I learned something about myself today.

(Oh by the way–hi readers! I guess my promised increase in blog posting over spring break didn’t quite materialize, as here we are on Thursday night–Friday morning, actually–and I’m only just now writing a new post. What can I say? I’ve been doing a lot of sleeping.)

…So, as I was saying. Learned something about myself. Today, after many days of lazing around NOT exercising, I finally got in a workout. The last time I’d worked out, if I’m recalling correctly, was Thursday morning of last week, April 17th. And that day I’d just done a quick maintenance workout, one set of each basic strength-training move plus 10-15 minutes of cardio, thinking that I’d do a “real” workout over the weekend (what do I mean by a “real” workout, you ask? Well, that’s a good question–I’ll come back to that). But somehow it didn’t happen. Then my period started on Monday, so I was feeling crampy and gross for a few days. By today, I was practically itching to get back on the workout horse, so to speak.

When I worked out today, I did my upper body exercises (push-ups, shoulder presses, bicep curls and tricep kickbacks, various exercises for my back, and crunches for my upper abs), then I went out for a brisk 30 minute run, then while out at the track in the park, I did my lower body strength workout (lunges, two types of squats, calf raises, and reverse leg lifts for my lower abs). THEN I walked home from the track, which was another 15-20 minutes of mild cardio. Naturally, by the time I got home I was exhausted. My muscles ached–still do, actually. Who goes for a run, which already takes a toll on the leg muscles, and then follows it with squats and lunges? AND a walk?

But this overexertion felt right to me, somehow. It felt like what a so-called “real” workout should be. And as I thought about it, I realized that one of the reasons I’ve been letting more and more time lapse between my workouts (I’m down to one, maybe two sessions a week, these days) is that I subconsciously expect my workouts to tax me to depletion. I don’t feel right doing just a little bit of exercise in a session; similarly, I don’t like to do “just” weights or “just” cardio when I work out. I have convinced myself that I have to do both, and indeed that I always have to train my entire body when I do weight training. No splitting up the upper and lower body exercises into different days for me, oh NO. A “real” workout means a full cardio blast and a full body strength session, and if I have time, some serious stretching too, although that’s fallen off recently.

Of course, this means that when I do work out, it takes the entire morning. On top of that, I’m so worn out afterwards that I need several days to recover. This is especially true when I go running rather than using the elliptical machine. By the time my quads are no longer sore, I’ve gotten out of the habit for a few days, or I’ve gotten into a busy moment at work or a busy social weekend and I can’t find two or three full hours (!) to devote to working out again, until a whole week (at least) has gone by. And by then I am so ready to work out again (or feeling so guilty for not working out for so long) that I do another super-intense session that leaves me sore and spent. So it’s really kind of a vicious cycle.

I think that there are a few reasons for this, but they all boil down to not changing my lifestyle to that of a fit person. I’m still thinking, and working out, like the person I used to be. For one, I’m expecting my workouts to exhaust me just as they did when I was much heavier and much less fit. After years of going through workout spurts in which I’d go strong for a couple of months and then , as soon as I was approaching a reasonable level of fitness, start slacking off, and enter a lazy cycle for many more months (to the point that I became out of shape again and had to start all over), I think I’ve come to believe that exercise should always hurt in some way, and that if it doesn’t, I’m not doing it right.

Now, I’m not Serena Williams or anything, but I am pretty fit these days. Of course I should keep pushing myself in workouts, because that’s how you continue to grow and improve, but every workout doesn’t have to take me to my physical limit. Sometimes I really can just do a short workout, or a lighter workout, and still reap benefits from it. I have to realize that right now, I’m maintaining my level of fitness rather than trying to “get in shape.” News flash: after eight months of consistent exercise, I AM in shape. Not perfect shape, no, but I cannot consider myself a couch potato, or think something’s wrong if my body doesn’t react to exercise like a couch potato’s body.

