Wake Up Call

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Last week, my 12 year old son and I went swimming. We are blessed to have an indoor pool in our complex that has a life guard 5 days/week. My son and I had a ton of fun – having races and a treading water contest (after 12 minutes, we called it a draw!). The next day, I was feeling a bit sore, which was to be expected because I haven’t been swimming in a while.

But the pain persisted a bit. Two days later, my hip was still a bit sore. And it wasn’t getting better. This morning, it was my whole leg.

Crap. Sciatica is back.

This time, it’s on my right side. In the summer of 2009, I had a very similar pain on my left side. A pain that I ignored. It got worse and worse. Turns out it was caused by a herniated disc which needed surgery. But, the neurosurgeon refused to do the surgery if I didn’t lose weight first. So, I lost weight, and the problem got better.

However, I’ve since put a bit of that weight back on. And now the pain is returning.

Last time, I ignored it for far too long. I am not going to make that mistake again. I remember the pain like it was yesterday. To say it was excruciating would be an understatement. I couldn’t drive a car for more than 5 minutes without being in tears. I couldn’t sit down for long. Standing up hurt too. Getting out of bed was near impossible. I was taking upwards of 15 prescription painkillers a day, and it still didn’t dull the pain. It was bad.

I refuse to experience that again.

I have been far too lax on my goals this summer. Ok, ok. I’ve been downright lazy. Part of me excuses myself, saying that I’ve been relaxing. Which I have been – and it’s really the first time in a very, very long time that I have been able to truly relax – not worry about a job or money – in many years. My soul has needed that. And, I think I’ve done a lot of personal, spiritual growth in the last two months.

But, it’s time to get of my lazy behind and get moving. Every time I do exercise, I feel great. I really do. I’m beginning to notice the amazing endorphin rush that comes from exercising. And I like it.  This brush with pain has made me realize that I need to take this more seriously. I do not want the rest of my life to be riddled with health problems.

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Winning Streak

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Ok, my friends who know me well are probably thinking “What the heck?! Why does she have a picture of the Canucks on her blog? She is the farthest thing from a hockey fan I know!!”  But, hear me out… there’s a reason I have a picture of the hometown favourites on my blog.

Anyone who follows the Canucks (and let me tell you: Canucks fans are pretty loyal!) will tell you how excited people get when the Canucks get on a winning streak. The last few years have been an emotional roller coaster with this team. Leading up to the play-offs, every new winning streak brings on more hopes for the elusive prize: the Stanley Cup. And, lately, the ‘Nucks have royally failed to bring it home. Yet the fans keep coming back for more.

Personally, I haven’t really understood the emotional roller coaster of being a hockey fan. Yay! They’re winning! Boo! The Canucks suck. OOOOhhhhhh, we’re totally going to win the cup this year. Man, this bites! We lost in game 7.  And people pay a lot of money for this?

But they keep coming back, time and time again. Even though their beloved team has let them down once again and caused city-wide riots, come the start of a new season, Rogers Arena is filled to capacity with cheering fans.

I never really understood that until today. No, I haven’t had a change of heart and become the world’s biggest hockey fan. But, I am having a winning streak.

And it feels good.

For the past three days, I have made a concerted effort to get out and exercise. As I alluded to recently, I fell off the wagon big time over the past two weeks. I haven’t stepped on the scale out of fear. I was feeling defeated.

I’m not sure what made me get out and go for a walk on Sunday night, but I did. And then again last night (mind you, that time, my friend Jenn texted me and gently nagged me, which I think helped a bit). Tonight, I spent over 90 minutes exercising, and it felt fantastic!! I even made an effort to smile at the cute guys I met along with way. Some of them even smiled back.

So, that’s a three day winning streak. Pretty cool.  I just checked a hockey stat (oh my, what is the world coming to?!?!) The longest winning streak the Canucks have ever been on was 10 games, back in 2002. Ten. That’s not a very big number.  And that was over a three week period. That’s one game every two days.

I wonder if I could beat that record? Exercise at least 10 times in a three week period?  When I started to think about this whole idea of a winning streak, I got really excited… “I wonder how many days in a row I can exercise, without missing a day?” But really, how realistic is that for a girl who is just beginning her road to fitness.

Here’s the plan: work out at least 10 times in 21 days. If I can do that, my winning streak is just as good as the Canucks. Maybe I’ll beat that record!

