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Running While Fat

I woke up this morning, for the first time in most of a week, without the feeling that I was drowning in mucus.

That deserves a celebration!

I’m going to celebrate with a walk. Outside in the crisp air with a view of snow-covered mountains, under a cloudy sky.

Down this street:


(That’s my dad and my daughters two Thanksgivings ago, walking down my town’s main street.)

I’m going to do it, because I can. And because it will feel good and afterward, my skin will tingle and my muscles will be warm. I’m even going to run a little. Just to see how fast and how far I can go.

It might not be far this time, or very fast. But my new running shoes make me feel like I can fly and I want to try.

My shin splint may start hurting. My neighbors might see my fat jiggle. It’s been so long since I ran outside, I might trip and fall on my face. It might hurt to breathe when I stop. I could get a stitch in my side.

Here’s one thing, though, that I know won’t happen. I won’t ponder, with each step, how this running will make me skinny. I am so over turning every fun thing upside down to read it’s fat-burning potential.

Today I’m going to run, even if it’s only one minute, because I’m an athlete. And because, even though I thoroughly forgot it somewhere between 15 and 39, running is fun.

Big fun.

Today, I’m going to appreciate every step, every ache, every hard breath. Because I know those things mean I’m getting stronger. And when I’m stronger, I can go faster and further.

I hate being scared. When something scares me, I almost always feel compelled to do it until it’s not scary anymore.

I’m scared to run.

Someone accused me this week of making excuses for being fat and giving up on losing weight. They also became very upset when I mentioned that I can be healthy even if I never lose a pound.

The strangest thing about that exchange, which was with someone I’m very close to, was that I had to have a death grip on my instinct to capitulate. To agree that weight loss should be my number one consideration because that’s what fat people are expected to say.

Not saying it feels a little bit like thumbing my nose at society.

Here’s the thing: For the first time in my life, I’m not making excuses any more. Not even to meet societies expectations of me. And it feels amazing.

Turns out, I like being a rabble rouser.

So, today I’m going to run, even if it’s just for a minute. My lungs will expand to take in more cold mountain air, my heart will work harder to pump blood to my muscles.

And when I’m done, I’ll be a tiny bit healthier, a tiny bit fitter. A tiny bit closer to a 5K. And still fat.

How are you going to rouse some rabble today?

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Imperfect Athlete: Month One

(Warning: This post touches on weight loss and taking measurements.)

I joined my little town’s brand-new gym on January 28. They’re taking my $39 today, which makes it the end of month one.

I had a couple of struggles this month. The biggest was my inability to stay off the scale. There were a few times when the number I saw there freaked me out, which is what I want to avoid. Let’s just say that I’m not quite at the point where my brain doesn’t automatically put a moral judgment on my weight. I’m working on it, but it isn’t an overnight process to let go of 30 or so years of disordered thinking.

I went back and forth about sharing this next bit, because I’m really not interested in making this about weight. But I think it’s important, in my experiment, to realize that I am an athlete–right now, today–even if I never lose a pound.

This month, I lost two pounds.

I’ve been sitting with that since yesterday afternoon. And it turns out, I’m more okay with it than I would have believed a month ago.  I worked out 24 times this month. I averaged 40 minutes per session, which means I spent 960 minutes doing something athletic and active since January 28. Those minutes represent 960 individual statements that I am an athlete.

I refuse to let a number on a scale take that away from me.

I haven’t done any real, dedicated exercise since we moved to Ely in early 2006. Prior to that, I was working out on a regular basis at the YMCA in Las Vegas. I’d just read Slow Fat Triathlete for the first time and was working with an eye toward completing a triathlon. But then we moved, and there’s no gym here, and it’s really cold outside most of the time–I stopped.

And I got 4 years older. The difference between 34 and 39, for my body anyway, is pretty staggering. I had no real, physical limitations the last time I worked out. Nothing hurt. This month I’ve been frustrated by my body’s need for me to go slow. I want to go fast! I want to run! Only my legs and feet aren’t cooperating. They hurt. Shin splints make my ankles stiff and then my calves burn when I try to go faster.

I am confident that I’ll get stronger and that my legs and feet will heal and then forgive me for punishing them. But right now, my head is ahead of my body. In the next month I’m going to work on how I can fly without hurting myself.

I did two things that made me happy this month. I took a yoga class and I went roller skating. I loved both, which makes me long even more for the day in June when we move to a bigger city that has these things available on a regular basis.

This month I bought my first pair of decent running shoes since high school track. For whatever reason (it felt like providence) Amazon had one pair, in my size, for less than $40. They are light and comfortable and feel like they were made for my high-arched, under-pronating feet.

