Friday, August 22, 2014

Box Jumps...or Facing Fears part 1,000,000

I've written about my fears before. In fact, in almost every post if you stick with me long enough I'll dig up a fear and obsess on it for a paragraph or two. This time I decided not to even pretend that I'm writing about anything else: I am absolutely writing about a fear this time. My biggest fear since I entered the gym almost three years ago. Box jumps.

On the surface box jumps don't seem like they should be scary. The box has a sturdy base. It's wide enough to jump up on.  Most of us can jump. So what the heck was my major mental block?

Have I mentioned I'm somewhat clumsy? Okay, using the word "somewhat" is being entirely too generous. I trip on FLAT surfaces. I have a t-shirt that says "I don't trip, I do random gravity checks". I am aware of my challenges with gravity and I do my best to avoid situations where I will be forced to challenge gravity. Usually...

Did I also mention at some point (or many points) that I like to be in control? In my mind being afraid of something is not being in control and not being in control of as many situations as possible is unacceptable to me. I'm a control freak, pure and simple.

On Friday, August 15 Tyler had a fun workout for us "American Ninja Warrior". One of the stations was box jumps with a burpee for fun. I felt my stomach clench when I saw that. Tyler makes it look easy, I swear he just hops and floats to the top of the box. You don't even hear him land.

I tried box jumps. I jumped on mats and I HATED every second of it. I was afraid and that was NOT okay with me. So when I got home and thought about it I used Facebook to publicly ask Tyler for help overcoming my box jump phobia. Why not just email him privately? Well... if I asked and my friends read it I knew I wouldn't back out. I want people to be proud of I would work on my box jumps.

Fast forward to Thursday at 5 pm: Buddy training. A time of the week I LOVE. For me buddy training is the chance to work on my strength with barbell cleans, front squats, bent over rows and presses as well as work on my endurance with the Prowler and tire flips. Give me something heavy to lift, pull or push and you have made me a happy camper. Last night I was nervous, because I knew Tyler was going to honor my request and work with me on box jumps.

I am happy to report I'm getting there. I can jump on a stack of mats with no knots in my stomach and even jump on the lowest box without fear. There is a picture on my Facebook page of me jumping onto a stack of mats. I'll share it with you if you aren't on Facebook. I was darn proud of those jumps. Mostly because in the past even with a fitness professional telling me I could do a box jump I would refuse. This time I pulled up my big girl panties, faked being brave and got it done. I was by no means as light on my feet as Tyler. You don't hear him land, I'm pretty sure they heard me land in Morgan. But hey, I landed on the box and didn't tip it over or break anything or anyone. A victory for sure.

Do I love box jumps now? No, but they don't scare me. I need to remember to focus, use my hips and stick my landing. Am I going to scrape my shin? Undoubtedly and I won't like that one bit. The truth is though I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and scraping a little skin off my shin is not going to hurt me. Heck, I have been known to haul my butt up and down mountains through mud and water just to get an orange head band, a t-shirt and a free beer while my back is spasming because I am too stubborn to quit. I don't think a woman who will do that should be scared of a box jump. She might need some serious therapy, but no way should a little box scare her.

Next fear on my list...Rope Climbs. The Spartan Sprint is coming up in September and I do NOT want to have to do 30 burpees because I can't climb up the rope. Last night Tyler had me start with rope hangs. The first round for 5 seconds (I got this). The second round was 8 seconds (Umm, this isn't easy). The third round 10 seconds (Maybe 30 burpees aren't so bad). The final round was 12 seconds (Oh heck no: I am not going down until that time is up: I don't like burpees). Holding your body up on a rope by your arms and feet is tough.

I might not be the best at everything I attempt, but I will be persistent.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, July 25, 2014


So two posts ago I rambled on for a long time about a coming change and my ambivalence about it. As with everything else time has passed, the change took place and though I am honest enough to admit I am still ambivalent I am adjusting.

So what was the change? Fortitude Fitness Systems is now only in Lyndonville. The Derby studio has a new owner and a new name. Pride Fitness Performance is in the same location. If you are interested in joining me to check it out just let me know. Friends are welcome.

My ambivalence stemmed from the worry that I would lose people I consider very important parts of my life. What I have realized since the initial announcement on Monday, June 16 is that the people I was so worried I would lose aren't going anywhere. That particular realization took time. In fact, Tuesday, July 22 was when I finally realized I am extraordinarily lucky. I have three amazing instructors I can ask for help and advice any time I need it. Thank you Ben, Mary and Tyler.

