Bad at Resting, Fantastic at Playing

I’m on my third trip through PBResolution now, just wrapping up week 6 of 12 today. Today is supposed to be a “rest day”. My body didn’t want to rest. It wanted to play, so play I did.

For me personally, I enjoy my practice so much more when nobody’s telling me what to do. I’m coming to realize that’s what makes it difficult for me to stick with something like PBR… I prefer to just be intuitive and do what my body feels like it needs to do. So even though today is supposed to be my “rest day” according to the PBR calendar, I decided to treat myself to a nice little “doing whatever the hell I feel like doing” flow. And since I’m feeling generous today, I decided to upload it so you all can laugh along with me while I wobble and fall and occasionally sing.

Also, because I’m nice, I’ve identified all the songs that played during my practice in the caption below the video. Also also, I don’t want any of the bands involved to sue me. Also that.

I do not own any of these songs! I just had iTunes on “shuffle” is all! I swear! Song’s played during today’s practice in order from start to finish are: “Stoke the Fire” – Seether, “Path vol. 2” – Apocalyptica, “Komm Samm Met My” – Seether, “Stay Away” – Nirvana, “Oh My God” – The Pretty Reckless, “Take Me Under” – Three Days Grace, “Waste” – Seether, “Tonight” – Seether, “Falls Apart” – Thousand Foot Krutch, “F.L.A.G. (Fight Like A Girl)” – Diamante, “I Like It Heavy” – Halestorm, “Hidden Track” (I don’t know the name) – Halestorm (Into the Wild Life album)

Wake-Up Call

It’s been a pretty crazy last couple of days in my neck of the woods. I don’t know if it’s the full moon, the mercury retrograde, the monsoon that is trying desperately to happen and not quite making it, or what’s causing it, but a lot of people I know are going through some Serious Things this week, and I’m no different.

Saturday my husband kept saying he didn’t feel well and he felt like it was harder to breathe than normal. He thought maybe it was just a cold, and we put on the humidifier in the bedroom and let it go.

Sunday he could barely breathe, and would get winded doing the smallest tasks. He couldn’t push the shopping cart in the grocery store. He couldn’t lift a 2-liter of soda. Walking around the store was making him winded. I started trying to talk him into going to urgent care. This is a man who hasn’t been to a doctor at all since 2012, mind you… he was not into the idea.

I’m a pharmacy technician, in case you weren’t aware, and Sunday night about 9 PM he was like, “Can you text your pharmacist and ask if there’s anything I can take over the counter for shortness of breath?” I said, “I think I know what she’s going to say,” but I did it anyway. And she answered almost immediately, “If anyone is having trouble breathing, go to the ER.”

He wasn’t quite ready for the ER yet, but I convinced him to go to urgent care. They did a chest X-ray, an EKG, and gave him a breathing treatment, but said that everything they could see was coming back “normal”. They referred him to the ER just before midnight. He was mad, refused to go. Said the ER would just tell him he had a cold and was wasting their time, and they’d send him home.

For about four hours at home, he tried to sleep and I couldn’t sleep because I was listening to him try to breathe. Finally, at about 6 AM Sunday, we both gave up on trying to sleep and he agreed very reluctantly to let me take him to the ER to be checked out. He got winded trying to get dressed and kept having to stop and rest. I still had to pretty much force him into the car. By this point every alarm bell I have was going off.

Finally got him to the ER at about 7:30 AM. Let me tell you what, when you tell the triage nurse that someone can’t breathe, they get you in the door quick. They did another chest X-ray, despite the fact that one had been done less than 12 hours before, and my husband got annoyed. “They’re not going to find anything. They’re going to run the same tests urgent care did, charge me twice as much for it, and send me home. We shouldn’t have come here.” Then they came back saying they wanted to do a contrast CT. My husband was complaining about how much all of this was going to cost for them to “find nothing”. I made him let them do the CT anyway.

They found large blood clots in both of his lungs. More than big enough to make it difficult for him to breathe. A later ultrasound found another big clot in his left thigh, running from his groin almost to his knee.

They told me first when he was out of the room to use the restroom, and I let them tell him when he got back. His immediate reaction was to look like he’d been punched in the gut. All the wind was taken out of his sails. Not only had they found something, they’d found something serious.

After that he got a lot more cooperative. He told the doctors he knew his health had been going downhill but he didn’t realize exactly how bad it had gotten. He started referring to this experience as “a wake-up call”.

I told the attending physician in the ER how hard I’d had to fight him to get him to the hospital. The doctor looked my husband in the eye and said, “You need to tell her thank you.”

They admitted him and started him on IV blood thinners and kept him overnight on bed rest. He was finally allowed to come home about four hours ago. He has many follow-up appointments in his future, and will be on blood thinners for at least three months and maybe longer, but he is already breathing easier and is sleeping as I write this. Soon I will also sleep, but I wanted to write this down while everything was still fresh in my mind.

People who have known me less than two or three years will find it hard to believe, but I used to be kind of a pushover. Especially if the pushing was coming from a man, or a boss/superior at work, or a friend/family member whose opinion I really cared about. My self esteem was not sufficient for me to believe that they could be wrong, and I would let them win.

For those of you wondering where the relevance to this blog comes in, here it comes: I credit the discovery of my voice, the discovery of my own strength, and the discovery of my own truth all to my yoga practice. Forcing myself to turn inward and examine my own thoughts and feelings, as well as physically test my own strength and my own limits, has forced me to grow and develop as a human being.

And where would we be now if I was still that pushover? Would I have forced my husband to the ER against his wishes, or would I have let him have his way? Would I have believed my own strong intuition that something was very, very wrong, or would I have let him make me believe it was “just a cold”? Would he have gotten a “wake-up call” or would he just not have woken up?

And lest you think I’m being dramatic on that last one, 25% of people with pulmonary embolisms don’t have any symptoms at all until they suddenly drop dead. Yeah. Dropping dead is the first symptom for one out of four people. Those aren’t good odds, folks!

