May 31, 2012

On Taking a Fitness Break

So have you ever taken a break from your normal workout routine?

Generally, the secret to lifelong fitness is consistency. Learning how to coax yourself out of a seductive state of physical relaxation into a sweaty panting frenzy of uncomfortable exertion? That's crucial, and it takes practice, will-power, and even courage. In my opinion, an almost-daily practice of vigorous exercise is the profoundly annoying key to staying fit for life.

And yet, sometimes there are very good reasons to let things slide for a bit. These include:

1. Major Illness
2. Debilitating Injury
3. Natural Disasters
4. Overwhelming and All-Consuming Life Events
5. Discovering You Just Don't F--cking Feel Like Exercising For A Few Days

Anyone care to guess why I skipped my normal cardio, stretching, weight training, HIIT, and balance exercises for nearly a week?

Well, my inactivity resulted from a combination of factors, many of which were obstacles I could have easily overcome had I been feeling sufficiently motivated. But I wasn't, so I succumbed to the bad case of dontgiveafuckitis and put everything off except lovely long walks by the seashore for many days in a row. Note: this was after our road trip, which presented a much higher degree of difficulty in working out, yet I managed to stay on track just fine.

Now I'm back to the sweaty stuff, hooray!  But it occurred to me that over the years, I've had to learn almost as much about how to NOT exercise as how to exercise.

Involuntary breaks due to Illness or Injury

These are a whole different animal from voluntary breaks and are so freakin' frustrating!  Perhaps the subject of another post, which I've no doubt written before, given my hysterectomy, broken arm, etc.   Fortunately at my age I can't remember when or where I wrote about them, so will probably write it the same things all over again later--be forewarned.

But to summarize: HEALING IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!  Don't sacrifice long term health by doing dumbass things to lessen short-term, misplaced guilt.  Figure out what you can do safely and then treat the whole Patience and Acceptance thing as a good personal development lesson that will serve you well as you approach your wheelchair-and-Depends years.  (The sad truth: you will either (a) die in the prime of life or (b) need to learn to cope with a body that hurts and won't do what you want it to anymore.  Yet some people manage this with grace and good humor. When your turn comes, will you have cultivated the flexible mental strategies to be one of them?)

Also, keep in mind that if you keep fixating on what you can't do rather than what you can, you will become a tiresome querulous bitchbucket and a huge pain in the ass to be around. Trust me, I speak from experience.

But what if you're not working out because you just don't feel like it?

Tips for Weathering a Voluntary Period of Not Working Out:

1.  Evaluate the Consequences

Are you someone who often takes breaks and has a hard time coming back? Is this "temporary" break likely to derail you and set you on the path to slothful simmering self-hatred?

Then get off your ass and get back to it! This is not the self-help tip list you should be reading.

But go easy on yourself and set the bar low.  Fitness perfectionism may be part of your problem.  Or perhaps you need to put some energy into re-motivating yourself to work out.

On the other hand, are you someone who has been exercising consistently for ages, who always gets back into it when life interrupts, and who has natural cycles that includes periods of demotivation?  Then by all means, drop the guilt and nagging and enjoy a little time off!  Most likely your sudden inertia is telling you that you need to mix it up a bit.  You could use the exercise time to be good to yourself and body in a different way--catch up with friends, sleep more, enjoy some contemplative solitude, play, create, enjoy, relax... there are tons of other endeavors besides physical torture exertion that your body and mind might thank you for later.

2.  Drop the Stuff That Sounds Icky But Keep Moving at Least a Little

If you go on some nice easy walks, stretch a bit, dance, whatever sounds fun, you can reframe "lazy slacking" as "active recovery." Doesn't that sound way more impressive?  Plus you'll sleep better and feel more like yourself and not like you've been possessed by the Pillsbury Doughboy.

3. Be Wary of Fitness Magazines Until You're Ready to Get Back Into It.

I love reading fitness magazines, even the awful ones.  And I had two issues of Experience Life waiting for me when I got home, which is the only one I subscribe to that is not awful.  It's one of the few that actually focuses on health and fitness, rather than wasting countless pages extolling miracle weight loss tips and advice on hair, makeup, fashion and other superficial girly stuff.  (Note: at one point my subscription to Experience Life was comped, and I can't remember if I renewed myself or if it still is free, but I'd totally pay for a subscription. In fact, I have no idea why I felt the sudden need while writing this post to be all gushing and grateful... probably it has to do with the pile of other health & fitness titles sitting there on the nightstand with the same old annoying crap in them. But if you guys know of any other good health & fitness magazines you love, please let me know in the comments!)

