You Have A Strong Heart

My niece had a runny nose when we took her to the mall this weekend to Build-a-Bear and I’m convinced she gave me a slight cold. This wouldn’t be a big deal except for the fact that my allergies are horrendous at the moment and I have asthma. This compounds the inflammation in my airways and makes it that much more difficult to breathe, much less do anything that requires cardio. So yesterday I went to the gym, as I do now on Thursdays, to work out with my trainer I requested that we limit the high-intensity cardio and stick to lifting some weights.

She opted to cancel some of the kettleball swings but other than that, it was still a solid workout. I did 12 deadlifts with a 50 pound barbell and rows in between. Then I did squats with a 30 pound barbell pushing it into an upward press above my shoulders as I straightened my legs. Then I did 12 backward lunges with the 30 pound barbell on my shoulders and finished off with an incline plank. I repeated this circuit four times.

It was tough but not so tough that I wanted to cry, like I have on previous workouts. It got my heart pumping and was taxing and I always feel like the thing that limits me the most is endurance, breathing hard, the cardio part. But I was able to do it and that was good.

At the end of the work out my trainer told me, “You should be proud of yourself. You did four sets of that and it’s pretty impressive. That is not easy. You are strong. I don’t put out weights like this for everyone and I wouldn’t do it for you if I didn’t think you could do it. Good work today!” She gave me a high-five.

Me, I was like, really? Because I have a set of sunglasses on that filter how I see the world that generally point out how pathetic I’m doing – how I could be doing more, and how lame it is I can’t do a Burpee and that my belly gets in the way, and how silly I look doing all this stuff.

It’s like, I feel guilty for feeling good about myself. Somehow this is taboo, forbidden, wrong.

But I did feel strong doing those dead lifts. I banged them out pretty good and though challenging, I was up to the challenge. I felt pretty good about doing that, that it was less pathetic than usual, but here was my trainer saying that I should be proud of myself for what I had done. I’m not exactly sure that I know how that feels. I mean, I was proud of myself for completing over 120 heats at the San Diego Open a few years ago and earing Top Student. That was a goal I worked for and achieved and it felt awesome. But these everyday victories, they somehow don’t seem big enough. It’s as if I’m waiting until I’m at my goal weight to actually approve of myself, be proud of myself, love myself.

Like following my eating plan this past week. I did it successfully and that was good, but I wasn’t exactly “proud” of myself for doing that. In my mind, it is simply what I need to do to get where I want to go, and I’m focused like no kidding on that so I did what needed to be done, that’s all. In truth, I’m not even proud of myself for being down over 70 pounds from my highest weight ever (see picture below). Because it took 3 fucking years to do that and I’m still mad that I’m 100 pounds from where I want to be.

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Don’t get me wrong. I notice a difference and I do feel somewhat better about myself. I just still see that I have so very far to go and this is not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take months of consistent, persistent, determined action. And though I’m anticipating victories along the way, like reaching 213 which will be 100 pounds from my highest weight, and getting under 200 pounds, and getting to 179 pounds which will mean I’m overweight and no longer obese according to my BMI, and hitting my goal weight, I’m just not all that impressed with myself for where I am.

But I am starting to question that point of view simply because it could undermine all my efforts, and I refuse to let that happen this time. This time, I’m following this through come hell or high water!

My nutritionist seemed to also think I should be so proud of myself. She was like, “Stef, you’ve already accomplished a lot, and now, if you keep what you are doing, you will get to your goal in less than a year. You’ve got this! I really hope you are proud of yourself.” And she gave me a big hug.

But I find myself having trouble letting go of my story. You know, the one about me not being good enough, pretty enough, thin enough. I’m having trouble letting go of what I want to be so badly that I can’t seem to be satisfied with where and how I am. It is the ultimate thief, this mindset of comparison, and “not-enough.” But I swear, at the same time that I can see my face looks a little thinner, and maybe my belly too, and that when I thought I’d need a size 24 skirt I ended up purchasing a size 16, at the same time as I can see these steps of progress, I can also see my huge arms, how much larger I am than any other girls in my dance classes, how thick my legs and thighs are, the cellulite on my knees. At the same time that I feel slightly lighter, that it is maybe easier to move and more tolerable to wear heels to dance in, I also am also exhausted panting for breath and having a difficult time holding myself in yoga poses or ballet because I weigh so much or my body mass simply gets in the way.

