My husband and I have been burning up our Empire Pass this summer at New York State Parks. We have been hiking 1-2 parks per weekend, with the goal of hiking the gorge trails we missed when they were closed over the winter.
I don’t think much of this now, beyond making sure I wear comfortable shoes and clothes, that I have enough water and a snack if we will be gone for a few hours.
But there was a time in my life when I weighed 335 pounds. Going up one flight of stairs was a true challenge. Hiking an uphill trail, or a trail with hundreds of stairs, for any distance, would have been impossible. I tried. I have distinct memories of my more in shape friends dragging me along to hike with them. I’m sure they meant well, but I have a handful of memories that are some of the most humiliating experiences of my life.
Of course, I hated being obese. Every time I saw the condition listed on my medical chart, I died a little bit inside. I was ashamed of my size, of my inability to lose weight, my inability to blend into a crowd, and my inability to keep up with “normal” people.
What I didn’t know until I started hiking last year was how much I have been missing. I have literally stood on mountain tops and looked across valleys after challenging hikes that would have been impossible for me when I was carrying the weight of an adult male on my back with me. I have seen views that took my breath away after climbing over 200 stairs. I have literally walked circles up and down ravines on mountain tops. I have clambered up hillsides and stone stairs and steep, packed down trails.
And every time, I try to take a moment to remember: I never could have done this before. I almost always say it out loud. I never could have seen this before.
Tonight, I was tempted to stay at work for an extra hour in an effort to put a dent in some of the tasks that have started to pile up. Usually, I feel just fine leaving work until the next day. Tonight, I felt almost frantic as the clock passed 4:30.
I was all keyed up – not because of anything bad, but because my job is busy and awesome and I actually get a little high from getting so much accomplished in the workday. There is lots of change, lots of learning and new projects, and I always feel the desire to get a jump on things, to get started right away.
I took a breath, closed my eyes for a few seconds, said, “No – go. Just do it!” and reached for my sneakers. Starting to skip workouts for work is a bad idea, and it’s the way that the almighty boundary starts to disintegrate. I already have a work cell phone that is attached to my work e-mail. I can and do read e-mails at all hours of the day and night when I’m not at work. I do this, not out of a sense of obligation, but so that I know where things stand, what might have been resolved after I left for the day, maybe what I have to anticipate the next day.
But that delineation must remain intact. I must keep work time apart from me time.
Working out makes a nice bold line between those two times.
And I JUST realized something, right now as I am typing. My workouts, these classes? They are the only time of day that I don’t have my cell phone on or near me. It is locked away, useless to me in a class where I need to hear every word from the person teaching it.
And the upside of going tonight, other than an hour away from my cell phone?
I was 100% convinced that I couldn’t complete tonight’s workout, all the way up to the very last rep of the very last exercise. Legs trembling, arms trembling, sweat rolling. Impossible repetition numbers like 50 and 30 seemed light years from my reach.
And suddenly, I was done.
I never would have felt that sweet satisfaction if I had stayed late at work – just guilt over missing my class, over not working out tonight.
Walking home from the gym tonight, I benefited from someone else’s front porch serenade… Leaving On a Jet Plane, so quietly played and sang that it was hard to make out. I love that song.
Sometimes I just take those little things with a grateful heart and sing along under my breath. Today was one of those days.
Tonight’s workout was an active recovery workout, so that by the time we get to tomorrow’s killer workout, we won’t be too sore from last night’s killer workout.
I finally got to know a foam roller tonight. It hurts. It hurts so good. We did lots of stretching and mobility work, some with light kettlebells. We did a squat clinic, which is EXACTLY as much fun as it sounds.
I spent a lot of time on the floor. I felt stronger in some places than I expected to. I hurt more in other places than I expected to. During a series of stretches, my left, and then my right calf cramped up.
They still hurt. Right now, I feel warm and relaxed. I feel like I am radiating heat. I don’t feel like a badass, but I feel like someone who is doing what she should be doing.
I feel like, for once, the perfectionist is on a vacation and I am just enjoying the ride.
