Sunday, April 27, 2014

Loop de Loop

Having just officially registered for the Flying Pig 5K yesterday, I was eager to get back to the River and stalk the path of "the Pig"!  A week before what is the Super Bowl of Tri-State running, I wanted to see if my training at Five Seasons had put me within range of completing my goal of 3.11 miles in under 50 minutes. 

So it was back to Newport on the Levee--the Rock of the Ohio River, with its picturesque vantage point of the Cincinnati skyline--as the starting line of a 3.9 mile loop both sides of the river.  With my mentor, "Ol' Giant Strides" Joseph Pinnell--a true go-getter who had just ran the loop before meeting me--we set off across the Purple People Bridge, half closed and full of workers, already preparing for the Flying Pig, hanging sponsors banners on the bridge's trusses. 
Segway Tour Photo-bombers
Descending from the bridge deck, we speed walked into a Yeatman's Cove Park bustling with activity and even now filled with Pig booth tents.  It happened to be the Cincinnati Walk MS, a very well turned out event for a most deserving cause. But with the throngs of the charitably fit ambling along on a cool, spring day, we experienced some seriously slow bunching--the bane of the personal record seeker.  Like Peyton Manning calling an audible, Joseph lead me across the lawn, and it was clear walking on an empty path.

Leaving Yeatman's Cove, we walked west on Mehring Way, plowing through the Walk MS parade and passing U.S. Bank Arena and Great American Ballpark.  Between the Reds' home field and Paul Brown Stadium is the Smale Riverfront Park, a green space under construction that promises to join the row of Cincinnati's beautiful riverfront parks.  Around Elm and then Freedom Way, we crossed the river on the historic John A. Roebling Suspension Bridge.  Completed in 1866, it was engineer Roebling's precursor to the Brooklyn Bridge.

Wright on the Roebling

Back in Kentucky we walked along the riverfront in Covington's millionaire row: Stately older houses, with a perfect view of the river and Cincinnati.  Along the way there were bronze statues--Roebling showing off his bridge; an African American man reading a book on a bench; and John James Audubon sketching one of his famous birds--and historic plaques commemorating Civil War events: items one would never see unless one walked along the river side.   
 You call that a bird?  Audobon's best effort...
We wound our way through the a corner of Covington and crossed a bridge over Licking River--which was hosting a rowing competition--making our way back to Newport, and entering General James Taylor Park.  The paved path follows high atop the narrow spine of a berm which, looking around, gave me the feeling that I was walking on air.  This coupled with the realization that I was under my goal time splits and seeing the Rock in the short distance, I was enlivened and felt like a million bucks. 

'Goal accomplished!'  I thought.  'Can't walk much faster, let me try a run!'  I asked Joseph to set a ten-minute mile pace--which would meet my goal of besting my personal record mile of 11:11--and we began what to me felt like a sprint.  'Keep going, keeping going!'  I urged myself.  After what felt like an hour, but was at best a minute, I return to my walk.  Only ten of those in a row and I'll have done it!  Oh boy!!  Something to work up to!!! 

Returning to the Levee having indeed met my goal time was most reassuring.  With a whole week before the big race I just have to continue eating healthy and not try any new joint wrenching exercises.  I wish the Pig was tomorrow!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Eating on Easter

For the first time in my decade long struggle against weight, I was able to eat a sensible meal with my extended family!  I did this by being honest with myself and my family.  No more denying that I have an eating problem; not addressing my concerns with my weight and relying on the go-along to get-along, good tact of loved ones not to confront an obvious issue; or retreating into a mask of flattened affect, in which I neither offered conversation nor was a good listener--This all proved fruitless, ensured no lifelong reforms, and made me a crap member of the family.

No, this change came through open honesty with others.  It was made easier by being able to boast about what I had won in the contest ("Two hours every week, with my own trainer..."), and being hemmed in by the expectations that come within this journey: to continue to eat, if not perfect, good enough to continue the momentum towards my goal.  So every family member knew what I was doing in life at this time, knew why I was eating the way I was, and, surprise- surprise!, they were overwhelmingly supportive of my efforts.

