Jul 11

Burpees, don’t hurt me

Over the weekend I tried a new exercise for the first time: the burpee.

Basically, you start standing, squat down, kick your legs out behind you, do a push-up, come up to squatting, and jump as high as you can.

First off, how did this exercise get such a weird name? From the Wikipedia article:

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the exercise was named in the 1930s for American psychologist Royal H. Burpee, who developed the Burpee test. Consisting of a series of the exercises performed in rapid succession, the test was meant to measure agility and coordination. It is not clear whether the exercise itself was invented by Burpee, or if his test merely popularized it.

The burpee seems to be a big part of Cross Fit, while Cross Fitters often seem to eat paleo, which I’m trying to do (at least paleo-ish). Hence, that brings me to the burpee and other intense exercises that take up less time than my usual one-hour cardio or yoga schtick (neither of which I felt like doing yesterday).

This site offers a few good examples of burpee routines (I think it’s funny that the first “You Might Like” article is “How to Get Pecs” – no thanks!).  I tried a variation: 10 sets of 10 burpees in a row.  I did a couple of sets of very easy burpees (no jumping or push-up).  Piece of cake, I thought.  I started incorporating push-ups, which were hard as fuck, especially since I did yoga yesterday with a generous number of chaturangas.  I found them so difficult, I could barely do a full push-up, to tell the truth.

For the rest of my sets, I alternated between very easy burpees and push-up ones (still no jumping in consideration of neighbors), resting for about ten or 20 seconds in between, depending on how tired I was, because after a while, I started to get really tired.  And incredibly sweaty.  My heart was pumping like I had been sprinting.  By the end of maybe a 15 minute routine, I was dripping in sweat and totally out of breath.

Either I’m not as in good shape as I thought I was, or the burpee is indeed the kick-ass exercise that Cross Fitters and paleos claim it is.

The next day I was totally feeling it.  My inner thighs were killing me, and I was sore under and in front of my arms, as well as the muscles in my lower back.  And my thighs felt strong and beefy.

I know I’ll be doing them again in the very near future.  If I can, that is.

Jun 11

Checking in on picking up a new habit

It’s been two weeks since I started my new habit of going to the gym after work, and it’s going well so far.

The first week

My first week I did cardio four days in a row.  On Monday, which was a work from home (WFH) day for a change since our office had just been painted, I ran 4 miles.  Tuesday I went after work for the first time, and man was it crowded!  I can’t remember if I’ve ever gone at that time before.  There was a line for the treadmills, but luckily I wanted the elliptical.  Forty minutes.

Wednesday I almost didn’t go, although it was a working day and my bus passes my gym.  Instead I got off about a mile and a half before my stop and hoofed it.  The thing was by the time I reached my gym, I felt like working out.  I went in and ran three miles on the treadmill.  Woot!

Thursday was WFH and 40 minutes on the elliptical.  I also did one session of weights – on Sunday, I think – and two one-hour sessions of yoga during the week.

It was great waking up on Friday, knowing that I didn’t have to worry about going to the gym for the WHOLE weekend.

The second week

This past week I did pretty well, though not 100%. Monday I went to the gym after work – 40 minutes on the elliptical. Tuesday was WFH, but I only did yoga for an hour.  (Well, “only.”)  I was kinda busy with work and was also helping MB with a book he’s self-publishing so I didn’t really have time to get away for the gym.

Wednesday I went after work again – ran four miles. It felt really good to run that day because I had totally fallen off the wagon in terms of eating.  When I first got to work, I was slightly hungry but not starving.  I usually have oatmeal or peanut butter toast at home before I leave, then some nuts when I get to the office.  That day I decided to have this delicious chicken roll that a nearby coffee shop serves.  It has no cheese, just grilled chicken breast with pine nuts and other goodies.

The thing was it screwed me up for lunch.  I ate some sushi rolls (eel and cucumber) just to eat something, though I wasn’t hungry, and because I had had a too-sugary cup of coffee-milk-tea in the late morning, I was totally craving carbs by the afternoon, and had – yes – a package of goldfish crackers.

I know that’s not so bad, but one of my main goals is to cut out processed carby snacks, so I felt bad.  Hence, I really felt the need to run that night.

Thursday was WFH and again I didn’t have time to go to the gym.  Yoga to the rescue!  This time I incorporated some new moves.

Plank Pose

Chaturanga, or Four-limbed Staff Pose

Vasisthasana, or Side Plank Pose

For some reason, my yoga teacher never had us do these. (Oh, in case you’re wondering, the fitness studio at my gym is closed indefinitely.  Something’s wrong with the floors.  The yoga class I love is being taught at another branch, but it’s all the way in North Point!  One of these Tuesdays/Thursdays I’m not too busy, I’ll have to schlep my cookies out there.)