I also think that I need to shed the supposedly time-saving idea that I can do it all in one session. Now that I am at a decent level of fitness, each component of my routine takes longer, because I need to do more reps, or more complex exercises, or run for (slightly) longer distances. It makes more sense to break up that routine over five or six days. Then, too, if I break it up I don’t have to have an open two and a half hours in which to work out–I can do 20 to 30 minutes daily. Even the busiest day has 20 unused minutes in it somewhere.

So that’s my new plan. I’m going to try to do shorter, simpler, daily workouts from now on, taking one day as a rest day (probably Saturday). Maybe I’ll try for upper body weight training on Mondays and Thursdays, lower body weight training on Wenesdays and Sundays, and 30 minutes of interval cardio, either running or elliptical, on Tuesdays and Fridays. (I’d like to fit some yoga in there too, maybe on my rest day? I definitely think I need to bring that serious stretching back into my life).

Of course, this is the kind of routine that seemed both daunting and ridiculous to me when I was out of shape–who has time to work out that often? Why do I need to do so many different kinds of exercise? Now I worry that it will be “too easy,” but I know that’s just my old no-pain-no-gain mentality rearing its head. Instead of feeling the burn I am hoping to feel the fitness.

Oh P.S. Plan IVF has officially been pushed back once again, to the end of July (or even very early August). No more push backs after this, though. I’m supremely happy with the decision, and looking forward to a summer of not thinking about infertility at all. But more on that in another post.

CD1, again.

January 31, 2008

Hi there! Well, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? I TOLD you the beginning of the semester was going to bring my blog posting to a screeching halt. 

Not much to report, though, in a no-news-is-good-news way; firstly, my classes are going well so far, and I really love my students this semester. My undergrads are, as usual, a very diverse racial, ethnic, and gender mix, and, for once, so are my graduate students. Everyone seems very smart and engaged, and I have several “repeat offenders” in both classes, which is always nice. The topic, contemporary African American literature, is a lot of fun to teach, too, and I’ve taught the course once before, making preparation much easier because I already have all the notes and handouts ready. So, overall, I’m downright thrilled with my teaching this semester. Now, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the other professional stuff on my plate–two book reviews due, a big article revision that I am behind on, plus two public talks on my new book, one coming up next week, ack!–but I’m trying just to keep plugging away and making it happen.

As far as weight and exercise, and the challenge I extended to myself last post, I have indeed been keeping up with my workouts, although I certainly haven’t been going out daily like I was before. Classes started on Monday, and I went for a jog on Monday morning, followed by some all-over weight training. No working out on Tuesday or Wednesday, although I did get a bunch of incidental walking in on Wednesday. And then I went out for another longish jog this morning (Thursday), but skipped the follow-up weight training. I do plan to do some weights tomorrow, though, especially since it’ll be too rainy here to go out for a jog. And Saturday and Sunday, I hope G and I can get in more exercise of some sort, since it’s supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny both days!

My weight has fluctuated around a bit, but this morning was back to 158, so I’m still maintaining my 40 pound loss. I have to say, though, that even while the numbers on the scale stay static, my body does seem continually to be changing shape. The first day of class, I went to put on some pants that I had JUST worn at my conference at the end of December, and guess what? They were too big. In December they’d been just a smidge loose, but on Monday they were so loose as to be almost unwearable. I know, I know, tough problem to have, but I wish I’d realized that I’d lost a few more inches sometime before I was getting dressed on the first day of class. At least if I ever do get pregnant, I’ll have pants in various waist sizes to transition through before I’m actually in maternity-wear.

(Side note on that: I’ve always been apprehensive about pregnancy at work, and being “on display” physically to colleagues and students as my body changed, but having lost 40 pounds has given me a real taste of what that might be like. My students haven’t said anything, but my colleagues bring up my weight an awful lot. And even though it’s usually in complimentary ways, it’s still sort of weird to feel like “work people,” who in my estimation are only supposed to see me as a walking brain, are looking at my body and noticing its shape. Also, I can forget trying to pass as not-pregnant once I start to show, since everyone seems so aware of how trim I’ve become. I feel like my waistline is being watched like a hawk now!)

