Boot of shame/badassery.

I have been a very naughty girl.

I ignored an injured ankle for a coupla weeks and I got a big ole fat swollen cankle that I could barely walk on. (sad face)

I went to the ortho walk-in and they gave me the boot. I was appropriately shamed at not having seen the line between “I can safely push through this” and “Oh snap, I’m injured.”

The boot is heavy. The boot is clunky. The boot is most decidedly un-sexy and un-cool. My daughter stubbed her toe on the boot and cried, then yelled at me for putting my “stupid boot in her way!”

I promptly set about the business of being lame. I was in a boot, for God’s sake! How effing lame is that?!?

Got my lame face on!

Got my lame face on!

I schlumped/clunked/booted around noisily. And slowly. For like two days.

I was grouchy. I yelled a lot. I had no heavy things to lift.

Then, I got tired of being lame, got into my workout gear, put on the goddamned boot, and went to my workout.

And that’s when the BOOT OF SHAME became the BOOT OF BADASSERY.

With some slight modifications, I kicked the usual ass at my workout. I benched a new PR (110 for 5 reps), did some pull-ups and good mornings, and even got in a little metabolic work…with my feet firmly planted on the ground, of course.

Suck it, boot!

Suck it, boot!

So yeah, no boot-related excuses for me.

And I feel soooooo much better now.

More weight.

So, back in the day when I was a high school English teacher, I taught The Crucible. My students and I were always fascinated by the consummate badass Giles Corey.

The quick and dirty on old Giles is that his wife was hanged for witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. And then he was accused…and as you probably know, once you were accused of being a witch in Salem during that time, you were basically screwed. So Giles refused to plead at all; he just kept his mouth shut. The Puritan law stated that a person who didn’t plead couldn’t be tried, so their “just” solution to this was to press the person.

In case you haven’t been pressed lately, this meant they would lay you down, completely naked, place a board over your body, and proceed to pile up a bunch of heavy ass rocks on you until you entered a plea. Or died, I guess. Um…yeah. It’s horrible.

Giles was in his seventies. This old dude suffered the pressing torture for over 2 days, and every time they asked him to enter a plea, he only replied “More weight.” In fact, in true badass Braveheart fashion, he yelled out those two words one final time just before he died.

As in, “Suck on that, Puritan douchebags!”

In The Crucible‘s fictionalized historical account of the witch trials, Giles is emotionally weighted down long before his untimely pressing. He is burdened by guilt after mentioning his wife reading strange books during her “trial” for witchcraft. Not surprisingly, she was hanged, and he feels responsible.

This may be one of those times when you ask yourself, “Where the hell is she going with this?”

Answer: SOMEWHERE.

Here’s the thing: I think of Giles often when I’m in the gym. As I’m loading up the bar for my next lift, I’ll say to myself, “More weight.” There’s something totally empowering about it. (I also like to imagine I have a really badass gaze going when I’m thinking this…but in reality, I’m probably lucky there’s no mirrors in that part of the gym.)

But there’s way more to this than badassery. I imagine Giles feeling freed with every additional pound of rock they dropped on him. The physical burden of all those rocks might have lightened the emotional burden of what he was going through, somehow lessening his sadness and guilt. At least, I like to think that when I lift.

Of course I’m not fighting against the injustices of Puritan society in one last act of defiance like he was. I’m just working out.

But still…when life’s burdens get heavy, it helps to duck under that bar, put something tangibly heavy on my back and make it my bitch.

It’s hard to explain, but it’s one of the most important reasons I love lifting so much.

You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.

You will laugh at my Buddy the Elf reference.

No matter what kind of burden I’m carrying in my heart when I walk into the gym, loading up the bar and lifting the crap out of some heavy weights makes a world of difference. It takes away the powerlessness I sometimes feel in the face of sadness, disappointment, fear or anger.

So right now, some people I care about are struggling with some majorly heavy emotional burdens. One of them is my friend and workout partner, who is dealing with serious health issues that have kept her out of the gym for a couple of weeks.

The first day that I showed up knowing 1) that she wouldn’t be there and 2) why she wouldn’t be there, I realized almost immediately that I had radically underestimated the power of a lifting partner as awesome as her. I had taken for granted the strength I drew from having her there next to me, working the same lifts, encouraging me when I struggled and congratulating me when I had a win. I missed her and her general awesomeness, and I felt weak.

I faced the bar alone on this particular morning, and again I was glad there was no mirror because yeah, I cried a little. I cried at the sheer powerlessness I felt. My friend wasn’t there and there was nothing I could to help her. There was nothing I could say that would ease her burden or change what she was going through.

