Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Evolving concept of beauty…

Last night I was watching American Ninja Warrior which I am just slightly obsessed with. I’ve talked about the show in this blog before and it keeps getting more popular. Last night 4 women were featured who all had made it to what is basically the semi-finals.

Just a couple years ago ANY woman making it that far was basically unheard of. But now women are getting into lots of activities that were previously almost exclusive to men and require a lot of strength and stamina.

I was tweeting during the show and as one woman made her run I tweeted that “Strong is the new sexy!’ One of my twitter followers who, incidentally, has been incredibly supportive to me and my struggles on this blog wrote “New?”

Of course there have always been strong women and many people who find that attractive. But I don’t think that this has been the norm.

I WISH that I was immune to society’s opinions about what women “should” look like. I have no problem whatsoever at not behaving like a traditional lady, but I freely acknowledge that one of the reasons I am so self-critical is because I don’t - and never have - looked like what an attractive woman “should” look like.

In the 80's, the fashion was the soft looking big boobed women like Pamela Anderson and Cindy Crawford. No doubt they were beautiful, but they were not muscular or overly fit.  And I was never going to look like them. Then the 90's came and for a while the “heroin sheik” was in. Extremely skinny, pale, with almost no muscle tone. Well shit, I looked even LESS like that.

In the last few years, I think that FIT has started to take it’s place. Suddenly women having muscles is a good thing in the mainstream. Being strong and fit has replaced striving for thin.

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Besides just being in shape, the very definition of “fit” has been challenged. I mean Serena Williams is a phenomenal athlete, but with her big boobs and butt, she isn’t what we have traditionally thought of as a superior athlete. And take Michelle Carter who just won an Olympic Gold medal for Shot Put.

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She also doesn’t look like your stereotype of an Olympian. I’m guessing neither of them go into Old Navy and buy a size 2. Guess what?  They are both muscular, beautiful and, at least from what I have read, confident.

Just last week I was ready about how women getting huge boob implants is “out”. Women are still getting boob jobs, but unlike 20 years ago when everyone wanted to be a DD, women are instead opting for the more subdued full B or small C. According to a plastic surgeon who was interviewed, for many women this is at least in part because they still want to work out hard and huge boobies get in the way.

In my opinion this is great news for women. Because being fit is being healthy. And if we change our definition of what attractive looks like and open it up to women of all shapes and sizes - well, maybe young girls out there won’t grow up to be head cases like me.

I continue to admire women who lead the way on body confidence and defining beauty outside the lines - women like Jennifer Lawrence, Meghan Trainor and Kate Winslet.

Who are some of your body confidence heroes?

Monday, August 22, 2016

A tepid try…

It’s hard to believe that I ran my very first mile outside in 2011. In terms of my entire life, that is a very short time ago. But for a period of time running became such an integral part of who I am, it felt like I had always been a runner. For many months, I relished running. The feeling of accomplishment after a good run - of challenging myself.

Then I fell out of love with running. I had some injuries and running became almost an enemy. I lost the motivation to run at all, but I felt like I had to, no matter what. And so I did.

In the last year or so I’ve gone back and forth. I don’t know that I’ve ever LOVED running - not like some people do. I have a Facebook friend who is a streak runner - she’s got like 1300 + days now! She just completed her first ultra - a 50 mile race. And she posts things about running and it is clear how much she just LOVES it. I envy her. I have had periods where I really enjoy getting out there and times when it feels like work.

The last couple months my running has taken a very weird turn. I don’t know how to explain this, but I am almost... afraid... to run outside. I’m not scared of getting hurt or attacked. Even though I have had injuries and my foot is still not healed I’m not really worried about hurting myself, either. It’s just this weird anxiety provoking fear when I think of running outside - like I won’t be able to do it or something. It’s not fear of being out in the world - not like I’m becoming agoraphobic - because I have no issue with biking long miles away from home.

So running and I have developed this tentative truce of sorts. I run on the treadmill at a slow pace. I burn calories and I’m technically “running”, but I don’t think that it’s the same as being outside and being a “runner”. My distances have been short - typically 6-7 miles. Long gone are the days of the “long run”.

This turn has filled me with incredible guilt and anxiety. Why? It’s not like I am required to run outside OR inside. It’s not my job. But I still feel that way - that somehow I am failing. That I am letting other people and myself down.

This weekend the forecast was for a beautiful Saturday followed by downpours and thunderstorms all day Sunday. So before we took the dogs to the beach on Saturday, I went out for a 40 mile bike ride knowing that this would be the only chance I would get to ride for the weekend. I would run, I promised me, on Sunday.

