Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Year...

Funny how some dates stick in your head. Sometimes random ones, sometimes significant.  Some of them are dividing lines that will one day mark off your life in chapters.  November 20, 2012 was a Tuesay-- three days after my birthday.  Ordinary to everyone else.  But it was the day my life began to change, the day when I admitted to myself that I wasn't who or how I wanted to be, the day when I realized I wanted so much more.

It was the day that I not only made a commitment to myself, but I got some help to make sure I knew the victory of success. I've made commitments in this area before, but when the things got tough, I quit. On November 20, I started an amazing and wild and frustrating journey toward being healthy.  Looking back, the other times proved to be false starts, but this one took.  Here's my post from That Day I started working with a trainer.  I committed myself to at least showing up, for at least three months.   I've never looked back.

In a year, I've:

  • made my health a priority. I say no to other things so I can go to the gym.  I don't eat something simply because it's offered or because it's the polite thing to do. 
  • dropped 35 pounds and 4 sizes 
  • gained confidence.  My shoulders still slouch, but it's not because I'm trying to hide myself.  The confidence I've found has spilled onto everything else.
  • learned to eat what my body needs for fuel, and how to healthfully indulge cravings without sabotaging my progress
  • fought a 6-month hormonally induced plateau, and known the grand feeling of perseverance
  • managed not to kill He-who-trains, and most days, even thank him for pushing me.  I've learned (mostly anyway) to check my ego and to actually let him teach me.
  • Rehabbed my knee that's been problematic for now half of my life.  I've gone from crying when I walked to running and squatting.  (As a reward, I get to do leg days that increase my vocabulary. Still trying to decide if this is progress!)
  • learned my way around the gym, and built a community of friends there. I'm no longer intimidated.  I can't lift as much as the fellas, but I know that I have a place in the gym.
  • quit being as camera shy.  I used to really hate having my picture taken.  Now I will sometimes even pose.  And maybe even smile. 
  • stopped needing my inhaler. I think I've used it once in the last year, and that was from a chemical smell, not exercise.
  • gotten off the diet hamster-wheel.  I don't try every fad that comes along.  I quit wasting my money on gimmicky equipment or the "right" waterbottle. I don't ferociusly rip out workout plans from magazines. 
Seems to me, fitness experts and life coaches and generally smart people are all about goals.  I can see value in that.  So here are some of mine for the coming year, both big and small (and in no particular order)
  • Be able to do a pull-up. (Or lots.) I've never ever been able to do one.
  • Reach a goal weight of 135 lbs. Or less.  But that's a starting point.
  • Return to cooking at home regularly, using healthy and whole foods. 
  • Master the concept of intensity. Be able to leave it all at the gym on a regular basis.
  • Get to the point that my form is so consistently good that all He-who-trains can say is "those are perfect."
  • Run a 5k in 24 minutes.  Pick out a half marathon, and begin training for it.
  • Learn to stand up straight-- even if it means focusing a lot of attention on my weak back muscles. 
  • Be more faithful in blogging my journey.  One day I'm going to want to remember. 

Has the year been everything I hoped? No.  I only lost about half of what I expected to in a year.  It was a struggle, and some of that was on me.  I wasn't ready to wear a bikini at the beach.  But still, the year has probably been the most life changing one I've ever known.  My date of birth is November 17, 1981. The date I decided it mattered was November 20, 2012.  So... a cupcake in celebration! Maybe that's the biggest change of all: last year, it wouldn't have been a virtual cupcake.

And... just for fun.  Here's a truly horrifying "Before" (near my heaviest I think, in 2009) and much more fun "After" (taken last weekend.)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Going Streaking

Hmmm... bet that title got your attention.  Rest assured--that's not what I'm about to do.  It's kind of cold for that, anyway.

I had a minor freakout this morning as I looked at the calendar, trying to schedule two lunch dates and a visit.  There just aren't any holes in my calendar.  It's overwhelming-- the "stuff" of this time of year.

Being a preacher means this is my manic season.  I've never fared especially well, though last year I did better than other years. I just started my quest to a healthier life (yeah, that was a brilliantly timed plan.) I only missed one or two workouts.  I didn't go nuts on food.  I made better choices.   I survived until I had an open house-- and when I didn't throw the leftovers away, I found myself grazing on them.  One thing led to another.  I said yes when I should've said no.  I was exhausted and craving sugar to comfort my stressed brain.  By the first of the year, I was knocked-down sick for over a week.   Maybe it was two? Last Advent was an exercise in wagon-falling-off, and I just felt a little miserable.

I did it to myself.  Frustratingly, I know better. Every year I make commitments to myself to take extra care of my body and spirit, but I don't follow through.  I get sick-- every. single. year.

