Definition of Fun

Definition_by_fitfatrun_Pixton

This conversation is also from my real life, a few months ago. My BF doesn’t understand my obsession with running, but he accepts that it is an important part of my life and is very supportive.

He picked me up after a particularly grueling long run. When he found me I had run 13.5 miles and then walked almost another mile waiting for him. I was sweaty, tired, and worn out. I gingerly climbed into his truck and he tut-tutted about how all this extra mileage this couldn’t possibly be good for me. And he’s probably right. I’m opening myself up for all types of injuries and pains as I train.

For me, running isn’t a means to an end. It isn’t about achieving a healthy or fit body. I love running (Well 85% of the time anyway). I love how it makes me feel: free, alive, strong, and young.  When I finish a long run I feel like I’ve done something most people can’t. It makes me feel powerful and in control. And sometimes I can’t walk.

Obviously there are some runs that are better than others, but this is the feeling I strive for. When it isn’t fun anymore, I’ll find something else to do.

Selfishness Required

selfishIn the interest of full disclosure, the title of this post is intentionally “click-bait.” For me, “selfish” relates to your relationship to others (lacking consideration for others). What I’m referring to here is more about “self-care” which relates to your relationship to yourself (providing consideration for yourself).

Sometimes I lament that I didn’t get into running earlier in my life. How much better might I feel (and perform) had I figured out how to take care of myself (nutrition, exercise, empowerment) when I was in my thirties or even my twenties?

But I don’t think I could have done it then, and here is why: Taking care of myself requires a level of self-care that I didn’t possess when I was younger. I didn’t even have a concept for this.

141256472.tiagBCsKI admire women who possess this trait without abandoning their responsibilities – a very tough tightrope to walk. My sister, for example, has 4 pre-school age children (triplets no less), a full-time job as a teacher, is working on her second masters degree and still manages to run regularly and gets in date-night with her husband every week. I’m not sure what she deals with internally to get everything done, but I’m pretty sure it means making tough choices and putting herself first when necessary.

I’ve always struggled with that, frequently working myself sick trying to take care of everyone but myself. The list used to look something like this:

  • My daughter
  • My partner (when applicable)
  • My family
  • My job
  • My family
  • My family (I have a very big family, so there is always someone needing something)
  • My close friends
  • My colleagues
  • Acquaintances, strangers, random people
  • Myself

Sometimes the order changed. There were weeks where my job leapfrogged to the top of the list or when a close friend edged out a family member. What didn’t change is where I was… way, way down at the bottom. Obviously my daughter always came first, but it went so far beyond that; I needed to make sure I was there for friends, family, partners, employers. Often there was nothing left over for me.

 

oxygenBut I’m working on changing that paradigm. At this point in my life I’m willing to put myself first and invest time for myself, but I have to think about it and make a conscious decision to put my needs before others. Of course, even today if I have to choose between something for my daughter and something for me, I will still pick her every time. Luckily I’m at a stage in my life and she is at a stage in her life where I don’t have to pick very often. More than that, I’m learning to say no to family, to bosses, even to my bf, when I have to.

Part of my awareness that I needed to invest in self-care occurred because I got seriously sick. I needed to learn to say “no” just to get through that. It was very freeing, but it may have been short-lived once I got healthy. I actually think the fat-acceptance movement was a very important part of moving me to this awareness long-term.  As I started to come around to a mindset that I was worth something – in spite of being fat – I also started thinking I was worth taking care of.

Consider training for the NYC marathon. I regularly spend 12, 15, 20 hours or more a week. It isn’t just the hour or three of actual running: There is the getting ready to run and the post run recovery time. (I’ve been known to lay in bed for a few hours after a long run – don’t judge). There is the time spent posting about my runs, time spent researching running, reading about running… I’ve probably spent 20 hours researching GPS watches and I still haven’t bought one. And most of the time I feel like I’m not doing enough.

me post run

This is me, post-run. How long I lay there depends on how tough my run was and how much time I have. I always factor the post-run crash when deciding how far to run.

I’ve gotten to the point where I lie about how much time I spend running. They are small lies: “I’m going for a quick run” means I’ll see you in an hour or so. “Going for a long run” means don’t even look for me for the rest of the day. “A short run” can be up to 6 miles and “We can do it after my run” means I’ll probably be late and most likely useless when I get there. I think my BF is on to me. The last time I said “I just need to get in a run first,” he laughed and rolled his eyes. “I know what that means,” he said.

In spite of everything I’ve written here, sometimes I still feel like I’m selfish – putting my own needs above pleasing others. What I’m slowly learning to recognize is that these feelings aren’t true. It isn’t selfish to take care of myself; it’s actually healthy.

TBT: Would You Talk To A Friend Like That?

47f5c4827e3c5ab95de6bb1f9f287719I’m trying a new feature: Throwback Thursdays. As I search to find my way again, I’m going to re-read old blog posts and revisit the themes. I’ll give you the link to the original article, and then some commentary on how my thinking has evolved or gotten tangled up.

