It’s getting real up in here

July 2013

July 2013

Whenever I go to the gym, run a race, or see people trying out new diets (ahem, “lifestyle changes”), I wonder what the impetus is.  Do these people Crossfit to lose weight? To get stronger (duh)? To work on their butts? Do my friends eat Paleo so that they can get leaner? Or maybe they are thinking about the long term health benefits of changing the way they eat.  I don’t really care what the answer is because it’s none of my business.  I just know that for me, exercise and nutrition have played so many different roles in my life and I am once again seeing their evolution now that I am a mother of three, just scrambling to keep my head above water many days.

The background on this somewhat totally rambling, TMI post is this: during pretty much every minute of my 20’s, I had an eating disorder.  I vascillated between bulimic and anorexic although I never looked thin like the celebrities and models whom everyone labels as anorexic.  I know exactly when/why it started in college, but that’s not something to get into here.  The only salient point is that I became bulimic for a number of reasons, one being that I loved food more than I loved myself. I loved the way donuts and ice cream and cookies made me feel. But then I hated gaining weight. So being the brilliant college student I was, I figured purging was a way to get the best of both worlds: eat a lot and not gain weight.  Oh wait. As any bulimic will tell you, you definitely do not lose weight with binging and purging.  In fact, you may (I did) gain weight. And you feel GROSS.  You also feel like you are deceiving so many people around you, including your loved ones.

Right before my senior year of college, I decided the bulimia thing wasn’t working for me.  I needed to find a different way to get control because bulimia made me feel out of control.  So I switched gears. I started counting calories and stopped drinking (Uh, I mean, I was only 20 so actually I made the decision not to start drinking when I turned 21 in the fall).  I lost a LOT of weight because I was swimming 4 hours a day, doing one hour on the ellipitical between practices, and subsisting off of chocolate chip scones, frozen yogurt, and salad.  I allowed myself 1300 calories per day but I was burning close to 4000. The weight melted off and I tipped the scales at 116 before the season started. I think my weight at weigh-in was 136 the year before. But I got a lot of positive reinforcement because I swam faster.  And my back fat was gone, so of course I was thrilled about that.

After graduation, I didn’t have all the hard core swimming to keep my weight in check.  So back to bulimia I went. My bulimia peaked while in law school.  The stress of studying and being away from my friends and family, the feeling of not being even close to the best but actually being below average when everything depended on your class rank… I just could not handle it. Things got so bad during law school that I considered taking a semester off to go to some really expensive recovery facility to deal with my eating issues. The cost was just too huge of a deterrent. I knew I was going to develop some serious health complications from my bulimia if I didn’t stop.  I decided I wanted to start running again to see if that would give me some of the self esteem I had lost after college.  I also thought it would help me lose all the weight I put on from my binges.

Picking up long distance running in 2005 was the first turning point in my eating disorder. I had something to focus on besides “where am I going to get my next meal… which will end up in the toilet?” I began to feel better about myself. I ran a half marathon after 6 months of training and was pleased that I ran under an 8:00 mile pace for my first half marathon.  A few months later I ran a half marathon around a 7:20/mile pace. My grades improved significantly.  The problem that lingered is that I continued to be bulimic, but it was more like “bulimic light.” As long as my training went well and I had a good run, or a good race, I didn’t rush out to buy ice cream and other junk.  But if I had a bad day or missed a run for some reason, I backslid into my old eating habits.

This pattern pretty much continued even after I became a real grownup, with obligations like law school debt, a car payment, and a mortgage. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with Super Girl that I had a wake up call.  I could not, I would not, do anything to harm this baby just because I was too ignorant or scared to deal with the underlying issues that contributed to my eating disorder.  I needed to make smart choices for myself and this child.  I continued eating biscuits and ice cream, but instead of just using it to stuff down my feelings and anxiety, I ate it to enjoy the way it tasted.  I ran during my pregnancy because it made me feel strong and empowered.  Yeah it burned calories too but I don’t think it’s a crime to run an extra mile because you had an extra scoop of Ben and Jerry’s.  Nobody is perfect.

