Step Off

Step Off

Trainer Nation Photo Shoot. We look mean but we’re really just teddy bears. Except when we train or teach boot camp. Then we are really mean. But only out of love.

Simple Satisfaction

I’m going there. Because frankly, I’ve been working really, really, REALLY hard in the gym for the last three months, and I’m starting to get these. Simple satisfactions. These moments where I’m like, WOW, that’s good stuff.

I always used to get totally annoyed by “fitness” people. I totally do not consider myself one of “them,” not even now that I have some muscles to show for it. Because I always had this idea that “those” people were stuck on themselves, and all into themselves, and vain, and all they cared about was their appearance. I thought the ONLY REASON for going to the gym was to SHOW OFF.

Now. This is totally NOT the reason I go to the gym.

I go because I like to feel super strong and bad ass lifting barbells, dumbbells and the like.

That being said, I’m as human as the next person, and I’m starting to get some seriously satisfying moments from my time spent in the gym.

1) Trust me. Once you start to see physical results, ie, you actually start developing muscles on your arms, back, legs, and abs–it feels good to look at yourself in the mirror. I don’t train specifically for this. But I’m not going to lie to you: when I lift weights and see my muscles doing all that work, it looks cool, and it makes me feel even more motivated to keep going. If you aren’t there yet, all I can say is keep going. Once you get there you are going to feel SO rewarded.

2) Things that used to be heavy, just aren’t anymore. That’s cool. Especially as a girl. It’s nice when you can lift more than the men around you. Makes you feel … well, just good. Strong.

3) Clothes fit differently. It’s nice that my clothes look better on me. Having broader shoulders gives your body a different visual sense of proportion. It makes your waist look thinner. And my waist has lost inches. Weight-wise I haven’t actually lost that much. But the way my clothes fit has totally changed. I’ve lost pretty much two whole sizes.

4) There is nearly no moment quite as satisfying as when you totally kill it in the gym, and then you get to drink that protein shake after. I don’t know why this is so, but it is. Protein shakes aren’t even that tasty, really. But for me, there’s this total sense of satisfaction. It’s part of a ritual. When I drink it, before I even get in the shower, it’s like, YES. I did it again.

I think rituals are totally important, and the whole protein-shake-after-workout one is now sacred for me. I look forward to it.

There’s something meditative about going into the gym, doing your same warm up routine, same stretches.

The rewards of training are so more far-reaching than simply “being in shape.”

The further you go, the more you discover along the way.

Coach G Fitness Boot Camp

HUZZAH!

Actually, I never really say “huzzah.” Nor do I say things like “huah” or “left, right, left” when I teach my early morning bootcamp for Coach G Fitness.

However, I do crack a lot of ridiculous jokes (keeping things lighthearted helps my bootcampers get through such an intensive workout) and I yell pretty loud because I have to compete with the Roman traffic (we train on a lil’ patch of grass by Terme di Caracalla and when it’s not so hot, we move to Circo Massimo) and I do make the bootcampers do a lot of really, really physically hard shit stuff. I promise I don’t swear. Much. Last week I said “kick ass” but no one seemed to mind.

Boot camp. Ah, boot camp. How I love thee, let me count the ways:

1) You showed me exercises I had never done before and then after doing them over and over, and about dying, I emerged like a whole new person. Wow.

2) Results came really fast.

3) Holy crap man, I thought I was going to die. And yet, I didn’t. And that gave me a really huge sense of satisfaction.

4) Fun. Lots of fun. Cool people. Really cool people. Who I could bitch with about how hard Coach G was on us, that now are bitching to each other (nicely though) about how hard I am on them.

5) Use of body-weight exercises that you can do anywhere means there’s never an excuse not to work out. These workouts require basically the space of a yoga mat and 45 minutes of your time. I did them every other day on vacation this summer in my hotel room or on the hotel grounds, without any trouble at all.

Wanna come out and join us? Yes you do! Yes!

We’re starting a new boot camp session next Monday, September 3. Sign up here! It costs €80 for the 8-class series (Mon/Wed 7:30 am to 8:15 am) or €15 per class if you drop in on different days. I don’t recommend dropping in though, because we build up our workouts cumulatively and each week gets more intensive, so when you skip days, you end up having to work extra hard. But sometimes it’s inevitable that you have to miss a class or two. The important thing is to come out as much as you possibly can.

