Sunday, July 29, 2012

4LetterWord: are you eating enough?

I know some of you are bored to death by this so I'm telling you up front:  this will be more about Fitocracy, losing weight, and getting back into shape (if you're new, the 4 letter word is 'diet,' because I hate to diet).  Feel free to skip it.  Or skim.  Or write me an angry e-mail.  That would be new.  In all the time I've had this blog, I've never received an angry e-mail. 

I was probably a little harsh with that post about Fitocracy the other day.  For the most part, people are welcoming, kind, and encouraging.  It has been really good for me to hang out with people who are such good athletes.  And it has been a revelation to me-- a complete and utter astonishment-- to discover how much I can do if I push myself.  And to discover that even when I push myself very hard, I'm not doing very much compared to many other people, even people as ancient as I am.

It shouldn't surprise me that I can do this.  I come from an athletic family.  My dad was a semi-pro fast-pitch softball pitcher for years.  My mom was a tennis player, and my older sister went through college on a tennis scholarship and coached tennis for a year at a university.  My uncle and aunt taught college-level physical education for decades (my aunt still does).  We are all avid sports spectators, of almost any sport.  I am genetically capable of this-- and I'm lucky that way, I know many are not.

But it was part of my rebellion as a kid to be completely and unapologetically unathletic.  I was the middle of three sisters, and you know how that goes.  The middle child of three same-sex siblings gets lost.  It's not uncommon, and it wasn't remarkably bad-- my parents were proud of my achievements, even if they didn't enjoy band and orchestra concerts nearly as much as they did tennis tournaments.  This is not a story of abuse and neglect.  But still, I had the distinct feeling that if I did the same things as my older sister, I would disappear.  Irrational, I know, but what kid is rational? 

So a large part of my battle to get into shape is mental.  It's a huge turnaround in the way I think about myself to acknowledge that I can do this stuff.  If I keep working my muscles, they get stronger.  If I walk regularly, I can go farther and do more difficult walks.

There was a part of me that had all these weird negative-magical-thinking ideas about what was supposed to happen if I exercised.  For one thing, it wasn't supposed to be hard.  If it got too hard, there must be something wrong with me or with what I was doing.  If I got hot and sweaty, I didn't want to do it.  If it made my muscles ache the next day, it was too hard.  It's been a huge change to learn to push through that.  If I work hard, I get results.  Not always as fast as I would like, but they happen.  I don't disappear, and I like the changes that are happening.

This is so not where I was going when I sat down to type.

So, anyway.  My ongoing love-hate relationship with Fitocracy.  It took me awhile to figure this out, but there's a reason why the Fitocracy point system is so skewed against cardio (cardio = exercise that works the cardiovascular system, like running, walking, cycling, aerobics, etc.)  Weight lifters are trying to build muscle mass.  Cardio burns calories.  They don't want to burn off calories, they want to turn calories into muscle.  So, plain and simple, the purists don't value cardio.

This should be the place where I give you examples of points for different activities, but I doubt you'd be interested.  You can earn lots of points for running or cycling if you go a very long ways or for a very long time-- three hours of cycling will earn you plenty of points.  But generally speaking, on Fitocracy you would earn two (or more) times as many points weightlifting as you would in the same amount of time doing cardio.

And once you understand their reasoning, it makes sense.  For them.  But if you get hooked on the site, and you're not interested in building muscle mass (and I'm not, I just want to be strong enough to do the things I want to do), you just have to put up with the fact that Fitocracy is first and foremost a weightlifting site.  As someone said succinctly in the comments to one of my friend's workouts the other day, "Fito is a lifter's site.  Deal with it." 

Now we're finally getting to where I was going when I sat down to type.  ha.  They also have an entirely different attitude towards diet, which has fascinated me.  If you're lifting hundreds of pounds many times in a workout, you need fuel for your body.  If you're going to build muscle mass, you need fuel, and lots of it.  You need to eat.  In the forums, a common bit of advice you hear to newcomers is "are you eating enough? are you getting enough sleep?"

It is, again, a big difference in how they think about food compared to how I think about food as someone who wants to lose weight.  I think in terms of calorie restriction:  how can I eat the fewest possible number of calories today without making myself miserable?  What can I cut out of my diet so that my body will shed pounds?  They think in terms of what their bodies need:  what kind of food and how much of it do I need to eat to fuel my body's activities? 

