Sunday, May 29, 2011

segways and mean words

A flier in the elevator where I live announces a raffle for a Segway tour.  I've seen these little troops tooling around downtown and it looks like fun.  I thought about buying a raffle ticket.  

But then the dreaded scene went flashing across my mind:  I show up with ticket in hand, and the tour guide looks me up and down awkwardly.  I cringe as he tries to find the words to tell me I probably exceed the weight limit for this tour.  I am Karen Swank, Who Can Google Anything.  Going to my handy dandy search bar, I key in "heavy people ride Segway."  There, I read varying takes on the limits - enough to prevent me from asking for a ride.  It might be okay, but I might encounter a guide who thinks I'm over the limit. thanks.  Not really in the mood to volunteer for a kick in the self-esteem.

Amidst my reading, someone comments, "I am not going to say 'overweight' because that is a false word.  The truth is FAT.  FAT people should not ride Segways."  Ahhh.  Pleasant.  Hope that writer doesn't have anything he's ashamed of that can be called a nasty name.

"Overweight" is a false word?  Huh?!  It's just a non-judgmental word.  An accurate measurement without the sucker punch included.  "Fat," at least here in the States (Europe is a whole other story, and I'm not telling that story today), is a word filled with judgment, contempt, ridicule...hate. 

This journey of letting God teach me to love my body is definitely including a long, strong look at language.  I have thought I was just being "real" when I've called myself a "fat lady."  And now I look and see that I would never exercise that kind of "realism" on another person. 

Words have power.  When the word "cankles" came into style and I heard it continually rolling off the lips of "pretty" people...that was the passage when I stopped wearing shorts.  I had hated my legs since I was 12 years old, but had kept on wearing shorts, despite some discomfort.  Then the vicious pleasure of people throwing that new term around sent me running for cover.  Pants, long skirts, anything to hide 'em.  No showing of the cankles.  No opening myself up for ridicule. 

When someone absolutely beautiful inside and out calls herself "shamu," I shudder.  I understand the place of feeling and saying it, but...if she'd use THAT name on herself, how much worse must be the name she'd choose for me?!  And yet, knowing her, I know she'd never be so nasty to me.  Then I realize that I've been glibly calling myself the fat lady, thereby condemning any and all of my readers who are at or above my weight.  I mean, I wasn't trying to call THEM that.  I was just trying to say how I feel about ME.  But as I go around assaulting myself with hate words...those arrows are hitting others, too. 

A really great lady recently told me that she is disgusted by her body (and thus expects everyone else to find it disgusting as well).  I get that.  I've spent years upon years feeling that.  Another wonderful friend is sometimes known to hold a pillow up by her face when talking on the couch, to hide her double chin.  I get that.  I've been playing the "how to hide it" game for way too long. 

The fun thing about running where God leads me as I ask Him to teach me to love my body:  He is not FOR ONE SECOND saying I'll need to first get it in shape...worthy of being loved, if you will.  

He is teaching me to treat it well - to choose love via action.  What I eat, how I move, when I give it extra care.
He is teaching me to notice its accomplishments and progress, and celebrate them.
He is teaching me to speak well of it, and to quickly separate myself from any abusive words I or someone else might throw at it.
He is teaching me to be comfortable in it, just as it need to hide.

And not as a target or goal, but as fruit of these things...I am coming to a place of the FEELING of loving it, too.  

Which serves well to increase my excitement in all the things He is teaching me even more. 

Seems like God's pretty smart, eh?

Friday, May 27, 2011

she stands...she pedals...the crowd goes wild!!

Physical feats I "used to could" do but haven't been able to manage in many a long year:
  • climb over/cross a woven-wire fence with 2 strands of barbed wire at the top, at a fencepost or even between posts
  • toss many bales of hay up from the ground to the rack
  • easily stick my foot in the stirrup and swing myself up onto a horse, even if the horse was moving
  • swing myself up onto a horse without a saddle, from the ground, without standing on anything
  • ride a high-strung horse bareback at a full-out run, letting my feet hang without touching the horse's sides
  • perform in a pom-squad kick-line, swinging my foot repeatedly in a controlled way all the way up to face-level
  • bounce while going up and down stairs
Yeah, you could say once upon a time I kinda had it goin' on.  Didn't really matter, though, in some ways, because even then I thought I was so appallingly enormous that I owed the world an apology for having to look at me, all because I didn't match the models in the slick magazines and those dumb charts in the doctor's office said I was WAY overweight.  But I digress.