As with most things in life, you have to be determined and consistent to get results.

Email me with any questions at shelley -at- coachgfitness -dot- com.

Hope you’ll come on out!

Here’s a former group of bootcampers on their last day of class. They kicked ass booty. Turn down your volume because I scream like a banshee and it’s a bit obnoxious. I made this for G just to prove to him that bootcampers kick ass butt even when he isn’t teaching.

G, my beloved Coach, is moving back to the US tomorrow. Sob. More on that later.

Meanwhile check this shit stuff out: (I’m serious though, low volume people, or I’ll scare the bejeezus out of you. Whatever bejeezus you may have in you.)

Eating for Results

Everyone knows that you have to “eat healthy” in order to get the maximum results from your workout regimen. But, here again, we find ourselves in super ambiguous territory. What the heck does “eat healthy” even mean?

Once again, you have to be super specific about what you’re doing if you want to see visible results and feel better. That means simply telling yourself “eat healthy” really doesn’t mean anything.

And I’m not going to lie to you. If there is one thing that’s required in order to get the results you want, I would say it’s sacrifice. I’d also add determination and consistency. But I think really the number one quality I had to accept and live as I broke into this lifestyle was sacrifice.

Sacrifice the time you used to devote to other things, in order to prepare your workout strategies, spend the time working out, and prepare your eating plans, meals and snacks. But most of all, sacrifice eating some foods that might be among your favorites, in order to provide higher-quality fuel for your body’s workouts and as a strategy to achieve visible results.

I live in Italy, where food is a major cultural component in socializing. It’s not easy to eat a regimented diet here. But, like anything else in life that you work towards for a purpose, in the end it doesn’t really matter whether it’s easy or not. In fact almost nothing worth having is easy to get, after all.

The first six weeks of breaking into weight training, I went hardcore on this diet and cut out all sugar, bread, pasta, non-water drinks, and tried to eat as much protein as possible. Now I’ve eased up a bit on that but I still maintain more or less the same eating habits.

I allow myself one splurge or cheat meal a week, in which I don’t put any barriers on what I eat or drink. Obviously I don’t go crazy, but at the same time I’m not stressing if I have a few glasses of wine and something with a cream sauce or whatever.

I’m certainly not a nutritionist, but I can share with you here the tips and strategies that have helped me to get really fast results, while combined with an intense workout regimen.

1) You absolutely have to sacrifice certain fillers that do nothing for your athletic performance or your body. Basically there’s really nothing else you need to be drinking besides water. If you can drink only water, do it. I drink mainly water, have an occasional cappuccino and like a splash of milk in my espresso. Other than that, it’s water. Sometimes with lemon, always slightly carbonated, and I always have a bottle with me.

2) There’s no reason you need to be eating bread. Honestly. Man can live without bread. And, imagine my shock and horror when my Coach told me to cut out pasta as well. PASTA?! In Italy!? But I did, and I survived. Why cut out bread and pasta? The simple answer you can probably guess is “carbs.” But again, what the heck does that really mean? Why we really want to cut out bread and pasta is because they have a high glycemic index and therefore cause your blood sugar to rise, and that can be metabolized into fat. You want your diet to be as low in sugar as possible. You don’t want to cut out carbs completely, you just want to choose them from the best sources. So the carbs you eat should be coming from fruit sources like bananas, apples, berries, etc., but not white bread and pasta. It also is more effective for fax oxidation if you eat them early in the day, or before or after a workout, rather than late afternoon, evening, or night. Here’s an article with more essential facts to know about carbs.

3) Speaking of sugar. You shouldn’t be adding sugar to anything. In an ideal world you could cut it out altogether. Try for that.

4) Cut out all processed foods. This was perhaps my biggest challenge. It basically means anything that’s gone through any sort of process in a factory. You want to be eating things as close as possible to the state they were in when they came out of the ground, off the tree, etc. I basically don’t eat anything from a box or package anymore, except I do buy frozen fish and bags of frozen vegetables. But I make sure that when I buy these things, that’s ALL there is. CHECK LABELS! A lot of frozen veg mixes and packaged frozen fish have added olive oil, spices, etc. etc. No. Just buy ones that have only natural vegetables or fish without anything else added. You can then season it yourself.

