This blog recounts my fitness journey into the sport of triathlon and the gifts God has blessed me with while on it! May the movements of my life boldly proclaim that the sparks we encounter in scripture will kindle hope in our lives!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Bring it on!

You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. Galatians 5:7-8

Did you know that you need armor for a triathlon?

Neither did I!

I guess not everyone needs it, but I sure did. However, the triathlon wasn't really the battlefront, was it?

The battle was inside me.

Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. Ephesians 6:11 

Of course, God's done a lot of work in me over the years. I wouldn't be to a place where I cared to take on this fitness thing if He hadn't. I could see His love for me, His faithfulness played out in my life over and over again. He gave me the gift of FREE life. That's why I so desperately desired to honor Him this way. I intend to live out what He's given me in as "poured out" a way as possible.

He was moving my understanding of how He works in my life to a new dimension. If I was really going to change the way I looked at myself (as a fat girl) I knew I would constantly be fighting the enemy to make it happen.

Let me be clear. That pivotal moment I had, in front of the kitchen cupboard, I recognized that I had been making choices in my life for years based on lies I believed about myself and about God. "You're vain and self-centered to even care how you look. You aren't strong enough to fight your food battles. You've already blown your life. God can't use it anymore. You're nothing special. He doesn't care about your body, it's your heart He wants."

Who is the father of lies?


Yep. Just wanted to be clear about what I believe.

Sure it was about my willpower, but where does that come from? The "will" of my flesh had to be transformed in such a way that the strength/power I draw on to make choices is rooted in the Truth! For whatever reason, doing this in the body/food image area of my life has been more of a struggle for me than in some other areas. And Satan just kept at the area where I had a chink in my armor.

Well, my armor was about to be refurbished!

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:13-17

I love how my girlfriend, Liz, talks about the armor. She reminds me that I only have to stand in it to be intimidating to the enemy. Yes, we are called to fight. But I first needed to learn how to stand in my armor in this area.

I began posting scripture that reminded me to stand in my armor anywhere and everywhere I could see it. My kitchen cupboards, the bathroom mirror, my workout area, my treadmill, and even in the car. I carried scripture on cards with me when I was out and about for the day.

There are dozens of verses that reminded me to stand in the power that He's already granted a believer. I so easily forget, the victory is already mine! I shared a couple favorites in my last post. Here are a couple more that I meditated on regularly.

So if you're serious about living this new resurrection life with Christ, act like it. Pursue the things over which Christ presides. Don't shuffle along, eyes to the ground, absorbed with the things right in front of you. Look up, and be alert to what is going on around Christ—that's where the action is. See things from his perspective. Colossians 3:1-2 The Message
Truth: My life serves an eternal purpose. It is not about the moment in time that I feel an overwhelming desire to escape through food or tv or books or anything else.

In your strength I can crush an army; with my God I can scale any wall. Psalm 18:29 NLT
Truth: Submitted to the strength of God I can do absolutely anything He calls me to.

I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Phillipians 1:20
Truth: My heart loves God and desires to serve Him with all that I am. I don't need to be ashamed by pursuing His calling for His glory in me regardless of what other people think.  WHATEVER IT TAKES!

However, I don't quite remember which scripture I had with me when I finally went shopping...

For a new swimsuit!!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Breakthrough Moment!

I had been working with the HOMFIT guys 3 times a week for about 3 weeks.  I was very conscious about how I was carrying myself.  I knew now how my posture was supposed to be.  I started getting comments again about how good I looked and I could see some changes in my body.  My face started clearing up.

At the same time, I felt really conspicuous.  I was almost uneasy with myself and I felt like I needed to hide.

I did talk with my trainers about it.  Just looking for some direction to figure out if this was a physical/emotional thing larger people deal with or if it was a Jesaca is a serious mental case sort of thing!  Trying to describe it outside of my head was difficult.  It felt silly to try to put language to what I was feeling.  One of them was able to put his finger on a perfect description.  He said, “Are you feeling a little vulnerable-maybe fear based?”  That was exactly it!  So, what was going on?  I didn’t want this to get in my way!

Now, I don't want to discount the time of year it was.

Four years previous, on October 15th, I left my husband of 10 years.  That time was both the most stressful and most freeing of my life.  It was stressful because I didn’t know how he’d react to the girls and I leaving, if he’d come after us-I felt like I was always checking behind me.  Freeing because, as days ticked by, it was a surreal experience to feel the relief of freedom rushing into my emotional lungs.  I had not realized just how strangled I’d felt. I also grieved my lack of control to provide “home” for my girls. How would I provide for us? I could not make him get the help he needed. Two months after I left he killed himself.  The funeral was about a week and a half before Christmas.  I remember very vividly the conversation I had with my parents just a day or 2 before the funeral.

