End of Year Check In

I love this time of year. It is another renewal moment. Every day, every week, gives you a chance to start over in some way. But this time, the end of one year and the beginning of another is a time for big picture evaluation. This excites me as much as Christmas. I always re-evaluate, every year. And normally I come up with these huge over whelming goals that last about two weeks, if that. Then I snuggle back into my old ways. With the past six months behind me, with everything I have learned, I feel differently this year. I have reason to believe that I can. Maybe, because I have learned that I don’t have to become a super being.  So this year I thought I would think about the last six months, what worked and what didn’t.

Competing

Joining an event forced me to get out there. It pushed my boundaries. It was a lightening rod for my fears and insecurities. Whether it was taking a risk, facing down my fears of running alone, hell my fear of running, how I looked trying to work out when I was so out of shape, whatever it was. Having an event that I joined and then told everyone about, made me change. I had to. Or it would have been another thing I didn’t do. And I didn’t want to be that.

But it also transformed my thought process. I wasn’t working out, I was training. Although losing weight was the biggest reason I chose to enter The Pocono Endurance Challenge, I had to shift my reasoning because I wasn’t losing weight. Even as people told me I was becoming thinner, my scale belied that possibility. My clothes did not magically fit better. Additionally, as the event drew closer, just finishing became more important. Of course I was doing it to force my body into some ridiculous prescribed notion of beauty, but that would have to be put on hold. I was not going to be that old fat woman who couldn’t finish.

Which brings up another point. It was so hard for me personally to go and actually start exercising. Feeling as unattractive and out of shape as I was, running or biking where people could see how hard it was for me was demoralizing. Although I rarely shared this, I felt ridiculous. I wouldn’t even buy proper work out clothes until I had to. It was like I didn’t deserve them. I wasn’t a real runner or cycler so I didn’t need the gear. It wasn’t until my cargo shorts started to fall down, because I lost the string that I bought the cheapest pair of running pants I could find. And man I loved those suckers. I still felt as though I was somehow a poser. Still, for $7 I was finally willing to pose away! They are still my go to running pants when I am pushing myself or feel like I need a little luck.

Competing also changed the way I thought about food. I needed to eat to become stronger. This meant I wasn’t dieting. I was eating healthy because that was what my muscles needed to perform better. Was this a head game? Of course. But it also became very real. I continued to track calories, but I wasn’t trying to lose more than a pound a week. And I cheated regularly. But even as I cheated, I measured my options for best sources of protein. It also changed my drinking ways, or wine and beer drinking slug that I was. My cut back on alcohol was a necessity if I was to get up and run or bike. That meant that I had to strategically place nights of drinking. I also realized that I needed more than one day to recover. If I drank on a Saturday, the negative effect on my runs could last for the next four or five days. I was working too hard for this. So, my drinking ways began to fade. The feeling of being healthy was slowly taking over the joy of the drunk. I like feeling sharp both mentally and physically.  I still love a good glass of red wine or a cold beer, just normally not as much or as often. I don’t need it.

Learning

I read everything I could get my hands on about triathlons, running, biking and workouts to make me better, stronger, faster. I read about the best foods, what I was lacking, working out “at my age” the importance of taking time off, working out with weights, the importance of strong hips, running gear, endurance training. I followed, and continue to follow, blogs, Runners World, Bicycling.com, Live Strong. I gathered workouts, kept logs, investigated and tried programs. I watch people and will try anything. I reached out to people I knew who had been running or biking for years. I watch people run or bike all the time. I copy everything I think is right and adjust when I screw up. What I found was that there are way more people out there like me, than professional athletes. I know this sounds obvious. But one of my biggest mistakes which I continue to repeat is comparing myself to professional athletes. People who work out for a living. Or people who have been doing this for years. I have to constantly remind myself to measure my progress against where I was, who I am. Not against a professional runner or biker. I think for people who do this everyday, where this is their living in some form whether it be competing or writing about it, there is an oblivion of what it is like to just start. It is hard. It is painful and it is lonely. Somewhere between people who are healthy and people who, well,… aren’t are people who are trying. People who are trying to change their thought processes so their bodies will follow. This is hard. So much harder than the words in those running articles and bike blogs reflect.  However, the more I read, the harder I pushed. Just because I can’t do something right now doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It means I can’t do it yet.