This year, I recognize that I have a lot going on. I'm smart enough to see that I can't change most of it.  But I'm also determined that I'm not going to have to spend all of January recovering from a poorly handled December.  I'm not going to make hard and fast commitments (except one--getting there! Patience already!) to doing or not doing.  But here are my aims:

  • Practice saying no.  Hard for a people pleaser to do, but a good discipline some times.
  • Quit eating out-- or at least drastically reduce it.  It's a little about the money, and the health aspects, but it's more about the opportunity to eat good food that feeds more than my stomach.  I'm tired of restaurants right now anyway.  It will be inconvenient, and I'll have to do some planning and preparation.  But I'll be happier in the end.
  • Go streaking.  (This one I'm making a commitment, not an aim.) I was reading Runner's World and it talked about a trend that's become a tradition to many. (I guess along the lines of No-Shave November, but having mountain man legs never appealed to me, so I'm not sure.) It's the Holiday Streak.  The idea is that every day, Thanksgiving through New Years, you pledge to run (or walk) at least one mile every day. I saw this several years ago, and wanted to, but got too busy. I think I've actually considered it for several years in a row, but always drop the ball and never get around to starting it. I almost skipped over it again, but this year, it seems important.  I don't think it will be about trying to sneak in some exercise-- after all, I am in a differenct place this year, and the gym is just part of my life.  Going is a given, and I'll make it fit. But I want to do this as a matter of mindset, of reminding myself that I'm worth it--that my self care impacts not only me, but those I love, and not only now, but in the future too.  I may not be doing a lot of runs because of the leg workouts I'm doing, but the way I figure it, even a slow mile could be a gift.  (Maybe I'll make them intentionally slow?) That's twenty minutes of time just for me.  (Making that a rule: no email checking, text reading or call answering during that time.) That's a mile of looking around and breathing fresh air and making my doggie smile.   I think I'm going to document each day with a picture on my blog.  Getting pedicures or reading books by the fire is more than I can do to take care of myself right now, but I am worth twenty minutes a day.  I'm going streaking! 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"Get up, Trinity!"

"What will the Pudgy Parson have to say about this workout?" I'm pretty sure he was sneering in an I-told-you-so way, but I was too busy trying to keep my lunch inside my body.  And also trying to resist the urge to kick him...hard.  But seeing as I was in no position to run away, namely because I ceased to have control over my legs, I just made my aforementioned Passing-a-cactus face and did my best to ignore him. Also the lunch thing was keeping me busy.

 I knew it was going to be bad.  Any time he-who-trains wants to make a point, he makes a point. My ability to use my limbs in the next three days is not a concern. He will neither push me, nor let me push myself to the point of injury--he's watching closely.  But he sure isn't going to let me hang out in my comfort zone either.  This is why I pay him the big bucks.

  He's tolerated my running. He has said relatively little when he learned how many of his running rules I was breaking, and how often.  I (stupidly) kept telling him how well my knees were doing, that I wasn't having to ice or Advil, that I kept signing up for 5ks (and wasn't planning on stopping.)  I also (again, stupidly) let him read my blog on intensity. And I asked him for this, to give me more, because what I was doing wasn't enough. (Really, really, stupid...)

But apparently, if my knees were fine to run, they were also strong enough to squat.  And we're not talking the half-squats that most gym-goers do (yup, got that lecture.) We're talkin bad dance moves low.  And we're not talking just squats, because a leg party just wouldn't be complete without also doing the leg press, and lots and lots of set-your-legs-on-fire calf work.

I survived the He-who-trains-death-by-squats leg day... for 22 minutes. I'm not positive I will be able to get off the couch tomorrow-- which is unfortunate since, being a preacher, people notice if I don't show up on Sundays.  On the downside, I thought I might actually die.  On the upside, I "got" to practice intensity.  And my knees were fine.  Apparently, this is what I've been working toward for the last year--because this is what leg days are supposed to look like.  Funny, I thought I was working toward being a 135lb She-Ra, but you know, having quads as big as a linebacker's is good too.

There's a scene in the move, The Matrix,  where the female protagonist, Trinity, is being chased by agents. She falls down and looks at the door, and says, "Get up, Trinity.  Just Get Up!" Some times you have to say that to yourself.  Sometimes outloud.   Today, that scene played in my mind over and over.  It will play again tomorrow as I try to walk. It will play next time I do that workout.  It will play until I don't need it anymore.   But, then again, when will I ever not need that scene? Isn't life just an exercise in getting up, of looking inside and drawing out just a little more than you thought you had?

I wish I had more than 22 minutes in me.  I'm disappointed.  But it's been a long time since I've worked that hard in the gym-- and having done so felt good.  I left it all in the gym (except my lunch, which I kept with me.)  I needed the reminder.  I won't need it again soon.

Get up, Trinity.  Just Get UP!

P.S. Assuming I can still walk, one day I'm gonna be able to wear this shirt... sadly, I might actually wear it. In public. With Spandex.


He-who-trains is all about the mental imagery when he wants to make a memorable point. He lectured me about intensity for a while, but apparently I wasn't getting it.  Until he came up to me and said... well, uh... what he said isn't entirely appropriate since he's a little crass, but the idea was "I want you working so hard that your face looks like you're *passing* a cactus."  I can't swear to it, but I'm pretty sure he made some equally graphic sound effects to go with his demonstration face. Ok, ok... file that under TMI.

Graphic though it was, I've not forgotten.  Of course, no one else at the gym has either.  There's never a day that someone doesn't reference cactus passing.  Some days, I'm really afraid that the universal parent wisdom is true, and that my face my actually get stuck that way. That would be truly unfortunate. The cactus passing face isn't pretty.

