It’s been a while (September, in fact) since I reported on my fitness project, so now seems like a good time for an update, especially since we just did another Bod Pod and there are good results to report. First the results — since my first Bod Pod on July 30, I have:

  • Lost 12 pounds;
  • Decreased my body fat by 6%;
  • Lost 3 inches on my waist, and 18.25 inches overall (all measurements combined);
  • Gone up in all but one of the strength assessments;
  • And improved my heart rate, cardio endurance and RMR.

Those are pretty good numbers if I say so myself. But what they don’t tell you — and what’s even more important is how I feel. Sure, losing a few pounds and fitting into my jeans better is nice, but the real benefits I’ve gotten from starting this fitness program relate to my general well-being:

  • No more backaches: As someone who spends a fair amount of time hunched over a computer, I used to get backaches fairly often. Since I’ve started regular strength training sessions, POOF! No more backaches. Ever. It’s amazing.
  • Better sleep: I know this one’s a cliché, but it really is true – my sleep has improved quite a bit since I’ve been working out consistently.
  • No ankle pain: A few years ago, I sprained my ankle pretty badly and since then, had pretty consistent pain when taking longer walks, hikes, etc. This past weekend, we took an hour-long hike in the hills pictured below and I had no pain in my ankle, despite having forgotten to bring my ankle brace.
Hiking the Loess Hills in Northwest Missouri

Hiking the Loess Hills in Northwest Missouri

Overall, what all of the above adds up to is that I just feel like a “fit” person now — in ways I  did not previously — and that feels pretty good.

With New Year’s approaching, lots of you will be making fitness-related resolutions. If you’re at UMKC or in the KC metro area, and want to get an initial assessment to help determine your baseline and goals, you can get a free Bod Pod before December 31 by calling the Wellness Coordinator at  816-235-5425 to make your appointment. Tell her Brenda sent you!

Pulling Back From the Edge

Kathleen Fitzpatrick’s recent post on burnout, got me to thinking (or to be precise, continuing to think) about my own recent case of burnout. In particular, this resonated:

In order to be genuinely engaged where it most matters, in other words, you have to find regular, routine ways to disengage. And to somebody as completely inculcated into our always-on, more more more culture as I am, that disengagement does not come easily.

Or at least it doesn’t come easily in a productive form. But it’s becoming clear that if I don’t figure out some better strategies for managing productive disengagement, a few much more damaging modes of disengagement are lurking just around the corner.

Especially the part about the more damaging modes of disengagement — for as anyone who’s had the displeasure of dealing with me (or worse yet, expecting me to complete a project on time) over the past few months knows, I’ve been dealing with my own case of burnout.

Burnout from what?

  • From the seemingly endless need to “do more with less” as staff and budgets continue to shrink in public higher education.
  • From the need to fundraise due to disappearing donors and unrenewed grants.
  • From working too much.
  • From saying “yes” too often.
  • Etc., etc.

Taking on more than I could actually accomplish is bad enough, but what was really bad how I chose to deal with it. Basically, I spent the summer simply not doing anything that didn’t absolutely have to be done. Blogging, website updates, writing I’d promised to complete all went undone. Worse yet, I didn’t communicate with anyone that I wasn’t doing these things — I simply withdrew and didn’t do them. (To be clear here [in case my bosses and/or colleagues are reading 🙂 ] — I did do my job. It was the extra stuff I like to cram in around the edges, my “projects,” that suffered. Basically anything outside the scope of the Women’s Center — #femlead, Alt Academix, etc. — was essentially ignored for 3-4 months). But the real red flag — the one I ignored for months — was my lack of joy in any of it. For the most part, I love my work and I only take only extra projects that I care about. This summer, I didn’t give a damn about any of it. That should have been a sign early on for me to do something, but I ignored it.

I’ve only recently managed to pull myself out of this funk and am starting the process of catching up on the undone things, as well as apologizing to the folks whom I let down by not keeping up with things. And realizing, as Kathleen writes in her post, that I need to find better, more productive ways of engaging and disengaging (as opposed to engaging at full speed for more months, then burning out and disengaging entirely, and then coming back). But, as she also points out, figuring out that balance is HARD because one wants to “yes,” from both ego and a desire to please.


Overland Park Arboretum. Perfect place to spend a fall afternoon.

So, how to accomplish this productive disengagement? I’m not sure I know, but I’m trying. This past weekend we took Saturday afternoon off and went to the cider mill and arboretum. And we have already made plans with friends to do dim sum, followed by a visit to the Prairie Center this coming weekend. So that’s a start, I suppose.

The next step, however, is to figure out how to turn these into sustainable practices, which is the hard part. It’s fairly easy to realize when you’re at the “about to go over the cliff” stage, but preventing yourself from getting there in the first place is the harder part.


August Report: Slowly Getting There

Yesterday was September 1 and today is Labor Day (yes, already!) — to me, that means summer is officially over (despite classes having started two weeks ago) — and it’s also time for an update on my fitness project. Because I love data (#quantifiedself anyone?), here are my stats for August:

  • Days exercised: 27
  • Exercise miles walked: 35.8
  • Personal training sessions: 7
  • Kinesis classes: 3
  • At-home workouts: 11
  • Steps: 340,955 (almost 100,000 more than in July)
  • $$ spent on new workout clothes, gadgets, etc.: A bunch
View of LA during my morning travel walk.

