Monday, November 14, 2011

My Imperfect Practice

I took a trip to visit my in-laws for the weekend out of town. My sister in law lives right near a beautiful yoga studio, and I always try to take a class whenever I stay with her.

For me, going to yoga is like catching up with an old friend – I always am so happy I did it, and I vow it has been too long, and insist I need to do it more often. But, just like keeping in touch with a friend, sometimes life gets in the way.
I am faced with daily reminders why it is so important to stay in tune with my body. Although I have made fitness an important part of my life – sometimes I only have time to squeeze in a half hour. For me, I need to make that half hour count – it must be packed full of cardio goodness, and leave me feeling sculpted and strong. Sometimes, a few sun salutations don’t cut it.

Throughout the hour and a half of my class, I listen to the yoga instructor share those deep yoga thoughts that always speak right to my soul at the moment. I try to drink them in like a beautiful sunset, but moments later, the words fade into the white noise of my worrisome thoughts.

“You can’t plan ahead of time for what you will work on in yoga,” she said, “Sometimes, you don’t even know what you have to work on, until you get onto the mat.”

She was right. I did not really have a plan for that class except “to get a workout in”.

I did not know how much I would relish the breathing that day. The slow, methodical movements of my chataranga over the powerful, sweat-craving determination I have towards many of my workouts. I did not force myself into the asanas. I glided through them with as much grace and humility as I could muster.

She read from Meditations On the Mat, about how we often confuse humility with humiliation. Admitting we need help at times is hard for us. When the instructor handed me a block to help me as I trembled through my triangle pose, I accepted it graciously.

In the past, that would have been a humiliating moment for me. A moment where a negative thought process would have eaten through me, screeching that someone, somewhere, thinks that I am WEAK.

Weakness has been a theme for me for a long time. I beat myself up for not being able to juggle it all. For not having the time to clean. To cook perfect meals for my family. To carve out more time to work out every part of my body and my mind thoroughly. This catch as catch can lifestyle is tricky at times. I see admiration in people’s eyes when they marvel at how much I accomplish. I can’t look back at them, because my eyes would tell them “If you only knew how much I do NOT accomplish.”

These are the thoughts I don’t have time to access. These are the thoughts that greet me when I take enough time to breathe. To glide. To flow. And they are not bad thoughts. They are not as scary as they used to be.

I guess this may be because humility has begun to take over. Humiliation had such a comfy rent free space in my brain, that I started to assume it was a regular part of my thinking.

I can run the crazy away. I can lift weights and create that nice definition in my arms that I dream of. But there is a space inside of me that still has room to grow. That Small space is begging for my attention to make it stronger. To flourish inside of me.

In that space, there is a forgiveness that is starting to blossom like a tiny rose, reminding me that I am not perfect. And in that small bud of imperfection, I can find a world of possibility.

I just need to allow myself a moment, at least once in a while, to reach out and remember it is there.

Like that old friend.

Always there, ready to pick up the conversation where we left off.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Meeting Goals

I know 2011 is not over yet, but it has been SUCH a crazy year so far, it is hard not to look back already and reflect on everything that has been going on.

Almost a year ago - Christmas of 2011, actually, I made a goal to run my first half marathon. The thought of running more than 5 miles intrigued me more than scared me. The goal was still not so tangible where the idea really terrified me yet. It was not the first time I thought about doing a half marathon. For about 2 years, I told myself "if I train for it, then I will register for it and run it."

After the second year, I figured myself out pretty well, and knew I was NOT going to train for it, unless I took the plunge and registered.

Winter was rough. I hate the cold, and even if I loved it, the roads were so icy from all of our storms, it was near impossible getting outside to run. I even purchased Yaktrax (pictured) to wear over my sneakers to run on ice and snow, but I was hit with another issue - my husband was away a lot over the winter, leaving no one to watch our young son while I went for early morning or evening runs. While the Yaktrax were useful for shoveling my car out of the snow drifts, I did not get any runs out of them.

