Monday, October 31, 2011

Monster Dash

Saturday morning found me clad in a penguin hat and participating in a most enjoyable run - the Monster Dash 5K Fun Run. Strangely (or maybe not) this was the first non-timed run I've participated in, and that absolutely enhanced my enjoyment.

It didn't hurt, either, that Amanda, wife of Biff, accompanied me throughout the entire run. It was the first time I had someone run with me throughout an event, and that was a lovely change. I felt happy and fortunate to be out on the lakefront on such a perfect day with my friend.

At the end of our race, it was time to head back toward the finish to watch Biff and my friend Annie finish the Monster Dash Half Marathon. What a treat! So many fantastic runners; it was inspiring, to say the least. Biff did great, and Annie - in her first race ever - finished smiling, even though her poor feeties were fairly covered in blisters.

All in all, it was a near-perfect morning for a run. Sunny, chilly air, and good friends ... what more could a girl want? I missed my usual running posse, but it was really nice to truly try something different.

So now, I'm pretty much staring down the barrel of the Main Event - getting ready for the Hot Chocolate 15K this Saturday. Nervous and excited, but I feel like I'm ready. 9.3 miles, here I come!

Several runners dressed to the nines, including Rufio and Dee Snider. So cool.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Baby steps up Everest

I am not a fitness professional, although I was, once, sorta.

I am not a doctor, but I've been to many.

I am not a nutritionist, but I watch a lot of Food Network.

That being said, because I've had some success taking off a few layers of my former self, folks ask me with some regularity for my "secret". There's no secret, friends, at least not for me. It's as simple as this:

Eat less. Move more.

For years, I self-medicated with food. Regardless of my knowledge and study, I did not know how to properly care for myself and my body. The lethal combination of suicide by cheeseburger and a butt that seemed fused to the sofa found me tipping the scales at the 300-pound mark. So when it came to "go time" - that moment when I knew I had to choose my path on the fork in the road - I knew it would be hard, but I decided to take it off the same way I put it on.

One fraction of a pound at a time.

They aren't kidding when they say it gets harder as you age. It does. But that's okay, because you get tougher as you age, too. Things are easier when you're younger because that's what you can handle. So if you're staring down the barrel of 40 and wondering if it's possible, it is. But it's gonna take work.

And that's what scares people. No matter your age, it's hard work, and there will be weeks when you see little progress. There may be months when progress is slow in coming. Stick with it. When you treat your body with love and grace, it will give the same back to you.

For me, it came down to the realization that instead of treating my body like a temple, I was treating it like Woodstock. Did I really expect it to remain resilient, flexible and strong? And yet was I surprised when it rebelled against movement and life. But over time, I've made incredible progress. I still have work to do, and goals to accomplish, but I won't fail. As long as I'm still doing the work, there is no failure.

So now I'll let you in on my secret: my motivation lies within my completely screwed-up self image. See, when I was at my heaviest, I didn't see myself that way. It was only when a series of photographs presented themselves to me that I realized I was, in fact, the fat girl. (Really, holding up my own jeans did nothing to show me how big those size 24 jeans actually were. Duh.) It was shocking to realize how truly unhealthy I had become. But now, I find myself shocked when I see photos of me in my current state. I don't recognize the healthy girl yet. So the work has become less about what I look like and more how I feel, as I wait for the picture of me in my head to sync up with the girl in the photo.

In the meantime, I am intensely fortunate to have people in my life who admire my triceps (seriously, that happened!) and who remind me that my limitations exist only in my imagination. No matter how small your steps, as long as you keep moving forward, you can reach any destination you choose.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

To dance

If you know me at all, you know that music is where my soul gets its groove on. Ask me about pretty much any major (and oftentimes minor) event in my life, and I can likely tell you two things: what I was wearing, and what song I was listening to. (Example: When I discovered the vast cache of messages between my ex and Judi the ho, I was wearing plaid flannel pants and an EIU sweatshirt, while "Nada" by The Refreshments played in the background.)

Yes. I can remember that level of detailed minutia, and I could never remember my mother's birthday. Sue me.

Anyway ... music. In the mayhem that is my life these days, music is my refuge. Between workplace stress, family emotion, car trouble and a tendency toward perfection, life has been kicking me a bit moreso than usual lately. So, I retreat into music.

And, on the best of days ... I dance to it.

Last night, a great dance instructor and an even better friend, Donna Thomas, returned to LTF Schaumburg to teach Salsa/Funk. From the opening beat of our warm up straight through the booming rhythms of intense cardio, until we wiped the last bit of sweat from our brow at the end, we shared pure joy. There is something about being part of this community of dancers that raises the bar for all of us. We work hard because everyone else works hard. We leap higher because the person next to us proves it can be done. We sink into the rhythms in our own unique ways, and we become dancers, for that one incredible hour.

And when it's over, when we've given every ounce of energy we can muster and burned 700 calories or so, we emerge new. The stress of the day is gone, and there is nothing left but joy.

