Category Archives: Everyday Life

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

600 people reached the top of Mt. Everest in 2012. This blog got about 2,000 views in 2012. If every person who reached the top of Mt. Everest viewed this blog, it would have taken 3 years to get that many views.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Four Veterans


(Note: although this entry is a departure from my usual writings on fitness, food, and various other forms of fun, I wanted to document my experience  while the details were fresh in my mind. Names of the veterans are invented, out of respect for their privacy.)

Tonight, as part of a community outreach program for the company I work for, I visited the VA Hospital here in Portland.  It’s an experience I intend to repeat, and one I’ll never forget.

We met in the VA Hospital lobby, and the volunteer coordinator split us into a group of four and a group of three. Each group was led by an experienced volunteer who had made VA hospital visits before. When we reached the 9th floor of the hospital, we checked in at the nurses station and then parted ways to visit different wings of the floor.

Helen

Our first visit was to a soft-spoken lady in her 70’s that I’ll call “Helen”. Helen didn’t quite know what to make of our rag-tag gang of four but her boredom quickly overtook her reticence to let strangers into her room. We weren’t strangers for long, though. Over the course of 10-15 minutes, we learned that Helen was a widow, and had served in the Army (WAC) in her younger days. Her husband had served in the Navy. Helen, even in her fragile post-operative state, was not worried about herself nearly as much as she was concerned for the homeless people that she would “cheer up” during her frequent walks through Downtown Portland.

Helen said that she goes where nobody else wants to go. To the Occupy Portland camp. To the homeless camp at NW 4th and Burnside. Under bridges and freeway ramps goes Helen, spreading cheer wherever she can. She told us that while she has had many nicknames in her life (such as Foxy Lady) her current nickname, and the one she likes best, is “Lady in the Straw Hat”. She likes it because the homeless people call her that.

Although Helen was wearing nothing but a drab hospital gown when we visited her, in my mind I can see her walking around Portland in her bright pink straw hat, spreading hope to those who have very little.

Leela

Leela was an absolute joy,  a chatterbox, and  extremely excited to have random people showing up in her hospital room on a Wednesday night. Although Leela had aged prematurely beyond her 56 years (I learned she graduated from my high school – 11 years before me – I thought she was in her mid 60’s) her bright eyes,  wide smile, and talkative manner revealed a woman who looked to be very pretty in her younger years.

Leela was in the hospital recovering from knee surgery, and was waiting to be transferred to the veteran’s rehab center in nearby Vancouver. She excitedly showed us gifts she had received from recent visitors – a teddy bear with war “injuries” from a man dressed in a kilt. A patriotic quilt handmade by a quilting circle in Tigard. A pink neck pillow, which at one time had a matching pink blanket that she gave away to a nurse’s aid because “she wasn’t a pink kind of girl”. A beautiful necklace made of glass beads that one of the nurse’s aids made for her.

We asked Leela what some of her favorite memories were about serving and she focused on taking advantage of military hops so she could travel. During her time in the Air Force, she spent time in Guam and Okinawa, which were favorites of hers. She said that once she recovered completely from her surgery, that she hoped to continue her love for adventure.

I hope you get to travel again, Leela, once those knees of yours heal up. Perhaps I’ll cross your path in an airport sometime and I can buy you a cocktail.

Steve 

At 46, Steve was the youngest veteran we visited. He was also the most intense, but none of the conversation focused on his time in the military, rather it was about what happened after his time there.

Steve used to work in high tech. Wore a tie. Made lots of money and became consumed by making even more money. Had a fancy Beemer, a Harley, a nice house … the “American Dream”.  He was physically active and ate a healthy diet. But one day, Steve’s heart stopped and he split his head open falling down on the sidewalk.

Fortunately for Steve, there were people nearby who were able care for him until an ambulance came to take him to the hospital. Several heart operations later, Steve began to think about his life. He – in his words – “found Jesus”.  And as he recuperated in the VA Hospital, he realized that many patients there had no place to go and would wind up using drugs and alcohol, and sometimes, becoming homeless as a result. So he started a non-profit to help vets transition back into civilian life. Steve is being released from the hospital tomorrow, and like Helen, his biggest concern is getting back to the volunteer work that he feels he was called to do.

John

John was in the Army during Vietnam, and was a cook for the officers. He lives in a small town in Southern Oregon and felt a little out of his element in the “big city” of Portland. I had a good time teasing him about that.

John told us that in the Army, there were three separate dining areas – one for the officers, one for the medical staff, and then the “mess” for the regular enlisted personnel. He said that the officers got the best food. When we asked him how the hospital food compared to the officer food, John told us that the hospital food tasted like shit, and that they could use some cooking lessons! This made our whole group crack up, and I think we woke up John’s sleeping roommate with our laughter.

