Stress Test Sneak Attack

If I keep looking, I think I can find my joy

I’m not one to get depressed on a frequent basis – at least not anymore. My job is good, my home life is fine, and some of the typical stresses are just humming at the average level. There was even that usual jarring – back to reality – feeling that came when I returned from BlogHer, where suddenly the blue skies and perfect weather of San Jose faded and it was back to traffic and day care pickups and meetings upon meetings.

The last few weeks haven’t been perfect, but I have to find a way to climb out of this emotional rut. Vibrating not-so-silently in the background, there’s the stress of the health issues of a family member and watching them self-destruct at a faster pace than in prior decades. I walk marathons not just because I want to raise money for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute but also because I have some things to prove to myself: namely, that I can control my own body and what happens to it. This past weekend I hit a personal record for the 9mi distance, sub-16-minute miles. In any given distance, a sub-16 is decent for walking, but when you’re going 9 miles, that’s pretty damn fantastic. I can never run thanks to my busted knees, but I never want to stop walking. I don’t want to self-destruct.

MapMyRun cap of 15:48min mile average for 9.04miles

Then there’s everything unfolding in Ferguson, which is like watching a slow-speed crash of a tractor trailer and an LNG tanker. You know things are going to go horribly wrong, but it’s hard to say when it will hit some magical tipping point where there is no return. There are people protesting to have their voices heard, to question that justice is being served by drips and drops of information, to challenge the idea that ~whatever happened~ is okay. There are police (of varying denominations) fighting to keep the peace and establish order in a town that can’t seem to settle down and where they know they’re operating in an atmosphere of minimal trust.

Bad actors exist on both sides: cops who persist in calling protestors “monkeys” and “animals” and hooligans who are using the protests as cover to loot and destroy (read Bill Buford’s “Among the Thugs” to learn about the psyche of hooligans – it’s an excellent read). There are good actors on both sides, too – like the head of the state police who started first with handshakes before escalating to tougher tactics and like the protestors who are organizing food drives to feed the children shut out of lunches by the postponement of the school year. This is by no means a cut-and-dry case, but it’s giving everyone an excuse to vent their bile at their target of choice – and there’s too much friendly-fire going on in the process. We need to not self-destruct.


Give love

I’m going to find a way to post other things on the blog over the next couple of weeks, seemingly incongruous posts that are, in fact, a return to the type of material I’ve posted before, because I’m trying to find a way out of the funk that’s gripping me. Anyone who wants to be positive is welcome to come along. It’s time to put down the sticks, short or otherwise.

Peace and love: if you want it, you can have it.


We need to not self-destruct. 

Product Review: Empower Fitness Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball

{Disclaimers: 1) I am not, not do I claim to be a doctor. Before you attempt to use this product, check with your primary care physician and/or specialist health care professional to be sure that it’s right for you. 2) I received this product for the purpose of testing and was allowed to keep it as a courtesy for posting a review. I received no other compensation for this review and was specifically told, “Write whatever you want.” In other words: this is MY opinion and not a company-paid PR piece. Take that for what you will.}

NOTE: If you are attending BlogHer’12, you can WIN this item in my BlogHer Attendee-only giveaway!

There’s a part of me that totally wishes I were She-Ra or some other incredibly buff chica, ready to take on the world. Unfortunately, I have a love of ice cream that seems to know no bounds. (I suppose I could rationalize this by saying that I’m helping to prop up the local dairy – which is less than 5 minutes’ drive from my house – but that’s REALLY PUSHING IT.) Anyhoo, when I was presented with the opportunity to check out the Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball from Empower Fitness, I jumped at it. After all, dh had done several “medball” workouts and liked them a lot.

Initially, I went with the 8lb medball. This turned out to be a bit of a mistake, since it was a bit too heavy for the level of workout that I needed to keep pace with the DVD. This resulted in me injuring my wrist and laying off the medball for a few days. Thankfully, the folks at Empower Fitness are extremely cool and (at my request) provided me with a 6lb medball so I could see if it was the medball or what I’d term “operator error”. Truly, it fell into the second category…and now I have my form down quite a bit better.

So, what all do you get when you purchase the medball? First off, this isn’t like most medicine balls out there. It’s squishy in a rather delightful way, with these fun little dimples all over that give it a sense of being a wildly oversized, smushy golf ball. The “fingertip grip” indentations make it a lot easier to grab onto the ball, especially when sweating, and I found that to be quite useful. The medball also comes with a DVD workout featuring Gin Miller and a bootcamp workout poster with a set of 10 exercises you can do at your own pace.

There are four weight options for the Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball: 4lb, 6lb, 8lb, and 10lb. I recommend starting with the lower of the weights you think you can manage best (e.g. pick the 6lb’er if you would normally think you should start at 6lb or 8lb), just to make sure you get your form down properly first. As I discovered, you figure it out when you’re doing it wrong…and while I didn’t need to go to my doctor to have an “exercise-related stupid” corrected this time, it’s always best to check with a doctor, trainer, etc. before picking up something completely new.