Sunday dawned and, as predicted, it was pouring. So I knew I needed to head to the basement to run. I tried to make excuses not to - to swear to myself I would run later in the day, knowing damn well that I wouldn’t. I managed to force myself into the basement wondering why I am in this rut and if there is any way out.

I told myself I could stop at 4 in order to get myself going. I was watching a movie and 4 became 6, 6 became 8 and then finally, 10. I won’t pretend that 10 miles is a big deal. Running 10 on a treadmill at a slow pace isn’t nearly the same as the days I would run 13-16 outside on a Sunday. But it is a longer jaunt than I have been running. I was happy that I got in the miles, but it didn’t renew any love of running and didn’t make me want to run outside.

Between the stress of Chakotay’s illness, my pathetic weight gain and my falling out of “like” with running, I’m feeling pretty lost right now.

Oh, course, ultimately, this is just more of my drama-queeness. Either do it or don’t, right? It’s just running for fuck’s sake. The weight of the free world is NOT on my shoulders.  The worls, as a matter of fact, doesn’t give a shit about my running – or my weight for that matter! 

i hate running

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Sucking at keeping up!!

I know, I know – I suck, right?  I haven’t been posting at all. 

I am trying to cram 28 hours worth of living into 24 hour days and I’m not having much luck. 

I refuse to sacrifice sleep – although that would be the easy out – for a short time until I went completely nuts.

It was one week ago when we woke up and found Chakotay in a terrible state.  I was so sure that we were at the end.

I am thrilled to say that after a week of antibiotics, leg massage and lots and lots of hugs and kisses, he is doing really well.

The leg is almost normal.  He is eating well and appears to feel good.  In fact today he felt so good that we took him on a short hike to the water because he absolutely loves swimming.

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He floated around in the water for a while and swam to get his toys a few times and then relaxed while watching Archer play.

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He was really tired on the way back and walked VERY slowly.  Marc and I wondered if we had made a mistake by taking him because we weren’t sure he could make it to the car.  But he ended up being fine as long as we walked slow,

What caused the rebound?  Was it the meds or the leg massaging?   Remember when I talked about magical thinking?  Well, I know that this is what it is, but no one can convince me that you guys and everyone else who has sent positive vibes his way hasn’t made a difference.

tumblr_nun5ltm3Qy1r12tq8o1_500 I don’t think that we have many good days left, but we are trying to enjoy them

I wish that I could tell you guys that this week’s rebound by Chakotay has allowed me to get my shit together, but it hasn’t.  I am still struggling terribly with my eating.  And the motivation to exercise?  It takes just about all of my energy to force myself to move. 

I have not stepped on the scale – the mirror is telling me enough.

So please my friends, PLEASE continue to send positive thoughts to Chakotay.  And if you have a few left, maybe you could send some vibes to me to get me to put down the FORK!!!

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Monday, August 15, 2016

Compared to whom?

When I lost weight and began exercising and eating right for the first time in my life it was kind of like entering a world that I never knew existed. I began meeting other people who were slightly obsessed like I was and it was like joining a special club.

This club was pretty cool and one that I never ever expected to be welcomed into. In high school I would see the bond between people who were on teams together - the football guys and the volleyball girls. Those of us who were in the music and drama departments, we had our own bond, but it wasn’t the same as the jocks.

So I dipped my toe into this world and was shocked at how supportive it was – since the jocks in high school weren’t exactly pals with me!! People giving advice and talking techniques without making fun of one another. This world has its own language of sorts even. With talk of macros and fartleks and leg day. I now know the difference between chin-ups and pullups. I can talk intelligently about over-pronation, 10K training runs, kettlebell swings, Zottman curls, and what the best exercises are to grow your lats. I have argued over whether or not clipless pedals are worth it and whether to do cardio before strength or vice versa.

I have given advice on rehabbing a bad IT band problem and have had people come to me asking me the best way to improve their running speed. I have given advice on resistance bands and what stretching needs to be done to cure planter fascitis. I have hugged people who have finished their first 5K and celebrated someone deadlifting their body weight for the first time.  I have laughed as only other people who are in the know have laughed when someone talked about the misery of attempting to sit on the toilet 2 days after leg day.  And have commiserated with those side lined with an injury who are unable to run.

There is no way for me to explain how bizarre it is to me sometimes to know these things and be able to talk about them actually knowing what I am talking about. And when people ask for my advice?? Well that’s even more strange. NO ONE comes to Jen for fitness advice! I sometimes think “Why are they asking me??”

