Saturday, February 28, 2009

Month-End Review, February

I went to the gym at 9:35 this morning and the house was full. Even the yogis were in action. There were some waiting for machines but the waiters did not want the available AMT so I hopped on.

As I was working out, I heard this youngster, who was sitting on the floor, give the go ahead to this woman who looked liked she was in her 70's; she had her plaid shirt tucked into her jeans and was holding on to her black purse.

"You can go ahead and get on; I'll probably be on the treadmill much longer than you."

Plaid shirt put her hands on her hips and said "What makes you think so?"

Well, at least the youngster tried to be chivalrous and several of us worked our abs by laughing.

As I was about 47 minutes into my workout, sweat was rolling down the sides of my face (what a feeling) and I got back-to-back 50 Cent on the MP3 to push me over the top.
Go, go, go, go
Go, go, go shorty...

If I can't do it, homie, it can't be done...

After working out, I went to Dierbergs to score some Dannon All Natural Peach Yogurt. In a disturbing trend, another one of my favorite foods has disappeared; I have not been able to find Dannon AN Peach in awhile.

Someone was getting arrested very early in the day on Dierbergs' parking lot. I don't know why the cop had to verbally flex:


To me, it looked like she was standing on the outside of the car. And why wouldn't she get out surrounded by three cop cars? Maybe she heard about the Oakland, CA incident...

Dierbergs did not have my beloved peach but since I'm in flexible mode, I purchased the Dannon All Natural Strawberry.

I kept trucking down the road to Sappington's Farmer's Market and got some blueberries ($1.25), strawberries ($2.50) and a pineapple ($2.50).

It's month-end review time. An X on the calendar represents a day of exercise. I was like Hal from Malcolm in the Middle and took off exclusively on Fridays. Here are the numbers:

AMT, 2x's

Arc Trainer, Once

Forest Park 6.2 Mile Trail, Once

Swimming, 11x's

Treadmill, 8x's

Yoga, Once

On more than one occasion, I did some minor weight training and rope jumping to supplement my workouts but no matter how you look at the numbers (61,000 + calories consumed; 11,000 + calories burned), the scale was magical and unmoving.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Workout Before the Workout

I put bag #1 in the trunk so no one mistakes it for anything valuable.

Since I'm leaving work at five, I decide to go through the city to get to the fitness club.

As I'm heading down Chippewa, I see $1.89 fuel prices at QuikTrip (or QuikS@#%) if you're talking to my Aunt L.

The gas stations are so stealthy.

I keep trucking until I spot a 7 Eleven that still has $1.65 fuel. I don't really want to stop but... Of course, this 7 Eleven has the smallest parking lot in the world and when I leave the lot, I'm in a turn lane with no left turn signal. I finally maneuver onto a muffler shop's lot and getting into the flow of traffic is no piece of cake from this point either.

At last, I'm back on Chippewa and it's not pretty but I manage not to have full blown road rage as I see the red of so many brake lights.

Once in the gym, I swipe my membership card, head to the locker room and weave through other women to try to find an open locker. By the time I exchange my work clothes for some workout clothes, I'm almost too tired to tie the laces on my Nike shoes. Next, I look for an open machine. Since the AMT's are all taken, I decide to do thirty minutes on a treadmill. I restrain myself from upping the incline too much since my calves are still a little tender from the Arc Trainer adventure two days ago.

As strange as it seems, I had more energy post-workout. It's just a challenge to get to the actual treadmill some days.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Walking Gingerly

My calves are crying courtesy of the Arc Trainer. When I was descending the stairs at work, I had to walk gingerly.

This morning my mind was so preoccupied that I poured oatmeal into the trash can instead of a bowl or maybe my receptacle confusion happened because my morning oatmeal has become such a production of mashed banana, cinnamon, almond milk and lemon or vanilla flavoring.

I also prepare my morning snacks around oatmeal time. Lately, it’s been a cocktail of kiwi and strawberry. I used to sprinkle sugar over strawberries but when they are mixed with kiwi, they’re not as tart.