I also bought a bathing suit.

I feel like I’ve made big strides in the last few weeks toward eating intuitively. I have been gluten-free for the last six weeks and have found that its a lot less traumatic this time around. “I choose to feel good” is a whole lot healthier than “I can’t have a sandwich.”

For the first three weeks, I kept a record of what I ate on Spark People. It does sometimes help me when I’m trying to be gluten free to plan my meals in the morning. However, I’ve decided that keeping a record and seeing how many calories I’m eating feeds my disordered food and eating thoughts too much. I can trust that if I eat what I want, when I’m hungry and stop when I’m full, I’m going to eat the right number of calories for my body.

I would love to hire The Fat Nutritionist. If I had the extra money, I would in a heartbeat. Her website has a lot of really good information if you haven’t seen it.

I’ve noticed this month that I am able to eat intuitively most of the time, but I struggle with sugar. Specifically candy. I’m good with giving myself permission to eat it when I want it–but I have a hard time stopping when I don’t want anymore. I actually don’t want anymore–I can feel when that happens. But I sometimes have a hard time leaving any behind. I recognize this as a symptom of a combination of being a chronic dieter and a left-over almost post-traumatic stress reaction to having several years as a teenager when there just wasn’t enough to eat. (Another PST-like reaction to those years that I’ve had my whole adult is physical discomfort and high anxiety if I don’t have a certain amount of food in my house. I have ‘just in case’ food that we will probably never eat. I call it my Zombie Apocalypse stash and it mostly consists of canned vegetables and powdered soup mixes.)

If I start eating candy, I eat it all and so I end up trying to control that substance, which makes it even worse. I’m working on this.

I had a hard time deciding how exactly I want to document my progress in this experiment. Because I have never started an exercise program of any kind without using my weight as a measuring stick.

Do I tell you that I’ve lost 2-inches from my waist?

Is that any different than focusing on the number on the scale?

I think it’s more important to note that my first training session this month consisted of 20 minutes of me struggling to walk 2.5 mph, which rose my heart rate to 150. And that right now I can go for at least an hour at that speed with my heart rate topping out at about 120.

Also, I’ve been using the standing leg press. That’s the machine where you sit on a seat that’s on a roller with your feet on a plate in front of you. You push with your legs and raise your seat, and your body weight, up and down on the track. A month ago I struggled to lift my own body, with no added weight. The last time I went on that machine, I was able to do 3 sets with no extra weight easily. I’ll be adding some weight this month. (This exercise builds the muscles I’ll need in my thighs for roller derby.)

IN THE NEXT MONTH:

I’ve acquired a few books this month that I’m excited to read and review for you in the coming weeks:

Age Is Just a Number: Achieve Your Dreams at Any Stage in Your Life by Dara Torres. (Torres is a 5 time Olympic swimmer, the latest being in 2008 when she was 41.)

Triathlons for Women by Sally Edwards (I flipped to the ‘weight loss’ chapter of this book and was pleased to see that it’s main focus is on forgetting about weight loss and just having fun training.)

Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now and Shape Up with the Slow Fat Triathlete: 50 Ways to Kick Butt on the Field, in the Pool, or at the Gym–No Matter What Your Size and Shape by Jayne Williams. (Williams is amazing.)

I am also expecting a DVD called Expanding into Fullness which is yoga for bigger bodies from Sally Pugh at Grateful Spirit Yoga.

Sally Edwards’ book has an interesting section about treating exercise as training, rather than working out (which implies an attempt at weight loss.) She uses a point system (five levels of exertion. One point for each minute at level one, two for each minute at level two, etc.) She then has suggestions for how many points you need for training for different lengths of triathlon. For a sprint triathlon, she recommends 800 to 1000 per week. I plan on adapting this and working on it this month. (More on that later. Maybe tomorrow.)

Candy is just a food, like any other food, is my mantra this month.

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Imperfect Athlete–Week 3

I keep thinking of new things I want to do.  I want to play roller derby. But this week, I just seem to have come to the realization that it isn’t all about skates. I also want to belly dance and swim and bike and run and trampoline and kickboxing and yoga and . . . well, you get the idea.

Also, I’ve decided I’m not a wannabe. I am what I am, already. So, I’m widening the reach of this little experiment from Roller Derby Wannabe to Imperfect Athlete.

