Resilience…or, I’ve Been a Busy Girl

Resilience is what keeps us moving and growing. And I can honestly say that I’ve seen such resilience in Mister Bubby since my last post, that it’s inspiring.  Is that stupid? To find your fur baby to be inspiring? Even if it’s stupid, I still believe he’s a miracle. Since I last wrote, I found out that Bubby is officially cancer free! He’s moving around like the champ that he is and continues to amaze me every day. We’re just about back to normal with the exception of climbing the staircase to go to bed at night. For some reason, he just can’t muster the energy to propel himself. I just keep telling myself that we’ll get there. And we will.

His recovery period was a real bitch. Keeping him from licking at his sutures was a miserable experience for all involved, and we had to make a visit to the emergency room due to a bad reaction to pain medication, but we got through it. And somehow, even with putting him through the surgery and making sure he kept his tongue off of the incision site, he still loves me. The love that our fur babies have for us is simply incredible.

Let’s see, what else has been happening? Oh, big doin’s. I’ve been working with a phenomenal trainer at the gym for a little over a month, and I’ve started dead lifting and have far exceeded my expectations with what I thought were my abilities. Last week, I lifted 130 lbs. My goal was 120 and I just… kept going, adding more weight little by little. It’s really amazing what your body can do once your brain says you can do it. Lifting is something I never thought I would do. I never imagined that I’d reach the point where I actually look forward to picking up heavy weight.

I’ve also been working hard with my cardio work and sticking to the Weight Watchers plan, and I’m happy to announce that I am now 28 pounds lighter now than I was on April 22nd. And, I’m the incredible shrinking woman: my trainer took measurements of me when we started working a little over a month ago and every part of me is getting smaller. It truly is a wonderful feeling when you see results and know that your hard work is paying off.

I also just got back from a fantastic trip to Houston where I was able to spend time with my FES (fitness extraordinaire sister). It was so great to get out of the small town I’m in and meet new people and experience new things. I had a wonderful time having sister time and making memories; I even enjoyed it when we’d be trying to sleep and my phone would make a noise and she’d give me a death glare. There truly is nothing like the bond you have with your sisters.

Along with all of the above, I’ve recently just opened my own business. I’m now an Independent Beauty Consultant with Mary Kay. I turned to this to add a little extra income to my pocket to achieve further financial independence, but I’m excited because this is something totally fun and different from what I do from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M., Monday through Friday.  This weekend will be my first weekend with the ability to hold appointments, and I’m totally booked up all weekend! It’s a terrific feeling. I’m looking forward to sharing some great products with lots of different women and making them feel beautiful.  If any of you are interested in any of our excellent products, you can visit my store . The beauty about Mary Kay is that while I’m an independent consultant and therefore, a small business owner, I’m backed by a global company who believes to thoroughly in their products that they offer a 100% money back guarantee.

So that’s what I’ve been up to since my last writing; I’ve been a busy girl! All in all, life is good. Our journey may lead us down some bumpy roads, but somehow you end up just where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what it is that you’re supposed to be doing.

 

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Meeting Goals…or, Being Brave Instead of Vague

I’m eight weeks into my transformation/weight loss journey and things are going remarkably well. After having several meltdowns and moments (ok, ok…days) where I wanted to throw my hands in the air and eat my feelings, I think I’m finally past all of the hysterics. And, I’m ecstatic to report that I have surpassed a weight loss goal!

I began doing Weight Watchers again about two weeks ago after hitting a weight loss plateau on my previous plan. Don’t get me wrong, the plan that my FES (Fitness Extraordinaire Sister) put me on was great and it helped me lose about ten pounds in a week’s time, but after some time, I felt it to be restrictive and after about six weeks of following the plan (albeit with cheats) and working out five days a week, I still wasn’t losing any weight. So, I decided to give ol’ WW another go of it and see what would happen. What happened was I started losing weight again! I weighed in on Tuesday and was astonished that I finally surpassed a weight loss goal; it was a small goal, but a goal nonetheless.

