Archive for April, 2010

 In a previous post I revealed the tortured and half assed way I ended up in the gym I did. Puff has clocked in with what she would look for in  a gym.  Based on FFF Friends comments to that scintillating post, either  most of our dear readers just go someplace or they don’t plan to ever set foot in a gym so they could care less about this topic, perhaps they just dont want to obsess. As that is not the Huff and Puff M.O. , we’re just not through talking about it.

 So, in the category of things I wish I’d known before I selected a gym:

 * Yes you lose fat and gain muscle, but the actual weight loss is not so great. In fact, many people gain weight. This is ok as long as you are not at the body fat percentage that I was experiencing.

* Training is training, just show up and do it.  If the trainers are certified, they pretty much know what they are doing and they really don’t want to hold your hand or be your friend.  And  monitoring your body composition is really beside the point for them, so don’t be so goal oriented. 

* And further on that goal oriented thing, progress is going to be rather slow, so don’t do it for vanity reasons, do it for fitness enhancement and  psychologically adopt a longer time horizon. It’s the journey, ma’am.

* Weight training is really only one piece of the puzzle. A serious commitment to cardio activities and sensible eating is also mandatory for significant results.

In my little banana republic, I would like to find a personal trainer and facility that pretty much specializes in my category of human being: middle aged, possibly hormone embalanced, shot metabolism, sedentary, over fat, insecure about ability to perform,  but very enthusiastic about becoming significantly more fit  and willing to commit significant resources with the right trainer.  Does it sound like I’m talking about a residential fat farm or are there specialized training studios, or gyms or salons or whatever the description du jour is?  Am I asking too much? And, I’m discovering that I really do best when there is a sense of community present, manifested by their cherry greetings and atta girls when I show up.  

Here are some questions I would now ask beforehand:

*What age group and sex is represented in your  studio?  When you’re selecting a gym to meet guys that’s one thing,  when one is uncomfortable about one’s  pitiful fitness level, the last thing you want is to be in a small gym with a bunch of muscle men where they can be in ear and eye shot of the  weight scale  and BMI machine that’s in the room. Alternate question: Do you have any experience with my age and body type?

*What are the special challenges you see in training someone in my circumstance (see above)?

*What does a trainer look for in a client before s/he takes one on and what is expected of moi?

*What should I, as a client, be able to expect from the gym and the trainer in terms of interaction, coaching, etc?

*What special diet considerations, if any necessary to pursue during a strenuous program?

*Is it possibly better to diet off some excess weight first and then train?

*How often will my body composition be evaluated?

 *How long is this phase of my training going to last?   What is the expected period of time that I should continue with personal training before I join a group fitness class? Is there a time past which I’ve built the muscle mass I’m supposed to and could move to a maintenance schedule or join a group fitness class?

 *Do you offer any auxiliary services, e.g. food program,   educational resources, other opportunities such as  group fitness classes ?

Whew! that’s it! I’m evaluating my own gym in terms of these criteria. Stay tuned.

It’s just a spectacular time in the Southwest (well, if you are not allergic). But the cactus are blooming early this year and it’s fun to be outside in the soft, bright air and to commune with nature. Helps with the stress and contributes to exercise quotas. Not that I’m keeping track. Well, OK, I’m keeping track.

When I walk, I frequently make a point of thinking mindfully of my goals, my aspirations,  I put my problems temporarily out of my mind, and I look for flowers and birds, people, whatever.

My sister forwarded this short slide show, with words of wisdom, that you might like. It made for a nice break in the middle of a stressful day.

Cacti in bloom

NB: To view this slideshow  requires Powerpoint or the free Powerpoint Viewer.

Not quite as good as walking around yourself, but take   a moment to enjoy.  Take a deep breath and relax.  And then get out there and look for flowers, birds, water features and other wonders of nature.  All that is useful in a program of self-care.

Where does the time go?As of April 24 there were 6024 hours and 251 days left in the year. 

If you spend only one hour per day on your fitness, that leaves another 5773 hours in this year for other things.

So where does the time go?   How is it that I can start early, end late, and still not get my cardio done?  How can it be that I have all these thousands of hours stretching before me, lined up like expectant little soldiers, waiting to sacrifice themselves to my never-ending to-do list, and still fail to finish my fitness goals?   Some of the hours must simply lie down … I have to sleep, after all.  Some of them are spent chewing things.  Okay, maybe too many are spent chewing things, but it must be done.  Some are spent in the pursuit of important and worthy goals.  Some are spent at the gym and some are spent here, blogging.  I’m pretty sure that accounts for most, but not all, of the those precious hours of my life.

As we get older, our time here shortens and, at the same time, it seems like we’re in a time warp … everything is moving in slightly quick-time motion.  I won’t go into physics and the space-time continuum in this post (maybe another time), but I’m feeling the pressure of an ever-quickening clock and truly don’t know how to squeeze more things (like that pesky 90 minutes of slow cardio) into my days.