I am still in a place where I feel the need to block out how I look and don’t feel proud of my appearance. I am longing for when I can wear this one asymmetrical dance shirt I bought and feel so beautiful and sassy in it. Right now when I put it on I just see where it hugs and tugs when it should be hanging empty, and it is frustrating and makes me feel sad.

And the thing I am up against physically that challenges me the most (besides the self-esteem and body image) is the cardio. Well, at least, it is my experience of me being out of shape. But even this I am questioning once again because of my nutritionist and trainer. Because the truth is, when I do a dance class, even though I may be panting and sweating and absolutely killing myself, and even though I may need to not do everything full-out just to stay in the game, well, the truth is, I’m working harder than anyone else out there just because of the sheer weight I carry. They’d probably be more tired too if they were carrying an extra 90 pounds.

Because I always experience myself as out of shape cardiovascular-wise, and because my dance teacher says that even skinny people can really struggle with the cardio and endurance required for dancing, I was feeling the need to add in some training to improve this. But both my trainer and nutritionist said that I was crazy active, especially compared to most people, and probably even more so for obese people. They said, “cardio isn’t the problem. Get the weight off and it will become so much easier. You won’t have to change a thing if you just keep dancing like you are. It will be enough.”

Aorta

My nutritionist said, “You have a strong heart. Cardio isn’t problem.”

My trainer said, after lifting all those weights today, “You are strong. Strength isn’t the problem.”

The problem is how I feel. The problem is the extra person I’m carrying around in my body. It makes it difficult to feel and act strong and sexy in Latin class with Rado doing the Rumba. I can do the steps, and some of my shapes look nice and all, but I’m lacking the confidence necessary because of my fat fucking arms and huge tree-trunk legs. I am the anthesis of the ideal for a Latin dancer, the complete and utter opposite, and it is a laughable farce, me dancing this dance.

Or is it awesome? Because I’m doing it anyways, because it is in my heart, regardless of external circumstances or appearances.

I don’t know. I think it is kind of a ridiculous-awesome, if there is such a thing.

What I do know is that in less than two weeks I will be dancing in a competition. I will be putting myself out there to be seen and judged. And you know what? Doing that, revealing one’s art, whether it be a painting or a dance, in writing or sharing a musical composition, and regardless of that person’s size or appearance, regardless of all those things, well, it takes a strong heart.

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Good Effort

So my Tuesdays and Thursdays now look like this:

In the morning I wake up. I feel sore and tired and just plain bad. My allergies are atrocious and I have to clear out all my sinuses. And my asthma is ridiculous and I’ve made an appointment with the doctor next week because I think I’m at the point that I need a blast of steroids. My husband tells me I’m a vampire because I want no human interaction whatsoever, from talking, to making sounds, to touching me, looking at me, or even breathing on me. I am the anthesis of a morning person. Seriously, steer clear of me with a wide berth until about an hour after I’ve woken up. Throw in my moon time, and you have a perfect storm.

My husband, on the other hand, wakes up with a grin on his face, ready to take on the world, energetic, happy. It is about the opposite energy of mine and super annoying. You know, like when you are sad or grumpy and someone is just shooting rays of sunshine and rainbows out their ass? Yeah, like that.

Anyways, it is in this state that I stumble into the gym and take on some of the hardest things I will take on during the day. My poor trainer. She tries to correct my form but first off I don’t trust her so don’t try to touch me, especially in the morning (see paragraph one), and secondly, if you just ask me or tell me to put my hips parallel to the floor that is enough. I will do it. I have a good sense of my body position because, you know, I’m a dancer. Anyways, I digress….

These work outs are so difficult for me. So hard that I can barely do some of the exercises. So hard that I start panic breathing. So hard that I start crying silently. I’m already hurting and sore and then put this with a trainer who has no idea what it is like to be overweight or out of shape, who has never lost a significant amount of weight, in a room full of people who are all specimens of human perfection, and me seeing the cellulite on my knee through my workout pants, it is hard on all levels, emotional and physical. It feels like shit. Really, it does.

Woman fitness training

By MSGT Jon Nicolussi, U.S. Air Force [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Yeah, I don’t look like that when I go to the gym….

Me, I feel angry when I’m working out. So very angry. Because I can barely do the hamstring bridges on the physioball and have to grunt to hover just pathetic inches above the ground. I’m angry because I’m so goddamned fat that I can’t do a proper Burpee because my goddamned belly gets in the way and even doing the modified ones I can barely complete the jump at the end. So angry because of reasons I can’t even put into words or explain to myself.