I realize that I’ve been rather vague about my weight loss thus far, never actually mentioning a number. Part of that is because this journey is intensely personal to me. Part of it is because stating a weight that I’m not proud of makes me self-conscious. And part of it is because actually stating my weight to an audience of people is a daunting and scary task.  But after thinking about it, we’re all friends here, so here goes nothing. I’ll start at the beginning.  When I started this journey, I was a whopping 238 pounds (I’m only 5’5”). Somehow along the way, I’d eaten my way to an unhealthy and uncomfortable weight. I became increasingly self-conscious about my looks and downright uncomfortable in my own skin. I wasn’t happy with the me that I’d become. This is why I decided to start this journey. I want to be a more confident, healthy version of me. I want to feel good and look better.

So, now that that big matzo ball is out there, I can happily say that I’ve dieted and exercised my way to 224 pounds. That’s a fourteen pound loss since April and I’m quite proud of myself. I’ve been trying not to look at the big picture when it comes to how much weight I’d actually like to lose because it makes me feel like I may never achieve that goal.  I find that it’s the small victories that make being on the weight loss journey bearable. I think breaking a big weight loss goal of 80 pounds into smaller, more achievable goals of perhaps five to ten pound increments helps. Hell, I even celebrate each one pound loss.

Different things work for different people and I believe one of the big hurdles people face when decided that they need to make a change and start the process of losing weight is to figure out what works best for them. Some people like working with a trainer at the gym, while some people need just a little bit of guidance when it comes to working out. As far as dieting goes, some people need a very restrictive set of rules when it comes to diet (a forbidden list and an allowable list of foods), and some people need a little more wiggle room when it comes to diets because they end up going home at the end of the day feeling deprived and end up in a pool of their own tears.  In my case, I hate going to the gym, but I do it because my personal trainer sister told me to. And because I’ve started to see results.  I go and I sweat intensely (as I like to say, I sweat like a man) for 45 minutes a day, five days a week. As for diet, for me, I need wiggle room. I need to be allowed wine and treats and fruit…otherwise it’s me that ends up feeling deprived and crying hysterically at the end of the day, feeling utterly hopeless and like I’ll never achieve the big goal that I’ve set for myself. Now that I think I’ve got what works for me figured out, all I need to do is to keep plugging away at it and see where I am in another week’s time.

Squats and Feelin’ Flat

I’ve been taking a bit of a hiatus from writing lately for a couple different reasons. Number one: to focus on working out (also known as sweating profusely in public) and transforming my body. The second reason: life has felt a little flat as of late. Not good, not bad, just…flat. This stagnant feeling has opened the door for me to do some serious thinking about life.

My training at the gym has been going fantastically. I’ll insert here that although I cannot truthfully say that I love squats and lunges, the hundreds nay, possibly thousands that I have done in the past three weeks are paying off. My thighs and butt are in a constant state of uncomfortable, but it’s the good kind of uncomfortable. It’s the uncomfortable that makes my internal voice say, “Hey, Lex? You’re doing it! Now, go back today and tomorrow and the day after that…keep going. You can do it.” My shoulders and arms are unyieldingly sore from the reps upon reps of push ups and brutal reps of burning triceps and biceps weights.  I’ve noticed that I’m not nearly as jiggley as I once was. My thighs are more toned and my rear end has more definition. Big changes are afoot! My body is physically changing for the better and it’s because I’m working at it like I’ve never done before.  My endurance is increasing and I’ve got far more strength in my legs than I have from “pushing past the point of pain” (thanks for that quote, T!).

