Monday, July 9, 2012

To Feel Strong

I was supposed to have my leg cut off in Washington D.C. After years of doing research and weighing my options, I had a doctor lined up at George Washington University Hospital who was willing to amputate it. Then we got the call that my husband was being transferred to Utah. So the surgery had to wait.

I truly believe it was a gift, this change in schedule. Eight months later, when we were settled into our new home in the West, I was facing my new life with an artificial limb in a place where everyone around us was outside and active. There are endless activities calling to be explored in a state like Utah. As soon as I had my first leg I was at the gym every day, riding for hours and hours to get back the muscles I’d lost after years of immobility. Five months after my amputation I was standing under the red rock arches in Zion National Park. I’d hiked up the trail on my own two legs.

I enjoyed feeling like I could be active and athletic for the first time in my life. I’d lived with that deformed foot, that deteriorated as the years went by, for so many years that I never really thought about how great it would be to be strong again. The more we explored the state, the more I sweated away at the gym, to be able to keep going.

For two more years we lived in Utah and visited the many amazing places that can be found within its borders. Then we moved to New York, again with my husband’s job. It was a welcome move. We wanted to be closer to his large, loving family. We’d lived on the East coast before and really felt at home there.

But for the five years we were there life got crazy. The first year was spent doing major house renovations. The second year I worked full time, for the first time since we’d had our four kids. Our kids went through some of their hardest life stages while we lived in New York. The youngest started kindergarten and the oldest started high school in our first year there. We had middle schoolers and high schoolers the whole time we lived there. Juggling our schedule and keeping the house afloat was a trick sometimes.

I rarely made it to the gym. I’d get motivated, work out hard for a few weeks, then the hectic-ness of life would catch up with me again and I’d give up. In Utah I had motivation to stay healthy because I loved my adaptive ski lessons in Park City and I had to be in shape to hit the mountain. I never skied in New York. The conditions were not as reliable and the cost was out of our league.

I got soft in New York. I lost my motivation. I was still deeply grateful for my new leg, and the opportunities it gave me, but I wasn’t strong anymore. I got through my days, getting everything done that needed my attention, and it was possible because I wasn’t dragging around that old deformed foot anymore. But as far as being ‘fit’, I just wasn’t.

Now we’re back in the West. A job change to Colorado last year put us back in this climate that agrees with me so deeply. I love the dry air. I love the cool mountain breezes that flow through my house, making 85 degrees feel very comfortable on a July day. I look out my windows and see the mountains in the distance. And as I run errands around town I see meadows laced with trails, calling to me. I see people outside, biking, walking, running. Everyone is active. Every car has a bike rack or a kayak strapped to the top.

I work at the community recreation center. All afternoon I greet people as they come in to exercise. I’m constantly reminded how important it is, at every age, to stay in shape and feel strong.

So I’ve started again. With my free employee membership I’m back on that stationary bike, sweating away. I’m already feeling strong again. I notice it in every hour of my day. As I’m in the kitchen making dinner I feel tall and stable. As I walk through the grocery store I recognize how much my gait improves when my leg muscles are strong.

I still have about 20 pounds to go before I’m in the governments standards for a healthy weight. But I know I’ll be there eventually. Hopefully by Halloween, definitely by Christmas. And in the meantime I’m feeling better every day. The better I feel, the more motivated I am to go back to that bike the next day, to keep the momentum going.

I watched a weight loss show last night. The 20 year old weighed close to 350 pounds, and spent a year doing her best to work on her weight. On her 21st birthday she had her final weigh in. She weighed 150 pounds. She lost nearly 200 pounds in a year. A year of sweating like crazy and being dedicated to her goal. That inspires me more than you can imagine. If that dedicated kid can lose 200 pounds, I can lose twenty.

So today I was back on that bike. It didn’t hurt that the Tour de France was on the TV in front of me. I imagined that I was next to those riders. As they pumped away, headed up the hills in France, I did too, on my stationary bike in Colorado.

I imagined that overweight girl, trying so hard to exercise, even when her own body flapped against her thighs and made her want to quit. I thought about that woman back in Utah, who had her leg cut off to get a more active life. The one who looks a lot like me. The one I see in pictures, who has my face, but also a toned, strong body.

