Thoughts on two months of fitness.

It’s hard to believe that the halfway point of this challenge has already passed. In two months, I’ve cried from both frustration and happiness following workouts, sat in the parking lot outside the gym arguing with myself about getting out of the car, completed a 5k, lost 8lbs, gained new friends, tried so many new things, and learned a lot about the difference a real support system makes.

I’ve also spent my fair share of time on treadmills, holding planks, and engaged in all manner of physical scenarios wherein my brain attempts to keep me distracted enough to keep going just one more second, one more minute, one more set. The following are a few of my assorted thoughts over 60 days of fitness.

Sometimes working out is like an out of body experience. Well, more like I spend it trying to figure out how to get out of my body until it’s over.

I learned you can get so sweaty that your sports bra becomes one of those chinese finger traps, except you know, not for your fingers. Someone ought to invent a removal tool for them before I have a very awkward and floppy accident in the locker room.

They say that sweat is fat crying. I’m pretty sure most of the time it’s just me crying.

Some days, not puking is the most exciting part of your workout.

Ladies, occasionally you will only be left post workout with enough flexibility and stamina to shave one body part per shower. Choose wisely.

If you are one of those people who say, “I only run if something is chasing me,” and then you decide to try running, eventually there will come a day where a bee will actually chase you for nearly a minute on your run. Consider this a funny little inside joke between you and God, and try not to think about what you look like to passing vehicles.

Learning to face the mirrored gym wall objectively is often more challenging than mastering the movement. Learning to accept that reflection is the hardest of all. It’s a work in progress.

Getting fit doesn’t always feel easier as the time passes. Some days are so very easy, and others are frustrating and long. Learning to keep going anyway is it’s own challenge. That IS getting easier.  I’m a work in progress, too.

Image

I might be trying to make a metaphor here. More likely, I just thought you might enjoy a picture of a me in a hot dog costume eating an apple.

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On nausea and wavering motivation.

I could feel it, the hand of fate upon me. Reaching out, right down my throat, and directly for my gag reflex. With all the dignity a woman about to hurl could muster, I lowered myself from the pullup machine, wiped the clammy sweat from my brow, and smiled weakly at Kevin The Trainer.

“Be right back.” These were the only words I could manage before walking off to the bathroom. I learned it is incredibly difficult to find the perfect speed with which to walk through a crowded gym so as to still appear vaguely composed but to also not vomit all over your shoes.

There, in the Anytime Fitness bathroom, I met my destiny. Twice. This isn’t the first time I’ve found myself in this position. I am, as anyone who has ever worked out with me will tell you, A Puker(™). Too much caffeine, not enough water, small lunch,  bad pre-gym snack–the reasons could be many.

But I’d been doing SO good. I’m working out better, and harder, and making progress and everything had just been going SO WELL.

Not this day. This day I left the gym, only 20 minutes into my workout, covered in a cold sweat, and wearing an unmistakable expression of defeat and shame.

I put on my fuzzy robe and prepared to wallow. Since wallowing often requires snacks, I had one moment of good judgement and thought, “No! Let’s just focus on motivation! Let’s make a little collage of motivational quotes to put in front of the treadmill at work! Won’t that be nice?!”

If you’re familiar with the endless pinboards and facebook shares of  motivational pictures, you know what I’m about to find. I don’t always have good ideas.

proud

Only I didn’t stop when I was proud. I stopped when I puked. What now?

(Side note, I bet she never gets googly eyes stuck in her button. )

PS_0333W_PAIN_BODY

Except when it’s vomit. Sometimes it is just pretzels leaving your body at high velocity.

Don’t we still get to be proud? So some of us puke, and some us have bad knees, and some of us are still intimidated by intense workouts. I know we are supposed to only strive to be better than our past selves, and not make comparisons against those who live in beast mode, and talk about doing our workouts for warmups, but that isn’t always easy. Some of us still struggle through “easy” workouts and secretly worry about being judged. Some of us are maybe one more emotional defeat from throwing away the gym bag and another year off our lives.  Not every day is chock full of motivation, and some days the goals seem so very unattainable.

There just aren’t enough posters to keep me going through days like that. So I made a couple of my own. (I bet some of you hilarious and clever people can do even better. If you do, please share!)

Special thanks to 9Round Oak Creek for being the first place I ever saw this quote (I’ve almost puked there lots of times!)

Running is still stupid. All 5k of it.

On August 20th, I did my first day of Couch-to-5k. On October 5th, I completed my first 5k (The It’s Glow Time! 5k).

My first 5k. The medal even glows in the dark!

My first 5k. The medal even glows in the dark!

The lame, Inner Critic Me wants to tell you: Don’t be impressed. It took me 40 minutes. I only jogged about 25 of that, and never more than 10 minutes at a time. My jogging pace on a good day is about a 15 minute mile.