Blogging

Keeping track of my progress through an online journal helped me tremendously. It not only gave me a sense of accountability, I did not want to write that I gave up and didn’t run or bike that extra whatever, it gave me a space and time to reflect. As I am doing now. Writing helps me think. It helps me remember why I wanted to do this in the first place. It connects me with what I am learning. It makes me happy and excited about what I am doing and what I have been able to accomplish. It energizes me and focuses me. And, when people commented on my posts, that just sent me over the moon. Support is so important. I felt as though I was part of a community. And for a person who normally shies away from groups and people, a person who is incredibly socially awkward, this is huge. I have not been writing as much as I could over the summer, but I have not given up. And this is a piece I plan to keep, even if some people do think it is self centered.

So these are the three pieces I plan to continue in my quest for fitness as I head into the New Year.  The memory of how hard that Seaside Heights Duathlon was sits with me. Will another be just as hard? But I did do it. And the pain does end.  So, in the next two months I need to sign up for an event, continue to learn about training and continue my online journal. One final piece I want to add is at least one work out a week that is just for the joy of it. There are several work outs such as the run/walk drill, the HIIT or just a long bike ride that simply make me happy.

And here is the very last goal. I want to keep a jar of the year’s events. Originally it was going to be things I am thankful for, but I want to expand that. I want to include funny events, goals reached, memories of my children, quiet personal moments, etc. I am hoping my family joins me in this.

Happy New Year!

Peace on the Treadmill

So can you really not gain weight over a holiday season? Especially one coming into winter? Maybe it is so hard because of all the food and drink and parties. And maybe it is so hard because just getting out of bed seems terribly unfair and inhuman. I have been working out in the morning. I have not been going outside. After several months of futzing around, I have finally come up with a game plan that I can live with. At least for awhile. My goals of entering races before the end of the year more or less kept getting put on the bottom of the pile. Back in October, when December seemed so far away and the Eagles showed promise, I really felt as though training for a race would be the best way to stay on track. Back then I was running outside and determined to maintain at least one outdoor run a week. I don’t know what happened to that. Like the Eagles season it just sort of drifted away. One day I was running outside and then suddenly life took over and I wasn’t. And then it was Thanksgiving and I hadn’t run outside in two weeks and then it was today and I haven’t run outside in three. As I lay in bed this morning debating on whether to go to the gym or go back to sleep and run later outside, the treadmill was actually more appealing. Well, actually the cold was less appealing. And I know from experience, the later I push off working out the less likely it is to happen. So up and out the door to chuck along on the treadmill and watch ESPN. By the way, at five on a Saturday they just replay Friday mornings show.

It isn’t as terrible as it once was. I am still mind numbingly slower on the treadmill than I am outside. But for some reason this doesn’t bother me anymore. The intensity has definitely leaked out of my mindset. Which isn’t to say that I slack, I’m just more likely to skip a morning when I stayed up too late. You know, to watch the Eagles dismantle my hopes of meaningful post season football. And I have found three things I actually like about running on the treadmill. First, I am in total control. I can decide the terrain and speed in a way I can’t outside. If you set the treadmill for a ten minute mile, you can’t fluctuate between a nine minute mile and an eleven minute mile. You have to maintain that ten minute mile. For some reason my body responds to this in a way it doesn’t to my brain. No matter how hard I try, my running times outside are all over the place. So I like that, mostly. Second, on the whole, my body does not hurt as badly after a treadmill run as it does when I run outside. There is less impact so it is easier on knees and hips. Pain free legs are a good thing. And third, I get to watch ESPN and get caught up on all the football I miss. About half way through the season my family starts to stage a rebellion on Sundays. They actually try to turn off football if the Eagles aren’t playing. Since I have little support in this from any member of my family, my best second option is catching up on Monday mornings.

Oddly enough, I think I am going to miss the treadmill some when I return to outdoor running in the spring.