Annapalooza

Spinderella Cut It Up One Time (Or, What I’ve Learned from Spin Class) January 29, 2017

1) Don’t Wear Mascara.

The first time I went to a “real” spin studio, I was in the South. From what I’d seen and read (perhaps from Steel Magnolias?) I thought that Southern ladies pretty much slept in their make-up. Therefore I didn’t want to show up to the 6:15 a.m. class looking like…well, looking like my natural self. I put on a little concealer and my normal Dior Show mascara and headed out the door. About one hour later I was literally soaked with sweat but super proud I had done the class while not looking like too much of an idiot. (Wait for it.)  I then walked the 1.5 miles back to my hotel. Only when I got into the bathroom did I realize I had two huge raccoon eyes; that damn drag queen mascara was all over my face. I basically looked like I had just walked out of the Kentucky coal mines after a long days’ work. (And I should know; I’ve watched Coal Miner’s Daughter at least twenty times.

2) The Instructors Look Like Athleta Models.

This, of course, makes me instantly resent them. Many of them have ultra hip names like “West” or “Tedrick” or “Dannan”, a long blonde ponytail, abs of steel, and a sizeable thigh gap even my skinniest self has never seen. They were all former cheerleaders and/or dance squad captains at some big college, and I am constantly left to wonder how the hell they got their bodies. I’m sure it’s not all from spinning, despite what Kelly Ripa may tell you.

3) But I Still Love the Instructors.

Even though I resent their perfect bodies and perky demeanors, I still can’t hate them. The fact is, they’re good and inspiring and so darn nice. One instructor in particular, who reminded me of that perfect blonde Athleta model from every catalog (you know the one I’m talking about, ladies) does a fantastic job of making sure we leave all of our stress, insecurities, pain, etc. at the door and just focus on being good to ourselves. “Nobody is ever as perfect as they seem,” she (ironically?) said to the class. “Everyone has their thing, everyone has their own issues even if they don’t show it.” I couldn’t imagine what perfect blonde Athleta model’s struggles were, but I decided there must be something and just went with it.

4) You Rarely Sit Down.

I don’t know why this was a surprise to me; the instructors sure as hell didn’t get those bodies by taking leisurely rides like they were in a Schwinn banana seat. Once you get on the bike, your keester is up and out of the “saddle” most of the time. Sometimes when they dim the lights really dark I sit down and pretend that nobody can see me, but I know better. Plus I’m too competitive and self-conscious to be sitting too long, so I savor those 5 seconds of rest and then go back for more before the instructor sees me. Yes, it’s painful, but after awhile you get used to it.

5) There’s a Weights Section.

I’m usually jumping for joy and relief when the weights part of the workout rolls around. (Well, okay maybe not jumping…since my thighs are burning so much I pretty much have spaghetti legs by then, if you can imagine spaghetti legs with a little more than the desired amount of thigh meat.) I enjoy the weights because I can rock them out better than a lot of people in class, and for a few minutes I feel better about myself.

6) The Music Keeps Me Coming Back.

Bruno Mars vs. Michael Jackson theme nights? Old School Hip Hop? Yes, please! The music is always fantastically motivating and super loud, and sometimes it makes me forget I’m suffering (and paid an enormous amount of money for a 45-minute class.)

(That reminds me: Must suggest New Edition/Bobby Brown/ BBD theme night, based on recent success and hype of The New Edition Story miniseries. Spin instructors reading this, feel free to use my awesome idea. You’re welcome.)

 

Worst. Gyno. Visit. Ever. February 26, 2013

Glad I got your attention, ladies. And for you men who dared to read further, congratulations. Glad you could join us. We’re going to be talking about lady bits.

So I’ve been a little stuck lately in the writing department. My novel and article writing are going great, but nothing was inspiring me for this blog (i.e. nothing that I could make fun of or complain about).

But then I visited the gynecologist today, and just like that my problem was solved.

Let me begin by saying that I have had several horrible gyno visits in my lifetime, so it shouldn’t surprise me that this one was terrible as well. But usually the bad part only happens when my feet are in the stirrups. This time the frustration started right when I walked in the door.

