Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Good morning?

I am, admittedly, not a morning person.

When my alarm went off at 5am, I wanted to stay in bed. I did stay in bed, for about 15 minutes, debating whether I should go to the pool or not.

"I could just go to the gym later and do the elliptical," I thought. "But that is not a swim. You said you wanted to swim today," I debated with that other half of myself. "It's so early, though! And gloomy out. It's nice and warm right here," I wheedled. "Shut up. Get your ass out of this bed, go eat some frickin' toast, and quit your whining." Man. The side of me that wanted to get up and swim was BOSSY.

But I did, in fact, get up this morning and put my suit on. I ate my toast and almond butter. I got back into bed at one point, thinking maybe I should just scrap this crazy plan. I got back out of bed, promising myself that my reward for swimming so god-awful early would be to go back to bed. I made it out the door. Into my car. Down the highway. I made it through the parking lot, the locker room.

As I slipped into the freezing pool (GOOD MORNING!!), I just started swimming. A few laps to warm-up. A few laps with a kick board. My body started remembering how to swim, after a few weeks off. I did 300 yards or so without stopping, until my body started keeping rhythm with itself and it started feeling a good bit like natural. After all the hemming and hawing when my alarm went off, it was kind of like the swimming was the easy part. I took a breather, and watched the other swimmers. Strong swimmers, weaker swimmers. But all people who got up extra early on a Tuesday, just to get in the pool and get some exercise before the day got crazy. I was not the only one, and we would all get out of this pool in our own time, satisfied with the work we'd done.

After my workout, I didn't go back to bed as I'd promised myself. Instead, I went grocery shopping. Let me tell you, 7am on a weekday is probably the most peaceful time to go to Meijer. Nobody but shelf stockers, a few cleaning guys, some cashiers... and a couple of people grabbing an apple or a frozen entree before work. I found myself focused, energized, and ready to face the challenges of the day.

And maybe that's because few things are more challenging for me than just letting my feet hit the carpet at 5am. Just taking the step of getting out of bed and saying, "Today, I'm going to put myself to the test."

Today, put yourself to the test. You are capable of great things!

until later...

“If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do all the rest have to drown too?” – Steven Wright

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A sticky struggle...

The battle for a sugarless lifestyle is not an easy one.

I don't mind the birthday cakes or the Christmas cookies. I don't mind not eating cotton candy at the amusement park.

What I mind is trying to find healthier ways to cook and bake things, and hitting dead end after dead end.

I've spent the last near four years trying to rid my life of extra sweeteners, and not because I think I'm better than anyone or even because I'm on some crazy health kick. I did it because, frankly, sugar terrifies me. Petrifies. For the first time in probably my whole life, I feel in control of my weight and my body, and it began when I gave the sugar up. So, of course sugar holds some very negative connotations for me. I'm fearful of it as a disease that used to control me, a road block that derailed my sense of self more times than I care to count.

How many of us think this way? "I ate that cookie, so I already failed. I may as well eat more."

This week, I found myself wondering if I am going to spend my whole life fearful of even the most natural of sweeteners. Further, I questioned why, in my brain, it's okay to eat some of the artificial sweeteners I know I'm guilty of eating. They are probably more dangerous than organic cane sugar or even the refined stuff; they are full of chemicals that we don't even know the long-term effect of. How could someone such as myself, who enjoys healthy veggies grown without pesticides, healthy meat sold without antibiotics, be SO hypocritical?

We come back to fear. It boils down simply to a fear that I'll gain back the weight I've worked very hard to get off. The weight I've kept off. Do I not believe in myself? Do I not trust myself enough to be in control? Have I actually learned nothing in four years of diet and exercise?

I know the answer to that. I have nothing to fear. I've learned how to control my portions. I've learned how much better I feel when I run than when I eat a carton of ice cream. I've learned which foods to pick at the supermarket, which foods to pass. I've learned all this because I wanted to, I wanted to take care of myself. That want hasn't gone away, it's gotten stronger.

