Hey – we may as well have fun as we go sliding into old age, right?

Posts tagged ‘sweat’

She’s Havin’ a Heat Wave….

You know, I used to think those t-shirts were so cute that said “It’s not a hot flash, it’s a power surge!”  Yay for women!  That’s what I thought.  What a healthy, charming, and sharp-witted way to look at one of life’s major changes.  “I’m going to get myself one of those shirts when the time comes”, I thought. 

That was then.  This is now.  And now I’ve decided that telling women that hot flashes are empowering and fun is a lot like when parents used to tell their children they were going to an ice cream party when they were really headed into surgery to have their tonsils removed.  Why do we insist on lying to each other?   There is nothing empowering about a hot flash.  Yes, it’s a marker on the way to a new stage of our life as women, and that’s a transition that should be honored and acknowledged, blah, blah, blah.  But a power surge?  Hardly. 

There is nothing powerful about standing in front of a group of 50 business people as I did two weeks ago, about to make an important hour-long presentation, when suddenly I felt the telltale mini-wave of heat (I usually get a warning shot like that before the big one hits).  Uh-oh.  I braced myself for the next tide of warmth, and tried to ignore it with a happy smile and ice-breaking banter with the group.  But how was I supposed to handle the water dripping down the side of my face?  I’d brush it away quickly, and another would appear.  I’d brush that away, and another would be soon be there.  I shed my jacket, knowing I probably looked nervous to the group, which wasn’t exactly the impression I wanted to leave them with.  How could they know that my body temperature felt like it was hitting 110˚?  As I wiped away the fourth or fifth drop of sweat from near my left eye, I realized I had to say something, so I mumbled a few words about having “something in my eye – sorry!” as I tried to continue with some semblance of dignity. 

For several years now, I’ve been relieved that hot flashes didn’t seem to be a big issue for me in perimenopause (that stretch of years just before the real thing).  Yes, I had the very occasional hot flash, usually brought on by nerves or being in warm temperatures.  But they were quick little things, and just a minor inconvenience.  What was everyone complaining about?  The worst one I had until very recently was after a shopping trip on a raw winter day.  The store had been warm, and I was wearing a heavy winter coat and scarf.  By the time Hubby and I got home, I was boiling from the inside out.  He went out to get the rest of the grocery bags from the car, and by the time he came back in from the garage, I had shed coat, scarf, sweatshirt and turtleneck, and I was unpacking groceries in my bra as the snow swirled outside the window.  I just put up my hand and said “hot flash”, and he walked away chuckling.

But now that I’m in the midst of the real deal “Big M”, I’m learning exactly how difficult hot flashes can be.  I have days now when I cycle in and out of hot flashes twenty times or more.  Jacket off, ice water, grab a book to fan myself with.  Then I become totally chilled, and put the jacket back on and grab a cup of coffee.  Which then sets off another hot flash, and jacket off again…  Well, you get the picture.   It’s irritating, distracting, and exhausting. 

While some women describe becoming completely drenched in sweat during their hot flashes, I (so far and usually) just develop a sheen of sweat on my skin.  Normally, my skin just feels like I’ve been outside for a while on a really hot, humid summer day. 

Sometimes I am caught off guard by a full hot rush of heat that will cause me to start shedding clothing desperately (which is interesting when I’m in public…) and send me on a wild search for ice, ice water, a cool breeze, anything!  But normally I get a little warning shot first that lets me know what’s coming.  It’s a little spurt of warmth that just washes over my body in a flash.  I now know that it’s a signal for a “big one”.  Sometimes the real hot flash starts in my chest, and radiates up and out across my upper body.  Sometimes it starts at the top of my scalp and flows downward.  It feels like my thermostat has gone completely out of control.  If you’ve never had one, you really can’t believe how fast your body can heat up.  It’s like having my own little personal furnace, with the knob turned up to “high”.  It’s actually pretty impressive.  So for a minute or two, I’ll be boiling.  And then, just like that, it’s gone.

