Archive for the ‘Exercise’ Category

Tattoos have become the ubiquitous cliché of subversive cool. Like kooky eyeglasses and statement haircuts, they are props for people who would like to announce to the world that they are interesting. But in the vocabulary of personal style, there is something jarringly inarticulate about a tattoo.

I feel all of a jangle these days trying to craft my new self while emerging out of 29-almost-30 years of experience of being half me and half someone else masquerading as all the stuff I thought I should be.

I want to be outre and cool and a hipster and have kooky eyeglasses and a statement haircut and a tattoo. I’ve tried to get the statement haircut twice now and failed–once because the Mandarin speaking hairdresser did not believe me, despite the fact that I brought in pictures. The second time I didn’t bring in pictures, relying upon going to an English speaking hairstylist. I told her I wanted an asymetrical cut, but instead she just straightened out the bob the previous guy had given me.

I want cool clothes, but nothing feels cool on this chunky, muscular body of mine. I got all these shirts with wild patterns and interesting cuts, so why do I still feel so dowdy?

I wouldn’t mind being a hipster, but I’ve never seen a large hipster. It seems they all are straight up and down, like modern day flappers.

I want to look gay and I’m terrified to look gay. I don’t know what fits me better–skirts and heels or more masculine clothes. Part of me would also love to be a crunchy granola type (I am, after all, relying entirely on bike, foot, and bus transportation!). But again, there are few XLs in that style and even fewer that look decent. Unfortunately, XL just needs a lot more structure to the top than organic cotton usually comes in.

And then I want to do and do and do, but I’m also pretty darn exhausted these days. From not eating well enough? From biking everywhere? From working longer hours and at a faster pace than usual? Is my body slowly beginning to release tensions that I have carried around for years?

And I’ve only been here a couple of weeks–why does it bother me that I haven’t plunked on down in a community yet? I mean, last weekend I went to three things (a gallery opening/cocktail hour, an outdoor play, and a minor league baseball game). Yesterday I went to a dance club (which was a big downer–probably at least part of the reason for my mood. The same group of gals I met online is going to a movie tonight and I just don’t think I have the energy to bike downtown again. I just got home from some afternoon errands/ finding a better web connection to watch my first hour of tv in almost 3 weeks).

And what do I want? Do I want to spend my off hours reading harmless lesbian fiction that makes me feel more connected to the lesbian identity that sometimes feels rock solid and sometimes feels very shaky? Is fluff harmless? Or reading something more in-depth, like the history books I don’t have time for in my job right now? Do I want to spend the off hours working on polishing chunks of the dissertation into publishable articles? Do I have any brain left after working all day? Or do I want to do art? All of these things are lonely activities. What about finding a tennis club, or a dance club, or something else to do with folks? Or go to movies by myself? Or get my library card and new license and sign up for the gym and find the rest of the furniture I “need” and all that house-setting up I need to do? What about spending time with my cat, who is lonely without someone home with him all day (either me, or E, or Grandma, as has been the case for the past 2 years) and who doesn’t yet have a good scratching post because I can’t find one. I went in search of a petstore supposedly downtown, but couldn’t find it. Should have called first before riding my bike all the way over there!

Why do I feel like I have to do all these things at once? Oh, and I also want to write–write for this blog, and for my professional blog, and in my journal, and maybe on the couple of pieces of non-history fiction and non-fiction in my brain, as well as polishing diss stuff. And I’d love to work on some kind of a comedy show or something to get me back on stage. The only thing I’ve watched this summer is Last Comic Standing and I’m starting to think a minor career as a comedian wouldn’t be so bad. Actually it’d be very fun. I love to make folks laugh and sometimes i can be the life of the party. But I need to start writing down my observations in a humorous way.

And then there’s stuff like just figuring out where to put all the clothes currently in some state of dissaray between my closet and the floor and my suitcases. For awhile I ran out of hangers and I don’t have a dresser, so suitcases it is.

All this anxiety about who I am is driving me back to images of self-harm. I thought I was done with those. I’ve also been feeling my heart in my throat–because I’m back on caffeine or am I having panic attacks? They don’t normally happen when I am any more or less anxious, but then I am riding on anxiety these days. I saw a psychiatrist here (took 9 miles of riding–which doesn’t seem a lot compared to the 42 miles in 2 hours my friend rode the other day, but I do have a comfort bike and she has a road bike!) But therapy doesn’t really start helping until you’ve established a relationship with someone–and the psychiatrist wants to know all about me, but he only prescribes medicine. I have to wait almost a month to see my new therapist (would have been even longer–almost 2 months, but I requested someone comfortable with LGBT folk and that person had an earlier opening). I was great, I thought, when I left CA. Why am I falling to bits now?

