March 31, 2008

Losing 60 Pounds--from Theory to Practice

This guest post is written by Ashley, who's a grad student in theoretical chemistry. About two years ago she got in shape, lost 60 pounds, and "gained a reputation at school for being a weird workout health freak type." She's noticed that while everyone says you need to change your lifestyle to lose weight permanently, it can be hard to learn the specifics of how to do this! When a fellow grad student emailed to ask her advice, this was her response.

1. Be flexible. This is actually contrary to pretty much any other advice I've ever heard about working out regularly. Most people who fit in working out to a really busy schedule will tell you that you should schedule four or five absolutely set-in-stone times to work out and not let anything change that schedule. This somehow always seems to involve getting up really early too. I think this is stupid. Every single week I evaluate my schedule and what I want to do each day at work and after work and figure out which days I can work out. And yes, sometimes I'm like, well, I need to be at work for this meeting at this time and I want to work on this and then I want to go to Bible study at 6:00, so.... oh crap, I'm going to have to get up and run first thing in the morning.

2. Change your eating schedule so you can handle eating dinner later so that you can go work out after work. The single most common time I go work out is after work, at 6:30 or 7:00. However, this means I don't get home to eat dinner until 8:30 or 9:00. So, you have readjust when you eat and how much you eat to accommodate this. I eat breakfast (which is always a power bar and a diet coke; I am by no means a nutrition nazi) when I get to work at 9:30 or 10:00, lunch at 12 or 12:30, and then I eat one or two pieces of fruit, maybe another power bar, and (most importantly) a carton of yogurt during the afternoon. I eat all this stuff by 4:30 so it has time to settle in my stomach. And sometimes I don't eat all that healthy sounding stuff and I go to Starbucks and get a latte and a giant rice krispy treat. But the point is that I eat a pretty big snack in the afternoon that always includes carbs and dairy so that I can workout at night without dying of starvation.

3. Make slightly better choices when you go out to eat. Anytime I go out to eat and I am contemplating what I want to get, if there are two things that I want equally, I pick the one that's healthier. If there's one thing that I really want and nothing else will do, I just get it. Also, I love dessert and eat it most every day, so I make myself wait to order it. I never buy the cookie when I am getting the rest of my food. I get my food, eat it, and then if I am finished and I want the dessert enough that I am willing to get up again and wait in line to buy it, I get the dessert. Also, I have a rule that when I go out to eat on social occasions, in addition to my food, I can only get two of an appetizer, an alcoholic drink, and dessert; never more than two of the three. Which brings us to our next point.....

4. Drink less alcohol. This is the one where I am going to sound like the old woman that I am, but I never have more than two alcoholic drinks at any social occasion where I have decided to drink. I usually get the first drink when everybody else does and then I nurse a second drink for the rest of the evening. And yes, I often get made fun of about this. There are worse things in life.

5. Plan to do athletic activities. I run a lot of local races, often with other people, so that I will have motivation to go run a lot. Once you commit to doing something with somebody and pay the money for it, you don't want to not be able to do it because you didn't train for it.

6. If there is anything you can do to make working out logistically easier, it's worth doing, even if it costs some money. In my case, this meant renting a locker at the gym. I can keep extra clothes and shower stuff and extra makeup and hair stuff in the locker at all times. That way, I never have the excuse that I can't go work out after work because I have some social thing I want to do later and would need a shower.

7. Work out both days on the weekend. I feel that my adviser owns most of my time Monday to Friday, but I personally don't work that much on weekends. I have a fantasy that eventually my boyfriend/husband and I are going to regularly go run together every Sunday afternoon, but as I have no boyfriend, this clearly hasn't happened yet in my life. But I'm hopeful!

Babies Are Overrated

Today's guest post is courtesy of the awesome blogger Charlotte of The Great Fitness Experiment. Charlotte also blogs at The Huffington Post.

With childbirth these days, it's not about what you gain (a baby) but all about what you lose (fat, skin, your sanity). As if carrying a squirmy watermelon with sharp heels for nine months (ten really, if you're counting by weeks) wasn't hard enough, now pregnant women are held to the impossibly skinny standards of the media as well.

Any woman who has been pregnant in the last few years or so already knows exactly what I'm talking about. Suddenly a baby bump has become the new it bag. But it isn't enough to have a healthy baby. You have to look like a stick bug with a basketball tucked under your shirt. Especially so you can fit into the belly baring, body conscious maternity fashions that are so popular now. Don't get me wrong, I was no fan of the tent dress but there has got to be a happy medium between that and this (look, a pregnant high-end hooker! Who doesn't want to hit that?):

(Although I must admit I laughed myself silly when I saw this one.)

The Toll
The worst part though is after the baby is born. With my last child, people started asking me months before he was even born how fast I thought I was going to "lose the weight." Just typing that phrase strikes terror into my heart. Isn't it bad enough that we have to worry if everything will come out with ten fingers and ten toes and possibly your mother-in-law's nose? Must we add "losing the weight" to the list?

Heidi Klum lost the weight from her 3rd baby in a record-breaking 4 weeks so she could strut her sexy stuff on the Victoria's Secret catwalk. The same sexy stuff, I might add, that gestated, birthed and nursed an actual baby. Side note: I'll never know how men manage to look at women in lingerie and yet still not connect the baby making apparatus with a living, breathing baby. Add to Heidi's example the recent spate of celebs who lose their baby weight in ever-shorter amounts of time. Keri Russel! Trista Rehn! Tori Spelling! Julia Roberts! Nicole Richie! The list goes on and on and on. (Do they ever lose the baby too? I mean if you are losing stuff that darn fast, those little guys are pretty easy to misplace. I'm just saying.)

But it is not with men that I make my complaint. Every person who asked me about losing the weight was a woman. I even had one girlfriend tell me that she envied my extreme morning sickness at the beginning. "You're so lucky! You get to lose all that weight. It probably keeps your overall weight gain down too. I wish I was a puker!"

Except that somehow it didn't keep my overall weight down. That was why I could totally relate when I read about the Jennifer Lopez's fear about her weight gain while she was pregnant.

"Jennifer is delighted to finally be pregnant. However, she has already put on more than three stones and is only around four months gone. She is huge and freaking out," said a source.

Three stone is about 42 lbs. I gained 47 with my first pregnancy - well above the "recommended" 25-35.

So what's a mom to do? "J. Lo, who is famous for her curvaceous backside, is taking extra precaution against the weight that may be left after she has given birth by waking up at four in the morning to work out."

And if that doesn't work? "Her face has become really puffy from retaining a lot of water. She plans to do a Victoria Beckham now and hibernate for the last few months. You won't be seeing much of her in public from now on," the source says.

So it's come to this: a beautiful pregnant woman had to go into hiding to have a healthy baby and a normal pregnancy. Not because people don't want to think about how she got knocked up but because people will call her fat.

And now that she has given birth to two healthy and - if they got her genes and not Marc's - beautiful babies, the tabloid race is on to see how fast those famous abs flatten out.

The Skinny on Baby Fat
I first read this story on the Skinny Website. And I almost choked on my lunch (the irony of eating lunch while reading a site called "the Skinny Website" is not lost on me) when I read Rian's closing line "It will be interesting to see how fast Jennifer loses the baby weight. Will she be one of the ones who lose it so fast we barely see it at all, or will she be like Britney and not ever take off the extra few she gained? What do YOU all think?"

Rian also points out that Jessica Alba is indeed "gaining weight all over" as if it were a capital crime. Don't people realize that you need your legs to get bigger to support that sack of fluid and flesh? It ain't made of air, people!

This is what pregnant women have to deal with. Britney's baby is not even two and already she is judged as "not ever" being able to take off the weight? I'm no fan of Ms. Spears but you gotta give a girl some time. Jessica Alba is a picture of health and gestation. Jennifer Lopez is a gorgeous mama regardless of the status of her baby-got-back. Enough is enough. Pregnancy, more than any other time, should be a safe haven from weight criticism.

March 29, 2008

Random Friday: Bloggers, Beer, and Bikinis

[By Merry]

Spring Break!

A lot of people took this week off for Spring Break festivities. To me, it felt as if we were having a Spring Break party right here on Cranky Fitness. Okay, without the beer and bikinis. But every day there was something new, and these guest posts explored a vast range of topics.

Bloggers Gone Wild!

