Wednesday, September 29, 2010

a key: single moments

NPR hosted a feature recently asking folks to recount the first piece of classical music they fell in love with. When I first started listening, I thought "what a random feature!" And then I heard something inspiring.

Among the stories was a woman who'd been homeless (read about Ariane Myasaki), working holding a sandwich board. She'd been able to save up enough for a discman, but then only had a few dollars left over; enough to buy a recording of Beethoven (Symphony No. 6, "Pastorale" ... listen to it!). She played it as she worked, and in a single moment, it brought her fully into the world around her. And then this:
"Because of that symphony, that moment, I decided to dedicate myself to music. I got my GED. I went to community college and got an Associate's in Flute Performance, and another in Humanities and Social Science. ..."
In a single moment! Her life was changed forever.

me too, please!
It set me to thinking about how I feel suddenly changed. These most recent efforts to get fit, there's something else in them. It's not just "I must lose weight," or "I want to feel good in clothes again." I am working toward goals I never have before: I want to be fit. I want to be athletic. I want to push my body and see where it takes me. I want to bring myself to challenges and meet them, exceed them even.

This is all incredibly new, and it feels like it sprang from nothing.

I know I've felt deeply inspired by a blogger I follow, Ms. Bitchcakes. Her attitude is not to be believed. Her challenges are greater than mine have ever been and she's found the tools to work through them. I know that in reading her posts something in me clicked. Her blog may be my "single moment."

But I also know that it's more than that; and that Ariane Myasaki wouldn't have turned to music if there wasn't already something else working inside her to tell her it was right.

single moments: the unplugging
And because I'm set to thinking about things in metaphor, I wondered how it is these single moments work. I came up with this:

Picture a funnel set over a vessel. And I am filling that funnel continuously with various things. The funnel gets heavier, sometimes overflows. Sometimes gets spilled all over the place and I have to start again. So I fill the funnel with all my familiar things. But the vessel remains empty.

And finally, I realize the funnel is plugged. With gunk. "That's it!" So I unplug it, and then there's a gush and the vessel is slowly filled with those things I've been working so hard to fill it with.

The single moment is the unplugging. But only the unplugging. It lets loose things that have been there all along and finally have a means of escape.

it'll still be work
I have a feeling all those years Ariane spent in school were difficult, harder still because of where she started.

I don't assume that my single moment of inspiration will carry me effortlessly through all the changes I have coming. But damn if it doesn't seem a hell of a lot easier.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

stinger, rebuilt

Isn't she a beaut?

stinger & her bullhorns

I still haven't taken it out on a long ride, but Patrick and I tooled around the neighborhood on Saturday. I may have fallen hard for this road bike.

Monday, September 27, 2010

a (mini) new start: reorganizing the office

So, first, some confessions:

We didn't go on our first long Sunday ride. The weather got in the way, so I don't have to feel too guilty about this one, and in fact I went to Sunday spin class instead (where I wasn't as on top of my game as I'd been just a few days before).

I haven't been counting my points. My excuse? I've been building the spreadsheet infrastructure to track those points; I'm figuring out this blog thing; we've gone out of town or had other out-of-the-ordinary weekend plans; etc. None of these is a good excuse not to stay on top of my tracking, though.

something that might help? organizing
I've long had a thing: where if I sit to eat and I see mess around me, I have to clean up that mess or else I won't enjoy my meal; when I worked in an office, I kept my desk clean and orderly (sometimes reorganizing every couple of weeks to keep files and such updated).

A cluttered space is a cluttered mind is a weak foundation for making good decisions.

So with me trying to keep up with this blog and all, I thought it might be a good idea to tackle our home office, which has always been a hot mess. My initial attempts to arrange the furniture were amateurish; so the space was treated a bit second-class; so crap was piled high.

a little bit of the before

before: a mini panorama

Hot. Mess. Disorderly, bare, boring. I've always felt cramped sitting at the computer desk. And while I won't claim that what I've done to the room has brought cohesion, what it was before just felt ... floaty.

before: patrick's deskbefore: simian loves a mess

And when a cat who loves nesting in boxes thinks the junk piled on your desk is cozy enough to nap in ... it's time.

before: patrick's deskbefore: bookshelves

some things that irked me
The two shelves next to each other. Different fake-wood grain and color! Different heights! Different widths! I feel like we were straddling the dormroom/first apartment look with this here.

