Thursday, June 27, 2013

The First 100 Pounds (31 - 40)

More swearing today! Yay, swearing!

The standard warnings still apply: I'm still not a medical professional, and I don't pretend that this is some sort of program. It's what I did, what I do, and what has worked for me. It doesn't even necessarily make sense. Your mileage may vary, and your doctor should have a say in the matter. What the hell do I know about this? I'm a poet, people. Get professional advice.

I also want to remind you (and myself) that some of these realizations/developments/changes were 16 months or more in the making. Process, process, process.

If you want to start from the beginning, you can do so here. Here are 31 – 40:

I am still obese. I am, right now, three pounds away from being simply "overweight," depending on if I want to believe the BMI calculators or not. Based on those same calculators, I'm about 35 pounds away from being "normal weight," whatever the hell that's supposed to mean. I'd like to be the equivalent of 40 or 50 pounds lighter than I am, but I try not to put too much emphasis on the scale. How far did I run? How fast? How did I feel on my hill workouts? How many pushups can I do (not a lot)? I try, but I am not always successful. And even if I manage, I can still veer off into darkness: why aren't I faster? Why is it so hard to tone the insides of my thighs? Will I ever find running shorts comfortable?

It is tempting to focus on what I am not. It would be easy for me to complain about the rolls I still have in my midsection or the skirt I love that is still too tight in the waist. It would also be easy for me to beat myself up when I don't meet whatever bar I'm setting for myself at the moment (and in those moments, I am often not at all interested in setting a bar I can reach). But when I catch myself doing that, I try to shut myself up. I try to speak to myself as kindly and encouragingly as I would to someone else. It's more difficult than it should be. I'm getting better at it.

The other day, I did not want to run. I just didn't. My schedule said I should run seven miles. Granted, I have some flexibility—I can mix up the order of my Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday runs, or switch one of them out for one of my cross-training days—but I don't like to do that unless I have to. I did all the things I should have done to get and stay on track (I'll talk about some of them in a later post). And somewhere before mile four, I found myself thinking about how I could just stop at five miles and I'd be fine. I thought about the different mileage I could run on Wednesday and Thursday (and even during my long run on the weekend) to make up for it. I asked myself if my legs were tired from their first 30-mile week last week, and convinced myself they were (they weren't).

And when I figured out that my thinking had been headed down that path for a while without me really noticing, I made some changes. Get to five miles, I said, and see how you feel. Because at five miles, you'll only have two miles left. I knew what I was doing. There was no way I was going to give up with only two miles to go. I can run two miles on my worst day. And while it was the ugliest run I've had in a long time in terms of my thinking, it was a perfectly fine run—seven miles, 20 seconds per mile faster than I'd ever run that distance. It was, by most measures, an excellent run. By changing my thoughts from get to five miles and quit to get to five miles and you'll be able to finish, I was able to stop the negative talk. I finished that run mighty. Those are not the fun runs, but they are often the most satisfying.

This is, I should state up front, not very patient. And sometimes I end up using all the patience I have for the day by being patient with myself. It took me years to put on this weight, and a lifetime to be as out of shape as I was when I started working out. I needed to start at what felt like a glacial pace. I needed to give myself time to improve. And even now there are days where I don't feel like running, where I have to count off the quarter miles to keep myself going, where five miles feels harder than twelve. But I know—I know for a certainty—that I can run five miles, even on a bad day. So I do it, as patiently as I can. If I get sick or injured (which, thankfully, hasn't happened yet), I'll try to give myself the patience to take the recovery time I need. Fingers crossed.

If you listen to me talk, I can make it sound like I'm a one-woman health-improving machine. I present myself that way on purpose, because I need to hear myself talking that way. I try to focus on the good runs, or the strength of getting through a tough run, or the smaller clothes—the positive, specific, affirming aspects of this process. Do not let this fool you into thinking I don't screw up, or even that I believe I don't screw up. I screw up in spectacular fashion at times. It's how I learn, if I'm lucky. I ate a Greek salad wrap with chicken and sweet potato fries for lunch and then ran 6 miles a couple of hours later. BAD idea. I tried to get my second pair of running shoes to last a few more weeks. BAD idea. I've overscheduled myself to the point that I've had to miss workouts. I've found myself unable to talk myself through a tough run and given up and felt crappy for doing so. And you know what? I survived. I didn't puke, I didn't do myself irreparable knee damage (although I could have), I got back to the workouts the next day, I've started to learn how to talk myself through AND how to recognize when I just need a day off. Any of those things used to be enough to derail me for good. Now they're just what they are: mistakes that I can learn from.