Meet Lulu, the object of my middle-age affection.  I don't think I've introduced her before on this blog, though she's been kind of a rock star on my other one.  Pink swirlys all up and down her sides, her name so pretty for all to see, comfortable, durable, knockout whitewalls that make ya wanna whistle...yeah, she's the shizzle.  

Today I accomplished something on Lulu that I hadn't been able to do since I was a kid:  I stood up while pedaling her.  If that sounds like no biggie to you, then you really have no concept at all of the level of lack of fitness I'm fighting my way out of.  I have tried periodically ever since I got her to stand up on the pedals, and just couldn't manage it...the best I could do was a kind of shifting on the seat.  

Today, though, I not only stood on the pedals, I PEDALED from a standing position.  This is a big fat deal.  It's a mark of progress in my strength, my agility, and my confidence.  It surprised me.  It made me much so that when I got to the bike path, I ran her harder and faster than ever before.  We set new speed records for us, though we still are not doing anything like keeping up with all those bike-short clad skinny people rolling by us, hardly seeming to try at all.  We took some much-sharper-than-usual turns, and didn't tip over.  We cut through a grassy section just to see if I could maneuver her in a kind of tight spot between signs and poles, and it wasn't even hard.  

Tonight I'm feeling accomplished and hopeful.  Fitness is within my grasp.  Fitness is a way to choose to love my body.  Me choosing is just a part of the equation - the stuff God is doing in me is WAY more exciting - but tonight, I'm kinda bubbling over on this front.  

Just for kicks, here are some other views from today's ride.

wondering how to step lighter

Chose some new colors and background and such, as I learned the old format wasn't eye-friendly to all.  It feels appropriate to change the look of the blog anyway, as I really feel like I am in many ways being "created anew" on a whole other scale than usual lately.  For the record:  I like it.

The morning was gorgeous today, a welcome relief after yesterday's cold wind and rain.  I started running sooner...felt almost enthusiastic about getting to it. 

I'm surprised at how fast some things get better, as I pay attention.  For example, my first morning out, all I could notice when I ran was how heavy I am on my feet.  I could feel every single pound of me hammering down onto the pavement at every step (I move to the gravelly side of the path wherever puddles don't prevent that...seems gentler on my knees and feet).  Not pretty.  Had to hang onto the goal:  learning to love my body, not pour out contempt on me because of its current condition.  Don't focus on the heaviness of the steps, just be glad I am out there.

The second morning was when my clock got stuck and I did that stretch of untimed running...and got a taste of letting loose a bit.  Still BAM BAM BAM on my feet but...more like motion and less like pushing at inertia with all my might.  

This morning (4th day, 3rd run), I was MUCH faster (uhh...still very slow compared to the rest of everyone out there, but much faster as compared to the only one that counts for me, which is ME).  How can that be already?  I am mystified.  Happy, but confused. 

If anyone out there can give me any tips about how to run more lightly, I'd welcome them.  Maybe there just has to be fewer pounds of me to step more lightly, but I suspect that's not the case.  I remember a friend who had athletic girls saying their dad taught them to "run on their toes"...I can't even wrap my mind around that.  

Nonetheless, I am having fun.  Glad to be doing this.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

rained...nope...BLOWN out

Yesterday, morning three of this run/walk thing was really good.  I had to leave early for work, so I couldn't write about it.  My response to the stopped-clock phenomenon from the day before was:  I watch the clock a bit as I walk...enough to know when it's time to run.  When I run, I just count off 60 seconds and don't look at my phone at all.  It's not as precise, but it seems to let me run more freely and in a less burdened, get-this-over way. 

I went to bed last night amidst a rain storm, deciding ahead of time that rain was not going to keep me inside.  I can get a little wet...I won't die from that.  Got up this morning still hearing rain noise; got ready and out the door.  Raining steadily.  No problem.

On the other hand...Chicago wind.  OY.  Frozen, blustery, gusting, slamming into me in a way that felt like it might knock me down, blowing through my clothes, hammering the rain into me fast and hard, did I mention FROZEN?  I made it almost to the corner before I turned around and hustled home.  

