We just got back from a weekend in Vegas. The post-vacation feeling is a great reminder of why we live a healthier lifestyle the other 99% of the time. Exhausted, dehydrated, baggy eyelids, sore feet, and smoke-infused suitcases. We’re vacationed out. I shudder to think how we would feel if booze were involved! Las Vegas is still one of our favorite cities to visit, and in many ways, it’s a fitness paradise.
Vegas is a model city in one important way, and that’s its friendliness to pedestrians. There is a monorail, a reliable bus system, and an endless supply of taxis. The Strip itself is 4.2 miles in length, and I’m pretty sure my hubby and I have walked all of it. It has its annoyances, but overall it’s a safe and entertaining place to walk. The other night, we saw a British man walk by wearing an empty Corona Light beer carton on his head, while carrying on what sounded like an intelligent (and sober) conversation. A panhandler asked us, in a comedy voice, “Will you join my club and be my friend?”
One of the best features of the Vegas Workout is that there are staircases everywhere, indoors and outdoors. I don’t take the stairs to maintain my youthful figure; I actually take the stairs so that I know I can take the stairs in an emergency. Use it or lose it. I saw The Towering Inferno on network TV when I was a child, and it made a strong impression. I had to descend 7 flights of stairs once due to a broken elevator, a relatively boring non-issue, so I can’t think of a reason to let my stair mojo lapse.
The other reason to take the stairs, even when there is an escalator on either side, is that nobody is ever on the staircase. I get impatient. You know that feeling, when a slow driver is driving in the fast lane and you can’t get past? Yeah, that feeling. There needs to be a 1-mph sidewalk lane and a 3-mph sidewalk lane.
The Overlord came with us. That’s my pet name for my Apple Watch. I like it because it’s one of the few material objects that keeps me honest. I can buy a book and pretend that I’m not going to add it to the stack of 50 unread books I already have at home. I can buy a box of Thin Mints (guess what? They’re vegan!) and pretend I’m not going to hide them from my husband and eat them all in three days. I wear the Apple Watch, and I can’t pretend I move or stand up more than I actually do. Here are some data:
Saturday: 6.79 miles, 200% movement goal, exercised 59/30 minutes. This day included a 4-hour drive.
Sunday: 5.14 miles, exercised 36/30 minutes.
Monday: 9.76 miles, 200% movement goal, exercised 70/30 minutes. Hubby went to hotel gym.
Tuesday: 4.17 miles, exercised 36/30 minutes. We overslept, drove home, and sat around like jellyfish. Most of Tuesday’s metrics come from the period between midnight and 2 AM.
One of the most interesting things I learned from taking The Overlord to Vegas was that applauding apparently counts toward the hourly stand-up goal. Sitting in a chair and intently watching acrobats is a different type of activity than sitting on a couch and watching Real Housewives. I mean, I am a “real housewife” and nobody wants to watch me cleaning out the lint trap in my dryer….
About those acrobats. Every time we go to Vegas, I feel this deep-seated desire to level up my workout. There are hundreds, possibly thousands, of acrobats and dancers in Sin City, performing in scanty outfits and displaying their million rippling muscles with the utmost grace and precision. There are three fascinating things about dancers:
When I see acrobats doing their thing, I find myself asking whether I do anything in my life with that level of dedication and focus. Anything at all. There is something about being in the zone, what is known as the flow state, that seems to dispel stress, anxiety, and bad moods. Dance itself is highly pleasurable. The more they enjoy it, the more they practice, the better they get, the more they enjoy it. Probably lots of things are like that. I like ballroom dance, and I’m competent at it, but I don’t do it as often as I’d like. The difference between professional dancers and myself is that they’ve made the commitment to dance as often as possible, and quit doing all those petty things that are not dance. I, on the other hand, will procrastinate on doing fun things and lose track of how very long it’s been since the last time.
We were walking down the Strip when a lovely blonde woman in athletic gear walked by. She was moving at a faster pace and quickly passed us. We speculated about her workout based on her body composition. You know that swimmers have broad shoulders, cyclists have big quads, distance runners have big hamstrings and flat butts, etc. This woman was so firm that the muscles in her back stood out a half inch above the line of her spine. Have you noticed? When I see a very fit woman, I take an acute interest. I want to know what workout she does and whether they have a studio in my area. I want to know how long it took her to develop to that level. I feel elated that what I am seeing in another person is a possibility for the human form. I often see other women my age or older who have better posture and more muscle than I do, and it’s encouraging.
Not everyone feels that way. I have caught other women giving me side-eye or looking me up and down. If you’re going to do that, and then make eye contact with me, at least fake-smile afterward? My husband says he saw a woman my age outright glaring at me. “Was she alone?” I asked. “Yeah.” “Well, there you go.” The way I look has nothing to do with anyone else. It’s between me and my endocrinologist. It’s not a zero-sum game. Quit being mad at fit people and start asking what they’re (we’re) doing differently. That’s what I did. I got fit as an experiment, because I had never tried it, and the result was an end to my chronic health problems. The main reason I walk 6 miles a day is because if I skip a few days, my chronic neck and shoulder tension come back. I walk to swing my arms, not my legs, if that makes sense. I spend way too much time hunching over a keyboard to want to be sedentary 100% of the time.
Of course, if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: Working out has nothing to do with weight loss. It doesn’t! Working out is for mood maintenance, pain management, posture and gait correction, transportation, fun, stamina, and something to do while avoiding sitting down as much as possible. Sitting kills. It also leads to back pain, neck pain, and shoulder pain. Staying fit all year helps us to feel ready, willing, and able to spend 16 hours a day on our feet, having a blast on vacation.
Our strategy for weight maintenance has more to do with food. We assume we’ll gain weight on vacation, because we almost always do, so we know we have to behave consistently at least 80% of the time. We also remind ourselves of all the times we’ve overindulged to the point that we felt crummy afterward. Too much sugar is the worst offender. The most important thing we do is to drink water and avoid sweet drinks. One of our other strategies is to skip lunch entirely if we slept late and had a late breakfast. Last year I insisted on a late lunch because I didn’t want to wait until our 7 PM dinner reservations, and then I ate everything in the bread basket, plus two appetizers, an entrée, and dessert. I felt like a Willy Wonka character the rest of the night. I’ve been working hard to develop an awareness of where I am on the hunger/fullness scale, and to keep it below an 8 at all times. At home, I try to stay between a 4 and a 6, as recommended, and on vacation I will occasionally go to a 7. A 7 is high enough to remind me of why I don’t eat that much on a daily basis. It’s not really comfortable. Even though we eat scads of vegetables, overeating still feels bad. It makes me want to lie down and take a nap, and that’s not what we go on vacation to do.
I’m writing this on Tuesday night, after barely getting home in time to pick up our pets from the “pet resort.” (No pool, no gym, though I do hear they get room service and they can order pedicures). The great mystery remains to be solved: what will our weigh-ins be like tomorrow morning? We haven’t been on a scale in five days. Will walking 25.86 miles and climbing a few hundred stair steps counterbalance all the restaurant food we ate?
Answer: Nope! I'm up 2.3 pounds in 4 days. Walking close to a marathon distance over the same period? Not enough. It'll be gone by the end of the week, though, because we fall back to our alternate eating plan when our weight is up. We have 3-4 more trips scheduled between now and the summer solstice, and if we don't keep to a plan, we'd have to buy a bigger size of clothes by July. Vacations are a lot more fun when we aren't afraid to go out in public in our swimsuits.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.