Tuesday, July 26, 2011

loosening up and an impending purchase

It's interesting to me to see how my gait changes as I run in the mornings.  There are 3 running (jogging) sections of my routine.  In the first one, I am always very sluggish.  My steps are heavy, my back is stiff, and every step has the feeling of just-about-to-stop.

The second section is a little better.  I step a little lighter, move a little looser, and maybe even go a little faster.

The third section is my favorite...everything in me gets very loose and moves together more the way a body is designed to, I think.  While my steps are still, I think, heavy compared to many...they are sure a lot lighter than in round one.  I feel pretty groovy in the third section.  You might even say I am HAVING FUN.  Weird...Karen Swank can have fun running.  Seems impossible.  

In other news, I am looking forward to getting new shoes as soon as I return to paycheck life.  The ones I am running in now were given to me by my sister, who I think bought them used.  I've had them for I think a couple of years, but haven't ever worn them on a daily basis.  But now I've been doing my weekly senior serving in them for 8 months and running in them for 2 months.  While I don't notice a difference when I put them on, I'm starting to experience a pretty decent amount of pain in my feet for the first hour after my run.  It goes away after that (thank God) but ideally I'd like to avoid it at all.  Sooo...sixish more weeks and I can get new, lovely, supportive shoes for running!  

That's gonna fly by. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

pressing on

This week's run/walk routine is:

*brisk 5 minute walk to warm up
*run 9 minutes
*walk 2 minutes
*run 9 minutes
*walk 2 minutes
*run 8 minutes

...and then of course up the stairs to the 6th floor, back to my room.  I am regularly making it to the 4th floor now before I cut in and walk the hall to catch my breath so I can make it the other 2 stories. 

Happily this morning, no walkers passed me while I was "running" (which of course is actually JOGGING very, very slowly).  Last week there were TWO days when walkers sauntered by me as I ran.  Had to be intentional to not let that discourage me overly much.

My plan is to keep working this routine until I am running (jogging) for 30 full minutes 3 times a week.  And then once I don't need to walk at all, I can work on picking up speed a bit.  I'll probably do it in exactly the kind of intervals I have used for the walking/running routine.  I do recommend it highly...it has caused me to believe that almost anyone can run.  

Having said that, I am not aiming at being a "speed" runner - heck, even when I was sixteen, my "running as hard as I could" was depressingly slow as compared to the rest of the human race.  This is about loving my body enough to push it for health's sake, not about competing on a plane I don't even care about. 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

a patch?! look away! or...look, ask, touch.

It was somewhere around 2003.  I was at a picnic on a hot afternoon.  Sleeveless.  

My date's stepdad stepped around me, peering at my left upper arm.  "What's the patch for?"  

I thought wryly to myself that if his mind was made up that I was wearing a patch, there was no good potential answer...after all, he was from a very holiness-oriented church.  Quitting smoking?  That made me someone with an addiction issue.  Birth control patch?  That made me a seeker of sex outside of marriage, right?  Poor guy.  I admired his willingness to just ask.  

Of course it wasn't a patch at all, really...except that it was a patch of my own (thigh) skin grafted into an area where Melanoma had attacked me, sunk down roots, and been skillfully extracted by the best darn general practitioner I ever knew.  So skilled that his hand cut a near-perfect circle on my arm, doomed to be mistaken for something machine made, many a time to come.

I am not bothered by my skin graft.  Here's why:  I saw it after surgery.  I saw it when it looked like someone had taken an ice cream scoop and removed a hunk of my arm.  I saw it as a crater almost an inch deep.  I listened as the doctor exclaimed at how beautifully the graft had taken...and then sorrowfully told me that crater would "probably never fill in."  I met my own vanity and struggled hard with it in that passage of my life.  I saw how ugly it was.  (Intentional vagueness there...what was ugly?  The crater?  The vanity?  Ummm.  YES.)

And then I watched as in just a few short years, the crater filled back in.  The skin remains very different-looking than the rest of my arm, but it's a basically flat surface, not the horror I faced after surgery.  I don't mind it at all.  It's actually kind of a trophy for me - when people ask about it, I tell them it's "where Melanoma didn't kill me." 

For awhile, I experimented with sleevelessness.  But the thing is, though the scar doesn't bother me, it DOES bother others.  Many are visibly disturbed by it.  Some try very hard not to look, as their eyes are magnetically drawn back to it time and time again.  Some try to look without me knowing they are looking.  Some look, some ask, some even touch it.  