John loved to show off his surgery scars where doctors had wrapped the upper curve of his stomach around his esophagus to cure a bad case of GERD. His biggest complaint was that his soft food diet was boring as hell, and that he probably wouldn’t get to eat turkey for Thanksgiving. John was very excited about being released tomorrow, so he could get back to his small town and his bride of 33 years.

(Looking back on this experience that ended just two hours ago, I would absolutely do it again. I went in there hoping to brighten the days of a few strangers, but I had no idea that they would brighten mine so memorably. As an added note, every single veteran we spoke with expressed their gratitude for the quality of medical care they were receiving, and for the staff and volunteers who work at the VA Hospital. It’s great to know these fine people are in such good hands.)

Dumbbell Diaries #5: 3 weeks since injury …

I’m a few entries behind in posting workouts, but the last few have been mostly HIIT-based anyway, due to my limitations in lifting heavy things. However, yesterday I had a FANTASTIC workout with my trainer – he devised a great full body resistance training program that worked around my thumb sprain. Here’s what we did:

Group 1: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Goblet squat: 10/15; 10/25; 10/35
Oblique v-ups: 15, 15, 15 (per side)
Decline crunches: 12, 12, 12

Decline crunches always make my abs feel like they are being ripped out of my body – in a good way. I think I need to incorporate these more frequently as it doesn’t take a lot of volume to feel the burn.

Group 2: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
45 degree leg press: 10/230, 10/230
Superman back extensions: 10, 10/3, 10/3

Was supposed to do a third set of leg press, but the machine kept getting hijacked. I cannot WAIT until I can start doing good old barbell back squats again – leg press machines are for gym bunnies! LOL

Group 3: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Cable cross fly chest: 10/10, 10/10, 10/10
Cable cross fly back: 5/20, 5/20, 5/20 (each side)

Group 4: Reps/Weight (if applicable) or just # Reps if bodyweight only
Lat pullover: 10/65, 10/65, 10/65
Forward raises: 10/12, 10/12, 10/12
Single arm row: 5/20, 5/20, 5/20 (each side)

I’m going to do this same routine this weekend, and will attempt to increase the amount of weight on a few of the exercises.

 

Dumbbell Diaries #2

So … today I met with my trainer for the first time since I emailed him my goals. I asked him about frequency of workouts, and we agreed that my new schedule would look like this:

Sunday: Lift
Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Lift
Wednesday: Easy Cardio with a little HIIT
Thursday: Lift
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Boot Camp (HIIT)

So, three days of pure strength work, one day of “HIIT” and another day of cardio with maybe a little HIIT. We agreed I would limit to five days, because four out of those five workouts are pretty hardcore, and I don’t want to risk burnout.

On with today’s program, which, I really liked:

Workout duration: 50 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 520
Average Heart Rate: 140 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 176 BPM

Deadlifts

On days I deadlift, I always start with deadlift, and don’t superset with other exercises in between like I did on Tuesday. Oops. Never more than 10 reps per set. Today we did 4 sets as follows:

10/95 pounds
8/110 pounds
6/115 pounds
4/125 pounds

The deadlift is CRITICAL to do with impeccable form, I guess a lot of people try to do them and wind up injuring their backs. My first set was a little shaky but I got better as the sets progressed. By the end he said my form looked really good. Progress. Even though that 240 pound deadlift is looking pretty far away right now.

Superset #1

Dumbbell Flat Bench Press
10/22.5 pounds
10/27.5 pounds
8/35 pounds (!!!)
Dumbbell Reverse Fly
10/10 pounds
10/10 pounds
10/10 pounds
Lateral Walk w/ Resistance Band (video)
40 steps (20 each direction)
50 steps (25 each direction)
50 steps (25 each direction)

Notes: First of all, PR on the dumbbell bench press! I felt so studly lifting 35 pound dumbbells! The lateral walks SUCK, my least favorite exercise, but apparently it is REALLY good for the glutes.

Superset #2

Goblet Squat
10/30
10/40
8/50
Shoulder Press
10/22.5
10/22.5
6/27.5

Notes: I can’t believe that last set of shoulder press. That is a really heavy weight, considering I used to do 8 pound shoulder presses! I totally failed out on the last rep too, arm just wouldn’t go up!

Superset #3

Hamstring Curls (Prone)
10/50
10/55
10/55
Twisting Crunch (like a V-sit, with weight held up to chest, 10 reps to each side)
20/10 pounds
20/10 pounds
20/10 pounds

Notes: We were also supposed to do 3 “hard style” planks – which is the same position as a regular plank but you contract every muscle in your body as tight as possible – but ran out of time. I’ll be starting with 30 seconds and working up from there.