Thanks to Mizfit for enlightening me about Chia, and Karly for making me think about positive self-imagery. (According to Dr. Mirkin, men tend to report their waist circumference to be, on average, 3 inches less than it actually is. It's interesting that women tend to think they're fatter than they really are, and men tend in the opposite direction.)

Kudos to Fury for going on her morning run, with or without gadgets, and to Maggie for training to walk 60 miles in 3 days for a good cause. Heather has definitely stirred my interest in yoga, and Leah has stirred up a tasty way to cook with bananas and also with schnapps. (Which added to Mizfit’s recipe for chia muffins has made it harder for me to think up good excuses not to cook. It’s hard enough to find chia seeds, the idea of finding chia muffins? Bah. You have to bake these yourself.)

You guys have made this a fun week. Thank you all!

Beer and Bikinis!

Lest someone should think that I only mentioned beer and bikinis in an attempt to keep up the number of hits from Google searches, well… you might be right, but I’ll redeem myself by including honest-to-goodness mentions of scientific research about beer and bikinis. Soon as I find some.

It's not strictly scientific research, but an inventor has come out with a solar-powered bikini. It provides enough energy to recharge an iPod or chill a beer. So you won't have to worry about warm beer at the beach -- unless you want to bring your iPod along as well.

UFO Sighting?

There were rumors of a UFO sighting -- yes, an Unlikely Friggin’ Object was rumored to be cruisin’ through the desert.

Naaaah.... that doesn't look like a giant crab on top of that bus. Must be a wannabe imitation crab, something like that.

Still, if you do happen to happen upon a genuine Crabby sighting, please snap a photo and send it in to our Paparazzi department. Who knows, they might even give you credit for the shot, though probably not any reward more monetary than that, since they've perforce taken a vow of poverty (at least until they get paid).

How observant are you?

And here's a video that’s a good test of your powers of observation.

Thanks to Xenia and BCB for sharing this; it is a subject Very Near and Dear to my heart, as well as the rest of me.

Have a great weekend!

Sand-surfer dude courtesy of flickr.

March 28, 2008

Cranky Fitness Heads into New Territory: Recipes!

Crabby likes to eat but, alas, is awfully lazy when it comes to cooking. So there are never any dang recipes on Cranky Fitness. Good thing that Leah, a good friend of the blog and host of the The Goat's Lunch Pail, wrote this handy guest post to address this serious lack of tasty recipes. Enjoy!

Hmm, the request was for guest posts that, ideally, are fitness-related. Food is related to fitness. This dessert is fat-free, low sugar, and contains healthy things like bananas, dark chocolate, and Schnapps.

I invented both these recipes. They’re easy to make and they’ve been tested many times. The recipes originally appeared on my blog in December 2006, but Crabby said we could recycle so that’s what I’m doing.

Crustless Banana Pudding Pie with Chocolate Schnapps Sauce.

This recipe is suited for celiacs. I’m not a true celiac though I am wheat intolerant. I can get away with having a bit of wheat flour, but I chiefly use spelt and other lower gluten flours. I keep rice, tapioca, and potato flours around for when I feel the need to be gluten-free.

You gluten-eaters can substitute white flour in this recipe.

Crustless Banana Pudding Pie

Three ripe bananas.

About 1/2 cup of sugar. The sweetness of the bananas lets you cut down on the sugar content.

Three large eggs.

One-quarter cup of rice flour or potato flour (or starch) or tapioca flour (or starch)

¼ tsp of vanilla

½ tsp salt

1 tsp lemon juice

1 tsp guar gum (omit if using wheat flour)

Mixture may be thinned slightly with non-dairy milk substitute or non-dairy sour cream substitute if lactose intolerant. Milk drinkers can use the real thing.

Blend in a food processor at a vigorous setting. Give it about three minutes so everything is properly mixed. Pour in greased pie plate and bake at 350 for 40 –45 minutes. Depending on the temperament of your oven it could take longer to set. Cool thoroughly and store in refrigerator. This gets better every day.

This is the base recipe. If you like, stir in fruits and/or nuts like frozen raspberries and crushed pecans prior to pouring it in the pie plate.

This is good on its own and even better when topped with a sauce such as chocolate Schnapps sauce.


Chocolate Schnapps Sauce

About a cup of brown sugar.

A tbsp or so of water.

One 100g Lindt Extra Fine chocolate bar. Use the 85 per cent cacao variety. Trust me.

Melt the sugar over medium heat and mix in the water. Break Lindt bar and add. Mix as it melts. If mixture is too thick add more water to desired consistency.

Allow mixture to simmer as you stir in a minimum of two tbsp of Schnapps. Use the real stuff for heaven’s sake. Don’t use that infernal abomination peppermint. I used apricot Schnapps during the invention stage and was very pleased with the results. Simmer for about two more minutes stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat. Serve immediately or store in container and refrigerate.

If mixture hardens set container in a warm water bath until it gets runny and then stir vigorously before serving.

Advice From Your Yoga Instructor

This guest post is written by Heather, who blogs at yet another blog you should be visiting! It's really very good.

I know you think you should try yoga.

You need to relax. Lower your blood pressure. Maybe your doctor told you so. Maybe to lose a few pounds.

I know you're not flexible. I understand you can't touch your toes.

I'll tell you what though - I like you a hell of a lot better than 20-year-old Missi Stretchy, the ex-high school cheerleader who is there to show me how flexible she is.

I love people who can't touch their toes. Want to know why?

I've been a yoga instructor for several years now. I started as a hardcore aerobics instructor, back when I was Missi. I kicked ass. I tried yoga. I hated it. A friend forced me to take another one. That one was better and soon after I started studying to teach yoga.

I was still young, I still kicked ass, but now I was kicking it through round after round of powerful sun salutations with extra push ups. I saw my arms tone up like never before while my students groaned. I ignored savasana - bah!

Then I got hurt. It wasn't an ankle twist or a rotator cuff suddenly and screamingly doing something it shouldn't. Studying a style that didn't focus on form and consistently pushing my flexibility led to overuse injuries that I still have today.

My sacroiliac joint was completely out of whack. My shoulders ached and I slouched. I had headaches that nothing could touch.

Then I discovered a different style of yoga, one that focused on basic alignment and letting your heart open to the practice. The theory being that if your body is optimally aligned, then every pose becomes endless. You can just enjoy it instead of struggling to hold it up. There's a life metaphor in there somewhere.

I learned a new way to align my body and use my muscles. My SI joint was out because I was so flexible and kept pushing splits and back bends. My shoulders ached because my shoulder joint was hyper-extended in down dog. By hyperextending my shoulders, I was clenching my trapezius muscles, turning them into iron bands that caused my headaches.

Yoga is a balance of strength and flexibility. Missi’s don't listen when I cue them to try something differently, because to do so would force them to back off for just half a second.

If you tell me you're not flexible, I'll tell you that learning yoga will be easier for you because you have built-in stability. You just need to coax your muscles into letting go a little.

Learning to draw back from flexibility and build the strength you need to safely practice even basic yoga poses requires not being the most flexible, bendy person in the class.

Getting over the competitive spirit of comparing yourself and coming out on top in the flexibility game is way harder.

If you tell me you don't have time, I’ll tell you that you probably need to be there more than anyone. I don't practice poses every day, but in my book even remembering to back away from your desk and stretch and breathe for 5 minutes counts as yoga.

If you don't know where to go, most places will let you try a free class. Look in the phone book or gasp! use the Internet.

If you don't enjoy the class, YOU'RE NOT IN THE RIGHT CLASS. There are hundreds of different styles from restorative to power. If your brain is resisting what you're doing for the entire duration of the class and you come out more exhausted or agitated than when you went in, something's wrong.

If you don't click with the teacher, FIND ANOTHER. Ask questions. Some use music, some don’t. Some have grating voices. But someone teaching at a studio where you pay $20 per class isn’t necessarily better than the teacher at your gym where classes are included as part of your membership. There are good and bad instructors everywhere.

I bet you're stressed because you've been meaning to try yoga for ages now, and it's just one more thing on your to do list.

Don’t worry about it. It will still be there.

If you’re a Missi, don’t take this personally - just be willing to listen next time you take a class.

And to answer that other burning question, yes I heard it and I knew it was you when you farted on your mat the other day.

March 26, 2008

Maggie Walks

This next guest post was written by Maggie, who hosts the blog Maggie Walks, where you can go for more breast cancer walk inspiration!