So now as we’re moving out of the crisis and into life thereafter, I am choosing to be grateful. I am grateful that we have insurance. I am grateful that, even though my husband has a high-deductible plan and we still owe $3500 on top of what we were able to pay up front today, we aren’t going to be responsible for any more of his medical expenses this year (of which there will be many). I am grateful for the ER doctors who kindly but firmly told my husband that if he didn’t start putting some small amounts of money into maintaining/improving his health, he was going to end up right back in the ER again for something else major. I am grateful for that “wake-up call”. I am grateful that my husband has decided he needs to change his habits and lifestyle. I am grateful that he hated hospitalization so much that he’s willing to go to great lengths to make sure it never happens to him again. I am grateful that my employer has been understanding of me needing to take time off unexpectedly. I am grateful that my husband and I were both able to use PTO, so we’re not losing income at the same time as we are racking up medical bills. I am grateful for my intuition, and the courage to use my voice. I am grateful for the many friends (both online and offline), family members, and co-workers who have offered support, prayers, good wishes, healing vibes, and all kinds of positivity. I am grateful for my sister who, even though she is in Oregon, had Uber Eats deliver us lunch yesterday in Tucson. I am grateful that my son is old enough and mature enough to hold down the fort for a day or so while I was at the hospital, and that he even had dinner almost ready when we got back tonight.

I am grateful I still have a husband. I’m even grateful that I can hear him snoring right now (that’s how I know he’s still breathing!).

He’s already got a primary care doctor. He’s planning to finally get tested for diabetes, which we have long suspected he has or is developing. He’s making plans to eat better and to become more physically active. When they did an ultrasound of his heart, we found out about a congenital heart defect that, while minor, he had no idea he had and is now going to follow up on.

If he follows through with all these things, he might end up in even better health than last Thursday when he felt “fine”. I might as well, in fact. One of the things holding me back on my health journey has been his insistence that we were going to keep the grocery budget as low as possible by eating cheap, boxed crap. I am hoping he’s seen the error in judgment there now, and if he hasn’t I am now confident I have the voice to make myself heard above his protests.

I am grateful. I am thankful. I am extremely tired.

Now if you’ll excuse me, there’s an empty space in the bed next to a snoring man, and it’s calling my name…

Imperfect and Strange is Better Than Non-Existent

Most people don’t know this about me but in early 2012, before I sold my soul to corporate America and became a property manager, I did a brief stint as the “Cristina” in a Lacuna Coil cover band that was only moderately terrible. I’ve always loved to sing and I’m reasonably good at it, but have never figured out how to parlay it into something I could do as a “job”, so it remains firmly in the “hobby” category.

I bring this up only because, for the first time, I’m going to post on this blog a full-length, real-time video of my personal yoga practice. This is just me doing the yogas to hard rock music. No class, no instructor, no video I’m following… just me, doing what feels good in my body and whatever occurs to me to try, plus some outbursts of singing along with whatever’s playing in the background.

If the sight of a fat girl doing yoga with no shirt offends you, this is not the video for you. If you don’t want to hear hard rock music from the likes of Disturbed, Nirvana, The Pretty Reckless, and Seether, this is not what you should watch today. And I’m honestly not sure if there will be any interest in watching this video at all, but I’m putting it here today to illustrate my point:

Whatever your practice looks like today is fine.

Having a practice at all is better than having no practice.

You want chimey music and yin yoga? Go for it. Sometimes it’s nice.

You want hard rock music, some awkward dancing, and a lot of arm balances? Get down with your bad self. I do. Sometimes I try to sing in eagle pose.

You want to cover your body up? Cool. Just make sure your clothing allows you to move freely.

You want to practice naked? That’s awesome. I’ve done it. I recommend that everyone try it at least once… no joke.

You wanna follow an instructor on YouTube or some other platform? Fabulous. Do it. It’s a good way to learn, especially if you’re just starting out, or if you’re intermediate and hoping to learn something new.

You wanna make up your own sequence/flow or just do whatever drifts through your mind? Rock on. I do it often, and I start to miss it if I do too many practices directed by people other than me.

What I’m trying to say here is that there is no right or wrong way to practice. Your practice will ultimately be unique to you. You’ll take bits and pieces from everyone who teaches you and stitch them together into something that becomes your own, and that is totally amaze-balls.

I’m posting this video today of my shirtless, noisy, non-Instagram-worthy practice because this shit is real. When you find the thing that keeps you coming back to your mat and wanting to practice day after day, don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong.

Songs are property of their respective artists and appear in this order, for the interested: “Prayer” – Disturbed, “Going Under” – Evanescence, “No Sexin’ On The Beach” – Diamante, “Given” – Seether, “Tear the World Down” – We Are The Fallen, “Celebrity Skin” – Hole, “The Walls Are Closing In/Hangman” – The Pretty Reckless, “Going Down” – Three Days Grace, “Six Gun Quota” – Seether, “Territorial Pissings” – Nirvana.
What? You don’t do savasana to “Six Gun Quota”??

On Derailment and Bees

I tell you what, I never thought the thing to break my 22-week workout streak would be something stupid like the Pima County Fair.

The Guardians of the Children (my motorcycle organization, because we can’t say “club”) had a booth at the fair. So for the duration of the fair, I spent most of the time I wasn’t at work or sleeping at the fair, or fetching more candy/prizes to give out to kids at the fair. Suffice it to say, working out/PBResolution/Yoga all kind of fell by the wayside. And man, I was feeling it. After the second or third yoga-free day, I felt very tight all over my body, and I was trying to stretch it out a bit in the booth at the fair.

“No yoga in the booth!” one of the guys teased me, kicking the bottom of the chair I was attempting to do chair yoga in.

“Maybe you should do yoga in the booth! It might chill you out!” I countered.

I snuck in little bits of yoga when and where I could (mostly behind the curtain that ran behind our booth where nobody could see me except other vendors who were also back there eating or whatever), but I didn’t manage to get in a good, solid practice until yesterday morning. Yesterday was the last day of the fair. And I’m now about ten days behind where I had planned to be at this point with my second round of PBResolution.

Today is 4/29. You’ll note that I’ve only marked off workouts through 4/19. I just did “4/19” this morning. Oops.

