The Family that Trains Together Stays Together

So, I somehow managed to get my whole family doing Starting Strength-style powerlifting workouts.  And three out of the four of us are doing them together.  17 is far too cool to be seen with any of us, but so far he is my best partner in the most important part of the newby-nerdy fitness journey — obsessing over it.  We talk about our gains, about our PRs, about our macros.  We have stopped being fun at parties. We just train in parallel — an hour or two apart.  Him with his high-school bros and me with 13 and 54.  We even make fun of the same dudes we see at the gym.  

17 is a pretty intense athlete in his day job, which largely consists of picking sports he looks really, really good performing so that he can impress his friends, generate wicked snapchat videos, and pick up girls.  So it isn’t surprising that the addictive early gains of starting strength appealed to him.  “I wanna deadlift 400lbs by the end of the summer.”  You and me both, cupcake.  

But 13 and 54 are different and while they’re into it, I have to make sure to be sensitive to the fact that they’ve got unique goals and varying experiences from mine.

13 is a geeky, chubby kid who has always thrown in the towel pretty easily instead of trying to shine athletically in the presence of his big brother.  But he’s crazy strong, probably from spending the last few years of doing judo.  Proportional to his size, he’s probably got the most natural talent for lifting in our family.  But he’s all about intensity and gonzo, then fades as soon as something is consistently hard.  I’ve been trying to nudge him a bit, show him how impressive his gains are, get him to hang in there.

54.  Well 54 is complicated. He’s not an intensity junkie, which makes him set apart from the three of us.  And I’m struggling with being supportive-but-not-patronizing as I talk about climbing your own hill while I’m sliding on a few extra plates between his sets and mine.  I haven’t quite finished finessing the art of negotiating the impact of the aging dude ego on our ability to share an activity that I am way more into than he is.  But he is really supportive of me in general, and I’m really hoping that this is something that we can enjoy doing together.  I think maybe I just need to put more metal songs on his playlist and we’ll be alright.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

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Pinkhairedchickenmama and I pausing on a run during happier times.


Dear running,

I have to break up with you.  Our relationship has not been good for a while.  When we met I was all in, maybe a little bit too soon. Spending time with you gave me a kind of heady feeling, some would say addictive.  But there have been signs since the beginning, red flags if you will, that we are a bad match.  I have other lovers now, and while things aren’t necessarily easier with them either, I just get don’t worn down by the them the way I did with you.  Plus, they’re sexier.  Sorry.  Well, sorry not sorry.

Be well,

Me.

I have a backstory, as lots of people do, which put me in the not-so-unique position of having two young kids and being in crap shape.  I had a few false starts at trying to improve my fitness (including a very fun, but ultimately too time-consuming stint on a competitive rowing team) but found that I couldn’t stay consistent with anything fitness-related because of the constant pull of insomnia, kid-wrangling, work-wrangling, and inertia.

But then I found running.  And because it was something that could be done in my own neighborhood, with no prep time and minimal gear, it seemed doable.  I did couch to 5k four times before making it through the program (should have been my first hint), but kept going and then joined a running group where my embarrassment about being last every time motivated me to gain speed and distance at a reasonable pace.  I ran my first 5k, a women’s only race, and placed a full 15 minutes after my friends.  But then I PR’ed every single race after that, running about one every one-two months.  I started to feel like a fit person.  I was proud of myself.

With the help of an amazing group of people at the Ypsi Studio, I managed to train for what seemed to be an impossible distance, the half-marathon, and ran a very satisfying 2:32 in the Detroit Free Press International Marathon (half-marathon event).  It was a real peak experience and I savored every minute of it.  I felt healthy and strong and capable.  I knew I wasn’t the fastest runner there, but I finished the distance just fine and I did so at 218 lbs.  I was pretty proud of what I had accomplished and felt like my fitness was better than it had been in years.  And it was. Training for the half-marathon took me from someone who struggled to finish a 5k without walking to someone who cranked out 9 and 10 mile training runs and had a bit to give.

Looking back, though, I wonder if it was the running that led to my fitness gains or if the running just benefitted from my fitness gains.  I was running in the mornings twice a week with the Studio running group, then filling out my program with three more runs a week.  But I also was doing bootcamp classes, spinning, and a HIIT workout with the Studio’s owner, Julia Collins.  Sometimes I was doing three workouts in a row — running with the group then staying for bootcamp and spin.  I think that my body responds awesomely to resistance training and high-intensity cardio.  And maybe not so much to the long slog of distance running training. I often felt like my long runs were my least effective days.