But I do it. I on some level have faith that eventually it will get easier. That it might actually feel good to be in my body. That I will maybe some day be proud of how I look and what I can do. Right now this seems like a pipe dream and all I see is the huge mammoth in the mirror and my giggly parts and all I feel is the pain, the effort, the disappointment, the anger. It’s overwhelming and sucks and I’m shaking as I’m writing this.

So anyways, I’m doing my process this morning as usual. Pushing hard. Crying. Struggling.

And just about when I’m done with my work out as I’m walking back to the area to complete my last exercise in the circuit, this older man with stark white hair steps in front of me and says, “Really good effort today. I mean it. Just keep it up.”

Well, I lost it. I’m still crying. He’s a total stranger. I have never seen him or had a conversation with him or anything. I feel so alone in this. And I consciously (or unconsciously) block out other people in the gym as much as I can because it is too hard to feel all the body shame and stay together enough to complete the tasks in front of me. So it was a total surprise. Like, I’m not there to show off (that is a laugh! I usually look like I’m flubbering around on the floor like an injured slug) or for attention (like those dudes who feel the need to grunt with every power lift, calling attention to the effort they are putting forth, making sure the world knows they are there and important). No I’m there for me.

So I’ve made no friends. I’ve made no effort to make friends. And this guy just swooped down and crashed into my world, shot a spear straight through my heart. He noticed me. He noticed my struggle, my effort, my perseverance. He pointed it out to me when I can’t see it for myself, when I focus on my shortcomings and how awful and angry I feel. I block out the strength I’m demonstrating. It just doesn’t feel like enough, somehow. It’s the ultimate in the need to be right, according to one of my friends. I can never be satisfied with what is.

No, no I can’t. I am so unsatisfied. I’m so unsatisfied with not being able to dance like I really want to dance. I’m unsatisfied with being kicked off roller coasters. I’m unsatisfied wearing frumpy clothes because I hate the way I look. You are damn right I’m unsatisfied.

But it is stealing whatever joy could be in the present moment. As Ivan told me long ago, I still have that Mental Problem. Beyond all the physical battles, this is the biggest battle I will fight – the one to set my mind healthy.

And now I’m leaning even more into it. I’ve hired Chelle, from Recipe For Fitness to hold my feet to the fire when it comes to nutrition.  Because that’s the missing element from my transformation, and I’m pretty convinced I am not successful doing this stuff on my own and need help with it.

Because I have a BHAG (Big Hairy Ass Goal).  I’ve decided I will do a solo at Emerald Ball next year in May 2014 an it will involve a lift.  This gives me just a few days over one year to prepare and scares the bajeezes out of me. I’ve never been to Emerald Ball, which is a pretty big deal, and to dance a solo in front of that kind of audience, well, I’ve never done a solo at a competition before either!  There will be goalposts and milestones along the way.  I’m doing People’s Choice in like 4 weeks and don’t even feel remotely ready. And I will do Desert Classic or Galaxy or both and possibly Vegas in December. I will have weekly meetings with Chelle and my sessions with my trainer. I will continue to take lessons with Inna and Ivan and Rado. I will keep a food log and weekly progress reports. I will fit into normal size clothing and have Marieta design new dresses for me. I will hold my leg at 90 degrees or higher in ballet and complete a double pirouette. I will become the champion I can be, in dancing, and in life.

So that’s the dealio peeps. Taking my life on like no kidding. Scared, angry, sad, excited, determined, and strong. It is okay to move forward even if it doesn’t feel good in the moment. Feel the crap and do it anyway and all that.

I’m Deconditioned But Not Decomissioned

So yesterday when I woke up I didn’t know that I’d be working out with my new trainer at the gym because I didn’t know that I was going to hire one.

In case you didn’t know, I’ve been hitting it pretty hard the past week. Fed up with my body issues and doing something about it, I’m on Nutrisystem and made a personal goal to get to the gym five times this week in addition to the ballet and ballroom stuff I normally do. So getting to Friday morning, after doing everything I’m supposed to do, and being on track with the work out goals, I was disheartened to say the least to see that my weight hasn’t budged even a tenth of a pound in the last two weeks. Why bust my chops and work so hard for no results? It’s frustrating as hell and part of why at some point I gave up. I find it so difficult in my body to get it to lose weight, it takes such discipline and attention, and after enough experiences of working hard and getting minimal results I think somewhere in my subconscious I just thought “forget about it…might as well enjoy what I enjoy (namely food and drink) and I’m not going to be a professional dancer anyways so the hell with it.”

