Tag Archives: boot camp

The Wind In My Hair

I learned a new word today:  psithurism.  That’s the sound of wind in the trees.  Beautiful, right?  I had to smile when I read the definition because I experienced my own kind of psithurism tonight at boot camp.

We met in the park behind the hospital because the weather couldn’t have been more perfect.  Eighty degrees.  A clear blue sky.  Juicy green grass scattered with violets. A soft breeze moving through the tops of the trees.  Twelve women getting stronger and cheering each other on.

I missed last week because we were celebrating G’s birthday.  And today, I thought about skipping.  Even though I felt exhausted after a busy day, I forced myself to get up from my desk at 5:20 p.m. to change clothes.  I even thought about quitting while I was getting dressed–there’s nothing like trying to wrestle on a size G sports bra in a narrow bathroom stall to tear down your spirit.  But I managed.  Then I pulled out the shorts that I had packed this morning, only to realize that my leg shaving schedule is…a bit behind.  Again, I almost gave up on the work out.  We’re not talking about a fine stubble here–this was more of a Sasquatch type scene.

There in that yellow bathroom stall, I had a good laugh at myself.  Really?  All those years of therapy and I’m worried that I can’t go out in public with some hair on my legs?  I’m 45 years old, for goodness sake.  My body is mine and I have rejected many of the “beauty shoulds” that I lived with for decades.  For two weeks, I’ve been sporting gaudy manicures done by my six-year-old daughter because they are important to her.  Her opinion is more valuable to me than anyone who might judge me for having fluorescent pink nails with hibiscus stickers on them!  I haven’t worn makeup in months.  I quit dying my hair after Carlos was born and people assumed I was his grandmother, even after the Miss Clairol.  And now I was going to let a little hair on my legs stop me from enjoying my afternoon in the sun?

No way.

It felt so good to be out in the fresh air, under the wide blue sky.  While we were warming up, I resisted the urge to make a joke about my hairy legs or make some apology for their state.  I got the hell OVER IT.  We did some dancey moves, stretching and swaying.  During the part of the warm up where we balance on one foot and swing the other knee back and forth, I felt something crawling on my leg and swatted my shin to shoo it away. No luck.  Every time I swung my leg forward then backward, I felt the little creepy sensation but couldn’t see any insect.

Finally, it dawned on me.

There wasn’t anything crawling on my leg.  It was the feel of the wind in my hair.

"Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair."  Kahlil Gibran

Imperfrect Progress


You know how in January it seemed like I wrote a post about boot camp about once a week?  Like One Victory at a Time, Then Suddenly or An Ounce of Quit.  Then February was kind of silent on the whole working out front?  Yeah.  My column today at Work It, Mom! explores my adventures with getting back into a workout routine.  

Do 20 Burpees to jack up your heart rate then click here to check it out!

An Ounce of Quit

Have you ever heard the expression “an ounce of quit?”  I associate it with sports, some bandy-legged kid who has more determination than the rest of the team put together:  “That kid don’t have an ounce of quit in him.”  It’s a high compliment. 

Last night, when I set the alarm for 5:01 a.m., I gave myself a pre-sleep suggestion:  “Wake up feeling like a bad ass.”  Don’t hit the snooze.  Don’t sit there on the edge of the bed feeling tired and sleepy. Get your feet on the floor.  Put on the clothes you’ve already laid out.  Eat some protein and GO.  It may be 13 degrees outside and you only had six hours of sleep, but GO.  Don’t apologize, don’t half-ass it, don’t quit.  GO.  

And it worked.  Until it was time to run.  

When I run, I can’t escape the simple fact that I am carrying 40 lbs more than I carried back when I ran long distances.  Try doing something you like with a large bag of dog food strapped to your back and see if it still feels the same.  It doesn’t.  Still, I forced myself to focus on each footstep, on one victory at a time.  I didn’t think about anyone else in the gym–just myself.  But my calves were screaming and I wanted to walk, just for a little bit.  I wanted to quit.

That’s when another music moment happened.  As I was rounding a corner, Kelly Clarkson belted out:

You ain’t got the right to tell me

When and where to go, no right to tell me

Acting like you own me lately

Yeah baby you don’t know a thing about me

You don’t know a thing about me

(from “Mr. Know It All)

I’d like to dedicate that song to the voice in my head.  To Fartbuster.  To every other person, including myself, who ever told me I wasn’t quite good enough.  You don’t know a thing about me.  So sit down and shut up.  