I think I’d lost her for a bit. For a long time I didn’t even realize she was missing. But here she is, coming out again. She’s back in a place that motivates her. Back to a life where her kids are asking her to ride bikes with them and explore new places with them. She sees a ski season ahead that is a possibility again. She needs to be strong again.

And so I pedal away. I peel myself off that bike after a hard 45 minutes, and I head over to the bathroom. I take off my sweat filled leg and wipe it down, so I can walk easily again, without slurping in each step. I make my way over to the circle of weight machines and dive in. To feel strong all over I need to remember I have muscles on my top half too.

After that routine I grab a mat and lay on the floor. Stretching out my body, reaching above my head as far as I can, releases tension. Then the sit ups and leg lifts begin. It all feels so good even as it strains my abilities.

When I walk to the car I feel wiped out, yet refreshed. I feel one notch stronger. Even if the scale isn’t my friend just yet, it doesn’t matter. How I feel matters. And right now, I feel strong again.

Walking out those doors, the mountain range spread out in front of me, I feel at home.

And I feel strong.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Gift of Music and Exercise

I woke up this morning feeling very refreshed.

That’s what happens when you fall asleep at 9 pm, in the middle of watching The Muppet Movie. We were watching it on a school night only because it was rented from Red Box and we just had to get it back before those dollar fees started adding up. When you fall asleep at 9pm, you tend to wake up at 6 am very refreshed. So there was no question that I’d go to the gym after dropping Sam off at school.

I puttered online for a bit. Then I puttered in the kitchen for a bit. And by the time I was climbing the stairs to wake up Sam I was losing my steam. Suddenly I felt really sleepy again. I couldn’t stop yawning. I started that dangerous game of talking myself into not going to the gym this morning.

It would be soooo much easier to just skip the gym. I had sooo much to get done at home. Maybe I’d go later today (although I knew the chance of that was about 1%...I either exercise right away or not at all).

But then I remembered how exercise helps me feel better. I remembered how my blood sugar likes to spike when I don’t regularly ‘burn it off’. I remembered that I have lots of plans and goals for this spring and summer, lots of trails I want to hike and lots of bike paths I want to explore. I really couldn’t afford not to go.

I dropped Sam off at school and headed around the corner to the Rec Center. Just pulling in the parking space made me feel better. All around me other people were getting out of their cars, headed off to fitness classes, lap swimming and lifting weights. I was reminded how much I love living in a town where a good percentage of the population is active and fit. It’s very inspiring on those days when you let yourself forget how important it is to be healthy - every day.

I checked in at the front desk and headed up the tall staircase. My favorite bike was sitting there, empty, waiting for me. I got myself set up - towel draped over the handlebars, arm rests wiped down, book perched on the display, seat set on ‘12’, ear buds unraveled and plugged into my ipod, water bottle tucked into its slot.

With headphones popped into my ears, I was off. Knowing I was still dragging a bit, I cued up the work out play list, and the music filled me with energy. I pedaled away for a good hard 30 minutes without slowing down. Each time I thought I’d sit back and open my book, a new song, with faster rhythms would start up and I’d once again find new energy.

And that’s when I realized something. I love to work out. I love to ride the bike so hard that sweat pours down the sides of my face. I love it when my heart is racing. And I love it all even more when there is great music pounding in my ears.

It’s not a coincidence that I love these two things, working out and music. I appreciate them both. I am in awe of them both. I have the most respect for the things in life I don’t know how to do, and other people make look easy. Knitting falls into this category. Water color paintings do too. But music and exercise are two of the big ones.

Growing up with a deformed foot, exercise was never fun. It wasn’t just that I wasn’t athletically inclined. I physically couldn’t do the motions necessary. And on top of that, I had to hide the fact that I couldn’t jump in. I spent a good deal of mental energy trying to get out of sports and athletic situations. Which is why, over time, they put a very sour taste in my mouth.

That’s not to say I didn’t live in awe of sports and people who could do them. The easy stride of long distance runners, and the graceful lobbies of a pair of tennis players was like candy to my eyes. I couldn’t imagine how that felt, to push your body in those ways.

So now that I have this amazing bionic leg, and I can do more things that take place in a Recreation Center, I feel honored and blessed. I am surrounded by people who are pushing their bodies, in such a variety of ways, keeping their health a priority.