You are doing great. Feel the muscles around your waist. FEEL THEM. You have strengthened your obliques just by running, because you are a fucking machine. Look in the mirror when you're done. You look like a fucking Gatorade commercial, with all that sweat beading up on you. LOOK AT YOU, you athletic wonder, you. This is why you do this.

It's not why I do this, although I do enjoy the swearing. But it's okay to lie a little bit when I'm busy convincing myself that my frizzy ponytail and sopping wet clothes are evidence of my mightiness rather than simply evidence that I need to hit the shower. Because they are. I do need to hit the shower (and probably do some laundry), but I will do so mightily. Because I am a fucking machine and an athletic wonder.

36. I ROAR
Try it. RAAAAAAAR! Try it while bending your arms a little bit at the waist and pointing your fists at your belly button, like you're Arnold Schwarzenegger circa 1975. In fact, I just did so simply for being able to spell Schwarzenegger correctly on my first try. Go ahead, try it. RAAAAAAAAAAR! You are mighty. (Please note, you are not a baby dinosaur: the calls of baby dinosaurs include a "w" and are much less determined and thus, less mighty. So no RAAAAAWR unless you are a baby dinosaur. Which you are not. Unless you are.)

Look, I know how it goes. You're gung-ho for the first week or two of a fitness program, be it exercise or diet, and then you start making excuses. I get it. I've done it. One bad workout—can't get my breath, my heart's not in it, my legs feel like lead—and I'm done. Well, I used to be done. As I've mentioned before, I needed to build. I'm not sure how I understood that this time around—I wish I knew, because I would totally market that plan and then take all of you out to dinner with a fraction of the first royalty check, but I don't. So I'm just going to tell you so that you hear it again, and maybe if you're in the place that I was in, this will be the time that you really hear it: you have to build. That means that sometimes you're just not feeling it. Maybe your nutrition is off. Maybe you didn't get enough sleep. Maybe you haven't given yourself enough time to recover. I don't know. But I do know that just because I tank one workout, it doesn't mean that I get to quit. I give myself a break, and then get back to it the next day.

Another time when it's okay to lie to myself a little bit. It's not always a lie—it's not, in actuality, difficult for me to run a few miles at this point, for example—but sometimes it is. I say, for instance, that when I gave up Diet Coke, I didn't miss it at all. I conveniently ignore the fact that I went from a habit of drinking more than a liter a day to drinking a single Diet Coke at lunch to skipping a couple of them a week, and after THAT, I didn't miss it at all when I gave it up. Still don't. I find myself saying things like, "If I can manage seven miles today, I'll only have to run five tomorrow," as if the concept of "only" running five miles is one that makes any sort of sense whatsoever. And when tomorrow comes, I'll be all, "Phew! So glad it's an easy day!" It boils down to equal parts determinedly Pollyannaish looking-at-the-bright-side and flat-out self-deception. But it works.

When I'm having trouble with feeling tired during a run, it helps to think of myself as being hinged in the middle like a pair of scissors—my right arm is attached to my left leg, and my left arm is attached to my right leg. The pairs move forward and back at the same time. They hit the most forward point in their swing at the same time and they end their backward movement at the same time. Other people think about other things—being pulled forward by a balloon attached to the top of their head, for example, to keep them upright and moving forward. I think I'm a pair of scissors. Laugh if you want, but I will cut you, bro.

If he's around. Otherwise, I just choose a random neighbor or passerby. Okay, so maybe not that last part. I don't know that it's advice, exactly—and for the record, you're not allowed to kiss my husband (you'll have to find your own smooch-ee). But it's a positive way to start and end a workout session, so why not?


  1. #33 is where I struggle a lot too. Sometimes it's a lot harder to get your brain on board. Today my C25K app has me scheduled for a 25 minute run. And I already told myself - just go two miles without stopping and see how that is. I need to turn that around and think "yup. Running 25 minutes without stopping. I can do this." I'll do it so I can get to try #36 and Raaaar when I finish!!

    And my husband will love if I put #40 into the mix. ;)

  2. #33 is a tough one! And I think my toughest C25K run was that first continuous run at the end of week 5. Twenty minutes--I had to do some serious psyching up for that.

    Let me know how your run went tonight. Raaaaar! Mighty!


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