Whew! After that workout I downed a 200 calorie protein shake (homemade with a scoop of Any Whey, a cup of So Delicious coconut milk, blackberries, and nectarines). And you can bet I’ll be hoovering down a sizeable portion of protein with tonight’s dinner too – gotta feed those muscles!

Dumbbell Diaries #1

So now that I’ve announced my goals to the whole world, it’s time to start documenting my progress towards those goals. Tonight was my first “after new goal-setting” workout, and I was excited to get started, even though I was tempted to just keep driving towards home after a long and busy day at the office.

As I pulled into the gym parking lot, I knew that I had missed the window where it wasn’t so busy, and this was confirmed as I walked in the door. I knew that I might have to do some exercises out of the order that I planned, but I wasn’t going to let that deter me from getting a good session in. Here are today’s stats:

Workout duration: 70 minutes
Calories burned (per Garmin HRM): 658
Average Heart Rate: 134 BPM 
Max Heart Rate: : 170 BPM

Warm-up:
10 minutes on rowing machine

Weights: (# reps/weight in pounds)
-Deadlifts: 10/95; 10/105; 10/115
-Superman Back Extension: 10
Notes: I was supposed to do two more sets of back extensions, but there was a girl hogging the equipment and I was too sore to get all up in her grill and tell her to share. 

-Back Squat: 5/135; 8/105; 8/105
-Tricep dumbbell extension: 10/25; 10/27.5;  10/27.5
Notes: 135 shouldn’t be hard for me on the back squat, but I almost bit it tonight. Not sure if it’s still me coming back from bronchitis and being a little weak, or if my back was fried from deadlifts. Whatever, the reason, those numbers were a huge bummer – better luck next time.

-Dumbbell Bench Press: 10/32.5; 10/32.5; 8/32.5
-Decline Situp: 10; 10; 10
Notes: On the other hand, the dumbbell bench press looks really good! I have done this weight before, but only 20 reps, tonight I cranked out 28 before muscle failure. Progress!

-Lat pullover: 10/65; 10/65; 8/70
-Shoulder dumbbell front raise: 10/10; 10/10; 10/12
Notes: Not much to say here. I really need more lat work if I’m ever going to be able to do an unassisted pullup.

Closing thoughts: A pretty good workout, considering how tired I was from my long day. I need to talk to my trainer to find out why my back squat numbers tanked today, and have him check my form on the deadlift again to make sure I’m doing the move correctly.

Coming Out Of The Closet: End Of Year Fitness Goals

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated this blog, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing some interesting things that probably merit some posting.
In fact, it has been a pretty full Summer so far. I’ve been busy taking fun day trips, working out, attending concerts, checking out new restaurants, and of course, working my day job. But I just haven’t been able to discipline myself to sit down and write with any regularity, especially now that beautiful weather has arrived in Oregon. I want to spend ALL of my free time outside.

However, it’s time to return to blogging more frequently – I enjoy the activity of writing, I enjoy looking back on old entries to see where my head was at during different periods in my life, and I enjoy “meeting” the people who happen to stumble across my blog and are kind enough to leave a comment.

Since my day-to-day job isn’t terribly interesting and I don’t have the time or money to travel all the time, I’ve decided that I’m going to start writing about my fitness journey on a more frequent basis. Not only will it help me to stay accountable, but I’ve also found great inspiration in reading other bloggers’ workout journals, and perhaps I can return the favor by inspiring one of you!

Today, I’ve got goals on my mind.  

When I first started working with a personal trainer, he asked me to fill out a goals worksheet. Although I admittedly rolled my eyes at what I perceived as silly busy work, I figured I was paying a lot of money not to do things his way, and so I dutifully filled out the worksheet and shared it with my trainer.

My primary goal at the time was to acheive a body fat percentage below 24% before my birthday on June 20 of this year. It seemed almost impossible, being that I started my journey at 32%! But, by faithfully lifting weights three times a week without fail and eating a clean diet, I acheived my goal of 23.8% on my birthday this year. It was an amazing feeling, and having my goal written down and shared with my trainer definitely kept me going during those times when I found my motivation lacking.

No, this isn’t me, but it will be some day.

I’ve recently hit a bit of plateau. so my trainer and I decided it was time to write down and commit to a new set of goals. In order to help keep myself focused and accountable, I’m sharing them here. So, here we go!

