Two Years Without a Scale

It’s been about two years, maybe a little more, since I literally threw out my scale. It was old. I think it was my mother’s scale in the house I grew up in. It migrated to my bathroom in my teens somehow and I just kept lugging it around with me.

I can’t say that my scale and I had a horrible relationship. In fact, until I joined this community and started to pay attention to assumptions about health, fitness, weight and acceptance, I didn’t give it a lot of thought. I dutifully weighed myself nearly every day for most of my life mostly, I thought, out of curiosity.

Now it is true, if I am completely honest with you, that there were a few years where the scale gave some useful reflective information. It was a time in my life that I lost a lot of weight. Why did I lose this weight? Divorce, a super messy one at that. I lost so much weight that my hair started to fall out (it never really recovered). I could not get the weight to come back to my body as my anxiety and stress ate my guts out and made me nauseous with every swallow. I’d get on that scale and hope there was more to me almost every day. For the longest time there was not.

Eventually, the divorce chaos calmed down and I was able to get hold of myself. When I say “get hold of myself” I’m not talking about my ability or inability to eat. I talking about actually finding myself and who I was. This is not a cliche. That is seriously what happened. It was the confidence that I was me and me was okay and I was going to be just fine that allowed me to start eating normally again and not to have each bit of nutrition go up in a flare of despair induced combustion.

My scale returned to a neutral item.

But I have a daughter.

And I found all these people who think gloriously and critically about the assumptions I swallowed about what the scale says and why we should or perhaps should not listen.

My scale didn’t vanish from my life immediately but I did start to wonder why it was there. I went up a pound. I went down a pound. Not much changed for me because of those things. Things changed because I started a therapy practice and I ran 5k and I biked all over the place and I rode horses and did pilates and and. . .that stuff. Life stuff. I loved my kids and they grew and I loved my partner and friends and all those things grew and changed. None of it had any relationship to the scale any more and the scale had nothing to say to me about the quality of my life.

I started to hear it’s actual voice, or maybe my voice, some part of my voice, when I stepped on the thing. I went up a pound (aw. . .sadface). I went down a pound (yay. . .happyface). I was already writing for this blog ad hoc. I was deep into a new understanding of what exercise means in my life and in the lives of other people around me and nothing was about pounds. I had worked to stop seeing health and food in moral terms for my clients. I stopped accepting “I want you to help me lose weight” as a goal in therapy. But there I was on the scale a little “yay” and a little “boo” depending on what it told me.

So I threw it out.

Nothing changed.

Except it is quieter in my head in the bathroom in the morning.

scale

A white and grey coloured bathroom scale commonly found in places you buy these things. You stand on it with your feet and get judged by your own precious self.

Car Camping or Canoe Camping?

I’m blogging to you live from my blow up couch at the Miles Roches Campground on the Long Sault Parkway. For a myriad of complicated reasons, we did not go Canoe tripping this year and to assuage my Camping bug, I planned a short trip to an area I’d biked through twice with the Bike Rally. 

It’s a stunning little piece of the St. Lawrence River shoreline. It consists of a series of islands connected by causeways and the whole thing is basically one big camp ground/recreation area. We are currently looking out at a northern channel of the river toward the mainland. The site is simple and a little muddy but there is adequate shade and lots of birds to look at out over the water. 

I had not car camped in about 5 years and we had all the gear, kitchen, two burner Coleman, tiki torches, the whole shebang. “Why not glamp for once?” I wondered. So here we are. 

An image of an Ash tree in the water's edge.

An Ash tree!!! We don’t have those anymore in Milton.

Now I will relate my observations about this whole experiment in doing it the so called easy way. 

First of all, car camping makes me lazy because I just think, “It’s car camping, whatever I’ll take it.” Of course this means the over packing was epic. Back country tripping narrows the focus and it is actually EASIER to plan because you only take what you need and then you try to do with even less because you have to carry it! Setting up camp was hard precisely because we had so much stuff. 

Looking towards the back seat of a car with grey interior. A smiling panting yellow lab is centered and surrounded by camping gear in blue plastic boxes.

Too much stuff and one super cute dog

Second, it is such a gift to trust the water. In Algonquin, as long as I boil it or filter it, no problem. Here? Germs are the least of my worries. You can’t boil out all the toxic waste in this river so water becomes a chore. Getting water from a bathroom sink while camping is depressing to me.

Third, oh for my privacy. While back country camping if I want to take my shirt off or skinny dip, in I go. If someone canoes by and I’m feeling modest, I stay under water. Simple. Here? Nope. I joked with my partner that there will be no camping sex because it would be like doing it in the kitchen while the kids are watching TV in the living room. Nope. 

