Body Clutter

I was lying on the floor, and I realized- I felt relaxed. It was a strange feeling. I hadn’t felt that way in close to a year. But there it was. Soft muscles. Clear mind. 
It reminded me of another moment of self-awareness I had recently. One that had to do with strength. I felt strong. That felt different. I knew I had felt strong before. But it had been so long it seemed new. 
Both of these moments came during hot yoga classes. They were my first real work-outs in months. And they were bringing me back to who I was before the chaos began. 
And yet. Another feeling followed. Guilt. 
I shouldn’t be spending all this time and money on feeling relaxed and strong when there are so many things to do at home. 
I did my best to say hello to that feeling, and then ask it to go away. I know it is important to take care of myself. I know I need to be healthy- physically and emotionally- to take care of my family. But it takes mental work. Especially when our house is (still) such a mess and our bank account is (still) so low. 
I will keep fighting my brain on this. Because I know that self-care is as important as any other element in taking care of my family. And because I know that a healthy Mama is a more effective Mama. 
There are other benefits, of course. I look back over pictures from the past 8 years, and the difference is clear. I don’t need to see the date on the pic to know whether I was healthy or unhealthy when it was taken. Sure, there’s a weight difference. (Something that was not part of my life until I hit about 37 and then BAM.) But I can also see the difference in my posture and the look in my eyes. 
The past year has been the most difficult of my life. I have gone from eating well and working out several times a week and running long distances, to eating whatever is fast and convenient and hurting when I get out of bed because of the tension and stress. As we heal and recover and declutter our lives, it is time for me to declutter my body. 

36 More Days: The Riverside Run and the Magic Feather

On a sunny afternoon last April I hit the street to run to the YMCA. I figured it would be a good warm-up. It’s a little over a mile if I run back a few extra blocks.

So I’m cruising along, not really pushing, but not lolly-gagging either. And the Map My Run app goes off.

“Time, six minutes, fifty-two seconds. Distance, one mile.”

Huh?

I laughed it off at first. I am not physically capable of running a mile in under seven minutes.

I kept running. But curiosity got the better of me. I slowed down to a walk and took a look at my phone. Yep, I heard it correctly. So it must not have been a mile then.

But I mean, how do I know I can’t run a mile in under seven minutes? Maybe I totally can… I never run an uninterrupted mile since I do interval training. I took a screen shot and sent it to two people: a friend who works out a ton, and my sister. And I waked into the YMCA feeling like the strongest woman alive.

As I started my workout, I got my first response. It was from my friend- a dude I might add- and he was totally impressed. It didn’t occur to him for one second that it was inaccurate. (Or more likely, he knew better than to say so…) The more we chatted about how I was totally insanely fast, the more encouraged I felt in my work-out. I tried harder. I felt less intimidated in the weight room. I was probably the fastest person in the room. These guys should be intimidated by me.

Then as I was cooling down the texts came from my loving little sister. “Yeah, that’s wrong.”

Ok. That’s not exactly what she said. But it was along those lines.

“I mean, it’s possible I guess. But that’s like what grown men who train really hard do. If it’s right, you should start entering races for money.”

Boo.

I knew all along that it takes training (and talent…) to run that fast. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I got home and mapped my distance with a different app. Definitely not a mile. So I’m just as slow as ever.

A few days later I ran in the Riverside Run. Three miles through one of the wealthier communities in Greenwich. (Which is one of the wealthiest towns in the country. And when I say “one of…” I mean single wealthiest…) It’s a gorgeous run past beautiful houses and water and trees and smiling neighbors. I felt pretty good about myself for finishing. It is the furthest I’ve ever run without a stop at all. (During the Disney Princess 5k I walked the length of the two water tables, and during my 10k training, as I mentioned, I run ten-minute intervals.) I was also highly entertained by my playlist, which I set on random. It played “Eat the Rich” by Aerosmith. Twice. My iPhone is hilarious. Nothing like running and laughing.

But as much as I can list the positives, I still really struggled that day with the negative voices. I was one of the few runners not wearing designer running gear. I was getting passed by people who should not have been passing me. I came in 41st out of the 48 in my age group. Ouch. (In my defense, the age group was 30-39. FYI, 30-year-old bodies have very little in common with 39-year-old bodies. So I compared my time with the 40-49 group. I would not have placed much better. Seriously OUCH.)