I’m glad that I had swimming on the agenda today because my calves would not have tolerated much of anything else. I was sluggish and took time to float and do the elementary back crawl which my second swimming teacher referred to as a resting stroke. When I attempt the elementary back crawl, I feel as if I am just sculling water at times. Here's a woman doing the basic backstroke. I love that this video is in another language; it makes it more entertaining.

The variety of names that people have for swimming styles is interesting.

The front crawler at work does not like the phrase front crawl because she feels that it implies inactivity; she prefers freestyle but if you look in references, it will define the freestyle as Merriam-Webster does:

1: a competition in which the contestant is given more latitude than in related events; especially: swimming competition in which the swimmer may use any stroke

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Arc

As I stood in the gym, I was in disbelief that not one of the treadmills, StairMasters or AMT's was available.

I finally looked around and saw that a ski-like machine was open. I have wanted to shake up things a bit and my opportunity presented itself today.

After I had worked out for forty minutes, I saw that I was on a Cybex Arc Trainer. When I first got on, it seemed to just be working my glutes, legs and arms and I was thinking to myself that's just what I need, bigger legs. I've always had big legs and they do not need any more definition.

I felt as if I had been lifting weights afterwards. My stomach was also taut. I kind of liked the Arc Trainer and will definitely use it again. I found this lofty titled article, A Comparative Kinematic and Biomechanical Analysis
of Two Gait Simulators
, on the Cybex site. The gait simulators are ellipticals and Arc Trainers. Next, I went to YouTube and, of course, they had several videos about the Arc.

I didn't finish watching the video because the way that I was sweating told me all that I needed to know about the weird Arc Trainer.

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Water Is

One of my coworkers, who is an exclusive front crawler, checked in with me today. She wanted to know how swimming was going.

I told her I was pretty much resorting to the back crawl and sidestroke while practicing the front crawl in between. She believes that the sidestroke is much more labor intensive and that I am thinking about the front crawl too much. What can I say? I do have a penchant for details.

Although I don't really look at them anymore, I still have notes taped to my bookshelf:

long legs, floppy ankles
kick from the hip -- not the knee -- use your whole leg

keep your legs straight but not rigid, with your toes pointed out and kick up and down, continue kicking the entire time

I heard the lifeguard as he was giving a lesson to one of the kids which made me remember this quote from Natalie Coughlin on swimming faster and gliding:

Simply reach as far forward as you can, even if it means temporarily reducing your stroke frequency. Stay focused by imagining there's a mail slot in front of each shoulder and slide your hand into it each time.

I don't know why Coughlin's advice struck a chord with me but it did and as I used this tactic today, it actually helped. I also asked the lifeguard if he breathed through his nose or mouth during the front crawl and he said that it was easier for him to breathe through his nose.

There was a new student at the pool today. Once he got in the water, he kept saying "this is tight." He was amazed by the tricks he could do with a kickboard and I was thinking even when I'm uptight the water is tight.

As I was getting out of the pool, newbie asked me how he could do that -- gesturing by moving his arm backwards. I told him that he would have to learn to float first. But I can't go down there, I might get carried away. That's what the lifeguard told him and, although eager to learn, he was satisfied to explore the shallow end for the time being.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


In less than two weeks, I dropped almost $500 dollars on car maintenance and repairs. I wish it were that easy to drop pounds. I am plateauing right now (not that there's anything wrong with that...).

Now, I usually go swimming on Saturdays but when I saw the dusting of snow, it made me rethink my strategy since the water tends to be chilly at the county pools and, in addition to the weather, I was going to get my hair cut. I imagined dunking my closely shaved head into the chilly water and nixed the idea. Plus, weight loss plateau pundits say it only takes the body four weeks to become accustomed to a workout and I've been swimming again and again.

I went to the gym which was, surprisingly, not crowded. I decided to do an hour on the treadmill but when I was finishing up, the UNC vs. Maryland basketball game had gone into overtime. The game was so good that I didn't want to miss a moment of it. So, I re-upped and did ten more minutes.

After the game, I headed over to the AMT machine to log an additional 15 minutes of exercise. I thought that I would be staggering from fatigued but I felt good.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Lessons from the Biggest Loser

On Tuesdays, I usually have my eyes glued to the screen or I make sure to tape The Biggest Loser.

