Friday, May 29, 2015

Shooting the Curl

Photo by Clark Little

Shooting the Curl: Definition according to

Riding the board inside the wave with the water over your head.

When I was a kid, I wanted to learn how to surf. It’s possible that the movie North Shore had something to do with this aspiration. I mean, Rick learned how to surf in a pool (wave tank)—surely a girl from Indiana could do the same! But I never could find a wave tank, and by the time I made it to Hawaii on my honeymoon the desire to surf had fizzled into a nostalgic childhood dream.

So what does shooting the curl have to do with my weight loss journey? Stay with me for a while (because this post is a bit long) and hopefully it will all become clear.

In the first six months of my FXB journey I had experienced steady progress. I averaged about a one pound per week weight loss. I lost inches. I improved in my sit-ups, push-ups, and mile time. I’ve gotten stronger. I have more endurance. My flexibility has increased. It’s been great, and each day I feel stronger and healthier.

Then around mid-February the weight side of the equation started to slow down. I was still seeing progress, but not as much. I stopped losing weight, and a few of the weeks the number even went up. I know that weight is not my priority; however, I weigh a lot. My joints will not be happy with me if I simply turn all my weight into muscle. I need to drop some pounds—a lot of it actually. So I have to pay attention to the number on the scale. I have learned to not put so much emphasis on the number, but I can’t forget about it either.

I’ve written a few posts talking about some of the struggles I was going through earlier this year with the stress of a new book, my work leave coming to an end, and dealing with unknown emotions about my latest novel. I know that all of this played a part in the slowing of my progress. I also know that for a few weeks I wasn’t as committed to my nutrition as I could have been.

However I was still working hard, and I’m not going to lie—seeing the progress on the scale stall out was hard to take. It was difficult to stay positive when I was working so hard—dripping with sweat from head to toe—and yet the progress was slowing. It was difficult to get back to 100% on nutrition when I was stressed. I mean, I was still eating better than I did before FXB, AND I was killing myself in workouts 6 days a week (plus an extra FIT kick whenever possible), so why wasn’t I seeing something? Anything? Can’t you even give me 1/10th of a pound?


As the weeks progressed with still no downward tick on the scale (yet with the occasional up-tick), I was trying hard to stay positive. I didn’t want to get frustrated, so I did everything I could think of including:
- getting back to 100% on my nutrition and logging everything into MyFitnessPal
- saying no to meals out with friends on non-Fun Days because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to stick to plan
- blogging about my feelings and struggles
- changing some things in my nutrition, primarily trying to reduce my bread intake as my carb source

These things started to shift the number on the scale back in the right direction, but not by much. Another few weeks passed, and I was getting desperate.

That’s when I started to shoot the curl.

Most times you will hear people refer to ‘plateaus’ in a weight loss journey. I do this too, because it’s easy to explain and people instantly know what I mean when I say that I’ve hit a plateau. If I told someone I was shooting the curl, I’m certain I’d get a funny look—and not because of the stench radiating off me due to my hard work after a workout (although that would probably have something to do with it too).

But here in my blog, in a format that I am most comfortable these days (words), I can tell you why I prefer to shoot the curl rather than survive the plateau.

First off, that’s one of the main issues with a plateau—you have to survive it. When I tell someone that I went through a plateau, the response is usually something to the effect of, “Oh, that sucks. How long did it last?” A plateau is unpleasant. Even though it’s normal, and even expected, it’s something we want to avoid in a weight loss journey. We’ve been told to anticipate the plateau and be patient when it arrives, but it’s just not that easy.

When I visualize a plateau, I see a vast open space. There is probably some grass. Most likely poison ivy. There might be a sparse tree here and there. It doesnt feel like a place I want to be. Its not exciting. I have to mindlessly put one foot in front of the other until I reach the other side. I have to survive the monotony and boredom. 

In my opinion, it’s best to just think of this part of my journey as something else entirely.

When I look at pictures from inside a wave, a peace comes over me. It’s so beautiful it’s breathtaking. Even though I’ve never surfed or been inside of a wave tube, I’m an author so that means I have a very vivid imagination (and I do research). Here’s what I see, and how I relate it to my journey.