I deeply appreciate the people who go ahead and look, ask, touch.  That's easy.  It's on behalf of the horrified ones that I more or less gave up sleevelessness for quite a number of years.  

But here's the thing:  as I continue to let God teach me how to love my body, my attitude is changing about going sleeveless.  While my scar hasn't bothered me for many a year now, my oversized upper arms have been the source of much shame.  I've wanted to keep sleeves over them to protect them from negative attention.  That shame is peeling away as I'm learning to love my body (and the fact that my arms are much smaller than they used to be - still oversized, but much smaller doesn't hurt!)  I'm less inclined to want to hide and tending more to just want to stay cool on hot days.  

So I'm back to sleeveless.  Mostly I wear shrugs over my sleeveless things, trying to save potentially horrified people from awkward interactions, but when it gets really hot, I give up and uhhh shrug 'em off.  And those around me are left with a choice:  look, ask, touch....or get all uncomfortable and leave me struggling with how to ease that - pretend I don't know?  Be bolder than them and bring it up?  Ergh.

Instructive stuff for me, as I go out and interact with others who have potential awkwardness-causing imperfections.  Leaves me determined to look, ask, touch...it's just nicer for all involved. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

lil' skirmish won

For want of a nail the shoe was lost. 
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.  
For want of a horse the rider was lost.  
For want of a rider the battle was lost.  
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.  
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Two days ago was Haircut Day, when I put on my best dress and went on down to Michigan Avenue for a haircut at Vidal Sassoon (have I mentioned, I am doing my best to soak up the most possible fun in my last month here in this great city?)  I have some really cute shoes to go with that cute dress, but they are still in Kentucky at my daughter's house, because I hadn't dreamed I would need them before returning to my old job - she's bringing them to me before I move.  Lacking those cute shoes, I went through my stuff and found a pair of black Keds with white trim.  Cute enough.  I liked the look, and didn't discover until a little before noon that those Keds make sores on top of my left big toe and on the back of my right heel.  So I was the bandaid queen that day, stepping carefully as I went.  

Yesterday I didn't run because I had heard thunder and lighting a little more than an hour before run time - and it doesn't take much to talk Karen's Early Morning Brain into skipping the run.  So I knew I had to get up and get to it this morning, if I were to have any prayer of making 3 runs this week.  

When I slid my foot into my tennis shoe - OWWWW there was that not-quite-healed blister, singing LOUD.  Tough moment.  Easy to think maybe I should give the foot another day to heal, in order to avoid making a worse wound that might take me out of the game longer.  But the urgency of needing to get 3 runs in this week was loud, so I fiddled with my sock quite a bit and limped off down the hall, stopping several times before I got out of my building to fiddle with my sock some more. 

Good news:  once I got to really walking, the blister stopped singing and all was well.  I did it!  Hot and muggy already at 5:40, but I did it, it's done, I didn't miss it, and my foot didn't get worse!

Three cheers for perseverance, even if it IS only by the skin of my teeth.... 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

i think this makes me the turtle, not the hare

This week's running routine (after a 5 minute walking warmup) is:

run 8 minutes
walk 2 minutes
(do 3 rounds of this)

and then of course there is the walking up to the 6th floor at the end.

I continue to be wowed and amazed that this body can do that thing.  This morning's inner celebration was tempered a bit, though, when I realized...oh hey, that guy who is passing me...he's WALKING!  Oh golly.  That'll humble ya. 

This is why my program has to be about me and not about comparing me to other people.  Even though I am accustomed to being the slowest thing on the path (other than a few really old people doing rehab or something), if I were to dwell on the fact that a WALKER passed me while I was "running" it would depress me to no end.

Ah well.  I'm still doing very much more than I used to do.  Still dropping sizes and feeling better day by day.  Still stretching toward real fitness, and seeing a hope that I can get there if I will be faithful to follow the Lord as He teaches me how to love my body for real. 

Today, grace and mercy are good enough for not just others, but also for ME.  That's a good thing.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

dance, little girl, dance

I spent some time yesterday at an Ethnic Arts Festival, which included a lot of listening to music under shade trees.  I noticed little girls in pretty dresses, dancing without inhibition to the music.  They know the day is beautiful, their dress is beautiful, they are beautiful, the dance is beautiful.  There is no element of embarrassment or self-consciousness there.  I must have felt like that at some point, right?  I mean, I WAS a little girl!  But as far back as my memory goes, I can only remember feeling awkward and embarrassed and not as pretty as others around me.  Wonder what makes us cross that line?