Tonight I felt like I was physically dragging myself to get to the gym. I didn’t sleep well last night. Today, I ate a fair amount of food that would fall into the “garbage” category, AND it was kind of a weird day all around. I felt “off” for most of the day, and it seemed like nothing could snap me out of it.
But I went to the gym because I e-mailed my trainer on Monday morning to tell him that I was missing Monday night. I might have signed off, “See you Tuesday!” I do things like that on purpose. I hate to break my word, even something as simple as saying that I will see my trainer on Tuesday is like a promise to me.
And I didn’t break my word. I dragged myself there, feeling antsy the whole time, nervous at the lack of soreness in my body – realizing as I walked that I had better enjoy it, because it might very well be the only non-sore walk to the gym that I have all week.
When I walked in to class, my trainer was writing the workout on the board. I saw the number 50. Then I saw it again. And again. And, yes, again. When it was up, I walked closer to get a good look at it.
50 push-ups (wall)
50 toe to bar (v-ups)
50 burpees with box jump (BW squats)
50 weighted situps (no weight)
1 mile (~15 laps)
This was a workout for time, meaning the goal is to get it done in a timely manner. I panicked when I saw this list, and I quickly realized that I would be living in parentheses land this evening. Those were the modifications for people like me (OK, for me, since I am the only person in the class at what I would consider a “remedial” fitness level).
Here is what went through my mind:
“I know I can do SOME wall push-ups, but there is no way I can do 50. And v-ups! 50?! Ow.
Now, there is NO WAY I can do 50 body weight squats! I almost threw up from doing 10 wall squats a week ago!
And forget about 50 situps. I can’t even do ONE!
This is going to be humiliating, and to top it off, we are probably supposed to RUN a mile. Hello, presidential fitness test flashback. Still just as out of shape as I was in high school, probably more!
Well, let’s get this spectacle started, and hope I don’t cry in front of these people for being such a failure.”
It’s not easy for me to put my self-talk on display like this. I look at it now and know it’s wrong. Not just on principle, but in reality.
I DID do the workout tonight. It was not a spectacle.
I DID do 50 wall push-ups, and my trainer stopped by twice to tell me how good they were looking. I DID do 50 v-ups. I also did 50 body weight squats. And for the weighted situps, my trainer came by and told me to do 50 crunches instead.
And then, I did do the mile. I didn’t run it. I jogged parts, speedwalked parts, normal walked parts.
And, for being someone at a remedial fitness level, I only finished a couple of minutes behind another girl in the class. Not half an hour, like I feared.
I know it’s just fear that makes me think things like that about myself. I have had many bad public experiences with exercise in my life. I have ALWAYS been the fat kid, and I mean, always. I wasn’t just fat, but uncoordinated. I mean, you didn’t want me on your team, and that’s all there was to it. I just waited to be picked last, every time. It’s my default. Stay out of the way of the fit people, the athletes, the thin people.
But I’m not a kid anymore. That thinking doesn’t serve me at all, here and now, today. It just makes me afraid to do a challenging workout in front of other people who aren’t even close to being considered fat.
I want to be on my own side, not psyching myself out and making myself anxious. I want to be a friend to myself – encouraging, supportive, and saying, “hey – just try it out! you never know what might happen.”
I was thinking about all of this after the workout. How I surprised myself. How maybe I am not a completely lost cause, maybe one day I actually will do a push-up. How maybe I need to use my power with words for healing and strengthening myself, rather than cutting myself down.
And then this e-mail came through on my phone, from my trainer:
“Just wanted to reinforce how great you did tonight. I can already see a lot of improvement. Rest up. Tomorrow is an easy active recovery day.”
Because I’ve turned into such a puny weakling, this week’s workouts have left me limping, wincing, and keeping my body full of the maximum recommended dose of Ibuprofen.
Tonight, the workout in class was a strength workout. We practiced push presses with sticks, bars, and kettlebells. By the time the workout started, my trainer had ascertained that there was no way in heaven or on earth that I was going to press the 45-pound bar. He had to spot me so I could do three reps. And by spot me, I mean lift the bar and just let me pretend I was lifting it.
