Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Voices in My Head

Whenever I'm getting in my own way with negative self talk, I like to watch "feel good" reality shows on demand.  For me this means weight loss or make over shows.  When I'm down on myself for having 2 pumpkin pie and white chocolate chip cookies (so delicious) and ready to throw the whole day in the trash I need perspective.  Because of one slip I'm ready to go over the edge and these shows bring me back.  

There is something about seeing someone who has a lot more shit to work through than me that helps me. Should I be eating cookies when I've already had my sweat cheat for the day?  No.  Is it the end of my healthy new lifestyle and attitude.  No.   After not meeting a weight goal or eating a little too much when out with friends the people on my TV hop right back on the wagon.  Granted, they have cameras in their face and millions of people like me at home watching, but still, they persevere.  

They don't over analyze why they reached for the cookies in the first place or decide to eat 8 more cookies to wallow in their mistake.  They just shake it off and move on.  They maintain a positive attitude whether even though they may have 100 or 200 pounds to lose.  Because they are celebrating the journey that they decided to take to better health.  This is about the war, not every single battle.  My husband is very good at reminding me to get out out my head and to stop sabotaging myself.  I'm so glad that I married such a glass is half full guy. Honestly, sometimes it's hard for me to even see the glass!

Starting a new eating plan one week before Christmas was ambitious enough.  I'm going to do my best to make good food choices and get my workouts in this week.  But if I don't meet all my goals and the scale isn't my friend Sunday morning I'm going to leave this week in the past and start fresh next week.

So what did I do today?  I made a freezer full of healthy high protein and fiber smoothies to last me the next few days, baked spinach chips for snaking and ate more vegetables and fruits than normal.  Tomorrow is another day but today isn't all that bad after all.     

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A New Year's Resolution Comes Early

So here we are again.  Another epiphany.  Another chance to redirect my life.  I tell myself that this time is going to be different.  That I'm not going to be lazy.  That I'm going to pay attention to my diet.  That I'm going to be the me that everyone seems to think that I am.  And maybe it will stick this time.  Maybe I will finally break through my own bad habits and get my shit together once and for all.  But really what is different this time?  Why am I going to be successful now when I never have before?  I don't know the answer but I feel like I'm ready to figure it out. 

I am a contradiction.  I weigh a little over 200 lbs.  I am 5'6" tall.  I am obese by any chart that look at.  My stomach and inner thighs are where I carry all my weight.  My calves and quads are solid.  When I flex, my biceps and triceps are impressive.  I teach Zumba and water aerobics.  I run half marathons.  People pay me to help them exercise and lose weight.  People look up to me.  I have helped people lose weight and develop healthy habits.  

Let me be clear that there is nothing wrong with being a curvy, fit girl.  I know and admire a lot of them.  Being skinny doesn't mean that you're healthy and being thick doesn't make you unhealthy.  But I know that this weight is unhealthy for me.  My joints are dying under the excess weight.  The typical injuries that I used to experience from working out are taking longer to heal.  Granted, my training isn't what it used to be (another thing I'm working on) so I'm more susceptible to injuries but the weight isn't helping.  

My blood pressure is normal.  I don't have diabetes.  I have never had a bad stress test, blood test or any other major medical condition to push me into a lifestyle change.  I know that this is because of luck.  Almost everyone in my extended family has diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure or another obesity related ailment.  I have seen them suffer because they refused to make changes in their lives.  I know eventually my luck will run out and my genes and my bad habits will win out.  That should be enough to motivate me but it hasn't been in the past. 

I am a very anxious person.  I obsess over what other people think of me all the time.  My anxiety gives me panic attacks and heart palpitations.  As I have gotten older I have become more nervous.  I know that this is because I am not balanced.  That if I were happy with myself and my life that no one could shake my confidence.  I think back to a time when I did yoga every morning and planned out my day.  When I wrote in my journal every night and stretched and practiced deep breathing exercises before bed.  I would plan out my day, my week, hell sometimes my month.  I was prepared for life and being prepared made me relaxed enough to enjoy it.  I didn't stop being this person all at once but gradually, I lost her and became that basket case that I am now.  

I recognize that I might not be able to fix everything on my own.  That if I don't start to feel better emotionally or if I feel like I continue to stand the way of my own success that I might need professional help.  I am ready to say that it doesn't make me weak to need help from someone else.  My number one priority is me. Whatever shame I have previously attached to professional help is gone now.  It is more important that I become healthy; my pride is going to have to get over itself. 

I have gained about 30 pounds in the past nine years.  My husband has gained about the same amount during that time.  Normally I go on these life changing missions on my own with the support of my husband but not the participation.  But this time he feels as bad about himself as I do about myself.  He misses the healthy body that he used to have.  So when I mentioned buying a diet book and trying to change our lives he was on board. 

I have bought celebrity diet books in the past.  I have done Nutri System.  I was on Weight Watchers.  But all of those offered short term success.  I eventually went back to my old habits. I never tried to make any big changes.  After I saw a few pounds drop off I gradually went back to my old ways and put the weight back on.  All of these diets/plans work great for other people. There is nothing wrong with any of them.  The problem was that I wasn't committed to changing my life.  That is why I wasn't successful.  I am ready now.  

So I picked up Dolvett's 3-2-1 Diet book this week.  And tomorrow we start the rest of our lives as a healthy couple.  I'm not going to get pre-packaged food delivered for the rest of my life.  I'm not going to count points.  I'm just going to change my habits and pull it together.  Easy right?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

My Newest Fitness Dream

I would like to be a big fish in a small pond.  In Zumba there are Jammers, education specialists and special presenters that draw crowds of people to learn their choreography and work out with them.  I love going to events but I don't think I want to be one of those people.  The time and travel commitment.  A lot of people using my original ideas in their classes.  Neither of these really appeals to me.  Plus, I have no desire to deal with the drama that will inevitably come with it. 

But to be a trainer in one of my water fitness specialties.  That I can do.  I don't know if I can make a big enough impression at the live certification events because there is always someone there who is willing to go above and beyond to be the center of attention.  Even if I perform amazingly, I don't usually get the attention because I blend in with the rest of the group.  But for most of these certifications there are home videos that you have to make to demonstrate your proficiency as a teacher.  In my home gym with my members I can be a rock star.  And if I can convey that to the home office, maybe I'll get a shot.  Maybe I'll apply for a position the next time there is a call.  I would love to inspire other people.  I would love to show people that you don't have to be a skinny white girl to be fit.  

I feel like this is an achievable goal that is on the fringe enough to keep me out of the drama of the local mainstream instructors.  Because lets be real, water fitness definitely takes a back seat to land aerobics and I like that.  I like that outside of the pool a lot of people don't even know that I teach fitness classes.  I want to be the shining star in my own little corner of fitness.  

Saturday, November 2, 2013

The Birth of a Fitness Instructor

When I first became a Zumba instructor, a little over 3 years ago, I was shocked at how unfriendly other instructors were at jam sessions, conventions, training classes and other events.  Women are definitely cliquey and catty by nature but Zumba seemed to bring out the worst in a lot of people.  Most of the large studios in my area had so much drama among the instructors and their "pet" members that it was often uncomfortable to work out there.  I used to take another instructor's class at least once a week but I stopped going because there was so much negative energy. 

A year after getting my Zumba license I became AFAA group exercise certified and then AEA aquatic fitness certified the following  year.  To maintain these certifications I attend a lot of non-Zumba events. The people at the non-Zumba events were so much friendlier and more open than I was expecting.  There are always a couple of divas in the room but nothing on the level of Zumba drama.  What is it that makes some Zumba people so catty?  Why do I find myself sitting in a corner by myself when I go to a Zumba event outside of my city but make 10 new friends every time its any other certification?

I have to admit part of it is definitely me.  As my confidence as an instructor has grown (which I definitely have to credit to Zumba) so has my willingness to network and reach out to people.  Maybe sometimes I was sitting in the corner by myself because I didn't appear friendly.  Why should someone reach out to me if I'm not going to reach out to anyone else?  

