Not so Fitness-y

At the moment, there’s a dog snoring underneath the table, Pandora is playing my favorite Coldplay song, and I’m struggling to figure out if the nausea in my stomach is caused by stress or the lemon Fiber One bar I just ate.

Even though it’s sunny, there’s a melancholy feeling to this day. Maybe it’s the cool summer air (come on, July, I want to work on my tan!), or maybe it’s just the fact that I want today to feel melancholy because I feel that way.

Too much work, not enough life. That’s how I’ve been feeling lately. Thanks to an insanely busy weekend full of work, speaking at church, and social events, then my typical busy work week, I haven’t had much time to relax. Even today, with a little bit of time off, I’ve been paying bills, answering emails, and ordering the books I need to complete my CECs for my certifications.

Adulthood isn’t as fun as it seemed when I was little. I thought I’d be able to do what I want to do…but that’s certainly not the case! It’s not that I don’t want responsibility – it’s more that I want the ability to be the kind of friend I want to be. The kind of sister/daughter/granddaughter/niece/aunt that I want to be. It’s that I want my life and my passions and pursuits to draw myself and others closer to Christ and to be full of health.

And today, with my stomach tied in knots and my shoulders tense from this constant feeling of being overwhelmed, I don’t feel healthy. I don’t feel close to Christ.

But I know He’s close to me. I can feel it when I step out the door and smell the summer air. I sense it in my heart, because I know how much He loves me. In spite of my failures, my sins, my arrogance, my selfishness – He loves me.

And right now, in this moment, that’s enough for me. Just to know without a doubt that the Creator of the Universe and the Master of my life is holding me close and whispering, “I’ve got you.”

Because He does. And He’s got you, too.

Set a Goal and Stop the Excuses

Setting goals isn’t just for the first of the year.

In fact, I think I can count on one hand the amount of people I know who actually made New Years’ resolutions this year. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with making a resolution, it seems that most people forget about them by February.

I don’t really need to give you a lecture about goals, because at some point in life everyone has set a goal. It could be as long-term as finishing medical school or as short term as just getting through your work day.

What I do want to talk about is how to set your goal well, so that you can actually reach your goal.

The Goal of Goal Setting

Obviously, if you’re getting ready to complete a goal, it’s because you WANT something. Maybe you want to take a trip to Paris (if you’re going, can I hitch a ride in your suitcase?). Maybe you want to get your Spinning certification and start teaching your favorite exercise classes. Maybe you want to lose 40 pounds, write a screenplay, or sell your artwork in a gallery.

Whatever your goal is, the point is that you WANT something, and you want it badly.

Start with the SMART theory.

S- Specific

M- Measurable

A- Attainable

R- Realistic

T- Timely

You’ve probably used this before, and it might have worked for you. I know that when I set a goal it should have a timeline, a way to be measured, and be something that’s realistic for me (like finishing a half-marathon under 2 hours 15 minutes). Trying to do something that doesn’t fit my dreams or my personality will most likely result in failure (which is why I have never really considered trying to be a fashion model – I’m not tall enough, I’m not much of a fashionista, and I don’t think I’m particularly photogenic).

But what if your goals aren’t getting reached?

Maybe it’s time to look a little closer at the person in the mirror.

Get out there and reach your goal!

Get out there and reach your goal!

Is your goal something that you really want? Or are you choosing to listen to the things that other people have planned for you?

Does your goal have a timeline, or are you just trying to do that thing “someday?” Someday isn’t good enough – it has to have an expiration date or else you could be waiting around forever to have some success….and that’s probably not going to help boost your confidence level.

Do you have a support system? If you were trying to become a world-class chef, you wouldn’t spend your time learning how to cook at McDonald’s. You’d most likely go to culinary school and learn from mentors and teachers who have worked in world-class restaurants. You’d work with the best foods and the best equipment. Gather a support system around you that is going to encourage you when you need it, celebrate your success, and help you learn from mistakes.