If you count the last three days (which I am totally doing), I basically have to work out seven more times before the end of the month.  Oh yeah, I am totally going to beat the Canucks.

And, if I lose? That’s ok. The Canucks lose all the time. Their longest winless streak was in 1973. In the span of one month, they had 10 losses and three ties. But, they came back. And they keep coming back, time and time again. Even after the loss is a colossal one, like losing to Boston in the 7th game of the Stanley Cup finals (see, I do pay attention – I didn’t even have to google that one!). Even though they sometimes lose, their fans keep cheering them on.

And you know what?

That’s what this blog is like for me. Facing my failures (hard for a perfectionist with an anxiety disorder!), owning up to them, and picking myself back up. But the best part? The cheering section! You know who you are…. the friends I’ve known for years, the new friends I’ve met only recently, and the virtual friends I’m making through this blog: you all cheer me on. And that means a lot.

Maybe that’s what keeps the Canucks going – showing up for their fans. Sure, they lose a game every now and then (and you know what? They’re really good at losing!), but they keep coming back time and time again to an arena full of fans proudly cheering them on.

I can do this. I can win this fight. I will be successful. The great thing is, my success isn’t measured by winning a big fancy trophy. And, now that I think about it, it’s not even measured by reaching my goal weight. It’s measured in days: having days in which I make healthy choices and make positive changes towards improved fitness. The “Stanley Cup” for me – reaching my goal weight – is just the icing on the cake. Oooohhhh. I wonder if I’ll get to my goal weight before the Canucks win the cup. Chances are I will, seeing as how the Canucks are pretty good at dropping the ball.

Well, I’ll be… I done gone and motivated myself!

Pick Yourself Up

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Well, I’m here. I’m back. I fell off the proverbial wagon, but here I am. In the past 4 or 5 days, I’ve had two close friends ask me how my progress is going, and I honestly told them what was going on in my life, and why I had fallen off the wagon. I faced my failure, and haven’t given up. And for that, I am proud of myself. I am learning, growing in my abilities and dedication to my goal, and discovering that I am truly not alone – which is astonishing! In the last few days, I’ve come to discover that I am not the only one who struggles with many of the issues I address in this blog. One of those issues is body image…

This past Saturday, I went out with a wonderful bunch of ladies for dinner. After dinner, we were walking down the street (in a very trendy neighbourhood in Vancouver) to grab a coffee. As we walked past a restaurant/bar with an outdoor patio, one of the ladies said to me, “Did you see him checking you out. His eyes went head to toe and back up again!” I laughed it off, and, honestly? didn’t really believe her.  Why would a man look at me like that?

The next day, I was talking to my friend Jenn, and we were talking about body image. I expressed my disbelief that someone would see a full-body picture of me and still be interested in dating. She said to me, “Do you really hate your body that much that you cannot accept that a man may actually like you for you?” I said, “Yes,” with a surety that I think kind of shocked her.

Later that evening, I chatted with a friend from high school, and brought up some of these issues. When she told me that she, too, had body image issues, frankly, I was shocked. I have always seen her as a beautiful woman with a great figure (of which, frankly, I’m somewhat jealous!).

It was then that I realized that pretty much everyone has some type of issue with their body. It doesn’t matter what shape you’re in, it’s easy to find something wrong with your body. Which is crazy, isn’t it? And, I think it speaks to unrealistic expectations placed on us by the media to look a certain way.

While I went for my walk today (my 2nd big long walk in as many days – yay me!) I was listening to some personal growth podcasts. There are a few things that really stuck with me….

A computer, without electricity is simply just a useless object. It doesn’t matter how fast the processors are, how many amazing programs are installed, and what operating system its running if there is no power to the unit. We are like that too – our bodies are simply an object. Our knowledge – everything we’ve learned – are like the programs installed in the computer. But our emotional/spiritual self, well, that’s the electricity that brings life to everything.

I really liked that metaphor. I have been focusing so much on my physical body lately, that I’ve forgotten that this body is not who I am.  When I identify myself primarily through my body (an “object” which, as I’ve already owned up to, don’t like all that much), it is damaging to my emotional well being. When I look in the mirror and don’t like what I see, I beat myself up, and make myself feel terrible.

