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Friday, September 23, 2011

and then i woke up and weighed 140

A good friend of mine spends a good portion of his "work" day forwarding me articles he thinks I'd be interested in. For the past two days, these have been solely depressing and infuriating stories about our baseball team's epic collapse and how much John Lackey sucks. Which is a topic for another blog and don't get me started. However, before all that, he sent me this tidbit from the NYT.

I won't bore you with my own theories about the relevance or lack thereof of "calories in, calories out." I will tell you that, on this my first official and intentional bulk, I have been amazed about how difficult it is to actually gain weight when you want to. As previously documented, I've managed about a pound a month and I am eating all the damn time.

(This morning I was up another pound to 119. However, I am very suspicious that it's only water weight from yesterday's SLDLs as my hamstrings are seriously screaming at me at the moment. I wish I were one of those people who knew how to make cute little stick-figure cartoons in Paint, because I'd illustrate. It goes something like this. Hamstrings: "Andrea! You think you were all hot shit throwing in the 135lb SLDLs yesterday, don't you? Well, you just try to get up from your chair now. SUFFER!" Andrea: "Ow." That would be much funnier illustrated. [Talking stick-figure hammies are hilarious. Trust.] Apparently this is NOT a full-service blog. I did, however, manage to put a parenthetical inside a parenthetical, and I know you all love that. Also? I have industrial strength arnica at home and I am too stupid to use it, even though I push it on all my friends. Sigh.)

In any case, the disturbing part of that linked article is, to me, the statement that an extra 100 calories a day will put on x amount of weight, but it won't show up immediately. Really? This is what all of us bulkers fear in the dark recesses of our hearts. That we'll be gaining weight (musclely muscle!) at a slow and reasonable and controlled way but then, oops!, all of a sudden we'll wake up obese. I may have even had a bad dream about this, but the one I had the other night about contracting head lice was even more horrifying, so I shouldn't really complain about what my subconscious vomits up.

I promise you this. If the worst comes to pass and I continue eating and eating and eating and eating more because I apparently am not gaining, and then suddenly one morning find myself three sizes too big for my pants, I will spare you all the underwear pictures. You're welcome. More full-service than you thought!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

workout fashion throughout the ages

Okay, not "throughout the ages". From 1977 to now. Whaddya think? People hit the gym in 1393? They were too busy dying of the plague, yo. And the ancient Greeks hit the gym nekkid, all the better to ogle each others' junk. 'Cause you know how they were. Look up "sodomy" in the dictionary.

Uh, where was I? Oh, yeah. You would think that workout clothes wouldn't go through trends and fads. They're just supposed to be functional, right? But human beings are chimps that like shiny stuff. We generally are compelled to throw some bells and whistles in with our function. And thus it is with athletic clothing.

When I was in high school in the late 70s, we wore these running shorts in gym class:

If there exists a garment that is less flattering on a woman with short little legs and Bulgy Polish Catcher's Thighs, I dunno what it is. Thus I hated changing into my gym clothes and avoided it whenever possible. Luckily, our gym teachers were there solely to collect a paycheck and couldn't care less about our physical fitness or lack thereof. I didn't have to wear my ugly green gym shorts very often.

But free from high school gym class, I did actually have an interest in becoming fit. I made some abortive attempts in the early 80s to go to the gym, usually joining up with a girlfriend who swore they would go, then bailing when they bailed. I was shy. The thoughts of taking my leotard-clad, uncoordinated self through the gym alone was too daunting. Leotards? you say. Oh, yes. This is what Jane Fonda wrought:

I KNOW! With belts and everything! As I love to remind y'all, you cannot make this shit up. As horrifying as this is, it was a step up for me. Those leotards were a lot more flattering on my particular body type than the running shorts. The tights on the bottom kept the thighs in check and you know my waist looked good under the belt. (Seriously, WTF? How did that not cut off our circulation while we were "pulsing" or whatever the fuck it is we were doing?)

In the late 80s and early 90s, I became a gym rat for awhile. It was all about the Stairmaster and the recumbent bike. What did we wear to drip our sweat everywhere while pretending we were climibng to the top of the John Hancock Tower? Why, bike shorts, of course!

Do you know how else we deployed our bike shorts in the early 90s? We wore them peeking out under our babydoll dresses. I also wore a lot of red lipstick, but I didn't smear it all over my face like Courtney Love. If pictures exist of this, you will never see them. But I'm getting off topic. Unlike the spokesmodel in my example picture, I generally was too self-conscious to wear just a sports bra with my bike shorts in the gym. (Yes, yes, I know. I just posted a crapload of pictures of myself in my underwear for anyone to stumble across on the internet. I have come a long way in vanquishing my shyness since 1992.) Back then, I usually wore my bike shorts with a hugely over-sized Ocean Pacific t-shirt:

My personal favorite one was lime green. Don't judge.

