Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bikini Babe's Secret to Sucess, and a trip to Hawaii

Recently, My Sailor and I took advantage of his leave (and some room on a credit card) and booked a short package trip to North Shore, Hawaii. Hawaii was his choice of a vacation destination, and it was a lot of fun.

To quickly sum up the trip, we...
Hanging out at Turtle Bay Resort
 spent some time on the beach...
Hiking at Ka'ena Point
 hiked around some great natural landscapes...
exploring Wai'mea Valley
And a few slightly manicured ones.
We made the most of this "once in a lifetime" and even signed up to snorkel with sharks!
All that said, we had a great time. Travel gives me time to think and I think it's a bit overdue that I make this list....

I've been told on more than one occasion that it's amazing how I don't seem to have any body image hang ups.  After all, there are pictures of my body at various stages of weight loss, gain, and disarray all over my blog and Facebook. So I must not have any hang ups, right?


Guess what? That's not exactly true.So I figured it's time I made a list.  Since most of them are embodied in this photo, I figured it would work as a great 'object lesson' in how I see myself - and why I refuse to let my hang ups, well, hang me up.

Top 3 Hang Ups

1. I scar BADLY...from EVERYTHING. See all those wrinkly lines on my stomach? No, they aren't battle scars from having kids (though one doctor did ask me during a physical how many kids I'd had - Apparently she had a case of foot-in-mouth-itis). They are reminders of what I did to my body for decades.  That's right - I did it. I take complete responsibility for that. Sure, there were stressful situations that triggered some overeating and big time carbing. Sure, we thought 'bread' was a health food when I was younger. Sure, we thought 'low fat' meant 'good for you.' Sure, there were hormonal issues and made fixing all that harder than it should have been. The scars on my body are a map of where my body has been - adventures for good, gains, losses, and misadventures. They are reminders of years spent riding the 'diet' roller coaster - everything from a strict 1200 calories per day , Slim Fast, Weight Watchers, Medifast and a few others I can't think of off the top of my head.  These scars will NEVER go away, and, due to my scarring disorder, they will continue to grow, no matter how lean and mean I become. Yes, I've tried nearly every oil/cream and treatment my pocket book can afford and, no, I'm not interested in other solutions (laser, etc).

2. I have extra skin! Ewwww!!! Okay, so it's not as bad as others who have lost over 100 pounds or more, but it's becoming apparent that I have about 1/2 an inch of loose skin now. That "muffin top" isn't actually "full". It's just loose skin. Yes. I'm aware that I could have it surgically fixed, but it's not causing a health issue in the least. And - see above. Even surgical scars continue to grow beyond the size of the original wound.
3. Hirsute the unspoken PCOS Systemic Side Effect. Alright, so this doesn't exactly show in this photo, but it's there - trust me. It's probably the most annoying, embarrassing thing I deal with on a daily basis. Everyone wondered if losing weight will help my PCOS go away. Truth is, no one really knows what triggers PCOS, but the odds of it being genetically acquired are high in my case. So, part of that whole PCOS thing is having excess hair here and there. For me, it's my chin. Ugh. I stay on top of it pretty well now-a-days, but there was a time when I kept my head down and/or a hand over my chin most of the time just in case a dark hair here or there would show. It wasn't a full beard or anything but enough to make me cringe at the thought of bright sunlight on my face. And, yes, I spent a small fortune on laser (worked for 2-3 years), waxing (works for about a week), and creams. (Let me tell you, chemical burns suck).  Much like the scars, it's the proof that the hormones are always likely going to be off balance.

So now that I've aired all that out here. Here's why I don't let them hang me up.I wasn't sure if I'd ever feel comfortable wearing that swimsuit out in public. Now, when I look at that candid, and yes, I see the wrinkly stretch marks and the extra skin, but I see the makings of abs under there! I see strength in those arms! I see strawberry blond hair on skin that goes bronze in a day rather than sun burning as most blond-haired-blue-eyed-folks do.

I see a someone made up of a million recessive genes that all happen to come together in this strong creature that didn't just figure out how to survive, but how to thrive through it.

I was diagnosed with PCOS in 1999. It didn't take me long to decide not to let my PCOS define me. Sure, it's part of what's built this body - and I can't deny that it plays a factor. Thanks to my hormonal imbalance, putting on muscle tends to happen fairly quickly by comparison to more balanced women my demographic. By the same token, I'm more likely to become insulin resistant, and I won't even go into the self-esteem slam infertility can be to women (even a gal like me-who'd rather adopt to grow a family-isn't immune to that sucker punch).

The point of all of that is, yes, I have things about my body that I don't love.

But I can either allow that to have control over my all-day-every-day and define myself by my (perceived) short-comings -

I can choose to believe that no one gets out of life unscarred. We all have giant neon 'defective' signs over our heads - and most people are more interested in hiding their 'defective' signs to notice others, and sometimes too afraid of their own sign to even to live their own lives. 

