Tag Archives: defiant athlete

Defiant Athlete: Week 9

This has been quite a week on the defiant athlete front between getting sugar drunk and having unicorns tap dancing on my brain.

I loved my “I love my bum campaign” picture so much, I made it my header. And yes, I love it. Have you sent Dr. Samantha a picture of your butt lately? This picture is especially special to me, because I got upset with Kevin when he took it. I made a big deal of showing him how to take a bowling picture from the side so that there wasn’t just a collection of booty shots. I made a big deal, because I didn’t like seeing my butt. That was about a month ago. And now I can’t stop looking at it and thinking–you know, I have a great ass. It’s even heart-shaped. I heart my ass. For the past week someone has found my blog nearly daily by searching “super ass.” I think they heart my ass, too. This header’s for you, super ass searcher.

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Sometimes The Gym is Awesome

A couple of interesting things happened at the gym today.

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Fat Women Can Be Physically Strong

That’s Tristy. Watch her video. I plan to, anytime my confidence or dedication feels at a low ebb.

Know what my favorite part is? The grin on her face every time she lifts something heavy. That’s pure joy. And it isn’t reserved for skinny folks who fit the mold society has marked “athlete.” You don’t have to lift something heavy to feel that way. You can swim further than you thought you could, or walk a little faster, or dance a little harder. It doesn’t matter what you do, but after you’ve done it–that grin. It’s what happens.

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Defiant Athlete: Month Two

Another $39 out of my checking account today means this is the end of the second month of my Defiant Athlete experiment.

I am getting stronger. I’m noticing especially my cardiovascular strength improving. On Friday I did thirty minutes on the treadmill and my heart rate didn’t go out of zone 2 at 2.8 mph. When I first started, 2.8 mph rose my heart rate to the top of zone 3.

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If You Are, What Am I?

Has this ever happened to you?

Someone says something like, “I’m too fat to wear khaki pants” or “I can’t let my arms show.” And the someone is significantly smaller than you? And you’re wearing khaki pants and what a few minutes before you  thought was a cute little cap-sleeve t-shirt?

If you’re close enough to the person to make yourself vulnerable, you might say something like, “wow, what must you think of me, then?”

And then they backpedal and say, “I didn’t mean you. I was talking about me.”

And they probably think they’re telling the truth. They probably weren’t looking at your ass in non-black pants and then making a backhanded comment about themselves that they hope you’ll take to heart so that they aren’t subjected to the sight again.

But the fact is no man or woman is an island. What you say doesn’t stop at some invisible bubble around yourself. It goes out into the world and affects those that hear you. So if you’re just talking to one or two people, your words affect them even if you don’t mean them to. If you have a wider audience, say if you have a blog that a few dozen or a few hundred people read or more, your words affect your readers. That’s the whole point.

Am I suggesting that every person in the world go out and buy the clothes that make them uncomfortable and force themselves to wear them in some kind of mass behavioral modification project?

That actually would be pretty damned cool.

But it’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is that the number one person affected by the things that you say is you, and that affect oozes out to everyone else who hears or reads your words.

Some people want to lose weight, for instance. And so they start a blog to document the effort, or just talk to anyone who will listen about their plan. And they talk about how hideous their bodies are right now and how they are going to fix that by counting calories or fat grams or carbs and by exercising to the point of punishment. And it doesn’t really matter to them that I might weigh 100 or even 150 pounds more than them. In fact, they might even think they’re motivating me because I’m 100 or 150 pounds more unhealthy than they are.

But I’m not the only one listening. If you have a daughter she might be listening. Not only might she be listening, she has your genes. So she might look like you. You might have a son who inherited your calorie-storage efficiency, who hears you and decides that there is something wrong with him–but in his world it’s not even safe for a man to worry outwardly about his weight unless he is very, very fat, and so maybe it becomes internalized and turns into some other form of self-hate.

Maybe my kid is listening to you.

What I want to put out there is that words matter. You can’t mitigate the negative effect of complaining about your huge thighs or making comments about how you’re too fat to wear a sundress by saying, “I was only talking about me.”  Words are powerful and we all have to take responsibility for the affects ours have.

And if the only way you can find to relate to your body is negatively, then it might be time to take a good look at where your head is. Because the person most affected by your words is you.

I’m guilty of the very thing I’m talking about. I’ve seen pictures of myself and gasped and made some comment like, “Jesus, look how huge I am.” And I’ve thought it was okay because I’m always the biggest person within my own ear shot when I say it. And I’m realizing, the more I learn about deep, radical self-acceptance, that this is a behavior I have to change.

The thoughts still might be in my head. It’s much harder to control what you think than it is to control what you say or write. And I think there is a difference between writing or talking about a struggle with body image and writing or talking about how disgusting my body is as though it were true. I can’t control my thoughts, but I can examine them and make decisions about how I voice them.

In the spirit of illustrating how the “If you are, what am I?” phenomenon works both ways, I’d like to tell you a story.

Until very recently, I would not have tried to run or even jog on a treadmill at a gym. Or, if I’m being honest, even outdoors. The idea of all the people seeing me jiggle and bounce was too much.