I was not very pleased with how the producers toyed around with the viewers and contestants by sending just about half of the contestants home the first week. The home players were only allowed to return if their partner was able to stay above the yellow line for six weeks.

Even though the gimmicks can be annoying, I still think that The Biggest Loser is one of the best reality shows on television and I've gotten inspiration and ideas from the show. It's very moving to see people taken off of multiple medications and to see people tap into their inner and physical strength.

I remember struggling to lift five pounds and the next day I saw a woman on an earlier BL season lift about forty pounds. I returned to my strength training with renewed vigor and determination.

The BL trainer Bob likes to do yoga with his team and when he told them that yoga is a way to thank your body for supporting you, it resonated with me. I used to think that yoga was not for me but I tried it after watching that particular episode and I felt so right afterwards.

When I saw episode seven this week, I liked the crab walk and plan to incorporate the move into my exercise regimen. The crab walk will go along nicely with the army crawl.

Sometimes pseudo-psychologist Jillian is boorish but this girl at the gym told me the contestants should know from previous seasons what is in store for them.

Most of the contestants had to exercise outside this week since two teams won exclusive rights to the gym.

I had to laugh when Jillian told her team, who was treading water, that we're going to do this until one of you drowns or looses weight before my very eyes.

Bob worked out his teams that had access to the gym and regretted that the gym wasn't lively.

I went to the gym today and Bob would have loved the vibe. I worked out on the AMT and did some visual eavesdropping. I saw that the guy on the AMT next to me was working out in interval mode and his resistance level was at 17. I didn't even know that those dang machines would go that high. So, I decided to push myself and ended up at a resistance level of 10. My hat goes off to my neighbor on the StairMaster. She was on it when I arrived and she was still going strong when I got off the AMT 45 minutes later.

By the way, you can get this t-shirt from Jillian Michael's website.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

While Elevated

I'm starting to think that I have Beginning of the Week Sad Affective Disorder and the work week didn't even start on Monday. Ouch.

Yesterday I went swimming at the 12th and Park Center. I didn't really feel like exercising but went anyway. There was a mother and child present so the lane line had to stay in the middle of the pool which meant to access the deep end, I would have had to duck under the divider which didn't really work for me. What was real cute was that the mother went to the deep end and left her child in the shallow end. I don't know how many laps I swam and even though I felt like I was fighting the water, at the end of the hour, I was more relaxed than when I got into the pool but definitely drained.

Today, I was still a tad bit temperamental. I went swimming and felt more in sync with the water. Three kids, who were taking swimming lessons, stayed on one side of the pool while I took lane one, the front crawler claimed lane two and Kate (main swimming partner-in-crime) took up residence near the middle of the pool.

I swam 18.5 laps (or 37 lengths). I took time to float and, while elevated, thought about the possibility of a water bed. When I left the recreation center, the world felt less hostile.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Sunday's Menu

Sometimes I think that my grandmother missed her calling as a journalist or meteorologist or, in yesterday's case, a waitress since she was rattling off the menu specials of fried chicken and okra, sweet potatoes, cornbread, greens and blackberry cobbler.

Now, my aunt does the bulk of the cooking and she usually cooks a lot and is fond of saying, "I like to eat so I don't mind cooking." My grandmother usually handles biscuits, cornbread, cobblers and, when she is in the mood, lemon meringue pie. I forgot to ask my grandmother if she found her big spoon that she bought eons ago and uses to measure her ingredients.

Yesterday, the two things that were really calling my name were the cornbread and cobbler. I don't really even care for blackberries but it never stopped me from pushing them to the side and eating the dough and syrupy juice portion of the cobbler.

I was looking through Food Network Favorites' Recipes from Our All-Star Chefs while I was at my grandmother's and the recipes that jumped out at me were Mango Dos Leches, Tennessee Banana-Black Walnut Cake with Caramel Frosting and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pie. I envy people who don't have a sweet tooth.

Today, I went to the gym and I went to look for a coat afterwards and the one coat that I liked was, ironically, too big. I could have worn that coat about a year and a half ago. Otherwise, my shopping expedition was Goldilocks-like except no coat turned out to be just right.