Apropos of that, as you can tell from the title of this post, my period started today. Even though that means this month I’m back to a 24-day cycle (oh, and per usual, as un-pregnant as ever), I’m still glad that Aunt Flo showed up early–we’re having brunch with friends on Saturday, and are looking forward to watching the Super Bowl on Sunday (go Giants!), and I’m glad I’ll be done with the worst of the bleeding and cramps for both events. Not to mention, license to drink copiously. Sweet.

This month, though, I’m feeling less ambivalent about ART, and more like I’m ready to get this Clomid + IUI show on the road. Well, you know, a couple of cycles from now. (:eyeroll:) Okay, maybe even next cycle if we can get our ducks in a row fast enough. We’ll see. My smaller goals for this month are to get G’s SA scheduled, finally, hopefully for this very week, and to get myself to the injections class at my clinic, which only happens on Tuesdays, I think. Or Thursdays. I have to check my Big Brown Envelope Full ‘o Infertility Stuff to be sure.

I’m too sleepy to wrap this post up properly, so instead I’ll leave you with one last interesting TTC-related tidbit: my college actually sent out a survey about parental leave policies this week! They were trying to assess how much faculty know about current leave policies, how much those (dismal) policies have affected people’s family planning, and what kinds of changes faculty might like to see. As you can imagine, in the comments section I went to town, explaining that I resented, as an infertile person, the subtle expectation at our institution (and all over academia, really) that all women can schedule their pregnancies around the academic calendar, and that our current policy was inadequate and even discriminatory towards those who could not, for whatever reason, time their infants’ arrivals precisely to the moment following that last final exam in the Spring. I hope it gets through, because if I do end up pregnant in 2008, I’d rather not have to take a semester completely unpaid, and with NO BENEFITS in 2009. Sigh.

Thoughts on jogging…

January 22, 2008

So, for the past two days I have been going jogging in the park, which, lucky me, is five minutes from our apartment. I know I mentioned a few posts ago that I’ve taken up jogging, but these past couple of sessions seem like a whole new animal. Why? Because when I went jogging last week, it was never any colder than 45 degrees out; in fact, on the first day I hit the trail, it was actually 65 degrees and sunny (global warming much?).

Yesterday and today when I went out, it was 25 degrees.

I’m not sure I can even capture the sensory difference between jogging in 45+ degree weather and jogging in 25 degree weather. When it was 45 degrees, I went out wearing three-quarter-length leggings, a long-sleeved t-shirt, and a windbreaker, and did not feel cold in the least. By the end of my jog I even took off the windbreaker and tied it around my waist, because I was too hot.

On Sunday morning when I went out, I wore full-length leggings tucked into lined socks, and a long-sleeved fitted poly undershirt–that was layer number one. Then I added a pair of looser athletic pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt (layer number two), and on top of that, a thin fleece top. Three layers, sounds good, right? This was my outfit at first, before going outside. Once I got outside and felt the January wind slice through me like a prison shank, I went back upstairs for my windbreaker, plus gloves and a wide fleece headband to protect my ears/face. Because, um, holy hell. The cold!

But interestingly enough, once I got on the trail I didn’t really mind how bitterly cold it was. Not only because, well, it could have been worse, but because the jogging itself was so lovely. Yes, that’s right, folks, I just used “jogging” and “lovely” in the same sentence. I’ve officially become one of those lunatics who LIKES to exercise. You know the ones: inevitably arriving on the scene just back from some kind of workout, toting some sort of fitness paraphernalia–racquet, yoga mat, well-worn gym bag–and wearing annoyingly beatific smiles on their smug, glowy faces. That’s totally me now. Well, except for the fitness paraphernalia part, as I don’t really do exercise (yet) that requires equipment. I wouldn’t mind taking up some of those things eventually, though (on my list: skiing, golf, and trapeze–yeah, that’s right, trapeze).

