Monday, March 30, 2009

Eenie Meenie Miney Moe

I hate making decisions.

For someone who has no problem telling other people precisely what they should do with their own lives, I like to keep my options open. I like back-up plans, fail-safes, and readily-accessible alternatives. If I don't feel like running, I want an elliptical machine on standby. If the elliptical is no fun, I'll jump on a stationary bike. Sometimes I want to swim laps, so I keep a membership for the local pool stocked with pre-paid visits. Or, I can work out at home with the equipment my husband and I have collected over the years. I keep a Pilates routine written on a sheet of paper in my purse in case I find myself with 30 minutes to kill, and stash exercise clothes and shoes in my car and office so I am never caught unprepared.

So it is not hard to figure out why I find myself in the quandry I am in these days: so much training to do, and so little time. I want to improve my distance running so I can complete a 10k this summer, so I need time on the treadmill at lunch. And I'm eyeing a triathlon this fall, so I'll need some pool time when it warms up in a couple of months. Then of course, there is my course training so I'll be hauling my hurdles to the park on weekends and doing my sprint workout two mornings a week. And then there is just the "stayin' alive" workout I do each morning to stay in shape and get my gym fix. I feel like Paris Hilton in a Louis Vuitton store.

But Paris Hilton has unlimited credit. I have exactly 24 hours a day, during which I also have to work a full-time job and, oh yeah, I have a husband and a kid, too. Luckily I don't have many friends so that helps a little. :)

One day while sitting in a waiting room I pulled an old receipt out of my purse and tried to map out a little schedule for myself. If I got to the gym at 4:00 am instead of 4:45 I could do a quick run before my other cardio and weights, and leave time for Pilates at lunch. If I could get away with putting my child to bed in his school clothes for the next day and fed him his breakfast in the car to cut down on the morning rat race, I could get to the office early and leave time for a swim after work. If I woke up early on the weekends I could head to the park for my course training and be back before you can say, "television is not a babysitter." Or, I could start playing the lottery so I could quit my job and just workout all the time.

I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to pull that off. Something had to give. But what?

I've rolled it around in my head over and over and can't decide. I love each of my workouts for different reasons, and don't want to give any of them up. I just have to find that balance between finding time for each of them without pissing off the rest of my life. Any ideas?

Until I figure it out, I'm enjoying the training time I do get. Because really, the whole point of it all is that working out, getting stronger, and becoming better at something than I was yesterday is fun. When it stops being fun, I'm guessing I'll stop stressing over finding time to do more of it.

Like that will ever happen. :)

Monday, March 23, 2009

Shoes and Shirt Not Required

It was 11:30 am on a Tuesday. Lunchtime cardio day. I saved my work, checked my water bottle, reached for my gym bag, and....where are my shoes? A quick search through the jumble of workout accessories piled next to my desk came up empty. Then I remembered: I wore them home on Friday.

Damn it!

My cardio buddy came around the corner with her bag, ready to go. "I don't have my shoes. I'll have to do Pilates today," I bemoaned to her with a furrowed brow. We sat in a silent moment of bummed-outness and she offered her condolences. I felt like I was watching a busload of people head for the beach without me, and turned back to my computer. Then she turned around. "Hey, if you just do the elliptical or the bike or something, you can workout in your socks!"

I thought about that. I remembered my flip flops shoved in the back pocket of my gym bag. I grabbed my stuff and we headed for the door.

Since my lunchtime gym is actually just a church rec center, I was pretty sure that there wouldn't be a fashion police officer standing at the door demanding that I wear actual shoes. The old men working on the circa-1985 Nautilus equipment didn't seem to notice or care what I was wearing. And seeing that we were the only people on the cardio machines, I could have been dressed as Betty Boop for all anyone else was concerned. But I still felt like I was somehow not showing the gym equipment the respect it deserved. Luckily I got over that pretty quickly.

45 sweat-soaked minutes later, I felt like I should be posing for the next workplace motivational poster touting the merits of determination. I doubt my selfless tale of doing 30 minutes on the elliptical in my flip flops is going to start making the rounds of tear-jerking motivational email forwards, but I gave myself a pat on the back anyway for eliminating an excuse and sweating it out. It felt really good to sweat, and it felt even better to have kicked an obstacle to the curb to do it.