There’s a lesson in this, I think. Sometimes life gets crazy. Sometimes you break your 22 week streak. Sometimes yoga happens only in 5 minute increments where and when you can squeeze it in (motorcycle yoga, anyone?).

It’s a pause, not a giving up. A temporary sidelining rather than a failure. Just because I stopped for ten days doesn’t mean I gave up and stopped forever. And yes, I’m all about getting up early to get it in when I can, but also there comes a point when you have to choose between getting up early and getting enough sleep to get you through what you gotta do, and I spent ten days on the wrong side of that line and had to choose. I chose sleep, I’m not ashamed to say.

But you may be wondering where the bees enter into all this. I promised bees in the title of this post, and I shall not disappoint you here.

I rode my motorcycle to work several days last week, and I think my riding skill improved tremendously because of it (because if you can ride in rush-hour traffic through midtown, you can ride anywhere, I think). But I had a special little adventure during my commute home on Friday.

Less than a mile after I left work, I noticed some bugs swirling around in the lane up ahead. I thought they were flies or something. I was in the right turn lane and needed to turn right, so I couldn’t really change lanes/swerve to avoid them. I was like, “Well, this is gonna be gross, but whatever.” It was not as “whatever” as I could have hoped. It was, in fact, a smallish swarm of bees.

Thanks to the windscreen on my bike, my torso was mostly spared. I did, however, have several bees pinging off my visor, arms, and legs. And I still didn’t realize they were bees and not flies until one of them stung me right on the back of my throttle hand and I looked down at it, because it was then stuck there. Well crap, these are bees! was about what I was thinking.

Made it around the corner and found a safe place to pull over, and managed to safely remove bee and stinger from my hand. Mind you, this was the first time I’d been stung by a bee in Arizona, and just a few days earlier we’d been having a discussion in the pharmacy where I work about how you can be allergic to bees in one region of the country but not another. I knew I wasn’t allergic to Oregon bees (thanks to having stepped on an in-ground nest at age 12 and being stung over 50 times in probably less than a minute), but I hadn’t tested my luck yet with Arizona bees. So I sat there by the side of the road for a minute or two just to make sure I wasn’t about to stop breathing or anything, and sort of tested how my right hand was working, because that’s kind of important when you’re on a motorcycle.

After a few minutes, I determined I was probably okay to ride, but decided to head straight home rather than make the stops I had planned to make on the way… just in case.

I shared this little story with my biker friends, and the general consensus is that I get some street cred for having ridden through a swarm of bees and come away relatively unscathed. Three days later, I still have a little red spot on the back of my hand that is a little bit itchy, but no lasting harm that I can tell. Also, I have been called the Bee Queen by more than one fellow rider. (Please note: I refuse to change my road name to “Bee Queen”. It will not happen.) I was hoping there was some sort of merit badge or something, but no… alas.

Anyway, back to the routine as normal this week, and I’m planning to finish up round two of PBResolution at a fairly steady pace from here on out. The delay will push me out until about May 20th to complete round two, but that’s okay. Temporarily down, but not out!

But I do think I need to look for a bee-related pin for my cut…

Ego Check

Sunday, March 24th, 2019 could have been the last day of my life.

I mean, theoretically I could say that about any day because we never know when our number is up, so to speak. But sometimes you flirt with death a little extra hard, and for me, March 24th was one of those days.

I certainly didn’t intend to come so close to death/severe injury that day. We were doing a group motorcycle ride with friends from Tucson to Tombstone to Bisbee and back. It was just a fun ride… not a poker run or fundraiser event or anything. I’m a new-ish rider still. Not a total beginner, but that distance was by far the longest I’d ever done in one day (I think my previous daily record was 70 miles), and it was roads I wasn’t familiar with at all. I’d never even been to Bisbee. I was riding with a group of very experienced riders, some of whom have been riding longer than I’ve been alive. They were kind enough to keep it “at or slightly above” the speed limit for the day so I could keep up, but nobody could have guessed what would have challenged me the most: long, gradual curves in the road.

Most of my riding up to this point had been on city streets. Straight lines and intersections with ninety degree turns. Long, gradual curves and what one friend called “the twisty-turnies” were new to me. And everyone else was doing them at a pretty good speed. After safely making it to Tombstone, I was feeling pretty good about myself. “Yeah, me and my 500cc Aprilia Scarabeo can hang with these Harleys!” was not exactly the thought in my head but was basically how I was feeling about it. I was feeling like a badass biker chick. We had breakfast, hung out, then got back on our bikes to head to Bisbee. Somewhere in between the two, things got out of hand.

In one “twisty-turny” section of the road, we were all cornering to the right at about 65 mph (gradual corner, like I said, so everyone was going pretty fast). I’m still not sure what went wrong, whether it was wind, load balance, or a combination of the two, but suddenly I couldn’t get my bike to turn to the right and started drifting to the left. I drifted so far to the left, in fact, that I was over the center line into the lane where there was oncoming traffic. And then my front wheel started wobbling, which I knew meant I was about to lose control of the bike entirely and go down. At 60-ish mph. With oncoming traffic. I remember thinking, “Shit, I’m gonna go down right here! This is gonna be where it ends.” And I took a deep breath, did the best I could to steady/balance the bike, and managed to start heading back to the right and back over the center line into my proper lane. The oncoming cars, fortunately, had seen me and moved over to their right to give me some space. I made it the rest of the way to Bisbee without incident, but was doing a lot of deep breathing to calm myself… yoga training for the win.

When we got to Bisbee, the two guys who had been riding behind me and saw the whole thing came running over and were like, “We thought you were gonna go down! You scared the shit out of us!” My husband, who had been in front of me in the formation and had seen nothing, overheard and inquired what had happened and I did my best to explain it, with some help from the two guys who had been behind me. The two behind me, Juice and Sparky (road names, obviously), were actually very nice about it. As Sparky said, “You’re not our first newbie rider, and you’re not gonna be the last.” The group as a whole agreed to slow it down a bit in the curves going back, and Sparky, who was immediately behind me in the formation, said, “I’m watching you. You don’t have to stay to the left. If you need the lane, take the lane, and I’ll drop back. Just ride where you feel comfortable.”

