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!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

My Sister AKA My Personal Shopper

It was now January of 2009.

None of my pants or jeans fit well anymore. My sweaters from the previous winter were huge! Most of the clothing I had was in sizes 18/20 women's. I had no clue what size I was now, but 18/20 wasn't it!

I had to know what size I'd be, I just had to know!
I'm not the best shopper. It's not typically something I look forward to doing. I don't usually know what shoes or accessories go well with an outfit. I don't layer styles really well. I used to have no clue about where the hemline of my pants should be or what fabrics shouldn't be worn together.

But, I decided to at least make a covert trip to Gap. I LOVE Gap. I'd never been able to shop at Gap. They didn't sell women's sizes in the store. (I had tried almost a year previous to cram myself into a pair of 16s there and it just wasn't happening.) I walked in and kind of slunk over to the jeans section where I brazenly grabbed a regular size 14 Long and Lean - I liked the sound of that. I dashed back to a changing room before anyone could offer to help. I stood in the changing room looking at the jeans. The legs just looked sooooooo skinny. "There is no way those jeans are going to fit on my body!" I thought. I stood there for a moment debating.

I just had to know!

I started tearing off the jeans I was wearing (the size 18 Levi's) before I could change my mind. I grabbed the Gap jeans off the hanger and thrust each foot into a leg. I took a deep breath and began to pull them up. And they kept coming up. I did up the button and the zipper and looked in the mirror.

They fit.

I let out a silent scream and did a happy dance around the dressing room. Then I stood there for a few minutes and tried to decide which girlfriend to call first. I prayed. I thanked God for that size 14 pair of Gap jeans.

As I headed out of the changing room, an associate asked if I needed any help with a different size. "No," I said, beaming, "these are a 14. Last year at this time I was wearing a women's 18. These will be just fine. I'm going to buy them right now." And I did.

On the way out to the car I called my sister. I was going to need her help if I was going to do any more shopping!

For years Jeanette worked at a clothing retailer. Jeanette knew how to shop for clothes and how to dress in them! Any credit given for the put-togetherness I now demonstrate goes entirely to the tutelage of my dear sister.

Sassy Lookin' Sisters!

This is what Jeanette's taught me about how to shop:

1) When you walk into a store and they ask you if they can help - take it! That's what they are paid to do. Tell them what you want, how and where. For instance, "I'd like to try every style of jeans you have in sizes ___ and ___. Can I use this fitting room and start in about 5-10 minutes?"

2) Grab everything you'd like to try. Don't worry about if the color or style is the "right" one for you. You HAVE to try it on. Things look different once they're on. Grab different colors of the same thing and 2 sizes of everything. Try it on. Try it on. Try it on.

3)Unless jeans are only supposed to be ankle length...and only a few body types pull that style off well...they should touch the floor while you are wearing shoes!

4) If you don't LOVE how it looks on you, don't buy it! There are many, many options to choose from. You just have to be patient and willing to look.

5) Do not take the tags off of anything until you're going to wear it. You may not like it as much as you thought and then you can take it back if you find you just don't wear it.

So I put together a list of things I thought I'd need to get me through the next couple of months and we spent a day shopping.

I enjoyed every minute!

Friday, February 26, 2010

In the groove

Thanksgiving 2008 - I weighed about 215 pounds.
Lydia always has a snuggly hug for me when she expresses,
"I'm so glad you're getting healthy, Mom."

By November I had a pretty good rhythm going!

The HOMFIT guys kept showing up at 6 am on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. We would work out for an hour and after they left I'd hop on the treadmill or head outside for at least a 30 minute run.

I would swim while my girls had their swimming lessons on Mondays and on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays I'd usually run for an hour first thing in the morning.

I was fairly diligent about getting to bed by 9 at night. Of course, I was pretty useless by then anyway! I tell ya, it felt really great to be squeezing everything out of my days that I could.

