Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Resolutions? You know it!

You may have noticed that I didn't update my blog on Monday like I usually do. Or maybe you didn't. Maybe you have other things going on in your life besides reading this blog and whether or not I went to the gym or if my foot hurts or if I am happy or sad is of no consequence to you and you were glad for a break from my constant self-absorbed babble.

Oh come on. We know that's not true!

Actually, I almost did write my blog on Monday and I stopped. I didn't have anything great to say, and I wanted to try something new - something called "not being an obsessive psycho." I decided to take a break. So I folded my arms behind my head, stretched my legs, leaned back in my chair, and took a week off.

And then I realized that I have written in this blog every week for a whole year and to stop on the last one would just be the kind of irony that I could not tolerate. So I started thinking of something to write. I went for the obvious. Duh: resolutions.

Everyone makes resolutions but who really keeps them? I really try to. Last year I resolved to not eat any more fast food, even the "healthy" stuff. That was pretty easy. I also made my annual resolution to stop talking so much but that didn't go as well.

So this year I have a few fitness-related resolutions:

1. Get certified. I've got the books for my Personal Trainer and Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant certifications and my goal is to achieve both of these in 2009. Break out the flash cards, we're gonna study.

2. Speak into the megaphone. I talk a lot, that is not news. But this year, I want to make sure that what I say is actually meaningful and heard by people who want to live healthier lives with me. So I am trying to build an audience for my daily Twitter feed and developing a website to link to good resources and avoid having to repeat myself so often.

3. Compete. That's what started this whole thing, and I still haven't done it. Needless to say, it needs to happen. I would also like to finish with my dignity intact. And by "dignity" I don't mean internet stardom from being known as the girl who landed on her face in a pile of mud while trying to cross the monkey bars in a timed event that is later turned into a Japanese game show.

4. Get stronger. I know someone who likes to say, "it's not how much you can lift, it's how much you look like you can lift." I don't agree. Asthetics are nice, but I want to actually be strong. So while I still have my foundation goal of reaching my MGP in body composition, muscle development, and tone, I want to focus 2009 on developing the skills and strength to put my money where my mouth is. I want to jump on that *&%$ing box 50 times in row. And do one-armed push-ups. Not at the same time.

I think that's enough. How about you? Leave a comment and share your goals and resolutions for 2009.

Thanks to you all for being so supportive of me in sharing this part of my life. It's sometimes been hard to face the reality of my habits and consequences of my choices, but knowing that I have to share it here has made me more aware of them. I feel like I am healthier in a lot of ways for having "put myself out there," and have been overwhelmed by the response from people who have been inspired to start their own journey to a healthier version of themselves. Take care of yourself and make 2009 a healthy year!

Monday, December 22, 2008

It's the Final Countdown

Okay so last week I said I was giving up self-pity in 2009, but since there are technically a couple of weeks left in 2008, I have still been moping around a little bit, albeit more sheepishly and without expecting any sympathy. I update my Facebook status with some passive-aggressive complaint about mushy triceps and everyone just ignores me. I get it. You're tired of my bitching. And I'm tired of having to do it! Trust me, this hurts me more than it hurts you.

So, since I have begrudgingly taken everyone's advice and "taken it easy" at the gym for the past CENTURY, I'll spare you another helping of Heather's Hot and Cheesy Sob Story Casserole. Instead, I'll engage in what is all the rage at the end of the year - a countdown!

This week, the top five things I learned this year, in no particular order.

5. I've learned that I seriously need to chill. I think that goes without saying. But, the multitude of people who have told me in the past few months that I need to relax and not take things so seriously has grown to the point of creating a fan club and staging interventions. I'm pretty sure they have a newsletter. So, yeah. I'm probably not going to do this, as I have been unsuccessful for the past 32 years and don't expect to suddenly find my zen hidden under my pillow. The lesson has been learned, just ignored.

4. I've learned that setbacks are not the end of the world. It seems like the world is against me when I hurt my knee or get sick or have to travel and miss workouts, but so far, every single time there has been a setback, I've recovered from it and lived to tell the story. I'm goal-oriented, and most of my goals have time frames attached. So, it's really hard to deal when I get off schedule and fall behind. But, I just have to suck it up because it will happen again. And rest assured, I'll get all dramatic about it and act like I'm the only person who has ever had a bad day so you should probably practice your eye-rolling skills over the holidays.

3. I've learned that Zumba is better off without me. I went, I Zumbaed, and I lost a little bit of my soul in the process. I think the world is a better place if I reserve my dancing skills for the living room on Saturday night when the Powder Milk Biscuit song is on.

2. I've learned that even I need to rest. If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I have a tendency to beat myself up over minor things like needing to eat, sleep, breathe, and otherwise function like a normal human being. It still annoys me that I don't yet have super-human strength (or a trust fund), but I'm not giving up hope. I've learned the hard way this year that I need to slow down and rest once in a while, and that was the hardest lesson of all. In the future, I am going to request that I be sedated during those times so I am not aware of the atrophy my body and life are undergoing while I am "resting".

1. I am finally doing what I love. For a really long time, I kept this goal a secret. I worked out and liked healthy stuff, but I never really embraced my passion for it and "came out" as a card-carrying health nut until recently. Over the past few years, the positive energy I have created and received have been so rewarding that I've been inspired to find more ways to use my time on earth to motivate people to live healthier lives. Thanks for being part of that.

That being said, I'm going to the gym. You're coming, right?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's My Pity Party and I'll Get All Dramatic and Act Like My Problems Are More Important Than Yours if I Want To

For some people, a doctor-mandated week-long break from the gym would be a welcome luxury. For me, it is the equivalent of being asked to wait patiently while your child is being tortured. Over the past week I have sullenly set my alarm for two hours later than usual and tried to ignore the sobs of my muscles as they shriveled up and cried, "we thought you loved us..." Each morning my energy dropped and I moaned to my husband about how mushy I was getting and how all of my hard work was going down the drain. And from the expression on his face, I think he was trying to find a nice way to both sympathize with me and tell me to get a grip.

Okay, so maybe I was being a little dramatic. I mean, let's get some perspective. It's not like I have this goddess body that will go down in time as the eighth wonder of the world (that would be Beyonce). And, I'm just moaning because I can't go to the gym. There are people in this world who don't have clean water to drink and I am complaining because I haven't worked my core. I do see the difference.

The frustration comes from the gym being my haven, my escape, and my THING. Not being able to go there feels like punishment, even though I know I need the rest. Also, I mourn the feeling of my muscles going into atrophy. I've done so much work and was seeing such great results, and now I feel like I am going to have to start over. My arms used to have a nice horseshoe indent, and now they hang like sausages. I used to be able to feel my thigh muscles and see a nice hamstring definition. Now I just have legs. Two legs good for nothing but walking around looking for sympathy. Which, by the way, is becoming harder to find.

"You'll bounce back. Your first workouts are going to be really hard and you'll be sore and love it," my dear husband said in response to my not-so-subtle heavy sigh, which is women-speak for "ask me what is wrong so I can tell you it's nothing and then later accuse you of not even caring about how I feel." (Luckily, he's smart enough to not fall for that trick and just cuts straight to the chase.)

I hadn't considered this, and immediately perked up. He was right! I did have some grueling workouts to look forward to. And then he threw back one of my personal mantras: "Remember, it's a journey, not a destination." Although, that's a lot easier to say when you haven't already checked into your luxury suite and opened the mini-bar.

He knows I love the process of creating success, and that thanks to this set-back, I now have the oppportunity to do it all over again. I have the chance to start with a clean slate, fresh and renewed.

I thought about his perspective and decided to change my attitude. On Sunday night, I set my alarm for 4:09 am and went to bed with butterflies in my stomach from anticipation of getting back to work. And on Monday morning, I plugged in my headphones and cranked up a song that, to me, symbolizes what today is all about: letting go. I let go of the past two weeks that have held me back, I let go of my crankiness and complaining and pity party, and I finally let go of (some of) my all-or-nothing attitude. I'm sure I'll revisit it someday, but for now I am just thankful to be healthy enough for a morning run and a jaunt through the weight room. I'll get back to work on these sausage arms tomorrow.

Take a listen, but under one circumstance: you have to stop what you're doing, turn up the speakers, and listen to this song really loud. Otherwise it won't work.

We all have something to let go. In my case, it was self-pity. There are three weeks left in 2008. What are you going to leave behind?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Okay, I get it. Mostly.

Okay, so last week when I bitched and moaned about not liking "getting well," and having to slow down and take it easy, little did I know I was priming the pump for a full-on meltdown. And this past weekend, when I collapsed and landed in the ER for the full gauntlet of tests, meds, and a stern lecture from the doctor on call, I started to clue in. And then, when he ordered me to stay in bed for three days and rest, I thought he must be joking. But I knew he wasn't, and I knew he was right.

Then my husband and I had one of those married-people conversations that take place using only eye signals:

Him: you're going to do this.
Me: sure, a little. maybe.
Him: heather..... seriously.
Me: *hmph*

So this week's blog update doesn't have anything to do with my workouts or training because I'm not doing any of that. I'm in bed watching an "Elf" marathon and moisturizing my cuticles. I'm looking up the exact definition of "resting" in the dictionary to see if making construction paper chains for the Christmas tree is too strenuous. I'm sneaking out of bed to get oranges and hastily put decorations on the mantle before I am given the evil eye. I'm feeling like the worst mommy in the world for laying in bed like a lump when he wants to play.

But I am not working out.

