Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Runner in Me

It took me a while to find her, and goodness only knows she ain’t gonna win any races anytime soon, but she’s there. Poking her head out, waving her arms around like a three year old and just as desperate for attention. But it wasn’t always like that. Once upon a time I hated running.

Phase I- Attempted Jogger

I started running in college because it had never occurred to me before then to do it. I was losing weight with aerobics videos (Jane Fonda…classic), but I suddenly noticed that everyone who seemed to have been thin all along ran. A lovely friend of mine offered to have me go on a run with her. Beautiful gesture. She tried not to make me run too fast and her effort to slow down looked almost as painful as my effort to keep up. We ran to the 1 mile marker and turned around to walk back. Despite my friend’s encouragement I have never felt more humiliated or ashamed in my life which, in turn, fueled my determination to conquer it. I added it to the schedule of punishments for being fat, otherwise known as my workout schedule.

Phase II- Successful, Angry Jogger

Time passed and I found exercises I liked more. I like to dance (don’t judge me), so dance-y aerobics videos were right up my alley. The calories burned while doing them was not enough to compensate for me overeating, though, and over time I gained back all the weight I had lost despite exercising regularly and decided (like so many Navy wives do) that weight loss is an excellent pastime while your husband is on deployment. Enter the jogging. I started off doing 5 laps around a little island in our apartment complex, and forced myself to go further every day. Didn’t matter if it felt good. Further. Faster. Every time. Or you’re a failure. I did that through my husband’s 7 month deployment and continued for about a year all together. Like that I got up to running 3 miles at a time, hating every step. Much further than in my college days so I counted it as a success.

By this time we had bought a house and moved to a new neighborhood. My new neighbors were super-impressed to see me out there running early in the morning and would comment on how much I must love it to do it so consistently. My standard reply was, “I hate running. The part I like is the stopping.” It was true. I hated every step, I mean loathed it to my core the way nature abhors a vacuum. ;) The part that I liked was that at the end I could say, “I ran [insert number] miles today.”

Phase III- Runner!

Yep. I’m morbidly obese and I consider myself a runner. This shift was entirely mental for me and had nothing to do with my speed or endurance. But one of the things that I have learned by talking to other runners is that no true runner will judge you for your speed or your distance. That is for you to judge. If you get out there and put shoes to pavement (or treadmill belt) every day, you can be a part of the clan. But although I have run in years past, I frankly didn’t want to be a part of the clan. I hated the clan and all the torture it represented. That is, until I did Couch to 5k. Cliche but true, Couch to 5k completely changed my running mindset. Instead of running for speed or for punishment, I was only running for time. Just finish. Doesn’t matter how far you go. Just finish. On days where I was a bit run down, I went slower. On days where I was feeling chipper, I went faster. And somewhere around week 7 I began to see—to feel—a beauty in the rhythm of it. I missed it on days when I couldn’t do it and I was willing to make sacrifices to squeeze it in. That’s when I knew I had crossed over to being a runner.

I’ll worry about my 5k time next year.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Et Tu, Brute?

So my husband, whom I love and in most respects is a pretty awesome human being, is a fat-ist. Size-ist? I don’t know. Whatever you call people who make negative assumptions about people based on their size. I would never have suspected this early on in our relationship. There were a number of screens up that prevented me from correctly reading the situation.

Screen 1: He met, fell in love with, decided he couldn’t live without, and married me at my heaviest, which was pretty darn heavy.

Screen 2: He always listened attentively and nodded in agreement when I complained about my ill-treatment from doctors and how annoying it was to have them CONSISTENTLY be surprised when my blood pressure/heart rate/ blood sugar were all better than average.

Screen 3: He finds a broad spectrum of women attractive based on proportion, face, hair, and personality. This was important to me, too, because I didn’t want to be stuck with a guy with a fat chick fetish, either.

Screen 4: He points out (when I’m on a weight loss stint) that he has no issue with the size of my body and often mentions that people are genetically destined to be in different categories.

So what’s the problem? Sounds like a dream, right? Get bigger…get smaller… it’s all good. What’s not to like?

