Thursday, October 14, 2010

...mOvE yOuR bOOgiE bOdY...

I grunted. I screamed. I sweated. I cussed like a sailor the other day in the gym all alone as I did a workout that included lots of heavy-ish dead lifts with pushups and inverted rows in between. I was pushed to the limit of what I could do. When I got done, I collapsed on the floor...lying there in my own sweat...thinking how exhausted I was. My lower back was tired and my legs felt shaky, but I was happy.

I've thought a lot about what I and many other strong women do in the gym on a daily basis. It's so different than it was back when I was in 10th grade gym class and I remember doing Jane Fonda. The "burn" I feel much different! There's no comparison between what we do now and what women in Jazzercise classes in the 80s did! I don't dance in the gym...okay well once I lost my mind (normal) and started dancing and spun around the pole of the pullup bars as if I were Demi Moore in "Striptease". I thought I was all alone until a lady came in off the street to try and sell me something. She was surprised and I was embarrassed. I didn't buy her tamales and she left...quickly...looking back with an expression that said, "What just happened in there?!?". So while I may have been dancing in the gym, it was in no way my "workout" that day! My work in the gym does not include choreographed movements in unison with other girls to songs like "Move Your Boogie Body". My work consists of strength training and high intensity workouts. I'm all about chalk and barbells and pullups and dragging or flipping heavy tires...etc etc etc.

I have always said "There is more than one way to skin a cat." One form of training may be great for one person, while another responds better to something else so this is not a post to bash on Jazzercise. Obviously, I think what I do is amazing, but I am not one to say other people are wrong for choosing something different than me. However, I am so glad to live in a changing world where it is becoming more and more acceptable for women to be strong. I'm grateful for Crossfit videos that show women working hard...right alongside the boys. I'm grateful that I have so many choices available to me. Nobody loves to "move their boogie body" more than me. I just prefer to do it on the dance floor and not in the gym.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

...tOniGhT tHe fAt GirL LoSt...

"Every fat girl has her own fat story. There are different ways fat folks get fat and lose fat and stay fat.

The world is full of thin women who behind flat stomachs shelter fat girls. You can tell who those women are who give refuge to a fat girl. When they see the buffet table they square their shoulders. They ready for combat with Virginia baked ham, sweet potato souffle and those puffy dinner rolls with butter and a three-layer chocolate mousse cake.

Food is the enemy. Food is also the mother, the father, the warm hearted lover, the house built of red brick that not even the wolf can blow down."
excerpt from "Fat Girl: A True Story" by Judith Moore

The excerpt above is not intended to make fun of anyone or say there is one way to be. I hope that no one takes offense to the term "fat girl", because it is JUST that...a term. This is NOT about what I think of other people. It is not to point the finger or say I'm better. Actually, it's quite the opposite. This is one of those times when I am honest and imperfect...when I chose to share my personal weaknesses in hopes of strengthening someone else.

I am feeling a little selfish. This is all about ME at this very past and present experiences...and the struggles that I personally face on a daily tonight for instance. Tonight, I am feeling some disappointment and some sadness...and all I can think about is how bad I want to get up off my bed, make some cookies and eat them. I have gone in the kitchen THREE times and turned around and come back to my room. I don't want to eat cookies because I am hungry. I want to eat cookies for comfort.
I am a fat in a fit with a flat stomach...and a tight butt...and toned that fits into a size 4 and turns heads. I lost 70lbs six years ago. It took me a whole year...a year of hard work and sacrifice to do it. There was no surgery. There were no pills. Other "girls" sometimes think that I don't understand...they think that I have no concept of the challenges they face when it comes to weight and self image...but I do.

Somedays I am strong and I make good choices. Other days...I feel like the fat girl inside me takes over and I eat things I shouldn't and I feel insecure. The other day I crammed a candy bar in my mouth and then I regretted it for the rest of the day. I work out hard...I always do...and one candy bar on one day won't make me fat...but I still get mad at myself because I feel like I've I've let the old me take charge of the new me.

It's amazing to me that even after all these years, being fit is not always second nature to me. I have to make a conscious effort every day to maintain the progress that I have made over the years. I have to decide which "me" I will be. Will I be the strong, healthy me? Or will I let the fat girl in me...the old me win?
Throughout the night, I have felt like a junkie "jonesin" for a hit...just one...just enough to make anything that's bothering me go away...just enough to make me feel better. But here's the problem...just like the junkie's high eventually goes away, the comfort from the food goes away and I am left with guilt and shame and the same feelings that led me to that place. I made the decision to change my life almost 7 years ago. The tough part for those of us that struggle with weight issues is that it is not just ONE's a SERIES of decisions every day.