Cardio is probably my least favorite of everything that my gym regimen has to offer.  I’ve reached a personal best on the StairMaster that I affectionately refer to as “The Beast”.  Every step on The Beast is agony: my heart feels as though it’s going to beat out of my chest, my breath is short, sweat drips into my eyes and down my back.  Thus far, my personal best is eighteen minutes. After eighteen minutes, my thighs feel like quivering jelly. But, that’s only the beginning of cardio hell. Next, I jump on an elliptical machine and crank up the resistance until it feels like I’m running through really thick mud. At this point, all I want to do is jump off and drop to the floor. But, I don’t. I do what’s known as intervals: I lower the resistance for a minute to give my heart a “working break”, and then I crank up the resistance again for a minute or three increasing my speed. And then I do this for at least thirty minutes. And then, I want to fall to the floor in a big whimpering, shaking pile. But, I stretch instead.

Maybe I should back up a bit and go into one of the motivators for throwing myself into this fitness regimen.  I did some thinking and decided that I wanted to get away this summer; really get away: get away from my comfort zone and go somewhere I’ve never been, somewhere I could experience a different ecosystem of nature. I wanted to see big mountains and see red sandstone formations. I decided that I wanted to go to Colorado. After my last hike, it was blatantly apparent that I was out of shape and had lost my endurance for hiking. So, I decided it was time to get my ass in shape so that when I get out west and am at 6,000 ft. above sea level, not only will I be able to breathe, I’ll be able to hike and enjoy the nature at hand.

Ok, so that part of my life is great. And, I’m really excited about my upcoming trip; I’m looking forward to experiencing another place (and more importantly, getting to experience it with a great friend). The rest of it though…it’s good, I can’t complain. I just feel stuck. Stagnant. I’m tired of living in a small town where I’m known as someone’s daughter, granddaughter or niece. Perhaps it’s time to investigate where I’d fit best?

A very insightful woman once gave me a really good piece of advice: When you are doing what you love, and love what you’re doing your transformation will become permanent. My turmoil stems from not really knowing what I love, and feeling a bit like a fish out of water in the place where I grew up. I like my job (I’m good at it, and I like anything I’m good at). But, I don’t necessarily believe it’s my calling. I was talking to an old friend yesterday and she asked me what I was passionate about. I just looked at her with a blank stare and said that I didn’t know. That confession made me sad. It’s time to delve deep into myself and figure it out. It’s never too late to decide what makes you happy.

Confessions of a Chubby Chick (or Working with a Personal Trainer)

So, I finally did it. A few nights ago, I set up a time to meet with a girl who is a trainer at my current (of which I will only be a patron through the end of June because they’ve effed up billing one too many times for my liking) gym.  So yesterday, after I busted it for thirty minutes on this nifty elliptical-esque machine and then hit “the beast”, a machine that I both love and loath in the same gasping breath – a stair climber from the very pit of Hell, I sat down at a table panting heavily and dripping with sweat to discuss my fitness goals with Jen. Let me insert here that I adore Jen; she’s upbeat and reassuring all while remaining within the realms of acceptable-I do not want to punch because you’re too chipper-positivity. And, best of all, she’s fit, but not obnoxiously so, i.e. sauntering around in lycra booty shorts and a sports bra.

So, I sat down with Jen and told her that I’ve been trying to hit the gym two to three days a week; then I promptly asked how much cardio I should be doing and told her what I’d like to accomplish and see transformation-wise. I told her I’d like my arms to maybe not wave back at me quite so much when I wave at someone else. I’d like to increase my cardiac endurance so I have a chance at surviving my upcoming hiking trip to Colorado. And, of course, I’d like to shrink. My middle could fo’ sho’ stand to be widdled. Then, my lovely trainer said something to me that made me smile a great big doofy smile and adore her even more, “I want you to stay away from scales if at all possible.” Right on, Jen; check, I can do that. Not only can I do that, I will happily do that. Because you see, whenever I step on a scale I get discouraged. Yes, the number may have dropped down two or three notches from four days ago, but it hasn’t sufficiently dropped to my liking. Or, maybe I weigh myself on a day when I feel like a very round, very wide Oopma Loompa. That number never makes me happy. I know the facts; I know that if I’m working out hard and eating reasonably that I’m probably creating muscle which weighs more than fat. The all the same, a number is a number is a number…and that number can throw me off course and has in the past. Not this time. The evil scale will not prevail.

