Fat Girl Diaries, Chapter 4: the metabolic exPLOzhun

Thank goodness for electronic records, since you know, I’m old and forgetful.  I did attend four classes with Deb prior to  my unplanned hiatus to spend some quality time with Matt and Taylor at Edge Physical Therapy.  And Deb WAS (and is) a ton of fun as a trainer.  Super energetic, always telling stories about her kids, life in general, and her encounters with, erm, challenging people at the gym (those usually make me feel a little less like a Gym Dork).  Her stories and infectious attitude make the workout go a lot quicker, which is a bonus when you’re sucking air, praying for it all to end.

Deb is also very engaging with everyone who walks in the door.  She knows everybody’s name, what they’ve been up to, who they work out with and when.  That being said … in my first sessions with Deb (pre PT), I somehow managed to avoid the range of the Dynamo Deb Radar.  Get in, do my workout, sweat a ton, stretch, stagger out the door to my car; repeat.

Very first day back after my PT release, Deb’s the coach.  And it’s a small class – fewer than 12 people.  So Deb tells everyone to hop on the treadmill to start; no two-group training today with half on the treadmills and half on the rowers.  OK, you’re totally messing with my mojo here – I’m a row first kinda girl – but whatever.  I’m no longer doing my weights in the corner of the studio, I’m branching out from my Gina comfort zone, I’ve got my PT behind me, and I’m stronger.  I’ve got this.

Up onto a treadmill I go.  Start it up to my usual “base pace” of 4MPH (power walker, yes I am; me+running=sometimes), crank the fan, and start moving.  Deb steps onto the treadmill next to me.  Powers it up, starts walking, and starts coaching.

So not only have I landed within the range of the Dynamo Deb Radar at this point, I.AM.IN.THE.FREAKING.CROSSHAIRS.

At this point, I’m of the me+running=sometimes frame of mind, because I know that running is the only way to get my heart rate up.  (I say running … it’s jogging.  Like a sloth, through peanut butter, but it is jogging.  Ish.  In short bursts.)  And I’m a little anxious yet about incline, since I am not sure if that’s going to send me back onto the PT table with Matt and Taylor.  So we start with a “push pace” for I have no idea how long (probably all of 30 seconds) and I do my peanut butter sloth jog thing.   Usually after a push is “base”, which is “Challenging, but doable”.  Well, for me, base is back to 4MPH … but Deb is barking “Joggers or runners … THIS AIN’T NO WALKING RECOVERY!  KEEP JOGGING OR RUNNING!”  And she’s right next to me, staring me down.  I did manage to keep up the pace for part of the workout, but I did have to fall back to walking.  Me+running for roughly 23 minutes without stopping = #notgonnahappen.  Not that day, anyway.

So, when not doing the peanut butter sloth jog to get my heart rate up during pushes and all outs, I’m walking at an incline.  And holding onto the treadmill rails, since my pace is at least 4MPH, and the incline is jacked way up.  (Incline with walking, weirdly enough, doesn’t seem to aggravate my knee.)  But I’ll hold onto the rails cuz I feel like if I let go, WHOOSH off of the back of the treadmill I’ll go, looking like Wile E Coyote all flattened against the back wall.  With a big Jen-shaped cutout in the glass wall behind the treadmill; the glass wall separates the studio from the lobby.

Deb:  “JEN, whachoo doin, holdin’ onto those rails?!?  They ain’t no rails when you walkin’ outside! Let go of those rails, pump those arms, lean into it – you got this!”

Criminy, woman!  Are you in kahoots with my therapists, or what?

I realize this little narrative makes Deb sound like everyone’s version of the Bully Bootcamp Coach – and she’s totally not.  OK maybe she was just a little, that day … I probably wouldn’t remember it quite this vividly, had it not been day one back from PT.  There are many “Deb-isms”, one of which is “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.”  She’s always watching, knowing when someone needs just a little extra encouragement, an extra word, to push it a little harder.  I would say that because of Deb, I now consider myself an OTF “Power Jogger” on the treadmill.  OTF has three treadmill profiles:  Power Walker, Jogger, and Runner.   I have decided I am a hybrid between a Power Walker and a Jogger, so I have anointed myself “Power Jogger”.  Plus, “Power Jogger” sounds sorta badass.

