Four and a Half Years. FOUR.AND.A.HALF.YEARS. have gone by since I last wrote in this journal. Like any transformation of a person's insides, it has been excruciatingly.... interesting? Well, not really. It has been mostly dull, actually, but it has been part of the story just the same.
From December of 2015 (after a dicey year in terms of workouts and wellness) until, well, honestly until just a few months ago, I basically did absolutely nothing equalizing "exercise" or even good, honest attempts at routine movement, other than that which I absolutely have to do as part of my daily life. Now, my daily routine is a bit different and not exactly sedentary, but that's a part of this story too.
I moved to a farm in the spring of 2016, fulfilling a childhood dream. There was/is a great deal of work needing done on said farm. It was particularly run-down in every, single way. Fences, roofs, water lines, land, house, buildings...all around me things were falling apart. These things are outside of the regular "farm stuff" needing done on a daily or seasonal schedule. Stuff like mucking stalls daily, getting water to animals, making hay, stacking hay, moving hay...always the hay, the hay, the hay lol... So, lots of work has gone into the place and that work will continue for quite some time so again, I've not spent four years on the couch. But....
I had no real place inside myself for a wellness routine of any kind. My "break-up" with part of me took a toll on my psyche, my identity, my ability to rationalize why I would even bother any movement "because it is good for you" or in order to be healthy or fit. It oozed into other areas of my self and life. It was very odd. Without that part of myself, other parts became blurred and uneasy. It seemed I was good at nothing, as if the confidence I had built around this persona as a "fit person" was all there was and without it, I had no footing in the world. As with many a break-up, there was the drifting back to what you know, whether it is good for you or not, because at least it is familiar... So there were brief periods when I would make half hearted attempts at something... Times when I thought, well, I'll just try "sort of" running "sometimes" (air quotes), or I'll go back to just lifting because I used to like it OK enough, maybe just three days a week, or... Nothing ever stuck. Nothing lit a fire in me or under me or even sparked a little candle that I could nurture.
It was pretty odd for me, actually, having always identified as a certain person, having always felt that I could fall back on wellness for support, having created this other being that was both protagonist and antagonist inside myself that pushed me forward, berated me, prompted me to excel, then told me I was failing. My life was my own and yet I had left behind the one thing that I insisted on being a top priority for me on a daily basis for almost 30 years. You would think I would put MORE time and effort into wellness, not less, or any???? None of it made sense to me. In the end though, only how I felt mattered and how I felt was decidedly, over it.
I realized out of the blue one day while thinking about "how fit I used to be" that working out had been my "escape" for so long. My escape from boredom, from dissatisfaction, from other people and situations, from thinking too deeply about how my life was at any particular time... But once I had nothing to escape from, I had little patience for something I didn't really enjoy any longer. Light bulb moment, that.
During a particularly physically unpleasant time when my inactivity finally caught up with me, I was having a discussion with some work folks about running and everyone was talking about their mileage and time - not bragging just...well, they love running is all. Like, actually enjoy it lol. Someone was talking about their eight-minute mile and I said that I had never done an eight-minute mile and never would, the best I had ever been able to maintain was a strong 10. We all laughed and agreed that was a good, solid number. For whatever reason, since I didn't run (or do anything else) anymore, my statement kept bothering me. And being a truth-seeker (one of my downfalls - lol) I jumped on the treadmill later that week to prove it wasn't a false statement. 16 minutes and 37 seconds. Um, wow. You are officially, OUT.OF.SHAPE.
Not only that, (because being "out of shape" is not really the point), I was officially not even trying to be "well". NOT.EVEN.TRYING. A person can certainly leave behind things that are not working for her. She can redefine who she is on the inside, get down into why she is no longer interested in a particular level of fitness or any other thing. But, I have always believed that I should take care of myself. Eat healthy, be active, be strong, plan for being independent well into older age. Beyond fitness for vanity or even escape, I had come to the point of actually (in my opinion) shortening my possible functional lifespan.
There was also how I felt after that run. I actually felt good. Sweaty and tired and breathing hard. I felt GOOD. I love to sweat. The pursuit of that feeling was always how I managed to finished every run, every aerobics class, every HIIT session, every "fat-burning workout" for 30 damn years. A candle sparked. I just worked for 16 minutes and my body feels good. What if I could....
