Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm not a green bean.

These exact words came out of my daughter, Sophia’s, mouth the other night while eating dinner. “I’m not a green bean, Mom.” I said, “Do you mean a string bean?” At first I giggled, and then I stopped, knowing exactly where this conversation was heading. And hating that we were about to have it. She said, “Yeah, I don’t look like my friends.” I asked her what she meant by that. She told me that she was “bigger” than all of them. She said that they all had skinny legs and skinny tummies. They were skinny. And she wasn’t, she said.

I wonder if my resounding sigh could be heard across the world. It held so much weight and meaning that I could not express to her. How do I respond to this? What are the right words?

I looked in her eyes, and I said what I believe, “Sophia, you are beautiful, just as you are.” She said, “But why I am I bigger than all of my friends?” Then she hit me with something I never wanted to hear. She said, “Mom, you are skinny. And you want to be that way. I don’t look like you either.”

Wow. Again, could my heart breaking be heard across the world?

I sat and quickly collected my thoughts. I had to say something that mattered. That made sense to my beautiful daughter who didn’t think she was good enough, all of a sudden. I tried to explain to her that I wasn’t “skinny,” I was “fit.” Big difference, I clarified.

I tried to put it in plain words. Being “fit” didn’t mean being the perfect size. It meant having a strong, healthy body. A body that can run fast, jump high, lift heavy things. It enables us to enjoy our lives to the fullest. We can’t compare ourselves to others, because everyone’s body is different. I told her we need to fill our bodies with healthy foods to nourish it properly. I explained the importance of exercise, using myself as an example. I tried to make her understand that I eat well and work out to keep my body “healthy” not “skinny.” I tried to say everything right.

Unfortunately, I could see that this line of conversation wasn’t registering exactly. Sophia is 10 ½ and sees girls on Disney channel that she wants to look like. Period. She doesn’t care about being “fit.” Or she doesn’t make the connection between her body, fitness and healthy eating, rather. How can I fail to make my words sink in? I can’t fail.

One thing I never wanted for my children was to worry about their weight -- for the simple reason that it has tormented me for a good portion of my life. You may think that “tormented” is a rather strong, descriptive word to use, but just ask my own Mother. She will explain that it fits just right when describing my battle with “perfection.” I should add that I was never overweight. I just thought I was. I compared myself to women in magazines, or girls I knew with twiggy legs -- just as my daughter is doing now.

I despise that our society has dictated what our bodies should look like. What is beautiful and what is not? What is the perfect size and what isn’t? But what I hate even more is that I bought in to these misconceptions wholeheartedly for most of my life. This doesn’t make me unique -- either does the fact that I can still fall victim to negative self talk and wishing that I could be just “a little bit better.” But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t pray, realistic or not, that my daughters would bypass feelings of insecurity, or low self esteem, or buy in to the same mistaken beliefs that I did.

Here’s the thing. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to feel like you’re not “perfect.” It’s not easy to make your children believe that they are. It’s especially not easy in a world where beauty and flawlessness is exalted above seemingly all else. There are no simple answers here.

So what do I do? I guess I will continue to do what I have been. Be the best example I can for my children. Encourage healthy habits. Lead them in the right direction -- towards fitness. Provide realistic pictures of strong, healthy, CrossFit women and women athletes of all types. I will support them. Tell them they are wonderful. Explain that they couldn’t be more perfect in my eyes. That they are perfect in God’s eyes. And that they were made in His glory. I will try to do my best to accomplish this, make them believe this. I will love them. Then love them more.

And maybe try to convince them that “green beans” are overrated.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I don't do cardio.

I don’t do cardio. This was my motto for a very long time.

The other day at the rock climbing gym, a man asked me what type of training I did. He said, “Weightlifter? Because you’re not built like a runner.” I suppose he stereotypically meant that I Iooked muscular, and not long and lean like a runner. I wanted to explain to him that, yes, I was indeed a runner. Not a great one, but dang it, I was a runner!

Since late last October, when I bought my Garmin watch, I have ran 163.95 miles (which includes a 6 week ankle sprain recovery). This isn’t impressive to real “runners.” But for me, it’s actually quite amazing considering that the cumulative mileage in the last several months, surpasses the miles ran in the preceding 20 years. I don’t think I am exaggerating when I say this.

When I started CrossFit in 2008, I was told by Brady, my coach, “There isn’t much running.” I was relieved. What I didn’t realize is that from a runners perspective there is “very little” running. From my perspective, however, 400’s during 3 rounds of a WOD seemed like plenty of running! I’d like to say that I sucked it up in silence when a running wod came around, but I didn’t. I complained mercilessly. I should apologize for all of the dirty looks I threw his direction when I walked in and saw any sort of run on the white board.