This Friday I am going to a master class with a local Zumba Jammer.  I have all but sworn off these events because of how un-fun they generally are.  But this Friday I'm going to walk in with a smile on my face and my expectations high.  I'm going to talk to people and dance my ass off.  I'm going to do my best to ignore the negative energy and focus on the positive.  I have to believe that people who teach such an awesome class that has totally changed my life aren't all bad.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Self Conscious in the City

I am super important.  At least that's what my subconscious thinks. In my brain everyone is always looking at me and judging me.  I'm not sure when this phenomenon started but I'd sure like to make it stop.  

Yesterday I went to spinning class with my husband for the first time in a year and a half.  I always struggle when I ride a bike because I can never get the seat comfortable or I'm gripping the handle bars too hard (both leaving me sore for days after).  I have been told that biking once a week will reduce my running injuries and improve my overall muscle tone. I know this true because I can feel the changes in my body after just a few weeks back on the wagon.     This is what should have been going through my head last night.  I should have just listened to the instructors voice, enjoyed the loud music and the dimly lit room and gotten in the zone.  Instead this is what was going through my brain: Why didn't I wear a more supportive bra? Does anyone notice how much my boobs are shaking?  Am I pedaling fast enough? Do I look like I'm working as hard as everyone else? Is the instructor watching me? Does she think I'm pedaling fast enough? Is my stomach hanging out? 

A similar dialogue runs through my mind in almost every other situation in my life.  This leads to headaches, back pain, depression, heart palpitations, panic attacks and so much more.  I have been working on daily yoga and meditation and putting myself in situations where I am not comfortable while pushing myself not hide in the corner.  I am definitely a work in progress.  Sometimes I have good days, other times not so good. 

When I was single I was so much more self confident.  I went places by myself.  I did challenging home improvement projects alone.  I was kind of a bad ass.  But I was also lonely, a workaholic and a heavy drinker.  Somewhere in the middle there is a healthy 37 year old woman just dying to get out.  I think people say that 40 is so fabulous because you finally leave all this immature B.S. behind and you're ready to kick life in the ass.  I sure hope I figure it out before then.    

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Jason Collins

The back page of Sports Illustrated used to be my favorite part of the magazine.  Rick Reilly would write editorials that made you cry, think or laugh (sometimes all at the same time).  Since Reilly left for ESPN the back page has been largely unforgettable.  Various sportswriters take turns at the back page now with varying levels of success. Sometimes there is a Reilly-esque piece but just as often there is a piece that doesn't hold my interest.  I'm happy to say that this week was one of the better ones.  

In the September 16 issue of Sports Illustrated Phil Taylor wrote about Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player.  His argument is that people said they supported Collins in May when he first came out don't really support him because no one has added them to their team.  My first instinct was to disagree with him. If Collins wasn't talented enough or didn't fit a vital role on a team why would a GM waste the $1.4M veteran minimum on him?  Collins is not a superstar.  He is an average player that will come off the bench and score a few points a game.  Not exactly someone to build your team around.  

But then Phil Taylor brings up other average players that have been given contracts, specifically Juwan Howard and Marcus Camby, despite their lack of production.  These players were given contracts because they were chasing a ring, because people liked them or because of the leadership that they could provide off the court.  Every year some veteran retires after the NBA finals that I didn't even realize was still in the league. This veteran has finally made it to the finals and is ready to hang it up.  The player didn't play a significant roll in the team's success.  This player is way past his prime or his prime wasn't good enough to turn him into a household name.  Yet this player's resume is now complete and he can ride off into the sunset feeling like a champion.

So why not Jason Collins?  Why not spend $1.4M to prove gay men and straight men can co-exist in a locker room and on the court?  Why not show young gay kids that there are no obstacles to their dreams? Why not show some closeted homophobic players that there is nothing to be afraid of?  That Collins isn't going to hit on them or turn them gay just by being there.  That Collins is a man and an athlete before anything else and that his sexuality doesn't make him less of either.  

I hope that Taylor's piece makes one GM go for it.  It would be a step in the right direction for the sports world and for society as a whole.  No matter what Collins or other gay athletes do on the court there will always be people who assume they are softer, weaker, less than non-gay athletes.  But, much like the black quarterback argument, at least they will be in the conversation and given a chance to prove people wrong. 

Monday, July 29, 2013

Coping with Stress at Work

I have been absent-minded with work lately.  I'll make a snap decision that comes back to bite me in the ass and then look back and realize there was a better decision that I could have made to avoid all the drama. The problem is that my bosses have gotten involved because I involved them.  I alerted them to a situation that I could have resolved on my own.  And in doing that, I brought additional scrutiny to everything else that I do.  The benefit of working remotely is that I don't have people breathing over my shoulder watching me work.  Now I feel like I have to justify every move I make because I'm so far away and they can't check up on me in person. 

I have done this not once but three times since my last group meeting.  Once a quarter everyone comes into the office to review things with the bosses and to catch up with each other.  That meeting is taking place this week, while things are still hot from all my screw ups.

My stress level has gone through the roof.  I am normally very stressed out about things that most people would just blow off.  But now that I actually have something to legitimately stress over, it has taken over my life.  I can't sleep, exercise, read, anything without running through one doomsday prophecy after another about how badly my bosses are going to come down on me.  I have imaginary scenarios that play out and in my brain.  I have responses to every imaginary argument that is brought up; like somehow this will prepare me for an in person argument.  

I have a bad habit of crying when I am in stressful situations.  It happened in college and graduate school when I was called out.  It happened at my old job.  It happens when I argue with people.  I don't think I'm upset in a way that would warrant crying.  I think I am just wound up so tight and can't say what I really am thinking so it comes out as tears.  It's frustration more than anything.  But it paints me as weak, a crier, a chick.  If I could tell someone off and get everything off my chest or, better yet, punch someone, I don't think I would lose it.  But of course these aren't realistic options.  So I have to figure out how I'm going to make it through the next two days, where I will surely be confronted face to face by my bosses, without losing it.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Positive Thinking

The list of things that I want to improve in my life gets longer every day.  I am disappointed in myself for not following through on my own expectations.  But I'm not going to focus on that.  I'm going to start fresh today. I'm not going to make some big list of all the things that I'm going to work on or set some deadline for success like I normally do.  This time I am not going to set myself up for failure.  I'm just going to start fresh today.  I am going to do my best to stop dwelling on all the things that I haven't done in the past or all the things that I need to do in the future.  I am going to work on one thing at a time.  I am going to rebuild my confidence and my life in baby steps.  

This week my only daily goal is to meditate.  To relax, breathe and think.  I know that when I am more balanced I will be more successful at everything else that I need to do.       

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Race and the College Graduate

In a recent issue of USA Today there was a statistic indicating that more black Americans were getting degrees than every before.  In 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau reported that 21% of blacks 25 years or older had 4 years of college or more.  My immediate question was how does this compare to other ethnic groups.  By reporting only the numbers for one group, the newspaper paints an incomplete picture.  Is that a low number?  Don't all kids go to college after high school at this point?

Looking deeper into the same census shows that only 33.5% of all Americans aged 25 to 29 have earned at least a bachelor's degree. The college graduation rates across all racial groups have increased.  Socioeconomic status is the biggest indicator of whether or not someone will be successful in college.  If someone comes from a low income family they are less likely to graduate from high school, attend college and graduate from college.  More affluent states have significantly higher graduation rates than poorer states.  

The fact that only about a third of the population has a college degree is something we should care about as a country.  We are constantly hearing reports about how American children are not as smart those in other countries.  What is being done to bridge this gap?  That is the article I wanted to read.  I'm sick of hearing skewed statistics about minorities that reinforce the assumption that we are less educated than whites.  

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wild by Cheryl Strayed

I am halfway through reading Wild by Chery Strayed.  I have been trying to fight the urge to read this book for months.  Lately it seems like the more hype a book gets, the less that it deserves.  I have yet to read a single Oprah's book club selection that I have enjoyed.   Entertainment Weekly, Time Magazine, Oprah, Amazon, etc  were all telling me that I had to read this book.  So I finally broke down and bought it. 

