Thursday, December 12, 2013

The One-ness

We talk sometimes about the mind and the body as if they are separate things. I suppose we need to differentiate between the two for purposes of discussion but I don't think it's so much a connection as it is being one and the same, all one being, so to speak. I'm getting a little new-agey here, even for this San Francisco native. But I remember being bowled over as a young adult watching Bill Moyers' series, Healing and the Mind. I was 22 when this series came out, in under-grad working on my psychology degree and minoring in medical anthropology with a focus on healing and medicine in other cultures. This concept of one mind/body being was so powerful to me then. A description of the series...
Ancient Medical Science told us our minds and bodies are one. So did philosophers of old. Now modern science and new research are helping us to understand these connections. In Healing and the Mind, Bill Moyers talks with physicians, scientists, therapists, and patients – people who are taking a new look at the meaning of sickness and health.
I started thinking about this last night. I'd been feeling fairly weak recently, psychologically weak. I know I've referenced challenges in my personal life of late and those had left me feeling incapable, broken, a bit lost and definitely not on solid ground. Over the past 7 years I'd moved into such a place of strength and confidence that to be feeling these things again led me to begin doubting myself. I've been heavy on the self-loathing, beating myself up, not being a good friend to myself. In short, I've been my own worst enemy. It's not good for me or for those around me, chief among them being my children.

If you follow my blog no doubt the weakness has come through in posts. My normal mojo seemed to have left the building. But last night, within the four walls of the gym, amongst the dumbbells and medicine balls, I found a bit of strength. It was physical strength - lifting, raising, holding - but it ignited a spark of mental strength. My mind kicked into gear, inspired by my body. Yes, I can move, yes, I am capable, yes, I am here and I am strong and I can exert force over things.

Can we think of the mind and body as two things, like an engine in a car? I'm not sure those are analogous. Our body is sharing fluid with our mind, sharing matter, the brain both sends and receives information from the mind, they are intricately connected, not just connected, but one. Is there a difference between psychological strength and physical strength?

I don't know what my point is here, except to say that I felt the one-ness of the mind and body in the gym last night. As I strengthened my body, so went my mind. And I believe as my mind gets stronger, it will re-cycle that into the body, a shared system, an ever-engaged body/mind.

It doesn't much matter where you start, as long as you start. The mind, the body - I know, now I'm talking again like they're two separate things, but I think for purposes of discussion we're stuck with the differentiation. Or maybe not? I believe in change the mind and the body will follow, will change the body and the mind will follow also work? I've heard many a story about people who change their body and through that, find their inner mental strength - heck, now that I think about it, that's what happened to me along this journey. And even last night at the gym.

Anyway, a quick post on today. I went to the gym after work and a spin class had just started up. I ran to the locker room and changed and managed to get 45 minutes of the class. The energy I felt on the bike was amazing! I was bopping to the music and smiling like a kid in a candy store. After that I did chest/triceps/core for strength training. I asked one of the regulars to count pushups for me, to push me to do all 20 for my first set - it worked! I did almost my full normal routine, dropping one set of dips when my body was feeling too taxed. So, we'll see how I feel tomorrow. Quite sore I'm guessing. But I'm happy to be in the swing.

Tonight I went to dinner with my mom and ate about 5,000 calories. That's the not so good news. She took me on a date and I had a lovely meal with all the fixings. And dessert. But I'm not worried, I know I'm back on my path and I know where this path goes. As long I stay the course, I know where I'll end up. Back to my happy place - strong, confident, and on a roll. An object back in motion.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bounce, Bounce, Bouncing Back!

Today was my third day back to the gym and I can already say, Bam! I'm feeling the love again. I'll back up a tad to say I spent the day with the kids and my mom. Breakfast was some uneaten bagels the kids had left on the counter, I had a banana and a string cheese for a snack. Lunch turned out to be In-n-Out Burger where I had a cheeseburger, fries AND a chocolate shake. Did I need the chocolate shake? Noooo. Was it a good idea? Noooo. Will I ever be perfect? Noooooooo. Does that mean I shouldn't strive for better choices? Still no. But it's ok, I can live with it. I'm making incremental changes all the time and I know these bad little habits that have wriggled their way back into my life will be gone soon enough.

Focus on the positive - I had a healthy snack. And dinner - a slice (plus a few bites off the kids' plates) of homemade turkey meatloaf, a half-cup of packaged chicken flavored rice and steamed cauliflower - wasn't bad. I made banana bread today and had just a couple bites of that after dinner. And I drank more water than I've been drinking lately, which isn't saying much but still, it's an improvement. Oh, one final positive - there's still that bag of Ghiradelli chocolate in the garage. Haven't touched 'em. I think I'll take them to the office tomorrow, share the chocolate love.

