Yeah, so, it’s been a while..

..but we’ll just go ahead and jump right in to something I’ve been thinking about long and hard this weekend:

I need to slow it down.

My work stress (and to a certain degree personal stress, but slightly less-so) is high right now. Like, so high my blood pressure is over 90-something over 60-something for the first time in a really long time. So high that panic attacks are becoming a fairly regular thing. So high that I find myself stress bingeing while simultaneously hyper-focused on “starting a diet” and calorie counting. Nutshell? I’m desperate for control. I can’t control work, I can’t control these few personal stressors, but I can control my body, right?!

Negative, Ghost Rider.

I can’t control my body any more than I can control whether or not Donald Trump takes to Twitter with yet another imbecile and childish rant.

One of the things that I’ve found solace in this year has been hiking. I’ve been hiking almost every weekend despite heat, cold, rain or shine. Lately 7-10 miles at a time has become normal.

Yesterday I hiked around 8 miles on a group hike. Half was blazed trail, half was undefined trail – essentially, just cutting through the woods in a general direction. I came home pretty exhausted, but didn’t think much of it since I hadn’t slept as much as I should have the night before and had just started my period. Fatigue didn’t seem surprising. I passed out on the couch for about an hour… and woke up sick. Hacking a lung, running low fever, achy, grumpy.

What’s somewhat ironic about this is that throughout this entire hike I was thinking to myself, “I need to chill out with these long hikes. They eat up 5-6 hours of my Saturday and/or Sunday every week between driving to and from the trail-head and then the hike itself, not only taking time away from the kids, but wiping me out to the point where grocery shopping doesn’t get done and Mike is left to do almost all the weekend chores. Plus the additional physical stress on top of the emotional and mental stress while not being able to compensate with extra rest and relaxation – this is an injury or sickness waiting to happen. Not cool, Jess.”

I’m crazy lucky to have a super supportive husband who doesn’t bat an eye at my wanting to spend this large chunks of time trudging through the woods every weekend in pursuit of mental and physical health. But what I started ruminating on was, is it really “healthy” if I’m putting myself in a position to be unable to spend quality time with my family and friends outside of the hiking? Not really. And it’s certainly not healthy when doing these long hikes is just adding stress to my existing stress. My body doesn’t know the difference between physical and emotional stressors. It’s all stress to the body and the immune system. As someone who works full-time, the weekends are my only time to really chill out; to sleep a little extra, to spend bulk time reading or writing, to see friends, to get some extra things done around the house to avoid feeling overwhelmed during the work week… but I haven’t really been doing any of those things. And I’ve almost completely stopped socializing on weekends because, after spending the whole day on the trail, I just want to sit around and do nothing and spend time with my husband who’s been left alone with our kids all day long.

TL;DR: It’s time to find my Minimum Effective Dose when it comes to weekend exercise.

I strength train 3 times each week, I try to walk 3-5 miles every day, and then try to get at least one hike in each weekend. If that hike is 8 or 10 miles, that’s a LOT. A lot a lot. And it’s become too much. It’s time to reel it in and limit the miles and hours I’m putting into these hikes. Maybe give myself 3 hours total for commuting and then the actual hiking. See how I feel with this. Say I get 5 miles in, but I still feel too wiped out to do anything else for the rest of the day – then maybe 5 miles is too much for now. I want to hike and feel energized when I’m done, not completely depleted.

Being in the midst of a special project at work along with my normal “busy season” workload, I won’t be able to get my daily walks in and I may not even be able to hit all my strength training sessions over the next 2-3 weeks – but that doesn’t mean I need “make it up” on the weekend with long, exhausting hikes. It means I need to focus on getting lots of sleep, eating nutritious meals, and managing my stress with downtime. When things calm down a bit, I can return to my normal routine. And that’s some thing I can and do look forward to.

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I need sleep and some goddamn salad

I really need to find my focus for exercise. I did 5 weeks of regular strength training 2-3 days/week and continuing all my walking and hiking. My 6th week was interrupted by my chronic back problems. I returned to physical therapy for a little while and have been cleared now for almost two(?) weeks… but the motivational damage seems to have been done. Big time.

