Exercise & Such

When I last posted about this, I had switched from trying to do 10+ minutes on the treadmill 3 times a week to 2 or 3 5-minute sessions. That was in July. Since then

  • I have changed to 6, 7, and now 8 minute sessions.
  • Continue to do 2 or 3 sessions, 3 days a week.
  • Slowed my treadmill down to the absurdly slow 0.5 miles per hour. My back and thighs do not like walking this slow; OTOH, my cardiovascular system likes it since I’m down in the aerobic range.
  • I’m stretching my back and quads between treadmill sessions.

And…I am almost afraid to jinx things…but I am now finding it easier to move around in general? I don’t walk so slowly if I’m just (for example) going to the laundry room, but it’s still easier.

It’s progress. I am very pleased by this.

Changing A Few Things

I’ve been struggling to do more than 10 minutes on the treadmill for months. I’ve also been concerned that my pulse was anaerobically high when I’d finish on the treadmill. I’d been toying with going to shorter times and just doing more of them, and then the new endocrinologist suggested the same. I’ve started doing 5 minute sessions, and found that 3 of them is doable. My pulse doesn’t get above aerobic levels; to put it another way, I’m staying in “vigorous”, sometimes even “moderate”. And I’m still feeling the exercise, all right.

I’ve been reading Every Body Yoga and doing six or so asanas, twice a week. I’m also getting on and off the floor twice a week – something that before my pulmonary embolism I didn’t regard as all that remarkable. In my case and my current levels of fitness, I’m using our bedframe (specifically the side rail) as a support in going down and up. I didn’t need that 5 years ago, and I’m working to not need it in the future. Still, like yoga teachers have told me many times, if a prop helps, use it!

Other props I have used to get off the floor are our coffee table and a chair. Do I need to write that I do not trust just any piece of furniture? Because no, I don’t. I also find – while the man of the house is always ready to help – it can be best for him to hold a sturdy chair steady for me, instead of him bending over. This saves his back.

Strength training is the same stuff I’ve been writing about for years, and it’s key to keeping everything else working :)

Year In Review…Kinda

We don’t quite have one “lockdown now” date. View of Seattle Skyline

Hubs went to the Seattle Sounders Opening Day game on March 1, 2020, and the next home game on March 7, 2020.

The programmer (along with Microsoft, Amazon, and other tech employees in the area) started working from home March 4th, 2020.

Our last eating out day was March 8, 2020.

It’s been a long year.

I will preface this with: we had the 10% quarantine experience. Maybe even 5%.  We are doing fine, money-wise.  We have space. We’re in a suburban house, even, so we don’t have to worry about anti-maskers down the hall or sharing an elevator.

In everything else, my life isn’t what I expected. When I left Amazon in the summer of 2019, I figured I’d badger specialists, finish rehabbing from my pulmonary embolism, pitch articles, and be reborn as a freelance writer who doesn’t necessarily need a mobility scooter to go to the mall.

Of course it wasn’t that simple.

I did get some improved diagnosis and meds, which help! I am improving my stamina!  It’s just that 1) everything takes forever, 2) my body is like a Jenga pile at this point.

Going from 2 or 3 minutes on the treadmill to 10? Took months. I’m coming up on the 1-year anniversary of starting on the treadmill. And naturally, starting the treadmill made my back unhappy.  And my knees unhappy. Both of which I’ve whined about before, and know how to manage (other exercises) but it’s still there and not just FIXED.

Oh, and brain fog. When I started the treadmill would physically wipe me out for hours, and mentally I would have trouble playing solitaire after the treadmill. Solitaire!  It’s better now, but I tend to rest until I can complete a word search and not just solitaire.

More recently, I was sometimes getting dizzy when I’d stand up. Checked and my blood pressure was 100/60.  I’m TOLD this isn’t that low, but dizzy is bad, so we dropped one of the blood pressure meds.

In addition to all the physical stuff, I also can’t see friends. Go out to lunch. Browse at the bookstore.  Go to the farmer’s market.  Most festivals and cons are canceled. This is frustrating.

My health has improved over the last year, but slowly.  Walking in general is easier.  Strength training (for knees etc) is making moving around easier in general.  Able to discontinued one of my high blood pressure meds.