I've been barred from the gym for five days, and then I have to take it easy. Take it easy??? Today marks three weeks of ho-hum workouts due to traveling, Thanksgiving, and being sick. I feel like my muscles, which I have worked so hard on and take such pride in, turning to mush with every special bonus feature in my movie marathon. I really pains me to be away from the gym and away from a project that I care so much about, because I can't just hit "pause" and come back to it later. Physical fitness is something that requires daily attention. Not necessarily daily exhausting workouts, but attention. And right now, the only attention I can give it is a longing look across a crowded dance floor. I know that every day away from the gym is a half-step back. It's hard to swallow that lump and pretend that I'm okay with it. Being at the gym is more than just being healthy for me, more than just "staying in shape." It's a calling. Roll your eyes if you want to but that's how I really feel. I'm not just having a pity party, I'm having a moment of reflection!

But I know there is another side, too. I'm in this situation because I haven't gotten enough rest and had enough balance in my life. Maybe two workouts a day is a bit extreme. But is it really when I love it so much?

I know I need to change, but I don't know how. I'm afraid to find out what happens when I don't cover all the bases and go above and beyond. But, it's clear that "a little rest" isn't going to cut it anymore. I just wish I had a better idea of how to take it down a notch without missing out on the fun.

*sigh* Didn't God get the memo that I'm not like the others? Can you order super-human strength on Amazon?

I'll need expedited shipping.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Suck it Up and Deal

As much as I hate being sick, I hate getting well more. Getting well requires sitting around doing nothing, which I pretty much suck at. I got sick over Thanksgiving and now, almost a week later, I am still sitting here feeling myself turn into mush. I went to the gym yesterday, which was a mistake. I spent the rest of the day in bed, stressing about all of the stuff I needed to do when I was lying there "getting well."

I know I get sick because I won't slow down long enough to let myself get well. And I know that the world won't come to a screeching halt because I miss a few days. But it just kills me to sit there and watch my hard work go down the drain.


Anyway, I went home to New Orleans for Thanksgiving, which is not a locale best known for its healthy lifestyles. Needless to say, eating clean and getting exercise is a challenge there. But I did okay, despite being met with silence when asking a friend where we could go for a "healthy dinner". LOL But I am happy to announce that Holiday Food Face-Off: Round One is complete, with minimal casualties.

But while I was there, getting sick and mushy, I picked up this archaic mass-communication tool called a "newspaper" and tried to distract myself from my atrophy by reading. I stumbled upon an article about an inner-city New Orleans kid who had been given the chance at a fresh start - in exchange for keeping his grades up, he would get boxing coaching from a local legend, and the chance to break out of his crime and drama-riddled family and into a life of...professional boxing. Not sure what the big difference is there, but still, it made for inspirational reading. You can read the whole story here.

I began reading as a bored skeptic. I had missed the first part, but it wasn't hard to figure out that this kid was facing a dead-end life if he didn't get some help. When I picked up the story, he had been making great progress and was preparing for his first real fight. But then, Hurricane Gustav forced his family to evacuate, and he was unable to train with his coach. Instead, he ate junk food, didn't exercise, and gained 25 lbs. When he arrived back at his home gym, just days away from his event, he was back at square one. I was annoyed. If this was so important to him, why didn't he find a way to work out? Why did he eat that crap? Why did he let himself decay like that? I didn't feel that bad for him, until he got a call from his dad in prison telling him how proud he was. Then I felt a little bad.

And I kept reading. He and his coach went into psycho-mode to get him ready for his fight, and when the day arrived he was all hopes and dreams - a little high schooler up against a pro. He actually held his own for a while, but in the end his lack of conditioning showed and he lost the match.

He was embarrassed and ashamed at his loss, and felt like he had let everyone down. It would have been really easy for him to throw in the towel and give up, assuming that he would just be swallowed up by a culture that was bigger than him. But you guessed it - he didn't. He got up the next day, put on his shoes, and ran further than he ever had before. Awww.

I put the paper aside and got some perspective. My life isn't exactly hard. I've been feeling sorry for myself because I have a cold. Yeah, I need to take a few days and rest and get better, and then I can pick up where I left off. And yes, I am gritting my teeth and grimacing as I type this, because that is the complete opposite of what I want to do.

Fitness is a slippery slope. One minute you're up, and the next minute you're frantically looking for a tree branch to grab on to. It's hard to watch your hard work shrivel up and fade away, but I guess I just need to suck it up and deal.

And now I am going to bed.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I want it! Gimmee!

I want it sooooooooo bad. It is within my reach and I can almost get it but not....quite....yet. But I can see it. It's there. I am on the way.

ugh! But I want it now!

I have to say that I am totally stoked about where I am in my training right now. Not only am I happy with the progress I am making (specifically in the triceps and hamstrings department) but I am also getting such great feedback on the progress of my "clients" (people I boss around regarding their nutrition and exercise plans). They're doing awesome and it just energizes me to see their hard work pay off and hear them talk about their success.

I'm also entering a phase of just being more driven and focused than I have been in a while, which is a good thing considering that the holidays are coming up. This is a tricky time of year for anyone who is dedicated to healthy lifestyles, because of all the yummy goodies around and the societal pressure to over-indulge. It is the most important time to remember that food is not a treat, and not be tricked into thinking that you are "treating" yourself by eating Christmas goodies. They're yummy but they're not a treat. They're just food.

But this time of year is also tricky because of my wacky travel and workout schedules. It's the time when everyone schedules wrap-up year-end meetings, usually at lunch, so my lunchtime workouts get scrambled up. Then, I travel for Thanksgiving and Christmas and have to sell my soul to get guest passes at my sister's gym. And inevitably, I get sick and miss a few days. It's a real challenge to make it to January without feeling like I need to detox.

But this year, I am having a hard time seeing those things as obstacles. I am so close to my goal, and having such a great time getting to it, that I don't need or want a break from my regular routine. I know people won't understand when I pass up their holiday goodies or get up early to exercise on a holiday, but I just don't want to lose this momentum. And, I'm kinda used to people not understanding me anyway so that's no biggie.

I guess what it comes down to right now is remembering that there is life after the holidays. Specifically, there is January - a flood light of realization that those cookies and candy canes and second helpings of egg nog didn't leave once your Christmas guests packed their bags and headed for home. I'd like to skip that part and enter January a few steps ahead.

So, it's time to amp up the cardio and really lift heavy to maximize the gym time I do have this month so I can enjoy the holidays with my family and friends without taking a hit to the belt in exchange. I can't guarantee I won't eat a cookie or two, after all, I am human. But I am also going to spend the holidays increasing my running stride, improving my push-up, and keeping one eye focused on January. What's the point of busting your ass all year just to let it go in one month?

So, we're off! Race ya!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ramblings Somewhat Related to Something Substantive

Well, there's good news and there's bad news.

The good news is that I've set a date. The bad news is that it's really far away! And, brace yourself, I am not exactly known for my patience.

July 2009 is the next available contest, so that's when I'll belly up to the bar and see what I'm made of. I suspect it will be a combination of guts and glory, and hopefully a little moxie. I sincerely hope we don't find out that I am made of anything consisting of a gooey center.

I'm a little bummed that I won't accomplish this in 2008. I like nice, neat, tidy goals that get accomplished and checked off within the course of a year so I can tear away the calendar page on December 31 with a flourish and lick the end of my pencil to chart the next year's new projects (watch for triathlons in 2009). But this particular goal has taken on a life of its own, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I've lost control of it a little bit. I'll choose to see it as a metaphor for the whole "fitness is a journey, not a destination" mantra. And in my case, I've taken the scenic route and stopped in the gift shop a few times.

So while I am slightly annoyed, I'm also glad to have a deadline, even if it is 8 months away. It gives me a lot more time to work on my strength, skills, speed, and agility, which I need. It gives me more time to obsess over my body, which I probably don't need. But, it also gives me something I need more than anything else- a reminder that I can be flexible, accommodating, and - dare I say it? - spontaneous in the way that I approach this goal. So it doesn't happen in 2008. No biggie. I can deal.

Because, to be honest, I am glad that I have 8 more months of training ahead of me. I am not ready for this journey to end.

Okay, so we all know that I will never really be spontaneous. But, my workouts lately have required some spontaneity as they more resemble a game of 5th-grade dodge ball than your run-of-the-mill cardio-and-weights routine. It's different from anything I have ever done, and while sometimes I truly question the sanity of my trainer, I am having a great time. I'm challenged, I'm sore, and most importantly, I am progressing in my overall goal of total fitness. Who would want that to end?

So today's blog is really just a collection of rambling thoughts...and that's kind of how this goal process has been for me. I've rambled through ups and downs, two trainers, a couple of injuries, a few set-backs, and two pairs of weight lifting gloves. And for the first time in my life, I'm cool with not racing to the finish line. I've found my stride, and I want to be in it for a while.

But that doesn't mean I'm taking it easy. Did I mention I've set a date? Let's quit yakking and get to the gym.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Sideshow Spectacular

I am starting to think that maybe Capt. Awesome is just messing with me.

In the past month, our workouts have gone from challenging to just plain crazy. Not that I'm complaining - I am loving the results and am making great progress. But every once in a while I think that he's fulfilling some kind of wacky dare to see what he can make me do next.

"Okay, we're going to do squats on the BOSU ball but you have to balance this tea set on your head and sing 'Yankee Doodle Dandy'."

"Strap on these ankle weights, hold this medicine ball over your head, and jump over this bench while I let a starved lion try to bite your ankles."

"I want to see how many push-ups you can do in a minute. Wait - first I need to stack these monster truck tires on your back. Okay, go."