The desk with the computer (& friends). Overall, it just bugged me. You can see I backed a shelf against it so it could face into the room. There's a little side-table next to it to hold a printer, external hardrive, miscellany. Over time it became a weird floating island that gathered garbage.

My desk, abandoned. Without a computer at my desk, I hardly sat there. Instead, I emptied my purse on occasion (that mess is a whole other blog entry). Every now and then I've cleaned it off, but within two days its back to being a junk station.

Lonely walls. We have lovely diplomas to display, but they're too small for the walls where they hang. Plus? Boring! I want color! Something to inspire me when I look at it!

phase one of innumerable phases
I'm nearly certain this will always be a work in progress. I'm not an educated interior organizer lady. Our needs for the space will continue to evolve. I will invariably get bored with my view and want to liven it.

But I'm pretty happy with phase one. It's clean, open, and there's art!

after: mini panorama

I knew going into this that I wanted to move the computer from the righthand desk to the left one; to move one of those two mismatched shelves behind that left desk; and that was it, actually. My aim was to create an open space to sit and write, with books, notebooks and pens handy for my inspired moments.

after: office wallafter: another shelf

I took advantage of the opportunity (me? organizing an entire room? it'll happen again, but not for many months) to find homes for some of the errant scraps in those heaps, and I otherwise rearranged and straightened to create a bigger feel for the room.

after: my desk & shelfafter: patrick's desk

I love it!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

new goal: sunday bike rides

So, in the midst of our 14-mile bike ride this past Sunday, I had a thought: What if Patrick and I make weekly bike rides a thing? And what if I push myself a bit and say they should aim to be at least 20 miles?

reasons i love this idea
Spending time with Patrick, on a bike. My husband has loved riding since he was in high school (middle school?). I grew up in a house of cycling boys, but I never picked it up myself. So I have the tools to join in, I just don't. Well, I think Patrick would feel all warm and fuzzy if he could share in one of his favorite past-times with his wife. (I also plan on helping him brew beer, but that's a whole other blog entry.)

Getting my butt used to being in the seat. The notion of just getting on a bike and going ... it's so appealing. It's liberating, it's exhilarating. But when I get on a bike now, my butt gets sore and fast. My legs wear out easily. Labored breathing, squinty eyes, sweating, grimacing. A whole bucket of things. I figure the more I get on the bike and set out on a long ride, the faster those things will fade back. I doubt they'll go away, and if nothing else I may simply get used to living with them. But the bottom line is that I'll be able to focus on the liberating and exhilarating.

The landscape from a bike. How about soaking up the sounds and smells of a place? There are no walls (or rolled-up windows) between me and what I'm passing alongside. And the landscapes themselves will be different. Patrick'll plot out our routes and I'm certain he'll choose as many back roads as possible. Life is better on a back road.

short-term plans
Sunday, September 26 - Patrick's going to put the finishing touches on Stinger today (so excited!!), and we may head out to House Mountain. Some challenges: Patrick's sick today, so he might not be well enough to hop on his bike; and this'll be my first ride on a road bike. CAN I HANG??

4111Monday, October 4 - Our two-year wedding anniversary! So we'll shift our Sunday ride to Monday. The day will go something like this: I'll bake that morning, come home, hop in the car and we'll head to Cades Cove, armed with a picnic lunch and snacks. The loop is 11 miles, and we may even park our car in Townsend to add 9 miles to and 9 miles from the park ... total of 29 miles!! Not to mention that the ride to the park will include a steady climb up the side of a small mountain (if I remember correctly). We'll picnic at Cades Cove, and when we get home, make each other our traditional dinner: Chicken Cordon Bleu (made by Patrick for me, by the way), and I'll make him a surprise dessert (top secret!).

long-term plans
I'd love to steadily add about 5 miles to these rides as I feel like I'm ready for a new challenge. And one day, I'd love for these to be 50-mile rides. I have no idea if this is more than I should be able to expect of myself, but I'm not ready to impose limits until I actually push up against and am pushed back by those limits.

