A Care Package for Fat Girl Fitness (NHBPM 9)

Today’s prompt was to create a care package for my fellow patients. But as much as I love presents, it’s been my experience that people with MS may be best served by having less stuff, not more: less to clean, less to put away, and certainly less to trip over.

Instead, I’d like to share a care package of the tools that have made my weight loss and fitness dreams come true-r. (Hey, it’s a work in progress.)

I just finished Week 4 Day 2 of Couch-to-5K for the second time this year, and these are the things that keep me going.

Enell Sports Bra
Before I started working out, I was a 38G. Now, 50+ pounds later, I am a 34G. There is no god. But luckily, there is Enell.

Benefits: The boobs do not move — I can RUN for the first time since I was 8. No underwires! Straps do not dig or shift. Front close, so you don’t have to get trapped trying to pull it over your head, necessitating a call to the fire department and the jaws of life to get free. (Remember, they said they’d have to start charging after the next time.) Unique sizing system, so I get to be a size 3. Built strong to last long.

Drawbacks: Limited color selection. Cup seam shows through lighter shirts, but I AM RUNNING HOW DARE YOU JUDGE ME RROOOOWRRRR!

Shopping tips: Prime-eligible at Amazon, and you might be able to find it at a local running store to try on first. And because I love you all, I will share that I recently found their outlet on ebay, where they sell slightly imperfect versions for nearly half price.

Body Glide anti-chafe balm
I know none of you have first-hand experience with this, but sometimes fat girls have thighs that touch. And when exercise makes that touching sweatier and more frictive, bad things can happen. Body Glide is like lube for your body. Or as Linda Richman would say, “Like buttah!”

Benefits: Odorless. Easy deodorant-style application. Usually sold in running stores, so we can infer that it’s not only fat girls who have issues with rubbage. Lasts for hours — longer than I would ever work out. I used it on my foot, after my shoe started rubbing on my toe, and it worked great for that, too.

Drawbacks: My stick crumbled off into big chunks after a few weeks. I was able to mash most of it back into the applicator and keep using it, but I’d prefer if it hadn’t happened in the first place.

TuneBand
I am a very suggestible person, and I’m not above using the right music provide motivation to get started, keep going, and even have a good time. If you can hear Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before you Go-Go” and not smile and step lightly, you might be dead.

Benefits: Easy to put on and take off. The silicone skin is strong, and thicker on the back where the armband slides through. After nearly a year of 3+ uses/week, it looks and works like new. Comes in a bunch of colors. The armband is highly adjustable (something I’d worried about because I have huge bus driver arms).

Drawbacks: None! The TuneBand has exceeded all my expectations, and now it’s even on sale for less bank.

Panasonic Ergo Fit earbuds
You can listen to music without earbuds. Plus, they’re handy for helping drown out the dumbass conversation the girls on the  treadmills next to yours are having, at such high volume. I hadn’t had much luck with earbuds in the past — wearing glasses doesn’t help, but it also rules out wearing any kind of external headphone comfortably   The in-ear style of these is way more comfortable than the round Apple-style ones.

Benefits:  These sound nice even at volumes high enough to drown out dumbass conversations. They’ve been impervious to sweat and being tossed in my gym bag. They came in red, one of my favorite accessory colors. Reasonably priced. The cord slider helps keep them from getting terminally tangled.

Drawbacks: None. They don’t have an inline mic for taking calls, but nobody needs to hear me huffing and puffing while I’m working out. (I keep these Skull Candy earbuds in my purse for non-gym use, if you’re looking for the mic.)

Contigo Autoseal water bottles
The only water bottle I’ve tried that (1) really doesn’t leak so much as a drop in my gym bag and (2) has a drinking hole that’s actual mouth-sized. Unlike, say, classic Nalgenes, which are actual now-you’re-wearing-a-bottle-of-water sized.

Benefits: Dishwasher safe. Strong and BPA free. Lots of colors. Carabiner clip built into the top.

Drawbacks: If you store the lids on the bottles, they might develop a slightly musty smell in the cap. Are you one of the strange few who doesn’t love a fresh bottle of Basement in the morning? Solution: just store the bottles open.

Shopping tip: I bought these first for KK for Christmas a few years back, in a 3-pack at Costco for $10 or $15 bucks. Those are still going strong, and I’ve picked up a number of others (and three of the stainless tumbler ones) at the thrifts for just a dollar or two.

Nathan Flip Straw Water Bottles
This one deserves an honorable mention. It can leak a tad in the bag, but it’s great for all other purposes.

Benefits: Also dishwasher safe. Lots of colors. Built-in carabiner clip. The flip straw part is soft, so I’m not afraid of knocking my teeth out. Even better, you simply sip from it — you don’t have to bite it like you do a Camelbak.

Drawbacks: Just the leaking thing, really.

Shopping tip: I recently found a Quickdraw Plus at Marshalls or TJ’s for $5, imperfect just because they’d sewn the reflective strip on backwards. And just this week, I thrifted a sample version these waist packs, with the bottle, for $1.50!  I would normally have to be in a coma to agree to wearing any kind of waist pack, but this one fits (very comfortably) at the small of my back, so I can pretend like it doesn’t exist.