I was at a new office, and I knew I had to visit Suite 2030. I headed to the elevator, thinking that it was on the second floor. I stepped into the elevator slightly, looking over at the buttons to see if there was a directory. But then before I could figure anything out, some old lady who works in “hospitality” comes up behind me, flat out PUSHES me into the elevator and says, “PLEASE STEP INSIDE.”

Now I can see if you are escorting a bleeding body on a gurney, you’d want me to get the hell out of the way. However, as far as I could tell this lady was only going to the lower level to get herself a bowl of Metamucil from the cafeteria. I understand the importance of fiber, but this was ridiculous.

I exchanged a look with another lady in the elevator.

My look clearly conveyed, “Oh no she di’int…”

Her look conveyed something like, “Oh, what a crazy, spunky old lady! Isn’t she fun?”

If this were Say Anything, she would have been the kind and caring Diane Court and I would have been the insensitive, ageist Lloyd Dobbler who tried to show Cocoon to all the senior citizens.

Clearly I was not as forgiving.

Old woman: Well it looks like we’re all going to the lower level.

Me: Actually I don’t know where I’m supposed to go.

Old woman: Well where are you trying to go?

Me: 2030.

Old woman: (cranky tone) 2030? What does that mean?”

Me: Suite 2030.

Old woman: (crankier tone) WHICH. DOCTOR.

Me: Dr. C- (name is hidden to protect the innocent)

Old woman: Oh well you didn’t need to get on the elevator! You need to go back to where you were. Just press one and it will take you back there.

She says this last part in a patronizing voice, and you can tell she truly believes that she has been the most helpful hospital employee that ever lived.

Me: Gee, thanks for that advice on how the elevator works. I never would have figured out how to get back to the first floor. And by the way, I never would have had to take this f*cking elevator ride in the first place if you hadn’t PUSHED ME IN before I even knew where I was going.

 

Okay, I really didn’t say that last part. But that’s how it happens in my fantasy.

So I find Suite 2030 and sit down. For 55 minutes.

This is not entirely bad because I have my lovely SmartPhone and I can clean up my gmail account which is overflowing with offers from all the flash sale websites I belong to. Let’s just say it’s gotten a little out of hand, but I refuse to unsubscribe from any of them because I may miss out on the greatest designer sale ever. But in the meantime it’s either a whole lot of “Save 50% on Photo-to-Canvas Prints”, or else I’m about a day too late and all the good stuff is already sold to people who don’t have day jobs.

Oh, and did I mention that I was having an ultrasound done? (No, I am not pregnant.)

An ultrasound requires one to have a full bladder.

Yes, I sat there for 55 minutes while having to pee.

So about 30 minutes in I decide to whine on Facebook. A friend suggests that I do Kegel exercises to help pass the time.

I want to tell her, “Honey, I am on the verge of peeing myself right now. Believe me, I am the definition of Kegel exercises right now.”

When I am finally called into the ultrasound room, I then I have to endure a large probe jutting into my abdomen. While I still have to pee.

I am then allowed to relieve myself, but then I have to go back for the vaginal ultrasound which is basically the longest and most uncomfortable photo shoot ever. Kind of like when Lindsey Lohan arrives to the photo studio hung over and two hours late and everyone has to scramble to make up time, and the photographer has a really hard time getting the right shot and some incompetent stylist assistant did not get the right goddamn jewelry from Cartier.

Except in my case there was a crazy-long hunt/probe/expedition for my left ovary who thought it would be funny to hide. I was not amused.

After this, more peeing and then another fun procedure. I won’t even get into the details of this, but it involved a catheter and then more exploratory action.

I finally get out of there nearly three hours later. To use a quote from the musical Chicago, “I’m really irritated, and I’m looking for a little sympathy.”

And that, my friends, is why I’m having this second glass of wine right now.

