The End

It’s over! – Strongbad

Last week marked the end of the AirdrieLIFEstyle Challenge.  In January, 4 groups set off on a path to better health and fitness.  I had intended to blog my thoughts far more often than I did, but for various reasons, declined.  I did, however, have to mark the ending with one final entry.    I struggled with whether I should, because not everything I have to say is positive, but I am a believer that the truth is the truth, and even great things can have some negative aspects, and that they shouldn’t be hidden under a rug.

It is not my intention to insult, or point fingers, or lay blame.  I am speaking from my experiences, and mine only.

What I didn’t tell a lot of people when we first started this journey is that I almost quit before I began.  As most of you know, my schedule is a bit north of insane.  That being said, when I commit to things, I commit.  And I committed to this challenge.  Trying to figure out group exercises within my schedule was difficult.  But we did it.  I rearranged some of my calendar.  But before that, I was asked how I could ever do this.  I was told my partner was invested and that I better not let her down.  It seemed to me that my schedule was indicative of lack of true commitment, which couldn’t have been further from the truth.  Yes, my schedule was a little hectic, but I was trying to make it work.  I rearranged, I sacrificed, and I invested, and for the first couple of weeks, I was worried that my partner was disappointed she was paired with me.  Of course, if I had just talked to her, and told her all that had been said before we even started, everything would have been cleared up.

It was a little difficult.  Due to scheduling, I wasn’t at Monday workouts, so I felt like I was the odd man out (something that never really left me – to the fault of no one).

About halfway through the challenge, a group bowed out.   It was an individual choice for both of them, and while I was sad I wouldn’t see them at the gym, I understood.  Sometimes when we try to change our life for the better roadblocks pop up and there are times we aren’t equipped to hurdle them.  Just because they’re not at the gym, however, doesn’t mean they’re not working on a better lifestyle.  They’re just doing it in a different manner.  Different means to the same end.

That meant there was 3 groups left, and 1 of them was a group in name only – they weren’t part of the official challenge.  It was direct “competition”, and I don’t do well with that (mostly because historically speaking, I don’t win).  But we were still working away, and losing weight/inches.

I will say, that while I like being a girl most of the time, if we could switch genders any time we wanted, I’d want to be a dude during weight loss.  Sam was incredible!  A legitimate work-out beast, and he saw and is seeing great results!  I swear some of the times, he was just thinking of losing weight and poof! off if would go.  He’s doing the Spartan this summer, so all who are doing that, keep an eye on this guy!

About ¾ of the way through, I got injured.  There was a pinched nerve in my shoulder, and it took a couple of weeks and massage appointments to get it back to fighting form.  I’m still having trouble with it, but I’ve learned I’ve been doing some exercises wrong, which may have exacerbate it in the first place, so I’m confident it’ll be 100% soon.

There was drama.  A LOT of drama.  There were hurtful things said.  The fellowship was broken.

The last week with our original trainer was my performance week not only for my kids’ classes, but for my own show, so I wasn’t able to get to the gym.  When we first started, we took measurements.  When we don’t see results on the scale, more often than not, we see results on the measuring tape.  I missed out on that final measuring, so I don’t really have a full indication of how well I did in that 3 months, and I’m little bummed about that.  Yes, I know the blue team didn’t win the competition, but I didn’t really care about that.  I paid for a year’s membership about 3 weeks before the challenge was over.  Yes, it would have been nice to not pay for three extra months, but before I was even chosen to be a participant in this challenge, I had been planning to get a gym membership.  That’s just a roundabout way of saying I want to know how many inches I lost, but that number is forever lost to me.

But it’s not all bad news.  My partner and I are still working out together, with a new trainer.  Something I thought that was disappointing about this challenge is that there’s no transition period.  It’s work out classes 3 times a week, then when it’s over, we’re pushed out of the nest.  Even though the blue team didn’t win the big prize, we’ve committed to our journey in the long term, so our push out the nest isn’t so bad.  In fact, I’m enjoying it more.  Yes, there’s accountability, yes there’s challenging exercises, but there isn’t the “this is over in 3 months so then what do I do?” thought hanging over my head.