But anyway, when you are not working out hard, even for a few days, it is weirdly painful to read your favorite fitness magazine or visit fitness blogs and websites!  Motivational advice and inspirational hints when you are trying to honor and respect your demotivation can feed the voracious guilt monsters. Much more fun to save your sources of fitness inspiration for right before you get back off your ass and you're psyched to implement any new suggestions you come across.

4. Figure Out What You're Avoiding

Perhaps the most helpful thing you can do if you feel like taking a break is to take a few minutes--or even just a few seconds--and figure out what exactly sounds the most loathsome about your current routine.  And then a few more seconds to see if there are any alternatives, tweaks, or inspirational ideas that you could dream up to make it less obnoxious.  And then, if you really want to chase any lingering guilt monsters away, do some preliminary preparation to make reentry more fun: download some new songs, find a new phone app, order a new exercise toy, or go back to that fitness magazine with an open mind and a craft a plan to actually do some of the stuff in there.   Give yourself something to look forward to when you get back into it.

Anyone else ever take a fitness break, whether voluntary or involuntary?  Any thoughts, complaints, or tips?

May 29, 2012

Whining: New and Improved!

It wouldn’t be Cranky Fitness without whining, would it?

Five bucks? TOTALLY worth it!

Yet in my recent personal development quest (goal: transform from worrywart crankbucket into radiant beaming flower child filled with love and joy and all that crap) I’ve been trying to think a bit more positively.

Here's the dilemma: how can I work towards more joy and optimism in life while still indulging in a favorite habit (bitching), so that I still get to savor a little self-righteous indignation every now and then?

Well, I learned a handy trick from one of my many self-improvement books! (And no, not The Power of Going on Oprah Now; this is a bit too unenlightened and thinky for our pal Eckhard Tolle).

This tip is easy-peasy.  So care to watch Crabby use Whining 2.0 to handle any negativity surrounding the mostly awesome cross-country trek she just finished taking with her spouse and favorite traveling companion, the Lobster?

The Trick to "Positive" Whining:

This is one you probably already know, but just pretend along with me that it's a new idea, okay?

First go ahead and try to take a negative or ambiguous situation and reframe it as a positive one. (Oh goody! This 40 mile traffic jam will give me a great chance to catch up on 7 months of missed kegels!)

But if your inner bullshitometer goes off the charts and you realize you are SO not buying it, consider the next best alternative:

Go ahead and bitch, but be sure to end with a shiny positive thing. (You can always find something).

For example, instead of:

"We're staying at a hotel because our plumbing system backed up and our our house is full of raw sewage and we're totally devastated and who knows when we'll ever get our lives back..."


"Our plumbing system backed up and our house is filled with raw sewage, can you f--cking believe it?  But we're staying at a hotel and now we don't have to wash our sheets or vacuum or empty the trash or scrub the bathroom because the cleaning people do it all!"

Or, instead of:

"It was a great graduation party until uncle Bernie got drunk and barfed in the punchbowl."


 "Well, Bernie got drunk and barfed in the punchbowl, but it was a great graduation party!"

See the difference? Since our brains are so clueless, we tend to remember the last thing we told ourselves and feel more upbeat about the exact same situation.

As it happens, I don't need to do any fancy reverse-bitching technique to convince myself that we had an awesome time driving crosscountry in Fran the Van.   But there are always a few little nitpicks, right?


"Hey Planet Fitness in Elyria Ohio that charged us 20 f--cking dollars each for day passes (the cost of two months of membership) and then only had those sucky Life Fitness elliptical machines and not one of my beloved Precors and also had no soap in the showers... nice job on the bright colors!!!

Um, "no critics?"  Good luck with that.

(On the other hand, kudos to the Bozeman Montana Gold's gym which was luxuriously well-equipped, had reasonably priced day passes, and was stocked full of the most buffed fitness freaks I've ever run across, many of whom were actually friendly. And how cute is Bozeman?!?)

Or another example: too bad my crappy photography skills meant I missed pictures of a fox, a moose, a buffalo, a ton of beautiful birds, and even the bizarre appearance of a mink crossing a busy urban street in Seattle...but hooray, I caught one of the nineteen million prairie dogs in Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota!

And yes, it was standing up in a much more adorable pose until I got the camera out.

OK, so now I'm having to stretch a bit as there weren't a lot of legitimate whining opportunities to exploit...

Too bad about that state campground outside of Coueur D'Alene that was supposed to be open wasn't, damnit! But instead we ended up staying right on a river in a different campground in which we were the only campers there and had a lovely time.

The Lobster and Fran the Van down by the riverside.