The power of the wave.
I general, I understand the power of waves. If I were in the water, trying to shoot the curl, I know I’d have to have laser focus and be in control of every movement. I know that even the slightest of miscalculations could surrender me to the power of the wave. The wave wouldn’t care about me. All it wants to do is surge forward, oblivious to the life around it, and breaking only when the land below disrupts its flow.

My journey is the same. It has the power to take me down. It will surge forward, oblivious to whether or not I’m keeping pace. I have to stay focused on my movements. It’s the only way to maintain control of my ability to keep my head above water.

The serene look of the water below the tunnel.
Look at the photo I attached to this post again, and focus on the water at the base of the tunnel. Words that come to my mind are calm, peaceful, inviting, refreshing. There is a temptation there to just sink in. By look alone it would appear that that part of the wave is safe—that it wouldn’t hurt you if you sunk below the surface. However, you don’t need to know a lot about waves to know that the reality is that if you do go below, the force of the wave will overpower you. You will ultimately regain control, but you have to work for it.

In my journey to a healthy life, the surface below the tunnel is just as calm and serene. It’s the past—the habits of comfort. There lie my foods of comfort, and on the surface they make me believe that everything will be better if I just surrender. Even though I know that it is volatile and has the strength to overpower me, it temps me just the same.

The turbulent look of the water above the tunnel.
Look at the photo again, but this time focus on the water at the top of the tunnel. It’s jagged and looks unstable. It looks unpredictable. It looks like it wants to crush you. Yet, it’s clear that just on the other side of that lip is the surface.

In my health and fitness journey this represents my new lifestyle changes. They are unstable. They are jagged and gouge me from time to time. And there are certainly the times when I feel as if they want to crush me. Yet, I know that it’s all that stands between me and the future I desire to have.

The light at the end of the tunnel.
Now focus on the end of the tunnel in the photo. There you see the light. You see the end. If you can just endure and shoot the length of the curl, then you will come out still standing on your board.

And it will feel amazing.

I don’t think I need to break this one down for how it relates to my journey.

Give one final look at that photo now that I’ve broken it down. I’ve pointed out all the scary parts, yet it’s still beautiful. It’s still inviting and I want to jump into that moment to experience it for myself.

As I’ve thought about the lack of progress on the scale as ‘shooting the curl’ rather than ‘surviving the plateau’, I’ve come to appreciate it rather than begrudge it.

It’s given me time to think about that seemingly serene part of the tube that keeps tempting me back. I haven’t stressed myself out by trying to focus on my feelings or why the temptations occur. Instead I just looked at that part of my journey for what it is. I’ve simply thought about the foods I have difficulty letting go of and my reliance on them. I’ve thought about how I still depend on what I eat to define if I’ve done good or bad.

I’ve also thought about how the top of the tube sometimes feels like it’s too much to overcome. How I’m actually waiting for the moment when it will crush me.

Then I realized that what I really need to focus on is the current moment. The current second. I need to remember that I am in control at all times, even when I make a choice that might be considered ‘bad’. I chose it—nothing was forced into my mouth by someone else.

I have been in control of each and every one of my actions the entire time. The wave below me has been stable and constant the whole time, tempting me. The curl of water above me has always been turbulent and unpredictable and scary. The light has always been at the end of the tunnel, showing me the way.

And now, looking at this wave, I know that once I reach the end of the tunnel the top of my curl will crash into my past and they will blend into one. There will be no ‘past’ or ‘future’. There will only be the present that is made up of the happy coexistence of the two. It will be a new life that will always have temptations and changes and unpredictability.

No more plateaus. No more failure. No more dependence on food—good or bad. No more fear of when it will all come crashing down on top of me.

It’s acceptance of each movement. It’s acceptance of every choice. It’s acceptance of the volatility of life. It’s recognizing the beauty in every part of the journey.

It’s knowing that the only way to make it out on top is to shoot the curl.