In the room across from my bike I watch with great interest the step aerobics class. Stairs are still not my friends so I’m intrigued by the motions the instructor puts her class through. On the floor to my left is a woman about ten years older than me, laying on a floor mat, stretching in ways that look like they’d feel really good once you’re finished. Across the room I can see the racquetball court, and two men slugging out their competitive drives as they try not to knock each other out with their swiftly swinging racquets.

I’m a part of this group. I’m a normal person here. Metal leg and all, I fit in. That’s not always been the case, and I’m thankful to be a part of the club.
And then there’s the music. When I’m just not motivated, when I’ve lost that burning desire to be athletic, and I’d rather just sit at home and click around on the internet, the music brings me back. Music is on the top of the list of things I cannot do, but enjoy to my core.

When the right song comes through those ear buds, I can go another four minutes, even when I was pretty sure, the second before, that I was completely done. I appreciate a great rhythm. I adore clever lyrics. And I’m a hundred percent sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I have no abilities when it comes to singing or playing any instrument beyond the kazoo.

I am in awe of the musicians who play that music that fills my ipod. I concentrate on listening for different instruments within a song. My friend Paul plays the bass guitar, so I listen for that. My son loves is acoustic guitar, so sometimes I see if I can find one in every song. My feet match the pace of the drums and my brain gets distracted by the lyrics. It pushes me on, for another five minutes at a time.

I finished up my work out today feeling very proud of myself. As wiped out as I felt, as I made my way to the exit door, my energy had returned. After the bike, I’d lifted some weights, then did some work of my own on that floor mat. Leona Lewis belting out Bleeding Love pushed me into several extra sets of sit ups. My leg was full of sweat as I limped to the car. I knew that once I got home I’d wipe it out and take that refreshing shower.

The gift of exercise and good music was just the thing I needed to start my day right.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

To Ski or Not to Ski

Okay, I’m back. How many times can I say that phrase?

I’m finally coming up for air, after six months of pure chaos. I know, it’s no excuse not to exercise, or even post here, but I’m calling it water under the bridge and moving on.

The NY house finally sold, and our whole family is finally in Colorado. We are still in the tiny condo, but if the stars are all aligned, we’ll be moving into a rental house in just two weeks…with twice the space. Then it will be time to truly exhale.

I am actually excited about getting back to a routine. Not just with exercise, but with cooking, grocery shopping, laundry…the things that make up life. I am here today, finally posting about my fitness journey, because I can actually say I went to the gym yesterday. Even in the middle of a snowstorm. And it was good. And yes, I have vowed to show up there many times a week, from this day forward.

I have gone to our local recreation center a total of three times since we’ve lived in Colorado. That’s bad. Especially considering all of my home exercise equipment is in a moving truck somewhere. So I can’t even pretend or allude to the fact that I’ve just been ‘doing it at home’.

But something happened this week that kicked me in the butt. It has to do with skiing.

I love to ski. It’s probably my very favorite activity, the top athletic perk that came with trading out my old leg for this new bionic one. I skied a lot in Utah. I found a fantastic program in Park City, and on the first anniversary of my amputation surgery, I began my lessons. Every Friday, that season and the two that followed, Jeff and I drove up to Park City and skied all day. It was cheap, through the Ability Center, and became a priceless get away for two people who are raising a house full of kids together.

I’d have two hours of lessons in the morning, then we’d spend all afternoon on the slopes together. We’d do a few runs late in the morning, then stop halfway down the slope, at a little cafĂ©, and split a hot juicy hamburger and fries. So many times I’d sit by that roaring fire, wondering if this was really my life. It was almost too good to be true.

Then we moved to NY. The skiing was more expensive and the snow was much less predictable. It was glaringly obvious why we always found ourselves on chair lifts with New Yorkers, back when we skied in Utah. There was a reason they all flew West to ski.

Life was crazier than usual. All four kids were in school, once Sam started kindergarten. The cost of living was outrageous. I went back to work, full time, then part time. We were constantly renovating the house. There just wasn’t any extra time or money to get me outfitted in the ski gear that I used to use for free in Utah. The ski conditions were not as stable, which I relied on a lot, as I swished down my favorite bunny slopes in Utah. I never got around to skiing in NY.

