I lost 5 pounds…and grew half an inch

Originally posted on heelskicksscalpel.com

I had my annual primary care visit the other day. There are several reasons I am proud of this accomplishment.

1) I made it to the doctor. With my schedule, the first person I tend to neglect is myself. I have been known to go years at a time without seeing a physician unless I was incubating a human inside me. Given that I am heading toward that age where routine screenings begin to start, I compelled myself to make this visit. Turns out, I am in great health and added routine screenings (mammogram) are still a year away but still I felt pretty proud of myself to just getting there and having the patience to be examined.

2) Though I could still benefit from a few fewer pounds on my short frame, I have lost 5lbs since my last check-up. While I know that it is not about the numbers and the last two years have been about being fit and healthy, about shedding fat for muscle no matter what the scale shows, it was nice to be a little lighter. The total weight is 32lbs less than my highest in adulthood (10 years ago, just after having my first child) and 17lb more than my lowest in adulthood (on my wedding day, pre-babies and after 9 mos of anxious energy and weight watchers but very little in the way of fitness activities). If I can hold my own in this range give or TAKE a few while persisting in the running-pilates-zumba regimen I have crafted for myself, I will continue to be proud.

3) Speaking of short frame, turns out I am not as short as I thought. I have been 5’2 1/2″ since puberty–honestly, a pretty remarkable feat of western nutrition given that my immigrant parents are only 5’0” and 5’2”. Despite weight fluctuations as wide as 50lbs, my height has been unsurprisingly consistent because, hey, that’s what humans do. The hormones kick in and we stop growing. But it turns out that I measured in at 5’3” this year. It is a sure sign the the posture benefits of pilates have become a way of life for me. So I will continue to stand tall, stand proud and hit the reformer as often as I can.

4) I went all morning without a cup of coffee (and survived). I didn’t want the hassle of coming back for fasting blood work so I challenged my body. I did not have my typical 10 oz borne from the Keurig on my way out the door. Usually this is consumed by 7am at the latest. And, though it is my only cup of coffee of the day on a regular basis and I no longer consume other caffeinated beverages, I am addicted to my morning cup of coffee. But, for this 9am appointment, I bravely entered the outside world sans travel mug in hand. I did not have a raging headache by noon so I powered on. Lasted a whole 24 hours without caffeine. I haven’t done this in the two weeks since but I might try is again sometime. Just shedding the fear of a day without caffeine in a point of pride for me.

5) I managed to be less VitD deficient. At my last visit, I was deficient. I was told to take a ramp up supplement for 4 weeks followed by a daily supplement. Well, it took about seven weeks but I did the ramp up; however, I never managed to get onto a daily supplement. I live at the wrong latitude and so in general me and all of my neighbors are VitD deficient and so I really should be taking the supplement but I really suck at taking pills every day. I just cannot make it happen (which I might add as an aside is as good a motivation as any to work hard at being fit to avoid the diabetes, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, and coronary artery disease that ail the majority of my adult genetic kin). So that I was less VitD deficient this year to me is representative of the many more hours of sun exposure I incurred with the running. Granted a good month for me is still only 6-8 outdoor runs but that is 6-8 more than when I last got my VitD level measured and this added sunshine in my life is also a matter of pride.

I wish there was a #6 but I was a bit displeased by my LDL/HDL situation. My LDL had plummeted dramatic between my last two visits but was creeping up this time even though the HDL was better. This, at least, is motivation for future PCP visit related pride which will tie in well with desired weight loss goals as I doubt I can get much taller, don’t plan on relocating to a sunnier latitude, and imagine I will not become a daily pill popper anytime soon.

Sexy None None: Letting Go of the Dream of Zumba

Originally posted on heelskicksscalpel.com

Anyone who has ever gone to a Zumba class has probably jumped and gyrated to that song Sexy Bam Bam. A simple Youtube search will yield any number of differing Zumba routines to this song. I know this because I find the lyrics hard to discern so felt the need to Google them after my last Zumba class when all I kept thinking was “Sexy None None.”

Zumba brings sexy to a single workout combining hip hop, latin dance, aerobics, and plyometrics. Have you seen the infomercial? The sexy is the seller. You can not only be thin and fit, you can be SEXY. You can do a grapevine or a v-step (come on you if you’re a woman in my age group you know you remember this from your step aerobics days, don’t deny it) and still exude sexiness if it is part of a Zumba routine (these moves are decidedly un-sexy on a pastel pink step stacked on purple blocks). It’s as if every move is a flirtation of the human body. I think this is why I can never turn away from the informercial. I only watch DVR’d television, so I don’t accidentally get sucked into a Zumba commercial that leaves me digging deep into my soul thinking “Can I ever be that sexy?”