Anyway, so I really enjoyed both bitterly cold jogs. Not only because of the winter sunlight filtering through the tree branches along the path in the park, and the incredible taste of the fresh air, but because it felt so good to move. Seriously, when did I become that person, the one who takes pleasure in physical exertion? Today’s jog, especially, was just fantastic–I warmed up alternating between jogging and walking every two minutes or so for about ten minutes, until I got over to the new track (one of my local park’s many excellent features). Then I did twenty minutes of jogging around the track, then another two minutes of walking, then another fifteen minutes of jogging, a few on the track, most on the trail back home. And then maybe five minutes of cooldown walking. The two minutes of walking in the middle of the two longer jog sessions were actually pretty unnecessary; I could have gone straight through for thirty or thirty-five minutes, I think, but actually I had to stop and take off my windbreaker!

I would say that this athleticism is completely unprecedented for me, except it’s really not–when I was much younger, in high school and college, I periodically went through pro-exercise phases, usually tied to some kind of (unnecessary, in retrospect) weight-loss scheme. Of course, these were short-lived, mostly because vanity historically has been a really bad motivator for me. When I was in graduate school, on the other hand, I was really active almost in spite of myself, mostly in practical ways. I biked to class several times a week, and to the grocery store, and occasionally went running–not jogging, running–along the gorgeous road that ran between the two main campuses. Now I guess I’m back to being that person, only new and improved, because back then I still sort of hated exercise (even though I did it fairly often). Man, did I used to resent those bike rides to the grocery store!

I have been thinking about this exercise thing a lot lately as I think about being pregnant sometime soon, because I really don’t want the physical and personal upheaval that pregnancy creates to derail this healthy place I’m in. It’s a big part of why I don’t really want to pursue Clomid + IUI (which is what the RE recommends for us next, due to my blocked tube) until a little later this spring. There are other reasons, too, of course–I may be on sabbatical in the fall, for instance, so I’d really rather not have a due date earlier than January 2009–but I definitely would like more time to get in really great shape so I’ll have an easier time bouncing back after pregnancy. And staying fit during pregnancy, too, since all the research seems to indicate that exercise while pregnant is safest if you are already in shape. I’m also hoping that making exercise an honest-to-God habit now, while I have all the time in the world, will make it easier for me to get back to prioritizing it once I have no time at all as the bewildered parent of an infant.

Of course, before I get to that point I have to survive the first few weeks of classes–let’s see how well my exercise frequency holds up starting next Monday, when I’m back to the teaching grind. That’ll really be proof that I’ve become one of those healthy people, making time for working out in spite of a work schedule from hell. I intend to do it, and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes when we get to that point!

Wow, seems I’m updating this blog daily right now! Don’t get used to it, fair readers. Soon enough, school is going to start again and then you’re going to say, “What happened to that Cityprof character, anyway? Is she still alive?” And I will be. But I will be dealing with the various and sundry stresses and stupidities that are the first week or two of a semester. Oh, how I dread the first day of class. And I am speaking as someone who, overall, loves her job.

That fateful day has not yet come, though. And so I am here again to share some pictures of myself with you all, the first a before picture, from June 2007, when I weighed 198 lbs, the second from January 2008 (taken today, actually), weight 158 lbs. Both pics can be enlarged by clicking on the thumbnails:

June 2008Jan 2008 

I am kind of shocked at how striking the difference is in the pictures, because I didn’t see myself as “big” when I was heavier, and I don’t really see myself as “small” now that I am lighter. On a daily basis, no matter what I weigh, I just feel like my normal self, although these days I do tend to feel a little more fit as I walk through the world. But I would not have believed the change had been so dramatic if I didn’t have visual proof in the form of these photographs. Holy crap!

And I don’t mean that in a Lily Tomlin way. This morning, I woke up and weighed myself, and the scale said 158 lbs.

Hmm, I thought. That can’t be right. Wasn’t I just saying that my new weight loss goal was to get to 158 and maintain? And when I said that, wasn’t I at least 4 pounds away from weighing 158? And don’t they say that those last few pounds before goal are the hardest to lose? Surely this is a function of the scale being confused. (And this is on a day when I hadn’t even tried to “game” the scale by stepping on it as lightly as possible, rocking back on my heels, and basically balancing on the outer rims of my feet and the tip of my big toe so that, presumably, I’d weigh less. —P.S. Anyone else out there do this? Anyone? Bueller?— No, today I’d just stepped on the scale flat-footed and prepared to take my lumps)

So I stepped off the scale, waited a few seconds, and got back on. A few numbers flashed as the scale adjusted itself to my presence–and these included the number 157–but then it settled, again, on 158. And, as this digital scale likes to do, then blinked it at me for good measure. 158. 158. What do you want from me, lady? 158.

