Health and Wellness, single-parenting, Uncategorized

Diary of a Reluctant Half-Marathoner: Managing Goals and Gators

BikeTrailPic

Today begins my 2nd week of pre-training for the St. Jude half-marathon in December. The first week had some interesting twists and turns, but overall I’m happy with how things went. Compared to last year, my approach and attitude toward this training cycle is totally different, and that shift in mindset has come from working with the coaches at the OmniFit through their 7 Day Challenge and the Transformation Blueprint course.

So much of my growth over the past year has been around setting realistic goals and managing expectations and my emotional response to those expectations. The reality of managing my expectations is much like wrestling an alligator, in that they are powerful, ornery, and unwilling to be tamed or controlled. It gets really ugly when I let my emotions attach to that power struggle, because clearly, it is going to end badly with me feeling like an exhausted, wrung-out failure. Which is entirely ridiculous, given the fact that I was never meant to wrestle alligators. Goal setting is never supposed to be a power struggle. When properly designed, it is an avenue of empowerment by which goals are achieved.

But in order to do that, expectations have to exit the alligator wrestling arena that I have conjured in my mind and shake hands with reality. That means moving past denial and telling the truth about everything: my time and schedule, my energy level, my attitude and motivation, and my current unhealthy patterns and how deeply entrenched they are in my life. It means accepting that this is going to be hard and I’m going to be uncomfortable and sometimes I’m going to hate this and it is going to bring out the worst in me at times and I’m likely going to act really immature at some point and whine like a small child and NOTHING ABOUT THIS PROCESS IS GOING TO BE PRETTY OR PERFECT.

If this sounds like I’m talking about lowering the bar substantially, then you are picking up what I’m laying down. If that makes you panic, sit in that feeling for a minute and ask yourself why. What I’ve discovered is that when I sit with that feeling and ask myself why, the answers usually reveal wildly unrealistic and unhealthy expectations for myself that I didn’t even realize I was holding on to. The more I reflect on that, I realize that it has been those silent, hidden expectations that have been operating in my life without my conscious permission. They are the drivers behind the unhealthy patterns, like eating my emotions or numbing out or making myself invisible with food.

In light of all of that (and that was A LOT, wasn’t it?), when it was time to start planning my 1st week of pre-training, I created a basic “skeleton” schedule for workouts. After I told the truth about my schedule and my time, I used that information to identify the days of the week that I was going run or walk and the days that I was going to do strength training. As I wrote out the workouts I was planning to do, I wrote them like the stars do align and the day actually does go as planned, because when that glorious day actually happens I want to have a plan in place that allows me to maximize that time for all that it is worth. Knowing that more often than not my days fly off the rails at some point, I identified the part of each workout I could do come hell or high water.

Having that kind of plan in place- a plan with built-in flexibility- made me feel so much more peaceful and less intimidated about starting this training cycle. It also removed the shame of “failing to do exactly what has been prescribed to do” and gave me the freedom to adjust according the realities that life throws at me. Last week, that looked like canceling a run/walk night entirely because my child was exhausted and falling asleep on the couch at 6 p.m., and I wasn’t too far behind her.

It also gave me the freedom to make it fun, which looked like including my child on all the other run/walk workouts. On my scheduled track night when I intended to do an easy, short workout, we ended up doing an almost 2 mile walk. During that walk, we enjoyed time to just chat and catch up with each other that is so rare these days. My scheduled weekend 1 mile run ended up coming in at 0.88 miles, because I also used that time to introduce my new bike rider to the bike trail. I ended up stopping many, many times during the 1st half mile to coach to her, even laying my body down on the paved trail to demonstrate how wide the path really was to relieve her fear of suddenly losing control of herself and rolling into woods. The things we do to calm our children’s fears!

Before I started this journey of wrestling with my expectations, having these things “interrupt” my workout would have caused me a ton of anxiety. Now, I enjoy seeing my daughter get excited about doing any form of exercise. She doesn’t look at me all confused when she walks in the living room to find me in plank position; she simply joins me. This week, she has paid close attention while I measured out and planned my food to take to work and asked important questions about nutrition, which happens to also be the 1st week in a very long time that she has not fought me about eating a proper meal.

So, did I achieve all those “big goal” markers and finish the entire “big goal” workouts that I wrote out? No, I didn’t. But I got close. I certainly did more than I did the week before. More importantly, I stuck to that skeleton structure I created and put some flesh to it by figuring out what is actually going to work inside of my real life and what is not going to work, and figuring that out will set me up for long-term success.