And so, a large part of a Zumba participant’s motivation is to achieve sexy. You lose weight, you tone muscles, and you exude sexiness. That is the Dream of Zumba.

It took me a long time to live that dream. I love to dance and did ethnic dancing throughout my adolescent and college years. Back in the day during one of my fits and spurts of embracing health and fitness, I enjoyed a few step aerobics classes when there was nothing else that could motivate me to get to the local gym. So I really wanted to try Zumba expecting that based on shared principles alone, I would enjoy it as I had the bhangra, raas, and aerobics. But I couldn’t do it. I just couldn’t face up to my complete and utter lack of sexiness. I have no concept of how to flirt with my body. I did not want to embarrass myself in front of a group of strangers with my ungraceful, uncoordinated flailing of the limbs and torso.

I finally found the courage a year ago when, within the confines of my local pilates studio, I finally felt safe enough to try living the Dream of Zumba. (This is really a testimony to what a great judgment free place my local studio is. The owner, the staff, and many of the students I now count as friends). I had been working with the pilates instructors for nearly 6 months. I was feeling better about myself. I finally had the courage to try to bring the sexy. I listened to that Justin Timberlake song to get my head in the right place (not really ‘back’ though given I lacked any sexy to begin with).

It is a year later. I LOVE Zumba. I go as often as I can (which sadly, due to my crazy schedule, is only about 3 times a month on average) But the other night when “Sexy Bam Bam” came on, I still thought to myself “Sexy None None” as I watched myself in the floor to ceiling mirrors behind my completely amazing and incredibly sexy Zumba instructor.

This woman exudes more sexy in her pinky toe than a whole room full of Victoria’s Secret models. It’s really remarkable. Her hips, they way they move, they have a life of their own. I have taken Zumba now from a few other instructors, and there is truth to the Dream. Even if the instructor knows the moves and teaches them well, it’s just not fun if they don’t bring the sexy. I mean, I seriously hated the few classes I have taken with non-sexiness exuding instructors. They never put them in the infomercials, do they? There’s a reason. Zumba would not be the world wide fitness phenomenon that it is without the sexy. Of this, I am certain.

So, while I have bought into that phenomenon, it hasn’t made me sexy yet. Who knows, I might not ever be an infomercial ‘after’ candidate. But what the heck, as someone trying to somehow get all the pieces of her life in place to be mentally and physically well while succeeding at work and at home, burning some calories and toning some muscles even if I am a “Sexy None None” isn’t that bad, as long as my instructor brings the “Sexy Bam Bam.”


B!%#? you can take that barre and shove it!

Originally posted on heelskicksscalpel.com

Recently, a friend of mine convinced me to try a barre class with her. We were on a work-related trip together. Reunited after a year of not seeing each other. I was impressed by how she had reclaimed her body since I had last seen her when she was just 3 months post-partum, partly still bloated and partly still carrying the extra weight we all put on especially during our first pregnancies.

So as I admired her sheer awesomeness in getting back into shape (which she did despite taking 10 calls per month and having an under-one-year old at home), she told me about her new obsession, Pure Barre. No matter how busy she was, no matter how unbalanced her work-life situation felt, she so enjoyed these barre classes that she would make them work. It helped that her local Pure Barre had like a bazillion classes a day that gave her the kind of flexibility she needed with her schedule. But, let’s face it, if there wasn’t something to love–about the experience or the results–she obviously would not make the time in her 36 hour days to snuggle up to some barre when their was undoubtedly a hot bath, or a glass of wine, or a dvr’d episode of Homeland, or a box of sea salt dark chocolate caramels to be had.purebarre-threepics

Given the freedom from patient care and childcare and spousal interaction (see husbands I didn’t call this ‘care’!) the trip allowed, my friend had already signed up for 3 barre classes during the short 4 day meeting. I honestly hadn’t paid much attention to the barre offerings at my local pilates studio (more on that in a later blog because that place has literally changed my life) and had never heard of boutique barre studios like Pure Barre and Bar Method that it seemed to me were the Jazzercise of the 2010s. I was curious to see what this new (at least to me) fitness phenomenon, that has so engaged my friend, was all about.

The-Bar-MethodShe warned me that it would be challenging, that she had been going for months and still hadn’t perfected the individual moves that are altered for each month’s new routines. She told me how she had stumbled upon her own first Pure Barre class serendipitously during a girls’ weekend and had spent every minute of that class cursing those girls. She gave me a brief tutorial on all the very small moves that work the core and the seat before starting the class. I was confident.. I said, “Pshaw! I have been working my core, hips, and glutes with a year of Stott pilates on the mat and the reformer. I got this!”