And yes, maybe I’ll start sending out pitches for articles again. But not tomorrow.


*Wordpress if the 4 periods in a row breaks you I’ll be unhappy.

Disabled or not?

A person with a disability is defined as: A person with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; or A person with a record of such a physical or mental impairment; or A person who is regarded as having such an impairment. – NW ADA Center

“Disabled” is still a term I wrestle with. I have a disabled parking permit because I use a cane to walk and often can’t walk more than 200 feet. I use a mobility scooter at big box stores or events. But I’m not considered disabled by the US Social Security Administration, because I can do work that I did before (software testing, which physically means “park self in front of computer”) (just not at the pace and hours expected by Amazon of a senior person) (which really the US tech industry assumption that everyone has 60 to 80 hours a week to dedicate to work is a serious problem that I’m pretty sick of, and has me considering other, part-time options).

So yeah, I’m disabled, but I’m not.

I looked up the Social Security info because my primary care ARNP suggested it.  I still don’t think I would probably qualify – from what I’ve heard, it’s a pretty onerous process.


Cathy yelling “ACK!” Cartoon by Cathy Guisewite

In the mean time, I went from feeling a bit chuffed that I handled the walking at the primary care office fine while wearing a multilayer cloth mask, to … having an asthma attack walking down the hallway at another appointment in the hospital medical offices.

(I am a grownup, so I didn’t actually YELL “ACK!” out loud. Just, you know, THOUGHT IT really loud.)

I did take a minute away from other people to use my inhaler, which of course required removing my mask. But the inhaler helped my lungs relax.  I continued walking.  Slowly.

One step forward, one step back.  Walking is aerobic and improves my blood pressure; aerobic exercise is an asthma trigger. Strength training reduces/removes knee pain; strength training can be boring.

That’s kind of life, I know.


Back On The Treadmill

Got back on the treadmill today. (Actual for-exercise home treadmill, not a job.) I started this a while ago, but the last 2 weeks my schedule has been a bit off.

I don’t do much, because I can’t. The shortness of breath persisted way past the rest of my recovery from the pulmonary embolism.

I walk about five minutes at 0.8 or 0.9 or 1 mph to The Hidden Almanac podcast. Not long!


My resting pulse has dropped below 100.

My blood pressure is dropping.

The leveled treadmill with support rails on both sides lets my knees & hips walk in the most neutral position so that they can relearn good habits.

Yes, I’d like to be able to walk further. But this is what I can do now, so it’s what I’m doing now.


If you saw my recent tumblr posts you may have thought I’m playing Ingress.  I am. Ingress is many things: an augmented reality game, Google Maps gamified, a walking game, a reason to get outside the house.

The game centers around “portals”.  Portals can be gathering places, libraries, churches, unique businesses, or artworks — and, as a result of some business tie-ins, Zipcar stations & Jamba Juice stores are portals too.  Players can suggest portals.  The company that made the game, Niantic, is part of Google, and I’m sure that Google Maps is making use of this information.

[T]he other morning I spent about an hour playing in Washington Square Park. The park has loads of portals so I figured it would be a good place to try to focus on taking over some enemy ones.

Turns out that even in a place with a dozen or so portals within two blocks, it is difficult to play without being constantly on the move. After a portal is hacked it has a cool down period before it can be hacked again. […] Hacking an enemy portal makes you lose energy, which you replenish by collecting more. To do that, you have to walk around. The energy shows up as little white dots on the map. It’s plentiful, but you have to physically go get it by walking around with the game open on your phone.

The Mary Sue

I find the game fun. I get in-game goodies by hacking portals defined around the area, and I can claim portals using those goodies. I can also attack “enemy” portals.

There can be a lot of walking, yes, but the speed can be your own, as can the number of breaks you take.  By default, you can hack each portal every 5 minutes with a max of 4 times in 4 hours.  For me, this can mean I hack a portal and move on.  On the other hand, when I had 2 portals in range from a shady bench this afternoon, it went like:

  1. Hack 1st portal
  2. Hack 2nd portal
  3. Add goodies to the portals (to make it give out better gear, or better shielded, or able to be hacked more frequently – whatever)
  4. Read twitter
  5. Hack portals again
  6.  Repeat steps 4 and 5 twice
  7. Move on to more portals

Obviously your mileage may vary.  It’s summer in Seattle. I currently favor playing in areas with lots of benches, shade, and occasional water fountains or coffee shops to get drinks.  I also play quite a bit while riding to and from work (I ride with a friend who prefers to drive) or on the bus.