By December 31, 2012, I will achieve the following:
 
Appearance/Health Goal 
-Reduce body fat % to 20%, which is at the top end of the “athlete” range for
women. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_fat_percentage)
Current body fat = 23.8%
 
Performance Goals 
1. Lift the following amounts of weight, for 6 repetitions, using good form (no cheating!): http://www.exrx.net/Testing/WeightLifting/BenchStandards.html
Assumes body weight of ~ 148 pounds and “Advanced” level of strength per above table.
 
Bench Press: 135 pounds
Back Squat: 185 pounds
Front Squat: 135 pounds
Deadlift: 240 pounds
Pullup/Chinup:at least one pullup or chinup, unassisted
 
2. Take the Adult Fitness Test (President’s Challenge} and score at the 90th percentile for my age/gender group: http://www.adultfitnesstest.org/
 
Aerobic Fitness:
—1.5 mile run
 
Muscular Strength and Endurance:
—Half Situp – how many performed in one minute
—Pushups (full body) – how many to failure
 
Flexibility:
—Sit and Reach test – record measurement
 
I will achieve these goals by doing the following:
 
-Lifting weights 3x per week, using programming designed by my trainer
-Incorporating as much “slow movement” into day as possible, including
walking at least 4 miles 4-5 times per week
-HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) 1-2x per week, either as part of weight training or separately (can incorporate sprints into walks, also)
-Continue eating Paleo diet – emphasis on meat, fish, fresh veggies, low glycemic
fruits. Add variety with small amounts of nuts and fermented dairy (kefir or yogurt)
—AVOID: grains, legumes, sugar, anything processed
-Smart supplementation with EPA/DHA (fish oil), multivitamin, Vitamin D3,
magnesium. BCAA’s and whey protein on lifting days as needed.

I’ll be writing more about the how and why, but for now I wanted to get my goals documented in a public place.

So, what do you think? Have you found that having documented goals helps you to achieve them? I’d love to hear any thoughts you might have on the topic.

Race Report: Run For The Roses 5K, Saturday June 30

Race: Run For the Roses: 5K, 10K, 15K
Distance Ran: 5K (3.11 miles, but Garmin said 3.36)
Time: 30:27
Splits: 8:05, 9:42, 10:33
Age/Gender Group Ranking: 5/7 (jeez there were some fast women there!)

This was probably the most unusual race I’ve ever run, not because of the race itself, but because of my attitude leading up to it.

As my five readers know, I’ve recently put running on the back burner in favor of weight lifting and high intensity interval training, and the benefits have been spectacular. I’ve lost a few pounds, sure, but more importantly, I’ve gained a lot of energy and self-confidence.  At the same time, I still enjoy running shorter distances – particularly outside in the fabulous mild Portland Summer – so I decided to sign up for this 5K to see how I’d do with almost no running training.

I was excited for the race and had a time to beat in the back of my mind, but I wasn’t worried about it. I wasn’t worried about negative splits, pacing, or anything. I just didn’t care. My main objective was to just get out there, have fun, and see how far my “power” could carry me. Answer? About one mile.

I clocked in at 8:07 for the first mile, which for me is FAST. My legs felt super strong and I could feel my glutes and hams powering me down the road. I felt awesome! However, I soon reached the limits of my endurance and for the rest of the race I alternated between running a decent pace and walking when I needed to get my heart rate down to a manageable level.

My absolute FAVORITE thing about every race I’ve ever done is the finishing kick – the last 100 meters or so before crossing the finish line. Even if I’m completely worn out, I’m always able dig deep and cross the line at what is – for me – a superwoman pace. Anticipating the energy I would need for that finishing kick, I stopped to walk a bit about 500-700 meters from the finish line. I wasn’t walking for 10 seconds when a young woman tapped me on the shoulder and said
“C’mon. You’ve got this”.

“You’ve got this”.

How many times has my trainer said that to me, when I was faltering on the last few reps of a heavy weight, or when I was feeling completely exhausted at the end of a Prowler session? I had busted through my limits then, so why not now?

So I took up the younger lady’s challenge. That whippersnapper wasn’t going to beat me! I think I said “I am gonna die” and she said “so am I” and we laughed, knowing the finish line was getting closer and closer.

As we rounded the corner and hit the track, I could see the finish line. Some force took over me and I hit a 5:42 pace. It felt amazing, and I beat the whippersnapper by few seconds, too.

That’s me in the black, just edging out the younger woman. Heh.

After I got over the urge to vomit and regained my breath, I walked over to her and thanked her for her motivating gesture.

And then I never saw her again, which made me a little sad.

I really do love the running community. I’ve always felt so welcomed, even though I’m hardly an elite with my 1o-minute miles. I think all of us just share a love for movement and it makes us happy to see others out there feeling it, too.