And who the fuck am I? And why can’t I meditate? Is it because I feel like I “should?”

And again I forgot to go to the store (stopped at the farm stand for fresh peaches and blueberries and ivy for my porch), so i can’t make more coffee b/c I have no filters. Tomorrow it is a must, because I’m out of two meds and will need to get refills. I hope the Kroger down the street has $4 generics! Maybe I should call ahead of time? Yathink?

I’m sorry I only seem to write here when I’m anxious or frustrated or angry.

By the way, I started this article off with the tattoo reference because it is another place where I feel jangly. I want a tatto0, but I’m too nervous to even go into a tattoo parlor. All these different places I think I’ll be laughed out of–bike stores for being too chubby, hiking stores for being too urban and chubby, boutique clothing stores for being too chubby, gay places for only having just come out and being too chubby and also kinda boring.

But I’m not boring! And I’m cute in my own way! But it is a sign of a depressive funk for me to have lost all my self-esteem. Gone. Out the window.

Which brings up another pet peeve and then I’m done. Folks my age and older complain about this generation of undergrads for having too strong a self esteem. Ummm, isn’t that we wanted out of the 80s? Isn’t it better to have self-esteem than this tearing apart of myself, ice-pick and butcher knife at the ready, that seems to happen to me? Is it because academics are usually on that precipice of insecurity/arrogance so they dislike someone who is just stably self-assured? let’s try to figure out a way to work with these kids as they are instead of change them into insecure manic producers like ourselves? ‘K?


Read Full Post »

Personal trainer update

[such fancy titles I have….They just draw you in, don’t they?]

So, awhile ago I posted all the questions from a bit of “homework” from my complimentary personal training appointment and promised to update you about how it turned out. The personal trainer sensed my desire to avoid discussions of weight, but was struggling against the major tendency of the whole culture to focus on weight loss as the reason for exercise.

The personal trainer, a muscular man a little shorter than I who is probably of Chinese descent, was super nice and encouraging. He greeted practically everyone in the gym with a high five (I think those he’d worked with before).

On grandma’s scale in the morning, I was 210. At the gym in the evening, I was 219 and in the “very poor” category of body fat % (which doesn’t take into account bone density or muscle mass, I think, but I’m not sure). When he saw that, he started off on his normal schpeel of building muscle mass. So I stopped him and showed him my list of weights; he was both impressed and said it was too much (I read once that I could do 12 reps once on a weight instead of doing 3×15 and still not bulk up, but that’s very counter-intuitive. Given the current size of my muscles, I think it probably didn’t work so well). He said what I needed to be doing was more cardio (he almost never says that to women because they tend to focus on cardio rather than strength training, but it is muscle that eats fat). And more intense cardio.

After watching me go through a few bicep exercises, he said I had beautiful muscles. He set me up with small weights for bicep curls (he told me later he’d let me have the 5 lb ones, even though he normally only gives those to the guys) and had me do jumping jacks in between. At one point while he was staring at me while helping me keep in the correct range of motion, he said I had beautiful eyes and asked what nationality I was, “just white?” Yup, just white. Then he asked if my eyes ran in the family–I said they were kind of all different. So he was working very hard to put me at my ease–i.e. I fit in here, even though I don’t have the typical work-out body.

He pushed me, but was also sensitive to how I was doing. After 3×15 reps on 3 bicep curl exercises, plus the assisted pull up machine, he had me move to a seated row and plank exercises, again interspliced with jumping jacks. I was doing fine during the first round of exercises, but started to lag during this second. He started out with me doing an angled plank, but I couldn’t feel it in my abs, so we went down to just on the floor. He wanted me to move my legs back and forth. I still didn’t feel it in my abs, but something made me really struggle. Part of it was just trying to have the coordination to move my legs, keep my butt down, and not collapse. And my shoes were kinda loose and kept threatening to come off, which was distracting. While I was on the seated row, he asked “don’t you want to be thinner?” I said of course, but didn’t explain the background of my frustrations with the weight based thoughts. He went on to encourage me–you just gotta wake those muscles up. Ummm, they are awake??