“[M]y favorite way to use Ingress is as tourist guidebook. Beyond that vampire grave in Rhode Island, Ingress also led me to a home on the Upper West Side where Babe Ruth once lived and to the site of Thomas Paine’s death in Greenwich Village. ”

NY Times

Ingress has led me to better explore parks and streets that I thought I knew.  I’ve discovered the local library has more artwork than I thought, along with the local churches and the local senior center.

Image shows Before: walk, sit at desk, eat, walk, bed. After: same, but with ingress in between.

Ingress is an experience. The whole point is to go out and find some portals, then, once you’ve established your presence, take a look at the real world. Enjoy some artwork, explore a museum. Get inspired. Interact with people. Make new friends, even. After all. You’re fighting for the fate of human creativity and thought, here. May as well make use of that wonderful mind of yours and share it with others.

Android Police

The Fitbit

I’ve been seeing pedometers discussed a bit lately.  In some ways, they get a bad rap; we’ve seen them [mis-]used in “wellness” programs and that accuracy varies.  Although they can be amusing, as noted by one NY Times commenter:

Fitbit has a clip on model that I attach to the waistband of tights or to the center of my bra. I’ve had this one for a year and it’s gone through the laundry and still works…though it did count the washing and drying as 37 flights of stairs.

comment from Karen in Chicago

Ana Mardoll, meanwhile, uses one to be sure she doesn’t walk too much.

As it happens, I’ve had a Fitbit Zip for about 6 months now.  What does it say?

Graph showing 6 months of data

Graph showing daily average steps for every 7 days

The above graph the daily average steps for each week.  There’s some variations, but it varies between 2400 and 5500 per day.

Daily average steps per month

Daily average steps per month

The daily average per month graph, however, shows a much smaller variation – from 2950 to 3400.  That’s a fairly narrow range.  On average, the Zip says I’m walking about the same as I did six months ago.

What has changed?

I have become more aware of how much I walk.  I thought I was more active on the weekends because I walk around the house more frequently than the office.  Wrong!  The house is more compact; I have to make an effort if I want to walk as much on the weekends as I do by just going to work.

I am more consistent in my walking routine.  I had noticed before I got the Zip that varying between “not walking much” and “going on a hike” would leave me with aching knees.  Now I have a higher “minimum” and I have a LOT fewer problems.

For the curious, the Fitbit Zip is pretty much a pedometer.  It doesn’t do flights of stairs or track my sleep, like other models do.  It uploads data to a website for long-term tracking.   The website can be used with or without one of the trackers, if you’re into manually entering things.  (Personally I just use the Zip.)

One gripe I’ve had about the “dashboard” is that it assumes I want to track my weight, calories, etc.  No, I don’t want to log food. I don’t want to track my weight. I don’t care how many calories you think I’ve used….

Snapshot of Fitbit dash

Bonus reminder my Fitbit doesn’t track stairs.

There’s also a beta for a new dashboard, which is better at letting me hide what I don’t care to see.

Example new dashboard.

Example new dashboard.

Personally I prefer the new one.

Overall, if you’re the sort of person who learned to disconnect from and distrust your body, this kind of tracker may be a useful tool.  But like many things, your mileage may vary.

Happy New Year!

Image of a fat woman talking on the phone in an office setting.

Image courtesy of the Rudd Center Image Gallery

Hello and welcome!  I’m back at work with my new cartoon-a-day calendar (New Yorker cartoons) and new wall calendar (Pacific Northwest landscapes).  I even cut off some of the photos from last year’s wall calendar to decorate my cube.  Ready to work!  (Yes, I know it’s Wednesday, but today feels like Monday to me.  Yay four-day weekends! )

I adjusted the layout, let me know if you can’t find things.  Also, let me know if you have additional topics or questions you’d like me to write about.

