I started Operation Suck Less 2014™ for many reasons, one being I wanted to have a fun 50th birthday and not a crabby, sulking one similar to my 40th. In that spirit, I am planning the “Yay I’m Almost 50 North American World Tour Xtravapaloooooza!™” an event that is clearly in dire need of a logo. Note to self, cultivate logo skills in the next month.
My Xtravapaloooooza will cover 2 countries and 10 states and will involve, planes, cars, boats, a helicopter, canoe (maybe), buses, lodges, cabins, yurts and more. I will be joined by a sister, a cousin, a niece, more cousins, friends and a plethora of strangers I shall meet along the way. There will be musicals, museums, hiking, swimming, walking atop a skyscraper, concerts and comedy. It will be an adventure fit for a younger version of the old lady reluctantly becoming older that I am.
I have researched each city as completely as possible, thank you Internet. I have all of my options organized in apps. I have reservations where it felt necessary and not too constricting. I never want to plan a trip again let alone several at once.
If this Xtravapaloooooza does not distract me from the fact I will be a half-century-old and getting older, nothing will. Yay 50!!
I imagine some dudes were sitting around having a drink and a smoke when they began laughing at how humans will do anything if they believe it will help them lose weight and become a sexy beast. One thing lead to another, shots were taken, and eventually they came up with the idea of giant-ass ropes that humans will wave up and down earnestly believing that they have finally discovered the magical secret to flat abs and super hero strength.
I bet these dudes laughed even harder the next day, hung over, when they looked at their ideas sketched on bar napkins. The laughs must have continued as they enjoyed a brunch Bloody Mary and one dared the other to actually see if he could get his trainer clients to perform the feat.
And he did, and the client did, and they named this crazy exercise routine the Undulation Ropes. And then a bunch of stuff happened and one day I found myself in the gym standing in front of these giant pieces of poly blended material laughing my ass off. Side note: If only I could laugh my ass off, working out would be so much more awesome. I would take freezing my ass off too but only if it could be done symmetrically.
So I stood there, one rope in each hand, lifted them up and promptly returned them to my side. Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha. I am supposed to what? And this will help me what? And how do I not look like a tool?
Finally I composed myself and began. Legs hip-length apart, ropes firmly in each hand and I used my whole body to slam these ropes down to create a single wave. The exercise is called “single wave” meaning the two ropes work together to form a continuous wave pattern. For me, I created one wave that petered out before it even made its way down the length of the rope.
Hahahahahahahahahaha. I began to laugh again at how so much effort on my part resulted in such a limp output from the rope. I continued and eventually I managed to get a wave formation flowing…barely. Also, flowing was the sweat off my body. So gross.
I was exhausted. I wanted to curl up in a ball on the floor mat like I used to do in kindergarten and take a nap. Only my desire to not make a bigger spectacle of myself kept me on my feet and heading home to my comfy bed.
Surely, this sweat and exhaustion will result in killer abs and melting hips! I want to believe! I am Mulder and the Undulation Rope truth is out there!
My inner Scully remains unconvinced, however. This sweat and exhaustion could be nothing more than a trap convincing us humans that we are totally going to be a svelte beast if we continue thwacking these obnoxious ropes down on the gym floor in a rhythmic pattern until we can no longer move when in fact we are just looking silly for the amusement of others.
Even knowing it is a trap, knowing I look like a ridiculous tool using all my might to barely move these thick, heavy ropes, I am going to thwack again and hope for the best. After all, I am human and I want some fat melt. And until I can actually laugh my ass off, I will undulate ropes and throw in the laughs just for fun.
My greatest love of all might just be Old Dutch Dutch Cruncher Potato Chips. I love them. I love how they crunch, how they taste, how they smell. I even love the greasy fingers I am left with after pounding a bag as it makes my hands feel so soft. They are the perfect thickness of chip with the perfect amount of fake flavor coating. They do not cheat on me, lie to me or make me cry and they are always there whenever I need them. My last meal needs to be a bag of Mesquite Bar-B-Que chips and a piece of chocolate cake. Mmmmmm.
But, with Operation Suck Less 2014 ™ I have had to forgo these tasty morsels as part of my attempt to kick my triangle of death addiction that is salt, sugar and grease.
When I first gave them up in February, it was easy but about a month later I could hear them calling to me from the grocery store begging me to eat them. I had to plan my shopping visits very carefully so I would not succumb to their taunts. I even dreamt about them one night which is rather creepy. The junk food addiction is strong in this one and my body did not know what to do without its familiar fuel. My will power held fast and eventually I forgot about my love and moved on to other less satisfying but better for me snacks.