Not all of our defective signs are obvious. Most people won't notice my scars - or that they are bigger this year than they were last year. They won't notice the skin. They probably won't even notice a few stray hairs on my chinny-chin-chin that miss my careful upkeep.

And if they do (like you, dear readers) know about all that - they'll be meaningless bugs on the windshield of my adventures.

Sure, I'm far from perfect. I've got more flaws than those 3 - trust me. (Just ask My Sailor if you have any doubts!)

But I can either live in them -
Or live despite them.

I can say with a clarity of faith that the trick to not letting physical hang ups hang you up comes in taking a look at the big picture.

That's my secret.

That's my trick.

In the grand scheme of things - will my contempt or dismay of these things even matter? No.

In the end, my journey will not be remembered by the hairs on my chin, the map of scars slashing  through my flesh, or the bits of left overs around my middle.

With a little luck, it will be remembered by the way I treated others and the way I embraced life.

Being fit just helps me do that.
(That, and I kinda love Oly...)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Looking Back and Tip Toe-ing Ahead (PG 13)

Lady in Grey, Speedy, and Me - Photo Credit to My Sailor

Lady in Grey, Speedy, and Me on the ferry ride home. Photo Credit: My Sailor
Last weekend, I earned my Crossfit Level 1 Trainer qualification, finishing a course with Trainer Guy, The Lady in Grey, and Speedy.  The course was fun and I learned a few skills I plan on practicing on myself a bit more before I pass them along. Since the class, I've ordered a pair of gymnastic rings that I hope to share with my clients for things like Ring Rows (which are a modified form of pull ups), as well as swinging myself into Muscle Ups - eventually. Those are a LONG way off, but it's good to have goals.  It was a great time to network and another great oppurtunity to put my coaching skills to the test. Part of the practicals included coaching a stranger (and fellow student) through a WOD or two. It was a handy confidence builder. (And, of course, it didn't hurt that the ferry ride home included great company and a beautiful day out on the deck.) I was cripplingly stiff for a couple days afterwards, but recovered, in no small part due to My Sailor's deep tissue massage techniques. (I'm kinda surprised no one called the cops from the screaming and crying that was happening in our living room - and not in an x-rated fashion, trust me.)

All that aside, I can't help but feeling I'm heading the right direction. I don't know what is going to come of the YMCA at this point, but I continue to have the right support mechanism in place, and I just can't beat the rewarding feeling knowing someone came away from time with me with a skill they can use, a new-found flexibility, and/or confidence. Yes, I've experienced some rejection, but looking back on every small success I've been honored to share with others reminds me that I'm headed the right direction. To hear those closest to me say things like, "I think you've found your calling..." and "You seem so much happier..." is no small feat. Those in my inner circle know how hard I've tried at other things that never quite seem to fit. Coaching, training, and lifting has required significant work. There is no doubt about that! But the pieces all 'fit' in a way that nothing quite ever has before. It turns out I might just have that unique skill set after all.  Dreams do come true.

Now, as I suspected, I've 'slowed down' a little now that My Sailor is home.
And honestly, sometimes it's frustrating. I tend to be a bit of a freight train at times. He's my brake pedal. I always said I'd only marry someone worth slowing down for; he's worth it.
With him on my back back on land, my "rest days" in the past 2 weeks (where I've done little more than an easy jog, mobility training, and weight lifting that hasn't exceeded 55lbs) have looked more and more like actual active recovery days. I'm also taking a session off from playing indoor soccer. This isn't really 'unreasonable' by any stretch. I'm heading into a field that is much more physically demanding than anything I've done before, and I've pretty much been playing soccer every Sunday since last October. Taking a break will unload my (beloved) Sunday schedule a little, and, while I'll miss it for a while, it'll give me a chance to start an Earn Awesome Training team in the fall/winter. I've also been invited to ref or coach youth soccer as well! So I'm exploring a few different options while trying to find balance in the body, as well as family time. Thankfully, My Sailor is very supportive.

The crazy thing about all this progress is that some of it isn't as obvious as you might think. My lifts are going up and it's steady progress, but it feels incredibly slow. I'm satisfied by it, generally speaking. I mean, I weigh between 190-195ish most of the time. I still I eat when I'm hungry and I lean towards foods made by mother nature rather than (for example) Kraft.  I don't feel deprived - ever, but sometimes it takes an "Oh Sh*t! Hun, when was the last time you've seen your back?!" from My Sailor to bring things into perspective.

Since that happened recently, My Sailor whipped out a camera and felt the need to show me what he sees.

Sometimes it takes looking back and seeing ourselves through someone else's eyes to realize how far we really have come....

