Category Archives: fitness

The glory of being bad at something

In order to add some kind of movement and structure to my life, I’ve been practicing yoga of late. As I read of recovery stories from ME, yoga and meditation play an active part in most of them.

When I was pressing play for P90X and P90X3, yoga was among my least favorite routines. I want to sweat when I work out. I want to feel my heart pump and experience that glorious burn through my muscles. I want to feel the exhilarating fatigue of the first few steps after a long run. I don’t want to stumble around like a drunk on a roller coaster trying to do some movement that the chick in the yoga pants performs perfectly on the video.

Except for the Santa suit and the parking garage, this is what it looks like when I do yoga.

But, right now, yoga is what I can do.

I would tape it and show you but I still have a little vanity left. Put another way, practice is the right word. If the town of Halfmoon, NY saw what I was doing this morning during the Halfmoon segment of 30 Days Yoga with Adriene (Day 15), they would sue me for everything for defaming their good name.

Halfmoon. A community forever diminished. By me.

I. Am. Awful. At. Yoga. Period.

What I’ve learned–no rocket science here–is that’s okay. To assume I’d be good at it on the 15th day is an insult to the people who work hard at it every day. And make no mistake, when yoga’s done correctly, it can be very difficult. And I don’t mean the vinyasas. They’re physically demanding, but you can muscle through them.

It’s the parts you can’t muscle through that kick my butt. Like the halfmoom.

Sure, it looks easy on that Poses Against Humanity card, but try it. I eventually held it–more or less–on each side. But the result was less than graceful.

And that’s okay. For one thing, I’m coming off a seven-month layoff. My core is shot. For another, I never did yoga on a day-to-day basis. And that’s too bad.

When Tony Horton talked about yoga on the DVDs, he talked about loosening up all that ancient gristle in his joints and muscles. I never understood that. But I understand it now. No one will confuse my flexibility with Gumby’s (dammit!), but the differences are there. And as much as I still don’t like the everyday practice, I am glad of the results.

You’re as flexible as a pretzel stick, dammit!

So instead of feeling like someone trying to master golf, I feel like a beginner–like someone blessed to be able to do anything at all. And while the stumbles don’t excite me, I accept them. I have to. The alternative is to not go forward, and that’s no alternative at all.

Right now is about what you can do today

I can still do a vinyasa. The real deal. Start in plank, go to chaturunga, maybe throw in a push up every now and then, then go to upward dog. No knees on the matt. No cobra pose. The real deal for me (your mileage may vary and that’s perfectly okay).

Except mine was, you know, manly

I used to be able to do that as many times as Tony Horton ordered. No more. Six months from now, maybe I won’t be able to even do one. Or maybe I’ll do than I can now.

Right now, six months from now’s not important. Right now is about what I can do today. I came, I did the yoga. I feel good.

Right now is about what I can do today. It’s about me. Not about what that guy buzzing down the running trail did. It’s not about what the woman on her way into Orange Theory did.

I could have sat and felt sorry for myself for not being able to do those things, but I did what I could do. Some people can do a lot more. Some people struggle to get out of bed. But they aren’t helped and I’m not helped if I worry about what they can or can’t do.

Right now is about what I can do today. I can’t run 17 miles any more. I can’t pump out a dozen pull ups. I can’t do the mother of all our movements, jump knee tucks. I can’t do whatever torture the evil Shaun T has in mind. So what?

Jump knee tuck. The mother…

I could do yoga and I did it, to the best of my ability. You can’t do better than your best.

Life ebbs and flows. Sometimes you’ll find yourself blowing away what you’ve done before. Some days it’s a major victory just to get out of bed.

Whatever the limits are, that’s what they are. Done. End of story.

Wishing they were different, comparing your limits to what you did last year or to what others can do, that’s grounds for defeat.

Right now is about what you can do today.

Take care of today today and when tomorrow comes, worry about what you can do then.

Awww, crap. Now I’m scared.

I’ve got a nice little fitness routine. Pop in the DVD, do some work. Start running at some point. Complain about running in the heat. Do Tough Mudder. Later. Rinse. Repeat. I don’t master everything there is, but I am a master of this routine. I know what to expect and when to expect it.

Enter my friend Cathy.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m doing this Go Ruck thing where you haul around a ruck sack full of bricks all night long and I need someone to come with me. I’ll pay.”

They don’t even give you a free beer at the end of this thing.