But I'm totally doing it. Part of it is pride - I just can't give up even when I want to. But part of it is because it's just plain fun. I love trying this wacky stuff and seeing how I measure up. I'm not doing all that well to be honest - most of the time my lack of athleticism becomes apparent very quickly. But I am giving it a good shot and trying to get better. Although I have to admit, I am getting pretty good at jumping rope with one arm tied behind my back.

The results speak for themselves. After a month, I am down another couple percentage points in my body fat, getting and feeling stronger, and definitely becoming more agile. I think it is feasible to be at my goal in a few months, and that is very exciting.

But the most exciting part is that I feel like I am actively working towards my Monster Goal - reaching my MGP. Yeah, it's the kind of goal that I'll always have. I don't expect to wake up one day and say, "well, here I am. I can stop now." But it is so much fun to take a few more steps each day towards being the best possible version of my physical self. I just can't find the words to explain how much I love that concept. And, seeing the small changes in my quadriceps make the 4:15 AM wake-up call worth it.

But while that's all well and good, one thing does loom in my head - the obstacle course. It's going to happen. I've set a date (finally) and have some time to work on my skills. And although jumping around like a crazy woman, running through hoops of fire, and juggling puppies while doing walking lunges is fun, I kinda need a master plan.

So, Awesome can bring the crazy, but I've got a challenge of my own for him: we're going to draw ourselves a little map from here to there. It can include starving lions and monster truck tires, but it has to get us there on time and in fighting form.

I'll be honest - my main motivation in creating a fail-proof plan is to reduce the level of public humiliation I am about to face. There is the very real chance for that at this shin-dig, and while I enjoy making my friends laugh, I'd rather they be laughing with me when I am lying on the ground in a puddle of shame. So when I tackle that rope wall or run madly towards hurdles, I want to do it with the belief that I did everything within my power to prepare, and any failure that occurs is just the wrath of a vengeful God, still ticked at me for something I've long forgotten.

But I've started going to confession just to cover my bases.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Out of the Closet

Wow, today was hard.

Monday runs are usually full of energy after two days off, so that was okay. But it was legs day, and after box jumps while wearing ankle weights and holding a 10-lb medicine ball, then 135-lb BOSU ball squats at the mercy of Awesome who refused to count reps that didn't break the plane (I did number 8 about four times...), then about a kazillion walking lunges and then 250 lbs on the leg press....I am beat. But I like knowing that I can squat more than my body weight. Okay, so only half a pound more, but still more. :)

My training is going well. Nutrition is great these days - it feels so good to eat clean, healthy, purposeful foods. Workouts are fantastic - Captain Awesome is getting tough and I am working harder than ever. I'm seeing the results and I feel great. And even more importantly, I am having a blast. It is so much fun to push myself to new limits and be rewarded for that effort. I am finally getting to a point in my life where regardless of how the numbers come out when I step on the scale or test my body composition, I know that the way I am living is the way I want to be forever.

And, I am glad to be "out". It catches me off-guard sometimes when people who have known me a long time are suprised by this endeavor. It's been a goal of mine for as long as I can remember, but I forget that I didn't start talking about it until relatively recently.

So this weekend when my mom commented that she was suprised I was so into this hobby, I was reminded that while this has always been on my mind, it is relatively new to everyone else I know. I was never athletic as a kid and shunned sports in favor of writing, theatre, music, and reaching new levels of brooding sarcasm. So to hear me talk about jumping hurdles and climbing rope walls is a little out of context for the rest of my family. I think they half expected me to teach history in a college somewhere and write scathing letters to the editor of the local paper pointing out grammatical errors for the rest of my life.

And that would also be fun. But no, I want to be a bodybuilder.

And the only explanation I can come up with is that this goal is hard, and the things people are used to me doing are easy. I write every day and love it, but it is more of a therapeutic puzzle than a challenge. Music and theatre were fun, but I didn't feel driven to become really good at them. As for brooding sarcasm and snark, well, I'll never be able to give those up.

But weightlifting is hard. Training is hard. Pushing myself to new physical limits is hard. Doing things that are difficult make me feel more alive, and that's how I feel when I work out. When I leave the gym and haven't completely exhausted myself, I am frustrated and disappointed. If I don't doubt my ability to drive home from the gym, I'm probably going to have a mediocre day.

There is a certain level of apprehension about being this open about my goal, the most obvious being that if I fail, more people know about it. But it also feels good to be "out". So... hi. I'm Heather, and I might not be what you expected.

Monday, October 27, 2008


I didn't work out today.

Partly because Captain Awesome was sick. Partly because I am sick. And partly because I was having a temper tantrum about not being able to run alone down an empty street in the pitch dark. I wanted to, I really, really, really, wanted to, and I almost did anyway. But, last Thursday two of my gym buddies cornered me after my run and demanded an explanation as to where I had been. I told them I added an extra mile, what's the big deal? They said they were worried about me and to not do that again and that a woman had been sexually assaulted on a street near my running route a couple of evenings before.

Damn it.

I love running outside, especially early in the morning when it is cold. And this time of year, when the mornings are especially crisp and I can see my breath, well, that's just like Christmas morning. But I'm already freaked out being out there alone; having the very real threat of an actual attacker was just too much. So Friday morning I came inside and got on the elliptical. It pretty much sucked.

And this morning, I stomped my feet and crossed my arms and pouted and furrowed my brow and decided fine, I'm going home. That pretty much sucked, too.

The drive home was the kind of internal dialogue that will get me written up in a textbook somewhere:

Sane me: "Go home. You're sick. You need to rest."

Psycho me: "I don't want to miss a workout. I'll fall behind."

Sane me: "You're being ridiculous. Everyone needs a break now and then. Go sleep."

Psycho me: "Successful people make a habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don't want to do. I need to suck it up and power through. I just had two days of break."

Sane me: "Look, Awesome isn't even here. Just go home. This is retarded."

Psycho me: "I'm going to regret this later."

I did go home. And I do regret it. When people talk to me about finding the motivation to workout even when they don't want to, I share that I have never regretted working out, but I have always regretted skipping it. Granted, I can't help being sick, but in my mind a failure is still a failure regardless of having a perfectly good excuse.

And, I didn't want to run on the treadmill.

It annoys me that I skipped the gym this morning because I have been having such great momentum over the past few weeks. And, I know that reaching my goal is going to take the kind of perseverance and strength that doesn't wimp out because of a few sniffles. I feel like a slacker today, and that's not cool.

So, no funny stories or sarcastic witticisms for you today; just a healthy dose of martyrdom and a reminder that we all hit the snooze button once in a while.

But luckily, the snooze on my alarm clock only lasts eight minutes.

Monday, October 20, 2008

It's Good to Have a Goal

Last week, Captain Awesome and I started working on training the specific muscle groups and agility exercises I am going to need to not make a complete fool of myself at my competition. We've been doing a lot of leg work, working on lateral agility, and going back to basic things like jumping, balance, and core work. I kind of feel like I am back in phys ed class, only this time I don't have to create elaborate excuses for why I can't play volleyball, which is a nice change.

With this change of pace comes new realizations. For example, realizing just how uncoordinated and clumsy I am. I've always known I am a klutz (I walk into walls in my own house and have a permanent bruise on my leg from where I ram into the side of my office desk at least three times a week) but until I tried split-leg jumping squats, bent-knee walking lunges, or box jumps, I had been able to convince myself that my lack of grace was just me being distracted and moving too fast to keep up with myself. I now know that it is part of my DNA. I felt like a walking advertisement for America's Funniest Home Videos. Seriously, if someone had video-taped me last Friday trying to jump on and off of a 24-inch box without breaking my neck, they would have won the $10,000 grand prize. By even attempting to stay upright for an entire day, I am providing a valuable community service in the form of comic relief.

But anyway. When I completed ten feeble attempts at box jumps and Capt. Awesome said, "okay, you'll have to be a lot faster than that," I felt a glimmer of disappointment mixed with excitement. A project! We worked on the mechanics of jumping in general - focusing on balance, posture, and alignment - and I began putting together a plan to get better. A goal! I practically licked my lips in anticipation of that sweet victory.

I was disappointed in my skill level; I am not athletic but I expected more. But, I was almost glad that I had missed the mark. It feels good to have a goal to work towards.

That was Friday. Over the weekend, I visualized myself jumping on the boxes and coiling myself like a spring to maximize impact while minimizing the effort. And this morning, as I drove to the gym and listened to "Health Check" on the BBC, I wondered if everyone had a renewed sense of vigor once spotting a goal in the making, or if it was just me being an over-achiever as usual. Strangely, I got my answer in the form of a study on the effects of music on overall health.

I learned that a research group at Boston College School of Music had measured the impact of regular, sustained, intense involvement in mastering a skill (in this case, participating in a singing group) on mental health, physical health, and a social involvement for two groups - one who participated in the program and a control group that did not. They found that the group who participated in the singing group for at least two years had scored higher in every category than those in the control group. (Listen to the entire segment here.)

The researcher went on to say that people who work towards mastery of a goal and have a feeling of control over that goal also experienced an immune system boost. Now, I am no stranger to control issues. But this made me feel better about them. I might not be better at jumping on a box today, but the fact that I am working to become better will make me healthier in the long run. Even if I fall on my face on that obstacle course (which is very likely to happen regardless of my overall performance), I will be better off just for having tried.

So there you have it: control freaks rule, slackers drool. Set a goal today - it's what healthy people do!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Table for One

I think my husband is a little tired of me singing the praises of Captain Awesome. but I am just digging this new trainer. He's creative, he's enthusiastic, he's involved, and most importantly, he remembers the goals of each person in my group and caters to them in each workout. I gotta hand it to him - he's won me over.