What prompted that realization? Obstacle Course Race Conditioning Class (OCR). The class was held at the Lyndon Town School playground so we could all get some experience and practice with equipment that would be similar to what we would encounter at the Spartan Sprint. I was trying and failing miserably at the balance beam. I was frustrated with myself, upset and wondering why in the hell I drove the distance I did to feel like a failure: I could stay home and get that feeling. Ben had just returned from a hill run and watched me for a little bit. Then he started coaching me, offering advice and tips in the same way he always has. It hit me then: he wasn't dropping me, he would still be there to coach, encourage and kick my butt when necessary. I wasn't just money or a nuisance: I was actually a client he cared about and wanted to see succeed.

So now that I have finally processed through the change and its implications I can move forward to see where the road is leading now. I do know I need to sit down soon and think through my workout plan. I love every workout I do, but I think it's possible I need to build in some rest too. My body is amazing and so much stronger than I ever dreamed, but I need to treat it well. Pushing to complete 10 workouts in a week is possible, but some rest might be needed too.

Yes, I work out to release stress, but I also do it because I want to see changes in my body. Of course it's inspiring to realize that I can now hold a side plank for 30 seconds when not so long ago 10 seconds was a stretch. It is motivating to see changes in my strength, but let's be real. I am a visual person. I want to SEE the changes in my body. I want my arm fat to go away, I'd like to see if there are actually muscles under the jiggle on my belly and thighs. I don't want to catch my reflection in the mirror and wince.

I've discussed this with other people and heard that even if I reach those physical goals I may not see them. Sometimes we just don't see the truth in our own bodies. The changes are there, but for whatever reason we don't see them.

My favorite song of the moment is "Try" by Pink. I know it's about persevering through life's ups and downs, but for me it's also a reminder to figure out what's right for me and to allow the people who offer me help inside the walls so they can actually help. There is only so much anyone can teach me when I keep them at arm's length.

So my goal for the next week? Trying to let people in so when I ask for help they can actually provide that help. What a concept, right??

Thanks for reading...

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Bathing Suits

So what's your least favorite article of clothing to shop for? Mine would hand's down be bathing suits. Three years ago I wouldn't even try on suits, I would go online, find something I didn't hate too much and order it in the size I wore (size 24).

This year for the first time I tried something new. I went to Kohl's and actually picked a bunch of bathing suits to try on. I wasn't expecting much, I figured it would be like most bathing suit experiences, I'd cry when I tried on most of them and settle for the one that didn't make me want to climb to the roof of the building and jump. I was pleasantly surprised. Some of the suits made me laugh, because they just didn't fit right, but none made me cry. The last one I tried on actually made me smile. No, I did not suddenly have the perfect body but I felt good in that bathing suit even with jiggly thighs. I even stepped out of the dressing room so the friend I was shopping with could see me.

I am going to take a giant step outside of my comfort zone right now and share the bathing suit with anyone who reads or stumbles upon this post.

Do I look like a super model? Nope. Do I care? NOPE! I've worked hard in the last two and a half and I am going to feel good about that. I would love to tell you I look at this picture and see a huge change, but I'm not there in this journey yet. I know my body has changed, but I still rely on other people to see the changes for me. I KNOW my body has changed, the bathing suit is a size 14, but I don't see it. It's all right, someday I will see the changes and if I never do that's okay. There are changes.

You know me, I like comparisons so I went hunting through my photos to find an older picture of me in a swimsuit. There weren't many, I have quite a knack for being absent when cameras come out. I'm not a fan of pictures, but I did find a picture of me in a swimsuit taken in July 2011 when I was on vacation with my family in Bath, Maine. I thought I'd share it with all of you as well. Here goes nothing.

I like my hair that length. My hair dresser won't necessarily be thrilled to hear it, but I think I want to go back to longer hair. Notice I'm not saying anything negative about the picture. I have a million negative comments running through my head and I refuse to give voice to any of them.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Being Okay

You would think as much change as I've seen in the last two and a half years I wouldn't blink when another change comes. The truth is I have grown so much and I have so much growing yet to do.

Monday morning I had the chance to face change again. I'd like to tell you I was brave and strong and didn't bat an eye. I'd LIKE to tell you that, but the truth is something else. I listened, I told myself it would be okay and I cried. The tears weren't all selfish and just about me. The coming change wasn't an easy decision and it caused stress and worry for people I care about.As much growing as I still have to do I am capable of seeing how events impact other people.