I have no excuse. I can’t plead poverty. I’m supposed to be into these types of things. So, I expect that the first Friday in April, I’ll be hauling a ruck sack full of bricks around all night, having some guy yell at me while I do God-knows-what.

Nobody better bring a jelly donut to this thing.

This morning’s workout was P90X3 Eccentric Upper–pull-ups, push ups, curls, and the like. And with this event in the future, I paid more attention than usual to form. I worked harder. I tried not to sneak in a break where I normally sneak one in.

Hey, I caught you taking a mid-set break. We’re only doing ten plyometric pushups. What the hell?

So that’s good.

But P90X3 is half an hour. Even when I run long, that’s no more than two and a half hours. It’s not ten-twelve hours. The thing that scares me about this event isn’t the physical part. I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve worked hard before. I’ve been sore and wet and miserable before.

I haven’t done it for half a calendar day. Even in my first Tough Mudder, there was never a doubt that I would make it. Now, I doubt.

Now, my workouts aren’t just about the physical. After all, the hardest muscle to change is the one between your ears. It’s not about just working hard now. This Go Ruck event is about how much you really want it. And really wanting it–going all out to make a goal–that’s never been a particular strength.

That’s why I’m scared. And that’s why my workout was different this morning.

Certainty can be good. I think it will be in this case.

When you’re sore after a workout

A common complaint about working out, especially from beginners, is about being sore after a workout. Muscle achiness can turn even the most mild-mannered person into a maniacal anger monster.

I worked out two days ago and I still hurt and if I could move, I’d beat you to death.

Why are you sore? Is it good for you? And what can you do about it?

When you work out–or do anything else that’s physically demanding–you cause small tears in your muscle fibers. When those tears are repaired, your muscles become stronger and bigger. But these tears are tears; they hurt. In other words, to strengthen your muscles, you need to hurt a little.

The pain is typically worse when you first start a program, when your body isn’t used to what you’re doing. If you keep at what you’re doing, eventually, you’ll feel less soreness doing the same thing.

And that soreness is good for you–to a degree. This type of pain, typically called delayed-onset muscle soreness (or DOMS) typically sets in as early as eight hours after a workout and peak within a couple days, then gradually recedes. It’s not a stabbing pain, but a more general soreness. If your pain isn’t like that, or if it starts during your workout or lingers significantly beyond two days, you might want medical attention.

More pragmatically, if the soreness causes you to miss workouts, it’s not a good thing. You aren’t doing yourself good if you overdo it in a workout, then wait several days and start over. If that happens, back off a little, then try again–only not quite as intensely.

(If it helps, even people who work out regularly can experience this kind of soreness. It’s the newness of the activities that will cause this kind of pain. Put another way, even though I could run ten miles, when I started P90X3 again, my body was pretty sore for the first week or so as I completed my daily workouts. By the end of the second week, the soreness was much more manageable.)

If you experience this type of soreness, you can treat it with ice (heat might help at first, but some ice will speed healing), increased protein and Omega-3 consumption, Epsom salt baths, sleep, and massage. Foam rolling is an option for the massage.

Ironically, moving around–more exercise–can help, too. You don’t have to go nuts, but moderate exercise can help with the pain, as well.

Resources consulted:

You aren’t alone

I typically work out very early in the morning. It’s what works for me. Pop in the DVD and go! No one’s there with me because who likes doing military push-ups at 5 in the morning?

It’s 5 am. Time for PUSH UPS!

No one, that’s who!

But I’m not alone when I work out and neither are you.

I drove about five miles home from a workout I did this morning. It’s a semi-rainy, fully cloudy morning. And I passed two people on bikes, six people jogging, and a couple people out walking. There was a lady out running behind a stroller–not a stroller designed to run with, just a stroller. There are also countless people at the Y, or Crunch, or LA Fitness, or Orange Theory, or wherever–working out. There are people playing tennis, skiing, shooting hoop. There are people doing yoga or pilates. There are people doing P90X, Insanity, or something by Jillian Michaels.

They’re all on the same team as you. They’re all going after the same general goals as you. They’re all getting out and doing the hard work it takes to improve their lives.

Just like you.

When I was running a couple summers ago, I’d get to the farthest part of the run, the part with no trees and the gradual uphill to the end ahead of me, and I was discouraged because I was all alone. That was wrong.