When we were getting on our bikes in Bisbee to head back to Tombstone and Tucson, my husband looked at me from where he was on his bike next to mine, and all he said was, “Be safe. I need you.” I had those words in my head all the way home, like they were on repeat.

I totally took Sparky up on his offer on the way home. Especially in the right turns… I don’t know if I was just rattled or what, but every time we did a right turn I moved into the center of the lane to give myself plenty of space and I could always see him there in my mirror, right where he said he’d be. (Juice was directly behind me also riding on the left, so he was harder to see but it was nice to know he was back there all the same.) Despite my rattled nerves, I knew riding in the group with my two “babysitters” behind me was as safe as I was likely to get. And the only wan to get home was to ride there, so ride home I did.

It took me a while to process everything that happened. I think I was still kind of numb to it/in shock when we got to Bisbee, and probably for a while after. It’s just how I’m wired. I never panic in the moment… I stay cool, figure out what I can do or need to do, and do it. Then I panic later after everything’s calm. I didn’t start crying until I was driving to work (in my car) the next day. Like, it took a while to really process how close I came to either being seriously, seriously injured or just not being here anymore.

Once I had processed everything fully (which took a day or two), I realized what had happened was an ego check. I had gotten cocky, thinking I could keep up with the big boys on their Harleys, and I tried to do something that was above my current skill level, and it almost got me killed. Lesson learned. And in case you’re wondering, I do fully intend to keep riding… I renewed my instructional permit yesterday (they’re only good for 7 months, and mine was set to expire 3/31/19) and I plan on taking the MSF course before I apply for my full license. Could I take the MVD’s skills test right now and pass? Probably. I read over what they require and nothing they test on seems out of my current skill set. But a safety course just seems like a good idea (and also it can be an insurance discount), and if you pass the course and get your certificate, the MVD will waive the road test. It’s pricey, but seems worth it.

I realize this post has been very motorcycle-centric, but here comes the tie-in. We get ego checks in fitness/yoga too. Just recently I read an article about a woman who actually ruptured an artery in her neck and had a stroke just from doing an “advanced” yoga pose. People push themselves beyond their abilities and get hurt doing it all the time. Runners do it. Weightlifters do it. Yogis do it. We want to run as fast/as far as our friend the seasoned runner when we’ve only been running for a few weeks. We want to bench 200 like the guy next to us at the gym, but the most we’ve ever done is 100. We want that Instagram-worthy yoga pic of a pose that we’ve never been able to achieve and that our body is totally not ready for. We want to hike up that mountain with our buddies when we haven’t done anything more strenuous than walk from the couch to the fridge in months. We want to keep up with the seasoned motorcycle riders.

My point is that we all want to do things that maybe we aren’t capable of… yet. Just like babies learn to crawl before they walk, we must also learn to gradually increase our abilities. Don’t try to run five miles when the most you’ve ever run is one mile. Instead, run a mile and a half this time. If you’re okay after that, maybe next time try two miles. Maybe you keep running two miles until that gets doable, then you do two and a half. I’m not saying to not challenge yourself or not to push yourself, but I’m saying to push your capacities in smaller, safer increments.

We’ve been teaching our son to drive a car. We did not immediately turn him loose on I-10, because that would be stupid! The day he got his learner’s permit, I let him drive from the mailbox to the house (less than 1/4 mile, only one right-hand turn, never went above 5 mph) and I didn’t even make him try to get the car into the garage… that is a complicated maneuver because we somehow fit two cars and two motorcycles in a two-car garage. The next time we had him drive, we had him do slow laps of an empty parking lot. Then we let him drive home from the parking lot (less than a mile, 25 mph all the way, residential area with low traffic). Then we let him drive on the loop road in Saguaro National Park East (all one way traffic for nine miles, lots of interesting twists and turns and hills, low speed limit). Gradually, we started adding in busier roads with higher speed limits. And I’m sure this makes logical sense to everyone… when he got his permit we didn’t just hand him the keys and have him hop on the interstate. We started him with the very basic elements of driving and gradually built from there. (For the record, he has now driven on I-10, but he doesn’t have a full license yet.)

Slow and steady wins the race, so they say, and I think that is true of many different “races”. Whether it’s learning to drive, improving one’s ability to run/lift, or even in one’s yoga practice… push your limits, but do it slowly and sensibly. Don’t pull a Meagan and immediately try to ride 200 miles with the Harleys.

Mine is the big silver one in the middle with the helmet on the seat. Technically a scooter, but at 500cc it registers as a motorcycle in Arizona and it will do 85 mph no problem. It’s a 2006 Aprilia Scarabeo. I bought it from an actual Italian man for $2100 cash. Runs great… just needed new tires when I got it.

Taking it Down a Notch…

Confession time: I skipped a couple of workouts last week for the first time in over four months. Yes, I was working a lot of hours. Yes, I had a lot of non-work activities going on. But that wasn’t why I did it. My body was just tired. Not in the “I need to sleep” sense, but in the “I need to stop doing all of the things” sense.

I looked back at the last few months and realized that even on my Sunday “rest days”, I hadn’t really been resting… I’d been doing hikes, walks, yard work. Strenuous, physical activities on my “rest” days. My day job is also pretty physically demanding, especially on Thursdays when we unload the truck. Even on regular days I’m just on my feet all day long, and often standing mostly in one place, which my body hates… I’d rather be walking than standing. My body was crying out for a break.

So I gave it one.

Pigeon on the Porch: the neighborhood flock of pigeons approved of this.

Even when I came back to my workout routine, which I did after a couple of days because I didn’t want to lose my habit, I didn’t push quite as hard for a week or so. Only just within the last day or two have I felt like I’m back to “full strength”. I’ve learned something from all this, I think.

In the yoga community, you’ll hear “listen to your body” a lot. It’s oft-repeated because it’s true. Sometimes you have to listen to your body, even when it is telling you to do something that seems counterproductive to your fitness goals (like skip a workout or two). This time I had to get to the point where my body was pretty much screaming at me before I listened. Next time, I intend to try to listen to my body before it has to scream at me. Because sometimes you need to take it down a notch (sorry Erin!), and sometimes that’s okay.