5) Snacks. Basically I eat breakfast, a mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack, and dinner. The best go-to snacks I use are the ones most training specialists recommend: healthy fats like a small handful of almonds, or a cup of low-fat Greek yogurt (lots of protein, no sugar, low carbs).

6) Planning ahead. Obviously you have to have these things around your kitchen in order to eat them and prepare them. So do your grocery shopping accordingly. Also, don’t buy anything that you aren’t supposed to eat. Some people say “But I have kids..” etc. Ok. So do I. I have three preschoolers under age 5 at home. They don’t eat the exact same diet as I do, but pretty darn close. They do eat pasta, and drink lots of milk. But they eat very little processed food and don’t get unhealthy snacks except as a special treat. I no longer really crave junk food so it’s not a problem for me, but if you are getting a special treat for the kids, buy just enough of it so that once the kids have their snack, there isn’t anything left around the house. My kids get popsicles instead of ice cream in our freezer. We make them with fruit juice.

Those are the tips I have for you for now. More will come over time.

Where are you at in your current eating habits? Do you pay attention to the food you’re putting in your mouth? Do you absentmindedly eat whatever is quick and convenient, or do you make an effort to be conscious about the foods you choose?

Training vs. Going to the Gym

Because, in my opinion, they are two different things.

Before I started seriously training my body (and by default my mind simultaneously), I was one of those people who, if they worked out at all, would be like, “I’m going to the gym.”

People, let’s be honest here. What does that even mean? Ok, obviously, yes–you’re going to a place with a bunch of weights and machines and a whole bunch of other equipment and random STUFF that you may not have ever used or even know how to use. Fine. But beyond that?

What I’m getting at here is the ultimate question that I think anyone who wants to really get serious about physical fitness should be asking themselves each and every damn time they go in for a workout, whether it’s at home, in a park, or in the gym:

What is my plan? What am I going to do today while I’m there, and why am I doing it?

In my opinion, and based on my own personal experience in both the training and simply “going to the gym” camps, I feel quite confident when I say that if you don’t have the time, desire, or inclination to look at that question and then answer it, you probably won’t get very satisfactory results.

Why? Well, it’s simple. Working out is like anything else you spend time on in your life. You do it for a reason, right? But with most things you do for a reason, you study and learn and practice to become precise in what you’re doing, taking specific steps to achieve whatever goal or objective you have in mind. For example, in your job, if you have an important task to complete but no one ever really gave you any decent professional training on how to accomplish the task, you’d probably go online and start researching how other people have done it, or what the best practices are.

Strangely enough though, when you think about it, the average person doesn’t do this when it comes to physical fitness.

In my experience, the average person approaches “working out” like it’s something that just magically happens when you simply “go to the gym.”

Next time you’re in your gym, take a look around. I want you to really notice what the people are doing. Honestly. All those TV sets, distractions. People on the treadmills with their cell phones! Obsessively playing with the iPod to get God only knows what obscure song to play.

Meanwhile, are any of those people really sweating?

I’m not out to criticize gym-goers, by any means. God bless anyone who takes the time out of their busy lives to dedicate effort to getting physical activity. But what I want to highlight in this post is that what divides those who get serious results from those who maintain an average level of fitness without seeing any visible results, is the time put in to answering that question above.

For example, I’ve already got my entire workout planned for my trip to the gym tomorrow. It involves new exercises and lifts with the weights that I’ve never done before. So I had to look them up, read instructions about how to do them, maybe watch a YouTube video or two, and then I wrote notes about it on my workout log.

Yes, that’s right: a workout log. Maybe you’ve seen people in your gym carrying around papers and noting things down. And hopefully they weren’t those psuedo-plans that most “intro sessions” with a trainer give you when you first join a gym, because frankly those are (generally) not worth much because they aren’t custom-tailored to you and your goals. A workout log is your personal record of where you’re at, what you’re doing, and how you’re progressing. It takes planning and dedication to keep it updated and current.