So I was not too thrilled to see that the workout would involve me pressing two 8kg kettlebells. If you’ve met me, you know I have wrists that appear to be snappable. Probably not a word, but they are tiny and disproportionately thin when you see the rest of my body.
I learned how to do a clean, which is how I was supposed to get the kettlebell off the floor and in rack position, which is where the press starts. After watching me try the clean, my trainer told me I could get the kettlebells up “however you can.” So each wrist was holding up an 8kg kettlebell, which was resting on my forearm just below my outer wrist. And then I pressed a few times, rested, and repeated for five sets.
What I’m trying to tell you is that I’m going to have bruises. Big ones. On both arms. And I possibly won’t be able to type tomorrow, which should make work interesting.
But tonight was my workout Friday. My trainer said, at the end of class, that he would put a WOD up on the board tomorrow morning if any of us wanted to do it over the weekend. “Unless you need the rest,” he said. And then, looking at me, “and you need the rest, so I want you to take all three days off.”
If you’re anything like me, you probably tell yourself loads of little lies throughout your life, maybe without even realizing you’re doing it. Certainly without realizing that they’re lies.
My trainer had pity on my busted quadriceps, and rather than assign me a 5K endurance workout like everyone else in the class, he told me to come and do 20 minutes on the elliptical. So I packed my workout clothes in my backpack before I walked to work this morning, and after work I hauled it to the gym. I walked in shortly after 5 pm.
As I walked in, something dawned on me. I used to avoid the gym after work for one reason, and one reason only: Everyone would be going straight after work, and the locker room would be crowded. The machines would all be taken. I would feel frazzled and frenzied and I wouldn’t enjoy my workout. So it became my policy to wait. Until 7:00, 7:30, 8:00. The only problem with that plan was the whole going home first and getting into relaxation mode. I love my couch. So, when I get on my couch, I don’t like to get off it again unless I am shuffling up to bed.
Much like old people do.
But back to the gym, tonight, at 5:10. It was not remotely crowded. I waltzed in, changed, took my pick from about 6 open elliptical machines, did my workout, changed in the completely empty locker room, and went home.
I never even tried to go to the gym right after work, even though that would be the best possible time for me to go – keyed up from a busy day. Not in the middle of something at home. I just had a thought, and I let that thought become a barrier.
Let that sink in.
I often tell people that the only limitations they have are imaginary. That the obstacles are all in their minds. I know that’s not always true, that some barriers are real… but I bet that there are some things that all of us just take for truth like that.
The gym will be too busy.
Have you checked?
I don’t know how to X, Y, Z.
Can you learn?
They say that’s not the way you do things.
Who is they? Do they really matter?
I just don’t have time.
Do you, though? I bet you do.
These are the little lies, the insidious lies that become reality and create the limitations I have on myself.
I always thought that my nights were too busy to get much done. Tonight, after working out, I ate dinner, packed lunch for tomorrow, got some gardening done, roasted brussels sprouts, and, because my favorite workout clothes smell roughly like a 10th-day trucker, did a load of laundry. And I still had plenty of time to waste. And blog.
Seems to me like the best way to live is to actually live, rather than thinking about how hard it will be to live the way I want to live.
Gotta get out of bed get a hammer and a nail Learn how to use my hands, not just my head I think myself into jail Now I know a refuge never grows From a chin in a hand in a thoughtful pose Gotta tend the earth if you want a rose.
I went to my second class tonight. It was great. I worked hard, I sweat buckets, I felt good. My trainer watches us work out as we go and looks for modifications. What I like is that he can tell when I’m getting to the point of not being able to continue. Tonight, on the third of five sets, he had me halve the lunges, walk it out, and hop on the rowing machine for 4 minutes.
I would rather stop early than go too far and never want to go back.
On the way home tonight, I cut across a parking lot that I always cut through on the way home, and then I crossed to a sidewalk that goes up a few stairs and continues to the road. Without thinking, when I got to the stairs, I started to trot up them like I normally do… and stopped, abruptly. I was startled because my quads are just refusing to do any more than the bare minimum outside of my workouts. I couldn’t stair. I had to wince and mince my way up those four tiny stairs, and I may or may not have yelled at my trainer while laughing uncontrollably at myself.