The point of my blog is to share how a full time working mom gets her workouts in. I made use of the gym near me, and had to squeeze workouts before I picked up my son from daycare, or in the living room with a P90X DVD after I put him to bed. This did not always mean getting a run in, however. When my husband returned, I would either get to the treadmill if it was dark out, or get my long runs during weekends as the ice thawed and spring reared her much awaited for head. Early mornings, when my husband was home, I would hit up 5:15AM spin classes. This meant going to bed the same time my son did. This also meant that laundry wasn't always finished during the week.

My half marathon was on May 1. From January until the end of April, I had to find any time I could to get a run in. On weekdays, I could only get in short runs. Weekends were for longer runs. I managed to conquer my first 10K race in the process - the morning of my son's 4th birthday party! The moms oohed and ahhhhed as they watched me walk around in stiletto heels later that day. But for me, I only accomplished half the distance I needed and I still had a month to go.

My longest run before the half was 8 miles. People assured me if I could run 8 miles, I could run 13.1.... They were sadly mistaken. My legs crapped out at mile 10, and the next 3.1 miles were spent with me crying in the hot sun as I just said to myself, "one more step... one more step..."

I did finish.

And promptly signed up for my SECOND half, which I just completed in early October.

I had more time to train for that, but discovered training in the summer is harder than training in the winter. I followed the same pattern - a 10K a month before my half. Little by little, I felt stronger with each race. Over the summer, I switched jobs, and my husband got a new job with weekend hours. Once again, we both have to juggle our workout schedules to balance out time together, and time with our son.

2011 is not over yet, but I ran numerous 5K races (one of them the Warrior Dash, which I will post about another day), walked 35 miles for breast t cancer, ran a 4 mile race for autism, 2 10K races, and 2 half marathons. We still have 2 and a half months to go before we say goodbye to 2011 and all the challenges it held. I still have a few more races to train for before that happens.

Wonder what 2012 will bring.....?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Running Back to Awareness...

After a long bout of writer’s block, I read a Bukowski poem about being a writer, and remembered why I wrote in the first place.

This blog is all about juggling everything on top of maintaining a level of fitness I can live with. Not being perfectly fit, but perfect enough for me. I get so hard on myself. I always strive to be the best at everything I do. Eventually, something fizzles out.

Although I haven’t been blogging, I have still kept up my fitness. I have experienced amazing races, all sorts of fitness classes, and have gotten so much out of my journey back into becoming as fit as a 37 year old, full time working mom can become. I will try to get back to sharing these experiences.

It started tonight. Today was the second day of a brand new job. I am already steeped heavily into a project due in 2 days. I have had to deal with Hurricane Irene… no power… no Internet… and still trying to balance my home life, fitness life, and work life…

I was lacing up to go meet with my running club.

As I head out the door, an anxiety attack started to creep up my chest, constricting my breath like an asthma attack. I have had experience with these anxiety attacks, and have worked hard to remain bigger than them.

“It’s OK…” I whisper to myself, “I’m OK! It’s just anxiety. It’s not going to take my run away from me.”

Taking deep breaths, I drive to the track I have been going to once a week, running speed work with some of the fastest people I know.

These people are CRAZY fast. Like, 50 year olds who run 5 minute miles kind of fast.

People who own no other piece of clothing except for running gear, and shirts from the millions of marathons they do in 2 hours.

And then there is me. Running 9:30 minute miles, my hips moving with a mind of their own. I don’t have that graceful, sleek stride of a runner. I have a huffing, puffing, waddle of a baby hippo trying to keep up with her mother.

And, these people welcome me. They smile and cheer me on, giving me these sweet smiles the way a grownup looks at a cute toddler trying on her mommy’s high heels.
“Awww – look! She thinks she is running! How cute!!!”

But they don’t tell me that. They honest to God cheer me on. A 40-something year old breast cancer survivor. 50-something year old men who compete against each other, bare chested and covered in sweat and still hot as hell (blushing).

All cheering me on. I come dead last at the end of every drill, and they tell me I look great. I am doing awesome.

And they all are able to do it because they all finish before me, and have plenty of breath power to still yell and cheer.

