If You Don’t Move, You’re Dead. But You’ll Die Either Way.

At times it’s easier. You get so inspired and ride the wave so high you can’t wait till the next run or workout. At times it’s OK, you just go and do it. And then there are times – especially if you’ve skipped a couple of times – when it’s just agony. You just don’t want to do it. “Make me!” you say to your body, but it’s a funny thing – if you don’t make your body move, it most probably won’t. See, it’s the mind that tells the body to get out of your bed or (in my case – more often) to get away from the computer.

This morning it was very hard. I had conscientiously run on Thursday after a grueling weight training on Tuesday, and then we went to the seaside on Friday and spent some three full ours in the waves. We were exhausted, so that counted as a workout. Saturday seemed too hot to run, and I was allowed to slack off – after such a great workout at the seaside! Sunday came and went. I did nothing. I played that old “Morrowind” all day till I got really, physically sick from the constant onscreen motion.

And today I just had no choice. It was quite cool in the morning, so that excuse went down the drain. I hadn’t really moved for two whole days. And I had to get back in the habit of running at the very least three days a week. Just to keep my weight steady – just not to gain.

As I ran, I saw a tiny little grass-snake flattened against the gravel. I was on the first leg of my run and didn’t want to slow down, so I decided to take a picture on my way back, since I got obsessed with the idea that – had the snake moved faster, it would still be alive. I thought of different “demotivators” that I could make with such a picture and had a good time, forgetting about the tiresome toil of running.

But on my way back I couldn’t take that picture. There was an old man, a hard-working country man walking towards me. I supposed he thought to himself “What a waste of energy – just to run with no real purpose and no real work being done.” I couldn’t make myself to stop and take pictures of dead snakes. Moreover, I’m the local school psychologist, and in my neck of the woods to a great number of people, especially the older generation that sounds just like “psycho”.

And so I ran home. No records were made, not even tiny personal bests that would earn me a virtual cup at Endomondo. But I decided to take the very fact that I had gone for a run a small personal victory, and one that would also make me change the way I present myself to others. It’s not always about being victorious and better than everyone else. Sometimes it’s good to know others are struggling, too.

So I made a little paper snake and took that photo on the driveway. Just to say:

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What’s So Scary about Going to a (New) Gym?

A very dear friend of mine who has dreaded exercise and diets for all the 37 years of her life for some reason suddenly found it in her to go to a gym. She said she couldn’t do it alone and asked me to come along. I, on the other hand, have not been to a weight-training gym for some 15 years or so. It turns out, the things that we dreaded were quite different, so we divided the responsibilities nicely. The hard thing for me was to find a gym in a city I do not live in, make an appointment and work out the specifics on who and when to pay, what to take with me and where everything is – like the showers etc., as well as the “unwritten laws” or practices that may differ – like – where you take your shoes off and where you put your bottle of water. You get the idea. It turns out, these things did not seem daunting at all to my friend. Being a perfectionist and quite unfamiliar with most kinds of exercise she was worried about what would happen if the instructor told her to do things she would be simply unable to do. What if people laughed? What if everyone stared? We both knew there were bound to be fit people in a gym, and we don’t look like them.

So she called and made an appointment, and I did my best to encourage her not to run away.

We met up before the work-out and decided to walk to the club. It was some 20-30 minute walk, and we talked along the way. About anything BUT the workout. At one point K. asked: “Why are fat people so afraid that someone might see them as they are and call them fat?” When I asked her what she meant she said: “I know I’m fat. I know people see it. So why am I so very afraid that people in the gym will see it and say something to me about my weight or looks? Why do I shy away from jogging in the city lest someone might comment? Why do I feel quite comfortable entering a room full of executives and board members but dread going to a gym?”

I think it’s not about being overweight in a gym, and I told her that. For some reason I did not fear gym at all. What I feared was the other part where she felt quite comfortable – all the entering and paying and finding my way in the gym stuff. It’s about what we feel we know.

I’ve been running for many years now. At times I’m more in shape, at times – less so. But people have seen me running thousands of times, and not one, not ONE has ever said anything unpleasant to me. There have been some occasions when people have smiled at me from their car windows – a genuine, very friendly smile that made me sure they appreciated, they congratulated me. And if I think about it – whenever I see anyone run, I feel some sort of kinship and also pride, and a sort of “you go, girl/man!” that makes me feel like a friend to them. Never ever have I thought to myself: “Wow, you’re so out of shape, you should be lying on the couch.” So I don’t fear what people will say when they see me exercise. I know I’m very low on the scale of their priorities so most probably they won’t even notice me. Because, let’s face it, no one really cares.

So, back to the work-out. It turned out great, and at the same time it turned out quite different from what we expected.

The gym was absolutely tiny. I was quite shocked. As I haven’t been in a gym for years and also haven’t lived in the city for almost as many years, I had no idea space was so scarce and so expensive. Every nook and cranny was filled with heavy work-out machinery, treadmills and mats. If I had to change stations I would literally climb over people on the floor. The whole room was smaller than my bedroom (which makes me appreciate how much I could do in my bedroom if I set my mind on it!).

After the first 30 minutes my water bottle was dry. I wasn’t prepared for that. The instructor – a very matter-of-fact woman – seemed determined to squeeze everything out of us, to give us all our money’s worth. I was glad because I knew I would never return to that particular gym – it’s very far from where I live and not really my type – but I wanted to KNOW what to do in a gym once I would go to one nearer to my home. Because I fully intend to go to gym now.