For support and to keep me accountable, I am a member of a number of fitness oriented sites, like runnerworld.com, Fitocracy.com, runkeeper.com and strava.com.  I keep stats and talk with other fitness minded people.  Which is gret in many ways.

On the other hand, this also skews my perspective.  Because I always see the stats or talk with people that – in my mind – are better than I am.  People that are faster, who run more miles, who lift heavier weights, who eat totally clean and have impossible flat stomachs and incredibly defined biceps. 

I have come to believe that everyone is like this.  Everyone works out, everyone lifts weights and runs and keeps in shape and never cheats in their food intake.  Everyone looks fantastic in a bikini and doesn’t worry about flappy “bat-wings” or muffin tops.

Nope – I am the only one who has those defects.  I am the inferior one who has flab and isn’t running enough and was so lazy that I only lifted weights for an hour.  I SUCK compared to everyone else.

Now, intellectually, I know that this is ridiculous.  And I know that comparing yourself to others is most definitely a fools errand.  Because no matter how good you are, there is always someone faster, prettier, smarter, stronger. 

And yet, I can’t get away from believing it.  I wonder if some of the reason I can’t be happy with where I’m at is because I can’t and don’t celebrate the good things, I only lament my perceived faults.

Anyone else in that same boat?

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Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Twilight Zone…

This is NOT how I wanted to be spending my weekend.

The last part of last week, I really felt that I was starting to get my mojo back.  I was exercising faithfully and my eating was actually mostly in check.  I kind of felt some hope that I maybe I could do this.

I woke up Saturday with a plan – after weeks of being in drought conditions we we going to get rain.  So I was going to run on the treadmill and then clean the house some.

That’s what I get for having a plan.

We got up yesterday and Chakotay was limping horribly.  I looked down and his right front leg was HUGELY swollen and he couldn’t put hardly any weight on it.  I called the vet’s office who wanted him brought right in.

A quick exam pretty much ruled out a traumatic injury.  The vet told us that this was likely the lymphoma and it was not a good sign.  Just in case there was an infection – even though we saw no sign of a bite or cut, she prescribed a broad spectrum anti-biotic.  But she gently told us that we are nearing the end.

We got him home and tried to make him comfortable.  But with the clouds moving out, it became blisteringly hot outside and not much better inside.

And what did I do?  Nothing.  I felt paralyzed.  I literally couldn’t make myself do anything but sit.  And sit.  Oh yeah – and eat. 

So I wasted the entire day doing nothing except worrying, feeling sick, crying and trying to distract myself by multiple trips to the kitchen – HATING myself  but unable to do anything about it.

Chakotay seemed to get progressively worse.  By night, his leg was actually grotesquely swollen and HOT.  We had to lift him up to get him outside where he was able to limp around to pee.  We laid him in front of the fan and retired to our bedroom to watch some tv.

I checked on him after the show ended at about 11:30PM and he would  barely lift his head to see me.  I went back to bed and cried – I knew that we would, in all likelihood – have to take him in this morning for his final journey.

I hardly slept at all – tossing and turning.  I dozed off and at 4AM I heard some noises outside the bedroom.  Chakotay was at his dishes drinking water.

I got up and he actually wagged his nub seeing me.  I let him outside and noticed that while his leg was still very swollen, it had gone down some and he was able to walk better.

Relieved, I went back to bed and was able to fall asleep.

We got up just an hour ago and he is okay.  My boy is, most definitely, a fighter.  I gave him his pills – with some peanut butter to wash them down and he scarfed them up.

Chakotay is like his mommy apparently – we can and do eat through pretty much anything.

So today, I have to not sit around like some pathetic cow – you know – I have to be someone other than ME.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Let the flab fly!

It has been HOT here. I love the heat, but it has been HOT and HUMID.

Since it has been so hot, I’ve been reading lately some articles lately and the ongoing debate about women running in - GASP - sports bras only - without covering up with a t-shirt. Some women are just not comfortable running in only a sports bra. Some are physically not comfortable and some are just too self-conscious.  And that’s their choice.

But I’ve been a little surprised at the judgment of other women about women who choose to run in only sports bras. Some have made pretty nasty - in my opinion - judgments about women who do that. It’s especially surprising to me because a sports bra often covers more - MUCH MORE - than what a lot of women wear to the beach. And you rarely hear women going off about women and bikinis....