Other people run when it’s hot, too. I’ve run when it’s 19 degrees outside (it was wonderful). A friend did outside yoga the other night when the temperature was in the forties. I spoke to someone this morning who did an outside boot camp one day this week when it was in the upper thirties.

They weren’t alone either.

And neither are you.

Every single person who lifts a weight or runs a mile or does a vinyasa is on the same team as you. Their specific steps might be different, but their overall goal is the same.

You aren’t alone. Don’t get discouraged when it feels like you are.

It’s a lie designed to keep you in your safe zone and wear you down. But the vast majority of people doing the same or similar work as you would give you props for putting the time in.

Nice. Freaking. Job!

Redefining hardcore

I did the Color Run this weekend–it markets itself as “the happiest 5K in the world.” A month ago, I did an event that markets itself as “probably the toughest event on the planet.”


As we were nearing start time at the Color Run, I started my pre-event getting-ready process. Usually, there’s some introspection, some quiet time as find the motivation I need for the gut-check ahead.

At the Color Run, they were doing Zumba.

Zumba? What the hell? Not me. I’m hardcore.

So here’s the thing…I ran with a relatively new friend, someone who saw this as a challenge, not to make a time, but to run the thing all the way through. Someone who was pushing herself and working really hard. Someone who worked a lot harder than I did.

So I thought some more about Tough Mudder. One of the reasons I like Tough Mudder–one of the reasons I need some time to get mentally ready–is I’m never 100% sure I can do it. Some of the obstacles test my weak points–like anything that involves heights. When I say I have butterflies, it’s a phalanx of butterflies in my stomach.

And I thought about the woman I ran with today. This was a test for her. She extended herself all the way at this event. Maybe there was Zumba instead of a guy telling you how tough you were. Maybe there’s chalk instead of dumpsters of ice water.

But it doesn’t make the event any less hardcore.

It’s no big deal for me to pop in a DVD and do a work out (except for Insanity). But it is a big deal for some of the people who ran or even walked 5 kilometers Saturday.

Maybe it’s not the activity that should be described as hardcore. Maybe it’s the participant.

This isn’t a race. It’s not a competition with other people. That’s why I love what Tony Horton says: Do your best and forget the rest.

It’s about what you can do. If it’s hard work for you to walk two miles and you walk two miles, then you brought it. If it’s a test for you to jog a mile and you do that, that’s not nothing; it’s everything!

Don’t look at the other person. Don’t listen that voice in your head that says, “Big deal, anyone can do what you just did.” This isn’t about anyone, it’s about you.

Be selfish in that regard.

You’re the one who was out there doing the work. If you get done and you say, “wow, that was pretty good,” or “I worked hard,” you can’t ask for anything else.

Too many people set unrealistic expectations based on what they think other people can do or what they think they ought to be able to do. Start where you are and do your best. Give yourself a break. You’re doing the work.

That’s always, always enough.


Finding the right workout

As previously mentioned, I work very early in the morning by popping in the DVD, pushing play and letting a Beachbody trainer kick my butt. It’s what I can maintain. It’s what works for me.

There are no excuses. I can’t get up and say “Oh, it’s cold,” or “It’s too hot,” or “It’s raining,” because it’s none of those things in the room where I work out.

A friend of mine borrowed some of the DVDs and said, “You know, I could probably do this, but I don’t like to work out alone.”

And that’s fine. I happen to like Beachbody. I believe in their products. I’ve been able to use them to change my life. And they work for me.

But if you want to be successful, you have to find out what works for you.

I did a free sample workout for a place called Camp Gladiator this morning. Several of the people knew each other and there was a camaraderie among them. After all, when you get up and get in the car for a work out that starts at 5:30 am–and it’s about 40 degrees out–there’s a certain amount of us against the world. It’s a very social workout, which is nice for a lot of people. (If you like that kind of workout, check their webpage.)

The most important part of working out is working out. A work out you won’t stick with can be worse than no work out at all if you beat yourself up about it.

If you try one type of workout and it doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean you’re lazy or worthless. It means that wasn’t right for you. Try something else. Try doing something with people, like a boot camp. If you aren’t comfortable with people, maybe you’d like the DVDs, or maybe just going to the gym and working out on your own. Maybe running’s your thing. Or biking. Or yoga.

Yoga. It’s so beautiful. Except when I do it.

Maybe the reason you hang clothes on the treadmill is because walking on it is boring; maybe it’s not because you’re a fat lazy slug.

Give yourself a break and keep looking.