My will power held strong, until last night.
I have been looking for new ways to max out my heart rate and burn calories as part of Operation Suck Less 2014™ and this quest led me to an unexpected relationship with the kettlebell.
Kettlebells are not a glamorous looking piece of equipment, just balls with a handle on them. They are of Russian origin and I vaguely recall a flood of infomercials touting their miraculousness several years ago with they were the new IT exercise. They are simple yet intimidating enough that they sit on shelves mostly ignored at my gym.
I had begun working with a Pilates instructor again and as we talked about my sucking less goals she suggested we skip the reformer for a day and try something new. She grabbed a kettlebell and excitedly demonstrated the kettlebell swing as if I was somehow going to be able to perform this feat.
Biking still does not work for my knees, so I have begun rowing as an addition to walking. I discovered I am incredible bad at rowing.
First, there is the form. Legs, Lean, Arms, Forward, Repeat. That is the order of the motion. A smooth, fluid motion that when executed properly is a beautiful thing. For me, I jerk about, slam into the end of the movement and almost fall off my seat at least once every session.
Second, there are my weak-ass arms. I fool myself with all the laps I swim thinking my arms are getting stronger, but holding my arms in proper form as I row is haaaaard. After a rather short time, my deltoid muscles are screaming at me. I tell them to shut up, they tell me to &*$# stop.
Third, there is the lack of grace in getting on and off the contraption. I have to actually lift my leg over the machine and try to sit down on a seat that moves without anything to hold onto. I am not a teenager I need handles! I have to strap my feet in and grab the bar that is now too far away without falling off; if I strap too tight I can’t reach the bar, too lose and I will fly off mid stroke. When I am done and tired, I have to do that same process in reverse.
I am incredibly bad at rowing, but somehow I am able to go a bit farther and a bit faster each week despite my arms protesting the whole time. I am just going to hold onto that and ignore the whole form and grace part and hope when I do fall off the machine or face plant trying to get on it, anyone looking will laugh with me because that will be a damn funny sight to behold.
I took a break from Operation Suck Less 2014™ and it was glorious!
I often struggle with knowing when to say when. (I also struggle with proper grammar and I am not sure if that second “when” should be in quotes or not. Meh.)
Since my brain likes to see things from every angle, sometimes I have too many conflicting voices drowning out what my body is trying to say. Push through the pain. You need a rest. No pain, no gain. Give it up. Hold on. Let go. Take a nap. I have a hard time knowing if my body has had enough or if my inner quitter is just being a spoiled brat; this conflict can lead to injury as well as overall lameness.
I had a couple days of zero motivation and half-assed workouts before I was meant to leave town for a long weekend. I decided to just give it a rest for those days, try to walk a bit, stretch and not eat sugar, but otherwise just exist and suck as much as I wanted.
I kept telling myself it was a break (in the voice of Ross from Friends), not a break-up and when I returned from my trip I would resume my workout and eating routine just as before. I was also leery, knowing that past short breaks have turned into months of couch sitting and junk food eating.
On my trip, I did much less walking than I wanted. I ate a bit of sugary treats but also much less than I wanted. I repeatedly thought about how nice it would be to get back in the pool although I was not completely buying it.
The first day when I returned I walked just a little. The next couple days I swam but skipped the rest of my planned activities. I still felt tired, my back was having spasms and my motivation was still lost, so I took a day off.
Then something strange happened, I woke up last Sunday ready for a workout. I practically ran to the gym (which looked like normal walking to the rest of the world I am sure) I hit the row machine, kettlebells and the treadmill for intervals. I sweated and was completely gross but it felt good.
My performance was the best I had ever done. Each day this week has been the same, suddenly I can swim a bit faster, walk a bit faster, row a bit longer and swing an extra set. Everything seems to be clicking again, my back has stopped acting up and my motivation is back in full force. Yay!
I wish I had a formula for this switch that flipped so I can recreate it again when I will inevitably need it. I never understand how things change from one day to the next when all other variables to be the same. I guess I needed a break. I guess I also needed to persevere until things clicked again.
In the next 4 months, I have 5 weeks of trips planned for my trying to age gracefully North American tour and I hope I can time my breaks and perseverance to match because I enjoyed the time off, but I am loving the increase in performance even more.
It began slowly, like a tiny leak in an exercise ball, my enthusiasm for Operation Suck Less 2014 began to wane. Eating healthy became unappealing. Exercise became tedious. I struggled but managed to continue for several days when suddenly, I went completely flat and every ounce of motivation evaporated from my body. Nothing was left but an overwhelming desire to nap and nap hard. No silly power nap would do, I wanted the kind of nap where my face becomes part of the pillow and I wake up disoriented and trying to decide if my need to eat or go to the bathroom is greater than my need to just go back to sleep.
