Today I met with my Wellness Coach at the YMCA. It’s been two weeks since she set got me set up on a workout routine and we talked about some goals. She nudged up my five existing Cybex machines to two sets on each, adjusted the range of motion on the leg curl (currently my mortal enemy), and set me up with two new machines; the back extension and the abdominal. We set a new short-range goal of doing cardio three days a week, which I’m already doing…even through the holiday busyness. She also gave me the green light to start bumping up the weight on the machines by 5 lb increments if I feel like I need a little more push. After our meeting, I hit the treadmill for 45 minutes, then went back to the Cybex room and did one set on each of the two new machines. Since I’ve got back “issues”, I wanted to get a feel for the movement the machines require and be sure I don’t have a dorsal revolt tomorrow, before I try two sets next workout.
So, what results have I seen in these two weeks? Well, it’s hard to draw a line between the last two weeks of weight training, and the weeks of walking I had done previously. But, overall, I feel good. Even on “bad” days when I’m having some annoying premenopausal symptom (like aching legs, headache, nausea, lower back pain, etc.), I feel better than many of my pre-exercise “good” days. My energy level continues to hold at a pretty high level, at least based on what I’m used to. I can go all day without completely exhausting myself. My mind is clear and eager to tackle intellectual and creative pursuits (even when I don’t have time to indulge in them). My jeans fit nicely, even though I haven’t lost more than about 1 lb. Even Brother Bear commented today that I look trimmer. And, of course, Papa Bear definitely appreciates the changes.
But, there have been two pretty significant changes. First, I have been sleeping. I mean, really sleeping. I had gotten accustomed to a “good” night of sleep meaning I slept deeply for about 3-4 hours before waking, then spending the rest of the night in a state of restless half-sleep. For the past week, at least five nights I have enjoyed a state of deep sleep for 5-6 hours before waking. You wouldn’t believe how much more energy and enthusiasm I have in the morning after a “decent” night of sleep. I daren’t even imagine what I could accomplish in a day after a full 8 hours of deep, restful sleep.
Second, I’ve turned into a gym rat. I actually WANT to be in the gym. I WANT to be exercising on the machines. I WANT to be blazing a trail down the treadmill, pushing up my heart rate and feeling my legs work. (Oh, I guess there’s one more change; it’s taking more exertion to get my heart rate up to my target zone. I may even break into a trot next visit, just to see if I can.) I’m even preferring the treadmill to walking in the park, simply because it’s more comfortable (yesterday’s “high” was just under 50, and the trail at our park is currently under construction). I'm actually feeling impatient to get to my next workout. I was just at the Y working out this morning, and I want to go again. Right now. I want to get in there and start bumping up the weight on those bloody machines. I wish I had more time for classes and other challenges. Weird, huh?
In some ways, I think I may have created an advantage for myself by being pretty much sedentary for the first four decades of my life. I’ve waited until I’m on the verge of falling apart physically, feeling really run down and weak, before starting an exercise regime. The turn-around, being able to see and feel noticeable, life-improving progress in a fairly short period of time…well, that’s a huge motivator. I can see where folks who have been athletic their entire lives might start getting a bit deflated as they start feeling the effects of age. Same exercise, same effort, but continuing to decline in strength and endurance. Me…I can only improve from my original starting point. Even as I continue to age, I’ll be better off than I was six months ago. Nice.
The other part is, my time at the gym working out is “me” time. I’ve spent the last ten years very focused on caring for my family. My “me” time has been in bits and snatches, here and there, fitting in around my other obligations. Trying to read and study classic literature, study classic guitar technique, write, and maybe even read a little something frivolous from time to time, but mostly my time has not been my own. My time at the gym is not time being taken away from something else I’d “rather” be doing like hanging out with friends or going to a movie. I’ve had so little time away from my family, all on my own, to do exactly as I like for an hour or two, that this time spent on the treadmill is actually a blessed break for me. A full 45 minutes to listen to a full lecture from The Teaching Company without interruption (I’m currently working through my 2nd listening of “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music"). No one wanting my attention. No one needing my help. Everyone else at the gym pretty much ignores me, and I actually really like that.
So, my challenge beginning next week is to keep up with regular exercise and trips to the Y once we're back to homeschooling. I am deeply blessed to have a husband who fully supports my physical metamorphosis, and who has a schedule flexible enough to help cover things at home. Even so, I may have to let some things go to allow enough time for regular exercise. May have to get up earlier in the morning (which will be distinctly do-able if I'm sleeping better). But, with the loving support of my dearest, it is possible. Look out, 2010, here I come!