Holy crap was I wrong. I thought I might die during the class the tetany got so severe (granted it was purposeful tetany but still…). While I could clearly see the parallels between the imprint and the in-joint movements of my dear pilates in every move at the barre or on the mat, the sustained, repetitive movements against my own body weight just detroyed me. They broke me down. I uttered every expletive I know and maybe even made up some new ones, cursing my friend under my breath (and occasionally even out loud) for a full 60 minutes. I felt like one of the interrogation victims I had seen in my most recent dvr’d episode of Homeland: defeated, ready to divulge state secrets.

Yup I loved it. It was so much fun. I wanted to wrap my sweaty, sore body around my friend in gratitude. I could totally see why she made the time to do this to herself at least a few times a week. Sure the end results were amazing as was evident by my friend’s fabulous post-baby physique, but I suspected there was something about the experience, living through it, that made it so addictive. Or, maybe it’s just the Stockholm Syndrome in effect.

I was crazy wanting to do it again. It inspired me to try the Total Barre offerings at my local studio which sadly are just 3-4 times a week and rarely mix with my schedule that I am already carving into pieces to fit in the pilates (more on why I won’t give that up on a later blog). Unfortunately, there are no dedicated barre chain outposts in my immediate vicinity. I was longing to do it again. I needed another hit.


On my next work-related trip, I was sadly without this dear, fit, barre obsessed friend. So, I sought out a Bar Method class of my own volition figuring it would be fun to compare (and, it was also walking distance whereas the Pure Barre class was not). I cursed a bit less, possibly because it’s harder to curse perfect strangers, but I still loved every torturous second of it. I am sure loyalists to one brand of barre or the other will be up in arms about this but I thought that the work outs were equally challenging and well taught.

For now, I am back to (or trying to get back to) my usual routine and sneaking in a local barre class if possible, eager for my next trip when I can hit a Bar Method or Pure Barre again, fondly remembering that first hour when I said to my friend “B!%#?, you can take that barre and shove it!”

13.1 thoughts from a half in my hometown

Originally posted on heelskicksscalpel.com. This was my first ever blog post. 

It’s been a long time coming with me and running (but more on that in a later blog).

For about a year now, my focus has been 13.1 miles, a perfect distance, in my opinion, to feel a huge sense of accomplishment but still be mobile later the same day. I personally have no goals to double that, EVER (just had to get that on the record for my inaugural blog post).

It’s fall. The weather is cooler. The calendars are packed with running events. As I heard and read about all these fall races–especially the half marathons–I was questioning my decision to run a half in my hometown instead of say, run 13.1 in the Windy City dressed like a zombie, or 13.1 in SF to be greeted by handsome tuxedoed eye-candy, or maybe even 13.1 flanked by Boston Strong.

But yesterday, as I ran a PR over 13.1 miles of pavement in my home town, I had no regrets. Here are 13.1 reasons why.

1) I lined up to run in front of my high school’s field house (where I spent many a tortured hour not being able to run around the .25mi track or having to wear a bathing suit in a co-ed swim class) without any self-esteem baggage.

2) I got to run past the public housing complex that I called home for the first 5 years of my life and felt hopeful that the folks cheering from the doorways would also someday feel as secure in food, shelter, and good health as I am.

3) I got to run past the construction site where until recently stood my birthplace.

4) I got to run past an intersection I have cursed for many years, delighted to see that traffic lights are soon to go up.

5) I got to run past blocks and block of glorious old cotton mills that have been reinvented–much like I am trying to I reinvent myself to be a fit person–for modern times.

6) I got to run by the school of engineering that attracted my immigrant dad to this town and reminisce about the days when we were the only people in the town with our last name.

7) I got to run by the temples and the ethnic groceries that reminded me of how many more immigrants have followed in the 40 years since to make this town the rich melting pot that it is.

8) I got to run past the site of the old factory where my mother worked 12-18 hrs/day until her hands were raw so that she could help save up for our college educations.

9) I got to run past the laundromat where we used to our laundry when I was very young and wondered how it was that I became the brat for whom a second floor laundry room was a deal breaker in the most recent house hunt.

10) I got to run across a bridge that they told us was temporary in 1986 without falling into the water underneath.

11) I got to run past the local general hospital ED (where I spent many an hour being evaluated for a broken bone or an unnecessary but acutely inflamed vestigial organ) and was neither a patient nor a provider.

12) I got to appreciate the river front path that I now realize I foolishly ignored for twenty years when I could have been running (or at least walking) along it.

13) I got to see my mommy and daddy at the end. They still don’t get why I would want to run 13.1 just for fun but it was great to be there with them in this town.

0.1) Memories with every footstep.

Me and my mom at after the finish. Just feet from the steps of my high school, her first apartment in this country, and the site of the book binding factory where she worked to save up money to send me to college.