Salix's Shiny Things

A magpie blog.

Running, in this body. October 28, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 11:59 am
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I had never thought of myself as a “runner”, really.  In college, as a fencer, we jogged and did suicide sprints and other cardio training things, and while I was decent at sprinting (thanks to Ballet-level calf muscle strength), I sucked at long distance running.  A mile?  Oh god, a whole freaking mile?  run, run, *puff, puff*, walk, walk, jog-run-get out of breath again, repeat ad nauseum.

But over the summer, I got a smartphone.  And the thing with smartphones is that you can get all kinds of apps for them.  And some of those apps are The Best Thing Ever.  So I downloaded Zombies, Run for a fun change of pace for my walks.  And then I found that I didn’t just want to walk anymore, I wanted to run.  So I did.  And then, I had the best luck ever:  I looked for exercise wear at goodwill, and they happened to have a bra that was my exact size, which is pretty much a huge miracle, because my size is a large size but not a common large size.  So I saw it as a sign:  go run, woman!  You were meant to run!

And I did.  And it was hard at first, but also good.  I eventually got to the point where a mile was no big deal.  And then 2 miles, not a big deal.

And so I went for it, signed up for a 5K, and finished in fairly decent time.

My guy has been encouraging me all the way.  He used to run cross country in high school and college, and continued throughout his adulthood, joining 10K’s and various races like Bay to Breakers in San Fransisco, but in the last 5-10 years, he’s phased out most of his running in favor of other athletic pursuits, like tennis.  But inspired by me, he started running again.  He goes on runs with me about twice a week or so.

And sometimes, it’s difficult for me to run with him.

The problem is, I am a very slow runner.  I’m big, and I have large breasts which are all fibrocystic and sensitive.  I flop, I jiggle, and none of it is comfortable.  I haven’t done anything more athletic than walking for over a decade, so I haven’t got much in the way of muscle mass, and so I’ve have to build it up, and it hurts a good deal because I am not young anymore.  For all these reasons, I prioritize endurance over speed.  I’m happy slugging along at 13 minutes/mile on the grass, enjoying the stars and moon in the evening sky, or the jackrabbits and turkeys and occasional hawk in the park behind the cemetery, for 2-4 miles.

But when my guy is with me, he needs to run at his own pace, which is significantly faster than mine.  Even though he has almost 2 decades on me in age, he can pretty much lap me easily.  What he lacks these days is the endurance to keep that pace for a mile or 2 or 3.  So he’ll run up ahead, then walk, letting me catch up, then take off again, and so forth.

Which is nice for him, but for me, mentally?  Kind of sucks.  I feel slow and fat and gross, and my self-talk tends to become very negative.  For example, I tend to compare myself to his ex-wife, who was and is an amazing athlete.  Who was and is way more conventionally beautiful than I ever was or ever could be.  Who is thin and lithe and extremely well proportioned, in the conventional aesthetic sense of hip-to-waist ratios.  And I think that that’s what my guy is thinking about.  How much he loved her, loved sharing runs with her, how well they could run together.  And how I just can’t because I am so fat and lazy and ugly and generally unworthy.

Yeah, negative self talk is nasty stuff, and I’d become an expert at it, given my depression and history of emotional abuse.

But fortunately, the “high” of running can often push the negative self talk into the background, and I can distract myself with the music and storyline of Zombies, Run, as well as the obstacle course that off-path grass running tends to provide.

But it gets really bad when we’ve gone running at the track.  Not enough distraction, and running on a flat surface in a circle that’s only 1/4 mile around is boring.  So boring.  So the negative self-talk doesn’t get pushed down as easily, and the jarring of each footfall only makes every jiggle of my body that much more obvious and painful.

I tried to explain this the other night to him, as he was saying that track running can be just fine because what’s important is that you get into that zen running state, and you learn to push yourself with little mental games, varying your speed, etc.

I tried to explain how I need the distraction, but I don’t think I was able to.  He’s never had to live in a fat body like mine, he doesn’t know how painful it can be, especially when you have large breasts.

But.

He ran with me in the 5K.  He did the thing he always does, running ahead, then taking a walking break, but we finished together, and I ran my guts out at the end.  And I really enjoyed finishing with him, and I really enjoyed all the camaraderie of the other runners and the cheers from the support crew and random race watchers in the neighborhood.