Friday after work, I ran another four miles.  At first I was going to do a more intense three, but I felt good so I kept going.  I ran it much faster than I normally do, and with an increasingly steep incline for the last mile.  It was tough but I felt both awesome and exhausted afterward.

Saturday I felt perfectly fine not doing cardio and just doing yoga.  I incorporated even more plank, holding for about ten slow breaths, and four-limbed staff poses, holding for three (very difficult and not as slow) breaths.  I probably did about ten, sprinkled through my routine, and was sweating profusely. Today I’m pleasantly though not insufferably sore, though part of me wants to be insufferably sore.

Today I’m not sure what I’ll do.  Probably nothing except take a walk and some minor stretching.

It was only after my run Friday night that I started to feel trimmer, even though I had done “only” three cardio sessions. I’m starting to feel that’s okay if the cardio is intense, and if I’m doing yoga too.

Here’s to continued progress!

Images via Yoga Journal.

Apr 11


If you follow my Tweets, you may have noticed that I sometimes mention that I’m “eating paleo” or, more often, “failing to eat paleo.”  I’ve been meaning to blog about it, and when Wyn asked, “What is paleo?” I thought it was time.

First and foremost, I’m nowhere near true paleo, and I’m not saying the paleo diet is good or bad.  I’m just using some of the guidelines to eat better.

Several months ago, I went low-fat, and while I successfully lowered my cholesterol, I didn’t really lose that much weight.  Namely the five pound roll on my stomach, because while I was eating low-fat, I was still eating a lot of processed carbs and sugar.  For instance, in addition to a healthy lunch, I’d have a handful of pretzels or cheddar bunnies.  Then again after my yogurt in the afternoon.  At night I’d have some kind of low-fat dessert (Skinny Cow ice cream, or  graham crackers, or fig newtons).  If I had the night-time munchies for something salty, I’d attack low-fat chips or crackers.

With paleo, you cut all of that out.

Continue reading →

Mar 11

Fuck you daylight savings time

This week “spring forward” fucked me up more than usual.

My sleep’s been off anyway because a) I was hormonal which for some reason gives me insomnia, b) MB has been away for a few days at another conference so I probably haven’t been active enough and spending too much time at home, and c) Sunday night I always have a bit of trouble sleeping anyway because my sleep patterns have gone off for the weekend.

Then fucking spring forward.

Sunday night I found myself still awake at one AM. But at least I expected it.  I had a carby snack and some hot milk with honey to relax me.  I worked a bit on my memoir.  When I finally went to bed, I surprisingly had no problem drifting off.  But the morning was a fucking bitch, let me tell you.

I guess if I were back east, I’d be used to waking up in the dark all winter.  But I think it gets light here earlier so I haven’t been.

Today I couldn’t bear getting up seven when the sun was barely up, and slept in till 8:30.  Luckily I’m working from home today.

The only good thing about DST is that yesterday afternoon flew by.  Before I knew it, it was after five.

* * *

I want to be a super-independent woman, but basically I’m a bit of a mess when MB is away for more than a weekend.  I don’t leave the house as often.  I’m alone a lot.  Some nights I have trouble sleeping (not last night though, finally).  I also start to worry.

Without MB distracting me, my head starts to spin into an endless vortex of made-up anxieties.  I started thinking what if we’re next for an earthquake?  Why did I move to a state where earthquakes are a possibility?!?

Then I started to worry about my dad.  Right now I’m reading The Shell Seekers by Rosamunde Pilcher.  It’s very good, but there are characters my age with a mother who just had a heart attack.  And the mother character is younger than my father.  So I started to worry about my dad, and thinking I just couldn’t bear it if anything happened to him (knock wood).

Of course I feel the same way about my mom, but my mom still seems vibrant, seems, basically, the same as always, while my father seems to have aged suddenly in the last several years.

My grandmother lived to be 94.  I really hope my dad lives as long.

Feb 11

My queendom for some jeans

For months now, I’ve been on a quest for a pair of jeans that fit.

Back when I was skinny, almost any jeans would do. My favorites were from a store that shall go nameless due to the enormous amount of spam I get. Let’s just say, “Fall into the. . .” Get it? Good. Anyway, I had a couple of different sizes, a smaller one for my thin days and a bigger one for my regular days. For several years, the smaller size fit, then not, so the bigger size did fine for a very long time.

How long? Seven years. Is that even long for jean-years? Well, it was long enough for the seat and knees to get pretty thin, but I figured as long as there were no holes, I could keep wearing them.

