Why Do This?

This is time for me. As my feet hit the pavement or the treadmill, I am ever aware that this measly fifty to sixty minutes belongs solely to me. And how I spend this time has reverberations on every other moment of the day. It is this time that clears my head, it makes me strong. It buffs away the extra nervous energy I always carry. It gives me confidence born partly from exhaustion and partly from the knowledge that I can push through. I can get past something that is really challenging for me. It helps me listen to my children, it helps me hear my family. It helps keep me from losing it on my family.

Since May I have had aching legs, sleepy eyes, but calmer thoughts. Bursts of energy from a quick three mile run. Full body tired from long bike rides. Waking at four to be at the gym by or before five. Every day I wake, I wonder if I will still be able to run, bike, lift weights. Every day is a challenge, a bargain,  a cajoling out of bed. Just five more minutes in bed, just run for five more minutes. It’s amazing how “just five more minutes” can be a reward and a challenge.

Since May I have refocused myself, lied to myself, challenged myself and unearthed myself. I have changed course and purpose. Beginning a journey that came from the desperate longing to lose weight and fit back into my clothes and then changing tracks because of failure. Digging into my own perceptions of body image and, if not getting past them, at least owning it.

Sometimes I lay in bed and picture a future that I can’t do this. How long will I be able to run? Should I take up swimming? As I grow older I watch the people who for so long were my caretakers growing older. I watch how their bodies determine what they can do. I’ve watched people go from stop to totally still. I don’t want to be still. I don’t want to stop. I have too many reasons to keep moving.

That’s why I do this.



So today I got on the scale and I was between four and five pounds heavier… than yesterday. Okay, I know in my mind that I did not eat an additional 12,000 to 14,000 calories. And I know that I didn’t suddenly put on four to five pounds of muscle. It isn’t time to panic. But of course I am. Of course I find myself planning on intensifying work outs, adjusting eating plans, pushing towards thin.

For some reason, as I am playing this all out in my head I can’t shake Friday night. Friday nights Katie has gymnastics. It is one of my favorite hours of the week. I love to watch her work on skills, but mostly I love the way she laughs and bounces around. Even when she is feeling shy, she is sort of bopping around and pushing herself. The energy in the room is one of joy and strength. There is a lot of dancing, giggling and of course some sort of flipping.  The girls are all different shapes and sizes and pretty close in skill level. It doesn’t appear as though they are competing or comparing themselves to each other, although I would be surprised if they weren’t. What I love so much about it, is the message they are getting about their bodies. A message that I hope can override the constant barrage of media and cultural messages women and girls receive that says their value comes from how they look. For Katie, for now, it is all about what she can do.


Katie showing a skill the class is working on in gymnastics.

I know that I have written about this before, but I wonder how long before she hears the media. And I wonder if she will be able to push it back in a way I couldn’t. And then I realize that a huge part of the way she handles that message comes from me. Comes from the way that I deal with it. And I can say over and over again how important it is to not worry about some ridiculous media inspired vision of women, but if I continue to allow it affect my life and my self esteem then it is only a matter of time before she too becomes another woman striving for something that just doesn’t matter.

So I sit here after a crummy run, feeling a little defeated. And I’m thinking about trying something a little crazy. I’m thinking about letting go. Letting go of counting the calories and letting go of trying to lose weight. I’m thinking of being honest with myself about who I am and who I am striving to be. I am a woman who still desperately wants to be thin and attractive. But I want to be a strong woman who can run a 5K in twenty four minutes. And I want to be a woman who can do a hilly hundred mile bike ride. And I want to be a woman who gets up on a Sunday morning and runs for the pure joy of what my body can do and not because I need to combat a number on a scale.

Change and Reality

I really resist change. This week I worked through a new routine that completely changed my schedule and some of my exercises. So whether I am running or going to the gym, I feel as though I need to go back and do another work out. You know, the work outs I have been using through the summer. I don’t know why I think these are better.