View of LA during my morning travel walk.

For someone who before August exercised only sporadically, these are pretty good numbers, especially considering that I traveled for part of that time (and was thus tempted to blow off the assigned resistance band workouts as working out in a hotel room is a pain. The fact that I did not is really rather surprising).

I am also feeling more energetic and sleeping better (although oddly, less on average). I’ve also improved my diet (still a ways to go there, however) and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.

What’s surprised the most is how much I have actually enjoyed what I’ve been doing — as someone whose self description includes “aversion to sweat,” my newfound love for Kinesis and strength training has been a revelation. Cardio, on the other hand, is still nothing more than a necessary evil (unless it is a walk in the Hollywood Hills rewarded with the view to the left. Then it’s okay). Only thing to do is crank up the tunes and suffer through it.

In the next week or so, we will redo the original assessments to see what changes the last month has brought. Whatever those reveal, the biggest change is that this is starting to feel like a permanent habit. That is the most surprising change of all.

Two Weeks In and I’m Still (Barely) Kicking

Bod Pod

The Bod Pod at UMKC’s Swinney Recreation Center

As I mentioned in a previous post, I started working out with a trainer a couple of weeks ago. Our first session (which I wrote about for the Women’s Center blog) was a body composition assessment using the “Bod Pod” (photo to the right). The Bod Pod measures your body’s percentage of fat and percentage of lean muscle and also gives you recommended ranges of body fat and estimated RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) and TEE (Total Energy Expenditure). I don’t want to get into details here, so let’s just say that my body fat percentage is not in the healthy range, and reducing it is currently my primary focus. That session also included an initial workout so that the trainer could get a sense of what I’m capable of doing (not much, it turns out. I am seriously, pathetically out of shape).

Shannon (aka most fabulous trainer EVAH) then used that information to put together a training program for me. Our setup is twice weekly appointments with her (on Tuesdays and Thursdays), along with “at home” workouts (which can be done either at home or in the gym) on at least 3 of the days we don’t meet. I also try to get in as much cardio (generally walking or the ARC trainer) as possible. Starting August 19, I’ll be adding a twice a week Kinesis class to the mix.

So far, we’ve had three real training sessions and my reaction to each one has been “Holy crap! That was brutal.” BUT, I have nonetheless completed them and all of the at home stuff she’s given me — for the first time in well over six years (since we moved to Kansas City and left our Texas gym routine behind). As I may have mentioned, I am someone who has not enjoyed exercise in the past (to put it mildly), so I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this. Working with a trainer (especially a good one) is much better than my previous attempts to go it alone, for a couple of reasons. The most important is her knowledge — faced with a bewildering variety of equipment, machines, fitness classes, etc., I become hopelessly confused. I can conjugate a German verb for you, but don’t know my hamstring from my glute. Secondly, and almost as important, is that I cannot indulge my laziness and sloppiness when working out with a trainer. When it comes to weightlifting, I have the world’s worst form and my body always wants to take the short cut. With Shannon watching, I can’t do that — she reminds me to bring my arms all the way down (or up as the case may be) when I start slacking (it was also handy to have her there to remind me to breathe the other day when I forgot 🙂 )

While it’s obviously too early to have results and to know how things will turn out, I can say that so far getting a trainer was the right decision for me and I think this time around I’ll do a better job of reaching my fitness goals than the many, many times I’ve just said “hey, I should do something to get in better shape.” Stay tuned to find out if I’m right!

Getting Fit (Hopefully)

In a recent post, I wrote about setting mid-year resolutions. One of these was to get in better shape (how original!). This is, of course, a pretty common resolution and an easy one to fail at (I have personally failed at it many times in my 46 years). This time, though, I really do want to get this done — I am now closer to 50 than to 40 (or 30 or 20 for that matter), which means I need to start worrying about things like bone density and whether sitting all day really is going to kill me earlier than I’d prefer.

I know, however, that left to my own devices I will fail once again — this time around, then, my plan is to work with a personal trainer. So starting next week, I will be working with Shannon Hutsler and her team at UMKC’s Swinney Recreation Center (aka one of the best-kept secrets on campus) to develop a plan. The tricky thing, I think, will be managing to keep things going once the semester starts back up — I will be teaching two classes and trying (again) to learn some French, in addition to my day job.

And, as we know, it is always easy to let the exercise go once things get busy. I am trying, this time around, to remind myself that exercise is an important part of self care, as opposed to thinking of it as another obligation. I am actually pretty good at making time for self care, but tend to see that as things like reading for pleasure, bubble baths, etc., while viewing exercise as just another thing on the to-do list (and a not terribly pleasant one, either). But the fact is that taking care of the physical is also an important part of self care and one that can be just as important as the mental piece that I’m already pretty good at. (And if I end up signing up for that yoga class this fall, I suppose that will combine both types of self care).

Halasana - Postura del Arado / Amineko Yoga

Naturally, I’ll be blogging, Tweeting, and Facebooking my progress (or lack thereof, but hopefully the former!), so please keep reading and help cheer me on.