Friday, October 28, 2011

Green at the Gills - My Rowing Adventure

August was a month of rowing in my little active life.

A good friend of mine emailed me one day and said (try to read with a subtle french accent in your head)
"Hey, check this out. They have classes for beginners. Wanna take one with me?"

What could I say in response to a question like that besides "OF COURSE"....
So we promptly signed up for the Learn to Row 1 class. Nevermind that they offer a Row for a Day class to try it out and see if you're even interested in learning more. We don't pay attention to such details. We jumped in with both feet, literally. 

Step 1: Sign up for the class online. Check.

Step 2: Print out and complete all the forms to consent to put your life in their hands and not blame them if they fail you. Check.

Step 3: Take a float test. I found a local community swimming pool and got to take the test for free. Some pools will charge you a couple bucks but mine was free. What is a float test you ask? Easy. Jump into a swimming pool with all your clothes on and float without the aid of anything or anyone for 10 mins. If you drown or cling to the wall, you fail. Well, there is one more step to determine pass or fail. At 9mins 30sec the guard will throw you a life vest and you have to put it on and get it zipped up while still floating by the 10min mark. If you do that (which is super easy), then you pass. Hint: Don't wear jeans, sweat pants, or cargo pants or you might just sink. Check.

Learn to Row 1 was a month long commitment. Every Tuesday and Thursday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 pm for the month August, our lives were dedicated to the Sammamish Rowing Association. My friend (lets call her C) and I were all ready, having signed our lives away, emptied our wallets, and risked a public drowning to get to our first class and row our hearts out. C was desperate to build her back muscles while I just wanted the cardio workout. Plus we were both excited thinking it was going to be fun and maybe even peaceful on the water.
Lake Sammamish, WA

How wrong we were.

The first class consisted of a tour of the boat house, role call, and an educational safety video. Yawn. I have a faint memory of singing Kumbaya but that might have been from the dream I had that night. I know they have rules and regulations and laws and stuff that need to be followed for newbies but disappointment is disappointing.

Perhaps we get to row during the 2nd class? Nope. Third for sure? Nope. We were allowed on the water during the 4th class. The earlier classes were all about learning proper rowing technique and the intricacies of coxswaining and the language of rowing, etc. I'm not even going to go into all that. If you want to know, sign up for a class and enjoy.

The first few times we were on the water, we barely made it to the end of the slough before it was time to turn around and return to the dock. Why? Several reasons.
  1. We were in the heaviest boat known to man
  2. There were 8 people in the boat (plus the coxswain) who all needed turns to row by themselves
  3. We were all brand-spankin-new to rowing
  4. For some mysterious people (much like most children) don't  know how to follow simple instructions 
Octuple (8 people plus the coxswain)
Sammamish Slough
Notice the lily pads on either side? We spent some quality time in those lily pads.
Eventually the coaches got most of us going pretty well and we made it to the open lake and were able to paddle around a bit before we had to return to the dock. They even got us out in smaller boats so we each got a lot more active rowing time. And as if that isn't cool enough by itself, we eventually got all 4 or 8 persons (depending on which boat we were in) rowing at the same time. Wowy!

What's the big deal?

Boats are most stable with all oars flat on the water (like you see in the picture above). As each person starts adding in (meaning they begin rowing as a group one at a time), the boat becomes increasingly unstable unless everyone is perfectly in sync. A team of newbies who don't know how to follow simple instructions are most definitely not going to be perfectly in sync. Right? Right! So it's very cool that we were able to get it going even if for just a stroke or two.

4 weeks, 2 classes per week, 8 classes total. Overall impressions? Hated it. It wasn't all bad though. There were definite highs and even more definite lows.
  • It was summertime on the beautiful Lake Sammamish
  • We got quite a bit of inactive time in the boat so I did get to experience a tiny bit of that peace and take in my surroundings like I had hoped for
  • I got to try something that I had always wanted to try
  • I got to spend time building a wonderful friendship with C
  • Our coaches were amazing in every way
  • I learned something new which is never a bad thing
  • I got the opportunity to practice my skills in patience over and over and over again
  • C found a new hobby that she loves and I got to be there with her as she discovered it