A friend asked me if I was okay after the news. I did consider lying and saying I was, but I've known this man since I was in elementary school and I am trying to be honest about my feelings because hiding them doesn't work. Not that I can't suppress what I feel with the best of them, I absolutely can, but it doesn't help. I told him no and cried on his shoulder for a bit.

I do understand the change is for the best, that it will decrease stress and pressure for people I respect immensely. I've been asked several times if I am okay. I'd like to take a second to publicly assure the people who wonder: that I will be okay and am well on my way to okay. You gave me my start, you showed me another way of thinking and being. Now I need to show you what I learned from you and that I can soar. I will soar. That is my ultimate thank you: to move forward and pay it forward whenever I can. It wasn't a good bye, it was a small change.

I realize the opening of this blog was cryptic, but those who know me likely already know that situation I'm talking about and those who happened upon this post and are reading out of curiosity probably wouldn't care.

What I've discovered this week is that even when I am hurt and worried I am okay. I used to believe if I could not control every aspect of my life I was not safe and I was most certainly not okay. If I couldn't be in control I would retreat behind my walls and hide.

It did briefly occur to me to hide this time too, but my heart spoke up. I can usually count on my head to inform me when I'm being a weenie, but my heart was what snagged my attention this time. It wasn't smooth, as I mentioned I have  A LOT of growing up still to do. Let me see if I can recreate some of the internal dialogue for you.

Heart: Are you going to listen to reason yet or are you still sulking?

Me: I'm NOT sulking. I'm upset.

Heart: You are sulking, it's not becoming in a 44 year old woman. Stop.

Me: Fine. What?!

Heart: You do know it wasn't an easy decision, right?

Me: Yes.

Heart: You also know how much you learned from him right? Don't you want other people to have a chance to learn from him?

Me: Yes (insert annoying whiny tone)

Heart: Wouldn't you like him to see you being an adult, putting into practice the strength he showed you was inside?

Me: (stubborn silence)

Heart: You are okay. You are strong, you are smart: you aren't losing them as friends or people in your life. This is what's best for them.

Me: I guess (yes, more whining)

Heart: No guessing, you know it and you're being stubborn. Stop it.  He wants you to be okay, you know they both want that: show them their lessons and examples didn't fall on deaf ears.

So there you have it...proof positive that I'm crazy. No, not really. What you really have is proof that I have grown. As scary as the change sounded at first, I have had the maturity to stop and really think about it. It will be okay: I know that it was the best decision and it was carefully thought out

In fitness news I would like to suggest that three intense workout in less than 24 hours might not be a smart move. Last night was personal training, then a special night for Obstacle Course Race Conditioning class (OCR) and this morning at 5:30 am a Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) class. Personal training was amazing: there were tire flips & presses. Tire flips can be used to bribe me to do anything else you ask of me. Then I was introduced to tire presses. Hello new love of my life! A tire press is lifting the tractor tire enough to kneel down, then raise and lower it. A lot like a dumbbell press, but with the same tire I'd just flipped. I hope those become a regular part of my training.

Then OCR class a half hour after I left PT. I didn't think I'd have much to give, but that half hour drive gave me a chance to catch my breath, regroup and gear up to rock another workout. I think I did a great job. I got a high five when I was I did something right.

MRT this morning was not as stellar. As much as I wanted those flexed arm hangs, anything longer than 5 seconds hanging just was not happening. We had a core finisher that left me wanting to throw my dumbbell through a wall. Which tells me it was exactly what I needed to do.

So, in closing I am okay. I still have my friends and my family. There might be tears moving forward, there will be moments I want the familiar back, but I will move forward. Going back is not an option.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Tough Mudder New England

Tough Mudder New England 2014 is in the books. I finished and finished quicker than I thought I could. The best part of the event? Bar none the hugs. Ben, Carole, Jackie, Jen and Tara: thank you. Last year finishing Mudder was such an emotional moment I cried on a teammates shoulder for awhile. This year was no less emotional, but there were no tears. Just a feeling of enormous satisfaction that the negative, angry words that used to play non-stop in my head were largely silent. It's not a battle I've won completely yet, but those negative thoughts come so much less frequently now.