As soon as we knew we might be moving to Colorado, I knew I’d get to ski again. Not only is the snow just like Utah snow, but there are lots of adaptive programs in Colorado. It was exciting to think I could pick up my favorite sport again.

The past six months, as we’ve tried SO hard to get our family moved here, the priority had to be getting the kids on the slopes. Money was extremely tight, as we supported two households, while we waited for the NY house to sell. We lucked out, by having a local mountain with season passes for only 180 dollars. We bought a few, and then Grammy came through and bought the others, as Christmas presents for the kids.

By early Dec, my whole gang was enjoying the perfect Colorado slopes. And I was okay with waiting.

I know myself, when it comes to challenges. It’s all about the mental for me. I have to feel confident going into a challenge, or I’ll bail the second it gets hard. Then I’ll walk around thinking I hate that activity, just because one day went badly.

So I’d made a deal with myself, and shared it with my family. I need to get strong again, or skiing will not be fun for me. I tend to have weak hip muscles as it is, because of my years of disability before I got my new leg. When I skied in Utah I was strong. I loved it because I was capable and in control. So before I even click on the skis on a CO mountain, I want to be strong.

Since this ski season is slipping by, I made a promise to myself. I’ll spend this spring getting back in shape, getting back in control when it comes to fitness. I’ll jump on mountain bikes and spend time on the trails with my boys this spring. I’ll hike with my family this summer. Then, once October rolls around, I’ll be ready.

I’ll get the right gear together. I’ll find a pair of outriggers (the special poles I use, that act as second ‘brakes’ for me). I’ll hit that mountain ready.

Then I had an unexpected phone call this week. The manager of our local mountain, who we’ve come to know from spending so much time up there this year, called about an unrelated topic. By the end of our conversation I’d told her I’m a disabled skier. She hadn’t even known I was an amputee (long pants in winter, and all).

She is very familiar with disabled skiers and programs. She told me that our local mountain even has an instructor on staff who has trained Para-Olympic athletes. I had planned to drive over to Winter Park to get my Colorado lessons, and suddenly I’m finding out I can get lessons locally, with a well trained coach. She also had connections for finding me outriggers and anything else I might need on the slopes.

Whoa. I had been a bit slow in the motivation department, thinking I had months to get into shape. Our friend on the mountain was excited about doing all she could to get me on the mountain this year. Even if it’s just a few days in the late spring, softer snow. Now my fitness goal has been pushed to overdrive.

It’s just as well, I suppose. I’m still only about 30% confident that I’ll click into skis before October. But there’s no reason to drag my feet about getting in shape, either way.

So I looked up our bigger recreation center, the one closer to our soon to be new house, and Michael and I drove over there yesterday. He spent a half an hour digging the car out from the new 5 inches of snow we got, and then we slid our way down the road, in the still falling snow.

And I loved it. I felt so at home there. For never having been an athletic person, I love being in a gym. Maybe because I spent so many years feeling so inadequate there. Now I feel like I belong.

Let me be honest, to me, it’s one of the perks of my metal leg. People see me there and they give respect. They either assume I’m in the middle of rehab, after ‘my accident’, or they think I’m some super amazing disabled athlete. Neither are true. I’m just a soft middle aged lady, trying to get strong again. But it sure is motivating, to push harder and longer, when I know I’m getting ‘points’.

And I feel so good when I hit my wall, then push on. I love having the music pounding in my earphones, matching the rhythm of the song with my pumping legs. When I’m not riding to the rhythm of my music, I match my pace with the guy on the treadmill beside me.

I’ve made it no secret that I am in awe of runners. The fluidity. The rhythm. The pace. It’s all magic to me. It’s all I can do not to stare, when I have a smooth runner on the machine next to me. But yesterday I watched token random runner guy out of the corner of my eye, and I took encouragement from his long, even strides. If I closed my eyes, I could pretend I was running next to him.

I walked out of there feeling great. Wanting to come back. Wanting to get the strong me back. It’s all within my control. Whether I hit the slopes this year or not. It’s my game again.

And it’s good to be back.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Comparison vs. Inspiration

I know you’re not supposed to compare yourself to other people. We’re all individuals, worthy in our own way, and all that.

But we all do it. I do it. I know you do it. The trick is letting the comparisons motivate you, not tear you down.

