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.