And so it began. Differently. I decided that I would make a ten-minute mile my goal. It took me six weeks. I only ran two to three times a week. I started following the run with yoga, remembering how in-tune with everything I used to feel with a short run and then dark yoga on Sunday mornings. I started doing more yoga because for some reason it made my back feel good (duh) and my legs feel sore in the way I love for my legs to feel sore. One day I was getting dressed and saw my arm in the mirror and realized that yoga has given me more arm definition than lifting weights ever did. I thought "huh, that's interesting" and got dressed. Another day I realized I was not at all hungry after work and passed on dinner. I signed up for a 30 day yoga challenge and am actually completed it. Last weekend I noticed that I could breathe deeper when my instructor said to take a deep breath. This morning on the mat my mind emptied, just for a moment, but it was a moment just the same. I'm still running and it still feels good. I'm still struggling to master crow pose and it is fine. I'm eating less not because I'm trying but because I'm listening.
I find it odd that it has taken me so long to surrender to things that are actually good for me because I turned my back on a way of doing the same damn things. Couldn't I have just decided to impart some moderation into my life and put two and two together way back several years ago? Or was my mind protecting me?
In transition, we all need time. In that matter of time, everyone's clock is different. Whether we want to go faster really isn't the point. Our bodies, our intuition, our very souls...they tend to focus on the time-frame we need. So, maybe listening really IS the point. Maybe things happen when and how they are supposed to sometimes. Maybe priorities shift and/or transform and that is what growing is about.
I have been meaning to deal with this sub-blog for quite some time. I just haven't had the gumption as it relates to a lot of the struggles that I've had in the past few years. Struggles with wellness, being and identity. Struggles with letting go of something that you have been for so long. Something worn and no longer useful for any positive purpose in your inner being. Something familiar and one of the only things you ever considered yourself somewhat good at...
IDENTITY. We all have it. From the time I was 13 years old I have identified myself as being a person who “works out”. A weight banger, runner, fitness minded individual. I remember the very day that I birthed this identity. We had gone to a nearby town that we normally traveled to every couple of weeks to buy groceries. We had no real grocery store in the small town where I grew up but there was a larger town about 30 minutes away, just over the Maryland state border that had a Foodland, a movie theatre and even a Pizza Hut! They had bookstores, a library, a Hecks store (pre-curser to Kmart, Walmart and the like). I would always go with my mom because it was a treat to get the hell out of my tiny little existence and be where there was stuff going on.
I found a book one trip called “Thin Thighs in 30 Days” and I bought it with my allowance. I had been asking my mom about dieting because my body was changing and I didn’t like the result. I had these boobs that kept getting bigger, my prior mostly boy-like figure was starting to curve out and I was determined to stop these changes. She had given me the lowdown on calorie counting and I took all this information, ripped out all the diet and exercise articles in the magazines she got on a monthly basis and read that book from cover to cover when we got home.
That book spurred me to more books. The beginning of my relationship with weights was sparked by a book called Flex Appeal written by then Ms. Olympia Rachel McLish. I did all the exercises in it as directed. The diet I made up myself. Knowing about calories and weight and having a bit of success, I became really good at not eating, but I always “kept my head” about me. Despite dipping to about 105 pounds at one point in my young life I feel like I only flirted with anorexia. Maybe my psychological makeup as a banner underachiever saved me?
All in all, from around 1980 to 2013, the only span of time I had been without “training” as a part of my life was the first semester of my freshman year in college. I wouldn’t even call it a semester – maybe ½ of it, so not a long stretch. I did gain a good deal of weight during that time. Combination of beer and being introduced to fast food no doubt LOL. So, I quickly got back to my regime of work, restriction and minimal reward. My workout methods have varied over the decades but there was always structure, I always had goals and they were always based on more or less – more muscle, less fat, less boobs, more butt, less cellulite, more bicep definition, less scale weight…on and on…
Why does any of this matter and why have I chosen to address this blog and/or put off doing so even as I desire to address it? I don’t know. I guess it doesn’t really in the whole scheme of the world. It matters to me and I’m purging. Not of food but of identity. My identity. The identity that has driven me for over 30 years. Repeat. Over.30.Years.