We're doing all sorts of new stuff, mostly related to the Bosu Ball. He loves this thing so much that he brought his own from his old gym in case we didn't have one (we did). We're doing lunges on the bosu ball, squats on the bosu ball, push-ups on the bosu ball....I'm half expecting him to tell me to bring the bosu ball home and use it as a pillow. But I don't mind. This new shake-up is just what I needed. I still miss my old trainer, but Captain Awesome is, well, pretty awesome.

Which means I need to watch out. As I've probably mentioned before, I like to operate in the realm of independence. I'm usually suspicious of people who want to "help" me, and I often find myself offended that anyone thought I needed help in the first place. In my experience, relying on other people is a recipe for disappointment and resentment. It might be a negative perspective, but I'd rather know that my relationships are built on a mutual enjoyment of each other's company, and not a give-and-take where one of us is always in debt. When you remove reliance on others, you also remove the potential to use them as excuses, and as a result can focus on truly enjoying them as the people they are. It's just my opinion; you can think I'm crazy if you want to.

So anyway, while my workouts with Captain Awesome have been going well, I have also been reminding myself that I'm still at a table for one. I had a great result in my body-fat test last month, and knew that it was from my own hard work. And when I test again in a couple of weeks, the result - good or bad - will again be because of my own actions and decisions. He can make me do barbell squats on the bosu ball every day, but I am the one who breaks the plane.

So where does that leave Captain Awesome? Well, I guess I'm having a hard time admitting that I kinda need him. I might be stubborn and independent, but I don't know everything. If I could truly do this on my own, I would have done it a long time ago.

That being said, I've committed myself to setting a date for my competition this week. I have procrastinated, hemmed and hawed, and generally avoided eye contact with the issue for long enough, probably because I don't want to admit that I need a spotter on this one. For years I have wanted to get to the finish line and know what I don't owe anyone anything for it, but I don't know if that is a realistic perspective. While there is a lot of pride in knowing what you can accomplish on your own, sometimes....sometimes........sometimes we all need a little help. There. I said it. We don't need to talk about it again.

I'm not giving up the map, but Captain Awesome can hold the wheel for a while.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Meet Captain Awesome

Okay, when I said a couple of weeks ago that change is good, the universe took that a little too seriously. In the time since I left for Fort Lauderdale and came back, things had changed a little at my gym. Okay, things had changed a lot.

I arrived after my morning run and opened the door to see a new face. It belonged to a new trainer. My new trainer. As in, my trainer who I have been working with for over a year, who had been molding my plan with me and got me on this whole competition track in the first place and listened to my endless chatter at 5:30 in the morning, was gone. Permanently. I won't stir the drama on that right now. Anyway, this new guy was different. Where my old trainer was more of an athletic coach, this guy was obviously a bodybuilder. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.) I was skeptical and annoyed, but cautiously intrigued. Like I said, change is good, and I tried to remain open to it.

The whispering and emailing and Facebooking among the regular morning crowd started as soon as we hit our office desks. I googled the new guy and asked my other gym rat friends if they knew this new guy. I learned that he was a certified Zumba instructor and tried not to hold it against him. He was a nice guy, competent, and despite my loyalty to my old trainer, I was interested to see what he could do. Unfortunately, I never got the chance.

I went to Orlando (uber-crappy hotel gym). When I came back, New Guy was gone. Another new trainer showed up, an energetic guy I have decided to call Captain Awesome, since he reminds me of this hilarious character by the same name. (And no, I am not planning to dance the tango with an underwear-clad Captain Awesome, this is just the best video I could find.)

Captain Awesome is a young, burly, and enthusiastic guy with a stopwatch around his neck. It is as if someone drew a cartoon caricature of a personal trainer and brought him to life. He was a little too bouncy and "feel the burn" for so early in the morning, but I kinda liked him. It was a good workout. He listened to what I wanted and gave it to me. I really can't complain too much about that. And, breaking in new trainers is always fun - handing back the 10-lb weights and taking 25-lbs instead for bicep curls always makes me smile. I'm stronger than I look, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy showing that off to someone who may still think that girls can't lift.

I feel really guilty for liking this guy. My old trainer is a friend, a good guy, and a great trainer. He's funny, talented, and he cares about his clients. But, I knew this would happen eventually. Relationships are temporary; people are sporadic. The only person I can really count on to get me to my goal is myself. After all, my trainer isn't going to go jump hurdles and climb rope walls and run sprints for me. A trainer can guide, advise, and lead, but expecting more than that is misplaced trust.

So, I'll give Captain Awesome a try. So far, he hasn't disappointed me. I miss my old trainer, but like I said, change is good...for all of us.

Monday, September 29, 2008

What?!? Gilad is still on TV?!?

Inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Last week, it was a musty hotel room in Fort Lauderdale. I had arrived for a week-long work trip and, after stashing my food in the mini-bar, flipped on the TV. Surfing through channels, I hit the jackpot - FitTV. I don't get FitTV at my house, because I am too cheap, so getting to watch it was a real luxury. Since I wanted to hit the gym right away I did a little happy dance and started to change into my workout clothes.

But then a voice from the television froze me in my tracks and transported me 15 years back. It was Gilad. I rushed back to the TV and stood in wide-eyed wonder.

Oh, Gilad. I worked out with Gilad's show, Bodies in Motion, for what seemed like eons in my family's living room. He was on ESPN in the mornings and I loved his show. I was shocked to see that it was still on, but there he was - still slightly cheesy, still adorable, and still sporting spandex on the beach in Hawaii. I loved how he had his mom and dad working out with him, how he would invite the local sunbathers to join in, and his little health tips at the end of each episode. I harbored a secret wish to be one of his back-up exercise girls. I wasn't crazy about the idea of wearing black sneakers and a belted leotard, but there have been plenty of times when I have looked equally or more ridiculous. In this case, I would at least be getting paid.

Now, working out in a hotel gym for a week is never fun, but seeing Gilad energized me. He reminded me of my early days of getting interested in fitness and nutrition, before I learned about genetics and stretch marks and what happens to your butt after you turn 30.

Since I was out of town for a week, I decided to try something new. I called it my Top 10 Workout: 10 segments of alternating short 10-minute cardio bursts with high-intensity weight exercises. So, I started out running for 10 minutes, then did three alternating no-rest sets of biceps and triceps, then ran incline sprint intervals for 10 minutes, then two different bi/tri sets, then bike intervals, etc. It powered me through almost 90 minutes of cardio and resulted in an average heart rate of 150 beats per minute, which was my goal. By the end of the week I was wiped out. Feeling good, feeling strong, and feeling like I could still keep up with Gilad and his black sneakers. I decided this will definitely be my on-the-road routine from now on.

I'm back at home now, without FitTV. But, our reunion is still on my mind. When I arrived back at my "home base" gym and saw my familiar faces, I was glad for a return to normalcy for a few days before I head out on the road again this week. And as soon as I stash my food in the hotel fridge, you know I'll be scanning the channels for Gilad again.

Getting a good workout on the road can be tough, so you have to look for opportunities and inspiration wherever you can. In my case, a trip down memory lane reminded me that I am still on the same journey I was at 13 years old. And it's nice to know that Gilad is, too. Is it bad that I want to buy a Bodies in Motion t-shirt?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Doing Different Things

Okay, its no big shock that change is important to any well-rounded wellness plan. Having variety in your workouts and nutrition keeps your body from getting complacent, your workouts from getting stale, and your progress from getting stagnant. So I am a big believer in frequent, substantive change.

I am also a believer in cross-training. I like to do a little bit of everything - running, cycling, swimming, water aerobics, weights, elliptical, Pilates...they all have a place in my workouts. I like knowing that my body is in an almost-constant state of flux, and that I have the flexibility to work with obstacles (like a sore knee) and cater to whims (like having a craving for the smell of chlorine on a beautiful day) without having to upset my schedule.

And when it comes to facilitating change in my workouts, I try to abide by one motto: "Don't just do things different things." But sometimes I forget.

I've been needing more cardio these days, and my first instinct was to just get up earlier and run longer. I set my alarm for 4:00 am, and tried to convince myself that the psycho serial killers waiting for me in the bushes aren't really morning people. But the next morning at 4:00 am, I proceeded to hit snooze for 30 minutes, and ended up being later to the gym than I would have been if I had gotten up at my regular time (a mere 15 minutes later).

My second plan was to just try to keep my heart rate up during my weights so I could count it as cardio. I told my trainer I wanted to do more exercises using multiple muscle groups and kept an eye on my monitor to see how I was doing. It was pretty pitiful, and none of my workout buddies seemed super-pumped about my idea that we all do plyometrics in between sets. So it was back to square one.

Then I remembered my motto - don't just do things differently. Do different things.

I arrived early for Pilates the next day and noticed some sweat-drenched women leaving the aerobics room at the church where I workout at lunch. My investigative skills swung into action: They're sweaty! They've been doing cardio! Like a junkie looking for a fix, I tried to act casual as I laid out my Pilates mat and nonchalantly asked the instructor about the class that had just taken place. do this every day? And what do you do on Wednesdays? And would you say I would get a lot of cardio? He nodded enthusiatically and promised me more cardio than I could handle. I decided that we would just see about that.

The next week I showed up at the all-you-can-take cardio buffet with a little apprehension and a moderate-sized chip on my shoulder. I knew these women - they were in the locker room with me after my water aerobics class, and they annoyed the crap out of me. They were loud, pushy, and thought they were just the best game in town. So I wasn't super-pumped about being the newbie in their little club. Plus, I was afraid I was going to have to start exchanging recipes for taco dip after class like they're usually doing on Thursdays.

