Re-Post: Inspiration at the Pool

While I’m traveling this week, I’ll be re-posting some of my past work from our now dormant blogs (Diminishing Returns and Tag Team Tech).

Unless you are a regular member at the R.C. Durr YMCA, you probably don’t know that it is a designated training and testing site for the Navy SEALs. SEALs, which is short for Sea, Air, and Land Teams, are the Navy’s main special operations force. As you can see from the video on this web site, the training is rigorous and demanding.

Almost every day that we’re working out in the pool, we can see the SEAL wannabes being put through their paces by their military fitness trainer, a petite blonde woman with a pony tail. She is amazing to watch in action. One day, she’ll make them swim the length of the pool and then jump out to do about 50 or so sit-ups. Then, it’s back into the pool to swim back to the other end and then 50 or so push-ups, sometimes with lying on top of them to add more weight to their efforts. Today, she had two of them carrying what seemed to be heavily weighted bags. They had to run with them across their shoulders or do deep lunges down the hall way. Tom saw them on the way and mentioned that they didn’t look very happy about this exercise. I would imagine that some of these SEAL trainees have nightmares about blonde pony tails!

While the SEAL trainees are one type of inspiration, our pool buddy Nancy is another. When Nancy first started coming to the Y, she had to use a walker to get herself around. She couldn’t use the steps to get into the pool, but rather had to be lowered into the pool via a special chair they have for members with mobility issues. She told us that what got her to the pool was an incident where she fell in her home and couldn’t get up. I’ll always remember the look on her face when she told us that it took six firefighters to get her up. That was it. It was time for a change.
Change doesn’t happen over night and it didn’t for Nancy. First, she was able to use the stairs to get into the pool. Then, she was able to switch from the walker to a cane. Now, she doesn’t even need the cane. According to her last weigh-in at her doctor’s office, she lost 80 pounds. And she knows she’s lost more because she has recently needed a smaller size of pants. She’s taking less medication now too.

Change like that isn’t easy. She works out at the Y six days a week. She put her health first and it shows.

Whether it’s a young person training to be a part of one of the most decorated parts of the armed forces or an older person like Nancy (she always calls us “young uns”), there are so many stories at your local Y that will inspire you.

As we say at the R.C. Durr pool, come on in… the water’s fine.


Re-post: A Kick in the Butt

While cleaning out my Google Reader subscriptions in preparation to move to another RSS reader, I came across this post I wrote for the non-extinct Cincinnati Losers blog a while back. I recently added a piece of technology that builds on what I discuss here. I’ll be reviewing it very soon.

Four years ago, I weighed 281 pounds. For the second time, Tom and I began a liquid diet through a local hospital and, by April of the next year, I weighed 221 lbs. for a loss of 60 lbs total. (You can read about our journey on that diet at Diminishing Returns.)

As of this morning, I weigh 303 lbs., 22 lbs. more than when we started the liquid diet four years ago and 82 lbs. more than my lowest on the diet. A lot of things happened between then and now (my mother died, we started blogging about beer, my work stress level got even higher), but it all comes down to me and what I was doing. Or rather, what I wasn’t doing.

In the beginning of 2009, I started training for walking the Flying Pig half marathon in addition to continuing our water aerobics. I got all the way to walking 8.5 miles one Saturday. But, I made the mistake of walking in cold, damp weather with a chest cold. It got much worse and I got to stop training for a while to recuperate. The slide that had already begun got steeper at that point.

Since that point, I have started and re-started SparkPeople more times than I can count. Last year, I was asked to join Cincinnati Losers and I managed to post all of two times. Our trips to our local Y to do water aerobics got so infrequent that we tried taking the months of January and February off this year to see if that would help push us a bit when March arrived.

All this time, I kept thinking something’s going to happen to get me back in the weight loss mode again. I won’t buy new clothes so I’ll have to diet to fit in the ones I have. Yeah, right… That didn’t work. When I go over 300 pounds, it will shock me into losing weight. Well, that happened in last September and I’m still there.

It was a conversation on Twitter that made me think I need something more. As you’ve already read, I’m not shy about sharing my weight unlike most people I know. About a year ago, Leo LaPorte of the TWiT Podcast Network was talking about the Withings Scale on This Week in Tech. This scale can be set up to send your weight directly to SparkPeople or even tweet your weight. In my search for the something that will make me get serious again, I bought one and set up a twitter account for it –!/carlas_scale. I was talking with someone who was interested in the scale and he mentioned being reluctant to tweet his weight. I pointed out that “Not saying the number out loud doesn’t make it not true.”

That phrase kept sticking in my mind. And then, over this past weekend, I realized why certain diets and plans worked for me and others didn’t. I need accountability. Not so much public humiliation, but being held accountable for my actions. So when Shannan asked about creating a Facebook fan page for Cincinnati Losers, I was one of the first to say “YES!” I need that kick in the butt every once in a while that gets me back on track. I need to know that someone is paying attention and someone is watching my journey.

So, I’m asking… both my fellow Cincinnati Losers and those of you following us on Facebook… please ask if I got to the Y this morning. And have I tracked my food on SparkPeople. And did I get my water in today. And, most of all, please kick my butt when the need arrives. My goal is to make it a smaller target to kick as each day goes by. Many thanks in advance!