Sooner or later, the real world finds us again and the troubles re-introduce themselves. But for that one hour, there is nothing except gratitude for the ways our bodies allow us to move, and the elation that comes from joining music with movement.

To dance. To live.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Weigh in, and other stuff

Life has been super hectic. I weighed in on Monday, and I'm finally taking a moment to own it.


Yeah, that's like four pounds less than last week's weigh in. No, I don't think it's real. I think last week's was an anomaly. No big deal, just a sign from the universe that I really do need to stick with it.

That won't be so easy this weekend, as I'm road trippin'. I'm heading to Charleston, IL for homecoming at Eastern Illinois University. As I hoisted my weekend bag into the car this morning, I was a little taken aback by what I saw: running shoes, peeking out of the outer pocket of the bag.

I have become that girl who packs running gear when she travels.

So the weekend will consist of food (including spinach feta bread I picked up as a thank-you gift for my hosts), beer (just one; I have reserved alcohol for special occasions only while training for the 15K), coffee ... and a run. Not sure if I will lose any weight this week (Monday will tell the tale) but I have kept up with my training plan, so the rest is really just watching intake. I can do that.

I think.

Wishing you an awesome, active weekend!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Life lessons from the long run

Last night I ran my longest run yet. Seven miles. This morning, I'm feeling every step of them.

Allow me to acknowledge, once again, that I run really slowly. Like really slowly. As in, if I had any sense, I'd be embarrassed by how slowly I run. As in, it took me about an hour and 50 minutes to run seven miles. As in, yes, it probably will take me well over two hours to complete the 15K I have coming up in November ... and yes, this terrifies me. You are required to hold a 15-minute-mile pace in the Hot Chocolate, and if I can't, I might not be allowed to finish. They won't withhold the chocolate, but I won't get the glory, either. Bummer.

So I'm working on that, trying to bolster my training with a little speed work on my shorter runs. As of today, I'm just going to be happy that I finished a seven-mile run. And while I was out there, I learned a few things.

  • It is so much more fun to run with a friend. I ran six with Diane over the weekend. I've run five with Linda, and another five with Jenn and Alex. And each of those runs were enjoyable. This one, on the other hand, was a chore. Few distractions make for a cranky runner.

  • Running at night means poop. Seriously. I can get up in the morning and crank out a training run with no issues, but when I run after work, generally about halfway through - regardless of my planned distance - I have to take a crap. Which is problematic when the sun is beginning to set and you have to be done before it gets dark or it's not safe. So last night I just kept going ... hoping for the best. It worked out okay - no code brown - but damn, I spent about two miles paranoid.

  • I like my water belt. I don't like that I have to wear it pretty tight up around my waist, though. I think it makes me look like the Michelin Man, but it doesn't chafe or bounce much when I wear it properly. So it allowed for seven hands-free, hydrated miles. Which is cool.

  • How I feel changes a lot on the run. I had good points of the run. I also had bad points. I had several - I think four - walk breaks. Let me describe the run, if you don't mind: We're losing daylight early these days, so in order to get the run in before dark, I had to head out immediately after work, if I wanted to do it outdoors. (And I did. Seven miles alone on a treadmill might kill me.) So I elected to run on the trail loop that goes around the hotel across the street from my office. It's about 1.62 miles around, so I did four laps, and then ran an additional quarter mile out and back; seven. The first lap was pretty okay, but by the time I finished it, I was sure there was no way I was going to complete it four times. Lap two felt good, although I was creeped out by the guys fishing who seemed to notice me every time I ran past. Maybe they were just pissy that I was rustling leaves and disturbing the fish; hell, I dunno. Starting out lap three, I took a walk break and noticed that I needed the bathroom. Hey, great! I also realized that my RunKeeper had stalled, so it was a really good thing that I knew how far I needed to go. Finishing lap three was challenging; I think that lap included two walk breaks. (And they were actually breaks; I think I almost stopped.) It was difficult, but by the time I got near the end of the third lap, I started to feel confident about finishing the run. Yes, it took that long to realize I could do it. Then, on lap four, that feeling completely disappeared. I started bargaining with myself - you can do the six and a half and just go to the car; you don't need to do the extension to get to seven. Come on; it's getting dark. You have to poop. Just go home. It was like an actual conversation in my head. "Yes you can!" "No you can't". "I can't pay the rent!" "You must pay the rent." Yeah ... angel v. devil. Angel won; I did it.

  • Fatigue is real. My legs really started hurting on the last mile or so. No surprise - I don't have very strong legs. So, mental note to self: work on that. Because fatigue sucks.

  • I can do it. Perhaps the most important less from the run is that, even though it takes me forever, even though I doubt myself the whole way ... I can do it. It might not be pretty, or easy, but I can totally do it.

So there ya go, the stuff I learned along the way to seven miles. And now I've reached a "step-back" period in the training plan. Blissfully, I don't have another long run until October 24, when I'll run eight miles. Then after that, the next long run is 9.3 miles on race day, November 5. I can do this.