I’m still not sure I’m glad I joined the challenge.  I’m glad at the direction my health and fitness journey has taken.  I’m glad I’ve met some great people – people who will continue to encourage me, but sometimes the interim was not was I expecting.  And that interim was so disheartening at times that it made me question everything.

But here I am.  Before and after.  I have had people come up to me and tell me how wonderful I look, and that’s all the encouragement I need to continue doing this.  I am far more confident.  I’m going for things I never would have before.  My dreams have become bigger, but also tangible. PhotoGrid_1397353469088

And our group.  Some of us might not see each other again.  We might see each other in passing, and give a friendly nod, or a smile.  We might have coffee dates for years to come.  But whatever happens in the future, we will always have those 3 months of struggle, of minor defeat, and major success.  We saw ourselves stretch our level of ability to unimaginable lengths.  And we didn’t die, so there’s a plus.  I know this journey isn’t over for any of us, so good luck, keep pushing, and don’t quit.

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Running

I had run for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. – Forrest Gump

Last year I got involved in running.  It started with a group of us signing up for Colour Me Rad.  The concept of having colour bombs thrown at me while running elevated it higher than a normal run.  We signed up in February, and I said if I was going to be able to actually run for this, I would need to start training immediately.  Despite the cold weather, we started group running almost right away.  Last winter wasn’t as dreadful as this winter was, and the sidewalks and paths in Airdrie were maintained much better.   I wasn’t following any particular plan, but started slow.  Walk a minute and a half, and run a minute.  We figured out our loop and went for it.  Sometimes we went for the small one (just over 1K), and other times we went for the larger one (over 3K).  I enjoyed it.  I had always had running dreams, so I figured my body wanted to run.

All of a sudden I was signing up for runs all over the place: one a month.  I had done the Tour de Airdrie (that’s the proper name…I still maintain it should be Tour D’Airdrie), The Mayor’s Run, Relay for Life (which was more of a walk than a run), NStep run – to provide school supplies for kids, Colour me Rad, which had been postponed due to the flooding, Allies for Autism run, and finally the Superhero Run, which due to poor path marking resulted in my turning back too soon and running the fastest “5K” I had done.  I had signed up for the night run, but due to a very painful muscle strain, and a winter storm, was unable to run that one.  The muscle strain stopped me from running the Resolution Run as well.  I thought my days of running were over.  The massage therapist I saw said my knee transit was out of whack (layman’s terms) and it was very possible I would have pain in all my runs.

Last year, I had a ridiculous amount of injuries as well.  I hate talking about it, because it seems like I’m copping out.  When I first started running, I was using my very old New Balance walking shoes.  They were very comfortable, but probably not the best for the activity I was now using them for.  I started to get hip pain.  It soon became so bad, it would wake me up in my sleep, and I could barely walk.  During that time, I switched over to Merrill barefoot runners.  (Not the ones with the individual toes).  I also saw a physical therapist.  My IT band was extremely tight, so I needed to make sure to stretch a LOT better than I was after a run.  Gradually the shoes helped, and I believed having the barefoot runners was better aligning my stride, etc.  In early June, just as I was one the home stretch after a run, I got a muscle cramp.  It wasn’t one of those charlie horses you get when you sleep.  This was a cramp that rippled up and down my entire calf.  I hobbled the rest of the way home, and I was out for almost 3 weeks.  Around Canada Day, I began feeling a lump in my throat.  It might have been there before then, but I probably had ignored it, as I tend to do sometimes.  Eventually, it became visibly noticeable, and affecting my breathing – it felt like it was pressing on my larynx.  I had had something like this a few years ago, but it had “gone away”.  Now it was resurfacing with a vengeance.  I got the cyst taken care of, but I had lost a lot of momentum.  At the end of summer, my foot began bothering me.  Those barefoot runners may have been good for stride, but I needed a lot more shock absorbency than they offered.   Finally, just when I thought everything was going away, and I could start again, I got a muscle strain that caused so much pain, I could barely get in and out of my car.  That problem again eventually took care of itself, but since I didn’t know what caused it, I’m not sure if it could happen again.  The same is true with my calf cramps.  At just about every workout I do, they begin to form, and only by immediate action and stretching do I manage to keep them at bay.  I figured my running days were over.