 

 

 

Unexpected Repercussions of a Healthy Lifestyle September 28, 2012

Filed under: Health & Fitness,Humor,Pop Culture — aniederkorn @ 6:00 pm
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Back in April my family decided to make some big lifestyle changes. We rose before the crack of dawn to work out, and we started eating healthier. As expected, those actions are definitely paying off. My step kids are both incredibly strong, my husband is losing his gut and my clothes are all looser. Although I did expect us to start looking and feeling better, I didn’t expect my husband to start exhibiting some other “interesting” behavior. Two recent examples come to mind.

The first thing you need to know is that I used drink one or two Mountain Dews just about every day. It was a horrible habit I had tried to break for years. Finally, my husband and I did a 10-day cleanse where we could only drink water (and these other drinks which basically looked like sludge). I stopped the habit right then and there, and I haven’t had a Mountain Dew since; that was about three months ago.

Unfortunately, my husband treats my former soda addiction as seriously as Spencer Pratt treats his douchiness. I’m surprised he hasn’t started introducing himself as my sponsor.

Case in point: We were recently on our way back from an overnight in Chicago. I was in and out of consciousness in the passenger seat, which is usually what happens on any car trip over one hour. In all fairness, I wanted to stay awake and keep him company as he drove the last hour home, so when he pulled into McDonald’s I asked for a Coke; straight up, no diet.

You’d have thought I had just asked him if I could go to a party at Bobbi Brown’s house with Andy Dick.

“No, I’m not giving you that,” he tells me with a stern face.

“What, you think that if I drink one Coke I’ll start drinking tiger’s blood and then go out looking for a couple naïve twenty-year-old muses?” I ask, incredulously. Now I know how Lindsay Lohan feels when she just wants one measly gin and tonic at the club. Poor Linds.

Five long minutes pass, and he returns to the car.

(Big sigh) “Okay, here it is, but it’s mostly ice.”

Miraculously, I did not relapse after that one iced-down Coke, and my Mountain Dew-less streak is still alive.

The other episode of crazy happened after a recent grocery shopping trip. My husband is obsessed with keeping our workout clothes ultra fresh and lovely-smelling (and telling us how wonderful he is for doing this), so he bought a pre-wash spray specifically for smelly, sweaty workout clothes. As we were putting groceries away, he grabs the bottle out of the bag and starts surveying it. There’s a picture of a jogging woman in a sports bra on the front of the bottle. Apparently that did not sit so well with him.

“They shouldn’t have this lady on the bottle,” he huffs. “There should be a picture of me spraying down the crotches of this family’s workout clothes.”

“Yes, why don’t you pass that along to Procter & Gamble’s marketing department? I’m sure they are kicking themselves for not thinking of that,” I tell him.

Who knows what will happen if he ever gives up beer.

 

 

 

 

How I Became a Runner August 22, 2012

I’ve always admired runners; probably because I’ve always found running to be quite tortuous. Even though my brothers, my dad and my two sisters-in-law all ran marathons (yup, that would be marathons, plural), I never really caught the running bug. I was definitely inspired by them all, but not inspired enough to actually strap on running shoes. The thought of running for enjoyment and stress relief seemed like an oxymoron to me, and I was fine with doing my own “running” on the tennis court.

Except I wasn’t fine.

I wanted to be one of those runners. I wanted to experience the elusive “runners high”. I wanted to get up in the morning for a refreshing jog that would clear my mind and ready myself for the day ahead. And yes, I probably wanted the cool running shoes and cute outfits as well.

And so I set out to become a runner. And instead of doing something logical like using the “Couch to 5K” program, I tried a different approach. This strategy could probably best be called the “Cold Turkey Torture Method”, but it worked for me. Here’s how it all went down:

The first thing I did was join a running interest group at work. This would make me accountable to our Friday noon “Fun Runs” (yeah, I chuckled at that too – at first). This was also good because my company then paid for my entry fee into a 5K in September. If I had to run in front of others as part of an organized event, you’d better believe I was going to be prepared. There is nothing that motivates me more than avoiding public humiliation.

