Monday, January 18, 2010

10 days and counting

The countdown has begun to my 45th birthday. 10 days. I won't have reached a weight goal I set for myself but I will be saying hello to an entirely new way of living for the second half of my life.

When I first started this blog, it was to encourage people to try things they thought were too scary, to unlike them, the things the always wished they could do...if they were braver, younger, thinner, taller etc. For me, that turned out to be living a more active lifestyle.

This year, I'll be competing in my first triathlon. Up to now I've been focused on just adding fitness to my life. Now, I either run, bike or swim every day, practice yoga and lift weights several times a week and try to have a race on the calendar every month.

The real training for the tri begins in a few months. What scares me most right now is swimming in a pack of people, biking in a pack of people and being able to do both of those things on the same day with a run thrown in for good measure! I've joined a triathlon club and will go to their first event this month.

For Christmas, I got the book "The Slow, Fat, Triathlete". I recommend this book to anyone who thinks they're not able to get fit. You don't have to think of yourself as fat to get something out of this great book. You'll still be inspired by the author's reclaiming her right to move, to sweat, to get out and have fun.

So, with the first warm day (50 degrees) in a LONG time, and a 5 mile gentle run to celebrate, I get this year started with training for my next great challenge. I can't wait!

Friday, January 1, 2010

A New Year's Carol

With Apologies - no, screw that, I'm done with apologies. With THANKS to Charles Dickens

Sarah Mello was fat. Quite fat. It is crucial that you understand this point or nothing beautiful can come from the story I am about to relate to you. Now I can't work that Marley bit into my metaphor and frankly, I always thought that was a slow and somewhat confusing part of the story anway. (Three ghosts will come, each one on a different night but at the end it's all been one long spooky night - was someone asleep at the editing table?)

So, let's jump right to that ghost of the past. There are two scenes she'll show us tonight. The first, wow, 20 years ago. Can that be right? Let me check the math. Yep, 20 years ago. Sarah has just moved to Seattle for the adventure of a lifetime. She knows noone but manages to get an apartment halfway up one of Seattle's many formidable hills. Without a car, she must walk up the hill to one job and 5 miles down the hill and across the city to the other (which means an uphill walk home if you're having trouble staying focused). This was Sarah at her lowest and healthiest adult weight. A size 8. We'll have to guess at the numbers, she was too poor to own a scale.

Now we all remember that the Ghost of the Past didn't only deal in happy memories so lets skip ahead a bit, perhaps another 10 years. This is Sarah at her lifetime heaviest. Unhappily married, her 5'3" albeit broad-shouldered frame was sporting a remarkable 210 pounds. No amount of shoulder breadth is going to hide that much acreage. At her sister's wedding, her own father didn't recognize her, asking where Sarah was. "No, I mean the Sarah that is R's sister". Sarah herself didn't know who the fat, old woman wearing one of her dresses was when she looked at the wedding photos a few weeks later. Sometimes, that old Specter Sarah still pops up in the mirror today, and it can take several trips to the scale and glances at the clothing labels to chase it's shadow away.

OK, the bells start ringing madly, Sarah is summoned from her bed again by a booming voice - the Ghost of Sarah Present. This ghost comes largely in the form of a certain Dr. H. who saw this year in Sarah a spark of stubbornness and resilience - which he convinced her could be the makings of a true athlete - a word as previously foreign to her as brain surgeon (ok, 2 words) or physicist. Dr. H. reasoned that a woman who could survive rape, divorce, death of a parent, and many other more trivial challenges, and do so with laughter and joy could hardly be held captive by the fear of 3.1 measly little miles. With a wave of this ghost's hand, you can see Sarah running her first 5K, then 4 mile race and 10K this year. In fact, Sarah finishes out 2009 stronger, healthier and more fit than ever before.

Now the metaphor (or maybe this is a simile, probably really a parody) is getting a bit flimsy but we've got one more ghost to go to round this thing out. I choose to tell this part of the tale with two Ghosts of the Future.

"Spirit of the Future, I fear you most of all"

The haunting, Dickensian version of Sarah Future is found in every woman I meet who says "I wish I had done more of that when I was young" or "I wish I were more like you". These possibilities of the future are women and men who already given up on the chance at something new. Theirs is a future of regret.

I am more inspired by hope than by fear so let's see the other Ghost of Sarah Future. It is July, 2010 and Future Sarah is just sprinting across the finish line of her first triathlon. An idea that seemed at one time in the not-too-distant-past as ridiculous, the stuff of some other person's life. She is smiling, nearly shouting with joy as she raises her arms in victory through the chute and collapses into the arms of her tall, dark and handsome boyfriend (hey, it's a fantasy, give me some leeway!) who is waiting with her newly svelte and strong best friend (who has recently completed HER first race.....) and ever-adoring son. This Sarah bears the tired, sweaty smile of a champion unafraid to face her biggest doubts.

Alright, the night is getting on and I've about milked this thing for all it's worth. Sarah awakes today, New Year's Day to find that "it's not too late! I haven't missed it! I'm alive!!!". I will turn 45 in three weeks and I am stronger, happier, fitter and more full of life than I have ever been. Less than a year from the start of this blog, a 3 mile run is now a light warm-up. I've taken Dr. H's prescription of "Run, bike, swim, lift, repeat for the rest of your life" to heart. I am registered to race a triathlon. I have inspired others to face their own goals. Fitness is no longer an activity I fit into my life, it is a part of who I am and it offers a never ending supply of challenges, goals and rewards.

And so as we begin this new year, you know I had to stick it in....."God bless us, everyone"! Now get off your ass and move before I sic a ghost on you!