Most importantly, I was a good mom this week. I enjoyed some real, quality time with my child, and she achieved some goals and conquered that fear of bike-riding that she has been trying to work out for over a year now. If I keep on working out my goals and managing my expectations this way, my whole life may get healthier, including my relationship with my daughter, and that will be a way bigger win than shedding a few pounds or shaving a few seconds off of my mile time.  

 

Christian, Mom, Uncategorized

Catching Up:Work, Soccer, and Fist-Bumping the Holy Spirit

Dear friends, it has been 2 weeks since my last post, and I must say that I have missed the blog. To say that I have been buried is a dramatic understatement, but let me catch you up on the doings of our lives right now. Since we last spoke, I have started transitioning to a new position at work. As a result, I have spent 3 days of my life in outside audits of our program. Don’t get me wrong, my inner nerd loves the analytical, problem-solving work that comes with the audit process, but that whole scenario can be intense!

I believe it was shortly after the audits concluded that I discovered that I had gained back almost all of the 20 pounds of divorce weight that I lost last year. See previous post about Oreo binges for how this transpired. Lucky for me, weight watchers was having a sale, so I’m currently back on the wagon. However, I understand the program much better this time around, and I’m truly going for long-term change. This means small, incremental changes. This looks like me actually trying to get my steps each day, stretching and doing crunches in the morning, and working in a 7 minute high intensity interval workout a couple of times a week . Honestly, getting those things into my schedule was a process of small, incremental changes that feels truly monumental. But, I’m going for life overhaul status here, so it doesn’t really matter how slow or how long it takes as long as it leads to achieving my goals.

Speaking of goals, May Lee has started the soccer season. She had a great first couple of weeks of practices and even scored a goal during her first game. You will not hear about this from her, however, as she prefers to regale others with the tale of the rainbow sno-cone that followed the game. In fact, that was the story she told our team at Relay for Life when we drove to Memphis for the event after her game. It was my 4th Relay and it is such a good time of remembering and honoring the people I have lost to cancer. However, it made for a long day for the both of us. I really wanted to stay for the luminaria ceremony, which didn’t start until after dark. Looking back, the wise decision would have been to have left before the ceremony, as my child was beginning to melt down and the ceremony wasn’t exactly coming together on time. The kicker to the whole affair was learning that they use real candles lit by real fire to illuminate the white, paper bags decorated in remembrance or in honor of those lost to cancer or those who have survived cancer. There is nothing like watching the bag that your 5 year old has lovingly decorated for your departed loved one go up in flames and a stranger quickly and aggressively stomp it out to put a swift end to the party. Might I suggest those battery-powered tea lights for next year?

We drove home that night and got in bed at midnight. We didn’t make it to church that morning, and I spent the day trying to catch up on homework. I should be doing homework right now, but I’ve come to accept that fact that I’m never going to catch up and have settled for consistently being half a week behind. That is what happens when you take a graduate class while working full-time and single-parenting. Making an A is no longer the goal and passing the class is the new gold standard. Hallelujah and Amen.

tiredsoccerThis week has been filled with more excitement. Even though we were still slightly hung over with fatigue from our Memphis trip, we still did work, school, and soccer on Monday. She wasn’t exactly feeling it this practice.

Tuesday began with a rude start. We made it out the door on time that morning as a result of a great of stress and strain. I put May Lee in the car and walked around to my side of the car, only to discover that the gate to the backyard was open. “No, no, no” I mumbled under my breath as I followed the trail of shredded trash into the back yard, evidence that my dog had in fact gotten out and was having a good time. However, he was no longer in the backyard and had no doubt ventured out to find more garbage to enjoy. Reminded that it was trash day, I wheeled the can to the street and looked around. No dog. I let May Lee know what was going on, and she promptly broke into tears. My blood pressure was rising as the threat of being late to work loomed over my head, but I dug deep and found some patience and self-control and explained to my child that our dog was not lost forever and we only needed to look for him.

About this time, I hear yelling across the street at the end of the cove. I quickly walk that direction and soon discover the source of the yelling. It was my poor neighbor trying to get into her car while being joyfully and lovingly mauled by my giant yellow lab. That dog bounces like Tigger on steroids, and he was doing so at the expense of my poor neighbor and her car. I joined my neighbor in her yelling, “Stax! Stax! NOOOOO! GET DOWN!” and he actually turned and ran to me. My neighbor, God bless her, was so kind and understanding.