  • There was nearly no cardio activity included in the Learn to Row 1 class other than carrying the ridiculously heavy boat to the water and taking back out of the water again
  • My patience was tried over and over and over again so my hopes of peace were shattered more times than not
  • People can't follow simple instructions. What do you think "oars flat on the water" actually  means? Put your F$#!ing oars FLAT ON THE WATER
  • It requires interaction with other humans and that usually doesn't work out so well for me (see the second and third bullets for more info)
  • I didn't get to row nearly as much as I had hoped
  • Blisters and scars from sculling (I still have scars on the top of my hand), ouch
  • By the end of the session, I felt like I let C down because.......
  • Sea sickness sucks and
  • I didn't enjoy my experience nearly as much as everyone else did
So here's the story with the sea sickness. I am extremely sensitive to motion sickness. If I even turn my head too fast I might get sick. I've tried the ice behind the ears, the wrist bands, and the motion sickness pills. All have failed me at different times but I find that Dramamine works most of the time. MOST of the time. It failed me in a big way during a gorgeous helicopter ride over Molokai but that's a long story for another day or maybe never.

So anyway, of course I took the pills every day before class and expected to be fine. All was well, at first. That is until: 1) I was put in a smaller boat with only 3 other people and 2) We got out to the open lake on a choppy day rowing all 8 together. The smaller boat meant quite a bit more side to side rocking motion which was not good for me. The choppy day on the open lake was also the day that I was in the octuple boat and the coaches got all 8 of us rowing together which meant rocking side to side to the Nth degree in addition to being splashed in the face by the rowing dude in the seat in front of me because he was all over the damn place. Everyone was out of sync and doing their own thing and I was turning greener and greener with each clumsy stroke.

I don't think anyone wanted to have to watch my vomit float away because before it ever got to that point, the coaches asked if I was ready to get off the boat and go back to the boathouse. My answer was silent but obvious. So, they pulled the launch (coach's small motor boat) up to the oct and I climbed up and out and found myself on steady ground in just a few minutes. That was the last day of class so I missed seeing it through to the very end. I tried, I really did, but like I said before... disappointment is disappointing. I hate not being able to do things even though I believe I can and should be able to do anything I want.

Did I mention that I caught a crab too? I caught a crab. Luckily it wasn't a bad one. It didn't throw me overboard but it did get me in the gut good which was not comfortable.

Sculling (2 oars per person)

Sweeping (1 oar per person)

Although it may not seem like it, I really am glad I gave rowing a real try. In all honesty, I'm a little jealous of all the people who love it because it is one of those things that you either hold dear to your heart or you don't. For many, rowing is what they think about, talk about, and dream about all day, every day. For others, it's just not their thing. I fit into the latter category but I couldn't be happier for C that she found herself in the former.

If you find yourself interested in giving it a try, I highly recommend you look for a rowing association in your area and contact them for any classes they may offer. Also, C tells me that it gets much better in the next class and even better once you get onto a novice team and you start rowing with more people who know what they're doing. I'm also told that it is a great workout once you graduate to single and double person boats which typically happens in the Learn to Row 2 classes.

If you're lucky and find yourself in the great northwest where we have beautiful bodies of water all around us, I highly recommend the Sammamish Rowing Association. Not only were our coaches amazing, helpful, patient, and funny but every other member we met coming and going from the boathouse was equally as pleasant.


Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nailhead meet Hammer

I wish I could consistently come up with a way to express what I'm thinking and feeling but sadly I find myself at a loss for words, or maybe it's not a loss but they are all just so jumbled that I can't quite get them organized. Sometimes I'm lucky though and I find others who have said it better than I ever could and I can just point to them and say, "what he said".

Well, I stumbled upon one such instance just moments ago. When it comes to the constant struggle of losing weight and finding that healthy balance in life, I just feel......What he said!

I've been up so high that I felt I'd never come down again, convinced that I finally found the missing piece to my puzzle. Then I'm woken by the thud of me hitting the ground yet again.

Lost 25lbs in 1 year. Gained 20lbs back in 1 year. Back to the starting line.

Tracking food and exercise every day
1,400 calorie diet with 50% carb, 30% protein, 20% fat
Exercise 5 or 6 days per week
Drink 60oz of water every day
Vitamin D
An attitude of gratitude is always a winner

The Activity Calendars

No exciting fitness plans for right now but I reserve the right to get bored with the plan as is and find something different to do. If you have any ideas or suggestions, please let me know. I could use a little support and challenge right about now.

Monday, October 24, 2011

To Gluten or Not To Gluten

Just last week, my nutritionist mentioned a sneaking suspicion that I might have a "sensitivity" to wheat and/or gluten products. Why? Because.....
  1. I crave bread always and forever - She says that a continuous craving for bread products is consistent with people who have a sensitivity to those grains because their bodies don't necessarily process them the same as other people.
  2. I have a difficult time losing weight even when I am exercising regularly and eating a healthful, well-balanced diet - She says that difficulty shedding weight even when trying is a common complaint/experience of people who have a sensitivity because our bodies retain everything we feed it....including water.
I've read a few little articles here and there since the last meeting with my nutritionist about the new gluten-free diet fad sweeping the nation.