Friday, September 24, 2010

birthday weekend: celebrating year 29

I always find ages funny, because I celebrated turning 29 years old, but I actually began my 30th year on this here earth. So I suppose our birthdays commemorate the year we just finished? Yay! Made it through year 29! Have cake.

Or beer, as the case may be.

Patrick bought Brewgrass Festival tickets the first day they went on sale. Good thing, because they sold out within 24 hours of being posted. Months ago.

The festival just so happened to coincide with the weekend leading up to my birthday, so we booked a room at the Princess Anne Hotel, where we stayed for our honeymoon. The place is a gorgeous, old building and staffed by some of the most friendly service-folk I've met. Also ... breakfast. Delicious. Local. Homemade. I meant to take pictures, but I kept forgetting my camera. I'm sure we'll return.

The weekend was full of indulgence and commenced with beer at Standard Pizza Co.
(new favorite!) and a sampling of regional beers and bluegrass music. I had only about four or five tasters before I sat out the rest of the afternoon.

standard pizza co.brewgrass 2010

Patrick and I headed out on an aimless bike ride. We passed through The UNC-Asheville campus, where Patrick spotted an apple tree and we had ourselves a little snack. I gotta say, that was pretty satisfying -- seeing fruit growing in the wild and just taking it.

We rode up to the Grove Park Inn (amazing and fantastical looking hotel), and I gotta tell you, I'm proud of my sore ass. I got my butt out of my seat to climb even though I hate doing it; I rode down a hill and clocked my highest speed yet, at least 33 miles an hour. Totally exciting.

sunday bike ride in ashevillesunday bike ride in asheville: apple tree pit stop
sunday bike ride in asheville: grove park innsunday bike ride in asheville: grove park inn

For lunch? We're die-hard 12 Bones fans, but the River Arts District location (our favorite of the two) is closed on the weekends, so we tried out Luella's Bar-B-Que.

It was good, but it was no 12 Bones.

I give credit where it's due, though. The smoked sweet potato chips were inspiring. I'll be trying my hand at some soon. If my version is good, I'll write about 'em.

And then? A nap before beer and dinner.  More like trying to nap while catching a half-hour of Tomb Raider 2 ... terrible idea. What wasn't a terrible idea? The beer.

Patrick and I headed to Craggie Brewing Company, the newest of a dozen breweries in the Asheville area, and I think it found its place just fine. When we got there, a couple of people were already sipping on their free flight of beers, won by bringing in their favorite vinyl. I can't remember what was playing, but I remember thinking that was about the coolest way to get new customers.

craggie brewing companycraggie brewing company

monday (birthday day!)
How I wish wish wish I'd remembered my camera for breakfast at Princess Anne! I got the granola, yogurt & fruit because I knew we'd be eating 12 Bones with my parents for lunch. It was adorable granola. It had sesame seeds! I took notes.

And lunch at 12 Bones? Delicious as always, and got what I usually get, the sides platter. Always enough. More than enough. Indulgent, delicious, down-home.

12 bones smokehouse

the difference between kicking ass & being kicked

I've been leaving my spin and abs classes thinking/saying/growling that the aforementioned class "just kicked my ass."

My goals include participating in those classes 100%, because I get halfway through them and feel overwhelmed. I've finished every class, but not without at least a moment (or several moments in a row) of pulling back, resting, cringing.

And that's usually when the ass-kicking begins. The rest of class is me just struggling to keep up and get to the end.

Not to say I don't leave those classes feeling good about myself. Because invariably I'm impressed that I didn't just quit altogether; and the physicality of it always does that adrenaline thing. But my ass? Kicked. For sure.

and then i did the ass-kicking
So then I had this experience during my most recent spin class.

One of my favorite leaders was in front of class (she's ebullient and encouraging and challenging as heck); the room was full; and every time she told us to increase intensity, I did. And every time she said to stand up, I did. Hover? I did it.

Because every time I thought "oh lord I can't," I turned that off and thought instead "I'll just try." It was as simple as that. I decided I'd attempt the climbs, the hovers, the ridiculous resistance.

And by god I got through it. Nearly all. I had to pull back near the end, but only because my body couldn't physically do it.

And when I left class, I thought "I just kicked ass."

Which of course immediately made me wonder what made that class different than the others.