Then three things happened within just a couple of weeks: 1) I somehow got a hole in the butt, 2) I fell in my giant rain boots and ripped a small hole in the knee, and 3) MB thought it would be hilarious to put his finger in the butt hole (OF MY JEANS, dirty thinkers) and tug. The next thing we knew –


That was it, my security blanket destroyed.

“I didn’t know it would rip so easily!” MB claimed.

“I have no jeans to wear now!” I cried. This wasn’t entirely true. I did have two other pairs, one that’s slightly too big, and another that’s slightly too small. The ripped jeans were the ones that were just right.

Or at least I thought so. True, they were not very flattering. While the legs were fine, the waist, hips, and butt were a little big, and made me look bigger. But they were super comfortable, so who cared?

I returned to the store where I got the jeans, but of course they don’t make them anymore. I tried a million pairs, in various sizes and styles. Low waist, modern boot, straight leg, blah blah. The only ones I didn’t try were the skinny jeans (which of course dominate every store now) because the one time I did, I couldn’t even get one leg in, let alone two. My size varied so much from pants to pants: good in the legs, too big in the waist; good in the waist, too tight in the legs; too long, even in petite.

At home stuffed in a drawer were a pair I bought when I first moved to SF. They fit and felt comfortable – stretchy material helps – but when I got the home, I didn’t like how they looked. Too hippy. I kept meaning to return them, but more than a year later, I still hadn’t.

After my recent shopping debacle, I decided to try them again. And I was surprised to see they actually looked better. I’ve lost a wee bit of weight trying to lower my cholesterol, so my hips are less bulbous. And they were even more comfy than I remembered.

On a day I worked from home, I decided to test them out. I wore them in public and no one pointed and gagged. Then I wore them to work. Even sitting they fit well (though after lunch they did jam into my belly a little), and they were easy to tuck into my rain boots.

Yesterday, taking advantage of the nice weather, MB and I hit another jeans store. This was extra challenging because the sizes were European. Am I 27, 28, 29? Turns out, at least in some jeans, I’m a 28 X 30, which depending on who you ask is a 6 or an 8. But whatevs. After trying on a million pants, I found some that actually fit!

“After all those jeans,” MB said, “you found one.”

“Hey,” I said. “That’s a good day.”

Now that I have jeans that look good, I feel more incentive to keep them that way. In other words, to lose just a few more pounds. I won’t go crazy with dieting, but will try to keep up healthy eating with fewer splurges and more exercise. While I’ve been very good about yoga, lately I’ve been awful about getting in enough cardio.

By the way, MB ripped a pair of his own jeans too. Like mine, it started with a tiny hole in the butt area, and then he tore it open on purpose. However, his search should be far easier than mine was.

Feb 11

Y Before C

Yoga before cardio, that is.

I admire people who get really sweaty during yoga.  My brother says his mat is slippery by the end of his workout.  There’s a guy in my class who’s positively dripping mid-way through and has to towel off several times. And he’s not one of those hard-bodied experts. He’s just above average, like me.

I usually do cardio before going to yoga class.  A three- or four-mile run, or 40 minutes on the elliptical.  As a result, I’m already pretty sweaty by the time I get to class, and because I usually perspire for quite a while after a workout, I do so during yoga as well. So I never know if it’s the yoga or the post-workout ooze-fest.

Yesterday I left the house late and so went straight to yoga instead of running beforehand.  I thought it would a good experiment to see just how intense the class is by measuring my no-cardio sweat level.

The experiment went well.  Because my muscles weren’t already fatigued, I was able to push myself a lot more.  By 20 minutes into the class, I was schvitzing.  By the time we did Half Moon Pose, sweat was dripping off my nose onto the floor (I can’t turn my gaze up yet). Afterward, my legs were like Jell-O, but I still had energy to run.  Three miles, woohoo!

Today I’m sore all over – my shoulders, parts of my back, my butt, and my quads.  Hurts so good.

I will have to try the yoga then cardio thing again.

Feb 11

I’m a coldy, bratty hermit

What started as a sore throat, slightly upset stomach, and general ickiness  has finally blossomed into full-blown cold.  While a stuffy, itchy nose full of an unbelievable amount of snot isn’t fun, I’ll take that over congested sinuses any day.

I rarely get sick so when I finally do, I’m a total brat about it.  I was restless the other night, even after taking that blue cold medicine that might as well be vodka, so the TV seemed extra loud.  I marched into the living room, announced, “It’s too loud!” and turned the volume down so low that MB couldn’t hear it at all.  At that point he gave up and turned it off.