There are themes in my life I had plenty of time to reflect on Saturday while I traversed the course. Well, at least I was reflecting when I wasn't too busy watching my footing and trying not to be run over by people who have an ability I would like to develop: running down hills. They made it look almost effortless. I say almost, because I saw enough of them fall face first into the mud to think I should start with hills that are much less steep and muddy. There's also that pesky green band that says no running and no jumping.

As usual, I digress.Let me start by making a list of the things I know about myself...then let's see what other tangent I can go on.

1. I doubt myself.
All the time in nearly every situation. There are things people tell me I do well and I don't see it. I flip tires well? Thanks, but let's be honest: I don't see it. I'm a good friend? Okay, but I see the times I fail. I can complete Tough Mudder? I hoped so, but I didn't believe. Neither did I quit, so that counts for something.

2. My hindsight is 20/20.
Something horrible happened to one of my teammates yesterday. Looking at it now and looking back I can see so many other things I could have done that might have changed the course of events. So many times on the course yesterday those thoughts cropped up and tears welled. Why didn't I go over the wall first? Why didn't I get on top and help from there? Why didn't I stay until help arrived? Why? Why? Why? I could drive myself crazy with the "whys". I know this teammate though and I know she would NOT want that. She has been one of my biggest supporters and cheerleaders through this journey.

3. I'm stubborn.
If you read my blog you know last year at Tough Mudder around Mile 2 I hurt my lower back or my cranky piriformis muscles got tired of hauling my butt up and down Mount Snow and began to spasm. Whatever, the end result was it sucked This year it wasn't until Mile 6 that they fired up and let me know they were there. It hurt just as much this year, but again I found the fight deep inside to keep going. I made it four miles further without pain this year: if I can add four more miles next year I could make it to Mile 10 and maybe finish a Mudder with no back spasms.

Oh yes, there will be a Mudder #3. Call me nuts, but I've found something that gets my adrenaline pumping and I plan to complete many more. Plus, I just love the orange headbands...and now with Mudder Legion I can collect other colors as well.

4. I'm worth something.
It wasn't very long ago that I didn't believe this. I thought my only value came from being a doormat for other people. If I didn't bend over backwards to make people happy and tell everyone what they wanted to hear I was worthless. I hated myself pure and simple. You don't allow yourself to get to a weight of 309 pounds if you care at all about yourself. That part of my life is over. My happiness has to be important. I may never be anyone's idea of beautiful on the outside and I don't really care. I want to be beautiful on the inside. I want to make those around me feel good and be glad I am around.

In my dreams I will be a fitness instructor. Will I be as talented and good at it as the man who got me started and has helped me see the positives about myself that others have always seen? Maybe not, but I will be the best I can be. Someday, I want to help people take those first steps toward a new, healthier, happier life. That's my dream whether it's realistic or attainable remains to be seen, but I will work at it.

5. I'm not a fluke.
Yes, I still think that. I know some who may read this have told me straight out you don't do flukes and I'd like to tell you I believed you, but really I just thought you were being kind. I don't see the inspirational "rock star" some people see. I see whatever flaw I was looking for and some I manufacture just because I can.

Finishing this second Tough Mudder and knowing I want to do a third helped me realize that what others have seen in me is real, it is true. I may not understand what about me and my story is inspirational, but I don't have to: I just need to say thank you and keep going.

from top to bottom: 2013 orange headband, 2014 orange headband, Mudder Legion Headband and 2014 event bib.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

How Do You Like Me Now?

It was a Toby Keith marathon on the walk this morning. Abbey appreciated the extra time we spent and is now happily snoring in her crate surrounded by all her toys which she had to carefully arrange before she got comfortable.

If I had to choose my absolute favorite TK song it would be "How Do You Like Me Now". It's a fun, upbeat song, and it got the wheels in my mind turning this morning while I kept my pace up. Less than a week until Tough Mudder and I'm going up every hill I can find just as fast as I can go.

So how do you like me now?

For those of you who encourage me every step of the way and remind me I'm more than I think I am: I hope I make you proud. I hope when you look at me you see your time, energy, faith and hard work paying off. I hope you know that I appreciate all you have done for me. I mean that sincerely: I'm not thanking you just as a courtesy with no thought behind it. I mean each and every word,. To my instructors past and present: you got me started on this journey, you gave me the tools to work with and helped me find the courage to do the work. To my friends (instructors you belong on both lists): when I want to give up you encourage and inspire me. When I feel like my world is caving in and crashing down around my ears you remind me I am not alone and I just need to adjust my perspective to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Then there are the other people. Those select few who take some sort of perverse pleasure in reminding me of how many times I've failed in the past and seem to be waiting for me to fail now. Seriously?? I do not live my life thinking I am better than anyone else. If you don't or can't support me then walk away. There is nothing of interest for you here. Life is too short to spend it being cruel. If you can't walk away, then I will make it easier for you and walk away myself. You don't have to like me, but don't be mean. It's simple, most of us heard that in Kindergarten. Think about how much nicer life would be if more of us put that into practice.

