Readers’ Workouts

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

Yesterday during my workout the Marine had me on the rowing machine twice — asking me to do 500 m in under 2 1/2 minutes each time.  Which I did, and even he said that I did it in a good time (I think they were around 2:20) — yay me.  The Marine is not a talkative guy so for him to say something about my effort was heartening (Not to say he is not encouraging me — he definitely is).

Later on he asked me if I had ever used the stairclimber – I said once or twice but that I didn’t like it; when he asked why I said that it was too hard (I was just being honest, and he seemed ok with that).  But I’m thinking that somewhere in his tortuous mind he is going to put me on that machine at some point so today while I was working out on my own I decided to go back to it.  And it’s really not that hard! Granted I did go slower than I was capable — I started at 25 steps a minute not knowing how fast/slow that was and ended up at 45 steps/minute and I could probably go higher — but the fact that I edged a bit out of my comfort zone is worth a pat on the back.  It is a bit boring, though, so I don’t think I could do it for more than 5-10 minutes.  I think the Marine was at the gym tonight as well and I don’t know if he saw me on the stairclimber, but if he did I hope he was impressed.

Yes — once a teacher’s pet, always a teacher’s pet.




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Thoughts on The Sun and Other Stars


I have a quote posted on the bulletin board in my home office:  “Don’t cry because it’s over:  Smile because it happened”.  And thinking about my reaction upon finishing The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka I understand what that phrase means.  I found myself on the verge of tears for no apparent reason, yet I was smiling at having had the opportunity to live in this world for just a little while.

Set in the small town of San Benedetto, Italy, this is a novel about loss and about dealing with loss.  It is about relationships – within a family and with others who may as well be family.  It is about moving out of the shadow of another to become your own person.

The thread that ties all of this together in the novel is the passion for calcio, (aka soccer to those of us on this side of the Atlantic).  I always knew that soccer/football/calcio was a big deal in many parts of the world, but this story highlighted both the big and small reasons why it is such a popular sport.  With the World Cup being played in just a few months, I think this would be the perfect novel to read ahead of watching the matches.

What I loved about this novel is that I felt like I was living in San Benedetto with all of its quirky residents because of the way the author sprinkled in Italian words and phrases into the narration.  I also loved that it is a novel where nothing BIG happens, yet there is enough action to keep turning the pages.

I loved Brigid Pasulka’s first novel as well (A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True - reviewed here) and I really hope that I don’t have to wait another 4 years to read her next one.  First Poland, now Italy — I can’t wait to find out where she will send me next time…..



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Readers’ Workouts, or My Recent Adventures with the Marine

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the Marine had me weightlifting with a barbell last Monday , as well as doing 60 lb single arm lat pulls and rows among other torture exercises.  It was a hard workout, but I managed.  Then at Wednesday’s workout he informed me that it would be a heavy weight workout.  Um, what was Monday?  So he put me through a whole bunch of exercises, after which I now understand the term muscle fatigue.  As I did my cooldown on the stationery bike I asked him in my semi-breathless state if he would write me a doctor’s note for work and he just laughed sadistically (not really, he puts me through my paces but he is a quiet guy).

Yesterday I was having a bad day at work so I e-mailed the Marine and asked if he could incorporate hitting things into the day’s workout.  He didn’t get the message in time to set up the boxing equipment (hopefully tomorrow *fingers crossed*) but we did mix in sets of throwing a 14 lb medicine ball to the ground (which I pretended to be someone’s head – yes it was that kind of day) with other exercises and that was incredibly therapeutic.

I have to remind myself of these feelings when down the road I get into a rut and do not want to drag myself to the gym.  Exercising is not only for the physical benefits; those are of course important but for me the mental/emotional benefits are amazing.  Even friends and co-workers comment on the difference they see in my mood when I’m exercising vs when I’m not.

Oh and I also mentioned last week that I was taking a test to determine my RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate).  It turns out that I burn close to 1800 calories a day simply by existing.  Some of that I’m sure can be attributed to my recent increase in strength training.  The Marine was very happy with that number, of course now he is going to change up my workouts so I can build up more muscle and get it even higher.  And it could explain why I haven’t been losing as much weight on Optifast as they expected – I was only on 1000 calories a day and since I burn more than that at rest (and even more when I exercise) my body was essentially in starvation mode and was holding onto extra weight as a safety net.  So I’ve been bumped up to 1300 calories a day (they recommend a 500 calorie deficit per day to lose weight) and we will see how that goes.  Ultimately I’m feeling good, my clothes are fitting better, and I know the weight will come off eventually – as long as I keep eating right and working out – so for the first time in a while I’m not too concerned with THAT NUMBER on the scale.


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Readers’ Workouts

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

If you had told me a few weeks ago that I’d be weightlifting (I mean what you see at the Olympics-type weightlifting) I would have laughed in your face – not to be mean of course, just because I never would have thought it possible.  Yet yesterday that is exactly what I did.  Granted, it was only with 25 lb plates (one on each side of the barbell) and it was squats with the barbell behind my head – but I did 3 sets and I am not ashamed to say I am just a bit impressed with myself!  Once again the Marine has more faith in my abilities than I do.