I’m following a specific six-month plan right now. Currently I am on stage 4 of the plans in this book, which was recommended to me by this amazing girl who is one of my dearest friends here in Italy, and I highly recommend this book to you as well if you are a woman just coming into weight training. There is also this version by the same authors, geared towards male beginners and elite lifters. It has objectives and reasons and specific exercises, all of which are designed to produce specific results. It also includes dietary guidelines, not as in “diet” in the traditional sense (weight loss, fad diets, etc.) but as in eating the proper foods that will allow my body to perform the lifts in the most optimal way.

That, in a nutshell, is what I’m talking about. I know it’s not for everyone. But honest to God, if you keep just “going to the gym” and mindlessly walking on a treadmill without even knowing why you’re doing it other than “I want to get into shape,” I can assure you that you won’t go anywhere significant in terms of reaching goals.

Why? It’s simple. Because “getting into shape” is a non-specific goal. As in, ok, fine. You want to get into shape. But how will you KNOW when you’re “in shape”? What does that even MEAN?

Let’s think about this. And start asking yourself, what are my fitness goals, specifically? Why am I working out? What do I want to accomplish during my time working out and how will I know when I’ve accomplished it?

Let me know in the comments where you are in your workout regimen. No clue where to start? Walking the treadmill without a goal? Intimidated by the weights and scary-looking machines? Not knowing where to start? Or on a specific training program with set markers and goals? Tips to share?

Photographic Evidence

Like, you know what people just LOVE to say nowadays? “If there’s no picture, it didn’t happen.”

Which, frankly, confounds me given the fact that in today’s day and age, you could pretty much fabricate any sort of photographic evidence you wanted by using sophisticated digital tools at a moment’s notice, on your cell phone probably, and so, would that mean it “had happened”?

It’s kind of like that whole Zen “what’s the sound of one hand clapping in an empty forest?” thingy.

Anyhoo. Just so you can know that I’m not shitting you when I talk about what I’m doing on this blog, and just so you know that I’ve lost every last shred of self-consciousness because I’M THAT DETERMINED to begin preaching at the altar of fitness, I give you EXHIBIT A:

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Which, up until now, only my dearest FB friends could see, and which I now reveal to you as proof that when my babies were six months old, I was rocking a really nice jelly belly. Nothing wrong with that! In the sense that, for the love of God, people, we’re only human. Don’t frickin’ expect miracles. But just as proof that if you hear a woman walking around saying that she still has “baby weight” and her kids are in college, well… it’s not the only way. And, don’t think I’m getting paid to sit around and lift weights all day, because I have a full-time job and also really try to make sure my kiddos have clean clothes and hot meals to eat. So, you know, if you want results, you have to make it a priority. I did. And so, I give you EXHIBIT B:

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The crappy quality is not due to some shady attempt to hide anything, but rather to the fact that the only camera I own at the moment is a really crappy cell phone one, and, I took this right after my workout today and so quite honestly, my hands were shaking a little bit. Because that’s what twohundredsixteen pushups will do to a girl.

And, before you fall into the clichèd trap that nearly all men and a good majority of women fall into, that of “OHMYGODDON’TGETALLMUSCULAR” which is just, bullshit, I give you, EXHIBIT C:

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Me and two of my very best friends out for a drink. Because, yes. But remember low-carb drinking: vodka on the rocks. So, what would you say? Too masculine? No. Do not let anyone tell you that weight training will somehow mysteriously “bulk you up” and turn you into a scary-ass She-Man. Not gonna happen. Make you a strong and gorgeous goddess? Yes. She-Man? Nope.

Anyhoo. There you go. It happened.
But it is not over yet. Not by far.

Mad as Hell

And in that title, I want you to imagine hell as a very, very angry place.

Holy crap people. Here we go. Like I really needed two blogs in my life. Because most of y’all probably know that my sarcasm and biting wit normally find their outlet over here.

But guess what happened in the meantime? I got wrapped up in weight training as a way to channel all that repressed anger I apparently built up over the fact that I’m a newly divorced mom of three children under age 5, two of whom are non-identical twin girls rounding the bend out of the “terrible twos” phase.

Clearly, if I hadn’t found a decent outlet for my stress, I just might have launched myself gracefully off of my balcony, in an alcohol-and-cigarette-smoke-induced haze.