I kept running.  It was only a couple more minutes.  I told myself, “You’ve done harder shit than THIS.”  In my head, I heard a color commentary football announcer voice crowing, “She ain’t got an ounce of quit in her!”  

The truth is, I have more than an ounce of quit in me.  I have many many many ounces of quit in me!  But “quit” is what I push out of my body every time I sweat.  Every time I put my feet on the floor and remind myself to choose to be a bad ass.  

I got inspiration this morning from some Wesleyan sisters who are bad muthas:

-Irene has lost 75.1 pounds and she ain’t quitting.

-Wyanne had to give up her tongue to beat cancer, but she kept her voice.  She’s sitting up in bed today and painting–she ain’t quitting.  

-Stephanie has spent 2 years learning how to walk again after she was almost killed by a driver who was texting.  This fall, she and her horse made it to Nationals.  She ain’t quitting.

-Kristina is going home from the hospital today after fighting her way back to life for the last two months.  She’s going to be a teacher one day.  She ain’t quitting.

Sometimes it’s so easy to quit, to slow down–or to never try in the first place.  Don’t quit.  Don’t let that little voice in your head that wants you to be less win.  That voice may be inside your head, but it doesn’t know a thing about you.  


One Victory At A Time, Then Suddenly

Yesterday morning at boot camp, I teetered on the verge of crying.  Not from pain, unless you count the mental kind.  I could barely hear the complaints of my muscles over the cruel and negative messages in my head.

I was OK while we were warming up and doing squats.  I joined in the banter and the commiseration about it being 5:30.  Then it was time to run laps and my brain started thinking things about myself that no one should have to hear.  I imagined anyone ever saying things like that to my daughter.  Telling her she was fat and hopeless.  Telling her she shouldn’t bother.  Telling her it was never going to get better.  Telling her she probably didn’t deserve to feel better about herself.  That’s when I wanted to cry.

Because I was last.  Slowest.  The only one having to stop to walk in six minutes of running.  Marissa, who started coming to boot camp years ago because I encouraged–she lapped me.  I couldn’t catch up with April, who used to be my running buddy a couple of years ago.  New people, tiny people, genetically predisposed to speed, zipped past me, carrying on conversations with each other as they bounced along.  I lumbered down the lines on the basketball court and lurched around the corners.  Trying not to cry.

Here’s the kind of junk that rang between my ears:  It’s been TWO whole weeks since I started back to exercising and I’m STILL not in shape!  Everyone notices when I have to walk.  I’m really too fat to do this.  And it’s probably too late to turn this truck around–I’m 45.  I weigh twice what that girl who clocked a 3:30 marathon weighs.  I could be asleep but I’m out here embarrassing myself.  It’s never going to get any better.

Since there was no one behind me, I tried to think about the legions of people who aren’t there because they decided not to try.  That’s something, but it wasn’t enough to stop the chatter in my head.  The song from our coach’s ipod switches to Pink’s “Sober” and I truly hear the line:  “When it’s good then it’s good, it’s so good till it goes bad Till you’re trying to find the you that you once had.”  Yep.

That’s when April, the founder of WoW! Boot Camp hollered the thing that got through to me:  “One victory at a time!”

That was it.  I gave myself a tiny bit of credit for the victories I had already racked up since 5:01 when my alarm went off.  Getting out of bed.  Getting myself dressed.  Getting there.  TRYING.  Not rolling over and quitting.

My head was hanging at that point, but I looked at my feet in the running shoes that I bought for my last half-marathon, the one before Carlos was even on the radar.  I willed my right foot to run a step and it did.  Victory.  Then the left foot.  Victory. Each footstep a victory and I ran two fresh laps with my head up instead of walking because I was only thinking about the footstep that I was making, not the last one, not the next one, not the one I ran five years ago.  Not the one I will run six months from now.  Just this one, this victory.


While I ran, I thought about other “one victory at a time” moments.  My sister who chooses every day to stay sober.  My friend who doesn’t answer the phone when it’s a person who makes her feel bad about herself, even if that person is her mother.  The friend who can sit next to a smoker and not bum a cigarette.  The friend who resists the bait when a coworker fires an email at her with red caps and lots of exclamation points.  The mom who chooses talking over yelling.  The friend who sleeps in the center of the bed because it’s hers now.  One step at a time, not the whole race at once.