This past weekend we were super-busy. We had a meeting on Saturday that took up a good chunk of the evening, then we did a 200 mile motorcycle ride on Sunday (more on that in the next post), followed up by our regular Sunday night grocery shopping for the week. We were barely home last weekend, and by Monday morning I felt like I needed another weekend. So when my husband said to me the other day, “I want to do nothing at all this weekend,” I was totally on board. I’m shutting off my alarm tonight (Friday night) and I will wake up tomorrow morning whenever I do, and then I will go do “the yogas” on the porch in the sunshine, because I can’t think of a better way to start a lazy Saturday.

It Doesn’t Get Easier…

In my foolishness, I one day spent quite a bit of time looking for “fitness inspiration” on Pinterest. One thing I saw repeatedly said, “It doesn’t get easier… you just get stronger.”

Eh… well, partly yes, but that’s not all there is to it either. It doesn’t get any easier at all, actually. In fact, it has to get even harder in order for you to continually get stronger.

Real world example: when I first started this fitness craziness back in November, I could get my heart rate well over 100 bpm just by jogging in place for 60 seconds. Fast-forward to now, and that exact same activity only gets my heart rate up to 85 bpm or so. It didn’t get any easier… it’s the exact same exercise. My body did get better conditioned, however, which makes it feel easier. In order to get the same “workout” effect I got in the beginning (heart rate over 100 bpm), I now have to either run longer (like for 2 minutes instead of 1), or jazz it up a bit with some high-knees and jumping. For me to continue to see any benefit to this exercise, I have to find a way to make it harder. And when it begins to feel easy again, I will have to make it harder still. Otherwise, my progress will plateau.

In weightlifting, you have to continue to increase the amount of weight you’re trying to lift if you want to continue getting stronger. You have to actively make what you’re doing even more difficult if you want to see progress.

It’s the same in yoga too. When I first started yoga, your standard sun salutation was pretty exhausting for me. I was that person in class who would just stay in downward-facing dog while everyone else went through the vinyasa. Sometimes I would take child’s pose and stay there for a while because I knew my body could not do another freaking sun salutation. Now, not only do I vinyasa right along with the class, but I also find it kind of relaxing. If I want to challenge myself and grow stronger, I have to up the difficulty, either by adding more sun salutations, or attempting to do more difficult poses that challenge my limits.

By “more difficult poses that challenge my limits”, I mean this one. A pose I can barely hold for two seconds, while balancing on a wet rock in the middle of a creek. Upping the difficulty, like I said.

So I guess what I’m trying to say is that you need to find an exercise/sport that can grow with you as you progress. You can’t just run a mile at the same pace every day and hope to increase your fitness level. You either have to run farther, run faster, or both. You can’t do the same number of reps with the same weight every day and expect to get stronger. You either have to add reps, add weight, or both. It has to get harder.

I mean, yeah, you do get stronger, but only if you make it harder. It doesn’t get any easier ever, really, and if it does, you’re doing something wrong. At least if you want to get stronger, you’re doing it wrong.

Challenge yourself. Push your limits. Try things you don’t think you can do. You might be even stronger than you think you are.

The Magic of “Priorities”

I read something not too long ago that really resonated with me. I forget where I saw it, but it stated that saying, “I don’t have time” is basically code for, “It’s not a priority for me.”

Think about that for a minute. I mean, really think about it. As adults, how often do we run into someone we haven’t seen in a while and say something like, “We should totally get together for coffee sometime!” And then you never do. “Well, we’re both so busy,” you tell yourself. But that’s crap. Because I bet you found time to marathon Game of Thrones (or whatever show you’re into) this week, and that takes longer than meeting someone for coffee. Maybe you found the time to finish reading a novel. Point is, I’m sure you did something that you didn’t strictly have to do, despite “not having time”.

“I don’t have time for that,” is adult-speak for, “I don’t actually want to.” Humans will naturally find time to do things that they really want to do. “You’ll find the time or you’ll find an excuse,” is another quote I’ve seen floating around on the internet somewhere that I wholeheartedly believe in.

“And how is this fitness-related?” you ask me. To which I ask you a question: have you ever said anything to the effect of, “I don’t have time to exercise”? Maybe, “I’d like to get in shape, but I just don’t have the time.” Or maybe that wasn’t your excuse. Maybe your excuse was, “I can’t afford a gym membership” or “I don’t know what to do”.

We live in the internet age, people! If you really want to know how to do anything (yoga, strength training, parkour, you name it) there are TONS of people on the internet telling you how to do exactly that. I literally started my yoga practice in my own home using pins I found on Pinterest. I still work out at home. I splurged on a fancy program to follow recently (PB Resolution, if you’re curious), but for a long time I was using free internet resources and things I already had around my house.

Want to strength train but don’t have weights? Use milk jugs with varying levels of water in them. Or sand. Or gravel. Fill them with whatever you’ve got on hand. Use soup cans/water bottles. Use your small children! They’ll think it’s hilarious! (Seriously, I used to do bicep curls balancing a four-year-old across my forearms. Don’t think I could do that now that he’s 17, though.) Don’t know any exercises to do with weights? Google that shit! Non-sponsored recommendation: Try Nerdfitness.com – Beginner Body-weight Workout. You don’t even need weights! Body-weight exercises are totally a thing… all you need to have is a body, and if you’re reading this I assume you have one. Even if your body has problems/disabilities, there are modifications that can be made. If you are determined to find something, you will find something you can do.

Want to try yoga but don’t have a yoga mat? That’s totally cool… you don’t need one! Any surface with some traction works (I mean, in your socks on a hardwood floor is probably a bad idea, but take off your socks and you’re golden), and if you need cushion under a joint or two, you can use a rolled up blanket or a pillow. No strap? A belt, scarf, or towel will work just fine. No fancy leggings? That’s okay! You can do yoga in any clothing you can move comfortably in. (I like the fancy leggings because they make me happy, but they are definitely not a must-have.) You can also do yoga naked, and I totally recommend trying that at least once if you have a reasonable expectation of privacy or live with a person who doesn’t care.