I don't think my fitness has improved so much to answer for the difference; I wasn't loaded with coffee; the best answer I could come up with was that when I was faced with challenge, I decided I'd take it on.

this is what it looks like being kicked in the ass:
Challenge: Wanna take a go?
Me: No.
Challenge: Haha. I won!

this is what it looks like when I kick ass:
Challenge: Wanna take a go?
Me: Duh.
Challenge: Oh reeeaaaally?
Me: Umm, yeah, why not?
Challenge: Oh, well, uhhh ... OK, then.
Me: Haha! I. WON.

I won't cross 100%-spin-class goal off my list yet; I'd like to see how I do over the course of several weeks of classes. But I'm headed the right way.

favorite meals: oats, fruit & soy bowl

favorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowl

Look at all this beatiful food. So much. So delicious. It's often breakfast, or my post-gym meal. And I like it cold. Also, a recent discovery: tupelo honey. It's hard to make out, but there's just a bit drizzled in the bowl.

I've never been a big honey girl, but then I heard an interview with Grace Pundyk, who wrote The Honey Trail. From the sound of it, she was inspired to write the book after her experience eating Yemini honey. She talked about the terroir of honey, and mentioned Tupelo honey (from norther Florida, harvested only briefly each year). It got me curious.

I bought some on a whim, and if it isn't the most floral, earthy honey I've ever tasted ...

Now I'm eager to explore as many kinds of honey as I can get my hands on (I'm also trying to convince Patrick that he'd make an excellent beekeeper).

oat, fruit & soy bowl, 5.5 points
quick oats (1 oz), 1.5 pts
wheat germ (1/4 oz), 0.5 pts
soy milk, plain or vanilla (4 oz), 1 pt
banana (2 oz), 1 pt
apple (4 oz), 0.5 pts
blueberries (1 1/3 oz), 0 pts
blackberries or raspberries (2 oz), 0 pts
honey (1/4 oz), 1 pt

favorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowlfavorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowl
favorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowlfavorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowl
favorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowlfavorite meals: oat, fruit & soy bowl

Monday, September 20, 2010

no limits, i promise

I think limits are natural, and a defense mechanism. They keep us from doing something dangerous or stupid that could land us in, say, the hospital for, say, trying to leap from the second story of a building just to see what'll happen when we land.

But limits can be dangerous, too, I think.

For instance, I mentioned in my about page that I want to be athletic, but that I'd assumed for a long time it was something I couldn't expect for myself. Why? Because I had this notion that it was out of my reach; beyond my limits.

It's not like I'd ever actually attempted to be athletic and failed, though. And I certainly hadn't attempted it over and over and failed, the way you really should to understand that something is off-limits to you.

I just put a little wall between me and this thing, and I decided it wasn't worth trying to overcome (because, remember? I'm lazy).

So no more limits. Even when things get hard. Because if I establish limits, I establish the points at which I'm willing to give up.

practically speaking?
- Practically speaking, it means I'm aiming for the stars with that 18% body fat goal (the lady athletes come in at between 14% and 20% body fat);

- practically speaking, it means I'm going to push harder when I'm ready to quit (Patrick and I did a 14-mile bike ride Sunday; I climbed hills with my butt *out* of the seat, even though I hate doing it);

- and practically speaking, it means on bad days, when I think having a bad day means I'm not good enough to make this work, I'm just gonna shut the fuck up and put that bullshit in its place.

Friday, September 17, 2010

weekly progress: 9/6-9/12 (week 1)

Note: I'll post updates on or near Sunday every week, going over my previous week's accomplishments (or lack thereof), along with photos and my stats. My first post is several days late but all the numbers are from Sunday, September 12; and post no. 2 will be a few days late, too (what with my birthday weekend coming up!).

progress, week 1progress, week 1

*ahem* No, I'm not pregnant. This is what my stomach does when I carry around extra weight (and I've vowed to suck in absolutely nothing for these photos). I think what's clear is that while I'm relatively petite, I don't have the athletic profile I'm after.  I am so excited to see how my body changes with this new intention to get fit.