I finished the workout–at my own pace–and by 6:30 a.m. I was feeling euphoric.  I sat in the car, waiting for my butt heater to warm up and reading my email.  The daily message from Seth Godin popped up on my phone:  “Gradually, Then Suddenly.”  That’s a quote from Hemingway’s novel The Sun Also Rises:  “How did you go bankrupt?  Gradually, then suddenly.”  Seth’s message was about how businesses fail that way–making small bad decisions that no one worries about along the way, then a sudden collapse that everyone sees.  The good news is that careers can be made the same way–years of slogging away, worrying that your tiny efforts aren’t having any impact then BAM.  You become the overnight success who’s been working hard at it for ten years.  Like when Shelby Lynne won the Grammy for Best New Artist for her SIXTH album!

That’s when I finally cried all those tears I had refused to cry when I was feeling bad about running in last place.  I sat in the dark parking lot, in the privacy of my car, and cried with relief that I might still have a Suddenly in my future, even if the Gradually was tough.

Gradually, then suddenly.  One victory at a time.


Now I’m Leaving Normal, Headed Who Knows Where

If I’ve been kind of quiet for a few days, it’s because I’ve been sitting around feeling sorry for myself.  I’ve been sick with that Creeping Crud for 3 weeks.  Even with the Mucinex, VapoRub, Sudafed, neti pot, chamomile tea, Breathe Right strips, humidifier–I still can’t breathe, can’t talk, can’t sleep.  And my physical weakness coincided with the demands of kids being out of school, the holiday bustle, and G being sick as well.  I feel like I’ve been staring at the wall for a month.  Somebody call me a wahhhhmbulance.

Even when I could drag myself in to work, it was different too.  Four dear friends are gone from the group of eight who had Christmas lunch last year–two out of jobs, one consumed by a huge project, and one off to Chile for five months.   So much work to do, and not as many co-conspirators.  Harumph.

Chaos rules the house.  The decorations need to go back up in the attic but I hate to say goodbye when it feels like I just got them all up.  There are the broken ornaments that need to be glued back together–the gumdrop ball that Carlos tried to eat, the seal from Bar Harbor that lost a flipper, the pink baby shoe that shattered.  And the presents still need to be put away!  The cookies seem to be the only things getting put away in a timely fashion.  Blargh.

My children change so quickly that I wonder who I’ll meet every morning when it’s time to wake them up.  Sometimes it’s good change–like when Carlos was pushing his Jeep up the driveway the other day and turned around to wave, blow me a kiss like usual, then he added, “I love you!” for the first time.  Sweetness.  Sometimes the change is more ominous–like last night when I told Vivi to pick up the scraps of paper from her snowflake craft project and she gave me a massive eye roll.  Perhaps it’s her first, but I know it won’t be her last.  When I called her on it, she explained with her best first-grade logic that she was just exercising her eyes in a completely neutral way and I happened to interrupt her right in the middle of it.  Uh huh.

And writing.  It’s supposed to be my happy place but I’m overthinking it.  Freezing up, like the weather outside.  I wrote a spot-on piece about living in the moment for New Year’s Eve (There Is This) and ever since then I’ve been afraid to write anything else because I keep looking over my shoulder to admire that piece about…not looking over my shoulder.  Duh.

So to recap:  Waaaaah.  Harumph.  Blargh.  Uh Huh.  Duh.  Where is my NORMAL???

I guess the lesson we all learn if we get to grow up is that we can sit around crying for normal or we can live the day we’re handed, no matter how lumpy or strange or viscous it might be.  I made a decision yesterday to shake myself out of the rut and within an hour, this verse from a Cowboy Junkies song popped into my head:

 “Leaving Normal”

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the high plains of Expectation
And I’m way past the lowlands and the deserts of Failure and Doubt
And the last time I passed through Satisfaction
I felt like a stranger there
Now I’m leaving Normal and I’m heading for who knows where…

Yeah, I don’t hang out on the high plains of Expectation any more–I am generally happy in this place and don’t need Fabulous.  And I have made it out of the deserts of Failure and Doubt…most days.  But Satisfaction?  I should buy a little vacation house there, meet some of the locals.  And the only building in Normal is a bus station to get you out of there.