And yes, the scale has started to move again in the right direction. So get off your plateau and join me in the curl—the water’s nice after all.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meet my FXB Instructors: The Intimidator

The Intimidator: a.k.a. Pam

The definition for intimidate is:

“frighten or overawe (someone), especially in order to make them do what one wants”

If you’ve had Pam as an instructor, I could just end this post here with, “Enough said.” However, I know some of you have not met Pam so I’ll explain further.

The first thing I should clarify is that The Intimidator does not intentionally try to intimidate anyone. Also, she doesn’t intimidate by fear, but rather with overawe. She simply needs to step on the mat, and intimidation sparks like static on a dry winter day. Here are some actual comments I’ve overheard at the gym (if not in these exact words, at least they’re pretty close):

“I have a feeling she’s not going to go easy on us.”
~Said by one 10 Weeker (with concern on her face) to another 10 Weeker as The Intimidator walked on the mat to instruct.

“The only name I recognize on the list is Pam. That doesn’t make me feel much better.”
~Said by a new FIT member, who was nervous about signing up for FIT Kick for the first time.

If her power to overawe through her presence alone isn’t enough, let me tell you about her other two super powers.

The Circle of Intimidation

The Circle of Intimidation (The Circle) is the wide radius of empty mat often found around The Intimidator when she instructs. It’s not uncommon for some space to be around the instructor—it’s as if we all resort back to our school days and no one wants to sit in the front row. However when The Intimidator is at the front of the mat, it’s more like an invisible force field, created by the power of her energy. Inside this circle, the energy of intimidation radiating off The Intimidator is too strong for those not up to the challenge of exceeding their self-imposed limits. Stepping into The Circle means you willingly surrender the power to perform at anything less than a Level 10. Not even a 9.9999 will do. One has to be mighty brave to step into The Circle, and very few venture inside. Those who do—and still have the strength to walk out—earn the awe and respect of the rest of the class. Occasionally, you will find a bewildered 10 Weeker inside The Circle, and the rest of us can only try to support their naivety by projecting any residual strength we may have left.

The Look of Intimidation

While the energy within The Circle is too difficult for most to endure, staying outside the invisible radius line doesn’t save you. The Intimidator always has her eyes on everyone. An instant tingling sensation takes over the body, along with the uncontrollable urge to push harder, when she gives you The Look of Intimidation (The Look). The Look says that she knows you can do more. The Look tells you that you can go faster or lift heavier. You can try to avoid The Look by keeping your eyes on the mat, but eventually you are pulled by her energy of intimidation. Once you glance up, she has you—and you find your hands compelled to reach for that next band up. Your only hope of survival is that final countdown.

I have to say, I’m so thrilled that my daughter has chosen The Intimidator as her FXB hero. Yes, this mom is proud to have a Junior Intimidator Apprentice in the house. I just wish she would quit trying to use her newly obtained powers of intimidation on me!

The Intimidator will soon take her superpowers to a new level as she and Teresa open their own FXB in Bloomington, Indiana. All I can say is that once The Intimidator sets her sights on a whole gym, the term ‘B-Town’ will take on a whole new meaning—“Beast Town”!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Why I had to leave the mat to get back in the game.

Today during kickboxing was the first time I had to leave the mat for more than blowing my nose. It was the first Fun Friday of this session and we were running the bags. As I was cruising down my line of bags, throwing my kicks and punches, I suddenly felt like I couldn’t breathe. My throat was closing like a fist, and I knew instantly what was happening.

I was having an emotional melt-down.

I left the mat and went into the bathroom, trying desperately to get control. It was unlike any melt-down I’ve had before. There were no tears, and I can only assume that’s because after sweating profusely for 30 minutes I didn’t have any to give. But the sobs where there, despite my dry eyes. Once I finally gained control, I went back out on the mat and started kicking and punching harder than I had before—because with my pain came anger.

After class, the emotional pain hit me again as I was stretching. I somehow made it until class was completely over and I made it back to the bathroom. I sat on the chair in the shower area thinking, “How can I explain this if anyone asks?” I thought it best to not give anyone that opportunity, so I dried my eyes (because this time a few tears did manage to accumulate) and went back out. I intended to just leave, but we have a small group that stays after class to do additional ab work. I didn’t want my emotional instability to get in my way any longer, so I joined the group on the mat. I made it through the exercises without additional incident, but people knew something wasn’t right with me.