Fourth, what do we do all day? We slept in then we ate and then we went for a run (no bikes because of the dog). That was great. I know there is this thing where you “relax” but it somehow doesn’t feel earned if I haven’t canoed or hiked for 3 hours to get there. That’s just me. The run did help even thought it was a bit melty on the pretty road. 

Fifth, drinking, it all leads back to drinking and as people who are really trying not to do that any more, it’s weird to notice the cup holders and insulated pockets on all the things that just scream “PUT A COLD BEER IN HERE!!” We looked after some dude’s dog while he biked to the liquor store this morning and ended up with a Radler because he insisted on reciprocating with beer. I drank it. And wrote this blog. But I will regret that when I try to cook dinner because doing that sucks the life out of me. This would never happen in the back country.  Beer is heavy. 

My conclusion is that while it is lovely here and I do not regret coming, I prefer to canoe in rather than drive to my camp sites. This sort of adventure has lots to recommend it but it’s like all the hastle of camping with a lot less of the pluses. Your mileage may vary. Enjoy the summer!

A frame of a woman's face at sunset. In the background is the multicolor sky over a large river.

Beautiful river.

First Half Marathon

As I sit here to write the words, “I ran a half-marathon on Sunday”, I’m still pretty much not processing the reality of that. I feel like my life now has a stark marker of Before Half Marathon and After Half Marathon.

Those of you who haven’t done it yet or never will or never think you will know exactly what I mean when I say that it seems impossible. Running is hard an horrible and makes everything hurt. Maybe you can run 3k, maybe you can run 5, maybe you walk or hike. The one thing you know for sure is running over 21k is just not possible really. At least, it isn’t possible without breaking something or nearly dying. Am I right? Yes of course I am.

But then there is this other thing. This After Half Marathon existence that knows about Before but clearly understands that it got done. I started a race. I finished a race. It took me 2 hours 41 minutes and 4 seconds. I ran for 10 minutes and then walked for 1 minute the whole way until I was finished. I have a medal. I’m not dead.

The conditions were really ideal. The Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon is a very flat course and it was about 15 degrees with a light rain. There was no issue of over heating which is a huge problem I have because I don’t sweat enough. It is a lovely event that is open to everyone. Men can run but they don’t have any men’s jerseys and there is eye-liner in the swag bag (I’m wearing it right now. It has sparkles). People ran it fast (the winner came in at just over 1 hour and 30 minutes). People walked. Lots of people did a combo of both. There were two friends who were running at basically the same pace as me in 2 minute run and 1 minute walk intervals the entire way. They were hillarious but it worked for them.

My lungs were good the whole way but after 10k things started to hurt from depletion. This makes sense because of my age and my under training. But I was determined and would not give up. I sucked back Maple Syrup Shots and kept on going until the end. . .apparently. . . because there is a medal in my bedroom so I must have.

In the days after I have remained mobile and uninjured. It’s a miracle. A Half Marathon Miracle.

Will I do it again? Apparently. I am doing the social opposite (?) of the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon, that being the Army Run in Ottawa in September. I’m hoping to improve my time a little and again, not die. In the After Half Marathon existence, this seems possible and I suppose expanding possibility is the only viable reason I can come up with for having done this in the first place.

NFWHM me

White woman in a teal short sleeve shirt and a white hat with a big smile and a half-marathon medal.

Pre-race Report

It sorta sucks that my regular day has come up two days too early for what is obvious to write about. I am doing the Niagara Falls Women’s Half Marathon on Sunday and for someone pretty marginally prepared, I’m feeling strangely calm.

I registered on impulse after Tracy posted about it last year. I was looking for a new and different challenge after two years in a row of the Friends For Life Bike Rally.

I have thoughts about this choice of trial and training and now is as good a time as any to reflect on them.

First of all, running has been lonely. I don’t have great connections for running in Milton where I live. There are running clubs of course but they meet when I am working so that was out. My partner who I live with loves to run but he developed Plantar Fasciitis in September so running with him was off the table for months and months. He is able to run again but not longer distances. Not many people want to hang out with me for over two hours running 15 kilometers. It isn’t fun for me either.

Biking is a super social thing and I have lots of friends and opportunities to bike. However, I am not a person who likes to do two big things in a weekend so long runs interfered with those chances to bike. I’m feeling very disconnected from my biking community right now so that is also a little sad. Honestly I’ve looked at the bike and thought about going out myself but all the fibers in my being have screamed “NO!”. So I listened.