After those exercises, we went up and did some stair machine. He likes to go to maximum intensity, then down to slow for a few seconds, then back up. My face flamed and my heart was beating very quickly. He kept watching my face and asking if I was ok and I’d say I was fine, but probably looked like I was going to die. He only had me stay on the machine for 4 minutes, but said that really that the stair machine was where I really should focus my efforts. I am much better at weight lifting. My lower biceps (evidently not a muscle that was being targeted by my old exercises) are really, really sore.

My problem is that when I do intense cardio, I tend to feel sick afterwards….well, that is primarily with jogging and then my lungs burn and I cough the rest of the day. I don’t know that I really want to intensely loose weight at the moment–my diss and my emotional life are intense enough. I kinda just want to stay fit, have fun, and maybe meet people. We’ll see. (Though, I was 211 a couple weeks ago and am now 209, so I guess I’m loosing a little being here and not pigging out in front of Gma).

Of course, one of the points of giving a free personal training session is to sign you up for more. I think if my life ever settles down and I have extra money, I’d seriously think about it. It may be one of the ways that I could actually lose weight.

I actually feel pretty good right now. He gave me a free light muscle milk afterwards and talked about how he’s working on improving his character everyday. He rides the buses on the weekends to keep himself humble. He also told me I could call him whenever for support since I’m taking care of Grandma. He’s only on the evening shift, but comes in about 7 everyday so he can work with a business man who is only available then. I think he’s building a base of clients that he can take with him when he opens his own gym.

Haven’t been back yet, between early morning errands (well, sort of early, not actually early) and finishing Chapter 2 last night. But soon, I’ll be back.

Read Full Post »

Arghhhh patronizing arghhh

I signed up for a gym so I can lift weights while I’m out here (I was jogging or walking around the neighborhood before). They offer a free hour with a personal trainer for signing up. I have my appointment tomorrow and he gave me homework when I signed up on Sunday.

I wonder if a thin person walked into the gym if he would hand out the same homework. I ended up not answering most of the questions, and writing out something longhand on the back. Before you read the questions, remember I’ve been exercising regularly for six years, have lots of muscle with a layer of fat over it, and eat pretty healthy. I also told the personal trainer that my goals for joining the gym were routine fitness and training for a triathlon at the end of the summer (nothing about weight).


How long have you been thinking about beginning or getting back on a regular fitness program?

Over the past 10 years, how many times have you started and stopped a nutrition and/or exercise regime?

What external factors have derailed your progress in the past?

In your own opinion, why did you fail to ‘stick with it?’

My weight is hanging on from undergrad, when I couldn’t exercise because of a bum ankle and also discovered an abundance of food. It is also due to my continued struggles with depression and emotional eating. There is some amount of genetics in there (I’ve always been heavier than other kids, and I have very thick bones). It is not due to an absence of exercise.

What I wrote on the back rather than answering the questions:

I have been regularly exercising for six years, with more or less intensity. My weak ankles (tendency to sprain, one never fully healed from surgery) limited me before that, but I just push through now. Of course, I would like to be smaller, but that is not my primary goal. I like being active. I like the way my body feels. And I’d like to meet people during this brief sojourn in LA.

I practice mindful eating and Michael Pollan’s mantra–Eat food. Not too much, mostly plants. I don’t count calories, but I listen carefully to my body for when it is full. I eat lots of fresh veggies, use meat (primarily chicken) as one component of a meal, rather than the main event, avoid processed foods, and mostly cook for myself. I still turn to sweets for emotional comfort at times.

The personal trainer was very sweet and said he makes all his clients happy. After I told him I enjoyed weight lifting, he told me that all the women are concerned about bulking up, but he explains the best ways to do weights. So, um, he might have a bit of trouble with listening, or he might just not be prepared to meet someone who fits the dominant American paradigm of “loosing weight!!!”

Course, I will also have to admit that I have high blood pressure and tend to cough for the rest of the day if I push myself too hard. I would never suggest that I am at a high level of fitness, but I think I’m doing pretty well and those questions were pretty damn patronizing.

I’ll keep ya posted on what happens. Also trying to decide if I should get a sport swim suit, since my two piece (covers fully, but easier to fit a long torso) tends to move dangerously while I’m actually swimming instead of lounging. Maybe if I ever hear from a job, I’ll go for the suit.

Read Full Post »