I have wanted to participate in the Breast Cancer 3-Day (benefitting Susan G. Komen for the Cure) ever since I first heard about it a few years ago. I don't know exactly why walking 60 miles in three days appeals to me... Actually, anything in the name of breast cancer awareness always catches my eye. Not only do I love that pink ribbon, my family has witnessed one of our own battling breast cancer.

Nancy is my mother's sister, and she's always made an effort to be close to my family despite the 3,000-mile distance between us. We're both the youngest of three siblings, so I felt I had more of a right to her than either of my sisters when we were growing up. Certain birthdays meant extra-special gifts for us: for example, a week's vacation visiting her when we each turned 13. She even spent a year learning how to bake and decorate cakes, so that she could make a beautiful one for my wedding.

The 3,000 miles separating us felt like about double that when she was being treated for breast cancer. We were extraordinarily lucky—not only is Nancy a proud survivor, she has been for almost six years! Health facts, like the benefits of antioxidants, come up in conversation more often than in years past but otherwise she's still who she's always been: family. Just with battle scars.

To be perfectly honest, it's a little scary having this disease as part of my family's medical history. I've really hit the genetic jackpot: heart disease, diabetes and now breast cancer. At age 27, I'm just starting to take an active interest in taking care of myself. My sisters have set the bar high—they have worked out regularly for years, eat organic food, and truly respect their bodies and their physical (as well as mental) health.

Well, I'm on my way. I've been a member of Curves for a year now, and am about to hit the 100-workout milestone! I've also logged 36.5 miles in pre-training to prepare myself for the rapidly approaching 24-week Training Program for the 3-Day—mostly on the treadmill, but also outside in Michigan's temperamental winter. I am eating more healthily now than I ever have in my adult life. I work on portion control, eating more of the right foods, and drinking lots of water. It's interesting how much I've learned about my body in the process. I'm much more aware of how food and exercise (or lack thereof!) affect how I feel throughout the day.

I'm going to walk in the 3-Day because I want to contribute something—the money I raise will go to breast cancer research, education, screening and treatment. But that's not the only reason I signed up. I'm walking for my Aunt Nancy, to honor her achievement of remaining cancer-free for almost six years. I'm walking for my mom, Linda, who has been participating in The Sister Study, a long-term national study to learn how environment and genes affect the chances of getting breast cancer. I'm walking for my sisters, Mollie and Annie, who also have to include breast cancer in their family medical history. I'm walking for me, so I can get in shape and take better care of myself. And I'm walking for you, because everyone deserves a lifetime.

Sixty miles over three days. Needless to say, I'm scared out of my mind.

Morning Run

This guest post was written by Fury Gekijou--she describes herself as an "ex-patriot, barely-reformed couch-potato living and working in Japan who occasionally loses her mind in the quest for fitness." You can read about her 3-month misadventure training for her first triathlon at Tri Tri Birdie.

It's morning, a beautiful, mild spring morning and I am getting dressed for my run.

I put on my Technical Top. A bra. A technical bra. No kidding. The last time I considered a bra technical was back in my teens when I first started wearing one – a contraption made of elastic, fabric, hooks, wires, et cetera. My “technical” sports bra doesn’t even have any moving parts (unless you count me), but it’s made of this fabulous material that I am certain justifies its ridiculous cost. It’s sleek and black. It was designed by a team of engineers in Japan. It cost a lot of money. I’m not large-breasted by any means, so I am sure any regular, non-technical sports bra would do. Heck, I could probably do the support thing old-skool, with three ace-bandages wrapped around my chest., but the ad for technical bra was so enticing and the website was so cool and...

On go the running tights. Not just any old tights mind you, but Technical Tights. They’re black, kind of shiny, hydrophobic, breathe, stretch, have reflectors, zippers, natty grey flat seaming which make my stubby, chubby legs look long and lean and these tights' instructions claim they have “memory.” I don’t want anything that has been on my butt to “remember” anything! Regardless of how advanced the tights are, they still slide down, so during my run I go: RunrunrunrunrunrunYANKhoprunrunrunrunrunYANKhop.

I put on running socks, also considered “technical” clothing. The socks are made of a material that wicks. Socks don’t have wicking, candles do...but they are the “official sock” of some running team and they're black. Not shiny, but they are black.

Shoes next. My shoes are shiny, too, but not black. I don't like black sneakers. So mine are silver and yellow. The shoes have so many features that they came with an instruction booklet, written in five different languages. I lost the instruction book, so I don’t remember any of the features. I do remember that they lace in some weird way that I had to look at the left shoe (pre-laced thank goodness) to figure out how to lace the right. The shoes have treads and bubbles and gussets and grommets and look very advanced. But they still wear out at an alarming rate. So I bought three more pairs. Why? I can’t wear more than a pair at once. It’s good to have two pairs to alternate and distribute mileage across...but the third pair? I was just in a gear frenzy and got greedy.

I put on my “technical/performance” sunglasses, but the 110-dollar glasses really don’t make me perform any better. In some small way the purchase of my glasses probably made some Visa Credit Card shareholder’s portfolio perform a little better, but my running didn’t improve. I think they make me look cooler but I will confess that sometimes I think my technical/performance shades don’t work any better than the perfectly functional cheapo pair from Dick’s that they replaced. Note: If you sit on expensive technical sunglasses, they go “crunch” just the same as the cheapo ones.

I put the headphones of an MP3 player over my head and into my ears. The player itself is tiny and light – a vast improvement over the big, clunky cassette Walkman I used to use. The player fits in the palm of my hand – or even more conveniently, in my “technical top” sports bra. Sometimes the earphones rub me the wrong way and make the inside of my ears sore. They can make a player that weighs less than three ounces, but they can’t make earbuds that fit comfortably in my ears.

Continuing on with the gear parade, I strap a heart-rate monitor around my chest and put the receiver on my wrist. It looks like a watch, but in addition to telling me the time, the receiver tells me my heart rate (which always spikes when I put the transmitter on because the contacts are always COLD even when I dampen them using warm water). It also tells me how many calories were burned and the date.

I neglected to get a heart rate monitor that has a stopwatch function or does splits, so on the OTHER wrist there’s a stopwatch. It’s a pretty basic one, but I paid extra for the black finish because...well, because it looked more technical. If I’m not careful, the stopwatch, heart monitor and MP3 player all cause interference with each other. In a computerized twist on the old Groucho Marx joke, I thought I was dead the other day because there was no reading on the heart rate monitor.

I put a pedometer on my waist to track how far I run. It occasionally falls off, which means I have to pick it up. This involves stopping. Stopping makes my heart rate drop a little and causes the alarm on the receiver to beep, letting me know that I am not performing at optimal aerobic level. The beeping usually startles me, so that I forget to pause the stopwatch and that in turn messes up my time and/or my splits and then I can’t figure out how long it took me to run the mile before the pedometer fell off. Oh, and sometimes the shock of the impact resets the pedometer. Grrrr. I'm saving up for a GPS unit that will do everything: heart rate, mileage, splits, locations, my tax return, but I have to wait till I recover from the cost of having to replace the expensive technical sunglasses I sat on.

The electronic devices are all battery-powered. The batteries wear out. But never all at once, so I am constantly changing batteries. I’ll be pleased to tell you that I can change batteries in two devices AT ONCE, in the 4:30am darkness and still keep a 10 minute per mile pace (believe me 10 minute mile is an absolutely blistering, technical-tights-melting pace for me). This is an essential life skill we’re talking about here.

All geared up, I head for the door, ready to go out and run. My husband (ensconced on the sofa) notices me and looks, well, frightened. I guess it’s justified, with my looking very much like a Borg what with all the wires and gadgets and black Lycra.

"I’m going for a run," I snarl.

"You don’t seem very happy to be going for a run. You know, when you first started, you were always so happy to go for a run, even when you couldn’t go very far... but now I think you aren’t as happy, and I think..." He pauses and looks at me. "You had less stuff..."

Ever watch kids run around? They go quickly or slowly but they laugh and they smile. They are un-selfconcious, not caring how fast they go or what they are wearing. They're naturals. You can tell that for them, it just feels good to run. It was like that for me when I began, even though I could barely make it to the end of the driveway. It felt so good to go, to run for another minute than the day I did before, to go just a little bit further. In the first few months, it felt especially good to stop. I felt the camaraderie of other runners out in the heat, the rain, the snow, the wind. It felt just as good to run alone. I did all this with very little equipment, just the basics – enough to keep me comfortable and safe from injury. As I added mileage, I added stuff. I’m not sure why. "Just Buy It" syndrome, I guess. I’m sure I’m not the only person guilty of this. The big tragedy isn’t the waste of money but the wasting of what is for me the joy of running; the pleasure of moving for moving’s sake. The electronics sometimes distract me from that.