So I thought about singing.

I sing, like, really really well. I reminded myself that if we were to stop the race and have a sing-off, I would likely win the whole damn thing. And you know how I got that ability? I earned it. I was not born with a golden voice. I was born with a crazy ear and a gift for understanding music. The voice did not come with it. I WORKED. Really, really hard. For years. And you know how I feel when people assume singing is just something you can do naturally?

I get pissed off and frustrated.

Is it possible, then, that these runners who are kicking my ass have been working at it as long as I’ve been working at my voice?

Ugh. Yeah, probably.

And am I being obnoxious and disrespectful to assume I can step into their world and take over?

Boooooo. Yep.

Of course there are those natural talents. People who just run fast. People who just sing beautifully. But once they realize they have talent, you know what they do? They work. And they train. Or they never get better.

Man. Being emotionally healthy is exhausting.

Which takes me back to that mile I ran in less than seven minutes. The one that totally wasn’t a mile at all. It wasn’t the running I was interested in. It was the way I worked out when I thought I had run that fast. The sub-seven-minute-mile was my magic feather. It never really existed at all. But I still had a great work-out. It’s so hard to keep things positive without concrete positive reinforcement. For less than an hour I thought I could run really fast. It was the magic feather that helped me feel strong. But if I keep working, and keep reminding myself that I’m doing great things for my body, I bet I can fly without it.

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Aesop’s Fitness

I’m teaching drama at a Summer Arts Camp. The youngest of my students are presenting several of Aesop’s Fables. We started with the most popular: the story of the Tortoise and the Hare. When the scene ends, all of the students recite the moral together.

Slow and Steady Wins the Race.

This phrase has been ringing in my head lately. Partially because I hear it over and over. But it also has a lot of relevance to Project 40. When I think about the whole project, or even all of one challenge, I get overwhelmed. Nearly every time I run, I think to myself “I’ll never be able to run a half marathon.” Or a 10k. Or whatever I’ve decided to obsess over on that particular day. Of course I remind myself that I never thought I would be able to finish a 5k, either.

In the case of the Riverside Run, slow and steady finished the race.

And that’s probably a more helpful attitude in this case. Slow and steady finishes the race. Unless of course by winning we mean it in the you’re-a-winner-because-you-tried-here’s-your-trophy sense. Then sure. Slow and steady wins the race.

In order to remain slow and steady, I need to do 3 or 4 challenges a month. Otherwise I’m going to find myself like the tortoise: sleeping the whole race and sprinting too late towards the finish line. While our recent move put me in need of a little baby sprint, my steady pace has for the most part continued. In just under 3 months I have completed six challenges:

1. The Presidential Physical Fitness Test
2. Shrink Session
3. The Dr. Oz 3-day Cleanse
4. The Riverside Run
5. Cardio Boxing (blog about that one tomorrow!)
6. Breakfast

Yep. I am now a breakfast eater. I still have to make a bit of a conscious effort. But I know it makes a difference, so no more pushing through til lunch for me.

I have started a few other challenges and have plans for yet a few more in my immediate future. I should be on track to finish 15 or so by the 4-month mark.

But I did have a situation that put me a bit behind. For several weeks I tried to follow the 4-week summer work out challenge. And. It was too much. My life does not allow for four weeks of working out for an hour every day. I needed to follow another piece of advice from Aesop.

You’ve gotta know when to hold ‘Em, know when to fold ‘Em.

I think that was Aesop, right?

I learned a lot attempting the summer challenge. It got me back in the weight room. It had me trying things I wouldn’t have tried. But.

It was just. Too. Much.

I have a lot of trouble letting go of projects once I’m committed. But after my 4th week of trying to complete Week 4, I knew I needed to listen to the Gambler.

I mean Aesop.

So stay tuned as I slowly and steadily finish this race.

When Elephants Fly

About ten days ago I hit the street to run to the YMCA. I figured it would be a good warm-up. It’s a little over a mile if I run back a few extra blocks.