There are about a zillion books on time management, but it appears that the winner of that contest is David Allens’ “Getting Things Done.”  I’ll let you know when I’ve had time to read it.  In the meantime, how do you manage your time to get fitness checked off the to-do list each day?

Healthy Times! ~ Puff

image002This particular celebration is 42 years old.  The Earth (just like us) just keeps rolling along. At the time of the establishment of Earth Day, the fear was we were about to enter an Ice Age. OK, so they got the climate change concept, but now we’re talking about Global Warming. Can you people please get your stories straight?? You scientists are supposed to know what is going on.

Here is a short article about celebrating Earth Day through “earth friendly” exercise routines, equipment, and yes, even gym facilities.

Enjoy! Earth, we salute you!

Choosing a GymWell, Huff, you know that I took my cue from you.  I figured that if you were going to be brave and step into the abyss, the least I could do is bring up the rear, so to speak.  When I embarked on this adventure, I knew that I would not (could not, will not, ever) go back to the BBG.  I’ve paid for several of those memberships in my lifetime, and don’t think I’ve ever lasted more than a month before losing faith/interest/nerve.  So, knowing that I needed a different experience and knowing that I am a world class procrastinator, I thought it best to commit to a trainer who would hold me accountable. 

I looked on the internet and in the local healthy news mag and found 4 or 5 trainers that looked promising.  I called and emailed them all and immediately weeded out 2:  one was a jerk and the other never returned my call or email.  Number 3 was the frontrunner as her private gym was literally steps from my office.  When I met with her and her Amazing Body, she was dismissive, didn’t listen to a word I said, and insisted that I would do just fine in her intense bridal boot camp group workout — without any assessment of my health whatsoever.  Number 4 was a good choice, and she is in-home only, which is very attractive.  Unfortunately, she didn’t give good phone and was concerned about how far my house was from hers.  Number 5 was Andrew Fodge (Fitness by Andrew), and he was not only professional and courteous, but he was also knowledgeable and experienced.   We have a lot of laughs but he also works me very hard (ouch ouch ouch) which is exactly why I hired him in the first place.  

I like being in a private gym, mainly because it’s small and it’s not populated by the under 30 crowd cruising for potential mates.  For the most part, the people at my gym are between 35-65 and are there to work out because they are all with trainers.  There’s not much hanging out and chatting … well, not TOO much and certainly not by me!

And yes, there are things I would change — namely MUSIC.  They always have 2 tvs and a boom box blaring, which is not motivating — it’s highly annoying.  I would love to hear consistent subscription radio (no ads on Sirius!) with an energetic beat —  no gangsta rap or thrash metal screamers, please.  And lose the tvs — we need to focus on destressing and moving our bodies, not on defending against aural onslaughts.

The most important thing is — do you like it there?  If you like your gym and trainer, you’re much more likely to keep on going, so yes, it’s important.

Keep working on your health ~ Puff

No_WhiningI am feeling quite overwhelmed with life at the moment. So many projects, or should I say so many deadlines and  so little time.  It is so hard to do the right thing, which is prioritize our health and wellbeing above all else, when  the house needs cleaning, the boss needs that report, we have obligations and commitments with friends and colleagues, etc etc.  And everything   seems to come due at once.  For me, the first thing that used to go was the exercise and the mindful eating. I’m better, but it’s a daily struggle.

Our ‘newspaper of record’ is running a multi part series called “No Excuses”.  This week’s column focused on getting fit and healthy and how to ease stress that leads to overeating and neglecting exercise. As usual for the series, a person with issues is coached by a sports medicine doc, a nutritionist and a psychologist.  These folks  offer tips for solving or at least alleviating the problem at hand. There’s usually a nugget or two in each article.

The article stressed the process of taking care of yourself above all else and if you keep that in focus, all else will follow, eventually. This particular type of article usually brings out the snarky Bad Huff . For example,   1) take weight loss off the to-do list.  Bad Huff: sounds like license to  head to Postino’s for happy hour tonight and sleep in tomorrow.  1A) Instead,  just focus on eating in a more healthy fashion.  Bad Huff: Yeah, told ya, red wine is practically a health food.   2) Focus just on taking good care of yourself.  Bad Huff: See #1 and 2 above.

Somehow  when the to-do lists pile up, I find the chunky monkey ice cream and exercise my executive decision making powers to skip a workout.  It’s a bad plan because the time I spend foraging for less nutritious options is time I could be spending walking around, or meditating or reading a good book.  I blame some of this on my diminished ability to multitask, a skill I always prided myself on. But these days,  as  my to-do list grows, I just feel overwhelmed and less and less like I can do any of the tasks completely adequately.  Turns out, it’s not just me. The psychologist explains: “the average person can do one thing with excellence, two things very well, three things well, four things at a passable level or five things at a just barely satisfactory level. When we try to do six,seven,  or eight things at a time, we begin to fail at all of them.”