At the heart of this experience, I have discovered some important things about myself:

-I do enjoy running.  I plan to continue to do it and train for races for a long, long time, because they are fun!

-I love my guy, and he loves me, in the best way: we can help each other become better people.  I love that I inspire him, and I love that he tells me about it in plain, simple language.

-I’ve got some ugly body issues that I will probably always grapple with, but at least I am aware enough now of some of the patterns which allow my jerk brain to take over.  I need to run in nature (grass, parks, trails) to distract me from myself.  Tracks suck.  Maybe they won’t always, but for the foreseeable future, I should avoid them to protect my brain from itself.

-It’s ok to get frustrated with my guy for being unaware of my lived experience.  He’ll learn.  It’s ok to kind of not like him very much, sometimes.  It’s ok because that’s just how people are, they’re going to annoy you and get on your last nerve and do stuff that you interpret as unkind, not because they’re bad people, but because they’re people, and they can’t know everything that’s in your brain or heart.  What marks this pattern as different from previous relationships is the sense of respect that I feel from him.  I feel appreciated.  He uses his words and gestures to communicate how much he appreciates me.  So the frustration and annoyance I feel from time to time just doesn’t have a chance to linger.  And he doesn’t approach every problem or disagreement between us as a sign of doom for our relationship.  And I am learning not to do that as well.

-It’s important to seek out inspiration from friends and family and the internet, too.  Like Fat Girl Running.  She is made of pure-grade awesomesauce and one day I’d love to meet her.  Also my friend H who trail runs and bikes like a badass, because she so totally is.

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Loss and gain – coming to terms with where my body is taking me September 25, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 12:52 pm
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For the past couple of months, I’ve been pretty disciplined about keeping up an exercise routine, and my body is starting to look and feel different.  Additionally, I’m in the beginnings of a new relationship, and for me, that means lots of butterflies in the tummy, most of the time.  Personally, I can’t fit much food around those butterflies, so I’ve been eating much less in general, and more fresh fruit and vegetables than I had been eating. I feel better, lighter in my heart, more energetic.

And my body is starting to look a bit different too.

On the one hand, I’m so happy to look down and my hands and wrists and see more definition and less puffiness.  They look like my arms again.  Strong but graceful.

Does that mean I disliked they way I looked before?  I want to say I was ok with how I looked, I had come to accept it, and that’s true up to a point.  But then again, I feel more like I’m looking at myself, my arms, when I look down and see my less puffy wrists.  Perhaps that’s mostly an artifact of history, that I’d had stronger, more defined, arms for longer than not.

And I’m losing enough weight that my pants are all feeling looser.  That makes me happy.  But again – does this mean I was unhappy at a larger size?

I had come to accept my size for what it was.  It didn’t define me, my size 16-18 body was/is my body, and I love it for all the amazing things it can do – high kicks, long horse’s stance times, crazy dancing.

Now I have to keep that in mind, and not fall into the trap of feeling like I’m a better person now that I’ve dropped a size.  That’s a big trap in this culture, huge, deep trap.  Easy to fall into.  Very difficult to get out of.

I am building a bridge and a net with my meditation practice to keep me from falling into that trap, and into the well of depression and self-doubt that be found when I cling to external things like body size for a sense of self-worth. By cultivating acceptance and love, accepting impermanence, and cultivating my beginner’s mind, I think I can make a pretty strong bridge, and weave a good safety net for when I have a bad day and fall a bit.

This place in my life I’m in right now is full of flux, lots of changes of all sorts are happening right now and it’s difficult sometimes to feel grounded and safe.  But that, in itself, is ok.  Even hurricanes don’t last forever.  But this is one storm that, while intense, is washing out a lot of built up trash, helping it break down and become fertile mud to plant seeds of wisdom and happiness in.

 

New and old – beginning and returning. September 10, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — LP @ 10:02 am
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The last couple of weeks have been a whirlwind.  So many things have happened, good things. 

