Thursday, October 28, 2004

I'm up to 28 minutes on the jogging plan. I'd taken a break between workouts, and I certainly felt it last night during my run. I chose to walk to a University track near my house that has some sort of spongy surface, because I worry about my knees and punishing them with pavement.

The sun had set by the time I reached the track. There was an intramural flag football game going on and several runners and walkers and a racewalker on the track. I started out a bit fast, I think, because by 15 minutes in I was pooped. In fact, the whole run kinda sucked. I was pretty unhappy physically throughout and had to play some desperate mental games to keep myself from stopping towards the end.

At one point, the racewalker passed me and said "Hang it there!" as encouragement, which I appreciated, but it made me dwell on the embarassing fact that I must have obviously looked distressed. My face turns beet-red with even the slightest physical exertion, and people always seem to react with concern to this phenomenom, but the truth was that I was distressed.

But I finished, and I'll keep trying. I am worried about this enjoyment factor, and also about the fact that so far none of this running bit seems to be getting any easier. Maybe it's a fallacy to think that any sort of physical endeavor becomes easier with time and practice. Maybe it's just always hard and it's just our mental and emotional attitudes that changes. If I think back to last year, when I participated in a two-day, 150-mile bike ride, I remember that despite months of training the actual bike riding never felt like it became easier, it never felt like a breeze. I still got winded on small hills or gradual climbs, I still was slow.

This all reminded me of my confusion regarding the difference between being fit vs. being active. I'm still not certain if I'm particularly a fit person. Maybe I need to look into different measures -- like wearing the heart monitor I've never gotten around to using, or having my BMI tested. All I know is that I'm kind of ticked that this running thing remains a physical struggle.

I also gained last week at WW, which was not a surprise. I was feeling a bit discouraged, mostly because I'd been reading about the set point theory of weight loss, which essentially states that the body will fight to stay at a certain weight. I was also reading some about cultural eating habits, and despairing of being able to live in America and resist our culture of fast, processed foods. I read about French eating habits -- they eat buttery, rich foods, but don't snack much, eat smaller portions and walk a lot. I remembered living in Chile for three years as a child, where the tradition is to eat a big lunch meal often consisting of fish, a small dinner and rarely have dessert. I remember my father's stories of Columbia, and of how those years were his healthiest and how he was never once bothered by stomach distress, which plagues him now. There was a lot of fruit and beans and rice, and again, dessert was a rare treat.

I suppose this week I was feeling like the dark forces of culture were aligned against me.

I was mad, too, because I wasted money on modified foods that tasted like crap -- 85% and 25% fat-free peanut butter = crap. Sugar free jelly = crap. Double fiber bread = crap. There's no way I can sustain this new eating lifestyle if I'm mad about eating crap. It all comes down to the PB&J, folks.

I'm going to hang in WW till the end of this year, and then decide whether to continue or not. If I lose weight, great. If I don't, I'll put all my focus on being fit. If I lose and gain it back, I'm not going to try and lose it again. I don't want to subject my body to that kind of strain. I've never really dieted before, and I don't want to turn into a yo-yoer. So this is going to be my one serious effort to lose -- for the sake of my future self's health (and even that idea, that weight loss for non-morbidly obese people results in significant health benefits, the scientists question) -- and I'm just going to take whatever happens and roll with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Samba class last night was fast, fun and sweaty in the best way. The visiting instructor has the philosphy that physical activity should not be done in an air-conditioned space. It has something to do with keeping muscles warm. So whenver she comes into town, I know I'm going to work up a great all-body sweat. And also, a stink, but at least it's a well-deserved stink.

I saw all my peeps from the dance group I quit in August. I was happy to see them, and vice versa, so I'm quite releived that there appears to be no hard feelings at my defection.

But the class did remind me how much I love dancing to live music. I felt a bit uncoordinated, but I always feel thus with this particular instructor because she herself is so amazingly talented, because I'm dying to earn a word of praise from her, because she teaches quickly and expects everyone to keep up and because the style she teaches is very athletic.

Have been thinking of possibly taking some more ballroom dance classes again, mostly salsa and merengue. If not that, I might go to the weekly African dance class offered at one of the local arts centers. I even cut-out an announcement for a Contra class this weekend, which is an American folk dance -- completely out of my usual sphere of Latin-influenced dance interest. but something that I'm curious about nevertheless. Regardless, keeping myself somewhat involved in the local dance scene is valuable to my own happiness.

I've kept running this week but have also realized that cross-training -- dance, hiking -- is important to keeping myself interested in and dedicated to my own athletic improvement.

Friday, October 15, 2004

When I take the bus in the mornings to work, the sun is just rising. The sky is dark, but is beginning to take on a lighter turquoise hue. At my first bus stop, I can look up and see a bright star -- I assume it's Venus. Earlier this week, the moon was next to it, then it was lower and now it's gone completely. I wish I'd paid more attention in high school astronomy lectures. I don't know where the moon went!