But this year I signed up for Colour me Rad again.  It is just so fun.  And last year, I didn’t do much running during the course.  I hadn’t trained for dang hills!  I’ve been seeing so much momentum, and doing so many more things that I never thought I could do so I figured why not try running again.  I have told myself (and my running crew) that I won’t do as many as I had done last year, but it’s hard to stay away.

Saying that, I decided I have to be more consistent.  Last year, I never really got over the 1.5(walk):1(run).  Several times I tried the 1(walk):1.5(run), but I could never sustain it.  This year is going to be different.  Friday, I started using the Couch-to-5K app.  The first week (with 3 workouts/week) is the interval I am familiar with.  My goal, as I do each interval 3 times, is to gradually build up my pace.  For example, when I started Friday, I did about 2.8K.  Sunday, for my second workout, I pushed myself to go at least 3K.  Today, for my third, my goal is to be over 3.

It’s hard to look at the end result of the plan, and see that I would be running for about 30 minutes.  I can’t fathom that now.  So I have to remind myself to just see the glen in the trees that’s just ahead.  No more, definitely no less.  I also have to be careful, because I am starting to have hip pain (darn that IT band!) and cramps are always at the surface, but I know how to help with hip pain, and as my muscles form and change, hopefully the cramps will settle themselves down.

It looks like my first race is May 31, with the Boys and Girls Club (Airdrie) Race for Kids.  Last year, my best time was just over 47 minutes.  My goal is to be faster than that.  I don’t have a specific number; just faster than 47 minutes would be enough for me.  And then I’ll move on from there.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to other runners, but what I like about going to these runs, is that every runner I’ve come across are just so happy to see other runners, regardless of skill level that they shout out encouragement.  It’s a great feeling to know that whether you’re the slowest or the fastest, you all come across that same finish line.

The First 10 Pounds

Do or do not.  There is no “try”. – Yoda

I haven’t had a chance to blog any updates in a while.  It’s still hard trying to juggle things, without having everything come smashing down in a disastrous pile of woe.

But I’m getting used to it.

I’m getting used to prepping my breakfast and lunch for the next day.  (Side note: Airdrie folk, do you notice your bananas getting brown very quickly? How do you staunch the tide of browning bananas?)

I’m getting used to late suppers.  I don’t have a microwave, or the time between work and evening responsibilities to make supper at a normal hour.  Dinners are usually cooked and eaten by 9:30 with bedtime shortly thereafter.  I don’t want to hear any, “that’s not good for you”, because I know it’s not ideal, but it’s the way it goes, and this is my journey, not yours.  We all have our different things we shouldn’t do, but have no other option.  Well, I guess my other option is going to Costa Vida for that yummy chicken burrito, but (and I won’t blame it solely on the burrito), that’s part of the problem that got me in this mess.

I’m getting used to the workouts at the gym.  There are still days where I feel uncomfortable while I’m surrounded by gym-rats who embody visually what I’d like to look at.  For their part, they’ve all been very nice and encouraging.

So I’m getting there.  This last battle of the mind was a decent one, with many shots fired, but I won.  (I had a mini cupcake at the end of the week, but I won).  I refuse to believe that I’m a bad person for eating a mini cupcake, or a homemade cookie.  That’s not a healthy way of looking at food either.  Food is not the enemy.  Lack of understanding, lack of discipline is.