Empower Fitness 4lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 6lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 8lb Fingertip Grip Medicine BallEmpower Fitness 10lb Fingertip Grip Medicine Ball

The four lovelies: 4lbs, 6lbs, 8lbs, and 10lb Fingertip Grip Medicine Balls



The tests:

I did several workouts with the medball, first with the 8lb and then the 6lb. I tried both the DVD and the bootcamp poster, although I will say that I only tested the bootcamp workout with the 6lb’er, not the 8lb’er.


The results:

Overall, I think this is a really nice product. I found it comfortable to handle and easy to use. The fingertip grip indentations did come in handy as I flipped from exercise to exercise; even when I got a little sweaty or tired, I was able to hang onto the medball without fail. The size of the ball makes it easy to manage and comfortable to hold, and when you get into moves like tossing it from hand to hand or “bowling”, it balances well and doesn’t shift too much with the sand interior.

The DVD workout takes approximately 30 minutes, including warm-up and cool-down, and you can do it either in one fell swoop or pop into the menu to pick and choose which exercises you want to do. Gin’s perky without being annoying, and she gives several modifications so that you can work out at your own pace. Her cardio sections have modifications from low to high impact, and her strength sections have balance moves (or deeper moves) that allow you to push yourself a little more if you want. And, obviously, once you master one weight of medball, you can always move up to the next.

The bootcamp workout was similarly good, although I found the squishy nature of the medball a bit difficult to handle when it came to the one-armed push-ups. My wrist slipped a little and that was an uncomfortable feeling. Some of that is that I am truly MISERABLE at push-ups, and some of it is how the medball just buckled under the weight of my arm. Of course, I don’t discount that it could’ve been a form issue, but a hard medball would have given more resistance and been less likely to create that collapsing feeling that made me uneasy. All of the other exercises were great, though, and I could feel my body reacting to them (as in, “You’re making me work? Le WHUT?”). This is a very good sign. The poster-based workout takes about the same amount of time as the DVD if you do a little cardio warm-up and stretch afterwards (ALWAYS a good idea). It will take longer if you do it in “bootcamp” mode, where you insert a brief interval of cardio in between each exercise.


Where to buy:

According to the Empower Fitness web site, you can purchase these at various places online, including and Modells. Check out the Empower Fitness web site for full details.

Fitness realization: you don’t have to be elite to make a splash

So, Sunday was a big deal in our house: dh did his first triathlon! He’s been training for this for the last few months, and though he’s a longtime runner, he had doubts about his ability to finish. He hooked up with the local Y’s “tri-club” and got into group practices at least once a week, and the knowledge sharing was clearly immensely helpful.

All of this prep led up to what he called a “mini-tri”, which is smaller than the “sprint-tri” that he’s going to do next month. Sunday’s tri was a 1/4 mi swim, followed by a 9 mi bike ride, followed by a 3.1 mi run. Swim-bike-run. That’s the mantra. That’s the goal. The one in August is a 1/2 mi swim, followed by a 12.3 mi bike ride, followed by a 4.4 mi run. In other words. this was the warm-up to test the waters and figure out how to make his transitions, what it’s like being in three different packs, etc.

What really stunned me was the bell curve of participants. Sure, a triathlon tends to attract primarily the “elite” type athletes, the ones whose calf muscles don’t shimmy as they walk, the ones whose thighs don’t touch, the ones whose bellies are invariably quite flat (or if they’re bumpy, they’re in a six-pack formation). But the tri also attracted more normal looking folks. I saw people with bellies. I saw people who were clearly “chunky” all the way up to “OMG THIS PERSON IS BIGGER THAN I AM AND I’M A SIZE 14/16!!!”

Unthinkable. Impossible. INCONCEIVABLE! [“I do not think that word means what you think it means.” – Inigo Montoya]

Even more amazing, these folks finished the tri. Sure enough, there were just over 330 registrants, and nearly 50 of those didn’t finish the race. A couple didn’t make it through the swim. Some didn’t get through the bike portion. Still others couldn’t handle the run after all that came before it.

As I’d looked at the list of the “waves” (groupings) for this tri, I noticed that they had “Clydesdales” and “Athenas” in addition to the standard grouping by age range and gender. I asked dh about this and he explained that the heftier participants went into these categories: Clydesdales for the men, Athenas for the women. Dear Lord thank you for NOT labeling the ladies “Heifers”, since I might have had to slap someone. Even so, was it needed…? Did we have to label these folks separately? DH’s explanation was that there were awards just for those categories – #1-2-3 finishers.

Oh, well that’s different. That’s okay, then.

If you want to enter a race and specifically flag yourself in a husky division, knowing that you stand a chance of standing on the podium among that group of peers, and you’re okay with that – that’s fine. But, honestly, for anyone to finish a tri is astonishing to me, much less for someone who’s carrying a higher BMI than me. That’s just incredible. And wonderful. And inspiring.

Natch, you’re not going to see ME out there, since A) I don’t know how to ride a bike, and B) my doctor has specifically forbidden me to run because of two bad knees. Still, I think it’s fantastic and utterly wonderful that so many “Clydesdales” and “Athenas” raced and finished. Good for them. As the race emcee commented (paraphrasing), what a wonderful way to demonstrate a commitment to fitness.

You don’t have to be elite to race, and you don’t have to be elite to finish. But you do have to try.

Good on you, triathletes: of all shapes and sizes.