I have also been struggling (as I seem to mention in almost every post I make these days) with the lingering effects of what was actually a pretty major RA flare up in September. The fact that I trained for this thing at all, given how I’ve been feeling is pretty spectacular. I recently got cortisone shots in the remaining troublesome joints. Don’t ask me why I waited so long. I seem to be very stupid when it comes to my own self care some times. It has made a world of difference in my attitude toward everything from running to walking the dog to getting up in the morning. Self! Take care of yourself! *headdesk*.

There have been some good things about this troublesome task of training for the Half. I am amazed at what I can do. I have finally entered the zone of running where I can basically keep going, as long as I keep a steady slow pace and walk for one minute every 10 minutes. I have not had any running related injuries except for my toe nails. But I feel like toe nails are part of our blood sacrifice to the goddesses and gods of longer distance running.

I am going to go and do this thing and if I have to walk the last five kilometers because 15 kilometers of running is all I have in me, so be it. I won’t feel bad about that.

The dog and the dude will be waiting at the finish to cheer me no matter what and I am going to stuff my face so full of food I can’t even.

I am also signed up for the Army Run in September. Stay tuned if runner’s amnesia makes that an actual thing.

Noël_Hallé_-_The_Race_between_Hippomenes_and_Atalanta_-_WGA11034

The Race between Hippomenes and Atalanta by Noël Hallé (1762-1765) at Louvre Museum, Paris. Atalanta is distracted by enchanted golden apples along the route so that Hippomenes can win and escape death. Otherwise, she would have smoked him. (This is also a story on the Free To Be You and Me Album https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-77_cVnmUQ ) Hail Atalanta, Priestess of Artemis. I dedicate my toenail sacrifices to you.

A Small Victory

I ran today. I did just over 4km at a clip of about 6:10 per kilometer. It doesn’t seem like much but basically today was the difference between the version of me that is still training for the Niagra Falls Women’s Half Marathon and the version that has given up because her body is not cooperating.

I had not run in a week and a half even though the last time was a magnificent 13.3km in which I did not collapse or otherwise injure myself. So yay.

However, I’m struggling with a low level flare of my RA and people, it is sucking the life out of me. Right now, it’s my hands and my right wrist but anyone who has an auto-immune thing knows that active-ish disease isn’t just about the affected part. It’s a system malfunction and my system is very prone to crashing lately, I’m exhausted, distracted and rather grumpy. I’m trying not to be disheartened but in this past week, I’ve stared right in the face the specter of  the cycle of inactivity that I am prone to.

It starts as giving myself permission to rest but then it becomes something else, a lethargy I have trouble escaping. I fear my gains have already vanished. I start to ache from not moving. I don’t want to do anything at all, I give up for a while.

Except I didn’t. I ran today and I made it a Tempo run (yes 6:10 kms are a tempo run for me, don’t laugh). I ran in the cold rain, the perfect pathetic fallacy for my mood and the ache in my hands. But darn it, I ran.

I will do a 15k long run on Sunday. I’m not giving up.

That’s what I have to say about that.

motivational penguin

An adorable little cartoon penguin. His name is “Motivational Penguin” and the caption reads, “You can do it!” Thanks Motivational Penguin. I think so too.

Middle Age Horsing Around

snowbound

This picture features a white woman in a pink sweatshirt that says, A ride a day keeps the therapist away. She is holding onto the bridle of a large white horse with a pink and grey nose. is name is Snowbound. He is not the horse that she is referring to in the rest of this piece. He is a bit of a Jerk.

I ride horses once a week for the sheer pleasure of it. It is a lesson but that’s because it is the easiest way to get on a horse and I might as well learn something while I am doing it. What is odd about my lessons and my horsing as compared to most of the other people I encounter at the barn (the tween and teen crowd) is I don’t take these lessons for any purpose. I don’t show and I’m not in any hurry to do that. I am utterly not feeling competitive about this sport. I love the animal and the activity.

However, it’s still a lesson and my new-this-year coach is excellent. She occasionally switches me to a horse that is more “challenging”. In the last few months, I’ve asked her to stop doing that. There is a horse I ride who I am really in tune with. She goes well for me and I can get her to behave in ways most other riders can’t. She doesn’t jump high because of her construction. But she likes to have fun and she is game for any number of skills improving exercises in the lesson. The more interesting the lesson is, the better she goes. It’s really great.

The shift that happened for me was my acceptance that I don’t need to “progress” for progression sake. I don’t need to jump higher. I don’t need a more forward (fast) horse. I don’t even need to learn to do flying lead changes (a hop and a skip in the middle of a canter/lope) if it’s going to freak her out. We just need to have fun and stay moving.