My last post in this journal was in February. Since then not much has changed. I average about 3 to 4 grudging “workout” sessions per week. Rarely enjoying them, mostly trying to figure out how I can make the most of 20 minutes, since my attention span now really caps out there. Then being disgusted with myself because you can’t really even call that training now can you? It is more of a filler type thing on a day when you are legitimately too busy to actually train…loser. And so it goes. All this doesn’t exactly make me feel better about myself or my identity so while some movement is better than none, I’m not sure the overall benefits (including mental) are worth it.
Even typing about it makes me feel bad inside. So, why?
Because I have to let go. Walk away. Say goodbye to this person that I have been for over 30 years and allow the person I will be for the next 30 to emerge. I have to thank her (because there were some good things that she taught me). She did give me order and the ability to commit to something that overall (whether I went too far with it at times or not) was good for me. She made my body stronger than it would have been had I been completely sedentary, training for all those years has been good for my heart and lungs, she did make me aware of better food choices than drive-thru options and those choices have stuck. I met good friends because of her.
I thank that identity for all these things and now I am letting her go. I’m letting go of expectations, guilt, of trying to be something I am not, judging myself against photoshop and deeming myself less of a person because I’m not without cellulite or that my boobs are just as big as they always were or that my stomach isn’t flat. I’m letting go of the daily checklist that always results in – uggghhhhh you are gross. Letting go of the planning as to when/how in the world I’m going to fit a workout into an already full day when it isn’t a priority stemming from love but a priority stemming from self loathing or the continual race against it. The hiding from it.
Just as I can remember the birthing of her I can remember clearly the moment that we stepped into the wilds of my soul together and I tentatively said….I think we need to talk. It was last weekend on my normal Sunday morning run on the trail, which I do not because I enjoy running but mostly because I enjoy sweating before I do yoga (again, my priorities get mixed up with her). It was beautiful and wet and there were earth smells and fog and I was running and clocking my time (20 minutes remember? MUST do AT LEAST 20 minutes) and my left knee started to hurt a little (which it does sometimes after 30+ years of running, high impact workouts, squats, etc.) and I was pissed. Pissed at my knee, pissed that I was getting old, pissed that I hadn’t yet hit 20 minutes, just pissed in general and I really just wanted to walk but that would mean that the entire run was pointless because it was cool out and I wasn’t even sweating yet and…
Very clearly something said. Stop. Stop running and walk. Listen. I never do this. I never ever ever don’t finish a workout. But, I did on that day. For whatever reason I did and while I walked I thought a lot about how I was in the middle of everything that I love (the woods, nature, fog, the sounds of squirrels, birds and deer, dogs barked in the distance, a rooster was crowing) and I heard and saw none of it until I just stopped running. When I was young I used to walk in the woods for hours on end, actually trying really hard to get lost and meet the Fae. Only my dog always knew the way home LOL… When did my dreamy meanderings become secondary to “getting an appropriate workout in” anyway?
I’m tired. Worn out with her expectations and constant badgering. Her nudges and slights and the way she looks at me. I feel like when I stopped and walked I was walking away. I feared looking back because like in some movie she might attach herself to me again and tell me I’d better run because my heartrate was slowing down and before long the whole morning would be pointless… These are the kinds of things she says to me and I don’t want to hear them anymore. I want to run because I feel like running. I want to lift because I feel like feeling strong. I want to have my mind free from her. I want to be honest with myself and I cannot do it with her living inside me.
I came home. I shut the door. I locked it. Please leave me alone. I know she will knock. But, I am too weary with her to answer.
Until this past September when I just STOPPED. Yup, I did what I said I would never do and I just quit working out. Period. I didn't mean for it to happen. It went like this: I was getting ready to go to Alaska in early September. It is not impossible to work out while traveling but this trip was about Alaska for godsake! So, I had myself a break. When I returned life went all sideways. I bought a house. I moved everything that I owned out of somewhere I had lived for over 13 years, left the life that I have known and built and... It was overwhelming. I told myself I needed some time. The weeks crept on. I was busy with work and unpacking and trying to piece my existence back together. The weeks turned into months. I made some half hearted attempts to "re-start" my workout engine. They'd last a few days. One even lasted almost a whole week!
The "holidays" approached. I really didn't care. The "holidays" came and went. I made two more half-hearted attempts to reconcile with my "active lifestyle" and twice more, it didn't stick. Winter REALLY set in. I scowled and trudged on but still, not one bit of interest in working out.