Then I went on a mini-vacation this past weekend and ate and drank all that Charleston, SC had to offer.

Listen, I know fat is not a feeling… but I am feeling very fat today. And really what that means is:

  • I’m very bloated because I’ve just started my period
  • I drank a lot of alcohol over the last few days and this is contributing to both my current mental state and water retention
  • I ate something over the last couple days that isn’t sitting quite right and that’s also making me feel kind of puffy and generally gross
  • I ate very few fruits and veggies over the last few days
  • I didn’t sleep well while out of town
  • It was incredibly hot and humid in SC – more water retention
  • I probably could have drank more water than I did
  • Some really inconvenient and potentially expensive issues popped up with my house while I was gone which has tanked my ability to be bright and positive about anything at this point in time

(PS – f*ck home ownership)

I don’t know how to get back on-track with daily exercise other than just talk about it a whole bunch until it results in some action. I’ve been thinking a lot about re-joining my local gym and actually shelling out some money for personal training sessions. I want to overhaul my diet a bit, too. I think I have a tendency to hide a little bit behind “moderation” – I could stand to eat a lot more fruits and veggies and a helluva lot less pizza and fried food than I currently do. These things are more long-term-type goals, but putting them out into the ether is good. The foundations are being laid for implementing some change.

Impostor No More

I mentioned last post that I had a story to tell about physical therapy – so here we go!

Ironic that I one of the last regular blog posts I wrote was about being a runner, feeling like an impostor runner, etc. etc. …so, turns out, I probably shouldn’t run ever again! tenor

For my back health…. but, also, funny enough, my knees. Apparently my knees are not doing so great. Even though I’m not having any pain (yet), they make this really nasty crackling noise, which means my cartilage is wearing away and if I continue with high-impact exercise (LIKE RUNNING!) I could very easily end up arthritic down the road. In the words of my physical therapist, “If running isn’t your source of income, you probably shouldn’t do it.”

Okay, then.

The good news is, I can still walk, hike, bike, swim, and goof off on an elliptical. My main source of exercise for the last several months has been walking and hiking anyhow. I’d like to give biking a shot, too.

Nonetheless, this information was a little devastating. I’ve recently been really looking forward to returning to running. Now I just need to look forward to discovering new cardio outlets!

Real Talk

I am having a I Feel Disgusted With My Body day.

This feeling, I realized, is most-often brought on my seeing candid or quickly-posed photos of myself and, occasionally, weighing myself.

Well, I haven’t weighed myself in probably two months, so there could be only one other culprit…

If you follow my Instagram, you’ll see one of the two photos that put me in this mental place. Here’s the second one (which is the worst offender):File_000

Logically I know that most of what I dislike about this photo is just weird shadowing on my thighs and lower abdomen. And let me just add: even if there wasn’t this weird shadowing adding what looks to be weird fat-foldy-ness to these areas of my body and, say, my body actually did look like this, THAT IS OKAY AND I AM STILL A WORTHY PERSON WITH SASS AND GRACE AND BEAUTY. …nonetheless, I hate my body shape today and feel kind of gross and disgusting.

I’ve spent far too much mental energy trying to come up with some way to effectively starve myself small and somehow not feel starving… which, y’know, doesn’t actually exist. One can eat in a caloric deficit and gradually lose fat, but the fact of the matter is you will still have times when you’re hungry because being in a deficit is exactly that: being hungry sometimes. Not starving, but… I’m getting off track. Most of you know this shit.

Using my CBT tools that I’ve spent lots of money acquiring over the last several years, I’ve been doing my best to shut down these negative thoughts, to negotiate around, to offer positive affirmation, and, finally, to put together a solution.

Where does this body dissatisfaction come from? Part of it is: the body in that picture is not the body I see when I look in the mirror each morning. It’s not the body I see when I catch my reflection in a window. But, most importantly, it’s not the body I see in my mind’s eye. All these things I just mentioned? These are the perceptions of my body that should matter. An unflattering picture does not.