When I told her that I wasn’t sure where I’d be continuing my fitness journey after June 30th, she just said that was no problem. She’d create a routine for me that would require space and some dumbbells and I’d be good to go.  I’m super excited to actually “train” with someone who can show me what I should be doing and the correct form for the really scary stuff like lifting weights. Oh, and that won’t yell at me like a drill sergeant.

You see, one of my sisters is a fitness buff extraordinaire. She went to school for and graduated with a degree in exercise science (yes, that’s a real thing), and has spent the last few years personal training and teaching group classes at various gyms first in Virginia and now in Texas. She’s a whole lotta lean packed into a 5’ tall frame. She’s nutritionally strict and regimented and is no slacker when it comes to her fitness routine. She teaches 14 classes a week on top of training individuals; when she’s not teaching (i.e. exercising), she’s at the gym, you guessed it, exercising.

She is an incredible fitness instructor (I took one of her classes during my last visit to Houston and almost died) and a motivational personal trainer to her clients, but they aren’t related to her. It’s a whole ‘nother ball of wax when you’re training with someone who is not only related to you, but who is younger than you, whom you bossed around as a child and treated like your personal servant for years (before she got wise and learned that she could say no when I told her to do something).  It’s fair; it’s only payback to have your younger sister (by three years) say, “JUST DO IT, YOU BIG BABY! QUIT WHINING AND DO IT!” when you say, “…you can do that because you’re little. If I try to do that, not only do I know if I can physically put myself in that position, but if I do, I don’t know if I can get out of that position without the aid of machinery.”  So, when I tell friends that I’m training with someone and they respond, “couldn’t you just have your sister tell you what to do?” the answer is a resounding yes. But I’m in Virginia and she’s in Texas…and she yells at me when we train together.

I’m looking at weeks of profuse sweating, sore leg muscles, intense ab workouts and a very strong urge to cry when she says, “time for lunges.” I loathe lunges. But I’ll do ‘em.  I’m excited about this journey; I’m excited about being excited about this step that I’ve taken. Yea, I’ve been eating healthier, drinking less and exercising more, it’s another game when you have someone invested in helping you attain your goals.

Now my friends: look forward to weeks of posts riddled with bitching and griping about exercise.

Damn Gravity: Oh Hell, This Mountain Hurts Me

Last Saturday, my friend C and I pushed ourselves harder and further physically than ever before.

I set off for my second hike of the spring with my good friend C. After my first hike of the season, Mary’s Rock (the week before last), I was pumped and full of excitement about experiencing some new trails this year, seeing some new scenery and taking some photos to document the adventure.  So, I did some research and came up with Big Run Loop, a trail in the South District of Shenandoah National Park on Brown Mountain. It was deemed an “easy to moderate” hike by the trails book, of approximately 5.8 miles set fairly deep in backcountry (read: bears).

view from the trailhead

I prepared in advance this time (and for that I give myself a huge pat on the back), making sure I had the first-aid kit, munchies, a hat and gloves, a water bladder and my fleece. When it was all said and done, I’d folded and smooshed about 10 to 15 pounds into my small Gregory pack. C and I hit the road a little later than anticipated, around 9:30 and set out for the Rockingham County entrance of the Park. By the time we reached mile 81.01 of the parkway, it was 11 o’ clock and we knew there were going to be serious thunderstorms rolling into the area in the afternoon, so we promised each other to huff it in hopes of missing the downpour (and forecasted lightning and thunder).  I handed C the trail map and we ventured into the forest.

We set off, goofing off and laughing, crossing a small stream at 1 mile. Then, later we came across a couple of (incredibly good looking – TWIN) backpackers coming the opposite direction, stomping up with the path with determined steps. After a few more steps, we heard a loud howl and happened upon the remaining backpackers making their way back to their car. They were sitting on rocks, sweating profusely, trying to catch their breath. We smiled and kept moving so as not to lose our momentum (or as I like to call it Hiking Mojo).