Since dealing with our noisy annoying downstairs neighbors, I started wearing ear plugs, which do an awesome job.  Once MB came in to grab his pants and belt to run out for a midnight snack.  He dropped the belt, cried out, “Fuck!” and I still didn’t budge.

But with my stuffy nose, I don’t like wearing the ear plugs.  They make me feel suffocated, and I don’t like hearing my labored, stuffy breathing, like I’m Darth Vader.

Friday night we did manage to go out and have some dumplings for Chinese New Year. After work we met up in the city and walked to the restaurant. It’s too pricey for dim sum but it’s clean, the food is good, and it’s in a convenient location.

I still miss my mom’s dumplings though.

Yesterday I barely left the house. Still feeling sick, I stayed at home while MB went out to meet one of his friends for lunch and play guitar in the park. I managed to almost finish a draft of an essay for a contest that’s due next week, and did some laundry.  MB came home in the late afternoon, we had dinner at Grubstake, our favorite nearby place, then spent the evening working while watching a surprisingly exciting reality-competition show about sharp shooters. We followed that with a couple of episodes of yet another anime. There are so many out there, but so few I actually like.

Not sure what I’m doing today.  Gym?  Highly unlikely.  Kind of do want to hit a cafe, any cafe where there will NO Superbowl activity.

Jan 11

Black Swan Riff

MB and I saw Black Swan the other night.  We both enjoyed it, aside from some motion sickness-inducing camera movements.

I’ve taken exactly one month of ballet and tap, when I was four.  I quit so fast because I found ballet boring – why weren’t we DANCING? why were we just lined up in a row with our arms out? – and I’d always freak out because my mother would disappear.  I don’t know where she’d go. Grocery shopping maybe, or maybe she’d just go sit in the car. Wherever she went, she wasn’t with me to help me tie my shoes (once I up and asked some random dad, conscious of the fact that I was breaking out of my shyness and that my own parent wasn’t around) or to peek in at me with the other parents as we shuffle-ball-stepped.

Once (or was it every time?) I started to cry and the teacher asked, “What’s wrong, cupcake?”  I knew what a cupcake was, but had never been called such before, and stopped crying for a moment to think about that.

At home my mother would make me practice.  She’d put me in the laundry room where I could tap away without her worrying about my scratching the floor.  But of course I wouldn’t practice.  I’d pretend I was Dorothy and that my tap shoes were ruby slippers.

After I quit, I saved my dancing for my room.  Dancing segued to lip synching, and soon I was pretending I was Olivia Newton-John, then a made-up celebrity triple-threat – actress, singer, and dancer.  I had a litany of made-up movie star names (and I cringe with embarrassment as I type this): Tiffany Volvina, Jazz Silver Rain, Jordan Dane.  I wore my socks out doing pirouettes.

In junior high, I had one friend who was a ballerina.  While most of us were struggling with our weight, Elise stayed skinny by dancing three to four hours every day.  I remember her feet were misshapen from dancing en pointe, and her spine curvy.  Every time we got checked for scoliosis, they always thought she had it.  When she ran in gym class, she looked like a goony bird, lumbering before take-off, but then she’d  jete, and we’d all stare, amazed.

She’d talk about how she’d lose so much weight, preparing for their yearly performance of The Nutcracker, and how during rehearsals, they’d all dress and undress, girls and boys, in front of each other.

I used to wish my parents had made me stay in ballet so that I could be like Elise: lithe, long-legged, tall, and not shy at all.

Part of me still wants that ballet dancer’s body, wiry and strong.  To wake up first thing in the morning like Natalie Portman’s character and crack all my bones.

But I know that unless I’m dancing eight hours a day, I’ll never look like that.  But at least I’ll be inspired to keep working out regularly, to maybe run a bit more and continue doing yoga twice a week.

And I can always pretend I’m a dancer when I crack my toes.

Jan 11

This will be one of the babbling posts

I have the day off today for Martin Luther King, though I dreamed last night that I went to work, and there were all these people there whom neither I nor my co-workers knew.

Finished a couple of drafts this week, a short story and an essay.  It was pretty painful.  I’ll take another look at them later this week.  Now I’m working on one for The Nervous Breakdown, which should be more straightforward (hopefully).

MB and I saw True Grit last weekend. We both enjoyed it very much, despite the fire alarm that went off just at the start of the exciting third act.  Luckily, they let us back in almost immediately, and didn’t have to wait too long for the film to start again.  Plus we got free passes, woohoo!

The girl in the movie was excellent.  The whole time I kept picturing her as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games movie.

Had a burger for the first time in six months. At Fish & Farm.  It was worth it.