So today I packed my bike up intending to ride during my lunch hour.  When I opened my bag I realized that rushing around this morning I had forgotten to put in a tank.  I had running shorts, regular shorts, bike shorts, 2 pairs of socks and 2 different style sports bras but no tank or t shirt.

So I swore at myself and decided riding was out.

But then I thought – what if I rode in my bike shorts and sports bra only.

No, I couldn’t do that, could I?

I have – very rarely – ran in a sports bra only.  I once ran a sweltering 10K race in one.  But that was 3 years ago when I was my lowest weight and wasn’t concerned about all the fat bouncing around.  And ladies, the position on a road bike isn’t the most flattering for a big tummy.

And then I said FUCK IT.

I put on the sports bra and bike shorts and went out and got on my bike. 

The first couple of miles I was VERY self-conscious.  I was sure that everyone going by noticed the fat rolls overhanging my shorts.  But I also noticed how cool the breeze felt on my midsection.

So I rode.  Here’s what DIDN’T happen.  No one yelled anything insulting to me.  I didn’t get pulled over for RWB (Riding with Blubber).  No one drove past me and had to pull over to vomit.

Towards the end of my ride I saw a guy walking down the road with his shirt tucked into his back pocket.  His jeans didn’t fit terrible well and I could see the top of his ass crack.  And I noticed he had some belly flab.  I guessed that he probably didn’t think anything about walking down the road without his shirt on.  He probably didn’t wonder if other people were staring at his shirtless self.

So I don’t think that I’ll make a practice of riding or running with just the sports bra.  But there was something freeing about it.  And I think that women shouldn’t judge other women for whatever they choose to wear.

What say you?  Sports bras ok or cover yourself up??

Monday, August 8, 2016

Price of Perfection…

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Are you guys watching the Olympics? I am following them loosely. It’s amazing to see these athletes and what they can accomplish! I feel so horrible though when someone screws up or gets injured - I mean they spend their whole life preparing and their dream can be GONE in just a split second...

I happened to run across an article today about the work it takes to become an Olympian and the sacrifices made to reach that level of greatness. You know, it’s funny, I just talked in yesterdays post about people thinking that it is easy for me. And as I read this article I realized that I make some of the same assumptions about people that have reached that point of utter amazingness, when really it’s about incredible hard work and tons and tons of sacrifice.

Now obviously to get to the point of Olympic greatness you have to have been born with some innate ability. For example, Michael Phelps’ body was just designed for swimming with the unusually long arms (proportionally to the rest of his body) and huge flipper like hands. But it’s more than that. He started competitive swimming at 7. 7 years old. The gymnast Gabby Douglas moved out of her house and was sheltered from the “real world” in order to make her into this outstanding, larger than life athlete.

It takes working tirelessly - hours per day every day of training. Not seeing your family. Not having real life friends. Eating for fuel and only eating the “right” foods. Pushing your body to the absolute limit - through injuries even. And for many of these Olympians - both in the US and other countries - enduring abuse (physical, mental and even sexual) by coaches and other people who take over the often young child’s life.

All to reach that one goal.

Is it worth it?

You see them standing up there on the podium with huge grins and I can only imagine that unbelievable sense of accomplishment.

But it doesn’t come without a price. Michael Phelps has had 2 DWI arrests and a stint in rehab. He has hinted that he was suicidal. Other former Olympians have talked about the adjustment of no longer being an Olympian. Of eating disorders, physical health problems and lacking social skills because they never developed any.

What’s the point of all this? I think about my own journey which is a small FRACTION of what these men and women have gone through. To make a huge life change has and will continue to require sacrifice. Time sacrifice, relationship sacrifices - doing what you need to do rather than what you want to do. There is NO WAY around that.

The question for each of you reading this is how “perfect” do you want to get? Because the more .lofty your goals, the more sacrifices you will have to make. If you want to run a marathon, you’re going to have to make big sacrifices. If you want to lose 100 pounds it’s going to take an incredible amount of effort. So do you set your goals lower? Settle for “this is good enough” instead of “I have to reach this goal”. You might not get where you ideally want to be, but maybe you value your time and, frankly, your mental health more than you want that ideal.

This is the spot I stand in right now. Am I “good enough”. And is “good enough” actually good enough??

I know some people who lost enough weight to improve their health. They have made efforts to “move more”. They are still “technically” overweight and are perfectly fine with this. They are happier and more confident. One woman told me “Look, I’m never going to get down to where the doctor says I should be, that’s just a fact”. And she is a-okay with this. I admit that I talk to people like this sometimes and am envious that they can be content being perfectly imperfect...