Thursday, December 30, 2004

My best friend and I will both turn 30 in 2005.

Earlier this year we declared 2004 to be Y29, or "The Year of the 29." The year was going to be the year we both took risks, made big changes and generally were fierce and kicked ass. Sort of like our own version of "Girls Gone Wild" except for all the nudity and promiscuity.

I can't say that Y29 has turned out to be such a sparkling spectacle of hedonism and self-improvement, but I still have five more months left until my Y29 clock runs down.

And I am feeling a bit dogged by the fact that several times in my 20s I've made a pledge along the lines of "By the time I'm 30 I'll know what it's like to feel fit."

New Year's resolutions aren't a tradition with me, so instead I'm going to chart some health goals for the next five months.

Here we go:

Fitness Goals

  • Enjoy the heck out of my current physical capacity and skills.
  • Be grateful for my health
  • New Year's Day ride with local bike group
  • Complete a January 5k charity race
  • Join the local running club in February and participate in their twice-weekly evening runs.
  • At least once join the Thursday night Urban Assault bike ride through downtown.
  • Continue weekly weight training, but change up the routine at the beginning of every month.
  • Snowshoe a long trail in March during the family reunion in Colorado.
  • Run/walk six-mile dirt trail at local park.

Things I'd like to do that are contingent on financial and transportation logistics:

  • Austin Danskin Sprint Triathlon.
  • Sculling course in Austin over three weekends.
  • Eight-week salsa class
  • Weekend camping trips at local parks with hikes of 6 miles or longer.
  • Rejoin old cycling group for their long weekend rides.
  • Work on organic farm for one week.

Food goals

  • Serve myself smaller portions, and then decide if I want more.
  • Eat slower.
  • Pay attention to satiety signals.
  • Practice throwing away or storing uneaten food; explore mental block regarding this issue.
  • No category of food is forbidden.

Mental health goals

  • Don't weigh myself until beginning of February
  • Moratorium on diet books
  • Perform one charitable activity per month.
  • Cancel television subscription in February for at least 30 days, then reevaluate.

Monday, December 27, 2004

As a first-time gym member, I find gym culture, such as it is, to be quite fascinating. It's a great place to people-watch and there are many things that amuse me about the whole place.

Therefore, I present to you….

Things I like about the gym:

The naked women

Perhaps this is limited to my own experience, but I have had very little opportunity in my life to check out other normal, everyday naked female bodies. If I think about it, most of my references come from movies and television. I was never a member of a women's sports team, I've never hung out in locker rooms, I attended a co-ed university and I've never visited a European beach resort so my opportunities for a careful study of female bodies have been limited. I can't even remember the last time I saw my mother or my sister naked. It's just not done. So it's quite interesting to me to see all these different bellies and thighs and muscles and boobs on a regular basis. I especially like to see the older women, the ones in their 50s on up because their bodies are just as lovely to me and just as various.

The geezers in their retro sportswear

My gym is patronized by an older crowd, and there is this cadre of older men, in their 70s and older whom I adore, mostly because of their adherence to their own fashion ethic. You'll never find these guys in wicking fabrics or highly engineered performance wear. These guys favor white Keds with white knees socks pulled all the way up, white canvas shorts and old t-shirts washed so many times they are almost see-through. And of course, there is the ubiquitous terry-cloth headband worn smack dab across the middle of the forehead. What's more, they are universally pleasant and good-humored and are just pretty much goofing off and having a blast. Love 'em.

The growlers and groaners in the weight room

First of all, I love the fact that the weight room stereo system is always playing some kind of thrash-metal, but the volume is set at a very unobtrusive level. It seems like such an obliging, polite thing to do, while still acknowledging the fact that weight lifting should apparently be accompanied by some sort of screaming mood music. There are always a few guys in the weight room who are extremely serious. First of all, they move their weights really, really fast. I'm over in my corner lifting my weights nice and slow, but these guys are in a race of some sort. My theory is that the weights are so painful that they have no choice but to lift in a frenzy. Second, they groan and growl while doing their mad dash. These always put me inappropriately in mind of certain sex-like noises, which just makes it even more impossible for me to be deadly serious about the whole thing.

I did a good job this week of running regularly. I'm doing 35 minutes now, but I'm not measuring distance so I don't know what my mile times are. Some of these runs are relatively easy, but some still are quite a struggle. I've heard that one should breath in through the nose and out through the mouth, but I'm still breathing in and out with my mouth and if I try through the nose I feel like I'm about to faint. My point here is that I my aerobic capacity is still in need of improvement.
I'm also doing my beginner's dumbbell routine, though I upped the weights from 5lbs. to 10-12 lbs. for most of the exercises, and more for the ones that I do on machines.

My parents got me this for Christmas: the Journal 10+. I'm excited about it and thought some of you out there in journal land might be interested in the concept.