Wow, time to step off my soapbox and put it away, isn't it? Lecture over, Professor Swett is leaving the building. Yikes.

I realized something else this morning as I plowed my way up a hill while Abbey, the bouncing boxer, raced up and down 5 times. I am not like anyone else. My life experiences make me uniquely qualified to be ME, not to be someone else's shadow. I have a message I can share that might inspire or encourage someone else. I have something to contribute that could brighten someone's day or make them stop and think about the possibilities.

The decision I need to make is am I willing to step outside my comfort zone, open myself up to other people and use who I am to help or am I going to wall myself off from all but a select few people so I can be "safe". I think those of you who have encouraged, cajoled, pushed and comforted me would like to see me step up to the plate and swing for the stands.

I'm stubborn, I'm curious and I do like a good adventure so it's time to tear down the walls, be myself and see what happens.

Two posts in one weekend....I guess I had something to say. Or I just like to ramble on and hope people will read. Take your pick.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, May 23, 2014

One of the "Cool Kids"

Appearances can be deceiving. For example I have been told people tend to think I am aloof, cold or just downright a snob when they first meet me. I do understand where that perception comes from, I do have a tendency to stand on the periphery observing rather than getting involved and talking. The truth is I don't ever feel like I belong. I stand on the outside because that feels somewhat comfortable.

I've often wondered what it would be like to be one of the "cool kids". You know the ones, the ones who look like they have it all figured out and just effortlessly know the right thing to do and say in any situation. The ones who seem to be above it all.

So why am I thinking about this instead of getting COMPLETELY freaked out that Tough Mudder New England is just about a week away? Oh please, I am a champion multi-tasker when it comes to worrying. I have it covered. I'm quietly getting more anxious by the day. There will be a post about my second TM when I complete it, until then I'll stick with "cool kids".

For the last two and a half years I have been surrounded by people I would have to say are the "cool kids". The part that mystifies me is that no one has called me out and asked me to get lost. No one has pointed at me and made me feel like a complete fraud. Honestly, I work out and hang out with people who have lost over 200 pounds, dead lift incredible amounts of weight, run up hills that leave me wishing for death halfway up and just run in general without looking like they really want to punch someone. Sometimes I just plain feel like an impostor. I try to look the part and God knows I push myself to do what's expected, but I don't ever feel like I quite measure up.

You know what surprises me the most? These "cool kids" seem to like having me around. I don't think it's just the comic relief I provide when I trip on the turf or the mats or some other perfectly flat surface. These people seem to really LIKE me. Me. The shy kid. The one who chose to play all by herself in the block corner in Kindergarten so she wouldn't have to figure out how to talk to the other kids. Yet here I am...surrounded by people I wouldn't have imagined would waste a second of their time with me. Just maybe I've been misjudging myself all these years.

Case in point. Last Sunday I went to Manchester, NH with 3 of the "cool kids" and participated in a two hour Spartan workout with them. If you have the chance to participate in one I HIGHLY recommend it. It's free, you get a t-shirt and it was just plain FUN. There is one in Burlingon, VT on June 14. You can check it out and sign up here if you are interested.   I really can't recommend it enough: it was fun. Yes I did say a workout was fun.

I don't think I'm a "cool kid" by any means. I know I don't have all the answers. I don't know the right things to say or do, but I try. I'm also discovering as time goes on that these "cool kids" aren't so different from me. They have doubts and worries too. They're human just like me. They have a prettier exterior and/or more confidence in themselves, but really most of them struggle too.

I had another far-fetched thought last night when I should have been sleeping, but my brain wouldn't shut off. There could be someone out there who looks at me and sees a "cool kid". I don't really think that's true, but it could be I suppose.

If I could choose the way people see me I'd like for them to see someone who is kind, generous, hard-working and trying to be the best person she can be. I do know what other people think of me and how they see me is none of my business so even with my keen ability to over-think and obsess I don't spend a lot of time on how people see me.

Back to your evening. Thanks so much for reading.