I never really lost that focus on my weight and body image though.  I was determined not to gain more than 30 pounds and I “accomplished” that goal with Super Girl and Super Toddler.  The number on the scale was so important to me as it had been for years.  So even though I wasn’t bulimic anymore, I still cared so much about a silly number.  After I had them, I was frustrated my body didn’t just snap back to a version of me that never existed anyway.  Some Gisele Bundchen-esque figure with a 36 inch inseam and tiny waist.  I didn’t lose any sleep over it but I tried diets here and there hoping that I could get to my “ideal weight” of 130 pounds.  Never happened.

During this pregnancy, I really lost site of nutrition even though I was lifting and running a lot during the first two trimesters of the pregnancy.  I had so much anxiety because I didn’t know how we could handle three kids.  Also, I was worried I would have post partum depression again, as I did (really really badly) with Super Toddler.  So I ate my feelings, my old crutch.  I would joke with people about my Bojangles Baby, and I still do from time to time- okay, yesterday.  I rationalized that if I was working out that hard, I could eat whatever I wanted. I had been making that argument for YEARS.  I think it goes back to my swimming days in my teenage years when we quite literally could eat just about anything and never gain an ounce because we were burning so many calories each day.  But eating whatever I wanted wasn’t healthy for me or the baby.  And again, it was just a way I dealt with stress, as it always had been.

I watched the scale creep higher and higher each week.  When I delivered Super Girl, I had gained 38 pounds.  Wowzers.  I officially weighed more than Super Dad the last three weeks of my pregnancy.  And I delivered 3 weeks early.  So yeah, that’s kind of scary.  After having her, I have been focused on slowly getting back into my workouts because I was on bed rest for the last 6 weeks of the pregnancy.  But on the other hand, I would get so frustrated that the number on the scale has not just dropped by double digits every week.

I finally had an epiphany last week after Super Girl got on the scale three days in a row and asked me what her weight was.  She had been seeing me do it.  It broke my heart.  She wants to gain weight because she will be a “big girl,” but I don’t want the number to be something she obsesses over when she is old enough to care.  I don’t want her staring in the mirror examining her stomach or “Cabbage Patch Abs” as I call mine half-jokingly. I don’t want her to think that exercise is a means to an end of keeping her weight down or getting boys to like her.  I want her to feel empowered by sweating, the way I do every time I go on a run or finish a Crossfit workout.  When I was doing a WOD on Saturday, I felt strong even though it was only my second time back since Super Baby was born and I was lifting a lot less weight.  I felt hope for how much stronger I could get with each passing week.  I felt like my daughters would be proud of me not because of the number on the scale, or how my thighs don’t touch, or how much definition I hope to one day have on my stomach, but because I work out to be a better mom to them and a better wife and just a badass who loves herself.

I am not 100% comfortable with my body and I don’t know that I ever will be, but I’m getting there.  Being a mother has helped me realize that I can largely overcome the insecurities and issues that led to my eating disorder, because I would never ever wish that kind of torment on my children.  I just want them to see that eating and exercise do not have to be rewards or punishment, and that they can be strong and happy no matter what the number on the scale is. And that’s as real as it gets folks.

Recovery Mode

Again, more TMI.  But then we move on to our regularly scheduled exercise-related programming…

Recovering from childbirth is what I imagine recovering from an Ironman would be like… it’s long and it requires patience or you can hurt yourself further.  Plus, it’s different for everyone, and for the same person it may vary depending on the particular race.  With Super Girl, there was a lot that nobody told me about what the immediate aftermath of childbirth would be like.  So, thanks a lot for nothing friends who had kids before me.  I was not prepared for the cramping or feeling like my insides were going to fall out with every step I took.   I started to feel more myself around a month and was back into my workout routine around 2 months postpartum. Recovery with Super Toddler was pretty similar, but a bit more difficult because I was on bed rest the last three weeks of my pregnancy. I was careful though, and eventually PR’d a 5k when he was 6 months old (21 minutes-ish).

