Reflections on Ending the Challenge

Today is the wrap -up for the Oak Creek Mayor’s Fitness Challenge. It’s been a transformative experience for me.

Let’s start with what everyone really wants to know:

My bellybutton is still grumpy. No, I am not going to post another picture. I’m still not 100% certain I got all the eyes out last time. (Let’s all just keep our fingers crossed that I don’t ever have to confirm that suspicion via a grisly googlie discovery.)

I lost 14 pounds. I can take my pants off without unzipping them. I guess that means I’m down a size, but I’m not quite ready to resize my wardrobe.

If this were a year ago, or 5 years ago, I would be wrist deep with a tablespoon into a quart of ice cream while the following loop played in my head: “You should have lost more. You suck. You’re no good at this. Might as well just forget it. You should have done better. God, you’re pathetic.”

And on and on. You know that voice. What a jerk.

It’s not a year ago, though. It’s now. And it’s…different. I can still hear that voice, reciting my should’ves, but I don’t care so much. Unlike all the other times before, somewhere during this challenge it stopped being about losing as much weight as possible in order to look a certain way or to define my worth by a size or a number.

I have fitness goals. I miss working out when I skip. I like the way I feel when I’m eating well and exercising. I’ve had enough opportunities to try new things during the challenge that I’m no longer embarrassed or afraid to go try a new workout on my own. I own workout clothes that aren’t pajamas–and I like it. Even with some medical complications thrown in there, I find myself driven to stick with it in whatever capacity I can on any given day, instead of using it as an excuse. I like sweating.

Ok, that sweating thing was a lie. That’s still stupid. I just get a little carried away sometimes. Not seeing fitness as a chore, or something with an expiration date is all new to me. And it’s very exciting.

Trying aerial yoga (and obviously having fun)!

Trying aerial yoga (and obviously having fun)!

I used to live my life saying things like, “When I lose x lbs, things will be better.” “When I wear a size x, I’ll feel confident enough to do y.” Something happened to me during this challenge. I stopped thinking those things so much. I started having fun NOW. Things started being good NOW, at this size, at whatever weight I happen to be. Maybe it’s the exercise endorphins. I don’t know.

I finally stopped putting my life on hold. That is a worthier outcome to me for this challenge than any size pants ever will be. And although the challenge is technically over, for me it was just a beginning.

[Cue incredibly dramatic music for such an epically cheesy final sentiment.]

At my work Holiday Party, feeling lighter (and embracing the jiggle on the dance floor)!

At my work Holiday Party, feeling lighter (and embracing the jiggle on the dance floor)!

***(Extra Super Special Thanks to:

Mayor Steve and Leslie Flynn for all the hard work, for believing in all of us-even if we didn’t always believe in ourselves, and you know– for changing my life and stuff. Oh, and for not kicking me off the track when I showed up dressed like a hot dog (and putting up with my antics in general).

KTT for kicking my ass regularly. KTT can also kick your ass, if you like. Shoot him an email at Kevin.Chow83@yahoo.com for more details on how he can break your will and make you strong like bull.

Zumba Ken and Barbie….erm, I mean Zumba Mike and Vicki. You’ve made Tuesdays fan-ta-ta-shaking-tastic! Anyone who hasn’t checked out Zumba should come make an ass of themselves with me on Tuesday nights (www.zumbamike.com). Wear interesting socks. Embrace the jiggle.

There’s way more people who supported me, but this isn’t a freaking Oscar speech, and half of the readers have already stopped reading once they realized there was no picture of my bellybutton making faces. Hope you can forgive me. <3)***

 

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Resolutions, Rants, and Choices

Like a lot of other people, I joined a new gym this month. It’s been rather interesting. Let me assure you, dear reader, that this gym is awesome. It has every kind of equipment I’ve ever seen, awesome classes that I can’t get enough of, it’s clean, and every staffer I’ve met has been quite pleasant.

If I weren’t this far along in my fitness journey, I’d have stopped going already. Not from lack of motivation, but from the sheer intensity of unpleasantness from anyone special enough to have been a member of this gym before January. I’ve been there 3x/week minimum since I started, and only one of those nights did I manage not to hear some sort of unpleasant comment about the January influx of new gym goers.

I don’t like to rant on my blog. I don’t presume my opinions are better than yours. But if you are someone like this, please, knock it off already. If you have never struggled with being overweight, insecure, or unfit, I can only assume you’re unaware of the amount of nerve some of us have had to work out to even walk into a gym. I’ve cried in cars outside gyms after workouts, before workouts, and sometimes even just in the parking lot, fully dressed for the gym before driving away without managing to work up the gall to walk into the door. I’m not even dealing with major limitations or a 100+lb weight loss goal. I can’t imagine the struggle for others.