With this realization, I'm making the choice to dump the artificial sweeteners in favor of more natural sweeteners that I have been terrified of. I have to face that fear, I have to stand up for myself and the body I have worked so hard to attain. A tablespoon of honey in my granola bar recipe is not going to negate the five miles I ran. Calories in, calories out. That is what matters most.

Does this mean that you are going to find cartons of Chips Ahoy in my cupboard? Definitely not. I still plan on sticking to my organic, unprocessed ways. I feel better knowing I put good things in my body every day. And truthfully, I think once I get over the initial scariness of natural sweeteners, I'll feel better with the satisfaction of going without the chemicals I was making excuses for.

until later....

"A day without a friend is like a pot without a single drop of
honey left inside." ~ Winnie the Pooh

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Another summer turns to fall....

A friend has reminded me that it has been an extra-long time since I updated (thanks, Sherri!), so let's go ahead and chalk that one up to a very busy summer! I've been out there, trying new things.... quite literally. I made it through my first triathalons this summer!

When last I wrote, I had just begun my training. I did a "practice" tri in July (Allegan) to prepare me for the big one in August. What took me by surprise the most during that triathalon was probably the biking; I figured biking would be a no-brainer, but that is just not the case. It turns out, you cannot just put a helmet on and take off. For one, biking is HARD work. And unlike most sports, you can buy speed in biking. I did not buy speed when I bought my Schwinn hybrid back in May. I bought a nice bike to ride around town and on trails with. This became increasingly apparent during the Allegan Tri. I should note here that in a tri, your age is marked in thick, black permanent marker on your calf. This is a blessing and a curse. Blessing, because you can see people in your age bracket and theoretically pass them. Curse, because when a 70-year-old passes you during the bike portion.... well..... enough said. The major lesson I learned was that I definitely needed to buy or borrow something faster for the Aquaman Tri in August!

As for Aquaman, I did, in fact, borrow a bike (saw a big improvement in that division).  That was a HILLY course!!  It was definitely hard, but I felt a lot more comfortable with what was going on than I did in Allegan.  I was very glad that my friends pushed me to do a "practice" before I got to all of those hills.  

So, let's see if I met all of my bullet points from my post in June....  

1. IMPROVE MY SWIMMING. I most certainly managed to improve my swimming this summer... although in actuality, I really had nowhere to go but up. I may not have become Dana Torres, but I went from being able to swim 25 yards without stopping to swimming 500 yards without stopping. I grew to really enjoy the swim, once I got over my fear of drowning. I have to give a shout-out to Sherri and Casie, too; they helped me more than any of my Friday training swims, mostly with their continual encouragement and optimism. Definitely improved my confidence. My plan for the fall and winter is to keep getting in the pool, keep using swimming as a core strengthener and cross-training tool, and get even better. I recommend it to anyone as a GREAT low-impact workout!  

2. BECOME A STRONGER RUNNER. This is a tricky one. I felt like running kind of went the wayside by the end of the summer... but I guess that's not unusual. This is traditionally the time of year that my body gets tired and I decide to give it a little rest (ie get on the elliptical or bike and do some weight training). The summer was good to me, though. I posted some awesome times through the 5k season, PRing with a 22:26. I suppose I can partially credit some new strong competitors in my age bracket this year... really pushed me to work hard in my races. I feel like I could have done more with my training throughout the week... but you can't really train for everything at once. I definitely learned that it's best to concentrate on one major goal... not "I'm going to do a triathalon AND PR my 5k AND do a trail half-marathon..." Not the smartest.

3. HAVE FUN. Did I have fun this summer? Definitely. I got better at swimming, I hit new highs in running, I made new friends and strengthened some existing friendships, I got some kick-ass medals (including one for Warrior Dash and one as big as my face for the North Country Trail Run)... I spent a lot of time outdoors. Oh, and did I mention I got engaged? =)

And now I face fall, the season I typically stop "training" and start "exercising". I'm excited for fall colors, apples, Halloween. I'm excited to go for a quick 3-mile jog after dinner just because I feel like it. Fall is a gorgeous time to get out with your family and walk or bike. Make sure you utilize the cooler temps and beautiful foliage.... one of the perks to living in the Mitten State. Until next time!