Right before we were about to reach what I knew was our two-mile marker (a larger stream that we had to cross), I asked C to break out the map. I knew we’d have to change trails and couldn’t remember what direction we were heading; that’s when I heard what no one wants to hear when they’re on a mountain with storms rolling in: “Oh, shit. I think I dropped the map.”  Evidently, our visual guide had slipped out of her pocket when we stopped to chat with the passing backpackers.  I decided that instead of panicking, it was smarter to try to recall what I’d read the evening prior about our trek.  We reached a cement trail head and looked for an arrow to point us in the direction of the remainder of our journey. When I looked up, all I could see was a nearly vertical climb. That’s when I started panicking. The guidebook had touted this route as  “easy to moderate”;  after beginning the ascent, I decided it was best to turn back and backtrack, easily making our hike a bit over four miles.

I’ll state now that this was the absolutely worst decision I’ve ever made.

We turned back, crossing the second stream and began our ascent. About five minutes later, a quick glance down at my heart rate monitor made exceedingly clear that I was indeed ascending. And my body was working really, really hard. For the next hour and a half, I pushed my body harder than I’ve ever pushed it before.

My heart rate stayed between 160 and 168 as I took each agonizing vertical step. At the beginning of our journey, it never felt like we were making a sharp descent, my steps were evenly paced and the ground felt like it was making a gradual and easy loll. Not this way; this way was pure hell. Here is a visual of the trail:

Big Run Loop: The Trail from Hell

See the first part of that trail, where the elevation drops from about 2900 ft. to about 1000 ft? That is the part that made me hurt.

Every step was a struggle. My calves burned, my hips ached and my knees throbbed . Sweat soaked my back (and stomach). I’ve done many different trails throughout Shenandoah National Park and never once have I ever uttered these words: I don’t think I can do this.

But this past Saturday? I said it. I sat down on a rock, panting, watching the numbers on my heart rate monitor blip backward, ever so slowly…168…167…166. And then, I said it. I wanted to throw my fifteen pound pack to the dirt, fall to the ground, curl up in a fetal position and pant until I could breathe regularly again.

But, I didn’t. I kept moving. Slowly but surely. I’d take fifteen to thirty steps, bend over panting and find a tree or a rock to lean on or sit, watch the numbers on my heart rate monitor blip down while my thudding heart banged loudly in my ears. I sat or leaned and waited for the thudding to fade, softer and softer. Then, I stood, gritted my teeth and put one leg in front of the other.  Incidentally, each of my legs felt like they weighed a good twenty million pounds at this point.

C and I kept up this pattern for an hour, bitching to one another about how unfit we both felt, how much we hated the mountain we were on, and how we felt like we wanted to throw up and faint at the same time.

Then, somehow, we did it. We reached a point in the trail where a clearing in the trees gave us a glimmer of hope: we could see the stone wall that bordered the parkway! We were almost there.

And then, I bit it. I tripped and down I went. I felt like I was falling in slow motion and the only visual that flashed through my mind was me rolling down that God forsaken mountain and making that climb again. Luckily, I didn’t roll downhill. I dug my shoes into the ground, shook my head, caught my breath and stood up looking forward to reaching flat ground again. At the backcountry sign, I stopped, breathing heavily wanting only to cry. The only thing that stopped my tears of frustration and physical pain was the fact that I’d have a large audience: the large group of backpackers we passed? They’d reached the top of the trail. So, C and I took deep breaths and put one foot in front of the other until we reached the top of the trail.  When we were asked if we’d had fun by the friendly backpackers I responded honestly, “That was fucking brutal.”  It got a good laugh.

I learned two very important things last Saturday:

1)      Always have two copies of the trail map. Keep one in my backpack.

2)      I’m physically and mentally stronger than I ever thought I was and now I know I can push through anything.

Despite the horrific physical strain that Brown Mountain put on us, I’ll continue hiking – though I’ll be sure to read every review that I can possibly find of a trail prior to venturing out.