There was a whole 4 minutes I jogged and could not manage to pass a group of gossiping women in tie-dye tees, and I wanted to lay down on the track and have a glow in the dark tantrum. I should have run faster. I should have run longer. I should have done better after 7 weeks of training.

At least, that is what she has been going on and on about in my head since. I am SO tired of her nagging. Here’s what she left out:

It rained before the race started. Buckets. Little girls in light up tutus frolicked in puddles and downpour like it was the best day ever, and some of us grownups secretly thought about just going home and forgetting this whole stupid idea.

But the rain stopped. And we walked, and jogged, and did that weird hobbling not-sure-if-this-still-counts-as-jogging thing with wet shoes and socks. When I saw a mile marker, if I was jogging, I talked myself into running as fast as I could for just a few seconds past it. If I was walking, I talked myself into jogging. I crossed that finish line jogging. And I LIKED it. (I mean, not as much as napping and cookies, but still, it felt pretty awesome.)

I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to call myself a Runner. I’m slow, and it’s always a struggle when I’m out there. I still think running kinda sucks. But now, it sucks for LONGER when I try it, and I think that is pretty cool.

Plus, this is my after-run photo (with the awesome teammates who stuck it out with me)…I would have NEVER guessed 7 weeks ago that I would actually look HAPPY after 40 minutes of walk/splash/jogging.

I'm smiling? After running? They must have drugged the fog machine.

I’m smiling? After running? They must have drugged the fog machine.

Sometimes I just need a little help remembering that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about not giving up:

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Grumpy Bellybutton

I could show you my before picture. I took one, you know. One of those really excellent sports-bra-and-short-shorts pasty monstrosities, phone in hand in front of the mirror, trying to look anywhere but at myself. I had the clarity do this immediately before a session with KTT, so as to avoid taking a one way trip to Pity-party-landia, where ice cream is only eaten in pints, and all the party hats say, “I suck.”

But you’ve seen enough of those pictures, and they’re really only impressive if you get the instant gratification of the miraculous after picture. After only 3 weeks of this challenge, my “before” picture really strongly resembles my “right now” picture.

I should show you SOMETHING, though, right? I think it’s important that I put something out there, set a goal, say, “I’m working on this right here!” And you deserve some sort of metric, some accountability from me, because you are being so amazingly supportive of me right now.

So let’s talk about bellybuttons. Mine is SO GRUMPY. Look at my bellybutton. LOOK AT IT.

My button enjoys awkward eye contact.

My button enjoys awkward eye contact.

You’d be grumpy too, if you were my bellybutton, I suppose. My goal is to have a not-grumpy bellybutton. I thought about telling you I wanted a surprised button like so:  =O, but I think that requires a skin elasticity I lost somewhere in my early 20s.

I would settle for a merely unimpressed bellybutton: =|

It turns out that I can fit 12 googly eyes in there. That seems like a lot. Does it seem like a lot to you? I’ll work on making it fewer.

I had to lay down to take this. Not weird at all, right?

I had to lay down to take this. Not weird at all, right?

Other things I learned that I can fit in my bellybutton:

  • Half a Q-tip
  • Not as much of my tweezers as I really needed to get that last googlie out.
  • Nearly an entire bobby pin (worked eventually).

My button and I will keep you updated. We are working hard and very hopeful that sticking with the Challenge will make us both less grumpy.

The Tale of Kevin The Trainer and the Second Session

6pm. Anytime Fitness. I walk in, already anxious. Maybe a drink of water will help, I think, as I move to the bubbler. This is where I discover a new poster for the Mayor’s Challenge–it’s me, my name and “before” photo, plastered to the pinboard right at eye level. All I can picture are the buff young things adding water to their protein powder while staring right at the most unflattering full body picture of me ever released in public.

This is already not going how I imagined.

“So, you thought you hated me last time….”  This is how Kevin The Trainer greets me. I briefly imagine what it would be like to run screaming from the gym, move to a new city and start over. I give up on it–KTT, Destroyer of Dreams, would surely catch me before I even made it past the ellipticals.

Today I get to do a version of squats holding a medicine ball and sitting down on a box. I like the sitting down part. I’m good at the sitting down part.

I also learn to do something called a Russian Twist. After 20 of them, I suddenly understand all the stereotypes about vodka.

My first cardio interval is jump rope. KTT has made sure to tell me, “If you can talk, you’re not working hard enough.” He likes to ask me questions and make conversation during my intervals. It’s a lot like going to a talkative dentist. My vocabulary has become limited to the following, “ok” “uh-huh” and a very ironic “awesome.”

“Your next interval won’t be so awesome,” declares Kevin The Trainer.