I was exhausted after looking around and glad that I had cut up an apple for a post-workout snack. And, after I stopped by Whole Foods and Trader Joe's, I ate a chocolate crisp Attune bar.

As I was picking up coffee and salsa at Trader Joe's, I almost forget to get my latest addiction, Trader Joe's Soy Mini Chocolate Sandwiches. They really are mini but filling.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Forest Park Cam, Pre-Spring

I decided to go to Forest Park, my old stomping ground. When I was preparing for my first half marathon, I trained in FP which is such a cool city oasis. The trail that I usually follow is 6.2 miles and, when I made it around twice, I knew that I'd be able to finish the 2007 Lewis and Clark Marathon. It usually takes me slightly under two hours to walk the trail and exhaling is in order when I see the ponies.

Home Stretch

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Ten years ago, one of my friends sent me this postcard which still resonates with me today.

Happy Valentine's Day to all of my kin and kith from St. Louis to Mostar; thanks for the special joys...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Throwing Away the Cookie

I have been trying to decide whether or not to indulge in this Kashi cookie. Kashi makes good products and this tasty little cookie has oatmeal, dark chocolate and 3g of fiber. Still, 130 calories seemed a lot for one cookie.

Well, my decision has been made for me. Yesterday, I received and e-mail from Kashi explaining that one of the facilities that baked their Oatmeal Dark Chocolate cookies shared a line with products involved with the recent peanut recall. Luckily, the cookie was a sample and Kashi was able to alert me:

...Therefore, we have voluntarily recalled all of our Kashi TLC cookies, including the cookie sent to you. If you still have the cookie, please throw it out just to be safe; we would never want to put our consumers’ health at risk.

I've also been holding on to this Hollyberry cookie that someone shared with me around the holidays. I finally wrote to Hollyberry to ask for nutritional information. I was given the following link:

I clicked on the health holly choices and my cookie didn't make the cut. Hmmmm, maybe it will also be recalled. I'm going to hold on to my Hollyberry cookie for awhile. Maybe I'll conduct an experiment to see if it will be unchanging like a McDonald french fry or a Twinkie.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Food Landmarks

Lori called me and, as we're in the middle of our conversation, I hear "Give me two tacos and an apple empanada."

"Who sells apple empanadas?," I inquire. Lori informs me that Taco Bell has them on the menu and, of course, this reminds me of when I used to get empanadas at La Tropicana Market and Deli, a Cuban eatery. I liked La Tropicana for more than the empanadas and yucca; it reminded me of a confectionery that used to be in East St. Louis across from Dunbar, my elementary school. The tres leches cake at La Trop wasn't bad either.

I also remember the huge deep fried empanada that I bought from a street vendor in San Juan; it had more fried dough than meat. I knew that I should not have indulged but I was very hungry and about to get whiny and toddler-like.

My food landmarks are many. Whenever I pass by a McDonald's, I remember going there just for french fries and apple pies (2 for $1). I used to marvel at how you could get a bag of food for under $5 bucks.

Whenever I cross Kingshighway, I'm fully aware that Straub's is in the vicinity which also makes me remember how I used to go to the now defunct Pandora's bakery just for brownies. And the Chocolate Bar? Well, you can see how this walk down memory lane could easily spiral out of control but let me not forget to reminisce, briefly, about the slices of birthday cake that I had when it was neither my birthday nor anyone else's. How nice of the store to cut up those unclaimed cakes.

And speaking of Straub's, I ran into one of my favorite high school teachers there. We had not seen each other in ages and bumped into each other twice in one week in the dessert corner in the back of Straub's. If I known that it would take years to see her again, I would have just made a date to rendezvous at Straub's.

Monday, February 9, 2009

What the Inner Child Wanted

I bought a water tattoo. I actually bought two. The other one says backstroke.

It's ironic that I chose this tatt since the breastroke is not one of my greatest accomplishments. I do it Frank Sinatra style i.e. my way. I don't even bob up and down. I missed that class while out of town. My teacher's interest, at the time, was getting me to complete a lap by any means necessary with or without bobbing.

I selected the frog to remind me of how I should be moving my legs. In the end, a young child's needs are not so complex as to require justification.