Back to that solution, though… The first is the one I’ve been working so hard on for the last few years, and that is: loving my body no matter what shape or size it is and thinking positively about my present body while being grateful for all the cool shit it does for me. The second solution is to get back to regularly lifting some heavy weight. I got 5 weeks in recently, but some of those workouts were derailed by back issues. I just recently got clearance from my physical therapist (this is a whole other story I’ve been meaning to write about, too, so stay tuned for that at some point before too long) as well as some good exercises to do to make sure I’m firing my glutes properly to protect my problem areas and I’m super stoked to take this knowledge with me into the weight room.

Returning to weight lifting is what’s going to help me the most to change my body composition and get me closer to the aesthetic I want without a super restrictive diet. The fact of the matter is, I don’t give a flying f*ck if I stay a size 18/20 if I have a bunch of bad-ass, strong, visible muscles that power all the things I love to do most.

To wrap things up, a reminder for me and for anyone else struggling with this same stuff:

Eat like you love yourself
Move like you love yourself
Speak like you love yourself
Act like you love yourself

Impostor

Ever heard of impostor syndrome? Wikipedia describes this as, “a concept describing high-achieving individuals who are marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a ‘fraud.'”

Now, first of all, I don’t necessarily consider myself to be “high achieving” – by any means. If anything, I’m on the low end of mild achievement. I have a job that I am pretty good at performing. I tend to be a quick learner. I can house, clothe, and feed myself and my children. Sometimes I drink too often and spend too much money. Mostly I am a responsible adult. I would consider myself a pretty average individual. That being said, I regularly feel like I’m a really irresponsible adult just pretending to be responsible and somehow magically getting away with it.

…I kind of forget where I was going with this.

AH! Yes!

Running.

Those of you who have been following me for a while already know: I occasionally participate in self-indulgence on the Instagrams. I snap a selfie post-workout and share it with the World Wide Web in an effort to feel like I’m entertaining people – but mostly just entertain myself. …and when I snap a selfie and begin adding all my little hashtags (as one does), there is one hashtag that I hesitate on every. single. time.

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#runner

I’ve been running since 2012. And by running I mean: jogging while stopping to walk every 1-5 minutes depending on how often I recently have been “running” and my current weight and/or fitness level.

Every time I type in #runner, I feel like a total impostor.

Who do I think I am?! I’ve never run more than 5 miles at a time! I’ve never finished a 5k in less than 40 minutes! I can count on one hand how many times I’ve slogged jogged a full mile without stopping!

Runner. PAH! Right. Sure.

…but then, I realize, this whole run/walk thing? This is a legit training method lots and lots and lots of, not just people, but professional athletes use. People who, like, get paid to run. …are they not runners?

I guess it depends on your school of thought.

But today I vow to stop hesitating before writing #runner on those self-indulgent photos I share with the world. The fact of the matter is: I run. Sometimes I run a lot. Sometimes I run a little. Most of the time it is slow and some of the time it is slower. This Sunday I will run in a 5k “race” and I will come in close-to-last because I’ll likely have to stop to walk a lot and will probably end up walking a large majority of the last mile. Does it make the event (one I’ve participated in for four years now) any less fun and the route any less enjoyable? Of course not!

If you run, you are a #runner, dammit! Even if you run in short bursts at slow speeds! That’s my opinion, anyway.

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She lives!

Hello, Friends. It’s been a while. I’ve been thinking about making my triumphant return to blogging for months now.. I even drafted a post back in January that never got finished. The last few days, though, I’ve been especially itching to write.

It’s been a rough year, folks. The things most important to me that I’ve been working hard for over the last several months (and some things for years) have begun blowing up in my face one by one, week after week. Exercise has been a true solace, but some even bigger explosions this past week threw me off my routine and schedule and as life becomes more stressful I find myself bringing focus in on my body. This is certainly a pattern; things get stressful and my body image tanks. Is this because I think if I can’t control the outside world I can at least control my body? I’m sure that’s part of it. This manifests in what I do to my hair, the type of clothes I wear, and how I do my makeup; in 3 months I’ve gone from long blonde hair to a brunette pixie cut and while I’m not unhappy with my haircut or color choice, I am already bored with it and ready for my hair to be long again and the darker color to fade out a bit.