“You know, every week, you get faster” Bob tells me.

Let me tell you about Bob.

Bob is a man, maybe close to 70. Always smiling. Always wearing track suits from the 70’s, when he used to actually run marathons. He volunteers every week to hold the stopwatch, create the drills, give us pointers, and share random facts about bumblebees.

He will tell me some pointer that is really about running, but if you look deeper, it is actually about life…. I am convinced he isn’t doing it by accident.

“Loosen the grasp of your hands,” he tells me “Look how tight you hold them. It is taking too much of your energy. Just let them go… Let them hang loosely – you will see the difference. I promise!”

And these are words of wisdom. I come to this thing to learn how to run a little faster, and at some point I start welling up wanting to cry…. Learning a life lesson I never knew I needed.

And then I will pass him, flapping my hands around loosely like a spastic T Rex “There you go! See! You just took off 10 seconds from your time! I told you!”

And this is why I keep running. To remind me there is never a level of perfection I can achieve. That is a delusion.

Running keeps me humble. Reminds me how much work I still have to do, even when I work my butt off.

And a small change… Just letting go a little, can mean a little baby step closer to a goal I never even knew I had.

By the way, here’s my theory on Bob. I am convinced that when I die, he will be standing there at the gates. Shoes untied, track suit worn and weathered, with a stopwatch in his hand.

“You made perfect time,” he will tell me. “Now… Recover!”

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Defining "Fit"

Throughout this journey, I keep thinking about how my perceptions of “fit” have changed as I have gotten older. And busier. Ten years ago, fitness meant working out at least 2 hours a day. Hardcore cardio, or if I used weights, I would attend group fitness classes with names like “Chisel.”

I was a certified AFAA instructor (Aerobics and Fitness Association of America as well as a licensed Spin instructor ( I had a series of other certifications. There were days I would teach 5 classes. Most of the time I felt amazing. Some days, I felt horrendous. I recall one evening arriving early for a spin class I was teaching. I stayed in the car, and decided to close my eyes for a few minutes. I fell dead asleep and almost was late for my class. I popped up, arriving groggy to the class.

For me, if I didn’t sweat daily, I was letting something slide. It was not an option to take a day off. To slow down. Even taking a yoga class felt like a cop out to me. Like I was somehow cheating the fitness gods if heaven forbid I didn’t get my heart rate up to 85% of my maximum heart rate. This all or nothing approach would eventually shoot me in the foot.

Fast forward 10 years later. In the past ten years, I have learned a great deal about what not to do when it comes to fitness and pushing my body. After following the above schedule for about 2 years, ontop of living on caffeine and not enough sleep, a bizarre thing happened to me.

I started to fall asleep at two o’clock in the afternoon. I would be driving and start to nod the way one would do if driving all night. It was terrifying. I began to put on weight. I never felt good. I always felt bloated, and toxic. I was depressed. I was craving things I never ate before. Sugary carbs – muffins, cookies, things like that. I was drinking sugary coffee drinks. I couldn’t stop for a while. I assumed I was getting older and my body was finally turning to crap. I was 29 years old!

Two women in the fitness profession told me what was happening to my body: adrenal fatigue.

It was a message to my body. I had to slow down a little. I had to come face to face with the realization that I was…. Du Du Duuuuu…. HUMAN (gasp!)

I quit my classes. I actually did something that seemed so contradictory at the time. I worked out less, and I ate more. I started going to yoga more regularly. I was inspired by this tall, gorgeous older woman who seemed to be in phenomenal shape. She told me the only thing she did was yoga. This began the first step to an eventual journey to yoga. Am I a Yogi? No. but do I see yoga as this cop out workout? Hell no. That shit is HARD!!!!

It took six months to feel better. A year to feel human again. It scared me enough to think long and hard about what I was doing both inside and outside of my body. Ironically, despite the fact that I did not do cardio or lift a single weight for a year, I felt fitter than I did in a long time. People were complimenting me – saying I looked great. Asking me what I was doing. When I would tell them “nothing”, I wished I said I ran a marathon weekly instead. I would have gotten fewer “looks”.

