Putting the ow in wow

Remember a few weeks ago when I mentioned my right knee made a sound like a chip bag being crumpled? Remember how I made it sound like it was a funny thing?

Even funnier is now I have a matched set. Two knees that sound like crumpling cellophane when I kneel or try to lunge or squat in exercise.

Maybe I can sell them on eBay.

Do I need new knees? I’ve saved for a good pair of running shoes. Oh, and one of those titanium sports bras. Now, it looks like knee braces are on the list. But not new knees, oh god, no.

Getting old — older — sucks just like I thought it would.

As you may be aware, I have all these goals for the summer and beyond. Goals that need a higher level of fitness. Call these things carrots or brass rings or whatever. I use them as motivators to get in the best shape of my life.

So, what happened on the sweaty road from fat to fit?

Failure is not an option is my mantra. Since October I’ve worked hard to reach a goal that seemed impossible.

Two weeks ago, the tiniest tip of my big toe lightly brushed against that goal. I was so wowed by this I lost all sense.

Suddenly I was Jaime Sommers, the bionic woman. As I ran I heard that ch-ch-ch-CH-CH sound in my head. At least until the first commercial break, then I fell down a flight of steps, bolts and screws flying in all directions, my toe miles from any goal. Back to the lab.

I pushed myself too fast, too soon. I attempted to work through the pain, like I thought you were supposed to do. Turns out there are subtle differences between a sore muscle and inflamed tissue. Turns out I do not have a degree in sports medicine or physical therapy. Turns out my journalism degree is good only if I employ the research aspect.

Sure, I downloaded training schedules, read articles on the process, talked to others.  But if the order for the day said run 2.5 miles, I said, fuck it, I’ll go for three.

Turns out that at a certain age that is not the best workout plan. Turns out my parts are not titanium like the sports bra I covet.

Now, instead of sweating and feeling the burn, I’m on the couch icing my legs and losing the battle of willpower with those boxes of Girl Scout cookies in the pantry.

What is the sound of patience? Better yet, can I buy it on eBay?



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Today I stand at the crossroads.

My Girl from the East, who was a mush and Cheerios eater when I started this blog four years ago, (yeah, there was an anniversary here recently) graduated preschool last night in a ceremony that was so sugar frosted my teeth ached by the time it was over. Who can resist 20 five-year-olds singing with hand-made mortar boards on their heads? No one.

I’m at the end of one thing and the beginning of another. We are in the twilight of our innocence. My girl and I connected in a smoke-filled room in China almost five years ago and haven’t been apart more than a day or two since then. Stay-at-home motherhood  was not what I expected. I hated some parts and loved others. I have no regrets.  I was there for the first words, the first wobbly steps, the potty training, first friendships and preschool experiences. And all along the way I was at her side or close enough to catch her fall. Once she gets on in the world without me for seven hours a day, it will change. No longer will I be the all-knowing, omnipotent center of her universe.

In three months Girl from the East will  board a big yellow bus, wave to me,  and in a rumble of diesel exhaust leave me behind to figure out a new way to fill the hours of the days of my life.

Which brings me to the next  big thing: my health. I am not better. I am not worse. I am the same in a way that I don’t want to become the new normal. I’m on the dark side of a divide, one in which something about myself will be learned once I step into the light. Maybe I’ll have to give up certain foods or household products. Maybe I’ll have to get on medication. I don’t know, but I suspect a life change.

I’ve been forced to slow down. I’ve started saying no to things without hesitation. I’ve been reading and resting a lot. I’ve let things go, particularly my gardens. They will survive. Nature is tough.

Today is the end of one thing and the beginning of another.




Lenten muffin reduction

Remember the good old days when a little round of depression* had the nice side effect of weight loss?

Not so much anymore. I’m sure the government, right about the time it yanked pseudoephedrine-laced cold medications off the shelves, decided to cut the weight loss advantage out of all-American depression. You want weight loss? It’s extra. Fill out the forms. We’ll be sure to reject your claim.

What can I say? It happened. Specifically, illness, a long winter, and about of the blues happened. Now, I have extreme muffin top.  I’ve written about this enough lately, with folks waving me off as crazy when I say I’ve packed on a few pounds, but I have. So, I’ll spare you all details except this one. I went to Target today to buy some new workout clothes, in the sizes I always buy (the first sign of denial), by the maker I always buy. Since I know overseas clothing manufacturers are not shrinking pattern sizes, I had to face the truth: my sickly, piggy ways have led me to this place.

So, here’s the plan. It’s Fat Tuesday.

I am not Catholic, but each year I take up the Lenten practice of giving up something. Generally I give up what I call the cookiescakespiesanddoughnuts. I don’t really eat any of those things in great quantity. It’s just the code for the crap I do eat: tortilla chips and other salty snacks, trail mixes, and  those chewy granola bars, which are really glorified candy bars with a few nuts, seeds, and dried fruit thrown in for good measure. I love anything salty. In addition to the carbs and calories, I’m sure the salt intake has every cell in my body retaining water. I think my retained water is holding water.

So, no cookiescakespiesanddoughnuts for six weeks. Maybe longer.