I swam 17.5 laps or 35 lengths today in less than an hour. I noticed that my swimming is more efficient these days. I also noticed that the straps of my swimming suit or starting to slide again. Either the safety pins have moved from my first adjustment or swimming suit two is further evidence that I'm loosing inches again despite the stuck scale.

For the most part, I resorted to the back crawl and sidestroke with a few attempts at the front crawl.

Tonight's attendees at open swim included four kids, a guy with scuba gear and, of course, the front crawler. In my mind, I refer to her as Leon: The Professional since she's like an assassin. The front crawler is neither unfriendly nor sociable; she just comes in and gets the job done.

And what does a hungry swimmer eat? The lentil vegetable soup that she made on Sunday...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Weekend Circus

I thought about going to Forest Park today but when I stuck my head outside it didn't feel nearly as warm as it felt yesterday. I decided to go to the fitness club. "Eye of the Tiger" came along at the right time in the MP3 shuffle rotation because I was about 57 minutes into an hour-long workout and my speed was at 4.0. I thought that I would have to hit the pause button but I managed to gut it out with my musical inspiration.

According to the treadmill, I burned 462 calories and it felt like it. I was all tuckered out which, of course, did not stop me from trekking to Schnucks to pick up some ingredients for soup.

Yesterday, I swam 16 laps -- a little shy of half a mile. I also went to see Cirque du Soleil's Saltimbanco. I've heard that heroin users spend subsequent highs chasing that first dynamic one. I'm using heroin as an example but I don't know anything about heroin addiction since the world is better off with a drug-free 'Drea. Plus, given my obssession with ordinary things, let's face it, I would be a superb addict. The first time that I went to see Cirque du Soleil, the show was exceptional. I wanted to plan a trip to Las Vegas just to see the circus of the sun but I haven't felt that way in awhile and I can't even remember which shows I went to see. One was definitely a big top show. I feel like I went to see Varekai and Quidam.

Is Cirque resting on their laurels?

Cirque is certainly not resting on the souvenir prices; maybe they're counting on the $100 ticket holders to indulge. There are usually acts to admire in any Cirque production and while there were some jaded elements to Saltimbanco, I absolutely loved the boleadoras and the artistic bicycle acts and, by the end of the show, I was on the edge of my seat hoping for an encore.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


The scale has not moved in a month but that's par for the course since it usually takes me about a month to move the scale. Plus, I see the telltale signs of weight loss. There's a looseness in my pants and my new glasses no longer hug my face.

I was relieved to find my beloved MP3 player under a mountain of clothes. I have yet to deal with old clothing. I really shouldn't keep my larger clothes around but I've toyed with the idea of having some items altered. My taste in clothing has changed though. I find myself drawn to flower, leopard, paisley and zebra patterns and, sometimes, a combination of two patterns. My swimming cohort refused to go with me yesterday once she heard me coughing. That unidentified doctor is right about the inability to shorten a cold. Mine is waning but still hanging in there and it's almost been a week and I've been downing all manner of Emergen-C, ginger tea and, still, my body produces impressive amounts of mucous.

Instead of my usual Friday night swimming, I watched the French flick The Grocer's Son while nursing a hot cup of Holiday Plum Spice tea. The movie was pretty good if you like laid-back foreign flicks that emphasize relationships.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

To Exercise or Not to Exercise?

When I wake up in the morning, I think about what form of exercise I'm going to do especially if it's a non-swimming day. I have already worked out Sunday through Wednesday and wondered whether or not I should take a day off since I will probably go swimming on Friday and Saturday.

I'm not at 100% because of a lingering cold but, for the most part, I feel fine. Should I bench myself, despite being in the zone, because the experts say you should give yourself a day off?

I decided to do yoga at home, eat and then head to Trader Joe's because if I had gone to the fitness club, I would have gone straight there after the j-o-b then to Trader Joe's and the last thing that I wanted to do was shop while hungry.

I did Basic Yoga Workout for Dummies and Sara Ivanhoe is right about the relaxation pose being the dessert pose; it doesn't get any better than #12 in the daily dozen. Speaking of dessert, I bought some Trader Joe’s Soy Mini Chocolate Sandwiches which have 0.5 grams of saturated fat and 2 grams of fat overall. I hope that these little soy sandwiches are decent.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What's in the Bag?