I also don’t like to judge. I prefer to give you the benefit of the doubt. I prefer to think that you’ve never considered how a casual comment you make can so profoundly affect someone else. I like to think that you would feel really bad if you learned that your joke about the January crowd was the jenga piece that made the whole tower of motivation fall for someone.

Maybe by this point you think I’m a fat crybaby wimp sticking up for other dumpy lame crybabies who are just looking for excuses to not “get over it”, and move their asses already. Maybe you think if I was serious, I wouldn’t let those kinds of comments bother me. You could be right. I don’t have any particular proof that it’s better to encourage a stranger than to roll your eyes and anxiously await the day they fail so you can have your gym back.

What I AM sure of, though, is that my mother taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned, and it is this: Your life is made up of a series of choices. Some are good, some are bad, and some are that puzzling shade of grey. Any way you choose, you live with the consequences. Those consequences, all piled up and twisted together for you to examine when you can’t sleep–that’s your life. My mom is a smart lady.

You’re free to feel any way you want about a person’s size, looks, or life choices. You’re free to express that opinion any time you want. Freedom of speech, though, isn’t freedom from consequences. When you choose to make a fat joke, a snarky judgement about how people should live, what they wear, or any old thing people judge each other for, you’re accepting the consequences for that, whatever they may be.

I’m not perfect. I say mean things sometimes. The consequence for me is playing those moments of meanness over in my head at 2am sometimes, and thinking about how to be a nicer person. I’ve learned, in my own life, that making the choice to be kind, even if it means I keep a strong opinion or two to myself, has never ever resulted in a sleepless night or the guilty ache of regret.

January is the month of resolutions. I very truly hope all of you who resolved to make 2014 the year you get fit keep at it, don’t get discouraged, and reach every goal you set despite any obstacle. It’s also not too late for any of us to resolve to make this year the year we think a little more before we speak, and consider helping a stranger before tearing them down. Every moment of our lives is an opportunity to make a better choice.

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Intermission (aka My Thus Far Inexplicable Absence)

Three weeks ago, I was happily sitting in a classroom, watching a powerpoint about Ghost Hunting. Perhaps this will make the following scene spookier for you.

I sit back and look at the slide, when suddenly I feel as if an unseen hand reaches through my chest, grabs hold of my sternum, and squeezes. It takes my breath away. It doesn’t stop. I sit up, and my vision starts to tunnel, and I feel lightheaded. My hands tingle, and my throat feels hot and cold, and that horrible, horrible pressure just won’t stop.

Something Very Bad is happening.

“Oh God, what’s happening?! Oh no, oh no….” This is all I can think, in a loop that feels like forever, but must have been only several seconds long.

I have to get out of here. I have to go to the hospital. NOW.

SPOILER: I didn’t die. Just in case you were worried. I don’t want you to be scared.

I terrified my husband by giving him worst case scenario instructions all the way to the er. What to do if I pass out, what to do if I stop breathing, who to call, what to say… he made record time to the door.

The words “chest pain” are like a magic incantation at the emergency room counter. People give you very serious looks, work quickly and deliberately around you, as if they are waiting for a Very Bad Thing to happen.  This was how my 23 hour hospital stay began.

Let me skip the horrible waiting, and anxiety, and endless sea of helpful faces over two shift changes.

I DIDN’T have a heart attack. They DID find a congenital heart defect. It is NOT a problem. I am still having issues, and a whole new host of symptoms that popped up in the days that followed. I am still undergoing some tests to work it out. It is not life-threatening, just frustrating and sucky. I’m sure it will all be fine (but would not turn down prayers and good thoughts).

It derailed me. For those weeks, while we waited to clear the heart defect, I was restricted to walking only. I threw an epic pajama themed pity party nightly.

A year ago, a stubbed toe would have earned me months of reward candy and no workouts while I healed from the physical and emotional trauma. This time, I feel anxious with each workout I miss. Things are changing.

I still feel crummy. But them’s the breaks, right? There’s always going to be something, some reason not to try, some excuse to celebrate with treats or to hide from the gym, and there’s always going to be something throwing a wrench into all the best plans we make. I’m starting to understand that it’s about figuring out how to best make this work despite the inevitable obstacles that pop up.

So tonight I’m kicking off my return to workouts with some Zumba. I’ll do my best. I might finish. I might not. I might throw up. I might cry because it feels like starting over. But I’m going.

Cue those flashing room lights. Intermission’s over.

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.

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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.

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.