In the song, the woman continues on a Greyhound bus, headed who knows where and she’s POSITIVE about it.  Leaving Normal is moving on. Onward and upward.  I’m trying to follow that advice, so here are the things I’ve done to kick my own ass today:

1.  I signed myself up for this weekly lesson on writing by Alice Bradley, delivered right to my Inbox so I can get better at the craft of writing.  I am going to be less afraid of writing, especially when I do it well.

writing class

2.  I signed myself up for WoW Boot Camp, the fitness program that I loved for two years and I’ve missed for three years.  I am going to feel strong again.

boot camp

3.  I talked to my friend Betsy the nurse practitioner about this Crud and she suggested a steroid for the bronchial inflammation.  So by Monday, I should look like this:

woman on steroids

I took a few actions.  Pity Party CANCELLED.  Honestly, I have better things to do.

And what do you know?  Those friends that I’ve been missing so much?  We got together for our regularly scheduled Friday lunch and who should come walking in but our world traveler!  Erica is home and the sky is looking bluer already.  Hooray!  Salsa verde and hugs all around.  


Here’s Margo Timmins singing “Leaving Normal” if you’d like to hear her belt it out.  I would pay money to listen to her read the phone book.  One day I’ll tell you about the time I rode a train across Canada with the Cowboy Junkies and Margo and I talked about her dog eating rocks.  Dang, I think with that one sentence, I’m starting to sound like myself again!

Body Wisdom

Today’s writing prompt is:  “Something my body (or someone else’s) has taught me.”  Dena Hobbs, yoga instructor and author of “Lighten the Darkness:  An Advent Journey Through Hope” thought this one up and I’m glad she did!

When I first read it, my reaction was that I’ve never thought about my body as a teacher.  It’s a vehicle.  A warm blanket.  At times a burden.  Ballast.  Buoyancy.  A hideout.

body wisdomFor the first 30 years of my life, I thought of my body as the thing that carried my brain and my heart around.  My brain got things DONE.  My brain got me attention, acclaim.  My brain made progress.  My brain achieved my goals and moved me forward in life.  My brain got me the grades that won the awards that led to the scholarship that got me the fellowship that landed me the job.  Then the next job and the next one and the next one.  My brain pays the bills.

While my brain got things done across all those years, my heart decided WHAT I should do.  Even with my practical streak, I spent plenty of time following my heart.  I chased after it all those times it went chasing after a boy.  I carried my heart right out in the open.  I needed to be loved.  I delighted to feel it swell with friendship and love.  I went down in the depths when my heart was broken.  My brain couldn’t keep my heart from doing what it was going to do.  My heart, my heart, my heart.  Even as I exercised my brain and it grew stronger, I relied on my heart to decide–I felt my way through my teens and 20’s.

Then I hit my 30s.

That decade was a doozy.  I ran into the parts of life that my brain couldn’t think my way out of.  I hit the spots where my heart led the way and got shattered.  After Fartbuster and I had been separated for seven months, the phone rang one night–his girlfriend calling MY HOUSE, asking if he was there.  WTH???  I had already hung up the phone by the time I was good and awake.  My heart lurched with the familiar heartache.  My brain tried to kick into overdrive–was that a dream?  Did that really happen?  What does it mean?  Where IS he?  My brain began to calculate whether that was the final straw.  My heart flopped and wrenched and twisted–it didn’t flip off like a switch.  But my body?  My body was so tired from months of his foolishness that it just went back to sleep.  I woke up knowing that I was going to get a divorce and my heart was calm.  The late hour eclipsed the brain and the heart–the body took over–and my life got to a better place.

That’s what I learned from my body–get the brain to hush, get the heart to sit still, let the body do what it does.

When Richard got leukemia and we spent 10 months walking side by side towards The Door, my brain was at its peak–I kept it all together.  My body kept me moving, traveling back and forth, tending to him, tending to me, holding down my job.  My heart…well, I’ll write a book about that one day.  After he died, my brain couldn’t think its way out of the grief.  My heart needed time.  My body kept going.  I remember standing at the kitchen sink at my dad’s house on the Easter Sunday a few weeks after Richard died and asking myself, “How did I get here?”  The kids were playing in the backyard.  There was a ham on the stove.  I was dressed.  My car was in the drive.  The neighbor had come across the street to give me her condolences.  My body was there, living.  My brain and my heart didn’t know what to do.

A few years passed.  My heart had wanted a child for over 10 years.  My brain knew that the clock was ticking.  My body?  My body said, “I got this.”  After my first date with G, I called Andrea to talk it over.  She asked, “Was there chemistry?” and I giggled, “Girl.  He’s got a PhD in Chemistry!”  No need for the reproductive endocrinologist.  Saved that copay.  