Probably, it is the demon that continues to haunt me. Body image is a funny thing. I was overweight for years, and yet in my head I wasn’t. It was just a little extra water retention or the clothes fit wrong. When I finally came to full realization  of my body size, I continued to deny. I only needed to adjust my diet a little and maybe exercise some. And then I would come up with the ridiculous plan that I couldn’t keep. You know, I’m going to run ten miles every morning and then put in an hour at the gym. Get it all in by six and cheerfully get my kids off to school. I’d get all happy and excited about it, as though I had already accomplished some major milestone. And, I made it look easy. Then reality. Wah! Wah! Run? I couldn’t run half a mile, let alone ten. And going to the gym? With other people? Who might see me? Uhh, no. Pass the red wine. I’m out of shape, not fat, for heaven’s sake. No need to panic. So I had to come to tough reality about myself. First and foremost was how much importance I placed on how I look. A huge percentage of my self worth was (is?) defined by the mirror. I feel pretty? Wow, I’m an amazing person!! I feel fat? I am a loser! And although I continually work to change this, I am aware that my original goal was to lose thirty pounds. And I haven’t really backed off of that. Isn’t it interesting that that the number that mattered was my weight and not the size of my waist? And I am worried that all of my good habits will go flying out the window and I will again be the beer drinking slug.

Even though I am aware on some plane that I have lost some weight and my clothes fit better, in my head I am the exact same person I was back in May. I don’t think of myself as thin, or in shape. And I work to stay away from thin being the goal. Which is a constant struggle. Because although my workouts are geared towards running faster and having more powerful legs, I still log all of my calories and maintain a deficit set up to lose half a pound a week. I keep promising myself I will change this, but I don’t. Because I don’t have the faith in myself yet, that this is a lifestyle. And I get on the scale and I have gained two pounds and I panic. And getting ready for work is so much easier when your clothes fit.

So new goals. I want to run a 5K two minutes faster than my fastest time. I know this is a crazy goal, akin to the running ten miles when I had never run, but I think I can do it. The Pocono Challenge was crazy goal too. I have never really tried to run super fast, so I am excited about this.  This would make my PR 26:28!!!! Yawn for some people out there, but for me it would be a triumph.

Here is what I am doing to accomplish that:

  • Tempo runs twice a week. (I should point out that I am nowhere near doing tempo runs as this website explains. I have eight different tempo run routines, such as half mile 5K pace, half mile jog, or quarter mile 5K pace, quarter mile jog, quarter mile 10K quarter pace, quarter mile jog etc.)
  • Strength workouts twice a week, followed by moderate bike work out for twenty to thirty minutes.
  • Cycling once or twice a week.
  • If I only bike once a week, a 5K check in run.
  • Core exercises three times a week.

It seems like much more than it actually is. For instance, the tempo runs are between four and five miles. I also do the core exercises on the same day as I do the runs and my off day, and they only take about ten minutes. The strength exercises take about thirty minutes or less. I finish the hour or fifty minutes on the stationary bike, depending on what time I was able to get to the gym. And the biking is for the joy of it. I am thinking of adding in one HIIT session like I use to do on the same days I bike, or on days that I know I won’t get to biking. I am worried about losing a full day of strength training. Because, I don’t like change.

So Now What?


This week I have been sort of going through the motions of working out. I did nothing on Monday.  I read  that after a race there are a certain number of days to rest.  So Monday I did nothing. Tuesday I got antsy and went for a run. Originally it was suppose to be a slow three miles. Halfway through I decided to go three point one to make it a full 5K.  And somewhere going slowly morphed to trying to keep it below a ten minute mile. And I paid for it for two days with aching legs. And then yesterday I had an amazing run. I ran a little over three miles in under 29 minutes, a personal best for me. And I felt great afterwards.

Loved this run.

Loved this run.

So now what? Now that there is no race, no endurance challenge to train for, now what do I do? I have become seriously obsessed with the whole topic. From food, to body mechanics to shoes, I love reading about how to go farther faster. I love trying to put it into practice and testing my limits. It has to be about that even more than about getting healthy and never about how does it make me look. Seriously, I have been retooling workouts based on what I have read. I have a workout plan from my nephew designed to make a runner faster. I am rearranging the work out, both the exercises and they order of the exercises based on primary and secondary muscles used by a runner. I am also creating a second work-out based off of this so that my muscles don’t get too accustomed to the routine. I have also found a core work out designed specifically for runners, which I plan to incorporate three days a week.

Doing this means totally changing up my current routine, which worries me. I don’t like change. The plan also only includes two run days a week, and both days are tempo runs. One day of cycling is rounded out with two strength training days. It is a big break from my current routine. But since I think I want to enter some 5K’s to benchmark myself, this seems like the plan.

As for biking, it remains something I love to do. However, for now, I want to take it out of the realm of racing. Not that I don’t want to bike as fast as I can, but I want to do it for joy. It is harder for me to fit in longer rides, and I see that becoming more of a problem until the spring. So biking supports my running and my mental health.

So… I need to find a 5k.