adventures of a mere mortal in fitness and life

Posts tagged ‘working out’

This Mom’s Rack

We moved to a new state recently (as you can see by my absolute neglect of this blog!), and with that move I have had to find a new gym in which to train. Well…let’s be honest. I joined two gyms. (Gasp!) Put it this way: I calculated if I drink two less bottles wine per month (or just one really good bottle), I could easily afford the second gym. (I am well aware that this is not how finances work in most adult people’s heads. To that I say…whatever.) So I joined the YMCA, which is a reasonable place for a woman of my age (mom-age) to workout and it has 2 pools. And then I joined this other gym.

“Other Gym” has 10 squat racks, 15 lat pulldown machines (I was told this during the tour- I didn’t actually count), and I am easily one of the least in-shape people in there. Which is saying a lot, because I am in pretty good shape. Not like “look good naked” shape, but “can rock a pair of skinny jeans and a tank top” shape. I texted all of this to my coach Mitch (yes, I have a coach…I’ll get into that later, but let me just say…it’s the bomb!) and he was like, “This gym sounds perfect!” I rolled my eyes, and thought that of course it sounded perfect to him because he’s like 30 and jacked and I am like…older…with stretch marks…and I’m a mom.

I needed Other Gym though because it was pretty perfect for me, actually. Since last year, I have developed a pretty serious obsession with learning how to weight train with barbells. I’ll enumerate the reasons why lifting is awesome and changed me in many good ways in other posts, but for now, let’s just say that I needed a place with plenty of space to pick up heavy things and put them down. Which this gym has in abundance. Which is how I came up with the magic Wine Formula to justify its cost while driving home from my free trial.

So let’s go back to the main clientele of this gym…which is not middle aged women who don’t look good naked (there are some middle aged ladies there, but they are like bikini competitors, so we’re aren’t even playing in the same league there). The main clientele of this gym is young-ish dudes who are either a) seriously jacked or b) wanting really badly to be jacked (some of you moms out there may have sons in this category?). So they are generally either a) pushing, pulling, or throwing tons of heavy weight around or b) doing bicep curls and watching the young men from the first category.

And then there’s me.

And I walk in with my lifting shoes, my book where I record my workouts, and maybe like a lacrosse ball because I am old and I have things that hurt that might need to be rolled out because they’re getting old and tired. And I get one of a couple of reactions:

  1. Most common: The raised eyebrow…like a “Did that lady take a wrong turn somewhere? The cardio machines are at the front of the gym.
  2. Also common: The blank stare…with the thought, “What…the…hell.. is happening here?
  3. Not so common, but mostly from the “B” group boys… The crestfallen face with “Damn. I’m about to be outdone by an old lady” written all over it.

But since I have been practicing under coaches both in person and online for more than a year now, I feel pretty confident about my barbell skills. So I screw up my courage, find a place among the 10 squat racks, and do my thing.

susan ogilvie squat

The squat rack two down from the white one. Yes. That’s where I’ll be.

And after a few warm-up sets when my bones and joints and all the other things get back into the places that they need to go, the young men seemed to put away their reactions and get back to what they were doing. A few keep their eye on what I am doing, but I think that’s pretty normal in the gym. At least…I think that’s normal to be stared at, right?

My coach from Michigan sent me a text saying, “You just keep lifting heavy and someone will come along and want to be your lifting partner.” Somehow, in the group of young bros, I am a little doubtful of this actually happening. Which is OK. I get it. No one wants to have to rescue somebody’s mom when her heart gives out in the middle of a back squat on their watch (I know, I’m not that old to you…but to them? Ancient.)

So I have been on the lookout for a woman partner. The women who venture into the barbell area of the gym typically come in two varieties, and there have been a total of 4 of them in the month I have been there.

  1. Girl following boyfriend or boy…friend. Not lifting, just watching because she’s done with the cardio.
  2.  Women who are hell bent on using the cable machine in the one of the squat rack areas. I can’t really explain this phenomenon. There’s plenty of cables other places.

My wish is that more women would find the same kind of empowerment and strength that I do in barbell training. It’s been an incredible experience to lift and learn some really important physical and mental lessons about myself. In addition, I have made even more peace with my body and found a way to totally appreciate all that it does for me. These lessons aren’t just unique to me, though. Through the magic of the interwebz, I have met many women who feel the same way about lifting heavy things. Just that most of them don’t live in a 10 mile radius of me, or I haven’t met them yet.