I went to elementary school with a girl named Paige. Actually we went through all twelve years of school together. But we were the closest friends in elementary school. Twenty years after graduation, I found her again. On Facebook, of course. It was fun to catch up on what paths she’d taken and where she’d ended up. She got the journalism degree that I’m now wondering if I should have gone for, instead of elementary education. It was interesting to me, to hear about her adult life history.

Then a few months ago she started posting on Facebook that she had started an exercise program. I could respect that. People our age need to stay on top of the health thing. I kept seeing her consistent efforts, displayed on my Facebook newsfeed every few days. Every time I saw one I thought to myself, “good for her!”

Then a week ago she posted an update. It went something like this - “13 weeks: 15 pounds, 13 inches, 5% less body fat. Half of those inches came off in the last four weeks!” Wow! Fifteen pounds! In the weeks that had clipped by so quickly as I watched her exercise updates. She then reported that her clothes are all falling off of her and she feels better than she has in years. Talk about inspirational.

She didn’t have a surgery. She didn’t join anything more than a gym. She just started being much more careful about her food choices and she showed up at the appointed time to exercise every day.

And she showed that it can be done. As a matter of fact, she’s still doing it. I can’t wait to see what she looks like in 13 more weeks.

And her motivation got my butt out of the office chair. Sure, life has been crazy in my world lately. For six weeks we spent every spare minute renovating and fixing up the house so we could get it on the market. I was weary from painting and running move related errands.

But then the day came when the lists stopped. Aside from some small projects, the house was done. Ready to go on the market. Cleaned out, cleaned up, and ready to go. That coincided with my last day at work. I might fill in some, in the weeks to come, but I am no longer on the schedule at work. My whole day now revolves around waiting for calls for a showing, getting the dog out of the house for showings, keeping the family organized, and keeping up with some small writing assignments.

So there is basically no excuse not to exercise anymore. I’d been doing pretty well, when it came to exercise, after the first of the year, but once the news of moving hit, it all came to a screeching halt. And boy was I feeling it. It became harder to get out of chairs. It’s not easy for amputees to stand, from a seated position, in regular life. But when muscles are not strong, it’s even harder.

The lumpy tummy returned around my middle. It is not pretty. And the only cure for it is diet and exercise. My gait began to suffer too. When my legs are not strong, my gait is not strong. I could feel my need for exercise as much as I could sense it.

So, with Paige’s inspiration pushing me, I started back. And I’m lovin’ it. I love laying on that mat and stretching my body long, reaching above my head as I feel my back muscles stretch and loosen. I love doing a set of arm or leg weights, to build more muscle and supplement my opportunities for fat burning. I love about minute seven on the bike, when I am totally warmed up and ready to hit the resistance up a notch and ride away.

I feel good afterward and it makes me want to come back again, as soon as possible. If it weren’t for the frustration of showers being a big deal with prosthetic legs (see earlier posts) I would go twice a day.

And on the topic of comparisons, I have to include this story. I was in a conversation with my favorite inspirations, my brother in law and his amazing wife, and we were discussing the Kenyans who run marathons in unbelievable times. Kurt, who just finished in 11th place overall in a marathon a few weeks ago, commented that he could never even run one mile at the pace the Kenyans run in marathons. His wife, Terry, who finished that same marathon with her husband, at her best time ever, with a sub five hour time, said, “Well, that’s nothing. I can’t run one mile at the pace you run in marathons.”

I couldn’t resist. I had to chime in. ‘Well, I can’t even run one mile. So there!”

We all have our goals, our desires, and our abilities to juggle when it comes to exercise. My marathon crazy relatives are on my mind when I hit a wall. And so is my friend Paige. I think of them, and how they’re out there, pushing through their own walls. Succeeding. And feeling great in the process.

I’m pretty sure I want to have that kind of life.

Like Everyone Else

I realized something on Friday. Just before my epiphany, I had lifted the arm weights, done my sit ups, set the bike up to all my adjustments, and crawled on. I set my music and began to pedal. Just as I was getting into the rhythm of the music and the ride, a guy got on the bike next to me.

He was a young guy. Much younger than the usual middle aged people who normally ride next to me. Most of the younger folks use the treadmills or the elliptical machines. They occasionally use the bikes for a quick warm up, but they’re just not as sexy as the upright equipment.

