My mental game plan (run first 10 miles with my head, next 10 with my legs, and the final 6.2 with my heart)
  • Knowing I'd see my family along the race route (they were at mile 10 and mile 20)
  • The crisp clear weather -- one of the very best years to run CIM
  • Seeing my besties at mile 23 -- they surprised me by coming out and ran the last 3 miles with me (tears in eyes as I think of this)
  • Finishing in 3:58:05, which meant I qualified for Boston!!!!!

Still running at mile 20, but seeing family makes it all good.
Laudon and Donna -- couldn't have done it without them!
Having my family there was wonderful. And my teen boys got up early for me. That's huge, people.
Tucker decorated my mirror. I left this up for weeks.
One month later, my dad fell and broke his arm, which triggered Alzheimer's, and his whole world, and mine, changed. 

In the years since, I've stayed active, but my parents health needs have taken priority over my own. So three years ago I noticed hip pain. But I was still able to run, and any doctor visits were for my mom or my dad, so I kept running. About a year or so later I added in yoga, which was a very good combination, but the hip pain was always there. I've tried a lot of things to address the pain, but nothing has helped. So I lived on lots of ibuprofen and lots of caffeine and just kept going. In March I stopped doing yoga, because my parents situation had gone from really bad to awful. In May I stopped running because the hip pain could no longer be ignored. In the last couple of months, hand and foot pain have entered the mix, and after I tried to run recently (thinking "fuck it, I hurt all the time so might as well try", so I did a slow jog, just a couple of miles), my right knee started hurting and "tears in eyes" pain from hips told me that running is completely out of the question.

Last week I went back to yoga for the first time. Tim went with me. (Without him I don't think I could have gone.) And I cried a lot, but that's easy to hide in a hot yoga class where tears look a lot like sweat. :) My body and my spirit felt broken, but after the class I felt peaceful and I felt more like the me I used to know.

On Monday I went to yoga again. On this day, my hands were so painful I couldn't do much of anything in class. About halfway through class I had to step out, because the mixture of frustration and pain and sadness had me wanting to just scream or hit the walls. It was just a few months ago that I was able to do this. And I loved it. And now? So fucking unfair to return to what I love and yet be unable to do it.

Yesterday I went back again. I was fully expecting to do little to nothing in terms of yoga poses, but knowing that I needed to follow the advice of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau:
Don't do nothing just because you can't do everything.
Do something. Anything.

And guess what? My hands didn't hurt as much as they did on Monday. The takeaway is this: every day is different from the one that came before it. So I may think I know, but the truth is that I don't.

Today I see a sports medicine doctor for my hips. X rays have shown that there's nothing wrong structurally. And because of a cancellation, I get to see the doctor today, instead of two weeks from now.  I can't go back to five years ago (nor would I want to), but maybe I can recapture the spirit of the me I used to be, because that girl is alive and well inside my heart.