Current weight: 121.4
Difference: n/a

Body fat: 26.2%
Difference: n/a

Goal weight*: 105.7

Inches (bust / waist / hips / arms / thighs / calves):
33 / 33.5 / 44 / 10 / 22 / ?
Difference (bust / waist / hips / arms / thighs / calves):
na / na / na / na / na / na

progress, week 1

Weekly mini-goals:

Drink 64 oz. water a day yes / no
Take daily vitamin yes / no
One refined-sugar treat a week yes / no
5-6 visits to the gym a week yes / no

Weekly mini-goals? Fail.

I'm not gonna beat myself up too much over these, but I absolutely must improve them. The water is probably the easiest and one of the most important. I feel so gross and low-energy when I'm dehydrated. I also swear I translate thirst into hunger, and that I reach for food when I should be reaching for water.

My vitamin goal is also so simple, and yet I find it so hard to check that off my daily to-do list. Proposed habit: wake up, eat an apple, take the vitamin, walk the dog.

The gym goal is ambitious, and somehow so is the refined-sugar goal. Maybe because I work for a bakery?

So, forgiveness all around, with good intentions lining the road ahead.

* Goal weight is recalculated each week based on current body fat percentage, and a goal of 18%. Calculation: CW - (CW x (CBF / 100)) x 1.18; where CW=current weight, CBF=current body fat percentage.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

my bike (as of yet unnamed ... maybe stinger?)

Yeah, I think Stinger. She'll be yellow and black (with a little extra color thrown in). And we're Beesons in this house. Stinger seems just about right.

She might not look like much right now:

stringer, pre-build

But Patrick's in the middle of a rebuild. The frame used to be a whole bike, which used to belong to my mom, who gave it to me several months ago. It sat unused in our garage, and then after lots of casual conversations about how to update it, Patrick got a fire under his butt and did it. (Thank goodness, because if it was up to me, it never would have gotten done; I love a husband who knows how to take apart and put together bikes).

He'll add these bull-horn handles (to be covered in black tape):

stringer & bullhorns
(by Nitto)
- a new seat
- new break levers
- tires that Patrick had (on another bike? laying around? It's a mystery.)
- and a new helmet for me (in black)

Hey, so you know what this means? I actually have to ride my bike. A lot. Because there's this effort put into it now, and purpose.

Maybe I should set up some little goals for me and my new bike.

goals for me & my new bike
This whole being best friends with a bike thing is completely new, so I'll start pretty green. That's just fine with me. I have plenty of time ahead with my butt planted in that seat.

stinger & me
Best friends forever (??)
Neighborhood ride! Start simple. Our neighborhood is quiet and family friendly, which means I'm not worried about the cars riding up and down the narrow-ish roads. Another thing about it, though, is the hills: just challenging enough for a newbie like me. I'll see if Patrick can hook up the bike speedometer for me so I can work on increasing the length of my rides. I wonder if I can do a 10-mile ride without any backtracking ...

Neighborhood ride, phase 2: take the puppy. Patrick, who has not only bike mojo but puppy mojo, sometimes takes Saazie on a bike ride. I've tagged along once, on my own bike, and it looked easy enough (except for that one moment that she decided to dart across his path and kinda sorta knock him around). If I could conquer the bike with a dog, then ... "hi, I'm awesome; how are you?"

Recreate our 23-mile bike ride from Sunday. I took a mountain bike on our last ride (another hand-me-down, from Patrick's mom. Pattern?). The positioning will be different on this new bike, the tires a little narrower, a different braking and handlebar setup. I mean, it's a road bike, which I've never riden. Ever! Well, once. And it was this very bike, but probably 15 years ago. And it frightened the hell out of me. Something about the handlebars being so low.

Ride to Metro Pulse. I do part-time work for Metro Pulse once a week, in the afternoon and into the evening. I want to wait for the weather to get cooler so I don't get to the office stinky. But autumn is officially a week away. So I won't be able to use weather for an excuse much longer. My biggest challenges with this ride will be 1) being in shape enough to make it and look respectable; and 2) feeling confident enough sharing the road with cars to make the ride by myself (having Patrick on long rides gives me an incalculable boost of confidence).

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

oh right, i'm lazy

As I've pushed my physical limits in the past few weeks, I'm reminded of one of my biggest hurdles: my own laziness. And I'm not just talking exercise or physical activity. At any given moment, I'd rather sit still and get lost in thought than do ... just about anything. There've been very few things in life that wake me up in the morning excited for the day.