The next step of my plan was getting back into kettlebell and high intensity interval training, which I had done in the past. I knew that this strength, mobility and cardio training would really help with my running. Again, this was more accountability. Those classes made me work harder than I would have on my own. The trainers squeezed every last ounce of energy out of me, and that’s exactly what I needed. Some days (in my case, the heavy leg days) I felt a bit nauseous, but that was a sign it was working. In my mind, if I could do those classes then running would be a breeze in comparison.

Oddly I didn’t even start running for a good month or more after I started the kettlebells. Then one day I tried a 2-mile run that included a nasty hill. I stopped once at the top of the hill for about 30 seconds, but otherwise I ran the entire thing. (And when I say ran, I mean jogged.) But still, not too shabby for someone who wasn’t a runner.

Soon I was doing the 2.5-milers every Friday with the running group. I told myself to run my own race; there was no way I was going to keep pace with the others who had been running for years. Plus, I’m not going to lie – this was one of the hottest and most humid summers in Wisconsin history, and those runs were often quite horrible. In addition, all of the runs started with a giant hill. At first I would stop and catch my breath about 3-4 times per run. And then it was once. And now there are no stops, and I can run an entire 5K (albeit slowly) and then some.

So now here is the real shocking part: I’ve found myself getting up at 6:00 am to go running. And excuse me while I watch these pigs fly by, but I like it. I like the quietness of the streets, practically empty except for the dog walkers and a few other fellow runners. As I wave to the other runners, I feel like I’m finally in with the cool kids, or maybe some secret society. I also like the sense of accomplishment I get before I even get to work. I run up the hill alongside several college dormitories, thinking of the students inside who are still fast asleep. And I’m glad I’m not sleeping. Let me repeat that: I’m glad I’m not sleeping.

I can now call myself a runner.

 

 

I Ran My First Obstacle Course July 8, 2012

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My gym recently created a pretty elaborate outdoor obstacle/adventure course.  To be honest, I took one look at that thing and instantly flashed back to my days in high school gym class where the only units I excelled at were dancing and badminton.  (Oh wait – I was also pretty good at darts, which at least helped me score some free beers in college.)  But as far as the obstacle course went, I’d rather do a matching bikini spread with Anna Kournikova than humiliate myself on that thing.  All I could imagine was getting stuck on the climbing wall while everyone else yelled at me to hurry up, just like Beth from Road Rules/Real World Challenge.[1]  

Flash forward a month as I am standing in a field in front of some logs, ready to begin the course.  I can only blame temporary insanity, false confidence and/or a Xanax stupor for landing me there.  My husband, who undoubtedly was one of those jocks I hated from gym class, is standing beside me, all pumped up on testosterone.  So naturally my eyes are shooting darts into him.

And so we began.

After a short warm-up our instructor starts showing us the course.  Many of the stations include extra burpees (which will be extra suckee.)  The whole explanation gets pretty long, so I may or may not have zoned out and started watching the high school boys in the field next to us as they were doing some summer athlete camp.

Eventually we get paired up, and I notice that we have an odd number of people in the class.  Of course I am left without a partner.  Not even my own husband would run the course with me.  Something about me not being able to keep up with him?  At first I was miffed, but then again we have a hard time flipping our mattress together, so it was probably best that we didn’t do anything that required any sort of physical teamwork.

The first three obstacles all involved logs. First, a series of long high logs that you had to either leapfrog over or squat under.  I chose the path of least humiliation, which was going under every single one of those suckers.  Next, I rode a rope Tarzan-style so that I ended up over a log.  It wasn’t graceful, but I made it.  Then it was onto a balance beam of two logs, which started out with a few false starts but then were manageable.

I was patting myself on the back for a bit until I got to the sleds, a.k.a. my own personal Pit of Despair.  The sleds are these metal contraptions you push on the ground, and I kept getting them stuck in tufts of grass.   I was still struggling in agony with them when the duo behind me caught up to me.  This was not going well.

I next had to run down the length of the field, stopping for a few burpees of course, before getting to this tangle of wire I had to bear crawl under.  After that I crab crawled (yes, another animal movement – no upright walking for this gal!) over to the monkey bars, stopping for a few burpees along the way.  By that point I am panting like Alec Baldwin after an angry Twitter tirade.