I had been expressing my grief-filled guilt. I had left. What if there was something, anything else I could have done. They explained to me that the detectives on the scene had pulled them aside after they had interviewed me.  “Folks,” they told my parents, “You’ve got one lucky girl over there.  We’ve seen this before.  She was wise to leave when she did.  You could very well be preparing to bury 4 today.”  They went on to explain what they had found and how calculating he had been, what his profile revealed about what he was capable of.

I don’t want that chapter of my life to drive me.  While I continue to deal with all of this and my life is so beautiful now, I never dismiss the part it might play in my reactions to any number of things when that time of year comes around! 

I talked, laughed and cried actually, with a girlfriend about what was going on with my thoughts and emotions.  I was honest.  Brutally.  Pouring out all the stuff I was feeling and feared and concerned about.  What if people thought I was working so hard just to attract a man-I’m not!  (She assured me she didn’t and no one else would)  However, I was feeling more attractive, that made me feel stupid and awkward-I didn’t know where to put that emotional stuff!  And for pete’s sake, what if someone was attracted to me?!  What would I do with that?  The thought both enthralled and terrified me!  The financial news was difficult to hear every day.  My husband had been obsessed with the markets and that brought all of the icky feelings back up. I confessed I was really distressed that if my own financial situation became desperate (and it’s not!) I would end up counting on a man for the sake of some imagined security.  "Well," she assured me, “while you may have moments that you feel desperate, you are not a desperate person.”  She reminded me what time of year it was too and that I was very likely tired because I’d been working so hard.  She reminded me of how far I've come.  She was an incredible listener and a great comforter, but I still didn’t have the answers I needed about the emotional turmoil going on inside me.

Then it happened, the self-sabotage fiend struck again.  I found myself madly ripping through my kitchen cupboards about to eat everything I didn’t want to eat.  I was reaching for a box of crackers all the while knowing I wasn’t hungry at all. It wasn't the first time in my life I’d wrestled with this. It seemed to happen each time I'd lose a noticeable amount of weight.

My hand didn’t make it to the box. All of the noisy clutter in my mind faded as I focused on being present instead of zoning out and asking myself why I was doing this.

I heard him clearly, the silver tongued serpent who continues to come against me.  “You know how to be a fat girl.  That’s safe, just be a fat girl, you don’t know how to be anything else...” 

What?!!  Did I seriously believe that?  I know in my head that’s not true!  I rebuked the monster with the scripture that poured from my spirit violently, “It is in God that I live and move and have my being (Acts 17:28), not in being a fat girl!  He loves and desires the real me.  The real me isn’t ‘fat girl’!” You should have seen my daughters come running as I stood in my kitchen loudly rebuking the unseen enemy.

Then I asked the Lord to give me wisdom and ammunition to fight in this specific area of my life.  When did I first believe these lies and why had I continued to believe them? How would I live and walk out the Truth?

The answers came just days later.

I was running, of course.  I was turning over in my mind what had happened in the kitchen.  I was petitioning God to equip me.  He was the one that told me He wanted me to be stronger in the first place!

I thought back as far as I could remember and moments from my past just started rushing up at me.

As I was growing up my parents were adamant that we not be vain. Spending more than 5 minutes in front of the mirror was frowned upon. Any thought or attention given to self was shameful. I developed more quickly than the other girls and always had a larger frame than they did. Looking back I know I was a healthy size, but I felt huge. When we went through the bags of clothes that people passed on to us, there was rarely something that would fit me. It seemed I was bigger than everyone. I wasn’t allowed to continue to be involved in sports as I got older because the uniforms were too revealing. We were supposed to look like girls and behave like girls and dress like girls (we wore a lot of skirts), but we weren't to pay much attention to or take delight in all of the outward things about being "girly". That just added to my self-consciousness. I got the message that feeling or being attractive would hurt me somehow.

After high school I moved out on my own and was on the road to figuring out who I was when I met my future husband. I thought that being married would be a safe place and I wouldn’t have to worry about how I felt about myself.  Someone would accept me and that would be that. I didn’t examine very closely what qualities I might find desirable in a man. Perhaps I felt that was placing too much emphasis on myself.  If someone chose me I felt I should be grateful. I chose to believe the lie that someone else could tell me who I was-that I could find my identity in him. By the time we married I was about 20 lbs overweight. As the years went by my weight just crept up and up.  From the beginning my husband didn’t have a healthy interest in touching me (I now know this wasn’t my problem) and this further compounded my shame-based body image. He was very controlling. In a twisted way, my weight was the one thing he couldn’t control. That just added complexity to my image issues. At one time, during my marriage, when I had lost a substantial amount of weight, I was forced to fend off the unwanted advances of a man I worked with and endure his threats after I turned him in. I unconsciously bought the lie that my size was protecting me.

I added layers of fat while trying to numb and hide myself. To not feel the hurt, rejection, and condemnation of others and the punishing reality of my own choices.