Are you challenging yourself? Have you pushed your personal boundaries? Or are you staying where it’s warm and comfortable because it’s easier? A goal without a challenge to it isn’t much of a goal. There has to be a risk of failure or else there’s no real victory. You have to fight for what you want, and if your goal doesn’t put fire in your belly and determination in your eyes, you might want to find a new goal.

Stop making excuses. Seriously. Saying you’re too tired and too busy is an excuse. You make time for what’s important. If you can surf Facebook for sixty minutes, you have time to work out. If you feel like you NEED to surf the web aimlessly, do it while you’re sitting on a bike or a treadmill at the gym. If you want to finish your novel, turn off your favorite romantic comedy and start typing instead (Mr. Darcy will always be there, engraved on the DVD).

So I’m not going to be offended when you close this page and get out there and DO SOMETHING.

Go. Now. And then you can tell me all about it later – because I do want to hear how you’ve crushed your fear and rocked your goal! (I just don’t want to hear your excuses.)

 

 

 

Lost, Lassie, and Katniss Everdeen

Or, in other words, how I got lost in the woods.

The wilderness...beautiful, but go prepared.

The wilderness…beautiful, but go prepared.

You could say I’m an adventurer of sorts. An explorer. Put my name next to Magellan and Lewis & Clark.

Or maybe not.

You see, I headed out with my faithful hiking companion (a black lab, not a human) and hit some of the familiar trails that we’ve gone on before. I followed a trail that I’d followed previously. Dog went for a swim in the creek. I meandered through a “fairy glen” and a place that – no joke – looked almost like it belong in Frozen. It was all moss-covered rocks, and I found myself hoping that I’d awaken some trolls.

No such luck.

As we made our way up a steep hill, I found a baby snake sunning itself on the rocky trail. That should have been my indication right then and there to turn around and go back the way I’d come, but no. Hindsight is 20/20, no matter what type of contacts or glasses you wear.

After moving Mr. Snakey off the path a ways (despite his lethargy, I didn’t feel like getting chomped on by a reptile), Dog and I continued upward. And upward.

And then I followed the trail I really thought I’d been on before.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the part where I left my cell phone behind. Along with all common sense.

Now, at first, this was still an adventure. I found a beautiful trail with the BEST rock for journaling upon that I’ve ever seen in my entire life. This thing could come with cupholders and it wouldn’t be any better. (Too bad I’ll probably never find that trail again.)

Nothing looked familiar after awhile, but I forged on, thinking “this trail should come up someplace familiar.”

And then I started to get worried. Now, I may not be the best at finding my way, but I really thought that it wouldn’t be that hard to find my way back to a trail I’d been on previously. And all the time I kept thinking “I know the way back, but I have to be almost there by now.”

Not true.

So I wandered some more. I marked trails as they intersected with new ones.

And then I stopped doing that.

So that when I started to get scared.

Not just scared…Scared. With a capital S.

I got to the point where I had absolutely no clue where I was. There were signs about public access points, something I’d never seen before on any of my hikes in that area. It was not good.

Apparently, Dog has no sense of direction either, because according to the books I read as a child, dogs should be able to find their way home. He does not have that ability.

I finally turned around and tried to go back the way I came. At some point, no matter how far I’d wandered, I had to find something that would help me. A house. A road. A friendly – or not so friendly – person to ask directions from.

But at that point, I was alone with a dog, muddy shoes, and an overwhelming sense of helplessness.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

But some of them are.

On my way back, I followed a trail that looked familiar. But then I must have missed the point where I had originally found the last trail, the one with all the public access signs, because I found a new “public access point” that was full of discarded trash.

I wandered some more.

And finally, I found a road.

It was marked as a state route, but I had no idea where exactly I was. So I started walking in the direction I thought was best. And let me tell you, my feet were sore, my legs were tired, and I was feeling even more hopeless. I’d been praying for a long time at that point, and I had no idea what the time was (apparently I need to learn how to judge time based off of the sun’s height above the horizon!). Now I prayed for a car to pass – for it to be someone that I knew or at least someone who was friendly.