But yesterday I found myself on a treadmill between two young men who were both running. It was my 5K day and I was about 45 minutes in. I wanted to see how far I could go in an hour. The only way to do that was to jog, at least a little bit. So I did. Right there, between these two athletic men, I jogged for two minutes, then walked for three. Twice. Then finished my 5K with one minute of running.

I was sweating and gasping for breath by the end of that minute. And grinning like a fool. And the young men? They just kept running. They didn’t even look at me. You know who did? The woman on the other side of the runner to my left. She was probably at least 100 pounds lighter than me. Her eyebrows went up and she smiled, then pushed her speed up a little. That was almost as awesome as taking two minutes off last week’s 5K time. Maybe even more awesome.

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Defiant Athlete: Week 8

It’ll write my two month progress report on Monday. Two months seems like both a really long time and no time at all to me.

It seems like a long time, because I am fighting the frustration of not getting the results I want fast enough. I don’t want a two mile outdoor walk to feel like an epic woman vs. nature struggle. I don’t want to have to struggle my way up a hill by coaxing myself into just going to that car, and then that sign post, and that rock.

It seems like no time, because it’s flown by. And other than those damned outdoor walks, I’m having a real good time.

Here’s what’s the best part of the real good time: You. The conversations that are happening in comments here and with my friends and family on Facebook are exhilarating. They are the most fun, they are intellectually exciting and they make me more happy than I can express. Thank you for that.

I feel on fire with the idea of the defiant athlete. I want to yell “you can move for fun!” from the roof tops. If anyone has any leads to rooftops that I might yell from, let me know.

This week, I’ve logged less points than the one before, and the one before I logged less than the one before that. I’ve noticed that the last two weeks, and this week in particular, I’ve worked out a little less, but much harder. Also, this week I stopped logging grocery shopping as points. My fitness level has improved sufficiently that grocery shopping isn’t the feat it used to be. I could probably still give myself zone 1 points, but I’ve decided not to.

This week’s Ten List:

1. I did twenty minutes of 2.8 mph for four minutes followed by one minute of slow jogging at 3.5 mph. I’d planned on doing this for an hour, and couldn’t. My lungs and heart loved it, my legs did not. After the fourth minute of jogging, the pain on the outside of both calves was intense. I did run the last minute at 5 mph, when I knew I was going to have to stop. My legs gave out, but my heart rate didn’t go as high as 3.2 mph for a minute did in week one.

2. I had a nice little indication that I’m getting stronger this week. After the above mentioned walk/jog, I went on the elliptical. I told myself I’d go as slow as the machine would let me until it started to get uncomfortable. Two weeks ago, this was about 3 minutes, although I could push to eight. This week it took ten minutes for me to feel like I wanted to stop. I probably could have gone 20.

3. I’m really enjoying yoga, and Ruby is becoming a serious little yogini. She asks me to do yoga with her before bed almost every night. She says it helps her relax, which is hilarious coming from a six year old. But awesome.

4. I walked a mile on the treadmill in just under 20 minutes this week, which is a personal best. Yay!

5. I walked 2 miles outdoors in 39 minutes, which made up for the pain.

6. I am still (still) struggling with not weighing myself. I don’t know how to stop this. I mean, I know how to just not weigh myself. I don’t know how to stop wanting to. Does the desire eventually just go away?

7. My legs hurt so bad when I try to push past my comfort level when walking that I wonder if so many years of sitting at a computer most of the day has atrophied my muscles. I’m serious.

8. I am so anxious to get to Carson City, so that I can have access to a pool and maybe by a bike, take some belly dancing lessons, join a boot camp. I want to have fun.

9. I’ll have to take what’s good about the boot camp and leave their diet at the door. And tell them I don’t want to be weighed and measured. I’m willing to give that a try for one six-week cycle, because the idea of functional training appeals to me so much. I think I’ll open a dialogue with the trainer before hand.

10. I had a really interesting talk with the owner of my gym this week. She asked me about writing, because her son-in-law has written a book. I gave her the basic spiel about being prepared for rejection, but getting it out there anyway. Then I told her about Defiant Athlete and that I want to write about it as an academic study. She got so excited. She started telling me about a woman whose been able to get off blood pressure medication and one who is controlling her diabetes through exercise. I feel like I could turn her excitement and willingness to see exercise as something other than a weight loss measure into a way to reach more people, but I’m not sure how.

 

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HAES-Style Training

When I’m working on the treadmill, or walking outdoors, and I reach the point where I just want to stop, I have a mantra that I repeat to myself, over and over:

Shaunta Alburger, you are an Ironwoman.

It gives purpose to pushing through and continuing on and taking one more step or picking up the pace or adding some hills.

My mantra makes me push hard at the end of a training session. Yesterday I only walked 25 minutes, because I was pressed for time. But I jogged the last two minutes. I haven’t jogged for two minutes in a row since I was a teenager. A few weeks ago, jogging for one minute made me feel like I was dying. I also averaged 3 mph. With no shin pain. I am getting stronger.