Food didn't just provide comfort, it provided escape. Escape from facing all of the things around me that I had no control over and escape from facing the battle I would endure to change the things I could. "Just leave it alone" the enemy whispered repeatedly, "what you have is about as good as it's going to get anyway." And I had believed him. I had protected myself by escaping from authentic, vibrant LIVING!
All that time I was fighting for an understanding of who I am and whose I am.

I now understand that the posture of living (like a fat girl) I had grown to believe protected me from being hurt or dealing with my own confusion was an illusion!  The emotional wrestling I was doing now was because I wasn't sure how to frame my attitude about my body and the changes in it and how it makes me different.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 NLT

People say it's the inside that counts, but we discount the fact that the inside changes when the outside does!! I was completely unprepared and ill-equipped for the battle within!

The Truth is still working on seeping into all the areas of my life.  I have accepted the grace and freedom to run with abandon toward who God has long been calling me to be. That’s what has brought me to where I am now. Is it o.k. for me to feel more confident? Is it o.k for me to enjoy who I’m becoming?  Is it o.k. for me to feel my own strength and enjoy it?  Is it o.k. to run and enjoy how it makes me feel? Is it o.k. to curl my hair and wear make-up and pay attention to what I wear? What will I do if I’m attracted to someone or they are attracted to me?

And if I ask those questions, I have to find somewhere in my emotional framework to put the answers!

Just as weighty resistance is building strength in my body, resistance against the way I used to think continues to build a strong foundation for a healthy exercise of the emotions I’m experiencing now. I understand that it will take concentration on form too. I can’t just place the emotions where they’re most comfortable, unfortunately, because the lies have been providing the answers to my questions all these years and have disguised my path to real living. Fortunately, I have help! There are several others in my life to walk, run and climb with me. Not only that, I can take these questions about myself to the One who made me and trust my heart with Him. He can transform my mind in this area with His truth, the same way He has in other areas. At moments I may feel awkward and exposed, but I want the abundant life He has for me badly enough to risk that. I’m pressing toward the mark.

Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win! All athletes are disciplined in their training. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified. I Corinthians 9:24-27 NLT

And I am not just shadowboxing!!


That is how it came to be that on a Monday morning at the end of September I had two men show up at my door at 6 am! I'm glad they have logos on their vehicles. I didn't want the neighbors getting any funny ideas!

We didn't do a lot of "working out" that first day. We defined my goals. They showed me how to keep track of my workouts and we talked about what I'd need to be doing on the days they wouldn't be coming. (I'd already been running 6 days a week, so I knew that what they were asking wouldn't be a problem.) We talked about what I should be eating and when and how.

They did an assessment. Please, do allow me to describe this in further detail...

First, they took a whole slew of measurements. Lovely. Now I could see in black and white just how big I was. They recorded my weight and they measured my me with those calipers (the pinching thingys...).

I weighed 224 pounds.
My waist was more than 39 inches.
My body fat % was 40.5!

They had me attempt various physical feats that really drove home just how out of shape I was. 

I did 16 push-ups - from my knees.
I made it 40 seconds on a wall sit and 36 seconds in a plank.

And yes, they took pictures too!

It was FUN.

Seriously, though, I love having those numbers to look back at now, but all of the stark facts were unpleasant, and to top it off MEN were taking down all the numbers and details. Mark and Paul seemed to be eager and excited about working with me and that was encouraging, but they were still men, and it was scary for me.

Whatever it takes, right?! I was ready to work hard.

It wasn't long until my hard work began to be rewarded and I experienced a breakthrough that radically transformed my perspective on my struggles with food.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

So, How Exactly is This Gonna Happen?

And I'll get to that in a minute. 

September quickly approached and the list I was creating of things to accomplish in order to pull off this triathlon thing was getting interesting.

1) Be able to run a 5k. Check.

2) Start biking. Check.

3) Begin to weight train so I would drop more weight. The scale hadn't budged since May.

4) Learn how to swim. Um, yeah. I could doggie paddle and float on my back, but that put your face in the water and breathe clue how to make THAT happen.

5) Get gear. No idea what I'd need. I'd read a book about running over the summer and figured I should get some running shoes at some point. I had no idea how to pick them out. I'd have to figure that out.

And a swimsuit. Oh joy. That got me really excited.

Charis and I had been talking about which triathlon we were going to do and I encountered my first serious hurdle. Now, I mentioned that she was much fitter than I. She had it in her head to do the Lifetime Triathlon.

Here's what I had in my head when she said that -um, NO!

I was thinking that one of the ALL-WOMEN triathlons I'd read about would be great. No men = no intimidation for me. Besides, these women only events seemed like they'd have such a friendly feel. They even have angel/noodle swimmers in the water to cheer you along if your struggling with the swim. Some have a designated last place finisher, so no one finishes last! That was my idea of a nice, comfortable triathlon experience.