The day I arrived, they informed me that the instructor was on vacation so one woman took charge, even though she had a foot injury, and proceeded to limp around the room dramatically as she barked orders at us. They turned out to be a friendly and welcoming group, but they were also peculiar. They seemed to have named all of the exercises after people. I wasn't sure if they were in honor of someone who really loved the exercises, or in memory of someone who had died while doing them. I didn't really want to know. I just did my Rhondas and kept my mouth shut.

At the end of the class, I was converted. These women were bossy, set in their ways, and a little obnoxious, but I knew I would be back. It was a good class, even if I didn't want to admit it. When I left, they waved and smiled and told me to have a nice afternoon. I guess I made the cut.

The difference between doing something and excelling at it is a willingness to look for ways to be better. What are you doing to be better? The next time you consider upping your game, don't just do something differently. Do something entirely different.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Ow. Ow. Ow. No, that doesn't hurt.

I am pretty sure my trainer is trying to kill me. At least, that's what my hamstrings and glutes tell me every time I move.

As I mentioned last week, we have a new girl working out with us three times a week. On Wednesday of last week, she was lamenting on her soreness from Monday's workout, and I mentioned to her, completely innocently and without the slightest hint of proposing a challenge, that I almost never get sore. That's it. I never get sore. Nice to know. End of story. We moved on.

But little did I know, that innocent comment sparked a fire in my trainer, who took it as a personal challenge. As I unknowingly went about my day he was plotting a workout so difficult, so exhausting, and so treacherous that I would surely be sore the next day.

I wasn't really. It was hard, but not that hard. But I made my mistake halfway through the workout when I overheard him telling someone else what I had said and realized that he was trying to break me. So I was sure to let him know what a cinch it had been.

The next morning, he was waiting for me.

I wasn't in much of a cardio mood and my knee kind of hurt so I was a bit of a slacker that morning. But it turns out its a good thing I saved my energy because 30 minutes later I wanted to throw up. We started out with some normal stuff: shoulders and chest work. And then we moved on to squats. Deep squats. With the barbell, loaded. Four sets of 20. "Twenty?" I gulped. "Twenty," he responded.

So I grit my teeth and got to work. They weren't that hard. And then I heard the deep voice of my trainer from across the room:


I went lower.

"Lower than that."

I doubted my ability to squat any lower and be able to stand back up.

"Heather, your butt needs to touch your heels."

I'll be honest - I didn't do four sets. I did three before he pulled the plug and we set up the step and some plates for step-ups. Three sets of 15 on each leg, 25 lbs in each hand. Pshaw. I do this stuff in my sleep.

After that I went to get some water and asked when he was going to break out the hard stuff. But in the time it took for me to fill my water bottle, he had replaced the step with a weight bench. We took it from the top - three sets of 15 on each leg, 25 lbs in each hand.

Okay, this was hard. I sneaked a peak at my heart rate monitor - 181. Not bad! But I seriously wanted to hurl. From across the room I heard, "that bench is pretty high, huh?" And before I could stop myself, I answered, "it's not that bad."

But in reality, my legs were shaking, I was losing my grip on the plates, sweat was getting in my eyes, and I was making my 33rd New Year's Resolution to start keeping my damn mouth shut. I stepped my 30th step and wiped the sweat off of my face.

"Okay, what now?"

I don't even remember what we did next. It was all a blur. All I remember is waking up Saturday morning and thinking, "yeah, he got me."

But I'll never tell him that. Shhhhh!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Running is Boring. So What?

This morning as I was jogging along a dark neighborhood street wondering if I really would ever be attacked by some madman like two women at my gym tell me every week that I will, and trying to figure out what to write about in this blog today, I came upon a realization: running is boring.

I've always known that running is boring but this morning it just struck me. I'm running down a sidewalk by myself, I thought. This is so boring. At least if I was attacked by a madman, it would liven up my morning run.

Then I arrived at the gym, still wondering what to write about in this blog, and swigged water as I impatiently waited for my trainer to unlock the door, then jumped on the treadmill to start my intervals. This was a lot more interesting. I made it thirteen minutes before I wanted to die. A new record!

Then we moved on to weights. We have a new person lifting with us on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Her first day was Friday and she expressed some doubt as to her ability to keep up with me and Jim, one of my workout buddies. We joked that we notoriously have people workout with us once and then never see them again (although it's not really a joke, it's true). She laughed nervously but after our workout said she would be back Monday. She did come back, and today we kicked her butt. Afterwards she said it was a lot harder than she thought it would be, and I told her that was the point. She said she'd be back Wednesday.

It got me to thinking about an article I read a few weeks ago about Olympian Michael Phelps, which had this quote from his trainer: "successful people make a habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don't want to do." It's the perfect response to the question I field almost every day from someone asking me why I work so hard at something that seems to torment me so much. There are a variety of reasons, most of them related to me not being able to stop myself.

But it is also a good reminder that sometimes, running is boring. Sometimes, workouts are harder than you expect. And sometimes, we just have to suck it up and do it anyway because successful people make a habit of doing things that unsuccessful people don't want to do. And, life is too short to do things halfway.

Once you decide what you want to be successful at, you have to take the boring days along with the attacked-by-a-madman days, and chalk them up to just being part of the process. Running is boring. So what? Do it anyway.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Nutritionist

Okay, by this point you should have picked up on a few things about me:

1. I am an anal-retentive perfectionist.
2. I have unrealistic expectations for myself and others.
3. I spend a lot of time being frustrated by the side effects of #1 and #2.

So it should not come as a surprise that I also spend a lot of time agonizing over things that I have no control over, despite my mother's repeated reminders to, "worry about things you can change, not things you can't." But it's the things I can't change that most need changing!

One of the things I can't change is my basic genetic makeup - a body that is almost as stubborn as I am. As I try, mostly in vain, to beat it into submission, I make calculated lists about what I have control over and what I don't. And then I go and cross some things off because they were, suprisingly, unrealistic. It's a vicious cycle.

But I have a firm belief that one of the things I have control over is my nutrition. We are fortunate enough to live in a country and economy where finding quality food and water is not an issue, and I am grateful for that. And, I am a staunch believer that for me, nutrition trumps workout every time. Solid nutrition is the foundation for a successful exercise program. Without a diet based on healthy, natural, clean food, physical effort is only going to be moderately effective. And since my workouts require me to get out of my warm cozy bed at 4:15 in the morning, I don't want to erase my hard work by eating crap all day.

I feel pretty confident with my diet, but I haven't been seeing the results I expect for all of my hard work (see #2, above). As I indignantly explained to my bemused husband, "I am sick of busting my butt every day to earn the opposite of success." To which he replied, "you're so cute when you're angry." And then he reminded me that I bust my butt every day because I like busting my butt to get stronger and healthier, and not to reach an unrealistic physical goal. And in all honesty, it's a little of both. Is that so wrong?

So I decided to stop having a temper tantrum and take control. I called in reinforcements - a nutritionist at a local training facility. She consults with professional athletes, Olympic hopefuls, I was super-pumped about meeting her and as I explained my goals and current situation over the phone, she sounded excited to meet me, too. I dove head-first into putting together detailed reports of my training, diet, and progress over the past year (see #1, above).

After a 90-minute meeting last Friday, we had evaluated my plan, tweaked it a little, and made plans to meet again in a week. I have my marching orders - new macros and new calorie goals - as well as a pat on the back. I felt so proud that the nutrition plan I had created had been pretty up to par, and that I had found a kindred spirit who seemed to relate to my goals.

It's only been a few days and I am still working out the details, and I am looking forward to seeing how these changes affect my training. But a few things surely won't change:

1. I am still an anal-retentive perfectionist.
2. I still have unrealistic expectations for myself and others.
3. It's totally worth it.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Am I "That Girl"?

I frequent a couple of fitness and bodybuilding-related websites and discussion forums, and post on a few. Discussions in the female bodybuilding forum range from breaking in a newbie with questions to the best-tasting protein powder, the most effective timing for supplements, and the age-old debate of which comes first - cardio or weights. But naturally, from time to time the conversation stays to more off-topic discussions. For example, the thread where everyone was asked to post pictures of their sexiest hair. Um yeah, I don't really do that stuff. Besides, my hair looks like a chia pet most of the time so I am not a good example of what is sexy.

But I did notice a thread one day on what we wear in the gym. Now, the gym where I workout is not one frequented by people who are trying to impress each other through fashion. And at 4:30 in the morning, you're lucky I brushed my teeth much less matched my clothes. But I was curious to see if anyone else shared my total lack of concern for asthetics in the gym.

What I found out was a little scary. Mostly, I found comfort in knowing that I am among friends: no one seemed to care about matching, and most of the posters seemed to agree that girls in cutesy outfits are to be universally scorned. But then, I found out that I might be in an altogether other unpopular category - girls who wear short shorts.

Who wears short shorts? I wear short shorts! And what I found out is that short shorts are a no-no. Suprisingly, no one wants to start their day with a wake-up call consisting of someone else's cellulite and rear end hanging out of a pair of shorts that have "Juicy" written across the back. Now relax, I don't wear shorts like that, but I contemplated my navy blue Nike shorts with the white stripes and whether I was breaking some kind of gym etiquette rule. Were my shorts really too short? I didn't think so, but I decided to do a little experiment.

Over the next few days, I wore my short shorts at the gym and observed myself a little more closely in the mirror. Standing up and walking around were strictly PG-rated activities. No scandal there. The leg extension is never the most flattering position for a woman's legs, but not otherwise offensive. The leg press was a little risky and I started to lose confidence in my family-friendly endorsement. And as I grabbed my weights and started a set of dead lifts, I spied myself in the mirror and immediately put "long gym shorts" on my daily mental list of things to buy at Target. It's a good thing I never use the hip adductor machine.