Some other tools I’ve used include:

Apps

Lose It! Free for iPhone and online.
I used this to track my food and exercise because it was free, straightforward, and worked seamlessly cross-platform. Nice, clean interface.

5KRunnerFree for iPhone.
This was my Couch-to-5K coach the first time around. I liked that it was free and awarded badges to gamify the experience. And it worked. I did NOT like that there was no way to control my music without having to go through too many steps just to skip to the next song. I also found the interface too small to read when I got hot and the Uthoff’s kicked up, but honestly, that was a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it’s just better to remain ignorant of how far you still have to go!

SlimKicker. Free for iPhone and online.
This one is new to me, but I’m about to try it because I like the novel premise. You choose short-term goals to work toward for 7-30 days. Your challenges get tougher over time, and you’re encouraged to check in daily with folks who’ve chosen the same challenge for support. You win points and “level-up” when you succeed.

Honorable mention: Weight Watchers
I think every woman in America has a WW story or six.

I did WW for the first time a little over 5 years ago. I hadn’t weighed myself in years, and was sort of surprised to be 241 pounds at my first meeting. Miss Melba, the leader, was amazing and deserves her own cult. I watched portions and counted points and lost 42 pounds in six months, without ever visiting a gym or doing anything more strenuous than walking the dog.

Mostly, I enjoyed getting to clap for myself and others at meetings. I only stopped because the MS started and I had to marshal all my resources to deal with that instead. But I did learn some vital weight loss skills, like portion control, substitutions, body awareness, which I’ve been able to apply to successive independent attempts ever since.

So I’d recommend WW to anyone who, like me, was weight-loss naive, with the caveat that you find a leader that clicks with you immediately. Like choosing a doctor,  you may have to shop around, but it is totally worth it when it works.

Lifestyle

Short hair.
I had hair down to my waist until I was 23 years old. (My mom had to scotch tape baby bows to my head until I was nearly four, so once it showed up, she couldn’t bring herself to cut it.) That meant I had to wash it at night and after toweling it dry, still had to wait 8 to 10 hours for it to actually dry. It could easily take an hour even with a hair dryer.

And it sounds like I wasn’t alone.

Cutting my hair short freed me to get active and sweaty and take showers, without having to block out 2 days to do it. I’ve just gone shorter and shorter ever since. Now, after I shower at the gym, I dry my hair for about 5 seconds under the hand dryer. It’s hard to imagine ever going back.

Summer 2001

2006 or 2007

October 2011

Which brings us to braving public showering and locker rooms.
Until last year, I had spent more time in men’s locker rooms than in women’s.

I never played sports, but I spent two years in high school being a manager for the football team, which meant that I, and my also-female co-manager, were the only two girls in the whole school allowed to go into the fieldhouse. (To fill up water coolers and make ice packs, not to ogle. I assure even the straightest of you ladies that there is NOTHING sexy about that smell. Ugh.)

But last year, my wife joined a new rock climbing gym (the largest in the nation) when it opened nearish us. She invited me to come along, as they had a regular fitness area with cardio and weight stuff that nobody else was using. I went. It was cool, at first. But I quickly realized that my 40-minute workout ended before KK’s 2-3 hour one, and sitting around in sweaty clothes was gnarly.

I finally tried the showers, so at least I could clean up and sit around in clean clothes while I diddled on the iPad for an hour or two. It was not traumatic. It even felt good. Each shower was separate, so there was nothing really public about it. (I’ve used worse in hostels in Europe.) There was even a curtain separating the showers from the main locker part, so nobody had to see too much of me. And best of all, I could take a cold shower, which helps beat back the Uthoff’s and fatigue that MS brings uninvited to every workout.

A weightlifting training program, customized for me by a dear friend.
Cardio stuff often makes me too hot, too fast, and I start to lose power before I get the benefits. Weightraining, though, allows me to get serious work done before even breaking a sweat. It’s been such an important part of the process. I’ve gotten stronger, sure, but it’s also improved my balance and posture (which has suffered since 4th grade — see “34G above”).

Final Thoughts

I hope you read through this long list and thought,

Well, DUH! Of course she lost weight and got stronger. Look at all the help she had!

Because, clearly, it takes a village’s worth of goods, programs, and lifestyle changes to make big fitness changes. I didn’t even include the food prep tools I use, or the recipe websites, or the protein bars I love, or…the list goes on.

But the takeaway is that I gave myself “all that help.”

I built it into my life, one piece at a time. I kept the parts that helped and chucked the ones that didn’t.

And once it hit a critical mass, I started to lose critical (m)ass.

2003, maybe, vs early 2012

2003 vs Christmas 2011

And if I can do it, you can do it. I don’t have to know you to say that. Anyone can do it, because it’s not about being perfect or being the best. It’s about being better and feeling better.

Whether you have a serious illness or not, “self-care is a divine responsibility.”

That’s “divine” as defined in the Wikitionary, as in:

  • hallowed, holy, sacred
  • supreme, ultimate

AND

  • beautiful, delightful, exquisite, heavenly, lovely,
    magnificent, marvelous, splendid, wonderful.

It’s all of the above, and so are you.

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