– Carla

Review: GymBoss Interval Timer and Water Aerobics

Since my walking posts are going to be on hold for a while, I thought I would share some information on our water aerobics routine. I first took a class in water aerobics when I was doing my doctoral class work back at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. A fellow grad student taught the class at the campus pool and a bunch of us took it with her. It was great for my bad knees since it was no impact. And it had the benefit of burning more calories than doing the same motions on land. When I went to work at University of Tennessee Martin, I discovered that the wife on one of my colleagues taught at the UTM pool so I joined that class.

When I moved to the Cincinnati area, I was happy to learn that our Cincinnati State Physical Education / Health & Fitness Training department was adding water aerobics classes. The only bad thing was that the classes were always in the late afternoon which made for a long day and the chlorine levels at the pools were often too high (not good for someone with eczema).

In 2007, both Tom and I joined our local YMCA and started working out in the pool there. We were on a liquid diet at the time through a local hospital and they had office space in the lower level of the Y. We got into such a habit of going to the Y to work out that when we were house hunting in 2008, proximity to the Y was a major factor in our choice.

Unfortunately, the water aerobics schedule at the Y weren’t convenient for us. Neither of us wanted to swim laps (I can’t swim in a straight line) so we started making up our own water aerobics routine based on what we had learned from past classes.

At first, we counted repetitions for each exercise. But, when we were getting up to multiple hundreds of reps, it was too ease to get distracted and lose count. Plus, we couldn’t talk to each other or to anyone else at the pool which is a challenge since our Y pool family likes to talk. We obviously needed a solution.


It took some searching but we found one. The Gymboss is a small repeating interval timer. You choose how long you want the interval time to be and the GymBoss beats for each interval. You can also have different interval times. The GymBoss also keeps track of how many intervals you’ve done and counts down to the end of each interval. You can set the number of repeats too and change the alarm type plus the beep duration.

For us, the interval is set at five minutes and 99 repeats (though our average is 10 to 12). Because we’re using it pool side, we’ve always kept it in a snack size zip drop bag. Recently, we added some rice to both help it stay upright and to help keep moisture out of the timer.

We liked the GymBoss so much that we bought a second one to keep in our suitcase. The original one we bought back in 2008 is starting to show its wear so we recently replaced it with one of their new models that come in colors now.

All in all, using the GymBoss made our water aerobics routine much more enjoyable. I’m going to share the routine we created in a future blog post.

— Carla

Walking: In Water

So, today’s update is a bit of a good news, bad news thing.

Good news – I made it to the pool five times last week for a total of 255 minutes of water aerobics and 2,397 calories burned. (Thank you SparkPeople for doing those calculations for me!)

Bad news – In order to not re-injure my heel before my Disneyland trip, I’m going to have to put my walking regimen on hold until I get back.

The reality is that I really wasn’t ready to start a walking program like Ease Into 5K yet. I was just too out of shape. As Tom said at the pool this morning, I needed an Ease into an Ease Into 5K program. And that’s exactly what the water aerobics is for me. It’s the exercise I like the best and it’s the one I keep doing once I get back in the rhythm. And, to be honest, I burn more calories in the water than I do walking.

Once I get back from Disneyland, I’ll probably re-start the Ease Into 5K program. I do like it very much. I just wasn’t ready for it.

— Carla

Walking: Pulling a Curt Schilling

During both the 2004 American League Championship Series (ALCS) and the 2004 World Series, Boston Red Sox pitch Curt Schilling was playing injured. In fact, he had torn his tendon sheath during an earlier play off game against the Anaheim Angels. In both the ALCS game and the World Series game, Schilling pitched great games. All the while, blood leaked from his sutures and led to the now legendary “bloody sock”. There were members of his own team that didn’t get as much TV time as Curt Schilling’s bloody sock.

On Friday night, we had tickets to see Hal Holbrook in “Mark Twain Tonight!” at the Aronoff. The evening was a bit chilly so instead of my Lands End slides I had been wearing, I switched to my driving moccasins and knee highs. Big mistake. I ended up with a large blister on my left heel that popped while I was walking around downtown. It didn’t hurt lots, but it was noticeable.

The next morning, I got up early to do my Week 2: Day 3 walk. I put a Bandaid Advanced Healing Blister on my heel, but it really wasn’t big enough though I didn’t realize it until too late. I took off walking and immediately noticed it was a very humid morning. I expected to have some discomfort from my heel so I tried to ignore it. I did okay until I was alternating between “run” and “walk” (for me, that means “walk fast” and “walk slow”). When I walked fast, I could tell that my heel was getting irritated even more. After two run segments, I realized that the only way I could complete this walk was to slow walk the entire distance. I was determined to finish this day’s training since I had cut short Tuesday’s. Luckily, I had loosened the laces on my right shoe and didn’t have the numbness issues that I’d had before. It wasn’t pretty, but I did the whole routine.

It wasn’t until I got home and rested a while that I realized what I had done. Taking off my left shoe was excruciating. And then I saw it. The entire heel of my sock was blood soaked and so was the back part of my shoe. I very gingerly peeled off the sock and saw that I had worn off the skin on my heel in about a two inch diameter circle. I called out to Tom, “Hey, I pulled a Curt Schilling!”

Now, this means that my walking is on hold a bit while my heel heals. But it spurred us to get back to the pool. We got in 50 minutes of water aerobics on Sunday AND Monday. And it felt good. If I feel like I can protect my heel enough, I may try walking later in the week or I may do a slow walk in my Crocs flip flops or my slides. Disneyland is only three weeks away! I have to get going!

— Carla