I was mortified! How could I have overlooked such an obvious faux pas? The next day I wore a pair of my husband's old boxing shorts. They were actually really comfortable and I considered "borrowing" them on a more permanent basis until he caught me red-handed getting them out of the dryer and politely reminded me that he needed them for his workouts. Hmph.

So, I went to Target and got some longer shorts. I don't know if anyone noticed or even cared, but at least I feel better knowing that my being at the gym won't require tinting on the windows and a cover charge. I can't guarantee that the short shorts won't make a comeback, but for now my lower-body workout will be a little more country and not so much rock and roll.

And now that Fashion Week is over, it's time to turn our attention to more pressing issues - finding an obstacle course to practice on so when I show up to this rodeo, I won't be wishing for the day when short shorts were my biggest problem. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 18, 2008

I'm Just Not That Angry Anymore

I wrote two other essays before posing this one, and neither of them were quite right. I am usually a week behind on these posts, so what you read each Monday usually references something that happened last week at the earliest. But sometimes something monumental enough happens and I write mid-week to get it "out on paper." So, when I furiously opened my blog last week and pounded on my keyboard indignantly, listing a diatribe of complaints and "it's not fair" and other tantrum-caliber rantings, it accurately reflected how I felt about a recent defeat. But today, when I opened it up to finish and post it, I just didn't feel that way anymore. I hardly recognized the angry and frustrated person who had written those words. So I started a rather mundane post about Michael Phelps, which I abandoned halfway through because it wasn't going anywhere. Then I started fresh, to focus on the here and now - how things are going today, in my training.

Today, in my training, I feel like a big fat whale. For the past few weeks, I have not only taken a break from protein shakes, I have also taken a small break from the gym, which means I have taken a break from progress. Anyone who knows me knows how hard that is for me to not only admit, but to accept.

But also today in my training, I feel optimistic. My break has felt good, and I needed it. It was not by choice - work, family schedules, and other things prevented me from getting to the gym as much as I wanted to - and sometimes that is the best thing. I feel refocused and refreshed, even though I feel enormously out of shape.

Last week, I reminded myself of every motivational quote I knew:

It's a journey, not a destination.

Sometimes you have to fight the same battle more than once to win it.

What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.

It's not how hard you fall, but how quickly you get back up.

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.

You have a choice. You can throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face.

I needed the reminder that failure happens, even to me, and that recovery happens, too. I needed to get over myself and my idea of how things would be, and realize that ultimately, even if I do everything "right", a certain amount of what happens in this process is out of my control. That is such a hard, hard, hard lesson to learn.

After my pity party was over, I remembered another one of my favorites:

This is my body. And I can do whatever I want to it. I can push it. Study it. Tweak it. Listen to it. Everybody wants to know what I'm on. What am I on? I'm on my bike busting my *&^%$ six hours a day. What are you on? - Lance Armstrong

And I was off again. I don't need much of a break before I am ready to charge forward again, renewed and ready for the challenge. I've spent the last couple of weeks studying, tweaking, and listening to my body. Now I am ready to bust my *&^%$ again.

And that started today.

Monday, August 11, 2008

I Am So Sick of Protein Shakes

I will not drink a protein shake;
I cannot drink another.
Mix it up but throw it out.
That crap goes in the gutter.

I need a break from protein shakes:
the thought just makes me sick.
The whey is just too sweet
and the casien too thick.

I will not eat my egg whites,
I cannot take another bite.
I know its "perfect protein"
but the taste is just not right.

I want a bowl of oatmeal
steel cut and cooked my way
with cinnamon and walnuts
and a banana to start my day.

So look at me the rebel!
It's the little things that count!
If oatmeal is indulgence
then I really need to get out.

So I'll take a break from protein shakes
and revel in my sin.
But it won't be long, sweet protein,
I'll be back again.

I can't do it anymore. Every day at 3:00, I sigh, get up from my desk, and robotically mix a protein shake in my office's kitchen. Then I suck it down as fast as I can before returning to my desk and swig a bottle of water to get the taste out of my mouth. I hate this stuff.

I've used a few different types of powder over the years and vary the flavor from time to time to keep things interesting. But just like anything, there can be too much of a good thing. In my case, it's Gold Standard Banana Creme.

But I'm stuck. I need calories, I need protein, and I am short on time. So I chug my shake and shudder as if I had just downed a bottle of cough syrup. Sometimes we have to suffer for our art.

So I need a new 3:00 snack. Over the past week, I've held my own personal "3:00 Snack Auditions" and tried out something new each day. Turkey? Too dry. Chicken? I eat that for lunch. Egg whites? Too complicated. I've officially become the Goldilocks of snacktime.

I tried a hard-boiled egg (too yolky). A protein bar (too carby). Peanut butter on toast (too long standing around waiting on the toaster). I perused the shelves at the Vitamin Shoppe and looked at protein pudding and water enhancers. Too processed.

And finally, I hit the nail on the head: the perfect 3:00 snack. It's quick, it's easy, and it's well, quick and easy. I packed it into my lunchbox the night before, and stashed it in the fridge at work. And at 3:00, I got up from my desk, went into the kitchen, and...

mixed up a protein shake. Old habits diet hard.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Working With Your Genetics...What a Concept!

Last week I was in a dead heat on the bike, doing my intervals and having a sweaty, out-of-breath conversation with another girl at my gym about (gasp for air) why I (wipe sweat from my brow) torture myself (crank down the resistance) to reach my (pant, pant) MGP. I swigged some water and told her I wanted my body to reflect the work I put in. She looked at me puzzled and asked,

"exactly what do you think you look like?"

I had to admit that I had no clue. Like many women, I don't really know how I look to other people. I know I am not fat, but I can't tell you much more than that. I know its crazy. I'm working on it. LOL

And then one of my training partners said, "You can't fight genetics. You have to work with them, not against them." I amped up the resistance on my bike and headed into another interval and wished I was that evolved.

Sure, I've gone through a few times where I "accepted myself" and relaxed...just long enough for the fire to gain some momentum and remind me that no, I don't do that. I've always wanted more than the cards I was dealt; I've never been satisfied with status quo. So I don't ever see myself settling for the default settings.

But I do think it is important to take genetic potential into consideration when creating goals for yourself in the gym. That is why my goal is to reach my MGP (maximum genetic potential) rather than an elusive body composition that may not be realistic for my body type. Someone recently asked me to name a person whose body I wanted mine to mimic, and I refused - comparing yourself to someone else is futile in the long run because we're all working from a different set of plans. Instead, compare youself against your potential and what you believe you can accomplish.

I finished my intervals and got in the car and blasted the air conditioning. As I drove, I thought about whether I was truly working with my genetics, or fighting a losing battle by working against them. In the back of my head, I know there are certain things about my body that will never change, and that there are limitations on what I will be able to accomplish. I still workout despite that because of my sheer love for it.

But at the end of the day, everyone needs a carrot on a stick. And for me, that carrot is the curiosity of wondering if I can.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Let the Games Begin

I have chosen my event. I'm freaked. But also excited because my goal is much more defined now, and easier to work towards. Well, easier and harder, as you'll see.

I'm doing a combination obstacle course and skills test. The course is comprised of a 10-foot wall, running grid, incline/decline monkey bars, balance beam, 15-foot cargo net, shuttle run, hurdles, steeple chase jump over water, sprint, and under/over bar.

Yeah, I'm freaked.

The skills test is a bench press, box jumps, and shuttle run. That I can handle. The rest has me laughing nervously and changing the subject. But hey, I signed up for this and I am looking forward to the day when I tackle this course and see what I am made of.

So my work is cut out for me - find a course to practice on, kick up the cardio, and work on agility and the individual events. I have never done half of those things before, and the only thing I have any confidence in is my sprinting and bench press. The last time I tried the monkey bars while at the playground with my son, I was bested by a 7-year-old. And I don't even really know what a "steeple chase jump over water" is. It sounds like an event for horses.

But I'm game. It feels good to have something to visualize, something to actually plan for. Instead of working towards a figure competition, where the only goal is to present a visually perfect and symmetrical physical body, I have chosen to put my guts to the test and risk life and limb on a balance beam. Because let's face it - I am probably never going to have a visually perfect and symmetrical physical body. When there's a competition for women who have stretch marks, a big scar, uneven tan lines, and are currently working the tummy pooch, sign me up. I am still working to reach my MGP, I'm just not putting a deadline on it.

And when will these feats of strength and endurance take place? Yeah, get back to me on that. I'm shooting for November, and will definitely do it before the end of the year. I know that, just like with having a baby or jumping out of a speeding train, if I wait until I am "ready" I'll never do it.

This goal feels different to me. I notoriously set unreasonable goals and then work tirelessly towards them, with my drive to beat the odds propelling me forward. There is safety in those goals because I'll never really reach them; the definition of success is so subjective that I could make the argument that I have either succeeded or failed at any given moment. But this goal has a distinct beginning and end. A concrete winner and loser. That makes it much more intimidating to me, but also intriguing. As a competitive person, it feels strange to actually just want to finish, not necessarily win. I know I am the underdog, but I hope I won't let that be an excuse to accept anything but my personal best in my training and performance on the course.

Win or lose, medal or not, the journey is the real prize. My journey has taken a turn and the scenery is getting pretty interesting.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Reserving the Right to Change My Mind...if I can

This process is about progress - progress in lowering my body fat composition, progress in becoming stronger in the weight room, progress at becoming a leaner and faster runner, and progress at bringing my diet into a place of balance between optimum nutrition and real-life application. And for the most part, I am making progress.

