Saturday, July 21, 2012

It's His Turn

I have been in love with my husband for 15 years and married to him for 10 of those years.  Many of my own "firsts" can be dated back to around the time our relationship began.  The first year of my career, my first completely new car, and even my first attempt at running all occurred about the same time this seemingly tough guy first caught my eye.  We have known each other since we were kids, but it wasn't until much later into adulthood when we actually started seeing each other as something other than platonic former high school buddies.  Back in those early days together, I was overweight (yes, more than I am now) and was intensely involved in a love affair with pepperoni pizza and Starbucks frappuccinos.  My husband, on the other hand, has been a dedicated gym rat since his early teens.  He is one of those old school original health nuts that shuns all the new age fitness fads and prefers the smelly funk of a weight room any day.  Looking back, it seems ironic that a weightlifting fitness fanatic fell for a chubby chic without a fitness clue.  He was a protein shake carrying workout guru and I was a wannabe feminist, too afraid to sweat out a good hair day.  We evolved, thank goodness, and now we both follow an active lifestyle that will hopefully rub off on our children as well.

Juggling jobs, social outings and workout sessions has become trickier since the kids have come along.  When my boys were babies, we took turns with our respective workouts.  While hubby and the babies were still asleep, I would wake up at the butt crack of dawn on the weekends to get a run completed before the oppressive sun made the temps unbearable.  Upon my return home, hubby and I would switch places and he would head out to the gym for his own private time.  These days we can take the kids with us to workout excursions if they are so inclined.  Child care is not nearly as stressful as it was back in those early days but we still have to schedule our workouts ahead of time until the boys are more mature.  I still usually workout during the early morning hours and he prefers gym time later in the evening.

I took you down this nostalgic stroll on Memory Lane because a new wrinkle has been added to the fold.  Hubby is now a new runner and cyclist.  Although I recognize the symptoms, it is still hard to believe he caught the running and cycling bug like so many others.  When he first spotted his most recent pair of running shoes, he got all giddy in the store as if he'd just eyed his first big boy train set.  When he was shopping for his bike, he courted it the same way he courted me in the early days of our relationship.  Now that he has all his shiny new gear, he handles the stuff with kid gloves like he once handled our newborn babies.  Oh yeah, and I am having a blast teasing him about his behavior.  To get the full picture, you have to understand that this man does not lose his cool often.  He prides himself on his tough guy demeanor and does not let too many people see the chinks in his armored exterior.  However, watching him jump in his car like a whipped little girl every time the bike store has a sale is better than watching a classic Saturday Night Live skit.  He loves his new hobbies and I love seeing him happy.  He deserves it.

All of this has propelled him to register for his very first triathlon, scheduled for late September.  Registering for a race in September is deliberate because it coincides with the one year anniversary of his kidney transplant.  This is his way of bringing things full circle after a year of so many heartbreaking challenges.  Thanks to his athletic background, the training has not been too strenuous for him.  He just has to get into the practice of doing three different events in one race.  He has hired a swim coach, connected with some cycling buddies and actually came to me, of all people, for running advice.  Imagine that...the master has humbled himself to seek instruction from a mere mortal.  Don't think for one minute that I won't use this as fodder the next time he makes fun of me and my off beat running quirks.  He has now achieved his first running injury and his first big fall on his bike.  Both seemed to have injured his pride more than his body, but at least it has loosened some of his newbie tensions.

I have to remember my role of support while he enjoys this new transition.  In the early days, hubby accompanied me to every race and cheered for me at every finish line like I was a world class athlete.  His unconditional support was the one constant I could count on, even when my running performance was uncoordinated and unpredictable.  Before my confidence grew as a runner, I was childish and superstitious and sometimes down right bitchy when things did not go my way.  Hubby was on the receiving end of a lot of that bad behavior and I feel like I never completely made up for it.  Now I get the chance to repay him for all the times he put his workout plans on hold just so I could take an evening run on the trails.  I can now properly thank him for all the times he played Mr. Mom on his own while I took weekend trips away with the divas to run whatever race of my choice.  For every time he remembered on whatever gift-giving holiday that I am not a "flowers and candy" kind of girl and bought me running shoes instead, I can now show my true appreciation.  I still have to correct myself sometimes, but overall it feels good to give him first pick when it comes to scheduling our workout times.

Even if he only acts like he wants to go for a bike ride or a treadmill run, I try to prioritize his time ahead of mine because it is his turn to come first after playing a supportive role for me so many years.  He is happy and carefree on his bike and it is a beautiful sight to see someone you love light up that way about something so simple.  Hubby has always been that type of supportive and giving guy to a lot of people in his life.  He does not ask for anything in return.  However, I want to make sure he holds on to his new hobbies for his own selfish reasons.  His cycling and running doesn't have to benefit anyone but himself.  It can suck time away during his leisurely weekend hours just because he wants to.  He can splurge his extra dollars on new gear just because it makes him happy.  But most of all, I hope he is able to lose himself in a carefree stroll just for the chance to make his spirit a little lighter.  It's his turn to let go and his time to feel the joy of a great escape.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Weight Loss Report: Month 2

Remember all that boisterous talk about me reaching another 5 pound milestone by the time July 1st rolled around?  When I started out on this weight loss adventure, I vowed to lose 5 pounds a month until I reached my goal weight.  If that would have happened, I would be about half way to the finish line right now.  Confession time...I did not reach that goal this month.  I lost 1 pound in June.  Only 1 pound!  This is painful to admit, let alone put it out there for everyone to know.  Yeah, I am disappointed, but if I am honest with myself I know there were several instances in the past four weeks when I fell off the diet train with gusto.  It is summer time and my entire household has fallen into a nice easy schedule of relaxing and snacking 'round the clock.  I have kept up with my diet journal in an effort to remain within my allotted calorie count, but the contents of it have far more processed snack foods that it should.  A sinful bite here and a sweet taste there adds up quickly.  My freezer is stocked with ice cream and the cookie jar is filled with homemade chocolate chunk cookies for my ever hungry two growing sons.  There have been endless social gatherings with family and friends where margaritas and delicious summer comfort foods were plentiful.  Again, I am not making excuses for my behavior.  I could have done better and I did not.  This is simply an honest inventory of my dietary sins from the last four weeks.