With Super Baby, I had terrible cramping for a couple hours after she popped out.  Like, worse than my strongest pitocin-induced contractions.  Oh wait, I had an epidural.  Still, it was not enjoyable.  Once the pain meds kicked in I felt a lot better.  But I had to take 800 milligrams of Motrin a few times a day for over a week.  That didn’t seem normal.  Otherwise, I felt really good south of my waist.  It helped that this was my smallest baby though not by much, and with it being my third child my body seemed to be kinder to me.  I was going for walks within a few days and at around 10 days, thought I could actually run – but I didn’t.  I felt like this was the universe’s way for evening out how ridiculous the labor process went. Until…

At 12 days post partum, I woke up with very odd symptoms.  Like, check with Dr. Google odd.  Typically, when you consult Dr. Google, Web MD, Wrongdiagnosis.com, etc, you get about 821 different diagnoses and turn into a hypochondriac, and there’s a 99% chance that you don’t have any of those ailments.  For me, there was pretty much just one possibility. The next day I had the same symptoms so I called my doctor, who, after an ultrasound, confirmed that I had retained part of the placenta.  Gross.  On Super Baby’s 2 week birthday, I had to undergo a procedure under anesthesia to get everything cleared out, lest I bleed to death at home.  It really wasn’t a huge deal, until I lost a ton of blood on the operating table.  Whoops, so that was scary.  Fortunately, I narrowly avoided a transfusion although my doctor threatened me with an overnight stay to monitor my hemoglobin.  No thanks, I have a baby to attend to.

Since then, I took it easy for almost two weeks.  I was left severely anemic, which coupled with newborn sleep deprivation, has made me extra sleepy. I know right- so weird that losing a lot of blood and waking up every 3-5 hours makes me tired.  I have been taking iron and getting in as many naps as possible, and have gone to bed early every night which means I can’t watch Game of Thrones with Super Dad on Sunday nights when it airs.  So no spoilers on facebook people, I need my sleep.

On Monday, I went for my first run.  It lasted 5 minutes.  Later I thought my lady parts would fall out but it was just a side effect of the massive iron consumption (google it… I am not going to overshare that much).  Yesterday I ran for 10 minutes straight ( that was a mile.  Holy moly) and did five one minute “sprint” intervals.  And by sprint I mean running at about a 4 second per faster pace than my 10 minute jog. But I felt good, and I stopped myself before I was utterly cashed.  Plus, it was 90 degrees out.

Reigning it in is hard. I really want to head out tomorrow and run 20 minutes, then 30, then an hour, but I know that I have to be smart about it or I will hurt any number of organs or body parts that would not have been remotely affected by even a 2 hour run in the morning and an evening Crossfit beating in the past. Childbirth puts your body through the ringer, and just like there is pressure for endurance athletes to get back to training after a race, lest they lose the base they had built up after 6 months of heavy training, there is too much pressure on women to not only crush their workouts until hours before giving birth, but to return to “beast mode” before their milk comes in.  Too much? Sorry, not sorry.  It’s true.  I am done procreating, and have the rest of my life to run marathons, do an Ironman, learn how to do a muscle up pull-up, and Rx+ a WOD.  For now it’s all about keeping this tiny human alive, keeping myself from going insane (aka, sleep as much as possible), and being there to have fun with my other Super kids now that summer is here and the pool is open!

I may be contradicting myself in three weeks when I feel awesome and head back to Athletic Lab for some punishment, but for now, I am trying to be smart about my recovery mode.  Beast mode can wait.

 

Here is the gang at the pool this weekend:

pool

I wish I were a Kardashian…

Now I know you’re thinking “where could she possibly be going with this?” because presumably, the Kardashians have nothing to do with either running or biscuits, because they pay thousands of dollars a month for private pilates reformer lessons and thousands of dollars a week (day?) for a personal chef to make them delicious meals that are less than 1200 calories per day. Then again, I feel like the booties would be a little smaller if no biscuits were being consumed? I digress. The reason I somewhat envy the Kardashians is because I am pretty sure that most of them, except Rob- because he seems useless- have personal assistants that force them to stick to these strict schedules. I really need one of those. Because my flexibility, in areas of my life other than yoga of course, is getting a little out of control.