But, I spent the weekend feeling like a miserable failure. There was no reason to; I had just come back from a work trip where I had great workouts (thank you Marriott for always having decent gyms) and good nutrition considering the usual hotel fare (another plug for bringing your own food). This was the perfect example of forecasting a challenge, making a plan, and executing flawlessly. Well, almost flawlessly. It felt great!

But I still felt like a mess. I knew what was bothering me, but I didn't have a way to deal with it yet.

So this morning I couldn't wait to get to the gym and sweat it out. At the last minute, I decided to run my old route: a 2-mile loop that includes a pretty major hill, downhill on the way out and uphill all the way back. When I started running this route about a year ago, that hill killed me. I would have to stop and walk part of it, huffing and puffing and limping along. So I told myself as I started running that I could walk it if I wanted to. After all, it is July in Florida, and the humidity has me wanting to throw myself in front of a moving car and end it all.

I'm proud to say that I coasted the whole time. The run back up that hill was no sweat, and I caught myself wondering when it was going to get hard. Before I knew it, I was at the end and it had been no big deal. I realized the progress I have made over the past year and patted myself on the back. One point for me.

But my nagging sense of failure still tugged at my attention. As I ran my intervals around the gym parking lot and waited for my trainer to arrive, I came to the sobering realization that reaching my MGP is not just about overcoming my physical genetics to transform my body into something it didn't plan to be. I need to overcome my mental genetics, too.

I can run all of the intervals, improve my running stride, train my muscles and lift heavier weights, eat the right food, and do everything according to the plan. But if I don't have my head in the game, I am just running in place.

I can see success happening in my future and I know how to get there. I just need to get out of my own damn way. Sometimes I think that challenge is steeper than any hill.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I arrived back in my office after my vacation and had one of those ironic moments. I have this desk doo-hickey thing on my bookcase to commemorate my "leadership excellence" from my professional association. It is a scale that has little blocks with words like, "integrity," "teamwork," "knowledge," and "collaboration," printed on them, and I'm supposed to have them perfectly arranged on the scale so each side is equal and it remains in balance. And it was in balance until someone (you know who you are, SL) came into my office and messed with it. And when I arrived back from vacation last week, I opened my bookcase to get something out and they all came crashing down. I was officially out of balance.

And I thought, "well, yeah."

It's been one week since I came back and got my head back in the game, and I am starting to feel the results of my work. My size smalls are not begging to be mediums quite so loudly, my heave-ho workouts have a little less emphasis on the "heave," and the constant cycle of workout clothes in the hamper has started back up. Life is back to normal, or so I thought.

As I ran along this morning, I thought about my relation to my goals, and how much they have shifted since I started this journey, and this blog. In January, I was focused on entering a fitness competition, and getting into tip-top shape to do it. In July, I am still getting into tip-top shape, but my goal is rather to look like I could enter a competition...but not actually to do one. Why? Easy. I don't want to do a dance routine. I try not to take myself too seriously, but I hope the day when I bedazzle a bikini and perform my own personal USO show never comes. On the other hand, I do still daydream of getting on that stage and seeing if my physique can cut the mustard. There just doesn't need to be a soundtrack involved.

So I've shifted. The goal is still the same, but the motivation is different. But, that doesn't negate the need to constantly evaluate my progress and tweak where necessary. In my case, the tweaking needs to happen in my head - lately, my head has been more focused on strategizing the timing of my nutrition, workouts, and supplements and less on just busting my butt in the gym and putting in the hard work.

In times like these, I feel like it's best to have a quick refresher on the basics, which makes me glad that a friend of mine sent me this article about fad diets and what works and doesn't work in the weight loss world. It's great because it sheds some light on the reality of weight loss - while it is easy to get caught up in quick fixes, diet pills, fat burners, etc., sometimes we need a reminder that permanent weight loss is really just personalizing the concept of "eat less/move around more." Sure, it gets a little more complicated when you're training for your MGP, but the fundamental concept is the same.

But there was one "that's what you think," point for me. Reading this article, one line in the article really stood out to me regarding spot reducing: "weight in the hips and thighs is harder to lose than belly fat. Those fat cells aren't as metabolically active, which just means they're more resistant to change." This is just another example where one size doesn't necessarily fit all; my legs are (usually) relatively slender, while my belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly. My hip and thigh fat cells may have taken off their shoes, settled in with a book and cup of coffee, and plan to stay a while...but my belly fat cells brought their toothbrush.

So my work is pretty much cut out for me right now: get my butt in the gym every day and do the hard work that it has taken me to make the progress I already have, and finish up the job. I am close, and I can see the finish line. But it's going to take the right balance of sweat equity, nutrition fundamentals, and just plain discipline and hard work to get there.

So I guess I should re-balance that scale today.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Vacation - We're Supposed to Have Fun, Right?

Last week I was on vacation, and that is dangerous territory for a girl like me. I am knee-deep in a major fat-loss effort, and between my birthday and my annual voyage to a family reunion, my progress is being thwarted right and left. It's frustrating, but being on vacation gave me a chance to stretch my creative muscles and test my will. I decided to do an experiment - the first vacation where I don't arrive home feeling like I need to detox because of all of the "vacation food."

You know what I mean...everyone relaxes the rules on vacation. The last time I engaged myself in vacation food, my husband and I went on a mission to sample every pint of Guinness and every cheeseburger in Boston. And one morning last week, I let my son eat cookies out of the box before breakfast. They were organic whole grain cookies, but cookies nonetheless. So vacation can be a bit of a landmine if I am not careful.

I put vacation in the same category as treats. If the whole point of going on vacation is to relax and unwind, why end up at home feeling like a big greaseball because you convinced yourself that indulging in high-calorie/high-fat food was something you were entitled to because you are on vacation? It depletes my relaxation, erases the vacation, and generally makes me more stressed than before I left.

Everyone knows that eating clean on a road trip is hard, because your schedule is all wacky, and also because my husband and I are total fast food snobs. As in, we don't eat it. Even the "healthy" stuff. And after this trip, Cracker Barrel is also off the list (it's a long and uninteresting story so I won't bore you with it here).

So I started my experiment on a Sunday, and by the following Sunday I had failed miserably. I still ended up at home feeling like I needed to detox my system to recover from vacation food. Do I regret it? Ummm.....not sure. I probably didn't need to go to the ice cream stand three times in one day (people kept inviting me! I was just being polite! And one time I got yogurt!) and there were some definite times when the healthy option was right in front of me and I reached beyond it. But all in all, I think I scored about a 75%. I could have done better, and I could have done worse.

Either way, I'm home now, revitalized, and ready to pick up where I left off. Going for a run and hitting the weights felt so great after a week away, and hearing a chorus of "welcome back!" and then my trainer's voice saying, "I'm out of town for the next three workouts," brought me back to reality. There is work to be done, and I need to show up.

I always think a week off is going to be so great, and it is. And then I come back and wish I hadn't taken it off because now I am behind. But it's not a big deal; on every road trip, there are rest stops. Now I'm refueled and back on the road.

Wait a second? Did I just say "it's not a big deal?" Did I just downplay a week of slothdom and trips to the ice cream stand? Did I just express contentment with a C-minus?

I must still be on vacation. :)

Monday, June 30, 2008

Will Fat Burners Turn Me Into a Skanky Ho?

Okay, so the supplement thing is still on my mind. I don't believe that relying on supplements to maintain a physique is smart or even really the definition of true MGP, but I accept them as a tool to use in moderation and with an educated awareness of both the risks and the fact that there are no miracle pills to erase the need for good old fashioned discipline and clean living. So I guess that answers my question from a few weeks ago on where I stand - I'm not completely adverse but I'm not putting my hopes and dreams into a bottle of magic either. I know that even if I take a supplement to give my hard work a boost, I still need to put in the hard work.

And also, I am a little afraid of where those supplements will lead me. I read a lot of fitness magazines, and I can't help notice a recurring theme - lots and lots of ads for fat burners. I read them with a skeptical eye, scanning the fine print for the disclaimer reading, "all of this is pretend and no one in their right mind should take this crap." But I don't see those words, just enthusiastic testimonials from women who claim that LipoDissolve or SuddenlyLean or MegaWattHoodiaCut changed their lives and transformed them from dumpy wallflower to...well, skanky ho. I'm serious. Open a fitness magazine and look at the ads. The women look like they just walked out the 3 am shift as a chain-smoking truck-stop stripper. Okay, that was a little mean. I just said that for a laugh. I'm sure there are plenty of perfectly nice chain-smoking truck-stop strippers just working their way through college. All I am saying is they need to have their roots touched up and maybe go a little lighter on the eyeliner.

So I wonder, will taking fat burners turn me into a skanky ho? I'm a pretty conservative gal when it comes to my personal fashion. Okay, I dress like a second-grade teacher, a point which was made abundantly clear to me when, as leaving for my sister's wedding rehearsal dinner, my brother asked me where the non-fiction section was, resulting in snorts and guffaws from my loving and supportive family. So, I don't think I could pull off low-rise jeans with high-heels or a tank top with my bra showing. It would really cramp my style, which currently has a foundation built on broken-in sneakers and a wide selection of hoodies. That's not to say I don't try to look cute, I just usually end up being more in the category of, "oh look at Heather in her grown-up clothes. Isn't that cute!"