The November issue of Health Magazine has an article on the topic. It basically says that cutting gluten from your diet may not actually help in losing weight if you choose to just replace the same breads and other baked goods with the gluten-free counterparts because those products often have more calories, carbs, fat, and sugar than the original wheat products.

WebMD is another place I found some helpful info. This article talks about who really needs to be on a gluten-free diet and why. Short answer: people with celiac disease. Also people who test negative for celiac disease but who still suffer from some of the same symptoms are considered to have a sensitivity to gluten so a restrictive diet can also benefit them. It also specifically says that eating a gluten-free diet is NOT necessarily healthy and must be done very carefully to avoid a deficiency in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, magnesium, and fiber to name a few. Read the article for more.

Fitness Magazine also had to weigh in on the gluten debate.

The MayoClinic is yet another source I found info on gluten-free diets.

So far, it looks like either my nutritionist is wrong or perhaps she was just using the wrong terminology because I have none of the symptoms of celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But, I did stumble on another concept that may better fit the bill. Carbohydrate (and/or gluten) addiction.

Here's an article I found on the subject: Addiction to Carbohydrates and Gluten.....
I know nothing about the source so don't blame if it sucks. The article does talk about the cravings and the difficulty losing weight.

Here's a website dedicated to carb addiction:
Again, I know nothing about the source so don't blame if it sucks.
Ah merde! I just took their little carb addict quiz and guess who scored in the moderate zone.

Scholarly articles on carb addiction

Here's an article from The American Heart Association: Carbohydrate Addiction

After looking through all the above articles and consulting my own healthy living beliefs about what is right for me, I'm thinking I need more information. It seems to me that the gluten-free diet fad is just that, a fad for people who don't have celiac disease but are looking for the next easy answer as to why they can't lose weight. However, I'm intrigued by the carb addiction concept. I don't feel like I'm out of control but I do love bread and I have a long history of losing and regaining weight over and over again.


Friday, October 14, 2011

One personal trainer vs. One heart rate monitor

Bold Statement: The perceived exertion scale is bullshit.

I wear my heart rate monitor (hrm) during almost every work out so I can maintain my hr in an optimum range (140 - 166 bpm) the entire time and check it for regular feedback so I know when to rest for a minute and when to push a little harder. Every time I stop for a moment, my personal trainer hops on his soapbox enthusiastically motivating me to hurry up and get to work. When I tell him that my hr is at 176, he responds every time with a "psha" and says that the hrm must be broken.

You see....he doesn't use a hrm because it is his opinion that the scale of perceived exertion is much more reliable and he can't possibly understand how my heart rate could ever be 176 if I'm still able to have a winded conversation.

Trainer - On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel?
Salina - 176
And the battle is on....

Trainer - That's not an option on the scale.
Salina - 175

Trainer - Still not on the scale.
Salina - 173

Trainer - I can't understand how your hear rate could be at 173 if you're able to tell me that it's at 173.
Salina - 170

Trainer - I just don't believe it.
Salina - You want to argue with my heart rate?

Trainer - It just can't be right.
Salina - Well it is.

Trainer - It can't be.
Salina - Feel my pulse if you don't believe me.

Trainer - Holy shit, it's racing.
Salina - 165, I told you so.

Trainer - Well at least it drops quickly. That's a good thing.
Salina - 150

Trainer - It just shouldn't be getting that high with weight training.
Salina - Even if I'm working the major muscles doing combined exercises like lunges on the Bosu with hand weights to a bent row in between?
Bosu Ball

Trainer - Ya, even then.
Salina - Now I don't believe THAT!

Trainer - It just means that you're not conditioned.
               Offended face....GO!
Salina - Even though my hr drops 30+ bpm in 30 seconds?

Trainer - Well, no, that's a good thing.
Salina - Perhaps the racquetball several times every week for the past almost 2 years has trained my heart rate to jump and fall quickly? Ever think of that?

Trainer - Not possible.
Salina - Psh (insert eye roll here)

Then we decide to change subjects to more political topics like whether Michael Jackson was guilty of molesting little boys. That's another post for another day.

Finding the balance

Time to get real with the weight loss stuff since I did claim this to be a weight loss blog once upon a time.

Before the 2010 holidays, I weighed in at 160 lbs.
Now, a year later, the same display shows 172.8 lbs.

