Monday, August 18, 2014

Movin on... down!

After an ugly 4 month plateau, I'm finally dropping weight again! Just 25 more to my initial goal.  And for the record, can I just say that I'm getting really tired of having to move bags of flour every time I cook?  But I keep reminding myself that that's what its like to carry around more weight than my body needs. 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Stress and Bubble Wrap

I was sitting on the couch a few days ago, icing three separate injured body parts when I decided to catch up on the lastest issue of Runner's World.  (Despite the fact that I am not a runner, I still have aspirations.  And I feel more like an athlete for reading such magazines.)  The title "Stress Recess" caught my eye, because stress is a concept with which I'm unfortunately on a "curl up and cuddle with" basis.  Despite years of sort of off and on trying, I've never gotten a handle on it, and it's wreaked havoc in my body in a number of fairly serious ways.  (I wrote about it here a while ago.)
I know cortisol plays a huge role in weight loss.  I know that despite the good in can serve in a fight-or-flight time, that it can also have some seriously nasty effects.

I knew that over training can produce cortisol, and I knew that cortisol is catabolic, meaning it can cause the breakdown of protein in muscles.

But even though I knew all of this, what I read in the article caught me off guard:
 "For the most part, running is touted as a mental tonic.  Research has shown that [it] helps keep granule neurons in the brain from firing, making you better able to deal with anger, anxiety or grief, the negative emotions referred to, collectively as stress. But there's a flip side.  Research also indicates taht running during an especially rough life patch can make you more susceptible to stress and even injury...Excess cortisol can have harmful effects on bone density and can make you tense up.  Run stiff and you're more likely to strain a muscle or tweak a joint... Serious stress over a long period of time can distract a person to the point that he doesn't notice or pay enough attention to what is happeing to his body."
A few months ago I had a nasty low-back injury that required massaging and chiropractic help and two weeks away from the gym-- and it was in a period of very high stress. And now all these seemingly unrelated injuries (though I'm learning that things are rarely as unrelated as they appear) that are forcing me to rest when I'd really like to go as hard as I can are also in a crazy-high stress period.  I'm guessing if these things happen to runners under high stress, they happen to wanna-be bodybuilders under high stress too.  And if it can happen to athletes, I'm betting it can happen to anybody in such a stressed-out state.

A few weeks ago, a friend was telling me what things were like for her after her husband died. She knew that I had a lot going on and she gave me a word of parting advice: "Be careful."  When I looked at her oddly, she continued, "Be careful with your body. I would walk down the street and just fall, and I was constantly running into things.  Things are off, and what's going on in your mind will affect your body."

Instead of marketing all sorts of useless things to stressed out people, someone should get really smart-- and offer discounts on mass quantities of Bubble Wrap. It will keep people from hurting themselves when they inadvertently walk into walls or fall on their face.  And double bonus, when it's safe to take off the Bubble Wrap-- think of all the fun to be had! You're welcome.

Friday, August 15, 2014

"Small" Achievements!

I keep reading how much having a positive outlook affects weight loss, but truth be told, the Pudgy Parson is sometimes a lot more pouty than positive.  I've had a tendency to focus on my failures or slow progress rather than celebrating the success.  But I'm trying to do better, so...

In the name of "slow and steady wins the race" (my favorite of the Aesop fables!), I was pretty excited to realize that I am wearing size 8 pants and a small sweater, which is a decided change from the size 20 pants and size XXL tops I used to wear.  I'm pretty sure I was in middle school the last time I wore a size 8 anything!

So, here's to not letting myself quit, no matter how slow I go. Here's to my favorite so far: small achievements!

(And also fun: Every single pair of boots I tried on fit over my calves. That has never happened!)

Thursday, August 14, 2014


You know how you're in a situation and all the sudden a song starts playing on repeat in your head? I was trying not to cry while holding an...uhem... 3lb dumbbell. I guess my brain was trying to distract me, and my mental ipod started playing Amy Winehouse's "Rehab".

"They said I should go to Rehab, and I said No! No! No!  They tried to make me go to rehab and I won't go, go, go!"