No such luck. Not for a while anyway. For probably two miles I alternated between walking and jogging down hill on exhausted leg, feeling dehydrated, stupid, and desperate, and the entire time only one truck passed me. And they didn’t slow down.

So I kept going. At this point oit was a matter of pride…or survival. Maybe both.

I finally worked up the nerve to approach a house and ask for directions. The lady was kind enough to give me a general idea of where I was. She did not offer a cup of water. Or a ride.

Boo.

So I turned back down her driveway and headed BACK THE WAY I CAME because I had gone the wrong way.

I came to an intersection and saw a house to my right that had about 8 or 9 cars parked on the front lawn. I could hear and see people outside, and this was a welcome sight (because my overactive imagination had taken over while I was wandering aimlessly in the woods and I’d begun to think I’d entered into some sort of alternate reality where I was the only person left alive…no, I wasn’t hallucinating).

I figured there was safety in numbers, hoped it wasn’t a fancy party or a wedding, and went to ask for more directions.T

Thank the Lord for kind strangers. Seriously, I have no idea how I’d get through life without the kindness of strangers.

I’d walked up to a man cleaning fish on a picnic table (not a fancy wedding, thenand said, “Hello, sorry to disturb you, but I’m a little lost and I could use some directions.”

The man was older, probably in his fifties or sixties, and he looked at me with wide eyes. “Well, we can definitely help you with that!” He immediately started calling out to his friends. As it turns out, it was his friend’s cabin, and they were there for a weekend of fishing, beer, and freedom from their wives.

They all complimented Dog on his gorgeous healthy coat, laughed concernedly over my predicament, and quickly gave me a water bottle and a hero to take me the rest of the way home.

I have no idea how far I’d wandered, but by my less than stellar google map skills, I’m thinking it was close to 7 miles. The ride from the cabin back to Dog’s house was about 3 miles by road.

Yeesh.

My legs are scratched from thorns. My shoulder too. My feet are still hurting, and my legs feel tight. I haven’t done that much prolonged physical activity since my last half marathon. Last night I drank about 40 ounces of water, took a hot bath, and used the foam roller. Today I’ve sat on the couch so long that my butt is getting sore and I don’t think it’s helped the tight muscles at all.

In conclusion, I’d like to share some things I learned yesterday.

1.) Take a cell phone. Whether you’re by yourself or with friends (and you should go with friends anyway, don’t be dumb like me), you NEVER know what could happen. Dog’s owner told me later that there are bears and bobcats in those woods. All I saw was a wild turkey and some salamanders, thankfully. But if you do get lost, your battery dies, or something worse happens, they can always use your cell phone “pings” to find you.

2.) Tell people where you are going. Seriously, how else will they know where to start looking when you don’t come home?

3.) Not all dogs are Lassie. And not all humans know how to find their way either. Do not trust your hiking companion unless they have proven themselves in some previous manner – especially if they are four-legged.

4.) Carry water. If it does become more of a prolonged expedition, you might start to get desperate. Trust me, I considered eating grass at one point because my mouth was so dry.

5.) Be wary of strangers, but still be willing to ask for help. Not everyone is a crazy murderer, but you should still be very careful who you talk to and what information you give out. If you feel uncomfortable at all, trust your gut and get out of there. It’s better to look goofy than to become someone’s next victim.

6.) STRETCH. Because I definitely didn’t do enough of that.

7.) Don’t think you’re Katniss Everdeen. She’s a great character, I’ll give you that, but she, unlike most of the rest of us, actually possessed survival skills. I do not.

8.) Learn survival skills. You never know when you’ll be lost in the woods. Or when you’ll be running for your life from zombies. All that information about edible plants they try to teach you at summer camp might actually come in handy some day.

 

Someday, this story will be  a little bit funnier to tell, but that probably won’t be until my leg stop aching and I do something else stupid.