So after barely making it through my morning swim on Monday, I told myself it was okay to not make my daily walking goal and took several back-to-back naps. My kitty seemed to approve and the pillow crease in my face was deep. It felt good.
I knew this was a slippery slope; once off the crazy exercise train, it can be hard to get back on track. There was a part of me wanting to push on, ignore my desire to rest and go through the motion until the motivation miraculously returned. That part of me was convinced to shut up by the rest of me that wanted a nap. Maybe a rest would rejuvenate me and really what would 9,000 less steps actually mean in the long-term.My healthy eating took a similar detour. I didn’t go full on chips and cake gorging but I had some greasy Chinese and load of peanuts.
All of this happened while telling myself that this was temporary and I would start anew tomorrow.
Then tomorrow came and it was more of the same. Naps. Lounging. No exercise. Eating borderline crap.
And now it is another tomorrow. I want to just go back to bed but I have so much to get done today. I want to skip my morning swim and Pilates but I think I would feel better if I participated. I will be out of town this weekend so my routine will be interrupted then, maybe I should just wait until next week to get back on track. Or maybe I should make the most of these next couple days. What to do…what to do…
No matter how hard I try to concentrate when working out, my thoughts inevitably drift. Lately, they seem to go to one of 5 places:
1) Fruit. Yes I actually become obsessed with fruit as I work out.
2) Sleep. Some days I find myself so exhausted with 10 minutes left in my routine that all I can think of is my bed.
3) Barfing. This was occupying my mind today.
4) The apocalypse. I have no idea which apocalypse my body thinks it needs to hold all these fat reserves for, but it is holding on tight and we will be living large while the twigs die off early. Unless running is required, then I am a gonner. Or archery. Or swordplay. Really, any apocalypse that requires anything but stored fat reserves for survival will kill me.
5) Gigantic. Why did Apple have to remake that Pixies song for their commercial? Have they heard it? Do they know the inspiration for the tune? Why won’t it leave me head??
I have been researching the best ways to get fit as part of Operation Suck Less 2014™ and of course there are many differing opinions and philosophies. I have found three general themes that I believe will help me in my mission: increase intensity, don’t get in a rut and incorporate rest days. While variety and rest are not a current issue, speed and intensity remain a challenge.
I would like to think if I were an animal, I would be a cat. While that might be accurate personality wise, with my speed, agility and crusty exterior, I would more likely be a turtle, a slow, steady, plodding turtle on land and probably just as slow in water. This slowness, while good for something I am sure, is of absolutely no help when it comes to Operation Suck Less 2014™.
In order to make the most of my workouts, I need to get my barely detectable heart rate into the right zone for my daily exercise goal, especially on those days I am attempting High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) where I need to hit 80 – 90% of my maximum heart rate for short 30 second bursts.
Much to my dismay, I began the week with a painful strained neck. I could not sleep or get comfortable, my head was throbbing, my ear was on fire and my movement was so limited I could not lift my arms past my shoulders and I had to turn my entire body just to see sideways. I was pretty cranky and frustrated and afraid I was in for a long recuperation.
My first instinct was to admit defeat and have a junkfoodpalooza accompanied by a bevy of violent movies. My second instinct was the same but with more profanity. My third was to carry on with Operation Suck Less 2014™ and not give in to the pain and see what I actually could do.
After a heated debate between all the conflicting voices in my head, I decided to carry on with the caveat that if it sucked the junkfoodpalooza was happening. Happily, I guess, it did not suck too badly and the junkfoodpalooza was tabled although I did have a Jamba Juice as a treat.
My recovery consisted of lots of movement in the pool, walking, longer cool down sessions, stretching and plenty of ice; I ditched anything weighted. I had to cut my effort in half in the pool and when I felt any twinge I stopped. On my first day walking, I had to hold my arm close to me at times so my neck would not move too much but I slowly loosened up and was able to walk in my normal slow manner. In both the pool and while walking, I slowly worked on my range of motion and stretching and made sure I was not holding any stress in my neck. Today’s swim was at 80% of my usual laps with lots of stretching.
There is the phrase “motion is lotion” which totally grosses me out for some reason, but it happily proved to be true in this case.
I am not fully recovered but I can lift my arms above my head again and can turn from side to side at about 85% of normal. I will not add anything weighted until next week and see how that feels but for now, I am happily back on track. I’m still cranky though so I probably need to devise another recovery plan for my mood.