He was informed at the start of this that I’m a bit of a Puker. I thought I was providing a warning. He clearly sees it as a challenge.

Turns out the last set of cardio intervals is shuttle runs. Outside. In the parking lot. The busy parking lot. Busy with people. Strangers. Looking at me.

Did I mention Anytime Fitness is two doors down from Toppers Pizza? Carryout customers stare as I run back and forth between the parking lines while Kevin stands there smugly with his stopwatch. I should be proud, instead I want to scream at them, “I hope you feel bad and your pizza tastes bad!” Only we all know it doesn’t, and I don’t have enough air anyway.

Before my last interval, Kevin asks how I’m doing.

“I hate you so much right now.” I say between ragged breaths. He just laughs. Kevin is a twisted cookie.

Finally, the hour ends, and we cool down with a casual walk around the parking lot. He gives me a pep talk about sticking with it, and getting out what I put in. I can’t decide if I want to hug him or punch him in the face. Since I no longer have any conscious control over the muscles for either act, I settle for a nod. Nodding doesn’t hurt. Yet.

To Sneeze or Not To Sneeze

I’ve been sick. That sort of scratchy throat, sneezy, sleepy cold garbage that makes you want to find a cup of soup and a snuggie and take up permanent residence on the couch. Let’s, for a moment, ignore how sad it is to be sick on my birthday (insert chorus of ‘awwww’ here, please), but I’ve got The Mayor’s Challenge going on here! I can’t be sick!

I used a very special 4 point plan to attack this boogery invader and triumph over my malady:

  1. Begin regimen of airborne, zinc, and soup. Sternly inform the virus, “Cold, ain’t nobody got time for this!” This is your new mantra, repeat whenever noticing a symptom.
  2. Frantically Google “cold remedies.”  Try them all within a 5 hour period. Burp, discover the new and intriguing flavor of raw garlic clove-ginger and cayenne tea-apple cider vinegar-mentholated cough drop.
  3. Go on out of town casino trip with Mom. Surely the slot machine noise and loss of income is a solid distraction from the virus that is slowly destroying your will to wear pants and be out of doors. Use copious amounts of hand sanitizer–you’ll feel like a jerk if you get anyone’s sweet old granny sick. (This step is probably optional, but was part of my birthday weekend plans).
  4. Get home. Succumb. Wallow. Spend the next 24 hours hiding in bed, alternating between feeling guilt over not meeting your gym commitments, and taking incredibly restful naps with a kitten.

I should probably mention I’m still sick. Your mileage may vary.

I can tell you what did make me feel pretty great, in the end. I showed up to work out, still feeling sick, but determined to do my best and not skip another day. Deciding to weigh myself at the gym was a pretty big gamble, but finding out I am down 4 lbs made me forget about my cold for at least five whole seconds. And it didn’t leave any weird aftertaste.

So, maybe I care.

Yesterday’s kickoff was interesting. It’s not every day you find you are presented on a display board like the world’s weirdest science project for the whole city to see, and the mayor points you out in a crowd. Being put in the spotlight was terrifying, and also exhilarating. It all feels very real now, and the pressure to succeed is far more overwhelming than I imagined it would be. My first order of business this morning was to wake up and run to the gym (ok, I drove the gym. But I ran when I got there. For FIVE WHOLE MINUTES, guys).

Hypotheses about decreasing adiposity of the chubby subject abound.

So, it turns out, I care what you think of me. It matters if you think I’m mean, or lazy, or a bad person. I can’t bear the thought of disappointing you, of making you ashamed to know me.

We spend so much time pretending we don’t care what other people think, while trying in silent desperation to impress them– to show everyone that we’re good, we matter, we’re somebody worth knowing. Maybe some of us try too hard. I know sometimes we care too much about what others think. More often, the “others” we are trying to impress are the wrong ones.

I can’t pretend anymore. I’m not so cool and aloof that your opinion doesn’t affect me. In fact, I’m counting on it. I’ve tried a lot of things to motivate myself in the past, but I’ve always kept the struggle close like some sort of dirty secret, and I think that has always been one of the sources of my repeated failures (although I think I will start calling them “practice runs” instead of failures. Sounds so much less…failure-y).

So, I admit it– I’m using you. I’m counting so much on caring about your opinion that I make sure I push myself, just to impress you. I’m so horrified that you think I’m slacking off that I will dig deeper than I ever do when I only have myself to answer to.

I’m trying the one thing I’ve never tried– Looking around and saying, “Hey guys, you know that thing about how I’m fat? I’m totally going to do something about that! Check it out!”

I hope you can forgive me for using you (although I know some of you might like that sort of thing).  I also hope you can let it slide that maybe I’ve played it too cool, and kept some secrets. I just want to make you proud.