I am not in a place where I can even work out the way I did years ago. But I want to make sure that my choices keep leading to health.

In January, I spent a weekend at Kripalu Yoga Center in Massachusetts. It is a place where everyone seems to radiate good health. I attended a Nia weekend. It was different than the crazy Zumba classes I am accustomed to. It was slow, easy going, meditative. One evening, I was going to run on the treadmill in the workout room (thinking I need to get my miles in for this half marathon). On the way there, I heard a voice tell me to stop.

“You can run anytime. You are at a beautiful spa. ENJOY it!”

I used to ignore those voices. The voices that would tell me to stop. Slow down. Sleep. Eat. Forgive myself for needing to rest. Enjoy myself.

But, this time I listened.

I went and drank tea with the Nia ladies. That evening, while sipping ginger tea with tons and tons of hot honey (yummmmm) I felt so good.

I felt fit.

One morning at that Kripalu weekend, I woke up for a 6am yoga class. It was wonderful. The next morning, instead of waking up for the same class, I slept in. The day before, I did back to back yoga and YogaDance classes, and then danced madly at a drumming circle that night. When the alarm went off the next morning, I didn’t move.

“Rest,” the voice told me, “This is YOUR weekend.”

I woke up – 2 hours later - so refreshed.

I have to keep reminding myself that the most important part of being fit is being balanced. And forgiving to my body. I am 37 years old, and even if I had the time, I probably could not get to the psycho-Energy Bunny levels I was at at age 27. And even if I could, I would only be able to keep it up for a short amount of time before my body crapped out again.

So every day is a journey. Some days it’s exciting. Some days it’s mundane. But a few things have helped bring back the spice to my life again:

Spinning 2 mornings a week. I love it. I wear my heart rate monitor and challenge myself the whole time. I realize not everyone will be as passionate as I am about it, but it works for me!

Jivamukti yoga. A married couple from the Jivamukti yoga center in New York City come out to Long Island every weekend to teach Jivamukti yoga to a small group in a tiny studio. I do it every Sunday morning for 90 minutes and it helps me so much. I end every class crying and making huge revelations about myself. But that’s for another entry.

Planning for my half marathon. I don’t know how I’m going to do this. But I’m doing it!

I also have been reading two amazing books:

Poser: My Life in Twenty-three Yoga Poses by Claire Dederer – a very funny book about a mom’s journey finding yoga

Crazy Sexy Diet by Kris Carr – a great book written by a young, beautiful cancer survivor who has been healing herself through diet and yoga. She gives tips and reasons why we all need to eat better and exercise.

If this is a journey, I need to view it like a long road trip to somewhere really fun. There will be blasting the radio to awesome song moments. There will be “Are we there yet?” moments. There will be pit stops, pulling to the side to stretch, and napping moments.

There will even be junk food moments (like the Valentine chocolate gorge fest I thoroughly enjoyed!)

There will be sunrises, and sunset. There will be “Stop to take a picture” moments.
We don’t feel guilt when we go through each of these moments on a road trip.

So, the largest weight I will let go of is my guilt and my judgment of what “Fit” is based on what I thought “Fit” was.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Family Affair

Last week we finally had a snow day. I had been so burnt out with my work schedule (and also my workout schedule – but shhh – don’t tell my husband!) that I practically got down on my knees the evening before the snow started begging that I would wake up the next morning to big, heaping, debilitating mountains of snow.

Hallelujah. The heavens were on my side, because over night we were hit with over a foot of snow!

Unlike the previous snow day, where I happily volunteered to shovel my sister-in-law’s driveway, I lay like a sloth on the couch with my son. Together we watched Star Wars movies as my hubby shoveled away. Occasionally, he would enter the house like a Wampa, leaving puddles of melting snow in his path.

Eh. I’ll clean it later.

This was how I enjoyed most of the day. In my PJs. Drinking coffee. Tooling the internet. Playing with my son.