My brain chose that song certainly because that is how my body was feeling.  I've somehow injured both my back and my shoulder, and yesterday was my first day back at the gym in a week.  He-who-trains was trying to teach me some dynamic stretches that would help, and we kept having that "How bad does it hurt, on a scale of one to ten?" conversation.  Only my version of the pain scale is more like one to "If you don't stop, I might actually kick you in the shins as hard as I can."   He wisely stayed out of kicking range.

He was very clear with me though.  If I wanted to be back to doing things, then first I was going to have to do the hard work of rehabbing the injuries.  I was going to have to do some really deep stretches that hurt like... well a whole slew of very unladylike words.  In other words, I was going to have to put myself in pain in order to bring about healing. And I was going to have to do it over and over.

My first thought was "No, never mind. I'm good.  Really.  I can do a lot without moving either my back or my shoulder.  Like sharpening pencils.  I could be a professional pencil sharpener."  My second thought was maybe "Why on God's green earth would anyone do this to themselves?" But then I realized limping along, paralyzed from pain, is no bargain either. And maybe that's not just a body lesson, but a spirit lesson too.

So today is looking to be an exciting day filled with ice bags and heating pads and foul-word inducing stretches.  It's a day where, even if I can't yet "embrace the pain", then I at least won't run from it. In the words of another great song, "If you're goin' through hell keep on going/ Don't slow down if you're scared don't show it/You might get out before the devil even knows you're there."

Because on the other side of the hellish and painful, is healing and wholeness.

So here's my slightly revised version of the song-- that I'm gonna keep singing (albeit through gritted teeth.)
"Gonna go to rehab, and I said Oh! Oh! Oh!" 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Tearing Down and Building Up

I love words-- especially great sounding words that I can casually slip into conversation so that it sounds like I know something.  Like catabolism for instance.  I feel smarter just for having said it.  The first time I heard this word was a few weeks ago when He-who-trains described my new workout plan that involved running between every. single. exercise.  My workout partner has been running all her life, so she digs it.  Me? Well I've only really dreamt about running, which does not seem to have prepared my body for actually running. The idea behind this super "fun" workout is catabolism, which is, technically speaking, "the breaking down in the body of complex chemical compounds into simpler ones."  In my case, it means breaking down my muscles.  It sounds weird and counterintuitive, but there's a good reason for it. (And for the record, it's working. 1.5 inches lost off each calf muscle-- which is more than I've lost during the entire time I've been training.  Hellooooo, fall boots!)

What I learned as I was researching this death-by-running-the-building plan was that there is another process that does the exact opposite, called anabolism.  It's basically the building up of things.

I like the idea of the latter -bolism a lot more.  Who doesn't?  It seems a lot more useful to build things up than to tear them down.  The problem is that, lately, I'm experiencing what feels like a lot of breaking down of things-- some things more precious than muscles.  The nature of those things is a subject for another day. The wounds are too fresh, the fog still feels too foggy.  But I've been in a hard place.

I've always loved the verse in Ecclesiastes that says "To everything there is a season" (Turn, turn, turn?) A season for building up, and a season for tearing down.  It seems like one thing happens, then the other thing happens.  But what I love more than that idea is how the body deals with those things. Both the tearing down of things and the building up of other things happen at the same time, all the time. Maybe what I love about that is the realization that even as some precious things are in the process of breaking down, in the very same life, something else that is just as precious, just as necessary to vitality, is being built up.

Catabolism, as I learned (am learning) the hard way is physically painful.  And metaphorical catabolism is no less painful.  But the promise of seeing the beautiful thing emerge makes it tolerable.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Rock Your Body

Three months ago, I went to He-who-trains and told him that I had three months to be bikini ready, since my motivational cheerleader of a cousin issued the decree that this was the year where I was no longer allowed to hide.  We changed some things around with my workouts and eating.  And I have been busting it.  But just because my spirit has a time table does not mean my body is interested.  I've been stuck for three months, at least pound wise.  (And though the same dress size, I'm starting to see some new definition.)