I lucked out. Charis decided that the Lifetime Triathlon was a little spendy (and it is). We continued dialoging about exactly which one we'd do. We had time yet to register. And in the meantime, I continued to think about my list...

I started calling around about swimming lessons. I didn't know much about working with weights.

I started to do my research. When I say research, what I mean is, I began to Google.

Should I get some DVDs? I could. I was motivated enough to do this stuff on my own. But, as I thought about it I was really concerned about hurting myself. Considering my size and the fact that I'd never had much personal instruction with free weights I knew that my chances of injury might be greater than not. I wasn't convinced that I'd be the most efficient and accurate about form if I was getting my instruction from someone I couldn't interact with.

Well, o.k., maybe a health club then? Somewhere like Lifetime or the Y or LA Fitness. If I went there I'd have to pay the monthly fee and pay a trainer to get me going. I wasn't excited about maneuvering through the health club scene. I was really self-conscious about my body and lack of knowledge related to health and fitness. I didn't want to be bound to a health club forever either to stay in shape. I really wanted to know how to do what needed to be done at home, on my own. I wanted this to be a lifestyle change for a lifetime.

So, I looked into having a trainer come to my home. Whew. Yeah. Expensive. Any of the female trainers I found lived quite far from me too and would likely charge a fee for the drive. The website for one close enough to me looked a little too glossy, and tan. Yep, glossy and tan. You know exactly what I mean when I say that, don't you?! Was not and still am not aspiring to glossy and tan.

I looked into training gyms. I'd read about gyms where you go and you pay more of a premium to have a trainer available to work with you when you're there. None of the gyms I found had hours that would match my childcare and they were quite a distance from me too.

I kept thinking and praying on it.

I was on my way home from the chiropractor one day. As I headed down a major highway close to home I spotted it. A Honda Element with a logo on the window. HOMFIT. Wait a minute! I think I visited that website. I couldn't figure out what area they covered. They must come this far 'cause, well, here they are!

I went straight to the computer when I got home and sent them an email. I set up an appointment with Michael to come and pitch me their program. He came out to my house and he was really great, polite, professional. I knew that they would help me get where I wanted to go. So, I told him to sign me up with a female trainer 3 mornings a week. Here's the thing, they didn't have a female trainer available during the times I needed. But, they did have 2 different men that would be able to fill the spots. Mark could come on Mondays and Wednesdays and Paul could come on Fridays.

This is where things get interesting...

When I checked the website to send my email, I made sure that they had female trainers. I did NOT want to work out with a man!!! I stated my preference for a female trainer in my email. There are a variety of reasons for this. Beyond the obvious of not feeling exactly self-confident about my body and getting sweaty and gross in front of one, the thought of really interacting with a man on a regular basis genuinely scared me.

Here I was, 3 years out of an abusive marriage, I was getting pretty comfortable and confident about the "just me and God doing life togther" thing. I loved it actually. I did not relate to my single friends that desired relationships with men-at all-I sure didn't desire that! I still didn't trust my friends' husbands. Whenever a friend was helping me with something or we were out having fun I'd worry that she'd get in trouble when she went home. I just really had a hard time fathoming a relationship with a man that didn't involve a good deal of tip-toeing, pain and hurt. The presence of a man made me feel degraded, who wants that?

The thing is, something had happened over the summer.

I was sitting on my bed. I remember that it was a beautiful, sunshiney day and I was very happy. I had my Bible open in front of me and had been spending some wonderful time with the Lord. I felt restful and peaceful and I was very conscious of the movement of my heart. Out it came, "I don't need a man." 

Wow. The pricking of the Spirit came quickly on its heals! You see, this wasn't just an observatory thought. This was a proclamation that came from a haughty and insecure place. "What exactly are you saying, dear one? Do you know my plans for you? Is that an open-handed, surrendered thing to say? Don't make agreements with the enemy." Gently He said, "I alone know the plans I have for you." Gulp. Didn't I want what God wanted for my life? I did! What if that involved a man at some point? Gulp again. "Really, God, you could do that couldn't you? Could you heal me enough to bring me to that place? If that's what you have for me, Lord, I'm going to lay it down. I want to stay open to everything you have for me. Your plan for my life has been beautiful so far, help me to remember that."

But, if I had to interact with a man, my protective "you don't have to go there and think about the existence of men and how they can hurt you" bubble might burst.

So, not only would I not be getting a female trainer, but the man I'd already met wasn't available! The only option available was not just one man either, but two!

I told Michael I'd need to pray about it. I did pray about it-for a whole week. In the end, I remembered...

Whatever it takes.

Mark (left) and Paul (right) with me after the YWCA Women's Tri that took place 1 year after I determined to train for a triathlon. Yes, I look totally dorky! It was such an awesome day!