So I’m cruising along, not really pushing, but not lolly-gagging either. And the Map My Run app goes off.

“Time, six minutes, fifty-two seconds. Distance, one mile.”

Huh?

I laughed it off at first. I am not physically capable of running a mile in under seven minutes.

I kept running. But curiosity got the better of me. I slowed down to a walk and took a look at my phone. Yep, I heard it correctly. So it must not have been a mile then.

But I mean, how do I know I can’t run a mile in under seven minutes? Maybe I totally can… I never run an uninterrupted mile since I do interval training. I took a screen shot and sent it to two people: a friend who works out a ton, and my sister. And I waked into the YMCA feeling like the strongest woman alive.

As I started my workout, I got my first response. It was from my friend- a dude I might add- and he was totally impressed. It didn’t occur to him for one second that it was inaccurate. (Or more likely, he knew better than to say so…) The more we chatted about how I was totally insanely fast, the more encouraged I felt in my work-out. I tried harder. I felt less intimidated in the weight room. I was probably the fastest person in the room. These guys should be intimidated by me.

Then as I was cooling down the texts came from my loving little sister. “Yeah, that’s wrong.”

Ok. That’s not exactly what she said. But it was along those lines.

“I mean, it’s possible I guess. But that’s like what grown men who train really hard do. If it’s right, you should start entering races for money.”

Boo.

I knew all along that it takes training (and talent…) to run that fast. So I wasn’t at all surprised when I got home and mapped my distance with a different app. Definitely not a mile. So I’m just as slow as ever.

A few days later I ran in the Riverside Run. Three miles through one of the wealthier communities in Greenwich. (Which is one of the wealthiest towns in the country. And when I say “one of…” I mean single wealthiest…) It’s a gorgeous run past beautiful houses and water and trees and smiling neighbors. I felt pretty good about myself for finishing. It is the furthest I’ve ever run without a stop at all. (During the Disney Princess 5k I walked the length of the two water tables, and during my 10k training, as I mentioned, I run ten-minute intervals.) I was also highly entertained by my playlist, which I set on random. It played “Eat the Rich” by Aerosmith. Twice. My iPhone is hilarious. Nothing like running and laughing.

But as much as I can list the positives, I still really struggled that day with the negative voices. I was one of the few runners not wearing designer running gear. I was getting passed by people who should not have been passing me. I came in 41st out of the 48 in my age group. Ouch. (In my defense, the age group was 30-39. FYI, 30-year-old bodies have very little in common with 39-year-old bodies. So I compared my time with the 40-49 group. I would not have placed much better. Seriously OUCH.)

So I thought about singing.

I sing, like, really really well. I reminded myself that if we were to stop the race and have a sing-off, I would likely win the whole damn thing. And you know how I got that ability? I earned it. I was not born with a golden voice. I was born with a crazy ear and a gift for understanding music. The voice did not come with it. I WORKED. Really, really hard. For years. And you know how I feel when people assume singing is just something you can do naturally?

I get pissed off and frustrated.

Is it possible, then, that these runners who are kicking my ass have been working at it as long as I’ve been working at my voice?

Ugh. Yeah, probably.

And am I being obnoxious and disrespectful to assume I can step into their world and take over?

Boooooo. Yep.

Of course there are those natural talents. People who just run fast. People who just sing beautifully. But once they realize they have talent, you know what they do? They work. And they train.

Man. Being emotionally healthy is exhausting.

Which takes me back to that mile I ran in less than seven minutes. The one that totally wasn’t a mile at all. It wasn’t the running I was interested in. It was the way I worked out when I thought I had run that fast. The sub-seven-minute-mile was my magic feather. It never really existed at all. But I still had a great work-out. It’s so hard to keep things positive without concrete positive reinforcement. For less than an hour I thought I could run really fast. It was the magic feather that helped me feel strong. But if I keep working, and keep reminding myself that I’m doing great things for my body, I bet I can fly without it.