So when this young, really fit guy crawled on next to me, I took notice. Trying not to seem too stalker-ish, I noticed a few things about him. He was obviously familiar with the weight lifting equipment. But there was something more than that. He seemed really well rounded. Like one of those super athletes you see on TV, completing ironman races.

But as I pedaled along next to him I realized he was no better than me. With his perfect physical condition and his two fit flesh and bone legs, he was not that different from me. He was getting a good work out on that bike. So was I. My resistance levels might have been different than his, but I was full into my work out, just like him.

My heart was getting stronger, my lungs were gaining efficiency. My leg muscles, although wobbly when I stepped off at the end of my ride, were gaining muscle and endurance, every time I climbed on that bike. Just like his.

At no time in my life have I felt competent when it comes to athletics. Most of the time it seems like everyone is better than I am at things requiring athletic ability. Good grief, I’ve never known how to run. I’ve never been able to do something as basic as run, with my gimpy old foot. So any three year old who can run down the driveway has me beat.

When I climb on a bike, and can ride just like anyone else, it makes me feel great. I blend in with every other person working out. My metal leg pumps along and the disability aspect of my life evaporates. Sure, people notice my metal, as they walk by, but it doesn’t affect how hard I can push myself.

That’s not the case on just about any other piece of aerobic equipment. I can do a bit of work on the treadmill, but it’s purely walking, for a short period of time, until my leg fatigues or fills with so much sweat that my gait’s ruined. And it’s not good to walk on a soggy leg. Just like a shoe that doesn’t fit right, a leg that doesn’t fit right can cause a nightmare of rashes and blisters.

Ellipticals, Stairmasters, treadmills….they all require two fully functioning, non water logged, lower limbs. I don’t have that. So the bike is my hero. It allows me to work out, in a normal way, with everyone else. Challenging my abilities and pushing myself makes me feel athletic.

Just like everyone else.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Two Reasons

There are two reasons I'm excited about getting back to my gym schedule. One has to do with a phone call from an Endocrine specialist.

Before we left for our house hunting trip in Colorado, I had some biopsies done on my thyroid. Since we've moved to NY it has started to grow and expand. So far I've had few symptoms, but the ultrasounds show it is 'showing it's nature' (as my endocrine guy says). It wants to grow, and soon that will be a problem.

For now the samples came back clean. I can move ahead with moving details, and not worry about thyroid cancer treatments. But there is a good chance, if it continues to grow, that I'll need it taken out in the next few years.

I've done some reading on that option and one of the things that scares me is weight gain. Quite a few online articles pointed out that struggling with weight gain tends to be a problem for people who have their thyroids removed. I need to get serious about being the right weight before I start any process like that. The way I see it, this time next year might be the very earliest that I'd have to consider the surgery. I should be in peak physical condition by then, so I can make smart decisions.

The second reason is much more fun. I want to go back to being my Utah Self. Six months after we moved to Utah I got rid of my foot and clicked on my new titanium leg. I hit the gym and worked out like crazy. It was so freeing, to have mobility again, especially after spending three months on crutches after the amputation surgery.

I got strong. I didn't appreciate it at the time (always wanting to lose 'just a bit more' weight) but I was in a good place. We were active. We spent a lot of time outside. We explored Utah from top to bottom. I learned to ski by the next winter and for two years I skied every Friday, through lessons at an Ability Center. Friday nights I was exhausted, but happy to my core.

Then we decided to get back to the East coast, to be closer to hubby's wonderful family. The job opened up and he grabbed it. For three months we once again lived in temporary housing while we looked for our NY home. We lived on fast food, and I rarely got consistent exercise. I not only gained ten pounds, I got soft to boot.

Then our first year turned out to be a rough one. The NY schools were much more challenging and a couple of our kids struggled. It had a ripple effect at home, stirring up problems at every turn. We did a major renovation on the house we'd bought. It was educational and enjoyable, some of the time. But some of the time it was stressful and marriage bending.

When times are stressful, I don't turn to fitness and health foods to get myself through. I turn to chocolate and soda. It was a quick band-aid, but didn't help my health in the long term.

By the end of that year the reality set in that I needed to go back to work. The cost of living in NY just started swallowing us up. I had to take the first thing I could find, to keep us afloat. There was no chance to use my education degree. I ended up working the overnight shift at an Alzheimer's Unit.