There are times when I am able to do my peanut butter sloth jog thing for three minutes without stopping, ramping it up to a blazing 6MPH for an “all out” (if I’ve really got the swagger going, I’ll hit a killer 6.5MPH.  EAT.MY.DUST.  Ha!)  Some days, the running isn’t happening at all, so I might be walking at a 15 incline for a one minute “all out” after doing a two minute push pace at my peanut butter sloth jog.  Deb and the other coaches will push and encourage – but I do know when I’m at my limit, and I know how to get my heart rate where it needs to be (up or down).  But I’ve also been pleasantly surprised by some of the things I have been able to do (like complete a mile in 12 minutes:  EAT.MY.DUST! but not bad for the woman who previously said me+running=NO).  And I find I can do about anything on the treadmill in 1-, 2- or 3- minute bursts.  I have to admit, though, that for the longer blocks I will stare at the timer on the treadmill, counting down every last second (“OK, half way there …”).

Deb is now my regular, go-to trainer; Gina’s stepped back a bit, and it just seems my schedule aligns better with classes when Deb is coaching.  I’ll occasionally hit a class with Keigan (aka Brown Sugar; aka Chocolate Angel), Brenda, or one of the two Treys – but most days, it’s Deb.  And I’m now always in Dynamo Deb’s radar range.  Deb is now a Facebook friend, too, so she knows what I’m up to outside of OTF (including cookie baking – is it wrong to give your OTF trainer a big box of Christmas cookies?  Seems counter to the whole idea of “fitness”, I dunno … and it didn’t earn me any burpee passes, dang it.)

Deb starts every workout by inviting people to “Get a little … met-a-bolic … ex-PLO-zhun!” going in the studio, and always includes inspiration and encouragement from the moment you walk in until you leave.  Truth be told, all of the trainers are inspiring and encouraging in their own ways.  I’m able to do things now I couldn’t two years ago when I started – shoot, even one year ago.  Who knows what I’ll be doing next year!  Me+running=marathon?  (Gonna set the record straight right now … probably not!)

Fat Girl Diaries – Chapter 3: Getting up to speed and slowing down

According to my OTF visit history, I did eventually stagger back into the studio.  Again, at 5AM (what the?)

I consistently went twice a week, always at 5AM.  Always camping out at station #12 – because you know, that’s the one in the corner where people won’t walk by and have to see me in all of my sweaty, wimpy, fat girl glory, hoarding the 5lb weights all to myself (but really … I don’t think many other people were using the 5lb weights.  Thank you, T-Rex arms.)

I couldn’t really dread going to OTF because every day was a different workout – I never knew what new torture I was going to experience.  Dumbbells, TRX straps, ab dollies, and sometimes just fun with your own body weight.  (Hello, burpees.  Yes, you suck.)  I’m sure in my attempt to do lunges, I looked a lot like a wobbly newborn calf, but not nearly as cute.

I kept going, twice a week (still always at 5AM – what the?) until I burned through my 10 pack in June.  At this point, I figure I’m in, so I signed up for twenty more.  Eventually, I got to the point where I could go three times a week without feeling a need for narcotics the next day, although most days my muscles were still vocal about the work I’d put them through (“core blasts” in particular did NOT make my abs happy).  Eventually I purchased another twenty pack, and eventually a thirty pack.  My calorie burn stayed pretty consistent, as did my “splat points” (number of minutes at 84% heart rate or greater).  I was averaging 10-12 splat points a session – not bad, but I still wonder who you people are who hit 45 splat points in the hour.

The 5AM crew was pretty much the same faces, day in and day out, and always with Gina as the trainer – she was my ‘comfort zone’ – I was a little anxious about starting with another trainer (why, I’m not sure).  At some point along the way – after the post workout stretch – Glamazon Muscley Trainer Woman Gina admitted she had struggled with her weight, too – even showed us her drivers license picture, chubby cheeks and all.  It’s comforting to know that Glamazon Muscley Trainer women struggle, too.  Although I am pretty sure that unless I devote myself to working out full time, I will never reach Glamazon Muscley Woman Status.  Oh, and there’s my cookie problem … so no, Glamazon Muscley Woman status is not gonna happen for me.  That’s OK.