So here I am in mid-February. It has been 5 1/2 months since I have had any type of physical regimen in my daily life. This kind of hiatus has not occurred since I was a freshman in college. That lasted one semester so we are on a roll here people...
Not feeling very optimistic about jumping back on the exercise wagon I did the only thing I know how to do.
I jumped back on it anyway.
I mean, really? What the hell? The only thing that could happen is that it won't stick again and if that does happen I'll at least have made an attempt. If it does stick, well, all the better!
I'm really sore. LOL. And being really sore does not dissuade me. I've never minded being sore from exercise and I actually can get quite addicted to it. But, dang, doesn't take long for everything to believe it will never be required to work again does it?
Just plugging along here in where motion is an expression of gratitude. Since spring has FINALLY arrived I have taken a little more to outdoor work, readying the yard by raking, picking up sticks and fallen limbs, prepping flower beds and the herb garden. On the best days this is sweaty work with lots of lifting, pushing and pulling!
I have had a couple of outdoor runs (glorious to feel the sun on my back again!) and have been doing a modified lifting schedule that includes both weighted work and body weight exercises.
Summer is just around the corner! Lots of good, hard work and sweating to look forward to!
A young person said to me the other day - I told so and so that you work out like crazy. I said - I'm not sure I qualify for that description anymore. LOL. It is true that for many years of my life I worked out every day (or at least six days a week) for at least an hour per session, sometimes longer. Some days I would lift weights AND running and evening style. Training was important to me and like so many other people who develop a taste for it MORE became habit and I was always searching for it.
Over the past few years I have very slowly started to cut back on my training, partially due to other interests and also due to my increasing overall dissatisfaction of being involved in the health and fitness community (because it is a bunch of marketing, body shaming hooey LOL). I find myself now doing mostly quick workouts, maybe four days a week and then just doing other things like horse stuff, yoga, working outside...
This winter has been particularly hard for the training mindset because it has been long, cold and filled with tons (literally) of snow. For the past month or so my workout sessions have consisted of 20 minutes or so of lifting three or four times per week, a day of running indoors and simply maintaining some semblance of sanity (and muscle tone).
I am not sure what spring will bring but I welcome the lack of white stuff floating through the air. :)
I have been taking a break from formal, daily exercise while running around horse searching and decided to continue that break through this week. Sometimes the motion that is needed is the motion of real rest and I am enjoying it.
Being no fan of long, drawn out workouts I have always been the type of girl that gets in, gets it done and moves on. In the past year or so I have taken an even more serious approach to this habit as I found my love for training dwindle even further away than I ever expected.
"Love" is not the word for how I feel about scheduled training in case anyone forgets. I liken exercise to brushing your teeth. You don't brush your teeth because you love brushing your teeth. You brush them because they feel good afterwards and because you don't want them to rot. That is exactly how I feel about formal exercise.
So it should come as no surprise that I have found ways to make the most out of the stuff I wish to spend the least amount of time on.
My latest victory? Legs in 20 minutes. Seven different exercises, 17 sets total. Ladies, your legs WILL feel this in the morning.
First circuit: Romanian Deadlifts (10), Jump Squats (squat down, explode up, repeat 8-10 times), Leg Curls (8 to 10). Do three sets of this circuit with only minimal rest in between those sets. When picking your weight, your last repetition should be a tough one to do.
Second circuit: Single Leg Deadlifts (10 each), Weighted Duck Walk (squat down and walk like a duck while holding a dumbbell between your legs - it looks funny yes but it works! Do 15 steps forward and 15 steps back), Sissy Squats (10) and Leg Press (10-12). Do two sets of this circuit, again with minimal rest in between and you should be at least mildly grunting to yourself on the last rep.
This took me exactly 20 minutes (not including any warm-up or stretching afterwards). Even with that you'll be on your way in 30!
January has been cold! Except for one freakishly warm day the first week of the month, temps have been typical and even lower around here. We, like many recently, got the big dose of polar freeze and there is another bout to be served up this week I understand. So, I have been craving movement that creates warmth! LOL.
I've also been needing to sweat in order to feel like my body is shedding unnecessary gunk and stress so there has been mostly stuff like hot yoga, indoor running (cause too cold outdoors) and weighted circuits in my movement for the past few weeks.
