Quick review: Jenny Ford’s marching workout is perfect

One of the reasons I have stuck with running is because it is easy. Left, right, left, right, don’t throw up, left, right, eventually stop.  I can do that. But our stupid school schedule is making it really hard to go out and run more than once or twice a week. Sometimes, to fill in, I make a stab at a “beginner” or “easy” or “drooling moron” workout video, but I always end up like Liz Lemon in the Cardio Hip Hop Groove class:

And yes, this is humiliating and discouraging even if you’re alone in your living room.

Well, I just found a half-hour workout that even I can do: Marching Cardio Workout with Jenny Ford. You can stream it for free with Amazon Prime, or you can watch it on YouTube.

The moves themselves are not complicated (step-tap, grapevine*, and box step is about as challenging as it gets), and the instructor gives you plenty of practice and directions. She often gives you an alternate move if the one you’re doing is too hard; and you’re always marching in between, so if you get confused, you can just fall back on marching.

She does not appear to be made of hot dog-colored silicone, she isn’t wearing tons of makeup, and for some reason, she is standing in the middle of a scrubby field in Illinois. (She has a whole series of marching videos, on Prime and on YouTube, not all set in Illinois, but this is the one I found first. I like the part where the utility repair truck tools by and takes its time parking.)

Best of all, she seems to sincerely understand that you are fat and old and are trying– well, maybe not your best, but you’re here, aren’t you? She isn’t constantly shrieking, “Ooh, feel that awesome burn, six, seven, eight! Your buns just love it, woooo!” Instead, she says things like, “You doing okay? Okay, now remember the kick thing? Get ready, because we’re going to do that again, but not for too long.”

The music is just typical workout nonsense, but it’s easy to ignore. You don’t need tons of space to do the routine, or any equipment at all. There is a bubble in the corner that counts down what percentage of the workout you have left.

Now I just need to figure out my little toddler-on-rollerskates-pushing-the-ottoman-into-my-achilles-tendon problem,** and I’ll emerge lithe and athletic, if not hot dog-colored, on the other side of winter.

*which I know how to do because we called it “the hora” and danced it while playing “Hava Nagila” when I was little.

**Besides letting her pour corn flakes into a giant box and do her own marching workout. This was okay, if noisy, until the kitten got involved.

Couch to 5K lives up to the hype

Here’s an entire post about the Couch to 5K running training program. You’ve been warned! If you don’t want to read the whole thing, here’s the short version:

I was just about ready to lie down and die, but now I feel much better, physically, mentally, and emotionally, and you can, too.

How it works: We downloaded the free app onto our phones. You go out three times a week, and it tells you exactly what to do, on the screen and out loud. Like: “Begin warm-up! Walk for five minutes.” “*BONG!*Start running now!” “You are half way!” “*BONG!*Start walking now.” And so on. It begins and ends with a five-minute walk, and alternates walking and running for varying lengths of time, increasing the total running time week by week. By the time you get through the whole program, you can run five kilometers, which is just over three miles.

You can upgrade the app to play music, keep track of calories, and other stuff, but the free version is fine.

Why we started: As with the beginning of so many great things, I was sitting on the bed crying because I’m disgusting and nothing will ever change and it’s just all so horrible. So my husband goes, “Let’s do that Couch to 5K thing.” And I sniffled, “Okay,” because it sounded better than sitting on the bed crying. I probably would have agreed to go away to Organic Rollercoaster Engineer school at that point.

We both used to run many, many years ago, but now we are both 42.  I have done various kinds of workouts over the years, but it’s been harder and harder to do anything consistently. We were both feeling very much like it was the beginning of the end, and like every aspect of our lives would just get harder and cruddier and more pathetic, steadily and inexorably, until we were dead. So, this was our way to fight back and see if we could do something else, instead.

In the beginning, I was terrified. I was so sure that I was going to embarrass myself, let my husband down, and just be pathetic and gross in some way, and end up feeling even worse because I had failed one more thing. This is not commensurate with reality. I’m actually fairly accomplished in a lot of different areas, and have done all kinds of difficult and frightening things, and am surrounded by supportive, appreciative people. But my stupid rat brain was pretty persuasive about me being a repulsive loser blob.

How it’s going:  It’s going great! It has been hard every week; it has gotten easier every week. Every week, we’ve been very conscious of getting stronger, which is incredibly encouraging and motivating.