The hard work has paid off.  I’m just two days away from my one-month weigh in, and I’ve already lost 10lbs.

Remember when I said I couldn’t see the forest through the trees?  I think I’ve found my viewpoint.  If I continue to lose ~10lbs a month, which is healthy, and the recommended amount, by the time The Courtship of Sarah Chandler goes up, I’ll have lost ~40lbs.  By the time my birthday swings ‘round, I could potentially have lost ~100lbs.  So that’s my goal.  Yes, I have an endgame goal, but it’s too far away, it’s too intangible right now; it could easily slip through my fingers and I’ll have lost.  But 10lbs a month is good.

I’ve learned some things about people going through this journey.  Things you can say, and shouldn’t say.  Encourage them.  Some people (myself included) often don’t know how to respond to encouragement, but we need it.  Yes, we’re doing this for ourselves, but we’re the last people who can see the physical changes in our body.  Don’t trivialize what they’re feeling.  If they’re momentarily feeling rough that they didn’t make their weekly goal, let them feel it.  It’s okay to deal with disappointment.  What doesn’t help is if you preach at them and remind them why they’re doing this.  We know, believe me.  We need to know that yes, it’s a bummer, but it’s just one week, or one day, etc.  In my experience, if I internalize something, it gives it so much more power, and I end up feeling much worse about myself.  So while my logical brain knows all the good this journey is, if I have a setback, regardless of all the awesome things that’s going on, I need to mourn that setback, get it out of my system, if you will, and move one.  Let that happen.  We can’t seek comfort from a double chocolate bar anymore, but let us keep our words.

Here’s a picture of me when we started, and a picture of me on Saturday.  I feel it’s too early to spot *all* the differences, but I’m starting to see some changes.  Change is hard, even when it’s good change.  I’m not always the best with unfamiliar things, so imagine when the unfamiliar thing is me.  Things get second guessed.  Strange, isn’t it?  This is what I want, but I don’t know what to do with it when I have it.

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Thanks to all of you who have checked in, and have been so supportive.  I couldn’t imaging have all these differing emotions and feelings and not having anyone to bounce it off.

The First Weigh-In

Man cannot remake himself without suffering for he is both the marble and the sculptor – Alexis Carrel

I had my first official weigh-in last Friday.  The weekend before, I had quite the rollercoaster ride when it came to weighing in.  My friend’s scale had informed me I was down 4lbs.  I was fine with that.  4lbs in a week is pretty good!  Then later that day, we went to the gym, and I decided to weigh myself there, since that was the original scale.  It told me I was down 11lbs.  That had to be a mistake, right?  I was told the scale wasn’t broken, so to celebrate.  I played it down; I was still hesitant.  Maybe it’s the cynical part of me.  The next day I was weighed again.  This time, the scale said I had barely lost 2lbs.

HOW WAS I SUPPOSED TO DEAL WITH THAT?

Even if I hadn’t lost 11lbs, I was still proud of my 4lbs, and then to only have lost 2?  With all my hard work, and newly restrictive diet?  I cut out beer for this.  And in case you don’t appreciate what that means, January 18, I participated in an original one act festival.  I had been living and breathing theatre in m waking and non-waking hours for weeks.  We always have an after-party where we celebrate our shared successes.  I drank celebratory water.  AND I STILL ONLY LOST 2 DANG POUNDS!

It felt awful.  Absolutely awful.  I deserved more.  My aching muscles and empty tummy deserved more.  But 2 is all I got.

I tried to put it out of my head.  After all, those scales were digital.  Perhaps this is SkyNet’s first move.  Making fat people feel bad about themselves (more than they do, obvi).  At my Friday weigh-in at Simply for Life, they had an old-timey scale.  No batteries included.  No room for SkyNet.

