One of my fave blogs to read is this. She just has a way with words, and makes me think the thinky things. Usually, with blogs, I do a lot of scanning since I’m busy and read a lot of things. I usually end up reading her posts at least twice with my full attention. This is a high compliment from multitasking me.
She posted recently about a dose of perspective – to which I feel like it’s time to treat myself as well. It’s about that time. Whenever I start to get nitpicky about the current few extra lbs I’m hauling around that just.don’t.wanna.leave, or the inability to hit a certain time or pace at a race, I just have to remember a few things.
This was me seven years ago.
I’m not sure that one is unflattering enough. Here’s another….
At 265 lbs, I had trouble walking up a flight of stairs without wheezing, or across the parking lot at work to get to another building. I spent 100 hour weeks building a career, working my ass off (literally, obviously not figuratively) to climb the ladder and my only outlets were drinking, smoking, eating, and playing video games. I would occasionally play dance dance revolution, or get on a kick where I’d get on the elliptical, or take a walk, but never regularly, and it’s not as easy to get moving when you weigh approximately one extra person.
I didn’t cook much, and either got takeout, went out, or made something out of a can/box/bag. Very occasionally I’d get domestic, and make beer cheese soup (with a block of cheese) in a breadbowl, or “healthy” salad with fried chicken strips, bacon, cheese, and ranch on it. No one where I worked had ever talked about eating healthy, we got pizza delivered for overtime food, had junk food potluck all the time, and we had donuts and bagels delivered every Friday. No one I knew did anything active.
I enjoyed a lot of aspects of my life, so I can’t say that I was truly unhappy, but something was MISSING. I had convinced myself that it was just inevitable to get fat and inactive, because that’s what getting old means (said the girl who was in her early/mid 20s). I never wanted to go out much, it was such a hassle, and it was much easier to get drunk at home and not have to try to find something to wear, and write or play or watch TV. As such, we didn’t have many close friends.
I remembered being an athlete before, but that’s just something kids did, right? You either were good enough to be a pro or you just faded into obscurity, there was no in-between in my mind. If you didn’t succeed at making it, you didn’t deserve to continue, I thought.
But, as they say in these stories, there’s a turning point. Now, I wish I could say that I saw a triathlon and was inspired, or something positive like that, but it was simply that I tried on pants, couldn’t comprehend how I was size 24, and the switch flipped and it was on. My goal was not to be healthy, strong, active, whatever – I could have given a flying fuck how the weight came off, but my first goal was to be less fat.
I set about doing that. I lot about 25 lbs, and then got stalled out for a few months because we made the decision to uproot and move states and jobs and I hung onto the wagon (I didn’t gain anything back) by my fingernails (I didn’t lose anything for 4 months).
My second jump start in summer that year, I have to credit to the stomach flu. My first week of work, I came down with some major major stomach bug where all I could ingest was gatorade and crackers. I took off 10 lbs and noticed that I could fit in a bunch more clothes I had been saving. I put them back on quickly because, well, eating again, but I figured new city, new start, new me, and researched how to do it the right way. Because while 30 lbs down was great, this was not going to be my after picture.
Time passed, and things happened. We got a house (the one you see me painting above) and did a lot of work on it and moved in). I joined sparkpeople, and decided to do what spark said for a month. I lost 9 lbs that month. This was the first time I had reliably lost weight with any sort of program, I had just been winging it with “go to the gym until you can’t stand it anymore and try not to eat so much you horrible pig” until I settled back into old routine.
Soon, old routine became new routine. I thought that the 20 mins cardio and 15 mins weights 3xweek were a HUGE commitment, but there was something to checking that off the list for the week and getting my spark points, and then I started upping the cardio a little more once I felt a little stronger. Over the holidays, I was terrified of everyone telling me that gaining weight was inevitable, so I upped the cardio to 45×4 days a week, and mostly stuck with the plan, so I ended up losing 15 lbs instead between Thanksgiving and New Years.