We repeated a few days when we felt like we just barely got through them. One week, we peeked ahead and freaked out at how hard the next week looked, so we repeated the same week until we got a little stronger and more confident.

And that is fine. We intend to run a 5K eventually, but we’re not in a huge rush. As long as we don’t lose ground, it’s fine.

So now, six weeks later, we’re starting week four, which is a 31-minute workout. It’s a brisk five-minute warmup walk, then jog for three minutes, walk for ninety seconds, jog for five minutes, walk for 2.5 minutes, jog three minutes, walk ninety seconds, and jog five minutes, and then walk another five minutes to cool down. We talk and laugh while we jog.

There is no way I could have done this a month ago. Nooooooo way. I would have thrown up and collapsed and spent the rest of the day laughing at that that alien species of people who waste their lives moving their limbs around like idiots, rather than enjoying life like I was *sob*.

But I’ve gotten stronger, my stamina is much better, and most of all, I have more confidence. I woke up this morning feeling awful, with a sinus headache, a stuffy nose, and a heavy, congested chest. But rather than looking for a reason to skip, I decided that I would at least try and see what I could do. Nobody pushed me into it; I just decided on my own to try.

This . . . is kind of a big deal for me. I find that I’m spending less time looking for excuses not to do things, and more time looking for reasons to make things possible, or at least to give it a shot. Not just running, but all kinds of things. All kinds of things just seem more possible. I feel more capable. I’m looking forward to the future.

This is kind of a big deal for me.

Physical changes: I don’t own a scale, so I’m not sure if I’m losing weight. When I’m getting regular exercise, I find it much easier to eat reasonably, both in what and how much I eat. I’m focusing on just eating when I’m hungry no more than five times a day, stopping when I’m no longer hungry, and trying to get plants and protein and avoid sugar; so I know I’m healthier than I was six weeks ago. My days are less centered around hunting and gathering. The gin, however, stays in the picture.

I feel a lot less shame about my body. Even when I look in the mirror and see a body I’m not happy with, I see it as a working body, a trying body, and not the body of a loser. It’s not that fat people are losers, or that women who look like they’ve borne children are losers. But my body was, objectively, the body of someone who had given up. I had stopped trying to feel better, and that was no good, no matter how I looked to outsiders.

I’m definitely getting more toned. My belly is a little flatter, my hips are less blobby, and my legs and arms have more definition. I’m still fat. I will probably always be fat. This does not seem terrible to me (or to my husband, which helps a lot!).

And I’m sleeping better.
And I have more energy during the day.
I can be active longer without strain, and I can stay awake and alert for longer in the day.
And I’m setting a good example for the kids, who are thinking of doing the program themselves when school lets out.
Any my back doesn’t hurt all the time.
I think maybe my skin is clearer?
My mood is better, especially on running days.
And my posture is better. It’s easier, and it feels more natural, to sit up straight.
I’m looking forward to the summer, thinking about hiking and swimming and running around with the kids, rather than dreading feeling guilty about wasting the warm weather but feeling so draaaaaaained all the time.

I no longer look at running as some kind of alien, unreachable thing that people who are very, very different from me do. The program is really well designed, not pushing too hard or too fast, so you not only get your body in shape, but you gradually come around mentally, too, and start to think of running differently. I really admire the way it’s set up, with a good understanding of human psychology.

Things that help: We drive a little distance and then run in a secluded country road, where there is almost no traffic and it’s mostly level. This pic is from April 5. There’s less snow today!

We use the treadmill when the weather makes outdoor running actually dangerous (like when the road is covered with a sheet of wet ice), but the treadmill adds a whole level of difficulty and unpleasantness. Fresh air, room to move, and something to look at make a huge difference.

It would be harder to stick with this on my own. My husband and I encourage and motivate each other, and keep each other on track. Talking and laughing while we run also makes the time go by so much faster.

Music and distractions like Facebook help a ton on the treadmill. I prefer talking to my husband and listening to the birds and streams when we’re outside, but it helps a lot to have a song in my head, to keep to the beat.

General running tips that I remember from long ago. Correct me if I’m wrong about these!: keep your movements as smooth and gliding as possible; use your whole body, rather than just trotting with your legs; roll from heel to the ball of your foot when you step; try to extend each stride, rather than running faster; tip your chin up to keep your chest up and shoulders back, so you can get more air in your lungs; keep your hands low and your fingers and arms loose, rather than tightening them up around your chest like a fricking dinosaur; breathe in through your nose and out through your pursed lips, to keep the oxygen in your body as long as possible. Don’t forget to stretch before and after. Drink water!