The kids were going nuts for the banana bread, the thought of two teenagers kind of scares me. I'd bet a teenage boy could eat a whole loaf of banana bread himself based on what my 4.5 year old is eating these days. I do my best to limit the junk - banana bread being somewhere between healthy (at least it's homemade and it does have bananas, plus I sub half the flour with whole wheat flour) and pure crap - but they indulge enough that I doubt they'll feel an urge to hide candy in their rooms (like I did as a kid).

Anyway, so when Miguel relieved me of mommy duty I got my butt to the gym. It was late and I felt a tinge of avoidance energy, but I chose to ignore that knowing I need to build up some momentum here. The kids didn't want me to leave, "Don't go mommy, stay home", which is always a  heartbreaker (don't get me started on that topic), but that wasn't an option in any case and I hit the road to the gym. My gym, by the way, is only 5 minutes from my house. I highly recommend finding a gym either close to home or close to work, ideally both. Not having a drive as an added deterrent is good. Ok, I just made a note to write a "how to choose a gym" post soon so I'll stop here on that one (that post will be for you too Shawna!).

Ok, back to my workout. I got on the bike and decided to do the full 25 minutes I normally do but drop the level down to 7 (I was doing 9). It went great! And about 5 minutes into it I started chatting with a fellow gym regular, he's a former Army Ranger and a triathlete and all-around fitness nut so I learn a lot whenever I talk to him. Made the bike ride go by quick.

After the bike I decided I wanted to dive back in and do one of my normal weight training routines. I randomly decided to start with back/biceps/core. I did everything in my routine except the assisted pullups. Truth be told I hate those friggin' things so it was an easy decision. I figured it was best not to push my body too hard right out of the gate. Plus my lower back has been achy.

I can't tell you how good it felt to be doing my thing! And having all the time in the world was so nice. I'm normally flying around in a post-work/pre-kid-pickup time crunch but not tonight. I lingered, I chatted, I breathed in the gym air. What I normally do in an hour took an hour and 15 minutes. Man have I missed that place. I love my gym. I don't know why I've stayed away so long. Wait, I know why, I was sick. And in a bit of a slump. But I'm coming out of it! Sing it with me...

Ok, you don't have to sing but how can you not? And check out her body?! It's amazing. This was in 1983, when I was 12 years old. A fine year for me, actually. Love that energy! Speaking of bodies, I was checking mine out post workout, it's not bad. I've been feeling mushy, fat and just big lately - mostly psychological I know, but I tell ya, I still look pretty good. Got a bit more in the midsection than I did at the beginning of the year but that's ok, I know what to do about that. And I'm doin' it. 

I sure hope this uptick in energy, optimism, motivation and self love sticks. I'm due for a nice long bout of feel good! A quick thank you for all the support in the form of comments here, on my FB page, in person, email, etc - all of you commiserating, reminding me that it'll get better/not all is lost, cheering me on or being down in the dumps with me - thank you!!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Habit Forming

It's been two days since my last post and guess how many times I've gone to the gym? Yep, twice. Yay me! Yesterday I went after work and unfortunately didn't have a lot of time. So I ran for 2 miles on the treadmill and then managed to get 3 sets of 10 pushups in before I had to leave. I hadn't been in my gym in forever and a few of the regulars wanted to know where I'd disappeared to so that took a bit of time, "pneumonia this, cold that, blah blah blah...".

I think I mentioned that when I worked out this past Friday I felt very weak and yesterday was no different. The pushups felt so hard and I was doing fewer than in the past. After some time off it's so hard to accept that you can't just jump back in where you were.

So today I ran on the treadmill, again for two miles. But this time I'd managed to procrastinate at work to the point of not having time for strength training at all. Makes my measly 30 pushups from the day before look better. While I was running on the treadmill I started thinking about how slow I am now as compared to before. And how difficult weight training is now, how few reps/sets I'll probably be able to do and how I'll have to lower the weights I lift.

I eventually caught myself and tried to get perspective. I can run for two miles, I'm sure more if I wanted to. How fast is not as important as the fact that I can. Besides, in general I'm more concerned with endurance vs speed anyway. How far, how long are both more important to me than how fast. But don't get me wrong, I'm looking forward to getting some speed back eventually. As well as being able to lift heavier weights again.

But for now, while running on the treadmill, I realized I just want to focus on re-building the habit of exercise. I have completely fallen out of the habit and establishing that again is goal enough for now. So, I'm taking a bit of my own advice and setting the bar low. My goal for this week is to get to the gym four times and then do one thing outside on the weekend (probably a long run as I'm technically already in the training window for the Kaiser half).