I loved the people I met that year. I learned so much about the elderly and came to deeply appreciate the way a well functioning brain works. I have files of stories I hope to write out some day, about the amazing residents I came to know in my long overnight shifts.

But honestly, that schedule was hard. I was tired a lot. We were making ends meet but I didn't have peace. Again, I didn't eat right. Didn't exercise. I chose catching up on sleep over working out.

Then an amazing job at our local library opened up. It fit me, and my education, much better. But it was full time. I have not worked full time since the kids were born. I didn't know if I could juggle it all.

But for a year I did. I worked 40 hours a week and Hubby and the kids stepped up to keep the house running. I loved the padded bank accounts, but hated the unrest I still felt. That went on for another year.

Through all of that time I did small starts and stops with exercise. I made vows to myself, to my husband, to my little guy, who loved being my coach. But I could never stick with it. I could never find my Utah Self in there.

For the past two years I've worked part time at that same library. It's a job I love and a schedule that worked better for my inner sanity. I started writing a parenting column for our local paper, which helped me to redefine myself as a 'real' writer. Then I got a great gig writing for the blog. I've come to learn a lot about myself in the past two years.

So now it's time for the next step. I got a vision for it when we were in Colorado last week, on the house hunting trip. After a long day of driving neighborhoods, we were all ready to stretch our legs. So we got out at one of our new favorite spots.

Together we walked out a long path, across a field, and the kids scampered up some huge boulders. I climbed halfway up, then stopped to watch my boys in their glory. The breeze was refreshing. The view was astonishing. It reminded me of our Utah life.

I'm ready to be that outdoor, active Utah Self again. I guess I should call her the Colorado Self. I have a vision for her. I have a vision for what she'll be like, what she'll look like, this time next year.

There's nothing like a move across the country, to a fresh new state, to give you optimism about starting over - again. I'm starting that new life now, this week. I want a good base, strong legs to get me up those hiking trails, and a toned core to get me onto those ski slopes when the snow starts to fly. It will be a gift to myself if I can be a more fit version of my current self, on the day we drive into Colorado for good.

So that's why I'm excited to get back to the gym. My new Colorado self is hiding in there somewhere. And by golly, I'm gonna find her.

It Feels Good

I got a bit sidetracked on my first day 'back' after my long hiatus from the gym. I had the day all planned out. I would work all morning on house/writing stuff, then in the mid afternoon, I'd go to the gym and be home and showered in time to make dinner.

Yeah, well, that didn't exactly work out. An hour before I was supposed to leave for the gym I got an email from hubby. My senior boy had a track meet, it was a home meet, and it might be one of the last I'd seen him participate in before his high school career ended. Okay, so that's a decent excuse, right?

My window of time literally closed, once I decided to make my son's track meet a priority (And I'm glad I did. He pole vaulted 10'6", his personal best, and I was there to tape it).

So I got up the next morning, determined to not give up on my start over. I got the kids off to school then headed right for the gym. It felt so good. And then this morning, I got there again. Two days in a row. Go me.

I'm afraid to admit it, but a lot of the time I'm exercising, I'm actually enjoying it. I hate finding the time to get there. I hate the sweaty drive home and the cumbersome shower process. But I love the 'being in the thick of it' time in the actual gym.

I feel strong when I'm lifting weights, even if I'm not lifting as much as the bulky guy next to me. I love laying on the floor and stretching my hands above my head, feeling my whole body lengthen. I love getting the bike set up for my specs, getting my ipod ready, and clicking my feet into the pedal straps.

Then, when I've gotten warmed up, I love the first rush of sweat, the first time I have to wipe my face with my hand towel. I'm usually really in the zone by then. I'm feeling flushed and raw. The music is pounding in my ears, and I'm settled into my rhythm.

Maybe part of the reason I love being at the gym so much is that it makes me feel normal. It makes me feel able bodied. Athletic people go to gyms. When I was a teenager, the kids who played sports hung out in the gyms. That wasn't me. I was just the wanna be.

Now I'm there too. It's a place for me too.

And as I saw today, even when I'm feeling ragged, if I get myself to that gym, it always, always makes me feel better afterward. Always.