As for resolutions, well, there’s resolve and then there’s Resolve the carpet cleaner, (Two Lumps).  There’s also ASDAH’s Resolved: Addressing Weight Bias in Health Care Project, collecting health care stories in video or written form.  Please see their site to see what they are asking for and the submission methods.


In the meantime, some things to read / discuss if you wish – warning for fat hate:

People are living longer! I thought this would be a good thing. Oops! As Fatties United discusses, some people aren’t happy with this.

Since so many fat people have had the audacity to keep on living instead of dropping dead on schedule, Dr. Mokdad is predicting that all these fat folks will be old sick fat folks and require lots and lots of medical treatment.

Study results show that “normal weight” folks don’t live longer than overweight folks? (Again?) Oh noes, must include lots of fat panic in the news coverage!

Charlotte Cooper writes about The UK Royal College of Physicians and their concerned about obesity!  Oh dear.

Reading the report is like a journey into Opposite Land. The work is well-meaning, but it exists with a framework that is profoundly problematic. For example, it is hard to disagree that current service delivery for fat people is really poor, particularly for those who undergo weight loss surgery, and that there needs to be proper auditing, quality control and monitoring of all obesity treatments.

But the report, as is typical in a medicalised discourse of fat, is entrenched in a view that regards weight loss as the universal solution to the problem of fat people and health. The authors throw about “severe complex obesity,” a term they’re obviously pretty proud of, coming soon to a healthcare provider near you, and bound to further medicalise and stigmatise fat people. They make the crucial mistake of failing to question the effectiveness of weight loss at all, so it’s not weight loss surgery that ruins fat people’s health, it’s the fact that the care pathways surrounding the surgery need tweaking. This ties them up in all kinds of knots, looking for answers in the wrong places, for example suggesting that the UK needs a Michelle Obama figure to galvanise the population against obesity, even though her crusade in the US has been disastrous in re-stigmatising fat kids, and even though we’ve already seen Jamie Oliver screw things up over here.

Anyway, let’s be careful out there. Now, I’m going for a walk.

“Peaceful” and “relaxing”?

From today’s Between Friends comic by Sandra Bell-Lundy comes this exchange….

Maeve: How’s your walking regimen?
Susan: Actually, I’m enjoying it.
Susan: Every evening I walk around the neighborhood … it’s such a peaceful, relaxing way to end the day.
Maeve, shocked: “Peaceful” and “relaxing”?
Maeve, accusing: I thought you were trying to improve your health!!

Yes, starting a new exercise program can be hard.

Yes, some people are training for a competition or rebuilding after an injury or illness or surgery. That can be hard.

But it is possible to dance or play basketball or do yoga or walk around the neighborhood and finish relaxed and happy. And it’s still exercise. Even if you your BMI doesn’t automagically register as “normal”.

Maybe if we didn’t all expect that “exercise” is a universal experience with universal results this wouldn’t be so confusing.

Things That’s Up

New job is going well.   It’s my first completely non-managerial job in years.  Even when I was a “department of one” I was was still doing a lot of project / process management. I’m enjoying just doing things.

I also like this “getting paid” thing.  ;)

My commute is about an hour each way, sometimes longer, depending on bus connections. This is longer than I’m used to, and I’m glad I get to read or noodle on the computer during the long bus ride.

On the fitness front, I’m adapting well to the daily walking-between-buses routine, even with my backpack weighing 16lbs once I add the work equipment I may need at home.  (I carried a heavier backpack in college, but I was more used to it then.  I’m being careful while I adapt now, and doing more tummy crunches and other core work.)

I’m also focusing on being sure I can do tomorrow what I did today — in other words, I’m totally agreeing with Noël on her recent “go hard or go home” rant.

My work desk situation isn’t perfect from an ergonomic point of view, but I’ve made some adjustments that help (raising the monitor & getting a mouse pad).  I also find getting up and walking around a bit every few hours does wonders.  I’m in a rather large office building, so a trip to the bathroom or to refill my water bottle tends to get the kinks out.