I finally straightened out my health insurance. I signed up online.  It was surprisingly easy.  Now just waiting for my little card.

I talked to my mom and found out even more stuff about my grandmother. I think I’ve written about how she sold her dumplings, potstickers, and scallion pancakes out of her house in Berkeley for 25 cents each, and how people would come from all the Bay Area to buy them.  Well, she used that dumpling money to pay off the mortgage of that Berkeley house (true, that was just a few hundred dollars a month, but still), and was able to save up enough to buy ANOTHER house in San Jose (with my aunt as a co-signer).  I had no idea about that San Jose house, and just love the idea of Puo-puo as this entrepreneur.

There is a story here.  I even have a title.  But it’s a secret!

Watching cartoons. MB and I watch a lot of animated shows.  Family Guy, American Dad, Archer, whatever anime that happens to strike our fancy and which is not too weird or crazy (currently, Ghost Hound), and new fave, Bob’s Burgers.

Lately we’ve been catching up on Metalocalypse.  Last night MB said, “You’re not into metal and you’re not that into cartoons, but even you love Metalocalypse.”

I’m definitely not into heavy metal music, but not into cartoons?!?!  Hey buddy, I was watching them WAY before I met you, and I’m not talking about Tom & Jerry or Bugs Bunny.  Then I started trying to remember all the cartoons I’ve watched regularly as an adult, pre-MB, post-childhood:

  • The Simpsons
  • Beevis & Butthead
  • King of the Hill
  • Aeon Flux (when it was on late night MTV, not the Charlize Theron movie)
  • South Park
  • Dr. Katz
  • Doug
  • The Rugrats
  • Hey, Arnold!
  • Nick at Night (back when it was like a Robot Chicken that made sense)
  • Arthur
  • Angelina Ballerina
  • Chibi Maruko-chan (a Japanese cartoon I first saw in China, would love to see it again)

Not into cartoons – ha!

Nov 10

I Vanquish Thee, High Cholesterol!

Earlier this morning, I had a follow-up appointment with my doctor about my high-ish bad cholesterol.

In case you didn’t already know, I’ve been on a mission for the past few months to lower my LDL. While my New York doctor didn’t see too much of a problem since my good-bad cholesterol ratio was okay, my SF doctor was more concerned and even mentioned meds if my LDL didn’t go down.

Although I’ve been very good about my diet changes, I was still paranoid that my LDL wouldn’t have gone down enough or, God forbid, at all.  Well, I found out the numbers this morning.  Drumroll please. . .

Nov 2010 Jul 2010 2008 2007
Cholesterol 157 214 216 182
HDL (good)
57 66 67 72
LDL (bad)
88 137 133 99
Triglycerides 62 55 79 53

Not only did my bad cholesterol go down, it went down a shit ton: from 137 to 88! The optimal level is apparently under 100. Under 130 I think is okay. My total cholesterol went down from 214 to 157, almost 60 points. Optimal is under 200.

My doctor was so shocked, he jokingly checked to see if they were indeed my records, and asked, “Are you sure I didn’t prescribe you anything?”

I was disappointed my good cholesterol was lower, but he said as long it was over 50, that was good.

I guess my diet changes worked!  The oatmeal for breakfast every day, the salmon and rice for lunch, fish or chicken for dinner.  Lots of veggies all around.  I’ve always only had skim or low or nonfat yogurt so that was no problem.  Also, I cut out burgers, sausage, bacon, baked goods, bad chips, deep fried foods, mayo, ice cream, creamy mochas, fatty instant noodles, and some cheese.

Recently I’ve worked cheese back in.  I can’t resist the (very) occasional  slice of pizza, or these amazing sandwiches from this deli nearby.  As for ice cream cravings, I opt for Skinny Cow, which is actually pretty good!  Still, I shouldn’t be having it every day.

I lost five pounds pretty quickly, but haven’t lost anything more.  I’ve been sort of lazy lately about my workouts, and I want to get back up to working out at least four times a week because in addition to toning up and increasing my HDL, hopefully it will bring down my borderline borderline high blood pressure too.

Yup, it can’t be all good.  There’s a chance I might have borderline borderline hypertension.  So not actual borderline hypertension but not far from it either.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m always a little tense at the doctor’s, or if I really do need to cut back on sodium.  It is true that I’ve been eating lots of Japanese food, which is both tasty and low fat but quite high in sodium.

So I’ll try to cut my salt intake a little and exercise more.  I also want to get a blood pressure measuring machine and monitor myself regularly.  See if my relaxed blood pressure is actually lower.

Another thing to obsess about it just when my cholesterol is under control.