The snow day fell on a Wednesday – a day when I usually teach two Zumba classes. That night was actually going to be my last evening class. I dropped it to have more time to train for the half marathon, or to just have the evening to spend with my family if I wanted it.

I didn’t realize how thrilled I was with that decision until I breathed a sigh of relief knowing it was cancelled.

I wonder how many other things in my life fall into some sort of category where I will not admit it is one thing too many on my already full plate...

So, I spent the day mostly as a couch potato. The idea of getting up off the couch to do anything at all didn’t quite appeal to me.

I spent some time studying for my AFAA exam – an aerobic certification exam I decided to get recertified in. I let my certification lapse when I was pregnant, thinking I will never work out again, let alone teach. I was wrong. And now I have to sit through a day long certification and a 100 question test as the consequence.

After studying for an hour, and a hearty lunch of vegan mushroom soup and quinoa (yum!!!, my body started aching to move. It was bound to happen. It is so used to never stopping. At some point my body must have noticed I have ceased being active, and probably started to panic, thinking the rest of me was dead. By 4:00PM, I realized some type of exercise was in order.

It was getting dark. My son was watching his 8th consecutive hour of Star Wars, happily playing with playdoh at his seat. My husband was playing a Star Wars video game (the force is strong in our family.)

The novelty of being stuck in the house was finally wearing off.

I brought my laptop and my P90X DVDs upstairs, and pulled out the arm and shoulders workout. I brought out my dumbbells, and hubby heard a lot of knocking and clumping around as I set up my weights. He came upstairs to see what the commotion was about. When he saw I was doing P90X – a Christmas gift he bought for me, but was secretly checking out every chance he could get, he asked if I wanted to do it together with him!

Before our son, we worked out together all the time. We hiked. We ran. We hit the gym. It was such an instrumental part of our relationship – a foundation that crumbled once we had a baby and had to juggle our schedules around. Weekends are usually spent doing the child handoff as we take turns working out.

So, working out together after almost 4 years has not really been an option for us.

Hubby and I hauled all of our weights into the living room. Our son was intrigued and promptly showed us his push ups. He asked if he could exercise with us too.
Together, we all did the DVD together. Our son, C, used his light sabers as weights. In between sets, he would kiss me and say “Great job, mommy!” – I guess daddy didn’t seem to need the same kind of cheering.

It was so nice being able to exercise and still spend time with my family. This was a once in a blue moon thing.

Or, at least – a once in a snow storm kind of thing!

Monday, January 3, 2011

New Year: Renewal Amidst the Chaos

I walked into the school I consult in, and stop first at the school psychologist's office, with whom I work closely with. In the short amount of time we have known each other, she must have gotten accustomed to my Monday morning craziness. As I walked into her office - smiling calmly - she burst out laughing.

"New year.... New YOU?" She told me I looked "Zen."

"Hardly," I laugh back, "Zen would be pushing it. More like, 'not waking up with the suffocating anxiety I feel every Monday morning'"

Zen comes later, I guess.

And, it's back to the grind. Monday, January 3rd. 2011. The world may or may not end by next year.

But that's a differenmt story.

Last night, I promised myself that I would wake up crack of dawn to get my run on. To get started on the training for the half marathon I signed up first (in the past, I figured if I'd train, I would register. This year, I got wise: If I register, I will train).

I forgot an important step- if I don't oversleep, I will train.


So, I miss my run because I overslept. A common occurrence in my life. ESPECIALLY when I don't set the alarm.


But, here's the back story - and the important piece I ofetn neglect in my head which allows for the forgiveness to come. The all important realization I am a HUMAN - not a robot:

I drove home yesterday from NJ. An almost 4 hour drive with my 3 year old.

I came home, and it was a bath for him. Then the cleaning up of the mess we left before our trip. Then the unloading of the car. Then the toy clean up after my son entertained himself while doing all of the above.

Then story.

Then bedtime - his. Not mine.

And then, while planning on going to bed early to be ready for my early morning wake up, my husband asks if I want to see a movie.

Oh yeah - relationship time.