The clothes I've been choosing for the past I don't know how many years have had one aim:  don't notice me.  I have mostly avoided prints and colors in favor of solids...mostly black, but also some browns and (dark) blues.  There have been a few exceptions to that, but not many.  My aim has been to blend, to not embarrass myself, to not cause someone to look twice and maybe have a negative opinion about the size of my (insert any number of body parts here).  

I'm noticing that as I have started dropping in sizes, that trend is changing.  I am more open to colors and prints.  I look for things that are actually PRETTY.  I don't even mind wearing something that is going to make people say so.  

I find hope in that.  Maybe I'm headed in the direction of the mentality of those pretty little girls in pretty little dresses.  That'd be okay with me.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

like, wow dude

The human body is a truly miraculous thing.  I continue to be amazed at how mine steps up to the plate and improves as I push it.  

Case in point:  yesterday I did my first day of this 7/3 rotation for my run/walk routine (note the transposition in the order from what I usually say...deliberate to reflect that I really do run a lot more than I walk now).  Like most "first days" of a newer, harder schedule, my body felt it.  When I got home and it was time to climb the stairs, I had to get off and walk the hall between almost every single floor, cuz my knees and back were screaming for mercy and I was WIPED OUT.  

This morning I did it again.  It's only morning 2 of this rotation.  When I came home I was able to climb clear to the 4th floor before needing to walk the hall a bit.  

Amazing, adaptable, incredible, miraculous body.  That's plenty of reason to be grateful!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

improvement in simplicity of my morning run

Last night I came home to find, in my mailbox, a teeny tiny book that fits in the palm of my hand, called the "Complete Book of Running."  A surprise gift from a great friend!  I read it, cover-to-cover, as soon as I got to my room.  YES I am an "instant gratification" girl!  LOL

Here's a cool thing:  it has a plan similar to the C25K plan, only simpler.  The plan I've been working for the last little while had me, for week 4, doing the following:

Brisk five-minute warmup walk, then:
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
  • Walk 1/4 mile (or 2-1/2 minutes)
  • Jog 1/4 mile (or 3 minutes)
  • Walk 1/8 mile (or 90 seconds)
  • Jog 1/2 mile (or 5 minutes)
Which is all very well and good, quite manageable EXCEPT that at 5:30 in the morning, this brain struggles SOOOOO much to keep track of where I am on the rotation and what is next.  It's not hard, it's just that I'm really not bright when I first wake up (which you've probably guessed, based on the amount of editing errors in these early morning blogs - I am frequently later horrified when I read my morning blogs with a more coherent brain!)

The plan in the teeny tiny book for week 4 looks like:

Run 7 minutes, walk 3 minutes.  Complete 3 cycles.

Muuuuuuuuch easier for my morning brain to process.  And the plan gets me to running continuously for 30 minutes within 10 weeks, as compared to 9 weeks for the C25K plan, so I made the switch this morning.  The cycles in the weeks ahead continue to be much simpler in the tiny book than on the C25K plan.  And really in the big picture they are not that different at all!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

the distortion of body image

Saw this today re:  body image and it really spoke to me.  Take some time and look at the comparative photos.  NO WONDER women get so conflicted about our bodies!!!

running around shrinking as i learn

I never get around to printing out my C25K routine; I always just figure I'll look it up online.  Then, I inevitably pay for that on my first morning of the week, cuz I don't think to check the schedule the night before.  So this morning as I walked out the front door of my building, I was realizing I had NO IDEA what the new run schedule is for this week. 

I made something up - something a little harder than last week.  I didn't get it "right" according to what I read afterward, but I'm not sweating that.  It was just one day, and I pushed myself a bit, and that's the important part.  Still, I'm making a mental note to myself to print that dang schedule out already.

This past weekend I did some shopping (first on Friday, in our shelter's "free store" and then Saturday and Sunday in Kentucky with my daughter, on the retail scene) and I am stunned to find that I consistently wear size 18 now.  It wasn't only that one pair of jeans!  Fun, fun stuff.  

This means I am just a few pounds away from being able to shop off the racks in stores that don't bother catering to plus size people...which will open up a whole world of other possibilities for me.  Again...fun, fun stuff!

Meanwhile the Lord is being faithful to keep me reminded to focus on loving and obeying Him, and letting Him teach me to love this body.  He's rocking my world, changing me all over again, and I like it.