You know what else we wore a lot of in the early 90s, when we weren't wearing our babydoll dresses? Leggings! This translated to gym fashion in the form of the unitard:

I had one almost exactly like the one on the right. Do you know what's scary? This image is of garments for sale NOW. Apparently the kids are wearing these things to the club. Damn hipsters. Excuse me while I clutch my pearls.

I became disenchanted with the gym, bought some home exercise equipment, and didn't exercise anywhere other than my house or the great outdoors for fifteen years or so. When I came back, it was all different.

Yoga pants had been invented:

This was a good thing.

Sports bra technology had advanced to the point where even chicks like me with big boobs on tiny frames could run in comfort.

This was also a good thing.

Clothes promised to wick away your sweat.

I suppose this is a good thing. I myself prefer to go old skool and wear cheap beaters from Tarzhay:

I take the big sweat stain that I get across my abdomen as a sign I'm doing something right.

But bike shorts are back! Or maybe they never went away. However, they are now available in magical miracle fabric spun by fairies and if you are willing to pay Lululemon prices, they'll make you look better than you have any right to look. And by "you" obviously I mean me. This is a very good thing.

I stand by my decision to waste money on these things.

What will we be wearing to the gym in 2020? Your guess is as good as mine. But if they bring back leotards with belts, I'ma sit that one out.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

now with more underwear pictures

I've been bulking for six months, boys and girls. Mid/late March to now. I've put on six pounds, 112 to 118. Time to compare pictures.

February pre-bulk back pictures:

September back pictures:

(the honesty shot of how bad my legs look, with bonus tag showing!)

February front:

September front:

February side:

September side:

So what have we learned from these comparison shots? Only that all I've gained in six months is fat plus a bodymedia fit surgically attached to my left arm. Sigh. Seriously though, I'm getting way stronger. There's gotta be muscle under there somewhere. SOMEWHERE.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

i am not your mother

...but, sometimes, in the gym? The maternal instincts come out.

Sometimes it's mom rage, triggered by people who think their mommy does in fact work there, and therefore they don't have to pick any of their own shit up. Oh, sure, leave your dumbbells all over the floor and your plates still loaded on the barbell or machine. Push the benches all over the place and don't return them to where they belong. Take equipment out of the stretching area and into the weight room, or vice versa, and leave it strewn around so the next person who needs it has to search the whole gym. For extra lulz, do put your dumbbells back but mis-pair them. It's okay. I'm sure someone will be along to clean up after you directly. I think I observed the pinnacle of this yesterday when someone actually left their used towel draped over the safety in the squat rack. The gentleman before me in the rack had his own towel--and it's strictly one to a customer--so I know it wasn't his. He, however, didn't attempt to remove it. I did. I'm sorry, but having some idiot's probably MRSA-ridden sweaty towel inches away from my bare leg when I'm about to squat breaks my concentration, okay? I gingerly picked it up by my forefinger and thumb and draped it elsewhere, cursing other people's inconsideration and entitlement the whole time. No excuse for that. Nobody wants your cooties. God.

But sometimes my mommy instincts come out in a kinder, gentler way. The other night I was in the stretching area and observed a young man doing box jumps. Onto a step with--and I counted--12 risers. In front of a giant plate glass window. On the second floor. While holding kettlebells. I was quite distracted from doing Pigeon (or Swan) pose by this, because every synapse in my brain was yelling "THAT'S NOT SAFE!!!" In all caps like that, I swear. My brain gets very Kanye-esque in these situations. In approximately 1/10th of a second, all possible ways that this could go wrong had filed themselves in my frontal lobe. He was going to miss the step and come down wrong, (at best) spraining and (at worst) breaking an ankle. He was going to trip and fall forward right through the window*** and, y'know, die. He was going let one of those kettlebells go and take out the chick stretching on the mat behind him. There seemed like no way this was going to end well. But the YMCA employees apparently had no problem with it, whether philanthropic or just liability-wise. And, really, it wasn't up to me to go over and say, "Sweetie, I am very sure your vertical leap is important to you, but wouldn't you like to move that step somewhere safer? And take a coupla risers out? And make sure there isn't anyone 8 inches away from your back swing with those weights?" Don't think I didn't think about it though. Including calling him "sweetie." As it turns out, he was still jumping without mishap when I went to change. Hopefully his ankle and the woman behind him's skull are still intact even as we speak.


***yes, yes, I DO know the Y is probably smart enough to have safety glass that would withstand a 180lb teenager holding 8 pound kettlebells crashing into it. I still didn't like the looks of that.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

puking for fun and profit

HIIT. High intensity interval training***.