Monday, December 20, 2004

What it comes down to is I'm not certain that I really want to lose weight. Or, at least, why.

I don't have a driving motivation. When I joined Weight Watchers three months ago that decision was sparked by former President Clinton's heart attack scare. I thought, "I've got to eat better and get fitter so that won't be me in 25 years."

Unfortunately, that sort of rational, long-term reasoning doesn't provide much daily motivation.

Nor does the issue of appearance. If I never have a flat stomach and cellulite-free thighs, I wouldn't be heartbroken. That's one of the reasons I posted a picture of myself in a swimsuit, because that photo itself seems rather innocuous to me and doesn't hold much power over me. You know how people advise dieters to prominently post a "fat" picture somewhere to shame them into exercise or eating differently? That wouldn't work for me. I'd just look at that picture and say "Looking good!" While I objectively perceive areas of my body that don't conform to my culture's beauty aesthetic, I have a hard time mustering up much concern about it. I'm not interested in looking like a model or an actress. Aesthetically, I really, really like a curvy butt and tummy.

So, a desire to physically look different -- or, more precisely, to conform -- doesn't inspire me. When I do have daydreams about what a lighter me might look like, the me I envision is just a more toned version of my current self, which is why I'm become enthusiastic about strenth training. It's like a me whose physical energy has been made manifest.

During these three months on Weight Watchers I've increasingly become critical of my appearance. I analyze myself in mirrors, posing in them several times a day and feeling small moments of uncharacteristic despair. I've started to berate myself for my tummy, to feel anxiety about my thighs. Like most women, I do a fair amount of self-surveillance, but never with this degree of intensity and never with the attendant mood swings. I'm intrigued by people like Blooming Fig who very clearly differentiate the hate of their fat from hate of themselves, but I'm not one of those people.

In the last few months I've read six or seven books about dieting and food -- and every single one contradicted the other and advanced a different theory. Again, all this information overload has made me feel anxious and on edge.

I have little quarrel with Weight Watchers itself. What I liked most was the feeling it gave me of going to school -- get a stamp in your tidy little book, take a test with a number grade, smile at the teacher and participate in class. But pretty much from the beginning I fudged on the Core plan. I was smug and never really committed. So I liked being part of a group, but I didn't like being told what to do.

And, I was hungry. Thinking and worrying about food constantly. Struggling to lose the same five pounds and losing the memory of why I had decided to do all this in the first place.

I know that I don't respond well mentally when success hinges on a rigid adherence to restrictive rules -- this just taps into my already obsessive personality. I begin to worry. I begin to feel judged.

What I call "rigid rules" another person might call "discipline". What I call "restrictive" another person might call "making choices." I know the use of negative language has a power and that by changing my words I can also change my perspective. But again, I'm not sure what my underlying motivation for any of that is right now.

But I do know I enjoy being physically active. This weekend I ran early in the morning, then strenth trained, then swam, then road my bike under glorious blue skies. I know I like the feeling of tautness I get in my muscles after strength training. The muscles feel grateful to be put into use, to be challenged.

But somehow committing to fitness seems like fulfilling only half the equation. The other half is not inspiring me right now, though.

This is what I want to know -- is it possible to be motivated to lose weight out of simple curiosity? Heh.

So I'm giving myself an arbitrary time frame to do a few things. From now until the end of February, I will:

  • Get out my own headspace by regularly doing things like I did this weekend:

    Amnesty International Holiday Card Action
  • Not get on a scale.
  • Continue to run and strength train.
  • Not read a single book/article about dieting.

Phew. Am I ever glad to get that out of the way. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

(And thanks to all the nice comments you people have been leaving, they're appreciated.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

I am posting another picture of myself on the sidebar. It's not a new picture; it was taken this summer during the Danskin sprint triathlon in Austin.

It's a hugely imperfect picture, but it's a picture that fascinates me in many ways, mostly because when I look at it I always have thoughts about body image and strength and my own perception of myself. I rarely have negative thoughts about myself in relation to this shot, though as I said above, it is wildly imperfect. Mostly I feel pride and a rather rueful self-acceptance. (And, please forgive the look on my face -- I think at that point I was experiencing a brief but intense urge to vomit.)

I don't look much different today than I did all those months ago.

The reason I'm posting this picture is because I've been doing a lot of thinking about weight and my own goals.

For one, I've decided to stop attending Weight Watchers meetings. Thinking about food in a restrictive manner just messes with my mind and makes me miserable. I am also removing my weight statistics from the sidebar.

I have an entry mentally written regarding these decisions and part of the reason I'm posting this picture and this entry is so that I'll make myself accountable to come back to this space and more fully articulate my thoughts.

Friday, December 10, 2004

I think I overdid it.

I set a goal of exercising every day this week. It was going fine:

Monday: run, 35 min
Tuesday: swim, 20 min
Wednesday: run, 35 min

Then came Thursday. I'd been reading LexySmash and gotten all fired up about weight training (thanks, girl!) based on her fabulous results, and she referred me to some of the beginner's workouts at the equally-fabulous Krista's site.