I’m picking Would You Talk To A Friend Like That?  from September 2014 as my first TBT article. Two weeks ago was my daughter’s 22 birthday party. At the party someone commented on her body transformation. My daughter is autistic, a struggling reader, and a person who needs support to function in the community. But when asked about her weight loss she spoke about nutrition and exercise as if she were majoring in it at college.

For the past several years she has struggled with various diets and exercise regimes, as I did when I was her age. She’s tried “magic pills,” food replacement shakes, starvation, kick-boxing, etc.

how-to-have-a-beach-bodyMost recently she has been following the “Beachbody” food and exercise plan. I don’t know a lot about it, just what I observe. It is fairly expensive, but she pays for everything herself and I only give her advice if she specifically asks for it. She measures her food using plastic colored containers. And she makes these chocolate shakes which she says helps with food cravings. From my point of view it  seems like she is eating healthy foods and enough calories to not be starving herself (a vast improvement on some of the crazy plans she was following). She wakes up early every morning to get in an exercise routine (DVD).

Physically she is getting the results she wants. She is losing pounds and gaining confidence. She posts before and after pics on Facebook. She is proud of the hard work she is doing an loves getting a chance to share her success with others. In the middle of the conversation she made a statement that made me want to cry:

I used to love going to the beach when I was little, but when I got fat I was ashamed to wear a bathing suit.. Now, I won’t go swimming until I can wear a bikini– not a fatkini or plus-sized bikini, but a real bikini. I won’t feel comfortable until I feel good about how I look.

My immediate reaction is “I’ve failed her.” It didn’t help that everyone else at the party was oooh-ing and ahh-ing over her weight loss. She has told me that body-acceptance is fine for me (since I’m old so it doesn’t matter how I look, I guess) but that she can’t love herself unless she has the type of body that society deems acceptable.

rupaulWhen I started to think about it, though, I realize that I let a lot of that slip into my own thoughts far too often. I continue to have internal thoughts that are negative. I can’t until… I won’t because… I’m too old, too fat, too plain…

Self-love and body acceptance isn’t a thing you achieve. It is something you have to work for all the time. Sooo, I’m re-committing to my relationship with myself. I promise to be a better partner to my body and start treating my body as a cherished friend, not the enemy.

Here is my updated list to help me woo myself:

  • More massages, mani-pedis, and haircuts. (Boy do I need a haircut)
  • Looking at myself in the mirror every day, and looking for what I like best in the reflection. (I’m pretty good with this one most of the time)
  • Letting people take pics of me, taking selfies (it’s not a bad word) with my loved ones, and posting pics on my social networks.  I don’t Photoshop out fat, wrinkles or birthmarks. (I have to do this more. I’m better than I was, but not there yet)
  • Buy myself beautiful clothes that I love, rather than waiting until I’m a specific size, because damn it, I’m worth it. (Do running clothes count? Cause I buy a SL of them)
  • Taking some time for myself every day, even when work is super busy, and my personal life is super crazy. (This. I need to do this more!)

 

Boundaries

Boundaries_by_fitfatrun_Pixton

This is a comic I created based on a real-life incident a few months ago. The woman actually had a car covered with advertisements that showed her before/after and how many pounds she had lost. She was dressed in a white linen suit with heels. I was finishing up a long run and had just switched to walking about 500 feet before getting to her. My face was red, I was huffing and puffing… I had just completed 13. 1 miles for crying out loud. She comes right up to me and partially blocks my path to offer me a “miracle” weight loss solution.

This is not a unique occurrence, but rather one example in a string of times that I’ve been working out, minding my own business, and someone decides to offer me unsolicited advice about how they can help me lose weight. The assumption being, of course, that I am  only working out because I’m trying to lose weight. Sometimes (like the incident above) I handle it really well. Other times I’m unable to deal with the levels of emotion and I get flustered. After a particularly upsetting time at my gym I practiced what I was going to say the next time it happened, which is why this one time I had my comeback ready. I didn’t say exactly what I’d practiced, but I feel that for once I handled it well.

So here is my PSA: If you see someone who is working out and you have the urge to provide them with unsolicited body shame disguised as “helpful concern,” do everyone a favor and keep it to yourself. If you make a living or earn extra money this way, well shame on you.

Getting Back to Long Run Day

long runToday was a “long run” day, my first in a long time. In fact, it’s been almost a month since I was able to do a real long run. I started the year pretty strong. Everything seemed to come together: the weather was mild, I was accepted to the NYC Marathon, I was turning 50. Maybe I got cocky? Maybe I overdid things. Or maybe if it doesn’t always go well, it helps you appreciate it more?