As I look forward to the next eight or so months of training before my November course competition, I know that sheer determination is going to be one of the only things getting me through it. As I practice sprint drills and shuttle runs, I am reminded that this stuff doesn't come naturally to me. I have to train smart, with purpose and focus, not just go to the gym and sweat. But I can't forget the feeling I had when that course kicked my butt: that I can't wait until I am really good at it. I'll have to rely on hard work and determination to get me there, because unfortunately my God-given competitive skills lie more in the category of smack talk and witty comebacks. Still helpful, but not so much with hurdles.

I don't want to work out in my flip flops again, but it was a nice reminder that obstacles are just temporary, and usually pretty flimsy when you kick them hard enough. I hope I can remember that when I drag my butt to the park every weekend and work on getting faster, stronger, and leaner.

Experts say all you need to start a healthy exercise program is a good pair of shoes. Turns out you don't even need those! :)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Tri-Fitness Challenge: I Really Suck at This

Holy crap.

I really suck at this.

Those were the words that came to my head after I completed the obstacle course for the second time at the Al Rosen Tri-Fitness Camp this past weekend in Tampa. I kinda-sorta finished with some amount of dignity just based on the fact that I had not yet had a pie smashed into my face, and as I jogged off of the field to catch my breath, my new friends clapped and cheered, "that was awesome!" They are very sweet. It was not awesome. It was terrible. But, it was. And that's the whole reason why I went - to figure out where my skill level lies and where I need to improve.

It turns out my skill level lies somewhere around equal to patio furniture. As you know, to say that I am not athletic is like saying the moon is round. But it's not as if I am completely without merit - I can run, lift heavy things, swim, bike, and hold a plank for way longer than Mike Manguso (oh, it is ON, Mike!). But I can't jump over a hurdle. Yet.

When I crossed the finish line and received my pity praise, I had been at this for a total of one day. I had already gotten better at scaling the wall (I was down to just one grown man needed to help me get over it), started to do a lot better on the cargo net, and was actually doing a decent job on the monkey bars, which I was the most worried about. And I was having a great time, despite having my ego taken down about 15 notches. But I was still terrible at the hurdles and never was able to flip over the bar at the end without knocking it down. We had a couple of hours break before we headed to the beach for another workout. I was hoping there was something on the agenda that I would be halfway decent at just so I could remind myself that in real life, I am not actually this lame.

Fortunately, the fitness gods smiled on me. During the beach workout and trail boot camp the next morning I was back in my element and feeling a lot better about my physical fitness. It felt great to run again, do crazy push-ups and lunges and jump rope like I do every day, and it was nice to get a little confirmation that I can still kick butt, even if only in my own mind. :) As I bandaged my hands, inspected my bruised legs, and doctored my ant-bitten arms, I wondered how long I had to wait before I could do it all again.

Being at the camp was a fantastic experience, and one that I will definitely repeat. How else am I going to get better? I met some fantastic women who were really fun to get to know. I received the comforting confirmation that my abs aren't as bad as I thought. I was pleased with my level of cardiovascular conditioning. And I wrote a nice long list of things to train on. Mostly, hip flexors. I am really looking forward to tackling that course again at another camp, and then in competition in November.

But best of all, it was so refreshing and motivating to be around "my own kind." To finally be with people who look forward to grueling workouts, who constantly challenge and push themselves to achieve more, who carry ice chests of food with them and have complicated orders at restaurants, and who understand what it means to want to accomplish the completely unreal was a breath of fresh air. I can't wait until I can be there again, hopefully with a much better course time!

For now, my work is cut out for me: my jumping, sprinting, and pulling strength need to dramatically improve so I can clear those hurdles, have a more efficient shuttle run, and scale that *&^%^%$ wall.

So why are you still reading this? Let's go work out! :)

Monday, March 9, 2009

I'm Not Meeting You in the Middle

Last week as I climbed off of the stationary bike and bemoaned the time, knowing that I was once again going to be late for work because I had insisted on doing another 30 minutes of intervals but deciding that the universe would eventually get over it, I wondered if I was venturing into that slippery area of life where I kind of have a tendency to go a little overboard with things.

And as I swung my gym bag over my shoulder at noon and headed down the sidewalk to my lunchtime gym, the thought came back around. Did I really need to run? No, I realized. I just wanted to.

I thought about an article I read a while back that got my interest for obvious reasons. It was written by a woman who decided to try one month of living "perfectly." She attempted to get the daily recommended dosage of every nutrient, follow every health advisory, and do everything as if she lived in a perfectly balanced environment of scientific control. Instead of, you know, the real world.