This book is a memoir. Cheryl's mother dies from cancer and, as a result, her barely stable hold on life completely falls appart.  She sabotages her marriage.  She becomes promiscuous.  She has an abortion.  She starts using heroin.  She hits her low point and decides to hike the Pacific Coast trail alone.  She doesn't know anything about hiking before starting this journey.  She is not a fitness buff.  She doesn't appropriately prepare for the journey and starts the hike overwhelmed with heavy equipment and emotional baggage.

Initially I felt like Cheryl had an overreaction to fairly normal life events.  Many of us has lost a parent too young or lost a friend to cancer.  We didn't self destruct.  I'll admit it took me several chapters to stop judging Cheryl and start rooting for her.  Everyone has their own reaction to life's tragedies.  It isn't my place to decide what those reactions are or how dramatic a reaction is permitted for each circumstance. 

I know that this is one of my personality flaws.  I judge people based on what they do vs. what I think I would do in the same situation.  When people do this to me it drives me crazy.  Telling me how much I will love children because they love children.  How my fear of heights will go away once I enjoy the beauty that surrounds me on the top of a bungee cord or zip line.  How they never wanted to run a marathon either until one day they just did.  It is exactly the same thing and I have to stop doing it to other people.

Cheryl has been on the trail for a little over 2 weeks when she realizes that she hasn't cried at all during the trip.  She says to herself "This is the hardest thing I have ever been through and I haven't cried".  Then she quickly corrects herself.  Of course the death of her mother and all of the other things she went through prior to her journey were much harder.  But maybe they were harder in a different way.  She takes pride in the physical and mental strength that she has developed during the trip.  She gains confidence in realizing that she must be a strong to overcome so much and not feel sorry for herself or give up.  She finds that by working through the rigors of the trail, she doesn't have time to wallow in the disspointments from her past.  What a brilliant epiphany.

It is also around this time that you find out that Strayed is not her original last time.   She picked a new last name coming out of her divorce.  She couldn't go back to the girl that she was before marriage but couldn't continue to keep her married name either.  Cheryl looked in the dictionary and selected strayed.  The dictionary definition suited her perfectly.  Because Cheryl had strayed and now she was determined to find herself.  I love that. 

It made me think of what my last name would be if I looked over my life.  Was there one unifying theme that played across all the major tragedies in my life?  My father's illness and death.  My mother's neglect.  My brother's mental illness.  My self destructive behavior.  My hyper sensitivity to what people say/think.  My inability to relax or let things go.  Control freak.  Ball of nervous energy.  Insecurity.  All of these things have been eased by running, martial arts and zumba but it is safe to say that I am still working through my shit. 

What is it that I do?  I explode.  I accuse. I internalize.  I confront.  I justify.  I react.  Sometimes these actions scare people away (which is what I think I want them to do).  Other times they prevent me from accepting/trying/doing something that I am uncomfortable with.  Or, worse yet, I don't do anything to change my circumstances and just tolerate a likely preventable situation that I should walk away from.  I am somewhere between repel and withstand.  I would say Denise Suffers but she doesn't have to. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Still Not Getting It

I was excited when I saw an article about running in last week's Sports Illustrated.  Mud, Sweat and Beers by Austin Murphy started with promise but quickly fizzled.  It is further proof that this author and many others just don't get it. 

The article indicates that there is a big running boom going on right now.  The gimmicky races like the Mud Runs and Color Runs have encouraged a lot of people who never thought about running to come out and party.  Not to mention runs that benefit specific charities.  I don't disagree with any of this.  A lot of my friends and co-workers were lured to running by these races that promise a unique experience.  Personally, these races don't appeal to me because of all the hoopla.  But anything that gets people off their asses is a good thing. 

Throughout the article the author differentiates between serious runners or competitors and the rest of the pack.  He considers serious runners to be people who are fast and thin.  Anyone who isn't in competition for a medal isn't a serious runner.  The author also makes several references to the rest of the pack being overweight, out of shape, just there for a t-shirt, not serious. 

Murphy implies that the standards of the running community have been lowered to encourage non-serious runners to compete; road races generate a lot of money and more people equals more money.  Yes, there are more people running now than before but there have always been people of all shapes, sizes and paces participating in road races.  The change is in the attitude of the running community at large.  

In the past when I went to be fitted for running shoes, the running shoe specialist immediately assumed I was a walker.  When I went out to participate in training runs with the local running club they had pace groups up to 8 or 9 minute miles and the rest of us had to fend for ourselves.  My self esteem was already low and this sort of snobbery only made me feel worse about myself.  

During the past couple of years, running community has become more inclusive.  When I go to a training run no one is left behind.  I don't know why this has changed.  Maybe reality shows like Made, Extreme Weight Loss and The Biggest Loser have pumped us up to root for the underdog and to not judge people based on their appearance if they are trying to be better.  

I have been a serious runner for 25 years.  I run 2-4 days a week and compete in several road races every year.  I have never been fast or thin but I don't waddle or have my gut hanging over my shorts as Murphy would have you believe.  A lot of thin people finish after me and lot of heavy people finish before me.  The average race awards the top three people in each age group.  That's maybe 60 people at a large race.  So outside of those 60 people no one else is a serious runner?   Maybe 5% of the field is in competition for a medal.  The other 95% is comprised of people going for personal records, running for the love of it, running for their health, and yes, maybe for a t-shirt and a stale bagel afterward.  

It is always disappointing when a large publication like Sports Illustrated takes a fringe athletic event and completely misses the opportunity to properly represent it.  This article will validate what running snobs think and make average runners feel invisible and judged.  Way to go SI. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Lies I Tell

I exercise a lot.  On a busy week I will run 3 times, teach 6 hours of Zumba and 2 hours of water aerobics.  At least once a week one of my students says something like: "I'm surprised you're not skinny". Then I say something like: "I have a very slow metabolism" or "I eat whatever I want so I'll never be skinny but I've accepted that" or "Most of my relatives are diabetic and very obese".  I give the impression that I'm happy with my body and like being the fit fat girl.  But that's a lie.

A few years ago I went to see a doctor because I was sure she would tell me that I had a thyroid problem.  How else could I exercise so much and not lose any weight?  Well nothing was wrong with my thyroid.  A food journal showed that I was replacing every single calorie that I burned.  I was hoping there would be something wrong with me that could be solved with a pill or a procedure.  That I would magically go back down to my happy weight of 165-175 lbs without changing my life. 

For the past 6 years or so my weight has been steady at 193-198 lbs.  I had a brief rough patch where I ballooned to 212 lbs and an equally brief healthy patch where I got down to 185 lbs.  It is clear that if I want to lose weight, I'm going to have to make some changes.  For the past few weeks I have been keeping a food and exercise journal to try and better balance the calories burned vs. consumed.  There have been a couple days when I have been on track but most days, I'm way over. 

I don't know how to change my relationship with food.  I don't know how to tell my body that it's really not hungry.  I don't know how to change the way I've been eating for the past 37 years.  But I do know that my joints are becoming less forgiving as I get older.  With every half marathon or Zumbathon that I participate in I end up with a minor injury that hangs around for a while.  I am not recovering from these workouts like I used to.

It was recently recommended to me that I add strength training and biking to my workouts.  These are both activities that I participate in irregularly but that don't give me the same high as a good cardio workout.  I have been told that having more muscle tone will help me burn fat better.  That my body is so used to all the cardio that I do that I'm going to continue to maintain unless I mix it up.  That biking will improve my endurance without putting the stress that Zumba and running do on my joints.  

In the past few weeks I have met three people who have lost a significant amount of weight doing Zumba.  I have to admit that every time one of my fellow fit fatties looses weight that I get a little jealous.  It's getting to the point where I'm the only one.  My fellow instructors are always telling me how great I look and how awesome my energy is but that's not important.  If I actually liked myself at this weight and was happy with it that would be okay.  But I don't like myself.  I don't feel good physically or emotionally.  I don't want to be jealous of people who have more will power than I do.  I want to look like a fitness instructor.  I want the running store associates to stop assuming that I'm a walker when I come in to buy new shoes.  I don't want to have to tape my ankles and wear knee braces when I go on long runs because I'm not sure if my joints will hold up.  I don't want to settle for being less fat than my relatives.  