I’m not kidding when I tell you that I started using the handicap-accessible restroom at work today.
The toilet is higher.
I am handicapped.
For now. Soon, I will be strong, and my quads will be sneaking out in the night to fight crime and save babies and old ladies.
But for now, I cry out in pain whenever I sit.
And then again when I stand.
PS: I decided to start wearing my pedometer again when I can. steps today: 12905.
So, it begins today. I am officially at war with the last 100 pounds.
I went to the gym tonight and when I walked out I said, “see you tomorrow” to my trainer.
I didn’t feel like I could do this on my own. I was tired of counting exchanges, points, or calories. I couldn’t force myself to do a workout. Not even one. My diet was abysmal, my energy levels were low, and I felt terrible about myself. I started gaining back some of the first 100, which was absolutely NOT OK with me.
So I made an appointment with a trainer when I got back from my big Colorado trip. More on that later, and why that was my line in the sand – the point after which I knew I had to get serious.
I didn’t blog much about the first 100. I was afraid, I thought nobody wanted to read it, I thought nobody would relate, and I was embarrassed. I realize now that anyone with eyes knows I have a substantial amount of weight to lose. So, I hope you don’t mind if, for a time, I indulge myself and imagine that writing in this blog will hold me more accountable.
Tonight I went to a cross-training 101 class. I started to learn my way around some very tiny kettlebells. My wrists felt like they might snap, but I did what I had to do. I did more wall squats than I have done in my entire life, combined – and I almost threw up because of it. My trainer actually stopped the workout even though I was about to start my final set. I felt awful. I felt embarrassed.
I remembered that, as recently as February, I was feeling strong during my P90X workouts, and tonight I could hardly keep my form during wall squats and wall pushups. I felt like someone who had never exercised a day in her life.
Well, now I have. tomorrow will make two. The last hundred are going down.
Today I came super-duper close to quitting P90X. Seriously, rolling up my yoga mat, putting my weights in the closet, good riddance Tony Horton, slam-the-door, quitting.
Today was the first day of Phase 2. For those of you who don’t know what that means, basically it goes a little something like this: 30 days down, 60 more to go, weakling.
The last few times I have done the Core Synergistics workout, I have really struggled for some reason. Two times ago, I felt like I was going to throw up about halfway through. Last time, I felt like I was going to throw up about halfway through, and I actually skipped 12 minutes of the workout because I seriously needed to keep myself from throwing up.
I was super frustrated, because…well, shouldn’t I be getting more and more in shape, over here?
Then it hit me. I AM getting more and more in shape, and therefore I am doing the exercises with fewer modifications, and in many cases, no modifications. I am doing the exercises with greater intensity, and really working myself hard.
But I still wanted to quit P90X.
What made me put my shoes on tonight and decide to stay on this road? I am not sure. Maybe it’s thinking about my increased flexibility. In that photo above, I am standing comfortably with one leg on the foot board of my bed and the other leg on the floor. I can basically fold myself in half at the waist, I can control my movements when I sit up and sit down, when I get out of bed or off the couch there is no groaning or repositioning or pushing off. I just sit up and get up. I just go, now, where I used to kind of creak and lumber around.
I don’t want to creak and lumber anymore. Not now, that I know what it’s like to have a little bit of balance and a lot more muscle control.
I don’t want to do P90X anymore. But lots of life is about doing things we don’t want to do, right? Anything that gets you to a massive goal is probably going to take a lot of work, a lot of hours of dedication, a lot of saying no to the couch.
I don’t want to be on this road. But what other road is there, now that I’m here? I’m not hurting myself, I’m just working hard, many days a week. What’s so bad about that?
So I did Core Synergistics tonight. I gave my inner perfectionist the cold shoulder and I paused the workout quite a few times to catch my breath and lower my heart rate so I could keep going to the end. And I finished.
Because it’s not enough to just start it, is it? Some things are only worth starting if you are going to finish them.