I wanted my partner back so we could get into our regular workout groove and her life would be just as it had been, with all that hard stuff having just been a bad dream she had before the alarm clock went off.

More than anything, I wished that I could duck under the metaphorical bar next to her and help her shoulder the hefty weight of all she was dealing with.

But yeah, there was no “metaphorical bar.” This is life, and the only bar I had was the actual one in front of me at the gym that morning. And it looked really friggin heavy. Like, too heavy for me in my sad and somewhat pathetic state.

So I did what I usually do in these kinds of situations. I told myself to shut up. I put on my badass face (I think) and said to myself, “More weight.”

And I lifted the crap out of it.

Yes, my friend’s burden is still heavy, and that weighs on me, too, as someone who cares about her. We all have our emotional weight to carry around, and some days it is almost too much to bear.

But the act of lifting that heavy physical burden, of fighting through the weakness and powerlessness and pushing that iron up high…well, it helps. In some way, it lightens the load on my heart, and makes me stronger inside and out.

More weight? Bring it on.

Put on the suit.

Fun fact: I am a huge Avengers fan. So when I title a post “Put on the suit,” there’s really no excuse for me NOT to include this photo:

avengers

Oh, hello.

But this post isn’t necessarily about superheroes. Well it sort of is. But anyway, on with it.

So it’s been a crazy week. (“What else is new, Steph?” you ask.) The school play is tomorrow night so we’ve been running to dress rehearsals, and preparing for shows tonight and Saturday night. But before we GET to Saturday night, we also have a big children’s event at church on Saturday morning, followed by lacrosse practice, then my son’s birthday party on Sunday.

Not to mention the fact that I have family members arriving tonight at 6pm to go over to the school with us to see the play, and the house is a mess and I have no conceivable time between now and 6pm when I could actually clean it. Well, I guess I could be doing it now but I’m pretty sure my husband and kids wouldn’t appreciate my running the vacuum at 5:03am. So yeah, dirty house + impending company=more stress.

My blood pressure just rose writing those two paragraphs.

But in the midst of this week, I had a very cool epiphany on Tuesday.

Tuesday was a kind of “meh” day. After a school delay because of MORE WINTER WEATHER (I can’t even talk about it) I worked from home for most of the day. I also had to miss my date with the iron at 6am because of the aforementioned weather.

I had a ton of work to do but couldn’t seem to get focused.

I tried to focus on cleaning up around the house but still felt so “off.” So I told myself I was too busy (not) working to clean.

I accomplished very little that day except eating a bunch of crap that was in my house for no good reason. You know, just because it was there and I couldn’t put my finger on why I was so stressed and unproductive. So obviously, eating some shitty food was the right answer.

sarcasmI tried to cut my losses by planning a work out date with my husband at 6pm. But I couldn’t find a sitter.

General malaise ensued. More food was eaten. I figured it was a wasted day and got on with it.

Then I decided to stop being an asshole and signed myself up for the 7pm class to do the ole “kid switcheroo” as my husband came out of the 6pm class.

At 6:20, I (rather reluctantly, in full disclosure) went upstairs to get ready for my 7pm tabata workout.

Again, full disclosure, I tried to think of some excuses that would make it okay for me not to go.

And then it happened.

I pulled on my sports bra and workout gear, and I immediately felt better.

I know that sounds ridiculous, but it was somehow true. As soon as I was in those black pants with my sweet ass blue training sneaks on, I felt like myself again.

The bad day was left behind. The crappy food. The sense of general wrongness.

I was ready to go kick some ass. (And I did.)

For me on Tuesday, those workout clothes were my equivalent of Ironman putting on the suit.

Ironman

It felt wrong to choose a photo that did NOT include RDJ’s face.

So what’s your suit? Put it on, and kick some ass.

***update: At 7am, I managed to clean up my house a touch, with the help of a handsome husband. I wouldn’t call it “clean and pretty,” but at least  it is “vaguely presentable.”***

In Which I Live My Personal Nightmare: An Extended Metaphor

It was just an ordinary Tuesday morning, on my way to 6am class with Mike to lift some heavy shit and generally be a badass. You know, whatevs.

When suddenly, the powers of the universe turned against me and this happened:

*Disclaimer: I did not actually take this photo. But this is very nearly what I saw.

*Disclaimer: I did not actually take this photo. But this is very nearly what I saw.

Seriously, out of nowhere. One second, no snow. And the next…

And I turned into a whimpering lameass, just like that.

So ok, here’s the deal: I consider myself a reasonably courageous person. I push to step out of my comfort zone on a regular basis. I don’t hate snow or anything, and I *can* drive in the snow.

But…I am freaking terrified of driving in the snow. TERRIFIED. Like, literally white knuckles on the steering wheel, stiff back, every muscle clenched.