Tonight I made the decision that I was not going to mask my pain with the comfort of a cookie. It hasn't been's been a wrestling match between the fit girl in me and the fat girl in me. I did have to "square my shoulders" and "ready myself for combat" with a plate of cookies. I went to battle and I won. There are no freshly baked cookies here. I'm incredibly proud to say that tonight, the fat girl lost! And because I made the right choice...I am going to bed feeling a renewed sense of STRENGTH and hope.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

...bEaUtiFuL aGoNy...

Several years ago, my then trainer and still great friend Wes, introduced me to a author named Mark Twight. I should say that he didn't introduce me to him in person...I could only dream...but he introduced me to him through his website, GYM JONES...and through one of his books. Wes had read his book called "Kiss or Kill : Confessions of a Serial Climber" and then lent it to me. I devoured the book in just a few days, which is crazy for me because I can be quite A.D.D. at times.It was gritty and in your was extreme and unapologetic. Some people would probably find his ideas and the way he expresses them, offensive, but his words and experiences are motivating to me. I have since gathered many quotes from Mark Twight's book and from his website that motivate me on a daily basis. Some hang on one section of my mirror in the bathroom and some are in my computer. I look at them often for inspiration. Everything I have ever read of MT's makes me want to push faster...and continue when it hurts and I want to stop. One of my favorite short quotes of his is: "Punish your body to perfect your soul."

I was thinking about this quote today while I worked out...alone in the gym I train at. My back hurt. I was winded, and I was feeling a little...okay, make that VERY...defeated. I've had a lot going on lately and I have let the length and intensity of my workouts slide a bit over the past couple of weeks and I was feeling the effects today. I wanted to just stop but I refused to. I left the gym shaking, nauseous, and utterly exhausted. I know I looked a mess when I stumbled into the burger place on my way home with white chalk from pullups on my hands and black shorts and a tank top soaked with sweat. I thought to myself, "I'm definitely punishing my body, but my soul does not feel perfected today!". It got me thinking about why I do the agonizing work that I in and day out in the gym.I was never one for working out. I am not naturally talented when it comes to anything athletic. I always hated P.E. class in school. I usually just walked to lose weight when I was younger. I was not interested in anything too vigorous or challenging or painful. In my late 20s, I started running, but I never lifted weights and it was always a means to an end...once the weight was gone...I would quit exercising. After I had my third child, I was overweight, overwhelmed, and I didn't like myself very much. I fed the pain, frustration, and the loneliness. In my attempt to comfort myself, I abused my body with food. I became very overweight and very depressed. I felt trapped in a body that did not belong to me, but I wouldn't do anything about it. When I hit 200 lbs, something changed in me and I became motivated to do something about my weight. I started slow and worked my way up in difficulty ...and down in weight.

I started lifting weight and doing high intensity workouts. It was no longer a means to an became a new life for me.I have come so far from where I was. I am a different person now. I love to workout, and I do so 5 to 6 days a week. I try never to miss a day...even when I'm sick. I work hard and I am sore all the time. I punish myself and try to push myself to the limit every time I workout. Some people may be disturbed by the word "punish", but to punish is not necessarily a negative thing. When a child does something wrong, the parent should punish the child appropriately. This teaches the child and corrects the bad behavior. The punishment is not always pleasant, but it is productive and necessary to help the child become the best person possible over time. On the other hand, abuse is not productive. It hurts, but it doesn't make a child stronger. It does not teach. It weakens the body and destroys the spirit. Years ago, I abused my body with food and neglect, and it destroyed my body and it bruised my soul. Now, I do punish my body, but my soul truly is stronger for it...and why I do what I do.

I've been made fun of by a family member and told that I have a "problem". Many people just do not understand why I push myself the way I do. I've been called a "freak" and a "masochist". You'd think I'd be offended, but I wear both labels with pride. I am amused by it, because in my life before I got in shape, I would not have understood either. I too would've scoffed at the idea that putting your body through pain, could make you physically strong and heal your heart in the process. Some today...I am miserable while I work out...but as miserable as I felt, there was a strange calmness I felt after wards...a sense of pride and accomplishment. Some days are harder than others. Today the pain I felt while I was working out was pure agony, but when all is said and done...I am grateful for that agony...that beautiful agony that keeps me healthy and strong and proud...the agony that has strengthened me...taught me...refined me... and healed me.