For the uninitiated--which I'm sure doesn't include anyone reading this anyway--this is the popular thing in cardiovascular exercise these days. All the old thinking is wrong, wrong, wrong. You don't have to do that much cardio! Fifteen or twenty minutes of HIIT three times a week, and you'll be in awesome shape. You'll catch every train you run for. You'll walk up 25 flights of stairs just for the lulz. Small children will stare at you in awe. Lance Armstrong and Michael Phelps will be calling you for training tips. Attractive people of whichever gender you prefer will be throwing themselves at you. Your laundry will be whiter, your hair will be shinier, and you'll never have morning breath.

Okay, maybe the claims aren't quite that overstated, but everyone who's anyone in fitness seems to want to convince you that a nice three mile jog, a fifteen mile bike ride, or a Zumba class is just a waste of your time. In fact, some will tell you that all those things are gonna catabolize your muscle just like ::snap:: that and make you fatter. Standard steady state cardio is so 20th century. You gotta do intervals. But not just intervals, intervals that are so brutal that they make you wanna puke or pass out, and you can't go for more than 15 or 20 minutes, because you will.

I dunno. I am of the opinion that there's a word for people who make themselves vomit and there's another word for people who like to suffer and neither one of them necessarily should apply to the business of getting healthy exercise. Maybe HIIT *would* make me leaner, stronger, faster, and more shiny-haired. But forty five minutes a week of feeling like hell doesn't seem like a good trade off to me, even if it is broken up into coffee-break length segments. I like to exercise. Why would I want to sign up for something that would make me dread it? And considering that most Americans (to judge from their muffin tops and their type II diabetes) do NOT like to exercise, I don't see HIIT as changing their minds.

I myself have been off the cardio, except for some incline walking on the treadmill, since I've been bulking. Frankly I can't eat enough to stay in a calorie surplus even without it half the time. Running burns calories that are supposed to be going to growing my non-existent lats, yo. But with the advent of autumn and the two months year that it is actually usually really nice outdoor weather in eastern Massachusetts, I've been thinking of running again, just, y'know, once or twice a week. (I promise, I'll eat some cookies afterwards.) If I do, I can assure you it will involve a lovely jog around the pond or down the beach. It will NOT involve uphill sprints till I vomit like a drunk sorority girl on a Saturday night. If this means Lance Armstrong doesn't call, c'est la vie. Y'all know I think he's a douche anyway.

Now, for listening to me rant, here's everyone's favorite drunken Brits as a reward.


***Don't quote me on that. I think the T stands for training, 'cause that's the only T word that makes sense, but as usual, I was too lazy to go look it up.

Friday, September 2, 2011

must take direction

It is an irony in my life that I do not like being told what to do in most situations. But we'll come back to that. First we must get all discursive up in here. A little over a year ago, I lost a bunch of weight while doing very little formal exercise. I walked when I felt like it. I hiked when I felt like it and could convince someone to go into the woods with me. I did yoga at home. When I felt like it. You see the common denominator there, right? Having reached the end of my weightloss journey (don't you hate when people call it that? yeah, me too), I decided the next step was to get in really good shape. It was obvious that that was NOT going to happen without some kind of external structure, vague as it might be.

I narrowed down my options to a few that had piqued my interest. I could do Couch to 5k, a beginner's running program, that many, many people online were enamored with. It would cost nothing, other than new running shoes. The podcasts were even free on iTunes. Or, I could start going to this beautiful new yoga/TRX studio that had opened fairly close--but not terribly conveniently close--to my work. Their website was impressive. The classes, however, were fairly expensive and not all of the ones I would be interested in trying were offered at times that I could get there. I could re-join the all-women's gym I used to go to when my son was young. It was very conveniently located, but I had some personal grudges towards the company based on friends having worked for them. Finally, I happened to walk right by a small group personal training place for women that had opened not too long before. Their website was, well, somewhat scary. They were a franchise, and it all seemed very vaguely cult-like. There was all this hooha about how they didn't accept just anyone as a member and that you had to have a measurable goal you were committed to reaching and you had to "be coachable." I said to my friends, "Oh. I'm probably not, right?"

So I joined the Y across the street from them, and I've never been happier.

What brings this up? Well, I read other people's blogs and workout logs and journals and there seems to be a subtype of person who is the exact opposite of me. They want a coach/trainer and they want that coach to tell them exactly what to eat and when, exactly what workout to do on which days, when they can rest. They thrive on being given direction and not having to make any of the decisions about this stuff themselves. THEY "are coachable." Since just seeing somebody else (who likes it!) being told exactly how many calories they are allowed to have makes my back go up, I feel sure that I was right in my assessment that I am not.

So, what kind of fitness individual are you? Do you like someone else to come up with a plan for you and make you follow it? Is it comforting to have an "expert" taking charge? Or would you rather wing it in your fitness life, making your own plans, experimenting, asking advice from other people and only taking what sounds most sensible to you? Or are you some combination of the above? Do you like structure imposed by someone else? Do you like structure only if imposed by yourself? Do you hate structure of any kind? What motivates you? What infuriates you? What bores you?