As you can tell from the tone of this post, I am rather surprised at this turn of events. And possibly even a little alarmed, although a look back at the past little while reveals that I probably shouldn’t be (more on that in a sec). WHY would I be alarmed at losing weight that I wanted to lose, you ask? Well–and here comes another fun generalization about black people–in the world I come from, one is always suspicious of unexpected weight loss. In fact in my family in particular, losing weight when you are not actively trying to lose weight, and even sometimes when you ARE actively trying to lose weight, is sometimes assumed to be the result of things like illness, stress, or even drugs. Don’t get me started on how quickly the “she’s probably on crack” rumors start to fly when any famous black woman loses major weight.

My mom actually has lost a bit of weight since she retired a few years ago, mostly because she doesn’t eat as much as she used to, and she definitely doesn’t cook as much since it’s just her. And to me the reasons she is a bit slimmer (and only a bit! she’s no Nicole Ritchie) are clear, but she is always saying things like, “oh, I hope I’m not sick or something. I guess I could have AIDS.” Yes, my mother who once described sex, with a very disgusted look on her face, as “messy,” and who, as far as I can tell, has not had sex since I was conceived in 1974, is worried that losing 10 or 12 pounds over the course of a few years may be an indication of an extremely late-developing HIV infection. And she’s not fishing for compliments, either, feigning concern so we’ll discuss her weight! The woman is SINCERE.

Naturally, when she was here over Christmas, she was simultaneously pleased at my weight loss and worried that I would “overdo it.” “But don’t lose TOO much weight, Cityprof,” she’d say, in the same breath as telling me how great I look and how she wishes the rest of the family in Texas could see my fabulousness. “You don’t want to get TOO THIN.”

Lest you think that I am extrapolating one woman’s lunacy to the entire black community, I should also say that although I haven’t yet personally gotten too many “girl, don’t lose too much!” responses from others, over the years I have heard many people, friends and family, talking about how so-and-so has really gotten “TOO THIN,” which is always said in a way that implies the person is one step away from death. I have an aunt who lost a bunch of weight about ten years ago, and who even became an aerobics instructor, and seriously, word in the family was basically, “she just looks emaciated!” Trust me, she didn’t. She just looked fit, and slim, albeit much smaller than she had been.

Maybe it’s just my crazy family. Who generally are NOT extremely overweight, I should add. It’s not that they want everyone to weigh 300 pounds along with them. My aunts and female cousins are generally a glamorous and shapely bunch, who care deeply about appearance, and spend a lot of time on (big) hair and (heavy) makeup, and my uncles tend toward the tall and lanky, and only put on a little weight as they get older, but they still are all remarkably sensitive to the “so-and-so is TOO THIN” concern. What is that about? Perhaps a topic for another post. Or an entire dissertation.

Anyway, so maybe I’ve been brainwashed, but of course when these four pounds standing between me and 158 literally seemed to fall off without effort, I was a little alarmed. Am I on my way to becoming “TOO THIN”? The horror!

Then, of course, I thought back. There are a few things I’ve been doing differently in the past 10 days.

1. Skipping dessert most days
2. Not eating out very much
3. Eating a lot of protein, and smaller meals in general
AND, most importantly, and probably the cause of the other 3:
4. Jogging every few days in the park, in addition to my other workouts. I’d say I’ve worked out twice as much as I usually do, because instead of these jogs replacing my regular cardio, they’ve been in addition to it. And since really good cardio workouts tend to suppress my appetite these days (take THAT, Gary Taubes!), I just haven’t been that hungry, or interested in overdoing it.

Hence, I’ve arrived at minus 40 lbs. Seemingly without “trying,” but really by eating less and exercising more. Dammit, isn’t that always the “secret”?