Gettin’ Judge-y About Fitness

Fitness and health looks different for each person. We see this in athletes. Look at a figure skater, male or female, then look at a football player. They train specifically for their events – one to glide gracefully across the ice and spin like some sort of human gyroscope while the other works to sprint, smash, tackle, and intercept during their games. Check out these incredible photos by Howard Schatz—-

 

howard shatz1

 

Photo credit: Howard Schatz.

Photo credit: Howard Schatz.

 

Our bodies are different and there’s no shame in that. I repeat, THERE IS NO SHAME IN THAT. We were each fearfully and wonderfully made. In my opinion, every body (and everyone) is beautiful and amazing. The things our bodies are capable of at any stage of life, any weight, any size, any age, any ability or even disability…it’s completely mind-boggling, humbling, and amazing. Next time you’re at the mall, sit down on a bench and just watch people walk. It’s incredible!

*warning – I’m about to geek out*

Let’s break this down for just a minute. As you walk, your brain is sending signals constantly between your eyes and ears, arms and legs, and it determines where you are, how fast of slow you want to go, checking for obstacles in case it needs to send another signal to your muscles to stop, turn, or avoid oncoming toddler strollers or walking-and-texting people (confession: I do that from time to time). The way the body works is complex and beautiful, and most of us just complete the simple task of walking with very little conscious thought. We just do it if we need to go somewhere.

Just like everyone has their own style when they walk, everyone also has their own body style. There’s tall, thin, short, athletic, muscular, overweight, underweight, average height, size 0s and size 24s, and there is nothing wrong with being diverse. The trouble comes when we try to judge and say what is the perfect size for someone else.

Science tells us that health is a complicated thing that is not completely understood. There are cases where an individual is highly active and eats very healthfully, but dies of a sudden heart attack. There are also cases where someone smokes a pack a day, eats lots of fatty foods, and lives to be one hundred. Studies show contradictory evidence about what type of diet is best and what kind of exercise program makes the most difference in weight loss, weight maintenance, and overall longevity.

We’re confronted daily with visual representations of human bodies, and I’m sure we have all jumped on the bandwagon of nitpicking, especially when it comes to women judging women.

“She’s so thin.”

“She’s gotten heavy.”

“Oh, she just can’t lose that baby weight.”

“I want to cram a cheeseburger down her throat.”

It gets hard when you work in health and fitness, especially when you are talking to another person about weight loss. Health is a highly personal issue, and one that must be approached with seriousness and humility.

I believe that the things God gives to us should be treated as gifts. We are born with our body, and it is the only one we get throughout the course of our life. Sure, we can change hair colors, hair styles, go through plastic surgeries, and alter a lot of things about ourselves, but we still have our body. With many things in life, I believe that we are called to be stewards. A steward is “one who manages affairs of an estate on behalf of his employer.”  The things that God gives to us should be used for his glory and for his purposes. Most of the time, we think of stewardship in terms of money, but I think it applies to just about every aspect of our lives. Our health and our bodies are no exception to that.

We should be trying to take care of ourselves. That means getting quality sleep, eating good foods that provide our bodies with nutrients, and moving and/or exercising with purpose. When we care for our bodies, we are more likely to care for other aspects of our health – like our minds, our occupations, our social circles, and our spiritual health. We are also more able to take care of others.

When we treat our bodies respectfully, it is easier for us to follow God’s call when he tells us to move. The important thing is that we keep health in perspective. Paul wrote, “For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.” (1 Timothy 4:7 NIV).

With Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I know that my body is the temple of the Lord (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). It doesn’t belong to me anymore because he bought me with his blood. I want to treat it like he wants it to be treated – with respect. I want to keep it clean and pure. And of course, I still sin. Yes, I get caught up in my own appearance and become vain, conceited, and a big mean jerk. I judge myself harshly, and I judge others as well – whether it be for their appearance, their actions, or whatever I’m feeling judge-y about.

The thing that matters most is that I know where my identity is. It’s not in the weight on the scale. It’s not in my body fat percentage, in how many comments I get on any fitness-related pictures and posts I have on the Internet. My identity is not in compliments, my ability to do a CrossFit class, or how many pounds I can squat. It’s not in how healthy I eat or how terrible I was last week because I ate too many cookies. My identity is in Christ.