Since my last post I did make the investment in more personal training sessions with the Marine and he says he has developed a “great” program for me.  As of now I don’t know exactly what that entails – aside from seeing him for half an hour (an INTENSE half-hour) twice a week – but I am seeing and feeling the results so I am not complaining.   And who can complain about a trainer who tells you when not to work out — I am having a test to determine my RMR (resting metabolic rate) tomorrow morning and he told me that exercising can skew the results so I shouldn’t do any strenuous activity tonight.  Don’t have to tell me twice about that ;-)

But I am seeing the Marine tomorrow night so maybe I should be a little afraid …..

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Audiobook: The Good Luck of Right Now


Every few months I browse the digital audiobooks available through my local library system and I decide to try once again to get into audiobooks.  I am not always successful in what I choose, for various reasons (perhaps another post?), but when I selected The Good Luck of Right Now I made the right decision.

Matthew Quick is the author of several novels, probably the best known of which is The Silver Linings Playbook, which was made into a popular film.  Based on what I know about that story (I’ve not read the book or seen the movie – yet), The Good Luck of Right Now has a similar cast of misfit characters.  The main character, Bartholomew Neil, is in is late 30s without a job, and is living in the same home where he lived with his mother until she died from brain cancer.  While going through her things, he finds a form letter from Richard Gere in his mother’s underwear drawer.  Richard Gere was his mother’s favorite actor, and in the final days of her illness she occasionally called Bartholomew “Richard”.  This discovery led Bartholomew to write letters to Richard Gere telling him about his grief.

Bartholomew is not entirely alone, but the people who try to help him – his grief counselor, Wendy, and Father McNamee, the parish priest – have their own problems.  Later on, Bartholomew meets Max, a man who is dealing with his own grief (and has an affinity for using f-bombs every other word), and Max’s sister (aka the Girlbrarian) and what begins as a quiet story about dealing with loss turns into an adventure into Canada to find Bartholomew’s father and visit Cat Parliament in Ottawa (which was until very recently a real thing).

I LOVED listening to this book.  The narrator, Oliver Wyman, conveyed the voices of everyone – but especially Bartholomew – perfectly and with an emotion that found me willing myself not to cry several times while I was listening in the car.  It is a story about misfits but everyone can certainly see bits of themselves in any or all of the characters.

As I mentioned, Max’s language can be a bit disconcerting, especially on audio, but that is the only complaint I have about this production.  If you enjoy audiobooks, this is definitely one you should add to your list; and if you are like me and listen to them only occasionally, please do give this one a try.



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Readers’ Workouts

The Readers’ Workouts meme is hosted at Joy’s Book Blog.   This is a place to share exercise successes and challenges.

Back in January I started the OptiFast weight loss program through a local hospital that is affiliated with the gym to which I belong.  I am restricted to 800-1000 calories per day, consuming the “food” (shakes, soups and bars) offered through the program (and I’ll admit up front I am not perfect with following this).  At first I had very little energy to do any exercise – and I wasn’t in the mood, frankly – but because that is an essential part of any successful weight loss I did mostly cardio workouts.  Then I was offered discounted personal training sessions through the program and I jumped on those.  I was lucky enough to go back to the trainer I was working with last year – whom I fondly call The Marine – and he told me not to do any cardio and focus on strength training.  I was confused by this, but the gist of how he explained it to me is that because I’m taking in so few calories if I do cardio it will pull energy from muscles instead of fat, whereas if I do strength training the fat will be burned.

It’s science …. and whether or not I understand it seems to be working.  Despite my thinking that I have no strength The Marine has me using weights that I never thought I could manage – yet for the most part I am managing!  The workouts are certainly challenging but I can do them and I even have built up enough confidence to do some of the exercises with the same weight when I’m on my own.

The scale is showing progress, but not at the pace I’d like (and that is my fault for not faithfully following the program) but I am feeling results in my clothes and my energy/mood level which I think is more important and which I wholly attribute to my exercising.  I wish I could afford The Marine for all of my workouts, but I think even one session a week is a necessary expense I will need to account for in my budget.

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Thoughts on The Perfume Collector


the perfume collector

Not to dwell on it again, but the winter was rough on me emotionally and I didn’t do too much aside from work and sleep (and read, of course, but not nearly as much as I normally do).  I essentially abandoned my book clubs as well.  However, the last few weeks the weather has gotten a little bit milder, the sun is shining a little bit longer, and I’m feeling much much better – well enough to return to the land of the living and be sociable again, especially at book club!

The April selection for one of my book clubs is The Perfume Collector by Kathleen Tessaro, a book that I heard many good things about (Judith at Leeswammes really enjoyed it) and since it is set partially in Paris it was probably the perfect book to get me back into the book club routine.

The novel is set mostly in 1955 London and then Paris, with flashbacks to New York.  Grace Munroe, a young woman with an unsatisfying life as the wife of an ambitious man, receives a summons to travel to Paris where she is told she is the beneficiary of the estate of Eva d’Orsey, a woman she has never heard of.  Rather than take the money and return to London immediately, Grace enlists the help of her Parisian attorney, M. Tissot. to find out who Eva was and why she chose Grace to inherit her wealth.  As readers we go back to Eva’s humble beginnings as a maid in a prestigious New York hotel, how she became the muse of an up and coming perfumier, Andre Valmont, and the decisions she made that led to her wealth and to her connection to Grace.

Although I found parts of the story predictable, it did not affect my enjoyment of the story and I was still surprised how some of the events unfolded.  And the theme of perfume was very interesting — I don’t wear perfume myself but reading about how a talented individual can create a personal scent for someone else made me think twice about it.

This novel is light in tone but with enough of a plot to hopefully make for a good discussion.  I cannot wait to talk with the others about it.



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