This was a week after the 2lbs fiasco.  I’ve got to have something more to show for myself, right?  I step on the scale all full of hopes and dreams, and I’ve lost 5lbs.  To clarify, that’s 5 lbs from my original weigh-in when the whole thing started.  Not 5+2.  I was disappointed.  They said I was too hard on myself, and maybe that’s true.  Maybe I was brought up in a culture of no matter what you do, you can always do better, and now as an adult, that’s ingrained in everything I do.  I still didn’t feel like it made sense.  I haven’t had a single chip, or m&m, or chocolate covered almond.  I had been sweating, and reaching, and hurting, and I felt again that I deserved more.

So I’m down 5lbs.  I wonder how I’d feel if I didn’t have that wispy dream of 11lbs slip through my fingers.  If I’d feel more proud of myself.  And I am proud, but there is still that niggling “I wish”. But all I can do is continue.

And this week is hard.

We’re in our third week of the challenge.  For two weeks I’ve been eating clean.  And it’s been hard (see restaurant paragraph).  I miss what I used to have.  I wish there was a way we could “indulge” without calling it a “cheat”.  I’m going to a bon voyage party on Friday at a bar.  I’ll be the one drinking water.  Sometimes these restrictions feel like they’re separating me from society even more than being fat was.  Bring your own lunch to an office party.  Don’t partake in the birthday cake.  We’ve got to be able to interact with social activities such as eating out without negating all the hard work we’re putting in.  Can’t that be a thing?

I sound whiney, I know (but I did warn you about that).  Perhaps next week won’t be so difficult, but this week I’m dreaming of bread, chocolate pies, and chicken burgers.  And guess what celebratory days fall in this 12 week challenge?  Valentine’s Day and Easter.

Thank you to those who are so, so encouraging.  My battle is no longer with weights, and sore muscles, but with food expectation vs. reality.   And my mind won’t shut up about all I’ve left behind.  Training the body is easy compared to training the mind.

The First Lunch

One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.  -Virginia Woolf

Yesterday, Michelle and I had our first appointment with our Simply for Life consultant.  What a rude awakening!  No carbs for supper, or the rest of the day.   When she said that, my mind (and probably my mouth was saying “but, but, but, but!”).  I’ll have to start weighing my meat, and really paying attention to what goes in my mouth.

Those of you who know me, know I’m so scatterbrained I’ve misplaced almost an entire set of plates (and forks), and NOW I’m supposed to measure food!  This is going to be quite the adventure.  Maybe I’ll find my plates in the duration!

Over the holiday break, I had made some pizza cups.  This was going to be a fast and easy meal between day job and teaching PACK.  They’ll be staying in my freezer a bit longer.  It’s got two strikes against it:  the tea biscuit crust, which is really, really good, and the chunks of pepperoni I put in it to use my pepperoni and clean out my freezer.

Sigh.

I also have to start having breakfast.  I go in cycles with that meal.  I can get all gung-ho and get a smoothie going (yogurt, water, banana, and some other sort of fruit), but once I’m out of the ingredients, I’m back to my no food till lunch schedule.  I’m a pre-planner type of person.  As long as I don’t have to wake up any earlier, I’m on board.  I’d probably be on board even if I do have to wake up earlier, because I made this commitment, but I’d really rather not.  I love my sleep.

Last night, I realized none of my plans for lunch worked.  So, I ran to Sobeys after class.  Word to the wise, Sobeys is pretty picked over by that point.  Go early!  I knew I had some quinoa, and since it was my lunch meal, I knew I could have some carb.  I grabbed some red and yellow peppers to compliment it.  I still have almost my entire Christmas turkey in the freezer, so I’m good for meat for a couple of weeks.

My friend had given me a recipe for a simple, quick dressing to go with quinoa, so I added it to the mix.  I’ve run this by Simply for Life, and it’s good to go if anyone wants to make it themselves, go nuts!

I’m going to give the recipe for the full amount, but I halved it to spread it over two days.

