Archive for June, 2012

I’m having a hard time getting out in front of things right now. And by things, I mean the challenges in my journey to better health, particularly my workouts.

And when I talk about getting out in front of them, what I mean is really meeting them head on and actively engaging in them. This is not what that looks like: Come to the gym (at 6:30 in the frickin’ morning) and plod my way through my cardio, feel growing dread over my hour session, throughout that hour, struggle with the exercises, feel like I barely have the energy I need to get through them, look for ways to make them less painful, shorter, and over soon.

Not that I can get much leeway in the length or intensity of an exercise. It’s not like my trainer is going to let me just not do something – I do it even when I’m sucking at it. But there’s definitely a difference in how I do my workout routine based on how much energy I have.

And it’s different when I push my cardio, going the full time at a challenging speed and resistance that makes me sweat. Or when I meet the challenge of each strength training exercise with the goal to do it better and longer, to push myself past my comfort level into my area of greatest discomfort, where once I persevere through, I will feel the most change.

This is what I think people mean when they talk about giving something 100% and they’re not just speaking in cliches. They’re talking about making that extra effort to have it be the very best it can in that moment, regardless of the discomfort it causes.

I am still very much present with the discomfort, and my desire to lessen it. I want to walk between exercises instead of jog. I want to take long water breaks. Sometimes, I am so taxed by a strength exercise that I cannot keep the form, or have to pause between repetitions to catch rapid breaths. Sometimes everything – the movements, the strength exercises, the elliptical work – feels like it’s used me all up and there’s nothing left for the next activity.

Except that I know that’s not true.

I feel that way because it is what I know. I know not being an athlete. I know getting tired, lagging behind, barely making it, and being so grateful to stop when it’s finally done. I am still shifting the mentality of the person who wasn’t picked for sport teams, who hated PE. The person who grew up to avoid going hiking or doing any kind of group exercise. Or any exercise at all really. I have changed now; I am continuing to change. But my mentality has to change along with my routine, my strength, and my physical shape.

And I do see where it’s changing. I get irritated now on days when I don’t work out. Not because I so enjoy working out, but because it is fully ingrained now that this is the thing that needs to happen. And if it doesn’t happen, my day has not been completely fulfilled. I’ve missed something vital for me. That’s a good shift to feel, and I appreciate it. I also appreciate how much I enjoy the feeling I have after working out. But it’s also true that I still don’t look forward to my work outs. There’s still a piece of my mentality that hasn’t shifted. I do not meet this challenge fully. Part of me is still dragging my feet through it.

I know that still has to change. I know there’s still another big mental shift ahead of me. I just haven’t figured out yet how to get there.



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I found something I wrote about five months before I started working with my trainer and changed my life. This is what I said:

I am aware of pressure. When I sit, it is often uncomfortable. It is one of the worst things about being overweight, feeling that pressure – the pressure of my own body on itself.

My lower stomach roll pushes down into my thighs, which fight against each other. When my legs are crossed at the knee, it is only comfortable to have my crossed foot jutting out at a forty-five degree angle, poking into the space of others in close quarters, unable to hang demurely next to my other leg.

Not that I have ever wanted to be demure. But I do want do be comfortable. And that lower fat roll presses up as well, pushing on its companion. Once a slight fold in skin, then two folds, eventually, like dough rising, it became a big lump of its own – the most visible and obtrusive, the one that asserts itself against the fabric of all my clothing. This one is the real pain, the real discomfort. It has grown well passed its allotted space. It pushes up at my breasts and out from my sides. It declares itself, bulbous and demanding, causing discomfort whenever and however it can. I am always aware that it’s there.

It is taking over. And I know how bad it is. It is the watermark, the signal that change must come. Because I want it gone. I want to be able to sit on a couch that is not my own and stay composed without constant pressure, constant discomfort. I am tired of feeling buried by myself.

It makes me both sad and glad to read this. Sad, of course, because I feel for myself and remember how truly painful it was feeling suffocated by my own flesh. I really was always uncomfortable. I remember the day I realized that the only place I felt truly comfortable anymore was lying down in bed. It hurt to realize I was the reason I felt that way.

It makes me glad, though, because I don’t feel that way anymore. At all. I feel pretty fucking great in my body actually. Sure, I’m sore half the time from my workouts, but that’s a good discomfort because it lets me know I’m getting stronger. And I sure can cross my legs and sit comfortably, without having the crossed leg jut out to accommodate all my extra thigh fat. I still have thigh fat. Make no mistake – I’m not done yet, and I can look at myself and tell. I’m still overweight. But not by so much anymore. And I have something I didn’t have then: lean muscle mass. I’m strong. And I can feel it. And it feels good.

It’s good to remember where I was before. It helps me see not just how far I’ve come, but why it has been so important for me to take that journey.

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I’m catching up on the last season of “Breaking Bad” right now, and I’m almost there. I have two more episodes to go until I finish Season 4. It has gotten REALLY good in the past couple of episodes. So good that instead of just watching episode tonight, I watched two. I WANTED to watch more episodes. But I couldn’t. It was 10pm, early still, by 45-minute-with-DVR episode standards. I could knock out two more by midnight. Except.