Until I do, I’ll be standing in my (self) designated mom’s squat rack. That’s the 6th one down the row. 🙂



journeys in awesomeness…revised

So I did write a post in there a little while back, which was awesome, but it got erased by stupid wordpress like 3 times and I quit.  Oh well.  I can assure you it was full of stimulating anecdotes and hilarious quips and you will believe me, right?

I have been revisiting my “Journeys in Awesomeness” page lately to kind of review where I have been and where I am going.  I know I have been talking a lot about this weight goal lately, which has been elusive and annoying.  It’s a weird time of year here in our household, the time of year where we all hold our breath and wait for snow (which a good portion of our livelihood depends upon and which it’s doing right now) and we go to a lot of meetings about a lot of things we are supposed to be concerned about, whether or not we are actually concerned about them—like parent/teacher conferences, yes; benefits plan informational sessions, no.

Without any looming goals (save the annoying weight loss goal), I have been more focused on work.  One of my goals was to “never quit on a student”, which is a vague and ambiguous goal, to say the least.  I would never accept that kind of answer from my students in their own goal setting exercises, so I feel hard pressed to accept that kind of answer from myself.  Additionally, I had an incident last week which made me realize that there are times when you have to walk away from a situation, even if it looks like I am “quitting” on a student.  No situation is worth sacrificing the greater good, and trying to make one student learn in my GED class was interrupting the learning process for a lot of other students in the class.  Additionally, I realized that I shouldn’t take verbal harassment from anyone, least of all in my own classroom.  When the student finally walked out of my class last week, Kenny Rogers popped into my head, singing “You gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em…” and I realized that while my goal was good-hearted in nature, it was foolish.

thanks kenny!

So, I am taking that goal off the list for now, but I have actually been working on some of the others- I actually went one whole day without swearing this week!  And I am adding one more, so I stop walking around like a girl who lost her puppy (which I did, and it is still really sad!) and get motivated to get my butt working out.  My workout regimen has been…hmm…lackluster to say the least.  BUT, I think it would be good to throw a half marathon goal into my upcoming schedule.  Because I need to so that I get my muffin top under control and onto a treadmill…or on a bike…or anything.

I would love to know what some of your upcoming goals are–hearing other people’s ideas always motivates me!  Even if your goal is simply to survive Christmas with your relatives, send it my way!

ass. kicked.

Some of you may know that I have this guy who is my trainer, commonly referred to as “Trainer Guy” in this blog, since about January.  My parents asked me what I wanted for Christmas, and I said, “Well, I think I would like to meet with a personal trainer a few times, so I can get an idea of how to get in better shape.”  Little did I know how things would end up.  I am still meeting regularly with Trainer Guy (except now I’m footing the bill) and I think that this has made an important difference in my fitness level and my attitudes and ways of thinking about life in general.  I think that I was at a point in life where I was open to something new, and a new way of thinking, so I am not saying hiring a personal trainer would be this awesome experience for everyone, but it was for me.  Some people already have all their mental shit together, but let’s face it, no one who really knows me would say I have my shit together.

Before I left for vacation, I had kinda been patting myself on the back because I had done a number of workouts on my own where I pretty much felt like I kicked my own ass pretty good.  And of course, I started thinking, “I am getting pretty good at kicking my own ass,” which led to thoughts like “Maybe I don’t really need Trainer Guy anymore.  Maybe I should just go it alone.”  And other thoughts like, “If I got rid of Trainer Guy, then I could get TV back in time for the Olympics.  And I could buy really nice wine.  And possibly some new shoes.”

Fast forward to today.  I went swimming in the morning, as usual, to wet my gills and get some yardage in. I met with Trainer Guy this morning because I have no schedule until classes start next week (the lack of schedule not driving me crazy at all, noooo….) and because let’s face it, I went on vacation for 18 days.  No one goes on vacation and comes back in better shape then when they left, except for those weirdo boot camp vacations that people take, which are not vacations but probably more like brief intervals of torture on a beach.  If you have never worked out on a beach, it isn’t what it looks like in the pictures.  It’s sand caving under your foot ever time you run and lots of sweat, which helps plaster the sand to every inch of your body.

Anyways, back to today.  Today we (really, I-he counted) did all the most horrible exercises that I hate (no sand here thankfully).  And we did them fast.  And a lot of them.  And I hit myself in the face with a medicine ball- no shocker to most of you.  By the end, I was hardly able to stand up.  Or breathe for that matter.  Or get out of the car and walk up the stairs to my house afterward.  And then it dawned on me: I just got my ass kicked.  Followed by my inner ghetto voice: Fo’ reals, y’all. 