Basically, I am challenging you to rise above your excuses. If there’s something you’ve “always wanted” to do but never did because you “don’t have time”, make that shit a priority! Google it. Figure out how to get started. Make the time. Schedule it in. Even ten or fifteen minutes a day to start. Just make it happen. Stop letting your excuses win the day and DECIDE to do something that will make you happy/help you improve yourself. Make yourself a priority.

Unpopular Opinion: Why I Don’t Believe in “Motivation”

“Unpopular Opinion” may become a running segment on this blog, because I have lots of them. But we’ll try this one out and see how much hate mail I get, I guess.

As I mentioned in the post title. I don’t believe in motivation. To clarify, I don’t believe that there is a magical motivation fairy that will come sprinkle you with magical motivation dust and make you WANT to get out of bed at 5:30 AM every morning and go work out. I don’t believe in continuous motivation at all, in fact.

“Now, wait just a minute,” you might be saying. “Aren’t you the one who has gotten out of bed every morning to work out for the last nearly sixteen weeks running? Surely you’re motivated to do so!”

This is the face I make when you assume that I’m motivated. This is also me not being at all motivated.

Your assumption is met with laughter and head-shaking, I assure you. Most mornings, particularly the mornings where my work schedule requires me to drag myself out of bed prior to 6 AM (sometimes having only gotten to bed around 12 AM), I absolutely DO NOT feel motivated at all to get out of bed and go work out. The extra hour of sleep often sounds like a fantastic idea. So why do I not just stay in bed? There are a few reasons…

#1: I have DECIDED that working out in the morning is a thing I’m going to do. I have built it into my schedule the same as I have built going to work into my schedule. I HAVE to show up, unless any of the same reasons I would legitimately call in to work apply (sick, injured, hospitalized, death in the family, etc.). Motivation has absolutely zilch to do with it, because most of the time I’m not feeling particularly magical or sparkly in the morning when I drag my ass out of bed and put my big-girl leggings on to go work out. Working out in the morning is a long-term commitment I have made to improve my health situation, the same as my employment contract with my employer is a long-term commitment I have made to improve my financial situation. I don’t view the two any differently, and I think that may be why it seems to be sticking this time. I have tried and given up on more diets and exercise programs than you’d believe. (Though I did touch on some of those in an earlier post, if you’re curious.)

#2: I already know I won’t “do it later”. There’s some self-knowledge that comes with reaching your mid-30s, and one of the things I now know about myself is that “I’ll do it later” is code for “I’m not gonna do it today.” For some things, that’s okay. If I say “I’ll do it later” about cleaning the bathroom and it doesn’t happen until 3 days later, usually that’s okay. But if I say “I’ll do it later” about one of my workouts, then I’ve broken my routine and upset my healthy habit that I’ve been working so hard to cultivate. Also, given the fact that I usually come home from work late at night (between 7 and 11 PM) and completely exhausted, the odds of me actually completing a workout after work are slim to none. I have decided that this is unacceptable. (See? There’s that word “decided” again.)

#3: Habit/routine are my best allies right now. Seriously… motivation is a fickle creature and cannot be depended on. Habit and routine, however, are much harder things to upset once established. I remember when I was a kid, my adult neighbor and I were looking over the rickety old fence dividing our two properties and she remarked, “The only thing holding that fence up is habit!” I want my workout routine to be like that fence… still standing strong because it simply doesn’t know what else to do. Seriously, it is much easier to get up and go work out half-asleep and on autopilot. I’m usually already started before I fully realize what I’m doing, and what point is there in stopping once you’ve already started? Also, my husband already knows that first thing in the morning when I get up and put on my workout clothes, I’m off to “do the yogas” (as he says), and I will not tolerate delays or interruptions, and he knows to leave me alone until I’m done. This is good for both of us… good for me because I get it done, and good for him because it’s not really safe to talk to me about finances first thing in the morning, which is what he usually wants to talk about on Saturday mornings, for some reason. Seriously, the weekly review of how much money we spent this week can wait an hour.

Now if only I could train the cat to leave me alone for the first hour after I wake up…

A cool thing about working out at home and owning your own equipment is that you can rub your feet on your weights if you want to.

I guess saying I don’t believe in motivation at all is a bit of an overstatement, but I certainly don’t think it is something continuous or reliable. I obviously started working out and taking care of my health because I was motivated to do so, but that’s about all motivation is good for. Motivation gets you started. It’s the kick in the butt that makes you take the first step forward. You may get occasional, subsequent flashes of motivation that inspire you to add another type of workout to your regime or try something in a different way, but you can’t rely on motivation for the day-to-day will to get up and work out, because it’ll let you down 95% of the time. Your long-term success or failure is going to be determined by your level of commitment, and whether or not you have truly decided to make this change in your life.

Decisions and commitment are a million times stronger than motivation any day of the week.

A Real-Life Fairy Tale

This post isn’t really fitness-related, but I feel it’s important in terms of understanding me, and if you like a good love story you might like this one. Here in Arizona, my main people are my husband and my son, and how I acquired my husband is a bit of an interesting story. Do you know how we met? I’ll tell you how…

Third grade. In 1990. We were eight years old.

He was my best friend third grade through fifth grade. I was pretty sure his parents were millionaires or something… they lived in a big, nice house by a lake. His mom drove a Mercedes, and was always willing to take us places. She actually taught me how to swim. We were paired up together to do the maypole dance for May Day in 5th grade. I remember “rehearsing” in his driveway with both of our moms watching and sort of laughing at us. And because we keep it real here, and we really like embarrassment, here is the oldest existing photo of me and my husband together that I am aware of, courtesy of my mom:

We both had lead roles in the class play in Mrs. Webster’s 4th grade class… this photo is probably from early 1992, though it could also be late 1991. Weren’t cameras great then?