Friday, July 8, 2011

moving moving moving

Got my third run in the for week!  Woo hoo!!!

I am noticing that "seeking activity" is becoming more my default setting.  Not so long ago, I'd have said, "I did my workout today" and that would have been the end of trying to exercise.  The more I move, the more I want to move - I find myself happy to go for *another* walk with a friend, and not at all tempted to say, "No thanks, I already did that today."  

Feels like progress to me.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

veggie goodness as a habit

We eat surprisingly well here in the intentional community where I reside (called JPUSA, short for Jesus People USA).  When I moved in, I thought I was surrendering to a life of cafeteria/school lunch type food for the most part.  I knew they worked to serve the vegetarians/vegans in the house, so it wasn't totally like my school experience...but I thought I was settling for a pretty unspectacular diet.  

I've been happily astonished at the menu.  While weekends are made of easy to cook/not so healthy entrees, weekdays show that good food for large masses of people IS a reachable goal.  One of the elements of that is:  the salad.  Weeknights always include either "large salad" already mixed up, or a great salad bar where I never get stuck with iceberg lettuce and can almost always choose fun things like chick peas and nice quality olives in addition to all the usual veggies.  JPUSA does salad very well. 

Living here for 8 months, I have developed a salad habit.  I never don't get salad if it's available.  I didn't realize how nicely that habit has entrenched itself into my life until I was off-site for over a week for Cornerstone Festival.  I'm not gonna lie - I love vendor food.  Deep fried, fatty, sweet, salty, bad, bad, BAD for me and I love it.  BUT.  A few days into living on it, I realized my body was begging for salad.  It has been a beautiful thing to be back home where I can easily get it.  Last night I even skipped the main entree and just built a huge salad for my supper, with a little bowl of baked sweet potatoes on the side and a bit of good chewy bread. 

I'm definitely taking this "salad every day" thing back with me when I move.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

back in the saddle again

Got back to my C25K program this morning.  I did not do it at all while at the festival - the discomfort of camping, the rain, and then the heat were all just enough to leave me completely unwilling.  So this week I am repeating the last week that I did before leaving.

I didn't run yesterday morning because I had been up until midnight doing laundry the night before and 5:30 up out of bed just wasn't happening.  Grace is good, but it also has to be handled with care - would be easy to totally lose momentum.  Loving my body means doing what's best for it, even when I've had a bit of a vacation from doing so.  Time to get back to it.  If I'm going to get 3 runs in this week, that's today, tomorrow, and Friday.  One down, two to go.

Between the festival vendor food and the lack of workout, I wondered how much ground I had lost in my 9 days away.  But these markers say all is not lost:  yesterday my smaller jeans still easily fit and my belt went one notch tighter, and this morning my walk/run was absolutely manageable.  Also, returning to eating better is a joy, rather than a hardship. 

Perhaps consistency is beginning to develop in this area of my life.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

size doesn't matter, but it does make me smile

When one lives in that zone that is plus sizes not sold in every store, one learns to dread areas filled with tables and chairs.  People pull out their chairs to sit down and it leaves this little obstacle course of spaces to be navigated.  I have hated that for years; inevitably some NOT plus-sized friend of mine would gallivant obliviously ahead of me through it, leaving me horrified as I tried to squeeze my more ample frame through (and few things feel as undignified to me as my butt squeezing up against somebody's shoulders as I try to wiggle past their chair).  

As the pounds have been leaving me, my dread of these situations has left.  It's been fun to discover that hey, I FIT between those 2 chairs, with room to spare!  That's been happening for a few months and I really noticed it at the music festival from which I just returned. 

I found another such happy milestone while I was out there.  One of the details of "roughing it" was the rather not-so-clean showers - I took my old (read:  much smaller) bath towel with me to the festival.  The first day, I was astonished to discover:  it fits around me!  That hasn't been true for many a year - my "good" towel that I use at home is an enormous one (I think it's called a "bath sheet").  The fun of fitting into a standard-size towel was I started every morning in celebration. 

It also meant I didn't have to inquire whether a 2X (or 3X, as I've had to seek sometimes) was available when I bought my fest t-shirts.

Bringing myself back around to:  this is not about size, it's about letting God teach me to love my body.  And the food choices available to me at the fest were not particularly body-friendly, so heck, maybe I lost ground this past 10 days.  Not sure.  

Meanwhile, though it ain't about the size, that factor IS making me smile.  

I'll take that.