The first baby was born.  My brain had read the books.  My heart loved her before I ever saw her tiny heart beating.  My body stitched her together with no regard for all the alarmist messages my brain found in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting.”  My brain knew I was supposed to have a typed up birthing plan.  My body said, “Hush.  I am doing something here.  Watch and learn.”  My body knew how to feed her.  My body was her refuge and still is.  The love we have for each other has nothing to do with my brain.

The month I was turning 40, my brain decided that my heart and my body needed to get into shape.  I joined boot camp with the goal of being able to do a military push up on my 40th birthday.  I did three!  I didn’t think my way or wish my way to those push ups…my body did the work.  I learned to run long distances by keeping my heart steady and my brain quiet.  It’s the brain that wants to stop long before the body has to.  It’s the heart that is afraid to even begin.  When I let my body begin to move, it took over and took me places I had never believed I could go.

Now I’m 45.  I have learned that there will be times when my brain has to think my way out of a snarl–like planning dinners so that the produce all gets used up before it turns mushy.  There will be times when my heart leads the way–like when I want to ignore that “Mama!” cry at 3 a.m. but that’s ME he’s calling for.  Other times?  My body will know just what to do.  Like now, when I need to sleep so I can get up a little early tomorrow and do some push ups.

What has your body taught you?  

Practice Makes

running women

That’s me in the back. Way in the back. (Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

Carlos was still sleeping this morning after the rest of us were clomping around.  As I crept around in my bathroom, which shares a wall with his bed, it reminded me of all those mornings when I woke at 5am and tiptoed out of the house to go to boot camp.  Before I could let myself remember how good it felt on those days to get out in the dark and work out HARD before my day officially began, I jumped straight to feeling bad about the fact that I don’t do it anymore.  Lately, I have had more practice feeling bad about my body than I have had practice feeling strong.

Boot camp workouts began with some stretching and kvetching then a couple of laps around the track.  Not a race, just an easy-paced run.  At my strongest, I could hang with the middle of the pack.  My best time ever was a 9:50 mile.  At my not so strongest, I was hanging in the back of the pack, about a 13:30 mile with some shuffling sprinkled in the running.  Erraday, I’m shufflin’ shufflin’…

When the super fast women like Becky and Danielle streaked by with their pony tails bouncing back and forth, I tried not to feel like a three-legged Holstein stuck in a bog.  They were busting out 8 minute miles while keeping up a lively conversation.  I tried to remind myself that they are fast runners because they practice it a lot.  They can run like that because they practice running.  They probably can’t quilt worth a shit because they don’t practice quilting.  Yeah, I could SMOKE THEM at quilting. Probably.  Oh, here’s a funny note:  I saw Danielle at lunch today and warned her that I was going to write about “the fast girls.”  She said, “Oh, Becky’s the fast one.  I can barely keep up with her.”  Then I asked Danielle what her fastest mile was and she said…6:20.  Yeah.  One gazelle comparing herself to another gazelle.

My point is–we get good at whatever we practice.  Even the things that aren’t good for us.  If I practice running, I get good at running.  If I practice running myself down, I get good at running myself down.

I’ve been writing every day for over six months and I’m getting better at it with all the practice.  I’m mothering like I never thought I could because I’ve been practicing it for six years (EVERY damn DAY).  I have a new job and I’m getting so much more efficient and exact in my tasks because I practice.  Quilting?  Haven’t sewn in six years, so I would need a little time to get back my running stitch.

Running?  I haven’t been practicing that since Carlos was born.  Running myself down?  Been training like it’s the Olympics without even noticing.  Yes–even as much as I focus on the positive and practice gratitude and cultivate mental health, I spend plenty of time subconsciously telling myself that I’m a fat, lazy, so and so and if I really had any gumption or backbone or SENSE I could make a better effort at being…whatever it is I’m not being.  I didn’t even notice how much I’ve been practicing that kind of messaging.  Ugh.  That crap hurts worse than running.

You know my favorite part of running?  Sprints.  WHAT???  I know!  Shuffling along feeling like my thighs were going to combust then…finding that little something extra that was still hidden in my heart, that let me go all out for a few seconds.  I loved sprinting because all I had to do was go 100% for a little while.  Hmmm.  Might be time to practice that again.  Go for one of my fat old lady walks then RUN.   Oops.  I fell back on my practicing there–I’m not a fat old lady.  I’m a 45 year old woman with 45 pounds I’d like to lose.  And I can run if I practice.

What do you practice?  What’s something you’re really good at because you practice every day?