My friend seemed spent. For some reason we both had nurtured an illusion that a workout would last some 45-50 minutes after which we would hit the showers and leave. It turns out, it was twice as long – an hour and a half. I did enjoy it very much and felt so invigorated afterwards that I wanted to run around, but my body was exhausted and moved weirdly and painfully. The strange alertness and heat did not subside, I felt like I was burning all through the night and did not get to sleep at all. The next day was hard from lack of sleep, and the body still seemed to be burning up even though the temperature was fine. I wrote to K., and she reported the very same symptoms. Of course, I googled and found countless sources on post-workout insomnia. It turns out, there’s a name for a condition I’ve experienced many times when I’ve gone for a run too late in the evening. So now I know!

I’m meeting K. tomorrow. I hope we will get to talk about this very intimate and bonding experience of going to a gym together. I hope she won’t say she’ll never set her foot in a gym again. For I certainly am. For all intents and purposes, I indent to try my local gym on August 1. And I’m going for a run as soon as I finish this post. I don’t think I’ve been so excited about anything as I am about moving my body over the course of this last year.

So why fear gym? Because, who knows – the gym might really make you want to  change. You might enjoy it that much. You might even see that the people going to gyms, running marathons and lifting weights are in fact very nice people, and that might make you reconsider your views or admit to being mistaken. And that, as we know, is always hard.

As-somebody-who-a-little-to-much-junk-in-the-trunk-this-is-exactly-what-Im-afraid-of-if-I-go-to-the-gym.

What’s Your Worth?

This simple question is the answer to countless weight loss issues. What’s YOUR value? How highly do you value yourself? How much do you appreciate your body? Is it worth taking care of? Are you worth taking care of?

I have a long history with extra weight – and it happens to be exactly as long as my history with the question about self-worth.

There’s a reason why all these words – self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, self-assurance etc. – begin with “self”. To get to the place of self-love you have to peel off the words and thoughts of other people. You have to go deeper than your mom’s concern: “Should you really eat that?” or your dad’s “When I was in the army, we used to make fun of fat people, so don’t you ever get fat”, or your ex’s comments on other women which – you know – are really aimed at you.

But what do YOU think about yourself? How much to you like this person whose skin you’re in? How much do you commiserate? How much is she worth?

I know all those excuses all too well, I’ve been overweight for almost all of my adult life, and it got much worse after the birth of my sons. When the kids are very little and your family is young, it tends to get rocky, and the only thing you can really give up is the time and money you might have otherwise spent on yourself. It’s not like that for everybody, but I do know a lot of women who just don’t feel like they deserve healthy nutrition and time for exercise, and pretty underwear, and clothes that flatter. They are there for their families, and they cook and eat what their families eat – since cooking just for themselves would take up more of that precious commodity that you have so little of – time. Besides, who cares about how you look? You have to be a good mother and a good wife, and oftentimes a good mother/wife constitutes a frumpy, overweight, exhausted woman that sacrifices everything and wants to pull all the weight alone so that her own self-worth would get just a liiitle bit higher. Some of us like the role of a martyr so much that we turn down any help. I know I have done that way too many times in the past.

The book “Knowing Your Value” by Mika Brzezinski is not a weight-loss book. It’s subtitle “Women, Money and Getting What You’re Worth” describes the topic better. But it contains a lot of examples on how women undermine themselves and sacrifice their interests just to be on the good side of other people or just because they feel “lucky” (i.e. undeserving) to be where they are and to do what they do. One might speculate that women, being more accommodating and empathetic, build their idea of self-worth on what other people say, so it’s not really their own evaluation. This might be to some extent the reason why there are more overweight women than men. We devalue ourselves, we put others first. And there may come a moment when we enter a supermarket, the kids are at a camp or somewhere else, and the partner is on a business trip, and we have to pick some food just for ourselves.

This was an exercise I was not ready for. Last November I came home from a group therapy session where I had been called “the good wife” – and before that I had never known that you could say these two words with such slight and contempt. I did a lot of soul-searching that day and on my way home I stopped at a supermarket to buy some food for dinner. I spent almost an hour looking at every food item and asking myself “Do you really want this? Or is it just something you usually buy just because the kids or the hubby eats it?” So after walking along all the isles I bought just peeled baby carrots. Normally I don’t buy those, since it’s so much cheaper to just buy carrots and peel them yourself. But something clicked in my mind, and I thought, what the heck, surely I’m worth buying carrots for myself! They cost less than a cake or a slice of pizza! Who am I saving for? When will I deserve to buy what I want? What has to happen?

And it didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of changes and soul searching to see I’m worth taking care of. I’m worth spending an hour a day exercising and not just obsessing over money and my family’s well-being.

It all takes time. But it’s worth just asking yourself: “What’s my worth? Why am I not deserving? How come all the others come first?”

And it might not be your particular issue, but it’s a good question. A valid question. So – are you good enough for yourself?

So – when presented with a choice, you might want to say to yourself:

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Slowest of the Slow

I met this guy this morning during my five-mile run. It was so nice to see him – out for a run in his own world, and for a moment our lives crossed, I paused, took a picture and ran along. I suppose so did he, even though it was hard to tell, but he sure looked busy.

I’m a slow runner at this point and weight, but I know there are people who have an even harder time moving, but when they do, they are on their way to get more active, strong and healthy. There’s a different starting level for everyone. There is no need for everyone to be on the same page, as long as we’re willing to read the book of life at all!

I don’t think I’ve ever devoted that much thought to a snail, which is usually more of a garden pest than a source of inspiration for me, but this counts as a running adventure in my book.

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