As far as what I'll do at the gym? Doesn't matter. This is about forming the habit and nothing else. I just need to get my butt to the gym. What I do from there is icing on the cake. So I think I'll focus on this for the rest of this week and next week too. Then, with two weeks under my belt I can re-assess what feels right at the time.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Snark Infested Waters

I really should mix up my blog post writing time. Evening posts probably sound more worn out and tired than morning posts, when I'm still on a full tank of energy. At least most of the time anyway. Post coffee of course. At the moment my back hurts, I've been cleaning house for most of the day, and my kids are pushing the frustration level up to near mama-starts-shouting level. Not there yet fortunately, but close. The good news is, they're both in bed. I can hear them chattering away but at least they are tucked in for the night.

Yes, my back started hurting again a couple days ago after quite a spell without any back pain. It's that same lower back ache. My exercise and eating remain, hmmm, let's call it off. As in off routine, off plan - "plan" being redundant to routine because really there's no official plan, though maybe I should institute one soon. Heck, maybe I'll have to institute one if my weight keeps climbing. And why shouldn't it? I'm eating too much, moving too little. There's no funny science that can make that equal maintenance.

As if they're on to me I got an email from Weight Watchers about a new aspect to their program called Simple Start. It's not a new program, as I understand it (and that's important because I just skimmed the info) it's a new 2-week plan within the plan where they give you all your meals, etc (you can "skip" a meal and ask for an alternate) for two weeks as a way to get started or if you need a fresh start. I would be in the latter category. I need something to help me re-align in some department so I'm considering following it for two weeks. You know, just for kicks. Or, really, for a kick in the rump.

Ok, so enough about my slump. How about a few words on things that are going right? I got some exercise this weekend. I went on a nice long bike ride on Thursday. It was a bit chilly but I was riding along the coast and the beautiful views of the Pacific made up for my cold hands. Halfway through might have involved a stop for tea at a Ritz, which also helped balance the chill. I didn't take a single picture during the ride so I lifted a couple from the Ritz Carlton website to give you an idea of the surrounds. Most of the ride wasn't amidst landscaped lawns but the coast was just as beautiful the entire time.

 And here's the room where I had tea.

Lovely yes? I was in a big, leather easy chair by a fire. That was halfway through an out-and-back ride. It wasn't easy returning out to the then even chillier sunset air to ride back but no way in hell I was going to bag the ride and catch a cab back to my car. It was a leisurely ride but I don't want to discount the calories I surely burned. And the mental reinforcement of activity.

On Friday I actually stepped foot in a gym. I ran for two miles on the treadmill, which just about killed me, and then I did a random mix of weight training - some pushups, squats, planks, bicep curls, you get the idea - to say "hellooooo in there!" to my muscles. They let me know today how unpleased they are with the lack of attention they've been getting. In other words, I'm sore. But not so bad that I can't exercise tomorrow, which is on the agenda. My cold is almost completely gone and the deal-with-the-devil to ward off pneumonia seems to have gone through, so far no signs of that.

The other good thing I did was dump out the remainder of a 15-pound bag of M&Ms. Yes, I'm exaggerating on the size but it might as well have been 15 pounds and I was pretty much the only one eating them since Wednesday when my mother so kindly brought them over. I asked her why she got them, "it's your birthday." Oh right, thanks. But I shouldn't won't blame her, I'm the only one that chooses what goes into my mouth. And tonight I chose no more M&Ms. Now, the package of Ghiradelli chocolates is another story. Yep, it's all fun-house eating over here. Except, really it's not fun. Which I know. Sort of. No, I know. I do. But I'm in an amnesic state where I don't know what I do know. Or I'm pretending not to. Good Lord this is insane. But writing about all the mental gymnastics helps.

Anyway, the M&Ms went down the drain and I felt better for it. I was eating so many of them the sugar taste was sort of burning my throat but that didn't seem to be stopping me. I blame stress. And lack of exercise. And a sickness induced slump. And anything else I can blame because assigning blame removes the consequences of my behavior, right? Oh wait, no it doesn't.

Despite my snark-filled post I'm actually feeling somewhat hopeful. The exercise was good and while my muscles are super-weak, that's only in comparison to how strong they were. In comparison to before Michelle I've still got it. Ohhh, the kids are quiet. Ahhh, I think I'm going to light a candle and take a bath. My back could use it and so could my mind. And I'll feel ten times better after a bath and a good book than I would more chocolate.

One last note - I haven't been posting my weekly weights because of the Blogger snafu and how much of a pain it is. But I think I'll start a new Maintenance: Year 2 weight log as I've heard starting a new list fixes the snafu. Of course I'll leave the old one up for posterity. Or maybe I'll move it to it's own page so I don't end up with years of weight maintenance logs on my page. I'll always leave weight losing years of logs up - I know how much new readers get from seeing how my weight came off. I have been weighing myself, albeit not weekly like I should. And I haven't been getting to a WW meeting every week like I'd like to. Last time I checked my weight was 142 point something. Getting closer to 145 all the time. 145 = sound the alarm. As if it's not already blaring. But, lots of things I can do to get the fire started over here. And continuing to write here is one of them. So is self care, which means I'm off to draw a bath.