I have done Weight Watchers and NutriSystem.  I have followed diets from magazines, TV shows and websites.  All for short periods of time, all with varying amounts of success.  The bottom line is that I don't need a diet, I need a complete lifestyle overhaul.  And I don't know how to get there.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

No Headphones Allowed

I am really frustrated with the new trend of road races forbidding participants to wear headphones during the race.  Whether or not your run with headphones on doesn't affect how elite or serious a runner you are.  Enough with all these so called running purists talking about how they connect better with their body and spirituality when they can just hear the sound of their breath and their feet hitting the ground.  If that's how you feel, good for you.  When I don't wear headphones all I can hear is the soccer moms behind me talking about their ungrateful husbands.  To each his own. 

I have been running road races for 21 years.  I didn't start running with headphones until 7 years ago when my husband and I started dating.  He always ran with his Ipod and recommended that I give it a try.  I haven't looked back since unless I'm forced too.  When I have my headphones on I can only hear myself breathing and the music.  I get muffled bits of conversation from the runners around me but not enough to distract me.  Hearing the songs that I love makes it easier for me to tune out everyone else, and tune in to what's going on with my body.  In those rough moments when I just want to quit, a great booty shaking song can keep me running for 3 more minutes.  I run faster, more relaxed and happier when I have music.  

I've heard other people say they like wearing headphones because it prevents strangers from talking to them during the race.  A lot of people listen to coaching and motivational messages or e-books while they run.  I'm sure there are some people who have their music up so loud that they couldn't hear a bus if it was 5 feet away from them but I think those people are the exception.  I always look when I'm crossing intersections, even when the streets are blocked off, because as a runner it's just become a habit.  In my 21 years of running road races I have only heard of 1 participant being hit by a car.  In that situation, a person drove through the barricade and ignored the police officer directing traffic.  Maybe the driver of the car had headphones on.   

I think there are 2 things that contribute to this trend.  1st, we are a lawsuit happy society.  When someone can sue McDonald's for making their hot coffee too hot then someone can just as easily sue a race director for expecting them to be aware of their surroundings. I ran a race last month that banned headphones.  This race was through a very rural section of upstate New York.  I went several miles without seeing another runner, let alone any significant road traffic.  I had an awful time running this race because not only was I by myself but it was eerily quiet.  I ran my worst half marathon ever.  I will never run this race again.  

The 2nd reason is that race directors think it makes their race appeal to more elite runners if they ban headphones.  This goes hand and hand with the new trend of setting ridiculous time cut offs for races that previously didn't have them.  The Mountain Goat Run is a Syracuse institution.  I have been running this race since I moved to Syracuse.  It's a 10 mile hilly course through downtown Syracuse.  Hundreds, and now thousands of runners participate every year.  Elite runners come from all over to compete for medals.  But 98% of the people are there for the challenge of the course, the support of the locals and the beautiful scenery.  Well this year they have established a time cutoff and headphones are forbidden. 

The time cut off is 2 hours and 10 minutes.  That's a 13 minute mile pace.  Most days I average a 12 minute pace and I end up in the bottom half of the middle of the pack.  There are always lots of runners behind me.  13 minutes per mile is running.  Hell 17 minutes per mile is running for a lot of people.  Run/walkers and walkers don't even bother signing up.  The message is clear: average runners aren't welcome.  Thanks for supporting this race for the past 30 plus years but we don't really want you around any more.  

They claim that they have problems managing too many people on the road once Sunday traffic starts.  The race has grown from less than 1000 participants in 2003 to a projected 3500 for this year's race.  During this time the start time has been moved to later in the day.  The last time I participated, a number of runners suffered from heat exhaustion and other heat related illnesses because an hour into the race the sun was at peak the temperature had reached well over 80 degrees.  If they really cared about the runners they would start the race early in the morning like most distance runs.  An early start would encourage more out of town runners to come in the night before and benefit the local economy.  If they limited the number of participants, they could better ensure their ability to protect the safety of the runners.

In 2003, 870 runners finished the race.  Only 1 runner finished above 13 minute mile pace.  In 2009, 1918 runners finished with 13 runners over 13 minute pace.  Last year 2,525 runners finished with 54 runners over 13 minute pace.  I think the popularity of the race has encouraged more people to participate.  More elite runners are coming out along with more average runners and everyone in between.  With a bigger race, you would expect to have a bigger range of participants.  
The increase in registration fees over the years seems to contradict the increase in the number of participants and additional constraints placed on runners.  The post-race has been lacking over the past few years as well so it seems like this is a sinking ship.  I have a feeling this will be my last Mountain Goat.  I love running but I refuse to support races that don't provide me with a happy and supportive running environment.  

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Homosexuality and Sports

Jason Collins is gay.  No matter what talk radio station I turn to, that is all people are talking about.  Collins is the first male American professional athlete in one of the major sports to come out while he is still an active player.  All of those adjectives are key in the description.  Tennis, swimming, figure skating and golf are all sports with male professional athletes but if one of their players came out it would be reported on the back page of the sports section.  It would be a non-story after 24 hours.  Athletes coming out after retirement from one of the big 4 (football, basketball, baseball and hockey) is nothing new.  Female athletes coming out while they are still playing?  It's been happening for years and it rarely gets a reaction. So my excitement over his coming out has been squashed by all the ignorant comments that I've heard for the past 2 days. 

The two most common arguments:

Gay people should have separate locker rooms.  If I were playing sports and one of my teammates were gay I wouldn't feel comfortable changing next to him. 

So apparently gay men are all sex fiends.  They can't stand near someone of the sex they are attracted to without wanting to have sex with him.  And of course all people of the sex they are attracted to are attractive to them.  I have never been a man but I have changed and/or gone to the bathroom in front of plenty of men and gay women over the years and, in doing so, been partially or completely undressed in front of them.  At no point did I have to fight someone off because they were so overcome by the sight of my partially naked body that they had to jump on me.  

To play the other side of this argument.  What if someone was attracted to you?  Does that mean they would act on it?  Do people typically physically assault every person they have a crush on?  More often than not, you hide your feelings from the person you are lusting after and go out of your way to seem like you are not attracted to them.  I have had men and women grab my ass or make inappropriate comments to me while I was walking down the street or into a bar.  I wouldn't advocate for all people who may be attracted to me to be banned from public places because they incidents are the exception and not the rule.  I have been well over 100 situations where something like this could have occurred; I can count all the incidents on one hand. 

There is nothing courageous about what he did.  It's not like he's a superstar.  If Kobe Bryant came out that would be brave.  That would be a story.  

Your accountant coming out is not a big deal to the general public. For the most part, kids aren't watching your accountant on TV.  Your accountant doesn't regularly bump elbows with some of the richest, famous and most talented people on the planet. Your accountant would still be brave if he came out within his co-workers and circle of friends but it wouldn't be national news. 

A 12 year old boy who knows he is gay but is afraid to come out because he doesn't want someone to call him a sissy may not have known who Jason Collins was yesterday but today he is his biggest fan.  Because he sees someone who shares his sexuality but doesn't act like the over the top, gay stereotype that is so often portrayed on American television (think the New Normal, Glee, Rupaul, etc). He sees another option.  He sees that he can be gay and still be masculine and not the but of a joke.  And he sees those guys that are superstars playing next to this guy and not blinking an eye.   

Collins pointed this out in one of his interviews.  He made a point to mention that he is not an effeminate gay man.  Many gay listeners called in and criticized him for this.  These people need to face the fact that people who's inner circle doesn't include gay people think of all gay men as the overly effeminate lisping stereotype and all gay women as  the manly, unattractive man-hating stereotype.  It is important for people to realize that gay people come in all shapes, sizes, colors and personalities just like the rest of us. Yes, sometimes you can look at a person and guess that they are gay.  But a lot of the time you can't.  And there are a lot of effeminate straight men out there screwing with this stereotype.  