What happened? Intuitive eating; I stopped counting my calories. That's really the only difference. Well, and the extended vacation from blogging but I don't necessarily see the correlation with blogging as the cause to regaining 12lbs. No, I think I just got complacent and maybe even lazy when it came to calorie counting and meal planning. Lesson learned. You can find me on SparkPeople.

I'm back in the thick of it though and finding balance is the name of the game. Back from a fabulous 3 weeks in Switzerland and France where I did not concern myself with a diet or exercise or calorie counting or work or family or anything of the kind. I visited beautiful cities and met wonderful people. That is another post though. This one is about the weight loss. Focus!

I briefly mentioned the current "program" I've enrolled in in an earlier post. Remember? It's the comprehensive weight management program benefit offered through my hubby's fancy new job.

26 weeks
3 meetings with the attending physician
7 meetings with the nutritionist
5 meetings with the behavioral therapist
64 meetings with the personal trainer

My first appointments with each of the professionals were mostly to establish goals and an understanding of my past, why I want to participate in the program, and what I hope to achieve. The physician started off with measurements, photos, and medical history which was to be expected.

The nutritionist I was a little more apprehensive about....simply because I had a nutritionist before and got absolutely no value from her. This one is different though. She read my food logs and talked to me about my nutrition and immediately suggested a few changes I could make.  The one tidbit that really surprised me was that I should try to get more fat from my breakfast. That was totally contrary to my normal routine of fat free, non fat, skim everything for breakfast. More fat for breakfast will prevent the cravings for higher unhealthy fatty foods later in the day so I can easily get through my day without looking for the cookies in the afternoon.

The behavioral therapist is just a normal therapist only she seems too young to be long out of school. Whatever, that doesn't matter. She's there to help me understand my emotions and beliefs about food and my body and exercise and just general mental health. I've had a few therapists in my time so this process is not new to me. I've been talking mostly about all the stressors in my life at present and how to (if possible) find a way to reduce and maintain a lower stress existence regardless of my life circumstances. The positive input I've gotten so far is that my concerns about having difficulty losing and/or then regaining weight due to stress can most definitely be an answer.

And that brings us to the personal trainer. My first appointment with the trainer consisted of a body composition test (bio-electrical impedance) to get a measure of fat and muscle content in my body. I have no idea what the little machine said when the test was over but I have a sneaking suspicion that it wasn't good because I get a hint of those numbers on my fancy scale at home. It's always good to have a benchmark though. I meet with the trainer on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays every week until the second week of December then I drop the Fridays and just see him twice every week until March when the program ends.

What I find refreshing is that once the program is over in March, it's not actually over. I will not be meeting with the trainer every week for my workouts but they do continue to follow-up for up to 5 years with clients to make sure that what was done in the program is being continued in real life. I am 5' tall and 172lbs so I'm easily 60lbs overweight. There is no way I can lose 60lbs in 26weeks, nor would I want to. I love that they will continue to keep in touch and do periodic follow-up calls/meetings to keep me on track as I shed the extra weight and maintain it over the next few years. I have a feeling it's going to be the best $1,500 I ever spent. Don't judge, look at all I get for that money. I dare you to price out just the personal trainer alone before you get sticker shock.

So there you have it. Opinions? Feedback? Questions? Let's make it a conversation.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

An extension of me

When it's near, I feel the most beautiful turmoil. On one account, it brings joy and a sense of serenity to my naturally chaotic mind. It's almost like it speaks to me. It tells me that no matter what I do with it, I will always find peace and acceptance. Nothing of which I produce with it's soft flowing dye can possibly be anything less than divined by the greater powers that be. What those powers are is still to be determined. Where they reside, I have yet to discover. How to access them at will is but another mystery to me. Even in the randomness of it's production though, my soul breathes freedom as it soars across the page.

On the other account, I get a feeling that I'm being taunted. Perhaps it's just projection by the natural tendencies of it's master. Is it possible to imprint human emotion upon an inanimate object? An existential question for the void. While one side of the personality I understand is nurturing, the other side is nothing less than antagonistic. I feel a sensation of something reminiscent of playground bullying if the bully is really your best friend. Is it the doubt surfacing or could it possibly be the playful child inside just testing the boundaries to be invited out to play? Peek-a-boo. Neener-neener you can't catch me.

I have yet to produce a modern masterpiece with it's splendid support but it brings a level of intrigue to what I once considered a mundane activity. That in itself has, I am glad to say, whispered sweet songs of the morning to the sleeping artist. If the playful child is in fact peeking out to find a playmate, I have faith that with a bit of tenderness, that masterpiece is quick to follow.