Later, at my transfer bus stop, I like to watch the birds, grackles mostly. By this time, the sky is dusky, pinkish. The birds are silouhetted against the brightening sky. Often, there is a sudden decision, a secret signal, and the birds lift up en masse from the trees, hundreds of them, and swoop in a undulating, collective shape, made up of their streaming bodies, from one perch to the next.

On the second bus, there's a spot where we climb a bridge and have a view of the rooftops. This morning, I was watching the grackles fly in one of these fascinating formations. I watched one bird who was flying parallel to the bus, keeping up with our 30 mph speed. He was working to catch up with the tail end of one of these mass formations, and as I watched all the black birds flapping, flapping their wings against the glow of the sky I thought a very, very profound thought: I bet they really burn a lot of calories with all that flapping. I bet each and every one of those birds is svelte and can eat as many crappy cigarette butts and white bread crumbs as they like. Bastard birds.

Yeah, sometimes I'm a real deep thinker. Yeppers.

Oh, and I did my second 25 minute run yesterday. It wasn't quite as wonderful and glorious as earlier this week, but I still was able to finish, again running at what I roughly estimate to be a 13.5 minute pace. I really need to get out a map and measure my route b/c for all I know I could be in truth running a 26 minute mile. I really have no clue as to the length of the park perimiter. That's poor spatial skills on my part.

There was another woman running last night, too, and we smiled and nodded each time we passed one another. I'm glad, because I hate it when people pass one another without acknowledment. It makes me feel rude and petty.

The woman was running at exactly my same pace, so that made me feel good. I think I've been harboring some anxiety about my pace. So, screw it. If I can see an athletic-looking woman keeping my same pace then I won't obsess about it.

Hopefully this weekend I'll be attending some samba/samba reggae classes taught by a visiting dance instructor. I'm also planning on riding my bike to the Weight Watchers meeting. I misunderstood the Core program this week, so I'm not sure if I'll lose or not. The summary packet on Core says we can eat lean cuts of beef. Not being a butcher, I assumed this meant, well, any kinds of beef. Apparently, short ribs do not count. But I made a crockpot recipe with short ribs, and curry, and mango chutney and cinnamon. It's yummy, and seeing that I'm single, I had and still have enough short ribs for days and days. So that's what I've been eating every day for lunch, along with veggies and fruit, etc...

I'm not too concerned about whether I lose this week. The thing I like about WW is that weight loss is slow. I think this is better for me psychologically. I'm not big on rapid change of any kind, so the slow and steady philosophy suits me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Last night I tried the 25 minute run again.

This time it was easy-peasy! I felt great and didn't have trouble physically or with my breathing. After the 25 minutes I could have easily continued for at least another 10 or so.

I jogged at a nice easy pace and felt like I was just smiling out at the world. The difference, I think, from last time is that I waited longer after dinner to start jogging, I walked for 10 minutes beforehand instead of 5 to warmup, and the sun had pretty much set so it was nice and cool. Also, I ate sardines for part of my dinner so maybe that protein gave me a needed energy charge.

I am quite pleased.

Monday, October 11, 2004

This week's running schedule had me working up to another 25 minute run.

I couldn't do it! I developed a painful side stitch about 15 minutes in and had to stop. Likely this was because I'd just finished eating a full dinner within the last half hour. Regardless, I was disappointed that I had to stop.

What's interesting, though, is that I didn't beat myself up about it. For me, that's an indication of how I've learned to temper my own painful quest for perfectionism in the last few years. Believe me, it feels so much better to be able to say to oneself "I'll try again next time and do my best" than to say something along the lines of "you're such a failure and an embarrassment to yourself and all those millions of people out there watching your every move and you'll never get any better so let's just quit and if anyone asks, act bored and indifferent and pack the whole incident away into some dusty, whimpering corner of your mind."

Being able to gradually free myself from the yoke of perfectionism has contributed mightily to my willingness to be more active and pursue different physical goals. I don't think I could have finished a 150-mile bike ride or finished a sprint triathalon if I still was choking with the anxieties of imperfection and a rigid definition of success. I still struggle with a fear of failure, and it keeps me from pursuing many of my aspirations, but the difference now is that I'm self-aware and can at least identify where much of my resistance stems from. For that, I'm grateful.


I have been thinking about the idea of being "fit" lately. Despite classifying myself as an "active" person, I'm beginning to think that I'm not a particularly fit person. I don't have very much stamina and muscle strength. And I'd like to be fit, but I think it will truly be a matter of baby steps for me.

This week I'm scheduled for three 25 minute jogs. Next week calls for a series of 28 minute jogs, and the final week is a series of 30 minutes jogs. So, I'll just keep trying.


Since joining Weight Watchers, several people have told me that "you don't need to lose weight, you look fine." They say this with outrage. They are trying to be supportive. They are pissing me off.

