‘Tis the season of gross indulgence – and oh, how I love it!
No – I mean O LORDY I feel guilty for eating that cookie… that pasta… that delicious, yeasty, yielding, substantial, magnificent, crusty, drool-inducing dinner roll.
All right. I mean I am TRYING to feel guilty about the dinner roll. Not having much success (in fact, plotting how I can score the last one in the basket before someone else does), but still trying. Still whispering “Zinc, zinc, zinc, don’t eat sugar, sugar will use up all my zinc” like a magical incantation. (It is as effective as whispering “wingardium leviosa,” if you must know, but I keep trying anyway.)
But the one good-health weapon I seem to be able to hold onto (at least so far) is my HEP – the Home Exercise Program. Last night, filled to the brim with pho (Vietnamese noodle soup – “noodle” being the carbohydrate no-no) and cup after cup of tea (in which I put no sugar, but caffeine drags hydration out of you and so is also a no-no for me) (Chip says – if you drink 8 ounces of something with caffeine, not only does that not count to your 100-ounce water goal per day; you also have to REPLACE it before you can continue to strive for the goal)
(Hang on – I need a new paragraph. Yes, in mid-thought. Deal. Here’s the water rule – do you remember? Take your weight – divide by two – that’s the number of ounces of water you need to drink every day. High limit is 100 ounces, so because I weigh 230, I need to drink 100 ounces. If I drink 8 ounces of tea (and when I drink tea, I drink a lot more than 8 ounces at a sitting), then I have to drink 108 ounces of water plus the tea… and since the max is 100, if I drink tea, then there’s no way I can reach my goal. Not for another 30 pounds or so.)
(Maybe I don’t weigh 230 any more. Barbara persuaded me to stop weighing myself obsessively, so I am free to imagine I weigh a breath-taking 229 – or fear I weigh a back-sliding 231. See why weighing myself is a bad idea??)
(Yes, this is a second parenthetical thought in the middle of the same sentence. Really messy, writing-wise. I shall begin the interrupted sentence again so you don’t get lost.)
Last night, filled to the brim with pho and tea, I still managed to roll out my yoga mat and slosh my way through my HEP. I figured – I’ll do it badly, but at least I’ll do it. And then, of course, I found I had the oomph left to do it more or less correctly after all.
Here’s my HEP. It takes me about half an hour, and I usually do it while Rachel Maddow is telling me about the Russia investigation; we suffer together:
On the foam roller, roller along the spine from head to tail:
- With eight-pound weights held overhead – left arm out and down to the side, balanced by right knee going out. Bring them back up and do the same on the opposite diagonal. Count of twenty (or ten on each side). Revel in the feeling of the obliques along the ribs gripping like anacondas.
- Overhead flies, again with the eight-pound weights. Arms overhead, wrists facing each other. Lower the weights down overhead as if trying to put them down, stiff-armed, on the floor behind my head. Back up again. When I began doing this, it was all about the lat muscles; now – months later – it’s all about trying to keep my ribs down and my shoulders away from my ears and my knees straight and tall, and I worry that I’m not using my lats even slightly. Count of ten.
- Set the weights aside and feel around for the latex band. (It might not be latex; the trainers at Body Dynamics call it a thera-band, I think, but it feels like latex.) Wrap it around my hands at about shoulder width. Arms overhead, then stretch the arms straight out and down to full wingspan. Theraband comes to the chest just over the boobage. Don’t let my wrists break – hold it straight. Then resist on the way back up. This exercise is oddly easy; it’s unlikely Barbara is taking it easy on me, so I’m probably doing it wrong.
- Set the theraband aside. Hands on the ribs, so nothing is on the ground but both feet – everything else is on the roller. March. Flex the foot and lift the left knee up. (Helpful to grip with the right butt; otherwise there’s a lot of wriggling that accompanies this movement.) Knee down; repeat on the right. Count of twenty (or ten per leg). Sometimes this is a breeze; sometimes this is like walking on a boat deck in high seas. It seems to have to do with how successful I am at pulling my ribs down toward the floor.
- Arm and knee flies again.
- Overhead flies again. Now put the weights away; stored neatly under the Rachel Maddow cabinet.
- Theraband flying again.
- Marches again. Set the foam roller aside.
- Lying on the mat, do ten bridges. These are so damned complicated – especially when you try to weave together the Barbara bridge with the Grace bridge. United, the exercise is this: Lie on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Hands on your ribs. Inhale while spreading the collar bones out wide. Exhale while pulling the lower shelf of the ribs down to the floor and then imagine an imaginary zipper pulling the muscles taut from the back of the neck down the spine and up through the crotch to the low abdomen, tilting the hips upward. Use the butt to raise the hips up high. Inhale. Just hang out there and inhale. Exhale and slowly lower your hips. If you have any control, you can do a vertebra-by-vertebra lowering – or if, like me, you aren’t flexy that way, you can lower while imagining your entire pelvic girdle is being pulled out as much as down toward your feet. On the way down, fold in one of the fingers you’ve left resting on your ribs. Repeat until all ten fingers are folded in.