I remember him as being a huge geography nerd. I came in 2nd place in the school geography bee in 5th grade, losing first place to him. He was into cartography. He could draw an extremely accurate map of any U.S. state from memory. (This will be relevant later, believe it or not.) We both liked “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”. In 5th grade for Valentine’s Day, our teacher had us make little heart-shaped books and we were supposed to pass them around and write something nice in everyone’s book. He drew a state in everyone’s book. He drew Illinois in mine, along with a note that said it was his favorite state to draw. (We are not from Illinois. I’ve still never even been to Illinois.) I remember thinking it was cool that he drew his favorite state inĀ my book. It was the beginning of a nerd-crush.

At some point during our 5th grade year, his millionaire parents (okay, not millionaires according to him, but considerably more well-off than my family) took him to Hawaii on vacation. When he came back, he had a gift for me (which I suspect his mom made him get me). It was a ring carved out of a seashell. I remember I wore it every day until it got accidentally broken in P.E. class. I was quite saddened by that, and I actually kept the pieces in a box well into my adulthood. This will be relevant later.

At the end of 5th grade, my family moved to another town about an hour away. I only saw him once after that… his mother drove him all the way out to our new house to spend a day. There were two litters of feral kittens under the front porch (our new house was out in the country and people would dump unwanted cats in our area) and we spent most of the day trying to catch/tame kittens and getting scratched up and bitten. Good times, right?

I called him once or twice after that, but it was kind of… weird. We didn’t really have too much to say anymore, and eventually we lost contact entirely.

I married my first husband in 2001 (who I’d gone to high school with) and had my son the same year. We were separated before our son’s first birthday. I barely even dated for the decade that followed. I had a long-distance quasi-relationship with a guy I met online who lived in England, but nothing super serious. I was full-time single-momming, working up to four (yes FOUR) part-time jobs at a time, and I didn’t really go out or have a social life. As time went by, I decided I was just meant to be by myself and I was cool with that.

Out of the blue, in late June of 2012, while sitting at my desk in the office of the apartment complex I’d only started working at two months prior, I got a Facebook message. All it said was, “Hey, remember me?” Hell yes, I remembered him! Because I’ve never known anyone else with a weird, Finnish last name, and I told him that exactly. By that point, it had been nineteen years since we’d last seen each other. Last time we saw each other, he was just barely eleven and I was almost eleven. Now he was just barely thirty and I was almost thirty (our birthdays are almost exactly 4 months apart). We exchanged a lot of Facebook messages catching up, then exchanged phone numbers and switched to text messages. My sister (who had been two years old last time he saw her) was getting married the following week, and I half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to be my date for my sister’s wedding. “Hell no!” was his response. (What, you thought that was going to be our first date? Please…)

We made arrangements to meet up the Saturday following my sister’s wedding, which was the first Saturday in July. I was actually sort of hesitant about it. I was like, “I haven’t seen this kid in almost twenty years… he might be a serial killer for all I know!” So we met up at a McDonald’s on a very busy street corner. I walked there. I didn’t want him to even know what my car looked like at that point. I had zero expectations for this meeting. I figured I’d have a cheap lunch with an old friend, and if he was completely wackadoodle I could just put him back out of my life.

By the time we were done with lunch, he was trying to convince me to get in his car. He said he wanted to take me to the beach. Knowing full well that we were a three-hour drive from the nearest ocean I was very skeptical, but he persisted. In the end, though, I got in his car and let him take me to his “beach”. It turned out that his intended beach was less than half an hour from my house, and it was on a river, not the ocean. Also, it was right next to an airport, and I quickly learned this wasn’t an accident. My geography nerd had morphed into an airplane nerd. Every time a plane took off overhead, he’d tell me the airline, the model of the plane, and a likely destination city based on direction of travel and the time of day it took off. Yes, he studied flights well enough to know roughly what time of day planes departed that airport for certain cities.

In between airplanes, we were sitting side-by-side on the beach, staring across the river to the city on the other side (which was in another state). He started drawing in the sand, and I wasn’t really paying him much attention until he elbowed me in the side and asked, “What’s that?” I looked, and he was pointing at his drawing. “That’s Illinois,” I said, recognizing it immediately. He quickly erased it and proceeded to draw a few more states and have me guess them, then he moved on to foreign countries. So… no change there.

My son was spending the day at my mom’s that day (he would spend every Friday night with her and I would pick him up Saturday evening). By that Saturday evening, we had ended up at my apartment and were playing board games. So much for not letting him know where I lived… I finally told him I had to go pick up my kid, but we should hang out again sometime, and he agreed and left.

“Sometime” ended up being the very next Saturday. And on the third Saturday, when I told him I needed to go pick up my son, he said, “Maybe I should go with you.” I was like, “Why?” and he said something about not having seen my mom in twenty years or so and wanting to say hi. But this also meant introducing him to my son, which I was kind of on the fence about. Eventually, though, I agreed and he rode with me out to my parents’ house, complaining about how it took “seven hours” to get there (it was 45 minutes).

The next Saturday he went with me to pick up my son again, and then suggested that we should all go to the river on Sunday. I wasn’t quite sure why he wanted to hang out with both of us, but my kid loves swimming. So I agreed.

I should probably point out at around this point in my narrative that I am not good with subtlety. It is completely lost on me. I am also a bit emotionally incompetent, and very slow to pick up on emotional things. This is about to become really relevant.

One Saturday night, he suggested I go out with him and two of his friends, who lived in a nearby city. They were a couple. The man was an Air Force friend of his. The friend’s wife seemed very interested in me, and asked me all sorts of questions about myself. Finally, she asked me, “So what exactly is your relationship to Train anyway?” (“Train” is my husband’s Air Force nickname, and what most of his friends call him.) I had had a couple of drinks by then, and I sort of shrugged and said as far as I knew we were just hanging out. She immediately got up, seized her husband by the arm, and dragged him outside. Strange behavior, I thought, but I wasn’t too worried about it. Moments later, they both came back in and the husband grabbed “Train” by the arm and dragged him outside. “Wow, these people are odd!” I was thinking at that point.

Finally, they came back inside and “Train” came and sat down next to me. He said, “So, it’s been brought to my attention that you’re unclear about the status of our relationship.” Thoroughly confused by that point, I made some comment to the effect that I hadn’t been fully aware there was a relationship to have a status of. He said, “Well, as far as I am concerned, we are together and we probably will be for a very long time… as long as that’s okay with you, that is.”