1 cup quinoa, cooked.  (I put 1 tsp of chicken stock in the water to give it some flavouring)

1 red bell pepper, diced.

1 yellow bell pepper, diced.

~ 2 Tbsp white onion, diced.

1 cup turkey

Dressing

3 Tbsp lemon juice

1 tbsp olive oil

Pepper and salt (optional).  I use ground pepper and a half a dash of salt.

Wait till the quinoa is cooled before you add the dressing. It’s meant to be a cold dish.

I hope you like it.  The best thing about this, is there’s so many variations available!  I’ve added cucumber before; you could add zucchini…pretty much anything you’d like!

Airdrie LIFEstyle Challenge: The Beginning

Just before the new year, I was one of the members selected to be a part of the Airdrie LIFE-sponsored Airdrie Lifestyle Challenge.  For 90 days, I’ll be working with a great partner (Michelle) to be the healthiest we can.  This includes working out at Anytime Fitness in Airdrie – on our own, and with a trainer; meal planning with Simply for Life; and I think an attitude change.

I am in an industry where talent is often overshadowed by physical appearance.  I’m tired of being looked over because I do not embody this current culture’s vision of beauty.  I also know that to be healthier, I have to do this.  Thus starts my beginning.

…And what a beginning it was!  We all met last Friday at Anytime Fitness, which just happens to be within walking distance from my apartment.  There were introductions: to each other, to the program, and to the machines.

I cannot tell you what a terrible week this is to start a new routine.  At the time of writing, I am 4 days away from Nose Creek Player’s 2nd Annual Airdrie Original One Act Play Festival.  In addition to having my own play involved (in which I am acting and co-directing), I am in another play, and organizing the thing.  I am 2 days away from the first rehearsal of The Vagina Monologues.  I am in my second week of the winter semester of P.A.C.K. (Performing Arts Camps for Kids) at Bert Church Theatre.  To put it mildly, things are busy.  Shifting priorities are hard, but they’re even harder in the midst of already-established priorities.  But it’s been done.   I have a wonderful theatre family.  They understand this journey, and are very encouraging, even allowing me to be late to rehearsal and leave early – something which grates on my nerves more than nails on a chalkboard.  It shows me I am not the only one committed to my journey.  The journey will be hard.  I’m a very reasonable person, and I know it’s going be balls to the walls, but it is easier knowing I’ve got a crowd of people in my corner.

Discounting Friday, Saturday was the first time I’ve ever set foot in a gym with the intention of working out.  I had people with me.  I had my partner Michelle, and her partner Christine, and my BFF Melinda (who had applied with me, but was just too darn skinny to be my real partner).  Together we introduced ourselves to the cardio machines.  And lo and behold, I liked it.  We made plans for Sunday.  Might as well build up the habit when it’s easy so when things get tough, the habit is formed.  Sunday brought snow.  Plans changed, I was on my own.  I’m a fairly independent person.  I live by myself, I vacation by myself, but the thought of going to the gym where people could whisper about my size, my inability, or whatever, was daunting.  I did it anyway.  I plugged in an audiobook, and forgot about everyone there.  Hurdle 1: cleared.

Today is our first meeting with our Simply for Life consultant.  I’m looking forward to it actually.  I have so many food restrictions: IBS, lactose intolerant, allergy to freaking lettuce, and spinach, and kale (and pretty much every lettucey thing out there) that it’s going to take work finding something that won’t make me run to the nearest bathroom (or ditch), but I’m so bored with my current choices, I’m excited to be able to step it up.

Wednesday is my first personal training session.  I’ll be sure to blog about that.  Actually, from what I’ve heard, my fingers may be the only functional thing after the session is done.

I hope you follow along my journey and that you are encouraged.  There will be moments of pride.  Moments of sadness.  Moments of whingeing.  Moments of TMI.  But success comes from all those moments, and it’ll be great to share it with you.

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