I love this.  It's a much better way to think about food.  What does my body need?  Sure, I still need to think about avoiding sugar and empty calories, but if I think about it in terms of what my body needs instead of as a restriction, it is so much more .... better.   It's just better, a better way for me to think about food.  Since I need to lose some weight in order to be healthy, what my body needs includes weight-loss.  But it's not the only thing my body needs.  I also need healthy food to fuel my activities.

Which is why I love Fitocracy, in spite of all the reasons it drives me nuts.  I love when people challenge me to think differently. 

Friday, July 27, 2012


Well, first things first.  We have eggs.  The neighbor kid who was watching the chickens while we were at the lake last weekend found the first one (wouldn't you know it).  But then for the past three days, there have been two eggs a day.  Isn't that amazing?  Do we not have the most brilliant chickens ever?  (don't answer that.  I know that eggs are the logical outcome of having chickens.  I guess I just didn't really believe it would ever happen.)  We're not sure exactly which ones are laying the eggs, but that's OK.  There are eggs.  I am happy.

So maybe you noticed that I haven't posted in awhile.  I just haven't felt like I have anything to say.  And I still don't.  But I thought maybe if I just plunged back in, something would show up.  So here's what I've been up to.

First of all, exercising.  I've been exercising a lot.  The best thing (for me) about being on Fitocracy is the extra motivation.  There are the points, of course, and the little shout-out you get when you level up.  And then there are the people who are older than me, or far more out of shape than I am, who are working far harder than I am, or managing to exercise with a far busier schedule than I have.  And then there's the exposure to all different kinds of ideas of what to do to be active.  As I've told you before, the majority of Fitocrats are weight lifters, but there are plenty of other things going on.  There's the normal stuff like running and cycling, of course, but there are also people who are dancing and ice skating and swimming, or doing Zumba or martial arts or climbing stairs on their lunch hour.  It's amazing.  and inspiring.

I've finally even broken down and started lifting handweights.  In spite of my griping about the weight-lifting snobs, it's not the first time I've ever done it.  Several years ago, when I first started working on getting into shape, I couldn't hold downward dog in my yoga class because I just didn't have the upper body strength.  So I decided to try and build up my arms and shoulders by working with 5-lb handweights.  (In some corners of Fitocracy, anything under 20 lbs is laughable.  If you are lifting 250 lbs, or 350 lbs, or more, you are allowed to disdain "barbie weights." But I have to start somewhere, right?)

But even at that small weight, about two weeks into it, I started waking up with numbness in my hands (not carpal tunnel, remember that whole mess? something different).  So I backed off and eventually gave up on it.  Then four or five months ago when I first started trying to hold a plank (which is holding yourself up off the floor on your forearms and toes), again my upper body strength was the limiting factor, far more than my core strength.  So I started lifting my itty bitty weights again, and had the same results again-- numbness in my hands, with the added problem of exacerbating the tennis elbow I developed (without ever playing tennis) at some point in the past year. So I stopped again.

But here is something I've learned from hanging out with the amazing people on Fitocracy.  You don't give up.  You adjust, you try lighter weights (yup, there are weights even more pathetic than 5 lbs) or fewer reps, you check around for different moves, you ice down when you're done, but you don't quit.  So I'm in the midst of trying that now.  I've been doing weights again for about three weeks now, and I'm waking up with numb hands again and my non-tennis-related tennis elbow is a bit worse and my shoulder muscles are sometimes so sore that it worries me, but I'm not quitting this time.  Or at least, not until I've pushed through it for awhile to see whether or not this is a solvable problem.

But here is the funny thing.  You remember my gripes about the point system on Fitocracy?  How a lifter can get more points just for being in the same room with the weights than I can get for 45 minutes of brisk walking?  Yeah, that gripe.  Well, suddenly I am on the receiving end of it.  Not kidding.  Yesterday I did about 20 minutes of lifting my little weights, plus a few lunges and squats, and it was over a thousand points. (My usual workouts average between 150 and 200 points.) I just about fell out of my chair when I saw the point total.  My arms were a bit shaky, and I did break a sweat, but I didn't get nearly as tired or sweaty or winded as I get in a 45-minute walk.

So the purist part of me feels a bit guilty that I'm getting all these points that feel EASY CHEESY compared to what I was doing before, especially since I griped so much about how skewed the point system is. But mostly I'm OK with it.  ha.  I've leveled up twice in two weeks since I figured this out-- previously it was taking me about a month per level.  But what I really like is being stronger.  I carried stuff up and down the stairs at the lake last week that I wouldn't have been able to manage by myself before this.