I could have done stairs for 20 minutes when I got home, I suppose. I thought about it.  But stairs, even with walking the halls in between flights, gets really, really intense for me really quickly.  Just wasn't feeling the gumption to do them for 20 minutes, in my soaked clothes no less.  I did my six flights to get to my room, and retreated to the warm bed (sweating and out of breath).  

Not much of a victory story, I guess.  Except that I DID get up and get out and try, and even got my blood pumping a bit.  

And tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

when time doesn't exactly stand still

Morning 2:  wasn't tempted to hit snooze.  Up and out, and the morning was once again beautiful.  

Somewhere around the halfway mark, my phone decided to freeze and not change time.  I was walking, waiting for it to flip so I could run for my one minute increment, and it didn't change....didn't change...didn't change...until I just KNEW it couldn't really STILL be that time.  Difficulty:  my brain was still not fully awake.  Problem solving in semi-sleep mode...hmmmm. 

So what I did was stop looking at the phone and start counting in my head.  Amidst the confusion of figuring it out, I stayed out 10 extra minutes.  I'm not objecting to 10 extra minutes of exercise...heaven knows I need it.  I'm just not willing to cut that chunk out of my quiet time.  So I was in kind of a hurry.  

A good result that came from all of this:  at one point I just stopped trying to count and tried running as far as I could without stopping.  It wasn't very far.  I don't even know if it was as long as my counted one minute increments.  But the difference was, when not looking at the phone, I loosened up.  I felt my back moving more freely.  My stride got longer.  I was closer to having fun and not so much waiting on pins and needles for the clock to let me break back down to a walk.

Will pray today about what to do with that information.  Maybe I need to stop timing so carefully and just alternate walking and running?  I'm just not sure I trust myself not to get lazy...hmmmm.

Meanwhile, the extra time made me enough more tired/weaker feeling that I had to walk the halls between EVERY SINGLE FLOOR when doing the stairs up to the 6th floor.

Doesn't matter.  I didn't ride the elevator.  So I'm counting that as a victory.

Monday, May 23, 2011

...annnnnd she's off!

Sometimes I am amazed at my resistance to change, and how predictable that can be.

Last night I laid out my new walking/running clothes, knowing that if they weren't all ready to go, that would be my excuse for not going this morning. With my brain at half-mast, it doesn't take much talking to persuade me to stay in bed. So I got it all out: outfit, shoes, water backpack thingy. I set the alarm for the horrifying hour of 5:30. The thing is, I already have a morning quiet time which is a non-negotiable in my life; anything I do in the morning has to be “in addition to” and not “instead of.” Starting at 5:30 will still mean cutting into some of that quiet time, but I think it's a compromise that should work.

Per usual lately, I stayed up kind of late and then didn't sleep very well due to leg pain. I'm beginning to think leg pain is not going to go away for more than a few nights at a time. So 5:30 felt beastly when the alarm went off. I hit snooze. I listened, half asleep, to the noise coming in the window. Per usual, all I could hear was the rush of cars on Lake Shore Drive. No way to tell if rain was mingled in with that or not. My half-asleep brain said I shouldn't chance it, and should stay in bed.

So when the second alarm went off a couple of minutes later, I hit snooze again. I laid there a minute, arguing with myself, and finally decided I would just go to the window and look out. Mind you, nothing can be told about outdoors by looking out my window (which just stares at a nearby wall), but my morning brain wasn't smart enough to remember that, and thus was tricked into getting up. Once I was up, it wasn't so hard to brush my teeth, put up the pony tail, pull on clothes, stretch a bit, and hustle out the door before I could change my mind. I was on the sidewalk by 5:52.

Thus begins my new walking/running routine. The morning is gorgeous. I was glad to be out in it as soon as I cleared the doorway. Here's what I did today:

Walked to the Lake (took I think 6 minutes), picking up speed and lengthening strides as I went.

Walked 3 minutes. Jogged 1 minute.

Walked 3 minutes. Jogged 1 minute.

Walked 3 minutes. Jogged 1 minute.

Turned back toward home.
Walked 3 minutes. Jogged 1 minute.

Walked 3 minutes. Jogged 1 minute.