I know that the women in the fat burner ads are showing off their bodies because they are proud of them, whether it be the hard work, genetics, fat burners, or plastic surgery that got them there. And because they are getting paid to do it. But because I am a sarcastic smart-ass, and because I am secretly jealous of their ripped abs and toned hamstrings, I judge them and say they look like hos. I'm not proud of my behavior, just justified.

I don't know what any of this means, and I don't have a witty way to end this blog posting. Just an observation - there seems to be a direct correlation between taking fat burners and looking like a skank. I haven't decided yet if that is a risk I am willing to take.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Greyhound Mentality

"If I get to 16% or 17% body fat and I am still not happy with what I see, I just need therapy."

I was at a restaurant talking with my girlfriend while our husbands tried to keep our kids from running into the kitchen, eating off of other people's plates, and generally driving everyone else batty. Our conversation had turned, as most between women eventually do, to our bodies. She poked the straw in her cup. "I'm glad you said that, and I didn't have to." We laughed, and I was again thankful to have a friend willing to shoot straight with me.

It's my birthday, and that means I'm halfway through the year and it is time to check progress on all of those things I was so vehement about back in January. This time, when I look in the mirror, I see two selves: the self who has come a long way, and the self who still has a ways to go. Luckily, I have good friends to keep me honest.

People are starting to comment on the changes I'm making. It feels great to receive a compliment on my physique and feel that my hard work is paying off. I just wish I could see it with my own eyes. Sure, I can see the size label on my clothes show a smaller number, and feel the waistband of my shorts get a little more loose, but like most women, I still frown a little when I look in the mirror. My arms are defined, my legs are getting back into shape, and my obliques are showing the advantage of my lunchtime Pilates and water aerobics classes. But I also see mushy hamstrings and the dreaded tummy pooch. Not as poochy as January, but poochy nonetheless. I know that I will always see these things, and I also know that I kind of hope I always do. I realize that's messed up - let me explain.

A couple of weeks ago I was having a conversation with another friend about greyhound dogs. He told me that when people breed greyhounds for racing, they never let the dog catch the target. He never catches the fox, bites the carrot, or gets the bone. As soon as a greyhound tackles his target, he's done, and it is for that reason that they are soon retired - they don't have the drive to chase anymore. It didn't take long for me to see the connection.

I know almost for certain that I will never reach the carrot. And really, I could be feasting on carrots right now and would never realize it. Body issue goals are elusive because we never see ourselves the way others do. But my friend made a very wise point - he pointed out that even though I might not ever reach the carrot, at least I could give my best shot at keeping pace with it.

When I look in the mirror at this mid-point in the year, I am energized. I see the fruits of my labor, and that there is still some harvesting left to do. But the best part is seeing the reflection of someone who is giving an honest shot at accomplishing a dream. In a way, I hope I never wake up.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Put Me In, Coach!

I'm off the bench, officially. A couple of weeks ago I took the knee braces off and tucked them away, waving goodbye to my little one-legged mascot and wishing him well. I can take it from here.

My knees (yes, at one point in my therapy I was upgraded to wearing two knee braces instead of just one) feel great, and on my first day back running sans assistance, I felt like Forrest Gump when he takes off running and his braces fall off and he proceeds to run for like 20 years straight. I don't want to run that far, but I felt like I could.

No cramps, no twinges, no aches or pains. Just me and my sneakers, hitting the pavement. Well, and my clothes; I don't run naked. Me, my sneakers, and my clothes: out there hard at work. iPod. Me, my sneakers, my running clothes, and my iPod. Hitting the pavement and giving it our all.

I took it slow for the first week and then got more brave, adding intervals after about 20 minutes. It feels so good to sprint, so good to take off like a bullet and feel my chest swell and heave, and to imagine the sidewalk crumbling in my wake as I race to the finish. If you ever want to experience true euphoria, run sprint intervals while listening to "Invincible" by OK-Go. It never fails.

But more important than running without my velcro buddies was my first real lower-body weight routine. Sumo squat, here I come. I actually didn't do any sumo squats (it's always nice to have something to anticipate) but I did do regular old squats and finally being able to break the plane instead of having to stop just short of a 90-degree angle was like coming home for Christmas. I even jumped on the leg extension with enthusiasm. I'm already seeing some nice definition and having to take the elevator at work is a badge of honor I am wearing with a huge dose of self-satisfaction.

Taking my braces off signaled a new phase in my training, and a new phase in my personal life, as well. I'd had a rough week and knew I needed to make some changes in one of my personal relationships. Saying goodbye to someone you've cared about is never easy, but it helped to find a symbolic link between that departure and taking off my knee braces. Removing the obstacle gave way to a freedom and lightness that I had not felt in a long time, and I finally felt like I was myself again.

So now, I am ready, full-steam ahead, to get my lower body back in shape. Putting up with the things that have held me back for the past few months - physical therapy, slow jogs, itchy knee braces, and wussy leg routines - have been well worth it. I know that I needed to take that break and put up with those inconveniences so I could appreciate the ability to come into the gym and knock it out of the park again.

So put me in coach, I'm ready to play!

Monday, June 9, 2008

To Supplement or Not to Supplement...

It's the age-old question asked by women in gyms everywhere - "is this it?" And the age-old follow-up question asked by diabolical maniacs like me, "for real?"

I'm talking about the hand of cards we're all dealt on Day 1 - our genetic makeup. I've said before, mine kinda sucks. I want a do-over. But I'm getting over it and making the most out of what I have to work with. It's not fair and I'm bitter, but whatever.

As I continue on this journey towards my MGP (maximum genetic potential, if you haven't been taking notes), I've started to wonder about the ground rules. Since it is my own game, I guess I can make them, right? I've been wondering about the definition of "genetic potential" and whether the use of supplements should be allowed. After all, if I am supplementing my efforts with herbs, minerals, and vitamins, am I toying with nature? Or are they elements of nature that should be considered fair game play?

I have always equated supplements with steroids, and never touched them. Well, for a while in college I took creatine, but I was too poor to buy enough to make a difference. But now supplements fill the shelves of the drug store, grocery, and local health food shop, all innocently whispering the advantages they can provide. It could be very easy to load up on a bunch of snake oil, not really knowing what to expect, and end up hurting your progress in the long run. A trip into Vitamin World for some protein powder can make you wonder if you need a medical degree to figure out the hundreds of little bottles standing at attention, ready at your service.

I already take a multi-vitamin and glucosamine for my knee, so technically I guess I am supplementing my diet. But a recent read in a fitness magazine planted the seed of whether to add to my regimen and give my nutrition an edge. It was an article about how to get the most from your workouts by using arginine, caffeine, and creatine in combination with whey protein, fast-digesting carbs, and apparently a lot of water to wash it all down with. Another article recommended taking glutamine to enhance nutrition, and online boards discuss the merits of CLA and others. Of course, you can peruse a magazine stand any day of the week and you can find all sorts of research to support and disprove 31 flavors of fitness gimmicks. It is the responsibility of the user to research these supplements and determine their own personal comfort level with using them.

For me, what it really comes down to is not whether these supplements work (I am sure some do, and others are just a placebo effect) but whether the use of them dilutes the exercise of reaching your maximum genetic potential. Can you really say you are at your MGP when you've relied on something other than nutrition and exercise to get there? Or are they considered a "food group" of their own, just another aspect of nutrition?

I can't decide, so I am asking you. Leave me a comment and tell me what you think!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Nothing to See Here

Well, it's about the gazillionth week of my training, and I have practically nothing to report. I'm just working out, doing my thing, trying to find balance between it all. Just like every other person in America, I get up, go to the gym, go to work, and go home. I have no wisdom to impart; I am just trying to keep up.

I think these times are sometimes the most challenging when you're working on a goal. When there is an uphill battle, a cause to rally around, or smack talk to be made, the process is interesting and entertaining. When you're just going to the gym and working out, the real work begins. It's easy to go in and give your all when you're psyched up to win. It takes more effort sometimes to just stay the course.

That's what I've been doing lately. It reminded me of a conversation I had with my trainer a couple of weeks ago. He is also a coach for a variety of sports teams, one of which being baseball for middle-schoolers. At least once a week he is shaking his head about the antics of the over-enthusiastic parents of these kids, who seem to engage in a combination of full-contact bleacher coaching and play-by-play commentary, usually directed towards the umpire in the form of personal insults. In this particular case, a parent had become angry when his son's team didn't win the game. He made all sorts of accusations of unfair calls, unsportsmanship, and summed up by saying that the other team just didn't deserve to win. Maybe so, but they did. It happens sometimes.

Not only did this story make me sad for his son, who is missing out on the fun parts of being on a sports team because his dad doesn't play well with others, it made me realize that winning doesn't necessarily happen on the field.

In this case, the baseball team had shown up thinking they could destroy the competition, and they hadn't practiced as much as they should have. The other team was a come-from-behind underdog who pulled it out and won the game fair and square. They had worked hard, created a better strategy, played a stronger game, and ultimately showed that winning happens in practice, not on the field. The other team may have had more experience, highly-skilled players, and a better track record. But even the pros need to practice. Just look at the Saints.

I might just be a product of the "everybody gets a trophy" generation, but I really feel like just getting out there and putting yourself to the test is worth a high-five. Sure, at the end of the day, I want to win. Not necessarily against other people, but against what I thought I could do. But I know better than to think I can just show up and dominate. It takes a lot of hard work to be able to back up that kind of bravado. Maybe I would feel differently if I was naturally athletic and accustomed to easily winning feats of sportsmanship; every inch I have gained (or rather, lost) has been won through lots of blood, sweat, and tears in practice.

So I guess this week, when I have nothing to report, it is because I am practicing. After all, I don't want my dad to have to make a scene.