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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

I'm Back - I Promise.

Wow. It is hard to believe that February 12 was the last time I posted. I'm sitting here, on the cusp of turning my calendar to the page that says "MAY" and I haven't posted here since the beginning of February.

That doesn't mean I haven't written a dozen (or more) posts in my head in the past three months. Honestly, I have. They all ran along the apology theme. "I'm sorry I dropped off the face of the earth" and "I'm sorry I've temporarily abandoned my fitness goals".

I have good excuses. You've gotta give me that much. Just after the last post we found out we were moving to Colorado. Hubby got a great job transfer and we're now going to live amongst the pines in the mountains of a beautiful state. But before that can happen there are a few details to take care of. A house to fix up, then sell. Last follow up doc visits. Last teeth cleanings. Last car tune ups. Oh, and a house to fix up and sell...did I mention that?

For many weeks we've been painting and doing minor (although time consuming) renovations. We need top dollar out of this house, to open up our options in CO. We've had relatives come help, and the weeks have flown by.

I know. I know. There should be no excuse for not taking care of your body. All of the health problems that come from lack of exercise don't kindly go away just because "I was busy". My blood sugar levels don't come down when I don't put in the work. And no, rolling paint on a wall (many walls) didn't really work up that much of a sweat.

Then, over a week ago, we hit the road for Colorado, to go neighborhood hunting. For ten days we drove, and drove, and drove, then explored our new state. We also ate every meal 'out'. I tried to be careful, especially considering I only got one work out in the entire ten day period.

At a hotel in Ohio I rode the exercise bike while I watched my family swim through the glass window. It made my body feel good, at that moment, and for a day afterward. You'd think I'd learn. Exercise = good for mind and body. But somehow, I never found time for another work out, even though almost every hotel we stayed in had a bike of some kind.

I have not given up. I told my fitness guru (also my sister in law) Terry that I haven't forgotten. We will hike together this summer, before I leave the East coast, and I will be strong. She inspires me and I want to have that hike with her before I go.

So today I am back. We literally arrived back in NY one day ago. We unpacked and returned the rental car last night, then collapsed into bed. The kids shuffled off to school today and I dove into getting caught up at home. Emails scoured and answered. Answering machine cleared of its 25 messages. Lists made for the things I need to review and write in the next few days and weeks. It's time to jump back into real life.

Which also means new patterns. There is no reason I can't find time to get to the gym in the 10 weeks I have left in NY. NO reason. NO excuse. It's time to build it into my life for good.

I realized on our trip, as I had hours and hours to day dream as I stared out the windows and watched the states roll by, that there is a goal I need to claim on this blog. I've thought it for years, since the day I decided to have my foot cut off. I've shared it with a few people along the way. But I need to set it up and announce it here, to make it real.

I want to be more graceful. The word I would choose for how I am now is 'clunky'. I can walk with an almost normal gait if I try really hard. But it doesn't come naturally and it doesn't come often.

I don't mind that I limp. I am deeply grateful to just be walking, mostly pain free. I love my new foot that has energy return and pushes me forward. It surely beats my old, 'real' foot, that had no participation in my gait and forced me to drag it around for way too many years.

But I have not reached my full potential with this new leg. I have the potential to be graceful now. I don't have dreams of becoming a ballerina. I just want to be lighter on my feet, not have to think about balance so much. I want to be balanced naturally, using muscles that others use without thinking. I want to rise from a chair smoothly.

I really, really want to not dread staircases some day. That's a goal for later, after I've built a better base of muscles in my legs and hips. For now, stairs are still tricky and take a lot of thought. It was very noticeable as we looked at houses in Colorado. It will be a shame if we have to pass on a really great house, because it has too many stairs and 'mama' can't do stairs well.

I know it would be excusable. Any halfway compassionate person would say, "Oh, she has an artificial leg. No wonder she can't do stairs well...." I could easily live behind that credit I'm given. But I know my situation, and there's no reason I can't be stronger. There's no reason I can't tackle stairs more confidently. I have the bionics. Now it's time to use them.

So I'm back. I'm off to the gym. I'll start weight lifting again. I'll do the 30 minute circuit, then I'll move on to the bike. I'll do it today. And tomorrow. And the next day after that. If I commit to the next ten weeks I have left in NY, I'll have a chance to retain my fitness level as we make our move across the country.

Because once we leave NY, we will once again be living out of hotels and fast food restaurants. I gained 10 pounds in the 3 months we lived in temporary housing when we moved to NY. I'm still fighting to lose that ten pounds. This time around, things will be different. The closer we get to moving into our new home in CO, the stronger I'll be.