So, I shall adopt the following affirmation, at least for this week. Keep exercise and nutritious eating as #1 and #2 no matter what.  Let something else get at that back of the line.

To paraphrase the old cliché: at the end of life, no one is going to wish they had spent more time at the office.



Last year, when I realized I was going to croak at my work desk if I didn’t get off my duff and start moving, I considered my options.  Let’s see –  already done every diet known to woman kind… I had and still have a membership to one of the national , what I call ‘big box’ gyms (BBG). In fits and spurts, I used it. Periodically, I would also walk along one of our major canals , or walk on the weekends with friends. In the gym, I would do the treadmill, use some of the weight machines, maybe try a water aerobics class. It was comfortable, I felt safe there, but it the whole routine was totally ineffective. The BBGs have ‘trainers’, but frankly the trainers at my BBG were not very friendly. They were supposed to give me an orientation on the weight machines, but I made three appointments which they broke serially because 1)they lost my original appointment altogether, 2) didn’t show up at the appointed time and 3)spent my appointment time flirting with another female. Seemed like they really weren’t too interested in my orientation so I just gave up on that.

 All I knew, was I wanted to try a new strategy. Dieting and these half assed self designed “training” sessions were just not cutting it.  I needed some serious help.

 One day, I was leafing through the neighborhood newspaper in my junk mail pile when I saw an advert for a personal training and fitness gym in my area. I found the ad visually arresting.  It offered a 90 day program – “strength,  core and conditioning”. What really caught my eye was that the ad featured a silhouette of a lumpy woman at the front end of the ad, transformed into the silhouette of a more shapely woman at the back end of the ad, signifying that the 90 day program would be physically transformative. I thought, well, I can do anything for 90 days, and while I knew it would take more than 90 days to transform my body, the ad just somehow made the whole thing  seem doable. And clearly, the gym knew my body type.

 I was way too chicken to go on my own, but fortunately I found a friend who wanted to start a program, and we faced the prospect of checking out the gym and its services together. Neither of us had a clue as to what to look for in a gym.  Armed with the advert,  we met with the owner. As an added bonus, the place was in the shadow of a Trauma III medical center, just in case. He seemed like he knew what he was doing, he was willing to sign us up, and so we paid. He explained why we shouldn’t diet while training, how to eat on a schedule with the larger meals in the morning, and to write everything we ate in a log.  Then, he weighed and  measured us right there in the open, with buff gym goers milling around. [That was probably the single most humiliating experience I have had since I got drunk at a frat party and barfed all over my date, 40+ years ago, but I digress].

That is it, that’s how I selected the gym – can you believe it? Basically,  on a whim and an advertisement in a neighborhood free newsletter.

 I’ve been working with this gym for one year and by and large  it’s been a  very positive experience. I’m much more knowledgable about what these gyms are about and I’m certainly more fit . But, would I have made the same choice  again? What do I know now that would have been helpful then? What should a middle aged, overweight, under fit and clueless female be able to expect from a gym?  Dear readers, what are your thoughts on this? How did YOU select your gym??? 

Lift Heavy ThingsJust when you think you know it all … another study comes out.  I don’t think this article from the New York Times Health section is really all that shocking, but then again, my thigh muscles are still screaming from last night’s butt blaster workout with Andrew.  He seems to have adopted the lift heavier, less reps theory and time will tell whether or not it has the desired efffect.

So what is “heavy”?  The article cites 70 – 85% of your ability, whatever that is.  A better measure might be the weight at which you train to failure after 10 reps.  For more information about training to failure, take a look at this Wikipedia article.

In the meantime, I think it’s worth trying it out for yourself to see if you get better results from heavier weights and fewer reps, as touted in the story.   No matter which weight lifting regimen you prefer, the most important thing is that you lift the weight!  We’re not getting any younger, but we can keep our bodies working at an optimal level by increasing our muscle tone, decreasing body fat, and improving our overall health with regular hard workouts!

Lifting Health to New Heights ~ Puff



Choose healthy, active friends!

Choose healthy, active friends!

You might recall that Huff reminded us of the importance of decluttering our lives as a metaphor for decluttering our bodies in her post, Shedding That Which No Longer Serves Us.  Now Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, and Editor of is bringing up the uncomfortable subject of Social Healing.

What is social healing?  It’s getting rid of those toxic people  in your world.  Read the rest of this entry »

Set Goals!Huff

Now that we’re finished with Year One, it’s time to look forward to Year Two.  Here are my goals ~

1. Re engineer my eating plan – really need to focus on this, but i’m confused.
2. Continue with personal trainer / group training bootcamp type high performance workouts 3 sessions per week. Read the rest of this entry »