Except I have to be awake at 5:15am tomorrow morning. And not just conscious and dragging. I have to get up, get dressed, make myself breakfast and get out the door so I can get to the gym by 6:20, so I can do 40 minutes of cardio before my hour long training session. That hour of training will completely kick my ass. Even on my best mornings – well rested, feeling good – it destroys me. The few times I have shown up tired, it has destroyed the rest of my day as well. Because then I have to go to work, and I have to be at work for nine hours. Which is normal. But it’s also very hard if you’re exhausted. Work is currently a pot on boil, as well; tomorrow could be the day it boils over. It might not be – it might be Thursday or Friday instead, but still, it’s not going to be a good time for me to be barely capable of sitting up right and conscious at my desk. And then after work, I still have things to do. Tomorrow, I have an appointment at 8pm in Pasadena, so I’ll be home late. That means I probably won’t finish “Breaking Bad” tomorrow night either.

I got nostalgic for my old job as I was forcing myself to get up and turn off the TV. When I started work at noon, I could stay up half the night watching TV and just sleep until 10:30 or 11:00. I could sleep that late because my old job was part of my old lifestyle, a lifestyle in which I might tell myself I’d exercise, but would rarely actually do it. I’d be much more likely to stop on the way to work for coffee and convince myself that it was okay to get a scone because I had to eat something, right? And in my old life, I wasn’t prepared with food either. I would have gone on to do a long day of work that would be by turns boring, frantic, taxing, engrossing, and infuriating, and I’d eat a lot to get through it – dumplings or cookies or boba drinks that my coworkers and I ordered and shared. It was fun in the moments we were eating that food, but of course, the moments didn’t last long.

Anyway, my fiance had to remind me that at my old job, I felt uncomfortable in my clothes and in my body. He pointed out that I didn’t get to enjoy fitting into smaller clothes, that I didn’t have as much energy, that I didn’t feel as confident. Because I wasn’t as confident. I was depressed and frustrated, sick of myself and unsure of how to change patterns that I knew were destructive, that caused me so much psychic pain.

And now I’m free of all of that. I feel good knowing that I eat nourishing food. It’s freeing not to constantly be fighting with myself over a muffin. My body, besides being leaner, is so much stronger. I can do planks and push-ups, I can hike for a long time and up steep hills and keep up (or be faster) than my companions. I’m proud of myself. I am more confident because I know – because I’ve proven to myself – how capable I am of working hard for something that is meaningful to me. I have a greater sense of purpose, and I am more my true self.

But it’s still hard some days. There’s a reason I did the easy thing for so long; it’s allure is strong. But much like the sweets that went so handily with my pursuit of ease, it was an empty satisfaction in the long run. What felt good in the moment, didn’t feel good for long, and it didn’t nourish me.

So last night, I whined and complained and then turned off the TV. I put away the vegetable and turkey stew I had made and I came upstairs to get ready for my day tomorrow. “Breaking Bad” will still be here on Thursday, and I have a lot of other things that are important in my life now as well.

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Right now, I want to go to bed.

I used to like to stay up late, but now I want to sleep when it’s only 10:00pm. And here’s why: I have to wake up at 5:15am tomorrow morning to go work out super hard for an hour and a half before for work.

I’m used to it now, but if I think about, really focus in on what it is I’m doing, I’m fairly impressed with myself that this is my routine. I am someone who wakes up before dawn to go work out, more than once a week, every week. It’s pretty amazing really.

I didn’t used to be this way. At my old job, in that different version of my life that existed little more than a year ago, I started work at noon. I had a whole morning to accomplish any number of things. But usually I slept until 10:30 or 11:00. If I woke up when I was supposed to (the still incredibly reasonable hour of 8:30), I would often just lie in bed and read, or dick around on the Internet, or watch TV. The main thing that would get me out of the house early was brunch plans. I made it to the gym *maybe* once a week. And I had all morning.

Now I have to be at work at 9:00am, and I’m much better at getting to the gym. Days when all I have to do is go to the gym (as opposed to training) seem like easy days because I can get away with sleeping until almost 7:00 and still make it. That’s luxury compared to training days when I start working with my trainer at 7:00am (an appointment I wake up at 5:30 to make). She has me do 40 minutes of cardio before we start. In truth, I usually hit somewhere between 30 and 35 minutes b/c I’m perpetually late, but still… I’ve done as much as I once would have done, probably as my only exercise for the week, by the time I see her to start our session. And then the next hour is just grueling. Miserable, hard, constant physical work. It has given me great perspective on how much I previously phoned it in at the gym. Because now I know what working hard feels like. It feels like hell. Until it’s over. And then it feels great.

A lot of times, when I tell people about my personal training workouts, they say that could never do that: get up so early and then do that hard workout before work. And I understand where they’re coming from because I also used to feel that way. But because I know that feeling and experienced it, I also know that they’re wrong. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it sucks sometimes. I’m never eager to wake up in the morning and go there; I would always rather hit snooze and keep sleeping. But I’m also always glad that I went. And I feel better throughout the day. And also throughout my week because I know I’m doing the work necessary to properly care for myself. It’s worth it. It’s worth the annoyance of always having to go to bed early, and it’s worth how tired I feel. And everyone is capable of it.

We just have to decide to do it and then follow through. When I made this change, that’s all it was: a decision. A big, very important decision. But there was no major revelation, no life-changing event to serve as a catalyst. I had been thinking about changing for a long time; I had been trying to change for a long time. And then, finally, I stopped trying and just did it. It’s like the change was a threshold and I’d been standing in front of it, pacing around it, claiming I was going to cross it. And then I did – it was just a decision and an action to start. And then more decisions and actions to reinforce those first ones.

It helped to have someone. That’s what I needed to really make that transition. Someone there to support me, to hold on to me and make sure I wouldn’t slide back across to the waiting/thinking/trying side of the threshold. I needed a guide – I think most of us do. And I’m so grateful that I found such a good one.

Now I’m going to go to bed so that she can kick my ass in the morning.

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