I agree to a few episodes of Scrubs (my addiction - and another of my favorite Christmas presents - all the seasons in a box set. Rejoice!)

And then the late wake up call.

I sighed, but did not yell out "CRAP" the way I usually do.

I curled back in the covers, and gave myself the time to ease out of bed. And spent the morning with my husband and little boy, watching them wrestle...

Tomorrow, I plan on going to my spin class. My gym bag is packed. My spin clothes are laid out. From there I go straight to work.

Here's the worst part about Tuesdays: They usually are my late days. I do presentations most Tuesday nights... after working all day.

They can go from 12-14 hours, depending on the day.

I leave before my son wakes up, and come home after he is asleep. I don't get to see him at all most Tuesdays.

Even if I skipped my Spin class, I would still have to leave before he wakes up. so my warped logic is this: I may as well get a workout in, and do something healthy for myself, since a little piece of myself will be missing for the rest of the day.

This is another piece I always have to juggle.

I get asked so often how I find the time to work out.

Here's my answer: I squeeze it in to the little time I have for myself - sleep, recreation, etc. I try so hard to not take that time away from my son.

Sometimes, my days are like a jigsaw puzzle with 10000 pieces. Sometimes the pieces are all there. Sometimes they are under a couch cushion next to the cracker crumbs, lost toys, and God knows what else is under there.

I will do my best to wake up tomorrow morning for spin.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Why the "Perfect Fit?"

I call this blog the “Perfect Fit” because that is what I am aspiring to find in my chaotic life.

Not a number on the scale. Not a clothing size (and let’s face it – clothing sizes vary from company to company, style, design, and everything else – who knows what size we REALLY are anyway?)

I am talking about fitness.

The Perfect Fit for someone who must juggle many, many things: Family, household, full time job, part time job. Not to mention other aspects of my life – date nights with my husband, reading books, pursuing spirituality, and just good old fashioned doing nothing but laying on the couch and being a potato!

I am 37 years old. I stopped wanting to be “thin” a long time ago. I don’t focus on the perfect body, because, really, I don’t even know what a perfect body is anymore. I have gone through so many phases in my life – the “hating my body” phase. The “not caring anymore so I am going to let my body go to shit” phase. The “tired of covering up my body” phase, and of course, the “gym rat hard body” phase – only achievable when you have nothing else to do but spend hours in the gym every evening (ahhhh – the good old days!!!)

I have the week off this week – I am staying with my sister-in-law in NJ. On Sunday into Monday, we had the snow storm. Knowing we were all going to be inside together with nothing to do and nowhere to go (not to mention a house filled with munchies and movies!) I offered to go out and shovel in the morning. Hey – a workout is a workout, right? It also racks up some bonus points for me! You have to love a house guest who will do the snow shoveling!

It has been fun looking around for new places to work out while I’m here as well. This morning, my sister-in-law babysat my 3 year old (cashing in my bonus points already!) so that I could take an hour and 15 minute power yoga class and stretch out the kinks from the holidays, the driving, the cold, the shoveling, and everything else I have dealt with the last few days…. I felt so calm after it. Such a nice way to finish off the holidays.

Since I am here for the week, I decided to see what else is in the area. I found a gym right around the corner, and if I play my cards right, I can get a good workout in everyday.

My husband will be joining us tomorrow night, so once again, the balance will be family, marriage, AND working out. We plan to take in a movie night, just the 2 of us, since I received a bunch of movie gift certificates. Luckily we also have my stepdaughter, grandma and grandpa, and my sister-in-law here to watch the little man while we go out and spend some time with each other (lately we have been 2 ships passing in the night…)

So, as I discussed in my first post, I am looking at 2011 with new goals. I want to get out of the “phases” phase of my life, and embrace my accomplishments wherever – and whenever – I can.

Carving time out of my life for fitness is a juggling act in and of itself, but at the end of the day, I love the feeling when I can tell myself – I did all of this today AND went to spin at 5 in the morning!

What are your goals for 2011? What do you hope to achieve? What challenges stand in your way? Are they real, or imagined? What can you do to shift those challenges so that it works for you?