And now I have to abandon all pretense of feeling the least bit cranky about our trip. We had lovely weather the whole way and loads of fun. Some random pictures follow which should really be posted on my personal Facebook page instead of here, but every time I try they end up upside down or something. I have some sort of weird Facebook Incompetency Syndrome for which there is apparently no cure... um, but think of all the time I save not posting there!

Toodling around in Seattle...

I'm the brawn, she's the brains--works out perfectly.

We saw lots of cute old mining towns, which we were too lazy to try to photograph, but the Lobster couldn't resist this sign:

And blah blah blah more frolicking along the way...

Until we arrived in Provincetown Massachusetts with tons of dirty laundry, boxes to unpack, stacks of mail to sort, accumulated dust and leaves and weeds to clear out, furniture to haul from the basement and shed, overflowing email boxes and other miscellaneous items that needed attention...

This lovely specimen had a grand old time in the back of our cupboard while we were gone.

...but it's GREAT to be back!!!

Missed you guys, since obviously my efforts to stay in touch with the online world were a total FAIL. But can't wait to get caught up with what you've all been up to!

Any thoughts on reverse-whining, or interesting stuff that happened while I was gone, or just wanna say hi?

Whining sign photo credit: Russell Reno
Planet Fitness shot stolen from the Planet Fitness people, please don't sue me!

May 14, 2012

Road Trip Report and Les Mills Pump Giveaway Winner!

Yes, we have a giveaway winner! But just to be annoying, how about I announce who won the Les Mills Pump DVD giveaway  at the very very bottom of the post, after a bunch of tedious paragraphs about our road trip, the history and implications of our migratory habits, trip pictures, and other stuff you really didn't care to know?

Ahem.... WAKE UP!

There, that’s better. Now go grab a cup of coffee before you proceed to scroll right down to the bottom past all the miscellaneous rambling to see if you won the giveaway.

So it's true we haven't event started east yet, just north, but here are:

Four Road Trip Discoveries So Far:

1. The whole saying goodbye thing sucks.

Regular readers know that the Lobster (beloved spouse) and I have a freakish bicoastal lifestyle in which twice a year, we pack up a bunch of our crap and migrate to the opposite coast.

Sort of like this, but with more chocolate.

We both hail from the San Francisco Bay Area, which we love, but we also fell under the spell of Provincetown Massachusetts, which is an amazing place to live… for about six months of the year.

Not this six months.

Our love for Provincetown led us to sell our bay area house and spend half the year on the east coast. But saying goodbye to family and friends is hard! Each time, we'd leave half our hearts behind.  Though it makes for lousy song lyrics, don’t you think? “I left half my heart… in San Francisco.” Nope, doesn't have quite the same ring.

Then to further complicate things, we found ourselves seduced by Hillcrest, a cute little  neighborhood in San Diego that was more affordable than the bay area yet still driveable to see our families. After two winters in Hillcrest, we now have a found some great pals whom we will miss greatly until we return in the fall.

The bottom line (sheesh, willya get to the point, Crabby?): Our biannual migrations allow us to see people we care about whom we haven't seen in a while. Hooray! But alas, multiple “homes” means we have to say goodbye to people we’d rather kidnap and stash in the back of the van if we had enough valium and duct tape and any chance of getting away with it.

2. ButtAerobics!

I’ve blogged before on road trips about using rest stops as an opportunity for calisthenics, (which looks and feels even weirder than it sounds so I simply pretend I’m invisible), as well as taking along suspension trainers and improvising exercises on trails by lifting enormous boulders.

The downside? These methods all involve leaving the vehicle! What about all those hours speeding down the highway where stepping out the door at 70mph isn’t quite practical?

Introducing: ButtAerobics! Put on some bouncy music, and get your freak on while driving with chair wiggling and head bobbing and sporadic awkward fist-pumping. If you're the passenger person, you can add stretchy band exercises, knee lifts, and seat-reclined hip thrusters! (And please do this last one while passing bored truckers if you want to feel like a total asshole).

3. I am totally pathetic when it comes to blogging on the road.

The sad thing is that I've actually been trying! What did me in was that I started the book The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. (I had no choice after FOUR different people recommended it to me in the space of a month. Which would make sense if it were a hot new trendy best-seller, but the book came out way back in 1997 when poor Eckhart was probably writing by candle light with a quill pen.)

Anyway, my error was in trying to write a blog post with actual content while traveling.

Did I admit defeat? Yes ! But sadly, not soon enough. I spent countless hours composing, writing, adding, deleting, rewriting, abandoning, and starting over. And each time I'd end up with the textual equivalent of:

And ironically, what was the title of the post that I spent so much time over-thinking that I became a babbling incoherent puddle of frustration incapable of stringing two words together? It was: "Is Thinking Bad?"