Somewhere around Christmas, I decided to go ALL IN (or is it “ALL OUT”?   Sorry, total OTF dork moment there.)  I paid for a monthly membership – as many times as I wanted to go in a month!  Oh boy!  And I signed up for sessions while I was in Scottsdale – still, 5AM (although my TX body thought it was 7 – whoo! Sleepin in!)

I guess I figured if I made a complete ass out of myself in Scottsdale, no one would know – it’s not like I’m going to see these people at the grocery store, dropping their kids off at Brinker, etc., like I do the West Plano crew.  So I’m venturing out of my comfort zone … a little.  The Scottsdale studio, though – weird.  For one thing, they let people into the studio when they showed up – no waiting in the lobby for the trainer to usher you in (the first time I was there, I panicked, thinking I was late – or I wondered if they were totally insane and had a 4AM class).  There was one woman who did nothing but the treadmill the entire time, and another who made up her own rowing routines – they sort of did their own thing, I guess (why you spend money for a personal trainer and not use it … ?)  And last, they run through a crazy stupid number of wipes.  It’s not like they sweat that much more (and it was December, so it wasn’t 115 outside, either) but I swear, every five minutes someone was grabbing 5-6 wipes and hitting their treadmills and rowers.  But I survived my AZ experience, even though at one point I did make an ass out of myself – sorta.  I had my workout shirt on backwards.  (Not sure how I managed that – it’s a v-neck.  Trainer pointed it out.  #IMADORK.)

I started paying more attention to my splat points and calorie burn.  Getting your heart rate up typically happens in the cardio portion of the workout – the treadmill.  Me + running = Not really but maybe?  So I started cranking up the incline … and the speed, up to about 4.5 MPH.  On days I wasn’t doing OTF, I was trying to hit the streets either on my bike or on my own two feet – sometimes even JOGGING in the process (I don’t know exactly what possessed me).  When I was really feelin all sortsa crazy (and the workout required it – I’m crazy but not stupid) I would jog at an incline.  And my left knee started to give me some grief.  Not a lot, but it was a specific pain on the inside of my left knee.  If it was really bad I’d make sure to take a day off from OTF, or tone it down.  In May, it got to the point where I had to take a break for several weeks – but I’m too stupid to go see the doctor (I’m no athlete – I’ve never been through this before, I figure some rest, and I’m good, right).  I picked up again with a regular schedule in late June, still mostly 5AM classes (what the?) although I did start the occasional lunch hour or 4:30 class when my work schedule allowed.  And – I’m venturing out of my comfort zone and doing classes with – gasp – someone other than Gina.  Still MOSTLY Gina classes, but the occasional “cheat”.

I actually had two classes with Trainer Sam (so my visit history tells me), in spite of remembering only the one.  The one where I went the whole workout and at the very end, I felt my knee not pop, not give – I don’t know what it did.  Except hurt like holy hell.  I did manage to stay through the after workout stretch (I probably figured that might help whatever I did – in hindsight, that might’ve been an amateur mistake) and limped to my car.  Got home, got cleaned up, and limped my butt upstairs (where my desk is) to get to work.

But OW.

That night I popped more Advil/Aleve than my family physician would likely recommend, and tried sleeping in a recliner.  I could not get comfortable no matter what position I took – leg up, leg down, didn’t matter.  I must’ve eventually gotten a little sleep, and while the next day my knee was better, I figured it was time to call the MD.  I didn’t have the first clue where my MCL or ACL were, or whether I’d done something to one or both or neither.

So knee is a little better, but I’m still pretty gimpy.  Get into see the MD, who contorts my leg this way and that way and when I don’t scream out loud or knock him on his butt, he decides I haven’t seriously sprained or torn anything ending in an L, so there’s that.  They do quick XRays on my knees and discover I do have old lady knees – mild arthritis and a small bone spur, YAY! But those aren’t likely the source of my knee pain.