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Tough Mother/ It’s About Time

I’m a busy Mom. But finding time to work out is easy as long as I make it a priority and set a schedule. For example, the schedule for the last seven days of the 4-week summer challenge looked like this:

Tuesday: Run early in the morning
Wednesday: Hit the gym before 9:30 meeting
Thursday: Run early in the morning in my sister’s neighborhood, where I was taking care of my nephews for the weekend. As long as I was back by 8- in time for their Dad to leave for work, I was golden.
Friday: Take a yoga class at my sister’s YMCA in Alabama.
Saturday: Work out at YMCA while boys are at child watch.
Sunday: Rest
Monday: Run in my friend’s neighborhood. She lives a bit north of Nashville and I was visiting her overnight before flying out Monday afternoon.

If everything went according to plan, I’d complete the workout schedule in my free time. No one would be put out, and I’d be on schedule, ready to start Week 2.

In our family things go according to plan as often as four or five times a month.

My actual schedule looked like this:

Tuesday: Ryan needed to go to work early leaving me to do school prep and drop-off. I set my alarm for 6 AM. But didn’t actually turn it on. Woke up at 10. Lily, who doesn’t do well out of routine, spiraled into a fit that lasted a few hours. I took her to school at noon, losing the entire morning.

Wednesday: After a late night up with a girl still recovering from her Tuesday morning fit, I decided I needed to sleep in a bit. I missed my meeting.

Thursday: Weather-related flight delays meant getting into bed at my sister’s around 3 AM. Less than five hours later it was time to get up with the boys. Only one had school, leaving me home with the little one. I briefly entertained the notion of getting out the jogging stroller. The idea was quickly dismissed.

Friday: I decided to run during the few hours I had to myself while both boys were at school. I made it about thirty minutes before succumbing to sunburn and nausea. Did you know it is hotter in Alabama than it is in Connecticut? And that brand new housing developments don’t have trees?

Saturday: I took the boys to the YMCA as planned. I worked out while they played at child watch. Success.

Sunday: I am happy to report that I followed through with my plan of not working out on Sunday. Yay me!

Monday: I visited with a friend overnight on Sunday. We were up drinking tea and sharing stories until nearly 3 AM. I would not trade this time. But running on Monday morning was certainly not an option. A Bloody Mary on the plane ruled out running once I got back home. Looks like another day of rest.

The best laid plans, eh?

The thing is, I really did complete all of the workouts for Week 1. Quite successfully, in fact. Tuesday. I ran in the evening instead of the morning. Following Week 9, Day 1 of the 10k training program (5 minute warm up, run for 10 minutes/ walk for 1 minute, repeat for total of 4 times, 5 minute cool down) I ran 4.3 miles. This is the further I have ever run. I felt like a rock star. My husband reacted as if I had finished a marathon.

Wednesday I completed the arm workout during the time when I was scheduled to be at a meeting. I only had time for 2 sets of each exercise instead of 3. But I did it.

Thursday I did the stretches planned for Friday, and Friday I did the cardio scheduled for Thursday.

And Saturday and Sunday went as planned. Two days out of seven. Bam.

When I look at it all laid out like that, I’m really proud of myself. I’m 1/4 of the way through the four week program. I’m totally doing it! But I have these persistent naggy thoughts.

“Ryan shouldn’t have had to be home with Lily for an hour after working all day, just so I could run. I’m being selfish.”

“I only did 2 reps instead of 3. So I didn’t really finish the workouts.”

“I should have gone to that meeting instead of working out. There I go being selfish again.”

“I had to stop early on Thursday because of the heat. It was not a successful run.”

As I look at these thoughts now, rationally they seem absolutely false. Emotionally, they seem absolutely true.

It takes a lot of work to override emotional lies. Fortunately, I have a lot of practice.

So. To my emotional lies, I counter with the following:

I have a husband who supports me. He supports my writing. And he supports my healthy decisions. I have friends and readers who look to me for inspiration. And I have friends to whom I can turn for inspiration and guidance. (And for help determining what some of the exercises in the plan are supposed to be!) This year is important. I am becoming a healthier version of myself. I am doing the best that I can. I am flexible with my time and plans, and I am making healthy decisions about priorities. And. I am succeeding.

And then there’s this little girl.

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She wants to go running with Mommy. We usually make it once around our complex. It’s about a third of a mile. She thinks I’m fast. And she thinks I’m strong. And she wants to be like me.