I am also dealing with some family stuff.  My father’s been sick lately, and I finally convinced him to see a doctor, so I’ve been ferrying him to and from various appointments.  I wish he’d been willing to see a doctor before, when I was unemployed, but no.  Le sigh.   I’m also finding that being paid hourly makes me worry less about taking time off than when I salaried.  Interesting…

What is frustrating is that 8 hours of work + lunch + 2 (or more) hours of commute  = more of my day that I’d like.  Meeting the man of the house for dinner and a soccer game at the pub?  Fun.  Also takes up most of my “down” time.  My schedule has also been shifted earlier than I prefer.   The temptation to short myself on sleep is strong in the evening, but I know damn well I won’t be happy (or productive) if I do.

So. Off to sleep.  Be good, y’all.

Some things I’m glad about today

1)  Riding the bus to my new job means I’m walking daily again, at least on weekdays. Funny how walking even a 1/2 mile or so every day can feel good, even if it’s spread throughout the day.

2)  Yes, I have a temp gig.   At the moment it’s a better fit than the old place.

3) The commute is a short bus ride and a longer bus ride – if I make connections badly it can take 90 minutes or more.  I am getting better at making connections, though, and the long bus route is conducive to reading books or surfing the net (many of the buses have wifi).  De-stressing on the way home is a good thing.

4) The trees are blooming, but my meds are keeping my asthma largely under control.

5) From s. e. smith’s thought-provoking post on what our culture means by  “taking care of yourself“:

They don’t care about my health. They don’t care whether I am happy, whether I enjoy my body, whether I like moving and living in my body. They care that they don’t like looking at me and wish that my body would go away, would shrink, would dwindle away so that it will no longer offend their eyes. This is what people mean when they ask me if I’m ‘taking care of myself,’ when they give me a sidelong glance while I eat a doughnut, when they scrutinise me if I start to wheeze on a hike, because of course, I must be wheezing because I am fat and out of shape, not because I have asthma.

6) Hugs, kisses, and dinner from the man of the house.  :)

Yelling Out The Car Window

Today a young(ish?) male passenger in a car yelled something at me out of the car window. I was walking down the sidewalk at the time.* This isn’t common around here, perhaps because Seattleites are reserved (or unsocial, take your pick) — and/or because it’s the suburbs, so not a huge number of walkers anyway.

I could tell by his tone that he was yelling rather loudly and angrily. But between the speed of the car (30mph zone) and Bono singing from my iPod, I’m afraid I didn’t quite catch the words.** Poor boy, here he got up the gumption to speak out against the fat oppressors*** and I didn’t even hear what he said!

*This sort of street harassment is not uncommon in the fat experience. It’s also interesting that it’s often targeted at fat people who are exercising, to the point that fat people cite fear of social stigma as a reason to NOT exercise.

**Possibly a triumph of tech over hate?

***Yes, sarcasm is strong here. Also a shout-out to Brian’s alternate world theory.

Update: Yelling is not physical violence.  I do not consider yelling to justify physical violence or vandalism.

A year ago: Exercise Progress

…I started a program of walking every day.   I didn’t keep up with it being a daily walk, but I did get consistent enough in walking and strength training that I did not have to use a cane since … last January?*

I’m considering this a victory.

Two things that helped:

1) Focusing on the exercises I thought would give me the most results. I had a low level of strength in my legs and walking was sometimes difficult, so I focused on strength training and small but consistent levels of walking.

2) Using the “Days Since” tracker on my iGoogle home page to track my activity. “Days Since” tracks how many days since I did something; clicking the green “rewind” button resets to zero.  It doesn’t keep a calendar of everything I’ve done, though it does maintain a running average of the interval for each item (and turns the text red if the number of “Days Since” is greater than that item’s average).   For me this is a good way to make sure I don’t put off something too long, without making me nuts if I get off a day on my routine.  A screenshot is below.

Sample of Days Since screen

Sample of Days Since screen

Once I got up to a basic level of ability, I did start to benefit from not needing to do as much to maintain my ability as to build new muscles.  There were weeks where I’d get maybe 1 walk and 1 round of leg lifts – but I did that minimal amount, and was able to do more the following week.

It also helped that I had a concrete reason to exercise: maintaining mobility and avoiding pain.  If I slacked on leg lifts for more than a week my knees would start to hurt.   I felt better when doing these exercises multiple times a week, which encouraged me to keep doing them.

This isn’t meant as a comment on anyone else.  I have some arthritis and a low fitness level, so I’m taking steps to improve for my own selfish reasons. Not everyone else has the same ability levels (or would make the same decisions and time investment even if they did).   But having posted here about this 2010 commitment, it made sense to report back on how it went.