God does not judge me based on my appearance, but what is in my heart. I don’t have to spend time judging others for anything because my opinion doesn’t actually matter.

I do want my health to reflect my freedom in Christ, and also my willingness to serve him. When he calls me to do his work, I want to be able to do it free from pain, so I exercise to maintain my flexibility and my strength. I try to eat a healthy amount of foods (not too much, not too little, and easy on the sweets) so that my weight will not interfere with my ability to do the things he asks me to. I want to be fit so I can serve him better.

Being fit looks differently for everyone. I am short (five feet tall), I have my father’s large calves, and tend to be curvy. I have friends that are tall and broad, tall and skinny, short and curvy, short and slim… and each and every one of us goes through times where we struggle with our health, our self-esteem, our confidence, our athleticism (or lack of athleticism) and a myriad of other concerns.

Life is a balancing act. We have to give things their proper significance in our lives. Viewing our health and fitness as an act of stewardship allows us to put in its proper place, just like our finances, our time, and our social lives.

The most important thing is to love the Lord with everything we have, and the second is to love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

Pull Ups – not of the underwear variety – and Challenge Results

As promised, here are the results of The Challenge:

Workout Buddies!

Workout Buddies! Part of my goal was to be able to do more pull ups, and Sarah willingly jumped into it as well.

Sarah’s Results in her own words:

138 lbs to 139.5 >> gain of 1.5
-24.7% body fat to 24.2% >> loss of .5% (although I was down to 21.6% right in the middle of the challenge. Come on body, let’s get it together.)
– lost 1.75″ … -1″ came from hips which was important to me

Where Sarah succeeded:

  • Workout consistency
  • writing down workouts before I did them
  • increased strength in quads and hamstrings
  • increase in energy/zest
  • having a workout partner was awesome… Julie challenged me and helped me stay accountable!!

What Sarah had to overcome:
I sabotaged my success by late-night binge sessions. The day would look something like this: Track food all day and complete a great workout. Night rolls around and I find myself eating half a jar of almond butter, a box of triscuits, or over-eating while dining out with a friend. The regret the next morning, in a addition to the bowling ball in my belly, was prominent. What I’m learning is to recognize what causes me to eat mindlessly; and it is usually due to social situations or eating while I surf the web.

Other takeaways:

  • When I lacked motivation to work out, changing into workout clothes actually made a huge difference.
  • Let go of the past and focus on making this present moment better.

Julie’s Results in my own words:

-121.5 lbs to 117.5 lbs >> loss of 4 lbs

-23.7% bodyfat to 22.6% >> loss of 1.1%

-Lost 2.25 inches overall 

Where Julie succeeded:

  • Making healthier food choices
  • Adding an extra workout each week (especially since I had a workout buddy to check in with!)
  • Focusing on more strength training

What Julie had to overcome:

Life in general came close to sabotaging my success. The winter junk food fest retreat derailed my progress for a little while, despite trying to be prepared. One major thing I had to overcome was my own self-doubt. I’ve been at the same weight and body composition for a long time, so I struggled even believing that I could manage to lose weight. I also had a cold the last week and a half of the Challenge, which set back my workouts and my eating – cuz when I’m sick, I crave sweet stuff like nobody’s business.

Other takeaways:

  • Part of my weight loss was lean mass (muscle) which was a little disappointing since Sarah and I were doing some heavy lifting during our workouts. Seeing that number change over the six weeks really reinforced how important strength training is.
  • Another interesting thing is that in the weeks since the Challenge has ended, I’ve continued to see some pretty exciting results, despite not having a clearly defined fitness goal at the moment. My focus has shifted from counting calories to eating food that will make me feel healthier, more energetic, and strong. I work too hard to destroy my progress with tons of junk food. Even my self-confidence is better when I eat clean.