I’m a pretty confident rider with a solid skill set at this level. I am game for occasionally schooling (teaching) a horse to pay attention to a rider and stop shenanigans so that younger riders can benefit from that. But I have no desire any more to be the rider that conquers the wild horse or risks all sorts of injury while riding an animal that is too much for me.

I’m so chill with my new-ish settled attitude and honestly, it just makes riding more fun.

Go go ahead, do the fun thing and don’t worry about improving. It’s okay!

Uninspired: Some Tales of Outright Failure (Guest Post)

Months ago, Sam asked readers to give us an idea of what they’d like to read more about. Lots of you responded but I was struck in particular by the response of a woman around 50 who wanted to know more about our failures. In the comments to Catherine’s post about the Challenging Challenge of Challenges, I confessed to my non completion of the 39 day Runner’s World Mile a Day challenge. We may all do a group post about that at some point but I want this one to be an exploration of all the ways I am not what I may seem to be (fit, motivated, accomplished, persistent, responsible blah blah blah) and how I have made peace with that. The truth is, I often fail.

In order to more fully explain and understand these failures, it’s important to understand in what context they happen. In this space, I am often writing about interesting adventures that I have had and what they mean to me. Sometimes, I write about the things that impede me (my Rheumatoid Arthritis or Falling off Things). What I hardly ever write about is my day to day reality or the struggles I have to keep fitness going in my life. I have realized that I may come across as a person works out somehow every day without issue, diligently works toward their goals and then gallivants around the country on bike, horse or in a canoe. Well, no, I don’t.

The only thing I do nearly every day is walk my dog. That means I’m guaranteed to walk about 2 kilometers a day.However, on days where my children or partner have walked the dog enough and I’m tired and it’s late and cold. . .I do not do anything.

I am lucky if I do more than two significant fitness activities a week. I have my surge weeks where timing and weather or perhaps just obligations to friends mean I do more. But if I’m honest, I usually do one aerobic thing, one strength thing and maybe ride a horse for 40 minutes. There are weeks I do not do any running. There are weeks, like this week, where I choose sleep over Pilates.

Regarding my running, I started when I was 36. It took me until I was 42 to run 5k. That is not your expected “Couch to 5K” timeline. Immediately after achieving 5k, I wanted to get to 10k. I just did that for the first time yesterday so that was another 6 years. In the 6 years that I spent working my way up to whatever distance I would run, stop running, run again, get injured, recover and eventually try again. None of this was according to a plan. There is a half-marathon running schedule on my fridge right now, but I am not following it.

Last year, I had my bike on a trainer in my basement because I was scared about doing the Bike Rally again. I’m taking a break from the Rally this year and my bike is resting in a corner. The trainer tire is not on it.I’m waiting until spring.

Then there was the running challenge, 1 mile per day from American Thanksgiving until New Years Day. I lasted 2 weeks, sort of. My body and mind utterly rebelled. The obligation to find time in whatever weather and no matter what else was going on in my life to run a mile proved impossible to meet. At first I was ashamed of myself. It’s only a 20 minute overall thing from getting dressed to getting undressed. However, working full time and being the point person on everything else in my life means that a solid commitment of 20 mins per day when it may be in rain and wind and snow and dark and cold and blech is impossible.

What does this all mean? The truth is, I do the minimum necessary for some sort of result (result defined loosely as strength, endurance, health, the dog’s comfort). I often fall out of schedules. Sometimes it’s because there is a legit interruption and often because I like sleeping better than exercise. I have streaks of success that are amazing. Finally running 10k yesterday was a heady achievement. But I am not under an illusion that I will be ready for a half-marathon next month. I will be lucky if I run 10k again any time in the next month. I will be grateful if nothing wonks out in my body as I continue to try to push speed and distance. However, even though I am inconsistent and haphazard, I get somewhere. I am more fit and stronger now than I have ever been. The thing I have changed since my first struggles with fitness in my early 30’s, is my attitude toward restarting a thing I’ve stopped. I don’t spend much time caring that I haven’t run in 3 weeks. I just go run a few kilometers, slowly. If nothing hurts too much, the next time I may run more faster. Then that’s it, I’m running again (or on my bike, or core work, whatever it is). There is no shame in stopping. You stopped. Then you start. Except dog walks, they are never ending and that’s a darn good thing.

shelby-in-car

This image is a delightful yellow Labrador Retriever dog sitting on the blanketed back seat of my car. She is waiting for a walk, or perhaps a Timbit.

 

A white woman with a black hat, blond hair, grey jacket and black snow pants stands on a snow covered trail on cross country skis. Behind her is a grove of snow covered trees.

Me skiing after a rather long hiatus of any activity at all over the winter break.