It's been bumming me out for a while-- and now I'm coming up on my deadline. I'm definitely not where I want to be, or where I realistically thought I'd be by now.  So I had a decision to make: give it another year, or do what the Black Eyed Peas suggest and "Rock That Body."  (Yeah, yeah... I know I'm not exactly talking about the same kind of uhem... rocking.)  I've had some great people that have given me some courage including a gym friend who told me to "Wear the Bikini.  Let's face it, you'll look better than 80% of the people who decided to wear their bikinis that day." And my workout partner is awesome-- she has mad ignoring skills when I'm having my own whiny pity parties, but more than that, she won't let me get discouraged or give up. The people in the gym affectionally whistle and tell me that I look great, because they remember where I started.

It's awesome to have people like that, and they've made all the difference.  But at the end of the day, it's not about them.  It's about me, and how I feel in my skin-- even in this body.  It's been a summer of firsts for me.  I purchased my first pair of not-running-shorts in over a decade.  I've hung out at the pool, and it wasn't a thing. I've worn strappy sundresses and sleeveless shirts. When my picture-loving cousins demand selfies, I'm gonna smile broadly and with pride.  And soon, I'm gonna unapologetically put a bikini on this body.  I'm gonna rock my body.

I know I said it wasn't about anyone else's thoughts about me, but it was pretty much awesome today when the tiny, sweet, nonagenarian of a church matriarch was trying to get me eat at the fellowship luncheon (that was mostly sacrificed long ago), and I said "I'm going to the beach soon and I'm going to wear a bikini" and she got a huge grin on her face and enthusiastically said "Good for you! You go girl!" Yeah, that's a win.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Childishness and a kick in the pants...

I knew today was going to be bad, ever since He-who-trains came to me a few days ago and said it was time.  Time to do the God-forsaken, horrible, no good thing: the fat pinchy thing.  (Err.. skin fold analysis.) That's worse than being weighed in the doctor's office.  For a long time, he insisted that we'd wait until I was lower in weight because it might discourage me.  I told him I was in and that I'd be fine and to quit protecting me from myself. But that was before I was in this body funk.  Funk or no, he was fat pinching a few other people, so it was my lucky day too.

It was horrible, though maybe differently horrible than I imagined.  And I did not love wearing shorts in public-- which I'm not sure I've done since at least my first year in college. (Umm... the fact that I wear spandex to the gym now so I can see my trouble spots notwithstanding. Seeing my legs was more than I could handle!)   After he'd been working with me only a few weeks, my self-confidence experienced a major boost.  But today, for maybe the first time since those first horrible weeks, I felt just like I did then.  Nervous and clammy.  Worse, childish and whiny.  Like I would rather be anywhere but there... like I really just wanted to tell him I'd changed my mind (and that he'd lost his!).  One of the things I most appreciated about He-who-trains the very first time he trained me was that he didn't give me room to whine or make excuses or tell him I wouldn't. He walked in, told me what I was going to do, and helped me learn how to do it, and that was the end of that.  And he didn't give me that space today. Too his credit, he also did not say that I was being a childish brat.

I told him I didn't want to know the results, and I wasn't kidding.  Yup, I was a child about the whole process.  But he knows that I'm in a bad body place.  He knows that I'm struggling.  And he's brilliant enough to let my body give me the lecture he didn't the other day.   I don't like the number he gave me, but it was lower than I thought it would be. (And wow... for the record... I can't imagine how high the percentage must've been all those pounds ago.)

So... my motivation was flagging.  Now I'm having the opposite problem, which has happened before.  I get hit by the stupid branch and want to go drastic and not eat and workout six times a day and run until my knees fall off.  I won't.  Because at least now I realize it's stupid and that it will only hinder my achievements, which is progress I think. So really, I won't  But the thought process is there.   But maybe it is the kick in the pants I need, because the only way I've been able to make today ok is to tell myself that today was the worst it will ever be.  I asked him what percentage of fat he thinks I'll have at my goal weight, and I was about to see what my body role model's is, but I realized I don't care right now.  What I do care about is my number and watching it shrivel.

When the awful part was done, and I was ready to start my workout,  He-who-trains said something I don't remember hearing him say: "Get after it."  Even if I had heard it, it took on a different meaning today. Yeah, I can do that.  I can get after it-- and stay after it.  In other words, Motivation: found.

(And I suspect He-who-trains knew that would happen, which is exactly why now, right in the midst of my pity party, is why it was really time.  Seriously, the stuff just got real...)