I used to be one of those people that was very regimented with my schedule. This is most likely because I had only 24 hours in a day to get in two swim practices, go to high school or college 6-8 hours a day, eat, and hibernate. This carried over into my adulthood, to the point where I would not go to a happy hour if I had a long run planned (LOSER) or I would get serious anxiety if I someone bailed on our plans and I had to come up with some other way to entertain myself. Or, if someone suggested doing a race together in 11.4 weeks, I would say “no, that is 4 days too short for me to complete a full 12 week training cycle.”

When Super Girl entered this universe, I continued this military precision scheduling, as many new mothers do. We were I was going to get this tiny human sleeping through the night by 19 days old if it killed me. That is slight hyperbole. Oh, you’re hungry 6 minutes before this sleep training book says you’re permitted to eat again? Sorry, hope you can get some milk out of that pacifier because the milk factory is off limits for 6… 5 1/2 more minutes. Someone wants us to meet them for a quick brunch? Not gonna happen, it may overlap with naptime by 15 seconds. I was so wed/chained to the schedule that I drove EVERYONE crazy. Including myself. Granted, I ended up with a champion sleeper, but that’s genetics there.

The second time around, I decided that I would be a lot more flexible with Super Baby’s feeding, sleeping, etc. I would head to the gym and Super Dad would say “What time does Super Baby need to eat next?” My response: “uh, whenever. anytime between 2 and 4 hours from now.” Ok I wasn’t quite that lackadaisical, but you get my point. Super Dad looked at me like I had grown a second head and was speaking in Mandarin. He was certainly not expecting anything other than “90 to 91 minutes from now. No earlier, no later. And don’t rock him to sleep, that’s a sleep prop. And no white noise, that’s a sleep prop too. So is loving him too much” (just kidding!)

I liked my newfound flexibility as well. It was very liberating at first, but then it sort of morphed into this hippie meets ADD-ish attitude. What should we have for dinner? Oh, whatever (I became that girl). Should we go out of town next weekend? Yeah, I guess. Or we could not. We could just “play it by ear.” Should I run a marathon? Sounds good, maybe…

But here is where my flexibility really got to me, as an athlete and now, as a member of this family. I have run precisely three races since Super Baby was born 13 months ago- an 8k, 5k, and 10k. This is because I could not commit to the schedule required to train for a half marathon or full marathon. I don’t know if it’s because I was scared to start really getting into the training, only to run the race and be disappointed in myself as I have so many times before. Or maybe it’s because I just wasn’t willing to sacrifice spontaneous trips to the park, or ice cream after work, or going with my tried and true calorie scorcher (and social hour) at the YMCA in Charlotte. It’s most likely a combination of all of these things. Ultimately, it resulted in me achieving basically zero of my goals for the first year after Super Baby was born, besides fit back into pants that have zippers.

Since we have moved to Raleigh, scheduling really has to be a necessity in our lives. We don’t live as close to daycare or work as we did in Charlotte. Granted, we could walk to daycare and work (but didn’t, because we’re the world’s worst commuters like that), and the Y was just over a mile away. Here, we spend significantly more time in our cars than we used to. Again, this is a very small fraction of time compared to what the average American has to spend getting to and from their place of work. Point being, the amount of time we are sitting in the car is time that I used to spend just kind of farting around after work or actually spending at the gym or running. Getting to the Y now by 6pm takes an act of Congress. We also don’t want to take the kids to the Y as much because overall, we are spending probably 30 fewer minutes per day with them so we want to be at home with them when we can. This poses quite a quandary for my triathlon, and eventually marathon (!) training.

Recently, Super Dad bought a white board so that we could map out our family schedule each week. The board still has not been mounted on our mud room wall, so I just pretend that I don’t actually have to commit to anything until it is officially on the wall. Most weeks I spend quite a bit of time trying to decide what days I will ride, what days I will run and what workouts I will do, and which days I will swim (almost never) or do strength work. Then, I spend even more time not sticking to that plan. I have been applauding myself for my ability to be flexible and continue to get what I presume is an adequate amount of training in despite my having to change up the plan at the last minute. If I have planned a morning run and I decide to sleep in, which is 95% of the time, I don’t beat myself up because I have already given myself a backup plan of two other times during the day to run.

