Yesterday I spoke about a challenge thrown down by friend J resulting from the higher rep sets that was Thursday’s review day. Friend J is a power lifting kind of guy, although of late he has been turning his attention away from competing in that particular sport and back to more just weight lifting to stay in good physical shape. He could tell me he is training to dance on the moon and I would be about as sure as anything what his exercise routines look like, as ignorant as I am about what other people are doing in their fitness lives.

That said, he is not above giving me huge rations of shit for the way I pursue my own objectives. Always teasing, because he is so very proud of me for getting my ass off the couch and into the gym, getting off the diabetes medications, and sticking with the training and the practices. But he is a guy and cannot come right out and tell me that. No, he says that to M, and M lets it leak out strategically in conversation. But still; it makes me smile and puff up a little with good feelings.

But when he was throwing down about my workouts, I suggested he put his money where he mouth is and try that workout before razzing me about it. As of yesterday I thought we were in the process of formulating terms and conditions for our little friendly wager. But then I got an email this afternoon filled with white flags and a brief concession statement.

Apparently friend J was being his usual smug self and figured he’d give my workout a whirl and then come back and tell me how it’s challenging … for me. Only a funny thing happened to him – after 1.5 sets he was DYING. His tree trunk-sized legs are apparently very strong but not necessarily accustomed to this style of exercise. And they protested pretty loudly, perhaps to the point of going on strike.

Yep, before the competition even had lift off, I won, hands down. Concession or not, it’s a big, giant, bragging rights victory that I am unlikely to ever let him forget.

Understatement of 2016: I absolutely LOVE watching him painfully eat his teasing taunts, one by one. 

Let the happy dancing commence … err, continue, as it’s now been hours as I write this post. An already in-progress terrific Saturday became a day that will live in infamy.

I love and adore my friends, and I appreciate friend J’s good-hearted willingness to be straight with me about the reality of his experience with this trainer J-crafted workout. He could have easily blown smoke, stalled, redirected the conversation about the friendly wager. Most likely I would have forgotten about it, and he was off the hook. Now I am just really hoping he does come out to see us in the next couple of months so I can properly enjoy my victory lap(s).

The funny thing about this interaction and process, though, was I suddenly felt kind of dumb about the whole exercise and fitness realm. Because in reality, what I actually know about diet and exercise is a single grain of sand in all of the Sahara. Most of the time that is okay; I have my village of experts who share a lot with me, explain what I really need to know and become curious about when those burning questions strike. Maybe it was a touch of not sleepy last night after M and our guests were fast asleep, but I found myself looking up curious questions about reps and sets and stuff. Big mistake! From there I was drawn in to articles and Pinterest with exciting sounding workouts that will give you toned legs and abs and asses in 30 days and diets filled with food I will not eat, but if only I did, how truly amazing and wonderful a person I could become and what a figure I would be sporting.

Makes me feel like throwing up in the bright light of day.

Last night I finally had to peel my eyes away and shut down my browser and return to my regular reading. When I make the mistake of putting a toe into the glossy magazine waters, I end up feeling inadequate and as if I am not working hard enough or am not committed enough to be making the super-size progress they allude to in those glossy pages with the air-brushed perfection people.

This time, I feel as if I got away relatively unscathed. If working with J and RD and TM has done nothing else for me, it makes me recognize that marketing is clever and insidious and not at all my friend.

My ability to overcome the glossy magazine influences has improved dramatically in the last several months. I was thinking about this today as I moved purposefully through my day. I remember the day trainer J suggested I allow him to be my gatekeeper for what I am reading in the diet and exercise realm, and my knee-sagging relief that he was okay with that and did not think me a complete moron for not knowing where to start, what is good, what is crap. I still love getting recommendations and hearing about what he is reading, or asking him his opinion on things I hear about from other friends. Sometimes I read diet books just because it seems everyone I know is trying something new in the diet realm, but I my interest is primarily curiosity. RD is kind about my interest when I ask him for his thoughts. It’s really becoming apparent to me that most diet programs are all about eat this, not that, or track calories, etc. These things probably work for someone or many someones, but it’s not a methodology that will work for me.