I counted my calories and balanced my eating like a checkbook. While I ate a lot of crap and I wouldn’t suggest that this is a way to spend the rest of your life, it helped me transition to the seven years ago’s 1000 calorie+ light lunches to the way I eat now, which may look like garbage in seven more years, but seems pretty healthy and balanced right now. There were hundred calorie packs and light bread and so much diet sodas and things I wouldn’t even go near now, but as they say, baby steps. The scale continued it’s progress, and I was happy.
I hit “onederland” as people tend to call it a few days before my 29th birthday and it was the best birthday present I’d ever had. I had so much more energy and felt like a completely different person. I was eating like a reasonable person, losing weight, and exercising regularly. I even got a hair up my ass and decided to try to run a mile at the track. I did it in about 12 minutes, and subsequently died. Well, almost. I got better. I tried it again in a few months and went better, and then all of a sudden I found the treadmill at work and eventually, I was able to run a 5k.
I was lucky to have stumbled upon running this way, as 1.5 years of regular strength training really helped me earn my right to run, and I ramped up very slowly and carefully. I had seen these races people talked about and it made me nervous but also excited, and I figured that I needed to just do one so I could experience it, so I signed up for a little local 5k right before my 30th birthday. I figured I’d be absolutely last and the oldest person there and embarrassed but whatever. I was doing it.
Well, come race day, I figured out a few things. One, I was NOT the last person, or the oldest, though a dude with grey hair totally whooped my ass. Second, I not only beat my goal time of 30 minutes, I beat it by over 2 minutes and got my first taste of the finish line high. Third, I kinda really wanted to do another one. I also ended up with a stray Runner’s World mag that linked a 12 week program to a half marathon. At first I thought it was crazy, but then I decided to jump in and go for it.
I raced that first half marathon on a hot, sticky late June day, and while at first it made me quit running for a while, it also got me hooked long term because I did another, with shorter races in between. Then, I stood at the fork of the “what’s next” path, and chose the road that lead away from a full marathon, and got on my bike and pedaled toward triathlon. They would converge later again, but I would have to take two dead ends before I actually got to marathon-land.
My husband was joining me at the smaller races but didn’t really love the idea of running anything over a 5k, until he decided he wanted to do a triathlon, and then pretty much right after the finish line, he decided he wanted to do that Ironman thing, so he started training with me, and the rest is history. Getting him on board was awesome, and key to this being a lifestyle. We now want to grow old and active together so we can potentially qualify for Kona someday (I’m thinking maybe when I’m in my 50s or 60s, heh).
Through the years, weight has become less of a focus than how this triathlon thing is going. The two are connected, obviously, but there are (hard for me) ways to productively shed lbs, and there are (much easier) ways to do it that destroy performance. This has meant my weight has fluctuated from 150 to the high 180s and back down a bit, in this period of discovering a higher purpose of physical movement than how I happen to look in a pair of jeans.
I have felt different things about my body at different weights, sometimes even different things on the same day. However, no matter how shitty I feel sometimes when I know it would be easier to haul my ass up the hill if I could not eat the fries and eat the kale instead, or if my tri shorts are tight and a little muffin-toppy after the holidays, these are the problems you have when you have built a pretty cool life. A life that seven years ago seemed beyond unicorns and rainbows. The fact that I missed my PR last weekend by less than 2 minutes is inconsequential in the grand scheme of things, when your life is such that you get to go out to fancy parties looking like this.
I was asked recently how to not give up. I said that I’ve seen that road. The path into gaining weight – it’s a huge downhill, and the incline increases as you go along. It’s the return trip that’s the bitch. Uphill. Incredibly steep. Even if I take off one lb per YEAR, even if I continue to maintain my current weight of 175 (give or take a few) for a long time, I’ve traveled far from that girl, the one who didn’t want to walk a mile to work because “I’d get sweaty” and “there was a hill”.
And in all this, I am still me. I still really fucking hate hills. However, my instinct now isn’t to run from them, it’s to run up them over and over until I conquer them.