This became really obvious when I tried to springboard from my half-marathon success and train for a marathon the next year.   One mistake — I started training too early on an ankle I had broken in a rock-climbing accident.  But really, marathon training was just one fail after another.  As running replaced my other workouts, I actually felt my body get weaker.  My adrenals took a hit.  I began to get repetitive stress injuries.  I had to roll my IT bands every day or they felt like concrete when I ran.  I had absolutely debilitating heel spurs.  My knees sounded like they had a bag of marbles in them every time I went up or down the stairs. I gained 25 lbs.  My long runs were three and four and five-hour-long exercises in sheer will against a constant desire to quit, followed by a day on the couch.

My friends from the Studio and from our running community were super-encouraging on the day of the race and it did feel like a triumph, though strangely not as satisfying as my half and with a time much less satisfying — over six and a half hours.  I could say that I ran a marathon, but, in reality, I wasn’t sure I would ever want to run again.  And, two and half years later, I’ve gathered together all of my false starts in running, attempts to use running for fitness gains again, and I’m officially saying goodbye.

My closure was inspired by one of my neighbors, who has found a new love of running by running races of only a single mile, finding meaning in being fast.  Here is her story:  http://milermethod.com/blog/breaking-up-with-the-marathon

Sierra’s writing about how holding the marathon as the pinnacle of the recreational running experience led her to doubt her body resonated pretty strongly with me and awoke me one step at a time to something I hadn’t realized:  running puts me in a constant battle with my body.  Sierra came to a slightly different conclusion — she decided that her body type was more suited to a faster, shorter race.  I decided that I’m not going to run at all.

I’m now about 270 lbs.  And even if I get down to 218 again, or lower, to my fighting weight of, say, 165-185 lbs, I still don’t think running will be my best sport.  I’m in a head space where I don’t want to make weight loss my primary focus, rather I want performance and strength.  And I’m finding that there are a lot of sports where my weight is not the kind of hindrance that it is in running.  Because even 165lb me is not going to be a Boston qualifier.  I’ve accepted that.  My muscle-y self is not made for it.  And I don’t want to do a sport where I’m thinking that if I could just lose a little muscle weight, I’d be faster.  It’s a battle I don’t want to fight.  Running makes my body my own enemy, and I hate that.

I’m an awesome athlete, when I train consistently, and I sometimes make sick improvements in short amounts of time that surprise me when I pick the right activities. When I was cross-training for the half, I surprised my trainer by pulling 400 watts consistently on the erg and I’m erg training now, trying to get a 5k time less than 20 minutes.  I think I’ll get there by the end of the month.  I can cycle efficiently and tear up the mountain bike trails.  I can swim long distances easily.  But what I really can do is lift weights.

What all of these activities have in common is that having a more muscled body is a strength, not a weakness for them.  I knew that I would excel in weightlifting because I have a long-ago history with it and a little flirting relationship with it from HIIT.  But now that I am working an actual powerlifting program, I am absolutely, totally, head over heels in love.  And I’m crushing it for now.  I feel at harmony with my body in a way that I haven’t for years while exercising.  I’m dreaming big dreams about how far I can go with this sport and, best of all, I can do it in the body that I’m in.  LOVE.

Back on the Beast-Wagon

There have been some recent conversations between pinkhairedchickenmama and I regarding shaking off our stuckness. And just like the ice is leaving the Great Lakes and the ground is thawing all of the way through, so are we shaking off our winter blues and stepping out into the springtime to look around.

She was brave enough to register for one of the hardest trail half-marathons in Michigan and is starting running down the country roads near her farm full of wayward creatures trying to train after being seriously sidelined by illness and injury. She got mobile rural internet access, aka a smartphone, to help track her nutrition. I just finished passing a big belt test for my Iaido training and am going full gonzo into working out with my new gym membership. Truth be told, I’ve got my whole motley nerdy family on a powerlifting program. The YMCA has seen nothing like us.

We’re going to try to write more about this journey, be consistent, accomplish something, be epic, be beastly. Stay tuned.

For the week

Totally failed to work out except on Tuesday. In my defense, I attended two births in a row this week and was awak for 50 hours.  Set up a yoga space in my house and hiked around 20 acres of grassland we are looking at buying.  Will yoga tomorrow. Feeling hot, lazy and fat!

oh yeah- goals

So I forgot to say what my goals are whenI wrote last night, so I thought that before the shield maiden and I start arguing about how much carbs I should eat or not eat, I should really write out my goals.

1- I’d like to lower my blood pressure. Its not high, its normal, averaging between 112-130/70-80, but I’d like to see that number be much lower.

