Monday, May 26, 2008

I am Such a Hypocrite

I'm not known for being good at moderation. I know people who do a great job with it, but I am not one of them. I'm either in or out. On or off. Full steam ahead or dead standstill. I don't do much in-between.

So that's why I am having such a hard time with finding a way to live harmoniously with sugar. It is a major impediment to my workouts, nutrition, and general happiness, but I still keeping trying to find room for it in my life. It's as if sugar is an old friend from high school that I have grown apart from, but she still wants to hang out. We don't really have much in common anymore, and I'm just into different stuff now. We have some mutual friends and I see her from time to time, and I don't really have much to say but I feel like I should at least be polite. Then after a while I remember that she was the kind of friend who stole my stuff and talked bad about me behind my back, and I'm reminded of why I didn't want to hang out anymore. It's not that we didn't have some good times, I'm just in a different place.

For the most part, I avoid sugar completely. I've even gone for long stretches where I didn't have any at all, but then BAM! It hits me square in the face. Usually on a Saturday, when my defenses are down and I'm in a party mood.

Before I know it, I find myself in the situation that occurred this weekend. I was sitting on the arm of a sofa watching my husband and our friends play Rock Band when one of my best girlfriends asked, "how's the training going?" "Great!" I enthused, popping a handful of mint m&ms into my mouth. The irony did not escape me, I just chose to ignore it.

Later that evening, birthday cake took the stage, and against my better judgment, there I was. A couple of hours later, stomach aching, I bemoaned my momentary lapse of sanity and vowed never to eat sugar again. I knew in my heart that it was an empty promise, but I knew that even deeper down, I was serious. I want to find a way to get sugar out of my life once and for all.

I feel like such a hypocrite. I've always maintained that a little splurge once a week or so is good for us, and I've savored my chocolate frosted brownie on Saturday night feeling like I had earned it for all of my hard work during the week. But a little voice in my head sang out, "you're not being honest..." I pushed it away. Me like chocolate. Chocolate is good. Yummy yummy yummy. And then, 20 minutes later, I'm feeling gross and wishing I hadn't "treated" myself to a stomachache.

I have a little motto that I self-righteously share with people when they talk about "treating" themselves with sweets or whatever food they deny themselves on a regular basis. I remind them, and myself, that eating crap is not a treat. Putting trashy food into your body is not a treat. Why is self-sabotage considered a treat? Because it's tasty?

I was so proud the day that a friend told me that she had shared my little motto with her Weight Watchers group and that they had actually printed it on bookmarks so they could remember it in times of temptation. I felt so smart and smug. And I was truly happy that my message had resonated with someone. I maintain that by calling these little diversions "treats" we are tricking ourselves into thinking that we've earned them as a badge of honor, but in reality we are taking two steps forward and one step back. So instead, I try to call a spade a spade. Eating chocolately goodness is not a treat. It is yummy and it is fun for a while, but it is not a treat. It's a step back in this process, and one that is rarely worth it.

Well, now it is time for me to heed my own advice. I don't know exactly how I am going to do it, how long it will take, or whether I will succeed, but sugar and I need to have a talk. It's not you, sugar, it's me.

Well no, actually, it is you.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Like, OMG!

You're downloading music from "High School Musical"?

I could detect the hint of judgement in my husband's voice as he looked over my shoulder and watched me click the mouse on the "purchase song" button in iTunes. I had been found out. The gig was up. I was forced to take stock of the playlist on my iPod and, well, face the music.

In the 20th week of my training, it was time once again to update my running music and find something to keep me energized and help me ignore the humidity of May mornings. I just had not realized how much of a closeted 13-year-old I had become when choosing music for my morning run. It started innocently enough, but has now turned into a full-blown monstrosity that must be dealt with.

Last summer, Green Day's "American Idiot," was the only thing on my iPod. I listened to it every day and it never failed to propel me forward through at least 45 minutes of hard cardio. It was as if they designed the album specifically for runners, with the way the songs transition and the tempo stays upbeat. I couldn't imagine listening to anything else for my run.

I don't remember why I shifted, but around the fall I added some lighter fare to shake things up. By October I had memorized the words to "Mambo No.5," and "Funky Cold Medina." When "The Biggest Loser," was on NBC, I downloaded the theme song, and then realized it isn't nearly as inspirational to listen to the whole thing at 4:30 am than to hear the edited version on your couch while watching out-of-shape people get born again by Jillian Michaels. But I did keep Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff," and Joe Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On." You just can't help but move when those songs are playing.

Around the beginning of the year I transitioned to more recent stuff, like Natasha Bedingfeld's "Unwritten," and KD Tunstall's "Suddenly I See." Soon Amy Winehouse joined the crowd and I started to feel a little more current, almost as if I were not someone whose only connection to news and pop culture is whatever happens to be on NPR between 6:00 and 6:15 am.

Then my playlist began to take a definite turn for the pre-teen. I heard, "Walking on Sunshine" on the radio and immediately placed it as number one. As I jogged along and be-bopped to the upbeat song, I realized the version I had downloaded wasn't the one I was used to hearing. Upon closer inspection, I found that it was recorded by a duo called, "Aly and AJ." I vaguely remembered seeing a glimpse of their reality show on MTV, in which one of them fails her driving test. The next two songs were by Avril Lavigne. Then, Beyonce. Somehow, my iPod had come to resemble what I imagine would be playing at skating rinks if that was still a cool place for teenagers to hang out. Since I am neither cool nor a teenager, I have no idea what the equivalent would be today.