I can only pray that no one saw my monkey bar performance.  By “performance”, I mean that I managed to get across three of them and then hung there in agony until I fell off.  (By the way, these were sadistic, super-high monkey bars that went higher in the middle.  That really didn’t make too much difference to those of us who fell off way before reaching the middle, but still.)

After that, things got a little fuzzy and I may have been a wee bit confused about what to do next.  I curse those damn teenage boys who distracted me during the explanation part of things.   So I end up flipping a huge tire a bunch of times, then I tugged another tire back to me with a long rope. 

Soon my husband sees me and tells me that I missed a bunch of stations.  Well yeah…of course I did, there were no numbers on any station, and at that point I had no idea who I was following.  And you ditched me and left me partnerless, remember, Gym Class Hero?

At that point I didn’t care about the order of things, as long as I did every station.  Oh and I may have missed a few burpees here and there.  By accident, of course.

I do a few stations with a medicine ball and this long lunging series with heavy kettlebells which is the worst of it.  But then I still have to face my nemesis, which is the big wooden climbing fence.  Somehow we are supposed to use the slats on the side to go across the fence.  I never got the memo, but of course my trusty husband manages to note my cluelessness.  He yells something out to me, but by then I say, “Too late! I’m done!” and I’m on to the next thing. 

I do a tightrope walk (easy peasy) and then run with a loaded wheelbarrow around a cone a few times.  I jog through some tires, take a look at some web-thing, get confused, yell for someone to tell me what to do, get no answer, then jog back to the start to proclaim that I’m done. 

Surprise, surprise, my husband is there to greet me, claiming that I missed some burpees while pointing to the ground.  At that point I’m pretty sure my devil voice came out, and my head may or may not have spun around as I told him (through gritted teeth) to shut up and get me my water bottle.

Then something super crazy happens.  While I am kissing the ground, people start to do the course again.  This time we can omit the lunges, crab crawl and burpees.  More and more partners start up again.  Damnit, I am going to have to do it again because I can’t be a wussy.  And so I do.  Since I hemmed and hawed so much, I am the last person to start the second round and therefore the last person to finish, but I do.

I’m not going to tie this up with a pretty little bow and say that I am now an obstacle course convert who can’t wait to try it again.  The point is, I faced my fear and I did it.  And since I just entered my 39th year, I’d like to think that this kickedstarted a bit of a renaissance in my life.  I am now eager to try out some more new experiences, although the next one may be something a little gentler.  I’m thinking a new food.

 

 


[1] Beth is from MTV’s The Real World L.A.  She later appeared on Road Rules/Real World Challenge where she was extremely annoying and disliked by everyone.  Oh, and she pretty much sucked at most of the physical challenges and was ridiculed for being 40.

 

 

 

Dupuytren’s Contracture: It Brings a Polish Family Together January 23, 2011

My Dad’s Dupuytren’s Inflicted Hand

My dad has something called Dupuytren’s Contracture.  Most people have never heard of this condition, but it is pretty evident when someone has it.  According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, Dupuytren’s “is a hand deformity that usually develops slowly, over decades.  Dupuytren’s affects the connective tissue under the skin of your palm.  Knots of tissue form under the skin – eventually forming a thick cord that can pull one or more fingers into a bent position.” (See attached picture of my dad’s pinky finger)

In the past my dad has had a few surgeries to open up his bent fingers, but the effects wear off after a while.  The disease fights right back and takes over the hand again.  Kind of like if you had braces on your teeth but did not wear a retainer afterwards; the teeth would shift right back out of place. 

For whatever reason Dupuytren’s is common in those of Northern European descent, hence my Polish grandmother and most of her siblings had it as well.  My dad and his brothers inherited it, and now my brothers and I sit in modest fear that we too will have mangled hands.  My eldest brother convinced himself that if he kept bending his fingers (i.e. contorting them in a way to make us all cringe) he could stave off the disease.  He self-diagnosed himself as having “Reverse Dupuytren’s”.