Monday, October 4, 2010

...iT's nOt eAsY...

WARNING: Some parts of this post may be T.M.I. for you boys...but if you can handle might help someone you love...

Does being "strong" mean you can't be scared? I felt scared...really scared. The problem is that I always feel like I have to be Supergirl...that I should be I'm less than if I cry or feel scared...and that makes days like today a challenge...

I have not always been very good about getting my yearly "girly exams". Maybe it's because I haven't taken "the pill" since I had my oldest daughter that is now almost it's easy to forget or blow off. I finally went a few weeks ago because I wanted to talk to a doc about another issue (that I will spare you the details're welcome) and it had been nagging at me in the back of my mind that I was waaaaaay overdue. I just assumed everything was okay. It always was before. I expected a call a week later to say "The results of your pap smear came back normal." because that's what they always said before. No such luck this time. This time I heard the words "pre-cancerous cells" and my heart sank. The nurse reassured me that everything would be fine...that this happens all the time...yada yada yada...but all I heard was "pre-cancerous" and that I would have to come in for more tests and procedures.

So, today I went in for a more "in depth" exam. Yay. (insert sarcastic tone here) I'm usually tough. I handle stuff...but I felt kinda scared...and angry. I don't know why or where the anger came from...but I definitely felt it. I'm just glad that I did finally go in after being 4 YEARS overdue for an exam and didn't wait any longer. I left the office feeling much better than when I arrived stressed and shaking. The exam was not fun but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.

You may be wondering why on earth I am talking about my irregular pap smear results on a blog called "Strong is the new skinny". What does that have to do with being strong? It has a lot to do with it in my mind and so I'm writing this is for these reasons...

1. I want to encourage women to keep up with their yearly exams. It's easy to get out of the habit or put it off. Cervical cancer does not JUST HAPPEN. It takes time and can be caught and treated early if women get a pap smear yearly. We eat right and train hard in the gym, but it takes more than that to stay healthy. Cancer doesn't care how big your muscles are or how fast you can do a workout...and it doesn't discriminate either. It can happen to anyone, and no one enjoys going to the doctor for these types of things, but it's worth it. Girls, keep your body healthy and strong in every way. And guys (if you're still here), encourage the women that you love to make and keep their yearly appointments.

NO one here is a super hero. We are all human and it's okay to be scared sometimes. My fear going into the office today doesn't make me weak. It's what I do with that fear that determines that. Ignoring the problem or letting it swallow me up would be the weak thing to do...and I don't want to be as much as I HATE going to the doctor...I'm seeing this thing through to the end and I will NOT be throwing any pity parties in the meantime. I'm going to stand tall and be a "big girl" because anything else would not be in keeping with the way I try to live my life these days...with strength and courage and a positive outlook. When faced with the choice to laugh or cry...I will choose laughter...always...and I hope everyone here makes the same decision.

3. Lastly, I wrote about this because I feel like the things I do in the gym...have helped me outside of the gym once again.
My fitness goes beyond my appearance and yours should too. Sure, it's great to turn heads in a bikini or be able to fit into a pair of tight jeans, but there's more to it than just that. Mark Twight says, "Tough workouts that push an individual to the very limit of his or her capacities may become the gateway to higher consciousness. And that awareness often leads to confidence." I have to agree. The mental toughness and confidence that I have developed through the suffering I've felt during my workouts is what makes me strong in these types of circumstances. The ability to keep going when I don't want to...when I'm tired...or when it hurts...makes everyday stuff like today's exam, a piece of cake.

Days like today are not easy, but I know I will be okay. I know that because I KNOW I can handle anything that comes my way...and true strength.


Friday, October 1, 2010

...aLL i eVer rEaLLy nEEdEd tO kNoW i LeaRnEd fRoM wEs...

There's a book called "All I Ever Really Needed To Know I Learned In Kindergarten" by Robert Fulghum. I have often thought that I learned all I ever really needed to know inside the walls of a gym...or outside on a track...or in a park on a trail. I learned them from the man that once pushed me hard in that gym...and held the stopwatch as I ran on that track...and ran beside me on my favorite trail at the park...a man that can still inspire and encourage me from over a thousand miles away. That man's name is Wes.

