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No cheese on the gym floor

I went to my first spin class yesterday.* It was one part exhilaration mixed with 37 parts nauseating exhaustion. I started off strong, feeling fan-freaken-tastic, cycling like a pro.** Then four minutes and 38 seconds in (there was a digital clock on the wall that was impossible to ignore) I remembered I am not in fact a pro. I am the furthest thing from it. Whenever I’m in a high-energy group setting I get pumped up along with everyone else and forget that I have the cardiovascular ability of a sloth. Also, apparently it’s not wise to shove a cheese string into your mouth while on the way to the gym.

Duly noted.

Well I hit my wall, hard and fast. There was a good 10 minutes when I actually though I might throw up. And because I wanted to be able to show my face in the gym again, I eased waaaayyyy off. I swallowed my pride and actually sat down on my bike seat while all the fit people around me sweated through their warm-up. Yes, WARM-UP.

Speaking of sweat, I wish I could. I’m like a pressure cooker when I exercise. I don’t sweat, I just turn bright red as all the heat in my body tries to escape through my head. So while  I started hearing steam whistles going off in my ears, I enviously stared at the healthy beads of sweat forming on the seriously fit woman in front of me. The woman next to her had the nerve to actually wrap a towel around her lower back to catch all her buckets of sweat. Show off.

Cardiovascular exercise has never been my thing. I’m not sure if I am terrible at it because I hate it, or if I hate it because I’m terrible at it. All I know is that my heart beating madly while I pant and struggle to force all the oxygen I possibly can into my lungs always feels completely unnatural and highly unsustainable. It is a state I want to get out of as fast as possible. Muscle exertion on the other hand I find pretty enjoyable and I have legs strong enough to crush cafeteria trays to prove it (Scrubs reference…. anyone?).

I did have to admit though that I have gotten a bit out of shape, even for cardiovascularly-challenged me. For a long time I’ve been able to sustain the illusion that I’m in decent shape. A few years ago I managed to get a good gym routine going and actually did get in shape (not in small part due to the fact that the gym I went to had a TV on every cardio machine and I timed my workouts with Sex and the City re-runs). After moving further away from my gym, my visits dropped off but I replaced them with other things like swimming and then later walking the dog. Lower intensity, but I felt like I had conquered this whole “active lifestyle” thing.

Then along the way I lost my swimming buddy (she just moved, she didn’t actually go missing) and “walking” my dog turned mostly into clipping her leash off at the park and watching her play. But because I regularly left the house in running shoes and own a sizable collection of Lululemon workout clothing, I had my brain believing I was active. The illusion was further sustained by my weight staying practically the same  – the muscle was just quietly turning into flab.

Well last week, I finally upgraded my gym membership so I can use the gym that is two blocks from my office. And I’ll have you know I made it through that spin class without losing any of the contents of my stomach thankyouverymuch, even if it did mean my bike’s resistance was set at barely past “moves with its own momentum.”

I might even try it again sometime. But probably not this week.

*OK, not strictly my first, I did one about 3 years ago, but I think I have since earned back my spin-class virginity.
**In fact, like one of the pros I was staring at on the projector screen, which was showing footage from Tour de France. Is this a thing in spin classes? Or just in my show-offy downtown gym?


Office evolution

My office situation is a bit strange due to my bizarre work arrangement and I usually avoid interacting with people as much as I can, however, one of the perks I do really enjoy is the yoga classes they offer. A local yoga company in Vancouver got smart and started offering lunch-time yoga classes at office buildings in the city. They are very reasonably priced and you can’t beat the convenience of just going down one floor to fit a weekly hour of yoga into an otherwise drab office existence.

Approximate representation of my office yoga class

I’ve done yoga on and off for several years and am coming out of a rather long ‘off’ stretch. I decided to start again in search of relief for my nearly constant headaches, which most recently I’m blaming on tension in my neck and shoulders.

I’ve had these chronic headaches since I was 10 years old, with a few years break here and there. They vary in intensity from slightly annoying to I-want-to-drill-my-brain-out-and-throw-it-against-a-wall and usually arrive in several week or sometimes several month-long stretches.

For many years I blamed my sinuses but after the evidence was finally collected, it appears they were wrongly accused. Well at least I helped some poor starving pharmaceutical companies sell their sinus medications for a few years. With that suspect eliminated, the best the doctors can tell me is that it’s probably migraines, perhaps being tweaked by my chronically tense shoulders and neck.

The last few months I’ve been getting massage therapy and going to yoga and so far so good; my headaches have been few and far between. I’m very aware that this might be a coincidence and the headaches might come back full force any time – but I’m enjoying the treatment so I’m sticking with it.

Headaches or not, an hour of stretching in the middle of the workday is the most brilliant idea. I try to sit properly – at the beginning of the day I push my shoulders back and align my neck all proper-like with the screen – but it only takes one annoying email or one problematic error in my code to  turn me into a pretzel. I might be hunched over with my leg curled underneath me or my personal favourite, my legs stretched out in front of me as far as they’ll go, taking my whole body with them until I’m practically under my desk entirely.

It’s not pretty.

On Mondays when I go to yoga, I can feel all my muscles waking up and breathing a giant sigh of relief when I stretch them out. I always feel half a foot taller when I walk out and am more motivated and clear-headed for the rest of the day.

I seriously think it needs to be standard practice to build in physical activity into the office environment.

Recently a friend who works in health promotion was telling me how detrimental sitting for long periods is to our health, regardless of how much physical activity we do otherwise. I guess we really are asking a lot of our bodies to adjust to the pace of a sloth within the span of a couple of generations. Apparently in their office they often have ‘walking meetings’: for small groups (say two or three people), you walk as you talk. Makes perfect sense. I think there are many solutions like this in easy reach – if only we could just lift our asses off our comfy chairs long enough to grab them.

Though according to Wikipedia, apparently sloths only need to ‘go to the ground to urinate and defecate about once a week,’ which I gotta admit sounds kinda convenient. I wish evolution worked faster.

Approximate representation of me at work