Running any distance came hard for me because before CrossFit, I didn’t run. At all. Never. Ever. My cardio consisted of the Step Mill, the Elliptical (Epi-Glider as my dear friend says. Inside joke), and walking at an incline on the treadmill. In all honesty, I preferred to lift weights exclusively and skip my cardio whenever possible. Once in a blue moon, Cari would try to get me to run around the parking lot at our gym. I refused to run the entire way. I’d agree to run the straights and walk the corners! We still laugh about this.

But as things have a way of changing and evolving, I decided that running was something that I should try to get better at instead of constantly fighting it. I was tired of having an Achilles heel. Work your weakness. A statement CrossFitters have had thrown at them many, many times by their coaches.

In comes Cari to the rescue. Or maybe rescue is the wrong word. Support, encouragement and patience may more clearly define what my workout partner contributed to my becoming a runner “of sorts.”

We started running. Not very far. Not very fast. I got better. It became easier. I set goals of how many miles I wanted to run each week in addition to CrossFit. She ran with me every step. Sometimes I complained, sometimes I begged to stop. She’d say, “Just a little farther” or “let’s just slow down a bit.” I began to gain confidence. And after a few months, I uttered the words, “I don’t hate it anymore.”

I began to run on my own at times. By choice no less! Imagine that. I ran a few 5K races and one 10K. It was a big accomplishment. Did I set any speed records? Heck no. I’ll tell you that my best 5K was 27:05. If you run, you know that I am not fast. That doesn’t matter to me. The fact that I am doing something that has come so hard for me is as great thing.

By late winter this year, Cari began training for her first marathon after running a few half’s. I got to tag along on during some of her training runs. I worked up to running 7 miles a few times and then did 8, which is my longest run to date. I was very proud of this. So proud, I thought “maybe I could do a half…”

Well, as with lots of great plans, this one hasn’t come to fruition. Instead, schedules and training plans changed and I was on my own again. I didn’t do a good job of keeping up with my miles without someone to run next to. One week I just ran 3. The next week I didn’t run at all. Those weeks turned in to 3 months of running very, very little with weeks in between. Why did I let it go? I could come up with several empty excuses, but the real answer is, I didn’t make an effort to keep it up.

Today I ran 3.1 miles. It didn’t feel great. I think even my Garmin was disgusted with my performance. Every time I looked down to see my miserable pace, it was glaring back at me like a friend you’ve taken for granted for a long time and wanted back. Running isn’t forgiving. Abandon it, neglect it. . . it will remind you bitterly that this a relationship that you’d better nurture, or it will be gone. It might as well send you a text that reads “Hey lazy ass, you have to work hard to keep me. So until you put in the effort, I will make your life miserable.”

My running relationship is on rocky ground. Anyone who really knows me can attest to the fact that I don’t give up easily. I may stray from the course. But I find my way back eventually. Because I’m not a quitter.

Today I ran 3.1 miles.

Monday, April 11, 2011

It's brand new day

Monday Monday, so good to me,

Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be

Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn't guarantee

That Monday evening you would still be here with me.

Monday Monday, can't trust that day,

Monday Monday, sometimes it just turns out that way

Oh Monday morning, you gave me no warning of what was to be

Oh Monday Monday, how you could leave and not take me.

These are the lyrics from a Momas and Papas song. No, not a huge fan. It just happened to coincide with what I am thinking about today.

I know that Sunday is beginning of the week. However, I think that it feels like an ending rather than a beginning. Monday is the day that marks a new week for me. And how do I view this day? It is usually a time for reflection. Time spent thinking about how the last week affected my life. Are there things I would change if I could?

I suppose there are always things you would change. And at the same time there are moments that we would choose to relive over and over. We don’t get to do either, however. So we think, we ponder, we contemplate, we decide or we waver. I know that some things are in my control and much is beyond me. But still, I sit and consider all of it.

Monday can be a time for anticipation or trepidation. It can be time spent thinking about what the next week will bring to your life. What are you looking forward to? What are you possibly dreading? How will decisions you make this week change its outcome? What will you work to accomplish?

We might focus on things we have ahead of us. Things on our to-do list. This could include working on things quite simple like pull-ups and ring dips, or getting caught up on laundry, paying bills, etc. Or it could include something much more challenging -- like surviving skate night with your children. If you don’t think this belongs on the “more challenging” list, I would ask you when was the last time you’ve navigated a minefield of elementary children littering the roller rink, just waiting to be run over. . . Or you could be competing in the CrossFit Opens, or tackling 30 muscle-ups for time. It can be anything really. Categorize how you will. If it’s going on in your world, it feels either important or impending.

However you decide to spend your Monday, think about this. . . If the path of your life can be altered by a single moment – would it not be prudent to take the time to consider what will occur over the course of an entire week?