This is not to like.

So I mentioned the other day that a challenge group I joined made doing 100 jumping jacks the daily challenge. I meant to use it like a desk break, doing 25 or so at a time when I needed to stretch, but since I was doing site visits most of the day I just did 50 in my office before running out of the door to get the kids and, don’t be alarmed honey, but I’m about to knock out the other 50 right here in the kitchen before we eat dinner. He looks up at me in all seriousness and says, “You can do 50 jumping jacks?” Blank stare from me. “I mean, you can knock out 50 jumping jacks real quick?” Blank stare morphs into are-you-freaking-kidding-me-I-run-4.5 miles-at-a-clip-and-have-a-resting-heart-rate-of-48 face. I wanted to say, “Who are you? Have you been listening to me at all in all these years? Do you realize how insulting it is to have you—YOU—of all people ask me that. You who I thought understood me and realized that weight and health are not always directly correlative and certainly not in my case.”

Instead I said, “Yes,” and knocked out the other 50.

Running with Alcide: How trashy t.v. took the “dread” out of dreadmill

It’s hot in New Orleans. Not cute tank top hot. Not, “Oh! Let’s drink lemonade,” hot. Hot hot. Stinky hot. Clothes-stick-to-you-the-instant-you-step-outside-hot. Take a third bath hot. So back in February when I had the full-on realization that I *love* (yep, love) the running part of running, my mind immediately fastforwarded to the heat. In New Orleans we never know when the heat is going to come because, truth be told, it never leaves. We don’t have seasons, we have cold fronts. If there’s no cold front passing through, you can legitimately wear shorts on Christmas. Now, your mother wouldn’t let you do that. At least not to church. She *might* let you wear a short set to play with your cousins in the 80+ degree afternoon heat after mass. Might. More likely a skirt. We try hard to make our clothes match the season down here even if the weather doesn’t.

So there I was on February 13th, running on the levee and more thankful for the light breeze off the river than I knew I could be. Although it was my birthday, that run was the only glean of happiness I felt that day and I realized how desperate I would have felt without it and the breeze that made it possible. The running gods smiled on me that day and continued providing cool (enough) breezy (enough) mornings at least 3 days a week until April. But the day did eventually come where I could not do it anymore. I ran my usual 45 minute route and vomited at the end of it before sporting a 3 day long migraine. Yep. I knew from previous attempts at becoming a jogger that running in the heat didn’t work for me and it still doesn’t. So what do I do? Give up jogging? Wait until October when a cool front *might* happen through? It actually frightened me to think of having to start all over again. To go back to the point where running a mile without stopping was an accomplishment. Don’t get me wrong. Most runners have to journey through that point, but I was fearful that if I lost too much ground I would never pick it back up again. The only alternative was joining a gym and jumping on treadmill.
Treadmill. Say it three times. Treadmill. Said properly it sends shivers of dread through the stoutest man's soul.

Everybody told me how much the treadmill was going to suck, yet somehow I still wasn’t prepared for it. I had my music. I had my water. I was in the A/C. Still it sucked. I bought a clip-on fan and closed my eyes, pretending it was a breeze. That helped some, but not enough.

What finally turned the tide was Alcide. Dark, muscular (but not too much), I'm a werewolf but a good guy Alcide. Well, actually it wasn’t Alcide at first. At first it was Tyrion Lannister and Daenerys Targaryen and all the good people at HBO who thought of making an HBOgo app for the iPhone. I tried watching comedy at first, thinking that laughter would push me through, but it wasn't until I found the fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms and its iron throne that I became enthralled enough to forget I was on the dreadmill. I metered those episodes out in a way my greedy personality usually does not allow, watching Game of Thrones series ONLY when I was running at full throttle. Like that I stretched that one season out to 20 runs or so, but it eventually ran out. Now I’ve switched over to True Blood. Sookie and Eric are fine and all, and I like a good coven of witches as much as the next girl, but waiting for Alcide to pop-up and (hopefully) pop out of his shirt I’ve even managed to increase my speed. Have you seen Alcide? You’d probably run for a glimpse of him, too. ;)