Walked back to the house (took I think 5 minutes.)

Used the stairs to get back up to my room. Stairs (the first set seem to be a story and a half, at which my mind always protests), 2nd story hall, more stairs, 4th story hall, and then stairs up to my 6th floor room. Having tried this tactic yesterday, I knew the lady who told me about it was right...getting off to walk the hall every few floors makes the 6 stories much more do-able.

Showered, letting my hair dry while I do my blog and quiet time (and of course the internet doesn't seem to be working, so I'm guessing this is getting posted later today.)

Hey, I'm started! YAY! It might seem like a small beginning, but I'm trying to do this in a way that is sustainable, and starting in a blaze of glory has generally always ended for me in quitting. Let's see how this goes. Meanwhile, I gotta focus: this is still about following God along the path of learning to love my body. Gotta avoid falling into the “rah, rah, rah” self-motivation plan.

Gotta let Him drive.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

growth details that are probably boring if you're not me

Still moving imperfectly but happily along this journey of letting God teach me how to love my body.  Some successes:  times I've gone to bed hungry, cuz I knew I had enough for the day and I woudn't die from not having a snack.  Getting out and moving - riding the bike, walking, etc.  Eating what's reasonable, and not what my appetites say I oughta get.  Completely bypassing ridiculous foods offered to me between meals - just pure straight sugar/carb garbage, nothing but bad for me and it seems I am learning to respond to "bad for me" now even when "yummmmm" is shouting loudly inside my head.

Noting little happy measures of these obediences:  the new belt that I just bought?  Already had to move in a notch tighter.  Shirts that used to be tight on me are now biggish.  Those things aren't the point of the story, but they are definitely fun little niceties.

Less-than-successes:  times I went down for a cuppa hot tea at bedtime, and teabags were gone but milk was I had bowls of granola cereal.  NOT a good bedtime choice.  Cleaning my plate at lunch, when guys on the line gave me too much.  I gotta outgrow the "clean plate club."  I can TAKE less and eat it...but dude...if it makes it onto my plate, it ends up in my stomach.  No good.  Room for  growth in my journey.

A friend in my age bracket has taken up running (or, as she calls it, "plodding.")  Reading her accounts of this always inspire me.  When I moved to Chicago, my son told me my exercise plan should include a walking/running routine.  Like, walk 3 minutes, run 1, repeat, etc.  Over time, the objective is longer running jags.  Meanwhile it maximizes the fitness effect of the walking time, as the pulse stays higher.  This is a great plan.  I have meant to do it since I arrived.  I have not done it.

I think the excuse at first was Chicago was too cold in November/December/etc.  And then meanwhile I shrunk.  So more recently, the excuse has been my sweat pants will fall off my body, I think, if I try to move quickly in them - they are clownishly large on me.  So...what was I gonna in jeans?  NOT! 

Today I went to Old Navy to get $1 flip flops.  Along the way, I "happened" onto great sales on:  great pants for running (made of that stuff that "wicks the moisture away"), "performance" socks (extra padded on the bottom, supposedly for support, light weight, "wicking" material, mesh on top, oy vey), and of course the all-important sports bra.  I already have shoes that should work, passed along to me by my sister, and I found a good shirt at the free store last month.  I also figure I can use my water backpack thingy that I use on the bike so I don't dry out.  The only think I lack is maybe a sweatband, but I can just try this and see if sweat actually runs into my eyes like it used to on the elliptical.  

(And can I mention this little bit of joy?  I bought my clothes in the regular section.  I mean, off the same rack where the smalls and extra smalls are sold.  Yes, I bought the biggest stuff in that section.  BUT it has been yeeeeeeeeeeears since I bought anything off a rack that wasn't all plus-size stuff.  That was FUN.)

So basically I have removed my excuses.  I didn't plan this at all...just stumbled into a good sale and kinda bought on auto-pilot.  So I'm guessing this is more answered prayer - the Lord is pushing me forward on loving my body.  Tonight I asked a friend to nag me and ask once in awhile whether I'm putting all those workout clothes to work. 