As we were walking back to the other couple’s house that night, the wife was walking with me and she was just gushing. “I knew he was into you!” she told me. “He was talking about a girl, and I’ve never heard Train talk about a girl before!”

Things moved pretty quick after that. By that point he was spending Friday night and Saturday with me, then Sunday with me and my son. I gave him a key to my apartment so he could wait for me to get off work (I managed the apartment complex I lived in at the time). Once I got a text from him while I was still at work telling me that he’d cleaned my bathroom. And on Sunday evenings I would walk out into the parking lot with him, watch him drive away, and be sad. I’d always been very territorial of “my” space and not wanted anyone in it. I wanted him in my space. He moved in with me at the end of August. Told you we moved pretty quick.

One of our earliest “family” outings, about a month after he moved in with us.

We went to my parents’ house for Independence Day the following year. As I was helping my dad grill burgers in the front yard, he said, “So… when are you two going to get married?” I said that we hadn’t really talked about it. My dad said, “Well, I think everyone just assumes it’s going to happen at some point. And I like this one. I didn’t like the last one, but I like this one.” (“The last one” was my ex-husband.) I told him his opinion had been noted and kind of shrugged it off because dads are weird sometimes.

Not too long after that, “Train” started trying to convince me that we should all three go on vacation to Hawaii. And he told me about how much it would cost. I balked at that, I’m not going to lie. I grew up poor, and spending that much money (which was still an amount I could barely even wrap my head around) just to go to a place for fun was almost incomprehensible to me. He seemed so disappointed when I told him I didn’t think we should spend that much money just to go somewhere that I eventually changed my mind. He got all excited then and started telling me that he wanted to go to Maui, where his parents had taken him when he was about my son’s age. And suddenly I was like, “I remember when you went. You brought me a ring.”

“I did?” he asked. He clearly had no memory of this, lending credence to my hypothesis that his mother made him do it. I told him about it, how it had gotten broken and I’d kept the pieces until right before I’d moved into the apartment we’d first lived together in… only a few months before he’d contacted me on Facebook. He laughed and said he’d get me another one if I wanted.

We went to Maui in December of 2013. All three of us. We did all the touristy things… we snorkeled at Molokini Crater, we went up Haleakala, we hung out on the beach. Train made a topographical map of Maui in the sand, and then went on to add the rest of the Hawaiian islands (“But it isn’t to scale,” he said, dismissing his own handiwork). The hotel we were staying at was in Lahaina, and we spent a fair amount of time just kind of wandering the downtown area. And he kept disappearing and reappearing. I remember my son remarked on how Train “got lost a lot”.

I had sort of a weird side quest in Hawaii… I was trying to find a ring like the one he’d gotten me in 5th grade so I could make him buy it for me. I couldn’t find one anywhere that looked like the one I’d had before. Finally, on our last full day in Hawaii, we were in Kihei and I found a whole basket of them at a roadside stand. They were all too small… like for child-size fingers. Whatever sort of shell they were carved out of apparently didn’t get that big. I was a little disappointed, but pleased that I’d at least been able to prove that these rings existed, which Train was beginning to doubt.

On our last evening in Hawaii we went to the beach. Toward sunset, I noticed that purple flowers were washing up in the surf. They were the same flowers that were used in the leis that the hotel handed out, and I assumed someone had worn theirs into the ocean and it had broken, but for no reason really I was running in and out of the surf trying to pick up these flowers. I had a whole handful of flowers and I turned around and there was Train. Down on one knee. He had a ring for me, and it was made from a shell, but wasn’t like the one I had as a kid. It was made of abalone.

Suddenly all his disappearing in Lahaina made more sense. I told you I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes. And I did say yes, if you’re wondering. My son was nearby and saw the whole thing, and he immediately ran over and asked if that meant he could call Train his step-dad now. We told him not until after the wedding. But as it turned out, the entire trip to Hawaii was a plot to propose to me on the beach at sunset, which was why he’d been so disappointed that I’d initially vetoed the idea of the trip.

I don’t have any cool proposal photos, but we did take this picture shortly afterward. Hair done by Pacific Ocean. Makeup done by Not Applicable. And apparently still worth marrying.

Just a couple of weeks later, after discussing getting married “in September maybe”, we were at my parents’ house on Christmas day (Train’s parents had both passed before he and I reconnected, which is why we never do anything at their house). Train was looking at airfare, which is a thing he does for fun. And he said, “Remember how I told you I’ve always wanted to go to Bora Bora? Well, there’s a really good deal for tickets right now… but it’s at the end of March. Should we go?” I said, “Well, that sounds like a honeymoon trip to me…”

We got married on March 22, 2014, just barely three months after he proposed to me in Hawaii. Neither of us was interested in a huge wedding (we’d both been married before), and I was in fact advocating for a courthouse wedding. He said he did that the first time and wanted a real wedding this time, but a small one. So we did, and it was vaguely tropical themed. I got most of the decor at Dollar Tree, and my sister did amazing things putting together centerpieces and my bouquet with $1 items. She also made our cake.

I don’t think I’ve worn that much makeup since March 22, 2014.

A week later, we set off on our honeymoon to Bora Bora. Like, somehow I married my best friend from elementary school, got proposed to in Hawaii, and honeymooned in Bora Bora. I’m not sure how on earth this fairytale story happened to me, but I am grateful.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, Bora Bora is awesome.

See? Told you it was awesome.

At the time of this writing (about 11 PM on 3/8/19) we’re about 14 days away from our 5th wedding anniversary. We’ve been together for almost seven years. We’ve been through a lot together, and I can’t imagine my life without him now. He’s been the dad I always wished my son had when he was younger. My son doesn’t call him “dad” (he’ll sometimes say “my father figure” because he has my sense of humor), but they both know the sentiment is there. And Train has taken us both lots of places that I never would have thought to go on my own… most recently to Europe. My little boy is 17 now… almost grown up. Before we know it it’ll be just the two of us in the house, and who knows what kind of trouble we’ll find to get into…

2/27/19 – I “murdered” him with yoga. Yes, he is using a yoga block as a pillow.