On a not-so-good day, those hot flashes just roll over me all day long.  On a good day, it will only happen 2 or 3 times.  Usually right after I’ve taken my beloved scalding hot morning shower.  And again after a cup of hot coffee (especially in the afternoons), and again in the evening while I’m relaxing.  One neat trick I’ve learned in the morning is that my hair dryer has a “cold” setting, so I can cool my body down with my hair dryer before getting dressed – it works – honest!

And at night?  Oh my Lord.  I have a small throw blanket folded on top of the blanket on my side of the bed, because I’m usually cold, and Hubby never is.  Over the past few months, that throw routinely goes flying in the middle of the night, as I wake up drenched in sweat.  I fling off the regular blanket and sheets, and just lay there, waiting for it to pass.  If I fall back to sleep right away, I’m sure to wake up 30 minutes later because now I’m cold from not having any covers on.  Then I pick up the throw blanket from the floor and start all over again.

Scientific studies have indicated that the primary reason that menopause can cause irritability and forgetfulness is not because of a particular hormone, but because of these night sweats that wake us up over and over at night.  Don’t believe it?  You try sleeping night after night in a room where someone turns the heat up to 95 and then down to 55 every other hour.   And stop laughing – it’s not funny.

Power surge?  Really?!?  A co-worker told me this week that she had hot flashes for a period of ten years.  I almost wept.  If mine keep up that long, I’ll be locked away in a padded cell somewhere, babbling incoherently from exhaustion.  I just hope it’s air-conditioned.

Fighting With My Reflection

A month ago, I posted a blog on my frustration with fitting back into my Fat Jeans again.  At that point, I’d lost a whopping 1 ½ lbs, and was determined to keep going.  So, consider this my update in frustration.  I don’t know which irritates me more – the mirror or the scale.

I am doing serious battle with my body right now.  And that’s not like me.  My body and I have always gotten along pretty well.  I’ve always been pretty in tune with what my body was doing and feeling.  Every little change was noted and acknowledged.  After a serious bout of IBS in my twenties, I learned that I could control some health issues (especially stress-induced ones) with a few moments of deep breathing, a good night’s sleep, a few days of simple foods, and truly paying attention to what my body was telling me it needed.  We got each other.

I married a great cook, so it was only naturally that some pounds came on after a while.  I accused him of making me “fat and happy”.  I had moved from an active lifestyle of horseback riding and farming to a sedentary suburban life.  It wasn’t my body’s fault that I gained weight – it was mine.  And when I decided eight years ago that I could be stronger than the food in my life, I dropped the weight and kept it off.  I felt terrific.

But my body has now joined the dark side.  My metabolism changes every year, and not in a good way.  Pounds come on in bunches, for no good reason.  Ten pounds a few summers ago.  Five here, five there, and another three this past April.  My body feels heavy, especially around the middle, and my clothes are uncomfortable.  I’m not at all at peace with my body right now.  Even Zumba isn’t weaving its magic spell this year (oh, sure, it’s fun, as I wrote a few weeks ago), but my body is unimpressed at the moment.

My body has become the enemy.  Stubborn, pouting, grumpy, lumpy and lazy.  It’s become old and cranky.  I stare at it in the mirror, and I’m horrified.  Officially, I’m within my healthy weight range, BMI and all that jazz, but my body is turning into something unrecognizable.  For crying out loud, I’m only fifteen pounds over my target goal weight!  The mirror shows me the extra weight, along with things like my skin, once taut, but now crepey and loose – under my chin, on the back of my hands, on my stomach, in my cleavage. 

And speaking of cleavage…oh, never mind.  Let’s just say my breasts are following gravity toward my waistline at a rapid pace.  And when the hell did I grow boobs on my back?  Suddenly there are big rolls of skin on my back that show under t-shirts and sweaters.  And bathing suits?  Forget about it.  All that extra flesh is determined to burst out in the most unbecoming places.  Ignore all the hype about the Miraclesuits.  Sure, your body is held in very nicely everywhere the suit is, but wherever it isn’t – – – who are we trying to kid?