So, like any good little smart-aleck Polish children would do, my brothers and I deal with our fear by making fun of the disease.  Consider it our warped terms of endearment.  I take you back to the 1980’s, when we rolled with laughter at Great Uncle Bernie’s picture in the paper as he was being sworn in as an alderperson.  There he was, holding up his right hand with his other hand on the Bible.  Only it was more like a fist with one finger he was holding up, thanks to Dupuytren’s.  This influenced our popular “sign of peace”/handshake tradition during Catholic mass.   Well, our handshakes are more like “Uncle Bernie shakes”:  fingers crumpled under, one finger pointed outward.  It’s really a true sign of affection though.  If you join the family and you get the Bernie shake, you know we like you.  If we can’t reach you because you are on the other end of the church pew, then you get the “Bernie wave”.

There is good news for Dupuytren’s sufferers, however.  A new laser surgery was recently approved, and it promises to have long-lasting and obviously less invasive effects (believe me, you don’t want to see the post-op pictures of my dad’s hands).  In the meantime, Dupuytren’s, thanks for the memories.  You have brought a Polish family together.

 

Kettlebell Workouts: The Agony and the Ecstacy. Or, Forget Niederkorn…call me Kettlekorn. October 30, 2010

The Wheel, aka Workout Torture Device

Back in April I started 5:30 a.m. kettlebell classes.  Before you think I am part of a bell ringing church group like my friend Annette did, I should explain that kettlebells are ball-shaped cast iron weights (basically like a cannonball with a handle).  They originated in Russia and are part of a fitness program that really works your core and makes you super lean and strong while burning a ton of calories.  It is by far the most challenging workout I’ve ever done, but it has also given me the greatest results.  I’ve lost ten pounds and several inches, and my clothes fit a lot better.  The results are so good, in fact, that I’ve started shamelessly flexing my muscles in the mirror and inviting my family and friends to the gun show.  

However, my gym is very good at mixing it up and confusing my muscles.  So before I could fall too in love with my progress, I was introduced to something that put me back in my place, and apparently that place was flat on the floor. You see, in addition to kettlebells, my gym also has us using bootcamp-friendly apparatuses like TRX suspension cords and platforms ideal for jumping exercises (not a personal favorite of mine, by the way).

So after feeling fairly confident of my abilities (other than Monday mornings, where I am suddenly tranformed into a remedial kettlebell user), I was suddenly faced with what is now my worst enemy:  The Wheel.

At first sight, The Wheel seems to look pretty harmless.  It’s basically a small wheel with pedals and straps (see innocent-looking picture).  The sadistic part happens when my trainer Derek announces that each of us will get a chance to strap our feet into the pedals, face down push-up style, then walk across the length of the studio and back on our hands.  While each of us takes a turn on the wheel, our fellow workout companions are doing exercises in different stations.  They have to do their assigned exercise until the wheel person completes his or her cycle (har har).  This is the infamous “man in the middle” process, which pushes the solo wheel person to hurry up and finish the painful exercise so that the rest of the class does not suffer doing too many reps in his/her respective station. 

As I approached The Wheel, I thought to myself, “How difficult could this be, right?  I’ve been doing these hard workouts for months, and after all, I can rock those mountain climbers on the TRX suspension cords!”  (Don’t ask).

Sadly, I was mistaken.  I pity the poor bastards suffering around me as I take my turn on the wheel, which incidentally goes something like this:  crawl two feet, face plant, crawl two feet, face plant.  I then decide that instead of turning around (that sounds too complicated) I am going to wheel myself backward on the way back.  Yeah, not my best decision.  I try not to look up and see the strained faces of my compadres, who are probably wondering when the hell I am going to finish and wheel my sorry ass back to the front of the room so they can stop their reps already.  However, that wasn’t a problem since the only thing in my line of vision was the ground (see plant, face).  And I guess the “front of the room” really means the uppermost front of the room, since Derek would not yell “time” until I was really there.  Note to self: sprawling on the floor and likening myself to a lame dog with a leg cart will still not cause Derek to say “time”.  And did I mention we were subjected to three rounds of the wheel?

I am now thinking twice before demanding my friends and family call me “Kettlekorn.”