Last night I spent some time trying to find someone–anyone–who had a web presence and was a fat person training for an Ironman without an expressed goal of losing weight. What I found was a lot of “watch me lose weight and then train for an Ironman” blogs. Some inspirational-type stories about people who had lost weight and then completed an Ironman.

The one thing all of these had in common was that the weight loss was the most important thing. And it occurred to me that this is really backward.

Linda Bacon, in her book Health At Every Size: The Surprising Truth About Your Weight, talks about how once you get to a point of eating intuitively, your body naturally finds it’s set point. I still struggle with some parts of intuitive eating. Eating what I want is working out okay. I’ve been able to make food morally neutral most of the time, which is a huge accomplishment. But I still struggle with stopping when I’m full. I have all of these emotions and past experiences mixed up in food, and I’m still sorting them out. But it is getting better. Slowly, but it is getting there.

I am also learning to accept that I may have damaged my metabolism and other bodily functions enough with decades of dieting, undiagnosed gluten intolerance, and binge eating that I am at my set point now. I may never lose weight, even as I become dramatically healthier.

Except, if I continue to train athletically and eventually build up to the amount of training necessary to actually become an Ironwoman.

I’ve struggled with this some. How do I keep it from being about weight, when running at 340 pounds hurts so bad? How do I separate training from weight loss when, as I start training harder and harder, it’s probably going to happen anyway.

I haven’t lost any weight in the last two months. Not a pound. I’m stronger. I’m faster. I’m not any lighter.

But, I’m starting from zero here. I give myself points for grocery shopping, because even that amount of exercise is training when you are used to spending all day, every day sitting in front of a computer. I’m ecstatic with my 700 or 800 points per week, but they aren’t enough to make me lose any weight.

They are enough to make it so that I can walk a 5K. They are enough so that I am considerably more bendy than I was two months ago. They’re enough to give me the cajones to go into the free weight section and do strength training with the grunting men. They are also enough to make me healthier.

And they are enough to make my body change, even if I’m not losing weight. My legs are stronger, my arms are stronger, my core is stronger. And they are also a little smaller. Not much. Not noticeably so unless you happen to live in my skin.

They aren’t enough to make me an Ironwoman. For that I need closer to 2500 points a week, and grocery shopping doesn’t count. Yoga might not either. To train to be an Ironwoman, I’d need 2500 points of swimming, running and biking.

I figure it would take me five years to build up to that level. And that those five years will definitely have an impact on my body. There is no way to divorce training from my body, after all. In fact, training is all about reuniting your body with your mind, isn’t it? Getting into your skin and being happy there.

Training for an Ironman-length triathlon would change my body. I would get stronger, of course. And I would probably get smaller.

It would impact the size of my body the same way Bacon says HAES might for some people. As a side effect of healthy behavior.

So, this is a round about way of thinking today about how I can stay true to the HAES concept and radical body acceptance, if I’m doing something that will almost surely result in my body changing over the next five years.

The body is a spectacularly magical thing, isn’t it? If you ask something of it, it will do it’s damnedest to comply to the best of its ability. If I continue to ask mine to let me run, and do the work to get there, it will eventually shift itself so that it can run with more ease. My legs will get stronger. My lungs and heart will get stronger. And my miraculous body will use it’s fat stores as energy over the course of those long training sessions.

I might not ever compete in an Ironman-length triathlon. But joining a roller derby league or learning to belly dance or taking up skiing–any athletic endeavor I pursue will change my body. Roller derby will build my leg and core strength. Dancing will make me more graceful. Skiing–I don’t know, I’ve never done it. But something. And that something, the idea of my body changing to allow me to participate in these things, is exciting.

The key, I think, to building a HAES-style relationship with movement and exercise is to focus on training and results that are not weight loss. Just like building a HAES-style relationship with food.

Shifting my inner dialogue from imagining stepping on a scale and seeing an obscenely small number on it, to hearing the voices in my head announce that I’m an Ironwoman as I cross the finish line is a major paradigm shift.

I still have work to do. One of my biggest struggles is avoiding the scale at the gym. It gets easier and easier as I learn to trust that if I continue training, my body will respond by getting stronger and faster. But the hardest part is that avoiding the scale doesn’t let me avoid thinking about my weight. The thought is still there, although I’m getting better at dismissing it.

Another key to building a healthy relationship with exercise is realizing that the amount of exercise that will bring me big health benefits is never going to cause me to lose weight. I could continue to walk 30 to 60 minutes four or five times a week, do yoga and strength training two or three times a week–and the changes to my body will most likely not include shrinkage. I’ll reduce my risk of everything from heart disease to cancer, but I will not be smaller.

Making that leap of acceptance is incredibly freeing.

If I eat a balanced diet of good food that I enjoy and stop eating when I’m full, my body may or may not get smaller. But the goal is to get healthier, and that will happen regardless.

If I train my body with a goal of running an Ironman-length triathlon five years from now, it will get stronger. I’ll be able to run further, bike further and swim further. And faster. Training to be an athlete will eventually make my body more athletic. How could it not? But I refuse to make weight loss the goal.

If I ever do become an Ironwoman, it won’t be because of what I’ve lost. It will be because of what I’ve gained.

 

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