The first week is always hell. After that it gets easier. By the time Easter dawns, I’ll have lost my urge for chocolate and overly salty snacks. Go ahead, wave an easter basket stuffed with candy under my nose. I’ll not flinch.

Also, I’m returning to my working-out-every-day routine. Some time last fall, around respiratory infection No. 1, I started slipping. If I didn’t skip a session, I went through the motions like a zombie. My lungs burned and seized up when I pushed too hard. My head spun from the medications. I decided I needed to get more sleep and take care of myself. That turned into a long winter’s nap, two more respiratory infections, and more medicine.

Now, I’m starting with a two-minute maximum run time on the treadmill, which is dreadful considering I used to do 15- 30 minutes when I was in good shape. I still don’t have full lung power, but I’m toughing it out, using interval training as a method to ease in.

If the mirror and a dresser full of clothes that do not fit aren’t enough motivation, there’s always my search engine search phrases:


This blog is proudly sponsored by grandma boobs


* I know I sound flippant, but I’m really not. I’ve suffered from depression all my life. I don’t wish it upon anyone. But, I’m still ticked off that it no longer knocks me down a dress size or two when it’s over.

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I’ve been fascinated with gym culture ever since my first visit to a Vic Tanny exercise facility in the early 1980s. On that evening I saw women walking around in Jane Fonda inspired leotards, leg warmers and terry cloth head bands. I saw guys with permed ‘dos sidling up to the juice bar to flirt with the aerobic dance instructors.

My boyfriend at the time had a lifetime membership to Vic’s and dragged me along in hopes that I’d sign up, too. That way we could be joined at the hip for yet another activity. While I was naturally svelte at the time, in no way was I in shape. I learned this as quickly as it took my smoker’s lungs to deflate under the unrelenting demands of my Nazi training instructor. I regretted every drag I’d ever taken on my Marlboro Lights as she  kicked my sorry little ass — clad in a club-issued and very pilled navy blue leotard — around the stations. If she was trying to get me to sign up, she was failing miserably. I avoided health clubs for a few years.

Eventually I came around.  I’ve had memberships in just about every type of facility:

  • the women-only places that have monthly food parties (I know, right?)
  • the recreation center aerobics classes
  • a Punk-rock fitness club that meets in bars and encourages you to bring your own hula hoop
  • the co-ed places where the men and women work out on separate days
  • the co-ed places where the men and women work out together but are so hopelessly crowded it’s more like the men and women stand around together waiting for the treadmills.
  • one of those new no-frills 24/7 operations. This is where I go now.

No matter where I crunch and curl and do my cardio thing, I see the same stereotypes:

Hans and Franz: The tag team workout buddies usually show up after their tanning appointment. They wear some variation of the Borat unitard. They show too much nipple and have perfectly waxed brows, backs and chests.  They hold court in the free-weights room, emitting a constant stream of grunts, groans and wet gasps before letting loose 200 pounds of metal, which always drops with a  thunderous crash to the floor. If you close your eyes, they sound just like a porno soundtrack.

The  sidecar: Most often it’s one of Hans’ or Franz’ girlfriends. Sometimes it’s another guy. Either way, the sidecar arrives with his or her bulked-up partner but does not exercise. Sidecars position themselves close enough to hand their partners towels and bottled water. They may get up periodically to have a smoke break, buy a fresh bottle of power juice from the vending machine, or  look outside to monitor weather patterns. Mostly, they cast looks of admiration and approval at the partner’s bulging muscles.

The marathoners: Found running indoors in the colder months when outside running is too treacherous. There is no dilly-dallying with these folks. It’s all business, which is generally an hour or more on the treadmill.  They wear all the right gear, including their commemorative T-shirts from charity runs. They are totally free of jiggly body fat. Sometimes they do crazy things like run backwards — or skip sideways — on the treadmill just to show off. Their cars have 26.2 sitckers on the back window.

The New Year’s resolution newbies: They arrive in droves and in earnest, with super large water bottles and  iPods loaded with motivational tunes. They’ve just chugged a shot of wheatgrass and bought a box of Power Bars in bulk. They carry a fitness journals and make notations after each activity. They have a look of desperate determination in their eyes. They’re all gone by February 1st.

The escapist: This type wanders in looking bored, most likely seeking refuge from the wife/husband/ kids/cats. Their workout attire is as half-hearted as their somnolent pedaling on the recumbent cycle. Their visit usually ends within 30 minutes, 25 of which were spent at the magazine rack. It’s also possible these people are trying to make good on a gift membership.

The clueless: They are at the gym as a guest or on a one-day pass. They show up in totally inappropriate exercise clothes, try to run on the treadmill in Crocs, lift weights in surfer shorts and flip-flops, and screw around with the machines and equipment until something jams or makes a loud noise. Eventually they give up the ruse of exercise and  claim a piece of equipment as their personal props and dominate it for 30 minutes while recapping the latest episode of “Battlestar Galactica.”

Finally, so as not to appear all high and mighty, I’ll throw in my own category:

The middle-aged housewife who fancies herself as some kind of exercise nut but who should really ditch the shorts for a pair of exercise capris because have you seen how her legs look in that flourescent lighting? That’s me, guilty as charged.

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