*Edited to add: Did see a reference to using a cane in early January last year, so to be safe it’s been most of a year.

Things you don’t think about…

I had a job interview.  Overall I think it went well; it seems like a cool place with interesting work, and I think they got a good sense of what I can do for them.  If they make an offer I’ll be pleased, but I’m still looking.  (AKA: Nice first date, but it’s just a first date.  ;)


The interview was on top of one of Seattle’s hills.  I had thought there was a public parking lot a (relatively flat) block over.  Turns out it’s not a public lot.  I ended up parking in a lot a block and a half the other way…

Down one of those steep, 15% grade hills from the office.

Now, I didn’t start my exercise routine with the idea of being able to walk this particular hill.  But thanks to exercising routinely, I was able to walk up it without a problem.  :)   Going back down to my car I went very slowly, but again, not a problem.   Kind of makes me glad I’ve been deliberately including the hills around my house when going for walks!

(Of course, if I get the job I’ll probably end up walking that sort of hill more frequently. ;)

(FYI: Seattle has hills steeper than 15%, but the one I was one was about a 15% grade.)

Some Good Things

Riot Nrrd explains why  judging other people’s health can be inaccurate.

Despite turning my ankle a couple times Monday (and working too much and walking too little these past weeks) I didn’t have problems walking over a mile at the Sounders game Tuesday night :)

Manufacturer's pic of my preferred CPAP mask

My new CPAP mask arrived! Somehow I’d broken the widget that connects the nose piece to the headgear.  I’ve got another mask which is smaller and has fewer breakable parts and drives me NUTS because it vents “down” from my nose, thus sending a steady stream of air ONTO MY BODY to KEEP ME AWAKE.  So once again I got a replacement of my preferred mask.  (Among other features, it vents “up” from my nose.)

Searching this blog tells me this last happened in May 2009.

I find it interesting that I didn’t even try to sleep without my CPAP.  I used the backup mask a few nights and the broken taped-together mask a few nights, but no non-CPAP nights.

Last weekend the man of the house and I spent a night at the Seattle Westin Hotel. We did one of the “romance” packages, with sparkling wine, breakfast in bed, and a late checkout.   I enjoyed it immensely, and I’m really glad we got to do it.

Oh, and the view wasn’t bad either.  The only camera I had was my cell, which wasn’t the best, but it’s a nice memento of the weekend.

Elliott Bay and some of West Seattle

Elliott Bay and some of West Seattle

Music Monday: Sound Wave

Yesterday I went to a Sounders game.  Besides the game, there was over a mile of walking to/from the stadium. Plus, our seats are on the 100 level, where everyone stands the entire game – so if you want to see the game you end up standing. Or, if you’re me, you sometimes migrate up to the not-always-sold-out disabled seats.

Saturday the seat I usually sit in had been sold, so I stood for the first game in a while. (Actually I ended up shifting between my feet most of the night, rather like a slow aerobics class.) But the great part is that my knees aren’t bothering me today. ;)

This video is the Sound Wave, the Sounders’ pro marching band, performing the Sounders theme song. ;)

Why I like Aravon sandals

I love having sandals I can get on the treadmill with and not walk out of! Specifically they’re Aravon 3 Strap Sandals I got a few years ago.

Aravon Sandal

Aravon Sandal

Today I felt like going for a walk.  Not wanting to burn in the sunshine I decided I’d try the treadmill despite my sandals.  I only did .6 miles (going uphill for much of it), enough to get the ball of my right foot feeling a little bit hot, but I checked and it’s not a blister.  My previous walking in these hasn’t been as steady as the treadmill tends to induce, so I was concerned I’d have to quit long before I did.  I am pleased.  I’m not going to wear them daily, but on a warm day like today it’s nice to have comfortable sandals.  :)

Oh: and not only was I in sandals and a knee-length skirt on the treadmill, but I ended up explaining why I was singing about a pretty little dead girl in a coupe de ville while walking on the treadmill in my sandals and skirt.  (I was listening to the studio version and couldn’t resist the urge to sing along.  The song has also spawned a short story series in The Edge of Propinquity.)