I take off the player. I take off the glasses, the monitor, the receiver, the stopwatch, and the pedometer. I’m not a competitive runner; I run for fitness, for enjoyment, for the pleasure of being in my body, for the sheer joy of just moving. I don’t need detailed reports on my runs; I just need to know I did my best. My mind, body and soul can tell me that, with no electronics at all.

Have a good workout. =)

March 25, 2008

Exercising on the road: A typical Crabby day

[By Merry]

Well, Crabby wasn't sure how she was going to manage staying fit while on the road, so out of pure helpfulness I've drawn up a little schedule. I visualized how a typical day on the road would go for the Crab and the Lobster, while they try to balance road trip with fitness stuff.

6:00 a.m. Get up out of bed, start the coffee brewing. While waiting for a cup, go outside and jog around the Wal-Mart parking lot several times. (Note: might want to get a faster coffee maker. Just saying.)

10:00 a.m. Stop at a roadside rest stop to stretch your legs. While you’re at it, throw in some squats and do some jumping jacks as well.

10:05 a.m. Explain to the nice policeman that you’re from California, and people do things like that there. Really, nothing to worry about, officer, we’ve only been drinking coffee.

12:00 noon. Have a picnic lunch by some scenic spot, by a river or in a park or something like that. Eat healthy food that you’ve picked up at the last health food store you stopped at. Try not to remember how long ago that was. Expiration dates are only suggestions, aren't they?

2:00 p.m. Try cat-lifting in the back of the van, while the Lobster pretends she doesn’t see what you’re doing. Stop after a few minutes, since a) there’s not enough room and b)there's a limit to the number of band-aids in the first-aid kit.

4:00 p.m. Stretch your legs. Just stretching, that’s safe.

6:00 p.m. Stop at a local fast food restaurant and inquire if they have bean sprouts and tofu on the menu. Explain that you’re from California.

10:00 p.m. Find a handy Wal-Mart to park in for the night. Jog around the parking lot. Explain to the nice security guard that you’re not running away, you’re running around. Decide to stick to running in the morning, when the security people are less awake vigilant.

Okay, so it's just barely possible that Crabby might want to seek a second opinion on how to combine traveling with exercise. Anyone have any better suggestions? I know they're camping in the van, so hotel gyms are out. And I don't think they arranged their schedule to include guest passes at gyms on the route, but there have to be other options for exercising on the road. Crabby said she would check in if she had a chance, so I'm sure she'd be glad for any ideas you have.

p.s. Yes, I know this is a silly post. But last night I posted a guest post, written by Karly, that's serious and discusses important issues. (I didn't want you to think that I was letting the blog get too frivolous in Crabby's absence.)

March 24, 2008

Why Care if Women Hate Their Bodies?

This is a guest post by Karly Randolph Pitman--she's a writer, speaker, and mother of four. Be sure to visit her at her website First Ourselves for more information and tips on positive body image and other important topics.

Who cares if you love your body? Why is it important?

These are good questions. After all, loving your body isn't on par with feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, or fostering orphans. It's not like we're ending violence against women.

Or are we?

When we beat ourselves up for not being physically "perfect," however we define it, we are committing violence: violence against ourselves. And because we're all connected, we are also committing violence against other women: our peers, our daughters, and our granddaughters.

For years, I avoided my body hatred, justifying my behavior with, "It only affects me." But it doesn't just affect me; it affects everyone. In her book Like Mother, Like Daughter, Debra Waterhouse writes about how a mother's negative relationship with her body can be passed down to her daughter. But this pattern doesn't just occur between mothers and daughters: society as a whole is bequeathing a negative body culture to the next generation.

I look at my daughters, one a beautiful little girl; the other, a beautiful young woman on the cusp of adolescence. They are fortunate, and blessed to live in modern times. Their foremothers have paved the way for them, clearing the obstacles that hindered earlier generations: They can vote, they have a voice, they can own property. They will witness the first woman in the Oval Office.

So what will prevent my girls from pursuing their dreams? If they buy the lie that they have to be superthin and youthful to be beautiful, that they have to loathe and control and try to shape their female form into something unnaturally unattainable, that will hold them back. The other freedoms won't matter, if they aren't free in their mind: free to love and accept themselves.

I have the power to change that. You do, too. That is why, as a woman, loving your body is some of the most important work that you can do.

It's important because if it remains unaddressed, it will sabotage anything else you try to do. It's scary to put yourself out on a limb, to offer your pearls to the world, and hope that it appreciates their value. It's even scarier if your confidence is undermined, if you're thinking of all the ways your body doesn't measure up.

It's important because you can't separate your body from the other parts of yourself. You can't love yourself while you hate your body.

It's important because you can't be free and clear to love and accept others unconditionally, if you're not loving and accepting towards yourself.

It's important because you can't be the woman, daughter, mother, wife, friend, or woman you wish to be, if you're consumed about thoughts about your body.

It's important because hating your body keeps you stuck. It keeps you in bondage, just as surely as violence, sexism, and injustice does.

It's important because the world needs our sacred femininity.

It's important because we can't fix the "big" problems - war, hatred, genocide, or violence - until we first heal these issues internally, in our battle with ourselves. They come from the same soil. And those problems can't, and won't, get our full attention if we're not healed of our own, personal hatred, first.

In loving your body, you release love into the world. You release courage. You release forgiveness. You release compassion. You release acceptance.

That sounds like important work to me. Love your body; love yourself. Love your body; change the world. Love your body: it matters.

Ch-Ch-Ch- Chia!

This Guest Post is written by the inimitable MizFit, and she's even included a video--unless Crabby has screwed up the coding, in which case she's included a nice blank space. There's a lot more cool stuff at MizFit's blog, so make sure you stop by if you're not already addicted. Enjoy!

Chia seeds are the new rage (if by rage you mean healthy stuff we're told to eat in the name of longevity----which MizFit does) and, indeed, they are precisely the same seed used to grow the frizzy "hair" on the Chia Pet plants.

(It's the easy joke. It's the obvious joke, People, but it bears repeating: NO, you CAN NOT simply eat your Chia Pet.)

Lemmie explain.

The chia seeds are derived from a mint-related plant known as Salvia hispanica. The seeds are high in protein (to know MizFit is to know she is all about the protein), fiber & calcium. Chia seeds are also higher in omega-3 than any other plant source, including the *amazing* flaxseed, which MizFit hath previously commanded you sprinkle on every, single item you consume.

(Does the above fact change my mind? you must view the video in order to to find out.)

Another benefit to Chia (*sigh* I am forced to admit over my beloved flax seeds) is that it expands in your stomach and, as a result, helps you to feel full longer.

In fact, the ancient Aztecs are rumored to have eaten chia before they commenced long marches (I'm thinking if it sustained them through a 'long march' it can definitely see me through a morning with the Toddler Tornado. We shall see.)

Chia seeds are also GREAT for diabetics as they slow down the conversion of carbohydrates into glucose due to their high fiber and protein content.

(I know. MizFit has lost her mind with ChiaLove & is all about espousing the information today. You'll have that.)

Bottom line? Check them out. Chia is great for your health, will help reduce your cravings with their high fiber content and are easy to use.

How easy? (thanks for asking!) Here's a muffin recipe and please to check out the video below.

It's Chiarrific.

(And big love goes out to my DoctorCrush Mehmet without whom the masses might never have realized this amazing seed maketh more than an inexpensive holiday gift for the officemate you barely know). --MizFit

March 21, 2008

Random Friday: short and stolen

[By Merry]

Well, the crab's doing that "packing" stuff. (I am profoundly grateful that we are in fact two separate people, otherwise I'd be stuck packing too!) So I'm trying to put together a short-and-dirty (like me except for the hygiene part) Random Friday.

This infomercial was stolen leveraged from Morgan's blog. She managed to lose close to 100 pounds following this diet, and although Cranky Fitness is (let's say it all together) "NOT a weight loss blog," the information in this video clip is too funny to miss:

Since blogland can always use more haiku, and in honor of Crabby's poor cat, I thought we needed to raise cultural awareness levels: Cat Haiku.