There is an up side I am happy to report, or several actually.  Yes, I have slipped up quite a bit diet-wise during the month of June, but my workouts have been incredible.  I have returned to my strength training routine like a beast and it has started to pay off.  My routine has been a three-day split and I do things slightly different each time.  I have the attention span of a gnat when it is something I don't want to do.  I work all upper body twice a week and legs once per week.  Why legs only once per week?  Running is my first workout love, so between morning runs with my buds and the occasional treadmill excursion my legs get worked in excess.  Last month I spent a great deal of time in the gym just knocking off my body's cobwebs and getting back into a steady routine without my muscles screaming for mercy with each rep.  This month my strength has returned and I can see the early signs of muscle definition.  Yeah!  Nothing strokes your ego better than finally seeing the results of your hard physical labor.  It takes about 12 weeks of regular weight lifting and dieting for your body's strength gains to show up in full glory, so this is truly the early stages.  My body still carries a thick layer of fat, though not a much as it used to.  Things don't jiggle like they did two months ago.  I am still thick, but the thickness is more solid and toned lately.  Put a check mark in the success column for this.  Strength training is paying off.

On a side note, I have to jump back onto my soapbox and start preaching again.  I hear a lot of women complain about the shape of their bodies, no matter how chunky or thin they may be.  We tend to join a gym and spend all our time on a cardio machine we like and sweat for hours, expecting to see some body shaping results.  A very wise young lady (an aerobics instructor) once said that working out exclusively on just cardio will work the hell out of that one part of your body (cardio, i.e. your heart).  You will end up with a very strong heart, but the rest of your body will look pretty much the same as it always has.  My advice from personal experience is that increased muscle tone can benefit every body type.  This is not some newly adopted idea of mine.  I have long preached the benefits of women increasing their muscle mass.   I am just as guilty as anyone about not practicing what I preach in this area.

All the general complaints we have about the female physique can be improved by increasing our muscle mass.  Jiggling thighs, chunks of cellulite, flabby arms, and droopy boobs can be coaxed into better shape with regular strength training.  Not having a gym membership is no excuse to avoid strength training.  Simple old fashioned moves like push ups, squats, lunges and crunches can be done anywhere, anytime, without any equipment.  Bottom line is you have to shoot for the complete package.  You have to eat good nutritious foods, you have to burn fat with challenging cardio sessions and you must include regular strength training to see positive results.  Anyone can lose weight by restricting their calories alone, but their body won't be anything they want to show off because their body's muscle-to-fat ratio will still be lopsided.  No one wants to be skinny enough to be able to fit into a bikini and then too embarrassed to actually walk around in it because of their jiggling flabbiness.

Speed work is now a part of my weekly rotation as well.  I have been forced to do speed intervals on the treadmill (UGH!) because several of the local school tracks have been under repair for weeks.  For a slug like me, the only thing worse than actually doing speed work is having to do said speed work on the revolving belt of a treadmill like a freakin' hamster in a cage.  I breathe louder, I sweat more and my uncoordinated tendencies reach an all time high when I do speed work.  Having all this on display, in a gym, on a treadmill next to other unsuspecting patrons is just plain wrong.  Last week, I ended up on a treadmill next to my son's old first grade teacher and I could tell my sweat droplets flying into her personal space was a wee bit of a distraction for her.  The good news is I have done either a speed interval or a tempo run once per week this past month and it is tolerable enough for me to want to keep it up a little longer.  One welcome benefit is that although my speed sessions are shorter, they burn more calories in less time than my usual back-of-the-pack pace.  The pay off will be revealed whenever I sign up for my next race to see if I can push my limits just a little without too much carnage.

Total up all these developments and the result is that I am down one complete jeans size after two months of effort.  The numbers on the scale are not decreasing as quickly as I would like, but I know the changes are happening because my formerly too tight clothes are becoming wearable again.  My muscle definition is slowly coming into view and I have not given up on speed work just yet.  I have learned the same lesson (again!) that my diet still needs improvement.  Overall I have cleaned up my diet a great deal but I can do so much better.  My house is walking distance from two grocery stores, so keeping a constant stock of fresh fruits and vegetables should be a no-brainer.  My house is also walking distance from roughly 20 or so fast food restaurants, too.  Surely you understand my struggle (wink, wink).  Next month I WILL be down 5 more pounds (yes, I am declaring it!) and I know I will be able to continue to do the same workout efforts barring any illness or injury.  Being on this train for the last two months should mean I have passed a point of no return, pushing me closer to a goal I set weeks ago with no guarantees of success.  I don't want to have to start over again and again like I always have, more discouraged and disgruntled than the times before.  As the saying goes...if you are tired of staring over, then stop giving up.  This will be my new mantra as I head into another month on my weight loss journey.