I’m still afraid to write about it, still afraid to talk about it, still afraid to put it down as a record, still afraid to show off the mind-boggling before and after photo of the last 50 pounds I have lost, for fear that maybe it will stop, or go away, or I will wake up tomorrow and it won’t be real.
The last time I decided I was going to try to lose weight, I took a good, hard look at myself, my weight, my life, and all of my previous failed attempts at weight loss. Most of them were just 20 or 30 pounds down, then right back up again. But one of them hurt more than the rest – the time I lost 80 pounds. And then, over the course of four years, the time I gained 80 pounds right back. Plus another 15, just to keep things interesting.
So, in June of 2010 when I started to mull over whether or not I was ready to leave the 300 weight century, it took me some time to decide. I knew I could not endure another 80 down, 100 up fiasco. My confidence in myself was shaky. I declared that I would begin again, but that this had to be the last time. I knew I had ONE MORE start in me. I knew I had one more brave face to look down that long, 200-pound road, but no more. I had a distinct moment of “now or never” and so I jumped in.
It has been slow. If you average out my loss over time, I average about 5 pounds per month down. That is less than 1.5 pounds per week.
Slow. But that’s the wrong word, isn’t it?
What matters is that the weight, over time, has gone down. And since July 2010, it has gone down 100 pounds.
What matters more is that over all that time, I have had time to develop healthy patterns and habits. I started exercising in earnest in October 2011. By that time I had lost about 50 pounds. I started with a plan from a fitness specialist. It was a graduated walking plan that started me walking 3 minutes twice a day for three days a week, and one day a week I was supposed to walk 5 minutes. That plan was 12 weeks long, and believe it or not, in the beginning those 5-minute walks were actually a challenge. By the end of it, the 48 and 58 minute walks I was taking were no problem at all.
Then I started working with weights sometime in January 2012.
The first weights I used were a 2.5 lb set of dumbells, a 5 lb set of dumbells, and a 5 lb weighted ball. I mostly held the ball and moved around it, slowly. I was proud of doing lateral raises with 2.5 lb weights. By March of 2012, I was beyond the 5 lb weights and I had to order some adjustable weights so I could do more.
My fitness specialist kept giving me workouts, and I was supposed to do them 3 times per week.
Was my exercise habit perfect? No way. There were plenty of weeks where I missed one, two, or even all three workouts.
Was my diet perfect? Hardly. There were times where I got derailed by sweets, cheese, dip, cheese dip, booze…you name it.
But the key in everything, the one thing that made me reach such a cool milestone of 100 pounds lost…was to keep going, no matter what. Every day I got up and tried again. Every week I tried to get all of my workouts in and stay within my calories/points/exchanges. Every weigh in I tried to remind myself that the scale doesn’t tell the whole story. Every week I reminded myself of how far I have come with new and positive behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs.
And now, I have about another 100 pounds to go. I don’t feel flip or cavalier or like because I did it once it will be easy to do it twice. This is one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life – maybe even the hardest. It’s difficult to keep toiling and not get immediate positive feedback. It’s frustrating to know that I still have so far to go, frustrating to know that it might take another 2.5 years, heck, it might even take 3 or 4.
But I am still moving. I am still growing, still challenging myself. For instance, this past Monday, I started P90X. And I have been doing it. Doing better than I thought I would. Sure, I modify where I have to, I put the weights down when I have trouble with balance, and honestly, there are parts of me that are odd-shaped and large and inhibit certain movement paths. I still can’t do one full situp or one full pushup.
And actually, after today’s workout, I am not completely confident that I will be able to pull up my pants tomorrow.
But I will keep going. Pants or no pants. OK, not really no pants. There must be pants.
I have a support system the likes of which I have never seen. I have friends who believe in me, who challenge me, who know exactly how much I weigh. I have a husband who loves me right where I am but cheers me on to the next big goal that I’m chasing. He, also, knows exactly how much I weigh. It’s just a number. It’s not almighty, it doesn’t control me or define me.
Hopefully it won’t be that number for too much longer, anyway.
And now, here goes nothing. It’s real. I will wake up tomorrow and it will still be real.