The problem with this flexibility is that it is all inside my head. So while I am patting myself on the back for getting my workout in when in the old days (post sleep training breakdown, pre-newfound dedication to training) I would have just called the day a wash and decided I would just do “extra” the next day, I am messing up someone else’s plans. Yesterday, I was going to get up at 6am to do a tempo run. Story of my life, I just gave my iphone alarm the old “get real” and slept in another hour-ish. I then worked through lunch, planning to leave work early to get my run done on the treadmill before picking up the kids. Of course, things didn’t work out quite so perfectly, so I headed home and set out for a run just after 5pm in the sunny, 90 degree weather.

I was so angry with myself for not being able willing to stick with my original planned morning running. It was hot, humid, sunny, and I was just annoyed. I knew I would likely be slower because of these conditions, so I set 8:15 as my goal pace. Mile one went by in 7:37 I think. Ohhh, this isn’t so bad. At 1.4 miles, I heard a lot of thunder and noticed the skies were getting a bit dark. At 1.5 miles, it started pouring. Like, horizontal rain sheets attacking my face. I just kept trucking, knocked out a 7:24. Then mile 3 was all uphill, heavy shoes, wind, and frustration that my headphones broke from all the rain. 7:50. Back on the flats the rest of the way- 7:34, 7:36, 7:34 I think. I stopped at 6 miles because Super Dad was bringing the kids home and he had a prior engagement, which had been scheduled well in advance of 5pm that day, and I needed to make sure I was there when I said I would be home.

I was feeling pretty smug about my ability to get in a really solid workout despite sleeping in and presumably heading out to run in the worst conditions ever. I was expecting heat exhaustion but I got a nice brisk run in, and bonus- people couldn’t tell if I was soaked in sweat or acid rain! I told Super Dad that I planned to go to a strength and conditioning class at the Y tonight so I could work on getting my upper body muscles back. Although I lamented my gigantic lats in my youth, I now wish I had at least half of a bicep or maybe even a quarter of a pec. And abs, well a 2 pack would suffice. We agreed this would work with our family’s commitments for today.

Then around 3:30 this afternoon, I find out that my favorite gym in Raleigh, which is a bit too steep for my budget, had a free class at 5:30 tonight. Score!!! Sign me up. Problem: I talked to Super Dad soon thereafter and learned that this time probably wasn’t going to work for the family because I would need to pick up the kids from daycare. Problem solved: call Super Mother-in-Law and then I can still go to the 5:30 class. Psych! Although this allowed me to get my workout in, I was selfish and put someone else out, all because of my classic spur of the moment “I do what I want” attitude. Hmmm, and I wonder why Super Girl does this

Anyway, although no kids were neglected, no puppies went without dinner, and no world peace pacts went unsigned because of my not sticking to the previously agreed upon schedule (it wasn’t in writing though, so it’s not really legally binding right? oh wait, I should know the answer to that one) I still messed up. It’s really not that difficult to wake up at 5:30 to run a couple times a week. It’s not the end of the world if I don’t go to a free gym class immediately after work, when I can go to an equally free class two hours later when Super Dad is available to watch the Super Kids. And it’s probably a pretty good idea, if I have actual goals I want to achieve, that I stick to some sort of training plan, or those goals will just end up as more registration fees that have vanished into PayPal cyberspace.

So my commitment for next week is to be both a Kardashian and a Kardashian assistant. I will force myself to stick with my training plan, including the actual start times for my workouts. Not just getting them done within 24 hours of when I had planned, but doing a morning run if that’s what the schedule calls for, etc. If someone gets sick or work runs late or a neighbor needs us (to drink wine with them on the porch), that’s understandable. Life happens. But it’s time this not so Super Mommy started making her Super Family’s life a priority rather than her sweat life. I think the result will be happier kids, happier man chef hubby, and ironically enough, happier me. My, how we have come full circle grasshopper.

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