It is sitting well with me. I'm happy with what I'm doing right now and winter has yet to drag down my mood, something that inevitably seems to happen before January's end.
Just an update to this journal of healthy movement - I went to yoga twice this past week. First time was a mix class on Saturday morning and then my Intro to Ashtanga Wednesday evening. I was really stiff this week and not very flexible. Was also having a problem with balance. Like worse than in a long time. I ran last Sunday and today. The difference being that last weekend it was warm enough to run outside and today it was 23 degrees when I got up. So, my treadmill was my hero today. LOL. I lifted on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. A nice mix of a week. This week is supposed to be quite cold so I'll be indoors.
A month ago I had a layoff due to injury unrelated to training. That had me off the mat, weight bench, treadmill, etc. for a week. I managed about three days the following week with a slow start back due to still not feeling 100%, then prep for some travel stole my time and actual travel even more. I did manage to get a few runs in while on the road (two of them in a wonderfully warm outdoor setting at my mom's followed with yoga by the pool. (Needless to say it is my humble opinion that these traditionally retired people have it made LOL).
But, I digress...
And we did a ton of walking while in New Orleans. But, there was a noticeable shift in my regimen from actively seeking movement in various forms to really....not. Or, as I described it to a friend, a whole lotta pffffftttttttt.... going on in my training life as of late.
I realize this is probably just a symptom of my larger issue of not feeling up to par in general about life and a lot of the things going on in it right now but part of my plan to get out of that ditch involves an unorthodox method for me.
See, I have confessed before to my extreme dislike of "exercise" even as people scoffed at said confession. I workout so therefore I must "love" exercise, right? Wrong. I'd rather do just about anything than commit to an exercise routine. I find it tedious. I find it boring. Sometimes the very thought of sets and reps makes me want to stab myself in the eye. Same with running or anything else people define as exercise. I have been exercising for 30+ years for various reasons. When I started it was strictly for the sake of vanity. Only as I aged did the benefits of "aerobic activity is good for the heart" and/or "weight bearing exercises make the muscles and bones strong" come into play. I didn't even start doing yoga seriously for the benefit of a peaceful mind and spirit. I started fitting it into my routine because as I age I worry about my flexibility. I worry that I may be prone to injury and debilitating structural issues and I want to (hopefully) keep all of that at bay.
Given the ways I feel about all of this exercise stuff, and also given the fact that despite how I feel I have, for more than 30 freakin' years, still consistently dragged my ass outta bed, forced myself away from my desk, or made my evening wait and have engaged in some manner of exercise five to six days a week. Not only that but even in recent years although I have become more intuitive with training I still follow a routine in my head based on what my head feels my body needs. IE - if I plan to train legs on Monday then I will map out the rest of my week in a manner of, well OK I did legs on Monday so I should do upper body on Tuesday and then blah blah blah....and so on. For being so amazingly consistent, reliable and downright anal retentive about my exercise routine I deserve a fucking gold watch or something. Only I don't want/need a gold watch. So, instead, for the next 30 years I am going to do something a little different. I mean, I think I've earned it.
So my unorthodox plan is simply to do whatever I feel like doing on a daily basis.. I know, right? Way to shake things up there girl. But, really, it is a HUGE step for me. Because on a daily basis I might be in the mood to just take a walk with my dog. I might be in the mood to just go to yoga at lunch. I might be in the mood to lift a weight or two (believe it or not sometimes I actually want to lift). Of course all of this means that I have to trust that even though there will be days where I want to do absolutely NOTHING, it will all balance out. I will still be a person of motion. I will still do things that are good for me and will keep me moving, lifting, bending, stretching. I will still take care of my body so that it will not fail me later. I have to trust that my fear that I will just truly begin to channel my beloved sloth and only get off the couch to eat and go potty is unfounded.
I played around with this idea last year but, really, it was folly at the time. I am a person that pretty much has to hit rock bottom or be just sick and tired of feeling a certain way in order to either make a change or simply let go of what I need to. I am stubborn I guess. I forge ahead and sometimes, at some point, I realize that I'm no longer making forward progress I am simply trudging along, teeth gritted and face in the wind. This can take weeks, months, years. LOL.
So, my training log will look a little different maybe. Perhaps I will change the name. Movement Log? Motion Journal?
Because the ability to express ourselves and care for ourselves through motion is something we should be grateful for...