And yet, I did not!

No, I did not at all. What I did do, people, is start getting really strong. I started this blog at the beginning, as a personal journal. I didn’t know if I would take it public or not, or what. So I just kept writing it, and no one knew about it. Then I shut it down because it was getting super emo and all gushy and personal and I was like, you know what? Fuck it.

(Oh sorry, I forgot to put the disclaimer on swears. I say different kinds of swear words, at unexpected moments. So, you know, if that’s a problem for you, you should go read LOLCats or something.)

So anyhoo, I shut it down. But I kept working out. And then something happened in the meantime. Something really important.

People started to effing notice results. Like, as in, people started saying stuff like “Damn, you look good!” which was embarrassing for me because I wasn’t sure how to take it. Like, with my shitty-ass post-divorce self-esteem (which I promise I will try to stop highlighting, ie, “fake it til you make it” and pretend I feel all good about myself, but frankly folks, I really don’t, which makes it kind of tough), my effed-up mindframe would immediately think “Bastards. Why are they making fun of me?” because this is what the human brain will tend to do to you in the following circumstances: (at least, my human brain anyhow)

1) When you leave a relationship that broke you down emotionally to such a profoundly low level (mind you I’m saying relationship, not blaming the person I was married to in any way, shape, or form—it takes two to tango and I accept my 50%), when in your mind you become conscious of the fact that you feel like you are worth pretty much less than 10-day old garbage (believe me, it feels even worse than it sounds), well, shit, you’re not really ready to gracefully accept comments about your physical appearance. Your mind tricks you into thinking it’s some kind of evil mind fuck that people are playing on you. I know, it’s messed up. But bear with me.

2) When you start working out as hard core as I did, as in 4 to 5 times a week, one hour of very, very intense work and a radically modified diet (I cut out ALL sugar, bread, pasta, and non-water drinks for six weeks…I honest to God not joking had recurring dreams about eating cookies and sweets and then realizing what I was doing and spitting it in the garbage before swallowing…yes I realize this is not normal but that’s what was happening), clearly your psyche needs more time than your body to adjust to the changes you are making in your life.

3) When you still carry around bullshit baggage that goes all the way back to high school because you were everyone’s friend but no guy would date you, so much so that you were the effing loser girl that had to TAKE TICKETS at the senior prom because not even your GAY MALE FRIENDS would go with you, well, let me tell you, the whole self-esteem thing takes some work. Honestly. You would think we’d grow out of this crapola, but for me, it didn’t magically vanish by sinking into a cozy 10-year relationship, a 4-year marriage, and three children. Nope. Didn’t. No Bandaid-brand-bandage for that shit. It’s raw. It sounds stupid, right? “First world problems.” But so be it.

Anyways, all that to say, that starting an intense physical training program has psychological and mental implications the likes of which no trained therapist can dig out. No, people. I honestly believe that Mr. Barbell and Mr. Dumbbell have pulled out more inner psychic garbage in just 3 short months than a therapist could have done over, well, a lot longer.

Because working out has forced me to come to terms with a lot of that. Lifting weights makes me feel strong and secure, and it makes me really question why I settle for men who clearly don’t respect me or want to dedicate any time, thought, or attention to me as a person, but are more interested in whatever kind of superficial physical contact they can finagle (like that? I just used the word FINAGLE. I am a goddess.) out of me and my “pick me! choose me!” needy-ass mentality.

Well folks, no more.

NO MORE I said!

After desperately trying to cling on (not in any kind of weird sci-fi Star Trek way because those people kind of creep me out, no offense) to any man who would give me any sort of even remotely superficial compliment, which is about as easy to get as simply breathing when you live here in Italian stallion-land, I was drinking that shit up like I was a lost soul in a desert without water, I realized something so basic, that it was probably akin to that feeling we all had when we first discovered Post-Its.

You know the feeling I’m talking about. It’s that “WHY THE HELL DIDN’T I THINK OF THIS FIRST?” feeling.

I realized what everyone had been telling me all along, but I was finally ready to face it. “You don’t need a man in your life to make you a whole person. You’re already whole as you are. You’re already good and perfect as you are.”