I am black and my husband is white.  There are a lot of people who don't approve of our relationship.  Many of these people are very vocal about their disapproval of our relationship.  30 years ago there were laws that supported people's rights to discriminate against us and, in some cases, arrest us for being married.  Unfortunately there are still many people who feel this way.  There are still towns with segregated proms and neighborhoods.  But they are the exception, not the rule. 

I hope that we are saying the same things about gay rights a few years from now.  That when a so called religious person compares homosexuality to bestiality, pedophilia and polygamy people look at those people as crazy.  That those people no longer get to be part of the mainstream.  That their hate is limited to the cult that they represent.    That those people are on the fringe with the rest of the bigots and the rest of us are allowed to live our lives with the same rights and freedoms as every other American citizen.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013


My sister-in-law and her family just left. She and her husband and their two kids have stayed with us for the past few days.  Prior to their visit I was terrified about how the weekend would go.  My sister-in-law and her family live in a very conservative, very white, southern town where everyone sees each other on church on Sunday and knows each other's business.  The last time we went to their house (4 years ago) it was very uncomfortable.  The kids seemed to be embarrassed to be seen with me (I'm black and my husband is white) in public.  Her husband grew up in this town and occasionally made border-line racist comments.  Not to mention all the good ole boy jokes about shooting and killing animals.  

The younger of the 2 children was 10 years old the last time we saw him.  He was very whiny and needed constant attention.  He wanted my husband's undivided attention and viewed me as an intrusion into his relationship with his uncle.  He was clearly showing signs of growing up to be a good ole boy just like his daddy and that worried me.  Thanks to Facebook we are able to keep up on the kids lives and interests.  The pictures of various things that he killed, the racist anti-Obama jokes and various other comments from ignorant friends on his page Facebook page only increased my fears of having him in my house with my pets for a few days.  

I am happy to say that my worries were a huge overreaction.  I should have given my nephew more credit.  A 14 year old boy is much different from a 10 year old boy.  Whatever his political/social views are they didn't come up during the weekend (I'm not sure why I thought they would).  When we went out to the mall and the skating rink he didn't treat me any different and actually hung out with me more than with my husband at times.  I'm sure that fact that he was far away from home and in a very diverse place helped but I'd like to think that the next time we head down south, things will be better. 

The best part of the weekend was how good everyone was with the pets.  My nephew and his father's fears of large dogs were quickly put at ease by the dogs snuggling up next to them on the couch.  And because we so rarely have company, the excitement of having people in the house for a few days was enough to tire the dogs out and keep them mellow.  

But for me, the most important thing about this weekend is that my husband shared the same concerns that I had.  Before his family came we sat down and talked through everything and made sure that we were on the same page. It was nice knowing that if something did happen that my husband had my back.  There is nothing more uncomfortable than seeing a couple fight through their issues in front of you and I'm glad we didn't put anyone in that situation. 

I'm not going to go so far as to say the rest of my in-laws are welcome to visit (my husband and I agree that this sister and her family are probably the only relatives of his that we could have stay at the house).  But I can say that I will have less anxiety about it because of how well this weekend went.  

Friday, March 8, 2013

The Black Salon

As a Christmas present I was given a beauty package from a salon downtown.  Even though I only live 20 minutes from the city I don't frequent many of the businesses downtown outside of restaurants and theaters.  I was excited to check out a new salon and to go somewhere where everyone looked like me.  Generally before making an appointment at a salon I need to call and ask if they have anyone who knows how to do black hair.  When I looked at the salon's website and saw all black faces, I was happy not to make the call.  I also wear my hair natural and was looking forward to getting new tips on hair care from a black salon. 

The mani-pedi was pretty average.  I've had both better and worse.  I generally get spa pedicures which include exfoliating and massaging of the leg so a regular pedicure doesn't really compare.
I don't want to start any drama but in the dozens of pedicures that I have received over the years the American-run salons don't massage and exfoliate as aggressively as the Asian-run salons.  I don't know if the American salons are afraid they are going to hurt their clients but sometimes it feels like they aren't even touching me.  The experience at the Asian salons is much more fulfilling for me personally since I like more pressure during my massage.  The black salon was pretty much the same as the other American salons that I've been to in this category. 

The facial was bad. There is no way around it.  No steam.  No moisturizing.  Just my face getting washed over and over again and me laying on an uncomfortable table.  My face was dry and itchy when she was done.  Not relaxing at all.  I was just hoping it would be over soon. 

The massage was not great either.  Not a lot of pressure and no music or fragrances to help the client relax. Another uncomfortable table and me counting the minutes until it was over.  If you have hairy arms and you are a massage therapist you should wax them.  It is not relaxing having scratchy arms rub on your back. I felt like making an appointment at my regular salon for a facial and a massage before I left the parking lot.   

But by far the worst part of the experience was the hair.  I asked the stylist if she did natural hair and she said she did it all the time.  I told her what my regiment was and what products I used and that I was open to whatever style or products she recommended for my hair.  Even though I have been natural for 15 years I didn't really learn how to take care of my hair until 2.5 years ago when I discovered Ouidad.  So many more people are natural now than when I first went natural.  There are great products, resources and blogs now so the experience is much less scary than it used to be.  I don't go a day without seeing someone with natural hair and that is a wonderful thing.  

After washing my hair she started to blow dry it.  No conditioner or moisturizer.  No detangling.  I told her that I didn't wear my hair straight and maybe blow dried it once every couple years or so to see how long it was.  She then wet the section of my hair that she had started to dry and sent me on my way.  She didn't do my hair at all. Blow drying my hair straight and then styling it like you would style relaxed hair is not doing natural hair.  I was so disappointed that I had to go home and do my hair after all this time spent at the salon.  I was annoyed that I had to pull my hair into a bun in the parking lot so my hair wouldn't be too much of a mess when I got home.  

I don't want to make any broad generalizations about all black salons or stylists.  But for whatever reason I have yet to meet a black stylist who actually does black natural hair without trying to straighten it.  I have several relatives who are hair stylists and when I talk to them about co-washing and Ouidad they look at me like I'm speaking another language.  That's a problem.  I know there are people who wear their hair natural in the areas where my family lives but there seems to be no desire on their part to learn anything new or different to increase their skills and clientele.  I have had more good experiences than bad with white stylists doing my hair both relaxed and natural.  It would be nice to see more black stylists push themselves to learn how to do natural hair like some white stylists push themselves to learn how to do black hair.     

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Couples Retreat

Last weekend my husband and I attended a couples retreat.  The event was advertised as a way to reconnect with your partner, in the wilderness, unplugged from electronics for 3 days.  Two therapists lead 15 couples and a handful of singles through various exercises and give them enough tools to function better as a couple and to communicate better to people in general. 

I will admit that I was a little concerned that it was going to be a little too new age, hippy, granola for our taste.  But one of the therapists wrote a self-help book that changed my life in college and I was really looking forward to meeting her in person.  My husband and I had discussed seeing a therapist or going to a retreat in the past but never got around to it.  When the author's Twitter feed showed she would be doing a retreat just a short drive away in New England we figured we'd give it a shot. 

So here's an example of our daily schedule: 

8-9 am breakfast provided by the retreat.  New age, hippy, granola food.  Gluten free entrees, nuts and berries, vegan cookies, soy sausage. Not bad but not my normal vacation breakfast gluttony. 

9-12 lecture time.  Power point presentation about common problems, the way men and women think, etc.  Hard to stay awake after so much soy sausage. 

12-2 pm lunch and free time.  More nuts and berries.  When we signed up for the retreat we were bullied into paying extra so that we could eat our meals and snacks there rather than drive around and look for a place to eat.  They said the meal plan was a necessity because there was very little free time and restaurants were far away.  We passed the standard slew of chain restaurants on our drive into the retreat.  I can't tell you how awful it feels to drive past a Friendly's, where you can get a delicious burger and fries and a hot fudge sundae for $12, because you've spent $300 for 3 days of rabbit food. 