I thought I was doing a good job on my own, but today I remembered I could go farther, work harder, push myself more.  And that is why I need someone like Trainer Guy around- to knock me down a peg and remind me what I wanted to accomplish in the first place.  And that I should avoid ball sports.

Before I used to think amazing or lucky things just “happened” to people.  But I realize now that it’s all up to me.  Louis Pasteur said, “Chance favors the prepared mind.”  I think that applies far beyond the mind-chance favors the prepared… you fill it in.

I Passed a Boy…

I passed a boy and I liked it, his look while I passed him,
I passed a boy just to try it, I could tell that he minded it,
He turned around, it felt so right, don’t mean I love to bike,
I passed a boy and I liked it!

I still think I could have a career as a female Weird Al.  What do you think?

I passed a MAN while  I was biking yesterday.  An actual person who looked like he might actually know how to bike.  With real bike clothes and a real road bike.  Probably he was warming down or something, since he turned around after I passed him (psych!)  That would make the number of people I have ever passed total TWO.  The other was an old lady out for a leisurely ride in the middle of a triathlon, so this was infinitely more satisfying.

Of course, since we live in Bike Mecca (see my other post on biking), I am certain this momentous occasion means nothing.  I am certain I will be put in my proper place at the bottom rung of people who know how to operate 2 wheeled machines very soon.  The Bike People are awakening from their winter slumber in Spin class, and soon there will be hordes of people out, not just the tribe of Crazy People Who Bike in Winter.

For now though I am gonna bask in the glow of my biking triumph.  And enjoy this welcome balmy weather! WOW!  Have a great weekend!

Embracing your inner mermaid

I get a lot of questions about swimming from people I meet or people I swim with.  A little bird (think someone who regularly makes me want to vomit from exertion) who taught himself to swim is particularly persistent with his questions to me about swimming.  He has studied all the technical aspects of swimming, and when I see him explaining stroke technique to other people, I find myself fascinated.  I push off the wall and try to assess whether I am “doing it right”.

Despite swimming most of my life, I can explain surprisingly little about the technical aspects of swimming.  Maybe I am being a little hard on myself (and I know I have coached some of your kids in swimming, so try not to be shocked!), but I have actually learned a lot more about the sport since I started swimming regularly again about 3 years ago.  Brook, my first adult swim team coach, had excellent explanations about stroke technique.  But Brook, like me, is a lifelong swimmer.  I learned a lot from her, but it was easy to assume that she had compiled all that knowledge from swimming for a REALLY long time.

On the other hand, Little Bird hasn’t been swimming that long, and while he can practice every drill perfectly and has studied swimming like a science, it’s driving him crazy that he hasn’t quite made a breakthrough with swimming yet.  So he asked me the other day, while I am dying (again) on the treadmill (again), “What does swimming feel like?”  He was looking for a magic bullet.  And I think I know what it is.  He’s not gonna like it, but maybe you will…

You need to embrace your inner mermaid.

That’s it.  Understand we are talking about hypothetical mermaids (I am a mother of preschool girls, not a weirdo)  Mermaids have a flow that makes it possible to swim with both grace and power.  Too many new swimmers (including many powerful athletes) try to muscle or fight their way through the water.  You have to work with the water.  Mermaids are relaxed in the water.  Many new swimmers are not.  A mermaid’s face is always serene and beautiful.  Think about your face when you swim–is it relaxed?  If not, then it’s not gonna work.  I always made sure my tongue was super loose and hanging out (not very mermaid-like, but…)  And just like in every other exercise, if your shoulders are up at your ears, something’s wrong.

Keep your tongue Michael Jordan style and you’re all set.

Swimming has a rhythm, but I wouldn’t call it a cadence, like biking or running.  When it’s easy and you have a real feel for it, you no longer have to think about it.  The only exercise I can compare it to is when you are in an intense, sweaty yoga flow, and you just start moving and breathing without thinking.  If that’s ever happened to you, perhaps you remember that moment when you let go and stopped thinking and just did it.  Feel for the water is the same- just stop fighting the flow and go with it.

When I have the opportunity to put on fins, I actually do swim like a mermaid, even for a half a length or so.  I just let go and swim like I did when I was a kid.  Because if I’m not having fun, then why in the hell would I get up at 5:30 in the morning to get wet and cold?