(Apparently, Eckhart thinks we should spend a whole hell of a lot less time thinking, live exclusively in the present and spend more quality time sitting on park benches feeling blissed out. It's a fascinating read but a STUPID IDIOTIC CRAPPY CHOICE for a blog post on the road.)

4. The Pacific Northwest Rocks!

True, we hit the timing just right: the weather was sunny and pleasant, yet it was pre-summer enough that everything was mellow and friendly and uncrowded and flowers were blooming everywhere and it was green and gorgeous.

Is Ashland Oregon not a totally adorable town? We didn't see any plays as it was just a lunch stop, but it had an awesome park on a river to stroll through, cute shops and restaurants, a food co-op with amazing healthy lunch offerings, and happy looking people of all ages running around looking intelligent and outdoorsy and creative and friendly. Or perhaps Ashland itself is secretly one big play with a utopian theme, and all those those cool townsfolk were just paid extras?  Either way, it was a great show and we felt like applauding at the end when we hit the road again.

The Lobster in The Nice Park In Ashland
 With the Name I of Course Can't Remember

And Silver Falls State park?

Holy Crap it was purdy!

And now let's rejoin the folks who skipped straight down to the bottom to reveal that...

The Les Mills Pump DVD workout set winner is...


Congratulations, Kim, and please email crabby mcslacker at gmail dot com and let me know your mailing address by May 24th!

And thanks everyone for stopping by, wish y'all were here hanging with us!

So how is everyone doing?  Anyone else find their brain melts on road trips?  Any random thoughts about anything?

May 03, 2012

Getaway Giveaway: Les Mills PUMP!

What's the "getaway" bit?"

Well, it's time for another cross-country schlep! Crabby and the Lobster will be taking off for 3 weeks or so in Fran the Van, to make their way from San Diego CA, to Provincetown MA for the summer... via Seattle.

Wait, via Seattle?  WTF?  Is there a longer route one could take to traverse this ginormous nation of ours?  Well, perhaps not. But screw it, we have friends in Seattle.

As usual, blog posting will be a bit sparse while I'm on the road, but I thought I'd leave you with a pretty awesome giveaway: a big-ass set of Les Mills PUMP exercise DVD's, complete with a barbell set so you can replicate the world-famous gym class in the comfort (or discomfort, who's to say?) of your very own home.

And hey, notice the generous way that I give my reviewer side-kick, Sinner Ella De'Ville, the can of peanuts to give away, while I hogged the glory of the $200ish Les Mills Pump workout program? I'm generous like that!

Oh and speaking of which, Sinner put the Random Number Generator through its paces, and the Virginia Cocktail Peanuts were won by: StarvingBitch!  Please email Sinner or me with your mailing address and flavor preference and we'll have 'em sent to you.  And I also wanted to alert all of you that Sinner has a new post at her blog outlining a Miracle Cure to Lose Weight, so be sure to check it out!)

Now just what make the Les Mills Pump workout such a nifty prize?

Well, for one, it comes with an impressive crapload of stuff.

Note: due to my inability to snag the image properly, you might think the package includes social media widgets, a laptop, and three deliriously happy fitness slaves to assist you in sculpting your own chiseled physique, but I'm pretty sure those cost extra.

According to the Beachbody folks (who are the clever marketing geniuses behind P90X, INSANITY, Turbo Fire and RevAbs), this Les Mills PUMP thing "relies on high reps at low weight to help users achieve lean muscles and improved strength… and allows users to burn up to 1,000 calories per workout all while staying in-tune with music that is perfectly timed to each move."

Pretty cool, no?  And if you go to the Les Mills Pump website, you can see that it comes with a bunch of different workouts, like "basics," "challenge," "pump and burn," "pump and shred," "revolution," "extreme," "flow," and "hard core abs."

But a closer look reveals even more options!  For instance, they have one designed to make you Super Tall and Scary...

As well as one that will render you Brightly Colored and Insanely Cheerful!

Sadly, you need a U.S. mailing address to win, sorry about that.

To enter, leave a comment below, and at some point on our journey I'll announce a winner and give you about a  week to get back to me with a mailing address. So don't forget to check in occasionally to see if you won.

Comments can be about anything, but if you've got any travel-related thoughts, advice, horror stories, or whatever, that might be inspirational!

While internet may be a challenge on the trip, I'll be reading comments along the way, and hope to be posting as well, whether or not I have anything interesting to say.  Lack of a sensible topic has never stopped me from blathering on before.

Adios for now and good luck on the giveaway!