What a revolutionary concept, right? But until your HEART understands this, you just keep going out there looking for someone else to make it happen for you.

Well, thanks to Mr. Dumbbell and Mr. Barbell and crew, I got back in touch with me and my inner and outer strength.

Back to mad as hell. So now, whenever things piss me off, like, for example:

1) Yesterday the dip-shit doctor who’s subbing in August for my normal awesome doctor who’s on vacation, didn’t want to write my prescription refill because “the sign says you have to give us one business day to do so” and when I told him I didn’t see the sign until I got there and “could you please write my prescription” because seriously people, in all the time it took him to bitch about the stupid signs he posted, it could have already been done… and he says “If you don’t leave my office I’ll call the cops on you for interrupting a public service” and then he wouldn’t even give me his name? ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME? (Btw, I got my damn prescription. Because I know how to throw a first-class raving lunatic fit when the occasion calls for it. And raving lunatic I do very well when called for.)

2) The realization that I have a brilliant mind (IMHO) that very few men on this great Earth of ours are capable of stimulating in the constant manner that I require, which leads me to think that I might be single for quite some time, which almost makes me feel sad and lonely and then I remember that most men are only after sex (sorry if that sounds cynical but truly folks, at least here in Rome, that has been my experience) and that at my age most men are married and squared away and the ones “left over” are left over for a reason. Shit, people. I know none of what I’m writing here is even remotely politically correct. But once you’re a single mom raising three children under 5, you become almost like one of those cranky old senior citizens who insist on continuing to drive at 90 years old, even though everyone around them knows they shouldn’t be, and guess what?! THEY JUST DON’T GIVE A SHIT. And they do it/say it/live it anyway. Life’s too short, folks. Speak your truth.

Jesus Lord where was I going with all this?

Oh yeah. So my mixture of anger, sadness, self-pity, loneliness, jealousy, aggression, and just about any old other negative emotion you want to sprinkle in the pot, led me to think that maybe, just maybe, today was a good day to try to double my push-up regimen.

As in, “normally” when I decide to do a circuit of push-ups, I do it Coach G-style in a pyramid, so starting with 8, sprint, then 7, sprint, then 6, sprint, on down to 1. Then a one-minute break before starting the whole ridiculous torture routine again. TWICE.

So today, I had just that much anger that I was like (picture me all inner mad): “YOU KNOW WHAT?” to absolutely no one. “FUCK EVERYONE!” And that, my friends, was most probably the exact precise moment when I decided I was going to do that damn circuit. TWICE.

Which came to a grand total of TWO HUNDRED AND SIXTEEN PUSH-UPS.

And I did it.

OH YES, I most certainly did. I won’t lie to you. I wasn’t entirely sure it would be within my physical capability. But folks, can I let you in on an ancient training secret? Or, if not ancient, at least a secret discovered by yours truly just today? The mind is more powerful than you think, and it can push your body to do most incredible feats of strength. Which is why I was crazy enough to attempt and then successfully complete one circuit at the beginning of my workout. AND ONE AT THE END.

As in, one-hundred-and-eight pushups after I had worked out for nearly an hour. Full-out. No “on the knees” stuff. Which, by the way, is nothing to be ashamed of. I could barely do like five of those on my knees when I first started. Everyone starts from somewhere. No shame in the game, people! But that is another reason why this number is significant for me. Because I have come a long way, and I didn’t even need a damn Virginia Slims cigarette to confirm this fact.

So, all in all, I think that’s what I’d like to from now on refer to as “healthy anger management.” Otherwise known as HAM.

Weeee!

Welcome to the blog!

What a Difference a Day Makes

Just another reminder that, as with many things in life, one day can make a big difference.

Today was a good day in the gym. I felt better and stronger physically and mentally. I had a good workout and that made me feel like I was back on track. I had purged the icky feelings from my body of the food I ate. I had always heard people say that once they started eating healthy, if they went back to crappy foods it affected their bodies a lot harder than it ever had in the past, and it’s really true. What I ate the other night would have been nothing unusual just a few months ago, when I ate whatever I wanted. And it wouldn’t have had an impact on the way I felt. But this past time when I ate unhealthy food, it had an immediate and severe impact on how I felt. I felt so sick. It took me an entire day and a half to get back to feeling normal and not like I had just overcome the stomach flu. That was really something. The next time I feel like indulging in crap food, I’ll keep in mind how bad it made me feel. Honestly it’s not worth it to me.