I agree with them -- I do look fine. I don't have a negative body image -- I like the way I look, I like the way my flesh, my poundage, gives a certain curve and shape to my body. I'm losing weight because I want to be healthier and more fit, not because I'm trying to look like a celebrity or because I hate my body. When someone announces a weight-loss effort, the assumption made is that the person is weight-obsessed and shallow and vain. Erin makes a similar point in yesterday's post. She says,

"Why, after dieting and exercising for two years now, do I obviously still have a hard time reconciling that just because I'm losing weight doesn't mean I'm losing IQ points?"

I have a hard time with this, too. I worry that because I'm attending Weight Watchers people will make all kinds of assumptions about me and my own self-esteem. Moreover, I worry that people will assume that I have a narrow vision of what beauty looks like -- I want to cry out against this presumption. To the contrary, I have an expansive definition of beauty. I have put in years of reading into the literature of fat acceptance, the history of American body ideals and the challenges to health posed by modern geography and food distribution and manufacturing methods. It's like as soon as I say "Weight Watchers" I'm put into a box, a box labeled "insecure female" and dismissed. This is what bothers me. Don't dismiss or discount me!

I feel like I need a manifesto. Here it is: I'm a thinking woman, who enjoys her body but who is also losing weight for the health of her future self. Deal with it.

Monday, October 04, 2004

Saturday was my scheduled 25 minutes of full-on running, with no blessed walking in between. Except, when I reread the running schedule later I realized it only called for 20 minutes of running. This, then, would be why the last 5 minutes were tortuous and I had to repeat to myself "I am tough", which is mantra I totally ripped-off from Chris.

But, I did it. I've made a rough calculation and figure that right now I'm running a 13-minute mile. I'm not really concerned with speed. I figure I'll work on my stamina, and then maybe try to increase the speed and try some interval runs. Also, because of my history of being a dilletante when it comes to physical activities, I don't know how long I'll be interested in running before moving onto something else, so I'm just going to concern myself now with putting in the time and energy and increased heartbeats, and not so much on my possible future career as an Ironwoman.

I still have a few weeks left on the Couch to 5k plan. This morning the plan was back to run/walk: I ran 5, walked 3, ran 8, walked 3, and ran 5. It's weird because for the first bit I just fly, and am full of energy. But then - bam! - I feel completely drained and my legs are weak and I just shuffle along. All I ate was a few crackers beforehand. Will have to investigate about proper fueling.

At my first Weight Watcher's weigh-in this week I lost 3 pounds. I'm expecting that to level off in the coming weeks. One, because I think the body starts resisting weight loss after a while and two, because I'm going to start playing a bit with this Core program. For the most part I like to eat fruits and vegetables and other Core foods. But I really want to have a realistic diet, and I definetely cannot be happy eating sprouted-grain bread and unsweeted applesauce and plain yogurt for the rest of my life. So I going to try and incorporate some more "normal" foods into this diet and see how it works. Keep in mind that I'm mainly talking about PB&J and honey-nut Cheerios. If I can work those things in and still lose, I'll be happy. Mostly, though, I'm just trying to be practical about the whole thing. I keep thinking that if I ever get married some day, my spouse would likely not be happy eating brown rice and wheat pasta and skinless chicken and fake cheese all his days, so I'm thinking I need to prepare myself for slow weight loss in return for maintaing a realistic eating pattern.

I must say, however, that I am hyper-sensitive to cattiness at these weekly Weight Watcher's meetings. I mentioned the Couch to 5K plan at Saturday's meeting and I got a really cool vibe from the leader and everyone else. I know that a lot of people who are approaching weight loss are not normally physically active, and it can be a daunting idea, but I certainly wasn't reproaching anyone by talking about my own attempts at activity. I was sharing, people, that's all! Also, after schlepping myself on 3 buses in a rainstorm to get to the damn meeting, I might have had a teeny amount of frustration to vent in the form of tooting my own horn. One of the problems that I forsee at the Weight Watchers meetings is the need to reign myself in when it comes to proselytizing everyone with my own ideas about fitness and body image and the American food system.

I'm also a bit surprised that people I run into don't seem to share my opinion that it's better to be fat and fit than to be thin and unfit, which I thought was a fairly accepted peice of scientific thought. I was talking to my mom about it this weekend on a walk and she -- a nurse -- didn't seem to buy that theory. (On a completely unrelated side note, after the walk Mom wanted to go to a bakery, so we went to a local Christian-owened store that's yummy and walked into the middle of a worship service -- with free pastries -- and Mom was so hungry she made us stay for the whole thing. I told her that we're going to hell for stealing the Baptists' free muffins.)

The whole three-buses-in-the-rain fiasco of this weekend made me realize that not having a car in Texas is starting to wear thin. I am in love with
this scooter. I can just see myself scooting around town in it. Since I am cranky bear with my budget I doubt I will allow it of myself, and will instead keep salting away for a truck downpayment. Ah, the sorrows of being fiscally practical.

Here's a quote that reminds me of the pleasures of a exercise. It's from the novel Working Parts by Lucy Bledsoe:

"Biking is movement; movement created by the cyclist, real movement through real space. When you ride a bike, you feel as if you're pulling the landscape through your lungs."