What about eating, you ask? What was I eating? I was doing well in changing my attitudes about food. By following the guideline of getting all of the nutrition that I needed every day and not worrying about what I shouldn't eat, I had regulated my blood sugar pretty well. I also was diligent in taking my grapefruit seed extract and that also helped kill my craving and crashing problems. I didn't desire sweets nearly as much as I had previously. I was now eating on a pretty solid schedule every day.  I had nailed down some favorite healthy snacks and I'd eat them as often as I needed to so that I wouldn't feel hungry. I easily drank more than 8 glasses of water a day too!

Then it happened. My first of many "throw my hands in the air and dance around my room" moments!

I was doing up the laundry to pack for the Thanksgiving trip to my parents. My two best fitting pairs of jeans were in the laundry.  (I was refusing to buy any new clothes.)  So, I pulled a pair of my women's 18s out of the closet to wear as I was trying to get everything done.  I had worn them all through the summer to work on the yard and they'd been comfortably loose.  They were almost falling off!!!!!  I was standing on the hems!  I didn't have enough tummy to hold them up anymore.  I thought the women's 16s I wore half the time were starting to feel bulky and not the best fit.  I think I didn't want to dare to hope.  At that moment I was able to acknowledge that the best fitting pair I had were a pair of Levi's REGULAR 18s that had been hanging out at the back of my closet.  Notice I said REGULAR-not women's!  (I wouldn't expect any fellas to know a lot about girl's sizes.  Let me tell you it's a HUGE difference!)  They were the best fitting pair I owned and I had to wear a belt with them and it was on its last hole!!!

I hadn't been solidly in a regular size for more than 10 yrs! Yes, it was a very good day.

November turned into December and I began to look forward to my assessment at the end of the month!

But first, I had to make it through the holidays.

I got through Thanksgiving well. I carefully planned to enjoy whatever I wanted without stuffing myself and it worked really well. Loved the egg nog donuts my brother brought home from his job in a bakery! I continued to remind myself that every food I enjoyed durning the holidays, I'd get to enjoy another time.

And then there is the holiday between Thanksgiving and Christmas: COOKIES!

Gingerbread House Event with my girls.

I let myself enjoy a cookie or two a day. In the past I'd have "enjoyed" dozens. I was now able to really look at the treats and recognize that I could enjoy them for a moment, but they didn't make my overall life very enjoyable with everything they represented if I overindulged. The extra weight, feelings of sluggishness, a poor complexion, a weak immune system, activities I was uncomfortable participating in. When I looked at different foods now, that's what I'd see, everything else they kept me from enjoying about life! They weren't nearly as appetizing as they had been before.

My parents live in northern Minnesota and I was going to be there for more than 4 days. That meant I had to run while I was there. The weather had still been nice enough to run outside before I left home, but there's about a 10 degree difference when I head up to my folks.

It was 24 degrees for my run on Thanksgiving day morning. It was 21 degrees when I ran on the Saturday after. Um, kinda cold.

Everything was beautiful and frosted an icy white.

My parents closest neighbor is a mile away and everything felt wide open and rather glorious. I remember having an overwhelming sense of awe for the landscape and it's Creator and a fleeting grief for all the time I'd missed it. Those runs were times of deep and intimate walking with God. I couldn't even pray and I felt my spirit just bursting as it expressed that to Him, I was just so grateful to be alive and living a more satisfying life!

Right after Christmas I was due for my second assessment with the HOMFIT guys.

Here's what it told us about my progress:

I had lost 21 pounds! (No wonder people kept commenting about how great I looked!)
That's a 13% loss of body fat - FAT, not just weight!
I could plank for more than twice as long as I did during my previous assessment.
My bicep skinfold measurement went from 21mm to 14mm. That's -33%!
My abdominal skinfold measurement went from 39mm to 26mm. That's also -33%!


Two of these are from 9/29/2008 and two are from 12/29/2008.
Can you tell the difference?