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Trying to be what will make others proud. Trying to achieve what my preconceived notions define as success. Trying to live up to the image I have of myself. Trying, trying, wonder I end up tired, overwhelmed, and disappointed.

Feeling lost because I can't put my finger on the one big thing that defines me or the one tag line that describes me. Comparing myself to others because they seem to have a perfect elevator pitch or the perfect body. Feeling, feeling, feeling less than wonder I end up feeling faulted.

Thinking about where I've been. Thinking about all the times I've tried and failed. Thinking about all the people I've invested in and judging the ROI. Thinking, thinking, and over-thinking everything to wonder I rarely cross the finish line when it comes to putting my thoughts to action.

Believing that I can be and do anything I put my mind to. Believing that spirit will conquer limitations. Believing that the world holds something greater for me than what I currently experience. Believing in everything outside of wonder I lack the belief in exactly who and what I am today.

What if I really am blessed as I am? What if I currently live success in whatever definition I choose? What if I don't need a tag line because no one simple statement defines me? What if I stop trying, thinking, and feeling so much and just start to enjoy and appreciate what is?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Life lessons and a bit of humility

  1. I'm not yet intuitive enough to maintain weight loss using intuitive eating as evidenced by the 12 pounds that have taken up residence on my ass again in the past year
  2. Hard work and sacrifice really do payoff eventually
  3. Stress is the devil
Those are the life lessons I've had to choke down along side a healthy serving of humble pie and egg in the face. Perhaps I'm being a bit over dramatic with it all because there have been some really amazing things happen in my life too.

Here's a recap.
Before the 2010 holidays, Accountabilibuddy and I decided that it would be a good idea to try the intuitive eating plan to see if she could continue her journey without WW and if I could continue mine without counting every single stinkin' little calorie. In hind sight, it wasn't such a good idea after all. Slowly but surely, the weight started to creep back on. I was still being mindful of what I was eating and I was still very active but I suppose I took in too many calories and burned fewer than I thought. After all, that's the basic math in losing weight. Or is it?

With every step on the scale, my stress level went up with my weight. Correlation or causation? That's another chicken and egg type of debate. In my opinion, weight gain and stress are not mutually exclusive. But I digress.

I was honored by a good friend to be asked to be maid of honor in her wedding. See? Good things happen too. Weddings are supposed to be fun and planning is supposed to be fun. Well, there were fun moments but if I'm totally honest here, wedding planning is mostly stress, stress, and more stress. I may have developed a phobic fear of dress shopping. Dress makers already can't seem to agree on a size template so one dress maker says size 10 equals such and such measurements where another one says those measurements are actually a size 16. That is NOT good for someone who has issues with weight and body image already which is, oh I don't know, the majority of the female population in the United States. Shouldn't there be some kind of quality assurance or regulatory board somewhere that sets the measurements for every size and that is the same for everyone, everywhere? I think so!

Another good thing....hubby got himself a fancy new job so that was a pleasant event in my year.

Skip to June 2011. Early one morning, I woke up Weird. I couldn't see anything in one eye. Yes. Blind in one eye for no particular reason. So, you can imagine that wasn't so great for the rising stress level. That's where a list of doctor appointments came in and have yet to disappear from my calendar reminders. Annoying little buggers. The good news is that the vision returned and better than when it left. I no longer need glasses to read distances. Brilliant!

I learned about a cool benefit offered by my hubby's fancy new company. It's a weight loss benefit. Actually, they call it a "weight management" benefit. Whatever flowery language they want to use is fine with me because I quickly figured out that I qualified for it. I promptly jumped through all the hoops and got started. It's a 1 year monitored relationship with a team of professionals all there to help me figure out what is broken in my weight loss journey and how to fix it. I have a physician, a nutritionist, a "life coach" which is just non threatening language for a therapist, and a personal trainer. I just started a couple weeks ago so I have yet to see any real results but I'm optimistic.

France! Oh hallelujah I love France. Yes, we finally did it. Hubby and I were planning our trip for over a year and it finally happened. We started French classes in January so we could hack our way through the language no matter what little nook of the country we found ourselves in. Three successful weeks of travelling around that beautiful country came to an end just last week and I can't wait to return.

Now that all the craziness of life seems to have settled down and I managed to get away from work and stress for 3 beautiful weeks, I stepped on the scale and guess what....a tiny bit of movement in the right direction. Voila! Let's see if this lesser stressed me with a team of babysitters can figure out how to shed the weight once and for all, shall we?

And how are you?