I’m not sure why, but everything seemed to unravel in April:

  • First there was a sick week, where I was battling flu-like symptoms.
  • Then I unexpectedly hurt my back. (The last time I had back pain it turned out there was a cyst growing into my spine. The operation to remove it almost killed me, so I may have overreacted to the back pain a smidgen.)
  • Then there was a work emergency and I was getting only 2 or 3 hours of sleep per day. I say this with a bit of irony because my job isn’t life-or-death and sometimes I feel that these types of emergencies are made up. Be that as it may, I still had to deal with the drama.

In addition:

  • My bf moved in “officially” and hurt his back (much more seriously than I did) in the process.
  • It rained or was cold nearly every day (most of the runs I did get in were in the gym)
  • I had some serious financial setbacks
  • I turned 50 (which was kind of great, but still…)
  • I wasn’t eating well.
wcf

For the second year in a row I raised over $300 to protect endangered animals. Plus, I got to run at the zoo!

To top it off, on the last day of the month I ran the Bronx Zoo race (5k) for the second year in a row. I was 2 full minutes slower than my last year’s time.

But looking back now, it wasn’t really as bad as it felt at the time. Sure, I only clocked 75 miles (instead of my goal minimum of 100/month) but that’s on par with what I did last April when I was feeling great. Plus, I did get one long run (10 miles) in, which is farther than anything I was able to run last April.

what happensSometimes I can be really hard on myself, but today I feel pretty good. (I mean I’m sore as hell, but other than that…) April wasn’t my best, but I still kept going. I’ve re-adjusted my training schedule and had some pretty great runs this week. I’m learning from my setbacks and moving forward.

And I really, really love my long-run-days!

i_love_my_long_runs

Stuff I Already Know, But Forgot

Yesterday Jess Baker posted this on Facebook:

A lot of my bad body days may just be bad SELF days (brain/circumstantial etc) BUT because society has created such a direct line between “feeling shitty” and “our bodies” I, without thinking, am quick to fall into the path of last resistance and find the flaws in my physical appearance which then engulfs me in the shame I’ve spent my entire life learning how to feel.

Whew! If she can have bad body image days… Well, it’s nice to know that I’m not alone. Because for the past few days I’ve been feeling –ugh!– about my body.

lies

13 of the 14 contestants studied regained weight in the six years after the competition. Four contestants are heavier now than before the competition.

A lot of it started with this [trigger warning] NY Times article: After ‘The Biggest Loser,’ Their Bodies Fought to Regain Weight.  In summary the article discusses a research study that followed contestants on a weight loss reality show after they lost a tremendous amount of weight in a short amount of time.

The results of this study are consistent with every other long-term study on weight-loss:

  • Dieting doesn’t work for the vast majority of people (typically less than 5% long term)
  • Dieting physiologically changes your body to make it less healthy, less efficient
  • It isn’t your fault that diets don’t work

This isn’t shocking information. I’ve read countless studies before that said effectively the same thing. I know this to be true due to personal experience: I’ve lost over 100 lbs more than once, only to gain back all the weight (plus some). Then I feel like crap because I’ve failed, even though I know that it is a chemical change within me.

And now it is happening to me again. Here are the symptoms:

  • The feeling that no amount of food will ever fill me.
  • Eating to the point of discomfort or pain.
  • Irresistible cravings for specific foods (typically sweets and starches).
  • Feelings that emotional and physical pain can be assuaged with food.
  • Feelings of self-doubt, self-loathing, shame.
  • Unrealistic (or unsubstantiated) body image.
  • Lethargy, depression, anger.

I’m still working out where I got de-railed. It isn’t a simple issue with a single answer. It is multilayered and I have a lot of self-work to do to unravel it all. My primary concern is to stop feeling like shit about myself. This is so  much harder than it sounds.

Yesterday I ran 8 miles and I focused, for the first time in a very long time, just running for the fun of running. Not because I have to, or because it is a training day, or because I need to make up for what I’m eating (all things that have crept into my running lately). I just looked at the ocean, felt the (way to cold) sea air, and listened to my body. My pace was irregular, but I didn’t need to stop and rest. Today I’m working on taking a much-needed recovery day, without feeling like I’m supposed to run.

I’m a work in progress. Sometimes I forget that.

A Time to Blog

It occurred to me today, as I struggled on the last two miles of an 8 mile run that I might need to start blogging again if I want to make it to my marathon. I’ve had some setbacks in my training and yesterday I barely made it through a 5 mile run (and ended up crying after). Today I managed 8 miles (and no tears) but I’m a long, long way from 26.

When I trained for my half marathon, my blog was a key part of my program. It was a place where I explored the emotions of my journey. I need to remind myself of why I’m doing this, what I want for myself, and what I’m getting out of this. I’m starting to recognize my writing here as a key component of the process.

I’ll get to the saga of illness, injury, and personal stresses in a future post. Today I’m just breaking the ice, dusting off the keyboard (so to speak) and making a commitment to myself to squeeze in a blog post now and then. I’m shooting for 3 per week but we will see.