And lastly, a quick travel joke to cheer Crabby on her way:

I was driving down a lonely country road one cold winter day when it began to sleet pretty heavily. My windows were getting icy and my wiper blades were badly worn and quickly fell apart under the strain.

Unable to drive any further because of the ice building up on my front window I suddenly had a great idea. I stopped and began to overturn large rocks until I located two very lethargic hibernating rattle snakes. I grabbed them up, straightened them out flat and installed them on my blades and they worked just fine.

What! You've never heard of . . . wind chilled vipers?

Have a great weekend everyone!

On the Road: Cranky Q & A

[By Crabby]

OK, so I'm not actually packed yet--we don't head off on our cross-country trek until Monday. But Merry's taking over the helm (she's got a post coming up any minute, so stay tuned) and I'm already wondering how I'm going to survive Cranky Fitness withdrawal symptoms over the next couple of weeks. What will I do without you all????

(Boring background for non-regular readers: Crabby, along with her spousal equivalent (the Lobster), and their expressive cat (The Moo), are traveling cross-country via campervan (Fran the Van). They are moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to Cape Cod, at least for the non-winter months. However, their Provincetown house, which has been undergoing renovations, may or may not be ready when they get there. So for the next couple of weeks, the Crab will be concentrating on relocation issues and perhaps not so much on the blog).

But What Does This Mean for Readers of Cranky Fitness?

Plenty! Here are some answers to questions I cannot even pretend have been Frequently Asked.

Should I Keep Visiting Here Every Day Anyway?

Yes!!! In fact, Cranky Fitness will be far more entertaining. Here's why:

Merry will still be here, and will not have the Grumpy Crab breathing down her neck. Who knows what Unrestrained Cheerfulness may break out.

Plus there will be Guest Posts!

So People Actually Bothered to Send in Guest Posts?

Holy Crap, yes they did!

If fact, we have a BOATLOAD OF GUEST POSTS. All of them are good, and some of the are totally awesome. We won't say which are which, obviously.

At first I thought it would be best to run some now and save some for later. Merry might someday have the nerve to consider going on vacation, and having some guest post banked seemed like a nifty idea.

But then I realized that wasn't quite fair. I didn't say, "Please send us a guest post, and we'll run it sometime, possibly months from now, when you have no idea we're running it." Instead I said, "I'm going on a trip, please send stuff."

So since Merry is also here posting, and I might (or might not) send in some updates along the way, there may be quite a few days when we feature more than one guest post. Which just means more Guest Post Goodness for everyone!

Are You Going to Run Every Guest Post Submitted?

Alas, no. We're trying to be inclusive but, perhaps arbitrarily, we're still being somewhat picky. Our taste is certainly questionable enough that no one should take it personally if their post wasn't selected. It was probably too good for Cranky Fitness anyway.

I Sent My Guest Post And Never Heard Back. Should I Be Concerned?

Unfortunately, YES!

I seem to be having some freaky email problems--I've heard from 3 people so far that they have sent something that did not arrive. WTF, Gmail? Is anyone else who has a Gmail account experiencing missing email or is this a special gift to me from Google? I seem to be getting MOST of my mail but not all of it. So if you've sent something and did not get a "sorry no," or a "thanks, we'll see..." or something, please leave a comment and we'll see what we can do. We may not run it this time, but we'll hang onto it.

Will There Be More Opportunity for Guest Posts Later On?

Hell yes! One of us is often going on vacation. Plus, here's a little secret: Cranky Fitness is always open for guest posts. When one of us isn't on vacation, we might be extra choosey, and we'd prefer stuff that hasn't already run on your blog, but if you've got something you think would be a great fit for Cranky Fitness, go ahead and send it in and we'll see what we think.

Don't Want To Be "Part of the Crowd?"

If you've sent a guest post in for Crabby's upcoming vacation and you're now wishing it was going to run at a less crowded time, just let us know (ASAP) and we'll hold off and keep it in the "bank" for later.

Will You Edit My Guest Post?

Possibly. I started editing a few and then, well, stopped. Editing is work, and work is icky! Perhaps that's why people get paid to do it. So most of the posts are running "as is." If yours looks funny, it probably means I got to it and messed it up before I stopped bothering. Sorry!

Will You Be Reading And Responding to Comments While You're Gone?

Whenever I get internet access I'll definitely catch up on everyone's comments. I love reading the comments! However, I probably won't be commenting much myself.

Are You Ever Going to Visit My Blog Again?

Blog friends of Cranky Fitness may have noticed fewer Crab sitings recently; sorry about that! Sometimes I've been stopping by without commenting. This situation should improve greatly once we are settled in P-Town.

What if We Like The Guest Posts Much Better Than The Stuff You Write?

Tough luck--I'm still coming back anyway!

I will miss you all very much for the next couple weeks. And thanks to all who sent in Guest Posts, it's very much appreciated!

March 20, 2008

Warning: Particularly Gross Post Ahead

[By Crabby]
(This is just a random cat. Ours was far too humiliated to permit photos).

Seriously, if you don't want to read about my cat's ass, this may be a good day to visit another better blog or website. Go check out Glam's bikini quest, or read Mousearoo's Inspiring Weight Watchers profile, or go see what the Bag Lady is up to today. Check out any of our great commenter's blogs, there's some great stuff going on!

You just don't want to be here today. Particularly if you haven't eaten breakfast yet.

As unsavory as the topic is, I can't even claim to be original in writing about it. There is a much more hilarious post about cats and their anal glands over at 15 Minute Lunch, a consistently funny blog that Cranky Fitness can only envy.

In fact, I owe a great debt to Mr. Virgil. Had I not read his post (and the accompanying educational material about Feline Scooting and What it Can Mean), I would not have recognized the recent butt-scraping behavior of our beloved cat as a medical symptom. I might have thought she was "acting out," or perhaps just being creative because she was bored.

(Would you like purchase photographs of some of her art? "Abstract Browns on An Off-White Wall-to-Wall Carpet, Morning Light Series #4," by Maile Moo, 2008, is still available--at least until the multiple applications of stain remover start to work.)

Alas, it turns out that The Moo (yeah, we call her that, don't ask) wasn't creating art after all. Nor even demonstrating ill humor. True, she was "expressing" herself-- but only in the sense that cats apparently have anal glands that can get clogged up or something gross like that if they don't get properly "expressed." Old cats, in particular, have these self-expression problems.

Good thing I knew from 15 Minute Lunch that upon seeing a cat scoot, one should visit the vet, not the kitty psychiatrist.

I know it's not the cat's fault. So I try to keep any hint of reprimand out of my voice when I see her start to lower her hindquarters toward the floor.

"Maile, no, sweetie, nuh-huh, please don't do that!" I try to say this in a cheerful, non-threatening tone, but with enough emphasis to catch her attention before touch-down. In the meantime, I'm grabbing up handfuls of Kleenex and scurrying rapidly towards the descending animal.

Does your cat have that little sensitive place at the base of her tail? If so, rubbing that spot can often keep the cat from lowering all the way to the floor if you get there fast enough. I don't know why they are powerless to resist this rubbing, but it is a useful trick. If you can get there fast enough with the Kleenex and are up for wiping the cat's hindquarters, that is.

However, one can't possibly anticipate and prevent scooting with any consistency, so we sought professional help to take care of the problem. Unfortunately, after two vet visits and two unpleasant little procedures (for the vet and for the cat--it was no sweat for me!) we still have no guarantee that it's going to go away.

(Curiously, the vet has seen a sudden inexplicable increase in cat anal gland problems. What's that about? What sort of bizarre conspiracy theories can we come up?)

Anyway, our treatment options are, apparently: (1) take the cat to the vet a lot; (2) hope the scooting gets better on its own; (3) opt for surgical anal gland removal; (4) become connoisseurs of Feline Anal Floor Art or (5) learn how to express the cat's anal glands ourselves.

And you know what?

We love that cat--but there is no f*cking way we're going with Number Five.

Gosh, what a fun post to try to comment on! Please do NOT feel obliged to express yourselves on this issue. But if you have any pets or any thoughts on pets and their medical or other needs, feel free to share!

March 19, 2008

Magic Weight Loss Pill, take two

[By Merry]

Get it? Take two, as in this is the second time we've blogged about weight loss pills or as in "take two pills" ... oh all right. Just checking.

We've already mentioned the possibility of an all-natural, working-with-the-body magical weight loss pill. It's not something that you can buy over the counter yet, but should be available soon.