If you feel inclined, send along your swim questions, and if I can’t answer them, I will find someone who can!

Swimming, the way it should look.

This thing should come with instructions…

This week I made the upgrade to real bike pedals and shoes for my road bike.  With the mild winter we’ve had, it’s easy to imagine myself out on the road soon and not stuck in yet another spin class.  I want to be ready for outdoors, and a friend invited me to come with her and ride on the Computrainer at her club.  It was kind of exciting and nerve-wracking to me.  Despite owning a road bike for 2 years, I still know shockingly little about it.  I can’t change a tire, and I wouldn’t even know what I need.  I can hardly change the gears successfully.  I rode it with sneakers for the past 2 summers and had to do a lot of research to even begin to comprehend putting “real” pedals and shoes on it.  Even then, I ended up with differing opinions.  A knowledgeable friend finally took pity on me and got the pedal/shoe/bike situation all fixed up.  Unfortunately, the cleats didn’t match the pedals.  So when I was doing my best to put my shoe into my pedal Saturday morning, I was thinking, “How do people make this look so easy?”  and trying not to die of embarrassment.  I mean, I had already had to admit that I had no idea what my “wattage” was to the girl entering my information into the computer.  WTF is wattage anyways?

Seriously, how do people get into biking?  I feel like I have to possess an advanced degree sometimes just to understand all the equipment and potential options I could have on my bike.   It’s way harder than buying a car.  There isn’t a ton of straightforward information out there on the internet about beginning biking in my opinion.  When you go to a bike shop, you basically have to admit you’re the village idiot and hope someone will have mercy on you.

I had the luck of purchasing my bike from the .000001% of bike shops that have a female owner or staff member (the very awesome Jeff and Dominique at Colorado Bike Service).  I got clued in to an essential piece of information regarding bike attire.  It was something I had pretty much figured out myself, but it was nice to have some confirmation.  Consider this a PSA for innocent chicks who think they might want to bike.


Some of you are chuckling now because you think this is obvious information, but I can confirm that it is not.  There are women out there suffering traumatic injury due to the scarcity of information surrounding proper bike attire.  I mean, who cares if you have on a jersey or a T-shirt?  Bike “experts” should be zeroing in on real safety and protection, in my opinion.

You can look forward to more helpful tips as I get out on my bike more.  And you can thank me later!

Double Down Friday

When you are playing blackjack one of the most favorable situations arises when you have the opportunity to double down.

OK, so I had to look it up to see if it meant what I thought it meant.  It does, vocabulary fans.  And I was excited to double up on a workout on Friday with Christine.  I even got us matching T-shirts.

We had a little wrench in the plans, though.  Both of us knew going into today that we hadn’t exactly done our best at eating this past week.  For me, it was the worst week since I started logging all my food after Christmas.  This week included nights out, Valentine’s Day dinners, and post-Valentine’s Day candy sales.  I shouldn’t even be allowed in a grocery store from February 15-20.  After a solid last week, I was ready to gamble a little on the nutritional side of things.  Unfortunately, it didn’t pay out.

There were numerous challenges to eating well.   And I pretty much epicly failed at every single one.  And then I would beat myself up about it.  And then there would be another “opportunity”.  And then I failed.  And failed.  And failed, until I found myself scarfing a frosted sugar cookie at 9 PM Thursday night after the most epic fail in teaching I could imagine, which was witnessed by my supervisor during her observation.  Lovely.  After this week, I wanted to curl up in bed under the sheets and wait for my mom to come rub my back and feed me soup.

Needless to say, our trainer was displeased with our (lack of) progress.  And when I use the word displeased, I want you to think about a phrase exponentially more harsh than that, and then you might be in the same neighborhood of understanding how displeased he actually was.

Nevertheless, it was double workout Friday, and I was already there, with clean clothes even, so I decided to get everything I could out of it.  I apologize to the people on Horton St.  It must be weird to see people doing burpees in your cul-de-sac.

In doubling down, the definition says a favorable situation arises when the opportunity presents itself.  It’s a new week, and I’m presented with a new opportunity.  I can pick myself up and choose to succeed.  Because I understand now that there were times this week I chose to fail.  And I am looking forward to a favorable situation arising as a result.

I would love some help this week.  Let me know what helps you pick yourself up, embrace the suck, and move on.

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