And that is motivation enough.

The Last Day Before the Last Year

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In a few hours I turn thirty-nine.

Yikes.

Forty is one thing. It feels like something worth celebrating.

But thirty-nine is just…almost.

Almost forty. The last year I’m thirty-something. And the last year of my childhood.

(Oh, that was seventeen, you say? Millions of thirty-something’s disagree.)

Speaking of almost. I’ve had several projects this year that have fallen flat. Let’s take a look at them, shall we?

Flylady and Decluttering
Ugh. It occurred to me yesterday that I had given up. The clutter was piling up. The dishes were piling up. The laundry was piling up. I say “was” as if it’s a past-tense situation. I am baby-stepping my way across the living room. But it’s just so slow. We have too much stuff. The past several weeks I was consumed by our Spring Musical at school and I did nothing. I will figure this out. I will discover what it is about this process that is not working for me. But it hasn’t happened yet.

So, in the meantime, we’re crisis cleaning for Easter this week.

Speaking of Spring musicals….

Lily’s Challenge
Much to my disappointment, I think we have outgrown this. It breaks me heart because it was so much fun. But Lily is now more than ever, her very own little performer. And unless we had a month of “Let it go,” I don’t think I can make it work at this age.

*sigh*

Sunrise, Sunset

Running for Lent
Again, that whole Spring Musical thing… (It was “Little Shop of Horrors,” by the way.)
Two years ago I did two Spring Musicals at once. It was way too much, and the really short version of the story is that I ended up hospitalized with pneumonia. Like, the real, actual, fluid in both lungs pneumonia. I don’t recommend it.

So it occurred to me after missing a few days of running that perhaps this was not the time to start a project like that. Perhaps during this time I just needed to focus on getting kids to sing “Skid Row.”

So that’s what I did.

Now. Why am I tying all these up in a neat bow? First, to remind myself of this:

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Maybe it reminds you to be reasonable, too.

But second, and more importantly, it’s because I’m headed towards the end of an era.

No. Really. I’m not tryin’a be all dramatic about it. It’s a Bible thing. Important things happen in forty-year chunks. Tomorrow starts the last year of my very first chunk. And man, do I have plans. And I didn’t want anything hanging over my head. (Oh, shoot. “Let it Go” totally would have worked here…)

Tomorrow stars a huge year-long project for me. I’m excited. And scared. (Cue Little Red Riding Hood.) And I can’t wait to share it with you.

My Cinderella Story

“Impossible things are happening every day” – Rogers and Hammerstein

“Cinderella” was my very first musical. I had auditioned for our community theatre several times before, but had never been cast. Something clicked in my brain though, the end of my eighth grade year, about the energy required for a successful audition. I sang “Wouldn’t it be Loverly.” And I sold it, man. I was cast in the ensemble. And the rest was history.

It seems appropriate, then, that my first 5k would also be a Cinderella theme. Here I am with my medal. So cute, right?

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And while they are different versions of the same story, they both seem fitting. Wanting something so badly that seemed out of reach. The R&H version of the story features a song of hope. The Fairy Godmother sings that “impossible things are happening every day.”

Yesterday was no exception.

I finished C25K.

I wrote in January about my desire to complete the program. True, the actual 5k was almost a month ago. The hype and promise of a medal and location helped me push through. Running through Epcot Center at sunrise is considerably more interesting that running on the treadmill at the YMCA.

But yesterday I finished the 24th workout. Yep. I did all 24. In order. As designed. And I’m here to tell you. It worked.

Two months ago I could hardly run for a minute at a time. And now I can go out for a 30-minute jog. It. Worked.

I CAN breathe. My legs WILL hold out. This program breaks it down into baby steps. Which I still hate. But I guess they work or something.

The only thing to do now is keep going. 10k Lent Project, here I come!

Note: I have already started the project. But now I get to move from the 5k training to the 10k training. 18 work-outs in 35 days. Wheeeeeeeeeeee!

And one additional note: Those of you who were following my Flylady progress. I have been running a lot more than flying. My sink is still shiny. But as for the rest… Let’s hope the running success inspires some cleaning success.

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