Sunday, June 23, 2013

The weight of shame

It took my eyes a minute to adjust to the dim lights of the Lululemon store before I spotted a friend of mine. Instinctively I walked over and began unrolling my yoga mat beside her, smiling broadly until I realized we were front and center in a room of roughly forty other people. As my eyes scanned the space I felt a lump form in my throat and in awkward haste I mumbled something about finding a different spot, hauling ass to a less-visible corner of the room. It's funny how sometimes we don't realize the extent of our body issues until we catch ourselves in moments such as these. Even after losing 60+ pounds, there are days when I'd rather be invisible than be seen.

I found that day's yoga class to be particularly challenging, as evident by the growing puddle of sweat collecting at the edge of my mat. My frustration built steadily as the yogi called out the names of poses I did not recognize and the women on either side of me gracefully contorted their lithe frames on cue. I did everything within my power not to focus on the students around me and instead completed the poses to the best of my ability. By the time we reached shavasana I was both physically and mentally exhausted.

Look ma, no sleeves!
As I closed my eyes and let my mind wander, my thoughts turned again to my own body issues. Two weeks ago I decided to push myself way outside the bounds of my comfort zone and wear a tank top to yoga. I honestly can't tell you the last time I've been out in public with my arms completely bare (other than at the beach but even that is infrequent). The thought alone made me sick to my stomach but my twitter fam was so supportive and encouraging that I took the step jump outside of my comfort zone. Soon enough I was so absorbed by the yoga class that I didn't give much thought to what I was wearing. Mentally, that day was a huge success. I am committed to change and therefore to doing things that scare me because that is where progress is made. Much of my fear lies in the unknown but often the expectation of fear tends to be far worse than its reality. That was mostly the case in regard to my tank top experiment.

Anyway, it was with great relief that I found myself resting on my back, eyes closed in shavasana. I've heard that a lot of people use this time to meditate or let their minds go blank. As a certified control freak, this is not an easy task for me but on this day shavasana did provide some clarity. As I considered my own issues with my body I focused on the one thing that has been a constant for me both now and at my heaviest weight - shame. I was ashamed of how I looked then, ashamed that I allowed myself to get to that place, ashamed that it took me so long to change, that my change happened so slowly and that I'm still not where I'd like to be. I couldn't let go of my "before" long enough to see the "after". That is some heavy shit to carry around, infinitely more so than the pounds I've already dropped.

As my breathing deepened I vowed to look back more positively on my experience; to be proud that I did make those changes and that I have come as far as I have. If I don't want my appearance to be scrutinized or judged by others I sure as hell can't allow that behavior from myself. A deep sigh escaped my lips, as if releasing the emotions I've held on to for so many years. The yogi's voice broke the silence of the room and as I opened my eyes, I smiled...

"Before" and "During" ... To be continued

Friday, June 7, 2013

Free Fitness? It's out there!

As some of you know, I recently began working in a different city than the one where I live. My new commute is about 60 miles each way which means a lot of my time is spent in the car. As a result I am funneling a lot of my money toward gas and spending many more hours away from home. One of my biggest concerns with this new situation was how I would find the time to maintain my workouts and how I'd manage to do it on my new budget.

I spent some time searching the internet and stumbled upon a website for a greenway program in my new work city called Tuesdays at the Trailhead. Every Tuesday from May through September the local YMCA is offering a different free fitness workout located outdoors at the greenway trailhead. I am often timid to try something new on my own but my curiosity was greater than my fear. I showed up on a random Tuesday after work and ended up being one among roughly 30 people who came for the free workout. I talked to some women around my age, one of whom has a similarly long commute but in the opposite direction. She gave me some great tips about a local rideshare program that I may look into.

This particular workout ended up being a circuit and there were stations set up with jump ropes, resistance bands, and others for body weight exercises like pushups and jump squats. We all completed the circuit once and then went for a half-mile run. Upon returning we completed a second circuit, walked a half-mile and then did some ab work. It was an amazing one-hour workout and best of all it didn't cost me a thing! By the time we had finished I had missed any rush hour traffic and gotten my workout in before my inevitable post-commute "I'm exhausted" faceplant.

I returned this Tuesday for the free Zumba workout and had just as much fun as I did the first time. I love that there are a variety or workouts being offered because I tend to get bored with routine. This opportunity really couldn't have come at a better time both because of my new work situation and also because I just came off of a high volume running season. I ran three half-marathons over the course of 71 days and while I had an absolute blast I did end up feeling a little burnt out on running. I am planning to spend my summer months focusing more on overall fitness and then buckle down for a strong fall race season.

In addition to Tuesdays at the Trailhead I learned that my new work city also has similar free fitness classes in a park downtown on Mondays and Wednesdays! I am not able to make all three days every week but I definitely plan to experiment with some of those workouts too. How incredible is that for local folks? Three days of free fitness every week for 5 months... I just think this is the most amazing program ever! A friend of mine also alerted me to the fact that our local Lululemon store offers free yoga every Sunday. So guess what I'll be trying out this Sunday?!

To give you an idea of my workouts this week, let me break it down for you:

Sunday - My friend's CrossFit bootcamp offered a FREE "bring a friend" class
Monday - Rest
Tuesday - FREE Zumba
Wednesday - Core Strength class (I pay for this ~ $10/class)
Thursday - Zumba (~$5/class)
Friday - Rest
Saturday - Long run (breaks down to ~$4/run based on group membership)
Sunday - FREE yoga

So over the course of eight days I will have completed six workouts for approximately $19. Not bad! And if I had run on Monday and Friday rather than rested, that would still be free because I'd simply lace up my shoes and hit the neighborhood roads. My point here is to illustrate that these opportunities are out there if you look hard enough. I know a lot of people are fortunate to have gym memberships or other amenities but right now that is just not in the cards for me and I know there are others in similar situations. Don't use your circumstances as an excuse to slack off!

Do you know of any free fitness classes or gatherings in your area?
Please feel free to share below so others can take advantage of these awesome opportunities!