I’m trying, damn it!  I’m going to Zumba, I’m walking almost every day, I’m drinking Slim Fast shakes, I’m trying to watch what I eat (I know I’ve cut calories), I’m even drinking 55 calorie beer, for crying out loud!!  I bought Wii Fit, and I’ve been using it daily for a whole week.  And my body is still sitting at the same place it was a month ago.  Seriously???  Not an ounce lost??  In a month??  What kind of cruel trick is that?  I’m sitting here at the computer with my jeans (not the Fat Jeans) both unbuttoned and partially unzipped for comfort, and that really ticks me off.

But I am not giving up.  Like a marriage going through a rough patch, my body and I are just having a hard time right now.  We’ll work through it and work it out.  I stare at my reflection and try to understand (and try to love) what I’m seeing.  I’m not one of those silly women who flail away at the aging process in panic, trying so desperately to look twenty-five forever.  I know that some changes are inevitable as I age.  I generally like getting older.  I can handle my crow’s feet and a certain degree of sag here and there.  But enough is enough.  This creeping, crepey invasion of flabby flesh is going to stop.

It’s time for a little “tough love” with this body of mine.  We have to get back on the same page.  This month-long plateau is going to end.  I may have to pay the price in some hunger pangs and unopened bottles of wine, but I can do it.  A little extra sweat.  More fruit and veggies (I’m munching strawberries right now).  A lot more water (yup, got a glass of water in front of me).  The Wii every single morning.  A walk every single day …. well, maybe not every day… but close to it.  Zumba at least twice a week.  I’ll drag my petulant body along for a while until it gets with the program and decides to join me. 

I’m not looking to get a 36-24-36 Barbie doll figure.  I’m far more realistic than that.  I just want my reflection to show a healthy, at least moderately fit, body.  A body I can relate to again.  With a minimum of nasty surprises in the mirror as time goes by.  Stay tuned………………………………..

My Love/Hate Relationship with Zumba

In case you’re wondering what Zumba is, it’s exercise disguised as dancing.  Or dancing disguised as exercise.  Or torture disguised as fun.  It’s basically a way to sweat like crazy and cram what feels like days’ worth of exercise into an hour or so.  It all began in Columbia, South America, and has swept the U.S. in the past 8 or 9 years.

I had no intention of being dragged into the craze when it hit our area a few years ago.   Sadly out of shape, I still could not imagine myself dancing in a room full of people.  You see, I’m just not very coordinated.  I have a bad sense of timing, and a worse sense of direction.  Invariably, if my husband says “look at that car on your right!” I will immediately look to the left.  So much so that Hubby now just sighs and says “your other right, honey”.  So any kind of structured dancing, even though I dearly love music, is not my strong point.

But my friends were very persistent, and they seemed to be having fun, so eventually I found myself going to classes with them.  That was a year ago.  I hate it.  And I love it.  It’s complicated. But I won’t give it up.  Let me try to sort it out the primary issues for you.

1a.   SWEAT IS BAD –  You know that old saying that ladies don’t sweat, they perspire?  Well, not doing Zumba they don’t!  It’s definitely sweat that rolls off in buckets.  Your hair sweats in Zumba.  Just this morning, I went to brush my bangs off my face in class, and a shower of water sprayed out in front of me.  Surprised, I put my hand to my head and realized my hair was completely soaked with sweat.  That much sweat is disgusting.  It’s uncomfortable.  It’s cold and unhealthy in the winter when you walk outdoors into below zero temperatures.  It requires washing of workout clothes, including my expensive athletic bra, after every single class.  Sweat is not pleasant.

