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.