Becoming a Badass
When I first started blogging in 2006, I learned to make the rounds of other people’s blogs. As we do.
First, I read one person’s blog, and then I’d click on the comment of one of the readers of that blog and be taken to his/her blog, and so on and so on and so on. Over time, I figured out which blogs appealed to me and, over even more time, I started to develop relationships with a few of my fellow bloggers. That community then transferred to Facebook, where I’ve gotten to know multiple bloggers in a way that feels even more real and immediate.
In fact, thanks to reading blogs and friending up on Facebook, my family was given a free place to stay in Connecticut a couple years ago when we took a road trip to the East Coast. For several nights, blogging pal and Facebook friend Meredith and her family extended huge hospitality and allowed us to have a few days in New York City without paying NYC accommodation prices. We took the train into the city from her place and then returned each evening–most memorably, one night to a bottle of scotch she’d left on our bed as a gift.
Yea, she’s rad like that.
At any rate, when I met Meredith face-to-face, she was confident, kind, fabulous. It surprised me, then, that she jokingly mentioned not loving her weight, as it was higher than it had been earlier in life. This also surprised me, for in my view, Meredith looked perfectly perfect.
What we in the world see so often differs from what’s going on inside the heads of those around us, though.
In the time that’s passed since Meredith and I met, as I’ve watched her challenge herself to a place of change, I’ve gained even more admiration for her. In fact, I asked her to write something that chronicles what she’s achieved in recent months.
*drumroll, please* Therefore, Readers, I ask you to welcome Meredith and her story of change.
Here is her story:
My exercise journey.
For starters, I have always been very content with sitting, hanging out, relaxing. And snacking. Chillin’ and snacking. And drinking. Chillin, snacking, and drinking. Yah, really. But, one day I realized I wasn’t content. My body would wheeze as I climbed stairs, shoulders would hurt just hanging curtains, mowing the lawn was too big a task, and a simple walk on a trail was exhausting. My body size increased little by little over the years, and I didn’t even really notice. Until, I noticed. And then I stopped and really took a look. I needed a change. I had already taken control of my digestive issues (celiac and dairy intolerant). I’d given up gluten and dairy – with that, my system was doing better – it was time I started exercising. This was scary because I’d never really intentionally worked out. I mean, I had an elliptical, but that was just for hanging clothes on. And I had sneakers, but they were just to wear when walking the dog on the front lawn.
For my 40th birthday I decided to do a Warrior Dash. The Warrior Dash is a 5k race over mixed terrain with several obstacles including lots of mud, water, and fire. When it’s done you get a free beer and a big turkey leg and enjoy the party. It was exciting sounding. I spent all summer building up to run just two miles. It would take me 24 minutes on a good day to run 2 miles and I needed my inhaler, a lot of water, and my husband who would run with me – encouraging me. It was a hard summer filled with tiny milestones that made me feel I was doing something. Some days my kids would get involved and run with me. While I was slow and plodding I felt I was doing something good. I did the Warrior Dash with family and friends and yes, it was loads of fun! Then winter hit and I did nothing but hang out and hibernate all winter.
By spring I was ready to practice running again to do another Warrior Dash, and maybe a local 5k too. I was demoralized at how hard it was for me to build up back up to one mile again and how winded I was and how slow I felt. It took me 45 minutes to run a 5k. I remember a friend of mine laughing jokingly about it. I was surprised at how personally I took it and had bad it made me feel. I didn’t want to be that wimpy and slow. I remember thinking I needed more work and more encouraging friends. That fall I did the Warrior Dash again with family and friends, and again it was a blast. Winter came and I put away my running shoes. I bought P90X for my husband and some days we worked out together – I gave up by March, my husband kept going.
A month after I turned 42 I decided I needed something more. That November I joined a Crossfit gym for their introductory package. I didn’t make it through all four weeks. It was hard, I couldn’t squat, I couldn’t do a push up; heck, I couldn’t do most of it. Everyone was nice, and very encouraging. I had panic attacks at the thought of going. I made excuses. I quit. I thought to hire a personal trainer. I quit after my introductory classes too. Not because he wasn’t good. He was. They gym wanted way more money than he was worth though, and I was doing a number of the same moves Crossfit had done.
The holidays came and went, winter turned to spring, and my family signed up for Warrior Dash again. I went for a run. One mile almost killed me. With tears in my eyes and an inhaler in my shaking hands, I thought I would have to cede to the muumuu and let life pass me by – this was too hard – I should just give up, accept the fact that I’m middle aged and not supposed to be pushing myself this hard. My sweet husband talked me off the ledge and after a couple puffs of the inhaler, a glass of water, and a talk, I was still not ready for the muumuu. He joined Crossfit in June – a different one fromwhere I went. A better one, he said. He and my son went to the “on ramp” classes and finished.** By July 4th he convinced me to start the on ramp classes too. I couldn’t finish the workout in my first intro class. I was so embarrassed I didn’t want to go back. But I did go back. I finished the intro classes, learned all the moves, and even met some very nice and encouraging people. After one excruciating workout, we had to finish with a 100m run. I was the last person. I don’t remember who it was, but one Crossfitter joined me; she actually ran with me, encouraging me every step. While my mocking nature wants to say something snarky or jokingly dismissive, I can’t: I needed that at that very moment and I will always be super appreciative of her actions. When I finished the 100m, I fought off tears and vomit – I had pushed myself pretty hard, and for the first time I felt great.
The rest of that summer I did Crossfit. My husband was right; it was a better one. My coaches were 100% committed to making sure I was doing everything right and constantly reminded me to breathe. It seems I forget to breathe when hyper-focused and moving at the same time. I thought I was going to die or throw up a number of times. I needed a sandbag on my feet to do sit ups, and rowing 500m was like 500 miles. Running 400m might as well have been 2 miles, push-ups were modified on my knees, box jumps were step ups, and barbell work was just the bar. To an outsider – I looked SUPER wimpy. From my perspective I was giving it all I had. My body loved and despised what I was doing to it.
My 43rd birthday came and went along with another Warrior Dash, only this time, I didn’t train for it, and I beat my previous year’s score by 15 minutes. I was bowled over. It’s coming up on one year at Crossfit, and this weekend I’m doing the Tough Mudder. I’m no skinny Minnie, I still eat junk food, (gluten free/dairy free junk food), and have the “occasional” recreational beverage, but the muumuu is definitely not in my immediate future. I can now do tons of sit ups without help, run two miles without the inhaler (I’m still not a fast runner), row 500m without breaking into a drenching sweat, lift barbells with some weight now, and even climb a rope half-way up. I can do yard work, climb stairs, and hang curtains and workout now.
I have no plans on being Miss Crossfit America, or competing in the Games, or even deadlifting 200 lbs. BUT I do plan on hiking, skiing, kayaking, doing yard work and running fun mud runs – and that takes wind in your lungs, and muscles in your arms and legs to carry you through it all. So, while I still get a little anxiety before going to work out still, and I argue with myself that some things are “just too hard,” that doesn’t mean I’ll be giving up any time soon. I like how I feel when I’ve given my body exercise.
**On Ramp is Crossfit speak for intro classes. All boxes (Crossfit speak for gym) have an intro period where you are introduced to all the movements used in Crossfit mixed with workouts designed to ramp you up to being able to jump into a Crossfit WOD (Crossfit speak for workout of the day) at the end of your intro period. Every box varies in how many classes are required before joining their regular workouts. All boxes have their own personality too – not all are equal. If you are interested in Crossfit, I suggest going into several and meet the owners/coaches to find the best fit for you.