2-6 pm afternoon lecture.  Very similar to the morning session.  The problem with having 2 experts is that they are constantly trying to one up each other.  Rather than compliment each other, they are trying to demonstrate that they are more knowledgeable than the other expert.  It was a little annoying during the morning session but it was unbearable in the afternoon.  The experts were so focused on competing with each other that they strayed from their outline frequently and failed to respond to questions clearly.  

6-8 pm dinner.  Generally the best meal of the day.  Beans and rice, enchiladas, soup and sandwiches.  Normal people food with a veggie twist. 

8-11 pm evening session.  This was the best part of the day.  This was where we learned breathing, stretching, visualization and trust exercises to better center ourselves and to connect with our partners.  It is amazing how 10 minutes of meditation and breathing can help you sort through all the clutter that's in your head.  There were many people who had emotional outbursts during this exercise.  It was a very powerful night. 

So you can imagine that after 3 days of this we were ready to go home but the reality is that our lives are forever changed because of it.  The way we communicate with each other and handle stress is 100% different.  As much as I would have liked to miss the daily lectures, the evening exercises more than made up for it.  Plus getting to know other couples who were facing challenges and looking to better their relationships made us feel like we were normal.  And on the flip side, seeing married singles there alone because their partners were not willing to come or couples who were struggling with much worse problems than ours made it clear that we have a great relationship and should not take it for granted. 

If you see a yoga/meditation/couples retreat advertised in your area, read the fine print, but in the end I think you will come away with much more than you end up giving up.  

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Living in a Tunnel

This morning I received a ticket for running a red light.  The cop was literally behind me and I ran the light after the person in front of me ran the light.  

Last month after running a 5K a co-worker came up to me and told me he had waived and yelled to me during the race but I didn't notice him.  

I have walked right past people that I know at the gym and not even noticed them when they were right in front of me. 

I don't know when I started living my life in a tunnel but I don't think it's a good thing.  I think part of it is my anxiety.  In my head people are always looking at me or thinking bad things about me.  If I look at them then I might notice this judgement.  Over the years I have mastered the straight ahead stare.  This is how I walk,drive, run, live.  

I have injured myself multiple times because I was so focused on the goal that I was oblivious to what I was doing to achieve that goal:

Stitches in my forehead after bumping my head on bookshelf.  Focusing on getting back to my seat as fast as possible lest someone notice me.  Leaned over to throw something away and started to turn my head to walk back to my desk before I was done leaning over. 

Staph infection in my fingernail after my earring punctured the space under the nail.  Obsessing about my day and mindlessly getting dressed.  Stuck hand in jewelry box blindly while trying to multitask 20 other things and running through the possible stresses of  my day over and over again.  

Countless incidents where I have bumped my head, walked into inanimate objects, fallen, stubbed my toe, set things on fire, etc. 

There was a time when I was hyper observant.  When I started studying martial arts everyone who walked past me on campus was a potential rapist.  When I walked back to my car in the middle of the night I looked every stranger in the eye, all but daring them to attack me.  The number one thing that women are taught in self defense classes is to be aware.  To not be oblivious.  Now here I am, living in a tunnel. 

I don't know when my instincts to protect myself were overcome by my anxieties and fears.  Yet another thing that I need to work on. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

New Life Resolutions Revisited

Why is change so hard?  I've done Weight Watcher's and Nutri System, both with some success, but in the end abandoned both as not realistic in the long term.  Six weeks seems to be my limit for radical life change.  Supposedly after 6 weeks of anything your body adjusts to your new healthy lifestyle and things get easier.  Apparently my body didn't get that memo.  After 6 weeks all I want to do is go back to the comfortable habits I had before. 

As I creep back up to 200 lbs after successfully hitting a low of 186 recently, I am trying to give myself a come to Jesus moment.  Unfortunately, I have been here before.  I have an epiphany every week and swear I'm going to be better but it never seems to stick.  I'm not beating myself up.  I'm not throwing in the towel.  Per my New Year's Manifesto, I am determined to figure it out this year. 

Weight- I need to plan my meals like I did when I was on weight loss programs.  I am not good at making something healthy on the fly.  I need to fill my house with enough healthy options for a week so that it is as easy to stick to my guns as when I did Nutri System.  If I have to go so far as measuring and separating out my meals into containers that's what I'll do.  Diabetes, thyroid disease, high blood pressure, etc are all knocking on my door.  I have to get the weight off for good this time. 

Exercise- I have been very good with running but not much of anything else.  I will be a better runner if I make a effort to stretch and tone my body more.  Yoga and strength training are activities that I love but rarely make time for any more.  My joints are aching.  I am injury prone and stressed.  I need to do this before I get an injury that prevents me from exercising at all.  Then I would really be depressed. 

I also need to practice my choreography more.  There is nothing that makes me happier than teaching Zumba but I need to stop with the last minute prep for class.  I had not being polished and feeling like I'm being judged for sloppy choreo.  I am a great dancer.  I need to be a great teacher as well. 

Sleep- This one is kind of out of my control.  I have been an insomniac my whole life.  I do know that sticking to a regular routine helps me sleep better.  So I need to develop a sleep ritual an stick to it.  If I started feeling rested I would be less stressed and have more energy to get through my day. 

Work- I used to be awesome at my job.  Then I got comfortable and let everything slide.  I continue to get praise and raises despite barely putting in 10 hours most weeks.  It's starting to catch up to me and I see an epic fail in my future if I don't pull it together.  I don't think my job is in jeopardy but my pride and my reputation are.  I need to make it clear that I am valuable and capable of being just as productive as I once was. I want to be a superstar at work again and stop cruising. 

Pets- I have more animal books, articles, knowledge than any sane person should.  I can go into someone else's house and quickly diagnose what their doing wrong with their pets and help them develop a plan to fix it.  Why I can't put that knowledge to work in my own life is a mystery to me.  I would be some much happier if my pets were balanced and well behaved.  It's not going to happen overnight but the hard work would be well worth getting rid of the guilt, stress and shame that I feel now. 

Marriage- I am very lucky to be married to my best friend.  Unfortunately sometimes we are more like best buddies than husband and wife.  I really need to make an effort to be a better wife and partner and not just a good roommate.  We have a great marriage but if we don't fix the little problems they may become big problems down the road.  I can't imagine anything worse than losing my soul mate.  My husband and I have already made a commitment to focusing on our issues this year.  I feel like we're going to hit this one out of the park. 

At some point this year I'd like to be able to:
  • Walk my dog in my neighborhood. 
  • Sit on the couch with my dog and cat.
  • Stop shopping at Lane Bryant for clothes. 
  • Run a 10 minute mile. 
  • Sit and do a crossword puzzle before work or Zumba because I'm prepared and don't have to rush and do anything at the last minute. 
  • Wake up and fall asleep next to my husband. 
  • Be proud of myself. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Black Hole That Swallows Road Race Pictures

Anyone who has every participated in a road race knows that there are dozens of photographers placed throughout the course.  At the major mile markers you are encouraged to pretend you're not in pain and smile for the cameras.  For runners like me who go into a bit of a trance when they run and are oblivious to other runners and people on the sideline this is especially important.  I have had too many sad/angry/pained looking faces memorialized forever in pictures.  

My husband on the other hand has hundreds of fantastic shots from races. He loves hamming it up for the camera and the camera definitely loves him.  He has even been known to upstage someone else's photo op because he started posing for his moment early and photobombed their shot.  Since I met my husband I have prided myself on paying attention to where the photographers are on the course and posing for pictures.

In the past, I would receive an e-mail encouraging me to check out my pictures on the race website and order my favorite shots.  Or a local running club or newspaper would post hundreds of pictures that anyone could download for free.  But lately I don't know where the pictures have gone.  There are still dozens of photographers along the course but I never see those pictures.  It's frustrating because I love creating scrapbooks of all of our races but without the photos there really isn't much to commemorate the day.  

I see people running with cameras and holding up the course taking pictures of themselves and their friends.  I don't want to be one of those people but it seems like I might have to if I want a memory from the day.  It would be different if I didn't see any photographers along the course but there seem to be more than ever now. My $20-100 registration fee per race should at least guarantee me access to photos of myself participating in the event.  I have e-mailed the local running club that sponsors the races and never received a response.  