The other thing is, I resolved when I moved here to use the stairs mostly and the elevator only when it was necessary.  Shortly (pretty much immediately) after arriving, I amended that plan to climbing to the 6th floor at least once per day, and let myself ride the elevator the rest of the time.  After awhile, I mostly stopped using the stairs, cuz I breathe and blow so hard it makes my throat sore when I do more than 3 floors.  This week, I heard how someone else manages this:  we have an "east" and a "west" stairwell.  She climbs a set number of floors, then walks the hall to the "other" stairwell (giving herself a chance to catch her breath a bit while walking a flat floor), then does a few more floors, more of the same, etc.  I CAN DO THAT.  I need to do that.  I need to stop using the elevator so much.  I have a built-in easily accessible workout, and I am burdening the elevator system instead.  Writing down my need to do that here.  Hoping this will push me into praying more consistently about that and obeying the leading I get. 

Signing off, hungry at bedtime but excited about possibilities.

Friday, May 13, 2011

new belt - like, party on, dude!

I got to do something fun this week:  I bought a new belt.  The top belt in this picture was new this time last year - I bought it to wear with my dress pants.  I used the first hole when I bought it (as in "the biggest setting possible.")  

I started whittling it down right away.  I was walking that dreadful Rock Island hill and taking Lulu out for adventures along the banks of the Mississippi, and I went down a notch pretty quickly.  Then I joined COWS (have you been reading long enough to remember that?)  and I focused on a diet that was healthy to the max, and I went down another notch.
I didn't NEED the belt to hold my pants up.  It was just a nice accessory to make me look more "put together" in the executive office - I'm kind of a fashion nightmare, but this was one attempt to play at least a little bit by the rules.  
Sometime after arriving here in Chicago, with all that walking and the wonderful changes that eating in community has wrought on my previously extremely over-generous daily caloric allowance, I started needing my belt to hold my jeans up.  I have NEVER needed anything to hold my jeans up...not in my whole life.  But they kept tugging down to the awkward zone, so I started wearing it every day from necessity.  
Then I got this God-inspired New Year's resolution to press into God until I learn to love my body.  It hasn't looked anything like a planned diet or detailed exercise regimen.  It has been much more moment-by-moment, much more intuitive, much more just about learning to obey and yield one choice at a time.  Meanwhile, I kept going down notches.  Maybe a month or so ago, I hit the smallest notch.  That was definitely cause for celebration.  I am NOT doing this as a weight loss plan...sometimes I have to remind myself of that, but mostly these days I remember the goal is loving my body (on the premise that if God does, then so should I!) and any weight loss or increase in fitness is just fruit - just evidence of daily grasping of the goal.  So...the smallest notch on the belt was not the point of the story.  But it sure did make me smile.
About two weeks ago, I discovered that even on the smallest notch, my belt was riding down.  It wouldn't stay at my waist.  It wasn't in danger of sliding down into the awkward zone, wasn't really keeping my pants where I wanted them.  I cheered - I would need a new belt soon!

This week I bought that new belt.  I wore it today.  The 2 belts in the picture (my old one and my new one) are matched exactly at the buckle end.  CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENCE IN LENGTH!

Yes, I am smiling.

Know what, though?  IT'S STILL not a weight loss or fitness program.  I am learning to love my body, one choice at a time.  I don't do it perfectly.  I did a road trip last weekend and I treated my body barbarically.  I ate a whole big bag AND a smaller 99 cent bag of Fritos in my 18 hours of driving.  I drank several sugared sodas (I'm such a sucker for Ale8One every single time I go to Kentucky).  I didn't exercise one bit while I was on that trip.  I sucked down WAY too much caffeine, so that I wouldn't get sleepy while driving.  I owe my body an apology.  

So...I'm not perfect, not 100% "there."  And I'm not all hard-core at any point.  I enjoy small treats.  I am learning how to eat ONE cookie.  There was a point in my life, not so long ago, that I considered that basically impossible.  

Looking at those belts lying side by side...looking at the INCHES of difference...4?  5?  I don't know...that's a major improvement in a year's time, though.  I still have a very long way to go to anything like a HEALTHY weight...I definitely still have to shop the plus size section (I am already praying about that...soon...not tomorrow, but soon enough, new [presumably used] jeans will have to follow after the new belt, and plus-size jeans aren't all that easy to find in the "free or practically free" category).  But looking and thinking things through, I do believe I'm learning this business of loving my body.  

And I think it's starting to love me back.