So I think this was going somewhere, but I can't remember what the point was.  Maybe I'll try again tomorrow.  The post title--DYEL? -- is a lifter's phrase, one that appears (apparently) on T-shirts at gyms.  It stands for Do You Even Lift?  and I think the answer is NO if you're lifting the rubberized little weights I use. :-) And also, for the record, not all the weightlifters are snobs.  Some of them are so kind and encouraging.  But some of them are not.

p.s.  They must agree with me.  I did a similar workout today and they had scaled back the points considerably-- the weight lifting part of it was only about 650 points, even though I did almost exactly the same routine.  It completely makes sense to me that they did that, but I have admit to being a teensy bit disappointed. :-P

Thursday, July 19, 2012


well, I really was going to write something before we went out to the lake for a few days, but I ran out of time.  And we will be well out of cell and internet range till the middle of next week.  Hope everyone is enjoying their summer and I will be back soon.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

the promised photos

Nell's graduation, with fancy arrow showing her approximate location. 

(I hope you are impressed with that arrow. It took me about 15 minutes to figure out how to do that.)

In NC, MadMax and his cousin B doing epic battle with.... enormous ray (thanks to Uncle J for handling it safely!)
Sun and Waves at the beach
Taking my sister and family up to see some snow
What happens when you fall asleep without knowing where your camera is
Tour Guide Julie at the gorgeous Eugene library
I'm the one in the purple shorts.  lol that cracks me up just typing it.
new additions to my usual walking route-- these guys just appeared on Monday
Walked in a new area today and there were a couple dozen of these guys running around-- can you see them?  they're prairie dogs.  They're hard to photograph with a phone because they're so quick.

Sunday, July 08, 2012

Riffday: what I did in June

June was insane.  Lots of fun, but exhausting.  Most of last week I spent trying to recoup.  Now it's time to get back to work-- I'm going back to my thesis on Monday.  But the month off was good-- I'm not dreading it anymore.

So what happened in June?  Well, for starters, Nell graduated, which made us practically burst with pride and also was a lot of fun.  How often are you in a stadium with about 20,000 people, all of whom are happy?  Great atmosphere.  I thought it was going to be supremely boring to sit through a three-hour graduation ceremony, but there was so much going on that really it wasn't bad.  Dean's dad flew out to celebrate with us, which was only appropriate since he had helped fund Nell's college adventures.

Then the next morning, we flew straight from Seattle to the intercoastal waterway in North Carolina, where we spend a week every summer with Dean's family.  The fun continued.  It was a bit rainier than usual, but otherwise wonderful.  There was a brief, heartfelt family memorial service for Dean's sweet mom, who passed away in January.  She was a dream mother-in-law, always kind, thoughtful, and welcoming.  I met her when I was 21; about the same age Nell is now.  She is missed.

Then we flew back to Seattle, moved Nell out of her apartment, and drove home, just in time to get the house ready for a visit from my younger sister and her family.  More fun ensued, including hikes, trips to various lakes, and many loud games of Speed Uno.  I don't usually play because I'm a bit slow, but they even talked me into a hand or two.  They're very patient.

Then (this keeps going on), the day they flew home, I got in the car with MadMax and one of his buddies and we drove to Oregon where we got to go to one day of the Olympic Track and Field trials, and meet Julie.  The whole trip was great except for the seedy hotel where we had to stay since--not knowing we were going-- I waited until way too late to make our reservations.  I knew we would love the trials, since both MadMax and his friend are track and field athletes and I love sporting events, but it was even more fun than I thought it would be-- there were several exciting finishes, and although the weather wasn't perfect, we didn't get drenched.  It was just a bit drizzly.  And I got to meet Julie and her husband Dan, and Max, the star of the daily dog photos on her blog (who is much smaller in person than he appears in the photos).  Also became horribly jealous of the Eugene library.  Hmmm.  I'm remembering that I took pictures, but I'm not sure what happened to them.  Maybe tomorrow I will post pictures.

And then, when we got home, the painters and the roofers showed up on the same day, so we spent all last week being painted and roofed.  They're not done yet-- the roofers are only about half done, and the painters are coming back on Monday to stain the deck, but already the house looks so much better. This was part of the original plan when we bought the house, but we had to wait for the weather to get nice enough for painting and roofing. 

The chickens are fine, a bit bigger, but still not laying eggs.  We had to fence off our strawberry patch once they discovered it because turns out chickens love strawberries.  MadMax is turning 15 next week, which means I turn 51 two weeks after that.  Time just keeps flying by. 

And there.  now I'm caught up and maybe I will have something more interesting to say in a few days.