So … referral to Edge Physical Therapy in Frisco, where now Matt (the therapist) and Taylor (the tech) are my new BFFs twice a week for six weeks.  My first favorite part of therapy is always the hot pack on my knee and the massage (duh).  My second favorite part though is the funky treadmill with the fart pants (I’m sure there is some official, technical name for this thing, but I’ve since forgotten it – and when you take the special pants off, if you’re not careful, it sounds like you fart, so there you go.  It’s the Special Fart Pants Treadmill, now and forever.)   The fart pants somehow zip into an inflatable “thing” that sits over the treadmill, and the inflation can be adjusted so basically you’re not putting 100% of your weight onto the tread.  Super cool – I could run ALL.DAY.LONG on this thing!  That part was fun.  The other exercises to strengthen my knees and improve my sucky balance – not so fun, but the knee pain does improve, and eventually I’m putting more and more of my weight onto the treadmill.

At this point, I’ve decided the 5AM stuff needs to stop.  If I didn’t have a job/husband/kid/house/life, doing 5AM on a regular basis might work.  But those other things … you need to be at least semi-conscious to be a functioning employee/wife/mom/housekeeper/human being.   You can’t accomplish much when you’re a drooling couch zombie by 7PM every night.

I figure, hey, I work from home.  OTF is 5 minutes from my house.  I can go to OTF over the lunch hour, I can do a class at 8:30, I can do 4:30 – I just have to plan for it in my work schedule.  My employer, CVS Health, has its stated purpose:  “To help people on the path to better health.”  I’m a people!  Surely, I deserve better health (CVS’s annual $600 bribe incentive to do the quickie blood work test tells me they think so, too.)  Skip asks if I feel guilty leaving during the work day to get my workout on.  And the short answer is no, not really.  I’m an exempt employee, so I’m not expected to work 9-5 or a 40 hour week.  BUT … that doesn’t mean they get to work me 55-60 hours all the time, nor does it mean I get to work 35.  There are plenty of days when I’m logged into the computer by 7:30 and I’m still working at 6:00PM.  The mess of English muffin crumbs in my keyboard is a testament to many a lunch taken at my desk, probably ear buds plugged in for some conference call.  I have worked many a late night and weekend on various projects or issues, and my regular camp out spot on January 1 is NOT in front of a TV, watching football games, but parked in my VP’s office in Scottsdale, monitoring prescription drug claims and issues that come about every January.   I realize I am very lucky to work for an organization and leaders who entrust me to do what they need me to do, and don’t worry too much about when I get it done.  I also realize I alone am responsible for my schedule; as I’ve gotten older, I realize the value in saying “no” to some things.  There are still days when an urgent issue will make me miss my scheduled OTF workout; it happens.  But I am somewhat selective in what meetings I think are worth the OTF “late cancel” fee.

At the point my therapy is complete, I get the OK from Matt to return to OTF.  So I scheduled some midday and 4:30 classes … with Deb.  The Deb who was a regular “tag” on countless OTF Facebook check ins – she had to be fun, right?



Travel Diary, Day Four (and Three): There’s no place like home

No post yesterday … too long a day!

Started with lunch at Misty’s … yes, we are eating our way through Nebraska.  Met up with my friend Mary for lunch and she gamely tagged along with me and one 8YO to Morrill Hall, which houses fossils from various sites across Nebraska, including Archie, a mammoth who is as much a part of the University of Nebraska landscape as Herbie Husker (Archie needs to work on his sideline antics, however).  We then trekked via car through and around the campus, which is so very different from when we went to school:  a lot more university housing, new class room buildings (but Oldfather, Bessey, Andrews, and Burnett still look like they did 20 years ago – and I’m sure they still smell like mothballs), lots of parking garages (nice change from the lot on north 14th that was colloquially known as “Rape Lot”, whether from actual crimes committed or just collegiate urban legend, who knows).  We then ventured to East Campus, where I never set foot when I was a student – East Campus being home to Ag, Dental, and Law (what those things have in common I have no idea).  But East Campus also houses The Dairy – part of the Ag stuff; yes, the University makes ice cream and cheeses and of course, it was awesome.  (I said I was eating my way through Nebraska … I see a lot of burpees in my future.)

Saturday night was dinner at Sonja’s – with slip and slide for the kids and just chatting with us three old college friends.  The topics have changed – from boys and classes to our kids and jobs – but in spite of having not seen each other for many years, it’s like we didn’t miss a beat. We’ve already picked out a weekend to try to get together next summer – never easy with kids, jobs, and other life stuff but we’re gonna try.  Facebook is grand, but it doesn’t replace seeing old friends.