But scientists have developed another weight loss pill that could be commercially available within a decade. Unlike the pill that works with your body's intestinal flora, this one is essentially a form of gastric bypass surgery without the knives. It shrinks your stomach chemically.

Normally, your stomach expands when you eat, to the point where you feel "full." Gastric bypass surgery involves physically restricting the amount that your stomach can expand. Gastric bypass surgery has had dramatically successful results with many patients. To quote the authors of a study on gastric bypass surgery, "...nonsurgical methods are notoriously ineffective at achieving major, long-term weight reduction."

But gastric bypass surgery is not without some nasty potential side-effects. Hell, Dr. J. would tell you that any surgery has some risks. (Bear in mind that I'm biased on this topic: my favorite uncle passed away due to a nosocomial infection.) So any method that would have the success rate of gastric bypass without the side effects would have me cheering.

All the same, I'm still resistant to the idea of any weight loss approach that works on the body rather than working with the body's own already established systems. One of the effects of stomach stapling is that "high fiber foods and foods with a more dense, natural consistency can become very difficult to eat relative to highly refined foods." I tend to distrust any man-made "solution" that goes against what has been working for the human body for countless generations.

We've all been raised on the notion that if you have a passing ailment, take a pill and it will go away. I am afraid that putting the gastric bypass solution into pill form will somehow put it on the same level as some passing problem. This is serious stuff and could have seriously long-term issues with it. It's a solution, but please, please, consider the more boring long-term solutions first.

Should I change my name to Crabby? Am I being too suspicious/old-fashioned/stuck-in-a-rut? I grant you, gastric bypass might be the way to go -- it's certainly worked for a lot of people that I've known. But shouldn't it be a last resort?

March 18, 2008

Don't Worry, Be Dead

[By Crabby]
Oh No! Bad Things Happening in A Foreign Language!

Having just written a post defending the Power of Negative Thinking, I was quite (perversely) happy to come across this recent study suggesting that anxious older women actually live longer than mellow ones.

Nervous Nellies of the world, rejoice!

If you're an older woman and have a somewhat anxious disposition, maybe now you can go ahead and ignore those youngsters when they say: "Chill, granny. Don't worry, be happy!" Go ahead and panic over every new little ache and pain and scurry off to the doctor if you want. ("Ouch, my foot hurts--maybe it's toenail cancer!") Apparently all that worry-wartishness actually has a protective effect.

However, for guys it was different. Anxious older fellas tended to croak earlier than non-anxious ones. Sorry, guys.

The finding about the older women seemed kind of unlikely, but it was actually based on a 15 year study of 1,000 seniors and didn't look to be obviously half-assed. Still, I won't be surprised if another one contradicts it next week.

As a middle aged person with Worrywartish Tendencies, I'm hoping it's good news for me even if I don't entirely trust it. But at least it's an nice break from that constant tiresome message that carefree types are always better off and so all us cautious folks should forever strive to lighten up.

Heh heh heh heh heh.

Note: I don't mean to minimize the completely debilitating kind of clinical anxiety that makes leading a normal life difficult. If you've got that kind, you should think about getting help. I'm talking more about the "Quirky Character in a Woody Allen Movie" kind of anxiety.

So what do you guys think, does this study make any sense at all? Or does it sound like the kind soon to be followed by "whoops, we took a new look at the data we were totally f*cking wrong the first time?"

And do any of you have Worrywartish tendencies or is it just me?

Guest Post Update

[By Crabby]

Today's upcoming post is a wee one, so I thought I'd slip in a quick update on Guest Posts first.

For those who are not regular Cranky Fitness readers: I'm moving cross country right after Easter and will be gone for about two weeks. Merry will still be here, thank goodness, and I may send in an occasional report or picture or complaint of some sort from the road. Yet that will still leave some empty days--which will be a great opportunity for Smart Readers, many of whom have blogs of their own, to share their clever health and fitness observations.

So guess what?

We've got lots and lots of submissions, hooray!

I still haven't figured out whether to (a) run them all sometime between March 24th and April 4th or (b) hang onto some of them for later. I'm leaning towards the latter option, because, well, I'm lazy! Merry will also be taking a vacation later on, and it will be nice to have some options besides endless days of Crabby ranting on about her usual gripes.

Here's the deal: If you've been meaning to help us out and send in a guest post but haven't done it yet, you can still go right ahead! But it may not run during this current period.

And if you've already sent one in, and I told you we'd use it--then we will! But due to my inability to count, there's a chance we may use it a little later than I previously thought. When the schedule is a little clearer, we'll try to email to let you know if your post is running later rather than sooner.

Sorry for the confusion, and thanks to all of you who have sent in submissions! The management of Cranky Fitness is most grateful.

March 17, 2008

Does Green Beer Have More Vegetable Goodness?

[By Merry]

In honor of my cultural heritage, and all that stuff, I have to put in a limerick today:

There once was a poet named Crabby
Whose blog had more hits than Dear Abby
Until that one day
Merry came to play
And turned her cream puff to kohlrabi.

(Whaddya mean I should stick to Haiku?)

[Now Crabby must sneak in and interject: Untrue! OK, Crabby will scoot back out now and turn this post back over to its rightful owner].

Hey, did you just see a crab scuttle past? Wow she can scoot fast!

No leprechauns were harmed in the writing of this blog

I figured since it's St. Paddy’s day, all the people out in blogland are up to their elbows in green beer today. So a limerick and a post about beer seem the right way to celebrate. Don't want to overdo the Irishness. Anyway, to me Erin Go Bragh sounds like advice you’d give a woman who should not wear tube tops, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

Beer, beer, glorious beer! (Sometimes it's good for you)

You already know that beer is good for a post-hydration workout. If green beer is made with vegetables, then it must be even more good for you! (Oh wait. It's not made with vegetables. Is vegetable dye nutritious?)

Anyway, research suggests that having a pint of Guinness a day can help reduce blood clotting, thus providing the same health benefit as taking an aspirin a day to prevent heart attacks. (Or so 'tis said. Note: having more than one pint does not provide more health benefits.)

Some busy little Beavers at Oregon State University (as opposed to the University of Oregon, these distinctions are very important) have discovered that xanthohumol, a flavonoid compound found only in hops (and beer) has anti-cancer properties. Yes, drinking beer might help prevent cancer.

Plus, you can use beer to cook with. Six Tips for Cooking with Beer

If you plan to drink green beer today and need some more rationalizations, here are 10 reasons beer is good for your health. You might want to take some these recommendations with a grain of salt -- no wait, that's for tequila. Still, I wondered about how they could claim beer is good for your liver. The study was taken from the "Beer Net publication," and it might well be a completely impartial study. In an infinite universe, anything's possible.

The latest trend: drunk, stupid young women

On the other hand, beer isn't always good for you. Quite apart from the damage involved in driving under any influence, there's a new trend out there. (Or rather, an old trend that's been in the news lately, so it qualifies as new.) People, usually younger women, have been 'banking' their calories, starving themselves during the day so they can go out and drink at night while keeping within their calorie range. Drunkorexia, the NY Times called it. Crazy would be my word for it. There are women who are afraid to put a grape in their mouth, but have no problem drinking a beer.

Okay, ladies, when people use the phrase "drunk and stupid" they mean that you're supposed to act stupid when you're drunk, not when you're sober. (I can feel sympathy for people who are anorexic and can't help themselves, but people willingly starving themselves so they can get drunk but stay on their diet calorie-wise? No.)

I don't care how many reasons there are that beer is good for you, other things are good for you too, such as vegetables, sleeping, and regular daily reading of health and fitness blogs. Proportion, that's the ticket.

Moral: Run first. Beer second.

I'd hate to be the only blogger out in blogland who hasn't mentioned this guy:

As if to prove that it's possible to have a beer and still be fit, a 101 year old man plans to run the London Marathon.
Working plumber Buster Martin ran the Roding Valley half marathon in Essex in five hours 13 minutes, and is now focusing on London's 26-mile event. On finishing the run, the first words of the ex-member of rock band The Zimmers [British for walking frames] were: "Where's my beer?"

And, of course, the obligatory (bad) Irish joke:

Merry: You know why St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland?
Crabby: Okay, I’ll ask. Why?
Merry: Because snakes had been knocking back the Guinness all night and were in no condition to drive, of course!

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

The beer vs. vegetables debate courtesy of flickr.