It’s a constant battle between controlling the change in my life and needing familiarity.

And as I hunt for familiarity, I find myself leaning back towards the all-too-familiar landscape of dieting and searching out exercise plans in order to shrink my body. It is a familiar punishment. A way to control my world by “controlling” my body.

I’ve spent the last two weeks trying to recenter, paying more attention to the body positivity advocates I follow, reading back through stories and articles that spoke to me in the past, trying to focus more on how food choices and regular exercise affect my mental health rather than how they change my body aesthetic. But mostly, I’m trying so hard to be patient both with myself and for the dust to settle from all these life explosions happening day after day. And it’s really tough. I am terribly impatient even in the best of times – but during times of turmoil? Oh, boy… any inkling of patience just flies out the window.

Basically this all boils down to: I’m struggling. I’m highly anxious, I’m sinking deep into a depressive period, and there is very little light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe by starting to write again, I can keep my head above water long enough until a piece of driftwood floats by.

Shrug

 

 

Well F*ck

So, I know you guys probably didn’t realize this, but it’s December. Actually, it’s late enough in December that you could basically just say it’s almost January.

Here in Virginia we’ve had a very mild winter …until the last couple weeks. As those of you who are semi-regular followers know, my main mode of exercise has been walking and hiking with the occasional short run here and there. Well, there’s not been much walking happening for about two weeks now. I’m lucky if I can hit 10,000 steps each day and, boy, do I feel the affect it’s having on my mood and generally well-being.

Yes, there are other options. Let’s talk a little bit about some of those other options for a moment… I’ve been writing “start strength training” as one of my goals on my little weekly planner calendar thingie every. single. week. for about 3 months now. I haven’t done any strength training other than a squat occasionally (usually to pick something up off the floor.) Maybe some ab thingies. Maybe a yoga here and there. I’m not into it right now even though in the back of my head I’m super into the awesome things it does to and for my body – and because of that I keep flirting with beating myself up until I force myself to start lifting heavy things again. This is problematic for several reasons, but mainly: by doing this I’m definitely not honoring my promise to myself last month to be okay with feeling kind of “blah” during the deep winter we’re coming into and practicing self-care surrounding that.

On top of the general blahs, I’ve been insanely busy with my day job on top of the usual craziness going on during the holidays. This has lead to some pretty intense mental and emotional burnout. There have been several days that I’m going 100mph all day long and then get ready for bed and, in that moment of quiet, realize I’m completely overwhelmed and am not taking care of myself emotionally which then leads to anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of everything from silent weeping to full-on hysterical bawling. That’s certainly not a great mental state to be in.

Thankfully, I know that this pace at work will start to slow as we start January and I’ll have a little more time to breathe. Until then I just have to do the best I can with what I have – and for a few more weeks, that’s going to be very little. So, even though exercise is definitely great for managing stress and boosting all those happy chemicals in your brain, getting all stressed trying to squeeze it in when I’m already mentally overloaded is not going to be beneficial. And, I’m sorry, but there’s just not going to be any 3-5 miles of walking happening when the high temps are only hitting the mid-20s. That’s just miserable. Maybe the weather will warm back up to the 40s and  50s, though, and I can get some fresh and air and sunshine now and again. Once I’m through my busy season at work and through the Christmas holiday, I’ll think about investing some time into my mother-in-law’s treadmill and take advantage of some of the awesome YouTube channels out there like Yoga With Adriene and FitnessBlender.

Meanwhile, my #1 priority is to renew that promise to myself and focus on self-care. Winter solstice is nearly upon us, and that means the daylight hours will start stretching longer. I know by the end of February I’ll begin to feel much more myself. Until then, I just have to be kind and gentle to myself; no more flirting with self-hate or shame to motivate physical activities I’m just not interested in doing right now.