My friends, I was circling the drain, but I’m fighting back! If I can do it, you can, too. (It doesn’t have to be Couch to 5K. It could be any firm decision to get moving and keep it up indefinitely.) I’m not special. I’m not radically reorganizing my life. I’m just ready to stop feeling terrible about everything all the time.

 

Hup!

Today, I am super so far behind on stuff I absolutely need to do, so here is something I wrote four years ago on this day. I’m even fatter now than I was then, but my back is all better, and I bet I could kick Jane Fonda’s titanium ass.

Look, this is us smiling after running (well, running and walking) for half an hour this morning!

Sheesh, I need to do something about my teeth, though. Oh well.

1.  I don’t know how successfully I’ve hidden this in the few photos of myself that I’ve put online, but I am 5’5″ and in the last fifteen years, I’ve put on average of seven pounds of permanent weight for each baby.  This is what happens when all you do is sit down.

2.  I was having stabbing pain, excruciating burning from my lower back down to my toes, tingling, numbness, and general unpredictable sciatic misery, which finally sent me to the doctor, because I couldn’t believe that I could become that debilitated just from doing nothing.  The x-ray revealed that I have “mild to moderate degeneration” between the discs of my spine, brought on by age, weight gain, and inactivity, or, in layman’s terms, being a loser.  I am adding that phrase,  “mild to moderate degeneration,” to my list of possible new names for the new blog I’ll never start.  Other possibilities I’ve gathered over the years include what Mark Shea called me one time (“History’s Greatest Monster”), what an outraged reader told my editor (“Fisher Is Unrepentant!”), and what my mechanic wrote about the van (“Misfires Badly Under Any Significant Load”).

3.  A sad little drama recently played out in a shopping plaza nearby.  First there was nothing but a Curves Gym.  Then Five Guys Burger and Fries moved in next door.  Curves held out for a while, but one day the windows went dark, and they packed up and moved away, presumably shaking their chubby fists in rage, with an embarrassing amount of flappy movement around the upper arm area, as they went.  And then, in the space where Curves used to be, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream moved in.

4.  This is not going to become one of those tedious blogs that does nothing but record how many reps or grams or kilos or whatever (wait, I think I’m talking about cocaine now) of cardio I accomplished and which variety of kale I like to add to my puke smoothie.  (Sorry, I just friggin hate the whole smoothie thing.  You still have teeth, people.  Use ’em.)  I will try not to make a big deal out of it unless I think it would be genuinely interesting to someone besides myself and my doctor.

5.  I picked out an exercise DVD that looked like a reasonable place to start.  Today, I did it for the first time, and had two shocks:  one is that it’s designed for senior citizens; and two, it wasn’t easy to keep up.  Argh.  Yep, ol’ Jane Fonda is going on and on about her titanium hip and how great it is that we’re doing so much to combat memory loss, and I’m screaming on the inside “ISN’T TWENTY MINUTES UP YET, YOU HOLLOW CHEEKED BITCH?”

6.  I used to be able to run five miles.  Cursing the whole way, but still, I used to be able to do it.  Now, I can’t even curse for five miles straight, running or not.  I don’t even have profanity stamina anymore.

7.  In the week that has passed since I wrote #1-6, I have put off reading what Pope Francis said about people who complain about 73 distinct times. Because look,  I got the flu, which meant that I was too weak and feverish to do my back exercises, which meant that I couldn’t sleep because of back pain, which meant that the baby decided this would be a fine time to give up sleeping.  Like, just quit, flat out.  She goes to bed at the normal time, but wakes up at 1:30, ready to play.  The next two hours are spent with constructive thoughts like, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME” and “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUNCTION” and “I THINK I HAVE TWO FRIENDS NAMED LYDIA BUT MAYBE ONLY ONE I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT BECAUSE THERE IS THAT ONE LYDIA BUT THEN THERE IS THAT OTHER ONE ALSO AND THAT MAKES TWO BUT ON THE OTHER HAND I’M NOT SURE HOW MANY FRIENDS I HAVE NAMED LYDIA.”  (See, fever.)  Then I went to throw up, but my back hurt too much to reach the toilet.  Also, I took a shower and it turned out the soap had a bug on it, and I was washing myself with bug.

And THAT’S why I say sometimes it’s okay to just go through your medicine chest and see what you can find.  Because, sheesh.