For the meal itself I decided that I was going to bring sushi to dinner.  Rich Easter casseroles, made with butters, creams, mayonnaise, and cheeses, while on the buffet, were off my plate.  I've never been a big fan of pork, loved me an adorable piglet far before I read the poignant "Charlotte's Web", and resemble Churchill's quote about our pink friends: "I am fond of pigs. Dogs look up to us. Cats look down on us. Pigs treat us as equals."  Knowing that ham is a good source of lean protein and choosing to avoid it might make me more dietarily idiosyncratic than a vegetarian but, what can I tell you, I'm eccentric!

Making Easter less about the meal and more about the holiday allowed me to enjoy my family more, eat healthy, and continue unabated on my journey to Healthfullness.

Roadblock avoided!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Getting Into the Spring Swing of Things

The coming of spring makes a world of difference: sunlight is of better quality; lush greens are restored to the landscape; and chirping birds have returned from wintering, heralding Winter's retreat to all of Nature's animals.  The humble animal I am, takes all this fresh stimulus in and loves it.  In addition to my efforts at Five Seasons--foundationally paramount they truly are--I have started walking in the great, Great, GREAT outdoors!, and I can see that it is helping in my journey to better fitness.

Sunday morning I went for a walk along the Ohio River.  Parking at Newport on the Levee and crossing the Purple People Bridge, I made a loop of the connected walking paths that comprise, from east to west, the Berry International Friendship, Sawyer Point, and Yeatman's Cove Parks.  The distinctions of borders matter little, as the whole strip of parks are, in their own ways, beautiful, with public artworks (my favorite being the larger-than-life bronze statue of Cincinnatus) and well maintained grounds throughout.  Not to mention the grand river vista that dominates one of your viewing sides!

It was a great walk of just over four mile, and closely felt like the distance of a 5K.  I am pleased that my body responded well to the exercise, and my mind too enjoyed the opportunity to wander, in a sort of active meditation.  As fate always places it, the greatest obstacle was near the finish: getting back up the ramp--probably a good hill but, after an hour of exercise, feeling like a mountain--leading to the Purple People Bridge.  But, as I slipped into a sort of low gear and slowed down, it was clear that a future goal would be making it up this hill as quickly and efficiently as I dispatched the four miles behind me. 

As I surmounted the hill, I was immediately given my reward: a breath-taking view from atop the Ohio River, a little more confidence from completing something new, 950 burned calories deposited in the weight-loss bank, and a great, ebullient energy that only comes with exercise.  Enough spoils to fill any day, enough accomplished to pack it in, all this by 11am!

P.S.  As I was trudging up towards the bridge's deck, thinking solely about staying upright and moving forward, a fellow fitness traveler from Five Seasons recognized me!  It's nice to have left an impression during this journey, and cool to see how small the world is when you go walking around it!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Pigcasso in Training

When I set out this year to lead a healthier lifestyle with the help of Five Seasons Family Sports Club, I had no idea how many amazing doors it would open for me.  Before, I just thought that I had a lot of ‘work’ ahead of me; long hours at the club, gains made by copious amounts of pain, and no fun.  It didn't take long before I realized that that this journey is the total opposite: It is all about fun!  I enjoy going to the club, seeing new friends and receiving encouragement from total strangers.  Now that the weather has warmed, I’m enjoying getting out with newfound confidence, and taking an active part in life.

"Pigcasso in Training"

 I completed my first 5K at the Heart Mini Marathon in March.  I set a goal of an hour, and crossed the finish line in 53 minutes!  It was an unbelievable feeling, and now I’m addicted.  My next goal is to walk the 5K at the Flying Pig Marathon in under 50 minutes.  I went online to the Flying Pig Store ( to get a "Pigcasso in Training" shirt (what fun!) to help motivate me.  I can’t wait for the race in May.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

How Do I Love Thee, Laurie? Let Me Count the Ways...

I believe myself to be exceptionally lucky to have two full hours each week, one-on-one, with Laurie Lefton.  Twice a week, I come to the club to see Laurie helping a handful of people in a group session (Laurie's ability is such that she can simultaneously help a handful people with a rotating attention), right before my hour; but like a selfish child demanding the attention of mother, I get Laurie all to myself! 
The Project in Progress and The Picture of Perfection
Laurie possesses that wonderful feminine energy that is quintessentially  motherly.  She's supportive and caring,  and nurtures while teaching.  And, as a mother would a child, Laurie has taught me how to breathe with exercise (Exhale on exertion!  In' through the nose, ex' through the mouth, like a cycle!), and the proper way of walking (Heel to toe, heel to toe, a stride that keeps the stress off the joints!).