So last night I went to the Y (have I mentioned that have a two-month special rate membership? I thought it might be useful during the winter months.) So I arrive a half-hour before a Yoga/Pilates class I want to try and decide I might as well get in some cardio. I worked up a nice sweat on the elliptical machine and the rower.

The Yogalates class was an hour long but was excellent. I really enjoy these kinds of stretching classes. Some of the stretches feel so good I swear it's like I want to take a blissful nap right then and there. Then again, some of the pilates work is really, really challeninging and even painful. I'm against pain, ya'll.

Finally I went to the weight room with my sheaf of Internet printouts from Krista's site. There was one other girl there so that made me feel less conspicious, though I must say that the total vibe of that room was one of display and observation. I did the beginner workout with mostly 5 pound weights. I felt pretty uncomfortable emotionally the whole time, and very much embarrased of my 5 pound weights. Arrgh!

So I resorted to the mantra I revert to in situations where I'm feeling out of place, or trying to be brave. It's very easy and consists of "Fuck it! Fuck it! Fuck it!" shouted at top level in my head. It sort of creats a calming buzz in my head. Sometimes I yell "Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!" at particular people who are making me feel insecure, and so this general hate helps to bolster my spirits.

I am a petty person, people.

I woke up this morning very, very sore. I'm hobbling about and indulging in lots of copious wincing. I don't know if this is retribution for the Pilates or the weights or the elliptical, but I'm pretty sure most of it is payback for the sin of mentally telling innocent, harmless strangers to fuck off.

But, despite it all, I did enjoy the lifting and will try it again, and will practice being nicer next time. Well, a little nicer at least.

Monday, December 06, 2004

When I arrived at this Saturday's charity 5k I'd forgotten that it was sponsored by the Marines. Once my memory was jogged by the sight of the highway underpass chock-a-block full with very fit and serious looking young folks, I almost turned around and went home. No kidding, my stomach sank.

But I made myself linger a bit in the registration line, reasoning that the event was billed as a run/walk, so surely I'd spot some casual, not-so-serious people any minute.

Once I took a deep breath and purposely looked for people without buzz cuts and blue sweats, I did eventually see the horde of normal civilians milling all around me. I even went up to two women and asked them a bit anxiously if they were running or walking. I think I was just worried about being dead last, but once I was reassured that there were at least going to be some walkers behind me, I felt much calmer. Which was really vain of me, but there you have it.

The race was through a park. The marines ran in formation, singing cadence, which I'd never heard up close before. It was great to listen to -- that is, until the formation entirely outpaced me. Then a cadence group of recent army recruits caught up with me and I kept them in my sights for the rest of the race. I didn't like their cadences too much -- a bit too political for me, I suppose, since one of the cadences was all about Saddam Hussein and Iraq and blowing people to pieces. But I figured a 5k wasn't the venue to stop and have a discussion about the war.

There were also two women who kept my same pace a bit ahead of me. One was a lady in her 60s, dressed as an elf. She was great!

So I ran the whole way, and crossed the finish line in 35:02, a bit faster than I'd projected. I was pleased.

Later, as I sat at the bus stop waiting to go home, a homeless woman sat next to me, and I detected a rather unpleasant odor. When her bus came and she left, the odor didn't. That's when I realized I was the smelly, offensive one. Next time, I'll remember to run in clothes that have been more recently washed. The problem is that I'm insanely cheap, and I only have one set of workout clothes that I just wear over and over until laundry day. I suppose now that I'm running regularly I possibly just might justify the purchase of some more gear, especially if I'm going to do any more group running anytime soon.

Which I think I might do. The 5k was fun (the $20 entry fee was not, however) and it was energizing and encouraging to run with others. A local running club sponsored the race, so I may consider joining them next year. I can't say that I've quite been wholeheartedly bitten by the running bug, but that bug is definitely doing some nibbling.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Thanksgiving was loads of fun, as usual.

I did get to do a trail run, which was very challenging. Something about being in the woods and concentrating more on my footing made the time go by a lot quicker. This is also the second time I've run without headphones, and I think I prefer it. I like to listen to my breathing. Something about hearing my breath helps get me into a rhythm. I remember that earlier in my couch potato life I always thought being winded was a dangerous, unhealthy thing -- anytime I started breathing heavy it was a sign to time to stop and take a break. Now I'm amazed that my body can get winded, but still keep going and going and going. It's a revelation. I'm no longer afraid that I'll keel over when I my breath is labored.

Here are some shots along the trails I ran:

Blue Hole

Dirt Path

Carper's Creek

Tree Canopy

I think I'd like to try trail running again -- unfortunately getting to the trails is hard without a car!

Am thinking that I might try a 5k this Saturday. Just to see how it goes.