Is this like the left socks that disappear into some black hole in the back of the dryer?  Is there some random cache of pictures of average runners just waiting to be discovered.  Should I stop and ask each photographer on the course where I can find their pictures after the race?  It may seem like a petty issue but when you get used to having pictures of yourself being an athlete, it's a disappointment to have those pictures taken away.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Lessons from a Girl

I am an insecure person.  I have a lot of anxiety.  I create stress where there isn't any.  If I could learn to relax and not worry about what other people think, I wouldn't have to go the chiropractor once a week, I would sleep better and my general health would improve.  That being said, the more time I spend around women, the clearer it is that I am a rock star compared to them.

The honeymoon with Kellie, my running partner, is definitely over.  I am not writing her off by any means.  But, now that she has gotten comfortable with me, her occasional girly slips have become constant. The insecurity.  The mindless prattle.  The questions that should be hypothetical, about race day conditions, other runners, etc. that she expects me to provide an answer for.  The constant need for reassurance.  It's exhausting. 

The day before my weekly run with Kellie, I went to a potluck dinner with a group of women I met through meetup.  What was supposed to be a night of giggles and good food turned into a group therapy session with me as the therapist.  Two girly days in a row definitely put me more on edge and made me even less tolerant than I normally am (which is saying something).

Most of my unmarried friends are older than me.  At first I thought it was strange that there were so many women in their late 30's and early 40's that were single (and not by choice) but the more time I spend with them, the less shocking it is.  These women want to find "the one" and can't figure out why they keep getting duds.  But they are so insecure that they won't go to the gym until they lose weight, can't be seen in the food court eating alone, and so on.  The weak crap that they are putting out is only going to give them people who are going to live on that.  A jerk who is also insecure is dying to find a weak woman that he can put down when he's not feeling great.  Someone who won't leave him no matter what he does because they think they deserve it. 

No, I'm not the skinny chick who hangs out with a bunch of fat chicks to make herself feel better.  Well, I guess I sort of am, but I didn't go out looking for fat chicks.  Somehow I can go to a meetup and meet 30 people but the weakest 5 will become people that I hang out with regularly.  Maybe because the rest of them have a life already.  Who knows.  I have always had the ability to attract weakness to me.  Regardless, if their going to depend on me to reassure them and guide them through life then I'm going to use them to better myself.

No, I would never skip the gym or a run because of my fear of what people thought of me.  But I have moments where I worry that people are wondering how someone who looks like me can be a runner/fitness instructor.  In my head I know that I am accomplished at both and I need to remind myself of that and not let my insecurities get the best of me.

So every time they do something that is a 10 on the stupid weak girl scale and I want to shake some sense into them, I will remind myself that I have the same problem (at a 3 on the scale).  That as stupid and annoying as they are, I am equally as annoying to someone who is at a 1 on the scale.  I have to love and accept myself as much as I expect them to or risk having someone blog about my insecure ass!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Problem with Women

I have always been the wife who was friends with the husbands/boyfriends.  I am rarely comfortable when I'm stuck with a group of women.  It's rare for me to have anything in common with them and highly likely that they will have some annoying girl habits or personality traits that I can't stand.  I blogged about my surprise in meeting a dependable female friend this morning but my brain is telling me it's only been a few months, she still has time to disappoint, like the others.  During one of my last turns as a bridesmaid I blogged about how a previously tolerable female friend turned out to be annoying in the end.  

A few recent examples:
  • I can't go out to the movies with you like we scheduled 3 weeks ago because my mother isn't available to babysit my 3 year old daughter.  
This woman's mother lived 4 hours away in another city but came to visit often.  She never looked for a babysitter for her daughter.  Her daughter didn't have any medical problems or behavioral problems that would make her a special case.  Prior to the birth of her child, my husband and I spent a lot of time with her and her husband.  She is one of many woman who lost themselves after the birth of their child.  They put all of their life and energy into the child and forget that they existed as anything other than a mom.  This woman and her husband recently divorced because they stopped focusing on their relationship and only did or talked about things as they related to their child. 

  • I can't meet you to run/walk the dogs in 5 minutes like we had planned because it's raining.  
I'm not talking about torrential down pours.  Just a little drizzle.  Here in Syracuse there is a precipitation event every few days.  A week without rain or snow would be unlikely.  Sadly this women did this to me 3 times before I wrote her off for good.  Cancelling at the last minute is generally a sign of a lame excuse, not a legitimate conflict.  And cancelling once it's too late for me not to leave my house is inexcusable.  

  • I know we sat down and picked a date for that get together at your house that was convenient for me a few weeks ago but I'm going to have to back out because we're refinishing our bathroom, my son has a soccer game, it was the only day my in-laws could come over, etc.
This is the most prevalent one these days.  Especially with Facebook and Meetup where everyone wants to look social and RSVP for everything.  When I schedule a date to do something with someone that day is blocked out in my calendar.  If someone else asks me to do something on that day I won't book anything because I already have a commitment.  I don't commit to things that I don't intend to show up for and I don't   cancel at the last minute if something better comes along.  I can't tell you how many afternoons/nights/weekends I have wasted on these very same people doing something I didn't want to do but had committed too but these people never seem to be able to return the courtesy.  They are self centered, selfish and unreliable.  These people are not my friends.  They are my acquaintances and they remind me why they will never be anything more than that.  

Head Injuries and Professional Sports

Over the past couple years a number of current/former football players, boxers and wrestlers have taken their own lives.  As more and more information comes out about the long term brain damage caused by repeated blows to the head, it is clear that this problem is much bigger than anyone wants to admit.  

I listen to Mike and Mike in the Morning religiously.  I love sports radio and their chemistry together is great. But every time one of these tragedies happen Mike Golic, the former professional football player, gives his speech about getting hurt being part of football.  He talks about hurting his shoulder and despite the pain or risk of long term damage, going back in game after game without thinking of his health because he loved football that much.  Herm Edward's knees.  Mike Ditka's hips.  There are always dozens of former professional athletes that come out of the woodwork to say their sport is a dangerous sport and they knew the consequences when they signed on.  This is true, to a point, but these former athletes are in denial because they don't want to admit that the sport they play has the potential to cause much more than sore joints. 

A decade or so Phillip Morris, the tobacco mega-power,  lost a lawsuit because it misinformed the public about the long term dangers of smoking.  Millions of dollars in settlement fees later and the image of smoking in this country is much different than it used to be.  Yes there are still way too many people who smoke but they definitely know the consequences of smoking.  These people are bombarded with public service announcements made by people with holes in their throat, parts of their jaw missing, severe emphysema, or worse, shown the charred organs of people who died painfully from complications of diseases caused by smoking.  There are published studies that have demonstrated that smoking is more addictive and harmful than alcohol and marijuana.  A generation ago you would never see these commercials or know this information.  The number of people who smoke now compared to during my parents' childhood is dramatically different.   Scenes from period shows like Mad Men where everyone smokes, even on airplanes and in hospitals, is the clearest indication of how far we have come as a nation. 

Eventually there will be public service announcements that present sobering facts about the long term effects of repeated blows to the head.  There will be a photo montage of famous athletes who have died tragically as facts about the possible risks flash across the screen.  Professional athletes will sign a waiver listing the risks and will promise not to sue the league if any of those problems arise during or after their career.  That waiver will read something like this:  Multiple blows to the head can cause brain damage.  Even blows to the head that are not dealt with excessive force and/or do not result in a concussion can lead to these problems.  Repeated blows to the body can also result in brain damage because the head is jarred during those blows.  The result of this brain damage can lead to memory loss, paralysis, mood swings, depression and suicidal thoughts and actions.     