Persistence is truly key, consistency is key. Getting back, making it a habit, not making excuses, just making health a habit like any other habit from teeth brushing to getting dressed in the morning. These are things we do because they are part of our daily routine. They become so ingrained that we don’t even have to think about them anymore. The gym and eating healthy are becoming habits for me. They aren’t so ingrained yet that I can’t imagine never doing them, but they are definitely a significant part of my daily routine now, that I would feel a void about if they were to go away. I’m starting to get that “craving” that people who are active get. I’ve always heard my athletic friends talk about how if they missed their daily run, or missed their workouts, they felt it. That once you start becoming active you crave it. It’s true. Today after my good workout I was already looking forward to tomorrow’s.

The Morning After

Well, after a good talking to from my Coach that began with this exact phrase, I kid you not: CALM THE FUCK DOWN!!!! I feel a lot better.

Let’s not forget that I am PMS-ing as well. Please, take into account the hormonal power of estrogen and its depression-inducing effects.

Ok, I get it Coach, I’m not supposed to overanalyze everything or else my new lifestyle will become just one more stress-inducer instead of a stress reliever.

File under “wise.”

So I did go to the gym yesterday evening. Didn’t want to, but had made the promise to myself. And it was good, because going did help lift my spirits a bit.

I still felt like I could cry at the drop of a hat afterwards, but at least I had some fun observations while I was there. Here’s one, for example:

I never go to the gym in the evenings, but since my kiddos are on vacation with their dad and grandma, I have time in the evenings now. And the gym crowd in the evenings? Totally different than mornings (ie, old men and me and cleaning lady). The muscle heads are there in the evening, working it. God bless ’em. One man even had WAXED LEGS. I was almost embarrassed because my legs were way hairier than his. It was kind of creepy, actually. But hey, whatever floats your boat.

So folks, don’t talk me down from the ledge just yet.

What I’m learning is that it’s consistency that counts. Good days, bad days… just gotta keep at it.

Steps Forward, Steps Back

I went out to watch the big final soccer match last night between Italy and Spain, and I ended up having a pint and a half of beer, a bag of potato chips, and a greasy kebab.

I haven’t eaten like that since I started my training diet three weeks ago. Truth be told, I haven’t actually eaten THAT bad in probably longer.

I’m trying not to beat myself up for it, but rather look at it and ask myself, why did I just let it go? I’ve been doing good on my high-protein, low-carb training diet. It’s not starving or severely calorie-restricting, and while it is a drastic change for me from my previous eating habits, still, it’s been relatively do-able up to now. Plus, I take my Coach’s suggestion to have one “cheat” meal a week, which I do on the weekend, and include whatever I want.

Problem though, is that last weekend my one cheat meal extended into a huge weekend cheat. I didn’t stay on my training diet pretty much at all through the weekend. And although I ate fairly good food at my meals, I didn’t really watch portions or carbs or the rest. And then, last night, I just let it all go.

In asking myself why, I came to one, rather sad and quite cliched (in my opinion) conclusion: “I have low self esteem.”

It’s almost stupid to even say it. It’s so generic and frankly, who doesn’t? But there are people who have healthy self-love, and generally those are people who take good care of themselves physically and mentally.

I didn’t take good care of myself this past weekend because I’ve been feeling really bad about having met a man that I liked a lot, that I thought liked me too, that I got physically involved with and then didn’t make any effort to be in touch with me.

It’s so typical, right? I guess. Only for me it’s not typical. I’m going through a crushingly difficult period of vulnerability. I want so desperately to have others, especially men (because of my painful divorce of over a year ago, the emotional fallout of which I clearly haven’t yet dealt with or healed from), validate me. I want a man to tell me I’m pretty, I’m desirable, I’m WORTHY.

When I put it out there like that, I feel almost ashamed. Really, Shelley? You want a man to tell you you’re a worthy and valuable human being? You, who earned 2/3 of a master’s degree in social work before having to leave the program to move back to Italy, you want someone outside of yourself to tell you what your Social Work Code of Ethics told you was rule number one under all circumstances: every person has intrinsic worth and dignity?