1b.   SWEAT IS GOOD – Sweat is empowering.  Sweat tells you you’re really doing something.  Sweat tells you that your body is working – hard.  Sweat tells you that you’re building muscle and burning fat.  That’s a really good feeling.   Sweat is powerful.  Sweat is good for women.

2a.  MIRRORS ARE BAD – Most Zumba classrooms have at least one wall of mirrors.  They’re scary.  They show EVERYTHING to EVERYONE.  You see everything you’re doing wrong – every time I turn right instead of left, the mirror lets me know about it (as does the unsuspecting classmate to my right!).  The mirror also shows me how bad I look in workout clothes.  Just when I’m feelin’ the music and thinkin’ I’m really jammin’ to the song, I get a glance of myself in the mirror – lumpy, puffy, in pants that are too short, with a blotchy red face, and my mouth gaping open like a flounder, gasping for air.  So much for confidence – I look like I’m ready to drop!  Mirrors are not helpful.

2b.  MIRRORS ARE GOOD – There’s always the practical purpose of mirrors – they allow you to see what the instructor is doing, and they show you whether you are doing a move properly when you compare your moves to hers.  But there are other fun things about mirrors.   The mirror teaches us to avoid that gasping flounder look as we struggle for air, and to instead purse our lips like we’re just blowing off a little steam.  Lips together, mouth more closed than open – “whew”.  Trust me – it’s much more attractive than the gasping flounder look.  Mirrors can boost your Zumba confidence when you realize that many other people in the room are making even more mistakes than you are!  Or when you realize that everyone looks weird in workout clothes.  Mirrors show you that most women (and men) in class are really not concerned with how they look – they’re just throwing themselves into the dance moves the best they can.  You want to be fearless, like them.  Mirrors also show you when you finally get that complicated step right, and you’re smokin’ it, keeping up with every move the instructor is making.  Thank goodness for mirrors!

3a.  HIPS ARE GOOD – Moving and swinging your hips with the beat of Latin music is very seductive.  I’m not talking about being seductive to an audience.  It’s seductive to you.  I’m talking about the feeling of letting your hips sway to the rhythm of drums and Latin words.  Whether it’s a belly dance to a Shakira song; or a samba to the rhythm of an island beat; or an aggressively low hip swing to a naughty Notorious lyric, you feel the power of music.  You feel the power of your own body, moving with the music.  It’s a beautiful thing for your soul to feel that kind of synchronicity.  It makes you appreciate your body, rather than criticize it.  Whether you’re full of curves or skinny as a rail, feel the rhythm and MOVE.

3b.  HIP IS GOOD – Look closely – this isn’t a bad/good comparison as with the first two topics – it’s just two positive takes on “hip” and Zumba.  Moving your physical hips is good.  But so is BEING hip!  Some of you may have teenagers who keep you in the loop on the current entertainers, but Zumba saved me from a life of being one of those boring old people who say  “who’s that?”  “never heard of her!” when we watch the MTV Music Awards.  I know who Lady Gaga is, I dance to Shakira and the Black Eyed Peas.  I can do the “Beyonce bounce”.  I groove to Pit Bull, man!  In my real life, I listen to country music and oldies, but in Zumba, I am crankin’ it to lyrics I (probably blessedly) don’t always understand.  Some are in Hispanic, and some are being ground out in rap.  I am in a room with women (and men) smaller and larger than me, older and younger than me, and we are all yelling and cutting loose to a song that I’m pretty sure is talking about posing “like a pornography poster.”  Do I have fun being just a little naughty and working out to that infectious hip hop beat?  Oh, yeah!  Being hip makes young co-workers eyebrows raise when you stride past them humming “Let’s Dance”.   Being hip is cool.  Being hip keeps you young.  Zumba makes you hip.

As with any workout, it can be torturous while you’re doing it.  But the afterglow is well worth the effort, and the changes in my body, stamina and confidence keep me going back for one sweaty, torturous, exhausting, exhilarating class after another.  Hating it.  And loving it.

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