It is my kryptonite, probably because of a few car-losing-control-in-snow-or-ice-holy-shit-we-are-all-going-to-die experiences from way back when. I avoid driving in snowy or–god forbid!–icy weather at all costs, especially when there are hills involved.

My drive to the gym involves going down a very large hill on a highway. I have unabashedly cancelled workouts because of weather due to my crippling fear of driving on this hill in snow or ice.

So you can imagine my terror (yes, terror–go ahead and laugh at me for being a lameass, but it is true) when I got caught in what I can only call a “flash blizzard” en route to my workout.

I literally could not see the road in front of me. I was on a stretch of the highway with a 3+ mile space between exits, and the next exit was, of COURSE, at the bottom of the aforementioned terrifying hill.

I couldn’t turn around. I couldn’t keep going. I COULDN’T EFFING SEE THE ROAD!

I whimpered a little. I may have even sobbed a bit. This was my nightmare, people. It was 5:45 and still dark, and the snow was, like, EVERYWHERE.

I considered my options:

1) Just sit there, stopped on the side of the highway, until it cleared and I could see better. And the trucks came to plow. Or someone came to rescue me. (This option would likely include more sobbing).

2) Keep going. (Let’s face it, this option would likely also include more sobbing.)

I’m proud to say that it only took me about 30 seconds to discard option 1 as completely lame and out of character.

So I sucked it up. I kept going.

I kept going VERY slowly, and driving on the divots in the side of the road–you know, the ones that make that annoying loud noise when you start to veer off the lane–because at least if I could hear that noise, I knew I was going in a straight line.

Of course I had to keep going, because by the time I got to the next exit I would have already done the hardest part–the hill. And once I got down the hill, there was no point in turning around and heading home.

So even as I’m writing this, I feel sort of ridiculous. It all sounds very dramatic. (Of course, if you know me at all by now, you know this is partly just me.) But even for ME, it’s dramatic and definitely so lame.

But we all have our fears that seem absurd and make us feel like total pathetic wimps. This is mine (well, I also have an almost-as-crippling fear of mold, but we can talk about that another day).

Pathetic wimp that I was, I put on my hazards and crawled down that hill at like 10mph. More whimpering occurred, along with some praying, and the full expectation that at any moment I could and most certainly would lose control, slide over the side and pitch down the mountain in my crappy little car.

Dramatic? Yes.

Real fear? Definitely.

Obviously, I made it and lived to tell the tale. I was only a couple of minutes late for class, and still kinda shaking when I got there. I’m not proud, but against my will, I had to face this kinda ridiculous fear and push past it. Because chances are, if I had known about the “flash blizzard,” I wouldn’t have left my cozy bed.

It’s a good lesson…

Thanks, MT.

Thanks, MT.

But I think there’s more to my little story than just the fear aspect. I really thought about it after, about what it was like sitting on the side of that road, trying to decide what to do, where to go from there.

I didn’t think I could go forward. I couldn’t turn back. I had no one but myself to rely on at that moment, and I had to dig deep, regardless of how silly the fear might have seemed to my rational mind.

At the end of my workout, I left the gym sweaty and feeling badass again. When I walked outside, the sky was perfectly clear as the sun came up. Like the little flash blizzard had never even happened. Son of a bitch.

Even when you think you can’t go forward, turning back isn’t the answer either. Weather the storm; it’ll be worth it.

It’s a pretty sweet metaphor. I’ll let you ruminate.

I’m Avenged…Barely.

This is a quick hit and run post, but I had to share this struggle of a morning. The workout was the Avenger…40 second intervals with alternating strength and cardio. We like to call it “super hero training”!

Usually, I love this workout; it’s fun and challenging. Today, it was challenging and miserable and I barely made it through. It was frustrating and I was so angry about it. What the hell? How can I be struggling this much when I’m working so hard, especially coming off a rest day? Even the stations that I typically hit like a rock star posed a serious challenge.

But I gave what I had and then, afterward, I came across this message:

Image

So, in the spirit of my new outlook to focus on the positive, here are some good things I am taking away from my workout struggle this morning:

  • I dragged my sorry ass out of bed at 4:42am and actually WENT to this workout
  • I did both 40 second rounds of power jacks without stopping
  • I hefted two 35# dumbbells during split jerk intervals (not gonna lie…those bitches were HEAVY!!!)
  • I (mostly) kept up with my very fast and agile partner during the ladder runs

These are all things I couldn’t do a month or so ago (well, except for the first one). And I did them today.

I wonder what I’ll be able to do by next month?

Reflections on Perseverance.