Add to that 1) a loath to continue doing anything I'm not good at; and 2) a knack for procrastination, and it's a wonder that I don't actually weigh about 100 pounds more.

So what exactly is it that's got me thinking about this now? Well, I brought myself to the edge of disappointment on that 23-mile bike ride with Patrick this past Sunday. I was beating myself up for being a wimp (aka, struggling to climb tiny hills on my lowest gears, and with my butt hunched limply on the seat). I momentarily entertained the idea that I don't have what it takes to get fit. That I'd ultimately crumble to the judgment I placed on myself and the difficulty of the work.

This sounds less like a crossroads with laziness than with self-doubt, which I suppose it is. But I see the laziness in that willingness to give up, and possibly under so little actual pressure: it was my first bike ride after years of not cycling. And it was 23 miles, perhaps the longest leisurely ride I've ever done outside our trips along the Creeper Trail.

But all I saw was a little wall ahead, and I thought it might be better to turn around then to try to climb over it (or at least hang out at the bottom until my powers of persuasion tore it down).

I'll wager I've met these moments before, with a wall in the distance and my ego deflated. And I know for a fact that I haven't gone around climbing any walls. Which means that even just the promise of a wall has been enough to turn me away from any serious attempt (just an attempt!!) to achieve my goals.

You know what, though? Change is here.

I was seriously deflated on Sunday, but as we got closer to home, I was already talking about incorporating long rides into our weekend plans more often; even lugging our bikes on the weekend trips we take to Asheville, N.C., (where there are serious hills ... and 12 Bones Smokehouse, where even their sides platter would be the perfect reward for riding those hills).

And in the other moments that I've felt overwhelmed recently -- climbing in spin class, getting my ass kicked trying to barely keep up in abs class -- I've carried that self-doubt and frustration, but as if it's extra weight. As if it's part of the exercise. There's usually a moment that I want to drop it and walk away. But I don't. I haven't.

I won't proclaim exactly "no more laziness for me" (which I nearly did; I wrote it, then I deleted it), because I will have bad days, I will have days where rest seems like a better option than moving (whether or not that'll be true). But I can say that at least I know I can push past laziness, knock it into the dirt, turn around to trample it with my bike.

What this means to me in the long run is I Don't Exactly Know What. Because I've never pushed far enough to know my true limits, if there are any. I don't know how I react, or how my body reacts, to climbing over a wall.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

abs class: what the hell??

This class kicks my ass every. single. time.

I think I originally imagined just doing 40 minutes of endless standard crunches. Which would, of course, defeat the purpose of being led by a trained instructor. What I've found instead is a series of unimaginable uses for my torso. And back. Did I mention that I always leave class with a sore neck? And arms and legs.

It's ridiculous. In the most lovely way.

One of my goals is to participate at 100% in this class. Because as it stands now, I spend at least five minutes each class either still on my back, or reverting to standard crunches while everyone else contorts their upperbody and legs into some mangled, amazingly effective posture.

And of the time I spend mimicking the instructor, I'd say only half that time am I pushing my limits; the other half I'm just barely able to keep up.

I'm so excited about all my classes and what I can achieve with them, but this one has already got me daydreaming about a rock-hard (or at least solid) core. Which I realize I've never had.

My posture has always been subpar (sitting or standing). I have a little ponch (I should really name it; it's hung around long enough). I want to push out babies one day, and I think a strong core will be an excellent way to get back in to shape after birth.

I'm on my way there already. (I'm always amazed at how quickly my body responds to exercise, like I'm finally giving it what it's wanted). I've been to a handful of ab classes and my most recent one, yesterday, I could actively feel my muscles being more engaged and more in control. (A specific example: As we were laying on our backs with our legs raised, knees bent, my lower back stuck to the floor, rather than lifting to a slight arch.)

I wasn't able to increase my participation, but I did feel more centered as I struggled through the exercises.

Baby steps. Baby crunches.

Monday, September 13, 2010

goals: ride the entire virginia creeper trail

I've actually already ridden the Creeper Trail with Patrick, twice. The entire thing runs from Abingdon, through Damascus, past Green Cove Station and finally to White Top Station in Virginia.