But what's less pretty is the being face of mediocrity. I've kinda been all about the comfort-zone, and maybe didn't realize that applied to more than just the gym. It's been my path: do what's safe, easy and known. I'm the mild salsa kinda person because anything with too much sizzle can't be good.  I've been thinking about intensity a lot lately.  I was at a writer's retreat a few weeks ago, and one of our phrases was "Bring the heat!" Of course, that's easier to apply to words than it is to life. 

He-who-trains has ruined cacti for me. But had he not given me this overly graphic image, I would've probably pranced along (ok, to be fair, I don't think I've ever pranced...but I could start) in my comfort zone-- which is decidedly not where progress happens.  Or as the graphic floating the interwebs puts it:

The problem is that this is true.  About everything. 

It's true about weight loss.  It's true about becoming the person you want to be.  It's true about living as passionately and creatively as you imagine yourself living. 

People, for the most part, are comfort zone dwellers.  We make decisions based solely on maintaining homeostastis, and not causing waves, or throwing a proverbial wrench in any works, or not fixing what's not broken. We keep the same style of clothes we've worn for decades (and label ourselves "classic", even though "retro" might be a better fit.) We keep the same job--even if we wake up growling every single day for years.  We do things that no longer suit us, just because someone expects us to.  As a pastor, I see it in the church. We hold on, franctically, to the way things have always been, and seek to "maintain" at all costs.  We're afraid to want something badly enough to have to truly pour our blood, sweat and fears into it.

There's a line that says "What's the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results." I'm tired of comfortable, wheel-spinning, insanity.  I choose intensity.  Even if I have to make a really ugly face.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

So this happened...

This was my senior prom. I was a size 12.

Since then, I gained four dress sizes and fifty pounds. (Seriously? How did I not notice? Or have the energy to do something?)

Thirteen years later, the dress is a little big.

Guess I'll have to find something else to wear on my cruise...

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Witches and Promises

Since being finally cleared to run a few months ago, I've started running a lot.  My knee is cooperating, with surprisingly little ice or Advil-- and it's cheaper than any vice worth having.  Double plus, it's cheaper than therapy.  But running has sort of become my escape.  It's my time to think and listen to bad teenybopper music (which I pretend makes me hip.  But maybe "hip" people have a better word for that? I wouldn't know...) Running is one of those things that's Saving My Life right now.

But it also reminds me that in some (many?) ways, I am my father's daughter. My dad is super competitive-- whether in his racecar (yeah, he took up being a racecar driver at age 62... that's how he rolls) or on his bike, he's gonna make sure he does whatever he can to make sure that he isn't passed.  Usually running is a solo activity, which works fine for me.  But a church member has invited me to be her partner in crime, and we've taken to doing 5K's together.  Her husband even waits at the finish line, and cheers for me as loudly as he cheers for her.  He takes pictures of me huffing and puffing across the finish line. That's kinda awesome.   But even though I do the races for the fun of doing them, not because I want to win (umm... definitely still a ways away from that being a reasonable goal!), I still don't like to be passed. I still run a little faster than I probably should.

Someone told me to pick a person that is just a little faster than I am, and work to pass them.  A few weeks ago, I did a race called "Night of the Ghoul" and the whole time, I followed a witch that I just couldn't pass. No really.  A witch.  In a tutu...

The whole time, I was thinking "Just beat the witch. BEAT the witch!" but I never did.  And she was several age brackets older than I am, as if being beaten by a witch in a tutu wasn't bad enough.

She was at yesterday's race too (though perfectly normal and not witchy.)  She's actually pretty nice.  But she was just ahead of me again.  And again, unpassable. I talked to my church friend, and realized that my friend wanted to beat the witch's time too. They are in the same age bracket, and the witch has now twice beaten her as well.  So my friend and I made a pact-- that we were going to work hard enough and get fast enough that both of us beat the witch.  It's nothing personal, but being beaten by people in tutus is not acceptable.

Yesterday was a hard race.  It was COLD.  I walked from my house to the greenway to get warmed up.  I dressed well, but it was cold.  I had a hard time breathing, and for the first time in a year and a half, I had shin splints.  All I could think about were those months when it hurt to even walk, but I wouldn't stay off them. (I wrote about the race where I almost crawled here) I kept pushing and pushing.  I had to be taught how to help them heal-- and it invovled giving up some of my favorite cute shoes.  It was almost worth it to be able to walk without crying.

When I started running again, I made a promise-- I wasn't going to hurt myself.  If my knee was fussy, I'd walk or wait for another day. If something felt off, I was going to take it slow and do only as much as I could without hurting something.  I guess we make promises so that we have something on which to hold when things are hard.  As everyone and their brother and dog was passing me yesterday, I wanted to run through the pain.  I wanted to be bad and tough.  I still wanted to beat the witch.  But I remembered my promise-- and I fought hard to keep it.  Today it's ice and Advil-- and despite it being a gorgeous blue sky day, no running.

Maybe it is indeed possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Or maybe I realize I'll never be able to beat the witch if I'm hurt ;-)