I know. It’s hard for me to fathom, too. And yet, there it is, out there in black and white.

I thought I could be someone that in my heart, I am discovering I’m not. I thought physical intimacy could fill up that gaping hole in my broken heart, that hole that tells me I’ll never be able to fully share my generous and loving heart with anyone, because … who knows why, exactly. Take your pick. I have a million and one negative reasons I use in my bad moments that affirm for me why I’m not going to ever be “chosen” by a man.

Before I start sounding like an old SNL skit (“Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me”) I have to really get this out there. Because I think when we try to pretend we aren’t vulnerable, or pretend like we don’t care, or like we don’t need something (physical affection, approval, compassion, whatever), then we’re just putting off the inevitable, and eventually we’re going to have to deal with it.

So here I am. Coming to terms with it. Trying to be honest and upfront with myself. Trying to admit that I don’t really know who I am right now, or what I want, but that one thing is for sure: I’m looking for something outside of myself that I won’t ever find.

Again, it sounds like a cliche perhaps to say “look within” for the answers but frankly that’s where I’m at. It’s become crystal clear to me that the more I peg all my worth and hopes on a man (or a woman if that’s the case for you, or any person or thing outside of yourself), the more I set myself up for disappointment, especially when it’s a person I don’t even know, and especially when it’s done for the reason of trying to make me feel good about myself.

No one should have to shoulder the burden of making you feel good about yourself. That should be no one’s job but your own. It’s not fair to give someone that job, and it’s not genuine. Because if you don’t discover for yourself what makes you tick, what you respect, your values, who you are, and your boundaries, especially what kind of treatment you will and will not accept from others… then certainly you won’t ever be in a position to sustain yourself during those hard times when you feel lonely, not worthy, etc. Times that everyone, even the most self-confident and self-assured person, has.

So how does all this relate back to the gym and fitness? Of course it does. Firstly I ate like complete crap because I was saying to myself and the world “Who cares. It doesn’t matter. I don’t matter.” And then, I ended up feeling the worst bout of nausea, all night and through to the next morning, that I’ve felt since I was pregnant with my twins. It was truly AWFUL. My body felt AWFUL.

Secondly, I made the link between my behavior and the way I feel about myself. When I feel good about myself, I go to the gym and eat healthy. But it’s like a chicken and egg equation: which comes first? Do I feel good BECAUSE I’m going to the gym and eating healthy, or am I going to the gym and eating healthy because I want to feel good? It’s both. And the inverse to that is: when I am feeling bad about myself, I engage in behaviors that make me feel worse. I engage in self-destructive behaviors that perpetuate my feelings about myself and contribute to a nasty spirally self-fulfilling prophecy.

Today for example. I feel physically awful and morally demotivated and sad. Folks, it got so bad at one point this morning that I actually thought back to when I was going through my divorce and had taken up casually smoking a few cigarettes a day to “soothe my nerves.” There again: self-destructive behavior. Not like I’m judging or condemning, by any means. But just to show that when we feel low, I think it’s human nature to want to make those “icky” feelings go away, to cover them over, to soothe them with something, anything. And yet, the lesson here is a lot like in Zen Buddhism. Observe the feelings, watch them, examine them, observe them, but don’t judge them and most importantly don’t try to ignore them or chase them away! But in feeling all this ick, clearly the last thing I feel like doing is going to the gym. No, instead I feel like crawling into bed, pulling up the covers and never coming out again.

And yet, this is part of the lifestyle change process. It’s a part of it, and it shouldn’t be denied, covered over, or ignored.

These are the days when putting in the physical effort to keep taking care of myself matters MORE THAN ON ANY OTHER DAY.

And no one is going to do that FOR me or tell me that unless I do it for myself.

Today, the step I will take for myself to affirm my self-worth is the simple step I take every morning, but that today will have to be taken as a conscious, willful effort that says: “You are going to the gym not for any other reason today than to simply affirm to yourself that you are a good person, and therefore you deserve to be treated that way.”

If I don’t believe that, how can I ever expect anyone other than me to believe it? Going to work out today is going to be one step forward in helping me believe it.

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