All in all, I think both Sarah and I really enjoyed The Challenge. Since mid-February when it ended, we’ve both been busy with work and traveling – weddings, golf trips, and social events – but we’ll be starting Phase Two of The Challenge soon. Our goals will be different this time, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity to seeing how our results will change.

You Lose Some. Then Gain Some Back.

Let the cycle begin again. Weight loss. It’s not easy, is it?

What makes it so hard? Is it hard to eat healthy? Hard to make it to the gym? Is the weather too cold as the polar vortex once again makes its Artic-booger-freezing-car-killing presence known and interrupting your carefully crafted marathon training plan? (If the weather is too hot to exercise where you live, let me know. I’m coming to visit.)

The Challenge is over and the results are in (and will be in my next post). I’m actually pretty surprised because in the middle of the Challenge, I spent the weekend with 114 people on a youth group winter retreat. Yes, there were games, camp food, hiking up a HUGE mountain in the snow – which felt more like an adventure across a frozen tundra – and lots of God-moments.

There was also tons of junk food. So I prepared. I cut up celery and carrots, packed a can of tuna, apples, protein bars, and peanut butter.

When you’re surrounded by all that sugary, fatty, sprinkle-covered food, it’s hard to make the best choice. And hey, one mom’s gluten-free brownies were a delicious choice that I don’t regret making.

So when we’re faced with social situations that revolve around food and we’re trying to become healthier versions of ourselves, how do we conquer the cravings, social pressure, and our own desire to enjoy something that we know may not help us reach our goals?

1.) Try a small amount of whatever you are eyeing up. The best thing I’ve learned to do is split a dessert. It’s not uncommon for me to split a piece of cheesecake with a friend or my boyfriend (yeah, it’s his favorite). At parties when I can choose my own portion size, I will usually take a very small amount just to get a taste of my favorite dishes. And sometimes, when I want to, I’ll go back for seconds. And thirds – but usually only when really, really good pie is involved.

2.) Plan to eat ahead. If you have the chance, try to fill up on some raw, nutrient-packed veggies and fruit before the event. The fiber and bulk of the veggies will keep you feeling fuller longer and remind your eyes that your stomach is not a trash compactor.

3.) Be the one who brings the healthy stuff. Grab a bag of apples and cut them up for your next party. Create (or buy) a veggie tray complete with multiple colors. If it’s watermelon season, bring it for the taste – and if it’s seeded, you can always have a spitting contest (yep, totally normal middle school activity for me).

4.) If you do make unhealthy choices, stop beating yourself up. It happened. You fell off the wagon (if you want to think of eating healthy as a wagon). So get up, brush yourself off, and jump back on that wagon. Eating one cookie (or ten), a piece of birthday cake (or a whole one) doesn’t make you a bad person. (Ladies, I’m talking to you.) If I had a dollar for every time I heard someone say “I was so bad yesterday, I ate ___________,” I’d be a billionaire. Food does not make you evil. It might not help your waist line shrink, but it doesn’t really constitute a crime.

5.) Get back on track ASAP. On Sunday afternoon, after we got back from the retreat, I had plans to eat high quality foods the rest of the day. Instead, I ate gummy worms, a man-sized portion of ravioli, and had nothing that was going to create happiness for my tummy. I’ve noticed that when I have a lot of sugar, my body craves it for a few days, and so Monday was my “back on the wagon” day. I was careful with my calories, tried to fill up on veggies, and then I did something brave.

I weighed in so I could assess the damage.

It wasn’t pretty. In fact, I was pretty upset.

But then again, what did I expect? I ate lots of food (I ate almost every meal with a group of guys who make lumberjacks seem like they have the eating habits of supermodels), I fell in love with gluten-free brownies, and gummy worms made a home in my stomach (and this gummy bear wants to become your roommate. And best friend. And NEVER LEAVE).

So after that weigh-in, I squared my shoulders, planned my menu to get back on track, and jumped into Spinning class for a few songs. There was no need to beat myself up, especially not when I knew what to do to get myself back on track.

Does anyone else think gummy worms are the bomb-dot-com? What kind of food prep do you do before a big event?