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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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.

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!)

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.

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.

Fear, thy name is Kevin.

I bravely reported to my first training session at Anytime Fitness this evening. This is where I am to meet with Kevin The Trainer.  He looks friendly. My first thought after that is, “I didn’t know 15 year olds could get that buff and/or work as Personal Trainers. Does his mom know he’s doing this?”

Obviously he’s a grown up in real life, but exercise and vegetables make me grumpy and sometimes I say unkind things.

Kevin weighs me, measures me, and hands me a device that looks something like a Mario Kart wheel, but instead of a fun game, it just tells me I’m fat.

Next, I step up and down on a stair for 3 minutes, do crunches for a minute, and show Kevin The Trainer how many pushups I can do (as in HAHAHAH PUSHUPS?! aka Zero).

“Great,” he says, “Lets go back to the desk and write down the results for this assessment, then we can start the workout.”

Assessment? START the workout? Kevin, you tricky bastard.

I spend the remainder of the hour being given a workout plan to execute for the next two weeks. He explains everything perfectly, and takes me through the workout. Then he watches my form. This is where I really start to get to know Kevin, as he chats with me (presumably on the pretense of distracting me from this whole sweaty hard work business, which I appreciate fully).

Kevin likes my tattoo. He also likes Pan’s Labyrinth. And Le Mis. He covers thoroughly how impressed he is that Wolverine really has a set of pipes on him.

He waits until I’m lying on the ground, with a swiss ball between my legs, to ask how I’m doing.

“Ugh–<blowing out noise>–this is–<another weird breathing noise I’ve never made before>–it’s really difficult.” I look up at him helplessly. That my face was not immediately a cause for his concern speaks volumes of his mental fortitude.

“Good,” Kevin says casually.

I’m a little afraid of you, Kevin. But I have priorities. I’m going to have to walk, and sit, and use stairs tomorrow, and I’m betting that is going to be pretty scary come morning.