Well, things have obviously changed since I have reconnected with my passion for dancing, and ignited my love for ballroom dancing in particular, and I am tired of tolerating a body I don’t love and not being able to do everything I believe I am capable of doing.

So anyways, I’m on a mission and working actively on it but was really upset driving home from work. There was nothing for it but to go to the gym for the 4th of my 5 days – that or go home, do nothing, drink wine, and then feel even worse the next day. Luckily I chose option one instead.

So I walked in the gym and they had some promotion that if you commit to a year you get a discount on your monthly fee. I agreed because I’m in this for the long haul. So while I was signing up for that a trainer approached and asked me how long I’d been a member at the gym.

“Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. I had been coming in a spurt a few months ago and now I’m back in another spurt.”

“Did you ever take advantage of the free training session?”

“No. I wasn’t interested in it then. But today I’d be more interested.”

You see, as I was feeling so poorly in the car ride I had been praying, saying something I’ve been saying for a few months now. “Dear God. Please help. I need someone to help me with this. Someone who will understand the athlete I am underneath this all. Someone who will push and motivate me. Someone who understands my goals.”

You see, I’ve worked with trainers before. I have a degree in physiology. It isn’t about the knowledge. It’s about doing it. It’s about getting me out of my comfort zone and pushing me beyond my self-imposed limits. It’s about being supported while being challenged. It’s about accountability. And I refuse to work with just any Joe Schmo. Been there. Done that.

So anyways, I talked with this dude, knowing that he was going to give me the spiel and try to sign me up for training sessions but I was like, hey, whatever. Maybe this is the answer to my prayer. I am going to be open to the possibility.

So we talked, and measured, and I’m like 46% body fat (OMG!!! I’m half fat!), and 85% of weight loss is diet, and blah blah blah. And I basically told him, “Look. Here’s the deal. I’m an athlete. I’m a dancer. I need help to get as lean and as small as possible. I need help to improve my cardiovascular capacity so that I can do 10 minutes of full-out dancing non-stop ending with a Jive. I’ve worked with trainers before. I’m doing the right things and heading in the right direction, down 60 pounds from my highest weight, but this is over 3 years and I don’t want to wait until I’m 40 to achieve my dreams. It’s happening too slowly.”

“You are a trainer’s dream,” he replied. “You are motivated and have a purpose.  You are already althletic which will help a lot.  A lot.”

So, we’re looking at 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss weekly (why so slow AHHHH!), two training sessions weekly. He’s going to look at my Nutrisystem plan and tweak it. I’m going to come in 2 days alone. He says it will take a year but guarantees that I will change if I do what he says. That next year I could do the Tough Mudder (as if I wanted to!  No thank you!  I’d rather dance in sparkles thank you very much!) with my husband and brother and father, which I have a hard time believing but he seemed pretty sure about it. And, I got him to agree to come to a ballet class with me sometime. I’m saving it for after a particularly difficult workout that has me feeling defeated which I’m sure will happen sooner or later. At that point I’ll pull out my trump card and give myself something to look forward to – kicking my trainer’s ass doing something I’m good at and he’s not!

So anyways, we did a work out right then and there. I was going to do upper body weights anyways so we did that together instead. All I will say is thank God I have worked with trainers before and have done a plank in the past because if I hadn’t yesterday would have been a rude awakening, maybe even involving tears. I worked hard, to the point of muscle fatigue, and he made me do this thing where I had to punch an exercise ball from the plank position which sucked. But I was smiling the entire time. I was able to do it, and I  wasn’t really sure I would be. And it pushed me harder than I would have pushed myself. And, even better, with as hard as it was yesterday, and as fatigued as my arms were after the workout, I totally thought I would be way more sore than I am and have a difficult time moving my arms today. But I’m not!  And he did a good job being attuned to how my body was responding, when I was reaching my limits, assisting in the last two reps when needed.  Other trainers I’ve worked with haven’t been quite that responsive so I appreciated it.

So anyways, I’m still huge, and I still get winded going up two flights of stairs at work. I asked him about how that is possible when I can do the stair stepper for 45 minutes (going at a slow pace, of course) and dance. He said, “Well you are just so deconditioned.”

I never thought about it like that but it’s true. But it made me think, “Well, I may be deconditioned, but I’m not decommissioned. Not yet.”

Dumbell

Richardkiwi from nl [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons