Tag Archives: Fitness

Leaning into the Fraudian Complex

canstockphoto17112100I’m a writer.

I speak several languages.

I am fit and active.

I love my family.

I believe love is the right choice.

But, but, but…

What about the fact that I’m none of these things consistently or expertly?

What about the fact that I don’t spend each and every day honing my writer’s craft? And that despite working on a novel, 80% of my reading is nonfiction?

What about the fact that if you ask me any question in the languages I know well on paper, I’ll have a blank look on my face?

What about the fact that I don’t look like an athlete? Or that I eat enough for four athletes…of the Sumo kind?

What about the fact that on Monday morning, I’m glad to see my family out the door?

And for all the love I purport to feel, to advocate for, why am I repeatedly calling fellow humans jackwads and dipshits while driving?

*****

I had the good fortune of hearing the author Elizabeth Strout (Olive Kitteridge, 2009 Pulitzer Prize), give a lecture last week. She talked about the value of fiction and why it’s important to readers. She spoke about how fiction gets to the truth of characters and in turn, to the truth of ourselves. I took notes and all I could think was – as a writer, I’m a complete and utter fraud. This is a bad thought to have a week before I’m scheduled to pitch my novel to three literary agents. But it’s bad in a way I have learned to value.

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When I started tutoring English learners, one of the students asked me in front of the class what languages I spoke. Ever eager to sound like I knew something of value, I muttered “I speak a little Spanish, German, French and Russian.”

It was, to my knowledge, true – if you wanted me to count to 10, list the colors of the rainbow or ask you where the bus station was. I’m proficient in asking for another beer in German or talking about military tank positions in Russian. I can accurately describe cows or the children at the swimming pool in French. In Spanish, I have a terrific food vocabulary, because Mexican food is the bomb.

So, in the back of my head, I really felt like I was telling a lie, even if I’d get off on a technicality. Lies bother me. Especially my own. I intone Jean-Luc Picard in my head Make it real. Since starting tutoring a few months ago, I’ve been relearning or building up languages. I start off every day on DuoLingo. It takes canstockphoto993916me about 20 minutes, but in the last two months, my language skills have improved exponentially. I started enjoying it so much that I’m ramping things up a bit with workbooks and online websites in those languages. I frequently wander the house repeating nonsensical phrases, sometimes mangling all four languages in the same sentence. International incident, here I come.

*****

I have never in my life looked like an athlete. I’m solid, but short and round. All my life I’ve been fairly active. I look in the mirror and it never reflects back at me who I think I am. This disconnect between how I feel and how I look frustrates me to no end. Years of martial arts, running, tromping around in combat boots hauling packs, endless numbers of push-ups, weight training, and in the end, I still look like a disheveled hausfrau. This time my body is a reflection of the lie.

canstockphoto2201991I’ve only ever dealt with half the equation – exercise. The reality is that I eat like a horse. A horse who could eat its own body weight in mashed potatoes. I eat well – really, really well. From my twenties on, I’ve resisted dieting, mostly to my benefit. But as my income grew, so did my access to all the foods I loved – foods that I didn’t get growing up and foods that I generally couldn’t afford or have access to during my Army and college years. Simple foods, even some that are quite healthy, I eat in large quantity.

My truth is that if I want the outside to truly reflect how hard I work, how much training I’ve done, I have to come to terms with the mentality I have, that whatever is in front of me now might be gone tomorrow, so I better get while the gettin’s good. I went through an absolute culling of personal belongings and clothing over the winter and found the same mentality at work. If I liked something, I bought two or got all the colors, because tomorrow it might be gone.

I want the reflection in the mirror to look like how I feel inside. I want to make it real. So I’ve begun doing that most mundane of dieting tasks – tracking calories and setting a target goal that I get all my servings of fruits and veggies. I just started Week 6 of an 8 week 5K training program. I’m starting to see results. My humble brag is less about the particular goals than it is about the fact that the lie had become untenable for me to sustain. It has simply become easier to make a lie the truth, than deal with the angst of wishing it to be so.

*****

Elizabeth Strout said it’s the job of the writer to be bring honesty to the reader, because it helps us get in touch with our own truths. That’s been rolling around in my head the last few days. My own truth is that despite all my experiences as a human, I am not an experienced writer. I have not, like Ms. Strout and so many working writers, spent my days and nights learning the craft.

Next week, when I sit in front of my first literary agent ever, I will be out of my depth. And that is the truth.

canstockphoto6167076Somehow, even confronting that truth head on, I find it invigorating. I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Because when that conference is over, when I’ve gushed out the verbal vomit that will be my pitch, I will return home knowing that I need to make it real. I’ll spend my days and nights learning what other writers already know. My path is one of retroactive truths, but truths…eventually.

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Brain Blurts on the Treadmill

One of my favorite workout songs is the Foo Fighters “Walk”. It’s a nice warmup piece, starting with motivational lines like Getting good at starting over... and I believe I’ve waited long enough…

What I like most about this song is that it makes me laugh every single time I hear it. It’s the singer’s crescendo to a primal yell of “I never want to die!” that does it. When I’m running on a treadmill at the Y, sweating along with a young, old, multi-gendered, multiracial, differing needs crowd, it seems like a great equalizer.

That’s why we’re all here, in this odd, smelly place littered with medieval/bondage equipment, right? Fitness, strength, weight, appearance, functionality, it doesn’t matter the reason, because when you strip everything down to the primal basics: We don’t want to die.

Except for the lady next to me, because if she keeps talking about her gall bladder surgery to every passerby, so loudly that even blasting Foo Fighters doesn’t block her voice, I’m going to sidekick her into a pile of elliptical machines.

Have a happy Wednesday!

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“OMG I’m getting mugged NLMAO”: Moving Mindfully

This is the 3rd in a series of essays on the importance of self-defense and physical power. I am not an expert on self-defense, nor a physical fitness guru. I do not condone violence, but advocate taking whatever action or inaction is needed to survive potentially dangerous situations. Not every situation is defensible through physical force.

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Today’s post will be an exercise in the obvious for most people. Be aware of your surroundings and be able to move. This means moving mindfully and being ready to react.

Look Ma, No Hands! Or Eyes!

There is no question we are a distracted bunch of humans. Just doing a preliminary search on the internet under the terms “mugging and texting” brought up a spate of news stories around the country. This guy barely noticed that a large bear was heading his direction, and would not have been in a position to defend himself against a human assailant. This is a pretty obvious tip – watch where you are going. If you can’t see a potential attack, you can’t prevent or avoid it.

Technology is addictive – I find myself checking my phone at random times, barely even realizing that I’m doing it. I decided to draw a line in the sand. When I’m on the move, out in the open, unprotected – phone calls, emails and texts can wait. Not only will I be aware, but I’m not giving a would-be thief additional incentive of an easily attainable phone.

Pack Mule or Cheetah?

From the time I was a Girl Scout through time in the military, “be prepared” was emphasized. My backpack contained a full first aid kit, umbrella, books and notebooks in case I had free time, workout gear for over the lunch hour and gadgets aplenty. I was a walking FEMA preparedness trailer, without the actual trailer. Then there was the purse. If I made any purchases, there would be additional bags. Don’t even mention the 50,000 lbs of college textbooks.

Years later, after the birth of my daughter, there was the diaper bag, the stroller, the travel playpen, a bag of toys. Not to mention the helpless, wiggling child. My hands were full and I was completely hobbled. My defense at that moment would have been the fact that an assailant wouldn’t be able to move me and my entourage from Point A to Point B without a posse.

Travel light. Less to steal, less to slow you down. Take 15 minutes. Dump out the contents of your purse, laptop bag, back pack, diaper bag onto the table or counter. What have you NOT used in the last month? Repack your bag leaving those items out.

Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag…and Possibly Shoes

Look at your travel container. Is it necessary or would something smaller be sufficient? I have a personal bias against purses – they seem highly inefficient, distracting, over-packed and incapacitating. Some require that one hand will never be free or that you will walk lopsidedly trying to keep it on your shoulder. Some provide long straps that can be utilized as a weapon against you.

I travel with a small backpack and don’t pack anything in the outside pocket that thieves could easily remove. My hands are free. I leave all unnecessary items at home. Purchases are in one hand and can be easily dropped in the event of attack and/or pursuit.

Shoes. I don’t wear shoes I can’t run in, but that, again, is a personal preference. If you’re going to insist on traveling in flip-flops or heels or other faux footwear, be able to get them off fast or make adjustments so that you can.

Other miscellaneous distractions. Bras and underwear. Seriously! If you have to keep pulling up the straps or fidgeting with yourself, upgrade. Fidgeting is distracting for you, brings unwanted attention and impacts your posture and confidence. Money clips and wads of cash. Really? You just made yourself a target at that last store or restaurant you visited. No one’s impressed except for thieves. Use small amounts of accessible cash. Jewelry. Never mind the attraction of would-be thieves, dangly jewelry can impede escape and get caught by grabbing hands, causing pain and distraction at a time when you need to focus on defense.

This Thing’s Got Wheels

Two wheels. I cycle to the Y for workouts and have seen firsthand the aggressive nature of drivers in vehicles. In addition to cases where the driver of the vehicle was not paying attention or refusing to engage in basic safety by giving the cyclist room, there have been criminal attacks on cyclists as well. In all cases, the number one rule of cycling self-defense is that helmet. In terms of crime and accident prevention, the best tip I’ve seen yet, besides circumstances of travel (time of day and route), is to attach a horn that mimics car horns – loud and unmistakable.

Four wheels. When we bought our most recent car, the remote key would unlock all four doors. This is convenient when traveling with family, but most of my driving is done solo. I took the car into the dealer and had them change the settings so that only the driver’s door would unlock. It means one more step when we travel as a family, but much more secure when I’m alone.

Notice who or what is parked next to your vehicle. The common warning is about the van parked next to your driver’s side. I’ve never had this happen, but I’ve very wary in parking lots. I park farther away if only to give myself a clear visual vantage point of not being surrounded by other vehicles. I scan constantly en route and interrupt grocery loading by frequently looking around.

The idea that we’re going to jump into our cars and tear out of the parking lot often doesn’t happen. Lock your doors once you’re in. Check your mirrors. Take care of business quickly and get on your way.

Be Aware.

Lighten Up.

Be Able to Move Quickly.

Use Your Imagination: If you travel regular routes in the course of going to work or school, or running errands, imagine where criminals could attack. Where could you run? Would you be able to move quickly, dressed as you are or carrying what you normally carry? If you haven’t imagined what it would be like to be attacked, start now. A criminal can and has imagined it. You will react more quickly if you have mentally run through possible scenarios.

 

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Claiming Public Space: The Power of Posture

This is the 2nd in a series of essays on the importance of self-defense and physical power. I am not an expert on self-defense, nor a physical fitness guru. I do not condone violence, but advocate taking whatever action or inaction is needed to survive potentially dangerous situations. Not every situation is defensible through physical force.

Introductory Post:   A Blogger for Self-Defense

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The most common piece of introductory advice given for self-defense is to “be aware of your surroundings”. I’d step back from that and say first and foremost be aware of yourself.  By the time I came upon this advice, I’d finished my Army tour, taken several self-defense courses (the R.A.D. system) at college and as a single woman who lived alone, was painfully aware of my surroundings – on the bus, in deserted college hallways, on the dark walk home from the bus stop, in the parking lots of restaurants and malls, in my apartment stairwell. I was as paranoid and jumpy as I could possibly be – and likely not prepared for any of the scenarios I’d imagined.

How you carry yourself in public spaces is the very first line of defense. It’s about preventing an attack before it occurs. It’s about making yourself a risky target for a would-be attacker. In an ideal world, the responsibility for the commission of a crime lies with the criminal. I want to be absolutely clear that victims are not responsible for the crimes committed against them. When we judge a victim – “well, if he or she hadn’t been there or worn that or drank too much” – we are finding a way to tell ourselves that it could never happen to us. We want to know we can prevent it, but the reality is that anyone, anywhere at anytime can be targeted for a crime.

The Walking Bullseye

For years, I was acutely self-conscious in public. My shoulders would slump forward, I wouldn’t make eye contact, I avoided crowded areas, I would not look around me. I was often carrying bags – a backpack of textbooks, groceries, possibly a purse. I rode the bus a lot. I would sit in the back as far away from other people and if I had to sit next to someone, I’d pull myself in as tightly as I could. I wanted to be invisible. I looked passive. I looked like an easy target.

Strangers would strike up creepy and inappropriate conversations with me. Panhandlers never failed to see their mark. On occasion, I’d have to get off the bus a few stops early so that an invasive passenger wouldn’t see where I lived or worked or went to school. These were defensive maneuvers, because I was already on the potential criminal’s radar. The key is not to even register as a possible target.

Climbing Out of the Shell

For women, some of us survived puberty by sinking into ourselves, hiding our busts, curving our shoulders forward. As adults, we carry tension in the neck and shoulder area until we become turtles. Pull your shoulders back and then let your shoulder blades lower down into a relaxed position. Inhale and exhale deeply. Straighten your neck, lift your head and actively use your eyes to see your surroundings. Use your peripheral vision. Practice walking with that posture.

If your muscles have elongated or shortened from poor posture, seek out strengthening and mobility exercises. There are a lot of good resources focused on improving posture. I was lucky to catch a great community course by Janice Novak, but there are other excellent resources as well. Look at yourself in the mirror (my least favorite thing to do!).  Where are your shoulders? Try different positions. What makes you taller? Imagined you are defending someone you love. How do you stand then? What is your posture of power?

I am still a self-conscious person, so if I’m not having a confident day, I hear “Stayin’ Alive” playing in my head. Nothing weirder than a middle-aged woman doing a John Travolta strut down the street. Better yet, I paraphrase Robert DeNiro in my head. “You lookin’ at me?” I look like I’m cruising for a brawl. Still, what I don’t look like is someone who is giving anything up very easily, including the ability to defend myself.

I recently watched an interesting TED video: Amy Cuddy: Your body language shapes who you are. The takeaway for me was twofold: 1) The marked difference between weak and powerful body language is about space. 2) Faking power and confidence can physiologically change you and how you carry yourself.

Claim Your Space

While public space should be governed by civility and courtesy for others, it is also about personal boundaries. When I worked downtown years ago, I boarded a full bus with one seat left. I understood immediately why the seat was open. A man in his twenties was sprawled out, legs spread wide in front of him, taking up his seat and half of the one next to him, while staring insolently ahead.

I could feel eyes on me and looked up, noticing that several people were standing, having chosen to avoid a potential confrontation. I immediately thought, because I am nothing, if not completely vulgar, Unless his nuts are the size of basketballs, I’m sitting there. I sat down, scooted over until he moved, and said loudly and clearly “EXCUSE ME”. He muttered under his breath, but the numbnuts moved his body over. I just made myself a risky target for any potential attacker on that bus – publicly demonstrating lack of intimidation and assertiveness. And when a situation presents itself for me to both use my ass and be one too, I’m all in.

Criminals are actively seeking out the vulnerable, the isolated, the passive – the easy mark. Start with the simplest steps to look unappealing to them.

Stand up tall.

Be confident (or fake it until you are).

Claim your space. 

Observational Practice: Look at people when you’re out and about – how much space do they claim? Imagine that you are a criminal. Which people would you pick for targets? Why would you pick them?

Tune in Friday

“OMG I’m getting mugged NLMAO”: Moving Mindfully

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A Blogger for Self-Defense

This is the introduction to a series of essays on the importance of self-defense and physical power. I am not an expert on self-defense, nor a physical fitness guru. I do not condone violence, but advocate taking whatever action or inaction is needed to survive potentially dangerous situations. Not every situation is defensible through physical force. canstockphoto6758958Last month, I stopped participating in Bloggers for Peace. It is a great concept, but I felt like a hypocrite. I’ve not been feeling peaceful for a long time. The unfortunate side affect of reading blog posts and the news, is that the world starts to become a very ugly place, especially in regards to issues related to being a woman. Disproportionate attention gets paid to the negative and the horrifying, so we read about the Steubenville rape, the murder of a paid escort in Texas, the abuse that many women have received at the hands of a “loved one”, a constant stream of politically and religiously motivated moralizing gone awry, based on the premise that our bodies are the collective property of the state.

I cannot, at this moment in time, advocate peace in the face of all of this. Being a conscientious person, I recognize that I live and feel a strange sort of dichotomy. At what point do I take action and NOT use my words? So, I’m writing about violence this week, in the form of self-defense.

Much of this is going to apply to women, simply because that is my perspective, but I hope male readers find something of value or can contribute their own perspective.

My hesitation on writing about this subject evaporated yesterday. I watched a YouTube video of a Taekwondo spin hook kick. A commenter had written “this would be a good kick to use on a woman who is yapping”. The star of the video, a skilled martial artist, responded “Yeah, that’s true.” Now I know, in my rational mind, that douchebags populate these sites, but most martial arts training advocates respect and discipline. It was disheartening to see, once again, something positive tainted by wankers with no sense of honor.

To clarify, for those who haven’t read this blog before, I’m a 45 year old woman. I spent 4 years of active duty in the US Army, in a military intelligence unit attached to an infantry division, which meant a lot of time out in the field. I am a practicing martial artist, just a short step from my 1st degree black belt in Taekwondo. I run, weight train and do a variety of workouts that support speed, flexibility and strength. I’ve gone through labor and delivery of a child. I’ve had ripped corneas, more bruises than I can count, torn and pulled ligaments and muscles. Last night I dropped a 250lb man in a self-defense move and the night before that, I sparred intensely with a teenager a foot taller than I, taking a kick to the jaw.

This is all to say, I’m not afraid of the pain and I am not afraid to use my power. As a woman in this society, it is considered wholly unnatural to be an advocate of putting the hurt on someone else. We’re encouraged to do flutter kicks to flatten our abs and leg lifts to tighten our butts.  Every time I see the covers of women’s magazines, I cringe. Even the so-called fitness magazines are focused on appearance and not capabilities. I would love to see the title “How to make No mean No: Giving a Beat Down He Won’t Forget” or “Self-Defense for Parking Lots: Keys are for Eyeballs, Knees are for Groins” or “50 Ways to Leave Your Abuser”. Instead we’re told how to organize a shoe closet or how to make ourselves look “hotter” (there’s a word that deserves to be beaten to death).

I’m an average woman who was never particularly coordinated or athletic. My education about violence and physical force started at a young age. Pushes, shoves, punches, slaps, ear twists, hair pulls, belt whippings, threats from behind a gun sight – all from people older and bigger than I, people who I should have been able to trust with my well-being. When I was a four-eyed, awkward, puny and shy 4th grader, a group of girls pushed me off my bike and took it. I did not react, except to cry. My crying matured into a quiet, stony stare when I was attacked, either physically or verbally. I dreamed of being a vigilante, of defending kids like myself, of taking down the bullies. I seethed with rage that had nowhere to go, except inward.

My Army drill sergeant had nothing on me. He could get in my face, scream at me, force me through unceasing pushups, flip my bunk – I did what I was told and stared stonily into the distance (hence being called into the senior drill sergeant’s office for an “attitude problem”). I knew he was a drinker – his eyes had that same red, watery look that my stepfather had the morning after a bender. Been there, done that, dude. I stared him down. 100 pushups later, I still stared him down. He gave up, winded from all the yelling. Probably needing an aspirin.

These days, I’m an advocate of peaceful existence. But becoming a mother to a daughter forced me to re-examine what that means to me and what I want it to mean for her. I began to train, to learn a martial art, to become as strong on the outside as I am on the inside. I’m prepared to defend myself. And not with flutter kicks (unless they’re to the head).  I have begun to believe the world would be a more peaceful place, especially for women, if we each knew our personal power, could walk confidently out into the world, could know what we were capable of and that we have choices.

Tune in Tuesday    

Claiming Public Space: The Power of Posture

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Preparing for Your Own Worst Enemy

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I left the YMCA in a huff last night after a mediocre workout. A group of women were having a yak-a-thon in the corner of the weight room. This is a pet peeve of mine – rabid, loud socializing when I’m working out. It’s not just the women, either. I’ve seethed as men stood around saying creepy things to each other like “you’re getting really big” or “which protein powder do you use?”.

I’m on the road back to fitness after a tedious winter of flus and injuries and entropy. It means that any excuse is enough to make me give up and go home. When you go looking for reasons to quit, you are guaranteed to find them. My trainer used to say “you get to use that excuse only once and then it gets crossed off the list.” I’m a creative person, though. I once used the fact that I’d forgotten my headphones, to go home and have a snack instead.

My goal over the next three weeks is to show up at the gym consistently. The idea that it takes 21 days to make or break a habit is pseudoscience from the 1960s. A current study suggested that it can actually take over two months for a habit to become automatic, but it also showed that the time frame can vary widely from one individual to another.

For me, the three week repetition seems to do the trick. I emphasize the words show up, because I have walked into the gym, seen how busy it was, turned around and headed home. I still gave myself kudos for making it through the door. Most of the time, I do stick around and get some exercise done.

For the last decade, I worked as a business manager for a recruiting firm. The training for recruiters/sales people always involved starting out with a script. When the potential client/customer raised an objection or concern, the sales person had to be ready to overcome that objection. Much the same concept can be applied to personal goals. Know your favorite obstacles. Go through the script. Be prepared to counter that obstacle. Here’s the conversation I had yesterday with myself:

I need to work out today.

My shoulder hurts from the Pilates class yesterday.

Quit whining. Ice it and do leg work instead.

Fine. But I’m not going to enjoy it.

Injuries are a common excuse of mine. The injuries are real. At 45, doing high impact activities like taekwondo and running means injuries every other month or so. It’s a known obstacle and one that I’ve had to become adept at overcoming. This is where having a trainer has been especially useful. The minute I say that I need a break because of a quad injury, she has 20 exercises at the tip of her brain that I can do instead. I’ve learned enough from her to know that, unless I am in a coma, there is always something that I can do.

The practice of overcoming objections is a habit in and of itself. It’s hard for me to make excuses about anything without that other voice in my head saying “but you can do something“. Unexpected change in my schedule is high on the list of obstacles. If I planned to write all afternoon and have to take my mother-in-law to the dentist instead, it’s very easy for me to do a Scarlett O’Hara and put off writing until tomorrow. I have to force myself to think of that something that I can still do today. I have learned to jot notes and outlines in waiting rooms, during piano lessons, at an oil change or in the five minutes before I have to go somewhere else.

Taekwondo training lately has been focused on self-defense techniques in real life scenarios. The key is always awareness and thinking through the “what ifs”. Just like objections and obstacles, I have to talk myself through the B I will do if A happens. It’s important not to confuse concepts, though. If a mugger jumps out at me in a parking garage, I might whip out a notebook and jot down tomorrow’s post. Worse yet, when my neighbor needs a ride to the grocery store on a day when I’d planned on painting the kitchen, I might take out her kneecap.

When your biggest obstacle to meeting a personal intention is yourself, you know all the tricks and excuses. I give myself a mental, condescending pat on the head. That’s nice, dear. Now, go do something.

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The Body Eclectic

canstockphoto10785869Over three years ago, I began to meet with a personal trainer on a weekly basis. My working class roots resisted what seemed like a posh luxury, but this was an indulgence I could justify. Like many people, I am juggling roles as an employee, parent, caretaker and writer. It is very easy to let the caretaking of my body slip down the list of priorities. Now, it seems reckless and unacceptable to ignore the longest relationship I will ever have.

I am being taught how to strengthen, recover and challenge my body with deliberate intention. I want to honor this amazing entity that carries me through the day, that survived grueling marches in combat boots, that housed my child, that does a million complicated tasks within a single day.

Many years have passed since I tried to starve my body into submission or indulged in punishing workouts for eating too much. I no longer see my body as an enemy, a distant necessity which must be managed and controlled. Enough has been said about what culture dictates about women’s bodies (although I see some expectations trickling down to men as well). We know the body politics and the commercialization and the airbrushing outrages. I’m a bit tired of it all, because it has become irrelevant to my body.

My body exists as is. Torturing it to meet unrealistic standards, damaging my self-esteem when it doesn’t meet those standards and having it constantly in my mind as an issue is completely useless for my health. I am learning to block the noise and pay attention to what is important. I get angry when I start to write about this topic, because so much energy, so much time, in my lifetime alone, has been wasted on the issue of what we should look like and so little on what we should feel like.

Amazing things happen when you turn your gaze inward and stop looking in the mirror. Do you feel strong? Do you feel energetic? Do you feel appreciative of all the muscles, bone structure, nerves and blood required to just move you through your day? Some days, I don’t feel any of those things, but I’ve gotten in the habit of doing a mental once-over. What hurts? Where am I stiff or sore? Am I tired? How much sleep have I been getting? Does my body need more water? So often we take better care of the car in the driveway than of the vehicles that brung us.

I’ve always had the desire to feel strong, but that desire has met intense psychological resistance. I’m self-conscious about my body and an introvert. Workout DVDs were my gateway drug, done secretly in my home where no one could see when I tripped doing the grapevine or hear me grunting while doing lunges. My idea was to become completely fit before going out into the world to exercise, so that I wouldn’t look out of shape or silly.

It’s an objection that I’ve overcome, but one of the most difficult mental obstacles for people to get beyond. I used to be one of those people who would drive down the street and see someone overweight running and think “I would never do that, looking that way.” Here’s a secret: How you look is completely irrelevant to how you feel or what your fitness level is.

You cannot look at a person and tell how fit they are or how wonderful they feel with all those happy brain chemicals bouncing about in their heads. Their being is not about you or your judgments, just as your body is not about theirs. Now I see somebody working out and no matter how they appear, I think “what have I done today to take care of my body?” Some days, it will entail a nap, or a slow deliberate walk or just stretching out a bit. Other days, it might need more, but it needs mindfulness.

I return to the YMCA on Monday, after a hiatus.  My sole goal: get there. Once I’m there, I’ll worry about what I should do next. My insecurities will raise their ugly little heads and I will be tempted to be envious of tiny Ms. Lycra in front of me or feel smug when I see someone barely able to jog a few minutes. It’s all bullshit and like cultural dictates, irrelevant to what I need to be doing.

Areas of my body will be jiggling on the treadmill that hadn’t before. I will not have coordinated workout clothing. I will sweat profusely and look and smell not particularly delightful. I will not, well into my workout, even feel particularly good. I will appear graceless doing bench presses and lat pull downs and rows. People will look at me and wonder if my red face indicates a potential cardiac event. But I won’t care, because I will walk out of there with my happy brain chemicals, my sweaty head held high and the gratitude of a body that I’ve honored.

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