I read a book a couple of years ago about this awesome woman who went from over 300lbs to being a seriously fit and trim marathon runner. It was a pretty inspirational read.

But once I finished it, a couple of things just didn’t ring true to me. I have no doubt that this woman wrote truthfully about her own experiences, but these things just didn’t jive with mine.

Here’s the first thing: She wrote about her “aha” moment, which was cool, and basically woke up the next morning and changed her life. Also cool. She adopted better eating habits and committed to doing some sort of physical activity 30 minutes a day, every single day, even if it meant walking her cul-de-sac at 10:30pm at night…which she says she did a number of times. I had a lot of respect for her commitment.

Then she went on to say things like, “It was so liberating knowing I never had to go back to my old lifestyle,” and “I never missed a day, no matter what it took.” (These are definitely not direct quotes; I am generalizing from a book I read 2 years ago. You know how committed I am to complete and utter accuracy.)

My deal is this: I believe her in fact, but I don’t believe her in my heart. I get what she was saying about her liberating new lifestyle, but it just sounded too easy. Like anyone could just wake up and DO IT (true) and never have a doubt or struggle with it (serious bullshit).

Maybe she did write about struggles, but I don’t remember. They weren’t highlighted enough in her book for them to have stuck with me.

And for me, it’s all about the struggle. I struggle with my journey every single day. Don’t get me wrong, most of the time I feel amazing about my fit lifestyle and choices, but just as often I want to eat whatever the hell I want and not have to work my ass off 5+ times a week. I don’t give in to that, but I do want it. A lot.

So how could this chick not miss the chocolate chip cookies that she wrote about baking almost daily before she changed her life? How could she make it sound like a total piece of cake? This is some hard shit to do, people!

I agree with her 100% that anyone can wake up, decide to change their life and DO IT. But…to do it, you have to work your ass off every single day, every single hour, every single minute. Especially when your journey might stretch into years…because that is a LOOOOOONG time to persevere. It’s worth it, but it is seriously friggin hard.

You mess up along the way, you hate the journey sometimes, you have your “screw it” moments, you really REALLY crave a big honkin piece of pepperoni pizza–or two or three or seven–and you might just kill your mother to get it some days (sorry, Mom). That’s the reality of my journey.

Strength and persistence

That’s one of my trainers, Christa Doran, the original Tuff Girl. She is pretty amazing, and is a true testament to the power of perseverance.

So look at the guns on my trainer Christa. And the quads, and the perfect form. She is such a badass, but she will say time and again that achieving this amazing body was not easy. She had to sacrifice again, and again, and again, and again, even when she didn’t want to.

For a full year, she ate clean and worked her ass off, and she’s still doing it to maintain this awesomeness. THAT’S what it takes, and she’s had her share of struggles along the way. But she kept going.

Perseverance pays off.

So back to the book: I mentioned this woman ultimately ran a marathon. But I’m not sure how, because one second she was walking on the treadmill or riding the recumbent bike for a half hour a day, and all of a sudden she said, “oh, and BTW, I ran a marathon, too!” There was like a huge middle piece missing there…and it was the piece I really, really wanted to hear about. THE HARDEST PIECE!

I trained for a sprint triathlon: swim 1/4 mile, bike 12, and run 3.1 miles. My time was god-awful (well over 2 hours) but my goal was to finish, and I did.

Training SUCKED. I hated nearly every minute of it. There were a few seconds of joy, sometimes when I was coasting down a hill on my bike with the wind flying at my face, but mostly, it sucked. I was a big fat girl in a dorky helmet on a bike. Or a big fat girl flopping around in a pool trying desperately to do that breathing thing without panicking. Or a big fat girl clomping around on a treadmill.

During my training, I was exhausted. And discouraged. And terrified. But I kept going. I started it, and I was determined to finish.

I had to drag my kids along most of the time because my husband was on a travel assignment during my 3 months of training. Sometimes they had to sit on the bench in the aquatic center while I swam laps. Sometimes they were sitting in the middle of the track with snacks and toys while I ran/walked laps, and they were not always well behaved (hellooooo, understatement). My son used to sit on the rock wall at the edge of our yard and read his book while I biked the .45 mile circuit that is our block about 20+ times. Once, I fell off my bike for no apparent reason near the corner of a major road, making a complete ass of myself as cars went by. I got back on.

That’s the stuff that I want to hear about, and that’s what I missed from this woman’s story. The nitty gritty. The details. The sweat and tears. The scraped knees and crying kids. The determination that moves you to grind your way past all those things and Just. Keep. Going.

So what are your struggles? Your nitty gritty details? And how do you push through them and persevere?

Remember: Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working.

Keep fighting, peeps! It’s going to be worth it.