Sunday, January 6, 2013

Successes and failures

For years, I used to have dreams I was a secret runner. I’d fall asleep, lace up my shoes, and take off – running, bounding, practically flying through the air. It was easy and effortless. And the spectators – whoever they were on any given night – would be awed.  “Who is this girl? Why didn’t we know what she could do? How does she do that?”

I’d run, and run, and never get tired. The miles would fly by.  And I’d smile this big, huge crazy grin.

Then I’d wake up.  And lying there in the dark under the covers, I’d remember that feeling of effortlessness. I’d be inspired. “Maybe, one day,” I’d think, before rolling over and going back to bed, hoping the next dream would be just as good, vivid and real.

It’s been almost 23 months since I started Week 1, Day 1 of the Couch to 5K workout and 49 weeks since I ran my first half marathon. In 2012, I logged almost 689 miles on the path, finished 11 races, including four half marathons and a triathlon. (Since I started running, I dropped almost 40 pounds -- and gained roughly 10 back.) By my math, I worked out for well over 130 hours last year and went from being a running participant to a running leader – working out four to five times a week, pacing run-walkers with my training group and mentoring new runners who are trying to cross their own first-time finish line.

My 2012 medals and bibs.
With a turtle pace, my running isn’t effortless like those dreams from so long ago. But in two years, I’ve managed to transform myself from the girl who thought about things, to the girl who does them.

And so, catching up on TV yesterday I was surprised to find myself crying – REALLY crying. At every commercial break, there was another ad highlighting someone else’s weight loss success story. The married couple who’d shed more than 100 pounds on Weight Watchers.  The Medifast woman who has a tearful conversation with her future “leaner, happier” self.  

I was jealous. And defeated. And embarrassed. And frustrated.

I’ve worked so hard in the past two years, and yet here I am – still so far from where I want to be. I’m exercising harder and more frequently than I ever have in my life and the number on the scale isn't moving much at all. (I know, I know – it’s just a number. But when you stand there and stare at it, it sure feels like a measure of your own effort and self worth.) 

With every commercial, I felt more like a failure.  (Note to self: only watch things that have been DVR’d.)

I typed out a few tearful text messages to friends and after a few conversations, I had one of those knock-you-over realizations.

When I was fat and sedentary (instead of slightly less fat and active), I thought the hardest part of losing weight was going to be the exercise. When the thought of running even half a mile is intimidating and beyond your ability, exercise – and committing to make it part of your life – seems impossible.

Grand Rapids Half Marathon
But on a snowy Saturday two years into my journey, still sniffling from my meltdown, I realized that exercise is actually the easy part of the weight loss equation. It’s the food that’s the biggest, baddest mean girl bitch.

My life (and often my social life) now revolves around my training group. Some of my bestest friends in the city are athletic inspirations (ironmen, triathletes, marathoners, cyclocross riders). They encourage me and I support them.  We talk about training schedules, race bucket lists, rough workouts and speed drills. IT’S AWESOME.

(Pro tip, new Sporty Spices: When your community is all about exercise, it makes you want to be all about exercise. Who wants to bail on a workout if it means bailing on your friends? NO ONE, that’s who!)

So with a new year and new goals, I tried to talk me self out of my wallow fest. I decided to treat myself to a new yoga mat I’d been eyeing for months. (Shopping heals, y’all.) And I refocused. I thought about where I was and where I am and then how I’m going to get to where I want to go.  (Preview: it’ll involve a lot more mindfulness about food.)

Triathlon finish!
My word of the year is going to be “push.” Wallowing moments aside, I’m so proud of what I’ve done, but I know I need to push myself to keep going. I’m not where I want to be. and I’m working to be OK with that. Losing weight and changing your life aren’t supposed to be easy.  (Although seriously, you’d think the universe could have made losing weight nearly as easy as putting it on.) My wise BFF, The Modern Gal, points out that when I started this whole process, I would never have called running -- or any exercise -- easy. I've come pretty far to say that. So now it's time to do the same thing with the healthy eating. 

So here’s to another year of trying. And the reassuring fact that those skinny bitches in the TV commercials probably can’t run a half marathon.

So there.


Margie said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I always love reading your blogs. Your running is incredibly inspiring and yes - just the first of many leaps and bounds in the adventure you're seeking in finding a balanced and healthy life. I'm glad you have a great community of friends to cheer you on and support you. That's so important. Don't doubt the potential inside you - look at what you've been able to accomplish already. I love seeing all your race bibs. Keep it up, I'm so proud of you!

The Modern Gal said...

Sometimes I forget you've only been running for two years. It's so much a part of you that it seems like you've always been doing it. Having the right attitude is half the battle, and it looks like your already there.

Also don't forget that those commercials don't tell the whole story: how long it took those people or how many times they fell off the wagon and had to get back on.

Margie Newman said...

YOU ARE AMAZING. And you should know that you inspire me every time I run. I will never log the miles you rock, lady. For reals. I am so proud of all you have accomplished--and all you push others to accomplish. Keep it up, sister. We love you!

Erin said...

1. I am SO GLAD you're back.
2. You are a change champion.
3. You inspire the crap outta me.
4. You're honesty is beautiful.
5. Loves ya!