The typical trail biker takes a shuttle to Green Cove and coasts down to Damascus (with a little pedaling). If they catch you riding up the trail, they'll likely give you a "You're going the wrong way!" and a friendly laugh.

The first time Patrick and I got on the Creeper Trail, we started in Damascus, headed to Green Top, then back to Damascus. About 30 miles total.

The second and most recent time we rode (three and a half years ago), we road from Abingdon all the way to White Top, back to Abingdon. That was 70 miles.

So why is this a goal? What do I want to do differently?

Well for one, I'll be about 30 pounds lighter than I was on the last ride. I'm just curious to see how that changes my experience.

Also, no more tears. NO TEARS!

Ummm, because I totally cried at the end of the last ride. And by "the end," I mean the last ten miles. My butt, etc., was sore. My legs kinda stopped working. And I kept getting slower, in the most excruciating way: When I was 7 miles out, I looked at my speedometer and it read 7 miles an hour, and I thought "Yes! Just one hour!" Except that when I was six miles out, and I looked at my speedometer, it read 6 miles an hour. Sisyphus, indeed.

I'd like to finish the ride with a little less pain; I'd like to enjoy the ride up a bit more. And I'd like to be an overall better cyclist by the time we tackle this.

Patrick and I are planning to head to the trail in November. For the first time in years, I got on my bike yesterday for a serious ride. It was about 23 miles and not challenging at all (except for the length of the ride). And I was wiped out. My heart was actually in pretty good shape, but my legs -- it was ridiculous. I got to a point about halfway through the ride that I lost all will to push harder. Luckily, I have a cyclist husband who's willing to slow down his pace, guilt-free.

goal strategy

- I've been attending spin class at least once and week, and I'll keep that up. I'll focus on building up my resistance to those climbs the instructor pushes us to do.

- I want to get back on the road with Patrick for some long, leisurely rides. They'll be warm-up versions of the Creeper Trail, but I want to spend as much time with my butt in the seat as possible.

- I think working on my abs (I'm attending at least one ab class at the gym a week) will help me tolerate a lot of time in that seated, hunched position.

- And going prepared will help: plenty of water, hearty snacks. I think I may have been able to handle our 23-mile ride better if I'd had some nuts and fruit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

what i'm looking forward to, part 1

What I'm looking forward to now is so different from what I looked forward to when I started Weight Watchers a few years ago. And (surely this is related), the way I see my body as it is now -- with a lot of work ahead of me -- has a different timbre then it did then.

When I started Weight Watchers in spring of 2006, I was so ready to just not be fat anymore. I'd been overweight since early childhood (I started as a normal-chubby kid and never slimmed down; so maybe I should rephrase it: I never lost my baby weight after childhood).

The extra weight I carried always felt like it got in the way. I was aware of my body in a way I didn't like. I'd grab my belly roll in frustration. I'd look in the mirror and just wish it away. In fact, I did wished it away in childhood -- I was no older than nine on some Christmas Eve that I asked Santa to just make me skinny. I woke up the next morning disappointed.

In any case, my body was a problem that needed to be fixed, and Weight Watchers was the key.

And it worked. I'm a numbers girl, and a listmaker, so keeping track of my food using the Weight Watchers method resonated.

I looked forward to just getting the fat off and buying smaller clothes. And consequently I'd be happy forever.


I definitely got the weight off. I've gained a few pounds back, but at my lowest weigh -- 107 lbs. -- I was down 50 lbs. from my highest of 160 in high school, and down 40 lbs. from the 148-150 lbs. I was carrying when I started Weight Watchers.

I was definitely buying smaller clothes, and I had that "damn, I look good" feeling a lot more (to be honest, as much as my body frustrated me, I always managed to carry around a little bit of narcissistic self-admiration; and I always found that funny).

I wasn't endlessly happy, though. And that's no surprise. There is no single thing a person can do to be happy, nor should their be. Some of the most productive, fulfilling things in life come from the struggle, and I'm not always able to get through those struggles with a smile on my face.

So, what am I looking forward to now that's so different?

Well, let's wipe "eternal happiness" off the list, because that requires a list of its own, and a lifetime of effort.

I'm looking forward to a lean, athletic body. I didn't actually ever consider this could be in my future. I'd written off athleticism as belonging to other people, who were born to be athletic. Which is of course a mistake, because it may come easier to some people, and other people may be willing to endure the effort a bit more. But that doesn't scratch me off the list entirely.