I have been keeping up with my exercise routine.  I am now up to 60 crunches on the exercise ball, plus around 20 squirms and 20 flutter kicks.  For upper body, I’m doing about 15 push-ups on knees, and 5 full push-ups, plus around 10-15 reps each of bicep curls, tricep lifts, and lateral deltoid lifts with the exercise band (which is a lower resistance one, but not sure what its actual resistance is because I got it at the thrift store).  For legs, I’ve been walking about 1 – 2 miles a day at a brisk pace, practicing my blocking set in horse’s stance, and plie-releve sets (about 20 in first position).  I stretch carefully and thoroughly and practice leg swings and kicking – front and side kicks, mainly. But my left hip has been giving me trouble, joint-wise, so I’m working on building up the muscles around the hip and keeping limber with lots of deep hip stretches. 

I’ve lost a bit of weight, as evidenced by my waistbands getting looser, but I’m also seeing and feeling the muscle definition in my arms, especially my biceps and wrists.  They’re starting to look and feel like my arms again.  My own strong, capable, agile arms. 

So I’m slowly returning to my body after a long, long time away.  I’m loving my body again, good and proper.  I’m enjoying my body in ways that amaze and astound me.

And I’m cultivating my “beginner’s mind” as best I can.  Every moment is a new moment, every moment is a perfect moment of life. 

Practicing meditation, especially metta meditation, has been a critical component of this process.  It shores up my mind-body connection, and it gives my mind the space to allow emotions to come and accept them for what they are.  And I can see so much more clearly now how emotional states and body states are connected.  The experience of emotion is not just in the brain, of course, but now I’m so much more aware of how my heart and guts and muscles dance in tune with my emotions.  Meditation allows me to fine-tune that awareness so that I can cultivate the seeds of well-being.  

And what a beautiful garden I can cultivate with those seeds!

 

 

 

 

Beginner’s Mind and Renewal August 12, 2014

Filed under: Buddhism — LP @ 12:15 pm
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I really love the Buddhist concept of “Beginner’s Mind”.  This is one definition:

Beginner’s mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgements and prejudices. Beginner’s mind is just present to explore and observe and see “things as-it-is.”

(source)

Or, as Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote in “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”

(source)

It’s not easy to cultivate this mind state.  Habits of mind are deep things, knowledge is important.

But so is a sense of wonder and delight at the new.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal this week because I’m at a new beginning for myself, or a renewed beginning, really.  I’ve started an exercise and stretching routine, and I have been diligent about keeping it up for the past several days.

It’s not that easy to get back into doing something you haven’t done in a very long time.

In fact, sometimes it downright sucks.  Trying to do even simple stretches and situps and pushups is difficult, but knowing that you used to be able to handle so many more reps with ease, remembering how this stuff used to be so much easier… really sucks.

But getting frustrated is very unhelpful.  It was the main reason why I haven’t been able to keep up any kind of exercise routine for very long for years.  I’d get started, all excited to get fit and feel healthy and slim down, and then… the awareness would grow that all of this was so much easier before… and if I had been a better person, then I would have never stopped training, god it’s so frustrating, I still can’t fit into those pants, why isn’t this working? God, what’s the point?  May as well give up now, I’ll never be able to regain what I’ve lost, I’ll never be that 105 pound kid, so lithe and strong.  That explosive, ever-moving ball of energy on the fencing piste.   I’ll never be able to kick above my head like I used to.

Who could persevere against such cruel judgment?

But this time, I’m meditating.  I’m learning how to let go of judgmental thoughts.  To treat myself with the kind of care and compassion I would show a friend, to treat myself as I would want a friend to treat me.

I’m learning to embrace impermanence, to learn to appreciate change.

I’m learning to see with fresh eyes, to delight in the ordinary.

I begin, again.

Now, I focus on the fact that every time I stretch, I can go a little further.  Every time I do sit-ups, I can do a few more.  Every time I do pushups, they get a little easier.  Every time I do leg swings, they get a little higher.

Now, when I get up in the morning, I feel stronger, lighter on my feet, my core muscles coiled and ready like a spring.  Every day I get a little more confident about my body’s abilities.

This time, I’m not doing it to fit into those pants, to be slimmer and more attractive, and therefore more worthy of love.

This time, I’m doing it for me.  I’m training, you see.  I want to do martial arts.  I want to learn how to fight with a staff.  I’m doing this for fun, for the delight in being able to launch my body through space with strength, grace, speed, and power to meet an attacker.  For the strength and grace to be able to take the blows and still keep going.

Yeah, for the sheer badassery of being able to dance with a staff.

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

Jennifer Garner, Elektra

pic credit:  http://www.pinterest.com/pin/494059021592492814/