20 Questions…More Or Less

Just a reminder:  I’ve been nominated for Best Recipe Blog, Best Healthy Cooking Blog and Best Food Photography on a Blog at The Kitchn’s 2013 Homies Awards (along with a lot of other nice blogs). Take a minute and check it out – and vote (for me!) if you’re so inclined. Thanks!

Last summer when I completed a Whole30, I also began to exercise every day.  The “every day” aspect didn’t last long beyond the end of the program, and exercise pretty fell completely by the wayside during the holidays.  Since I’ve been keeping a closer eye on my blood sugar lately, I’ve begun regularly exercising again; because of the weather, that means the treadmill in the basement.  I’ve been walking at least a mile, if not a little more, twice a day during the week, and once a day on the weekend.  It’s been good for me.

Friday, The G Man came over so he could spend the night with Meema and Papa.  He loves playing in the basement – the only place in the house he can throw a ball around – so when I went down for my evening walk on the treadmill, he was right behind me.  After a few minutes of climbing on the futon and the BowFlex, he came over to watch me.

At 3 1/2, he’s entered the “why?” stage of toddlerhood with a vengeance, so I can’t say I was surprised by what followed.

“Meema, what are you doing?”

“I’m going for a walk!” I replied.

“Why are you going for a walk?”

“Because I need the exercise!”

“Why do you need to exercise?”

“Because I’m too fat!”

“What’s ‘too fat’?”

Ah, sweet boy…Meema adores you, you know.

Let’s Get Physical

Let’s be honest here – my idea of exercise consists of yelling for The Young One to run down to the basement and bring me a jar of tomato sauce.

And I have the ass to prove it.

Making a deal with TC, my young diabetic friend, to exercise every day of the Whole30 was probably the best thing I’d done for quite some time.  Yes, I was disappointed that I only lost 2 1/2 pounds after it was all said and done, but there was another benefit I hadn’t really considered when I’d agreed:  it made me feel better.

Understanding the health benefits of exercise is one thing; doing it is something else all together.  I don’t necessarily enjoy it so I tend to do it grudgingly, and heretofore the only thing it made me feel once it was over was gratitude that I wasn’t doing it any more.  However, recently I’ve found that it offers a measure of relief – sometimes a great deal of it – when I’m getting to the point where I’d gladly punch bunnies and kick puppies.

Which is not to say that I’m going to join a Crossfit gym ever in my life any time soon, but if walking on the treadmill for 30 to 45 minutes 4 or 5 days a week will keep me from gouging my loved ones in the eyes with a letter opener, then hey – I’m all for  it.

But why does it make me feel better?

Just a little consultation with Dr. Google reveals something rather frustrating, if not downright depressing:  no one can really tell you for sure what causes the often erratic mood swings that accompany perimenopause.  However, it seems that the hormone imbalances caused by the decreasing frequency of ovulation – in other words, an increase in estrogen and decrease in progesterone – affects the body’s production of both endorphins and, more importantly, serotonin.

While both endorphins and serotonin are known for boosting emotions, serotonin produces a milder effect, causing happiness and feelings of security. Endorphins, on the other hand, are a more intense form of pleasure, sparking such intense reactions as euphoria and ecstasy, depending on the amount of endorphins circulating in the bloodstream at any given time. At low levels, endorphins can produce the mild effects of relaxation and joy, similar to those produced by serotonin, making regular, moderate exercise very important, especially when you’re feeling particularly stabby.

We’ll address exercise and weight loss (or, if you’re fortunate, management) at a later date.

For more sweaty Spins, run on over and visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.  On the double, people.

Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming…

When I started the Whole30 on August 1st, my Young Diabetic Friend, TC, joined me.  Aware that strenuous physical activity ranks about 472 on my list of Favorite Things To Do (right below “Brushing my teeth with battery acid” and right above “An intimate encounter with my ex-husband”), he challenged me to exercise every day of the Whole30.  In exchange, he promised to do a burpee for every day I exercise, and if I do so all 30 days, he’d add another 15 for a total of 45.

And allow me to take a video of it.

At any rate, much to my surprise – and I’m sure everyone else’s – I have, indeed, exercised every day, even if it’s just walking around the block (about 1/3 of a mile) a couple of times in the evening.  On days I walk, I’m averaging a mile or so – I’ve even been down to the basement and worked out on the Bowflex.  My favorite form of exercise, however, has been swimming laps in the local community pool.

I’ve always loved to swim; I learned at such a young age I don’t even remember it.  I was a pretty active kid and swam pretty much constantly throughout our hot Texas summers, and was thrilled when Beloved and I bought a house in Texas with a pool in the back yard – we were in it as much as the kids.  So when Beloved suggested a couple of weeks ago that we swim instead of taking a walk for my daily exercise commitment, I was quite willing.

We went after work, once we’d dropped The Young One off for his Driver’s Ed class (everyone who says stress management is just as important as diet and exercise obviously has had to teach a teenage boy how to drive, that’s for sure).  While you have to elbow parents, toddlers and tweens out of the way just to get into the pool between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., by 6 o’clock there are very few people swimming; so few that they do away with “adult swim,” the 20 minutes every hour where only adults are allowed in the pool (not a problem; they have an awesome “splash park” for the kids during this time).

The first time we went, I made it about 3/4 of a lap in this Olympic-size pool before pooping out and needing to rest.  After that, I began doing laps on the “short” end of the pool” – marked lanes in the shallow end, that are a less than half the length of the Olympic lanes.  It just was better for my morale to be able to say “I swam 8 laps!” than “I pooped out before I could finish 2.”

The pool’s season ends this week, since the kids are going back to school next Wednesday.  It’ll be open one more weekend and then close until next June, so we decided to swim yesterday; it was reasonably warm and the pool was almost deserted.  Instead of my usual short laps, I decided to see how many regular laps I could do, so I got in and started to swim.

SEVEN laps, from end to Olympic end, without stopping.

SEVEN.

Without stopping.

Yay, me.

For more watery Spins, go visit Gretchen at Second Blooming.