Until this kind of information is presented, no one can fault the families of deceased athletes for suing their respective leagues.  When parents sign their kids up for youth football they will sign a similar waiver on their child's behalf.  The equipment used during youth sports will be more protective than that used by college and professional athletes.  Until a person is 18 years old and able to fully understand the risks associated with their sport of choice their parents must face these facts and decide that their child accepts those risks.  I cringe every time the parent of a child paralyzed during youth sports sues their league because my instinct is similar to Mike Golic's: this kid signed up for a violent sport.  He knew the risk and he got hurt.  But in reality I don't know what those parents were told.  If they were told that their child might suffer from a broken leg or get arthritis as an adult and their son ended up a quadriplegic then they are well within their rights to sue the league.  If someone told Mike Golic that one of his two football playing sons were at a great risk for committing suicide at a young age if the proper precautions were not taken I doubt he would be as emphatic in his defense of the lack of disclosure.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Running with Pride

My struggle to be a faster and more consistent runner is nothing new.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, I have been a runner for 25 years and am in no way a beginner.  I've come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to win races (even though occasionally at less popular races I have placed in my age group).  No one is going to mistake me for a runner when they just see me walking down the street.  On a day when I'm wearing shorts they might notice my muscular legs and think that I workout but my 40 inch waist and big boobs make me look more like a burlesque dancer than a runner.  

In the fall I took a leap of faith and responded to a post about women in my area looking for running partners.  My closest friends have always been men.  I have struggled to make a connection with women for my entire life.  Most women I meet aren't interested in the same things that I am and I tire of their company pretty quickly.  When I first moved to Syracuse I joined a few groups in meetup and through them developed a social life.  I now know a lot of women but I would consider very few of them friends and, outside of meetup activities, don't spend time with them.  

I was very nervous the first day I went to meet my new running partner.  Was she going to be skinny?  Fast? Was she going to be shocked that someone that looked like me responded to her post?  What were we going to talk about for three miles?  Was she going to talk about her kids the whole time?  Would I be able to run and talk? Would I feel okay running without my Ipod?

Kellie and I hit it off right away.  She looked as nervous as I was.  We had a great run and easy conversation.  There are definitely girly things about her that I don't enjoy but I don't let those things get to me.  Having a running partner is worth overlooking a few personality differences.  I know I'm not perfect and that there are plenty of things about me that people don't like but put up with.  I need to extend that same courtesy to other people instead of writing them off so quickly. 

I have run with Kellie once a week since Halloween.  We have not done a race together but we plan to next month.  My running pace has increased to a 10:45 mile for a 5K and stayed there.  I have not run at this pace since 2006.  A few years ago I blogged about my excitement about getting down to an 11:04 pace and my hope that I could get back under 11 minutes.  Now here I am and it happened fairly easily.

I make sure I run three days a week consistently now.  When I travel for work I use the hotel gym.  When the weather is bad I bundle up and brave the cold, snowy weather.  I used to drive pass those people running in arctic temperatures and think how great it must be to be so dedicated.  Now I have become one of those people.  I know that if I don't run during the week, my weekly run with Kellie on the weekend will not go well.  I don't want to hold her back.  

I am still struggling to lose weight but I am getting faster even though my weight hasn't changed.  Imagine how much easier running will be when I can finally get rid of the 20 lbs that I've gained over the past few years.  My joints won't ache.  My thighs won't rub together.  My biggest fear is that I'm going to develop a serious injury because of the stress my weight is putting on my joints.  But that's a different battle. Right now I'm basking in the glow of feeling like a runner again.

I have attended more running events in the past few months than I have in several years.  I have consistently run on my own and participated in road races but I never went to group runs or events at local athletic stores.  I always felt like people would judge me.  That a bunch of elite skinny runners would be in a room talking about their running experiences and I would sit in a corner by myself, left out.  Kellie and I have joined the local running club and attended these meetings together.  And even when Kellie went on vacation I attended these meetings by myself and I survived.  Yes, I felt uncomfortable and isolated at times but I also felt like I belonged.  

My confidence has increased as a result of this newly rekindled running passion.  I talk about running with elite runners without make self deprecating comments about my pace/size.  I accept that I will never be as fast as them but I have been running for just as long, if not longer, than they have and have a  lot to contribute to the conversation.  People recognized my face because I had been coming to events for months.  They accepted me as a runner and I guess, finally, so did I.        

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Procrastinator

When I first became a Zumba instructor 2.5 years ago, I prepared my choreography for weeks.  I practiced over and over again so I would perfect my routines and know my songs inside and out.  I was so paranoid that I would mess up and I wanted to make a great impression so people would keep coming back to my classes.  As I became a better instructor and my classes grew, I got lazy with the choreography.  My time management skills slipped and I struggled to juggle a full time job (though flex time) and my family while still being a great Zumba instructor. 

At first it was only a song or two that I had to prepare the morning before a class.  Despite all my nervousness of presented a song I hadn't prepared, things went surprisingly well.  People praised my class as usual and sometimes said my energy was better than normal.  Then it turned into a couple songs.  The more I procrastinated and the greater my anxiety was before going to class.  But each time everything turned out okay so I had no real incentive to get my act together. 

The problem has become much worse over the past year or so as my popularity as an instructor has increased and, in turn, my class load.  I have been so unprepared for class that I almost had a panic attack when I got in front of the group.  There have been times when I know students have noticed that I'm not prepared.  There have been days when I feel like I have not given a class worthy of my reputation. 

Every week I tell myself it's the last time and before I know it I'm in that situation again.  So here I am again, 40 minutes before my Aqua Zumba class, with a playlist that I prepared 2 hours ago.  I am nervous but I know I will make it through because I have been less prepared than I am today and come out okay.  

I only teach Aqua Zumba one day a week vs. 5 days of Zumba and Zumba Gold so I procrastinate the most with that choreography the most.  It always seems like I have so long between classes but that week just flies by.  I want to make a good impression on all the New Year's Resolution people so they will stick around for more than a couple weeks.  I want to live up to my own expectations of myself.  

I have to get my act together with time management and stop creating stress in my life where it shouldn't be.  Zumba feeds my soul like nothing else. I am privileged enough to teach it and I feel amazing after a great class.  I need to tell myself that when I'm sitting on the couch instead of practicing choreography.  

Sunday, January 20, 2013

New Life Resolutions

There used to be this annoying TV commercial about advertising that had the tag line " Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity" or something like that.  I think it was to encourage people to stop advertising in the yellow pages and start advertising on the Internet.  When I am struggling at different points in my life I often think of this quote. 

Why is my 5K time not getting faster?  Because I'm not training any differently. 

Why am I not losing weight?  Because I'm not eating any differently.

Why aren't my pets behavioral problems getting better?  Because I'm not doing anything differently.

I could go on and on.  My professional life.  My personal life.  There are a number of things that I wish were better but if I'm just sitting here wishing and whining I'm not going to make any progress.  It seems like every January people are filled with promise that they are going to turn their lives around.  They gyms are packed.  Everyone is going to run a marathon, lose 10 lbs, spend more time with their families, etc.  And then 6 weeks later their lives return back to normal and they join the majority of the world who fail on their New Year's Resolutions.  

What would it take to be in the minority?  To be one of those people who sets a goal, has discipline and then actually achieves those goals.  You've seen those people- the one's who lose 100 lbs, run a marathon, quit their soul crushing jobs and start their own business.  These people exist.  

So I'm not going to say these are my New Year's Resolutions because these are life changes that I need to make.  To be a happier, healthier, more productive human being and someone that I am proud to be.  I have made improvements in a lot of areas of my life over the past few years and I am proud of those improvements.  I am a much better person than I used to be but there are a still lot of things that I need to change. 

I could go on for pages about every area of my life that I want to change.  I'm just going to focus on one at a time.  I'm going to try to ask myself, when making decisions: "Is this a decision that will help me meet my goal?  I am going to feel better or worse about myself at the end of the day?"

My first resolution is to write more.  I have been keeping a journal since I was three years old.  I feel better when I write.  I find that I am less combative (and less of a conversation hog) when I write.  I have become pretty good about writing in my journal at the end of the day to clear my head before I try to sleep.  I would like to start blogging in the morning.  I wake up at least an hour before my husband.  That needs to be my zen time.  And so it begins.