I told the first person who asked that it was hard to explain, and she accepted my response. I was able to say it without incident so it was left on the mat with her kind words making me feel less alone. However as I was walking out the door, trying to get outside quickly because I could feel it coming again, I was stopped. My wonderful friends knew something was wrong and they wanted to help. This time I couldn’t hold it in, and I knew I had to say something. Yet how could I explain? I didn’t really fully understand it myself.

So why the melt-down?

The simplest answer is that I was finally grieving over my fictional character, Angel.

Have you ever had a book pull you in and make you cry? Or a movie? Or even a Hallmark commercial? It’s not uncommon for people to emotionally connect with fictional characters or stories. I know as a reader it’s what I’m looking for. I want to be so immersed in the story that I feel what characters feel.

Well, I didn’t just read Angel’s story—I created her. I gave her the life she had.

When I finished Shattered Angel, I knew that I needed an emotional break. A friend asked me how I felt when it was done and my response was, “Released.” I wasn’t just immersed in Angel’s life—I was living it with her.

I finished the book in February and scheduled it to launch the first week of March. After, I was met with immediate distractions. In February we were hit with a late round of snow days and 2 hour delays. Then Shattered Angel went live, keeping me busy with making sure communications went out on schedule. Then it was Spring Break and my time was consumed with spending time with my daughter. In mid-March, I posted how I was struggling with the upcoming decision about whether or not I should return to work. I thought the stress of that decision alone was what weighed me down, but now I realize that it was so much more than that.

It wasn’t until I had a brief conversation with a friend yesterday who has started reading Shattered Angel. She was telling me that while she was captivated by the story, there were times she just had to take a break. She questioned, not for the first time, how I could write it.  It was later that day when I realized that I hadn’t really grieved for Angel and her story. Sure I cried when I read back through for the edits (even though I knew what was going happen), but I didn’t allow myself the time to accept and process what that book did to me emotionally.

Until I was mid-way through my kickboxing class this morning.

Suddenly the pain that Angel had to endure was too much for me. I felt like I had been shattered, and I was angry for her. Yes she is fictional, but unfortunately her circumstances are not. Human trafficking is not just some scary concept that exists only in books and movies, or on Law and Order: SVU. It’s real. And there are people suffering every day.

I grieve for those people as much as I grieve for Angel.

I wanted so much to give her a better life. I even stopped writing near the end, telling myself that I was the author and could do anything I wanted. But I couldn’t because that’s not the reality for most of the victims in human trafficking. I had to tell Angel’s story the way it was.

Now I look back at the last few months in a different light. I see now that I haven’t really been engaged with my life. I’ve been spending time with my family, I’ve been going to FXB, I’ve been meeting deadlines—but that’s about it. My heart hasn’t been in most of the things I’ve done. I just did them because I had to. I knew I was in a slump, and I was starting to get frustrated. My husband and I had made a decision about work, so that was no longer hanging over my head. The sun has been shining, and the birds have been chirping—usually these are things that energize me. I didn’t understand what was wrong, and I didn’t know why I couldn’t get back to feeling like me again. I never thought to look to the pain of my fictional character for my answer.

This is new to me. I don’t know how to really process these feelings, but at least now I know that I need to. At least now I know what’s been holding me back and keeping me from living life at a Level 10. I may not yet know how to process these feelings, but I started by listening to my body and letting it do what it needed to do.

I left the mat so I can get back in the game. And I finally felt some of the weight begin to lift.

I hope this doesn’t read as a reason for you to not read Shattered Angel if you had intentions to do so. I encourage you to read it and let Angel touch you the way she touched me. Many of the victims of human trafficking don’t have a voice. It’s my belief that I was given Angel’s story to help people understand the horrors of those affected by abuse and torture. It’s not an easy read. Yet, even with the pain that I feel now after going through Angel’s story with her, I’m grateful I was called to write it.