But, I am SO much more than that! As a wise kindergarten teacher once said, “Karen is awesome.” (btw – JP: I don’t think I’ll ever forget that speech you gave on the last day of school!).  It still feels weird that people could look at  me and not see me the way I do, but I am beginning to understand that people do see me for who I am and not what I look like.

Don’t you think it’s time that I started seeing myself that way?

Not AWOL

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I’m here. Really I am.

Sort of.

I haven’t written in  a week. And, truth be told, I haven’t really been doing anything towards this goal in that time. Granted, I spent the entire week enjoying life with my 12 year old as his older brothers were away at summer camp. In an effort to focus on the positives: we did a lot of walking around; I bought a new bathing suit and actually wore it at the beach; we went to the sports court at the end of our block and hit around the tennis ball (and it was fun! I actually worked up a sweat); and I got to spend one on one time with an amazing kid 🙂

Now it’s time to get back into the swing of things.

Why is motivation so elusive for me? Why are some people more motivated than others? Why is it that I get on a roll, have a good week or two, then get derailed?

I actually know part of the answer to these questions, at least for me. Some of it has to do with my own health struggles. When I don’t take care of my health, when I’m not super diligent about it, at first, I feel fine. But slowly and surely, my health starts to deteriorate, and then all of a sudden, I’m not well again. Anyone who has struggled with mental health issues understands what this is like. (And, to be completely honest: at first, I didn’t want to bring this up, to talk about my depression and anxiety, but thanks to The Bloggess  and her courage to openly talk about her struggles of this sort, I have a bit more courage).

I am learning that I thrive on routines. When my life is somewhat scheduled, things go well. I take my medication when I’m supposed to; I exercise regularly (anyone remember 5am yoga? Yep, it’s gone now that I’m on break); I eat healthy (it’s easy to pack a salad the night before!); I do much, much better with my health.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the laid back pace of summer vacation. But the routines have gone straight out the window, and I feel a bit lost. I know part of that is I haven’t been taking my medication regularly, which is pretty important. However, I have recognized that this time, I haven’t completely stopped taking it because I feel better and don’t think I need it (I’ve learned that lesson the hard way!)… it’s just that my routine is completely gone.

Summer vacation is half over. I still have time to implement a good daily routine to see to self care, which includes eating right, tracking my food, exercising, taking my medication, and drinking lots of water.

See, I’m not dumb. I know that when I do those things, my over all health, including my mental health, is much, MUCH better. I feel more clear-headed, stronger, more focused and, well, more alive. I miss feeling that way. I don’t like the way I feel now.

Well, I suppose tomorrow is a new day.

That’s ok

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So the past 36 hours or so haven’t been the greatest. I’ve eaten too much, most of which has been junk. But, that’s ok. I’m not going to beat myself up about it. Today is a new day, and I’m being more careful with what I put in my body.

The last few days have been a bit on the emotional side. On Thursday night, we had a picnic in the park and a good friend joined me. It was a lovely evening, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. Sure, I didn’t exactly eat the healthiest stuff, and I didn’t track my food that night, but spending time with my children and one of my dearest friends was just so darn good for the soul. I needed that. I also needed to give myself permission to not be perfect.

Yesterday, I messed up. I ate poorly, made terrible choices, and succumbed to a bit of emotional eating. But, it was just one day. I have forgiven myself, and put it in the past.  I also know that right now is that time when I am more likely to engage in mindless eating to appease that carb craving that visits every so often. I am trying to figure out how best to deal with this regular occurrence… allow myself to self-medicate with chocolate, knowing I can’t stop at one? Try desperately to avoid the craving, only to fall horribly later? Not quite sure what to do.

I did it!

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I’ve been thinking a lot about two things today: exercise as an enjoyable activity done for its own benefit, and the attitude ladder.

I knew I needed to exercise. I haven’t gone for a good long walk since late last week, and here it is, Wednesday already. The only other activity I’ve done this week was tennis with the boys yesterday (and really, it wasn’t really tennis… it was more like standing around trying to hit a ball… but it was fun, and I did work up a sweat).

Now I can see why I procrastinate with exercise. If I see it as punishment, why the heck would I want to do it? So, today, I tried to view exercise as a positive. I knew I would be busy in the morning, and I didn’t want to go for a walk this afternoon in the midday heat, so I made plans to go this evening after dinner. Throughout the day, I had this mental struggle going between wanting to go for a walk just for the sake of exercising (and those resulting ‘feel good’ endorphins), and feeling guilty for the White Chocolate Macadamia cookie from Starbucks that I had (did you know one of those cookies packs a walloping 470 calories?!?! Who wouldn’t feel guilty after eating one of those).