Can't I?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Seriously. Seriously?

Well, fuckity fuck. Got on the scale last night, and you know what that bitch said to me?


Seriously. SERIOUSLY!

That means I've put on about four pounds in two weeks. Which explains why I'm currently going through the 22 stages of grief. What, there aren't 22 stages? I thought there were. I thought the first one was Burritos. Fuck.

Okay, I'm done with the eff word. For now. My apologies if I've offended your near-British sensitivities.


I was so pissed. Still am, honestly. I am running like a fool. I am not, admittedly, tracking every calorie. But damn, this year has sucked. I am working out a lot, putting in my time, and watching what I eat. Evidently this is not enough. Getting older sucks, folks. Get this shit under control before you turn 40, because after that there's just menopause and fat.

Which I think might be the title of my autobiography.

It's not just the number on the scale, mind you. It's a general feeling of moo moo. And the moo moo makes me feel gross and fat and ugly and all the negative crap. Dangerous spiral behind door #1; don't go there.

So now you're probably wondering ... what are you gonna do about it, Margaret? Well, to answer, here we go:

  • I am going to weigh in again tonight. The theory being that I usually weigh on Tuesdays, so the number might be skewed. Not sure I buy in, but that's what my fitness friends say. (My reason, incidentally, for hopping on the scale last night was because my Salsa/Funk class was moved to Monday, and I usually weigh on Salsa/Funk night; oh, well, I guess we'll stick with Tuesday.)

  • I am logging calories on My Fitness Pal ( Are you on there? I'm schmaggie; friend me.

  • I am also logging workouts. Like yesterday, when I walked for half an hour, ran five miles and did an hour of dance class. (No, this is not a normal day; it was an exception. I don't usually run on Mondays.)

  • I will remembering that my body is a temple, and I should not poison it. Harder than it sounds.

  • I will performing my phys therapy exercises three to four days a week.

  • Finally, I will be gracious with myself. This is the toughest part; I'm angry with myself and with the scale, so I have had a hard time looking at myself today. I need to accept that this is where I am, and then love myself anyway. I'll let you know how that goes.

So that's where I'm at. Incidentally, today I have logged all my food, walked for half an hour, and I'm feeling pretty good. Tonight I have strength training class and a little cardio planned, probably time to get on the bike. It would be so much easier to throw my hands up and quit. I don't think I'm wired that way.

At least not any more.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

My eye, my butt, and the Fall Color Run

Okay, first things first: I weighed in last night. And the scale politely asked me to step off. I've put on four pounds in the last month or so! 211.8; le sigh. But on the positive side, I got back on My Fitness Pal, logged my weight, tracked my food and exercise for yesterday and I'm as back on track as a girl can claim to be after one day.

I've also made a commitment. I've been listening to a fantastic podcast series by Two Gomers. I found them when I was searching for half marathon support, and I listened to the full series "Two Gomers Run a Half Marathon". It's awesome. Anyway, you can learn more about the Gomers on their blog; it's awesome. They have issued a two-part challenge, and I am IN for both!

First, it's the 10 by '12 challenge - lose 10 pounds before 2012. I need to do this! The second part is achieving a new 5K personal record (PR) in a Thanksgiving race. I'm already registered for a race, so now I'm commited to picking up a little speed and hitting a new PR! Wanna join me? Become part of GomerNation, and sign up for the challenge!

So I've commited to making progress. Awesome. And nothing says progress like a black eye.

Extreme Yoga.
See that bad boy? Yoga. Yep; YOGA. I was attempting my first arm balance in LifePower Vinyasa class, and I face planted. Loudly. But I finished class ... and in the middle of my frozen yogurt treat afterward, the bruise started to appear. Not my finest moment, but I think it's a testament to my quest for fitness that I did it.

That was Friday night, September 30. The following morning I was back at the gym for strength training. Getting up sucked; getting up and seeing the progress of the bruise made it worse. But I kept going! I was a little worried that Sunday's run would be rough - gravity and bouncing might hurt - but I needn't be worried.

Sunday morning came early, but it was the perfect morning for a run. Isabel, Linda and I went to Morton Arboretum for their Fall Color Run. Beautiful. Hilly. I ran it slowly - hills can be bad on the my calf and Achilles - so it took me a full 45 minutes to complete it. But it was really pretty, and totally worth it.

The starting line! Even that was pretty.
Isabel, Me and Linda - little runner girls!

Along the route; so pretty!

Me, post-run ... as a flamingo, apparently.

So, long story short: Three things are happening these days. 1) I've been consistent with my training, and trying to pick up speed, as I work toward the Hot Chocolate 5K ... even with a head injury. 2) I've ramped up my running and still managed to gain weight. Jesus, I am such an overachiever. 3) I've (once again) renewed my commitment to the reasons this blog started in the first place: Progress and accountability. Boom.

Let's move on, ever forward, from here. And seriously, scroll back up and join me on the Gomer challenges!