And what I find so interesting about this change is how it's affected what I expect to get out of my trimmer body. Namely, that I'll still look like me, and not like a generic image of "a skinny person." (I have some predictions: no boobs, a straight-ish waist, thick thighs and calves.)

When I was focused on simply getting rid of fat, I wasn't really paying attention to the body underneath, and I think I allowed images of thin people to affect my expectations of my own body.

But if I'm thinking about being athletic? And when I'm in spin class or doing 40 minutes of ab strengthening? I'm acutely aware of my musculature. And honestly, to use those muscles actually makes me feel good about them ... even proud.

So rather than flipping through a magazine thinking "I wish I looked like that girl," I'm really excited to see how I will look when I'm in prime shape.

I'm looking forward to being aware of my body. Have you ever noticed how when really fit people do anything, you can see their muscles at work? Like, they can be taking a can of beans off a shelf and you see their biceps in action. It's crazy. I'm looking forward to being tuned in to that.

I'm looking forward to not being aware of my body. Isn't that funny? Because it's the opposite of what I just said above, get it? Basically I'll be happy when my excess fat isn't pressing into the band of my jeans, and when I no longer feel my arm jiggle as I reach for a can of beans on the shelf. I'm not as frustrated by these things as I used to be, but they're still unwelcome guests.

a final note
I decided to pursue this athletic goal just this summer. And in these last few weeks, I've noticed something interesting: Whereas I used to look at my work-in-progress body and see the burden of it (and consequently get low), I've caught myself noticing excess weight or a bulging tummy and thinking "Haha! I can't wait to work you out, you asshole!" It's like I've already conquered my body and my perception of it.

And if that ain't half the battle ...

Friday, September 10, 2010

getting fit, finally

For as long as I can remember, I've been exceptionally aware of my body and the space it took up. I think my earliest body-conscious memory is from age seven or eight, sitting on my front porch swing. When neighbors walked by, it felt like it took forever for them to get out of sight -- and in turn for me to get out of their sight. I just didn't like being exposed, because I thought I looked bad.

And forget about puberty and everything that brought with it. Another clear memory: walking across my high school campus and being aware of my thighs, and how it felt like they were in a race for their lives, fighting each other to get to some invisible finish line.

step one: food (part one)
A few years ago, I finally did something about my eating habits. No more mindlessly consuming whatever food I wanted to eat in the moment. Instead, I spent a couple of years resenting my new (reasonable) limits -- using Weight Watchers -- and actually losing weight. Lots of it. I went from a high of 160 in high school to 107 by 2008.

It was a few years of resentment, yeah, but also of truly realizing how much was too much (and how I'd spent a lifetime of eating too mcuh), and of discovering a little tiny body under my extra weight. I enjoyed it. I sashayed.

And then life happened, and maybe I started not paying as much attention to what I was eating; and have I mentioned how I never really ever got into a committed fitness routine?

I'm back up to 122. Certainly not as high as my highest, but I also haven't been living my happiest days. And the biggest problem: the fact that I've let go of my control over food.

steps two and three: food & do
My big accomplishment in losing weight the first time around was understand and respecting that I needed to eat less food. Where I fell a little short was the types of food I was eating.

That resentment?  I think it had to do with the fact that five Ritz crackers cost two points in Weight Watchers. And then the cheese to go with them? Three points. That's five points! Of my 18 daily points!

Something I've already improved in the past month of bringing positive changes back into my life is those food choices. How about I bypass the Ritz and cheese altogether and use my five points to eat half a bell pepper, a Roma tomato, 3 ounces of spinach, 2 ounces of hummus and 2 slices of whole wheat bread?

Not only will I be satisfied after that meal, but I'll have also gotten a good dose of my grain and vegetable servings for the day.

Also? Delicious.

So that's huge. You know what's huger? I want ... have an actual desire ... to exercise. I want to do things. I want to accomplish things. With my body.

I'm pretty excited about this part. Something clicked. I stripped away the limits I've imposed on myself; I started understanding just how much I can do if I want to; I started imagining my body as an athletic body.

It's a long, exhausting road ahead. I'm looking forward to being out of breath.