March 14, 2008

Ask Cranky Fitness: muscles, sex, and weight loss

[By Crabby and Merry]
No Way! There's Actually Something Inside?

This is a special edition of Ask Cranky Fitness. Why is it special? Because it features Three Real-Life Reader Questions! These were sent in by actual blog readers, as opposed to imaginary blog readers, who are much more likely to seek our advice.

Note: if you decide to send in a question to Cranky Fitness, be warned: our answers will probably not be helpful. We are not experts. If you have an important question, ask your Doctor or Mental Health Professional. However, if you do have a question and don't care if we inadvertently make fun of you while answering it, feel free to send it in. Because sometimes the folks in the comments section have some really good advice.

Dear Cranky Fitness,

If I'm strength training two days a week on Monday and Friday, do you think that's enough to see results or do you think the days need to be closer together, say Monday and Wednesday? Do I need to add an additional day as well?

The reason I ask: I HATE strength training by myself. Usually, I wimp out and thus never reap the benefits. There's a great strength training class at my gym, but I can only make the Monday and Friday morning classes. Am I wasting my time?

Muscle Obsessed from the Midwest

Dear Muscle Obsessed,
If you are at the gym lifting heavy things, that's never a waste of time! Especially when you could be home lifting jelly donuts or cheeseburgers and devouring them instead of working out.

However, in my experience, you have to balance out the Loathsomeness of weight training with its Effectiveness. For me, personally, two times a week is enough to maintain strength gains, but I need to go more like 3 times a week for a while to build strength in the first place. My personal weight training plan: an endless cycle of Ambitious Building followed by Inevitable Slacking--at least until the smart scientists invent a muscle-creating pill. Or better yet, a muscle-creating cookie.

If you're building muscle and gaining strength with two times a week and a class you really enjoy, then hooray for you, that's good enough! But if you're stuck and not getting results, it may be time to venture beyond the safety and comfort of your class and add some solo workouts. I'd suggest getting the help of a Friendly Personal Trainer for your first few times, so you can learn all the equipment and discover that many of the Intimidating Gym Rats aren't even actually doing it right.

Good luck with those muscles!


Dear Muscle Obsessed,

I could just hear the enthusiasm when you mentioned that great class on Mondays and Fridays. Is there some other way to generate enthusiasm like that about weight lifting? Like using a Friendly Personal Trainer, as Crabby suggests, but make it an F.P.T. who is reeeeeally cute. Or is there a friend, maybe someone from that great class, whom you can persuade to join you on Wednesdays? If all else fails, set a goal that you want to achieve, such as lifting XXX amount before June. Tell your most sarcastic and critical in-laws co-workers what you're planning to achieve. I mean, hell, you don't want them snickering come June, do you? Fear of ridicule is not the nicest means of self-motivation, but you're going to feel really good about yourself when you make the goal!

-- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I'm hoping that you can offer some advice on the dreaded, and age old topic of Male/Female interaction at the gym. I go to the gym everyday, usually at the same time of day, and I see the same people over and over again when I am there. In particular, I see a woman, and she is, as the saying goes 'a slammin' hottie'.

Now, I know all about the taboos associated with health club chat ups. I get it, completely. No one goes to the gym to get hit on, and if you try it, you are likely to get branded as 'THAT GUY'. No one wants to be "THAT GUY". To avoid it, I usually pretend that the hot women in my gym don't exist.

Slammin Hottie and I have never spoken, however, for about two weeks, when working out, we have been having some serious eyeball foreplay. Lots of coy smiles, nods, and bedroom eyes. Is this enough to break protocol and make an approach? And how do you talk to someone without being interruptive?

Should I just forget it? Or is there a way to make a move and not look like a douche?

Many thanks,
Gym Guy

Dear Gym Guy,

Congratulations for picking a topic, "Flirtation Etiquette for Attractive Heterosexual Gym-Goers" on which I am spectacularly unqualified to comment! Yet I can't help but offer a few thoughts. Just ignore the fact I have no idea what I'm talking about.

First off, you get Extra Credit for even realizing there's an issue of appropriateness. Many women, whether Slammin' Hotties or not, report plenty of Clueless Approaches by guys who never consider that their advances might not be welcome--or who do consider the possibility but don't give a crap.

As you suspect, approaching her while she's rocking out to her iPod and in the middle of doing something strenuous is probably a mistake. While startling her and causing her to tumble off the treadmill or drop a barbell on your head might make a great "meet cute" scene in a movie, it real life it might kinda suck for you both.

My guess--straight girls, please help me out here--is that guys are still kind of expected to make the first move, and I don't know that a single woman would be horrified to be approached at her gym in a friendly, non-sleazy way by a guy who seems nice if she's not in the middle of something.

Suggestion: innocuous questions like: "Do you know if the gym's open on Easter?" might work somewhat better than "Wow, you're a slammin' hottie! Want to take a ride on my elliptical tonight?"

And do keep in mind that if she shoots you down, you've now turned your daily workout space into a Ongoing Rejection Reminder. Especially if you strike out but some Really Douchey Gym Dude swoops in and scores. So you may want to think hard about whether Slammin' Hottie is worth risking gym peace of mind for.


Dear Gym Guy,

Speaking from the Heterosexual corner, my best advice would be to try the Zen approach. No, I don't mean contemplate your navel, or hers either (at least, not obviously). Is there some Middle Path between being polite-but-distant and totally hitting on her? Can you, in short, get to know her in the non-Biblical sense of the word?

Small talk can be helpful here. Try asking her a question as she finishes her workout or while she's waiting to use some equipment. If she's listening to tunes, ask her about what music she likes to work out to. However, if she happens to mention casually that her iPod was a gift from her professional-football-playing boyfriend, take this as A Sign and stick to being a gym buddy. Whatever you do, don't come on too strong right away. You don't want to come across as an arrogant jerk or as a Nice Guy™. Take the Middle Path, grasshopper.

-- Merry

Dear Cranky Fitness,

I want to lose 60 pounds. It's the same 60 pounds that I have lost and regained 3 times in the past 10 years. Obviously, I need more than just diet and exercise...I need some of that--what do you call it?--behavior modification (or maybe just to have my frontal lobe removed!)

Anyway, my question for you is this: how do I do this? Do you have any suggestions? I've been looking into the weight management center at the University of XXXXXX, but it's not cheap and I'm not really sure how I'd do it when it's a XXX hour drive, round trip. Maybe I'm searching for a needle in a haystack. I know when it really comes down to it, I'm the only one who can help me.....I just need a shove or something! I just turned 40 and I really don't like myself a whole lot at the moment! Anyway, any advice or suggestions would be appreciated!

--Looking for Help

Dear Looking,

First off, if you have managed to lose 60 lbs three different times you are a very strong, very determined person with lots of willpower! You should be proud of yourself for these accomplishments, even if you find yourself struggling again. It's HARD to keep weight off, and the fact that you have the courage to try this again says a lot about your strength of character. Good for you for not giving up.

I'm hoping folks might help out in the comments section with more specific advice and encouragement. I suspect there are lots of people who can relate.

I'm not sure about the particular behavioral weight loss program; you're probably best off talking to people who've been through it. There are some good Cognitive Behavioral self-help books out there you might want to try--Judith Beck's The Beck Diet Solution is one I hear good things about.

Just generally, I'm guessing you've probably heard most of the standard advice already: take it gradually, limit portions but don't starve yourself, exercise, write things down, confront self-defeating thoughts, eat healthy nutritious food, seek social support, etc. I'd just add this:

Don't be too hard on yourself! I suspect there's some perfectionism/fear of failure lying behind your relapses, and trying to do your best each day and sticking with it is way more important than having "perfect" days.

And, if emotional issues or depression or low self-esteem are contributing to your weight issues (also really common and nothing to be ashamed of) counseling can really help. Often universities with counseling programs have interns who don't charge too much.

Good luck, and again, be proud of yourself for not giving up!


Dear Looking,

Oh, give up already.

There. Didn't that feel good? Well, it felt good for the moment. At least, it felt good when I did it. The problem is that I always have to face the fact that I'll need to get up and keep going after I give up.

I'm in the position here that Crabby was in the hetero-dating question. I am not pleased with my current shape at all, having completely slacked off over the winter. All I know to do is a) learn to like myself as I am now (not the shape, the person), b)exercise every day, no excuses, c) eat five servings of those damn green leafy things before I eat anything that tastes good.