Naturally I was intrigued. It doesn't take a psychoanalyst to figure out that I kind of have a thing with perfection. I love the concept of being at my most efficient, streamlined, and, well, perfect state of physical equilibrium. Most of the time when I eat and work out, I am striving towards getting my body into a state of being as fit as it can be. And the rest of the time, I am feeling bad about not doing that. LOL Trust me, I am far from it. But, that means there's plenty of work left to be done, and that makes me happy.

So anyway, as I ran on the treadmill that day and thought about whether I would realize when I was about to crash and burn or if I would be lying in a hospital bed as the guest of honor at a tough-love intervention before I finally accepted that I am not, in fact, invincible, and as I considered how many words officially land a sentence in the "run-on" category, I decided that regardless of the answer, I liked living in extremes.

I spend a lot of time agonizing over "the middle". My old foe, moderation. Not only do I really suck at it, I don't even like trying. Moderation to me means doing things half-way, not really giving it your all, just kinda-sorta doing something. So I've decided to stop living a lie. I can't moderate! And I don't even want to!

So as I walked back to my office after a nice 3 miles on the treadmill (and a little calf work for extra measure) I decided on a new mantra - nothing in moderation! I can't pretend anymore that it doesn't bother me when I try to take it easy or not be the most awesome version of myself that I can be. So, I'm going to stop pretending. I know I am not perfect and never really will be, but I really like trying, even when it drives me crazy.

So have fun in the middle; I'll be over here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Alligator Under the Surface

Do you ever have one of those mornings when everything seems ironic, like you are the central character in a movie full of near-misses and uncanny coincidences and side comments made by other characters that seem meaningless but are actually really significant, and which all culminate in some big life lesson at the end that will usually result in said central character moving to a large metropolitan area to persue some romantic dream?

Well, I am not planning to move anytime soon but the rest pretty much summed up my morning.

I woke up late, saw 4:55 on the clock, said something unladylike, and broke the land-speed record for getting from pillow to steering wheel and on the way to the gym. As I drove and wondered if my hair looked even remotely human, my thoughts wandered to the dream I was in the middle of when my internal alarm clock woke me. I was in a river, on one of those plastic pool rafts, with my legs in the water, thinking about how brave I was for doing this because, in real life, I am afraid of water where I can't see what's beneath me. Growing up around swamps, bayous, rivers, and a giant polluted lake, I am too familiar with what creatures lurk below the surface to be one of those people who jump off of a pontoon boat into an innertube with abandon. In classic control-freak style, I want to know exactly what is slithering my way and swimming around me.

So anyway, I'm in this water and I see an alligator poke his head up from the water and look at me. He swims past me and climbs onto the bank and sits in the sun. And in my dream, I think to myself, "wow, that was really scary and I didn't freak out."

And that's when I woke up and realized I was late.

It wasn't until 45 minutes later, when I was thanking God that it wasn't a box-jump day, that the concept of fear came up again. It was during a discussion among my friends of Heather's Hilarious Gym Mishaps, recounting the time I missed the box and sent the pieces flying, landing in the middle bruised and belwildered. I commented that I had been so afraid of that happening and that ever since, I was even more reluctant to jump on that box because I knew just how easy it was to get hurt. Ten minutes later, Awesome was correcting my form on some squats and telling me, "I can see your fear with trusting your hamstrings to support you because you lean forward, causing your knees overcompensate and buckle, ruining your form." There was that word again: fear.

We had reached the point in the movie where the central character begins to suspect that something is up.

I thought about that alligator again, and what it might represent. It didn't take long to figure out that I was getting psyched out with the fear of disappointing myself. I've failed before, and I know how painful it is. Who wants to repeat that experience? I've been disappointed, crushed, embarrassed, and defeated. They all pretty much sucked. Why would I want to do that again?

We've reached the point in the movie where everyone rolls their eyes at the predictable after-school special life lesson: I do it again because even though I have failed, I've also gotten over it. I'll bruise my calves on that bench again, I'll fall on my butt on the squat press again, and I'll get over it each time because that is just part of it.

But one part of my dream nagged at me - the part where I didn't freak out. Could it possibly mean that I've getting over my fear? Maybe I am reading too much into this, but I'm choosing to believe that the fact that I calmly watched that alligator lazily climb out of the water and onto the sand means that I am getting a lot better at patiently waiting for my fear of failure to move aside so I can get on with what I was doing. I'm at a turning point in this deal, and I'm peeking around the corner to see what I'm jumping into. I think I am ready to jump.

But I'm still not jumping off a pontoon boat into an inner tube.