I have about seven reusable bags and I am, sometimes, hard-pressed to remember to take the bags with me during my travels.

I went to Whole Foods to pick up a few things because, despite the prices, there are some products that I really like and that I can only find at WF. When I walked into Whole Foods, my eyes fell on pomegranates. Was it a mirage? The $2.99 price tag negated the mirage moment. I decided to treat myself because, apparently, I'm having a hard time letting go of the 'granates.

On Sunday, I was over at my aunt's house and I started to feel something strange in my throat. No, it couldn't be. I haven't had a cold in ages because all pistons in my immune system have been firing. Not anymore. So, one of the first things that I did was crack open the pomegranate. I was going to need those antioxidants. I could feel the acidity in the pomegranate juice as it connected with my tender throat. This cold thing was getting serious and I decided to attack it with Emergen-C, ginger tea and kiwi. This doctor might be right though. He said that you can eat all of the chicken noodle soup that you want but it doesn't lessen the duration (about a week) of a cold.

Despite being sick, I went to the 12th and Park pool today. The water was hot. Not warm but hot, hot, hot. You could see the steam rising above the water. It was hard to do the front crawl because the water was even warmer underneath. As it turns out, the temperature worked well for me since it was like being in a giant steam room and helped with my congestion. Although, I think that I was a bit delirious because I couldn't swim in a straight line today. My apologies to Kate because I ended up in her lane many times.

Attune bars, 365 Organic Honey Graham Crackers, 365 Veggie Chips and Annie's Bunny Grahams were also in my Whole Foods bag. I bought a handful of items and spent about $26 dollars. The Attune bars really put me over the top and I don't even know why I'm so addicted to them. In all honesty, I guess that I'm just addicted to snacking.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Eyeing Cookbooks

I've been reading Mark Bittman's The Minimalist Cooks Dinner as well as The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook.

I was disappointed when I opened Bittman's book because there were no pictures. The chapters are broken down into "Soups and Stews," Pasta, Noodles and Pizza," "Shellfish," "Fish," "Poultry," "Meat," and "Salads and Side Dishes." I skipped right over the shellfish segment which might as well have been dubbed "The 'Drea Killer" chapter. All in all, none of the recipes were really calling my name but I did like Bittman's "With Minimal Effort" asides that showed how to vary the main recipe.

I really enjoyed the Biggest Loser cookbook and I thoroughly appreciated the pictures. A good picture of food will make me go to the store for recipe ingredients. I also like the budget tips à la For Dummies since it has a grocery cart icon to alert you that you're about to be enlightened about a budget matter.

I would try many recipes in the Biggest Loser cookbook including "Very Lemon Oatmeal," "Subtly Strawberry Oatmeal," "Mediterranean Chicken Sandwich," "Berry Mixed Green Salad With Grilled Chicken," "Texas Caviar," "Kiwi Watermelon Salsa," and "Chocolate-Peanut Butter Grahamwiches."

The one thing that kind of grossed me out was the "Cheesy Baked Sweet Potato" recipe which is, essentially, a sweet potato with a Laughing Cow Light Garlic and Herb cheese slice in the middle. I love the light Laughing Cow line but why mess with perfection? A baked sweet potato really doesn't need anything else.

Speaking of something distasteful, I've heard that the Bacon Explosion is all the rage. If you have the stomach for it, check out this phenomenon.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Superbowl XXIII

I am officially rooting for the Arizona Cardinals since I'm fond of former STL Ram Kurt Warner; plus, I love a good underdog or cinderella story.

Even though I'm rooting for the Cardinals, I definitely have to give props to Pittsburgh Steeler Troy Polamalu.

Troy is impressive as all get out. He puts it on the line every game. I was watching him play against the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship on Jan. 18th. It was fourth down and the Ravens needed one yard. Polamalu flew sideways over the pack and helped to stop the Ravens' progress.

I remember how I would look at players' profiles on and think how I weighed as much or more than some football players -- only most of the players were 6'0 feet plus and I was 5'3 and some change...