Oh yeah! Now I was ready to shop!!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Learning to Swim

That's right! I had to get out and purchase a swimsuit before I started my swimming lessons!

Charis and I braved the task together. We located a swim shop where we knew we'd get quality suits we could SWIM in. Not the cute suits we typically ordered from Land's End.

It was great fun.

The problem I found was that none of the fast, "sporty" looking suits came in my size. Only the polyester grandma looking suits did! I purchased a women's size 16 polyester lap suit. It was a size smaller than the one I'd been wearing over the summer! I've had to downsize that suit 2 times. You know what? Even now, I still purchase that same polyester suit. Polyester holds up really well in all the chlorine!

I grabbed a pair of goggles and a swim cap too. I just chose them based on color preference. Pink. I had no clue what I should be looking for because I'd never worn either in my life.

The day finally arrived for my first swim lesson. I had paid for 3 private lessons at a well known swim school in our area and showed up determined to get my money's worth.

I went into the changing room and got ready. I wrapped my big beach towel around myself and eeeeked myself onto the pool deck, goggles and swim cap in hand. At least I looked the part. I felt myself holding my breath and reminded myself to breathe normally. The pool deck was lined with doting parents watching their children's lessons. Gulp. Breathe. I talked myself around the to the far side of the pool. "Keep walking, you're doing this Jesaca. You've already paid for the lessons. You've always wanted to learn how to swim. Your kids have had lessons. It's your turn. You're going to be a triathlete!"

I met my instructor at the end of a lane. She seemed awfully young.

She first had me attempt to swim and kind of show her what I could do. She started tweeking from there. She showed me how to put my hand in the water and what it should be doing when it gets into the water. She showed me the timing of how my arms should move. She showed me how to turn my face out of the water, when and how to breathe out the breath after I put my face back into the water. She had me use a kickboard and practice with my arms and I was doing really well. "Hey," I began to think, "I can do this!"

Then she took away the kickboard.

I tried not to think about the other adults along side the pool watching their children - yeah right. I slapped my way down most of the lane without stopping. I only choked on the water twice. She had me come back down the lane. Success! I didn't choke at all!

She told me to start breathing on every 3rd stroke.

Bilatteral breathing! Was the woman crazy? I had just successfully (using the word loosely, of course) completed one lap breathing just on the right side. Was breathing to both sides truly necessary?

She explained how breathing that way would help me swim straighter in the water and that I'd develop more balance in my stroke overall if I learned to master it. She insisted I try it.

It was not fun. Stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe to the right, stroke, stroke, stroke, breathe to the left, sink, choke. Repeat. She insisted that I do two laps like that. By the time I left I was not looking forward to the next lesson!

As I walked onto the deck for the second lesson I found it was a little easier. I was determined. I got some practice in before that second lesson. It didn't help, however. I threw a temper tantrum half way through. It just felt like my efforts were so futile. I felt bad for the instructor, but I had just one lesson left.

As I drove to pick up my girls, I was reminded of something my dad would always say when I was dealing with a difficult physical feat of some sort. "Jes," he'd say, "Ya gotta get MAD at it!" I needed to remember to focus the energy of my frustration on figuring out this swimming thing. As I picked up my girls, my girlfriend's sister asked me a question I had already asked myself. "Don't you feel stupid learning to swim with all those little kids around and their parents watching?"

And I found myself answering, "I want this too badly to care!"

"Wow!" she responded. I thought, "Yeah - Wow!"

And I did. I wanted it too desperately to care how silly I felt, what anyone thought, or what anyone might say.

Guess what?! By the end of the last lesson I was swimming!

Oh, I've had some lessons since and I still have plenty to learn. But now I can say, "I can swim."

It was one of the most difficult things I've learned to do as an adult. Ultimately I learned because I tried, I got frustrated and mad and focused. Mostly because I wanted it too badly to care about anything that could be an excuse to keep me from learning.

I'd have plenty more opportunities to draw on that determination.