Today marks the end of week three of the Imperfect Athlete journey. Here’s the highlights:

1. I have shin splints. At the beginning of the week, I started my regular 2.5/3.0 treadmill intervals, all excited to add five minutes. My right leg has been feeling stiff about halfway into my workouts, from the outside of my foot to my knee. At first I thought it was my new running shoes correcting for my under pronation. But this time I had to actually stop walking. The pain was pretty severe, and it started on my left leg as well. Shin splints. I recognized them immediately, even though I haven’t had them in 20 years or more. I finished that workout on the bike and didn’t experience pain unless I tried to lean forward and get all aerodynamic.

2. As a result of shin splints, I’m all thrown off my plan for getting to where I can walk for an hour at 3 mph by the time we move to Carson City in June. I can’t walk at all at 3 mph. Suckage. The elliptical trainer is easier on my legs, but way harder in every other way. I was able to do ten minutes mid-week, between 15-minute stints at a slower pace on the treadmill. I was a sweating, gasping mess! But it felt awesome. The bike is also doable.

3. Yesterday I was able to walk for 45 minutes at 2.8 mph with five minutes for warm up and five for cool down (so 35 minutes at 2.8 mph.) I walked 1.9 miles! I was tempted to push it to 2 miles, but decided against it, since I add five minutes to my workout today and will bypass that distance. Let each week have it’s own victories, right? But I totally could have done it. I had some stiffness in my right leg, especially when I went to 2.9 for a few minutes halfway through…the stiffness turned to pain and I backed off to 2.5 for a few and then back to 2.8 and was fine the rest of the workout.

4. I have still been unable to stop weighing myself everyday. But I think I finally had a breakthrough yesterday. I had this awesome workout. I walked almost twice as far as my first attempt on the treadmill–and I didn’t feel like dying. I felt energized and amazing. Then I stepped on the scale and the number was half a pound higher than yesterday. Never mind that in all I’ve lost 8 pounds in February. My mood plummeted. But then . . .

5. I stepped outside and the cool/cold air hit my bare, sweaty arms and blew down my neck and I had this feeling. It’s hard to explain, but if you’ve ever been the sporty type, maybe you know it. Just this feeling like I’d used my body well. My muscles were warm and a little sore. But, maybe more importantly, my head came back into the game. I had a really good workout. I did more than I could have three weeks ago. I pushed myself just far enough, but not so far that I was in pain. I haven’t felt that in a really, really long time, and it felt so damn good.  And then . . .

6. I realized that I’m not going to weigh myself anymore. Not daily, anyway. That scale has no business diminishing my high. There are better ways of measuring my progress. I think how good I feel when I step out into the cool air is a kick-ass ruler. How far I can walk. How fast I can go. My heart rate. How strong I feel. How many sitting leg presses I can do. How far I can stretch. All work well as measurements of progress. The scale? Not so much. This is my break-through of the week. The scale isn’t going to harsh my fun ever again.

7. I found an affordable and super-fun looking belly dancing class in Carson City. I’m so in. Not only do the women involved look like they are having the time of their lives, they also seem to be forming relationships with each other, which appeals to me. I need friends. Also, they dress up and perform at the killer two-weekend renn faire at Lake Tahoe every year!

8. I really love my workout playlist.  I added a song this week, because my workout expanded by five minutes. I added Alanis Morrisset, You Oughta Know, just before my cool down to Free Bird. I think I’m going to work on a second play list this week, so that I don’t get burned out on the first one.

9. I’ve been gluten-free for a month this week. I’m noticing the regular positives: no leg bloating. My feet look like my feet all the time, instead of sometimes looking like someone filled them with water. I’m sleeping better and waking up rested. The dark rings around my eyes are less, but not totally gone yet. My hair isn’t falling out like it was. My stomach feels better, but not 100 percent yet. Also, prior to going gluten-free I was waking up at least once a night, and sometimes more like two or three times, with horrible charlie horses. Sometimes they were in my calf, sometimes in my shin. Sometimes both at the same time, which had the not-much-fun effect of feeling my like my legs were in a vice and making it so that stretching out the charlie horse on one side made the charlie horse on the other worse. Fun stuff. I haven’t had ANY charlie horses since day two or three of gluten-free. Even with shin splints. I’m wondering if I might need to be more diligent in making sure I’m not ever cross-contaminated, because I’m still dealing with some stomach issues even if they are considerably less severe than before.

10. I’ve been thinking for the last couple of weeks about how I might make a page for my blog for this Imperfect Athlete experiment. I don’t want to just repost what I’m already posting. That would be pretty boring. I’m thinking that I might list the weekly posts for anyone who wants to read those without wading through the rest of my ramblings. Also, I think I’ll put up my weekly goals/plan. This is as much for myself as anything else. I do well with accountability.

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