Wes and I were an unlikely pair. Wes was much younger than me and a talented athlete. He was handsome and good at everything he did. Everyone likes Wes and he has the ability to command respect like no one I've ever met since. I was a mother of three and my life was in a rut. I had lost 75 lbs but I was not yet comfortable in my own skin. I was bored and felt inept at most everything I did. We were forced together for a free training session in the gym I had joined when the women only gym I went to went out of business. I had NO interest and did not think I needed a trainer...and he did not act excited at the prospect of training just another Mom. I gave in to the pressure from the gym mgr at the time that was tired of seeing me come in the gym and spend 2 hours using every single machine in the gym, every single day of the week. I decided that I would just take the free session and "get it over with" so I didn't have to hear it again. Wes did his job and gave me a free session...never expecting me to actually sign up for more.

I think we both surprised each other. Wes is tough. He pushed me...hard...harder than I've ever been pushed that first day...and in the days and months to follow. I responded and did what he told me. I gave him everything I had and never stopped. He was my coach...and in time became my friend. Over the next year, he taught me things that have shaped me...things that have helped me rise to my true potential...not just INSIDE the gym...but in my personal life as well. The "old me" died in the year I spent training with him and a "new me" was born...the "me" that I was always meant to be.

Wes taught me that most of my limitations are self imposed. He taught me to stop saying "I can't" and try. Nothing comes easy for me and so at times I had to try over and over and over again...but eventually I would knock a wall down that had once held me back. With every wall that I knocked down, my limitations became fewer and my accomplishments became greater. I did things wasn't comfortable with...things I had never done before and never expected dragging and flipping tires and swinging a kettlebell. My confidence in and out of the gym multiplied.

Wes taught me to laugh at myself. When I was in my 20s, I was always embarrassed. I lacked the ability to find humor in my short my mistakes. If I tripped and fell...I was devastated. I would cry and close myself off. There were many times that I did things that I once would've found humiliating, but with Wes I felt safe. He helped free me from that awful feeling I once felt and taught me to laugh and move on.

Wes taught me that everyone needs a friend. When I met Wes, I was very lonely. I've never had a lot of girlfriends. Most of my friends growing up were guys...and that got complicated once I got married. I had closed myself off and held everyone at arms length. I kept most people around me as acquaintances and never really opened myself up to anyone. I didn't think that I was worthy of true friendship and let very few people really come inside my life. Not only did Wes become my friend...a person that I could talk to and text and share my life with...but he helped build the confidence and self love in me to realize that I am worthy of friendship. He never gave up on me...ever...whether I was humble or had an ego...whether I was focused or difficult...he believed in and out of the gym. That in turn has helped me learn that no one should ever be counted out...that everyone deserves another chance.

Wes taught me that I can do whatever I set my mind to. I never played a sport in my life before I met him. P.E. class was torture for me my entire life growing up. I am awkward and clumsy and nothing athletic comes naturally to me. He once sd to me when I was "warming up"..."Holy Shit! I've never seen anyone do jumping jacks WRONG before!"...and in case you are wondering...yes, you can in fact do them wrong. None of that mattered. Wes didn't cut me a break or give me any excuses. He taught me and then it was my job to keep on working until I got it down. This has helped me succeed in many areas of my life since then. I don't give up or count myself out just because I'm not good at something because I know that eventually, I will be successful.Wes taught me that failing does not make me a failure. I am such a perfectionist that I don't like to do things that I am not good at and so I avoided many things up until I met him...and if I did try and fail...I would hate myself and never try again. That was not an option in the gym with Wes...and neither was feeling sorry for myself. Some days, we would abort the mission and move on...but I never got out of trying again. He worked with me on dead hang pullups the entire time I trained with him and I never got one...but he never stopped trying and shortly after he moved away...I got it and he was the first person I wanted to tell. He was thrilled because my successes were his successes too.

Wes taught me respect...for myself and others. He taught me to trust. He taught me that sometimes it's okay to give up control and allow someone else to help. When he would train me and I would literally think at times that I might die...I knew I could keep going...because I knew I could trust him. When I thought I couldn't and he said "YOU CAN!"...I believed him and he never lied to me. The mental toughness that I found has gotten me through things that I never thought possible...things that even he does not know about.

I was a scared, lonely, weak person when I met Wes and I blossomed into the confident, friendly, strong woman that was trapped inside me all along. The lessons I learned from him in the gym, have forever changed my life. I have often thought about how different my life is because of my time with Wes. At times, I feel bad because I feel like he gave me so much more than I ever gave him and I know that there is no way to ever really repay him. So, I try to continue to grow and do the things he taught me as a way of paying respect to him and I do my best everyday to "pay it forward" and try to help others the way he helped me.