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Scars, Fighting Back, and the Power of 'Why'

On the way to Urgent Care
If you follow my blog for any amount of time, you'll probably already know that I have an interesting scarring disorder, fairly uncommon to Caucasian people. To spare you all the medical babble, I form keloids. What this is means is that I scar from just about everything, and the scars continue to out-grow the original wound long after the wound has healed - no matter how superficial. The scar tissue isn't just for show. For deep cuts and surgeries, it actually grows both ways - externally and internally. The growth rate is generally slow - especially for the deep ones. In my case, it takes about 2-3 years for the nerves under the wound to deaden enough to stop causing twinges of stinging pain - as if the wound itself was still fresh. At least, that's been my experiences. I'm a pretty lucky girl. I've been able to minimize the number of surgical procedures I've needed in my life, but I was pretty scared when I accidently sliced open my hand opening the box to my weight lifting bar. It wasn't the scar I was concerned about. It was the nerve damage I knew was coming.

While hands and faces are often blissfully excluded from the DNA that cause Keloids, this slice is right on the edge of the "WILL scar" territory and the "won't scar" territory, but as I suspected, the scar is going to be pretty epic. While it may seem like a new wrinkle in my hand, it reminds me (nearly a month later) that it's still very much a part of me forever, occasionally stinging and burning as if there were still a gaping slice in the side of my hand. I could have, should have, been a tad more careful opening the box. Now that tiny little experience gets to needle at me when I grip a pull-up bar or steering wheel. Over time, it'll get more numb and be less and less painful.

 I bring up the subject of fitness and scars because the Crossfit box that I did Murph in had a great class recently about self defense. Now, this isn't new territory for me. As a woman flying solo for a good portion of my adult life, I'm generally very aware of my surroundings. I was married to a marital artist who couldn't sit with his back to the door in any room for fear he wouldn't be able to defend himself and I was a decent sparring dummy for him to practice on. I know the general concept of "Get An Attacker Away From You and RUN!" I was brought up that there is one weapon that an attacker can't take away from you - your wits.

That said, keep your wits about you and you can often avoid a confrontation to begin with. However, not every fight is avoidable.
The class went over the basic things, and honestly, I was a bit skeptical about what I could learn.  I cut a fairly imposing figure (even before weight lifting) and managed to steer clear of trouble before it escalated into fist-to-cuffs.

In this case, our instructor was a good guy. One of the warmest personalities I've run into in the coaching world, he's a pleasure to lift with and work with. He was one of the first people to engage me in conversation during Murph and make me feel welcome in a box where I knew no one and at a time where I had expected not to be flying solo.

He also happens to be well over 6 foot and probably nearly twice my width. He taught us a few simple-yet-effective strikes and maneuvers and then came at each of us as an attacker for about 30 seconds. He encouraged us to find our "why" ("Why Do I Want To Get Out Of This") and keep that at the forefront of our minds.  It was a powerful drill.

It didn't take long for me to find my "Why".

I've had a lot of practice. My "Why"?

I don't want My Sailor to come home to an empty house. I don't want my family to HAVE to miss me. I don't want my dog to outlive me. I need to see where this journey - my life - takes me. Simply put - I don't quit.

For all of the challenges I have faced and will face going forward, I have unshakable faith that I can stare down anything and get through just about any situation I'm presented with - as long as I can remain on this side of dirt.
As a military spouse, I deal with the fact that My Sailor may someday not return home in the same condition he left (mentally, emotionally, or physically). It's a undeniable fact that all military, police, fire fighters and first responder families learn to ignore when we can or otherwise live with. It's an ever present roommate taking up residence somewhere in the back of our minds. It's an uncontrollable factor. And it works both ways. I'm sure My Sailor (and others like him) fear that they will return to loved ones who are in crisis (or worse) as well. Car accidents happen. Illness happens. Uncontrollable situations happen every day all around us that can forever alter (or end) our lives and the lives of those we love.

I've had several close friends that have come from backgrounds that include being victims of abuse or other such violent circumstances. They are scarred, and at times those scars ache, but what's left behind is a character often warmer than sunshine and tougher than nails. My Sailor and I are very aware that this same background will likely be the case for our kids, once the adoption ball gets rolling again next year. Sometimes, the most painful and traumatic scars aren't the ones on the surface, but the invisible ones left behind by circumstance.

But give me a controllable circumstance or threat to my 'why'.... and...well...
Knee to the face- a moment of my 30 seconds in the ring
I didn't go easy on the coach. He's a good guy; don't get me wrong, but I was picking a sliver of skin from the back of his neck out of my nails after my round with him. Every time he 'attacked', I pushed back as hard as I could.

I've been to other female focused self defense courses before. Most were trying to sell me something (and all failed since every tool can be taken away and used against me, at least the way I look at it - I'd rather use my hands. Obviously, I'm not shy about it.).

Maybe it's because the only thing this class was trying to sell me was how to react in times of great peril, but it gave me a great insight into the value of strength training - especially for the 'fairer' sex.  Not only has it enabled me to do everyday tasks, but it enables me to handle much rarer situations (like an attack) with confidence.

But perhaps the best lesson here is untold power to be found if we know our 'Why'.
*Photo credit and special thanks to Narrows Crossfit.