Laurie is my guide in the gym.  As we make our circuits around the floor, it's striking how individuals--fit, brawny men all--defer to her.  As she tracks down a platform to support my lower back on the bench press, or a squishy ball between my knees to improve my form, it is apparent that everyone respects her greatly.   Where I used to be sore for days after just walking once around the neighborhood, I am astounded that I'm not doubled up in pain the day after a session with Laurie.  That's not to say that she's not working me hard: quite the opposite.  Many a day I have completely run out of ready energy and have got of bit of the "dropsies."  The first time this happened I was very scared, but Laurie, always watchful and seemingly always prepared, saw that I was hurting, diagnosed what was the matter, and peeled and segmented her orange that was shortly to return my blood sugar to a comfortable level.
Biggie Falls: Dropsies on a Swiss Ball.  Yes, I was afraid it was going to burst...
Laurie knows her science regarding the nature of the body's reactions whilst exercising, yet she has a real artistic adroitness in playing around with what works versus what doesn't.  I have specific dietary restrictions that pose a challenge in finding the right mixture of fuel and hydration; yet Laurie is always a step ahead of my thinking, suggesting foods that turn out to be on a fruitful path. 

Laurie has a knack for plating the perfect amount of weight for my point in progress.  I have sometimes sat in a machine, put up the first rep and thought, Kinda light, Laurie!  But Laurie then corrects my form--keeping my shoulders back, repositioning my feet, isolating all the effort off the joints and to the targeted muscle--and by the last rep I have a bit of a tremor in my action.  It never ceases to amaze me how much harder it becomes just by slowing down your motion.  Laurie dropped a bit of gym wisdom when she asked me, If you can't handle the weight at every point in the range of motion, are you really lifting that weight?  I may be being trained by a philosopher!  When I see the boor who repeatedly clangs the weight stack and violently shaking the cable crossover station, I know that Laurie would be appalled.

Laurie has a manifest expertise that quickly earned my complete trust that she will keep me safe.  If Laurie thinks I can do it, I am going to give it a try.  Laurie has a genuine earnestness and when I impress her--whether it be with good form and breathing, better than expected flexibility, or my personal record, duh duh du-duh! thirty-four second plank!--I know that she's pleased and happy for me, and I'm pleased and happy for me.

Laurie is so much more generous than the two hours billed.  I am in constant contact with her: I can email her, call her, and we exchange lots of text messages.  Laurie sends words of encouragement, follows up to see how my body reacted to a workout, and gives me advice on what and how to eat.  I can tell that Laurie goes to bed around 10:30 at night, because that's when her end of the conversation stalls.  But sure enough, early the next morning, Laurie gets back to me--no matter trivial, silly, or inherently "Google-able" my query is. 

If she has a free period on the days between our sessions, Laurie will do cardio right alongside of me, and this is great encouragement.  When a client canceled at the last minute, she has called me to see if I would like to get in some extra time, and I'm always on standby to get more time with Laurie!  If my schedule changes and I go to the club at a different time, I find myself walking around building looking for Laurie.  If she isn't there, she always seems interested in what I did and how I felt in post-workout text messages.  I love how Laurie ends almost every sentence with an exclamation point in these missives!  It perfectly matches her ebullient personality, and it is quite contagious!!!

Laurie exhibits an acutely sensitive antenna for emotions, even those I try very hard to suppress.  When I missed an independent day of working out, she could tell that I was depressed.  She can tell that I'm self-conscience about sound of my breathing and turns up the music to mask it.  She knows when I'm anxious, knows that I'm shy, and rather than letting me seem stuck-up by being aloof, she introduces me to a lot of people.  Laurie seems to know everyone's name and can tell you a little bit about their story.  One day there was an extremely cute co-ed working out around us, and I really wanted Laurie to break the ice for me.  I waited and waited, thinking, You introduce me to everyone, Laurie--her, her!  I finally asked if she would and Laurie said, I would have, but I thought it would make you nervous.  Yeah, I forcefully whispered, but I still wanna talk to a pretty girl!  And without missing a beat or taking it as a reproach, Laurie said, So-and-So, have you met Mark?  Quick on the draw and loved by all, that's Laurie Lefton!