Today was the trek from Lincoln to Omaha.  First stop:  movie theater to see the Minions, which was very cute but has the very annoying side effect of making my child speak Minion for the rest of the day (every word sounds like a 2YO trying to say “banana”.  “Did you wash your hair yet, Katie?”  “Boonahnah!”).  Lunch at the 11Worth Cafe with LOTS of family who was nice enough to take time out of their Sunday to meet up with us over ginormous plates of eggs, sausage & biscuits with gravy, and lots of other yummy food (had never been there before … gonna be a regular stop when we come through Omaha again.  The waitress called everyone “honey”, which is ALWAYS a sign of gastro greatness.  I’ll definitely be back, assuming I can bank enough burpees ahead of time.)

And then guess what?  We met up with Skip!  He took advantage of his weekend to fly into Omaha then drive to Des Moines to catch up with one of his friends at the Republican candidate gathering thing in Ames (he arrived too late to see Trump self-implode, apparently).  So we were able to spend some time with him before he headed to the airport for what’s looking to be a very, very late night for him.

Tomorrow it’s Zoo time – Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo is often rated the #1 zoo in the country if not the world, although I saw recently where it had slipped a bit.  It’ll be like I’m in third grade all over again – I think it was mandatory that every kid go there at least once a year on a field trip, and our family always bought the “membership” to gain us basically unlimited access to the zoo all summer.  I remember trekking coolers with lunch to the zoo and buying popcorn to feed the frenzied carp off of the bridge over the lagoon.  No coolers for us tomorrow .. but I did save money for popcorn.

Thoughts on Veteran’s Day

As I scroll through Facebook, I’m amazed at how many friends, family, and acquaintances have served in all branches of the military, at all levels.  A cousin in desert fatigues next to a stop sign that looks to be in Arabic.  One of Skip’s oldest friends, who rose to the rank of Colonel (I think) in what appears to be his Army swearing in picture.  Stories of gratitude from friends and cousins about their sons who currently serve in the Marines and the Army.  And of course, recollections of dads and grandfathers from wars long over.

And yes, my dad served. He signed up in the Army Reserves in the 60s as a means to an end – it was one of many jobs that paid for his college degree.  At some point after my parents were engaged, but before the wedding, his unit was called up – so up moved the wedding.  A final round of training exercises before shipping out of Fort Lewis, WA meant my parents honeymooned in Seattle before Dad shipped out with the men of the 172nd transportation unit, a lot of jeeps and trucks, and one large, fiberglass crow that was “recruited” (according to the men of the 172nd) from a local surplus store called Yard Birds.  Every one of the men from that deployment came back, as did Crow – and while I can’t speak to whether any of the men went on additional tours, Crow shipped out whenever the 172nd shipped out, even managing a trek to Iraq in the early 90s.  (The 172nd is an interesting bunch … read more at https://sites.google.com/site/172ndtransportationcompany/)

After their Seattle honeymoon, Dad shipped out to Vietnam and Mom returned to Nebraska – with a stowaway of sorts (me).  Mom thought she’d caught a virus in the northwest; only if you consider morning sickness a virus, I guess.  I was born three months before my dad returned, and it was a Red Cross volunteer who found him on a convoy with the good news.  We have a picture of my dad and three of his buddies, in rain gear, standing next to a truck, holding M16s, and smoking cigars.  I’m sure it wasn’t long before they were back on the convoy, delivering whatever needed to be delivered to the troops dispersed throughout the jungles of Vietnam.

While this makes a unique block in our Kramer family quilt, it’s really no different than the stories of countless men and women, scattered around the world, who left spouses, parents and children behind.  Missed births and parent teacher conferences.  Not being able to fill the role of the tooth fairy or to see your child ride a bike without training wheels for the first time.  The only difference today is technology, I suppose – FaceTime and other technologies make it possible for deployed servicemen and women to actually see one another, if not be in the same room.  A far cry from the reel-to-reel tapes my parents sent to one another, and the “It’s a girl … OVER!” broadcast over a radio.

So to all of the veterans and their families:  thank you.  It seems so inadequate and insufficient.  But thank you.