Once, when I was wandering through blogland, I happened upon Pasta Queen's blog Half of Me. Being eager to avoid cleaning my house increase my knowledge, I read through the archives that chronicle her attempt to lose 200 pounds. She had several false starts when she first began blogging. But as I read further, I got to the point where I felt sure she was going to make her goal. At one point, she mused that she was more interested in the running and other activities, than in losing weight. I wanted to stand up and cheer when I read that, because that made it certain that she wasn't going to give up. The point should not be to lose weight, the point should be to enjoy life, damn it.

Oh -- sorry, I got so caught up in lecturing myself, I forgot where I was. I'm going to get off this soap box now; it's rather rickety. All I can say is that people have managed to lose that much weight and keep it off. Keep going!

- Merry

March 13, 2008

Be A Cranky Fitness Guest Blogger!

[By Crabby]
Anyone? Anyone?

Just after Easter, the Crab and the Lobster and their intrepid cat will be moving from the San Francisco Bay Area to the opposite end of the country.

And yes, this is the same f*cking cross-country move I've been blogging about since October when we first put in an offer on a house in Provincetown, MA. But finally, it's happening. We've sold our California house (escrow closed yesterday), and we're soon going to be traveling via campervan to our new Cape Cod abode.

The cat even has her own special compact travel litter box! How cute is that? (OK, maybe not so cute. The van is not very big and cat boxes smell like... well, cat boxes).

We shall be dining at the fine restaurants one tends to find right off the interstate, and staying at only the nation's classiest RV parks. (Actually, that's a lie--we'll be staying in a lot of Walmart parking lots, where RV's can usually park overnight for free.)

What a glamorous undertaking!

Since Walmart parking lots do not generally supply wireless internet, however, posting may be erratic during our travels. And sure, I could try to chain Merry to her computer for the duration and make her do all the work, but alas, Merry has a life of her own, and she might not welcome being exploited by a crab too lazy to stockpile posts for the future.

So can I exploit any of you folks instead?

If you'd like to submit a Guest Post to Cranky Fitness for publication sometime between March 24th and Early April, we'd love to see it. Maybe 250-750 words max, and it would be great if it were somehow related to health and fitness.

Cranky Fitness did this once before and it worked out great. I got to take some time off, and readers got to read some great new writing. Some of the posts got linked to by other popular blogs; the guest posters launched their writing careers and got famous and they now make millions of dollars with highly popular blogs of their own.

Or something like that. Anyway, it did go fairly well.

The post does not have to be brand new writing, as long as you wrote it and are not stealing it from someone else. So if you have a blog, and you have a blog post you're really proud of but not a lot of people got to see it already, consider resubmitting it here. Or write a new one, that's great too. If readers like what they read, they may want to visit your blog to read more of your awesome stuff and then they'll abandon Cranky Fitness for your blog in order to hang out there and.... hey, wait a minute!

Don't have a blog? Even better! Here's a chance to share your thoughts outside the comment section without having to start up a blog of your own. (Though be careful... ending up with a time-sucking blog is a known side effect of Guest Blogging).

It's possible we may edit your post, or we may not get a chance to run it depending on what else is going on. Please don't be offended if that happens. (As I may have mentioned before, I've submitted guest posts other places that didn't get published, so I know how annoying that is. But it's quite survivable).

So why would you bother? What's in it for you?

Absolutely nothing--welcome to blogging!

(Actually, you will have the undying gratitude of the Cranky Fitness Management and the appreciation of the blogs loyal readers).

If you are interested, please email your submission to Crabby at: CrabbyMcSlacker @ gmail .com (but skip the spaces).

March 12, 2008

Old People Are Kicking My Ass

[By Crabby]
Sure, she looks so nice and all...

I already wrote about this over a Diet Blog, but what the heck. This is Cranky Fitness, not Diet Blog, so I can write about the same thing all over again! Plus I was far too cheerful about the situation over there. Here, well--this blog has strict limits on cheerful, especially when Merry's out of town.

So I'm temporarily living in a retirement community (long story) and have been working out at the old folk's gym. I figure the average age of my fellow gym-goers is probably somewhere in the seventies. Many of them are in their 80's or even 90's.

And for the most part, it's been a really pleasant surprise. Unlike younger gym rats, these people are extremely friendly and chatty and fun to be around. The ones who are just in better-than-average shape for a 87 year old (or whatever) are very quick to compliment you for not being 87 years old yourself. "Wow, look at that," they'll say, when you crank up the treadmill to a slow run, "you go so fast!"

Weirdly enough, these nice compliments can make you feel almost like you do go really fast. So you smile and blush and mumble something incoherent. Because you can't really say "actually, I'm not fast at all, I'm just not 87 years old." That wouldn't be very nice.

But here's the problem: I now understand what it must be like to be the only guy working out with a bunch of women. Even though it's not rational, and it's offensive stereotyping blah blah blah, somehow, I still subconsciously feel like since I'm much younger than these folks, I should be able to kick their asses at everything.

I should run faster. I should lift more. I should be more flexible.

But guess what? Many of them are faster, stronger and more flexible than I am and I kinda hate that.

It's pretty damn motivating though, I gotta say. When some guy in his 80's starts jogging on the treadmill next to me, I want to jog faster than him, even though he's in better shape than I am. When some woman can do squats with big bar bells balanced on her shoulders, I want to learn how to do that too instead of just using the wimpy leg press machine which I've been perfectly content with up until now.

My competiveness is pathetic, of course, but I'm hoping it might come in handy.

As it happens, we'll be moving cross-country in a couple weeks, and I won't be back to the Retirement Gym until next winter. I'm gonna really miss working out with some of the seniors, of whom I'm growing very fond.

But in the meantime I'm going to think about kicking up my workout intensity a bit so I can come back next year and kick some senior ass.

(Seriously--it's great to discover what great shape you can be in if you keep it up into your senior years.)

Anyone have any thoughts on aging and exercise?

March 11, 2008

Wii Don't Want to Go Outside

[By Crabby]
I don't get it. Where do you click to make it go in the air?

Here at Cranky Fitness, we're not generally on the cutting edge of hi-tech gaming and entertainment. However, we've come to understand that there are video games now that allow participants to move parts of their bodies while playing (other than the traditional fingers and forearms).

We think that's groovy! (OK, so maybe we're not on the cutting edge of fashionable slang either. We liked the 60's and 70's just fine, thanks.)

Yet it has come to our attention that some people are counting their kids' video game playing as "exercise."

Cranky Fitness thinks THIS IS WRONG.

This isn't to say active video games aren't a fine idea. If your kids are going to sit indoors in a dark room for hours staring at a screen, it's great if they can engage their bodies and not just their brain cells. They can swing their arms and pretend they're playing baseball. They can toss a fake bowling ball down a fake bowling lane without having to rent smelly shoes. They can dance and play football and even keep the world safe from invading aliens while moving around a little--much better than just sitting on their cute little butts in front of a tv screen.

However, unless you've got kids who are handicapped, or, for some odd reason, elderly, I think playing active video games counts as playing video games. It does not count as exercise.

Should a healthy young ten-year-old spend hour after hour wielding a video game controller instead of hour after hour running around outside? Given the trouble we're having with overweight kids, I don't think so.

Perhaps this only seems strange to me because I'm not a parent. Or because I come from an older, crankier generation that was routinely sent outside to amuse itself. And yeah, maybe we broke a few bones, or required a few stitches, or perhaps were escorted home in a squad car (only once, I swear) but whatever. We survived and the only video game we had was Pong. (Which, just for the record, I LOVED).

I think that unless the video screen is mounted in a room so humongous that it allows the kids to actually round the bases after hitting a home run, or makes them run the length of a football field in order to score a touchdown--in my mind the kids are still playing a video game. They're not participating in a sport.

It's like eating a piece of whole wheat coffee cake. Hooray for picking a healthier pastry! But it's still pastry; you don't get to count it as a vegetable.

So yeah, it's true they're getting closer to actual physical activity with new video games like Wii Fit. (Thanks, Bethany!) But damn it, as far as kids are concerned, I think video games should still just count as entertainment, and we should send their asses outside for real exercise.

Like smoking marijuana, or sex parties, or day trading-- there are certain complicated lifestyle choices that are best reserved for adults. Substituting virtual exercise for real exercise seems like one of them to me.

But what do I know? I don't have kids. Plus I've lived in California most of my life, where outside temperatures and inside temperatures are remarkably similar. What do you guys think about kids getting their exercise via videogames?