- Lie on your side; pillow your head on your outstretched arm. You have to keep your hips perpendicular to the floor, which is extremely hard for me (I just can’t feel any difference when I tip forward or back a bit), so you have to watch that your knees, bent like you’re sitting in a chair, are in line with each other. If the upper knee is a bit ahead of the lower knee, you’re tipped forward. I’m never tipped forward; I’m usually tipped backwards. Now that you’re aligned, keep your feet together and raise the top knee, like a clam opening. When you lower your knee, check the alignment again; you tipped backwards, didn’t you? Fight it. If you do, then you’ll begin working a muscle deep under your butt that will almost immediately begin to protest. That’s how you know it’s working. Do 15, because at least five of your clams were out of alignment. Flip over; do the other side.
- Modified dead bug. Lie on your back with your legs bent so your shins are parallel to the ceiling. The trainers call this ninety-ninety because there’s 90 degrees between your back and your thighs, and 90 degrees between your thighs and your shins. A very uncomfortable position. Flex your feet. Lower one foot to the ground and come back up. Don’t let your back come up; keep your ribs down. Ten times per side. (If I was strong enough for a regular dead bug, I’d be alternating my arms overhead at the same time – right heel touches down as left wrist hits the floor behind me – but I’m not; I do this just feet for now.)
- Sit straight-legged against the edge of the bed; a little room between your butt and the bed – so, not rigidly upright. Raise your right leg upward and lower it. Do the same with the left leg; for me, I do the left leg as pigeon-toed as possible because I have a muscle (the adductor magnus) in my left thigh that shrieks when I do this, and pigeon-toed makes it barely possible.
- Time to stand up! Or rather, sit down. Or stand up. Or sit down. Do ten “sit to stands,” making sure the shins don’t rock forward and the knees stay together. (My instinct is to sit down by flaring my knees out like – well, like a clam! – and rocking my knees over my shoes, so sitting down in the Barbara way is hard. Nothing as hard as standing back up, of course!) Do ten, making sure to stand ALL the way back up between each. (I’m prone to not quite getting my thighs under me at the end of each stand-up; it’s easier to do it my way, but not better!)
- Get that theraband. I’m supposed to put a book or a towel under each arm but I don’t, which means I’m cheating. Hold the theraband, palms up, in front of you at waist height; wrap your hands in it so you can get a good grip. Now, swinging your arms outward from the shoulder, move your hands out to the sides in a sort of “Please – join me at the feast” gesture. Don’t let your wrists break; hands have to stay straight. Arms back to the front. Do this ten times. If I had something under my elbows, it would fall if I didn’t keep my arms close to my sides, which is how I’d know I wasn’t do it right – which I don’t because I don’t. The goal is to use the shoulder sockets for this move, not any flexibility in the elbows. This is a Grace exercise; I love it because it isn’t hard the way I do it!
- Ten more sit-down-stand-ups.
- Set up the timer on the phone. Stand straight, feet together. Lift up one foot and start the timer. Stand on one foot for 60 seconds. Switch to the other foot for another 60 seconds. The more you can grip with your abdomen and butt, the steadier you will be.
- Back to the yoga mat. Lie down, this time with the foam roller going from side to side under your shoulder blades. Hands behind your head; lie there for five deep, slow breaths and envision those frozen thorax vertebrae giving up and letting go. Then rock one elbow down and turn your torso to one side; the knees can come, too, so you’re lying on your side on the foam roller. Slow. Enjoy the agony. Go back to the other side. Do five full rolls across the roller, and then five more breaths lying flat. Five more rolls to the side. Put the foam roller away; roll up the yoga mat and stash it.
- Gwynn the therapeutic masseuse’s addition: Stand with your butt against the wall and your feet about six inches away. Slowly roll down until your head is somewhere around your knees. Lean against the wall. Hang there for 60 seconds. That’s enough time for your thigh muscles to begin to stretch; once they do, you can feel your back stretching slowly and creakily. Roll back up. Take a deep breath. Do it once more; roll down and hang out for 60 seconds.
There. Done! Now when I wake up and stretch in the morning, I feel like an anaconda, rippling with muscles. Let a goat wander past and just watch how I can constrict it into dinner! (Ew. That got gross, didn’t it?!)
This post is too damned long. So is my HEP. And I will keep going with it – which you seem to have done with the post. Good on us! Hep-hep-hep-hep.
That’s a purple yoga mat, a black foam roller, and a small, sleeping cat. There is no dust on any of these items.