Reading through the various articles (and there were quite a few – I binged on glossy magazine consumption) not that long ago would have left me depressed about my lack of progress or commitment or ability to commit. Today, mostly I felt bemused by the big giant void of knowledge I lack. However, not being a fitness professional, I have grown comfortable with that reality. I am presently a student of exercise, trying hard to ensure I pay attention to what J shares with me, with what I hear from M and others. Anymore I may ask what sounds to my own ears like the dumbest question ever voiced and be fine with it. If I don’t know I don’t know, so please help me understand is my newest mindset.

From a place of peace, with negative girl safely contained, I am a lot more assured of my place in the world. I am still uncomfortable by the idea of bothering people with questions or interrupting their workflow or personal time, but it is not nearly as bad as it once was. Progress is sometimes big giant leaps, but mostly it is the most minuscule of changes and steps.

Today’s thrilling little victory … the people I hold dear I do so for good reasons. Friend J, for all the shit he gives me about my exercise and eating and working as much as I do and stressing out over the stuff I lose sleep over, is one of our closest friends. He and M are thick as thieves, chatting on the phone and texting like gossiping teenagers several times per week.

M and our guests were out running canyons much of the day and came home bedraggled and exhausted yet exhilarated. With the 23 miles and 7600 feet of ascent, they ran hard. There was a time when it would make me feel inferior and poorly about myself, and I would have to work at staying busy and invested in the tales of their adventures. Understand this was negative girl and my own insecurity impacting my behaviors; nothing M or anyone else in our social circle of runners said or did anything to give me the idea that I am less because I do not run. But the last few days since they have been here, it’s been a pure kind of pleasure to host them and catch up on all aspects of their life, exciting and nerve-wracking to imagine them competing together in just a few months. I have every confidence they will be prepared and ready, or as prepared and as ready as any non-professional ultra runner can be for big races, but I am concerned because it’s not an objective I can even begin to comprehend.

JK remarked earlier as I was cleaning up after dinner about my emotional and outlook transformation. She was very quick to tell me that I was not unpleasant or unkind or anything else negative since she and her husband have known us (going on 10 years now), but I am simply more relaxed and engaged and overall more assured and happy in my own skin. It is not something she can precisely put her finger on, but she sees it in the way I am and have moved through life during their stay. Of course, she reads and follows the blog as well, so she has kept up on my adventures. She says its different to read about what I am doing and actually spend time with me and feel it.

Perhaps I am that much more advanced in my emotional health journey. It just seems I live my life and do not notice the incremental progress … until my previous pair of skinny jeans start fitting more like my former mom jeans. Or I have no anxiety-inducing events biting at my heels as I await my next TM appointment.

Or I get to take a victory lap because exercises I can manage at the gym are not quite so simple for someone with a different type and level of fitness. Trainer J had predicted this outcome, and while I never think of him as shining me on or trying to protect my fragile ego, my knowledge of his field of expertise is limited. In my mind fit is fit, yet I know M’s level of endurance and strength far exceeds probably everyone I know, while J and so many others are probably stronger in other ways. It was just not something I gave much thought to previously, because truly there was and is no need. As I frequently remind myself, our health and fitness journeys are unique to us as individuals. I don’t want to compete with anyone else, and friendly wager aside, I would have been almost as happy if the little non-competition with friend J had run out to a draw. But yes, I am ridiculously happy to know I am doing something he found hugely challenging. Yep, I’m human. And selfish. And like to be good at stuff.

One of the most startling, life-altering phenoms to come from applying myself to being consistent with the exercise and trying for the same with my eating, the temptation to compare and believe I am in competition with others has faded considerably. I say “faded” because when I start to think I have worked it completely out of my system something happens and it flares and I feel almost back at Go, trying to find my way around the board to collect my $200. Obviously this is why my binge-reading health and fitness and diet and workout plans and challenges had no genuine impact upon me, expect perhaps created new questions to pepper J and RD with when we have time to chat about stuff.

I have strung together far more good days than bad lately, a trend I fervently hope continues long into the future. I debate with myself whether it is a choice, merely an attitude about how impacted I am by the outside forces, or if we are hard-wired to have bad days from time to time so we know to appreciate and savor the good and happy days. But for tonight, that debate can be tabled for another day. It’s been a fantastic, fun, productive Saturday around here, and I am planning a simple Sunday tomorrow. M and our friends are going on a local run around the lake tomorrow, because they have a flight home in the afternoon. It is kind of sad knowing we have to say goodbye for a time, but they are already planning on when they can come back before racing season begins.

I have a wonderful life.

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