With my wishy-washy motivation in place, I drove down to Rocky Point, turned on my music (and my “Map My Run” app), and started off. It was an absolutely glorious evening. The tide was coming in, it wasn’t too hot, and the sun was beginning to set casting a golden glow on everything.  I started off slowly, being conscious of the times I’ve pushed myself too hard and ended up really sore the next day.

As I walked, I made sure I took in the beautiful scenery around me. About a quarter of the way into my walk (right at the end of the inlet, for those of you who know the park), it hit me: This walk was good for my soul. The beauty of nature around me boosted my spirits immensely. As I was nearing the end of the trail, where I turn around and head back, I was starting to feel tired… I thought, “Oh no, I’ve pushed myself too hard. I should’ve kept that slow steady pace I started with. Will I make it back?”

With about a kilometre to go (of the nearly 6 km walk), I got a second wind! I picked up the pace, walked tall and proud, and had a fantastic time. At one point, I realized that when I started this blog, at most I would walk about 3 km – half way around the park and back. Today was my third or fourth time walking all the way around.

But wait: it gets better!

Today I took 5 minutes off of my time!

Last week, I walked the entire 5.7 km in 1 hour 18 minutes. Today I did it in 1 hour 13 minutes. Last month, I couldn’t even walk half way around before I had to turn back, exhausted and in pain.

You know what?

I feel amazing!

I’m pretty sure that some of this amazing feeling comes from beating my time. And perhaps, just perhaps, the other part of it comes from those endorphins kicking in… how else could you explain that sudden burst of energy and the big smile I had on my face as I walked the last kilometre? Whatever it is, it does feel pretty good. I feel strong, healthy, energized, and in control.

In fact, that’s something I’ve been feeling more of lately: in control. I am not mindlessly eating or noshing on something loaded with carbs just because I’m feeling down. This in control feeling is making me feel a lot more hopeful about actually being able to achieve this goal.

Yay me!

Pain, punishment or pleasure?

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My good friend, Jenn, posted this picture on Facebook today. Honestly, I had never thought about exercise in this way before. In fact, I’ve pretty much hated exercise all my life. If I liked it, I’d do it, and I wouldn’t need to write this blog!

This picture really made me think about why I don’t like to exercise… it’s because I do see it as punishment. For that blizzard I ate on Friday. For the extra weight I’m carrying. As a means to an end. Something I have to do.

But, what if I started seeing it as a positive? I’m pretty sure that’s what healthy, fit people do…. right? They actually like exercise, or so I assume. I will, rather sheepishly admit, that I do kinda like the way I feel after I’ve exercised. Unless, of course, I’ve pushed myself too hard, and then my whole body screams in protest. (I’m not quite at the “no pain, no gain” place yet!)

How can I make exercise a more positive part of my day? I’m not quite sure yet. Like I keep saying, the mental aspect of this journey is perhaps the toughest part. I can see the importance of shifting my mindset when it comes to exercise – seeing it as a reward rather than a punishment.

I came across a great article called The Attitude Ladder on the My Fitness Pal website. The Attitude Ladder looks like this:

– I did it!
– I will do it
– I can do it
– I probably can do it
– I might try to do it
– I’ll think about trying to do it
– I do want to do it
– I wish I could, but I’m not sure I can do it
– I don’t know how to do it
– I can’t do it
– I won’t try because I know I can’t do it

Before I started this blog, I would say that my attitude about exercise was pretty low, probably somewhere between “I can’t do it” and “I wish I could.” I am definitely moving up that ladder. I think I may be somewhere around “I do want to do it” and “I might try to do it.”

I want to get to the “I did it!” level. I want to feel healthy and fit. I want exercise to be a daily and enjoyable part of my day.

Wow. Listen to me. I am clearly at the “I do want to do it” level when it comes to fitness, aren’t I? Last week, with my food tracking challenge, I started out at the “I can do it” and today I definitely feel like I’m at the top of the ladder… and it feels amazing!

So, what do I need to do to move up the attitude ladder with fitness and exercise? How can I find pleasure and enjoyment when it comes to fitness? Like everything else on this journey, it starts with a mindset and words.