2- I’d like to lower my fasting glucose numbers.  Back when I got my BIG SCARY LAB TEST, my fasting glucose was 95.  I was all like SWEET, no diabetes for me, bitch. But then I read this article which indicated that folks with a high end of normal fasting glucose were more than 2x more likely to develop diabetes in the future.  Not what I wanted to hear. I haven’t really looked into solid evidence about how I can lower that number, but common sense tells me getting rid of all this hormone secreting abdominal fat might help, and keeping a tight reign on my diet as well.

4- I’d like to be able to get up and down off the ground easily. (See this video for more info on the sitting and rising test and how it indicates longevity)

5- I’d like to loose 130#.   So, I  don’t have a goal weight, or don’t know what it is, but I am pretty sure I will know it when I get there.  Where does 130# come from?  Last year my family visited the Grand Canyon.  I am an avid hiker, but I had recently sprained my ankle at the Sutro Baths in California, and could not hardly hobble, much less hike below the rim, which is what I wanted to do. So naturally I looked up the famous donkey rides down into the canyon, and was a gasp to find that you must weigh below 190# to ride a donkey into the canyon.  I understand the weight limits protect the donkey, but I was still grumpy and offended! So my new goal, is for at least one week in my life, to weigh less than 190, and to get to the grand canyon that week and ride a freakin donkey.

6- I’d like a better body  ratio/ composition.  At my current weight my BMI is 42, which makes me dying of fattness.  I know that BMI is shit, since I would need to weigh 180 in order to be in the very highest range of normal.  For those that don’t know me, I am 6’1, with an 8 inch bony wrist.  I am pretty sure I would be skeletal at 200lb. A better but still not perfect measurement is to use hip to height and hip to waist ratios, or body fat caliper measurements.

I am all about fitness at any weight, and loving my fat body. But even if I can bike for hours and run and yoga and feel pretty fit, I know that as I age my body will feel better and perform better and live longer if I can get all my measurements and ratios and numbers into a different category.

i totally ate 3 slices of cake yesterday

I did. And I do not feel bad about it.  I feel alittle bad about the handful of gummy bears, the 3 cookies I ate for breakfast and the 3 gin and tonics.  Those were bad choices.  But cake on my golden girl’s 7th birthday?  7 Layer strawberry lemonaide cake.  NOPE not feeling bad.

But lets talk about tomorrow.  I am really really good at making plans. Very specific well planned out plans, plans that work. Or, they would work if I was also planning to do a little coke. See, I make great plans that would totally work if my only job was to do that one planned thing.  But, its not.  I have two littles (7 and 2 going on sh*t head/gosh I do love him, but this age is hard) that I homeschool, and I am small business owner who’s business happens to be catching babies in the middle of the night, and a little herbal side hustle.  And I am in school. And occasionally I like to spend time with my sweet sweet loving farmer man,  So I cannot actually commit to the very well thought out extravagant plans that I make myself.  So this time, lets do something a little different.  This time lets make a plan that actually works.

What is that plan? Well. Im not sure yet.

Here are the things I am ALREADY doing.

1- Im taking synthroid. Well, some off brand of it, but yep, Im on it.  I’ve been on it for about a month, as my TSH was at 3.75 and my B12 and Vit D were clinically low (supplementing both of those as well) I am hoping that when I finally stop feeling like I am actually a puddle on the floor, I can research natural alternatives to pumping up my thyroid and wean off the meds, but until then, I am some sort of permanently exhausted pigeon, and damnit I will take the boost.

2-Im doing weekly maintenance acupuncture, for back pain, insomnia, stress, and occasionally for weightloss.

3-Im doing weekly EMDR for my PTSD, and hoping to branch that out to include EMDR for emotional eating, which, my practitioner says is totally a thing. AWESOME.

4- I am doing weekly Private Yoga sessions, that are kicking my ass, and leaving me with a 20-45 minute homework that I have been so so on actually completing. I love the idea of a morning yoga routine, and think it not unreasonable with my life.  However, my achey arthritic back says otherwise at 7am, and I must kick its butt.

So what am I changing?

Starting tomorrow,

Im back to food tracking, cause dang, I like alot of treats.  I deserve  a treat. but all those treats add up to going high high up into the calories. My goal is roughly 4 oz protein at each meal, a little carbs with each meal, and some veggies and ferments at each meal too.

Im going to head to the library and pick up the Adrenal Reset Diet and check out if that dude has anything smart to say.

Im going to go get my labs drawn and add in a bunch of scary gene stuff too and meet with my doc.

Im adding some accountability.  With myself, with my sword wielding co-author, and with whoever you are.

Im going to actually do my yoga homework tomorrow morning.

And I actually think that is enough for tonight.

I’d like to run/walk three miles 3x this week, and I’d like to bike at least 3x this week. I will look at my calendar and figure out if that is doable, but at the least, we are doing this.

Right now, I am going to go eat some more cake though. Birthdays last all week right?