Regardless, I liked it. I felt happy and peppy and practically sprinted down the street when Avril sang about how she doesn't like my girlfriend and thinks I need a new one. And faster than I could text my BFF on the way to Biology, I found myself in front of the computer entering the words, "High School Musical," into the search field. I was ashamed, but as a (former?) theatre geek, I am forever at the mercy of all-cast musical numbers with full-on jazz hands. And, "All for One" has the perfect tempo for a nice 9-minute mile. So I clicked.

Go ahead and judge me, I don't care. Thanks to Zach Efron and pals, my morning jaunt on the pavement is laced with promises of a beach party and fun in the sun. And besides, it could be worse. I happen to know for a fact that one of the biggest guys in my gym listens to Kelly Clarkson.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Diabolical: It's How I Roll

After my last blog post, I was flooded with emails from concerned family and friends thinking that I was being too hard on myself, not having a healthy attitude, and taking this to the extreme.

Calm down. I'm fine.

In my eyes, the difference between people who talk about doing things and people who do things, is that the people who do things do them. I am done talking about this. I am doing it. And as I screamed into my pillow last night*, I will do this.

Being intense is kind of my hobby. It's what I do. The only thing new here is that I used to do it when no one was looking, and now I am blogging about it on the internet and sending it to my friends. I have always been crazy. Now you just know about it.

So kindly please step aside and let me get back to my diabolical plans for genetic domination.

Last week I said that it was time to get hard-core, and a week later, I am so glad I did. My workout this morning was fueled with the kind of energy you can only get by knowing that even though you might not be in control of your destiny, at least you're present for it. Last week, my runs were plagued with shin splints and sore calves. This morning, I sailed down the street and felt the angst and fatigue of last week melt away. Coincidence? I think not. I've upped my game, and I've also gotten some sleep. It's a magical combination.

I had spent the weekend in reflection. I've been stressed - stressed at work, stressed at home, stressed about my workouts and nutrition, and stressed about the effect all of that stress was having on me. I thought a lot about my goals and where I am in relation to them, and I updated my plan for getting there. And, I spent some time with myself. I took a day off from work and vegged. I bought a cute dress. I called my mom. She told me to stop being so hard on myself.

The truth is, I have been hard on myself, and I am tired. But, the two are not necessarily a pair - I can be driven and focused and intense in my journey to reach my MGP and also be tired, and the reverse can be true as well. Either way, I'm taking time to change up my cardio, enhance my nutrition, and alter my strength training to accomodate the need for rest and recovery. And, I am making some more room for stress relief, fun, and chill time when I am not bossing myself around. Yeah, we'll see how long that lasts, but I am giving it a shot.

So relax. I'm fine. Still going hard core, still being tough on myself, and still moving towards my MGP with an unrelenting drive to come out on top. I'm just doing it with a little more sleep.

*I did not actually scream into my pillow last night. That was a joke. Relax.

If Success Breeds Complacency...You Can Keep It

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended a conference for work. And as with all conferences, I came back with a Steno pad full of ideas and, my favorite, inspirational quotes.

I love me some inspirational quotes. I scribble them on sticky notes, tape them to my computer monitor, write them on cards and in emails to my friends, and insert them into articles I write for trade magazines. Walking into my office is like walking into a haven of self-affirmation. I feel like they help motivate me and keep me focused on the positive impact I have on my own life, and they remind me that I am ultimately part of something bigger than myself.

So when I hear a good quote, I remember it. One in particular kept rearing its head at me last week and even made its way to the dry-erase board in my office: Success breeds complacency. It references our human nature of never trying anything new until we are certain that we will succeed, and therefore never feeling the sting of defeat or crushing misery of failure. And as a result, we never challenge ourselves to do more. So, our success is our demise, because it makes it so easy to accept the status quo.

I immediately saw the application to my personal life. I have not had much success in my goal of reaching my MGP. I've been at it for more than 15 years and have only recently begun to gain some ground. So I would like the opportunity to experience complacency once in a while.

But all of this deep thinking has made me wonder...if success breeds complacency, does failure have the opposite effect?

It definitely does for me. Last week, neither success nor complacency were part of the equation when I had my body fat tested. After six weeks of training, I had lost a crushing 0.5% of body fat. As I looked at the number and let reality wash over me, I realized that I wasn't even angry. I wasn't at my usual level of fury. I wasn't even the slightest bit confused. It was the first time that I took failure in stride and accepted it like a grown-up. I got into my car, ate my protein bar, and drove home. I thought to myself, if success breeds complacency, failure breeds me.

I spent the rest of the day in contemplation. I went over the past six weeks and wondered where I went wrong. I searched for the tiniest crack, the one point of weakness. I ultimately decided that focusing on the past was not going to get me anywhere, and I resolved to not look back any longer. Lesson learned: I am not in charge. I get it. Let's move on.

When I was a kid, there was a bridge near my house that was under construction. One rainy morning, the paper showed a picture of a lone runner jogging in the rain through the construction, over the bridge. The runner was my dad. I knew my dad went running every day (even on Christmas, which amazed me as a kid and still does now) but I didn't know that he did it despite all odds. That picture inspired me on so many levels. Not only did it represent working towards a goal despite obstacles, it showed my dad as someone with drive and resolve. It fueled in me the determination to be the same.

So, if success breeds complacency, and complacency breeds me, what do I breed? I thought about this as I ran this morning, and couldn't decide. I need more time to think about that. For now, I am thinking about that 0.5%, and how I never want to see that again. It might be in the past, but it won't be in my future.

If success breeds complacency, you can keep it. It's time to get hard-core.