I returned Stax to the back yard, rejoiced with May Lee that he had been found, and dropped her off to school. Shortly thereafter, I arrive at work 2 minutes late, anxious about the potential penalties of my 2 minute infraction, and exhausted and stressed from a plate too full. Without any provocation, I commenced to throwing the adult version of a temper tantrum, if there is such a thing. Not my finest moment, and I spent the next couple of hours trying to pull myself out of the shame spiral. I said a prayer and my phone rang. It was my therapist’s office calling and offering to work me in for an earlier appointment, that afternoon in fact. I fist-bumped the Holy Spirit for the quick work in the prayer-answering department and headed off to therapy. It seems important to the overall theme of “I am over-extended right now” to let you know that my therapist is an hour and a half away from where I live, so add a 3 hour round trip to the chaos of the week.

The next morning, we struggled to get out the door, and as we exited I remembered that it was school picture day. I looked May Lee up and down, smoothed her hair and decided that we were good on the school picture front. I’m interested to see if I regret that decision when the proofs come back. That night, I started a new bible study that again got us to bed late. I think Thursday we finally got a reprieve in our schedule, but we hit it hard again Friday when I went on-call for work and May Lee’s school had a tail-gate party. We skipped the football game so that we could get home and wash her soccer uniform for today’s game.

Today, like the other days, has been full to the brim, and I’ve only made it half way through my to-do list. I got up at my usual time of 5 a.m. rather than sleeping in, so I would have more time to get things done. I managed to catch up on my reading in the Bible and in The Gift of Imperfection by Brene Brown. Brene really hit me where I live this morning, so I had many thoughts to put down on paper. May Lee woke up and we ate breakfast, laid around in pajamas, and generally relaxed most of the morning. Then work started making my phone ding and ping and generally intrude upon what was going on in that moment with my child, which was really requiring my full attention. May Lee was hungry and insisting on a “snack” and by snack she meant lots of lots of sugar. She was not going for my limits of something healthy to eat and was lying on her back on the dirty kitchen floor in protest. All the while work is dinging my phone in the background. I finally tell May Lee “You can choose to be hungry or you can choose one of the 6 choices I have offered you, but this conversation is done”. She stares at the ceiling, dead pan, and declares, “I…want….to die”. I look at her, she stares at the ceiling. A tiny smile begins to crack at the left corner of her mouth, and I begin to giggle. She breaks into a laugh and I follow. She jumps up, gets a snack, and carries on with her life.

Meanwhile, as I suffer from the resulting high blood pressure and ponder my child’s mental state, the phone actually rings. I spend the next hour and a half working. To paint you a picture, I am on the phone, snapping my fingers and gesturing wildly to my child, and somehow obtain the desired results of a child fully dressed in her soccer uniform. I’m packing shin guards and cleats while on speaker phone with an automated system, which is just an experience filled with delight. I’m juggling 2 cell phones, a Franklin Covey planner, a camping chair, and a bag of May Lee’s soccer stuff as I walk to the soccer field, and I’m sending text messages and e-mails from those 2 phones while my child warms up. I hate that I’m that person, but it is what it is. For now, at least.

The actual game was rather entertaining. May Lee was not into playing today and spent most of the game with a drooped head and slumped shoulders. That was until she began to just let her body fall to the ground. Once on the ground, she commenced to somersaulting. She got in about 6 good somersaults before she actually had to play again. She generally engaged in the game at that point, until she got nailed in the chest with the ball. She ran to the sideline, and we had some snuggles and a motivational chat. I could tell that she was feeling our sideline motivational moment as she stood out on the field with her team and performed the chicken dance. For May Lee, the highlight, again, was the sno-cone. For me, the highlight was the chicken dance and seeing her enjoy her friends.

tyingshoesThe rest of the afternoon has been spent doing laundry, doing homework, and briefly napping. We also began the “learning to tie shoes” experience, and it was a little rocky at first. She triumphed in the end and was feeling pretty proud of herself.

Tomorrow is another full day with another long list of things to do that I can’t possibly get through, and that kicks off another full week with its impossibly long to-do list. But this is just a season, and this too shall pass. In many ways, I’m having some success. In other ways, I’m failing. Such is life. At this point, I just want to be healthy at the end of this and not stroke out from the sharp rises in blood pressure. Even more, I want a happy, healthy, resilient kid that is able to some day look back and see how hard her mother worked to give her a decent life. And on that note, I’m going to retire for the evening, so I can get up and do it again tomorrow. Sleep well, friends